|Sunday, 22 October 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-02-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 26 February 2013 Issue No: 4296
 Economic conditions improving, Bank of Greece saysEconomic conditions in the Greece are improving, George Provopoulos, the Bank of Greece's governor said in its annual report to the bank's general shareholders' meeting on Monday.
In the report, the central banker said it was obvious that a lot has changed for the better over the last few months and stressed that the most important change was that the possibility of a bankruptcy and an exit from the euro has diminished. Provopoulos underlined that as long as this view would prevail the better the climate would be for Greece.
He noted, however, the need to continue implementation of an adjustment programme without deviation and delays. Adhering to targets and surpassing them if possible will clear any uncertainties remaining and will enhance positive prospects with very favourable results for social cohesion and economic development in the country, he added.
"We have crossed the biggest part of a long, hard and painful road with a high price for citizens and enterprises. The part that's remaining, although shorter, will be equally difficult as more efforts are needed. Now that the end is near, we have to intensify efforts to ensure that citizens' sacrifices won't be wasted," Provopoulos said.
The Bank of Greece forecasts a 4.5 pct drop in the country's Gross Domestic Product this year and higher unemployment. The central banker noted there was no room for complacency. The country's GDP would fall by 24.6 pct in the period 2008-2013, while unemployment reached an historic high of 24.5 pct in 2012 with a further increase expected this year. These developments are making difficult to implement a fiscal adjustment programme. The central banker said that deeper-than-expected recession demanded a speedier implementation of structural reforms. The Bank of Greece expects the Greek economy to begin recovering in 2014, but sets as preconditions to a sustainable economic growth the continuation of implementing a programme, adopting a new export-orientated development model and a more efficient use of community funds.
The central bank also emphasized on creating preconditions to reducing tax burdens on taxpayers, through expanding a tax base and combating tax evasion, actions which will boost a sense of tax justice and which will partly counterbalance the negative effects of lower spending.
Commenting on developments in the domestic banking system, Provopoulos said its restructuring was a key to restoring smooth liquidity conditions in the market. In this framework, the three systemic banks (National Bank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank) were at the process of a recapitalization plan and noted that smaller banks would have to recapitalize themselves through private capital.
 Apartment prices to continue falling, BoG reportA continuing increase in the tax burden of real estate property in the last few years, a high transactions cost and a persisting instability of the tax framework are the most significant hurdles in the recovery of the Greek real estate market, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.
In a report, the central bank stressed that an adverse economic environment, a reduced households' available income and worries over the prospects of incomes and employment, combined with stricter terms for bank lending, all contributed in the deepening of a recession in the market, the report added.
House prices fell, at a more rapid rate in 2012 the central bank said in its report. Apartment prices fell by 11.7 pct in 2012, after a 5.5 pct decline in 2011, a 4.7 pct fall in 2010 and a 3.7 pct drop in 2009. Apartment prices have fallen by 27.9 pct (in nominal terms) in the period from the third quarter of 2008 until the end of 2012, with older apartment prices dropping by 30.1 pct and younger apartment prices falling by 24.5 pct. Thessaloniki recorded the biggest percentage decline among the country's geographical regions (-34.7 pct), compared with a 27.9 pct drop in Athens.
The report noted a rising trend of real estate property transactions made in cash and stressed that despite early signs of an improving economic climate in the country, real estate property prices were expected to continue falling in the coming quarters, while it excluded any sharp decline movements.
The Bank of Greece said a recovery in the market was dependent, among other, from household and enterprises' expectations, improving funding conditions from the banking system, a stable tax framework, reduced tax burden on property assets and improving recovery prospects for the Greek economy.
The success of a privatization programme will also play a significant role in the recovery of the property market, the central bank said.
 KKE on Provopoulos' annual report on Greece's economy"The representative of the bank capital demanded the continuation and escalation of the brutal unpopular measures," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a comment on the annual report on the course of Greece's economy, presented on Monday by the Governor of the Bank of Greece George Provopoulos.
"The anemic recovery predicted for 2014, if there is any such recovery, will bring no improvement for workers, who will continue to live under conditions of unemployment, starvation wages and even worse measures only to help capital which is active in the country become more competitive and profitable," KKE added.
 Greece holds key role in European energy highway, PM saysGreece "sits" on top of the major highways supplying all of Europe in oil, and all of southern Europe in natural gas, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pointed out at opening remarks on Monday, at the International Herald Tribune's Athens Energy Forum 2013.
