|Monday, 22 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-12-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 21 December 2012 Issue No: 4253
 PM: Satisfaction with execution of budgetPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday said he is totally satisfied with the execution of the 2012 budget, speaking after a broad meeting at the General State Accounts Office with the government's economic staff.
The government's target, he said, is for money to be channeled for VAT rebates, financing of the EOPYY for pharmacies and health services, adding that by the end of the year one billion euro will be earmarked for liquidity, while the government will act along the same rationale in 2013.
He noted that proper management has enabled the government to channel extraordinary funds where social need exists, citing as examples, heating oil subsidies (80 million euros), subsidization of the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) with 100 million euros, repayment of debts to pharmacists (80 million euros) and funding to local governments with roughly 300 million euros.
Samaras further announced that, with a new regulation, those who submit their papers for retirement will immediate receive 50 percent of their minimum salary every month until the relevant procedures are completed.
Also, a draft law will be tabled in the first week of January concerning stagnating deposits, which will be entered into a special code in the budget and will be channeled to vulnerable social groups, and put emphasis on the necessity of paying the state's outstanding debts to the private sector, which will "give liquidity to the market, the oxygen, the blood of the economy".
Samaras announced that the first two decisions will be executed as early as Friday, Dec. 21. Namely, 40 million euros will be given to the civil servants' welfare fund to pay lump sum retirement benefits to 1,200 individuals and the sum of 255.3 million euros to 42 municipalities throughout the country to pay out outstanding debts.
PM: 'Target is growth'
The advancement of reforms in the public sector to make it more functional and to better serve the citizens, and the issue of labor reserve and mobility in the public sector were examined on Thursday and a meeting of the Governmental Council on Reforms chaired by prime minister Antonis Samaras at the Administrative Reform and e-Governance Ministry.
The Council reviewed the efforts and legislative initiatives taken by the Ministry regarding the reforms in the public sector aimed at modernizing the state while at the same time reducing its operational cost. It also discussed progress in the evaluation of the structures of the ministries, which are expected to reduce the service units by more than 30 percent, thus curtailing bureaucracy.
A few weeks earlier, Samaras had sent letters to his ministers calling for drastic changes to the state and public administration, a drastic reduction of bureaucracy and unneeded time-consuming procedures that beleaguer the citizens, and to guarantee transparency and meritocracy.
The European Commission Task Force for Greece, which had asked for the establishment of the Council last year, welcomed the Council's establishment in its latest report as a "landmark decision".
"The target is growth," Samaras told reporters after the meeting, adding that 2013 will be a year of assessment of services and abilities so that the state will become more efficient.
"With the participation of the civil servants themselves, we will be able to meet the needs for reorganization of the state and facilitation of the citizens," Samaras said, and replying to a press question clarified that the discussion took place on layoffs, but evaluation.
 Manitakis clarifies plans for reforming state administrationThe new measures for public-sector staff mobility were not the same as the labour reserve, Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis clarified on Thursday, after attending a meeting of the Government Council for Reforms chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. At the meeting, the premier stressed that the government had not spoken of public-sector dismissals but administrative reforms.
"Mobility does not mean labour reserve," Manitakis said, while repeating that the entering labour reserve was not tantamount to dismissal. The minister noted that the freedom to move civil servants around was necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the state sector and already foreseen by civil service regulations.
The minister clarified that the "first phase" of public administration reforms was over and had laid the foundations for the next steps, which would address the laws governing the functioning of new ministry organisations in January and also staff assessments.
Manitakis said the organisational plans of the administrative reform and environment ministry had already been approved after an assessment of their structures, since the two ministries were the first in which an assessment took place. He said that this had resulted in a 50 percent reduction in ministry structures. New plans for the remaining ministries were expected to be complete by the end of July, the minister added.
After the ministries, assessments would then begin in state-sector entities not belonging to general government, he added.
 SYRIZA-EKM reacts strongly to PM Samaras' statementsMain opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA-EKM) on Thursday reacted strongly to statements made earlier by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, underlining that "what the prime minister calls administrative reform is no less than the dissolution of the state, social services and the country's potential for reorganization".
SYRIZA-EKM stressed that "economic growth cannot be achieved with more layoffs, the demolition of state and social structures," adding that "the public sector, through its reorganization and redirection to focus on meeting the social needs, can play a major role in achieving economic growth and social cohesion, protecting labour and supporting the financially weak."
