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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-03-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 27 March 2013 Issue No: 4319


  • [01] SAP enterprise application software giant CEO announces plan to relocate headquarters for southern Europe to Greece, after meeting with PM
  • [02] PM Samaras holds meeting with IIF head Dallara
  • [03] Stournaras briefs PM Samaras before tabling draft bill on pensions
  • [04] Finmin rules out Cyprus-style 'haircut' of deposits in other troubled EU economies
  • [05] PASOK leader Venizelos briefed by Finance Minister; lashes out at SYRIZA, ANEL
  • [06] Finmin briefs SYRIZA, KKE on Cyprus bailout plan
  • [07] DIMAR on crisis of banking system and eurozone debt
  • [08] DIMAR leader: Decision for Cyprus painful but inside the eurozone
  • [09] Independent Greeks accuse new Eurogroup president of undermining banking system in EU
  • [10] German FinMin: Greece moving forward slowly but surely, has support of partners
  • [11] PM Samaras holds meeting with Justice, Public Order ministers
  • [12] Gov't denounces Golden Dawn protest outside TV channel
  • [13] Deputy Development Minister Mitarakis in Doha
  • [14] Parliament's Lagarde list probe to push for April 15 deadline
  • [15] Diotis submits electronic mail with G. Papaconstantinou
  • [16] Athens lawyers denounce arrests of Turkish colleagues in Istanbul
  • [17] Piraeus Bank signs agreement for acquisition of Cypriot banks/ branches in Greece
  • [18] Greek authorities approve Piraeus Bank acquisition of Cypriot banks' networks
  • [19] Greek banks cut borrowing from ELA in February
  • [20] Fuchtel urges Germans to visit Greece; Tourism Minister meets the German Chancellor's envoy for Greece
  • [21] Invest in Greece survey confirms quality of services
  • [22] Article on privatisations ratified in parliament
  • [23] TAP natural gas pipeline engineering design completed
  • [24] Greek exports to third countries up 17.8 pct in 2012
  • [25] Heracles Cement closes down production unit in Halkida
  • [26] Defence ministry provides 142.6 million euros for military hospitals and pharmacies
  • [27] HRADF asks for postponement of OPAP's extraordinary general shareholders' meeting
  • [28] Greek fur product exports to China up sharply in 2012
  • [29] Seamen's union announces one-day warning strike next week
  • [30] First cruiseship of summer season docks at Aghios Nikolaos, Crete
  • [31] Business Briefs
  • [32] Greek stocks end 4.9 pct down
  • [33] Greek bond market closing report
  • [34] ADEX closing report
  • [35] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [36] Interior minister honours Otto Rehhaggel in presence of Joakim Fuchtel
  • [37] Archaeologists on Thessaloniki metro construction site dispute
  • [38] Austrian, German ambassadors to have open discussion with Pierce pupils on Wednesday
  • [39] Ionian University rector offers free food to Cypriot students
  • [40] 4.4R quake off Crete
  • [41] Rainy on Wednesday
  • [42] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] SAP enterprise application software giant CEO announces plan to relocate headquarters for southern Europe to Greece, after meeting with PM

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met on Tuesday with Germany-based SAP AG software giant co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe, in the context of the government's efforts to attract foreign investments to Greece and expansion of their activities in the country.

    SAP, the enterprise application software market leader, posted profits of more than 11 billion euros in 2011, has more than 55,000 employees throughout the world and 190,000 clients the world over.

    After the meeting, Snabe said he was impressed by the improvement presented by Greece and described his discussion with the Prime Minister as "very constructive", adding that the company's aim is to support Greek growth which, he said, is on the Greek government's agenda.

    "We will invest in Greece," Snabe said, and announced that SAP will relocate its headquarters for southern Europe to Greece.

    The two men examined ways for cooperation, aiming at reducing unemployment in Greece and boosting innovative entrepreneurship, while Snabe pledged to support initiatives by young entrepreneurs.

    Snabe statement:

    "We had a very productive meeting with the Prime Minister. I must say, personally, I' m impressed with the improvements that Greece is going through.

    Being the largest global supplier basis software, we are here to help accelerate the process to increase innovation and growth, because that's really the agenda of the future in Greece. We see a market with lots of intelligent people, we see a market where software would play a major role and we are here to make our investments and accelerate the process.