"Especially in Europe, where energy consumption is high yet energy self-sufficiency is low, any member-state contributing to diversifying energy sources and to the discovery of new sources, increasing the self-sufficiency of all of Europe, upgrades itself and strengthens Europe overall," Samaras said.
The basic geopolitical dimension of energy is security, Samaras noted, mentioning "security in supply, in other words, diversifying sources, and security in the transport of energy resources."
Greece is well positioned to produce and export Greek resources, he said, making special mention of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a project starting from Greece and transporting natural gas to Italy and the hydrocarbon exploration in the Aegean. It could also guarantee the transport of energy resources by Greece's merchant marine, the largest in the world.
Shortly before going on an official visit to Turkey, Samaras said that both sides had expressed a wish to resolve their differences over hydrocarbon exploration in the Aegean Sea amicably. "The best way to resolve an issue is by respect of international maritime law," Samaras said, noting that both countries had made verbal demarches to the United Nations. "There is, however, a difference," the premier noted, "in that we are calling on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and have ratified it, whereas Turkey is calling on it but has not signed it."
 KKE party comments on PM's address at Athens Energy ForumThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), commenting on the prime minister's address at the Athens Energy Forum conference organised by the International Herald Tribune, stressed on Monday that "the government, guided by ruling class interests, is seeking partners for the joint exploitation of the country's oil and natural gas reserves and changing the country into a hub for the transfer of energy and goods." It added that this why the government "is trying to achieve compromises in the framework of the commitments of NATO and the EU."
Such objectives and policy "lead objectively to negotiating sovereign rights on the continental shelf and the exclusive economic zone," a KKE statement said.
 FM Avramopoulos in CanadaForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is paying a three-day official visit to Canada in the framework of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Greece and Canada.
On Monday, Avramopoulos will be in Toronto and on Tuesday in Montreal where he will meet with the representatives of the Greek community as well as with business and investment entities in the context of the Foreign Ministry's initiative to attract foreign investments to Greece.
On Wednesday, Avramopoulos will meet with his Canadian counterpart John Baird. The meeting is expected to focus on the latest developments in Europe and the efforts to deal with the economic crisis, the EU-Canada relations and the developments in Southeastern Europe and the region of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Moreover, the Greek FM will hold talks with the Speaker of the Canadian Senate Noel Kinsella, who will host a reception at the Canadian parliament in honour of Avramopoulos. Later on Wednesday, Avramopoulos will have dinner with distinguished members of the Greek community in Ottawa.
Finally, Avramopoulos will also meet with Metropolitan Sotirios of Canada in Toronto.
 President Papoulias congratulates newly-elected Cyprus President AnastasiadesNICOSIA (AMNA -A. Viketos)
Greek President Karolos Papoulias congratulated newly-elected Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades during a telephone communication.
Anastasiades was also congratulated by telephone by Greek Parliament president Vangelis Meimarakis, Greek Parliament vice president Yiannis Tragakis and former prime minister Costas Simitis.
 ND again accuses SYRIZA of 'double-talk' on salaries, pensionsRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) press spokesman Panos Skourletis "managed to prove that his party leader is either a liar or naive," New Democracy (ND) charged in an updated statement on comments made by the main opposition's spokesman on salaries and pensions, adding that "one thing is for certain, that the Greek people are not naive, as they have realized who they are."
In its press release, ND quoted directly main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on November 15, 2012, who had said, "But the greatest crime does not lie in salaries and pensions, because we will reinstate them by one law and one article, when we become - with the people's help - the governing party that will overturn this destruction."
The earlier story reads as follows:
ND once again accused main opposition SYRIZA of "double-talk" on Monday, prompted by statements by SYRIZA press spokesman Panos Skourletis on salaries and pensions earlier in the day on private Real FM radio station.
"After (SYRIZA MP) Yannis Dragassakis, Skourletis too hastened to belie his leader, annulling Mr. Tsipras' (SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras) commitment for immediate restoration of salaries and pensions and abolition of the real estate surtax," the ND press office said in an announcement and wondered: "Who is speaking the truth and who is lying?"
ND questioned whether the truth had been voiced by Tsipras on November 11, that "salaries and pensions will be restored by SYRIZA immediately, via an Article" and by Dimitris Papadimoulis on June 6 that "we will abolish the real estate surtax". Or was the truth spoken by Skourletis who "joins sides" with Dragassakis in proving the SYRIZA leader a liar?