 New tax draft bill passes parliament in principleThe government's new draft bill on taxation was Thursday evening passed in principle by the parliament's Committee on Economy.
In the discussion that followed, Dora Bakoyiannis, a member of parliament with the New Democracy party, described the new tax draft bill as "not daring," saying that "even though it moves along the right direction as far as fiscal rationalization is concerned, it does have certain vacuums on taxation fairness."
Discussion on the draft bill will continue on Friday.
 SYRIZA leader in Argentina on ThursdayGreece's main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras wound up a four-day visit to Brazil, where he was received by Brazilian president Dilma Vana Rousseff and ministers, and left Brasilia for Argentina on Thursday.
Tsipras, heading a party delegation including Eurodeputy Nikos Hountis, and Yiannis Dragassakis, an Athens B' constituency deputy and head of the party's Economic Policy and Programme Committee, met with Brazilian defence minister Celso Amorim, foreign minister Antonio de Aguiar, Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Brazil Marco Aur?lio Garcia and the Parliament's speaker while in Brasilia.
The SYRIZA delegation further met with the leaders of the PT, PCdoB, PSOEL, PLB and PSB parties, the leader of the CUT movement, and was received by former President Louis Inacio Lula da Silva during its stay.
A SYRIZA announcement said that Tsipras' 75-minute meeting with Rousseff was substantive, with the main focus on the economic crisis and the threat of it spreading globally in 2013.
The two sides ascertained an identity of views on the causes of the crisis and exchanged views on the actions necessary at European and international level to halt an extension of the recession to the global economy.
The SYRIZA press release also said that Tsipras thanked Rousseff for Brazil's solidarity with and support for Greece at all international organizations, and praised her government's work for strengthening social cohesion, combating poverty and redistribution of the wealth with developmental policies.
Tsipras expressed his conviction that Brazil and also its allies, the emerging BRICS countries, can play a decisive role internationally for halting the destructive and result-less strategy of austerity "which Mrs. Merkel (German chancellor) insists on, with the risk of leading the global economy to collapse".
As for Greece, he expressed conviction that very soon the Greek people, following the example of the peoples of South America who rid themselves of the shackles of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), will release themselves from the lethal noose of the Memorandum and a new Greek government, with SYRIZA at the core, will play a decisive role in toppling the dangerous strategy of austerity in the European south.
Shortly before leaving for Argentina, the second stop on his South American tour, Tsipras said that the SYRIZA delegation's contacts with the state and political authorities of Brazil, the 5th most powerful economy in the world, confirm the party's initial estimations that Greece can fine strong allies in the geopolitical chessboard if it forges an active and multi-dimensional foreign policy.
They further confirmed SYRIZA's analysis and concern that the crisis could become generalized in 2013 if the strategy of austerity, Mrs Merkel's strategy in Europe, is not immediately halted. "But at a time when Mrs. Merkel is being isolated internationally, unfortunately she is finding allies in Greece, in the 'merkelists' of the three Memorandum parties, the three parties of the Samaras (prime minister) coalition government, the press release said, citing Tsipras.
"Brazil's message to the Greek people, the message from a country that freed itself of the IMF and stood on its own feet and today is one of the most powerful economies on the planet is one: The exit from the crisis cannot be achieved with Memorandums of austerity, but only with policies of social cohesion, growth and redistribution," Tsipras concluded, the press release said.
At a reception hosted at the Greek Embassy in Brasilia, Tsipras said that the news is not good for the social and political situation in Greece.
He said that the Greek people have resilience, and that the country has gone through greater difficulties but withstood, "and we believe that the Greek people will once again stand tall, with dignity".
"Some (quarters) selected Greece to be the international experimental laboratory rat of the crisis, a crisis which is not a Greek exclusivity. We are not the black sheep of Europe and the planet, the crisis is global, it is European, and Greece was chosen to be the guinea pig of this crisis," Tsipras said.
He said that the Greek people have suffered incredible sacrifices in the last three years, which unfortunately have been without result to the present. "The crisis has spread throughout all of Europe, and the prospect and hope is apparent today that Greece will become the forcep of progressive developments, halting this policy of austerity which is destroying the country".
