|Tuesday, 12 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-04-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 3 April 2012 Issue No: 4037
 Greece seeks EU support for migrant campsBRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Aroni)
Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Monday met European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom in Brussels and asked that the European Commission support Greece's efforts to set up centres to detain migrants not eligible for asylum while they awaited deportation back to their own country.
During a joint press conference with Chrysohoidis after the meeting, Malmstrom said the Commission would look into the options for supporting Greece in line with European rules and international standards.
At the same time, she stressed the need for more efficient use of Community funds destined for use against illegal migration, saying there were problems with their absorption.
According to the Greek minister, of the 250 million euro available to Greece from the External Borders Protection Fund and the Return Fund, Greece has absorbed 40 million euro.
Malmstrom stressed that efficient guarding of the borders, a properly functioning asylum system, humanitarian action but also centres to house migrants not eligible for asylum were necessary in order to deal with illegal migration.
Chrysohoidis underlined that Greece is handling a major humanitarian crisis with 150,000 people entering the country of just 11 million people every year. He underlined the government's determination to implement an action plan to stem the flow of illegal migrants and revamp its system for handling borders and asylum applications.
Concerning the centres for housing migrants not eligible for international protection that must return to their own countries, Chrysohoidis said that these had to be evenly distributed throughout Greece and meet all European safety standards. He stressed that such centres would restrict the uncontrolled movements of illegal migrants within Greek territory and their ability to slip into other EU countries.
It would also send a clear message to migrants planning to illegally enter the EU via Greece, since they would know that they would not be allowed to roam around freely but be detained in order to be sent back to their own country.
The Greek minister stressed that the signature of a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey, which Turkey has refused to sign until the EU opens talks on visa liberalisation, would be "key" in handling migration flows to Greece.
Regarding the proposal for building a wall along the land border with Turkey in Evros, the Greek minister said that this initiative would have a 'substantive and symbolic value' that must be combined with other measures, since even if the border with Evros was effectively guarded, the flow of migrant traffic would simply move to the Greek islands.
 Gov't spokesman: Exact date of elections to be finalised during Holy WeekThe precise date of the general elections will be finalised during Holy Week, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said on Monday, speaking on private SKAI television station, adding that nothing has changed with regard to the dates.
The most likely dates for the elections are April 29 or May 6, according to recent statements by government officials and political parties.
Kapsis said that the government must continue to work before and after the elections, adding that there is no room for laxness, but also for exaggerations.
"The impression must not be created among the public that the difficulties have passed," Kapsis said.
He also said that no amendment would be tabled in parliament if not previously approved by the prime minister's office "in order to avert an 'amendments industry' phenomenon".
On the illegal immigration problem, Kapsis said that this issue will not be solved by the elections, and appealed to residents reacting against the establishment of illegal migrant reception centers in their localities to "not look at the illegal immigrants as nuclear bombs".
 PM receives Democratic Alliance leader, head of EuroParliament ALDE groupGreek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Monday received Democratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis and the head of the European Parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group Guy Verhofstadt, who presented the ALDE proposal for the recovery of the Greek economy.
 Bakoyannis, Verhofstadt outline ALDE proposals for Greek economyDemocratic Alliance party leader Dora Bakoyannis and the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt held a joint press conference in Athens on Monday, presenting ALDE's proposals for creating jobs and the recovery of the Greek economy.
The 'Greece 2020' programme they unveiled called for a firmly European orientation, supported vital reforms and emphasised the need for growth. According to Verhostadt, if this programme was fully implemented, the need for a third Greek bailout would be avoided and the country would be able to overcome the crisis.
He also noted that neither the two parties previously alternating in power nor the parties of the extreme right or left would be capable of placing Greece on a track for recovery.
The former Belgian premier said that the ALDE proposals supplemented the policies foreseen by the loan agreement and PSI and called for a faster pace of reforms, drastic reductions in state funding for political parties and using growth and investments to end the crisis.
The ALDE group president underlined his opposition to cutting wages and pensions and called for a fund to direct some 80 billion euro to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by 2020. He suggested that 25 percent of the revenue raised from privatisations in Greece (roughly 12 billion euro by 2020) be directed toward this fund.
