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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-05-18

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

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

Friday, 18 May 2012 Issue No: 4074

CONTENTS

  • [01] Caretaker PM chairs first cabinet meeting, tells ministers to waive payment
  • [02] Caretaker Cabinet sworn in, to take Greece to new elections on June 17
  • [03] New parliament sworn in
  • [04] Outgoing PM: Greek exit from euro would be 'strategic defeat'
  • [05] Threats against the country will be faced effectively, caretaker FM said
  • [06] Handover at education ministry ahead of crucial university entrance exams
  • [07] Samaras blasts SYRIZA, sets out new elections wager
  • [08] Tsipras: Samaras fighting 'rearguard action' for old political order
  • [09] PASOK leader proposes post-election government with responsible centreleft as axis
  • [10] Independent Greeks party leader addresses party MPs
  • [11] KKE's Papariga; only Parliament can abolish bailout agreements
  • [12] Eco-Greens deny holding talks with SYRIZA
  • [13] Rumors on PASOK-Drassi collaboration dismissed
  • [14] ND party leader Samaras congratulates party's youth for victory in student elections
  • [15] SYRIZA's Tsipras to speak in Paris on May 21 as guest of Left Front
  • [16] Latest opinion poll keeps ND in first place
  • [17] Troika mission in Athens after elections and formation of government
  • [18] Greece needs extension of fiscal goal timetable, IOBE says
  • [19] Fitch cuts Greece's long-term rating to CCC
  • [20] Domestic banks not at risk, bank employees' union states
  • [21] Travel agents express concern over 'grexit'
  • [22] Bussiness Briefs
  • [23] Stocks remain under heavy pressure
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] ADEX closing report
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [27] Pontian Greek genocide commemorated on May 19
  • [28] Beggars kill homeless man for money
  • [29] Migrant smugglers, illegal migrants arrested near Evros
  • [30] Foreign national attempted to smuggle cocaine into Greece
  • [31] Drug dealers arrested in N.Greece
  • [32] Woman found murdered next to garbage bin
  • [33] Olympic Flame turned over to London 2012
  • [34] Princess Anne on Olympic Torch Relay
  • [35] Diplomatic mini-football cup in Athens on occasion of Euro 2012
  • [36] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

  • [01] Caretaker PM chairs first cabinet meeting, tells ministers to waive payment

    Newly sworn-in caretaker prime minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos on Thursday chaired the first meeting of the caretaker government's cabinet, during which he proposed that the ministers waive payment for the single month that they will be in office until the country holds repeat general elections.

    In the meeting last just over an hour, Pikrammenos urged the ministers to "work hard while saying little", noting that the country's problems could not be solved in a month and that the government's primary goal was to "lead the country to a safe harbour at the next elections, so that a political solution arises".

    Sources said the prime minister advised the cabinet to avoid making statements on issues outside their brief, which might be misunderstood or exploited or seem to favour one party, while urging them to be discreet and confine any trips to those that were absolutely necessary.

    The ministers agreed with the proposal to waive their salaries.

    According to sources, Pikrammenos referred to the need to honour the country's international engagements but said that, in the case of commitments that can be discussed anew, this would be attempted.

    The same sources said that the prime minister will not be attending the NATO summit, where Greece will be represented by the caretaker government's foreign minister Petros Molyviatis and, if necessary, the defence minister Fragos Fragoulis. Pikrammenos will be representing the country at the EU summit next week.

    During the meeting, caretaker government finance minister Giorgos Zannias stressed that there must be no relaxation that would result in missing targets for revenues and public spending, while emphasising the need to fight tax evasion. Other ministers, such as labour and social solidarity minister Antonis Roupakiotis, interior minister Antonis Manitakis and education minister Froso Kiaou underlined the need to ensure that tensions were reduced and society remained peaceful in the run-up to the elections.

    [02] Caretaker Cabinet sworn in, to take Greece to new elections on June 17

    The new Caretaker Government, under prime minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos will lead Greece to new parliamentary elections in precisely one month, on June 17, was sworn into office on Thursday morning by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece.

    The composition of the Caretaker Cabinet was announced in the first hours of Thursday, comprising 16 ministers, without deputy ministers, comprising chiefly university professors, former ministers and diplomats.

    Caretaker prime minister Pikrammenos, up to now president of the Council of State, was sworn in on Wedneday.

