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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-12-06

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

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

Thursday, 6 December 2012 Issue No: 4240

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't mulling no suspended sentences for tax evasion convictions
  • [02] PM and finance minister meet over tax system draft law
  • [03] Democratic Left unveils proposals for reforming tax system
  • [04] SYRIZA: Wage-earners, pensioners, self-employed the tax bill's only targets
  • [05] KKE blasts Samaras, Tsipras, comments on court ruling on surtax collected via electricity bills
  • [06] PPC instructs cashiers to accept payments without property surtax
  • [07] SEV on pending tax draft law, cites 'bad example'
  • [08] SYRIZA leader pledges support for local authority staff fighting dismissal
  • [09] Gov't reacts to SYRIZA leader's statements to POE-OTA union
  • [10] Mineral resources 'mustn't be surrendered,' Ind'p Greeks leader charges
  • [11] Finance Minister of Iceland Steingrimur Sigfusson interviewed by AMNAwebTV
  • [12] President Papoulias receives representatives of Bar Associations
  • [13] Anti-corruption agreement with Estonia ratified in Parliament
  • [14] SYRIZA party leader meets new Cuban ambassador
  • [15] SYRIZA delegation briefed by defence minister on shipyards
  • [16] Average cost of repatriation of non-EU illegal migrants is more than 1,100 euros each
  • [17] NYT article on Ecumenical Patriarch
  • [18] No comment on Deutsche Bank hydrocarbon report, energy minister says
  • [19] Greek fiscal adjustment unprecedented, NBG chairman says
  • [20] Bank recapitalisation policy criticised by opposition parties in Parliament
  • [21] Ag minister receives German counterpart Aigner
  • [22] Health coverage for 100,000 jobless using NSRF funds for three years
  • [23] Porto Carras to close casino, resort for winter season
  • [24] Ambitious expansion of Piraeus port passenger harbor approved by Central Archaeological Council
  • [25] Business Briefs
  • [26] Greek stocks end higher on Wednesday
  • [27] Greek Bond market closing report
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [30] Scientists to scan remains of ancient king Philip II of Macedon
  • [31] Exhibition of unique drawings of murals and mosaics from St. Dimitrios Cathedral before the 1917 fire
  • [32] New exhibition on painter Tsarouchis at Benaki annex
  • [33] Ski resorts may open before Christmas
  • [34] Teacher falls to her death while decorating school's facade
  • [35] Prisoners riot over jail overcrowding in Ioannina
  • [36] Illegal arms trade arrests
  • [37] Illegal migrants react to the extension of their stay at reception centres
  • [38] Syntagma and Panepistimiou metro stations shut on Thursday
  • [39] Weather mostly rainy on Thursday
  • [40] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Gov't mulling no suspended sentences for tax evasion convictions

    The Greek government is examining the prospect of prohibiting the suspension of sentences in convictions for tax evasion, which means that those convicted for tax dodging will be imprisoned, as is the case in the US, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday.

    He said that the move is being examined by the Finance Ministry in cooperation with the Justice Ministry, with Papoulias pointing out that he has called for tax evasion to be designated as an aggravated offence.

    Papoulias said that tax evasion is a "plague", while Stournaras pledged that when the Ministry was finished with all the outstanding details on the tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan, the disbursement of which was recently approved by the Eurogroup, all its efforts would turn to clamping down on tax evasion.

    Papoulias asked the minister to also look into the issue of low-income families in the new tax bill being drafted.

    He also asked what would happen now with the resignation of "phil-Hellene" Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker, who recently announced his decision to step down from the Eurogroup presidency by end-2012 or early 2013.

    [02] PM and finance minister meet over tax system draft law

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had a meeting at Maximos Mansion late on Wednesday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on a new draft of the tax system law. The meeting was still in progress at press time.

    [03] Democratic Left unveils proposals for reforming tax system

    The Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party, one of the junior members of the three-party coalition government, on Wednesday unveiled its proposals for reforming Greece's taxation system, ahead of a meeting with the government's financial team on Thursday.

