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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-10-19

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

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

Friday, 19 October 2012 Issue No: 4202

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Samaras says gov't determined to complete its mission
  • [02] Samaras: The weakest link will soon become the cornerstone of the European structure
  • [03] Party of European Socialists summit on commitments for growth
  • [04] Government-Troika optimism for final agreement 'soon'
  • [05] DIMAR: We will not accept troika's extreme demands on labour
  • [06] Violence at latest anti-austerity protest in Athens; 1 death from heart attack
  • [07] KKE party on incidents during Thursday's strike action
  • [08] Thousands in Thessaloniki protest new austerity measures
  • [09] KKE leader addresses strike rally
  • [10] President Papoulias begins Cairo visit; meets new Egyptian counterpart
  • [11] Papoulias: Egypt pivotal to peace in region
  • [12] Venizelos says PASOK's Charter Congress will take place in February 2013
  • [13] Head of Greek judges' union writes to EuroParliament's Schulz, seeks support against further wage cuts
  • [14] Archbishop Ieronymos wants church to 'stand by people'
  • [15] Two Greek MPs join 'Estelle' as it seeks to break Gaza blockade
  • [16] GD MP chastised in Parliament for disparaging comments about migrants
  • [17] Parliament lifts immunity of three MPs
  • [18] Joint Greek-Israeli air exercise in Larissa
  • [19] Gov't wants greater flexibility in labour market, presents alternative proposals
  • [20] DIM.AR will not vote for proposed labour measures, spokesman stresses
  • [21] Credit Agricole announces sale of Emporiki Bank share capital to Alpha Bank
  • [22] FM official presents Greece investment opportunities in Israel
  • [23] 2nd Greek-Russian real estate forum in Athens
  • [24] Stocks end lower on profit taking
  • [25] Greek bond market cloaing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [28] Seven arrested for abduction of 26-year-old in Diakofto, victim still missing
  • [29] Alleged 'Pink Panther' gang, including escaped female suspect, arrested
  • [30] Eight arrests in child porn trafficking investigation
  • [31] Rucksack with petrol bombs found on Marni Street Politics

  • [01] PM Samaras says gov't determined to complete its mission

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)

    Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, addressing the EU summit here on Thursday, stressed the Greek government's determination to complete its mission, according to sources.

    The same sources said that Samaras will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 10:30 a.m. (08:30 GMT) on Friday.

    Addressing the Summit, Samaras underlined the sacrifices being made by the Greek people, stressing however that the sacrifices are producing results. He also noted the considerable progress achieved in the country in both the fiscal and structural sectors.

    He also assessed that the Greek authorities are nearing an agreement with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's international lenders in the coming days, reminding of the relevant announcement made by the troika.

    On the question of the disbursement of the tranche for 31.5 billion euros, Samaras stressed the need for it to be paid in its entirety.

    The sources added that the Greek prime minister briefed the European Council on the course of privatisations in Greece, the measures in the direction of the opening of the market and the ways of boosting growth.

    Samaras also briefed the European Council on the problem of unemployment that has reached extremely high levels, while also referring to the issue of the lack of liquidity and the complications it creates.

    Concluding his address, the premier said that Europe must find the "golden mean" between the fiscal and growth effort, as is formulated in the (European Council President Herman Van) Rompuy proposal. He noted that if the "golden mean" between fiscal and growth rapprochement had been applied in Greece from the beginning "we would not have the present results".

    Greek diplomatic sources were expressing here on Thursday reserved optimism on the content of the statement that the European leaders are expected to adopt on Greece, while expressing the conviction that the achievement of an agreement with the troika "is very near".

    The sources stressed that there is agreement on the fiscal measures, while certain open issues remain concerning the structural measures.

    As regards the fiscal issues, diplomatic sources reiterated that the measures for 2013 correspond to 9.2 billion euros. They also said that 7.5 billion euros are being saved from cutbacks in salaries, pensions and social benefits over the next two years.

    According to the same sources, the budget for 2013 must be submitted and ratified by Parliament before the Eurogroup convenes on Nov. 12, which is expected to decide on the disbursement of the next tranche of the loans, amounting to 31.5 billion euros.

    The sources explained that the target of the Greek side is the present summit, in some way, to authorise the Eurogroup to take the decision on the disbursement of the tranche. "We are moving against the clock," the same government sources said.

    Lastly, regarding the issue of the viability of the Greek debt, government sources said progress has not yet been achieved and that major differences continue to exist between the IMF and the Europeans. However, they expressed the conviction that a compromise solution will be found.

