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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-01-25

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

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

Friday, 25 January 2013 Issue No: 4279

CONTENTS

  • [01] No compromise with public transport strikers, PM Samaras says
  • [02] General public transport strike in Athens as metro dispute escalates
  • [03] PASOK, DIMAR reaction on government's decision about Metro strike
  • [04] SYRIZA MPs, GSEE weigh in with support for striking metro workers
  • [05] Independent Greeks party on metro 'back to work' order
  • [06] KKE calls society to express solidarity to strikers
  • [07] Transport employees demand new agreement before backing down
  • [08] SYRIZA leader meets IMF officials
  • [09] IMF official on Tsipras-Lipton meeting in Washington
  • [10] PM postpones meeting with judges' unions
  • [11] PASOK leader: Next six months crucial for turning country around
  • [12] FM spokesman on Greek-Turkish relations, EEZ and racist attacks
  • [13] PACE urges Europe to help Greece, Turkey in handling migrant flows
  • [14] TAP gas pipeline deliberations continuing, FM spokesman
  • [15] Opinion poll gives SYRIZA small lead over ND
  • [16] Liberalising the gambling market not compulsory, the CJEU rules in OPAP case
  • [17] Former PM in Istanbul for Global Relations Forum meeting
  • [18] No exclusions in single salary scale, Stournaras says
  • [19] Taxpayers' overdue debt to state nearly 13.2 bln euros in 2012
  • [20] Australian Greeks voice concern over double taxation
  • [21] S&B Industrial Mineral trading temporarily suspended
  • [22] Ships, civil services call for strike action Jan. 31
  • [23] Farmers in central Greece considering mobilizations
  • [24] Ministry exceeded targets for payment of lump sums, labour minister reports
  • [25] ICAP survey shows slump in value of car rental market
  • [26] Stocks plunge on OPAP ruling news
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [30] Four killed in head-on collision on Larissa-Volos old national road
  • [31] Man's body found in drainage ditch
  • [32] Rainy on Friday
  • [33] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] No compromise with public transport strikers, PM Samaras says

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday sent a clear message that the government will not be led to a compromise or yield under the pressure of industrial action by public transport workers.

    Shortly after Development and Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis issued a back-to-work order for striking public transport employees, the prime minister noted that "the Greek people have made sacrifices. Huge sacrifices. I cannot allow any exceptions. The mass transport means are not the property of sector trade unionists. They belong to the people who have the right to use them and not be faced with inconvenience all day long. Let this be clear to everybody: past mistakes will not be repeated!"

    [02] General public transport strike in Athens as metro dispute escalates

    Athens commuters look set to face nightmarish conditions in the streets of the capital on Friday, after public transport unions announced industrial action in support of striking Athens metro workers and in retaliation against a government decision to invoke emergency powers to force them back to work.

    The city was left without any buses, trolleys, trams, metro or electric railway on Thursday and the same state of affairs, with the addition of the Proastiakos suburban railway, was set to continue on Friday following a decision for a 24-hour strike for all public transport workers taken by the Athens and Piraeus Labour Centres.

    Employee unions belonging to the Athens Labour Centre were also called to stage a work stoppage throughout Attica from noon until 4:00 p.m.

    Trade unionists demanded that the government revoke its 'back-to-work' order and enter into talks for a new collective labour agreement with Athens urban transport staff.

    In addition, with an announcement late on Thursday evening, all public transport unions threatened with rolling 24-hour strikes from Saturday until next Tuesday unless the government revokes its order forcing metro workers to return to work.

    In addition to Athens public transport companies, the new round of strike action will also include Greek railway (OSE) and Proastiakos staff and affect train throughout the country.

    Workers accuse the government of choosing an "autocratic path" and warned that industrial action will escalate as long as the measures continue to be in force. Metro workers locked into Sepolia depot said they had sought legal advice concerning their position.

    The planned strikes, including those by Greek railway workers, also have the backing of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest umbrella trade union organisation for private-sector workers, based on a decision taken by its executive committee on Thursday.

    GSEE has also decided to bring forward a 24-hour general strike recently decided by its General Council and calls the decision to order metro workers to return to work an "anti-democratic slip", urging the government to abandon strong-arm tactics and begin talks with worker unions.

    The government showed no inclination to back down, however, and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday made it clear that the government will not compromise or yield under the pressure of industrial action.

