|Saturday, 16 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-03-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 21 March 2013 Issue No: 4315
 Greek gov't has plan B on Cypriot banks, FinMin says"Cypriot banks cannot stay closed for long, otherwise the Cyprus economy will be ruined. A solution must be found in the next few hours, or else Greece will do what it has to do," Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Wednesday.
Addressing a joint meeting of the Parliament's European and Economic Affairs Committees, the Greek minister said that in case that Cyprus failed to present immediately an alternative plan to open its banks in Greece, "Greece has a plan B which I cannot disclose. The effects on Greece are minimized. We take our measures," Stournaras said.
The Finance Minister defended his stance on the Cyprus issue during last week's Eurogroup meeting, saying that the decision was unanimous. "The Cypriot leadership participated in the decision after consultations with Mr. (Cyprus President Nicos) Anastasiades overcame an initial dead-end in negotiations. Another consultation occurred with Mr. (Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis) Sarris which resulted to a compromise proposal. No other solution was discussed," Stournaras told the Parliamentary committee.
"Cyprus made a decision and we supported it," Stournaras added. He noted that Cyprus was facing difficulties related with an overblown banking system. This is the reason why "other alternative scenarios were examined, all focusing on bank deposits. The Cypriot economy is very small compared with its banking system, and all other measures offered inadequate results," he said.
He emphasized on Cyprus' need to find 17 billion euros to recapitalize its banks and said that any borrowing above 10 billion euros would have made the country's public debt not sustainable. The 7.0 billion euros missing from the package must not be borrowed money, he noted.
Opposition political parties strongly reacted to Mr Stournaras' speech on the Cyprus issue. SYRIZA and other party deputies criticized the Finance minister for fully adopting the German position on Cyprus.
 Gov't spokesman: Situation in Cyprus not for petty party gamesThe situation in Cyprus "does not offer itself for petty party games," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou warned on Wednesday, speaking on private Antenna television station.
He reiterated that Athens stands steadfastly at Cyprus' side: "We support Cyprus, just as we supported its decision at the Eurogroup, we support yesterday's decision by the Cypriot parliament".
He added, however, that "we must see Plan B...a solution must be found".
Regarding Athens' stance at the latest meeting of the Eurogroup, he explained: "At two o'clock early Saturday morning, the three institutional leaders -- namely Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde and European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi -- came out of the Eurogroup meeting. They had had a meeting with Mr. Anastasiades (Cyprus President), reached agreement, and afterwards the three came and presented this agreement to the (eurozone) Finance Ministers. Cyprus' Finance Minister (Michalis Sarris) voted in favor, and it was only natural that Greece followed suit, that Greece's Finance Minister (Yannis Stournaras) supported Cyprus' decision. That is how things stand."
 Venizelos reiterates that eurogroup's decision for Cyprus is historic mistakePASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, one of the junior partners in Greece's three-party coalition government, on Wednesday lashed out at main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and all those seeking alternative solutions outside the eurozone and the European Union.
Addressing the parliament on the developments in Cyprus, Venizelos said that "the eurogroup's decision was a great historic mistake due to the childish, shortsighted, almost amateurish and one-dimensional economic logic of the European Union".
The differences between Cyprus and Greece are obvious due to the huge distance that separates their absolute fiscal figures, he added, noting that SYRIZA's attempt to exploit developments on Cyprus for its own "cheap petty political opposition games," was an act of "utmost national irresponsibility" and an "insult to the Cypriot people."
According to Venizelos, the eurogroup decision targeted the fiscal model that is based on services and an oversized banking sector, adding that it is unfair to think that this is the case only in Cyprus. "The same goes for the United Kingdom," he said.
Venizelos acknowledged that there is a problem of unlawful behaviours and money-laundering, pointing out that the adoption of "terms and control mechanisms" on international level could be the solution.
The reaction of the political forces on Cyprus was imperative, he said.
Venizelos accused SYRIZA of adopting a provocative and ludicrous stance with respect to the crisis on Cyprus, saying that it is irresponsible and na?ve to call for an extraordinary summit meeting without having the Cypriot Parliament's decision and a finalized Cypriot plan.
He added that Cyprus' hydrocarbon deposits are the country's foremost advantage, underlining that it exercises its sovereign rights.