    [02] Samaras: The weakest link will soon become the cornerstone of the European structure

    Prime minister Antonis Samaras addressed a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP) in Bucharest on Wednesday, saying he felt it is his duty to achieve a Greek about-face and rendering the Greek issue a success story and a European success story, and "with your help, the weakest link will soon become the cornerstone of our European structure".

    He said that the key word for the next big step in Europe is 'competitiveness', an area in which certain member states have managed much better, "but all of us, together, are faced with serious challenges".

    Some of these challenges can be better faced together, but most of these challenges can only be faced together, he said, sending a clear message that Greece is changing.

    "From a modern-day tragedy, Greece is already transforming itself -- and I can assure you of this -- into a success story," Samaras said, and spoke of "Guinness records" achieved by Greece.

    Specifically, he said that Greece has implemented the strictest austerity ever implemented, with measures cutting the deficit by 25 percent of GDP in just three years, and that it has gone through more than five consecutive years of recession, with a total loss of 22 percent of GDP, while at the same time it has realised hundreds of structural changes that were decided and implemented in just the last two years, chiefly in the last few months.

    "We have done a lot, and of course there is still a long road ahead of us. We will do everything necessary to bring Greece to the top of European competitiveness and render it a model democratic society with a modern economy," he said, adding that if Greece succeeds, then all of Europe can emerge stronger from the crisis.

    Samaras further said that recovery and growth are the essential elements of any adjustment strategy.

    The Greek premier explained that societies are not machines that can be switched off, replace their faulty parts, repair them and then re-assemble them.

    "People are not 'spare parts'. You must correct the problems while maintaining society united and its cohesion alive. Naturally, the people suffer but they must retain their hope," he said, adding that a long-term adjustment programme is not only of an economic nature but also political.

    "When things are moving in the right direction, progress is increasingly visible and gains ground. We must not forget that the situation is still fragile," Samaras said.

    [03] Party of European Socialists summit on commitments for growth

    BRUSSELS (AMNA /V. Demiris)

    The Party of European Socialists' (PES) summit, that took place in Brussels on Thursday shortly before the European Council, urged European leaders to honour the commitments they have undertaken to support growth, by implementing the decisions of last June.

    The European Socialists asked for decisions to be taken for "more solidarity" and for a speedy implementation of the commitments included in the Pact for Growth and Employment.

    The socialist leaders also insisted on the need for the promotion of measures for the young unemployed, the tax on fiscal transactions to be scheduled and underlined that the unified supervisory authority is an essential bold step.

    [04] Government-Troika optimism for final agreement 'soon'

    Optimism that a final agreement will be clinched in the immediate future, after two months of negotiations between the government and the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'Troika' of Greece's international lenders was openly expressed by finance minister Yannis Stournaras and, for the first time, by the head of the IMF delegation in the Troika, Poul Thomsen, who is considered the hard-liner of the Troika, after the conclusion of deliberations between the two sides on Wednesday.

    Thus, it is highly likely that the Troika, which leaves Athens on Thursday, will not return on Monday as originally planned, and that the last details of the new package of austerity measures will be finalized via e-mail exchanges between the Troika and the finance ministry.

    After conclusion Wednesday night of the governmental economic staff's meeting with the Troika, that followed on the heels of the Troika's meeting with labor minister Yannis Vroutsis, Stournaras said that "there are certain open matters, which we anticipate will 'close' in the next days.

    As for the 'burning' labor market matters, Stournaras said that "there has been an initiative on the part of the prime minister, Mr. Vroutsis will propose solutions to the issues that have arisen".

    Earlier, as he was leaving the finance ministry, Thomsen said that "we made substantial progress".

    "We agreed on most of the policy issues. We expect to cover the few items remaining shortly," he added.

    High-ranking finance ministry officials told AMNA that it is considered almost certain that the 31.5 billion euro outstanding tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan will be disbursed in mid-November, on the strict condition that the package of measures will have been passed in parliament before then.

    In tandem, the Troika is already working on the basis of a two-year extension of Greece's fiscal adjustment programme, without which the package of measures would be 18 billion euro over the next two years (2013-2014), against 13.9 billion euro with the extension.

    The cutbacks in state spending contained in the package of measures exceed 11 billion euros, while the additional tax revenues would be 2.5 billion euros.

    The main bulk of the package will be implemented in 2013, in which measures cutting state expenditure by 9.2 billion euros of the total package will be taken.