ND said that no one cares about who was trying to topple Tsipras from his 'chair', but the Greek people were awaiting a clear-cut answer as to what SYRIZA's position is: That of its leader, or that of Dragassakis and the party spokesman?
Skourletis had said earlier on private Real FM radio that SYRIZA has committed itself to restoring the minimum salary and from there on a gradual effort to restore the losses as regards the rest of the salary and pension earners. "This is absolutely clear, but we do not have a magic wand that will improve and change the situation from one day to the next...We must realize that with every day that goes by that this (Memorandum) policy is applied, the things grow increasingly worse. This devastation is incalculable and, therefore, restoration of the repercussions of this policy becomes even more difficult," Skourletis said.
In a counter-reply, SYRIZA called ND's charges of SYRIZA's "supposed double-talk" a rehashing, and referred to the party's programme for further explanations.
 Turnout in PASOK election for delegates to party Congress 'exceptionally positive'PASOK needs to adapt to the needs of the present era, party parliamentary group secretary Yannis Maniatis said on Monday, noting that the participation of 112,000 party members and 'friends of PASOK' in Sunday's internal vote to elect the delegates to the upcoming PASOK Congress in early March was an "exceptionally positive reaction by society" which surpassed "even what the party mechanisms sometimes plan or prepare".
Speaking on private VIMA FM radio station, Maniatis said that the first thing that should be kept in mind is that society cares about the public affairs of the country, and cares even more about a party that has a very positive history in recent years in Greece, while the naturally are anxious to hear what they truly want.
"I think that we should hang on to this very positive message from society itself, which says that essentially it wants to open its ears again to hear what we are saying, and whether what we are saying truly corresponds to what the present conjuncture requires. Therefore, we have achieved the first step. The people have started to listen to us again," Maniatis said.
He said that the PASOK voters have realised that, in reality, "they must reinforce this political area that suffered what it did in the last three years", adding that the party was articulating a political word that, at this time, was simultaneously centre-Left, reform-oriented and adapted to the country's needs, a political word that is attempting to overcome the fiscal frameworks and limitations it currently has".
In view of the upcoming Congress, he continued, PASOK is facing twp major challenges: the one to formulate a PASOK that is institutional, decentralised and operates with democratic procedures, a true European social-democratic party, and second to unite, through an honest and frank dialogue, all the forces of the centre-Left (PASOK, DIMAR, movements and citizens' groups), that part of society which could potentially exceed 30 percent and which essentially feels 'politically homeless' at this time.
PASOK press spokesperson Fofi Gennimata, in turn, called the turnout in Sunday's vote "the beginning of the return to PASOK of all those who sought but did not find answers elsewhere", adding that the Congress could be the springboard of change.
 Constitution should be revised, PASOK party leader saysThe opportunity to revise the Greek constitution should not be allowed to be wasted, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said at a conference on Monday.
Addressing a conference on the revision at the Andreas Papandreou Institute of Strategic and Development Studies, Venizelos said talks for such a revision should try to include democratically-minded parties, beyong the three in the governing coalition (of which PASOK is a junior member). The most pressing issue in such a revision would be the electoral system, he said, which must retain its proportional nature but also strengthen the government's stability, without polarising the electorate "as it did in the last elections".
Among other issues he said should be included in such a revision are the upgrading of the legislative procedure itself to avoid last-minute amendments and to avoid evoking emergency procedures in order to pass bills.
 Farmers, unhappy with talks, considering further actionFarmers will meet Tuesday morning to decide on further actions, after expressing dissatisfaction with results of their meetings with several ministers over the past few days.
Karditsa agricultural federation president Vangelis Boutas said on Monday that all 16 demands of farmers, who have been blocking roadways in northern Greece, were discussed at meetings but the ministers had "invoked the fiscal adjustment programme and said they could not meet our demands."
The farmers' representatives have met with the ministers of finance, labour, environment and agriculture. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Monday that the ministry heard all of their demands "but within the tight fiscal parameters, the potential (to resolve them) was limited. We are continuing our efforts, however. Certain of the issues that do not carry fiscal cost but are of a structural nature are in the process of being resolved."