    The party said that it accepted the proposal presented to the coalition partners by the finance ministry as a basis for talks and welcomed a shift of the tax burden from lower to higher incomes, provided that there were changes to the approach for families with children. Despite a 'nominal' abolition of the tax-free allowance, DIM.AR claimed, the ministry's proposal effectively increased the tax-free amount from 5,000 euro to 9,000 euro per year.

    DIM.AR was critical of many elements in the proposed legislation, however, noting its 'weak' growth-promoting action and the fact that it did not include adequate measures to combat tax evasion, as well as its introduction of many different ways of taxing income and the 'odious' tax treatment of the self-employed. The party further emphasised the injustices generated for families with dependent children, since the number of children was not taken into account when calculating a household's tax burden.

    It criticised the finance ministry for the delay in unveiling its proposals, which it said placed unacceptable time restrictions on discussion of the serious problems raised by the new draft tax bill. The tactic of systematically 'leaking' parts of the bill by the ministry also came under fire, with DIM.AR saying this indicated 'sloppy' preparation that reflected badly on the government.

    On the taxation of individual incomes, DIM.AR proposed that incomes below the poverty line should be exempt from tax and called for uniform taxation rates for all personal incomes, regardless of their source. The party said the aim was a progressive and simpler taxation system that abolished the various exceptions, exemptions and other loopholes of the present system.

    Regarding families with children, DIM.AR proposed an increase in the amount of tax discounted to 200 euro per child, with a gradual reduction of the size of the discount for incomes above 40,000 euro per annumn. It also suggested a re-examination of scrapped tax deductions for categories of spending, such as medical bills.

    DIM.AR proposed that farmers and the self-employed be taxed as individuals rather than businesses, while for businesses it urged a more growth-oriented taxation policy, stronger action against tax evasion and simplification of the system.

    Finally, it called for a flat rate of taxation of various types of income taxed at source, such as interest on deposits, lottery winnings etc (at 17.5 percent) and a 37.5 percent tax on income from dividends.

    [04] SYRIZA: Wage-earners, pensioners, self-employed the tax bill's only targets

    The new draft tax bill unveiled by the government once again made wage-earners, pensioners and the self-employed its only targets while leaving large incomes, tax evasion, big business and shipping provocatively untouched, main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) said in an announcement on Wednesday.

    The party noted that the government had once again employed the well-worn tactic of selective leaks, which were adopted every time that it intended to pass harsh measures for the majority of society.

    "The supposedly 'bad' finance ministry with the harsh proposals and the so-called 'good' prime minister that comes along to correct them no longer convince anyone and their tasteless performance is yet another provocation for a society brutally suffering from the extreme pauperisation measures," the announcement said.

    [05] KKE blasts Samaras, Tsipras, comments on court ruling on surtax collected via electricity bills

    The Communist Party of Greece blasted prime minister Antonis Samaras and main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras over their addresses to a Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce conference Tuesday, while it also said that the strong popular insubordination that was expressed through the refusal of paying an extraordinary surtax on real estate in their electricity bills had decisively contributed to Tuesday's Athens First Instance Court ruling that collection of the surtax via Public Power Corporation (PPC) bills was illegal, in two separate press releases issued on Wednesday.

    "The prime minister, repeating the well-known lies, brazenly claimed that the new exhausting tax measures at the expense of the popular strata in order to give new tax reliefs to the big capital were being drafted with the interests of the people in mind. The same with the implementation of the barbarous measures and the Memorandums," the KKE said.

    It also criticised Tsipras' address as a 'compilation of slogans' from previous addresses by Samaras and PASOK former prime minister George Papandreou at the same venue, with some "leftist condiments". In other words, he presented as "new and radical" the old, failed social-democrat 'magic' medicine with which the monster -- the monopolies --will acquire high profitability and the victim -- the people -- will prosper.

    "The working people must finally comprehend the fact that the parties that defend the EU, the EU as the only way, and do not have as their target the upset of the monopolies, are arguing over who will be in government and over who better serves the interests of the Greek plutocracy, not over the interests of the people," the KKE concluded.

    In a separate press release, the KKE said that the strong popular insubordination that was expressed through the refusal of paying an extraordinary surtax on real estate in their electricity bills had decisively contributed to Tuesday's Athens First Instance Court ruling that collection of the surtax via Public Power Corporation (PPC) bills was illegal.