    The same officials explained that a few structural problems in the goods and labor markets remained to be agreed on, but the Troika already has the main bulk of the tax reform in hand, although it wants the finance ministry to work out, on its own models, the repercussions on revenues from the macroeconomic environment (rate of recession). It appears that a compromise has been reached on a 4.2 percent recession, on which the finance ministry had predicted the rate at 3.8 percent and the Troika at just below 5.0 percent.

    Agreement also remains to be reached on the sustainability of the state debt, given that the IMF cannot extend funds to countries whose debt is not sustainable.

    According to the ministry sources, the report on the sustainability of Greece's debt is expected to be ready before next month's Presidential elections in the US, and there are ways to secure the debt's sustainability.

    As for the recent speculation of a new 'haircut' of the Greek debt, a finance ministry official said that the 'score' for the haircut was 1-2, with the IMF (Thomsen) in favor and the EC (Matthias Mors) and ECB (Klaus Masuch) against.

    "There has been substantial progress in the deliberations with the Troika in the last months. There are certain 'open' matters, which we expect will 'close' in the coming days," Stournaras said, adding that "on the labor market issue, there has been an initiative of the prime minister and in the coming days Mr. Vroutsis will propose solutions in the matters that have arisen."

    "The timetable of actions remains in effect...As for the Troika, despite whatever tension in these two months of tough negotiations, the displayed a spirit of good cooperation, proposed compromise solutions, and it is my conviction that they are doing their best for solutions to be found to the difficult problems, which really exist," Stournaras said.

    He added that the finance ministry, which is the "guardian of the stability of the economy, will not stop proposing compromise solutions to all the problems that arise, even when those concern other ministries".

    "I remain optimistic that things will develop as desired," Stournaras concluded.

    [05] DIMAR: We will not accept troika's extreme demands on labour

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) in an announcement on Wednesday remained adamant that it will not accept the troika's extreme demands on labour issues.

    "The Troika's demands on labour issues lead to the devastation of labour and have nothing to do with the fiscal adjustment and the restructures. The Memorandum's provisions must not be stretched to the extremes and, on the contrary, must be changed. The legislative regulation of the labour market is Greece's internal affair".

    According to DIMAR sources the party's position remains as it was stated by its leader Fotis Kouvelis on Tuesday that 'DIMAR intends to take the labour issues case upon itself'. In any case we reiterate the substance of party leader Kouvelis' statement: We will not vote (for) these measures".

    [06] Violence at latest anti-austerity protest in Athens; 1 death from heart attack

    Yet another massive anti-austerity rally in Athens descended into violence on Thursday, with streets choked in tear gas as stone-throwing, firebomb-wielding hooded youths staged pitched battles against riot police outside Syntagma Square and the Greek Parliament.

    One 67-year-old protestor, who took part in the march organised by the Communist-party affiliated PAME, was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

    The dead man was identified as a dock worker and police said his death was the result of a heart attack and not related to the incidents at the rally, though an investigation has been launched.

    The situation in Syntagma remained tense until late on Thursday afternoon, with police making efforts to clear the square of demonstrators entirely. Police detained 103 people that were taken taken to central police headquarters for questioning and seven were placed under arrest. Three police officers were injured, two of them sustaining burn injuries, and at least five civilians, one of them seriously.

    Clashes first broke out when the head of the march, which according to trade unions numbered some 50,000 protestors, started to arrive at the Grande Bretagne Hotel. A group of protestors that had forged ahead of the trade union presidiums began to clash with police, who responded with heavy use of teargas throughout the square.

    The rally and protest march were organised by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY to coincide with a nationwide general strike declared on Thursday by the two umbrella trade union federations, which together represent most of Greece's private and public-sector workforce.

    Figures given by GSEE claimed there was a large turnout for the 24-hour strike.

    The unions began with a strike rally at Pedion tou Areos at around noon, where they approved the rally resolution that they intended to present after marching to Parliament. In their resolution, they demanded that European leaders "listen to the voice of society and the rage of the workers and radically revise this mistaken, dead-end and recessionary European economic policy that is being followed".

    Among those present was main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, who in statements on the sidelines accused the governing coalition of "play-acting 'disagreement' over measures already voted on since last February" when society was already on its knees.

    Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos made statements in a similar vein, saying that the 'thriller' of "fighting for the rights of workers already conceded before the elections" was tending to become a "comedy, behind which is hidden the tragedy of the Greek people".

    A separate rally in Omonia Square and march to Parliament had also been organised by PAME, with the participation of Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga. In statements to the protestors, Papariga had called for "the construction of a strong popular alliance in order to pull the people along the path of opposition and overthrow, disengagement with the EU and debt write off. There is no other way".