Earlier in the day, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said that a new bill expected to be tabled in Parliament will help those who want to receive their pensions to pay off their debts to insurance funds as long as it did not exceed 4,000 euros. The government was also reviewing the possibility of allowing farmers registered after 1988 to retire at 62 years of age, after completing 40 years of insurance.
 High courts rule against blocking of landfill projectsTwo of Greece's highest courts on Monday rejected two suits trying to put a stop to plans for landfills in eastern Attica.
The Council of State rejected a suit by the municipality of Marathonas to halt the building of a landfill in its area, while the Audit Council rejected an application trying to rescind the collection and management of refuse in the Koropi-Peania area, budgeted at 112 million euros.
Attica region director Yiannis Sgouros hailed the decisions, which "allow us to hope that Attica will finally acquire modern infrastructure" to manage its refuse, an issue over which the European Union has been pressing Greece to resolve or face stiff fines.
 Nationality requirements for military academies set out by new billAn amendment tabled by 84 deputies of the New Democracy party anticipates the entry into military, police and coast guard schools of only those who are Greeks by descent and citizenship.
According to the accompanying report, "Due to the particularity of issues related to our national defence, in relation to the rest of the European countries, as well as the acute problem of illegal immigration that the country is facing, combined with the recent law on citizenship and its consequences, it is expedient for the return to all military and police schools of the precondition of descent as a prerequisite for entry".
According to the same amendment, the schools can accept expatriates who do not have Greek citizenship but which they can obtain without any other formality when they are accepted to the schools.
Moreover, by decision of the chief of every military or service corp, each school may allow the entry of non-Greeks in descent to cover special needs; however no more than two candidates for every school for every year.
 Greek exports rise to record 24.5 bln euros in 2012The value of Greek exports surpassed 24 billion euros in 2012, a record year for the Greek economy, although a strengthened euro currency exchange rate against the US dollar undermined Greek exports to the European Union, the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters said on Monday.
In its statement, however, the Federation stressed that the European Commission recently predicted that Greek exports will rise by 2.7 pct in 2013.
Christina Sakellaridi, president of the Federation, said in the statement, "The engine of the Greek economy, export-going business activity, managed to move forward rapidly in the last three years, offering spectacular results with clear positive effect on the economy such as capital inflows, higher taxes and contributions, maintaining or creating new job positions amid a devastating recession. But the industry is meeting additional hurdles in its way. A recession in Europe and increased euro exchange rate against the US dollar are limiting its dynamism and the recovery possibilities of the Greek economy. It is imperative to take urgent action to support exporters in fundamental ways, otherwise new forecasts for an even deeper recession in Greece this year could be revised downwards."
The Federation, in an analysis of Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures on trade transactions, said that the value of exports - excluding oils - fell to 1.295 billion euros in December, from 1.524 billion euros in December 2011, for a decline of 15 pct - the worst performance for a December in the last three years. Overall, the value of exports - excluding oils - rose to 17.004 billion euros last year, from 16.183 billion euros in 2011, an increase of 4.1 pct, while with oils included the value of exports totaled 24.5 billion euros in 2012, accounting for 12.3 pct of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Exports to EU states fell 1.7 pct last year, while exports to third countries jumped 17.8 pct, with the EU absorbing 60.85 pct of Greek exports and third countries the remaining at 39.15 pct. The report said that any further appreciation of the euro would further hit Greek products' competitiveness to third countries this year. The Federation said that exports to third countries fell 20.6 pct in December, while exports to the EU fell by 11 pct in the same month.
The value of imports -excluding oils- totaled 2.384 billion euros in December, from 2.359 billion euros in December 2011, for an increase of 1.1 pct. In the 12-month period, from January to December 2012, the value of imports - excluding oils - fell 6.0 pct to 30.201 billion euros.
The country's trade deficit - excluding oils - dropped 17.2 pct last year to 13.197 billion euros from 15.944 billion euros in 2011.
 Development minister addresses event on youth innovative entrepreneurshipDevelopment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Monday addressed an event on the significance of Youth Innovative Entrepre-neurship, being organised by Eurobank and the growth agency Corallia, stressing that "there are funds in the country which have invested and aim at investing in innovative Greek enterprises, achieving considerable results".
Hatzidakis further said that "the new ESPA 2014-2020 (National Strategic Reference Framework) places more emphasis on the so-called sector of 'soft actions' than on major infrastructure projects. These are actions aiming at the development of smart specialisation, technology, training and innovation. This is the challenge for Europe's course in the new period that started and Greece must respond to it".
