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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-01-24

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

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

Thursday, 24 January 2013 Issue No: 4278

CONTENTS

  • [01] Motorway projects will help revival of the economy, Dev't minister says
  • [02] PM and Macedonia-Thrace minister discuss action to boost Greek north
  • [03] SYRIZA leader holds meeting with US officials at State Department
  • [04] Government spokesman Kedikoglou on SYRIZA leader's statements in the United States
  • [05] Government raises tone in clash with transport employees
  • [06] KKE party on Metro employees' demands
  • [07] Athens Metro not running on Thursday, for 8th day in a row
  • [08] Government spokesman Kedikoglou on the confrontation with SYRIZA
  • [09] ND-SYRIZA spat over video draws criticism from DIM.AR
  • [10] French President Hollande to visit Athens on Feb. 18
  • [11] Parties on case against ELSTAT chief Georgiou
  • [12] Investigating committee on Papaconstantinou start work
  • [13] Investigating Committee on Papaconstantinou holds first session
  • [14] PASOK leader meets health minister, comments on metro strikes
  • [15] Venizelos meets Cyprus presidency candidate Lillikas
  • [16] New Democracy holds slim 0.2 pct lead over SYRIZA, poll shows
  • [17] Greek ombudsman notes major delays at Greek consular office in London
  • [18] Stournaras reports 'signs of hope' that Greece will make it
  • [19] Finance ministry sets up committee to reform tax system
  • [20] Greek public debt at 152.6 pct of GDP in Q3
  • [21] Greek exports to continue growing in 2013
  • [22] Farmers gear up for new round of mobilisations after meeting agriculture minister
  • [23] Tourist arrivals down 5.2 pct in Jan-Sept
  • [24] Business Briefs
  • [25] ASE surpasses 1,000-point barrier
  • [26] Greek bond market closing report
  • [27] ADEX closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [29] Police sweep to locate illegal migrants in Patras area
  • [30] Arrest for illicit trade in antiquities
  • [31] Two arrested for trying to steal wallet from policewoman
  • [32] Afghan national gets life for strangling older woman on Crete
  • [33] Court of Audit judges to continue strike until Jan. 30
  • [34] Police break up marriage scam over Greek citizenship
  • [35] Football player Torossidis moves to Roma FC
  • [36] Rainy on Thursday
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Motorway projects will help revival of the economy, Dev't minister says

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Aroni)

    Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, speaking in a joint press conference with European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn here on Wednesday, stressed the importance of restarting work on the four major motorway projects in Greece, which would help the recovery of the country's economy though the creation of new jobs.

    During his two-day visit to Brussels (Tuesday and Wednesday), Hatzidakis discussed the issue of resuming these projects also with EU Commissioners Joaquin Almunia responsible for competition, Siim Kallas responsible for transport and Michel Barnier responsible for internal market and services.

    Hatzidakis underlined the construction of the four motorways was of utmost importance to Greece, as they would signal the revival of the economy with the creation of an estimated 25,000 new jobs.

    The Greek government has set a target to have work on the projects resume in April.

    [02] PM and Macedonia-Thrace minister discuss action to boost Greek north

    Action and initiatives to boost economic activity in northern Greece were the main focus of a meeting on Wednesday between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou.

    A ministry announcement said they discussed granting the Macedonia-Thrace ministry additional powers and responsibilities, such as taking over a service managing the INTERREG 4 programme, setting up a service to coordinate jointly funded actions lying within the ministry's brief, oversight of market control and incorporating the Thessaloniki Public Transport Council in the ministry.

    Karaoglou briefed the prime minister on the progress of roughly 108 applications relating to investment plans with a budget exceeding 500 million euros that were submitted to the ministry by January 15.

    There was also extensive discussion on the growth prospects and opportunities for development in northern Greece and the role that the Macedonia-Thrace ministry can play in the effort to kickstart the economy by attracting investments.

    After the meeting, Karaoglou noted that he was seeking additional responsibilities and powers so that Macedonia and Thrace will have the right tools to help decisively in the national effort begun by the premier to reform and develop the Greek economy.

