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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-01-11

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

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

Friday, 11 January 2013 Issue No: 4267

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek budget deficit down to 15.9 billion euros in 2012
  • [02] Unilever CEO pledges to PM that company will stay, boost presence on Greek market
  • [03] Samaras meets EPP secretary general
  • [04] Outgoing Eurogroup president makes strong support pitch for Greece
  • [05] FinMin: Tax bill is necessary, opposition has no viable alternative proposals
  • [06] Tax bill discussion opens in Parliament
  • [07] KKE party leader on taxation
  • [08] SYRIZA leader: PostBank privatization 'criminal and incomprehensible'
  • [09] Tsipras to meet with German finmim next week
  • [10] Parliament to discuss motions on 'Lagarde list' issue next Thursday
  • [11] Expelled MP mulling return to PASOK parliamentary group
  • [12] PASOK MP declares himself independent
  • [13] ND party leads SYRIZA by 0.5 pc, poll shows
  • [14] Government spokesman on takeovers
  • [15] Ireland's ambassador in Athens presents EU presidency priorities
  • [16] Council of Europe Assembly president to visit Athens, Evros
  • [17] Greek economy to return to growth in late 2013-early 2014, IOBE
  • [18] FinMin on reforms, economic prospects
  • [19] Unemployment jumps to 26.8pct in Oct. 2012
  • [20] Half of the Greeks prefer to be self-employed, probe shows
  • [21] Inflation up 1.5pct in 2012
  • [22] Dev't minister meets Belgian counterpart
  • [23] Belgium to provide tax revenue know-how to Greece
  • [24] European funding to two solar thermal energy projects in Greece
  • [25] Jumbo says sales up 0.8 pct in H1
  • [26] Greek car sales down 38.5 pct in 2012
  • [27] Hotel rates in Greece in Jan. 2013 record highest decline in last years
  • [28] Business Briefs
  • [29] Greek stocks continue moving higher
  • [30] Greek bond market closing report
  • [31] ADEX closing report
  • [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [33] Terror suspect to appear before prosecutor on Monday
  • [34] Anti-fascist rally in Athens on January 19
  • [35] Rainy on Friday
  • [36] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greek budget deficit down to 15.9 billion euros in 2012

    Greece's state budget deficit totaled 15.908 billion euros in 2012, down from a budget target for a deficit of 16.312 billion euros, the Finance ministry said on Thursday.

    In a report, the ministry said that the budget showed a primary deficit of 3,684 billion euros, down from a budget target of 4.577 billion. The budget deficit was down by 6.866 billion euros compared with 2011, while the primary deficit was 2.742 billion euros lower over the same period, with the state budget balance shrinking by 30.1 pct from 2011.

    The Finance ministry said that net budget revenues totaled 51.706 billion euros, down 4.1 pct from 2011, but lacked 687 million euros from a revised budget target due to lower community inflows. Net regular budget revenues totaled 48.116 billion euros in the January-December 2012 period, up 0.9 pct from a budget target reflecting higher income tax proceeds, higher property tax revenues and other non-tax revenues.

    The Public Investment Program's revenues totaled 3.590 billion euros in 2012, down 183 million euros from a revised target, although higher payments in December are expected to raise community inflows in the first two months of 2013.

    Regular budget spending fell by 355 million euros from a budget target due to lower primary spending, lower defense spending, lower subsidies to hospitals although spending on interest surpassed a budget target to 12.223 billion euros in 2012. State budget spending fell by 11.9 pct compared with 2011.

    [02] Unilever CEO pledges to PM that company will stay, boost presence on Greek market

    Unilever international president and CEO Paul Polman reaffirmed to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that the Anglo-Dutch food and detergent multinational will remain in and boost its presence in the Greek market, during a meeting on Thursday at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters.

    Polman also commented that Greece was on the right track, to which Samaras replied that Greece was indeed on the right track, "but we need to overcome difficulties and obstacles", adding that "the situation is difficult as there are everyday problems", saying that solving these problems is a target, while priority was on "liquidity in order to unlock the economy".

    During the meeting, which was also attended by Unilever's president for Europe Jan Zijderveld and president of Elais-Unilever Hellas Spyros Desyllas, the two sides exchanged views on the European and Greek economy and underlined the need to boost investments in Greece, while the Unilever senior executives stressed the importance of the Greek subsidiary to the international group and continuation of its investigation of prospects for further strengthening its presence in Greece.

