|Sunday, 24 June 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-11-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 8 November 2012 Issue No: 4216
 Parliament passes urgent austerity package by slim marginGreece's Parliament in the early morning hours on Thursday passed a Memo-randum-mandated austerity package worth 13.5 billion euros that envisions further cuts in public sector salary scales, pensions and tax hikes, along with labour sector liberalisation and the opening of various so-called "closed" occupations.
The single-article draft bill was ratified in the 300-MP Parliament with a majority of 153 votes for and 128 against, with 18 voting present. Only one MP did not vote.
 PM says Wed. vote will seal country's European coursePrime Minister Antonis Samaras, speaking during a crucial Parliament debate on Wednesday evening, called for a vote by deputies to seal the country's European course.
"Today we are called on to seal Greece's new credibility. We must decide today if we shall be left to an absolute default and whether we shall return to the drachma, or whether we shall exit from this crisis united," the prime minister said.
He underlined the importance that a pending 31.5-billion-euro bailout package tranche means for jump-starting growth.
The prime minister added that out of the 31.5 billion euros only 3.2 billion will be funneled to creditors as interest, while a recapitalisation of banks will be completed immediately, thus allowing the banking system to be rescued and for liquidity be boosted. The repayment of mature state debts will proceed in parallel, and will resuscitate the market.
Samaras called on all sides to consider that the country is currently facing a most crucial decision and to sincerely address the Greek people.
"The reality is that we should have taken many of these measures years ago. There are also other measures that are painful and unfair. However, we have been out of the market for three years and we cannot ignore the limited options that we have, because this would sink us into a worse disaster," the prime minister said.
"Today we are changing everything at once. We are abolishing privileges; the privileges that sucked national wealth will end," he said, while deflecting critics who accused his government of being a "junta". "... they are the ones who brought hell, sending factories and investments out of the country ... We laid the foundations of democracy and we do not toy with democracy. We put (modern) Greece in Europe and we do not play with its European prospect," the prime minister said.
Finally, he cited a restoration of a climate of confidence, saying a return of deposits from abroad has already begun.
"In 2010 there were 145 billion euros (in domestic banks) and today they've exceeded 160 billion euros," he said, adding that initial indications are positive over achieving the fiscal targets.
 Tsipras' views are conservative, Venizelos saysPASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday evening launched an attack on main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, accusing him of "making use of the country's social groups hit by the crisis, thinking that this would automatically take him to power".
Speaking in parliament during the debate on an omnibus bill containing the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework, Venizelos charged that Tsipras view's were conservative. "Today, there is battle going on between the past and the future and it will be won by the future and progress," he said.
PASOK is a junior partner in the Antonis Samaras coalition government.
 Democratic Left votes 'present' in Parliament voteDemocratic Left (DIMAR) party leader Fotis Kovelis clarified in Parliament on Wednesday night that his party would vote "present" during the vote on the omnibus bill later in the evening.
"Our steadfast position on the labour issues, dictates to us not to vote for the draft law and declare present in the vote," he said.
DIMAR is a junior partner in the Antonis Samaras coalition government.
Kouvelis explained the reasons for the decision, stressing that his party "had made it clear with absolute political sincerity that the Democratic Left will vote against the labour measures, something that all knew." He clarified that this position remains firm.
"We have already opted for and we do not revoke it, that there should be a government aimed to avert political instability with whatever this entails for society, and to serve the country's stay in the Eurozone and the euro and avoiding a return to the drachma. This option of ours remains intact and whoever attempts to offset it with our steadfast position to defend labour rights, is at least mistaken," Kouvelis said.
 SYRIZA leader attacks gov't over austerity billMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras launched a stinging attack against the government during an address in Parliament on Wednesday evening, saying it does not draw 'red lines' to avert the country's course toward disaster.
Speaking before a crucial vote on a draft bill containing the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework, Tsipras repeated his demand for a snap election, saying the current government "moves the country closer to danger every day."
"We (SYRIZA) are in agony to save the country from the oncoming catastrophe, to avert the social crash that the new measures will bring, to avert joblessness and keep hospitals open," Tsipras said, charging that the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework "safeguards its own failure."
 Kammenos calls for new haircut of Greek debtGreece's foreign debt should be written off, Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos, reiterated in parliament on Wednesday evening during the debate on a omnibus bill containing the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework.???