 DIM.AR leader contacted Cypriot politicians on the phone, source saysDemocratic Left (DIMAR) President Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday had a series of talks on the telephone with Cypriot politicians concerning the repercussions of the island republic's rejection of the Eurogroup's plan to tax all deposits in Cypriot banks, AMNA sources said.
Among them were Cyprus Parliament speaker Ioannis Omirou, the head of Cyprus' AKEL party Andros Kyprianou, and the head of the DIKO party Marios Garoyian, while he is expected to speak with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday evening.
According to the AMNA sources, DIMAR's president found that the various sides are waiting to see how events will unfold and making efforts to find a solution out of the deadlock.
 SYRIZA criticizes Greek government's stance on proposed bank account 'haircut' on CyprusMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday referred to developments on Cyprus a day after the eurogroup's decision was rejected by the Cypriot Parliament, underlining that "the resistance of the Cypriot people and the proud 'No' of their parliament show what negotiation means and that there are no one-way streets".
SYRIZA noted that the latest developments leave the Greek government exposed, adding that "Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, following Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' orders, backed the catastrophic decision inspired by Germany showing once again that the Greek government is tied to the chariot of extreme neo-liberalist Merkelism that is destroying the peoples of Europe."
According to SYRIZA, countries have negotiation potential, regardless of their size, which the Greek government did not consider using and instead blackmailed the Greek people with the demands made by Greece's lenders.
SYRIZA reiterated that developments on Cyprus and in other European countries of the south show that a comprehensive European solution is a precondition for a socially fair exit from the crisis, as opposed to neo-liberal doctrines and catastrophic austerity.
An alliance of the countries in the European south and the adoption of a solution to public debt modeled after the 1953 German debt solution are necessary, the SYRIZA statement underlined.
 SYRIZA delegation has contacts in CyprusDevelopments in Cyprus following the House of Representatives' rejection of a Eurogroup's decision to apply a bank deposits levy, were the focus of discussion on Wednesday in Nicosia between a Greek main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) delegation, headed by Parliament vice president Yiannis Dragasakis, and AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou.
During the meeting, held in a very warm atmosphere according to SYRIZA sources, AKEL's secretary general referred to his party's alternative proposals for a disengagement from the troika of international lenders, while SYRIZA's delegation referred to the significance of Cyprus's rejection of Eurogroup's decision, as well as other negotiating option on European level.
The SYRIZA delegation also met with Republic of Cyprus presidential ex-candidate George Lillikas, as well as with Parliament Speaker Ioannis Omirou, who referred to the calm and determined stance that Cyprus must now keep in order to avoid extortions.
 KKE calls on the Cypriots to continue resisting the anti-popular measuresOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday expressed solidarity with the Cypriot people "faced with blackmail and cruel anti-popular measures imposed by the EU and the IMF".
KKE stressed that the Cypriot Parliament's rejection of the eurogroup plan for the "haircut" of bank deposits should not lead to relaxation of the efforts and called on the Cypriot people to utilize this development to strengthen their struggle against the anti-popular measures.
"The forces propagandizing that EU accession will bring prosperity, integration and solidarity for the benefit of the peoples, have fooled the peoples," KKE said, adding that "the EU is an alliance of wolves that preys on the workers to guarantee the profits of business groups".
KKE expressed concern for the likelihood of unforeseen threats for the peoples in Eastern Mediterranean resulting from the heightened crisis and the increased rivalry between countries and capitalists.
 Justice minister, task force head on Cyprus crisisJustice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis on Wednesday expressed concern over developments in the Cyprus financial crisis. He was speaking during a press conference on the mediation institution.
"I hope that both the Cypriots and the Europeans, the IMF etc., will seek that solution that will help the people of Cyprus and will not lead them to a deadlock. The prudence of the Greek people must be appreciated by the troika, which must think of certain results that were disastrous for Greek society," he said.
On his part, the head of the European Commission's Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach said that "we must find the solution immediately to support Cyprus and we must not allow the problem to spread to the rest of Europe."
 Athens not properly notified about "Bilim2", foreign ministry saysForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Wednesday told reporters that Greece had not been properly notified by Turkish authorities regarding the activities of the Turkish oceanographic research vessel "Bilim2" in the Aegean. Replying to reporters' questions, he said that Athens had therefore instructed the Greek embassy in Ankara "to act accordingly".
