|Sunday, 18 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-05-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 11 May 2012 Issue No: 4068
 PASOK leader given 3rd exploratory mandate to form governmentPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday was given by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias the third exploratory mandate to form a coalition government, after two previous mandates to New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras proved fruitless.
"We will make every effort so that a government will be formed, as the Greek people want it -- pro-Europe and with Greece in the euro -- provided that all the political forces rise to the occasion" said Venizelos, whose party posted third in Sunday's parliamentary elections, as he accepted the mandate.
"We will exhaust every possibility, we will do everything we can to facilitate, in good will, your own task in the deliberation you will have with the political party leaders," Venizelos told Papoulias.
Under the provisions of the Constitution, if the three mandates to the leaders of the top three parties emerging from elections fail, a fourth and final effort to form a government is made at a meeting of the Council of the Political leaders of the parties elected to parliament, under the President of the Republic.
Earlier, addressing his party's parliamentary group, Venizelos opined that the present parliament is capable of producing a government, provided that the political parties manifest the required sense of responsibility.
 Tsipras returns mandate to PapouliasSYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday returned the exploratory mandate to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias. "I regret that in these critical moments a solution compatible with the Greek people's selections, will and future has not been reached," said Papoulias.
"We did everything possible and exhausted all possibilities to form a government compatible with the people's verdict. We found wide support among the social partners, but very little from the parliamentary forces, so I return to you the mandate and hope that a solution compatible with the people's wishes will be found," said Tsipras.
 Dem. Left leader proposes 'ecumenical' all-party government until 2014Meeting PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday, Democratic Left party leader Fotis Kouvelis said that he had proposed the formation of an ecumenical government with the participation of all parties, to stay in power until the EuroParliament elections in 2014 and seek to guide the country out of the crisis.
Kouvelis said that such a government should include trustworthy political figures and encapsulate and respect the message of last Sunday's election, appealing to all political forces to help in its creation.
He clarified that this ecumenical government should have a binding policy platform and dual mission: to keep the country in the European Union and begin its gradual 'disentanglement' from the bailout agreements.
"With a strong popular and Parliamentary support, it will exploit the now more favourable European political environment in order to achieve positive results, through systematic and tough negotiations. To keep Greece alive in Europe, with society still standing and the younger generation engaged," he added.
Kouvelis noted that the Democratic Left was submitting its proposal while fully aware of the critical importance of the moment for the country and appealed to all political forces to respond with a sense of responsibility toward the country.
He also stressed that neither he, nor his party, sought anything other than "the satisfaction of having contributed to the exit from the crisis for the benefit of the people and the country".
Kouvelis was the first party leader to meet Venizelos after the exploratory mandate to form a government passed to PASOK, which came third in the elections with approximately 13 percent of the vote.
 Venizelos terms Kouvelis' proposal 'substantive and responsible'PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, speaking after his meeting with Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis, termed Kouvelis' proposal very substantive and responsible, stressing at the same time that Kouvelis' proposals "almost coincide" with PASOK's proposals, as regards the perspective of forming a government.
"The first step of the process of the exploratory mandate that I received from the President of the Republic, I can say is a good omen, tomorrow I shall meet (New Democracy party leader Antonis) Mr. Samaras and the leaders of the parties who will respond to my request for me to meet them, evidently I will also meet with (Radical Left Coalition leader Alexis) Mr. Tsipras," Venizelos said, also mentioning that in the telephone communication he had with Aleka Papariga, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the latter referred to her party's positions to him.
"I shall continue the effort preparing the ground for the consultation that will take place with the coordination of the President of the Republic," Venizelos concluded.
Meanwhile, circles of PASOK termed the proposal by Kouvelis as a "voice of logic", adding that "it shows what the path is."
The same circles said that the targets of Kouvelis for a three-year course of "disengagement" from the memorandum coincide with PASOK's proposal for a three-year "surpassing" of the memorandum.
According to the same circles if the effort reaches the formation of a government it will be examined who the reliable persons are.
The same sources said that the participation of SYRIZA in this government constitutes a prerequisite.
 Negative reaction by Independent Greeks to Kouvelis proposal for ecumenical governmentThe initial reaction by the Independent Greeks to the proposal by Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis for the creation of an all-party government, with a two-year horizon and the aim of the country's stay in the euro, was negative, indirectly but clearly.