    Sizeable protest rallies were also held in other Greek towns and cities, including Thessaloniki, Patras, Hania and Iraklio.

    Police detained 103 people for questioning and arrested seven during and after the incidents in downtown Athens.

    According to the police, three officers were injured during the incidents.

    [07] KKE party on incidents during Thursday's strike action

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in a statement on incidents occurring during Thursday's strike action, stressed that "the fact that at every demonstration the police suffocates Athens with teargas proves only one thing, that its target is not the provocations but the popular mobilisations. Even greater intensity, massiveness and guarding of the struggles is necessary for the reversal of the antipopular policy".

    [08] Thousands in Thessaloniki protest new austerity measures

    Thousands of workers from the public and private sector took to the streets of Thessaloniki on Thursday to protest the new austerity measures, in the context of a 24-hour general strike in Greece, under the main slogan "enough is enough".

    Many shops were closed as merchants and professionals joined in the strike, called by Greece's two major umbrella federations GSEE and ADEDY and in response to a call from their own unions to take part in the strike.

    The Thessaloniki Labor Center and the Association of Civil Servants' Organisations held a rally and march that was joined by full-crewed ambulances that blasted their horns throughout the march, which ended up outside the Macedonia-Thrace ministry.

    The ambulances formed a circle around the ministry, while a group of protestors emptied garbage bags at the ministry's entrance.

    The Communist Part of Greece (KKE) affiliated PAME labor organization staged a separate demonstration and march.

    [09] KKE leader addresses strike rally

    What is of importance is that a strong popular alliance is forged so that the people may take the path of rift and reversal, of disengagement from the EU, write-off of the debt and socialisation, there is no other way, Communist Part of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said on Thursday, addressing a rally organised by the KKE-affiliated PAME labor organization in the context of a 24-hour general strike in Greece.

    Earlier, the KKE announced that it has collected more than 14,000 signatures in an on-line signature campaign to back a draft law the party tables in parliament on July 12, which has not been put to discussion as yet in the 300-seat House, which calls for the abolition of the Memorandums, their application laws and the loan agreements.

    The signature collection campaign opened on October 8, on the website http://subscriber.amna.gr/anaweb/attachment/www.katargisimnimonon.kke.gr

    [10] President Papoulias begins Cairo visit; meets new Egyptian counterpart

    President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias began on Thursday an official visit to Cairo with a meeting with his new Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Morsy in the evening, while he will also travel to El Alamein on Saturday for an event commemorating the Allied dead during the landmark desert battle of WWII.

    Speaking after his talks with Morsy, President Papoulias expressed satisfaction for his official visit to Egypt, adding that the meeting with his Egyptian counterpart focused on the course of economic relations between the two countries.

    Referring to uprisings in the Arab world, Papoulias said they brought about important changes in the entire Middle East. "My conviction in this crucial period is that the leading role of Egypt is becoming even more decisive," Papoulias noted.

    "I also invited President Morsy to visit Greece so we can keep our talks going to the benefit of our two countries," the Greek president concluded.

    A memorial service will also be held on Saturday at the Commonwealth war cemetery of El Alamein for the Greek soldiers that fell during the battle.

    Papoulias is accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister for overseas Greeks' affairs Constantine Tsiaras and Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos.

    On Friday, Papoulias will tour the renowned Cairo archaeological museum before meeting with members of the local ethnic Greek community and business leaders.

    [11] Papoulias: Egypt pivotal to peace in region

    CAIRO (AMNA / N. Katsikas)

    Greece is a strong supporter of the non-proliferation regime regarding weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, Greek President Karolos Papoulias said here during an interview with the Egyptian news agency MENA.

    Papoulias, who on Thursday begun a three-day official visit to Egypt, added that "what our region needs is more cooperation and less weapons."

    Citing Egypt's strategic geopolitical position in the east Mediterranean and its crucial role in maintaining peace in the region, Papoulias said regional problems could not be resolved without Cairo's contribution.

    Referring to the latest developments in strife-plagued Syria, the Greek president warned that an outside intervention would be catastrophic for the Syrian people and the entire region.

    Talks between Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy and Papoulias, scheduled for Thursday evening, will focus on bilateral relations as well as on a number of international affairs of mutual interest.

    Greece, Papoulias said, will propose a joint initiative to promote a dialogue between religions. He added that Egypt is the most appropriate country for such dialogue to take place, as Christianity and Islam have co-existed in the land in mutual respect for centuries.