    CARETAKER CABINET

    Prime Minister: Panagiotis Pikrammenos

    Minister of Administrative Reform and e-Governance: Pavlos Apostolidis

    Minister of the Interior: Antonios Manitakis

    Minister of Finance: George Zannias

    Minister of Foreign Affairs: Petros Molyviatis

    Minister of National Defence: Frangos Frangoulis

    Minister of Development, Competitiveness and Shipping: Ioannis Stournaras

    Minister of the Environment, Energy and Climate Change: Grigoris Tsaltas

    Minister of Education, Life-Long Learning and Religious Affairs: Angeliki-Efrosini Kiaou

    Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks: Simos Simopoulos

    Minister of Labour and Social Security:

    Antonios Roupakiotis

    Minister of Health and Social Solidarity:

    Christos Kittas

    Minister of Agricultural Development and Foods: Napoleon Maravegias

    Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights: Christos Geraris

    Minister of Citizens Protection: Eleftherios Economou

    Minister of Culture and Tourism: Tatiana Karapanagioti

    Minister of State: Antonios Argyros

    [03] New parliament sworn in

    The new 300-member parliament that emerged from the inconclusive May 6 general elections was sworn in on Thursday shortly before noon.

    The shortest-lived parliament in Greece's history is due to be dissolved on Friday by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias to pave the way for new elections on June 17.

    The new parliament, according to the results of the elections earlier this month, comprises seven parties: New Democracy (ND-108 seats), Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA-52 seats), PASOK (41 seats), Independent Greeks (33 seats), Communist Party of Greece (KKE-26 seats), the ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (21 seats), and Democratic Left (DIMAR-19 seats).

    [04] Outgoing PM: Greek exit from euro would be 'strategic defeat'

    Outgpoing prime minister Lucas Papademos urged that Greece's course in Europe be safeguarded, warning that a Greek exit from the euro would be a 'strategic defeat', in an open letter to the Greek people appearing on the prime minister's website (http://www.primeminister.gov.gr) on Thursday.

    The sacrifices of the Greek people were not without substance, Papademos said, adding his optimism that Greece's European course will not be revered, but warned of the dangers: "Greece's exit from the eurozone would constitute not only economic catastrophe but a strategic defeat of the country."

    "With their vote in the May 6 elections, a large section of our fellow citizens expressed their desire for a revision of the economic policy programme. Every change, with whatever margins may exist, must be sought in full understanding and a spirit of consensus with our European partners. A unilateral abrogation of the country's contractual commitments would be catastrophic for Greece, as it would inevitably lead us outside the euro and possibly outside the European Union," Papademos wrote, adding:

    "We find ourselves once again at a critical crossroad. The decisions we take, amidst a heavy conjunction, may seal Greece's course for decades. They could even lead us to the margins, annulling the historic national achievements of the last 38 years. In an era in which many countries -- in our own neighborhood, too -- are making tough efforts to gain a place in the European Union, it would be tragic for us to find ourselves, conversely, on the way out," wrote Papademos, the former central bank chief and ECB vice-president who was agreed by the two mainstream parties in October 2011 to head an interim coalition government mandated to push through parliament a second EU-IMF bailout package for Greece before leading the country to early general elections.

    Papademos also made note of "interests that would like the reversal of Greece's European course", adding that "there are some who would like to see Greece nationally weak, out of the eurozone and the European Union...There are those who were waiting to benefit from the chaos that would follow a humiliating exit of the country from the common European currency".

    "We must not give them the opportunity to speculate at the expense of Greece," Papademos warned.

    Finally, he appealed that the efforts that have begun not be halted. "Whatever arises on June 17, whatever our differences may be, we will always be united by Greece. With confidence in our strengths, with unity and solidarity, Greece will succeed," the outgoing prime minister concluded.

    [05] Threats against the country will be faced effectively, caretaker FM said

    Outgoing Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas on Thursday handed over the post to caretaker minister Petros Molyviatis during a brief ceremony at the ministry.

    "I am glad because I leave the foreign ministry in good hands," the former said in greeting Molyviatis.

    "My term at the foreign ministry will be shorter than yours," Molyviatis said, adding that "if there is any threat against our country it will be faced in an effective manner."

    On his part, Dimas referred to the significant experience of the caretaker foreign minister, underlining that it is necessary in this difficult conjuncture for the country considering that the challenges faced by Greece do not stop.