    While in Greece, Polman took the opportunity to see first-hand the conditions in the Greek market, and praised the Greek management and employees of Elais-Unilever Hellas for maintaining the viability f the Greek company and its commitment to stand by the Greek consumers.

    Noting that Unilever this year marks the 50th anniversary of its successful presence in Greece, Polman said that although the conditions are difficult "we believe that, through innovation that meets the consumers' needs, the excellent execution of our plans in the market and the ongoing efforts of our employees, we will be able to turn the challenges of the Greek economy into opportunities for substantial growth in the coming years".

    In mid-November, Unilever formalized an investment initiative to begin production 110 of its products in Greece, thus generating new jobs, at a meeting with Samaras and Development Minister Costis Hadzidakis.

    The British-Dutch dual-listed firm Unilever announced in November its intention to produce 110 of its products that are currently imported to Greece from elsewhere in Europe in Greece itself, covering the needs of the domestic market and transforming its local subsidiary Elais-Unilever Hellas into a strategic arm of the multinational group.

    The 110 products will not be produced by Unilever's Greek plants but will be outsourced to other Greek companies.

    The initiative is expected to increase Unilever's turnover from domestic production to 60 percent in 2013 from the current 55 percent. Unilever-Hellas currently exports products to 19 countries, with a turnover of 30 million euros, accounting for 7.5 percent of its total turnover.

    [03] Samaras meets EPP secretary general

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras received on Thursday the secretary general of the European People's Party (EPP) Antonio Lopez-Isturiz at the Maximos mansion (government headquarters.

    After the meeting, Isturiz spoke warmly of the Greek Prime Minister's role and contribution and referred to the Greek people's sacrifices

    [04] Outgoing Eurogroup president makes strong support pitch for Greece

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)

    European members must help the Greek government in stemming tax revenue loss from capital leaving the country, outgoing Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday in Brussels, and charged countries of the European North with having become arrogant about Greece and forgetting European history.

    Addressing the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Juncker spoke of what had not been achieved during his tenure and of delays in decisions made, but also said that the eurozone was saved from breaking apart in 2012.

    He spoke in support of the Greek government's measures to prevent capital from fleeing abroad and said that "Germans are pretending as if there is no such issue; governments must collaborate in the best way possible, to help the Greek government uncover this unpatriotic stance of some millionaire and billionaire Greeks. We are not here to take advantage of the austerity policies applied to certain countries."

    Juncker warned that despite the progress stability of the eurozone achieved "we are facing a difficult future, problems remain serious and their solution requires strong political courage."

    Expressing support of Greece and Greek people, the Eurogroup president said that "For me, the European Union and eurozone would be incomplete without Greece. We have become arrogant. We do not know history. We do not sympathize with those who are not like us, we ignore what the Greek democracy and Greeks have given Europe. I will support this country to the end, I am a friend of Greeks," he said.

    Juncker mentioned the "crushing problem" of unemployment among youth, and said the European North and South should collaborate with each other and the former recognize the achievements of the latter in gaining EU membership. "The countries of the North are not more virtuous than those of the South," he said.

    [05] FinMin: Tax bill is necessary, opposition has no viable alternative proposals

    The tax bill is a bill of fiscal necessity, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told Parliament on Thursday during the plenary discussion leading to the voting of the new tax law.

    The finance minister rejected amendments by coalition partners PASOK and DI.MAR. that would have helped lower-income people, noting that they would have cost over 1 billion euros, an amount that cannot be secured in any other way. "It is not possible, right before the Euroworking Group and the International Monetary Fund [meetings] to be adding 1 billion euros in expenses," Stournaras said, referring to upcoming Eurogroup and IMF meetings later this month.

    Replying to criticism, the finance minister said that the opposition "are devoid of alternative proposals. They are mumbling strange things that would not even be proposed by first-year college students and give us examples of countries that refer to immediate bankruptcy."

    In response to indirect charges that raising the heating oil prices has led to additional pollution from wood stoves and fireplaces, Stournaras attributed the reduction in heating fuel consumption to the cracking down of smuggling and the stockpiling of fuel in expectation of higher prices. "We have budgeted 80 million euros for a heating subsidy, with applications amounting to 6 million euros. We are covering over 85 pct of the population," he added.