    Earlier in the day, Development and Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis announced that the government would invoke emergency powers to force the strikers to go back to work and that there could be no exceptions to the imposition of a uniform public-sector wage scale for all employees in the broader public sector.

    The first-instace court chief prosecutor Panagiota Fakou on Thursday ordered the police to proceed with immediate on-sight arrest of striking Athens metro employees for failing to comply with court rulings judging their strike illegal.

    The government's hardline stance prompted immediate retaliation from worker unions, however, and was criticised by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

    Metro strikers defied the back to work order and took over the train depot at Sepolia station, locking themselves in for a general meeting. Other public transport unions decided to extend work stoppages originally scheduled to end on Thursday afternoon until the end of their shift and escalate industrial action in the coming days.

    [03] PASOK, DIMAR reaction on government's decision about Metro strike

    PASOK sources said on Thursday that the government's decision to order striking Metro employees to return to work as the "mildest possible decision" because, they said, there are unions in the Metro that are leaning towards holding a dialogue and want to work.

    On its part, the Democratic Left (DIMAR) disagreed with government's decision and called it "an extreme management of the crisis." In its announcement, DIMAR noted that "at a time when society is under intense pressure, what is needed is the exhaustion of all possibility for an agreement ... intransigence from any side does not help towards a solution".

    PASOK and DIMAR are the two junior parties that participate in the coalition government.

    [04] SYRIZA MPs, GSEE weigh in with support for striking metro workers

    Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) MPs and trade unionists started to arrive at the metro station in Sepolia on Thursday afternoon, in support of striking metro workers who were locked in for a meeting to discuss the government's decision to force them back to work using emergency powers.

    Workers had gathered in the courtyard behind a locked gate at the Sepolia train depot, with two stranded cranes and an ambulance placed there as a precaution.

    SYRIZA MP Panagiotis Lafazanis stressed that "invoking martial law does not resolve labour issues" as he arrived at the depot.

    "We are here to express our frank condemnation of a government that has imposed martial law on public transport workers," he added, saying that SYRIZA would support dialogue for a resolution of the problems.

    His statements were echoed by SYRIZA MP Dimitris Stratoulis, who also visited the Sepolia meeting, who spoke of a "new coup against the Constitution".

    The government's decision also prompted the reaction of trade unionists, with an emergency meeting called at the headquarters of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, to decide how unions will escalate action against the measure.

    Sources with GSEE said that there were two options being discussed: the declaration of a strike in transport in spite of the government order, with the backing and support of GSEE if this was possible under the law, and the declaration of a general strike in public and private sectors in collaboration with the civil servants' union ADEDY.

    Support for the striking public transport workers was also expressed by the Federation of Private Employees, which said that the government decision was an attempt to criminalise trade union action.

    The government announcement also prompted retaliation from the other public transport unions, including buses, trams and the electric railway (ISAP) which decided to extend Thursday's work stoppages to the end of all shifts and left Athens without any public transport.

    Buses and the urban railway (Proastiakos) unions also decided to hold a 24-hour strike on Friday and did not rule out continuing strike action in the next few days.

    [05] Independent Greeks party on metro 'back to work' order

    An Independent Greeks party official, commenting on Thursday on the issue of an emergency order forcing metro staff back to work, said that "the Independent Greeks warn the coalition government of Mr. Samaras not to fuel the flames but instead enter into a substantive dialogue with the employees at the Metro, so that public transport services can pull out".

    The official claimed that the issue of the 'back to work' order is linked with developments at ELSTAT (the Greek statistics authority), adding that the rulers "will do all they can, even attacking employees, so that the issue of Mr. Georgiou and the distortion of data on the country's fiscal deficit, which led to Greece's subjection to the IMF and our country's economic ruin, will stop being the top story".

    [06] KKE calls society to express solidarity to strikers

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), responding on tge government's decision to order striking metro employees to return to work, said on Thursday "that it is a act of raw authoritarianism against the workers' fundamental rights."

    Moreover, KKE called on the people to "condemn the government and to express their solidarity towards the just struggle of Metro and other transport employees, who must remain standing and not yield, so that authoritarianism and government's intransigence fail."

    [07] Transport employees demand new agreement before backing down

    Metro employees want their current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to run its full course and talks to begin immediately on a new agreement before they put their continuing strike "temporarily on hold," they said Thursday.