    We have moved our South Europe Headquarters to Athens to show our focus on this market and today we talked about how we can solve unemployment with educating young people. We talked about how we can inspire small startups to leverage our technology and drive innovation in growth in a global basis environment."

    [02] PM Samaras holds meeting with IIF head Dallara

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras held a 45-minute meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Tuesday afternoon with the head of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) Charles Dallara. No statements were made after the meeting.

    [03] Stournaras briefs PM Samaras before tabling draft bill on pensions

    Speaking after the end of a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday evening, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters that the focus of discussion was a draft bill to be tabled in parliament on Wednesday, which will allow retirees to receive 50 percent of their pension straightaway, even within the first month of retiring, until the final amount of the pension is determined.

    Stournaras said he also briefed the premier on his contacts with political party leaders earlier in the day. He met with main opposition SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras, PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, DIMAR party head Fotis Kouvelis and Communist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, to brief them on latest developments in the Eurogroup bailout agreement for Cyprus, as well as shielding Greece's economy from any repercussions.

    [04] Finmin rules out Cyprus-style 'haircut' of deposits in other troubled EU economies

    Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday ruled out the prospect of a Cyprus-style "haircut" of deposits by other troubled European economies in the future, following his meeting with Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias concerning the Cyprus bailout.

    Stournaras seemed positive that the Cyprus bailout would not be used as a template for countries other than Cyprus, replying to fears originally sparked by the head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem in his original statements about the EU plan.

    Under a barrage of questions, the finance minister said that he had briefed the president on the two crucial meetings between Eurozone finance ministers concerning the bailout, stressing that the "Eurozone is not insecure" and that the meeting had stressed that the specific solution will be used in Cyprus.

    Asked whether there might be a haircut of deposits if "circumstances demanded", the finance minister ruled out such a possibility and repeated that the proposed plan "was discussed only for Cyprus, whose banking system is unique case".

    [05] PASOK leader Venizelos briefed by Finance Minister; lashes out at SYRIZA, ANEL

    The Greek banking system has been fully "insulated" against the repercussions of the Cypriot crisis through the signing of an agreement giving all Cypriot banks' branches in Greece to Piraeus Bank, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday after being briefed by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on developments concerning Cyprus.

    Venizelos, whose party supports the three-party coalition government in Greece, lashed out at Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) and the Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, which both maintain that the Greek PSI caused the problems in Cyprus, and he strongly criticized statements made by Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem that the Cyprus bailout could act as a "template" for other troubled economies.

    Venizelos said the "insulation" of the Greek banking system's was very important within the framework of efforts to guarantee the stability of the Greek economy, which was a precondition for growth.

    As regards the positions of SYRIZA and ANEL, he said that recent developments showed that thoughtlessness can be dangerous because "there is no alternative solution outside the eurozone".

    He said that SYRIZA and ANEL "have undertaken the task of defending the decisions of previous Cypriot bank managements presenting them as 'victims' of the Greek PSI".

    Commenting on the recent statement made by Dijsselbloem that the solution on Cyprus can serve as an example for similar cases in Europe, he said that it was dangerous and had been retracted precisely for this reason.

    Venizelos repeated the Monti proposal for a pan-European guarantee of bank deposits and expressed a wish that it will be adopted soon.

    [06] Finmin briefs SYRIZA, KKE on Cyprus bailout plan

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had meetings with main opposition SYRIZA-EKM party leader Alexis Tsipras and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Tuesday, in order to brief them about the decisions made by Eurogroup finance ministers concerning the bailout for Cyprus.

    Tsipras made no statements after his meeting with Stournaras but Papariga strongly denounced the Eurogroup plan and said that Cyprus' overgrown banking system was a "complication" but not the cause of the crisis. She underlined her party's deep concern, given Cyprus' crucial geopolitical position and "the hydrocarbons that the monopolies and competing imperialist powers want to control".

    She further noted that developments in Cyprus were a blow to supporters of a European orientation, since the country's accession to the EU had failed to bring about a solution of the Cyprus issue, especially given recent signs that Turkey and Israel were "mending bridges" and Russia's statements concerning Turkey's claims to the area's hydrocarbon's reserves.

    [07] DIMAR on crisis of banking system and eurozone debt

    The need for an overall confrontation of the crisis of the banking system and of the debt in Europe, was underlined on Tuesday by the Executive Committee of the Democratic Left (DIMAR) party.

