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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-29

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

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

Thursday, 29 March 2012 Issue No: 4033

CONTENTS

  • [01] Parliament approves ESM in roll-call vote
  • [02] April 29 or May 6 the likeliest election dates, gov't spokesman says
  • [03] PASOK leader: Europe the only road for Greece
  • [04] PASOK leader Venizelos urges all sides 'to start thinking sensibly'
  • [05] Swoboda expresses support to new PASOK leader Venizelos
  • [06] PASOK leader in Cyprus Thursday, Friday
  • [07] Property surtax part of memorandum agreements, PASOK spokeswoman claims
  • [08] ND renews accusations against PASOK for the upward revision of the 2009 state deficit
  • [09] Expelled renegade MPs wish to return to ND party
  • [10] MP Tzimas rejoins ND parliamentary group
  • [11] KKE's Papariga on Greece's presence in the Eurozone
  • [12] Tsipras: 'Upcoming elections an opportunity for major overthrow in Greece, Europe'
  • [13] LAOS leader attacks ESM as 'concession of national sovereignty'
  • [14] Democratic Left leader : Elections probably on May 6
  • [15] FM Dimas on Greek-German relations
  • [16] GSEE union federation accuses troika mission of 'neoliberal fixations'
  • [17] Illegal migrants reception centers in Attica to open very soon
  • [18] Immediate release from prison for individuals serving sentences of less than five years
  • [19] Draft presidential decree for public-sector staff evaluation unveiled for consultation
  • [20] Up to 6,000 hirings in local government, based on ministerial decision
  • [21] Revision of visa issuance key to attracting more tourists
  • [22] Palestinian diplomatic mission appeals for release of administrative detainees held in Israeli prisons
  • [23] Bank recapitalization plan to be unveiled before Easter
  • [24] Israel examining natgas export to Europe via Greece
  • [25] Mytilineos Group reports improved 2011 results
  • [26] Astir Palace Hotel reports higher losses in 2011
  • [27] ASE suspends trading of Alsinco's shares
  • [28] Bussiness Briefs
  • [29] Greek stocks end flat on Wednesday
  • [30] Greek bond market closing report
  • [31] ADEX closing report
  • [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [33] USS Enterprise arrives off Athens as part of final deployment
  • [34] 'End to Antiquities Trafficking' exhibition at Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum
  • [35] Large quantity of cannabis confiscated
  • [36] Local authority staff to join public sector work stoppage
  • [37] British Embassy presents 'Imagine Peace' Olympic Truce programme
  • [38] Mainly sunny on Thursday
  • [39] The Wednesday edition of Athens dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Parliament approves ESM in roll-call vote

    The European Council decision for a permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (TSCG) were both ratified in the Greek parliament on Wednesday, winning a majority vote.

    There were 194 votes in favour of the draft law and article 4, that included the provision for the establishment of a special account through which the country will pay off its loans, from PASOK, New Democracy (ND) and Democratic Alliance MPs, while 59 MPs from other parties voted against. The ratification was approved in a roll-call vote.

    Initially, the Democratic Left had stated that it would vote in favour of the draft law in its first reading but soon afterward the party's parliamentary spokesman clarified that its MPs would cast a negative vote.

    [02] April 29 or May 6 the likeliest election dates, gov't spokesman says

    The date of the upcoming elections will soon be announced, with either April 29 or May 6 as the two likeliest dates, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said while speaking on the local radio station Real FM on Wednesday. He also stressed that the government intended to continue working until the very last day before the elections.

    He said the government's aim was to deliver the ministries and the public sector in the best possible state, noting that this was a matter that concerned ministers from both parties in the coalition government.

    According to Kapsis, there was some leeway over draft legislation that was not among the commitments undertaken by Greece in the Memorandum with its creditors, which could be postponed for the next government, but he appealed for ministers to avoid friction over party political goals within the government.

    [03] PASOK leader: Europe the only road for Greece

    New PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, in his first public appearance after taking over the party helm, referred to the upcoming general elections and stressed the need for the Greek people to choose a responsible, realistic and secure strategy for the country in order to achieve a definitive exit from the crisis and restore the national sovereignty.