Independent Greeks spokesman Terence Quick, speaking to AMNA, said that what the party's president Panos Kammenos said in his recent address to the Parliamentary Group is valid.
Kammenos had stressed that a "'national purpose government' must take place and if the parties that supported the memorandum decide to recognise their mistake and withdraw their binding signatures, then we can participate in an ecumenical government on the abolition of the memorandum, the loan contracts, and immediate proclamation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and of course punishment for those who put the country in this adventure."
 Mainstream parties seeking leftist 'crutch' to prop up bailout policies, SYRIZA chargesThe supposed willingness of the mainstream parties to support a leftist government desiring to overturn austerity policies demanded under bailout agreements was soon proved a sham, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday, after handing back the exploratory mandate to try and form a coalition government.
According to SYRIZA's leader, PASOK and New Democracy were actually seeking a leftist replacement for the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party led by George Karatzaferis, which had finally pulled out of a coalition supporting the second bailout.
"What the two pro- bailout parties are really striving for is to find a leftist 'Karatzaferis', in order to continue with the shared guilt of the Left the hurricane of the memorandum that the Greek people rejected in the ballot box three days ago," he said.
Tsipras stressed that SYRIZA would not betray the hopes of the Greek people in exchange for a few ministries and would fight to the end for a government that was in harmony with the people's mandate, which he said wanted a stop to austerity.
He said that he had returned the mandate to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias after two days, having exhausted all margins for the formation of a government whose programme and goals were compatible with the popular verdict.
The exploratory mandate to try and form a coalition will now go PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, whose party came third in the elections with about 13 percent of the vote.
 Tsipras says vote of the people delegalises memorandum politicallyRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, in a letter he addressed on Thursday to Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and European Parliament president Martin Schulz stresses that the vote of the Greek people delegalises the memorandum politically, which failed in achieving the aims it had set itself, as well as that a reconsideration of European strategy is necessary. The letter was communicated to European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker.
Tsipras added that due to the policies of the memorandum of understanding Greece is the only European country in peacetime which in 2012 is going through the fifth consecutive year of deep recession.
He further said that in no way can austerity be the cure for recession. Therefore, the immediate and socially fair reversal of the downward trend of Greece's economy is imperative.
Tsipras stressed the need for economic and social stability to be secured in Greece and noted that for this purpose "we must undertake every possible political initiative to reverse austerity and recession."
He went on to say that apart from the lack of democratic legalisation, the continuation of the implementation of the internal devaluation programme leads the economy to ruin, without creating preconditions for recovery, adding that the internal devaluation tends to lead to a humanitarian crisis.
Consequently, Tsipras concluded, "we must reconsider the entire framework of the existing strategy, given that it is not only threatening social cohesion and stability in Greece, but also constitutes a source of instability for the European Union itself and the eurozone."
 Venizelos again proposes gov't comprising pro-Europe partiesPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday reiterated his proposal for a government comprised of pro-Europe forces, during his address to his parliamentary group and just before receiving the third and final exploratory mandate from President of Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Venizelos ruled out SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras' proposal for a "specific purpose" ecumenical government because, as he said, this would led the country into an impasse due to the intense crisis the country and the citizens are facing, and accused Tsipras of "misleading his parliamentary group on PASOK's position on the issue".
He warned that the 'moratorium' on the repayment of the debt, that Mr. Tsipras proposed, leads to bankruptcy and underlined that in their meeting on Wednesday when he asked him if he means a "unilateral moratorium" on Greece's side, Tsipras answered that he does not mean such a thing, but the Greek people were not present to hear it.
Moreover, Venizelos said that one cannot, in such circumstances, discuss only certain institutional changes (referring to the electoral law), which PASOK is willing to discuss anyway.
 Kammenos says he will not meet with PASOK leaderIndependent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos on Thursday said he will not accept PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos' invitation to meet within the framework of the exploratory mandates.
Kammenos, speaking to private TV station Antenna, said that "the exploratory mandates should have been finished two days ago. The only thing that has a meaning now is the meeting (of the leaders of all the political parties elected to parliament in Sunday's elections) under the President of Republic Karolos Papoulias", adding that in order for a government to be formed Mr. Venizelos and New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras must take back their written commitments on the Memorandum.