    "Our aim is to make northern Greece a safe refuge for investors and to support with all our strength the 'living' part of enterprise, that continues to work, to produce and to export in spite of the difficulties," he said.

    [03] SYRIZA leader holds meeting with US officials at State Department

    WASHINGTON (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras held an extensive discussion on a series of issues concerning Greece and the wider region in a meeting on Wednesday at the State Department with US Assistant Secretary of State, responsible for European affairs, Erik Rubin, the Deputy Finance Minister, responsible for Europe and Eurasia issues, Christopher Smart, as well as other American officials.

    According to SYRIZA sources, there were "points of agreement and disagreement", with an identification of views and a "common ascertainment" that austerity is not the answer to effectively dealing with the crisis, that Greece is not a risk for Europe and that Germany is insisting on risky policies.

    During the meeting, a "substantive exchange" of views took place on issues relating to the economy, the Exclusive Economic Zone and foreign policy.

    According to the same sources, Tsipras outlined in clarity his positions on issues such as the spreading of violence in Greece, the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party and anti-Semitism.

    The SYRIZA leader also presented his views on Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue and Greece - FYROM differences, while underlining Greece's sovereign right on tapping the Exclusive Economic Zone to the benefit of Greek society.

    Lastly, he stressed SYRIZA's "democratic traditions", pointing out to the American officials that Greece's role in the region might appear to be weakened due to the economic crisis, but Greece has an "important role" to play in the framework of a multifaceted foreign policy. He added that SYRIZA supported "persistence and consistency" in foreign policy.

    [04] Government spokesman Kedikoglou on SYRIZA leader's statements in the United States

    The government on Wednesday accused main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) of changing its positions depending on the audience.

    Commenting on the statements made by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras while on a visit to the United States, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou noted that the Greek people are puzzled as they watch Tsipras say one thing and his MPs back in Greece say exactly the opposite.

    "The president of SYRIZA said today in the United States that he will not tear up the loan agreements and, at the same time, his deputies in Greece vouched that they (loan agreements) will be abolished with a single law," the government spokesman stressed.

    "When they decide on what they really want to do they should notify their party's factions as well. The Greek people have already realized what they are about and now the time has come for them to be exposed abroad as well," Kedikoglou concluded.

    [05] Government raises tone in clash with transport employees

    A clash between the government and transport employees, who are continuing their strikes and mobilisations despite the a court order terming them illegal, reached new heights on Wednesday.

    Speaking to private radio Vima, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou warned that "if the instigators of the strike do not comply with the court's decisions by tomorrow (Thursday), they will have to face the legal reprecussions. The law foresees what should be done with those leading the strikes".

    Earlier, responding to the possibility they might be ordered to return to work by the government, employees said that they are adamant in their position and will respond "with war to government's war".

    "A black-out will exist in public transport if the government orders us to return to work, and this is not a threat" said STASY president Christos Koukis.

    The metro remains immobilized for seventh consecutive day on Wednesday, while tram and electric train employees called a work-stoppage from 12 noon until 4.

    [06] KKE party on Metro employees' demands

    Working people should condemn the "the government's crude threats against the struggle and the just demands of employees at the Athens Metro," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), said in an announcement on Wednesday, in relation to the continuing industrial action by Metro employees.

    "It is the government and the EU's policy that torments people, not the working people's struggles," KKE stressed.

    Metro staff's strike enters its eighth day on Thursday, as employees decided on Wednesday afternoon to extend action for yet another 24 hours.

    [07] Athens Metro not running on Thursday, for 8th day in a row

    Another tough day awaits commuters on Thursday, as Athens will go without the Metro for the eighth consecutive day, after the employees union decided on Wednesday evening to call another 24-hour strike.

    Tram and ISAP electric railway staff announced a work stoppage between 12:00 and 16:00, while urban (blue) buses will be out of service between 11:00 and 17:00.

    [08] Government spokesman Kedikoglou on the confrontation with SYRIZA

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday referred to the confrontation with main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) sparked by the recent spate of violence.

    Kedikoglou stated that the confrontation started after his appeal for a unequivocal condemnation of any form of violence.