    "If not confronted jointly, the eurozone debt will strangle the economy of its countries, will undermine the European vision and will feed centrifugal choices," DIMAR noted in its announcement, and linked the streamlining of the banking system and of the state economies with the development process "which, via a European economic policy that will enhance it, is the only solution that can prevent a further aggravation of the crisis".

    DIMAR's announcement also noted that "the promotion of economic and political unification, via a democratic federal structure, is the answer to today's prevalence of the imposition of decisions by the powerful of EU", adding that "this should be the only demand for Europe, and not the demagogy that attempts to present the shipwreck of the policy of unilateral denunciation as the unwavering struggle".

    [08] DIMAR leader: Decision for Cyprus painful but inside the eurozone

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis met on Tuesday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras who briefed him on the developments in Cyprus and the recent Eurogroup meeting.

    After the meeting, Kouvelis said that the Eurogroup's decision for Cyprus was harsh and painful but "inside the eurozone".

    Kouvelis added that Greece succeeded in keeping the Cypriot banks' branches in Greece as well as the jobs and the bank deposits, which is very important' and expressed his solidarity with the Cypriots in the ordeal they are going through.

    [09] Independent Greeks accuse new Eurogroup president of undermining banking system in EU

    The Independent Greeks party on Tuesday accused the new Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem of undermining the EU banking system, following the latter's statements of a possible continuation of the model imposed in Cyprus in other EU countries, which the party noted he later refuted.

    Independent Greeks parliamentary spokesman Notis Marias, in statements, intimated at a possibly deliberate intervention, which caused turbulence on the stockmarkets, and said that "Eurogroup president Dijsselbloem's statements, with which he paved the way for a 'haircut' of bank deposits throughout Europe, irrevocably undermine the stability and security of the banking system in the EU countries, giving at the same time the opportunity to the various 'vultures' to speculate unabashedly on the stockmarkets throughout Europe".

    "Incidental?", he questioned.

    Marias also criticised the appointment of Otto Rehaggel (the German former coach of the Greek national soccer team) as Germany's "honorary ambassador" to Greece.

    Marias called Rehaggel "the organ of Merkel's (German chancellor) Memorandum policy", and warned that he was "at risk of being shown a red card" by the Greeks.

    [10] German FinMin: Greece moving forward slowly but surely, has support of partners

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Greece is moving forward slowly but surely, and has the support of its partners, in the second part of an exclusive interview with Ta NEA newspaper appearing on Tuesday.

    "Continue with consistency on the road that has been agreed, attain the 'landmark' of a primary surplus, and don't worry about the support of the partners," he said, adding that "Greece, with the Samaras government, has made large steps of progress...We are doing all we can to support this course."

    Asked to comment on progress in the country's competitiveness, Schaeuble said: "There is no doubt that the country has very many things to do, which are neither simple nor painless. But the Greek government and the Greek citizens are meeting the challenge. And the rest of the eurozone is helping as much as it can. The result? We already see the first fruits. Slowly but surely, Greece is moving forward."

    "If Greece has the fortitude and the patience to follow this course with consistency, it will recover and will be able to develop on a sustainable and firm basis. Despite all the problems and the difficulties, there are substantial and serious reasons to look to the future with optimism," he added.

    Schaeuble also referred to the Greek people who are suffering from the tough economic conditions, noting: "The everyday people are not those who caused Greece's problems. In many countries that are in a programme, the citizens are suffering from omissions of the previous governments and the previous political elite".

    As for the 'haircut' of the Greek debt, the German minister said: "The haircut was necessary for Greece to get out of the debt trap. That's why I fought so hard. Many in Europe did not want it. Greece did, it is natural, anyone who has many debts wants their write-off. Finally, 50 percent of the Greek debt was written off. The haircut substantially hit the German taxpayer as well because certain German banks with large exposure to the Greek bonds were banks that had previously faced difficulties and needed to be supported by the German taxpayer. I accept no criticism on this issue, because the measure was mandatory in order to help Greece."

    [11] PM Samaras holds meeting with Justice, Public Order ministers

    The government is pushing ahead with measures to prevent prison escapes such as the recent incident in Trikala. A decision was taken on immediate measures, at a meeting on Tuesday chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the Maximos Mansion with the participation of Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias.

    Such measures may include enforcement of heavier guarding of prisons to prevent access by criminals to spaces outside prisons, as well as establishing a high security prison where serious crime convicts will be transferred.