    He said the people's sacrifices must be safeguarded, adding that Europe is the only road for Greece.

    "There is no other road, no other strategic approach, to increase the low salaries, reduce unemployment, and generate growth in the country," he said, during a discussion in parliament for ratification of the European Council decision to establish a permanent European Support Mechanism.

    Greece's goal is to remain a member of the eurozone, he stressed, adding that the country is ready to turn the Memorandum around to the country's benefit, through the exercise of a strong, responsible policy and a realistic and responsible proposal.

    [04] PASOK leader Venizelos urges all sides 'to start thinking sensibly'

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday addressed the parliament for the first time in his new capacity as PASOK's president, focusing on the imminent general elections. He underlined that the Greek people need to select a responsible, realistic and safe strategy that will lead the country out of the crisis and restore national sovereignty.

    Venizelos stressed that the sacrifices made by the Greek people should not be left to go to waste and spoke about political leaderships that do not have the strength to address the people with honesty. He also called on those who are "tilting at windmills to realize the real situation that the country is in and come to their senses."

    Addressing Parliament during the debate for the ratification of the European Council decision to create a permanent European financial support mechanism, Venizelos stressed that "Europe is a one-way street. There is no other way, no other strategic approach to increase low wages, reduce unemployment and create economic growth," adding that the goal is to keep Greece in the Eurozone.

    [05] Swoboda expresses support to new PASOK leader Venizelos

    Hannes Swoboda, president of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, expressed on Wednesday his support to PASOK and its new leader Evangelos Venizelos, while addressing a meeting of the group.

    Swoboda officially briefed the socialist EMPs on Venizelos's election as PASOK leader, noting at the same time that PASOK was beginning to improve its scores in opinion polls carried out in Greece in view of the upcoming general elections.

    He also announced that the new PASOK leader had an open invitation to address the socialist group.

    [06] PASOK leader in Cyprus Thursday, Friday

    PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos is due in Cyprus for a two-day working visit on Thursday, it was announced on Wednesday.

    During his first visit abroad as PASOK leader, Venizelos will be received on Friday by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and hold separate meetings with all Cyprus parliamentary party leaders the same day.

    The PASOK president will also be received by Archbishop of Cyprus Chryssostomos.

    [07] Property surtax part of memorandum agreements, PASOK spokeswoman claims

    In a reply to main opposition New Democracy's announcement that it intends to abolish the property surtax collected via electricity bills, PASOK spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata on Wednesday asserted that the specific surtax formed a part of the agreements already signed by ND as part of the Memorandum with Greece's EU partners and creditors.

    "The revenue this provides is an absolutely crucial element of the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy programme," she added, noting that its abolition would mean the government would then have to present the EU-IMF troika with another equivalent measures capable of raising two billion euro in state revenues.

    Though unpopular, the specific measure had enabled the government to gather funds in record time and allowed the approval of the new economic programme and averted default, she stressed.

    Gennimata also pointed out that PASOK had never envisaged the surtax as a permanent measure but one that will be replaced by a uniform tax on property.

    [08] ND renews accusations against PASOK for the upward revision of the 2009 state deficit

    The confrontation between the political parties of New Democracy (ND) and PASOK on the issue of the 2009 deficit figure continued on Wednesday.

    Referring to the contents of a letter by former European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia addressed to the parliamentary committee investigating the Hellenic Statistical Authority (EL.STAT) case file, ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis pointed out that "everything Mr. Almunia mentions confirms the accusations made by the EL.STAT board members; all of them appointed by the government of PASOK."

    The EL.STAT board members alleged that the 2009 public deficit figure had been deliberately inflated by including spending by public utilities (DEKO) in general government spending, even though this was not mandatory.

    In essence, the letter signed by Almunia is a response to the position adopted by the PASOK government, according to which, including expenditures from public utilities (DEKO) in general government spending constitutes a standard European practice. Almunia underlined in his letter that there is no legal binding obligation on each national statistical authority to follow the European Statistics Code of Practice.

    Mihelakis called on PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos to adopt a clear position as regards the practices adopted by his party which, eventually, caused a huge damage to the economy and led to the adoption of painful measures.