    As regards the imminent NATO Summit in Chicago, Dimas expressed certainty that results will be good, reminding that good preparation has been made sending the right messages to the leadership of the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM).

    [06] Handover at education ministry ahead of crucial university entrance exams

    The handover of the education ministry from outgoing minister George Babiniotis to his successor in the caretaker government Angeliki-Eufrosyni Kiaou took place on Thursday under the shadow of the looming university entrance examinations that are due to begin in schools throughout Greece next Monday.

    Dispensing with ceremony, the former and current ministers immediately got down to business, with Babiniotis starting to brief Kiaou on the issues, further complicated by the fact that elections will likely coincide with the holding of the exams in 'special subjects' for school leavers, which may require moving the date of certain exams.

    In statements during the handover, Babiniotis reassured the candidates that everything was organised in such a way that the exams will be held smoothly and without problems.

    [07] Samaras blasts SYRIZA, sets out new elections wager

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras lashed out at the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party, and outlined the wager of the new elections on June 17, addressing a meeting of his parliamentary group on Thursday just before the parliament that emerged from the May 6 general elections was sworn in.

    Samaras warned that there can be no laxness, that "the battle has become, which we will wage with faith and love for the country, a front of determined Greeks".

    "We will win this battle with unanimity in our positions and contact with the party so that there will be a uniform word against the slogans of populism," he added.

    Samaras said his party did everything it could to avoid new elections, noting that "the battle concerns whether Greece will remain in Europe as Europe changes, or whether we will find ourselves out of Europe".

    "There are two paths to choose from, he continued, the first to change everything from within Europe, or the second path, which is to live the terror of leaving and the collapse of everything we have built," Samaras said.

    "Today, the quandary is not 'Memorandum or no Memorandum', but 'inside Europe or outside Europe'. A unilateral abrogation would lead the country out of Europe and to bankruptcy that would deny the country of even the most elementary things," he warned.

    Samaras said that ND had been the first to warn that the Memorandum would not work, adding that subsequently it "supported the patriotic position for the 'haircut' of the debt and avoidance of default".

    On its political opponents, Samaras said: "We have on the one side those who brought us to this point and on the other side those who are seeking to take us out of Europe. They have no plan. They cause worry among the citizens...With arrogance and confusion, but also with fear for themselves. They suddenly acquired strength, are unprepared and incapable of undertaking governmental responsibilities. They are a federation of Left anarchy."

    One may ask 'if you consider them so dangerous why did you propose to back them'," Samaras said, adding that "the answer is simple, we set out as the only condition Greece's continued stay in Europe, but they didn't want that".

    On the election results, Samaras said that ND suffered major losses, but today everything is starting over and only ND can guarantee Greece's stay in Europe and give hope.

    "We have the knowledge and capability to change the Memorandum, whereas they would take Greece out of Europe and put it decades back," he said.

    Addressing himself to the people who have suffered great cost from the austerity policy, Samaras warned that a possible exit from the euro would result in much greater losses, adding that there can be recovery so as to restart the economy and create new jobs, on condition however that there is stability and that Greece remains in the euro.

    [08] Tsipras: Samaras fighting 'rearguard action' for old political order

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday launched an address to his party's Parliamentary group and secretariat by attacking New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, who he said was "leading a rearguard action for the old political order".

    "SYRIZA has not rotted, will not compromise and will betray no one. We will never join a government to save the bailout, a government to save the establishment," he underlined to riotous applause.

    He said ND's leader also proved that this old political order was fully unreliable and untrustworthy, since Samaras had forgotten both his own vote in support of bailout agreements and policies and the letters that he had sent to both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde in which he accepted the terms of the bailouts.

    Tsipras claimed that ND's leader and "other centres of propaganda" were distorting SYRIZA's positions and fear-mongering, while he predicted that the electorate would "finally bring down the systems of corruption and intertwined interests" through their vote on June 17, finishing off what they had started on May 6.

    He stressed that Samaras had not budged on the issue of upholding his signature to impose austerity policies, regardless of the election result, and was seeking to invent non-existent dangers and assisting in a process to choke off credit in Greece.

    SYRIZA's leader pointed out that the mainstream party leaders were already committed to implementing the bailout terms and were therefore unable to exploit the dynamic for change in Europe. Countering criticism of his anti-bailout stance, Tsipras asserted that the policies of austerity imposed under the terms of the bailout were "tantamount to a return to the drachma".