    In terms of economic ties, he said Greece is currently the fifth-largest investor in Egypt, with as many as 146 investment projects totalling 1.5 billion euros and generating up to 125,000 job positions.

    [12] Venizelos says PASOK's Charter Congress will take place in February 2013

    PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos announced on Thursday at a joint meeting of the party's Political and Organising Secretariat, that PASOK's Charter Congress will take place in February 2013.

    Venizelos appealed to all the party's cadres to participate in the preparing procedures "with their ideas and views, as well as their legitimate and legal ambitions that must be part of the overral effort".

    Venizelos set three targets in light of the party's Congress:

    1. "The transformation of PASOK into a modern, institutional, democratic and collective party, that will have nothing to do with the forces of the rearguard, inflexibilities and past privileges." Venizelos said the absolute incision must be made and termed as "leftist conservatism" the policy followed by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).

    2. "It will express European social-democracy which must also be renewed and this is the great wager of the European Socialist Party.

    3. "The preparation of the National Reconstruction Plan, where PASOK can play a very important role, being the party that has formulated very specific proposals since the pre-election period."

    [13] Head of Greek judges' union writes to EuroParliament's Schulz, seeks support against further wage cuts

    The head of Greece's Union of Judges and Prosecutors Vassiliki Thanou on Thursday sent a letter to European Parliament President Martin Shulz, outlining the "critical" situation facing the country and especially its judiciary and seeking his support. She particularly underlined the repeated salary cuts sustained by the judiciary, stressing that the latest planned cuts will see judges' incomes slashed by an exorbitant 60 percent.

    In her letter, Thanou noted that the austerity measures were being imposed unfairly, with the greatest burden falling on employees and pensioners that were not only economically weakest but also the groups that paid their full share of taxes, since these were withheld from their salaries at source.

    She stressed that state mechanisms had so far proved incapable of uncovering tax evaders and thus avoiding further reductions in salaries and pensions. Thanou noted that Greek people blamed these omissions on the government and the troika, while they caused indignation and intense social unrest.

    Concerning Greek judges and prosecutors, in particular, she pointed out that they had been hard hit by the crisis, as had been all Greeks in the last two years, and that the "excessive and irrational" cuts of their income would seriously hamper their ability to carry out their work and interfere with the smooth running of justice, since their new salaries "will be insufficient for even a basic dignified living".

    "[These planned cuts] justifiably create the impression that their aim is to downgrade justice and limit its independence," she adds, asking Schulz for his support and informing him that she has asked Greek MEPs to table questions on this issue.

    [14] Archbishop Ieronymos wants church to 'stand by people'

    "Those who are going hungry will not forgive us, should we don't cooperate to help them," Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos told a ceremony in the northern Greece city of Edessa, during which he was proclaimed an honorary citizen.

    The Archbishop said the church and local authorities are on a joint course "to stand by people" in need. "We live in an era of cooperation, and the church is ready to offer its help to all," he added.

    [15] Two Greek MPs join 'Estelle' as it seeks to break Gaza blockade

    Two Greek MPs of the main opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party, Vaggelis Diamantopoulos and Dimitris Kodelas, have joined the Finnish-flagged sailing vessel "Estelle" in its journey to bring aid to the Gaza Strip and break an Israeli naval blockade of its shores.

    The ship is now on the last leg of its journey that began in Sweden, settling sail from Naples to reach Gaza. The crew includes citizens and activists from eight countries, including Greeks.

    The Greek Initiative 'A Ship for Gaza' announced its support for the Estelle in its efforts, noting that dozens of Greek MPs and organisations have signed resolutions against the blockade, while the Greek people traditionally supported the struggling Palestinian people.

    The two Greek MPs on board the vessel have also issued separate statements expressing their solidarity with the Palestinians.

    Israel has indicated that it intends to use its military to prevent the "Estelle" from reaching Gaza. Meanwhile, the Greek foreign ministry has issued an announcement urging Greek citizens not to participate in the "Estelle" mission, warning that in light of Israel's intentions to prevent vessels reaching the Gaza shore, there is a "direct danger for human life and safety".

    "Greece's positions concerning the need to lift the blockade of Gaza and improve the humanitarian situation in the region are known. Equally known is Greece's position of principle concerning the need to respect international law and avoid the use of force. We have made these positions known to all interested parties," the announcement adds.

    Israel wants to maintain a naval blockade on Gaza as it claims Hamas, which won elections in 2006, cannot be trusted to prevent prohibited materials from reaching terror groups. Hamas itself is designated as a terror organisation by the European Union.