    "Offering an apology without admitting the truth can only be considered as a provocation by the people who are suffering," Mihelakis stressed.

    [09] Expelled renegade MPs wish to return to ND party

    Parliament deputies recently expelled from New Democracy (ND) after straying away from party policy lines apparently are looking for ways to return, sources in the party said on Wednesday.

    According to these sources, four of the MPs - namely, Margaritis Tzimas, George Vagionas, Costas Papasiozos and Giorgos Karasmanis - have addressed letters to ND leader Antonis Samaras saying that they heed the call for a united front in view of the general elections. ND has issued no formal response to the move.

    Another three expelled MPs, namely, Eliza Vozemberg, Costas Gioulekas and Giorgos Vlahos are also considering sending similar letters.

    Sources said that the party leadership has decided to accept the request of the renegade MPs and an official statement on the issue is expected to be issued within hours.

    [10] MP Tzimas rejoins ND parliamentary group

    Margaritis Tzimas, a parliament deputy recently expelled from New Democracy (ND) after straying away from party policy lines, rejoined the party's parliamentary group on Wednesday, following a decision by ND President Antonis Samaras.

    Announcing his decision, Samaras said that he would be sending a relevant letter to the Parliament president on Thursday.

    Tzimas had earlier addressed a letter to the ND leader saying that he heeded the call for a united front in view of the general elections.

    [11] KKE's Papariga on Greece's presence in the Eurozone

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Wednesday stressed that whether Greece will remain in the Eurozone or not did not depend on how many sacrifices the Greek people make.

    Papariga stressed that she based her conclusion on how the situation is being presented by the rest of the political parties in Greece, German Chancellor Merkel and other EU partners.

    [12] Tsipras: 'Upcoming elections an opportunity for major overthrow in Greece, Europe'

    The upcoming elections were an opportunity to create the prospect of a major overthrow in Greece and all of Europe, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday.

    He also noted that Greece had entered a period of "major confessions", starting with European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia's admission that the former finance minister George Papaconstantinou had essentially "voluntarily" enlarged Greece's deficit figures, and confessions by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European officials that they had never once considered expelling Greece from the eurozone, only forcing the country to accept "starvation wages" along the lines of Bulgaria.

    The only thing that had not yet been confessed, according to Tsipras, was the exact content of the Memorandum signed by the New Democracy-PASOK coalition government and what the Greek people would be required to do.

    [13] LAOS leader attacks ESM as 'concession of national sovereignty'

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday strongly opposed ratification of the European Council's decision for permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) by the Greek Parliament, accusing the government of essentially conceding elements of Greece's national sovereignty to Europe.

    "We have no right to vote for a reduction in the country's national sovereignty. Because what you are voting for today is a reduction of national sovereignty," Karatzaferis said during the debate on ratifying ESM in Parliament.

    "Greece cannot with a simple procedure vote for what's essentially the abolition of the finance ministry," LAOS's leader added, noting that the government had in 2009 received a state - albeit one with serious problems - but was "handing back a colony".

    He also attacked Finance Minister Filippos Sahinidis personally, accusing him of concealing the existence of an agreement with Finland signed by his predecessor Evangelos Venizelos and also questioning the exemption of the five Goldman Sachs bonds from PSI.

    Sahinidis denied the existence of both a deal between Finland and Greece and challenged Karatzaferis to submit any evidence he had of either the supposed agreement or the Goldman Sachs bonds to Parliament.

    [14] Democratic Left leader : Elections probably on May 6

    The most probable date for the general elections is May 6, said on Wednesday the president of the Democratic Left party Fotis Kouvelis said on Wednesday after his meeting with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

    According to Kouvelis, the premier briefed him on the pending legislations in parliament while he set to the prime minister the acute issue of unemployment, noting that a social protection net must exist for the financially weaker.

    Answering to a query, he said that the elections wager is the country's exit from the impasses and to remain alive with a standing society, adding that his party has a complete programme regarding changes in the loan agreement.

    He also said that his party will not participate in a co-governance with New Democracy and PASOK and will not provide them with an alibi.