    He accused the pro-bailout camp of seeking to "terrorise" voters back into the fold of the current corrupt political system, making them abandon the parties they supported in the last elections.

    These forces were now spreading rumours that the banking system was collapsing, that there will be an upper limit to cash withdrawals and, chiefly, linking this to the Greek people's vote in the next elections.

    "They are saying that unless we vote for what the bankocracy wants, everything will fall apart. If we had ensured the presence of a public pillar in the banking system, today there would be safety valves for protecting citizens," he added, stressing that people were dealing with the situation calmly and were not cowed.

    He noted that the outflows of deposits, amounting to about one billion in the last week, were not being carried out by ordinary people but the well known business interests.

    [09] PASOK leader proposes post-election government with responsible centreleft as axis

    PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, addressing a meeting of party deputies on Thursday, stressed that a solution cannot be given to the country's problem without PASOK and added that the solution "will be given by PASOK."

    The PASOK leader stressed that after the elections a government must be formed with a "responsible centreleft being the axis".

    Venizelos appeared optimistic that everything can be reversed in the next four weeks that remain until the fresh elections on June 17, which his party, as he said, attempted to avert. He added that the percentage difference between the first three parties is near 5 percent, a difference that, as he assessed, is not difficult to be covered.

    Venizelos further said that everything is starting from zero and set as being the first target, PASOK's representation in all the electoral regions, pointing out that there are 20 regions in which the party is not represented.

    He also mentioned that PASOK has two pursuits in the coming period, achieving its electoral targets and achieving the undertaking of the party's revival.

    It was also the first time that Venizelos also made an opening to other forces, underlining that "we are open to dialogue", a phrase taken as an invitation for joint mobilisation with forces that were "detached" from PASOK.

    Venizelos also referred to the efforts for the formation of a government over the past period, placing the responsibilities for the failure for its formation mostly on Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras.

    [10] Independent Greeks party leader addresses party MPs

    The dilemma explored in the new elections is not "euro or national currency" but "Europe of the peoples or Europe of the banks", Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos on Thursday said.

    Addressing a meeting of his party's parliamentary group in Halkida, on the large island of Evia, he said it can "guarantee the country's stability". He accused New Democracy (ND) of representing a Europe of the bankers and repeated his opposition to the memorandum signed with the EC-ECB-IMF troika.

    Kammenos said that his party is the only political force that can confront the bankers, stressing that he has clear positions as to what needs to be done in the economy.

    He also said that his top priority is to protect national integrity and underlined that the message of the May 6 elections was "the people's 'no' to the occupation, the memorandum and the choices made by a banker like (former prime minister) Papademos".

    He said that ND leader Antonis Samaras placed a "gravestone" over his party, saying he was responsible for its worst election showing ever.

    Referring to the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Kammenos said it changed its route because now it supports a renegotiation of the memorandum but before the May 6 elections it was totally against the memorandum.

    [11] KKE's Papariga; only Parliament can abolish bailout agreements

    Neither May's election result nor that of June, when this is known, can be considered to abolish the bailout agreements and loan treaties, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said on Thursday, only a majority decision of the Greek Parliament that will then be notified to the European Union.

    According to Papariga, anyone proclaiming that the election result "automatically" cancelled the treaties was "consciously lying" and using this as an argument to avoid bringing the issue to Parliament and thus be able to essentially negotiate a new bailout agreement and new loan treaty with European bodies.

    If the people decide to pull out of the EU, they can decide this through a referendum that must again be ratified by a decision of Parliament, Papariga added.

    [12] Eco-Greens deny holding talks with SYRIZA

    The Greek Ecologists-Greens party, which just missed the three percent ceiling needed to enter Parliament, on Thursday denied rumours that the party was in talks with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) on possible cooperation ahead of the next elections.

    "These leaks, wherever they may come from, do not appear to be for the benefit of the EcoGreens or originate from people that feel a green voice is missing from our country on an institutional level," the head of the EcoGreens election campaign Ioanna Kontouli said.

    She stressed that the EcoGreens were not a party that entered into talks without first announcing it and did not have a "secret agenda" that it presented after the result was known, calling the rumours a "blow below the belt".