    Speaking to an Athens-based private radio station, Kedikoglou admitted that the level of dialogue underway "does not do anyone justice," adding that comments made by SYRIZA MPs about the attacks targeting the central offices of the New Democracy (ND) party and the apartment building where Kedikoglou's brother lives, were unacceptable.

    As regards the footage with statements made by SYRIZA MP Vangelis Diamantopoulos, the government spokesman said that the language used justifies violence and displays tolerance for the use of weapons. Kedikoglou noted that the comment, "your days are numbered", which was made by the MP in question, and the overall phrasing used also shows an affinity for violence.

    [09] ND-SYRIZA spat over video draws criticism from DIM.AR

    A spat between the coalition government's leading party New Democracy (ND) and main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) pivoting on the airing of a controversial video featuring SYRIZA MP Vangelis Diamantopoulos showed signs of escalating into an increasingly acrid dispute by Wednesday evening.

    The affair also drew criticism from ND's coalition partner Democratic Left (DIM.AR), which issued a statement saying that "artificial clashes and polarisation of the parties" was the last thing that Greek society needed during these difficult hours.

    DIM.AR's announcement also criticised ND's communications team for their "selective presentation of a part of the statements made by the SYRIZA MP for Kastoria" and said such practices cannot be accepted.

    Meanwhile, Diamantopoulos said he was considering legal action against ND over the video, which he said was an attempt to slander SYRIZA-EKM that of 'editing' the video in order to completely misrepresent his statements and present both him and his party as an area inciting violence.

    Earlier, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou had commented on the video, saying it used language that seemed to justify violence and to tolerate the use of weapons. Kedikoglou noted that the comment, "your days are numbered", which was made by the MP in question, and the overall phrasing used, also shows an affinity for violence.

    [10] French President Hollande to visit Athens on Feb. 18

    French President Francois Hollande will carry out a formal visit to Athens on Feb. 18, following an invitation extended by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during the extraordinary EU summit meeting in November.

    The French president will visit Greece after his trip to India in mid February.

    [11] Parties on case against ELSTAT chief Georgiou

    Parliament representatives of both the coalition government and the opposition on Wednesday discussed whether the head of Greece's independent statistical authority ELSTAT Andreas Georgiou should be removed from his post, following a recommendation that he face criminal charges for artificially inflating Greece's 2009 deficit.

    New Democracy's Sofia Voultepsi, from the majority party in the coalition government, replied to criticism from other parties and denied any "cover-up" for ELSTAT's chief, saying that it was self-evident that the finance minister should remove him from office as he was the subject of a criminal and judicial inquiry.

    Main opposition SYRIZA MP Panagiotis Kouroublis said the charges against Georgiou - "a protege of the external and internal troika" - were proof that an issue that the coalition government had tried to conceal and which related to inflating the deficit had now taken its proper course.

    PASOK MP Evi Christofilopoulou, speaking for her party, also stressed that there would be no cover up from PASOK.

    Opposition Independent Greeks MP Terens Kouik said that the prosecutors' decision fully vindicated the positions of his party and again called for Georgiou's removal.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Christos Katsotis stressed the need for an in-depth investigation and hinted that Georgiou had probably not acted alone.

    The two financial prosecutors Spiros Mouzakitis and Grigoris Peponis on Tuesday asked a primary court prosecutor to press criminal charges against Georgiou and other other state officials, after concluding a preliminary investigation into the affair. The two prosecutors had investigated claims by former ELSTAT board member and econometrics professor Zoi Georganta, who said Georgiou had sanctioned the use of new and unorthodox statistical methods in order to present a higher revised estimate of the 2009 deficit and thus push Greece into accepting bailout loans from the EU and IMF.

    As a result, she said, the estimate of the Greek deficit was revised from 12 percent of GDP to 15.4 percent and used to justify more severe austerity measures.

    The prosecutors are asking that the massive file relating to the case be referred to a special magistrate in charge of public-sector corruption cases. They have also asked for a judicial investigation into the existence of moral instigators of ELSTAT's actions.

    The case file had been sent to Parliament about a year ago, to examine the possibility that either the former finance minister George Papaconstantinou or then prime minister George Papandreou might be held accountable. Parliament found nothing to justify action against politicians and returned the file to the appeals court so that the investigation of non-political figures might continue.