"A haircut is needed of the Greek debt held by the European Central Bank (ECB) and European bankers", Kammenos said, while he predicted that the 31.5-billion-euro tranche of Greece's rescue package will not be disbursed on November 16.
 KKE leader says measures 'barbaric'Communist Party (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga, addressing a Parliament plenary session during debate on a latest austerity package on Wednesday evening, termed the measures as 'barbaric", charging that "there prevails a selective sensibility in Parliament's wings".
"The barbarism of the measures bares new, harsher elements. The attack suffered by working people is more intense and uniform. No one will be excluded from the cuts," she said.
The KKE leader admitted that, through the memorandum, the government was taking away benefits and workers' rights, which have been given to certain sections of the labour force and referred to "alliances that are breaking up" and to a workers' elite which "has looked for and found a political home in various parties, and mainly in SYRIZA."
 KKE leader says Grexit not enough for recoveryGreece's possible exit from the euro zone and European Union would not in itself be enough to revive the country's production base, Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said on Wednesday, before a vote in Parliament on the new package of austerity measures.
"An exit from the euro zone and the EU cannot by itself help the country towards a restructuring of the production base, as the people must control the economy in order to deal with the consequences of Greece's lengthy dependence on the EU and global monopolistic rules of competition," Papariga said in a radio interview.
"The depth of the crisis and disagreements between EU member states, as well as Greece's commitments and dependencies on the EU, open the way for a head-on clash with the European Union," KKE leader said.
 Parliament rejects opposition motion of unconstitutionalityParliament on Wednesday finally rejected motions disputing the constitutionality of a draft omnibus bill containing the latest round of austerity measures, with 170 votes against and 47 in favour. It was the second vote on the motions brought by main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) and the Independent Greeks party earlier the same day, this time using the roll-call procedure after the result of the first vote was vociferously disputed by the opposition.
Votes against the motion were cast by the MPs of the three-party coalition government while votes in favour were cast by the Independent Greeks, Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
SYRIZA walked out while the vote was being held, with only 217 MPs finally participating in the voting. The main opposition had earlier also disputed the regularity of the proceedings, arguing that the delay between holding the initial vote and the second roll-call vote exceeded the 10 minutes foreseen by Parliament rules.
During the original vote on the motion, the opposition MPs that voted in favour of the motion outnumbered the MPs supporting the government but Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis announced that the motion lacked sufficient support to pass without conducting a head count. The decision was loudly denounced by the opposition MPs present until Meimarakis finally said that the debate on the omnibus bill, which contains all the austerity measures comprising the 2013-2016 Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy in a single article running to roughly 600 pages, would be interrupted for half an hour so that the government MPs not in attendance would have time to make it to Parliament.
SYRIZA and Independent Greeks had tabled two unconstitutionality motions, one on the constitutionality of the measures themselves and one on the constitutionality of rushing the draft bill through Parliament using 'urgent' proceedings, meaning that the omnibus bill will be debated for a maximum of 10 hours and voted on in the same day instead of the normal three-day debate preceding a vote on draft legislation.
SYRIZA later withdrew its motion, but the Independent Greeks insisted on a roll-call vote on the constitutionality.
In a non-binding opinion on the draft omnibus bill issued the previous week, the Greek Court of Audit plenum had also found the measures of the draft bill concerning further pension cuts unconstitutional in a virtually unanimous decision.
 SYRIZA leader urges PASOK, DIMAR MPs to oppose omnibus billAn appeal to the MPs of the two junior members of the coalition government, PASOK and Democratic Left, to vote against the package of austerity cuts in the government's omnibus bill was made by main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) party leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday.
Tsipras urged PASOK and DIMAR MPs not to fall in line with the "front of the Memorandum" as satellites of the prime minister Antonis Samaras but to align themselves, even at this late hour, "with the people for the defence of democracy and society".
SYRIZA's leader stressed that each MPs responsibility toward the country and the people took precedence over any fleeting party discipline and urged MPs to "rise to your historic responsibility and contribute to the great change that the people need".
 Controversy in Parliament over incident involving police, SYRIZA MPsA heated argument broke out in Parliament, in the midst of the debate on the omnibus bill, after Public Order Minister Nikolaos Dendias accused main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) MPs of "impersonating authority" and posting photographs of police officers on the Internet.