He also stressed that the vote of tolerance proposal is only an ND-PASOK game because the combined SYRIZA, Independent Greeks and Democratic Left seats in parliament fall short of the minimum 120 that are needed for such a government.
 KKE's Papariga calls for new elections; 'correction' of popular voteCommunist Party (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Thursday called for new elections, "to put an end to the mockery of exploratory mandates" while, at the same time, she said the popular vote should be "corrected" with voters backing her party.
Speaking at a press conference, Papariga said exploratory mandates are nothing but "hypocritical talks and proposals when one or more political parties have decided not to participate in a government seeking new elections for their own reasons."
Papariga repeated her party's position to stay out of any government that might be formed and accused Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) of irresponsibility.
Referring to the climate created in view of the likelihood of new elections, Papariga said that "the rest of the political parties will set the dilemma euro or drachma in an effort to mislead the people, when the issue is austerity or economic growth, right or left, memorandum or not."
Papariga accused SYRIZA of undergoing continuous mutations, adding that "under a leftist disguise it attempts to convince the people that workers and capitalists can coexist and prosper." She also said that SYRIZA avoids taking a clear stance on NATO membership and major foreign policy issues.
 DIMAR adamant on gradual disengagement from memorandum, sternly attacks SYRIZADemocratic Left (DI.MAR) in an announcement on Thursday stated that the party remains adamant in its position on the realistic direction of the gradual disengagement from the memorandum via a strong renegotiation with our lenders as well as its stable focus on the country's remaining in the eurozone.
In the announcement DIM.AR sternly criticises the SYRIZA party leadership, charging that "SYRIZA, within the framework of the exploratory mandate, did not take advantage of the opportunity to form a government" and that "with its handlings, it could send the country to new ballots, possible resulting in the rejuvenation of bipartisanism and conservatism".
"SYRIZA's cadres' statements on the Greek economy, the obsession for the denouncement of the loan agreement that will mean bankruptcy and a rift with the eurozone, make a political agreement difficult. The maximalistic positions cancel out whatever solution. SYRIZA is exercising politics with the new campaign period in mind," the announcement said.
 ND spokesman : ND will undertake initiatives to reunite the Central-RightNew Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yannis Mihelakis on Thursday said that ND will undertake specific initiatives towards reuniting the Central- Right, speaking to private radio station RealFM.
Referring to ND's result in Sunday's elections, Mihelakis said that "We did not have a good result", and acknowledged that ND's participation in Lucas Papademos' interim government had possibly cost ND, while he also expressed his concern on what will happen with the country now.
 Tsipras-Melenchon Paris press conference reports deniedCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party sources on Thursday denied reports broadcast in Paris that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras and Left Front candidate in the recent French Presidential elections Jean-Luc Melenchon would give a joint press conference in the French capital.
The sources said that Tsipras is not planning any trip before the completion of the exploratory mandates process for the formation of a government in Greece.
 Ultra-right Chryssi Avghi website suspendedThe ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) party's website was suspended on Thursday for "violation of the terms of usage" by WordPress.com.
"This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service," is the message from WordPress.com that appears on the Chryssi Avghi blog site.
In a statement issued by Chryssi Avghi commenting on the suspension of its blog, the neo-Nazi party, which was voted into parliament for the first time in Sunday's general elections in Greece with 7 percent of the vote and 21 seats in the 300-member parliament, said that "it is obvious that the only thing violated was some major interests and not the Terms of Service".
"Their 'democracy' cannot withstand the truth," the statement said, and spoke of an effort to muzzle "the voice of truth, the voice of Chryssi Avghi".
 Mayor reports threats from Chrysi Avgi MPThe mayor of Nemea Vangelis Andrianakos on Thursday reported that he had received threats from the Golden Dawn - Chrysi Avgi MP for Corinth Efstathios Boukouris.
The mayor said that Boukouris called him on the telephone shortly after midnight on Sunday, when the result of the general elections became known, and said he would become his "shadow" in Nemea "and make you start in your sleep". In an informal meeting of the municipal council convened so that the mayor might inform councillors of the threats, Boukouris also sent him a message via an opposition municipal councillor, the mayor said in a written complaint to police and a public prosecutor in Corinth.
Boukouris has denied the accusation, saying that Andrianakos was making the claim in order to damage his reputation and that of the Chrysi Avgi party.