"On 18 March, Turkey's Antalya station broadcast a NAVTEX to the effect that the Turkish oceanography vessel "Bilim2", which belongs to the Institute of Marine Sciences of Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, would be carrying out oceanographic research from 18 to 21 March 2013, in international waters, a section of which overlaps the Greek continental shelf," Delavekouras said.
He noted that carrying out marine research in waters over the Greek continental shelf required prior notification, with the provision of all relevant data to the Greek authorities.
"As there was no such notification from the Turkish side, the Greek Embassy in Ankara was instructed to act accordingly," he added.
 An opinion poll gives SYRIZA marginal lead over NDMain opposition SYRIZA was leading over New Democracy (ND) by 0.8 percentage points, according to an opinion poll conducted by Marc for the private ALPHA television station.
According to the poll results, SYRIZA was leading with 23.4 percent, followed by ND with 22.6 percent, ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 9.7 percent, PASOK with 5.6 percent, Independent Greeks with 5.4 percent, Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 4.7 percent, and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 4.4 percent, while 6.7 percent of the respondents expressed support for other parties and the blank and invalid votes and abstention was at 17.5 percent.
To a question of who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (and ND leader) was preferred by 47.4percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 32.4 percent, while 20 percent did not answer.
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between 13 and 15 March 2013.
 PASOK leader Venizelos addresses party's Political CouncilPASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, addressing Wednesday's first session of the party's Political Council, assessed, according to party sources, that even if there is a change in the agreement on Cyprus it will be a "variation" of the previous one and not a substantive change or improvement. The session focused on political developments on Cyprus and organisational issues of the party.
Venizelos reiterated in his address what he said at the Parliamentary Plenum on current political developments regarding developments with Cyprus and asked for, as took place, his recommendation at the Plenum be valid as a Political Council decision, at least with developments so far.
According to the same reports, the PASOK leader highlighted the issue of the national strategy comparatively with Cyprus and Greece, claiming that regardless of the outcome of the Cypriot "no" and the assessment of this stance of the Cypriots, constitutes an important political issue, that is also necessary for Greece, the issue of the understanding between the political forces on a common national target. This, indeed, was an issue raised by most of the speakers.
As regards Greece's internal affairs, Venizelos said, according to the same sources, that whatever deviations exist from targets must be absorbed by the end of the programme, reiterating in essence his proposal for there to be a real extension of even up to 2016.
 Ind. Greeks party seeks SYRIZA support for censure motion against finminIndependent Greeks party spokesman Notis Marias on Wednesday announced that his party intends to table a censure motion against Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for his acceptance of a Eurogroup proposal to impose a one-off levy on bank deposits on Cyprus, inviting the main opposition SYRIZA party to support the motion so that it will have the required 50 signatures.
"The finance minister bears huge responsibility because he opened the way, accepting a 'haircut' of deposits and especially those of small-scale depositors, creating instability not just for Cyprus but also for Greece," Marias told the Greek Parliament, explaining the reasoning behind the party's decision for a censure motion.
 Racism the 'enemy of working class,' KKE announcement saysRacism, xenophobia, nationalism and fascism were "the enemies of the working class and popular strata," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) stressed in an announcement for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Thursday.
According to KKE's announcement, such phenomena were "bred" by capitalism, with "big capital and the parties and politicians that support this" as the main enemy and the fascist-nationalist parties like Golden Dawn acting as their "the lackeys and thugs of the bosses".
"Racism and fascism are not created or reproduced in a vacuum, as claimed by various classless anti-racist, anti-fascist groups and movements made up of forces ranging from social democracy to SYRIZA and ANTARSYA. They are born, nurtured and bred within the capitalist system. Fascism and racism will die finally with the system that gives birth to them," the KKE announcement claimed.
 Ecumenical Patriarch attends meeting with new Pope Francis at the VaticanROME (AMNA - A. Andreadis)
A meeting between the new Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I was concluded at the Vatican on Wednesday afternoon. Bartholomew was the first spiritual leader of the world's estimated 300 million Orthodox Christians to attend the installation of a new Pope since the Great Schism of 1054.
During a meeting between the head of the Catholic Church and the leaders of other faiths and Christian churches, Patriarch Bartholomew read out an address on behalf of all the other
Orthodox Church leaders present at the Vatican.