    Kontouli underlined that the only meeting with SYRIZA was during the period when SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras held the exploratory mandate to form a government, on which the party had issued an announcement the following day.

    [13] Rumors on PASOK-Drassi collaboration dismissed

    The leader of the small, out-of-Parliament Drassi party, former minister and MP Stefanos Manos, on Thursday rejected as "nonsense" rumors that he held talks with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos to negotiate a possible collaboration.

    However, Manos stated earlier that he is in favour of the creation of a pro-European front comprising New Democracy (ND), PASOK, Democratic Alliance and Drassi.

    [14] ND party leader Samaras congratulates party's youth for victory in student elections

    New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras visited the offices of the party's youth group ONNED on Thursday afternoon to congratulate the party's youth for the election success of the DAP group in the student elections.

    Speaking to the young people, Samaras stressed that "last Sunday the people sent another message that ND received", while pointing out that "arrogance on the one hand and adventurism on the other did not allow to become reality. We are keeping the message and we shall proceed with it."

    He also spoke of a message of "yes to the euro, yes to the security and the relief of the ordinary citizen who feels insecurity and has lost everything."

    [15] SYRIZA's Tsipras to speak in Paris on May 21 as guest of Left Front

    PARIS (AMNA - O. Tsipira)

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras is due to speak in Paris on May 21 as the guest of the French "Left Front" that participated in the recent presidential elections.

    Tsipras, whose party earned a surprising second place in Greece's recent general elections, is scheduled to participate in a press conference taking place at 4:00 p.m. in Paris, along with Left Front leader Jean Luc Melenchon and the head of the French Communist Party Pierre Laurent, who is also president of the Party of the European Left that is organising the meeting.

    At 7:30 p.m. on the same day, they will hold a "public meeting" on the square opposite the French Parliament.

    According to Laurent, the aim of the meeting is to present the left's proposals for a reorientation of European policy in a more social, ecological and democratic direction. He noted that the coming days, following the meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande and before the EU summit on May 23, will be decisive for Europe's future.

    [16] Latest opinion poll keeps ND in first place

    New Democracy (ND) party retains a lead over Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), according to results of the first opinion poll conducted after the date for new elections (June 17) was set.

    According to an opinion poll conducted by the Marc firm, commissioned by the Athens-based television station Alpha, ND garners 23.1 pct of voters' preferences, followed by SYRIZA with 21 pct.

    PASOK increases its percentage -- if compared to May 6 election results -- to 13.2 pct, the Independent Greeks party records loses with 7.2 pct, followed by Democratic Left (DIM.AR) 5.6 pct and the Communist Party (KKE), which also records loses, with 5.1 pct, compared with May 6.

    The opinion poll shows that the ultra-nationalist Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn party) will be represented in the next Parliament, but with a smaller percentage of 4.3 pct. The rest of the smaller parties will not enter Parliament, if the poll results prove true.

    Based on the undecided and unclear vote, ND receives 26 pct, SYRIZA 23 pct, PASOK 14.9 pct, Independent Greeks 8.1 pct, DIM.AR 6.3 pct, KKE 5.8 pct and Chryssi Avgi 4.8 pct.

    [17] Troika mission in Athens after elections and formation of government

    NEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)

    The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) mission with Poul Thomsen, and the troika by extension, is expected to return to Athens after the June 17 Parliamentary elections and the formation of a government.

    This was stated on Thursday by IMF spokesman David Hawley, stressing that "we are waiting with interest to have contacts with the government, as soon as it is formed.

    He also stressed that there is "technical preparation" for all the eventualities in the eurozone, while commenting on developments in Greece he reiterated that "we respect the political procedure that is under way at the moment."

    On the question regarding the possibility of granting a special tranche in the event that public funds in Greece are faced with a direct problem, he said that Greece was funded recently in the framework of the programme agreed.

    Lastly, the IMF spokesman once again presented the four main proposals, as he said, concerning the strengthening of the EU's wall of protection, the strengthening of local demand, the strengthening of liquidity and the implementation of structural reforms to boost growth.

    Financial News

    [18] Greece needs extension of fiscal goal timetable, IOBE says

    Without funding from the Eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, following the country' s exclusion from international credit markets in May 2010, Greece's economic and social life would be much worse than it is today, since living standards - particularly for poorer people - would be adjusted to much lower available resources, a report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.