    Evangelos Venizelos, leader of coalition partner PASOK, said his party had included, after great effort, several amendments to improve the tax bill. "Unfortunately," he said, "in 2012 tax returns filed, only 11,000 taxpayers have entered annual incomes of over 150,000 euros. There is a serious problem when you fight over 2.5 years to achieve, simultaneously, fiscal convergence, cracking down of tax evasion and black economy, and structural changes. These targets conflict with one another."

    [06] Tax bill discussion opens in Parliament

    Discussion of the new tax bill opened in Parliament on Thursday, with criticism by deputies of parties in the governing coalition and the opposition.

    Coalition partner PASOK's sponsor, Paris Koukoulopoulos, said that the bill "does not satisfy the request for the fair distribution of tax burden" and warned that "the discussion that ended ingloriously in February 2012 with the walkout of all parties over the national tax bill will start again in the next few days on PASOK's initiative."

    Coalition partner DI.MAR's sponsor, Asimina Xyrotiri, criticised the Finance Ministry for not putting down the initial necessary steps to fight tax evasion and establish a process to stop it, but added that the party would vote for the bill "as a necessary prerequisite under the country's circumstances."

    The main opposition sponsor, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy Dimitris Yelalis, said the tax bill had "only a revenue-collecting feature" and charged that the bill "punishes freelancers, trades people and small businesses by taxing them from the very first euro they make, and destroys farmers, since it makes no disticntion between small-scale farmers and large enterprises."

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) sponsor, Nikos Karathanasopoulos, charged that "the state budget contains 31 pages of tax exemptions," which he said "reflects what's happening in shipping, where profits from the exploitation of ships is exempted; this will happen to all sectors of the economy, with the free movement of capital set out by the EU's Maastricht Treaty."

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras are hoping for the bill to be voted into law before the upcoming Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on January 21. The bill is part of a prerequisite to receiving the next loan tranche by March.

    [07] KKE party leader on taxation

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said on Thursday "the tax issue is a part (of the measures) that will lead to an even worse situation in a short while, while what it is (the government) doing with the new tax issue is to impose on the working people new provocative direct and indirect taxes that cannot be endured if we look at them accumulatively as well, and on the other hand the percentage of the taxation of the people grows every year in relation to what taxes are received from the businesses".

    Papariga also said "tax evasion is a negative symptom, but above all there are the tax exemptions, and for tax evasion they turned a blind eye because they wanted to have a policy of alliances towards certain sections of the middle classes," adding that "in reality in a short period of time we shall all be tax evaders, but tax evaders who have the right not to pay, to struggle, to claim, because enough is enough, you cannot pay at this time more than what you put in your pocket".

    [08] SYRIZA leader: PostBank privatization 'criminal and incomprehensible'

    Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday called the government's policy on the privatization of the TT-Hellenic PostBank "criminal and incomprehensible", during a meeting with TT employees, to whom he expressed his full support for their mobilizations.

    Tsipras criticized the government decision to privatize the bank, "because if this finally occurs, Greece will be the only country that will not have a PostBank", adding that the government, with its decisions, opted to recapitalize the private banks and punish the state banks.

    "This policy is absurd," said Tsipras, "because the Greek State will have to pay double what it would have paid if it had proceeded with the recapitalization of TT, and it would have a acquired a tool for development in the process.

    The SYRIZA leader called on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to explain "with transparency" the choices they made and the expediency of the policy they are following, underlining the need for the Greek state and government to have the ability of supervision of the banks.

    On his part, the president of the TT employees Antonis Dilehatsios charged that the government is selling off the state assets, noting that TT has never been a burden to the State Budget. He also said that the TT employees' mobilizations will continue and will intensify.

    [09] Tsipras to meet with German finmim next week

    The leader of the main opposition Radical Left SYRIZA party, Alexis Tsipras is to have his first ever meeting with Germany's Federal Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Scheuble, next week in Berlin. ?

    The meeting was arranged before Christmas in consultation with Germany's left-wing party Die Linke.

    According to a non-finalised programme, Tsipras will arrive at the German capital on Saturday and will stay for four days, which may be extended by one or two days.

    He is scheduled to have a series of contacts with Social Democratic Party (SPD) officials, intellectuals, and will also speak at a Die Linke event.

    [10] Parliament to discuss motions on 'Lagarde list' issue next Thursday

    Parliament will open discussion on January 17 on party motions requesting a preliminary committee to examine the role of ministers and prime ministers in the so-called Lagarde list issue.