The minister noted that securing about 16.4 billion euros under ESPA was very important for Greece, saying however that funds must be used appropriately so as to create new wealth and new jobs.
 Development minister meets with venture capital associationDevelopment and Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis pledged government support for venture capital enterprises, according to the Hellenic Venture Capital Association, with which he met on Monday.
In statements following the meeting, Association president Ioannis Papadopoulos said the two sides discussed the flow of capital to business on competitive terms, rather than as subsidies. "We agreed to work closely today and in the future to usher in joint policies and actions that will strengthen entrepreneurship and innovation in Greece," he added.
 Development ministry meeting with private companies on Tuesday to push investmentsThe Development ministry's political leadership is to hold a meeting on Tuesday with the representatives from a number of large domestic and foreign companies which have recently announced an increase or the commencement of production activities in Greece.
The meeting is part of government efforts, under the directive of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, to facilitate private investments in the country.
The meeting will involve officials from the following firms: Athenian Brewery, Barilla Hellas, BIC Violex, Friesland Campina-NOYNOY, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson (medical industry), Kraft Hellas SA, Ytong-Thrakon, Unilever, Nestle, Phillip Morris and Hygiene Products SA.
 Ministers meeting with foreign companies TuesdayDevelopment and Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Deputy Notis Mitarakis will meet on Tuesday with representatives of major foreign companies that had recently announced an expansion or start of production in Greece. The meeting is part of a directive by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to improve the process of investing in Greece.
Mitarakis will be speaking at the International Herald Tribune's Athens Energy Forum 2013, taking place at a central hotel in Athens, at 9:30 a.m.
 Trade deficit drops 17.2pct in 2012Greece's trade balance deficit posted a substantial reduction of 17.2 percent in 2012, according to figures released by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Monday.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the deficit of the Trade Balance, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2012 amounted to 13196.8 million euros (16798.2 million dollars) in comparison with 15944.5 million euros (22027.0 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2011, recording a drop, in euros, of 17.2%.
The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, in December 2012 amounted to 2384.1 million euros (3118.5 million dollars) in comparison with 2358.7 million euros (3099.1 million dollars) in December 2011, recording an increase, in euros, of 1.1%.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, in December 2012 amounted to 1295.5 million euros (1704.9 million dollars) in comparison with 1523.9 million euros (2014.5 million dollars) in December 2011, recording a drop, in euros, of 15.0%.
The deficit of the trade balance, excluding oil products, in December 2012 amounted to 1088.6 million euros (1413.6 million dollars) in comparison with 834.8 million euros (1084.6 million dollars) in December 2011, recording an increase, in euros, of 30.4%.
The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2012 amounted to 30201.2 million euros (38720.7 million dollars) in comparison with 32127.4 million euros (44604.7 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2011 recording a drop, in euros, of 6.0%.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, for the 12-month period from January to December 2012 amounted to 17004.4 million euros (21922.5 million dollars) in comparison with 16182.9 million euros (22577.7 million dollars) for the corresponding period of the year 2011, recording an increase, in euros, of 5.1%.
 Tourism industry says early bookings up to 20 pct higher so far this yearThe tourism industry remained a strong supporter of the Greek economy after achieving its targets of attracting 16 million international arrivals and 10 billion euros in tourism receipts last year, Andreas Andreadis, president of the Federation of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said on Monday.
Addressing an event held on the occasion of the presentation of the Bank of Greece governor's report to the central bank's annual general shareholders' meeting, Andreadis said that annual investments worth 2.5 billion euros were needed in order to raise tourism's contribution to 40 pct of the country's future economic growth. He added that this figure was fully feasible and probably underestimated and stressed that the first 11 significant new investment plans were currently under licensing procedures by Greek authorities. Promotion of an ambitious privatisation programme and the sale or lease of idle tourist real estate assets by banks were also expected to help towards achieving this year, he noted.
He underlined as extremely important to speed-up procedures for visa issuing, reducing a VAT on the restaurant industry to 13 pct and of the VAT on coastal shipping to 13 pct, with the goal of reducing a VAT on tourism to 6.5 pct.
Andreadis said the messages received so far four tourism trends this year were optimistic, with a 20 pct increase in bookings from the UK, a 15 pct rise in bookings from Germany, France and Skandinavia and a more than 20 pct increase in bookings for developing countries, such as Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey, among others.