 Places in higher education go up, easier access to special groups restoredThe number of places available at all levels of higher education (universities, technical colleges and teacher-training colleges) will increase by 2.22 percent in the 2012-2013 academic year, the education ministry announced on Thursday. The number of places will go up from 74,440 in the previous year to 76,094 in the coming year but the education ministry explained that it was essentially the same because of an increase in positions for special categories.
The ministry said the decision not to decrease places of higher education was made so as to ease the impact of the deep economic crisis on Greek families, allowing them to send their children to state universities and technological institutes. For the same reason, restrictions have been lifted on measures providing easier access to university places for special categories of students, such as those from large families, three-child families and other social criteria.
The new, broader criteria will also be backdated to the school leavers of 2011 that met the criteria at the time of their graduation last year, who will be able to vie for an extra 3 percent of places out of the total of those entering university. Alternatively, they can retake exams and vie for the 10 percent of places open to high school graduates.
 Council of State approves presidential decree protecting island wetlandsThe Council of State on Thursday approved a draft presidential decree that will enhance the protection of small island and coastal wetlands, approving a list of 369 such wetlands that qualify for protection. The vast majority of the wetlands on the list are on islands (90 in the northern Aegean, 102 in the southern Aegean, 51 on the Ionian islands and 69 on Crete) but they also include six wetlands in Attica, 33 on mainland Greece, 10 in Thessaly, eight in Eastern Macedonia-Thrace.
Under the presidential decree, only activities that preserve or enhance the wetlands, their functions and the sustainable management of the natural resources will be permitted within them, construction of 'lightweight' infrastructure for their protection and preservation, scientific research in the above fields and providing information to visitors.
Any form of activity within any of the wetlands on the list will first require an environmental permit.
Among activities expressly forbidden are any form of construction, building roads, drying or draining of the wetlands, digging up the plant life, extracting sand and gravel (inert materials), extending agricultural activity, use as pasture, fishing, collection of amphibians and other actions affecting the site's water composition or affecting the landscape.
The land already in use for cultivation will retain the usage, provided the farmers can prove they use approved fertilizers and pesticides that don't harm the environment but all further expansion after the presidential decree is issued is forbidden.
The judges did not approve a clause in the presidential decree allowing infrastructure projects of "national importance", rejecting the wording as too vague and asking that it either be made more specific or else omitted entirely.
 Greek unemployment rose to 21.7 pct in Feb.Unemployment rate rose to 21.7 pct of the Greek workforce, a new record high in February this year, with the number of unemployed people totaling 1,070,724, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that approximately 900 people every day, on average, lost their jobs in 2011, while youth unemployment surpassed 50 pct. The unemployment rate rose to 21.7 pct in February, from 15.2 pct in February 2011 and 21.3 pct in January 2012. The number of unemployed people rose by 318,435 compared with February 2011 (42.3 pct up) and by 14.237 from January 2012 (up 1.3 pct).
The number of employed people in the country totaled 3,872,243, down 8.0 pct from February 2011 and up 0.2 pct from January 2012. Unemployment in the 15-24 age group rose to 53.8 pct (40.3 pct in February last year), in the 25-34 age group jumped to 29.1 pct from 20.4 pct and in the 35-44 age group rose to 17.6 pct from 12.9 pct over the same periods, respectively. Unemployment in the 45-54 age group rose to 16.2 pct (10.4 pct in February 2011) and in the 55-64 age group was 11.2 pct from 7.5 pct. Unemployment among women rose to 25.7 pct in February, from 18.8 pct last year, while among men the unemployment rate rose to 18.6 pct from 12.5 pct.
Macedonia-Thrace (23.3 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rate among the country's regions, followed by Attica (23 pct), Epirus (22.3 pct), Thessaly (21.1 pct), Crete (20.1 pct) and the Peloponnese (19.8 pct).
 Roughly one third of Greeks over-qualified for their jobs, figures showRoughly a third, or 33-35 percent, of Greece's workforce is currently employed in positions that require fewer formal qualifications than those they have and this trend is increasing during the years of economic crisis, according to experts from the European Centre for Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) speaking at a seminar in Thessaloniki on Thursday.
On the other end of the scale, approximately 16-18 percent of Greek employees hold jobs for which they are under-qualified based on Eurostat figures for 2007-2011.