"At this time, Greece has an economy that is in a dramatic condition, and the social condition is equally dramatic, but it also has an inexhaustible geopolitical strength, it has its history and civilization, which are a strong trump card for Greece and the rest of the world, and we believe that Greece must develop special bonds with faraway countries, such as Brazil," he said, adding that "we wish to convey the message to Greece but also to the Greeks of the Diaspora to be proud that we are Greeks".
 SYRIZA: Brazil likely to push for greater Greek debt write-off"Brazil will raise up with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the issue of viability of Greece's debt, and will propose a hefty write-off, to go along with growth policies," said Thursday Costas Isychos, member of a main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) delegation currently on a visit to South America, headed by party leader Alexis Tsipras.
Speaking on radio "Kokkino" after a meeting between Tsipras and Brazil's President Dilma Vana Rousseff on Wednesday, Isychos added that "Brazil is reluctant to continue funding a programme that thrusts Greece's population into poverty."
 Government spokesman on statements by SYRIZA leader in BrazilGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou reacted strongly on Thursday to statements by Costas Isychos, member of a main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) delegation currently on a visit to South America, headed by party leader Alexis Tsipras.
"Mr. Tsipras went abroad to undermine the country and not to advertise it as he should do according to his institutional role," Kedikoglou said in a statement.
Tsipras "made a costly trip to Latin America to persuade the Brazilian president to stop the financing of our country through the IMF. Until the day before yesterday he criticised the government of not receiving the tranche.Today he is doing everything possible to cancel it. Today, Mr. Tsipras was exposed in the eyes of even the last Greek," the spokesman added.
 PASOK blasts Tsipras' Brazil commentsPASOK party reacted strongly on Thursday to statements made in Brazil by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, accusing him of "trying from Brazil to block the IMF's participation in Greece's (bailout loan) programme", which according to PASOK's press office, just shows SYRIZA's "strategic vacuum."
The party, a junior partner in the Antonis Samaras coalition government, described as "nationally tragic" the fact that Tsipras is trying for terms to be set that could "force Greece to a direct conflict with euro zone member states' parliaments and people."
 SYRIZA calls for Golden Dawn's exclusion from CoE Parliamentary AssemblyMain opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) on Thursday expressed agreement with a demand by European anti-racist organisations that the far-right nationalist party Golden Dawn be excluded from the Greek delegation at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
In an announcement, SYRIZA noted that the "participation of neo-Nazis in an institution created for the purpose of protecting human rights and ending any kind of discrimination is a provocation to the democratic sentiments of European citizens." It also stressed the need for specific political action to stem the rise of Nazism and fight Fascist violence.
 PASOK leader Venizelos calls for electricity rates based on social criteriaPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, one of the junior partners in the coalition government, on Thursday called for electricity rates based on social criteria in response to the raises announced.
Venizelos met with Deputy Environment Minister Makis Papageorgiou, General Secretary for Energy Costas Mathioudakis, Public Power Corp. (PPC) President Arthouros Zervos and Public Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) president and managing director Takis Athanasopoulos and Yannis Emiris respectively.
 Independent Greeks criticise statements by SamarasThe Independent Greeks party on Thursday levelled criticism at the latest statements made by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, saying that he "seemed confused about his role".
"He is going from ministry to ministry and, since it's Christmas, is trying to look like Santa Claus distributing supposed gifts to Greek citizens that he has pauperised with his policies," party spokesman Notis Marias said.
The Greek people were well aware of what lay in store for them from the coalition government's anti-popular memorandum policies, he added, since Christmas would soon be over and Santa Claus would depart.
 Gov't seeking state more efficient at supporting big business, KKE claimsThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday slammed the prime minister's statements earlier the same day concerning a more efficient state.
"The more efficient state sought by the coalition government and the EU means a state better able to support the high profits and privileges of business groups, a state of more savage taxation of working classes, the elimination of their rights and the repression of their struggles at the same that public health, education, welfare and public infrastructure is torn down by drastic cuts and staff shortages," a KKE announcement said.
Civil servants would be assessed based on how well they contributed to this policy under the threat of dismissal, transfer or wage reductions, the party added.
 President Papoulias message to Greeks abroad"A prospect now exists to exit the economic crisis and move towards recovery and development in order to hand our country over to the next generations for a better future," President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said on Thursday in a holiday message to the Greeks abroad.
Papoulias noted that despite the difficulties, Greece will remain standing, adding that the economic crisis in the country put the people's endurance to the test at all levels and that these days our thoughts are mainly with our compatriots in need.