    The blockade of Gaza has been declared illegal by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights as it unfairly penalises the civilian population.

    [16] GD MP chastised in Parliament for disparaging comments about migrants

    Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) MP Eleni Zaroulia, the wife of the party's leader Nikos Mihaloliakos, was called to order by Parliament vice-president Yiannis Dragassakis on Thursday, for inappropriate comments disparaging migrants, whom she described as 'sub-human' and 'wretches that carry diseases'.

    Zaroulia made the comments during discussion of a question that she had tabled for the interior minister concerning the right of Greek expatriates' vote and criticising laws passed by the previous PASOK government that had allowed migrants to vote in local elections.

    Dragassakis, who was chairing the proceedings on Thursday, advised Zaroulia to show respect for her fellow human beings and requested that her statements be written into the record of the Parliamentary session and sent to the conference of Parliament presidents so that they can "adopt a position concerning this inappropriate behaviour of the MP that embarrasses the country abroad".

    Interior Minister Evripidis Stylianidis declined to enter into dialogue with Zaroulia on the issues, saying that the government's positions were clear and had "no room for discriminatory thinking".

    Other GD MPs also entered the verbal fray, attacking Dragassakis and saying that his party allegiances should not affect the way he handled proceedings in Parliament.

    Shortly afterward, the conference of Parliament presidents issued an announcement condemning Zaroulia's behaviour as inappropriate.

    Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis also issued an announcement later, in which he said that Dragassakis had acted correctly and been supported by the rest of the Parliamentary presidium. He also warned that Parliament's rules will be strictly implemented.

    Under the rules of Parliament, an MP can even be expelled from the hall where the plenum sits for behaviour not in keeping with the dignity and ethics.

    [17] Parliament lifts immunity of three MPs

    The Greek Parliament on Wednesday voted to lift immunity from prosecution for three of its members, including Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) MP Constantinos Barbaroussis for his part in destroying the stalls of the foreign street market vendors in the town of Messolonghi.

    The other two MPs for which immunity was lifted were Christos Kellas of New Democracy and Georgios Lambroulis of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), whose cases were found to be unrelated to their political or parliamentary status or activities.

    It voted against lifting immunity for PASOK MP Leonidas Grigorakos by 196 votes against, 23 in favour and one blank vote.

    [18] Joint Greek-Israeli air exercise in Larissa

    A joint Greek-Israeli training exercise will take place at the 110th air force combat squadron in Larissa, central Greece, next week, within the framework of a military cooperation programme between the two countries, it was announced on Thursday.

    Financial News

    [19] Gov't wants greater flexibility in labour market, presents alternative proposals

    Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Thursday presented the government's alternative proposals towards reforming the labour market to the EC-ECB-IMF troika, especially in terms of protecting existing wage-earners.

    In an e-mail sent to the representatives of the country's creditors, the minister stressed it was necessary to have greater flexibility in the labour market in order to boost economic competitiveness. The Greek side has accepted, in principle, the need to lower severance pay levels -one of the highest in Europe- although it said the exemption of employees with greater seniority was a "red line" for the government.

    Ministry officials said that if a troika demand to drastically reduce severance pay is accepted, covering all wage-earners, this would send already high unemployment soaring, since the labour market would tend to replace older and more "expensive" workers with newer and "cheaper" ones.

    Such a development would have very negative consequences on state revenues and pension funds' sustainability, the government said.

    The Greek side recommends that new lower severance pay levels should be introduced for wage-earners entering the job market after the implementation of the new measures.

    The minister is also in favour of maintaining periodic wage increases (on a three-year basis), as the troika has reportedly insisted that this automatic increase should be scrapped.

    [20] DIM.AR will not vote for proposed labour measures, spokesman stresses

    Speaking on behalf of the smallest of the three parties in the coalition government, Democratic Left (DIM.AR) press spokesman Andreas Papadopoulos on Thursday stressed that his party will not vote for the changes in labour law proposed by the EU-IMF troika.

    "If the troika is so inflexible, there is no other path apart from political agreement at the highest possible level, such as the European summit. There is absolutely no chance we will support these changes in labour relations because they have no economic benefit and in no way do they signify structural changes," Papadopoulos told the private radio station 'Vima'.

    He stressed that the proposals would have to be amended or modified, otherwise DIM.AR would not support them:

    "We have no desire to bring down the government but at the same time we cannot demolish Greek society. These changes offer nothing. In addition, it is the country's self-evident right to regulate its own labour relations," he said.