    In a joint announcement, unions of workers at the Metro, the electric train (ISAP) and the tram said the current CBA runs out in April, and the Ministry of Transport has to begin talks with employees before that time. "We understand the passengers' difficulty of transport, and are willing to put a temporary hold on our action if the government commits to the above," they said.

    Speaking to Mega channel earlier in the day, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said a person who exempts himself from the sacrifices all of Greek society is being called upon to shoulder "places himself in his very own category and will be judged by the rest. Nobody is better than anyone else, nobody is above the law," he added.

    Metro employees are on their eighth day of strike, with the electric railway and tram holding work stoppages from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and buses stopping from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Announcements about Friday actions are still pending.

    [08] SYRIZA leader meets IMF officials

    WASHINGTON (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)

    The International Monetary Fund understands that the Greek program "will not succeed without a major haircut [of Greece's debt]," main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said here on Thursday following a meeting with IMF Deputy Director, David Lipton, in the presence of Paul Thomsen, responsible for the Greek programme, and other IMF officials.

    Tsipras stressed that "cutting salaries in the private sector - in particular the 13th and 14th salaries - was never an IMF choice."

    He added that SYRIZA had the opportunity to outline to the IMF leadership its objections at the inelegant and unfair way that the Fund involved in Greek domestic politics in its last report. "The Greek programme is not at risk by democracy. Democracy can provide a way out," Tsipras said.

    SYRIZA sources said Tsipras outlined that any structural changes in Greece have to be socially fair in order to be effected; he called for a crackdown on tax evasion, bureaucracy and the higher taxes on the rich.

    [09] IMF official on Tsipras-Lipton meeting in Washington

    NEW YORK (AMNA - P. Panagiotou)

    After the end of visit on Thursday by the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras to the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington, an IMF representative said "Mr. David Lipton, the first deputy managing director of the IMF and Mr. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the political party in Greece SYRIZA, met today at the IMF headquarters in Washington."

    "They had a constructive and sincere discussion on the economic challenges that Greece is facing," the official said.

    [10] PM postpones meeting with judges' unions

    A planned meeting on Thursday between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and representatives of all judges' unions was postponed by the prime minister's office and rescheduled for next week, according to an announcement issued by judges' unions.

    The meeting had been requested by the unions to discuss issues concerning justice, including financial issues.

    [11] PASOK leader: Next six months crucial for turning country around

    Greece will succeed in turning the crisis around "in spite of the miscellaneous forces of deadlock and destruction," PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said on Thursday at a meeting held at the PASOK party headquarters.

    PASOK's leader said that there were many difficulties to face in the first six months of the year, during which time the country's ability to turn its fate around would be decided. At the same time, he stressed his confidence that the target could be achieved and that the worst was now over.

    "It would be a shame to have a historic failure in the final phase and we will not have one, because alongside with the great problems there will start to appear the fruits of this effort," he said.

    Referring to the ongoing 'Lagarde list' affair, he described this as an "insistent, hysterical political scheme under the guidance of [main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA] that was demolished before reaching Parliament" and said it was an attack on PASOK and himself.

    On the issue of terror and political violence, meanwhile, Venizelos suggested that "there are many who are flirting with a potential civil war, one not real but symbolic, which divides and has been rejected by the Greek people".

    He also referred to the ongoing metro strike, which he said was "socially unacceptable" and served to further increase tension and the difficulties faced by an already much-abused society, presenting an "unacceptable and inconceivable provocation". Venizelos said the strike was based on an viewpoint "completely unrelated to that of the time" and to PASOK's views concerning social responsibility.

    [12] FM spokesman on Greek-Turkish relations, EEZ and racist attacks

    The High Greece-Turkey Cooperation Council "is a very useful tool towards strengthening cooperation between the two countries in sectors of common interest, in which both countries can mutually profit," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday adding, that the two countries are talking through diplomats in order to find the appropriate time to convene in the future.

    Referring to reports regarding Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), Delavekouras noted during his weekly briefing that "the government is focusing on the planning and the strategy," and there is nothing new to announce.

    Asked about the recent attacks against migrants recently on the upsurge in Greece, the Foreign Ministry official said that "they are absolutely condemnable and alien to Greek society and the values it represents," and that Greece's EU partners knew that. The government is taking all necessary measures to implement the law and pointed out, he added.