The President, referring the Greek communities abroad, said that their presence all over the world is proof of the historic and cultural dynamic of Hellenism, its durability and creativity. The stories of the Greeks abroad are an example of a successful course through adversities and, as such, a point of reference for the society which is now suffering from insecurity.
"In times of difficulty, the bonds that unite us all must become more solid and stronger in order that unanimity may prevail in facing the dangers that threaten the country but also the international community. Our country is in the most critical point of most severe ordeal it has faced in recent decades," underlined Papoulias, and expressed his optimism that the Greeks "in the great difficulties those who are not frightened emerge winners, those who have the strength to fight incessantly and turn the crisis into an opportunity, as you Greeks abroad, have done".
Concluding, Papoulias wished to all the Greeks abroad and to each one separately a "Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013 with health, progress and all good things".
 Christmas message of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All GreeceArchbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece in his Christmas message on Thursday referred to the crucial and painful times of agony and uncertainty the country is going through and stressed that the people should display solidarity to their fellow human beings that are "suffering in our neighborhoods, at the workplace or out on the streets".
Archbishop Ieronymos said the Greek people know how to survive in tough times by utilizing their abilities and the country's natural resources.
He underlined that the Church of Greece supports spiritually and tangibly the efforts made by the people for a new beginning and called on those who are financially strong to offer their wealth to the service of their fellow human beings.
 Christmas message of Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All AfricaPatriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria and All Africa in his Christmas message on Thursday stressed that people should follow the example of Jesus Christ who embraced those in disdain and offered acceptance and hospitality.
He stressed that people should practice hospitality not only in the form of assistance to others but by accepting others as they are, respecting the value of all people indiscriminately.
"Accepting our fellow human beings is true hospitality. Accepting each other is the manifestation of the commandment 'love thy neighbour as thyself'. Accepting each other can change us," he underlined.
 UN envoy Nimetz in Athens and Skopje between January 8-11NEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
The UN secretary general's personal envoy in talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Matthew Nimetz will be visiting the region during the period between January 8-11, 2013 for meetings in Athens and Skopje, according to an announcement by the UN's Secretariat.
As was noted, Nimetz will be continuing the discussions he had in New York in November with the representatives of the two sides. Ambassador Nimetz will be meeting in Athens and Skopje with senior government officials of the two countries with the aim of speeding up the procedure and the finding of a mutually acceptable solution on the issue of the 'name, as it is mentioned.
On November 20, Nimetz had submitted a series of proposals-ideas on the finding of a solution to the issue of the name, during his joint meeting with the representatives of Greece and fYRoM, Adamantios Vassilakis and Zoran Jolevski, at the international organisation's headquarters, after separate meetings had taken place. As he had stated at the time, they discussed past and new ideas of the two sides and that he presented certain proposals that will be examined in the two capitals.
 Foreign ministry spokesman on Turkish press reportsGreek Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras termed "absurd, totally groundless and false, suspicious and boring" the continuing "propaganda" with reports of the Turkish press on the alleged "training of terrorists in Greece".
Delavekouras said in a statement that "the continuing, totally groundless and false, propaganda on a supposed training of terrorists in Greece, that is published on a daily basis in the Turkish press has become absurd. It would be better for their mouthpieces and 'informants' to come for vacations at all these seaside and high tourist activity zones 'camps' that exist in their imagination. The issue from suspicious, is starting to become boring".
 Greek Liaison Bureau head in Pristina on economic growthThe head of the Greek Liaison Bureau in Pristina, Dimitris Moschopoulos, said in Thessaloniki on Thursday that Greece is a helper in Kosovo's effort for economic growth, as well as a supporter of its European prospect, regardless if it insists on its political stance on its non-recognition.
Greece's determination to help the region's economic growth, and to strengthen bilateral economic relations, is proved in practice by the recent, as of November 15, appointment of Greek diplomat Christos Farmakis to the position of economic and commercial adviser at the Liaison Bureau.
Farmakis came to cover, even temporarily for the time being (for three months), a post that did not exist since the Bureau's establishment, the filling of which constituted a steadfast demand of Greek businessmen for years.
Moschopoulos said that in the framework of the encouragement of bilateral economic relations, an economic forum was created in Pristina recently, while Greece's support for the accession of Kosovo to the EBRD (European Reconstruction and
Development Bank), which however was accompanied by an explanatory statement that the positive vote does not change our country's stance regarding recognition, is part of the same spirit.