The accusations prompted an angry reply from SYRIZA Parliamentary spokesman Panagiotis Lafazanis, who blasted the minister for interrupting the debate to make "dirty accusations" and denied that SYRIZA MPs had done anything untoward. Regarding the photographs posted on the Internet, he attributed those to a photojournalist.
Dendias had asked to speak and accused main opposition MPs of having stopped police on Solonos Street the previous evening in order to check their credentials, claiming that this was tantamount to impersonating authority.
"It is the government's obligation to protect the Greek Police and for this reason I expect SYRIZA to directly apologise and directly say that such an incident will not be repeated," the minister said.
Lafazanis accused the minister of adding fuel to the fire and denied that there had been any impersonation of authority but "only a discussion with those responsible for police authorities who, when they arrive with hoods and little bags, it is an obligation to ask them what is in those little bags. Perhaps they are certain of those that cause the incidents in the name of law and order?"
Regarding the photographs, he said these were taken and posted by a photojournalist, noting that these had often uncovered offences committed by certain police officers in the past.
 Ministry accuses SYRIZA MPs of impersonating the authoritiesThe Public Order and Citizens Protection ministry on Wednesday accused main opposition SYRIZA of impersonating the authorities and of an anti-democratic downslide, after SYRIZA MPs carried out checks on plainclothes police officers during Tuesday's protest demonstration in downtown Athens.
Photographs of police officers were uploaded on the left.gr website, noting that this was done due to a "bad precedent" with security police vis-a-vis demonstrators.
The ministry, in a press announcement, charged that "the attitude of this specific party has surpassed all limits, without the least respect for democracy, legality and the institutions".
It further likened the SYRIZA deputies' action with the actions of the ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) party
 Inquiry into incident with SYRIZA MPs, police on Tues.Greek Police on Wednesday launched an investigation into an incident on Tuesday in which MPs of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) demanded to check the IDs of plainclothes police officers on duty in the city centre, as well as the subsequent publication of the officers' photographs via a video posted on the Internet.
A police announcement said the officers had been on duty during Tuesday's protest rally, while the electronic crime department was investigating whether the MPs or other persons were guilty of offences.
Testimony is being taken from the officers involved while the video and the testimony collected will be submitted to a public prosecutor later on Wednesday.
 FinMin withdraws amendment reducing Parliament staff's payFinance Minister Yannis Stournaris on Wednesday evening withdrawn a last-minute amendment decreasing annual pay for the Greek Parliament's permanent employees.
According to Stournaras, "the amendment I tabled a short while ago is exclusively a government choice and a demand by society. It is untrue, wretched and populist to state that it was mandated by the (EC-ECB-IMF) troika. SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks (party) blanketed a privileged class and reached the point of directing the Parliament employees' labour union leadership to declare a work stoppage in the temple of democracy."
He added that due to the significant draft bill in the balance -- during an urgent midnight vote -- "I am removing the specific legislative modification ... Whoever has eyes sees; we will return with a new amendment in which we will harmonise (Parliament's) regulation vis-a-vis the salary scales in the public sector".
The amendment generated a firestorm of opposition by the union representing the employees, while both the opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and Independent Greeks party opposed the measures.
 Tank truckers gathered at Skaramangas, poised to head to parliamentTank truck owners gathered at Skaramangas, near Piraeus, with their trucks at noon on Wednesday and were poised to drive them to Syntagma Square, outside parliament, where a debate was being conducted on the new package of austerity measures.
More than 50 tank trucks lined up along the Skaramangas bridge since Wednesday morning, without disrupting traffic, and under the vigilance of a discrete presence of MAT riot police.
Tank truck owners, joined by other truck owners and drivers, are protesting a sudden decision by the Development, Competitiveness, Transport and Networks ministry, with previous warning or deliberation with truckers' unions, to include in the omnibus bill being discussed an arrangement under which the lease of private-use trucks is allowed without conditions, which the truckers say is in violation of EU regulations and will lead to sector to an impasse.
In essence, the truckers explain, the regulation in the omnibus bill equates public-use trucks with the approximately one million private-use trucks, allowing them to carry out transports for third parties.
The truckers decided at an emergency general assembly on Tuesday to launch rolling 24-hour strikes as of Wednesday and to stage the truck convoy to and demonstration at Syntagma Square, but it is not known whether the convoy to parliament will finally take place, and specifically whether it will be allowed by police.