    Several parties have tabled motions calling for a preliminary investigation into cover-up liability over the list, which contains the names of Greek citizens with large accounts at HSBC bank in Switzerland of interest to tax authorities. Motions by the coalition parties, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Independent Greeks and Golden Dawn name one or more of former finance ministers George Papaconstantinou and Evangelos Venizelos, and former prime ministers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos.

    The procedure for the voting on the motions, including whether by individual motion or by politician name, will be announced by Monday or Tuesday following a meeting between the Parliament president and party speakers.

    [11] Expelled MP mulling return to PASOK parliamentary group

    High-profile PASOK former MP and ex minister Costas Skandalidis announced on Thursday that he was ready to return to the PASOK parliamentary group, who was one of six PASOK MPs expelled from the party on November 8 after refusing to abide by the party line and vote in favor of the omnibus bill of 13.5 billion euros in austerity measures in the roll-call parliamentary vote the previous night.

    Seven MPs -- six from PASOK and one from New Democracy (ND) -- were expelled from the parliamentary groups of the two parties of the three-party coalition government after they refused to toe the party lines and vote in favor of the omnibus on November 7.

    According to sources Skandalidis met Venizelos Wednesday at the office PASOK maintains in parliament, and discussed "a variety of issues".

    The sources said that the return of more of the expelled MPs should be expected.

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos had expelled MP Costas Skandalidis, who had been absent from the November 7 vote; Angela Gerekou, Markos Bolaris and Yiannis Koutsoukos, who simply declared their presence; and Theodoros Parastatidis and Michalis Kassis, who voted against the austerity package.

    In a statement on Thursday, Skandalidis described as "excepti0nally necessary and positive" Venizelos' "invitation at Wednesday's meeting of the party's Congress Central Organization Committee (KOES) secretariat for "rallying together again, without conditions, of all the forces that believe in the party's prospect", adding that he had an "active participation in the pre-Congress process", which he considers "self-evident".

    [12] PASOK MP declares himself independent

    PASOK party MP Christos Aidonis on Thursday announced that he is leaving the party and declared himself an Independent MP, in a letter addressed to parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis.

    Aidonis who was elected on the PASOK ticket in Drama prefecture, refers in his letter, to "an attempt by all the political parties to exploit the 'Lagarde list' scandal", and accused PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and the party of attempting to disavow their political responsibilities in the handling of the "Lagarde list.

    "I had the delusion that the PASOK leader would assume his responsibilities in order to release the party from the attempted 'collectivization' of the problem and, by extension, the three-party coalition government, and not to hide behind the threat of a destabilization of the co-governance," he said.

    Concluding, Aidonis clarified that he will continue to support the coalition government's stability as the most appropriate political recipe, however he will not support recession policies and persons that damage the country and the democratic party's future.

    PASOK reaction

    PASOK in an announcement statement called Aidonis' decision 'sad and bizarre.

    The full text of PASOK's announcement said: "Mr. Aidonis chose to do officially what he has been doing in the recent period unofficially, on the very day that the events themselves give the strongest answer to the fabrication against Evangelos Venizelos regarding the 'Lagarde list'. This is sad and bizarre."

    [13] ND party leads SYRIZA by 0.5 pc, poll shows

    The monthly opinion poll "Barometro" January 2013 prepared by the Public Issue company for SKAI television shows the ruling New Democracy (ND) party leading the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) by 0.5 percent.

    According to the poll, ND garners 29 percent of preferences, SYRIZA 28.5, Golden Dawn 10, PASOK 8, Independent Greeks 8, Democratic Left 7 and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 5.5 percent, while the rest of the parties gathered 4 percent.

    Compared to the company's previous poll (December 2012), ND has an increase of 3 points and SYRIZA a decrease of 2 points.

    Lastly, on the question of suitability for the premiership, ND leader Antonis Samaras received 48 percent and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras 24 percent.

    [14] Government spokesman on takeovers

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Thursday that the public media have provenly provided a podium for every view and opinion in the framework of democratic dialogue "in which there is no pace for practices of bravado and violence, such as today's (Thursday) invasion at the radio of ET3".

    He added that in a democratic society "it is unacceptable for you to muzzle a means of information because you do not agree as the now known hooded people attempted at Real FM".