    [15] FM Dimas on Greek-German relations

    Greek-German relations should be governed today by mutual respect, friendship and confidence, "and in this spirit the issue of German war reparations could and should be discussed again," Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas said on Wednesday.

    Speaking during a joint meeting of the Parliament's Economy and Defense Standing Committees, Dimas also added that the discussion should be carried out "with the due documentation that will reinforce our arguments."

    Dimas also reminded the joint effort deployed by Greece and Germany in building peace in Europe in the difficult years following WW II.

    "Even today, we must joinly fight for Europe's exit from the crisis," Dimas noted.

    [16] GSEE union federation accuses troika mission of 'neoliberal fixations'

    Commenting on statements concerning the policy for Greece made by EU-IMF troika mission officials in the European Parliament, the Greek umbrella trade union organisation General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on Wednesday suggested that troika members had "neoliberal fixations" that made them insist on the same dead-end policy mix that had sunk Greece into five consecutive years of unprecedented recession.

    GSEE stressed that this policy had led to a society scourged by poverty and unemployment, with tragic results for both the economy and society.

    [17] Illegal migrants reception centers in Attica to open very soon

    Following Attica Regional Council decision for the establishment of three reception centers for illegal migrants in Attica prefecture, the Citizens Protection Ministry's procedures will move rapidly, said Deputy Citizens Protection Minister Manolis Othonas on Wednesday, speaking to private television MEGA.

    Othonas stressed that "given that the existing premises are in a good condition, the first reception center will be ready to operate within 35-45 days", adding that the Ministry will undertake the cost of any restoration work in the existing premises.

    [18] Immediate release from prison for individuals serving sentences of less than five years

    Individuals serving prison terms of less than 5 years will be released, as opposed to those sentenced with more than 5 years, according to a recommendation by Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Anastassios Kanellopoulos, it was announced on Wednesday.

    In response to a relevant question by the Halkida Prison chief administrator, the deputy prosecutor pointed out that inmates serving a prison term of less than 5 years, will be released immediately pursuant to Law No. 4043/2012.

    This provision concerns inmates sentenced with up to 3 years in prison and have served 1/10 of their term as well as those with sentences between 3 and 5 years who have served 1/5 of their prison term.

    [19] Draft presidential decree for public-sector staff evaluation unveiled for consultation

    Administrative Reform and Electronic Governance Minister Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday unveiled a proposed presidential decree for the evaluation of public-sector staff for a week-long public consultation procedure before it is sent to the Council of State for approval.

    The minister underlined that the presidential decree was not in any way linked to the prospect of redundancy for public-sector staff and said that the evaluation process might begin within 2013.

    Based on the decree, public-sector staff will be asked to sign individual contracts at the end of each year that set precise and quantifiable targets that they must meet, while promotions and pay increases will be made on the basis of these targets.

    Employees will be evaluated based on their administrative ability, their behaviour in the workplace and their efficiency. Recommendations will be made by the employee's immediate supervisor and the final decision taken by a member of senior management.

    All public-sector staff that succeed in exceeding 80 percent of the target set will receive a bonus as foreseen under the bill for the new wage scale. Certain public-sector services to be named by the finance ministry, such as tax offices, will also be eligible for a bonus for meeting fiscal targets.

    Reppas said that the higher positions in the hierarchy will be occupied only by the 'best' under the new system of evaluation, rather than the previous system where promotions were based on years of service alone. While noting that there was a subjective element to the evaluation process, he added that purely objective criteria did not necessarily promote those with the highest merit, as seen in the labour reserve measure.

    [20] Up to 6,000 hirings in local government, based on ministerial decision

    Up to 6,000 employees can be hired by municipalities with private-sector fixed-term contracts, according to a joint decision of the interior and finance ministers announced on Wednesday.

    The staff hiring will be to cover needs for jobs such as hygiene and sanitation and subject to the approval of the appropriate committee. The 6,000 places will be filled gradually and in conjunction with the funds available to local authorities for proven needs.

    [21] Revision of visa issuance key to attracting more tourists

    Accelerating procedures towards simplifying visa issuance was the key to maximizing tourism figures in Greece. This was the message of a seminar organized by Greek Tourism Organization (EOT) to celebrate its 60th birthday in Athens on Wednesday.