    Roupakiotis said that there are plans for hiring 500 penitentiary employees in the coming period, while another 200 employees will be added as a result to the mobility programme in the public sector.

    As regards the escape at Trikala prison, the Justice minister said that an investigation is under way, while another inquiry is also taking place following reports on inmate beatings.

    Dendias said the Greek Police (ELAS) will provide heavy equipment for the external prison guards and will also help with the presence of special EKAM forces in search tactics in the cells of long-term convicts.

    [12] Gov't denounces Golden Dawn protest outside TV channel

    Denouncing incidents during a protest organised by the far-right Golden Dawn party at the studios of the private broadcaster Mega channel, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Tuesday said that Golden Dawn had proved that "vulgarity and ludicrousness no longer know any bounds."

    Members of the ultra-nationalist party had gathered outside the channel on Monday night to protest against the airing of a Turkish soap opera on the anniversary of Greece's Independence Day, which is celebrated on March 25. Several of the party's MPs were critical of the role of the mass media in Greek affairs, saying they bore a large share of responsibility for the current crisis in Greece.

    Members of the party's Parliamentary group delivered a protest resolution to the channel's management and, before dispersing, GD supporters burnt a Turkish flag and flung cartons of taramosalata at the entrance.

    [13] Deputy Development Minister Mitarakis in Doha

    Deputy Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Notis Mitarakis is to depart for Doha, Qatar on Tuesday for a two-day visit.

    He will represent Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the inauguration of "The Olympics - Past & Present" exhibition hosted by the Qatar Museums Authority.

    The deputy minister is also scheduled to meet with Qatar Holding Managing Director & CEO Ahmad Al-Sayed.

    [14] Parliament's Lagarde list probe to push for April 15 deadline

    The ad hoc Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee for the Lagarde list case on Tuesday decided to push for extra time to complete their inquiry, with MPs unanimously voting to ask Parliament to approve an April 15 deadline for its final report.

    The committee had already asked for and received an extension until March 29 to wrap up its investigation and present its report but has not yet been able to examine all the witnesses agreed by the parties at the start. It was therefore judged necessary to seek another extension of the deadline.

    [15] Diotis submits electronic mail with G. Papaconstantinou

    Former Economic Crime Squad (SDOE) chief Ioannis Diotis, in his ongoing testimony at the Investigating Committee probing the so-called Lagarde list affair, submitted the electronic mail he exchanged on July 7, 2011, with the former finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who was then environment minister.

    The e-mail was sent just a day before Diotis copied the controversial USB stick containing the Lagarde list.

    The former SDOE head appears to be cooperating on the processing of the Lagarde list with the former head of the National Intelligence Service (EYP), Constantine Bikas.

    Bikas, as shown by the electronic mail exchange, has an active role in the investigation of the case and is also shown to have informed the then prime minister George Papandreou.

    [16] Athens lawyers denounce arrests of Turkish colleagues in Istanbul

    The Athens Bar Association on Tuesday condemned the arrest of lawyers in Turkey and any action aimed at intimidating the Turkish people.

    In a resolution they adopted, lawyers in Athens expressed support for their persecuted Turkish colleagues and called for their immediate release.

    According to the Athens Bar Association, nine lawyers, members of the CHD organization that handles cases concerning labour and environmental issues, among others, were arrested in Istanbul on Jan. 18, 2013.

    Currently, thirty five lawyers are held in Turkish jails. Twenty six of them were arrested 2 years ago during a raid targeting Kurdish lawyers.

    A few days after the operation targeting CHD, police also arrested 119 members of the Turkish civil servants' trade union federation.

    Financial News

    [17] Piraeus Bank signs agreement for acquisition of Cypriot banks/ branches in Greece

    The Athens-listed Piraeus Bank on Tuesday signed an agreement for the acquisition of the network of branches of the three Cypriot banks operating in Greece, including their loan portfolios, the deposits of the banks' subsidiaries in Greece (leasing, factoring and Investment Bank of Greece-IBG), for 524 million euros.

    Following the agreement, the branches in Greece of the three Cypriot banks -- Cyprus Bank, Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB) and Hellenic Bank -- will reopen on Wednesday a Piraeus Bank announcement said, and assured that the bank deposits in the Greek branches are not subject to any levy or haircut that has been agreed in Cyprus.