 Local government employees stage take-over of Administrative Reform ministryLocal government employees staged a take-over of the Administrative Reform ministry on Wednesday, protesting the measures contained in an omnibus bill introducing a new package of tough austerity measures due to be voted on in parliament on Wednesday night, particularly the measures affecting local government and public sector workers.
Some 200 local government employees, members of the POE-OTA local government workers' union have staged a take-over of the ministry headquarters on central Vassilissis Sophias Avenue, while a POE-OTA delegation was meeting with minister Antonis Manitakis in the latter's office.
The local government employees were joined by civil servants' umbrella federation ADEDY president Costas Tsikrikas.
Tsikrikas and POE-OTA president Thanassis Balassopoulos are heading the 15-member delegation that met with the minister, as the protestors were demonstrating outside the building.
The take-over ended after the POE-OTA delegation's meeting with Manitakis.
 Supreme Court rules salary cuts for judiciary unconstitutionalThe Supreme Court 44-justice plenum on Wednesday unanimously ruled the new round of cuts to the salaries of the judiciary, ranging from 19-24 percent, unconstitutional. The further cuts are included in the omnibus bill for the 2013-2016 Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy.
 Incidents at Syntagma Square in AthensIncidents broke out in downtown Syntagma Square, in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens on Wednesday evening, when groups of youths attacked police forces deployed at the beginning of Vassilisis Sofias avenue.
The parliament plenary was debating an omnibus bill containing the new package of harsh austerity measures.
Police used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse them, while water trucks were also used. Tens of thousands of demonstrators had gathered in Syntagma Square as of 17:00, a part of whom has started to leave due to the rain.
 Second day of 48-hour general strike, public transport standstillMass transit came to a standstill for a second consecutive day in Athens on Wednesday as public transport employees took part in a two-day general strike called by Greece's two major umbrella federations GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sector respectively, in protest against a package of new austerity measures to be voted on in parliament on Wednesday night.
Buses, trolleys and OSE railway trains will not be running on Wednesday, while the Athens Metro and ISAP urban trains will be running from 3:00 p.m. to the end of the shift, to facilitate strikers in attending the planned protest rallies in downtown Athens.
Trams will also be running from noon to the end of the shift, while there will be no taxi services due to rolling 24-hour strikes by taxi owners that began on Monday.
Ships will remain docked at ports for a second day as the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) is taking part in the 48-hour strike.
On instructions from the police, the Metro stations at Evangelismos, Syntagma, Panepistimio and Acropolis will be closed in order to avert a spillover from possible violence from the main protest rally at Syntagma Square outside parliament, as the debate on the austerity bill takes place ahead of Wednesday night's vote.
 Trade unions announce new strikes, rally on SundayThe General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union federation ADEDY, representing roughly half of Greece's workforce, on Wednesday decided to continue strikes and protests against the latest round of austerity cuts.
Urging a dynamic participation in a rally on Wednesday afternoon in Syntagma Square, the unions also announced a second rally to take place next Sunday when Parliament is due to vote on the 2013 budget. GSEE also announced a three-hour work stoppage from noon to 3:00 p.m. and a rally at 1:00 at Klafthmonos Square on November 14, the day of the European global strike against the austerity measures.
GSEE's main demand is that Parliament does not pass the omnibus bill for the austerity measures and that economic policy in Greece and Europe be changed.
ADEDY's Executive Committee, in an announcement, asked for the withdrawal of all measures concerning matters relating to the Administrative Reform and E-Governance ministry and all measures relating to labour, social insurance, and wage issues in the public sector.
 KKE charges attack by Chryssi Avghi 'bullies'The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday accused ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) members of attacking members of its KNE youth group outside a highschool in Langada where the latter were urging students to take part in Wednesday's general strike and protest rallies.
"A group of fascistoids, headed by the well-known 'muscle-men' cadres of Chryssi Avghi...initially with verbal abuse and threats attempted to terrorize and send away the KNE members. When they saw that the terrorization had no result, they attacked with their fists and clubs," a KKE press office announcement said, adding that "the Chryssi Avghi gang received the proper response, as striking workers from the AGNO dairy plant rushed to their (KNE members) assistance and managed to take the clubs away from the Chryssi Avghi muscle-men despite the fact that the latter pulled out knives."