    Greek Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos, in his address, said a Schenghen treaty did not favour the smooth travel of tourists from countries outside the treaty and underlined that the ministry was taking initiatives towards changing this fact.

    Taleb D. Rifai, World Tourism Organization UNWTO <http://unwto.org/en/about/management/taleb-rifai>, secretary general, in his address stressed that Greece could play a vital role in a front towards modernizing visa issuance.

    Greece should welcome its incoming tourists from countries outside the Schenghen treaty in a better way, Geroulanos said, adding these people should not be treated as suspected criminals. He stressed that from the 16.5 million tourists visiting Greece, only 700 choose to stay in the country illegally.

    Rifai said there must be a revision of visa issuance process and noted a tourist cannot wait for three or four days for his visa when he decides for his trip at the last moment. WTO's secretary-general underlined that modernization of the visa process goes through technology and Internet use.

    [22] Palestinian diplomatic mission appeals for release of administrative detainees held in Israeli prisons

    The Palestinian diplomatic mission issued an appeal to Greek human rights organizations, Greek MPs and MEPs, the Hellenic Red Cross and "all advocates of freedom and justice", to exert pressure on the Israeli government to respect and comply with fundamental principles of international law, such as, the Fourth Geneva Convention, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The Palestinian diplomatic mission called for the release of Hana Shalabi, who is on hunger strike for the past 41 days, and all others held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons without charge or trial in violation of international fair trial standards.

    The statement underlined that more than 300 Palestinians, among them many MPs, are currently held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. Thirty of them are on hunger strike.

    Financial News

    [23] Bank recapitalization plan to be unveiled before Easter

    The terms and conditions of a bank recapitalization scheme were discussed on Wednesday during a meeting between Prime Minister Lucas Papademos with Finance Minister Philippos Sahinidis and the ministry's secretary general Elias Plaskovitis. The government is determined to take a final decision on the issue before the Easter holidays without affecting a course towards holding general elections in the country.

    Meanwhile, the Finance ministry on Wednesday announced it was extending a deadline for Greek banks to publish their balance sheets for 2011 until April 20, offering more time to banks to fully assess the impact of a PSI program on their results.

    [24] Israel examining natgas export to Europe via Greece

    Israel is examining all the alternative options for exporting natural gas, but channeling it to Europe is the most natural choice, and export via Greece is being mulled, Israeli energy and water resources minister Uzi Landau said in Athens on Wednesday, addressing an Economist conference on energy infrastructures in Greece, Cyprus and Israel.

    Addressing the same conference, Greek environment, energy and climate change minister George Papaconstantinou said the possibility exists of creating a third natgas transport corridor to Europe via Greece, while Cyprus' commerce, industry and tourism minister Neoklis Sylkiotis sad that the three countries were capable of guaranteeing the smooth flow of natural gas to Europe, adding that at least eight years would be required to build the relevant infrastructures in order for exports of natural gas to begin from the eastern Mediterranean region.

    Landau said that the questions that need to be answered with respect to natgas export from Israel were whether the gas will be channeled to Asia or to Europe, and whether it will be exported in liquefied natural gas (LNG) form or by pipeline via Cyprus and Greece to the rest of Europe.

    "All these are under discussion, and there will be proposals," he said, noting that channeling the gas to Europe was the most natural choice.

    At a first stage, the gas that has been discovered in Israel's sea region will be used for electricity production and industrial use, and Landau said he was open to export of gas to Palestine and Jordan which, he noted, will boost regional cooperation for consolidating peace. He also said that a Memorandum of Understanding has already been sighed for connecting Israel's electricity grid with that of Cyprus via underwater cable, while studies are also being drafted for hooking up Cyprus' grid with Greece's via Crete. "The Greece-Cyprus-Israel axis, and perhaps of other countries, could provide an anchor of stability," Landau said.

    [25] Mytilineos Group reports improved 2011 results

    Mytilineos Group on Wednesday reported improved 2011 results, with net after tax and minorities earnings totaling 42.6 million euros. Exports soared 80 pct last year, to surpass 1.2 billion euros, while consolidated turnover totaled 1.571 billion euros (from 969 million euros in 2010) and EBITDA jumped to 208.7 million euros from 160.3 million euros, over the same periods, respectively.