At the same time, they noted, the workforce as a whole ranked low in eight basic lifelong learning competencies that are deemed essential for professional advancement by job markets and the European Union. These include communicating in one's native language, communicating in foreign languages, mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology, digital competence, learning to learn, social and civil competences, sense of initiative and entrepreneurship and cultural awareness and expression.
 Chinese delegation visits CorinthA six-member delegation from China's Zhejiang Provincial People's Congress, headed by general secretary Yao Minsheng, visited Corinth, in southern Greece, on Thursday.
The delegation met with local authorities within the framework of the initiatives aimed at forging closer tourism, trade and cultural relations.
Talks focused on the region of Corinth, its comparative advantages, its economic and social composition and the technical projects underway.
An agreement was reached to proceed with bilateral cooperation and well-targeted moves in trade, business and tourist transactions.
 Apartment prices down 9.3 pct in Q1Apartment prices fell by an average 9.3 pct in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the same period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday. The central bank, in a report, said that according to revised data, the average annual rate of change was -5.3 pct in 2011 (Q1: -5.4 pct, Q2: -5.0 pct, Q3: -4.4 pct and Q4: -6.5 pct), compared with -4.7 pct in 2010.
Specifically, the year-on-year rate of decline in prices was 10.3 pct for "new" apartments, (up to 5 years old) and 8.6 pct for "old" apartments (over 5 years old) in the first quarter of 2012. According to data broken down by geographical area, apartment prices are estimated to have declined year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012 by 9.9 pct in Athens, 10.1 pct in Thessaloniki, 8.8 pct in other cities and 8.2 pct in other areas of Greece. According to revised data, 2011 prices dropped on average year-on-year by 6.4 pct, 6.8 pct, 4.0 pct and 3.7 pct respectively in the abovementioned areas. These figures show that in 2011 and in the first quarter of 2012 the prices of apartments registered strongest declines in the two major urban centres, Athens and Thessaloniki, compared with other regions.
Residential property transactions-appraisals conducted with Monetary Financial Institution intermediation for any reason (renegotiation of existing loans, registration of a mortgage to back non-housing loans, debt transfers from one bank to another, etc.) came to 5,874 in the first quarter of 2012, down from 7,723 in the previous quarter. Year-on-year, residential property appraisals fell by 54.1 pct in the first quarter of 2012. The number of appraisals in 2011 reached 42,034 (revised data), following a significant drop of 43.5 pct year-on-year (2010: 74,457).
The volume of residential property transactions-appraisals based on total square metres declined by 52.1 pct year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012, and for the whole of 2011, based on revised data, this volume declined at an average annual rate of 40.7 pct.Finally, the value of residential property transactions-appraisals conducted with Monetary Financial Institution intermediation dropped by 56.5 pct year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012. In 2011, the average annual rate of change was -40.5 pct (revised data).
 Business Briefs-- Greek exports recovered in March while imports fell further, hit by a dramatic shrinking of domestic consumption, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Thursday.
-- Industrial production fell by 8.5 pct in March this year, reflecting an 8.8-pct drop in manufacturing production, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
-- Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) on Thursday reported a 3.6-pct decline in revenues and a 52-pct jump in adjusted net earnings in the first quarter of 2012.
-- Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday reported losses totaling 19 million euros in the first quarter of 2012, sharply up from losses of 1.0 million euros in the same period last year.
-- Concerns of tourism sector enterprises for 2012 are being confirmed based on initial indications concerning arrivals in the country's 13 major airports in the period Jan.-April, made public by the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) on Thursday.
-- Frigoglass on Thursday reported lower profits in the first three months of the year. Consolidated earnings fell 11.1 pct to 7.76 million euros in the January-March period, from 8.729 million euros in the same period in 2011.
 Stocks end sharply higherStocks recovered strongly in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday on renewed hopes that the main political parties would agree to the formation of a new government in the country. The composite index of the market rose 4.19 pct to end at 640.91 points, after losing 10.83 pct in the previous three sessions. Turnover remained a low 37.560 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 6.22 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.77 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 3.83 pct.