Other suggestions included a reduction in taxation for businesses and the firing of public sector staff that were provenly corrupt or habitually absent.
Bakoyannis emphasised that her party was "fanatically" in favour of structural reforms but did not agree with reducing wages and pensions, while stressing that the special fund for supporting SMEs would eliminate the risk of failing to absorb community funds.
"The message we are sending is for a smaller and more efficient state that creates jobs," Bakoyannis added, noting that the aim was to create new jobs and persuade Europeans to support Greece in its efforts.
 PASOK leader to propose two televised debates with ND counterpart, two with all party leadersPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos intends to propose a series of televised debates between the political party leaders in the run-up to the elections, two with main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and two with the participation of all the parties, sources at PASOK said on Monday.
The same sources said PASOK was making satisfactory progress in the selection of candidates for its party tickets, predicting that the party will be ready to officially announce these at a meeting of PASOK's National Council on April 11.
 Confrontation between PASOK-ND a sham, Papariga saidCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Monday stated that "the confrontation between the political parties of PASOK and New Democracy (ND) is nothing but a sham".
"The feuding between them, about which of them will supposedly save the people, is a sham considering that they have had the same agendas for a long time - now even more so - and are competing with each other over which of them will be having the upper hand in a post-election cooperation," she stressed.
Papariga also stated that equally superficial and hypocritical is to divide the political powers into pro or anti memorandum because the so-called anti-memorandum front includes powers that supported or compromised with the policy that heightened the crisis and ushered in the memorandum.
"KKE is clearly the political power that is against the capitalist economy that brought the crisis and the memorandum," Papariga stressed, adding that her party focuses on the heart of the problem that took away the conquests of the workers.
 SYRIZA demands BoG documents on state bonds transactionsRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group leader Alexis Tsipras in a report addressed to the minister of finance suggested that the Bank of Greece (BoG) should submit to Parliament all documents concerning transactions related with the buying and selling of state bonds in the period between March 1, 2011 and March 3, 2012, it was announced on Monday.
Tsipras characterized as unsatisfactory the prime minister's response in parliament to a current question on the participation of public legal entities and social insurance funds in the bond swap scheme, maintaining that the legal preconditions necessary to guarantee their regular expenditures were not met and requested that all relevant documents be submitted.
 LA.O.S leader on illegal migration; funding of political partiesPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis on Monday referred again to the measures announced by Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis aimed at combating illegal migration characterizing them as "ludicrous and inadequate".
Karatzaferis repeated that "deportation is the only solution" suggesting that until they are deported the illegal migrants can be hosted on islands.
Referring to the upcoming elections, he said that they will be held at the most inappropriate time and underlined that "this happens only to serve the vanity of one individual".
He repeated that the state funding of political parties should stop, and referring to the German WWII reparations, he said they were unilaterally written off by the German foreign minister.
 Dem. Left leader rules out cooperation with ND-PASOKDemocratic Left party leader Fotis Kouvelis on Monday ruled out cooperation with a New Democracy-PASOK coalition government, stressing that the policies of the memorandums had "carved up Greek society".
Speaking during a visit to Crete's Lasithi prefecture, he said that Greece had to renegotiate the terms of the loan agreement and that his party would resist pressures to cooperate with a PASOK-ND government.
He predicted elections around May 6 and also forecast that additional measures amounting to 15 billion euro will have to be taken in June, which would lead to heightened tension, even greater austerity and a deeper recession.
According to Kouvelis, the wager in the upcoming elections was "keeping the country alive and society upright".
Concerning the loan agreements and the commitments demanded of Greece, he noted that there were margins to renegotiate and review these but stressed that their outright rejection would have "tragic consequences".
 'Independent Greeks' form Parliamentary groupThe newly-formed 'Independent Greeks' party on Monday announced that it has formed its own Parliamentary group after the addition of Viotia MP Mihalis Yiannakis to its ranks, which swelled the number of MPs it has in Parliament to 10.
The party formed by former New Democracy MP Panos Kammenos will now have additional rights provided by Parliamentary regulations and also better representation in the media under the law during the pre-election period.