    [12] Investigating committee on Papaconstantinou start work

    Parliament's preliminary investigative committee checking into possible criminal liability of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou over the "Lagarde list" issue started work on Wednesday.

    The 13-member committee is headed by New Democracy (ND) deputy Christos Markogiannakis and today's agenda will focus on procedural issues such as its scheduling. Parties are expected to table their proposals on the list of witnesses to be called to testify. The list of the first individuals to testify is expected to be ready Thursday.

    Parliament voted on January 18 to set up the committee after several parties proposed investigating the former minister over charges of falsification of documents and breach of duty with simultaneous harm to the public interest.

    The "Lagarde list" of Greek owners of bank accounts in the HSBC bank was first given to Greek authorities by the French Finance Ministry in mid-2010 on a cd and forwarded to Papaconstantinou, then finance minister. The investigation proposal centres around a discrepancy in data between the original list and a newer one provided by French authorities recently, as found by investigating judges.

    [13] Investigating Committee on Papaconstantinou holds first session

    It has been a tense first session on Wednesday of the Parliamentary Investigation Committee looking into possible penal charges against former finance minister George Papaconstantinou for his involvement and handling of the so-called 'Lagarde list' affair.

    The first disagreement, reports said, broke out when Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy Zoi Konstantopoulou proposed that examination of witnesses be recorded on cameras so that their reactions to be recorded and their biological image to questions and answers.

    Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avghi) deputy Ilias Kasidiaris agreed with the proposal, which however drew a clear-cut disagreement by PASOK party representative Panayiotis Rigas, who said such "practices in the examination of witnesses are followed only by undemocratic regimes."

    Renewed tension erupted when Konstantopoulou raised the issue of impartiality of the Committee's chairman, Christos Markoyiannakis, invoking that in a recent interview he had said he will not allow the Investigating Committee to turn into an 'arena.'

    [14] PASOK leader meets health minister, comments on metro strikes

    PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, head of the second-largest party in the coalition government, on Wednesday had a meeting Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos, who visited him at PASOK's headquarters and briefed him on 'major open fronts' in healthcare.

    In statements made after the meeting, Venizelos stressed that the coalition government's message was crystal clear, its goals precise and its alignment complete.

    "The speed at which we must move - this is what we want from the government and we know that the minister will do all he can - must be the greatest possible," PASOK's leader added.

    Lykourentzos said there had been "productive cooperation" and thanked Venizelos for the "many, useful ideas with which he assists the government's efforts, especially in healthcare." He stressed that the government did not just need PASOK's political support but also its active assistance in planning government policy.

    Their talks covered the situation in the unified single state insurance fund for healthcare EOPYY, the problems in the pharmaceuticals market and the national health system.

    Venizelos noted that an ambitious system had been launched to address the problems in healthcare, providing all sides pitched in to help this work properly. He noted that the causes of problems had now been identified and that the required standard, while not yet attained, was possible to reach.

    The health minister, for his part, said the government's aim was to provide full health coverage in every corner of Greece, in spite of the country's currently difficult economic circumstances. He especially stressed the efforts of healthcare staff working under less-than-optimal conditions and with pay that reflected "the country's fiscal problems".

    Venizelos also commented on the ongoing Athens metro strike, stressing that the inconvenience for the public must end and stressed that those bringing workers into conflict with society "are not protecting their interests".

    [15] Venizelos meets Cyprus presidency candidate Lillikas

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos met with the candidate for Cyprus' presidency Giorgios Lillikas on Wednesday in Athens.

    The two officials' talks, at PASOK's headquarters, mostly focused on the economic situation in Cyprus and Greece.

    A party announcement said that bilateral relations, as seen from the angle of developments in the southeastern Mediterreanean, were discussed, with emphasis on the energy sector, Cyprus's recourse to the EU support mechanism and the Cyprus issue in general.

    After the meeting, Lillikas, an AKEL candidate, said that he had a very interesting discussion with Venizelos and called Greece's experience from the memorandum "very useful" for Cyprus' negotiations with lenders.