    It urged the popular strata to utilise this ruling to fight back with the aim of abolishing the "talons" of the Tax Bureau, to which the collection of the surtax passes, but also to abolish all such surtaxes.

    The KKE added that the working people and popular strata, regardless of how legal the barbarous, anti-labor measures taken by the governments and the EU appear to be, they must not accept as legal the exploitation, unemployment and poverty to which they are leading for benefit of the interests of the monopolies.

    [06] PPC instructs cashiers to accept payments without property surtax

    The management of the Public Power Corporation on Wednesday instructed its cashiers to accept the payment of bills that covered only the cost of electricity consumption and not the property surtax attached to the draft bill. The decision was made following a court ruling finding in favour of a plaintiff objecting to the levy of the surtax through the electricity bill.

    [07] SEV on pending tax draft law, cites 'bad example'

    Tax reform is impossible without the input of those who know the market and economic realities best, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) warned on Wednesday.

    In a statement referring to press speculation over austerity-fueled changes in the tax system, the business group said a pending draft bill was "irregularly withdrawn and constituted a bad example, both in terms of its logic and its procedure."

    A tax system should be stable and simple; transparent and fair; help development; support investments and deposits; and stop raiding those who are punctual in payments and "still standing".

    "The need for a real tax reform is an urgent priority, but has become the victim of petty politicking," SEV charged.

    [08] SYRIZA leader pledges support for local authority staff fighting dismissal

    Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday pledged his party's support for the struggle of local authority workers to keep their jobs, in the face of a government drive for mass lay-offs in the public sector.

    "From the first moment we had noted that the Memorandum will destroy society, undermine local government and lead thousands of workers to despair," Tsipras said during a meeting with the executive committee of the local authority workers' union federation POE-OTA.

    SYRIZA's leader criticised the coalition government for proceeding to make thousands redundant using "anti-Constitutional interventions that abolish self-regulation even for local authorities".

    "This signals their intention to destroy the state's ability to provide public services," he added. According to Tsipras, the government's approach "to diminish democracy with acts of legislative content" was reminiscent of the period of the occupation, when whole villages were punished because the actions of individual resistance fighters.

    "Similarly now, they are threatening entire local authorities with suspension unless they hand over the information requested of them," he said.

    SYRIZA's leader simultaneously stressed the need for radical change in Greece's public administration, however, with an organisational restructuring of the entire state but with simultaneous protection of public interest and the social services provided by local government.

    Commenting on a Transparency International report that gave Greece the lowest ranking among EU countries for transparency, on a level with Colombia, Tsipras noted that "corruption and graft are oxygen for the parties that govern us and the cause of the crisis".

    [09] Gov't reacts to SYRIZA leader's statements to POE-OTA union

    Responding to a statement from main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left ' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras during his meeting with the local authority workers' union federation, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday said that "no one expects 'yes to all privileges of statism's trade unionists' Tsipras to display a responsible attitude".

    "The trade unions of yesterday are today the main component of SYRIZA," Kedikoglou said.

    [10] Mineral resources 'mustn't be surrendered,' Ind'p Greeks leader charges

    The three memorandums must be cancelled and a counter-proposal should be drawn to prevent the "surrender" of the country's mineral resources, opposition Independent Greeks party president Panos Kammenos said Wednesday.

    "While the Samaras-Venizelos-Kouvelis government sponsors a tax draft law that is killing the middle class and leading Greek people to despair, Deutsche Bank publishes a report proving that the estimated worth of mineral deposits off the southern coast of the island of Crete is 430 billion euros," Kammenos said.

    "Those who continue acting as troika employees will be held responsible before the Greek people and judged by history," he warned

    [11] Finance Minister of Iceland Steingrimur Sigfusson interviewed by AMNAwebTV

    Other countries would benefit from examining Iceland's solution to the financial crisis, the country's finance minister Steingrimur Sigfusson said in an exclusive interview given to AMNAwebTV on Wednesday.

    "I don't believe that Icelanders have the magic formula for a solution to the crisis but it would be good for other people to study Iceland's experience," he said, describing how his small country of just 320,000 had adopted the opposite tack from the rest of the world and chosen to let its stricken banks sink in order to protect its citizens.