    The group said its 2011 figures did not include an one-off revenue of 32.4 million euros from the sale of ETADE -a subsidiary of METKA- contract value to Terna in January 2010.

    METKA's turnover totaled 1.004 billion euros in 2011, from 581.3 million euros in 2010, reflecting progress in work contracts in Turkey and Syria. EBITDA rose to 161.6 million euros from 101.3 million euros in 2010, while EBITDA margin remained at high levels (16.1 pct). Net profits jumped to 115 million euros, form 60.7 million euros in 2010.

    [26] Astir Palace Hotel reports higher losses in 2011

    Astir Palace Hotel Vouliagmeni on Wednesday reported higher losses in 2011 hit by higher tax provisions. Turnover totaled 28.7 million euros in 2011, from 31.2 million euros in 2010, reflecting higher revenues in 2010 because of the Posidonia shipping fair and lower tourism trends in Attica last year.

    The hotel, however, said overnight stays in Arion Resort & SPA and The Westin Athens totaled 59,495 last year, up from 59,264 in 2010, despite a 2.8 pct decline in revenue.

    Astir Palace said losses rose to 12.6 million euros last year, from a loss of 8.9 million euros in 2010, while pre-tax, write off and property tax results showed a loss of 640,000 euros, down from 997,000 in 2010. The company said bank lending rose to 25.1 million euros in 2011 from 23.4 million euros in 2010.

    [27] ASE suspends trading of Alsinco's shares

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday announced a decision to temporary suspend trading in Alscino's shares, following a company's decision to seek court protection as it faces financial problems. The decision to suspend trading is necessary to protect investors and ensure the smooth operation of the listed company's shares, ASE said in a statement. Market authorities will also examine the transfer of Alsinco into the surveillance category.

    [28] Bussiness Briefs

    -- The Greek commercial real estate market will face significant challenges this year, Colliers International Hellas said in a report, and stressed the investment opportunities could be traced in preferential office spaces through renegotiation of rents, shopping centers and malls and in state-owned property assets.

    -- Aegean Airlines on Wednesday reported higher losses in 2011 burdened by an extra tax charge of 8.0 million euros. Losses totaled 27.2 million euros last year, from 23.3 million euros in 2010.

    -- ANEK Lines on Wednesday reported losses of 22.9 million euros in 2011, after losses of 89.7 million in the previous year.

    -- M.I. Maillis AEBE on Wednesday announced its return to profitability last year, with consolidated after tax earnings totaling 1.7 million euros in 2011, after losses of 63.5 million euros in 2010.

    -- Sidenor Group on Wednesday said its 2011 showed losses of 48.9 million euros, or 0.5084 euros per share, up from a loss of 23 million euros, or 0.2391 euros per share in 2010.

    [29] Greek stocks end flat on Wednesday

    Greek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, despite a new decline in bank shares which extended their fall for the seventh consecutive session with accumulated losses of more than 20 pct during this period. The composite index ended a nervous session 0.01 pct down at 752.64 points, while turnover remained a low 47.368 million euros.

    The Big Cap index eased 0.57 pct, the Mid Cap index rose 0.56 pct and the Small Cap index fell 0.34 pct. The Chemicals (4.24 pct), Food (2.30 pct) and Oil (1.33 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (3.73 pct), Raw Materials (3.17 pct) and Utilities (2.49 pct) suffered losses.

    Piraeus Bank (5.70 pct), Hellenic Postbank (3.04 pct) and Eurobank (2.42 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while MIG (4.25 pct), OTE (3.73 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (3.32 pct) ended lower.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 71 to 59 with another 34 issues unchanged. Ilyda (28.48 pct), Fieratex (22.90 pct) and Atti-kat (20 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (19.70 pct), AS Company (12.8 pct) and Euromedica (9.70 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.14%