    Lillikas expressed his wish that "Greece and the Greek people will very soon overcome that huge difficulties they are facing and that the Greek economy will get on the development course. Cyprus needs a strong Greece and not a Greece that is economically dependent and weak".

    Regarding Cyprus' negotiations with the troika of lenders, Lillikas said that "we must safeguard the fundamentals, which include not ceding our national sovereignty and having the freedom to administer our state assets."

    Negotiations on Cyprus' financial support will begin after the elections on February 17.

    [16] New Democracy holds slim 0.2 pct lead over SYRIZA, poll shows

    If elections were held today, New Democracy would lead by a thin margin of 0.2 pct over Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), according to a new poll conducted by Marc company for Alpha radio station released on Wednesday, while a choice between the two parties' leaders would give a clear lead to ND's Antonis Samaras over SYRIZA's Alexis Tsipras.

    Results were as follows: 22.5 pct of those asked said they would vote for ND (compared to 21 pct in December 2012), 22.3 pct for SYRIZA (22.7 pct), Golden Dawn or Chrysi Avghi 9.7 pct (9.6 pct), PASOK 5.7 pct (5.6 pct), Independent Greeks 5.6 pct (5.4 pct), DIMAR 4.6 pct (4.5 pct) and the Communist Party of Greece or KKE 4.3 pct (4.7 pct). The "Other" category was chosen by 5.2 pct (5.7 pct), Invalid/Blank/Abstain by 10.9 pct (9.6 pct) and Don't know/Can't answer by 9.2 pct (10.7 pct).

    In terms of weighted influence on voters, without including the invalid/blank percentage and with unknown abstention rates, ND would get 28.2 pct of the vote, according to the sample, SYRIZA 27.9 pct, Golden Dawn 12.2 pct, PASOK 7.2 pct, Independent Greeks 7.0 pct, DIMAR 5.8 pct, KKE 5.3 pct and Other 6.4 pct.

    Asked "Whom do you prefer as prime minister?", Samaras was selected by 53.2 pct of those polled and Tsipras by 30.9 pct, while 15.9 pct declined to answer.

    [17] Greek ombudsman notes major delays at Greek consular office in London

    Major problems and delays caused by understaffing at the Greek embassy's consular office in London were noted by the Greek ombudsman on Wednesday.

    The ombudsman said that it had received numerous reports of significant delays in several transactions, including the issue of passports, issue of permanent residency certificates and other necessary documents. In many cases, members of the public were forced to act on their own initiative, either travelling to Greece for new passports or paying fines for omissions that were not their fault.

    The foreign ministry informed the ombudsman that it is aware of the problems and had already taken steps to send more staff, especially during the London Olympics.

    Financial News

    [18] Stournaras reports 'signs of hope' that Greece will make it

    There are finally signs of hope that Greece can turn the crisis around, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Wednesday as he briefed Parliament's Committee on Economic Affairs about the results of a Eurogroup meeting he attended earlier this week.

    "For the first time in the six months I've been attending the Eurogroup, Greece has not been a 'negative' protagonist. There is hope, optimism that Greece will make it," he stressed.

    In this context, Stournaras outlined the benefits from securing the latest tranche of 9.2 billion euro (7.2 billion euro in EFSF bonds and the rest for the recapitalisation of banks, payment of overdue debts and to cover the state's internal needs), while noting progress in market attitudes toward Greece and the reduction of spreads to levels seen in early 2010.

    Referring to the privatisation of the Thessaloniki water and sewage company, EYATH, which was the main reason for the committee's session, Stournaras noted that the "added value" of privatisations was not the revenue raised directly but through promoting a growth process.

    He also promised to ensure legality and transparency at all levels.

    [19] Finance ministry sets up committee to reform tax system

    The ministry of finance has set up a committee to focus on tax reform and tax-evasion, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The committee will be chaired by Deputy Finance Minister George Mavraganis, who is responsible for tax issues, and will consult with institutional and productive forces concerning proposed tax system reforms, ensuring its simplification, modernization and effectiveness for the benefit of the taxpayers.

    The committee proposals will be presented in April.