    The spokesman further said "in addition it is unacceptabler for you to target the offices of your politically opposites, a practice also continued today, with the takeover of the office of deputy Lefteris Avgenakis. Of course we no longer expect from SYRIZA (the main opposition Radical Left Coalition) to condemn the new infringements of elementary rules of law and democratic functioning of a society. We know them now".

    [15] Ireland's ambassador in Athens presents EU presidency priorities

    "Stability, jobs and growth" is the triptych of priorities set by the Irish rotating presidency of the European Union in the first semester of 2013, as outlined on Thursday by Ireland's ambassador in Athens Charles Sheehan, at the European Parliament offices. Such priorities are also important to Greece, as the country is - as of January 2013 - part of the European presidency troika together with Lithuania.

    According to Sheehan, Ireland plans to place special emphasis on youth employment, as about 26 million people in the EU-27, of which 18 million in the euro zone, are hit by unemployment, which as Sheehan put it, is Europe's "largest deficit."

    "We'll do everything. We ought to give hope to our youth and to all the unemployed," the ambassador said, making special reference to Greece's problem: "I know that Greece is facing a real crisis of youth unemployment, and like in Ireland, opportunities for the young people are scarce."

    "My country," he stressed, "will take initiatives to guarantee such opportunities, either through job creation, vocational training or further education." Sheehan added that next month an informal council will convene on the issue in Dublin.

    Ireland is the first country with an outside bailout loan that undertakes EU presidency, at a time that is preparing to return to financial markets. A successful state bond issue on Wednesday showed that markets now trust Dublin.

    [16] Council of Europe Assembly president to visit Athens, Evros

    STRASBOURG (AMNA/N. Roussis)

    The president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Jean-Claude Mignon will be visiting Athens and Evros, northern Greece, between January 14-16, accompanied by members of the Parliamentry Committee of the Organisation for Immigration.

    The members of the Parliamentary Committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, who are responsible for the control of migratory flows of illegal immigrants, asylum applicants and refugees, to the southern coasts of Europe will be making a two-day visit to Greece on January 14-16.

    Financial News

    [17] Greek economy to return to growth in late 2013-early 2014, IOBE

    The Greek economy will return to positive growth rates by the end of 2013 or early 2014, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.

    In its monthly report on the outlook of the Greek economy, IOBE said the country's Gross Domestic Product was expected to shrink by 4.5pct this year, with negative growth rates higher in the first two quarters of the year and slowing below the average level in the second half of 2013.

    The inflation rate is projected to reach an average 1.0 pct this year, significantly lower compared with 2013, while the unemployment rate is expected to rise to 24.5pct in 2012 and to jump to 27.3pct in 2013, although a slowing down in economic recession, the implementation of major investment projects and extensive adoption of structural changes in labor markets were expected to slow down a rising unemployment rate.

    The Institute said the country did not have room for complacency and noted that the release of the next tranche of rescue aid to Greece - scheduled for January, February and March - were linked to specific terms. A precondition for completing the government's program was a widespread understanding of the importance of the measures promoted, social consensus and strict adherence to the principles and the criteria of social justice. The Institute stressed that the most convincing evidence of social justice would be an effective response to the problem of tax evasion and a deeper tax reform.

    Private investments were the main tool towards economic development, it said, while a recapitalization plan will restore capital adequacy in the banking system. Forthcoming mergers in the banking sector with the creation of less but strong players, is another major too, IOBE added.

    [18] FinMin on reforms, economic prospects

    The government's ongoing work on reforms is progressing at a steady pace, in a sense of responsibility and with a view to restoring the real economy and financial markets' trust, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday evening.

    Addressing an event of the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Stournaras stressed that "the Greece's destiny is linked unbreakably with that of the euro zone's. The country, with the support of its partners, has rallied together on the European path, leaving behind it the choice of a return to the drachma. Participation in the euro zone is not considered a compulsory choice of a fearful and defeated people, but a decision of growth, self-confidence and prospect".

    The Finance minister also said that over the next two years and with the measures that have already been taken, the country shall have accomplished the titanic task of economic consolidation. However, he pointed out that the problem of liquidity remains a main source of concern even to healthy businesses.

    Referring to the question of growth in particular, Stournaras assessed that in the second half of 2013, and towards the end of the year in particular, the country's GDP will have a positive indicator.

    Lastly, commenting on the privatisations programme, the minister expressed his conviction that it will attract the interest of German businesses and Greek-German joint ventures.