 S&P: No credit rating rise for Greece's top banksIn spite of recently raising Greece's sovereign credit rating, Standard & Poor's has kept its long-term credit rating on CCC for National Bank, Eurobank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
The international rating agency says in a report on Thursday that "even though we believe that Greece's credibility has benefited from the euro zone's decisiveness to restore the country's economic stability and preserve Greek membership in the euro zone, the four banks would rather continue to face significant risks in their credit profile."
S&P said the outlook for the four credit institutions remained negative, reflecting the possibility of a rating downgrade of any of them, as there is still one in three chances to default.
 Dep. Energy Minister meets wind power association HWEADeputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Makis Papageorgiou on Thursday had a meeting with representatives of the Hellenic Wind Energy Association (HWEA), stressing the government's continued intention to support and promote renewable energy sources (RES) through a "rational and sustainable support mechanism, adjusted to the present economic situation".
He said the ministry had taken tough but essential decisions, since there were no further margins for delay given the current state of the market.
HWEA presented its own proposals concerning a draft law for RES and the "Developmental package for RES with emphasis on wind power", which the minist promised would be taken seriously into account.
 Payment of retirement lump sums a 'national target', labour minister saysPaying overdue retirement lump sums to the 40,000 pensioners to which they are due was a "national target", Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said on Thursday, as well as absorbing the sum of 1.2 billion euro secured through the loan agreements within 2013.
After meeting the leadership of the civil servants' union federation ADEDY, the minister said he had asked for their assistance toward this end.
He announced that payments of lump sums had already begun and the relevant processes accelerated to increase the speed at which the amounts were paid.
 IKA-ETAM pension eligibility dates via InternetThose insured with Greece's largest pension fund IKA-ETAM will be able to find out when they are eligible for pension from the Internet as of this coming Monday, via a new application.
The "Guide to Establishing the Right to Pension" will be available on the IKA-ETAM website http://subscriber.amna.gr/anaweb/attachment/www.ika.gr from that day and be fully updated with the new pension rules legislated in 2012.
IKA-ETAM also announced future plans to eventually link the guide with the data for each individual person insured with IKA, allowing applications for pension to be made and monitored via the Internet.
 Government, SYRIZA-EKM on electricity rate hikesGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Thursday reacted strongly to statements made by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) spokesman Panos Skourletis who said that "people will die of cold this winter" because of the announced Public Power Corp. (PPC) electricity rate hikes.
Kedikoglou clarified that "the raises will come in June and will be much smaller than foreseen by Mr. Skourletis", strongly criticizing him for speaking about people dying of cold.
"When the government is in search of solutions, Mr. Skourletis is hoping that people will be burned to death from using wood stoves or die of cold, for the sake of political speculation. He will be judged by the people," Kedikoglou said.
He noted that the raise in electricity rates will be much smaller than the energy price increase recorded in the last decade, when oil prices went up fourfold causing electricity production cost to also go up.
According to the SYRIZA-EKM spokesman, "the decision for electricity rate hikes is a conscientious choice that will result to people being burned alive from using wood stoves or have the country's forests destroyed as a result of excessive woodcutting."
 OLP board holds meeting with officials of Chinese SASACThe investments framework shaped in Greece, and in ports in particular, was examined in a meeting between the board of the Piraeus Port Organisation (OLP) and a delegation of the Chinese Organisation for the Management of Big Businesses Capital (SASAC), that is the main shareholder in 168 big Chinese companies, including COSCO.
OLP president George Anomeritis said that the two-year pending period and doubts as to Greece's position in the zone of the euro has stopped existing now with a unanimous decision by all European nations and consequently in a new stable investments environment now all who are interested in investing in our country, with European final guarantees now, can do so.
Investments possibilities exist in the sector of the port industry, particularly in port infrastructures and cruises through facilities for new investments and multiannual agreements for joint actions, the OLP's president said.
 Zervos re-elected as PPC's CEOArthouros Zervos was re-elected CEO of the Public Power Corporation (PPC S.A.) the company announced on Thursday. The CEO has a three-year term that ends on December 20, 2015. The election of the board of directors and board chairman will take place on Friday.
 Business Briefs-- The pre-tax results of the Piraeus Group amounted to a loss of 1.253 billion euros in the nine-month period of 2012, while the Group's results after taxes for the 2012 nine-month period corresponding to shareholders by ongoing activities reached losses amounting to 629 million euros.