'Independent Greeks' is continuing to organise itself in the run-up to the elections, appointing a press spokesman and, last
Thursday, placing Evia MP Costas Markopoulos as its Political Planning Secretary.
Despite the fact that it was formed almost exclusively of MPs from mainstream parties that refused to vote in favour of the second loan memorandum, its leadership insists that it's not "one-dimensional" or exclusively a protest vote party.
Its policy platform is due to be unveiled in the next few days, outlining the party's positions on key issues, while it claims supporters from the entire political spectrum.
 DM Avramopoulos in New York, heads to DC Tuesday for talks with US Defence SecretaryNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
Greek defence minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, on a visit to the US, said that despite the difficulties Greece has one of the best defence systems in the world, impeccably equipped, with high morale in its armed forces, and excellent officers prepared to give their lives once again for Greece.
Addressing a memorial service for the heroes of Cyprus' National Liberation Struggle of 1955-59, officiated by Archbishop Demetrios of America in Long Island, Avramopoulos said that he and the commander of Greece's Armed Forces responded with joy to the invitation of the Cypriot associations of the US "to honor the memory of those who died during the Cypriot struggle, but also of the Greek officers and soldiers, who gave their blood for the freedom and independence of our Cyprus".
Avramopoulos said that he is in the US on an "official mission", at the invitation of his US counterpart, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, with whom he will meet in Washington DC on Tuesday, calling it "an important meeting in this very difficult conjuncture" for Greece.
He said that Cyprus continues to be divided today, with (Turkish) occupation forces still there, "a barbarous act that offends the global civilisation".
Avramopoulos further expressed pride in the Greek Americans, "who excel in all sectors of the political, economic and social life" in "this important country" with which Greece is "bound with strong ties of friendship and solidarity", adding that "these strong bonds will be reaffirmed and renewed during my contacts in Washington".
 Greece: War reparations issue with Germany still openThe Greek government on Monday emphasised that it has never relinquished its rights to war reparations from Germany for damages and loss of life during the Second World War.
"Greece's positions are unwavering, and what the (Greek) foreign minister said recently in (Greece's) Parliament applies in the fullest," spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said a day after the eye-brow raising comment from Berlin.
The spokesman referred to statements by FM Stavros Dimas in Parliament on March 28, made specifically in reference to the issue of war reparations and a "forced loan" taken by the Axis forces occupying Greece in 1941.
Delavekouras said the twin issues remain absolutely open for Athens. He added that Dimas' statement was that "this issue must be again discussed with the necessary documentation that will bolster the strength of our arguments, and always within the framework of mutual respect and trust that should distinguish Greek-German relations."
In an AMNA dispatch over the weekend from Berlin, the German foreign ministry claimed that "there is no longer any issue of war reparations (to Greece) from Germany."
According to the German government's official position, Berlin "acknowledges its responsibility" for WWII and is "deeply regretful for the pain of the victims", but notes that Germany has already paid reparations in the context of the 1946 agreement, while actively supporting the reconstruction of Greece.
Greece, one of the victorious WWII allies, was ravaged by a triple Axis occupation (May 1941-Oct. 1944), with the Nazi occupation by far the worst and disastrous.
According to the same statement, for Germany "the matter of the reparations is no longer an issue" 65 years after the war and following decades of "peaceful, confidence filled" cooperation with Greece both at bilateral level and in the context of the European Union and NATO.
The statement generated the sharp reaction, amongst others, of veteran Leftist leader and wartime resistance icon Manolis Glezos who, together with the deceased Apostolos Santas, secretly climbed atop the Acropolis Hill in central Athens and took down the Swastika in the early morning hours of May 31, 1942 - a defiant and extraordinarily symbolic act of resistance at the beginning of the Axis occupation of Greece.
Glezos said the German foreign ministry statement was ungrounded historically, "a lie and infuriating".
He said it was ungrounded historically because it ignores the decision of the 19-member Allied Commission of Paris in 1946, and contained in the Paris Reparations Agreement of 1946, under which Germany is obliged to pay 7.1 billion US dollars to Greece (at 1938 rates), in other words, 108 billion euros today without interest. Glezos further said that Germany ignores a 3.5-billion-dollar (1938 nominal value) "forced loan" to Nazi occupation forces, which would be 54 billion euros today.