    The announcement by Piraeus Bank said:

    "Piraeus Bank signed an agreement today to acquire all of the Greek deposits, loans and branches of Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB) and Hellenic Bank, including loans and deposits of their Greek subsidiaries (leasing, factoring and the Investment Bank of Greece (IBG)), for a total cash consideration of 524 million euro.

    The agreement follows the proposal submitted in response to the invitation addressed to Greek banks by the Greek Government, the Bank of Greece and the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), with regard to the acquisition of the branch network and operations of the 3 Cypriot banks in Greece.

    The transaction ensures the stability of the Greek banking system, provides assistance to Cyprus in relation to the resolution of the crisis and secures depositors, customers and employees of the 3 Cypriot banks in Greece post recent uncertainty.

    Following the completion of the transaction, Piraeus Bank Group will have consolidated total assets of ? 95bn, 1,660 branches and 24,000 employees.

    Piraeus Bank Group has a long and proven experience of seamless and swift integration and has successfully executed more than 15 acquisitions and mergers in the last 15 years, which minimizes any implementation risk.

    Piraeus Bank will carefully manage the integration of the Greek operations of the 3 Cypriot banks and simultaneously deliver value and opportunities for all of its stakeholders.

    The transaction represents another important step towards the restructuring of the Greek banking system, in which Piraeus Bank has participated from the very beginning as a core pillar, contributing to the effort to rebalance the Greek economy.

    Barclays Bank PLC, acting through its investment bank, Deutsche Bank AG London Branch, and Lazard Fr?res acted as financial advisors to Piraeus Bank for the transaction.

    The branches of the 3 Cypriot banks in Greece will open tomorrow Wednesday, 27 March 2013 and all the operations will be run in the normal course of business.

    Customer deposits with the Greek branches of Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB) and Hellenic Bank are not subject to any bank levy or haircut that has been agreed in Cyprus.

    For any queries, customers and depositors can contact their branch or dial 182838 / +30 210 32 88000."

    [18] Greek authorities approve Piraeus Bank acquisition of Cypriot banks' networks

    Greek competition authorities on Tuesday approved a demand by Piraeus Bank to acquire the branch network of Cyprus Bank, Cyprus Popular Bank and Hellenic Bank in Greece. A Competition Commission statement said the approval was based on the need to protecting financial stability in the Greek banking market and safeguarding direct access of clients to services and products offered by the three Cypriot banks' branch network in Greece.

    [19] Greek banks cut borrowing from ELA in February

    Greek banks' funding gap shrank in February, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday. The central bank, in a report, said that

    Greek banks' dependence from the European emergency lending mechanism ELA and the liquidity offered by the Bank of Greece fell to 96.4 billion euros at the end of February, from 121.2 billion euros in December 2012.

    Greek banks' dependence from European Central Bank's lending operations fell to 75.2 billion euros in February, from 76.2 billion in January, while lending from the European Lending Assictance fell to 21.2 billion euros, from 31.4 billion euros over the same months, respectively.

    [20] Fuchtel urges Germans to visit Greece; Tourism Minister meets the German Chancellor's envoy for Greece

    Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Tuesday met Germany's special envoy for Greece, Deputy Labour Minister Hans Joachim Fuchtel, who was accompanied by Otto Rehhagel, former coach of the Greek national football team, who was also enlisted by the German Chancellor as her special envoy.

    Kefalogianni noted that investing in human resources is a priority and announced a number of initiatives in tourism sector education and vocational training.

    Referring to a new education programme, already implemented in Germany, Portugal and Spain, which is mainly supported by private enterprises and offers to tourism studies' students paid on-the-job training, Kefalogianni said that "the ministry of tourism supports innovation that contributes to better training and creates new job positions".

    On his part, Fuchtel noted the tourism ministry's intention to promote vocational training and said that it is a great tool in tackling unemployment. Focusing on the advantages of the new education programme, Fuchtel said that the trainees are paid and, at the same time, they have the opportunity to get in touch with labour market trends and work in a foreign country.

    He said that the new initiatives undertaken by the tourism ministry have the right timing because Europe has earmarked 6 billion euros for such purposes, underlining that Greece can receive funding and take advantage of the opportunity to reduce unemployment.

    Speaking to AMNA, Fuchtel invited the German tourists to visit Greece, noting that Greece has made noticeable progress and is a safe country that Germans should visit.