    [13] PACE urges Europe to help Greece, Turkey in handling migrant flows

    The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Thursday adopted a resolution urging European governments to increase their assistance to Greece and Turkey, helping them handle the rising flow of illegal migrants and asylum seekers from Syria and North Africa.

    PACE approved a report by a Dutch MP that also urged Europe to deal with issues of illegal migration, refugees and asylum seekers as a European problem. The same report noted that Greece and Turkey had already received 150,000 illegal migrants from Syria.

    The same report urged Greek authorities to fight racism and xenophobia targeting migrants in the country.

    [14] TAP gas pipeline deliberations continuing, FM spokesman

    Deliberations among Greece, Italy and Albania regarding the signing of a trilateral agreement on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) for gas are continuing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said on Thursday in replying to a press query.

    Delavekouras said that TAP "comprises a major strategic plan for Greece as well as the EU's security in energy." The TAP consortium is based in Switzerland and includes Norway's Statoil, Switzerland's Axpo and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas.

    [15] Opinion poll gives SYRIZA small lead over ND

    Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) had a small lead of 1.5 pct over New Democracy (ND) in voter preference, according to a nationwide opinion poll published in Athens daily "Pontiki" on Thursday.

    The opinion poll conducted by Pulse polling company on Jan. 21-22 showed that 21.5 pct would have voted for SYRIZA if elections were held today (23.5 pct in November 2012) and 20 pct would vote for ND (19 pct in November). The ultra-right Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) got 12 pct, maintaining its showing compared with a November poll, followed by PASOK with 6.5 pct (6 pct in Nov.), Independent Greeks 5.0 pct (from 6.5 pct), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 5.0 pct (from 5.0 pct in Nov.) and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) 4.0 pct (3.5 pct in Nov.).

    In favour of other party are 5.5 pct (from 5.5 pct) of the respondents, blank vote/abstention gets 11.5 pct (from 10.5 pct), and those who were undecided or refused to respond reached 9.0 pct (from 8.5 pct).

    Counting only the valid ballots (no blank/spoiled votes are counted, undetermined abstention rate) SYRIZA will get 24 pct, ND 22.5 pct, Chryssi Avgi 13.5 pct, PASOK 7.5 pct, Independent Greeks and KKE 5.5 pct, DIM.AR 4.5 pct and Other Parties 6.5 pct. Undecided are 10.5 pct of the respondents.

    Regarding the leader most suited to be prime minister, Antonis Samaras was chosen by 29 pct (26 pct in November) and Alexis Tsipras by 22 pct (23.5 pct in November). However, 46 pct of the respondents (from 47 pct) rejected both of them and 3 pct chose not to answer the question.

    The most crucial issue for political developments in 2013 is "definitely" the economic measures that will be implemented by the government according to 49 pct of the respondents, while another 25 pct said that the economic measures would "probably" be the decisive issue. The so-called "Lagarde list" issue would "definitely" play a decisive role according to 6 pct of the respondents, while 9 pct said that this would "probably" be the case. A total of 11 pct responded "Don't Know/Won't answer".

    [16] Liberalising the gambling market not compulsory, the CJEU rules in OPAP case

    The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Thursday on the exclusive rights given to the state-run lottery and betting pools agency OPAP to organise and operate games of chance in Greece.

    According to the court ruling, EU law precludes OPAP from having an exclusive right to organise and operate games of chance in the country, adding that "if, however, the State finds that the liberalisation of that market is incompatible with the level of consumer protection and the preservation of order in society which it intends to uphold, it may undertake reforms of the monopoly inter alia by making it subject to effective and strict controls".

    A statement issued by OPAP underlined that, in response to a misinformation campaign already launched as regards the rationale and the implementation of the court ruling, it is stressed that the ruling vindicates the Greek state policy as regards its main axes, adding that the Greek law's compatibility with the European law will be judged in the Greek courts of justice.

    In any case, the court ruling allows the Greek state to continue its restrictive policy, among the toughest in Europe, to ensure social cohesion and prevent the country from becoming a European gambling paradise, as envisioned by some, OPAP stressed.

    According to a European Court of Justice statement "in its judgment today, the Court notes firstly, that national legislation which grants a monopoly to OPAP and prohibits providers established in another Member State from offering the same games of chance on Greek territory constitutes a restriction on the freedom to provide services or on the freedom of establishment. It then examines whether such a restriction may be allowed as a derogation on grounds of public policy, public security or public health or justified by overriding reasons in the public interest.