    [20] Greek public debt at 152.6 pct of GDP in Q3

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/V.Demiris)

    Greece's public debt rose to 152.6 pct of the country's GDP in the third quarter of 2012, from 149.2 pct in the second quarter, Eurostat said on Wednesday.

    In a report on the public debts of EU member-states, the EU executive's statistics arm said that Italy (127.3 pct), Portugal (120.3 pct) and Ireland (117 pct) followed Greece with the highest public debts, while Estonia (9.6 pct), Bulgaria (18.7 pct) and Luxembourg (20.9 pct) recorded the lowest public debt/GDP ratios.

    In the eurozone, the average public debt was 90 pct in the third quarter from 89.9 pct in the second quarter, while in the EU-27 the average debt was 85.1 pct from 80 pct over the same periods, respectively.

    Eurostat said that Cyprus (17.5 pct), Ireland (13.4 pct) and Spain (10.7 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increases in the third quarter, while Greece (11.1 pct), Hungary (4.8 pct) and Latvia (3.6 pct) recorded the highest reductions in the public debt.

    [21] Greek exports to continue growing in 2013

    Greek exports are expected to continue growing for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, rising by up to 10 pct, Alkiviadis Kalampokis, president and chief executive of the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki, Kalampokis said that Greek exports grew by 10 pct in 2012 to 24.5 billion euros, exceeding initial forecasts and breaking 2011's record of 20 billion euros.

    Kalampokis noted that the export/import rate fell to 1.8 in 2012, sharply down compared with previous years and stressed that if this trend was combined with a stronger shift towards Greek products, then the benefit for the country's trade balance would be huge. He said that the Foreign Trade Board planned more than 60 actions for this year, of which 52 were participations in international trade fairs and 13 business delegations, despite the fact that funding has been drastically cut.

    [22] Farmers gear up for new round of mobilisations after meeting agriculture minister

    After a meeting with Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris on Wednesday, Thessaly farmer trade unionists declared themselves dissatisfied and did not rule out another round of protest mobilisations, such as the tractor road blocks that had paralysed the country's national highways in previous winters.

    Farmers said they had not received clear replies to their demands. The minister, by contrast, said the meeting had been carried out in a "good climate" and that the ministry was working steadily to address farmers' problems, citing the early repayment of a special fuel consumption tax at the end of February or early March as an example.

    Trade unionists, on their part, said they could not rule out "any form of protest" and that they would now take up the issues with Thessaly farmers to decide on a course of action.

    The first protests by Thessaly's farmers began on Sunday, when they rolled out their tractors and staged protest rallies in village squares.

    They presented the minister with a series of demands, including the payment of compensation for 'green worm' damage to cotton farmers, that they should continue to receive tax-free diesel, a 30 percent reduction in power rates for farming, interest-free loans for poor farmers, a 40,000-euro tax free allowance for farming family incomes and guaranteed minimum prices for farm goods that covered the cost of production and generated sufficient income.

    Other demands called for the abolition of restrictions on livestock production and no new cuts to subsidies, as introduced by the 2014-2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) revision.

    [23] Tourist arrivals down 5.2 pct in Jan-Sept

    Tourist arrivals fell by 5.2 pct in the January-September period in 2012, reflecting lower arrivals from European Union states, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    In a report, the statistics service (ELSTAT) said that tourism arrivals from Europe (accounting for 90 pct of all arrivals in the country) fell by 5.2 pct in the nine-month period last year, while arrivals from the European Union fell by 8.3 pct.

    Arrivals from Poland, France, Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy and Holland recorded the biggest percentage declines, while arrivals grew significantly from the UK and Russia.

    Germany maintained its leading position in the list of incoming tourism in Greece with a 13.1 pct market share, followed by the UK (12.6 pct) and France (6.6 pct). Tourist arrivals fell significantly from the US, but rose from Asian countries.

    [24] Business Briefs

    -- Marfin Investment Group's chairman on Wednesday announced that the company will resort to the courts against the Cypriot state, seeking: "the restoration of the private status of Laiki Bank and correction of all illegalities and discrimination by which the state acquired control of Laiki Bank".