    Three of Iceland's largest banks went bankrupt in 2008, saddling the tiny country with massive debts. Four years and a partial default later, the country appears to be largely over the crisis and is now returning to the markets.

    I believe that we cannot yet say that Iceland is completely over the crisis but we have made considerable progress and the country is recovering in many areas. Growth has returned, unemployment is falling and the situation is stabilising but we still have work to do until there is a full recovery and we emerge from the crisis, Sigfusson said.

    He noted that Iceland had employed a number of unorthodox methods in its approach to its own crisis, partly because the banks were too big for Iceland's small economy to try and save. This turned out well in practice, he added, since instead of giving money to old banks, the country created a new banking sector to which it transferred all deposits and then took immediate action to cut spending and raise tax revenue. At the same time, Sigfusson emphasised that great care was taken to preserve the social state and protect those on low incomes.

    The finance minister said that through drastic measures of this kind taken in 2009, Iceland had managed to achieve an almost balanced budget in 2013.

    At the same time, he pointed out that Iceland had had the additional option of devaluing its currency and this greatly helped boost its exports and the competitiveness of its economy.

    On the issue of austerity as a means of exiting the crisis, Sigfusson said that Iceland had followed a mixed policy that also supported society and did not restrict low incomes rather than just cutting spending and raising taxes, suggesting that austerity alone was not enough to solve the problems.

    "Social cohesion is very important in a situation like this," he said.

    Questioned about the possibility of Iceland applying to join the European Union and the euro area, the finance minister said that Iceland had previously decided to negotiate with the EU since it had close trade ties with Europe, with 70 percent of its imports and exports linked to the EU. He noted, however, that there was now strong and growing opposition to the idea of EU accession in the country and it was not at all certain that it would join the EU.

    [12] President Papoulias receives representatives of Bar Associations

    Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received the board members of the Plenum of the Presidents of the Bar Associations in Greece accepting a relevant request.

    A statement issued afterwards by the associations' representatives underlined that they had "a substantive and constructive discussion on urgent issues for their sector," which is being targeted in "a systematic and unprecedented way".

    They referred to the alleged need to have the legal profession opened up and cited specific figures as regards the economic situation of lawyers in Greece, stressing that they "should not be regarded as being privileged".

    The representatives of the Bar Associations have also requested a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

    [13] Anti-corruption agreement with Estonia ratified in Parliament

    A draft law for the ratification of a MoU between Greece and Estonia, aimed at combating corruption, was approved in Parliament with a majority vote on Wednesday.

    The agreement was backed by the three political parties in the coalition government but was rejected by the opposition, with the exception of the ultra-right Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party MPs, who voted "present".

    Responding to the opposition's criticism, Deputy Minister of Administrative Reform and e-Government Manoussos Voloudakis said the agreement focuses on cooperation with Estonia in combating corruption, through the exchange of know-how and technical assistance.

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) rapporteur Alexis Mitropoulos maintained that "we are abandoning the national effort to combat corruption with our own national means. Instead, we let an EU country, which is among the most suspicious internationally and one of the most corrupt, with 66 fixed football games, solve the problem."

    A spokesman for the opposition Independent Greeks party said Estonia ranks 20th on corruption issues, while Chryssi Avgi MP asked the government why it preferred a former Soviet Union republic. "The only thing we have in common with Estonia is the memorandum it has signed with the IMF," Communist Party (KKE) rapporteur Diamanto Manolakou said.

    [14] SYRIZA party leader meets new Cuban ambassador

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras met with the new ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Greece Osvaldo J. Cobacho Martinez on Wednesday and discussed the economic and political developments in Europe, according to a party announcement.

    The announcement said that Tsipras briefed the ambassador on "the troubles the Greek people are facing and on the humanitarian crisis in Greece," while the ambassador stressed the excellent relations between the Communist Party of Cuba and SYRIZA and said both sides "confirmed the points and sectors where both countries and peoples need to cooperate."

    [15] SYRIZA delegation briefed by defence minister on shipyards

    A delegation of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) was briefed extensively by National Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos on Wednesday on the situation at the Elefsina and Skaramangas shipyards, in relation to the navy's orders of ships.