    Next, the Court observes that the legislation on games of chance is one of the areas in which there are significant moral, religious and cultural differences between the Member States and that, in the absence of Community harmonisation in the field, it is for each Member State to determine in those areas, in accordance with its own scale of values, what is required in order to ensure that the interests in question are protected. Thus, as already recognised by its case-law, restricting the supply of games of chance and combating criminality linked to those games may justify restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

    The Court emphasises, however, that restrictive measures imposed by Member States must satisfy the conditions of proportionality and non-discrimination, whilst actually ensuring attainment of the objectives pursued in a consistent and systematic manner.

    It is thus for the national court to ensure that the national legislation genuinely meets the concern to reduce opportunities for gambling and to combat the criminality to which it gives rise.

    The Court nevertheless suggests that the national court take account, in relation to the first objective, of the various features of the legislative framework governing OPAP and the manner in which it operates in practice, such as the fact that OPAP enjoys certain rights and privileges for advertising, or the fact that the maximum bet is fixed per form (and not per player). As regards the second objective, the national court will have to verify the effectiveness of the State controls, bearing in mind that a measure as restrictive as a monopoly must be subject to strict control, whilst the Greek State's supervision of OPAP, a listed public limited company, would appear to be merely superficial.

    The Court then answers that EU law precludes national legislation which grants the exclusive right for games of chance to a single entity, without genuinely reducing opportunities for gambling where it does not either limit activities in that domain in a consistent and systematic manner or ensure strict control of the expansion of the sector of games of chance solely in so far as is necessary to combat criminality.

    The Court further states that, by reason of the primacy of directly-applicable EU law, national legislation which comprises restrictions that are incompatible with the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services cannot continue to apply during a transitional period. Consequently, during that period, national authorities may not refrain from considering applications.

    In that situation of incompatibility, the Greek State has two possible courses of action.

    If it finds that the liberalisation of the market for games of chance is incompatible with the level of consumer protection and the preservation of order in society which it intends to uphold, the State may instead undertake reforms of the monopoly and make it subject to effective and strict controls by the public authorities.

    If, on the other hand, the State opts to liberalise the market - which it is not necessarily obliged to do under EU law - it must observe the principles of equal treatment and of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality, as well as the obligation of transparency. The introduction of an administrative permit scheme, for instance, must be based on objective, non-discriminatory criteria, so that the national authorities' discretion is not used arbitrarily."

    The European Court of Justice statement also noted that "in Greece, the organisation and operation of games of chance and betting forms are entrusted for a 20-year period, until 2020, to the public limited company OPAP (Organismos prognostikon agonon podosfairou AE - organisation for football betting), listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. The Greek State approves the regulations governing OPAP's activities and monitors the procedure applied in order to organise the games, whilst currently being a minority shareholder (34 pct). OPAP fixes the maximum amount of the bet and winnings per form (and not by player) and may use up to 10 pct of the advertising space in stadia and gymnasia free of charge. It has also expanded its activities abroad, in particular in Cyprus.

    The companies Stanleybet, William Hill and Sportingbet have their registered office in the United Kingdom, where they hold licences to organise games of chance under English law.

    They brought an action before the Symvoulio tis Epikrateias (Council of State, Greece) against the Greek authorities' tacit rejection of their applications to be granted permission to provide sport betting services in Greece.

    The Greek court then made a reference to the Court of Justice, asking whether EU law, particularly the principles of the fundamental freedoms (freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services), preclude national legislation which grants the exclusive right to operate games of chance to a single entity. It observes that, whilst the objective of the national legislation is to restrict the supply of games of chance and to support the effort to combat criminality linked to games of chance, OPAP pursues a commercial policy of expansion."

    [17] Former PM in Istanbul for Global Relations Forum meeting

    Former prime minister George Papandreou is in Istanbul Thursday by invitation of the Global Relations Forum, an institute on global governance and cooperation, to address its annual meeting on Friday. He will be visiting offices of the Greek community, including the Zografeio school on Thursday afternoon.

    Financial News

    [18] No exclusions in single salary scale, Stournaras says

    The new single salary scale will apply for the entire public sector with no exemption, as it will help eliminate the existing disparities, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras made clear after a working meeting on Thursday evening with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

    He added his discussion with Samaras focused on economic policy, and that he briefed the premier on developments regarding the Eurogroup and the prerequisites on receiving the next bailout loan tranches.