The Food sector was the only one to end lower (0.15 pct), while Banks (12.96 pct), Financial Services (7.50 pct), Utilities (7.32 pct0 and Raw Materials (6.66 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Coca Cola 3E (0.14 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end lower, while Alpha Bank (15.24 pct), Piraeus Bank (14.55 pct), Cyprus Bank (14.37 pct) and Eurobank (14.14 pct) were top gainers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 90 to 31 with another 21 issues unchanged. Elastron (29.4 pct), Euroholdings (20 pct) and Attica Holdings (19.77 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (19.8 pct), PC Systems (19.79 pct) and Lambrakis Press (19.1 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +4.10%
Personal & Household: +0.47%
Raw Materials: +6.66%
Travel & Leisure: +4.85%
Food & Beverages: -0.15%
Financial Services: +7.50%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and HBC Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.83
Public Power Corp (PPC): 2.15
HBC Coca Cola: 13.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.35
National Bank of Greece: 1.57
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.56
Bank of Piraeus: 0.24
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 23.02 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 24.55 pct and the German Bund 1.53 pct. Turnover in the market was 8.0 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.27 pct, the six-month rate 0.97 pct, the three-month 0.69 pct and the one-month rate 0.39 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.82 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising slightly to 14.557 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,306 contracts worth 8.773 million euros, with 21,594 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 51,699 contracts worth 5.784 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (24,107), followed by National Bank (19,039), MIG (1,707), OTE (819), PPC (793), Piraeus Bank (764), Cyprus Bank (2,297), Mytilineos (530), Hellenic Postbank (333) and GEK (337).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.315
Pound sterling 0.813
Danish kroner 7.545
Swedish kroner 9.079
Japanese yen 104.86
Swiss franc 1.219
Norwegian kroner 7.670
Canadian dollar 1.313
Australian dollar 1.299
 Acropolis Museum events for International Museum Day, European Night of MuseumsThe New Acropolis Museum will celebrate International Museum Day on May 18 with free entry for all and atmospheric music, while European Night of Museums will be marked the following day with a concert by the Athens Municipality Symphonic Orchestra presenting the last symphonies by W. A. Mozart and F. J. Haydn, two of the most important representatives of the Classical era.
The Acropolis Museum celebrates International Museum Day on Friday, 18 May with free entry for all visitors and atmospheric music events on the second floor balcony overlooking the Archaic Gallery. On that day the Museum will be open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. while the restaurant will be open until midnight.
The scheduled events are a piano recital by Marios Strofalis dedicated to Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis at 11:00 a.m., and European Mediterranean music performed by European Taxim at 7:00 p.m.
On the same day, the Acropolis Museum will present its first reproductions and commemorative coins for sale. On the occasion of International Museum Day, the Acropolis Museum launches the minting of commemorative coins, so as to acquaint visitors with small but beloved objects in its collection.
On Saturday, 19 May, the Acropolis Museum celebrates the European Night of Museums and will be open from 8 a.m. until 12 midnight, with free entry to the public from 8 p.m. onwards.
At 9:30 p.m. in the Museum's entrance courtyard, the Athens
Municipality Symphonic Orchestra, conducted by Michalis Oikonomou, will present the last symphonies by W. A. Mozart and F. J. Haydn, two of the most important representatives of the Classical era:
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Symphony No. 41 K. 551 ("Zeus") in C major: i. Allegro vivace, ii. Andante Cantabile, iii. Menuetto. Allegretto -Trio, iv. Molto allegro.
- Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Symphony No.104 Hob. I/104 ("London") in D major: i. Adagio - Allegro, ii. Andante, iii. Menuetto -Trio. Allegro, iv. Finale. Spiritoso.
 Athens Festival changes in programmeThe Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2012 will open without Robert Wilson and the "Berliner Ensemble" and without Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre. Instead, the festival will open on June 8 with Switzerland's Zimmermann & de Perrot.
"Berliner Ensemble" cited financial and procedural reasons for the cancellation of its two performances.
In June 21-23, Berlin's Schaubuhne theatre company will present "Miss Julie", directed by Katie Mitchell and "The Return of Ulysses",, directed by David Marton.
 Journalist beaten, mugged, in ExarchiaA journalist from a private television and radio station was attacked and mugged in the first hours of Thursday by three unknown assailants in the Exarchia district in downtown Athens.
SKAI channel's Costas Bogdanos was severely beaten and his cell phone was stolen by the assailants, who immediately fled the scene.
Bogdanos was rushed to hospital with bruises and a broken hand.
Police are searching for the assailants.