    Commercial: -0.19%

    Construction: -0.22%

    Oil & Gas: +1.33%

    Personal & Household: +0.85%

    Raw Materials: -3.17%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.33%

    Technology: -0.25%

    Telecoms: -3.73%

    Banks: -0.85%

    Food & Beverages: +2.30%

    Health: +1.16%

    Utilities: -2.49%

    Chemicals: +4.24%

    Financial Services: -1.23%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.07

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.74

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.80

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.84

    National Bank of Greece: 2.08

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.68

    OPAP: 7.32

    OTE: 3.10

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.32

    Titan: 14.18

    [30] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the new 10-year Greek bond and the German benchmark bond widened to 18.01 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 17.72 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 19.87 pct and the German Bund 1.86 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-mont rate eased to 1.42 pct, the six-month rate was 1.09 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.78 pct and the one-month rate was 0.42 pct.

    [31] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.72 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 15.563 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,170 contracts worth 7.505 million euros, with 16,242 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 51,243 contracts, worth 8.058 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (22,392), followed by Cyprus Bank (1,562), OTE (1,256), PPC (861), Piraeus Bank (2,503), National Bank (18,074), Mytilineos (559), Hellenic Postbank (1,380), GEK (364), Marfin Popular Bank (404), OPAP (378) and Hellenic Exchanges (270).

    [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.353

    Pound sterling 0.851

    Danish kroner 7.547

    Swedish kroner 9.013

    Japanese yen 112.4

    Swiss franc 1.224

    Norwegian kroner 7.725

    Canadian dollar 1.348

    Australian dollar 1.301

    General News

    [33] USS Enterprise arrives off Athens as part of final deployment

    The legendary air carrier USS Enterprise, sailing on its final deployment this year, docked off Faliro Bay in southern coastal Athens on Wednesday morning, 49 years to the month since last visiting the Greek capital.

    The Enterprise, the longest carrier in the world and the first nuclear carrier in the US fleet, is accompained by the cruiser USS Vicksburg.

    The majority of the Enterprise's personnel, nearly 5,000 sailors, marines and aviators, of which roughly 950 are women, will disembark the vessel for shore leave in the greater Athens area, a US navy spokeswoman on the vessel told AMNA.

    A reception will be held on the Enterprise's main hangar on Wednesday evening for Greek military and law enforcement leadership, staff of the US embassy and political leaders. The ship will remain docked off Faliro for at least three days before steaming towards the Suez Canal and then on to the Persian Gulf for its last deployment. It is scheluded to be placed on reserve status this year for later decommissioning, a process that will occur when the nuclear reactors powering the vessel are removed.

    The Enterprise is the flagship of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, commanded by Rear Adm. Walter E. Carter.

    [34] 'End to Antiquities Trafficking' exhibition at Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum

    A temporary exhibition dealing with one of the most contemporary and sensitive issues and showcasing stolen artifacts that have been reacquired, titled "End to Antiquities Trafficking", will open in April and run through September at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.

    The exhibition, which was approved on Tuesday by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), hopes to underscore the multifaceted dimensions of the problem of antiquities trafficking and smuggling, and also to raise public awareness on the risks faced by antiquities in Greece.

    A total of 170 artifacts from the Museum's collections, the 6th and 7th Ephorates of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities will be on display in the six sections of the exhibition, as well as archive material from the culture and tourism ministry's protection of cultural treasures directorate.

    The first section, titled "The Abduction of History", will feature a review of antiquities smuggling and illegal trafficking of cultural treasures from antiquity to the present, with the display of 101 artifacts of recent antiquities smuggling from Macedonia, coming most likely from an Archaic period cemetery.

    The showcase exhibits of the second section, titled "Antiquities without a Past", will be two stolen and retrieved gold wreaths: a golden wreath from a Thessaloniki Aristotelion University (AUTH) excavation at the Vergina archaeological site which will be on loan from the Archaeological Museum of Pella and a golden funerary wreath returned by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2007.

    The third section, titled "Lands without History", will feature five stolen Cycladic statuettes now in the Thessaloniki Archaeology Museum's collections.

    A bronze Macedonian shield, a male statue and a plethora of archive material and photographs on the first repatriation of Greek antiquities in 1946 and the relevant international accords of UNESCO and the Hague will feature in the fourth section, titled "Nostos (desire to return home) without return".