-- The starting of the process for the merger between the two companies, through the absorption of the subsidiary Personal Best S.A. by the Sfakianakis company, has been decided by the companies' boards.
-- The Geniki Bank group showed a drop in losses as well as a decrease in operational revenues during the nine-month period.
-- Greece's independent statistical authority ELSTAT on Thursday reported a slump in production and financial figures for Greece's pulp and paper industry in the previous year, with production falling 8.5 percent in 2011.
-- The Turkish subsidiary of METKA S.A., Power Projects Sanayi Insaat Ticaret Limited Sirketi (Power Projects Limited) has signed a project assumption contract with Societe Algerienne de Production de l' Electricite (SPE Spa).
-- The board of Minoan Lines, a member of the Grimaldi group, has decided that the annual maintenance and repairing of the passenger and vehicle carrying ships Knossos Palace and Festos Palace will take place at the Neorio shipyards on the Cycladic island of Syros.
 Greek stocks move 0.26 pct up on ThursdayGreek stocks moved 0.26 percent up on the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. The general index closed at 880.70 points at the end of the session, with turnover at 52.358 million euro.
The Big Cap index fell by 0.75 percent and the Mid Cap index has risen by 0.52 percent. Commerce (+6.15 percent), Telecommunications (+3.50 percent), Food & Beverages (+2.67 percent) and Raw Materials (+2.15 percent) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Banks (-6.45 percent), Health (-5.06 percent) and Construction (-3.16 percent) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 78 to 70 with another 24 issues unchanged. HOL (+19.77 percent) and Yalco (+19.66 percent) were top gainers, while Evrofarma (-22.19 percent), NEL (-20.00 percent) and PC Sysytems (-20.00 percent) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.46%
Personal & Household: +0.60%
Raw Materials: +2.15%
Travel & Leisure: -1.54%
Food & Beverages: +2.67%
Financial Services: -1.52%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.29
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.55
HBC Coca Cola: 17.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.75
National Bank of Greece: 1.32
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.60
Bank of Piraeus: 0.31
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at its fair price in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover falling to 41.515 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,091 contracts worth 16.926 million euros, with 36,196 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 139,598 contracts worth 24.589 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (34,288), followed by Piraeus Bank (24,726), Alpha Bank (13,565), OPAP (11,517), Bank of Cyprus (10,926), OTE (7,285), PPC (7,090), GEK (6,769), Eurobank (5,013), Cyprus Popular Bank (4,909), MIG (4,229), Intralot (2,201) and Mytilineos (2,076).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.344
Pound sterling 0.826
Danish kroner 7.573
Swedish kroner 8.764
Japanese yen 113.19
Swiss franc 1.226
Norwegian kroner 7.475
Canadian dollar 1.330
Australian dollar 1.282
 Alt. Health minister inaugurates new EOPYY call centreAlternate Health Minister Marios Salmas on Thursday inaugurated one of the new call centres to be created at National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) outpatient clinics, which are to gradually replace the expensive five-digit numbers operated by private companies that cost EOPYY patients up to 19 million euro a year.
The new call centre inaugurated by the minister on Alexandras Avenue will have 20 lines and operate from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. each day, allowing EOPYY patients to book as many appointments as they like for the cost of local telephone call. They will also be able to book appointments in person, with staff working at the health clinics.
The ministry's aim is to set up more than 105 call centres throughout the country by the end of February, manned by a staff of 259 employees from the other pension and healthcare funds merged with EOPYY and some 150 civil servants to be selected by the administrative reform ministry.
 Culture Ministry: 2013 Constantine Cavafy yearThe Culture Ministry announced on Wednesday that it has designated 2013 as the "Year of Constantine Cavafy" to mark the 150the anniversary of the world-renowned poet's birth.
Cavafy (1863-1933) was one of the most influential literary figures produced by Greece in the early 20th century and instrumental in establishing modern Greek poetry on the international scene. Counted among his most important poems are "Ithaca" and "Waiting for the Barbarians".
One of the most important poets in modern Greek literature, his poetry is characterized by strong symbolism combined with unadorned speech and has been translated into French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and many other languages.
 One more Proton Bank former official remanded in custodyAn associate of businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, former governor of Proton Bank, has been remanded in custody after she testified on Thursday on heavy charges in connection to Proton Bank's bad loans to Lavrentiadis' privately-owned companies.