The KKE said that "this is the true face of the nazi Chryssi Avghi, which is an underhanded anti-communist and terrorist mechanism that is supported by the system and used against the labor popular movement and the youth who are fighting for their rights against the EE and the exploiter capitalists".
"The response given by the KNE members and striking workers shows how the people and the youth can isolate, uncover and deal with the terrorist and criminal action of the nazis," the KKE said, adding that all the evidence exists, the names (of the perpetrators) and even their fingerprints on the clubs, and called on the government to "undertake its responsibilities, as it is responsible for whether the Chryssi Avghi bullies will be punished".
 National Defence General Staff chief holds talks with Iraqi counterpartThe prospect of the further development of military cooperation between Greece and Iraq, as well as issues of mutual interest were the focus of talks held in Athens on Wednesday between National Defence General Staff chief General Michael Kostarakos and his Iraqi counterpart General Babaker Baderkan Shawkt Zibari, who is carrying out an official visit to Greece between November 5-9.
Zibari was then received by Defence Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos.
Zibari will be visiting the Air Force Cadets Academy and the Special Forces Training Centre during his stay.
 FinMin: All pension funds should be under EOPYY umbrellaFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday emphasised, during a Parliamentary debate on the 2013 state budget, that he "found it difficult to take measures burdening large social groups while at the same time accepting multi-tier privileges for others".
His statement came roughly an hour after he hastily withdrew an amendment slashing pay for Parliament's employees -- an amendment tabled the same day.
Stournaras said he considers it imperative that all social security funds be included under the umbrella of the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY).?
The passing of a closely watched draft bill and the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework 2013-2016 are the Greek government's obligations under bailout package earmarked for the country, the minister said.
Stournaras also repeated a government commitment to achieve primary surplus of up to 4.5 percent of GDP by 2016, saying a series of financial market distortions will be dealt with by new arrangements included in the draft bill.
The single-article bill guarantees that Greece will meet commitments under the lending programme and that the country will push through structural reforms, whose delay has harmed growth, Stournaras told a Parliament plenary session, hours ahead of the midnight vote.
 Greek economy to return to growth in 2014, CommissionBRUSSELS (AMNA)
The Greek economy is expected to shrink by 6.0 pct this year and by 4.2 pct in 2013, returning to growth (0.6 pct) in 2014, the European Commission said in its autumn economic forecasts. The Commission had predicted an economic recession of 4.7 pct this year and a zero growth in 2013 in its May forecasts.
The EU's executive, in a report published here on Wednesday, also said that the Eurozone economy (average) will shrink by 0.4 pct in 2013, returning to a 0.1 pct growth rate in 2013 and 1.4 pct in 2014. For the EU-27, the Commission predicts a -0.3 pct rate in 2012 and growth rates of 0.4 pct in 2013 and 1.6 pct in 2014.
In Greece, the Commission expects that the unemployment rate will rise from 17.7 pct in 2011 to 23.6 pct in 2012 and 24 pct in 2013 (the second highest unemployment rates in the EU after Spain). The country's fiscal deficit is projected to fall to 6.8 pct of GDP this year, to 5.5 pct in 2013 and 4.6 pct in 2014.
The public debt is expected to rise from 170.6 pct of GDP in 2011 to 176.7 pct in 2012, 188.4 pct in 2013 and 188.9 pct in 2014, while the inflation rate is projected to fall from 3.1 pct in 2011 to 1.1 pct this year and to negative rates (-0.8 pct in 2013 and -0.4 pct in 2014).
The Commission, in its report, noted that the Greek economy will remain in a deep recession in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year, although it stressed that recovery signs were expected from mid-2013 and in particular in the second half of the year, leading to a 0.6 pct growth rate in 2014. The Commission said that Greek households' available income will shrink further next year, because of rising unemployment and a new round of wage cuts in the private and public sectors, while investments are expected to be negatively affected by limited access in credit markets and political uncertainties in the country. The Commission stressed that export prospects will be affected by reduced external demand and will be inadequate to deal with pressures resulting from an economic recession in Greece.
The report noted that any positive prospects for 2014 was based -mainly- on expectations of a return in confidence and investments following the implementation of an economic adjustment and reforms program and the implementation of EU co-funded programs. The Commission insisted that the recovery will depend on the timely and strict implementation of an economic consolidation program, although it noted that uncertainties remained over the efficiency of a fiscal effort and the speed and the success of structural reforms. Price adjustments and developments in an international economic environment and their benefits to productivity and competitiveness will be also of critical importance, the EU's executive said.