    The fifth section, titled "Falsification of Antiquity", will feature 56 illegally excavated gold coins that have been confiscated by authorities, and present not only the financial dimensions of antiquities trafficking and its link with international financial crime, but also the modern-day method of trafficking, via the Internet.

    The sixth and final section, titled "Learn and Save - Time for Action", aims to highlight ways of protecting antiquities, such as adhering to relevant legislation and codes of ethics by antiquities dealers, collectors and private museums, and ways of preventing antiquities theft, such as information and education of the public on issues of safeguarding cultural heritage.

    [35] Large quantity of cannabis confiscated

    An Albanian national was arrested on Tuesday afternoon in the Athens district of Egaleo charged with drug dealing.

    Police acted on a tip-off and located the 27 year-old suspect from whom they confiscated 103 kilos of cannabis, a car and two mobile phones.

    The suspect will be sent before an Athens prosecutor.

    [36] Local authority staff to join public sector work stoppage

    Local authority staff on Wednesday announced that they will join in a work stoppage called by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY on Thursday, between the hours of 11:30 a.m. until the end of the shift.

    According to an announcement, their participation in the strike is a protest against constant cutbacks in benefits and pharmaceuticals, reduced funding and smaller budgets for state hospitals and the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services that are having tragic repercussions for the public.

    Olympics

    [37] British Embassy presents 'Imagine Peace' Olympic Truce programme

    Presenting the "Imagine Peace" educational programme created in the framework of the Olympic Truce and in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, British Ambassador to Athens Dr David Landsman on Wednesday said that its central message was that children could transmit the spirit of the Olympic Truce through dialogue and respect for difference.

    The ambassador, speaking in Greece, stressed that the Olympic Truce proposed by the United Kingdom for the Games had been adopted by 193 countries in the United Nations and that athletes must be able to compete "without the weight of political, religious and racial differences".

    The 'Imagine Peace' programme was the result of close cooperation between the International Centre for the Olympic Truce, the British Council and the British Embassy and begins in Athens schools after the Orthodox Easter.

    In the period May 10-17, when the Olympic Torch Relay will be transporting the Olympic Flame from Ancient Olympia to the Panathenian Stadium in Athens, it will also be presented at schools in the towns where the torch relay will pass.

    It includes games and activities with specialised British Council teachers and Greek Olympic champions, while on May 18 when the Olympic Flame is delivered to the mayor of London, there will be a dance for children at the same time in schools throughout the world.

    From Thursday, meanwhile, both young and old will be able to participate in the 'Post for Peace' competition on the Internet, visiting the website http://trucewall.olympictruce.org in order to post pictures, photos and videos in support of peace and sport and possibly win one of a number of prizes, which will go to the posts that have the greatest number of 'likes'.

    Weather forecast

    [38] Mainly sunny on Thursday

    Sunny weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with the exception of possible showers in southern and western Greece. Mainly west southwesterly winds, ranging from 3-6 Beaufort. Temperatures will range from 3C to 23C. Sunny in Attica, with temperatures ranging between 7C and 21C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures between 9C and 21C.

    [39] The Wednesday edition of Athens dailies at a glance

    The return of 1.5 million Greeks to their villages, the ongoing deliberations over the date of the general elections, and the burning issue of the overindebted households, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Return to the village!..".

    AVGHI: "The priorities for the new coalition of authority".

    AVRIANI: "Joaquin Almunia (former EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs) sends former PASOK prime minister George Papandreou and his (then) Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou to the Special Court".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Who pocketed 60,000,000 euros for the Leopards (battle tanks)".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Harsh message for salaries, layoffs".

    ESTIA: "No date forecast for general elections".

    ETHNOS: "Escape to the village for 1.5 million young people".

    IMERISSIA: "Battle in the banks for new capital".

    KATHIMERINI: "Greece's continued stay in Schengen in jeopardy".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Troika remains adamant on the internal devaluation recipe".

    NIKI: " 'Haircut' your loan and save your house".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Immediate measures to protect the overindebted households".

    TA NEA: "How the PPC 'robs' us".

    VRADYNI: "11 changes in arrangements for households and professional debts".

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