    "Without this money Greece will be forced to leave the Eurozone and return to the drachma," IOBE said, stressing that a new currency would be drastically undervalued, pushing lower real wages and pensions, while sharply raising the country's external debt. The country would also face a currency crisis and an inability to import basic goods such as pharmaceuticals, oil, raw materials. Inflation would also rise, fuelled by black market trading because of a lack of basic goods, along with a sharp fall in GDP and an increase in unemployment.

    IOBE noted, however, that the mixture of economic policy followed so far was not the right one, as the fiscal policy implemented in the country has had an extremely negative effect on economic activity. The Institute said the Greek government failed to promote the necessary reforms, particularly privatizations, and noted that the country's political leadership also failed to create the necessary climate to help unlock Greek citizens' abilities. IOBE stressed that the troika underestimated the recessionary impact of a fiscal adjustment program, while the Eurozone's prevailing forces made minimizing fiscal deficits the top priority.

    IOBE said the next Greek government should reconfirm its will, and the people's will, for Greece to remain in the Eurozone and recommend an extension of a goal to further reduce fiscal deficits in order to avoid any deeper recession and larger unemployment.

    [19] Fitch cuts Greece's long-term rating to CCC

    Fitch Ratings on Thursday downgraded Greece's Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'CCC' from 'B-'. The Short-term foreign currency IDR has also been downgraded to 'C' from 'B'. At the same time, the agency has revised the Country Ceiling to 'B-'. The credit rating agency, in a statement said that the downgrade of Greece's sovereign ratings reflects the heightened risk that Greece may not be able to sustain its membership of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

    The strong showing of 'anti-austerity' parties in the 6 May parliamentary elections and subsequent failure to form a government underscores the lack of public and political support for the EU-IMF EUR173bn programme. In the event that the new general elections scheduled for 17 June fail to produce a government with a mandate to continue with the EU-IMF programme of fiscal austerity and structural reform, an exit of Greece from EMU would be probable. A Greek exit would likely result in widespread default on private sector as well as sovereign euro-denominated obligations, despite a moderate sovereign debt service burden following the restructuring of Greek government bonds in March.

    [20] Domestic banks not at risk, bank employees' union states

    The union of bank employees, OTOE, in a statement on Thursday assured that domestic banks' smooth operation and the security of bank accounts are not in danger, despite the difficult economic and social circumstances and the political insecurity that is being prolonged due to the imminent elections.

    The efforts made by various economic interests to exploit the banking system through the circulation of rumors that undermine the banks should be faced immediately and decisively by all political powers, which must be very careful when expressing their positions on the banking system in order to avoid unpleasant consequences, the OTOE statement underlined.

    [21] Travel agents express concern over 'grexit'

    The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) on Thursday addressed a letter to the political party leaders suggesting, amongst others, that Greece's partners and the international public opinion will have to be assured that "the country is democratic, European, stable and absolutely safe".

    HATTA underlined that since Monday, May 7, (the day after the elections) international media have been focusing on Greece describing a picture of chaos and disintegration.

    "Misinformation and talk about various dangers dominate," the statement underlined, stressing that "bookings are frozen by international tourist organisations, which pull their associates out of the country. Payments or deposits are not being made due to fear of possible cancellations and because of the rumored return of our country to the drachma."

    [22] Bussiness Briefs

    -- The Greek and Republic of Korea stock exchanges on Thursday signed a memorandum of cooperation aimed at determining new terms and preconditions in the cooperation over dual listing of companies in the shipping or energy sectors, along with Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). The two stock exchanges also agreed to work closely towards creating an efficient model of interconnecting the two markets.

    -- OPAP, Greece's monopoly lottery operator, on Thursday said its net consolidated profits totaled 131.9 million euros in the first quarter of 2012, from 166.9 million euros last year, a decline of 20.9 pct.

    -- Mytilineos Group on Thursday reported lower profits in the first quarter of 2012. EBITDA totaled 40.9 million euros in the January-March period, down from 43.8 million euros in the same period last year, while net after tax and minorities earnings totaled 10 million euros in the first three months of 2012, down from 15 million euros in 2011.

    -- Ionian Hotel Enterprises on Thursday reported higher losses in the first quarter of 2012, with net results showing a loss of 1.3 million euros in the January-March period, after losses of 400,000 euros in the corresponding period last year.