"Not a single Deutschmark, drachma or euro" has been paid to Greece towards those debts, he said, despite the fact that Germany has paid reparations to all the other countries with which it had been at war, without exception.
"There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity," Glezos stressed.
 Minister withdraws controversial tanker truck amendmentInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Makis Voridis late Monday night withdrew a controversial amendment concerning the fuel-tanker truck licences, which has divided the government and was strongly criticised as pandering to specific interests, as well as going counter to Greece's commitment to liberalise the profession.
In statements to the radio station 'Ant1' earlier Monday, Voridis denied that the measure would keep the tanker-truck driver profession closed and stressed that anyone with 1,000 euro would be able to get a truckers' licence.
"With the specific amendment, I just wanted to place restrictions on the conversion of older licences from general trucking licences to tanker-truck licences during their transfer," he added.
The minister's statement came in the wake of a PASOK meeting that decided to ask Voridis to withdraw the specific amendment and threats from two former PASOK transport ministers that they and their party would not support the amendment when it came to Parliament.
Current administrative reform and electronic governance minister Dimitris Reppas, who was transport minister when measures to open the truckers' profession were first passed, criticised Voridis for tabling measures that were crucial for the operation of markets without warning and without first briefing the government.
The specific amendment was also criticised by the truckers federation, who called it "provocative" and said that it preserved the privileges of a minority of 700 people for the space of 10 years.
 Public-sector staff evaluation to begin after May 15, minister announcesThe evaluation of public-sector staff is expected to begin in the second half of May, Administrative Reform and Electronic Governance Minister Dimitris Reppas said on the private radio station 'Vima 99.5' on Monday.
He clarified that this would take the form of a multiple-choice test of about 80 questions and not a written exam, as suggested in some of the media.
Reppas said that the ministry, in collaboration with French experts and the European Commission's Task Force, have decided the criteria and the methodology of the evaluation that, among others, will include a multiple choice test that will be modified according to an employee's position and area of expertise.
The criteria and methodology will be linked to academic qualifications, experience but also an employee's skills, he added, noting that the form of the process and 'objective criteria' had not yet been finalised. He also noted that a test of skills would account for approximately 20 percent of an employee's evaluation score.
Concerning the public-sector lay-offs demanded by the EU-IMF troika, Reppas said that hiring and departures from the public sector were being monitored so that Greece will meet the target of reducing the number of public-sector staff by 150,000 by the end of 2015.
"In the framework of restructuring [state] services, apart from retirements or the reduction of new hiring, within 2012 there must logically be departures of staff that arising from the restructuring, abolition or merger of organisations. By the end of 2012 we must be near this target of 15,000. For this reason, precisely, so that we do not do this in a horizontal way, with non-rational and unfair criteria, we have begun the evaluation process," he said.
 Papandreou in New York on TuesdaySocialist International (SI) president and former Greek prime minister George Papandreou will be in New York as of Tuesday, to chair a meeting of the "Stiglitz committee" on world economy.
Heads of state and party leaders that are IS members, as well as economists and officials from international organisations are participating in the meeting which will be taking place on Wednesday at the United Nations headquarters.
The meeting will focus on developments in the eurozone, the impact of the economic crisis on a regional and world level and the need of reforms.
On Thursday, Papandreou is expected to address, as main speaker, a round table on world economy organised by the New America think tank.
 Athens mayor unveils draft law proposal on controlling protest ralliesAthens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Monday unveiled a proposal for a draft law on protest demonstrations that will have a twofold purpose namely, function as a law preparatory tool and, at the same time, become the "starting point for an open and honest public debate".
The draft law proposal was ready since February and has already been sent to the political parties and all interested sides, while soon it will be posted in the City of Athens website.
The articles comprising it were inspired by relevant legislation into effect in many EU states and the European Court case law, the Athens mayor stressed.
He pointed out that the draft law proposal is based on the principle that violent gatherings are not protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, on the principle of proportionality in the maintenance of law and order and on the law enforcement authorities' obligation to protect demonstrators from counterdemonstrations.