    SYRIZA delegates included deputies Theodoros Dritsas, Panagiotis Lafazanis, Giorgos Varemenos, Vassilios Chatzilambrou and Agni Kalogeri.

    Also attending were Defence Special Secretary Antonis Economou, national coordinator of shipyards Nikos Anastasopoulos and representative of the State Legal Counsel, Dionysis Kolovos.

    [16] Average cost of repatriation of non-EU illegal migrants is more than 1,100 euros each

    The average cost of repatriating non-EU citizens who entered Greece illegally costs the Greek state more than 1,100 euros per illegal migrant, according to a document submitted to parliament by the European and Developmental Programmes Management Service, in reply to a question tabled by Independent Greeks MP Marina Chryssoveloni on the cost of the programme of obligatory and voluntary repatriations.

    Voluntary repatriations from May 2010 to June 2012 numbered 4,373 persons, for a total cost of 4,688,034.27 euros, which averages out to 1,104.05 euro per individual.

    Obligatory repatriations between June 2009 and November 14, 2012 numbered 2,507 persons on 36 direct charter flights, for a total cost of 3,727,303.94 euro, which averages out to 1,486.76 euros per individual, which includes the cost of police escorts, and an additional 4,969,421.51 euro for another 12,279 repatriations via commercial flights.

    [17] NYT article on Ecumenical Patriarch

    A New York Times article this week praised Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's initiatives for environmental protection, adding that due to his high-profile actions he is widely regarded as "the Green Patriarch".

    The article also noted that several religious leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury, have taken actions similar to Bartholomew regarding environmental awareness.

    Financial News

    [18] No comment on Deutsche Bank hydrocarbon report, energy minister says

    The government has no comment on a Deutsche Bank report of possible natural gas deposits in the sea region south of the island of Crete, Energy Minister Evangelos Livieratos said on Wednesday.

    The ministry "does not comment on any assessments made by foreign banks or international agencies as regards the existence of and probable deposits of hydrocarbons in the Greek sea region," he said, adding that "the government is keeping to the timetables and the terms set for conducting geophysical research."

    According to a recent briefing of ministry officials on board the Norwegian PGS exploration vessel, 30 pct of the geophysical survey of the region in question has been completed on schedule.

    [19] Greek fiscal adjustment unprecedented, NBG chairman says

    Greece has achieved an unprecedented fiscal adjustment, National Bank's chairman George Zanias said on Wednesday and noted that despite a huge recession in 2012 the results will deviate only by a few hundred million euros from targets, while he stressed that Greece will achieve a primary surplus for the first time in a decade in 2013.

    Addressing a banking conference, organized by FT and Boussias Communications, Zanias said that the real problem was that although the Greek Parliament was voting all the necessary legislation in the last few years, their implementation was not efficient.

    The Greek banker said more emphasis should be given to reforming a tax system, promoting privatizations and restructuring the justice and education systems. He also said he supported cutting social contributions for employers while he opposed the imposition of more indirect taxes.

    [20] Bank recapitalisation policy criticised by opposition parties in Parliament

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras came under fire in Parliament on Wednesday over his policy for bank recapitalisation and the securities market, during discussion of a draft bill on mutual fund management firms and organisations for collective investment in securities.

    Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) MP Panagiotis Lafazanis accused the minister of "throwing away 50 billion euro like lettuce leaves for the sake of bankers" and seeking to introduce untried measures such as a "postponable tax" that would drive prices for the bond buyback through the roof.

    "The buyback was supposedly happening to reduce the debt, not to satisfy bankers for bonds that have no worth! You cannot set the prices youself!" Lafazanis told the minister.

    Other speakers on the committee, namely Independent Greeks MP Notis Marias, pointed out that the terms of the recapitalisation had not yet been announced even though banks had already received half the funds.

    SYRIZA also criticised the bill for setting up a "new regime of taxation immunity" for investors in securities, who could set up offshore companies and operate in Greece without paying any tax at all.

    Replying, ruling New Democracy MPs pointed out that the draft bill was implementing European directives that had already been passed by member-state governments and the European Parliament.

    [21] Ag minister receives German counterpart Aigner

    Agriculture Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris on Wednesday received his visiting German counterpart Ilse Aigner, with the latter emphasising that agriculture is a very important sector for growth and one that offers a significant potential for the production of high-quality goods.