    -- House investments fell by 23.6 pct in 2011, after an 18 pct decline in 2010, and they are projected to fall by around 17 pct this year, Alpha Bank's analysts said on Thursday. In a report, the bank's analysts said house investments were expected to fall to 6.0 billion euros this year, from 7.2 billion in 2011, 9.6 billion in 2010 and 23.8 billion euros in 2006.

    [23] Stocks remain under heavy pressure

    Stocks remained under heavy pressure for the fifth consecutive session at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday with market sentiment undermined by political uncertainty in the country. The composite index of the market fell 3.41 pct to end at 536.49 points, for a net loss of 16.29 pct in the last five sessions. Turnover remained a low 47.705 million euros.

    The Big Cap index dropped 3.79 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 3.20 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 2.88 pct. The Commerce sector was the only one to end higher, while Telecoms (8.07 pct), Travel (7.11 pct) and Raw Materials (5.67 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Folli Follie (1.91 pct) and Eurobank (0.43 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while OTE (8.07 pct), OPAP (7.37 pct) and Viohalco (7.04 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 90 to 25 with another 14 issues unchanged. Mihaniki (20 pct), Spider (17.28 pct) and Lambrakis Press (13.79 pct) were top gainers, while Audiovisual (20 pct), Eurobrokers (20 pct) and Tria Alpha (19.5 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -3.76%

    Commercial: +1.87%

    Construction: -2.63%

    Oil & Gas: -1.68%

    Personal & Household: -3.96%

    Raw Materials: -5.67%

    Travel & Leisure: -7.11%

    Technology: -1.53%

    Telecoms: -8.07%

    Banks: -2.72%

    Food & Beverages: -3.84%

    Health: -4.85%

    Utilities: -3.03%

    Chemicals: Unchanged

    Financial Services: -2.00%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, HBC Coca Cola and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.69

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 1.54

    HBC Coca Cola: 12.24

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.06

    National Bank of Greece: 1.17

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.47

    OPAP: 4.40

    OTE: 1.48

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.21

    Titan: 13.85

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds remained at very high levels (28.63 pct) in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 29.05 pct and the German Bund (1.42 pct). There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.26 pct, the six-month rate 0.97 pct, the three-month rate 0.68 pct and the one-month rate 0.39 pct.

    [25] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 0.67 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 8.420 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,406 contracts worth 5.449 million euros, with 19,333 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 28,832 contracts worth 2.971 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (11,167), followed by Alpha Bank (9,876), Cyprus Bank (2,751), MIG (491), OTE (2,267), PPC (410), OPAP (618), Piraeus Bank (475), Mytilineos (165), GEK (142) and Ellaktor (76).

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.287

    Pound sterling 0.812

    Danish kroner 7.544

    Swedish kroner 9.272

    Japanese yen 103.3

    Swiss franc 1.219

    Norwegian kroner 7.693

    Canadian dollar 1.305

    Australian dollar 1.298

    General News

    [27] Pontian Greek genocide commemorated on May 19

    Events marking the Pontian Greek genocide in Asia Minor will be held in Athens and Thessaloniki on May 19.

    The date has been chosen by Parliament as a national memorial day to commemorate the massacre of some 353,000 ethnic Pontian Greeks (Black Sea coast) in 1919 by Ottoman forces.

    [28] Beggars kill homeless man for money

    Thessaloniki police solved on Thursday the homicide of a 65 year-old homeless man of Bulgarian nationality in the Toumba district of Thessaloniki.

    The victim was found early Wednesday on a pavement with wounds to the head.

    According to police the perpetrators of the crime are two Bulgarians, a 61-year-old and his 26-year-old nephew. In their possession police found 200 euros in coins, some of which had taken from the victim.

    The two men tied the victim with a rope and afterwards hit him several times in the head with a brass knuckle, resulting in his death.

    The victim was found by a Thessaloniki municipal employee. Both victim and suspects were beggars.

    [29] Migrant smugglers, illegal migrants arrested near Evros

    Two Iraqi migrant smugglers, who allegedly transported a total of 33 illegal migrants from Turkey to Greece, were arrested in the Ferres region, near the Evros River, it was announced on Thursday.

    Acting on information collected during an investigation, police arrested the two migrant smugglers shortly after they crossed Evros River with plastic dinghies carrying 33 illegal migrants, 32 from Bangladesh and one from India.