He also suggested that the Argentine Pope visit Phanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with an official invitation to be sent via the proper diplomatic channels, and proposed a joint visit to Jerusalem on the 50th anniversary since the meeting held between Ecumenical Patriarch Athinagoras with Pope Pius VI in January 1964. Pope Francis gladly accepted both invitations, according to reports.
The two religious leaders also stated their intention to undertake joint action for the protection of the environment, including the joint inauguration in 2015 of an exhibition dedicated to Holy Monastic Community on Mount Athos to be held in Rome.
Reporting on their meeting, the Italian press had earlier highlighted the Pope's warm embrace with the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the end of Tuesday's installment Mass, while the Rai Uno television network broadcast that "the new Pope, with his first moves, appears to want to make every effort to become closer to the Orthodox".
According to the Italian media, the strong 'common points' between the leaders of the world's two largest Christian Churches, are their devotion to environmental protection, their simplicity and accessibility in their relations with the faithful, and their common desire for frank dialogue with other religions.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, also known as the 'Green Patriarch', is a prominent leader in the environmental movement. Since 1997, he has been bringing principal scientists, environmentalists, religious leaders from all faiths and policy-makers from all over the world together to work on the ecological crisis.
He has also continued the reconciliation dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church started by his predecessors, and initiated dialogue with other faiths, including other Christian sects, Muslims and Jews, in an ongoing inter-faith dialogue.
 Canadian ambassador demands justice for attack on Eldorado facility in SkouriesSpeaking at a forum on exploiting Greece's mineral wealth on Wednesday, Canadian Ambassador in Athens William Peck stressed the need to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of an attack on the Eldorado mining facility in Skouries, Halkidiki last February.
The ambassador emphasised the importance of a climate of security, adding that trust could only arise through dialogue.
Peck said that he agreed with the government's decision to impose back-dated levies on the exploitation of mineral reserves, starting from January 1, 2013 in accordance with legislation passed in 2011 and fast-track procedures for major investments.
Australian Ambassador in Athens Jenny Bloomfield, also speaking at the same conference, outlined her country's experience with the mining industry, which generates approximately 20 percent of all Australian exports, noting that key features were a stable investment environment and operating costs that were among the lowest in the world.
 Gikas Manalis named new ERT chiefGikas Manalis is the new managing director of the Hellenic Broadcasting Foundation (ERT) S.A., the General Secretariat for Information and Communications announced on Wednesday.
 Development minister, Gazprom head discuss energy investmentsEnergy investments was the main topic in a meeting between Greek Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Costis Hatzidakis with the chairman and chief executive of Gazprom Alexei Miller, in Athens on Wednesday.
Ministry sources told reporters, after the meeting, that the two men did not discuss the government's privatization plan but that the meeting focused more on investment issues. The same sources underlined that the fact that the head of the Russian energy giant was visiting Athens for the second time in 10 days offered evidence that Gazprom sees investment and growth prospects in the country.
 MIG says exposure in Cyprus limitedMarfin Investment Group (MIG) on Wednesday said any developments in Cyprus were not expected to have any significant impact on the operation and results of the group.
In a statement, MIG said its exposure in Cyprus was limited to an investment in the Hilton Nicosia Hotel through MIG Leisure Limited and a clinic in Paphos through Hygeia, with a combined turnover of around 1.0 pct of MIG's total turnover.
MIG also said its subsidiary Vivartia Holdings has a 10 pct equity stake in a Cypriot dairy company, while MIG's equity participation in Cyprus Popular Bank was limited to 0.69 pct. MIG said the group's deposits in various financial institutions in Cyprus totaled 5.2 million euros, or 2.4 pct of total deposits.
 Cypriot banks in Greece to remain closed on Thu., Fri.Cypriot banks' branches in Greece will remain shut on Thursday and Friday, as decided by the Central Bank of Cyprus.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras reassured once more that deposits by Greek citizens are safe.
He stressed that there was absolutely no risk for deposits in Cypriot, Greek or any other foreign bank in Greece.
Greek and other foreign banks will operate as normally.