    [19] Unemployment jumps to 26.8pct in Oct. 2012

    Unemployment in Greece jumped to a record 26.8 percent in October 2012, posting a 7.1 percent rise year-on-year over the previous year (October 2011), with the number of unemployed exceeding 1.34 million, with unemployment among youth nearing 60 percent, the independent Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.

    ELSTAT, in a report, said that the unemployment rate in October 2012 was 26.8% compared to 19.7% in October 2011 and 26.2% in September 2012.

    The number of employed amounted to 3,680,894 persons. The number of unemployed amounted to 1,345,715 while the number of inactive to 3,344,478.

    The number of employed decreased by 309,335 persons compared with October 2011 (a 7.8% rate of decrease) and by 16,015 persons compared with September 2012 (a 0.4% rate of decrease).

    Unemployed increased by 368,102 persons (a 37.7% rate of increase) compared with October 2011 and by 36,219 persons compared with September 2012 (a 2.8% rate of increase), reaching 1,345,715 unemployed persons in October 2012.

    Inactive persons -that is, persons that neither worked neither looked for a job- decreased by 23,828 persons (a 0.7% rate of decrease) compared with October 2011 and by 7,478 persons compared with September 2012 (a 0.2% rate of decrease).

    The hardest hit category was once again the 15-24 age group at 56.6 percent, with an increasing number of young people seeking employment abroad.

    Another hard-hit category was women, with 30.4 percent, while Attica prefecture, where some two-thirds of the country's population lives, climbed for the first time to first place in unemployment by region, with 28.3 percent.

    By gender, unemployment among women was highest at 30.4 percent (up from 23.1 percent in October 2011), and 24.1 percent among men (from 17.1 percent in the same month a year earlier).

    By age group, youth unemployment skyrocketed, reaching 56.6 percent from 46.7 percent in October 2011, as did unemployment in the most productive working age group (25-34 years of age) which climbed to 34.1 percent from 27.0 percent a year earlier. These are followed by the 35-44 age bracket with 23.3 percent (up from 15.9 percent in October 2011), the 45-54 age group with 19.5 percent (from 14.1 percent), the 55-64 age bracket with 15.4 percent (from 9.0 percent) and the 65-74 age group with 4.9 percent (from 3.6 percent).

    By region, Attica rose to first place with 28.3 percent (from 20.4 percent in October 2011), closely followed by Epirus-Western Macedonia with 28.3 percent (from 20.9 percent). These were followed by Macedonia-Thrace wit 27.0 percent (from 21.3 percent), Thessaly-Sterea with 26.8 percent (from 20.1 percent), the Peloponnese-Western Greece-Ionian Islands with 24.4 percent (from 17 percent), Crete with 24.0 percent (from 16.0 percent) and the Aegean Islands with 16.9 percent (from 14.6 percent in October 2011).

    [20] Half of the Greeks prefer to be self-employed, probe shows

    The latest probe by Eurobarometer on entrepreneurship shows that 50 percent of Greeks would like to be self-employed and this is the second biggest percentage (behind the Lithuanians) in the EU scale of the 27. The percentage remains high in Greece, although with the similar question in 2009 the positive reply garnered 60 percent.

    However, as appears in the probe, the general trend among Europeans follows a downward course. In 2009 the positive response was 45 percent (among Europeans) and in 2012 it was 37 percent.

    As regards Greece in particular, Eurobarometer (in cooperation with ICAP) showed that the Greeks prefer to be: self-employed (50 percent) or employees (43 pc). They select self-employment as against being employees because they believe that it offers: independence and self-confirmation (66 percent), freedom in the choice of location and time of work (23 pc), better income prospects (26 pc), favourable financial climate (7 pc), utilisation of a business opportunity (5 pc), avoidance of uncertainty entailed in being an employee (3 pc) etc.

    [21] Inflation up 1.5pct in 2012

    Inflation rose by 1.5 percent on average in 2012, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.

    ELSTAT, in a report, said that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in December 2012 compared with December 2011, increased by 0.8%. In December 2011, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 2.4%.

    The CPI in December 2012 compared with November 2012 decreased by 0.3%. In December 2011, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was -0.1%.

    In the twelve-month period from January 2012 to December 2012 compared with the period from January 2011 to December 2011 the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 1.5%. The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous year (January 2011 to December 2011), was 3.3%.

    The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in December 2012 compared with December 2011, increased by 0.3%. In December 2011, the annual rate of change of the HICP was 2.2%.