 Thrace Plastics reports improved 9-month resultsThrace Plastics on Wednesday reported increased nine-month results. Consolidated turnover rose 2.2 pct to 206.7 million euros in the January-September period this year, from 202.27 million euros in the corresponding period in 2011, while consolidated gross earnings jumped 17.5 pct to 40.884 million euros form 34.785 million euros over the same periods, respectively.
Consolidated EBITDA totaled 21.552 million euros in the nine-month period, from 17.879 million euros last year, an increase of 20.5 pct, while consolidated after tax and minorities earnings rose 20.8 pct to 7.279 million euros.
Net bank borrowing fell to 38.6 million euros in September 30, from 47.6 million euros in June 30 and 50.6 million euros in December 31, 2011.
 Business Briefs-- Foreign investors raised their participation in the capitalization of the Athens Stock Exchange in October to 50.6 pct, from 49.7 pct in September, but remained below a 51.4 pct rate in October 2011, official figures showed on Wednesday
 Stocks end lowerStocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with investors sidelined ahead of a crucial vote in Parliament over a new fiscal austerity package. The composite index of the market fell 0.79 pct to end at 825.80 points, after rising as much as 1.33 pct early in the session. Turnover shrank to 48.380 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.88 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.17 pct lower. Hellenic Petroleum (1.71 pct), National Bank (1.60 pct), METKA (1.47 pct) and Viohalco (0.90 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (5.30 pct), Jumbo (2.64 pct) and PPC (2.52 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Industrial Products/Services: 2,663.24 +0.12 pct
Commerce: 1,450.79 +0.52 pct
Constructions: 1,769.07 -1.99 pct
Oil/Gas: 2,417.52 +0.41 pct
Personal/Home Products: 2,553.77 -2.34 pct
Raw Materials: 1,721.06 -1.23 pct
Travel: 871.41 -1.61 pct
Technology: 440.40 -2.07 pct
Telecoms: 1,004.69 unchanged
Banks: 321.37 +0.22 pct
Food/Beverage: 6,438.29 -1.03 pct
Health: 187.01 +4.65 pct
Utilities: 1,653.07 -1.99 pct
Financial Services: 1,046.53 -2.11 pct
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 63 to 60 with another 27 issues unchanged. Pegasus (18.58 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (18.37 pct), Kathimerini (17.25 pct) and NEL (15.38 pct) were top gainers while Perseus (19.23 pct), Elbisco (15.19 pct) and Audiovisual (12.12 pct) were top losers.
Piraeus Bank, Cyprus Popular Bank, Cyprus Bank and National Bank were the most active shares, while National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank the shares with the biggest daily turnover. The market's capitalization was 31.884 billion euros.
Blue chips ended as follows:
ALPHA BANK: 1.97
COCA COLA: 17.19
HELLENIC PETROLEUM: 6.56
NATIONAL BANK: 1.91
CYPRUS BANK: 0.33
MOTOR OIL: 6.80
PIRAEUS BANK: 0.49
CYPRUS POPULAR BANK: 0.06
MARFIN INVESTMENT GROUP: 0.34
 Greek bond market spreadThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 15.44 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 16.81 pct and the German Bund 1.37 pct. Turnover was a thin 3.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.59 pct, the six-month rate was 0.37 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.13 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 16.705 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,567 contracts worth
8.579 million euros, with 31,992 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 44,546 contracts worth 8.126 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (12,484), followed by Cyprus Bank (6,082), Alpha Bank (8,157), OTE (1,649), PPC (1,053), OPAP (2,843), Piraeus Bank (9,196), Intralot (780), Eurobank (649), GEK (646) and MIG (324).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.293
Pound sterling 0.810
Danish kroner 7.571
Swedish kroner 8.683
Japanese yen 103.64
Swiss franc 1.224
Norwegian kroner 7.429
Canadian dollar 1.285
Australian dollar 1.241
 Archbishop Ieronymos in SerresArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos sent a message of unity and cooperation to all Greeks from the northern city of Serres.
"We are experiencing difficult times, but difficulties must not subdue us, we must be united and mainly careful, not to give the cause for undesirable developments, that other people will take advantage of for their own interest," he said.