 'Non-exploitation of mineral wealth is a national loss' deputy energy minister tells ForumProposals and investment plans that fully abide by the environmental and economic conditions will be seriously, responsibly and speedily evaluated, deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change minister Makis Papageorgiou said Wednesday, adding that those investments that fulfill the strict criteria set by Greece, create jobs and generate revenues for the state will proceed, be encouraged and protected.
No investment will be materialised if it does not totally respect the environment and does not serve the model of sustainable development, he continued, addressing an International Forum on Greece's Mineral Wealth taking place in Athens.
"We encourage investments that are technically and environmentally lawful," he said, adding that "we must leave behind us the history of investors who were troubled for years by bureaucracy".
"Non-exploitation of the country's mineral wealth is a national loss," he warned, and rejected the quandary of 'investments and jobs or protection of the environment', saying that Greece can balance all its comparative advantages by weighing in the environmental hazards.
Addressing the same conference, PASOK parliamentary group secretary Yannis Maniatis, he noted the role that government's and justice are called on to play on the matter of a country's natural resources, warning that delays in the issuance of decisions are equally dramatic as rejections of investment proposals, and also businesses, which he noted have a 'heavy, not at all positive past, resulting in society being justifiably suspicious".
However, he said, society must clarify whether it wants exploitation of the natural resources, "which is necessary if we want to have a future. Especially regarding hydrocarbons, Maniatis underlined the estimates that the state could generate revenues of 150 billion euro over the next 30 years, which he said must be utilised to boost the energy security system.
 Investment tools draft bill endorsed by parliament majorityA draft bill on new investment tools to facilitate economic growth was endorsed by majority in parliament on late Wednesday evening. However, following pressure by the opposition and government minor partners, the alternate minister of Finance, Christos Staikouras, announced the withdrawal of two controversial articles in the bill, articles 22 and 24.
Also withdrawn was an amendment to the tertiary education restructuring plan "Athena", which however will be included in another draft bill by the Education Ministry.
 Parliament approves appointment of Stylianos Stavridis as HRADF presidentA Greek Parliamentary Committee endorsed on Wednesday Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras's proposal for the appointment of Stylianos Stavridis as president of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).
The proposal was approved with a majority vote.
Stavridis has an Engineers degree of the Zurich Polytechnic, while he has worked for the Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) company and the Iraklis-Lafarge cement firm, before being placed at the head of the Water Supply (EYDAP) company last November.
 Greece offers one week extension in tender for state property assetsHellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) on Wednesday it extended for one more week a deadline for submitting expression of interest in a tender for the exploitation of six state property assets located abroad. The Fund, in a statement, said the deadline for submitting interest was extended until March 26.
 Employment in manufacturing sector down 9.9 pct in Q4 2012The Greek manufacturing sector continued losing job positions at the faster rate than any other sector of the economy in the fourth quarter of 2012, hit by a deep economic crisis in the country.
The manufacturing sector recorded a 9.9 pct loss in job positions in the October-December period, compared with the same period in 2011, compared with a 6.4 pct decline in the economy on average.
The sector has suffered a 29.2 pct decline in job positions in the period from the fourth quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2012, or 144,500 jobs.
However, the rate of decline slowed in the fourth quarter compared with the previous quarter of 2012, a development related not only with stabilization trends but with changes in labor relations (part-time jobs).
In the fourth quarter of 2012, employment in the country's industries fell to 388,100 workers, down 9.9 pct from the same period in 2011, compared with 494,300 in the fourth quarter of 2009 and 560,100 in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Employment in the manufacturing sector accounted for 9.5 pct of total employment in the country, down from 9.9 pct in 2011, 10.4 pct in 2010, 11 pct in 2009, 11.7 pct in 2008 and 12.4 pct in 2007.
 Greek clothing sector production down sharply in 2005-2011 periodA protracted economic recession, which began in 2008, combined with austere fiscal adjustment measures taken in the last few years, have had a negative effect on the available income and the psychology of households, which is reflected in reduced consumption of clothing products in 2011, a survey by Hellastat said on Wednesday.
Hellastat said that an additional burden on enterprises in the sector was fierce competition from imports of ready-to-wear clothing products from low-cost countries, a trend that was prevalent even before the crisis erupted.