The defendant, a former high-ranking official in the Bank's Credit Committee, gave herself in a few days ago as an arrest warrant had been issued by authorities for her involvement in the Proton scandal.
The case relates to bad loans of 701 million euros that Proton Bank made available to main defendant Lavrentiadis' companies. In addition to Lavrentiadis, also remanded in custody are three other defendants, members of Proton's board of directors.
Another Lavrentiadis' close associate, Petros Kyriakidis is still wanted by police.
 Jewish marble headstones found in Thessaloniki lot were reinstatedHundreds of Jewish marble headstones, that were found dumped in a lot located in Stavroupoli, one of Thessaloniki's central districts, have been placed at the Jewish cemetery located in the area, Thessaloniki Jewish Community and Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) President David Saltiel told AMNA on Thursday.
A total of 668 parts of marble headstones, some of them engraved, were found in a lot that belonged to an 83-year-old man.
The headstones discovered were from the old Jewish cemetery that was destroyed by the Nazis during WWII, the graves were looted and the headstones were scattered across the city. The old cemetery, that was located in the area where Thessaloniki's university campus was later built, was quite large numbering roughly 400,000 graves but only a few headstones have survived.
 Police on trail of drug trafficking gang after Wednesday's arrestPolice on Thursday announced that a 24-year-old arrested in Farsala the previous day, following a sensational chase that started in Larissa, is believed to be part of a criminal gang bringing quantities of cannabis into Greece. The car he was driving belonged to a 31-year-old Romanian and contained 267 kilos of cannabis.
Detectives said that the organisation is made up of 13 individuals in total and has been in operation since November at least, importing large quantities of drugs from Albania into the country.
Another 448 grammes of cannabis were later found in the 24-year-old's home.
The suspect is believed to have picked up the drugs from the organisation in the Ioannina area and was due to transport it to Athens to hand over to two other members of the gang.
The same process had earlier been repeated on December 16, when the suspect had picked up 300 kilos of cannabis that he took to Athens.
The 24-year-old will face criminal charges for participation in a criminal gang, transporting and possessing drugs, resisting arrest and insubordination and will appear before a Larisa public prosecutor. Charges have also been drawn up against the Romanian national that provided the car and authorities are looking for the remaining 11 members of the gang.
 Fire breaks out on Albanian bus in tunnel on Ioannina-Kakavia motorwayA fire broke out on an Albanian bus in the tunnel linking the Ioannina detour with the Ioannina-Kakavia national motorway, near the airport, in north-western Greece.
The causes of the fire were not yet clear and the passengers left the vehicle in time. The fire brigade intervened speedily and police closed the entrances to the tunnel. The bus sustained serious damage, while the passengers continued their trip with another bus.
 Health ministry reports incidents of rabies in northern GreeceThe health ministry on Thursday issued a warning, especially for rural residents of northern Greece, after isolated incidents of rabies were found in three foxes and two dogs in Kastoria, Kozani and Pella in the last three months.
The ministry noted that all humans that came into contact with the infected animals were promptly treated and were in good health and that the ministry has an adequate supply of vaccines throughout the country.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between -4C and 14C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens with northerly 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 3C and 12C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures between -1C and 7C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe changes in the taxation system, Supreme Court's (Areios Paghos) ruling in favor of the collection of the real estate surtax via PPC electricity bills, the European Central Bank's (ECB) announcement that it once again accepts the Greek State Bonds as guarantee for providing liquidity to the Greek banks and the extension to 2014 of the receipts collection in order to earn a tax break, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
AVGHI: "Brazil's message against austerity".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Areios Paghos unjust".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tax break for receipts a tax-trap for salary earners and pensioners".
ESTIA: "The morale resuscitates".
ETHNOS: "Clash over changes in Tax Bureau offices".
IMERISSIA: "The climate is changing".
KATHIMERINI: "ECB: Greek bonds acceptable as guarantees".
LOGOS: "One out of every two Greeks immigrating abroad".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Shares' and bonds' rally and breather to liquidity".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Thousands of people protested on Wednesday against the new tax measures".
TA NEA: "Super Mario's (Draghi, ECB president) Christmas gift".
VRADYNI: "Tax break with the collection of receipts, and arrangements for professionals".
6 DAYS: "Additional cutbacks in low pensions".
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