Ieronymos arrived in Serres late in the afternoon to officiate a mass.
 Foreign national killed, 9 others injured, in road accident near IoanninaA 37-year-old Moroccan was killed and nine other foreign nationals were injured when their van veered off course and overturned on Tuesday and the Egnatia Highway.
The van, which had Italian licence plates, was driven by a 20-year-old Romanian. The driver and the other passengers -- two Romanians aged 37 and 22 and six Moroccans aged between 21 and 42 were injured in the accident, which occurred on the 19th kilometer of the Egnatia Highway at the Ioannina-Thessaloniki interchange under conditions as yet undetermined.
The injured passengers were taken to Ioannina Hospital.
It is not yet known whether the passengers are illegal migrants.
The accident is being investigated by Ioannina traffic police.
 Larissa Air Base centennial celebrationsThe Larissa Air Base in central Greece will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a series of special events at the 110 Combat Wing installations and in the city of Larissa, it was announced on Wednesday.
The events include a photographic exhibition and concerts on Thursday.
On Saturday, spectators visiting the facility will have the opportunity to watch an F-16 fighter air show.
 Dispute over relocation of red deerThe planned relocation of 18 red deer from Mt. Parnitha, wider Athens, to Karditsa prefecture has raised a dispute between the Forestry Special Secretariat and the environmental organisation WWF Greece.
The Forestry Special Secretariat cites the need for decongestion of the deer population on Mt. Parnitha and the gradual enrichment of other areas in the Greece whereas WWF says that the relocation plan is impromptu and lacking substantiation, something that may prove fatal for the deer's' survival.
The red deer (Cervus elaphus) is the largest herbivorous animal in Greece and once lived the country's mainland. However, in the last decades the population has decreased substantially and now the species is on the 'endangered' list.
Roughly 20 red deer live in the Rodopi mountains and a flourishing population of over 1,000 live on Mt. Parnitha.
 Foreign nat'l arrested for drug smugglingPolice arrested a 31-year-old Albanian national outside the northwest city of Ioannina on Wednesday for allegedly smuggling and trafficking large quantities of hashish.
Acting on a tip-off, police spotted and arrested the man on the Kakavia-Ioannina motorway near Aghios Georgios site, as he was driving his vehicle.
According to initial reports, the suspect identified himself as a police officer in the neighbouring country.
 Human skeleton found in mountainous areaA shepherd found a human skeleton in a mountainous area of Siatista, near Kozani, northwestern Greece.
Police said that a post mortem examination will identify the victim as well as the circumstances, the year and reasons of the death.
 Donation by brothel owner to primary school returnedThe donation of a copy machine to an elementary school in the western port of Patras by the owner of a registered brothel generated widespread media coverage in the country this week, before the regional elementary and secondary education director in the jurisdiction rejected the offer.
The donation, made through the school's Parents & Teachers Assocation, caused a firestorm of criticism, leading to a decision to return the copy machine to the woman that donated it. The school official, in a statement, underlined that "what is legal is not necessarily moral".
 Samos crime ring arrestsTwo criminal rings have reportedly been dismantled, with several suspects charged with involvement in drug trafficking, money laundering, antiquities smuggling and possession of weapons and explosives.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe vote on an omnibus bill including all the changes foreseen in the new package of austerity measures that will determine the country's future as well as a series of strikes and mobilisations throughout the country, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Salaries, pensions, taxes - What the omnibus bill brings".
AVGHI: "All at Syntagma Square (downtown Athens) to stop them!".
DIMOKRATIA: "End! - Deliberations, threats, compromises in order for the measures to pass".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Parliament votes 'typhoon' measures".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "What they vote, what we pay".
ESTIA: "Rationalisation measures".
ETHNOS: "The life after - The changes in salaries, pensions".
IMERISSIA: "The huge wager".
KATHIMERINI: "Hour of decisions in parliament".
LOGOS: "After the new memorandum nothing will be the same".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Parliament decides on the harshest package of measures".
RIZOSPASTIS: "We strike and demonstrate with PAME (labour organisation affiliated to Communist Party of Greece) with more passion".
TA NEA: " Memorandum 'venom' with last-minute changes".
VRADYNI: "Massacre - Big cuts to low pensions, too".
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ILIAS MATSIKAS