The clothing sector's production fell by an average 15.6 pct annually in the 2005-2011 period. In total, production in the sector fell by 64 pct since 2005, and by another 25.4 pct in 2011. In the first eight months of 2012, production fell by 12.4 pct (compared with a 24.5 pct decline in the same period in 2011). Hellastat said that clothing enterprises were selling their products at lower prices to arrest falling demand, reducing profit margins. Several clothing companies have relocated to Balkan countries, trying to take advantage of a lower labor cost in the region, while a significant number of companies have closed down operations entirely, a trend which is not expected to be reversed in the short-term. The survey analysed the financial reports of 167 enterprises, with a total turnover of 611.75 million euros, down 7.2 pct from 2010. Eighty percent of these companies reported lower revenues, for an average decline of 19.5 pct in 2011.
Operating results fell by 17.3 pct to 25.79 million euros, while pre-tax losses totaled 15.63 million euros, and gross profit margin fell by one percentage point to 27 pct.
 OAED absorption of ESPA funds at 60 pctThe absorption of EU funds under the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) assigned to the Manpower Employment Organisation OAED for unemployment programmes approaches 60 percent, according to an announcement by the Organisation.
More specifically, for programmes on employment for the unemployed, 780 million euros have been assigned to the OAED by the Operational Programme "Development of Human Potential" and another 87.4 million euros from the Operational Programme "Administrative Reform".
According to assessments, the implementation of OAED's programmes has contributed to containing the increase in the unemployment rate by 5 to 7 percent.
 New, promising exports portal launchedA new networking portal for Greek export businesses, Exportgate.gr, launched on Wednesday is envisaged to facilitate the promotion of Greek products to new international markets. Attending the launching event, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis appeared optimistic for the success of the portal, noting that the specific electronic platform can form the basis of a national portal to be created under the new exports body.
Hatzidakis reiterated that the government's target was that exports in 2013 rise to 13 percent of the country's GDP, the highest rate in the past 30 years.
Exportgate.gr was developed by Eurobank, in collaboration with the Association of Exporters and Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEB).
 Greek stocks end moderately higherGreek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, helped by a recovery in bank shares. The composite index of the market rose 0.79 pct to end at 930.73 points, off the day's highs of 936.87 points. Traders said the market was extremely volatile ahead of developments in Cyprus.
Turnover was a low 53.917 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 0.79 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.06 pct higher. The Banks (4.28 pct), Health (4.05 pct), Financial Services (3.43 pct) and Commerce (3.02 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains, while Personal Products (2.67 pct) and Telecoms (1.89 pct) suffered losses.
Alpha Bank (8.24 pct), MIG (7.51 pct), Eurobank (7.30 pct), Piraeus Bank (5.65 pct) and National Bank (4.92 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Frigoglass (5.82 pct), Jumbo (3.05 pct) and Motor Oil (4.04 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 69 to 68 with another 21 issues unchanged. Haidemenos (21.12 pct), Hatzioannou (20 pct) and Fieratex (18.64 pct) were top gainers, while Progressive (27.89 pct), Pairis (26.18 pct) and Lazaridis (23.19 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: Unchanged
Personal & Household: -2.67%
Raw Materials: -0.17%
Travel & Leisure: -0.13%
Food & Beverages: +1.54%
Financial Services: +3.43%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Coca Cola 3E, PPC and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.74
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.00
HBC Coca Cola: 22.75
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.95
National Bank of Greece: 0.68
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.25
Bank of Piraeus: 0.19
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 10.38 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 10.0 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.75 pct and the German Bund 1.37 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.33 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 3.04 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 18.745 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,943 contracts worth 10.146 million euros, with 28,545 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 46,541 contracts worth 8.599 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (14,332), followed by National Bank (11,627), Piraeus Bank (5,888), MIG (1,173), OTE (5,382), PPC (3,493), GEK (1,201), Ellaktor (607), Intralot (628), Mytilineos (529), OPAP (418), Coca Cola Hellenic (242), Piraeus Port (418) and Terna Energy (268).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.313
Pound sterling 0.868
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.462
Japanese yen 125.55
Swiss franc 1.240
Norwegian kroner 7.658
Canadian dollar 1.347
Australian dollar 1.265
 Thousands of unaccompanied children from third countries end up in GreeceThe exact number of unaccompanied minors in Greece is not known but they are estimated to thousands and only 397 children are staying in shelters for minors, Greek Ombudsman for Children's Rights Giorgos Moschos said on Wednesday.