 Parliament president received by Italy's chamber of deputies presidentROME (AMNA)
Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos on Monday met here with Chamber of Deputies President Gianfranco Fini.
Speaking to the press, Petsalnikos thanked the Italian deputies, people and the government for their support to Greece and its people.
He underlined that Greece is making a huge effort, focusing on fiscal reform, and during the past two years has managed to cut state deficit 6.5 pct, stressing that this was the biggest state deficit reduction ever achieved by a European country in such a short period of time.
On his part, Fini stated that the economic crisis is global and concerns the European Union as a whole and the entire West, underlining the importance of a unified front by the Mediterranean countries seeking equal distribution of EU funds.
 Roughly 6,000 candidates less in this year's nationwide university entrance examsFewer candidates will be vying for a seat in higher education institutions in Greece, based on figures made public on Monday.
A total of 110,851 candidates will participate in the nationwide annual university entrance exams to open on May 21 as opposed to last year's 116,542.
 Eurostat:Greece records highest unemployment rate among youth, at 50.4 percentGreece recorded the second highest unemployment rate in the 27-member EU in December 2011, at 21 percent, following Spain with 23 percent, while Greece also had the highest unemployment rate among young people below the age of 25, at a staggering 50.4 percent, the European statistics service EUROSTAT said on Monday.
According to figures released by EUROSTAT, the largest increase in unemployment in one year was again recorded in Greece, where unemployment skyrocketed from14.3 percent in December 2010 to 21.0 percent in December 2011, with unemployment among men jumping to 18 percent, among women to 25 percent, and among youth under 25 years of age to 50.4 percent.
The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in the entire EU27 was 10.2 percent in February 2012 compared with 10.1 percent in January and 9.5 percent in February 2011, while the rate in the 17-member eurozone was 10.8 percent in February against 10.7 percent in January and 10.0 percent in February 2011.
Eurostat estimates that 24.550 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 17.134 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in February 2012. Compared with January 2012, the number of persons unemployed increased by 167 000 in the EU27 and by 162 000 in the euro area. Compared with February 2011, unemployment rose by 1.874 million in the EU27 and by 1.476 million in the euro area.
Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.2%), the Netherlands (4.9%), Luxembourg (5.2%) and Germany (5.7%), and the highest in Spain (23.6%) and Greece (21.0% in December 2011).
Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate fell in eight Member States, increased in eighteen and remained stable in Romania. The largest falls were observed in Lithuania (17.5% to 14.3% between the fourth quarters of 2010 and 2011), Latvia (17.0% to 14.6% between the fourth quarters of 2010 and 2011) and Estonia (13.9% to 11.7% between the fourth quarters of 2010 and 2011). The highest increases were registered in Greece (14.3% to 21.0% between December 2010 and December 2011), Spain (20.6% to 23.6%) and Cyprus (6.7% to 9.7%).
Between February 2011 and February 2012, the unemployment rate for males increased from 9.7% to 10.7% in the euro area and from 9.4% to 10.1% in the EU27. The female unemployment rate rose from 10.3% to 11.0% in the euro area and from 9.6% to 10.2% in the EU27.
In February 2012, 5.462 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU27, of whom 3.272 million were in the euro area. Compared with February 2011, youth unemployment increased by 262 000 in the EU27 and by 106 000 in the euro area. In February 2012, the youth unemployment rate was 22.4% in the EU27 and 21.6% in the euro area. In February 2011 it was 21.0% and 20.5% respectively. The lowest rates were observed in Germany (8.2%), Austria (8.3%) and the Netherlands (9.4%), and the highest in Spain (50.5%) and Greece (50.4% in December 2011).
In February 2012, the unemployment rate was 8.3% in the USA. In January 2012 it was 4.7% in Japan.
 Greek economy to shrink by 5.0% in 2012, IOBEThe Greek economy will shrink by 5.0 pct this year, while unemployment will continue rising although at a slower pace compared with last year, levelling off at around 20 pct, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) announced on Monday.