    Since the beginning of the year, a total of 56 migrant smugglers have been arrested by Alexandroupolis-area police.

    [30] Foreign national attempted to smuggle cocaine into Greece

    Narcotics squad police arrested on Wednesday evening at Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' International Airport (AIA) a 21-year-old Romanian national who attempted smuggle into Greece 400 grams of cocaine in liquid form.

    The suspect had swallowed several small balls containing the liquid cocaine.

    The Romanian was taken to hospital, where later he expelled the cocaine, and is due to appear before a public prosecutor on Thursday.

    [31] Drug dealers arrested in N.Greece

    Three drug traffickers were arrested in Northern Greece in two separate operations over the last 24 hours.

    Thessaloniki police arrested at Xirokrini a 41-year-old man who possessed 4.4 kilos of hashish as well as 415 grams of heroin. Moreover police found in his possession two electronic precision scales and 2,570 euros in cash deriving from drug dealing.

    In a separate incident at Makryhori, Larissa prefecture, police arrested two men aged 24 and 27 who inter alia possessed over 2 kilos of hashish. Police said that the two men were dealing drugs in Kilkis city.

    [32] Woman found murdered next to garbage bin

    A foreign national woman was found murdered early Thursday in the Athens district of Sepolia.

    The body was found by a municipal sanitation worker next to a garbage bin with a noose around her neck.

    Police are conducting a preliminary examination into the killing.

    Olympic Games

    [33] Olympic Flame turned over to London 2012

    The Hellenic Olympic Committee (EOE), in ceremony held at the Panathinaiko Stadium in central Athens, on Thursday delivered the Olympic Flame to the London 2012 Organising Committee, as the British capital is set to again host the Summer Olympics for the third time in its history.

    The Olympic Flame was delivered by EOE president Spyros Kapralos during the ceremony, which was also attended by Greek President Karolos Papoulias, Lord Sebastian Coe and Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth.

    Also present at the stadium were London Mayor Boris Johnson, British Sports and Olympic Games Minister Hugh Robertson and football superstar David Beckham.

    The flame, which was received by Princess Anne, will be kept overnight at the British embassy in Athens, transported the next day aboard a specially chartered plane for the United Kingdom, where a torch relay will be held.

    [34] Princess Anne on Olympic Torch Relay

    Princess Anne, the sister of Prince Charles, in her meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday conveyed the appreciation of the United Kingdom and the London 2012 Olympic Games organising committee, ahead of formal transfer of the Olympic Flame for the upcoming Games

    "Welcome and congratulations on the Olympic Games. I wish you a greater success than ours in 2004," Papoulias said to the British royal.

    "It will be hard but we are looking forward to everybody's help. We thank you very much for the honest support we had from Greece for the Flame and the Torch Relay. The response was impressive," she replied.

    Sports

    [35] Diplomatic mini-football cup in Athens on occasion of Euro 2012

    The embassies of Ukraine and Poland will co-host a diplomatic mini-football tournament on the fields of the Psychiko-Filothei municipality on Sunday, on the occasion of next month's Euro 2012 championship.

    The event is also supported by the Hellenic-Ukrainian Chamber.

    Participants in the tournament will be teams from the embassies of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the municipality.

    The European championship will take place in Poland and Ukrain between June 8 to July 1.

    [36] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The caretaker government with president of the Council of State Panagiotis Pikrammenos as prime minister, speculation of Greece's exit from the eurozone and the new opinion polls indicating SYRIZA to be in the lead, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Political leaders decided Pikrammenos".

    AVGHI: "Speculations fall into the void".

    AVRIANI: "Opinion polls indicate Tsipras (Alexis, SYRIZA leader) to have strong lead".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Frenzy of deliberations on a united Center-Right".

    ESTIA: "Final blow to the economy".

    ETHNOS: "The people bitter over the need for new elections".

    IMERISSIA: "EU storm of warnings to Greece: Decide whatever you like".

    LOGOS: "With Pikrammenos we are led to elections".

    KATHIMERINI: "Political games until the end".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Greece's exit from eurozone an Armageddon for Europe".

    NIKI: "What will happen with the loans if we return to the drachma".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "NATO: Enemy against peoples' right to select their own developmental path".

    TA NEA: "Alexis, behave yourself!".

    TO PONTIKI: "Blackmailers fired blank shots".

    VRADYNI: "Let's unite the social base of the great Center- Right".

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