    [19] Taxpayers' overdue debt to state nearly 13.2 bln euros in 2012

    Taxpayers' new net overdue debt to the Greek state rose significantly in 2012, totaling 13.178 billion euros. This was added to an existing overdue debt of 43.21 bln euros from past years, according to the Finance Ministry's official data released on Thursday.

    New overdue debt surpassed 1.0 bln euros in December, reflecting taxpayers' inability to meet their tax obligations.

    According to the ministry, of the 13.178 bln euros, the state collected 1.4 bln euros. Tax payers' overdue debts to state until the end of 2011 totaled 43.421 bln euros; the state collected 1.099 bln euros of this, while another 371 million euros worth of debts were cancelled.

    [20] Australian Greeks voice concern over double taxation

    MELBOURNE (AMNA/S. Hatzimanolis)

    Greeks of Australia appealed to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras to review taxation rules that would tax them a second time on property and investments in Greece. In a letter signed by Melbourne and Victoria communities president Vassilis Papastergiadis, Australian Greeks said that tax requirements and processes were extremely bureacratic and demanded of them documents that are not issued by other countries. They said they were particularly disappointed by plans to abolish their exemption from transfer tax, especially for property bought in Greece with foreign currency that has already been taxed abroad.

    [21] S&B Industrial Mineral trading temporarily suspended

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday temporarily suspended trading on shares of S&B Industrial Minerals SA, to protect investors and safeguard the normal operation of the market.

    ASE's decision follows a company announcement that it is examining a public proposal for a share buyback at an offering price of 5.80 euros per share.

    [22] Ships, civil services call for strike action Jan. 31

    The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) called a 48-hour warning strike for all types of ships, starting at 6:00 a.m. on January 31, to protest the new draft law of Merchant Marine Ministry that includes changes in labour regulations.

    According to the draft law, staff on passenger and ferries for 30-mile routes between ports will be reduced over the season of November 1 to March 31, while shipowners can also switch to smaller boats or add extra runs to a route. The bill has been presented to government coalition partners PASOK and DIMAR for review, before being tabled in Parliament.

    Meanwhile, ADEDY, the umbrella union for state employees, has called a work stoppage from 12 noon to the end of the morning shift for January 31, to protest changes in the health sector that include hospital mergers, gradual layoffs and austerity-related decisions.

    [23] Farmers in central Greece considering mobilizations

    Farmer federations in the centre in Larissa, Karditsa and Trikala in central Greece will hold a joint meeting on Friday morning in the town of Vassili in Farsala to consider the sector's mobilizations, the Larissa Farmers' Federation announced on Thursday.

    Also, Larissa farmers will meet in Galini on Friday afternoon to focus on the preparation of their future moves.

    The farmers of Thessaly, who participated in the mobilizations in Palama, near Karditsa, will meet on Jan. 26 to decide on further action.

    [24] Ministry exceeded targets for payment of lump sums, labour minister reports

    The ministry has exceeded targets for the payment of overdue lump sums owed to pensioners and for absorbing the relevant funds, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said on Thursday.

    Speaking at the cutting of the traditional New Year pita at the Civil Servants' Welfare Fund, the minister said that lump sums were paid to 2,456 pensioners in the previous month - more than the set target of 2,200 - and 100 million euros had been absorbed. He promised to continue payment of lump sums at the same rapid pace and said that he had already signed for the disbursement of another 80 million euros for this purpose.

    [25] ICAP survey shows slump in value of car rental market

    There has been a sharp reduction in the size (in terms of value) of Greece's car rental market, according to the findings of an ICAP Group survey unveiled on Thursday. The survey showed that the rate of increase of the car rental market had slowed down significantly after 2008 and actually shrunk by 14 percent in 2011 over 2010.

    The study includes short-term car rental and tourist rental (28 percent of the market) and long-term leases (72 percent of the market). The former showed an increase in 2011, whereas the latter was reduced due to the economic crisis. In 2012, there was a slight reduction in the short-term rental market while the drop in the long-term lease market continued.

    According to the study, there was a 10.6 percent reduction in total sales in 2011, relative to 2010, and a 11.4 percent reduction in gross profits, leading to a drastic 90.5 pct reduction in final net profits in 2011.