IOBE, in its quarterly review of the Greek economy, said a revision of this year's budget was necessary because a shortfall in tax collection and a deeper recession in the country. The report stressed that new budget targets could be achieved if the government fully implemented all measures agreed. IOBE said it expected this year's budget deficit target to overshoot by 2.3 billion euros because of larger-than-expected deviation in tax collection and higher spending on social pension funds.
The Institute noted that consecutive packages of fiscal measures have not yet been fully reflected on available income and stressed that combined with rising unemployment domestic demand was projected to fall further pushing inflation lower. IOBE expects this year's inflation rate to drop below 1.0 pct.
Presenting the report, IOBE director general Yiannis Stournaras said that Greece needed to boost competitiveness of its domestically manufactured products and services on permanent basis and to strengthen its economic growth in order to escape this vicious circle of recession and overdebt.
He stressed that measures to further deregulate the labor market were not expected to have any significant practical impact on wages in the private sector for more than 12 months, while recommendations to further reduce the non-payroll labor costs could not offer additional results.
Stournaras said a recession and the risk of unemployment were largely affecting wages, leading employers and workers to agree on wage cuts. These cuts, combined with a lowering of a minimum wage, are the basic means to achieving a target of reducing labor cost per product unit by 15 pct in two year's time along with an equal improvement in competitiveness.
Stournaras said boosting economic growth and employment, improving competitiveness on a permanent basis, must be made through reforms, abolishing hurdles in business activity and investments and promoting initiatives to boost private and public sector investments.
 Budget shortfalls offset with spending cuts, FinMin official saysShortfalls in budget revenues will be counter-balanced with equal spending cuts, while the EC-ECB-IMF "troika" may ask for a supplementary budget along with additional measures in the case the state budget overshoots spending targets during the year, a high-ranking official of the finance ministry told AMNA on Monday.
The same unnamed official also expressed concerns that forthcoming elections in the country - apparently likely in May 6 - could affect the smooth execution of the budget, adding that the ministry has already asked the government's tax collection agency and the general accounts office not to slowdown their activities.
A new troika task force will examine the course of the Greek economy again in June, while the government was expected to reach a final decision over the state's overdue debt to the private sector, estimated at slightly below 6.0 billion euros.
The official said payment will be made more likely in cash.
Commenting on a bank recapitalisation plan, the official said a cabinet meeting scheduled for next week was expected to discuss the issue and noted that the most likely scenario was this recapitalization to be made through bonds issued by the EFSF, while the government was also planning to reduce the value of its Treasury bills auctions in an effort to boost liquidity in domestic banks.
 Development minister meets British ambassador to AthensDevelopment, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Monday had a meeting with British Ambassador to Athens David Landsman on increasing British investments in Greece, also attended by Invest in Greece chairman Aris Syggros.
Based on figures published by the UK statistics service and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the total amount of British investments in Greece is very small relative to other EU countries.
UK companies that have invested in Greece are chiefly restricted to areas such as telecommunications, retail trade, tourism and financial services.
 Labour minister meets ILO delegationLabour and Social Security Minister George Koutroumanis met with a delegation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) at the ministry on Monday.
The minister briefed the ILO officials on the current situation of labour relations in Greece, the measures that have been taken and the reasons that led to their implementation.
Koutroumanis called for the ILO's participation in the social dialogue while underlining the need of new collective agreements for establishing a new regulative framework and avoiding a state of anarchy in the labour market.
The two sides also agreed to hold a one-day conference on the present legal framework in Greece and the experience from International Law.
 Greek PMI rises to 41.3 points in MarchGreece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 41.3 points in March, from 37.7 in February, despite a rapid shrinking of production, new orders and employment in the Greek manufacturing sector.
The flow of new orders in Greek manufacturing companies fell for the 31st consecutive month in March, while demand fell further mostly in domestic markets. New orders from abroad remained limited, although the decline rate was smaller compared with previous months. Greek manufacturers also limited their production, while employment in the sector fell at the fastest rate since March 2009 as companies continued cutting their workforce amid a continuous decline in new works.