    [21] Credit Agricole announces sale of Emporiki Bank share capital to Alpha Bank

    Credit Agricole S.A. announced that it has signed a contract for the sale of the entire share capital of Emporiki Bank to Alpha Bank.

    In an announcement issued in Paris on Wednesday, Credit Agricole said that the deal was approved by Cr?dit Agricole S.A.'s Board of Directors on 15 October 2012.

    Cr?dit Agricole S.A. and Alpha Bank aim to complete the sale by 31 December 2012, subject to obtaining the authorisations from the relevant authorities. The terms and conditions of the transaction have already been approved by the Board of Directors of Alpha Bank and the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund.

    Cr?dit Agricole had on October 1 announced that it has entered into exclusive negotiations with Alpha Bank to acquire the entire share capital of Emporiki.

    In a statement to Alpha Bank workforce, Yiannis Kostopoulos, the bank's chairman, said Alpha Bank was moving towards the creation of a bank of European standards, which will play a significant role in development both domestic and in the wider region.

    The deal is a significant step towards rationalizing the domestic financial sector, Kostopoulos said, adding that following the acquisition, Alpha Bank was strengthening its figures and its capital base to find itself in an advantageous position ahead of a further recapitalisation of the Greek banking system.

    [22] FM official presents Greece investment opportunities in Israel

    Official and private investors in Israel are interested in Greece's privatisation programme as well as in investments in the tourism sector, a foreign ministry announcement stated on Thursday.

    The ministry cited a recent two-day visit to Tel-Aviv this week by Panagiotis Michalos, the foreign ministry secretary general for international economic relations, cooperation and development. The latter presented investment opportunities in Greece to both public and private sector officials.

    The Greek official also met with Israeli government officials, including Foreign Undersecretary Danny Ayalon, the deputy head of the PM's office Gaby Golan, and the energy ministry's oil commissioner, Alexander Varshavsky.

    [23] 2nd Greek-Russian real estate forum in Athens

    Russian investors are increasingly interested in investing in the Greek real estate market, with this interest is expected to be confirmed during a second Greek-Russian Real Estate Forum to be held in Athens next week.

    The forum will bring together at least 15-20 Russian real estate agencies, specialising in the sale of foreign real estate properties to the Russian market. The Russian delegation will also visit the city of Hania, Crete, as part of a cooperation between the Greek-Russian Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Hania.

    According to data presented during the previous Greek-Russian forum, 7.0 pct of Russian tourists visiting Greece are interested in buying a holiday property in the country, and this rate is steadily rising. Russian investors' interest focuses in the islands of Crete, Rhodes, Corfu and seaside regions in Halkidiki and the Peloponnese.

    Greece ranks 14th among the most attractive countries for real estate investments, with Bulgaria topping the list among Russian investors.

    [24] Stocks end lower on profit taking

    Stocks ended slightly lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday with investors taking profits after the previous days' strong rally. The composite index of the market fell 0.27 pct to end at 862.88 points, after rising as much as 881.71 points during the day. Turnover soared to 120.737 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 0.16 pct and the Mid Cap index eased 0.88 pct. The Health (5.03 pct), Commerce (2.92 pct) and Constructions (2.21 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains, while Food (2.24 pct), Utilities (1.27 pct) and Technology (1.22 pct) suffered losses.

    Cyprus Bank (4.12 pct), Titan (4.0 pct) and OPAP (3.06 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (3.48 pct), Ellaktor (2.79 pct) and Coca Cola Hellenic (2.27 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 81 to 61 with another 29 issues unchanged. ANEK (30 pct), Hatzioannou (28.57 pct) and NEL (20 pct) were top gainers, while Audiovisual (21.92 pct), Olympic Catering (17.63 pct) and Elbisco Holdings (16.67 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.25%

    Commercial: +2.92%

    Construction +2.21%

    Oil & Gas: -0.82%

    Personal & Household: +1.45%

    Raw Materials: -0.16%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.04%

    Technology: -1.22%

    Telecoms: +1.09%

    Banks: +0.13%

    Food & Beverages: -2.24%

    Health: +5.03%

    Utilities: -1.27%

    Financial Services: -2.01%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, Bank of Piraeus and Bank of Cyprus.