    [26] Stocks plunge on OPAP ruling news

    Greek stocks once again plunged below 1000 points in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. News of a European Court of Justice ruling about the monopoly held by the state betting agency OPAP helped reverse gains from a six-day rally that had pushed the market to a new 17-month high the previous day. The composite index dropped sharply by 3.14 pct to end at 987.45 points, with turnover rising to 135.981 million euros.

    The Big Cap index dropped 3.74 pct and the Mid Cap index dived 5.14 pct lower. The only sector to score gains during the day was Commerce (1.16), while Travel (-10.06 pct), Financial Services (-7.20 pct) and Raw Materials (-6.94 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage losses. Folli Follie (1.21 pct) and Viohalko (0.41 pct) were the only gainers among blue chip stocks, while OPAP (-11.46 pct), MIG (-7.41 pct) and Ellaktor (-7.02 pct) recorded the biggest losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 105 to 71 with another 21 issues unchanged. Perseus (19.15 pct), Douros (18.88 pct) and Maillis (17.07 pct) were top gainers, while Alpha Grisin (-19.85 pct), Yalco (-19.54 pct) and 3A (-19.38 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -0.47%

    Commercial: +1.16%

    Construction: -5.89%

    Oil & Gas: -2.02%

    Personal & Household: -3.13%

    Raw Materials: -6.94%

    Travel & Leisure: -10.06%

    Technology: -7.12%

    Telecoms: -4.32

    Banks: -2.81%

    Food & Beverages: -0.09%

    Health: -5.21%

    Utilities: -4.93%

    Financial Services: -7.20%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.30

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.46

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.90

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.59

    National Bank of Greece: 1.20

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.63

    OPAP: 6.26

    OTE: 6.20

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.30

    Titan: 14.02

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 9.10 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 9.03 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.67 pct and the German Bund 1.57 pct. Turnover totaled 6.0 million euros, all sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.58 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.47 pct, the six-month rate was 0.35 pct, the three-month rate was 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.68 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 40.758 million euros. Volume on the FTSE Large Cap index totaled 6,905 contracts worth 11.796 million euros, with 34,802 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 98,543 contracts, worth 28.962 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (25,711), followed by OPAP (19,261), National Bank (15,021), Piraeus Bank (12,752), OTE (6,749), PPC (4,321), Intralot (2,551), Ellaktor (2,073), Cyprus Bank (1,969), MIG (1,859), Hellenic Exchanges (1,188), Eurobank (800), Mytilineos (869), and GEK (754).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.354

    Pound sterling 0.856

    Danish kroner 7.573

    Swedish kroner 8.818

    Japanese yen 121.53

    Swiss franc 1.260

    Norwegian kroner 7.524

    Canadian dollar 1.357

    Australian dollar 1.292

    General News

    [30] Four killed in head-on collision on Larissa-Volos old national road

    Four people were killed in a violent head-on collision between two cars on the Larissa-Volos old national road on Thursday afternoon.

    The accident occurred shortly after 1:00 p.m. at the junction of Halki and Platykampos in heavy rain, resulting in the deaths of two women and a man riding in one car and the male driver of the other vehicle.

    An inquiry into the accident is being carried out by the Larissa traffic police.

    [31] Man's body found in drainage ditch

    An unidentified man's body was found in a drainage ditch next to Larissa-Athens national road on Thursday by a farmer who called the police.

    According to initial information, the body had lain in water for months, and coroner said the possibility of death by foul play is slight.

    Weather forecast

    [32] Rainy on Friday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 0C and 17C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 5-8 beaufort winds and temperatures between 7C and 14C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 5C and 8C.

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

    AVGHI: "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras covering the scam".

    DIMOKRATIA: "(PASOK leader, Evangelos) Venizelos behind everything".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Metro war".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Immediate action for 20,000 unemployed professionals".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Government sends police to metro"

    ESTIA: "Delirium of political hypocricy"

    ETHNOS: "Government to metro employees : Next stop, layoffs"

    IMERISSIA: "Climate changing"

    KATHIMERINI: "Ultimatum to strikers"

    LOGOS: "Costliness 'chews' incomes"

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Explosion of tax evasion and overdue debts"

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Rallies on Thursday against the so-called measures for youths' unemployment"

    TA NEA: "Without brakes!-Towards head-on collision between government and strikers"

    VRADYNI: "Rent and mortage loans interest subsidy"

    6 DAYS: "Vengeance instead of solution"

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