    -- HSBC Bank, a subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc, on Wednesday said it has reached an agreement to sell its 73 pct equity stake in HSBC Mutual Funds Asset Management to Ioannis Vezanis, current chief executive of HSBC Mutual Funds Asset Management, owner over the remaining 27 pct in the company.

    -- Greek peach exports intended for canning and juicing rose sharply last year over 2011, with premium quality Greek peaches making inroads even into the markets of competitive producers like China, according to the president of the Association of Canners of Greece (EKE) on Wednesday.

    [25] ASE surpasses 1,000-point barrier

    Greek stocks soared to new 17-month highs in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 1,000 level from the first time since August 5, 2011. Buying activity focused on bank shares. The composite index rose 2.02 pct to end at 1,019.41 points, with turnover rising to 80.039 million euros.

    The Big Cap index jumped 2.59 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 4.06 pct higher. The Health (13.61 pct), Financial Services (6.41 pct) and Banks (6.39 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Commerce (0.82 pct) was the only sector to end lower. Alpha Bank (8.53 pct), Piraeus Bank (8.19 pct) and MIG (7.36 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Port (2.48 pct) and Motor Oil (1.96 pct) ended lower.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 105 to 71 with another 21 issues unchanged. Olympic Catering (20 pct), AAA (20 pct) and Spider (19.70 pct) were top gainers, while Technical Publications (19.28 pct), Lanakam (18.82 pct) and Perseus (16.07 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +0.31%

    Commercial: -0.82%

    Construction: +2.81%

    Oil & Gas: +1.43%

    Personal & Household: +2.54%

    Raw Materials: +4.41%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.62%

    Technology: +3.14%

    Telecoms: +3.19

    Banks: +6.39%

    Food & Beverages: +0.34%

    Health: +13.61%

    Utilities: +0.92%

    Chemicals: +2.04%

    Financial Services: +6.41%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.40

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.90

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.90

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.83

    National Bank of Greece: 1.20

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.63

    OPAP: 7.07

    OTE: 6.48

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.32

    Titan: 14.79

    [26] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 9.03 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.92 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.58 pct and the German Bund 1.55 pct. Turnover totaled 6.0 million euros, all sell orders.

    Eurobank's analysts said this significant decline in the yield spread reflected a prevailing climate of confidence for the country. The yield spread was around 8.85 pct in early 2012 when a reform effort by the Greek government began creating a positive climate in international markets. The yield spread surpassed the 8.8 pct barrier in late August 2010 when markets began realizing that a Greek crisis was not a temporary phenomenon which could be easily resolved.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.58 pct, the six-month rate was 0.35 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.

    [27] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.83 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 18.693 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,345 contracts worth 7.467 million euros, with 35,618 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 65,187 contracts, worth 11.226 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (22,830), followed by National Bank (10,075), Piraeus Bank (11,528), Cyprus Bank (1,778), MIG (1,883), OTE (3,409), PPC (1,971), OPAP (3,313), Eurobank (1,323), Ellaktor (1,413), Intralot (2,113), Mytilineos (1,146), Hellenic Exchanges (700) and GEK (493).

    [28] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.353

    Pound sterling 0.853

    Danish kroner 7.574

    Swedish kroner 8.821

    Japanese yen 119.75

    Swiss franc 1.257

    Norwegian kroner 7.512

    Canadian dollar 1.342

    Australian dollar 1.282

    General News

    [29] Police sweep to locate illegal migrants in Patras area

    A police sweep is underway in Patras and the greater Achaia prefecture on Wednesday within the framework of 'Xenios Zeus' plan to round up illegal migrants.

    According to police sources, over 200 migrants have been already been rounded up for questioning while another 80 have been arrested and will be sent to the Corinth detention centre.

    Police officers are focusing their search mostly on abandoned buildings in Patras and streets around the port city where illegal migrants may be temporarily seeking refuge. The sweep will continue until late at night.

    [30] Arrest for illicit trade in antiquities

    A large number of ancient coins, medallions and other objects were found in the possession of a 58-year-old man leading to his arrest, police in the central city of Larissa announced on Wednesday.

    Acting on a tip-off, police searched the suspect's two houses, office and car where numerous artifacts were discovered and seized.