 Business Briefs-- ETEM Group on Monday said its consolidated sales totaled 99.6 million euros last year, slightly down from 100.3 million euros in 2011, while parent sales fell 9.1 pct to 41.9 million euros over the same period.
 Greek stocks end lowerGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, ignoring a positive climate prevailing in other European markets, pushing the composite index below the 1,000-level again. The index fell 0.79 pct to end at 995.37 points, off the day's lows of 990.34 points. Turnover remained a disappointing low 46.875 million euros.
The Big Cap index dropped 1.39 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.16 pct lower. The Utilities (1.98 pct), Telecoms (1.31 pct) and Constructions (0.18 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (6.97 pct), Financial Services (3.57 pct) and Travel (3.42 pct) suffered losses. PPC (2.88 pct), Piraeus Port (1.68 pct) and Titan (1.59 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (14.01 pct), Cyprus Bank (8.33 pct) and Piraeus Bank (7.35 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 102 to 43 with another 24 issues unchanged. Kordellos Bros (28.52 pct), Fieratex (27.78 pct) and Sato (18.97 pct) were top gainers, while Mathios (15.03 pct), Eurobank (14.01 pct) and Ilyda (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.08%
Personal & Household: -0.93%
Raw Materials: -1.26%
Travel & Leisure: -3.42%
Food & Beverages: -0.02%
Financial Services: -3.57%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, OTE, Alpha Bank and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.98
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.85
HBC Coca Cola: 19.60
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.88
National Bank of Greece: 0.96
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.41
Bank of Piraeus: 0.25
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.57 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 14.488 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,701 contracts worth 6.188 million euros, with 34,780 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 43,493 contracts worth 8.300 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (15,446), followed by National Bank (10,400), Piraeus Bank (2,541), Cyprus Bank (3,534), MIG (2,627), OTE (2,578), PPC (2,341), OPAP (1,542), Mytilineos (397), Intralot (418), GEK (177), Ellaktor (106), Motor Oil (107) and Hellenic Exchanges (127).
 Authorities foil attempted helicopter prison escape by notorious liferInvestigations were taking place on Monday under stringent security measures at the Trikala penitentiary after an attempted prison break by notorious inmate Panagiotis Vlastos by helicopter was foiled by authorities on Sunday.
Vlastos attempted, on Sunday afternoon, to escape from Trikala prison with a helicopter, but the helicopter was pinned to the ground by fire from prison wardens and guards.
According to the reports, the helicopter was spotted by guards when it attempted to lift the electrified net, an exchange of fire followed and the helicopter was eventually pinned down in the prison's parking lot.
Vlastos has been sentenced twice to life imprisonment and to 25 years in prison for his participation in the so-called "crime syndicate", and has also been accused masterminding the kidnapping for ransom of shipowner Pericles Panagopoulos in January 2009, giving orders from his prison cell at Trikala prison, where he was serving time for homicides, protection rackets and other offences.
According to an announcement by the Thessaly police headquarters, a helicopter with four people on board approached the Trikala prison at 16:45 on Sunday, at which time the people on board the helicopter opened fire on police and prison guards who returned the shots, forcing the helicopter to land in a space next to the prison due to engine failure from the gunshots, while the four on board were arrested.
Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, who was headed to the prison on Monday, revealed earlier that the authorities had received information since last summer that caution should be taken at several prisons, including Trikala, as an escape was being planned.
Given the information, increased security measures were taken. "We took specific measures, instructions were given, and with the self-sacrifice manifested by the guards, the escape was averted," Roupakiotis said on state NET television.
In an announcement, the Justice Ministry said that four people were on board the helicopter: its pilot, a mechanic, a Greek national and an Albanian national.
The Ministry said that the four people on board the helicopter were heavily armed, including a Kalashnikov firearm and home-made explosive devices and were wearing bulletproof vests.
The helicopter approached the prison yard and attempted to throw down a rope ladder to Vlastos, who was in the yard at the time outside his wing, while the four on board opened fire against the outside guards, who immediately returned the fire. An estimated 300-400 shots were fired during the exchange
The helicopter pilot was slightly injured in the exchange of fire, the Ministry said.
According to reports, Vlastos attempted twice to climb the rope ladder, but on the second attempt feel to the ground and suffered injuries to his hands and legs.