    "Within the Common Agriculture Policy we will support Greece, with an aim for the development of a high-quality agriculture," she said.

    Referring to the ongoing economic crisis, Aigner expressed the Berlin government's respect and recognition towards the Greek government's efforts to exit the crisis.

    On his part, Tsaftaris referred to the government interest in turning to a more high-quality production in the farm sector.

    Aigner is currently in Athens within the framework of a series of meetings on the future of CAP in Europe after 2013.

    [22] Health coverage for 100,000 jobless using NSRF funds for three years

    Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos on Wednesday announced that the ministry was making efforts to provide health coverage for 100,000 unemployed and those lacking insurance for the next three years, via a "free access ticket" programme using National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds.

    The minister said that the programme will give 100,000 unemployed and uninsured citizens free access to doctors, medical examinations, pharmaceutical treatment and hospital treatment for a year. It will begin in 2013 and be renewed each year until 2015, thus providing coverage for up to 300,000 individuals in total.

    The ministry has not yet decided the criteria for selecting those eligible for the programme but indicated that it would give priority to those having the greatest need.

    [23] Porto Carras to close casino, resort for winter season

    The northern Greece luxury resort of Porto Carras will close its casino and other facilities this winter, the owner of the resort, Technical Olympic, announced on Wednesday in reply to press reports.

    The company said it is "dealing with the current unfavourable economic conditions and restructuring" the services of the resort, which includes three hotels, a marina and a winery.

    It plans to reopen for the summer season, pending a permit by the ministry of tourism to operate seasonally. The decision will affect 500 employees of the casino, who will be temporarily laid off or placed on rotating shifts elsewhere within the resort complex.

    [24] Ambitious expansion of Piraeus port passenger harbor approved by Central Archaeological Council

    An ambitious project to expand the passenger harbor on the southern side of the port of Piraeus that will be able to serve the largest cruiseships in the world has been given the go-ahead by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS).

    The KAS approved a relevant environmental impact study by the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) on Wednesday, after a stringent review of the project's effects on the Wall of Konon and the Tomb of Themistocles, which will be adjacent to the planned piers.

    The KAS approved the project by majority decision, as some members of the Council expressed concern over the magnitude of the works and fear that they could 'vanish' the Tomb.

    A car parking space will also be created in the environs of the new piers.

    [25] Business Briefs

    -- Public Power Corp. (PPC) will raise its electricity rates from Jan. 1, 2013 to cover the extra cost of buying CO2 emission rights, PPC chairman Arthuros Zervos said on Wednesday.

    [26] Greek stocks end higher on Wednesday

    Greek stocks moved higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, although in very thin trading conditions, as the market awaited the outcome of Thursday's meeting between Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras with Greek bankers on a recapitalization plan and a bond buy back programe. The composite index of the market rose 1.05 pct to end at 818.71 points, off the day's highs of 820.63 points. Turnover remained a low 35.956 million euros.

    The Big Cap index ended 1.78 pct higher and the Mid Cap index rose 2.03 pct. The Constructions (4.53 pct), Banks (4.16 pct) and Technology (3.16 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage giants of the day, while the Food (2.14 pct) and Health (0.29 pct) suffered losses.

    Alpha Bank (5.77 pct), Piraeus Bank (5.69 pct) and Titan (5.55 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Coca Cola Hellenic (2.17 pct), MIG (1.26 pct) and Motor Oil (0.38 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 72 to 55 with another 29 issues unchanged. Pasal (28.98 pct), Fieratex (26.43 pct) and Alsinco (20 pct) were top gainers, while Athina (20 pct), Kathimerini (19.73 pct) and Altec (19.44 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.93%

    Commercial: +0.03%

    Construction: +4.53%

    Oil & Gas: +0.20%

    Personal & Household: +0.76%

    Raw Materials: +0.90%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.79%

    Technology: +3.16%

    Telecoms: +2.26%

    Banks: +4.16%

    Food & Beverages: -2.14%

    Health: -0.29%

    Utilities: +2.77%

    Financial Services: +0.04%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, OTE and Alpha Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.65

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.75

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.10

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.32

    National Bank of Greece: 1.34

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.68

    OPAP: 5.13

    OTE: 4.07

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.39

    Titan: 13.50

    [27] Greek Bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 13.91 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 13.51 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 15.24 pct and the German Bund 1.33 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate was 0.57 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.11 pct.