Addressing a conference hosted on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination celebrated on March 21, Moschos referred to his experience with unaccompanied children in detention centers.
The children sleep on cement beds with only a blanket to keep them warm, not knowing how long they will have to stay there, he said, adding that most of the time, those children are not treated as such by police and the administrative agencies, but rather as migration law violators.
Children under the age of 18, from third countries or of unknown nationality, that arrive in Greece without being accompanied by a legal guardian, are described with the term "unaccompanied children", Athens First Instance Court Prosecutor Ilias Zagoreos said.
Most of the children are victims of exploitation, abuse, trading of minors, illegal labour and human trafficking, he said, adding that the reasons that force them to migrate from their countries are armed conflicts, poverty and being left orphans. Usually, the children are being detected by NGOs while attempting to enter or leave the country or they are arrested for panhandling.
Athens Court of Appeals Judge Sophia Tzoumerkioti and Prosecutor Zagoreos advocated the establishment of a special body of commissioners assigned with the care of unaccompanied children and underlined the urgent need for interpreters. Tzoumerkioti said that more hospitality centers will have to be built to provide shelter, food, education and jobs to the children, noting that the existing ones are not enough to meet the needs.
 Man wanted for April 2012 killing, shooting injuries of foreign nationals apprehendedA 29-year-old man believed to be the killer of an Albanian national and serious injury of another Albanian and a Pakistani in Aharnes, Attica prefecture a year ago was arrested at dawn Monday, police said.
The alleged perpetrator has been wanted since December on an arrest warrant for the incidents was arrested early Monday after he, together with an accomplice who is being sought, broke into two supermarkets in Melissia and Vrilissia and took off with a money-collection box for philanthropic purposes and various products.
After his arrest, the suspect showed a police identity card that authorities later found to be a fake, and gave false personal data. Police subsequently found that the suspect was wanted for the April 2012 bloody attack in Aharnes.
On April 29, 2012, a man drove by a bus stop in Aharnes, verbally attacked three foreign nationals (two Albanians aged 57 and 58 and a Pakistani) who were waiting for a bus. After the verbal attack turned into an argument, the man stepped on the gas and hit the 57-year-old Albanian with his car, injuring him.
The man then abandoned the car, went to his home and returned a half-hour later with a gun, with which he shot and injured the Pakistani, and subsequently chased the second Albanian into a nearby field, shooting him in the head and torso, killing the 58-year-old.
The arrestee was led before a local prosecutor.
 Retired policeman arrested with 12kg of heroinA retired police officer was arrested on Tuesday midnight at Igoumenitsa port when he was found carrying in his car 12 kilos of heroin.
The drugs were in 22 packets in a crypt between the back seats and the trunk.
According to police the suspect had left from the city of Florina and reacted when police made a spot check at the entrance gate to the port. The drugs were destined for Italy.
Both drugs and car were confiscated and the suspect will be sent before a prosecutor.
 Escaped prisoner from Agrinio police jail recapturedA 22-year-old Greek man that escaped from a police jail in the western Greek city of Agrinio was recaptured in Diminio, Corinth early on Wednesday morning, authorities announced.
The fugitive was caught in a combined operation by the Corinth, Akarnania and Achaia police forces, after he was spotted by Corinth highway traffic police and the Agrinio drugs squad, travelling along the old Corinth-Patras national road on foot.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 6C and 23C. Local showers in Athens with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 22C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 6C and 18C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Cyprus says NO and remains in the game".
DIMOKRATIA: "Historic no".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "No to the blackmail".
ELLADA AVRIO: "Cyprus said no, Athens wake up!".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Dramatic 'no' from Cyprus".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Cyprus dares to say 'no' to Germany".
ESTIA: "Cyprus says no to 'haircut'.
ETHNOS: "Dramatic hours for Cyprus and Europe - Both seeking a 'plan B'."
IMERISSIA: "Torrential developments".
KATHIMERINI: "The 'no' challenges Cyprus and Eurozone".
LOGOS: "NO: Cyprus again writes its history".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Cyprus' NO changes the status quo in the eurozone".
RIZOSPASTIS: "European Union escalates the attack against Cyprus' people".
TA NEA: "Between the devil and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin".
VRADYNI: "Retirement with fewer work stamps".
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