The PMI index measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 Seamen's 48-hour strike April 10-11Ships will remain anchored in the ports throughout the country on Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday, after a decision on Monday the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) executive committee to call a 48-hour nationwide strike on April 10 and 11.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Greek-listed companies reported record losses last year, totaling 7.4 billion euros, despite a 2.0 pct increase in 2011 turnover, a report by Beta Securities showed on Monday.
-- The Mytilineos group on Monday announced that its third power unit, using natural gas as fuel, with a power of 436 MW, located in Motor Oil's refinery in Corinth was fully operational.
 Stocks end 2.09 pct downStocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with market sentiment undermined by continuing uncertainty over the terms of a bank recapitalisation plan, a new extension of a deadline to complete a PSI programme for Greek bonds under foreign law and the announcement of record-high losses by listed companies in 2011.
The composite index of the market fell 2.09 pct to end at 713.66 points, with turnover shrinking to 31.997 million euros.
The Big Cap index dropped 3.28 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.29 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 2.91 pct. The Construction (2.64 pct), Industrial Products (1.45 pct) and Personal Products (0.65 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (8.14 pct), Telecoms (4.39 pct) and Health (3.35 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses.
Viohalco (3.75 pct), Ellaktor (3.36 pct) and Titan (2.89 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (14.35 pct), Eurobank (14.31 pct) and Apha Bank (11.15 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 91 to 45 with another 19 issues unchanged. Atti-kat (20 pct), PC Systems (20 pct), HOL (19.8 pct) were top gainers, while Olympic Catering (20 pct), SATO (19.3 pct) and Spyrou Farm (17.09 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.24%
Personal & Household: +0.65%
Raw Materials: -2.43%
Travel & Leisure: -2.64%
Food & Beverages: -0.08%
Financial Services: -2.50%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and HBC Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.87
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.31
HBC Coca Cola: 14.35
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.70
National Bank of Greece: 1.76
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.53
Bank of Piraeus: 0.25
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 19.12 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 18.93 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 20.91 pct and the German Bund 1.79 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.41 pct, the six-month rate 1.07 pct, the three-month rate 0.77 pct and the one-month rate 0.41 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.58 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 8.989 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,776 contracts worth 3.772 million euros, with 16,958 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 37,865 contracts worth 5.217 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (14,945), followed by National Bank (9,906), MIG (486), OTE (1,629), OPAP (463), Piraeus Bank (2,386), Cyprus Bank (3,488), Marfin Popular Bank (1,115), Mytilineos (670), Motor Oil (554), Hellenic Postbank (383), PPC (378), GEK (270) and Ellaktor (165).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.351
Pound sterling 0.843
Danish kroner 7.552
Swedish kroner 8.937
Japanese yen 111.6
Swiss franc 1.222
Norwegian kroner 7.663
Canadian dollar 1.35
Australian dollar 1.303
 German museum to return antiquities looted by Nazis during WWIIGreece's pending issues with Germany are not limited to WWII reparations and the forcibly obtained occupation loan, according to a document signed by Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas and forwarded to Parliament on Monday.
The statement came in response to a relevant question by independent MP Lefteris Avgenakis.
Reppas stressed that the return of the archaeological treasures looted by the Nazi Germans in WWII is still pending. According to the document, the regions mostly affected by the actions of the Nazi occupation forces are the island of Crete, eastern Macedonia and Thrace, in northern Greece, the island of Samos in eastern Aegean and Thessaly, in central Greece.
In 2010, Germany's Pfahlbaumuseum informed the culture ministry that is keeping antiquities unearthed during excavations in a Neolithic settlement in Thessaly, conducted by Germans during WWII. The ministry's relevant directorate subsequently contacted the museum and the antiquities in question will be returned as soon as they are catalogued, Reppas stressed.
The minister underlined that the Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Directorate has issued two circulars in recent years addressed to Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities' Ephorates, calling on them to record both looted and repatriated antiquities. According on available data, only a small number of artifacts have been returned.
The document bearing the signature of the administrative reform minister also underlined that "Greece never relinquished its claims", adding that the country's position on the WWII reparations' issue is "unwavering and timeless".