    The HICP in December 2012 compared with November 2012, decreased by 0.3%. In December 2011, the monthly rate of change of the HICP was -0.2%.

    In the twelve-month period from January 2012 to December 2012 compared with the period from January 2011 to December 2011, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 1.0%. The previous year, in the corresponding twelve - month period, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 3.1%.

    [22] Dev't minister meets Belgian counterpart

    Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis discussed the issue of liquidity in his meeting with the vice premier and Finance and Development Minister of Belgium, Steven Vanackere on Thursday.

    Hatzidakis noted the importance of EU help in facing the problem of liquidity in the Greek economy which he said depended on the full and smooth functioning of the banking system and the recapitalization process currently under way.

    [23] Belgium to provide tax revenue know-how to Greece

    Belgium will provide technical know-how to Greece for revenue management and tax collection, said Steven Vanackere, vice premier and Finance and Development minister of Belgium, on Thursday.

    Following a meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, the Belgian minister said Greece, its government and people, had made a lot of effort and progress but more was needed throughout the coming months and years, as "the European crisis has not ended yet."

    Stournaras said the two had exchanged views on their countries' and EU economy and he thanked Vanackere for his support "at a crucial time."

    [24] European funding to two solar thermal energy projects in Greece

    Under a decision taken in the framework of the NER300 funding programme for innovative low-carbon energy demonstration projects, the European Commission is to fund two solar thermal technology energy projects in Greece, one on the island of Crete and one in Florina, northern Greece.

    The NER300 last month awarded over ? 1.2 billion to 23 highly innovative renewable energy demonstration projects across the EU.

    The two projects will receive a total funding of ? 86.5 million, or about 7 pct of their total cost, the ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change said on Thursday, adding that the funding programme "is a great success for Greece."

    The projects to be funded are:

    CSP MINOS: A 50-MWe solar thermal project in southeastern Crete, by NUR-MOH S.A.

    CSP Maximus: A 75.3-MWe Stirling type solar thermal project, by A.N. MAXIMUS SOLAR THERMAL LTD., which will be the first and largest of its type globally, using the DishStirling technology.

    [25] Jumbo says sales up 0.8 pct in H1

    Jumbo Group on Thursday said its sales totaled 295.4 million euros in the first half of the current fiscal year (July-December 2012), from 293.06 million euros in the same period in 2011, an increase of 0.80pct. The group expects that sales will rise between 0-1.0pct this year, with net profits totaling 70 million euros in 2013.

    The increase in sales reflects mainly a significant increase in sales in its network in Bulgaria and in countries with commercial partnership contracts (Albania, FYROM), while sales fell slightly in Cyprus and Greece.

    Jumbo plans to open two new retail units in Greece and is preparing its entry to the Romanian market.

    [26] Greek car sales down 38.5 pct in 2012

    The Greek car market shrank dramatically in 2012, with car sales falling by 38.5 pct (passenger car sales fell 40.3 pct) last year, official figures showed on Thursday. A report by the Hellenic Statistical Authority said that new car registrations totaled 77,675 cars (new or used ones) in 2012, down from 126,372 in 2011 and 183,877 in 2010. Car sales dropped 29.6 pct in December 2012.

    The statistics service also said that new motorcycle registrations totaled 33,687 in 2012, down 29.5 pct from the previous year. In December sales fell by 31.1 pct.

    [27] Hotel rates in Greece in Jan. 2013 record highest decline in last years

    Hotel rates in Greece in January 2013 have fallen to the lowest level in the last years, according to "www.trivago.gr" search engine.

    Specifically, in January 2013 the average daily rate for a double room was 72 euros while the most expensive rate in the last years in Greece was marked in August 2009 with a daily average rate of 132 euros.

    The same condition prevails in most European countries with hotel rates moving downwards with the highest decline (8%) recorded in Romania with average daily rate at 61 euros.

    [28] Business Briefs

    -- The Greek government will introduce a capital gains tax on securities' transactions from July 1, 2013 despite opposition from market officials.

    [29] Greek stocks continue moving higher

    Greek stocks continued moving higher for the eight consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, overcoming pressure from profit taking selling which prevailed for most part of the session. The composite index of the market rose 0.10 pct to end at 984.85 points, rising 9.26 pct during the eight-day rally. Turnover was a moderate 67.884 million euros.