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.41 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 10.264 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,604 contracts worth 3.743 million euros, with 31,963 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 35,471 contracts, worth 6.521 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (15,905), followed by Alpha Bank (5,004), Piraeus Bank (4,389), OTE (2,064), PPC (1,035), OPAP (1,734), Eurobank (1,046), Cyprus Bank (832), GEK (1,459) and Intralot (688).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.326

    Pound sterling 0.824

    Danish kroner 7.571

    Swedish kroner 8.780

    Japanese yen 108.92

    Swiss franc 1.231

    Norwegian kroner 7.466

    Canadian dollar 1.315

    Australian dollar 1.267

    General News

    [30] Scientists to scan remains of ancient king Philip II of Macedon

    A small portion of the skeleton of the ancient king Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, is to be taken for testing to the Demokritos National Centre for Scientific Research, Thessaloniki's Archaeological Museum announced on Wednesday.

    The ancient king's remains were found inside a golden larnax, or casket, considered one of the most valuable objects of the ancient world, found inside the main chamber of grave II at the Vergina archaeological site in northern Greece.

    The aim of the transfer is the microscopic examination, analysis and photography of an unknown substance covering the bones, which has also been found in other Macedonian tombs. This is the first time this substance will be analysed to discover its chemical and mineral composition, with the results are expected to yield valuable information concerning the larnax corrosion processes and the ritual materials used in that period.

    A request for the transfer of the shards of bonds from the head of the Vergina digs was approved by the Central Archaeological Council on Tuesday.

    [31] Exhibition of unique drawings of murals and mosaics from St. Dimitrios Cathedral before the 1917 fire

    Visitors of an exhibition of drawings and photographs of the city of Thessaloniki and its trademark Byzantine monuments can have a glimpse of the northern port city as it used to be before the devastating fire in 1917. The exhibition "Impressions: Byzantine Thessaloniki through the photographs and drawings of the British School at Athens (1888-1910)" will run until Jan. 31, 2013 at Vafopoulio Cultural Centre.

    In 1886, the Royal British Academy of Arts and the Royal Institute of British Architects sent the first students of architecture to Greece to study its important Byzantine monuments within the framework of the arts and craft movement that was the trend at the time, focusing on the study of traditional architecture that did not involve industrial or other modern technical means.

    Byzantine architecture was regarded as worthy of study and tens of British students visited every corner of the country to photograph or draft architectural drawings of monuments that no longer exist.

    Architects from the UK, France, France, Belgium and Russia even participated in the restoration works in the churches of Acheiropiitos and Panagia Chalkeon in Thessaloniki that were seriously damaged in an 1888 fire.

    A characteristic case is the drawings made by a Walter George, the only person that managed to gather facts and details from the murals, mosaics and architectural structure of St. Dimitrios Cathedral before the 1917 fire. These drawings and many others, as well as photographs of the city of Thessaloniki, St. Sophia Church, Acheiropiitos Church, Panagia Chalkeon Church, the Rotonda monument and the White Tower will be on display within the framework of the exhibition.

    [32] New exhibition on painter Tsarouchis at Benaki annex

    An exhibit of works by noted Greek painter Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989) will open on Friday at the 138 Pireos St. annex of the Benaki Museum, where the artist's drawings and paintings will be housed following the closure of his private museum.

    The new Benaki exhibition, entitled "Yannis Tsarouchis: Studies on 17 Themes," aims to reveal part of the process that the artist followed to complete his paintings.

    Tsarouchis designed and built a two-storey house in the northern Athens district of Maroussi to house his archives and collections, setting up a foundation to run the facility. However, after a 30-year run the museum's operations were suspended for lack of funding, which relied mostly on ticket sales. The exhibition will run until March 31, 2013.

    [33] Ski resorts may open before Christmas

    The first snow has fallen in Greece's ski resorts and in some cases the level of snow on the slopes is so high that the resorts' authorities are extremely satisfied, given that the winter has come earlier this year and in the best way.