 Hungarian embassy tree-planting initiative on Mt. PenteliThe Hungarian embassy in Athens, in cooperation with the municipality of Penteli and the Association of Volunteers of Penteli, organised a charity tree-planting activity on Saturday in the area surrounding the Children's Hospital of Mt. Penteli, which overlooks Athens from the north.
With the participation of several Athens-based diplomatic representatives and their families, the main goal of the initiative was to obtain financial and moral support for the revitalisation of a region devastated by several wildfires in the past decades.
Amb. Eszter S?ndorfi and Penteli Mayor Dimitris Stergiou-Kapsalis welcomed diplomatic staff from participating embassies at the site on a sunny Saturday morning.
More than 200 people participated in the event and contributed with their donation to the planting of more than 1,000 saplings.
The embassy intends to monitor the development of the planted trees in the future and to contribute to the growth of the so-called "Forest of the Diplomatic Community" via voluntary work.
 Animation Festival "Be There" awardsThe curtain for the 2nd Animation Festival "Be There? fell on Sunday evening on Corfu with the awards ceremony.
The critic's committee first prize was bestowed to the French film "Une vie de chat" by Jean -Louis Felicioli and Alain Gagnol.
The film "Danny boy" by Marek Skrobrecki took the audience's award and the award for the Students Best Film went to the film "Way out" by Israel's Lily Sheikhat.
 Belgian tourist agents toured on SpinalongaTourist agents from Belgium visiting Crete were given a tour of Spinalonga and briefed on the history of the island that hosted lepers and has been internationally known from the bestseller book "The Island" by Victoria Hislop.
The periphery of Crete invited the Belgian tour operators aiming to boost the tourist wave and to contribute to the reversal of the existing negative climate, particularly in the western European countries, and to show that Crete is a tranquil and safe tourist destination.
 25 kilos heroin intercepted at Kastanies customs postMore than 25 kilos of heroin were intercepted with the aid of a specially trained sniffer dog at the Kastanies customs post, Greek authorities announced on Monday.
The drugs were found last Thursday, divided into 50 equal-sized packages hidden in the fuel tank of a car that was driven across the border from Turkey by a Bulgarian national. The driver of the car was arrested and led before a public prosecutor.
 Four migrant smugglers arrested, 15 illegal immigrants detained in Evros border regionFour migrant smugglers were arrested on Monday near the Evros border with Turkey, and 15 illegal immigrants from Syria and Iraq were detained, in a coordinated operation by police in Feres.
After a surveillance, police located the four migrant smugglers as they disembarked the illegal migrants from two plastic boats and drove them to a farming area in Feres, where police stepped in and arrested all 19 men.
One of the smugglers attempted to escape, attacking the police officers with a sharp object.
The four smugglers -- two Iraqi nationals aged 35 and 22 and two Syrian nationals aged 33 and 24 -- charged with felonies, will appear before a local prosecutor.
 Manhunt after exchange of fire in GlyfadaPolice on Monday launched a manhunt for a man after an exchange of fire in the seaside district of Glyfada.
Motorcycle police approached what they considered to be a suspicious vehicle that was stopped near a bank at noon on
Friday. The man who was in the car opened fire on police, who returned the shots, and sped off.
No one was injured in the exchange of shots.
 Contraband cigarettes found in truckA large quantity of contraband cigarettes were discovered in a truck coming from Bulgaria on Monday at Derveni, Thessaloniki, northern Greece.
The illegal cargo was confiscated but the truck driver spotted the police officers, stopped the truck and escaped.
A police search revealed hidden in the truck 20,500 packets of contraband cigarettes.
Thessaloniki police are conducting an investigation.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe illegal migration issue, the evaluation of civil servants issue, and the recapitalisation of banks mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Health bomb ready to explode (refers to illegal migrants)!".
AVRIANI: "Former prime minister George Papandreou 'finished' Greece and committed a crime against the people".
DIMOKRATIA: "Government sends away Greek patients from the hospitals".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not pay the 150 billion euros to Greece (in war reparations)".
ESTIA: "Unprecedented political fluidity".
ETHNOS: "Written test for civil servants".
IMERISSIA: "The banks' hour".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Triple tax trap for 1 million professionals".
TA NEA: "Tank trucks issue opens - War in transport sector ".
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