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

    Alpha Bank: 2.12

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.32

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.20

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.56

    National Bank of Greece: 2.32

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.28

    OPAP: 4.38

    OTE: 3.70

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.63

    Titan: 15.59

    [25] Greek bond market cloaing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank significantly to 15.52 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 17.13 pct and the German Bund 1.61 pct. Turnover was 13 million euros, of which 8.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 5.0 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate was 0.64 pct, the six-month rate was 0.40 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.15 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 27.241 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,388 contracts worth 8.772 million euros, with 31,323 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 107,654 contracts worth 18.469 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (29,045), followed by National Bank (27,353), Alpha Bank (14,153), Cyprus Bank (17,364), MIG (1,832), OTE (2,840), PPC (1,580), OPAP (7,241), Eurobank (2,089), Mytilineos (807), Intralot (795) and Cyprus Popular Bank (709).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.331

    Pound sterling 0.824

    Danish kroner 7.571

    Swedish kroner 8.713

    Japanese yen 105.57

    Swiss franc 1.227

    Norwegian kroner 7.487

    Canadian dollar 1.303

    Australian dollar 1.282

    General News

    [28] Seven arrested for abduction of 26-year-old in Diakofto, victim still missing

    Six men and one woman have been arrested as suspects in the abduction of a 26-year-old man from Diakofto last August, including a friend of the victim's family. Police on Thursday announced a breakthrough in the case of the still-missing student but expressed fears for his life because he has not yet been found.

    Attica security police said that the case was cracked two days ago by the Crimes Against Life and Personal Freedom department with the assistance of Greece's intelligence service EYP, leading to the arrest of six men aged 71, 45, 31, 57 and 44 and a 46-year-old woman.

    The seven suspects have already been taken before a public prosecutor while the search of the missing 26-year-old continues.

    The case dates back to August 10, when an unknown individual telephoned the victim's mother and announced that her son had been kidnapped, demanding a ransom of 620,000 euro in order to release him unharmed. The student had been staying with his mother in Diakofto but had left in his car the previous day to meet someone in nearby Egio.

    The kidnappers also gave information about where they had left the young man's car, which was found in the spot they indicated at Paleo Faliro in Athens.

    The last call from the kidnappers to the mother was on August 17 but the ransom was never paid and, according to information extracted by police, the kidnappers next planned to abduct the victim's mother but were foiled by police that found out their plan. The suspects have confessed to their actions under questioning and named the 71-year-old friend of the family as the leader of the gang but have not yet revealed the young man's whereabouts.

    The 72-year-old is apparently the father of serving police officers that had been unaware of their father's actions, while he organised the abduction due to debts.

    Investigating officers have expressed grave concern about the fate of the victim, however, since no trace has been found of him in any of the houses searched so far and the suspects have not yet revealed what happened to him.

    [29] Alleged 'Pink Panther' gang, including escaped female suspect, arrested

    Four suspected members of the notorious 'Pink Panther' gang were arrested on Thursday by police investigating an armed robbery at a jewellery shop in Argyroupolis, east Athens, the previous day.

    The first of the suspects arrested was a 34-year-old escaped female prisoner, a former womens basketball player in Serbia and Greece that escaped from the Korydallos prison's women's wing last July, with the help of an accomplice.

    She was tracked down in the Athens coastal suburb of Helliniko by police on Thursday, along with another foreign national that was arrested as a suspected member of the same jewellry heist gang. Another two suspects were then arrested in the upscale coastal district of Kavouri.

    The gang allegedly held up a 54-year-old jeweller on Wednesday as he was arriving at his shop by car, forcing him to open the door and turn off the alarm as they emptied the safe and display cases before making their getaway in a private car.

    A preliminary examination is underway and announcements will be made by police once it is complete.

    [30] Eight arrests in child porn trafficking investigation

    Eight people, aged 25-53, have arrested by electronic crimes squad police for possession of and trafficking in hard core child pornography material, police said on Thursday, adding that two arrests were made in Kilkis, four in Athens, one in Thessaloniki, and one on Limmos island, while two independent case files have been opened for another two suspects from Katerini and the island of Kos.

    The arrests were made after a 15-day broad police investigation code-named 'Cyber-Touch' in various parts of Greece, conducted in ongoing clamp down on the possession of and trafficking in child pornography over the internet.

    The suspects include a school principal in Kilkis and his son, a military officer serving on Limnos, an orthopedic doctor and the son of a senior judicial functionary in Athens, two businessmen and two civil servants.

    Searches of the suspects' residences turned up 34 hard disc drives, three laptops, a plethora of printed photographs and tens of thousands of digital files totaling 20.25 gigabytes of child pornography, all of which were seized.

    [31] Rucksack with petrol bombs found on Marni Street

    A rucksack containing nine petrol bombs ready for use was found hidden behind a dumpster on Marni Street near the Athens Museum by a police patrol on Thursday morning. An investigation has been launched.

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