Roupakiotis warmly congratulated the prison warden and guards for averting the attempted jailbreak.
Vlastos had attempted once again to escape from Korydallos prison in December 2011, taking hostages at the time.
This was the third attempted prison escape by helicopter. Greece's most wanted criminal Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian convict Alket Rizaj escaped Korydallos high-security prison by helicopter in February 2009, in a repeat of their Hollywood-style escape from the same prison in June 2006.
Vassilis Paleokostas was re-captured in August 2009 in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, and was named by police as the mastermind of the abduction two months earlier of Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) president and Alumil aluminum industry CEO George Mylonas outside Thessaloniki, who was later released after his family paid a hefty ransom.
Rizaj was captured three months after the escape in the coastal village of Prodromos in Viotia prefecture.
 New National Gallery ready by end 2015The National Gallery of Art will hold its last tour on Friday before closing for major renovations, the project directors said on Monday.
Scheduled to reopen for Christmas 2015, the new museum will include an adiditional 11,040 sq.m. (bringing its area to 20,760 sq.m.), a glass front, an additional floor in the rear building, an amphitheatre seating 450, and a cafe looking out to the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill. Internal ramps will facilitate movement from one storey to the next and the building's stability will be improved.
The project will cost 45 million euros, 32 million of which are covered by European structural funds (ESPA) and thre rest by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The preparatory plans were paid by the Maria Tsakos Foundation.
Details were presented at a press conference attended by Alternate Culture Minister Kostas Tzavaras, ministry secretary general Lina Mendoni and Gallery director Marina Lambraki-Plaka. The director said that the museum had seen six million visitors the last twenty years, and only 5 pct of these were tourists.
The original building was designed by professors Nikolaos Moutsopoulos, Paul Mylonas and Dimitris Fatouros. The foundation stone was set in 1964 and the building completed in 1974. Its holdings will be temporarily housed in National Bank vaults at Magoula Attikis and the Goudi Sculpture museum in Goudi, where some 120 of the Gallery's sculptures will be shown in revolving exhibitions.
In addition, the Gallery-affiliated Museum of Christos Kapralos, sculptor, on Egina island, will be completed by end March, Lambraki-Plaka said.
 A. Kouris acquitted of non-payment of Alter contributionsAn Athens Court of the First Instance has found businessman Andreas G. Kouris not guilty of charges relating to the non-payment of employer insurance contributions for television station ALTER, amounting to 1.4 million euros.
The court accepted Kouris' assertion that as a non-executive member of the board of the company has no criminal liability.
About two months ago, Kouris was sentenced to four months imprisonment with 3-year suspension, for the same charges relating another case of non-payment of insurance contributions amounting to 9 million euros.
 Protection for endangered 'kirkinezi' birdA protection net over the kirkinezi (Falco naumanni), a small migratory hawk which is among the endangered species in the world, has been launched by Thessaly University in cooperation with other entities.
Greece is among the most important countries in Europe, after Spain and Italy, regarding the kirkinezi, according to recent data by BirdLife International.
The University is preparing a programme aiming towards the planning and implementation of measures to protect the bird's population in Thessaly region.
The total population of the kirkinezi is estimated at 25,000-42,000 pairs and Greece is hosting approximately 10 percent of them. It nests on roofs, in holes and house walls. The bird feeds on insects, mice, lizards and small birds.
 Man wanted on European warrant arrestedTwo Romanians aged 42 and 33 were arrested on Monday in Kyparissia, southwestern Greece, charged with illegal weapons possession.
Police also found in their possession burglary tools, jewelry and copper objects.
During the investigation it was revealed that the 42-year-old was wanted on a European warrant issued by the Romanian authorities for burglaries.
The suspects will be sent before a local prosecutor
 Rainy on TuesdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 5C and 19C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 8C and 16C. Local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 9C and 15C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: "Manhunt...against those who owe to state".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Borrowers in custody".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Airborne thriller at Trikala prison ".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "This is how they blocked the great escape".
ESTIA: "Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras' challenge for new elections".
ETHNOS: "The report on the reserve labour in the public sector".
IMERISSIA: "Three fronts open".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Reserve labour a thorn in the government's talks with the EC, ECB, IMF troika".
TA NEA: "PASOK has nine lives!".
VRADYNI: "Four-year freeze on mortgage loans".
6 DAYS: "Fire from the inside over the tax storm".
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