    The Travel (6.10 pct) and Technology (3.34 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Personal Products (3.79 pct), Financial Services (3.0 pct) and Banks (1.04 pct) suffered losses. OPAP (7.0 pct), Eurobank Properties (5.05 pct) and PPC (1.1 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Jumbo (4.44 pct), MIG (3.73 pct) and Hellenic Exchanges (2.01 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 98 to 85 with another 17 issues unchanged. Unibios (29.81 pct), ANEK (28.73 pct) and Pegasus (19.9 pct) were top gainers, while Technical Publications (19.28 pct), Alfa Grissin (17.85 pct) and Sprider Stores (14.29 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -0.57%

    Commercial: -0.93%

    Construction: +0.21%

    Oil & Gas: +0.12%

    Personal & Household: -3.79%

    Raw Materials: -0.87%

    Travel & Leisure: +6.01%

    Technology: +3.34%

    Telecoms: +0.71%

    Banks: -1.04%

    Food & Beverages: -0.57%

    Health: +0.33%

    Utilities: +0.53%

    Financial Services: -3.00%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.56

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.40

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.50

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.30

    National Bank of Greece: 1.37

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.70

    OPAP: 6.42

    OTE: 5.68

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.35

    Titan: 15.55

    [30] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 10.17 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 9.87 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.72 pct and the German Bund 1.55 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the six-month rate was 0.32 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.

    [31] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.73 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining at 16.616 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,335 contracts worth 5.636 million euros, with 35,319 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 41,372 contracts worth 10.980 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (7,719), followed by National Bank (6,151), Piraeus Bank (6,514), Cyprus Bank (931), MIG (2,483), OTE (4,027), PPC (1,469), OPAP (4,822), Eurobank (1,171), GEK (1,031), Ellaktor (1,320), Intralot (1,877), Piraeus Port (4,822) and Mytilineos (630).

    [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.331

    Pound sterling 0.829

    Danish kroner 7.572

    Swedish kroner 8.695

    Japanese yen 117.5

    Swiss franc 1.228

    Norwegian kroner 7.407

    Canadian dollar 1.312

    Australian dollar 1.258

    General News

    [33] Terror suspect to appear before prosecutor on Monday

    A 29-year-old man arrested on charges of belonging to the "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire" terrorist group got an extension and will appear before the prosecutor on Monday.

    He was traced from his DNA on a box of ammunition found in Polytechneioupoli, in the Zografos section of Athens. Another man, accused of a holdup on Paros island during which a passerby was killed this past summer, gave testimony related to his involvement with the terror group.

    [34] Anti-fascist rally in Athens on January 19

    A rally titled "Athens, an anti-fascist city" will be taking place in downtown Omonia Square on Saturday January 19 at 14:00. The organisers are the Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat, migrant communities, the Athens municipal council, as well as councils of other municipalities in Attica and all over the country, unions, student societies and people of literature and art.

    The main slogans in the rally will be "Out with the neo-Nazis. No cencentration camps. Citizenship for all the kids" and at 4 in the afternoon on the same day a concert will be held in Syntagma Square in Athens with the participation of many groups and artists.

    As a show of solidarity, on Saturday the 19th, similar events will be taking place in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Northern Ireland, Barcelona, Paris, Lyon, Brussels, Copenhagen, Tampere in Finland, New York and Chicago.

    Weather forecast

    [35] Rainy on Friday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 1C and 16C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 6C and 16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 4C and 10C.

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

    The ongoing investigation and the parties' clash over the burning "Lagarde list", the government's plan for development unveiled on Wednesday by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and a police's raid in the abandoned 'Villa Amalia' in Athens in order to remove the illegal occupiers, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    AVGHI: "Villa... Lagarde".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Plan 'hood' ".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Major scandal at Army Officers' Share Fund".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Diotis (former SDOE chief) caught red-handed!"

    ESTIA: "The 'wager' for development".

    ETHNOS: "Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) former general secretary Ioannis Diotis exposed over 'Lagarde list' USB".

    IMERISSIA: "Job opportunities for 350,000 unemployed".

    KATHIMERINI: "Main opposition SYRIZA fluctuates over 'Villa Amalia'."

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Targeted actions plan in search of development".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Responsibilities of all implicated in Lagarde list must be examined".

    TA NEA: "The criteria for the transfers in the public sector".

    6 DAYS: "Clash among prosecutors over Lagarde list".

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