 Two ministry employees remanded in custody on bribery chargesThe two development ministry employees, arrested a week ago for soliciting and accepting bribes by a hotel owner on the island of Crete in order to release EU subsidies approved since 2009, will remanded in custody pending trial, it was announced on Thursday.
A 58-year-old man and his 56-year-old female colleague, both programming and audit department employees, face felony charges for extortion, forming a criminal gang and bribery.
According to the indictment, the two demanded 10 pct of the three-million-euro subsidies approved for renovation work. The hotel owner testified that after bargaining they agreed to accept 120,000 euros in kickbacks instead of 300,000 euros they had first demanded.
The case was brought to light after the entrepreneur reported it to authorities. The suspects were arrested while accepting 10,000 euros in marked banknotes as a deposit.
Both defendants denied the charges against them.
 Felony changes for 'real estate racket' membersMore than 20 individuals face felony charges for their involvement in the so-called "real estate racket" led by a civil engineer, among them, a court of appeals judge, a first instance court prosecutor, an archimandrite, lawyers, court employees, tax office employees, bank employees and police officers, it was announced on Thursday.
They are facing criminal charges for abuse of power, fraud, bribery, false certification and forming a criminal organization for money-laundering purposes.
For more than a decade, the ring members allegedly set up roughly 150 bogus real estate development companies to defraud private individuals desperate to save their properties from being auctioned off by banks as a result of foreclosure.
The case came to light roughly two years ago by banks alleging that house auction procedures were being "frozen" by members of the racket.
 Drug arrests in SerresTwo men aged 31 and 32 and their accomplice, a 33-year-old military officer, had turned their kiosks in the northern Greek city of Serres into a drug selling centers.
A police search on Thursday in their residences revealed small quantities of cocaine and cannabis as well as knives, an airgun and two ancient coins.
The three men were arrested and the finds were confiscated.
 Arrests for supermarket break-in in SpartaSix Roma (gypsy) men, aged between 22 and 44, were arrested in Sparta, southern Greece, accused of breaking into a supermarket, police announced on Thursday.
The suspects allegedly raided the supermarket, currently not in operation, and stole foodstuffs, detergents, cosmetics, glassware, plastic ware, electric appliances and sanitary items, worth roughly 150,000 euros.
A police search in the suspects' temporary residences revealed a potion of the stolen goods, which were returned to the supermarket chain.
 Olympic Flame for London 2012 Olympics lit in Ancient OlympiaThe Olympic Flame for the London 2012 Olympics was lit at noon on Thursday at the foot of Kronios Hill in Ancient Olympia, venue of the ancient Olympic Games.
The flame was lit by actress Ino Menegaki, in the role of a high priestess, from the direct rays of the sun and using a concave mirror to focus the rays, from which she lit a silver torch in a traditional ceremony in front of the ruins of the 2,600 year old Temple of Hera.
The Torch for the London Olympics was then lit from the Flame, which was handed over by the priestess to the first torch-bearer, British-born Greece's world open water swimming champion Spyros Giannotis, who passed it on to British boxer Alexander Loukas, who is of Greek descent, thus beginning the Torch Relay to the London Olympic Games that open on July 27.
The first leg of the Torch Relay will cover a 3,000 kilometer long journey across Greece, arriving on May 17 at Athens' ancient Panathenian Stadium (Kallimarmaro), venue of the first Modern Olympic Games, where it will be formally turned over to the "London 2012" Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOGOC).
 Super League playoffsAEK Athens edged Atromitos Athens 3-2 and PAOK Thessaloniki beat Panathinaikos Athens 1-0 in Super League playoffs on Thursday.
PAOK 7 points
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEurope's warning on Greece's commitments in the loan agreement, and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras' fruitless efforts to form a government, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Council of Political Party Leaders considering a government with a non-parliamentary prime minister".
AVGHI: "We forge ahead".
AVRIANI: "Troika and memorandum's parties terrified of new elections".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Last attempt for ecumenical government".
ESTIA: "Country entering into misadventures".
ETHNOS: "Ecumenical government or elections the dilemma".
IMERISSIA: "Europe sends SOS".
KATHIMERINI: "Europe warns".
LOGOS: "Government formation an impasse".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "European intervention with 'haircut' of the loan".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party (KKE): Elections now!".
TA NEA: "Exploratory mandate from the ...troika, too!".
VRADYNI: "Responsibility wanted".
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