    According to the Weather Service the snowfall is expected to continue, bringing with it the possibility that the ski resorts will open in the next ten days.

    "If snow continues to fall the pistes will be ready and we can welcome our first skiers before Christmas," the president of Ski Resorts Union of Greece and manager of the 3-5 Pigadia ski resort in Naoussa, Christos Pappas, told AMNA.

    [34] Teacher falls to her death while decorating school's facade

    A 41-year-old school teacher fell to her death on Wednesday while decorating the school building's facade for the Christmas holidays. The incident occurred in the Thessaloniki district of Toumba.

    According to police, the teacher was on the school building's rooftop when a drywall ceiling on which she was standing cracked and gave way. The woman fell from a height of roughly 10 metres into a stairway and was fatally injured.

    [35] Prisoners riot over jail overcrowding in Ioannina

    Detainees at the Stavraki jail in the western city of Ioannina rebelled late on Wednesday afternoon and refused to return to their cells, protesting for overcrowding.

    Initial reports said the protest occurred after the arrival of ten prisoners from other jails. Riot police were stationed outside and the warden met with detainee representatives, who will also meet with a prosecutor on Thursday to look for a solution.

    [36] Illegal arms trade arrests

    Acting on a tip-off, police arrested a 29-year-old man on illegal arms trade charges after finding a Kalashnikov, a mini Scorpion submachine gun and two hand pistols hidden in special crypts in his car that had Bulgarian license plates, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The suspect is considered a member of a ring that was to deliver the guns to "clients", while the mastermind is thought to be a 30-year-old inmate in Korydallos Prison. The 50-year-old father of the Korydallos Prison inmate and other three individuals, who have not been identified yet, were supplying the guns from Bulgaria.

    A search in the house of the 30-year-old in Athens' Ano Liosia district revealed a military gun, while two mobile phones he used to coordinate the actions of the ring were found in his prison cell.

    [37] Illegal migrants react to the extension of their stay at reception centres

    Illegal migrants held in Orestiada, northeast Greece, on Wednesday held a brief protest against the prospect of an extension of their stay at the migrant reception center, causing limited damage.

    The protest ended after clarifications were given by the local police director. A total of 160 illegal migrants are currently held at the Orestiada Reception Centre.

    The protest was in reaction to a recently signed presidential decree (116/2012) according to which, illegal migrants can be held at reception centres for up to a year.

    [38] Syntagma and Panepistimiou metro stations shut on Thursday

    The downtown Syntagma and Panepistimiou metro stations will be shut down at 10 a.m. on Thursday, because of protest rallies on the fourth anniversary of the death of student Alexis Grigoropoulos. The 15-year-old was shot during an incident in the Exarhia district of Athens on Dec. 6, 2008, sparking unprecedented rioting in cities throughout the country.

    Weather forecast

    [39] Weather mostly rainy on Thursday

    Cloudy with rain in most of Greece, and snow expected in high altitudes on the mainland. Westerly winds, 3-7 Beaufort, with temperatures 4C-11C on the mainland, slightly higher on the islands. In Athens, rain possible but clearing from midday on. Westerly winds 4-6 Beaufort and temperatures from 6C to 16C. The same in Thessaloniki with weaker winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 9C.

    [40] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The revision of the new tax bill and a lower court decision ruling as illegal the collection of the 'surcharge' (special tax on real estate) via PPC electricity bills, dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Deutsche Bank estimates that Greece's profits from natural gas reserves south of Crete could reach 214 billion euros".

    AVGHI: "Tax rip-off for the banks' benefit".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "National Health System (ESY) at the edge of the cliff".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Merciless war of interests with the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) as the protagonist".

    ESTIA: "Inadmissible amateurisms cause huge damage to the government".

    ETHNOS: "70,000 retired civil servants to receive their lump sum retirement superannuity starting from December".

    IMERISSIA: "Changes in tax system after the storm".

    KATHIMERINI: "New tax system a Gordian knot".

    LOGOS: "Tax system 'draws' today".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Tax bill reviewed from the start".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people must take to the streets against the tax bill".

    TA NEA: "Taxation: Government is now searching for tax allowances".

    VRADYNI: "Lump sum retirement superannuity to be given after deduction of beneficiaries' debts to the state".

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