    Among the objects seized are, 203 silver coins from the ancient city of Rhodes dated between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC, 39 silver coins from the ancient city of Ephesus dating back to the 4th century BC, 47 bronze coins and one gold coin from the Byzantine Period, a bronze head depicting a satyr and two medallions.

    [31] Two arrested for trying to steal wallet from policewoman

    Two members of a large ring comprising in total 66 people, who carried out robberies and wallet thefts from unsuspecting people at electric railway stations and had been dismantled in November 2011, were arrested again on Saturday afternoon near the archaeological site of the Acropolis, also for wallet thefts from tourists at busy spots in downtown Athens.

    The two, both foreign nationals, tried to lift a wallet from a policewoman's shoulder bag, who was on a patrol in the framework of special police operation to crack down pickpockets in Ermou street, the electric railway stations of Monastiraki and Thisio, as well as in the area of the archaeological site of the Acropolis.

    The two were arrested by the policewoman, assisted by colleagues who rushed for help, and police said they were linked with another seven wallet thefts over the past two months from people in the same locations.

    [32] Afghan national gets life for strangling older woman on Crete

    A 23-year-old Afghan was sentenced to life by a Chania court for strangling an older woman in the Livadia, Mylopotamos area on the island of Crete in November 2011 while trying to rob her. He was also sentenced to 15 years for robbery.

    An international arrest warrant has been issued for his accomplice, a 23 year-old Afghan, who fled the island.

    Aikaterini Kokkinou, 76, was found in bed covered by a blanket to appear sleeping, two days before the arrest. The detainee said the two men had initially hit the woman on the head with a piece of wood but her autopsy revealed death by strangulation.

    [33] Court of Audit judges to continue strike until Jan. 30

    Judges in Greece's Court of Audit will continue strike action until January 30, at which time they will hold another general meeting to decide whether to continue striking.

    Court of Audit justices were due to vote on whether to continue the strike on Wednesday but the meeting was not quorate and therefore no vote was taken.

    [34] Police break up marriage scam over Greek citizenship

    Eleven people were arrested in Thesaloniki as of late Tuesday over running a marriage scam to provide Georgian nationals with Greek nationality papers, police said in a press conference.

    Approximately 70 marriages were conducted between Greek and Georgian nationals.

    According to Thessaloniki police chief Athinagoras Pazarlis, marriages cost 4,500 euros if conducted on Greek soil and 7,000 euros if in Georgia. Greek nationals were paid up to 1,000 euros for getting married in Greece and 2,000 euros if they had to travel to Georgia. Most ceremonies were carried out in the northern cities of Thessaloniki and Kavala, while those who ran the ring often picked Greeks with financial problems, most often drug addicts, who would most often be paid up to 500 euros for marrying Georgian nationals.

    Soccer

    [35] Football player Torossidis moves to Roma FC

    Olympiacos FC announced on Wednesday that defender Vassilis Torossidis, who was playing for the team the last six years, will move to Roma.

    Torossidis, also a member of the Greek national team, is in Italy and has already agreed with the 'giallorossi' on the terms of his contract.

    Roma's official announcement is expected to be released within the day.

    Weather forecast

    [36] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 1C and 18C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures between 9C and 16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 5C and 14C.

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

    AVGHI: "Maximos mansion (government headquarters) a mill of fabrications - Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias provocations"

    DIMOKRATIA: "Treason! The inflation of the 2009 state budget deficit a felony"

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Confession of mistake"

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "1.2 bln euros injection to SMES"

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The felony of the Memorandum -Greece's independent statistical authority (ELSTAT) Andreas Georgiou prosecuted for the alleged doctorings"

    ESTIA: "Stable government, strong economy"

    ETHNOS: "New law for illegal buildings"

    IMERISSIA: "Athens Stock Exchange's awakening"

    KATHIMERINI: "Maximos Mansion, main opposition SYRIZA head on collision"

    LOGOS: "Georgiou prosecuted for deficit's 'doctoring'"

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "1.2 bln euros financing to SMES"

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people must put a halt to the targeting of the classes' struggles"

    TA NEA: "America, America! Tsipras praises US president Barack Obama"

    6 DAYS: "The great provocation"

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