    [21] Invest in Greece survey confirms quality of services

    The agency "Invest in Greece" will soon be in a position to offer even more services, such as the "Investor's Ombudsman," envisaged to speed up all kinds of investments in Greece above two million euros, as Stephanos Issaias, head of the body, stressed in a statement on the occasion of a Client Satisfaction Survey. Invest in Greece has been qualified with ISO-9001:2008 for its quality management system.

    The survey was conducted between January 1 and December 31, 2012, and recorded a high level of satisfaction and especially positive responses with regard to services rendered, confirming the quality and professionalism in all of the agency's activities.

    The survey was conducted through 265 questionnaires sent to clients-recipients of services offered by Invest in Greece, including investors, diplomats, institutional partners, citizens and journalists, who contacted the agency's professionals and required information and/or guidance with regard to their business activities.

    The agency said that the improvement in services recorded in this year's assessment is of special importance considering that in 2012 Invest in Greece operated under tough conditions characterized by the economic crisis, uncertainty and negative publicity for Greece.

    [22] Article on privatisations ratified in parliament

    Article 32 on privatisations, contained in a finance ministry draft bill, was approved in parliament by votes 165 for, 93 against and four "present", in a roll-call vote on Tuesday evening.

    Earlier, the government had announced the removal of paragraph four in the article, which treated favourably S.A. companies whose properties bordered with state property under special building regulations.

    The removal lead to Democratic Left party lifting its objections to the article.

    [23] TAP natural gas pipeline engineering design completed

    The natural gas Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) has reached another significant milestone in the project development by completing the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) stage, in view of the submission of the Decision Support Package by TAP?to the Shah Deniz Consortium on March 31.

    The specific design finalises some key technical parameters for the planned pipeline, such as the optimal routing onshore and offshore, specification of the pipeline material and design of valves, crossings, and compressor stations.

    The documentation also includes the logistical effort required for the TAP construction including resources, machinery, time and infrastructure necessary to build the over 800 km long pipeline across Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea with a landfall in southern Italy.?

    The next steps in the development of the pipeline are now the detailed engineering, start of tendering for steel pipes and construction services.

    The Shah Deniz Consortium is expected to make a decision on the preferred gas transportation route by June.

    [24] Greek exports to third countries up 17.8 pct in 2012

    Increased exports to third countries, with raw materials and farm/food products at the helm of export activity, Greek exports registered a new all-time record in 2012, with their value totaling 26.5 billion euros, up 5.9 pct from 2011, the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters said on Tuesday.

    In a statement, the Federation said last year's export performance was of particular importance given a decline of exports to EU member-states (-1.7 pct) which accounted for 60.9 pct of total Greek exports in 2012, down from 65.4 pct in 2011, and an 1.4 pct decline in exports of industrial products hit by the appreciation of the euro parity against the US dollar.

    Christina Sakellaridi, president of the Federation said: "Greek exporters have achieved a miracle which lasted three years. Prospects remained positive for 2012 as well, but recent developments in Europe and Cyprus, are significantly lowering possibilities and prospects not only on bilateral level but regional as well. Exports to Cyprus fell by 380 million euros last year and losses could reach around half a billion euros this year".

    Sakellaridi noted that exporters in Greece, Cyprus and in southern economies were facing significant difficulties and threats to their viability and underlined the need for a pan-European solution which should include the euro currency course.

    The Federation estimates a 2-3 pct increase in exports this year, while the European Commission expects a 2.7 pct rise.

    The value of exports totaled 17.004 billion euros in January-December 2012 -excluding oil products-, up 5.1 pct from 2011 (16.183 billion euros). Exports to EU member-states fell 1.7 pct while exports to third countries rose by 17.8 pct last year. Exports to Eurozone states fell 2.3 pct and exports to the EU-27 eased by 1.7 pct in 2012.

    Greek exports to former Soviet states grew 21.8 pct, last year, exports to other OECD states (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey) rose 15.6 pct, exports to North America grew 11.4 pct, to the Middle East and Northern Africa were up 8.4 pct and to Balkan states were up 6.6 pct.

    [25] Heracles Cement closes down production unit in Halkida

    Heracles Cement announced the termination of operations of its production unit in Halkida, as part of a restructuring program of its production structure.

    The production unit in Halkida has been idle since July 2011. The restructuring programme aims to help the group deal more efficiently with the impact of a deep recession in the construction sector, safeguarding the viability of the company and of its growth prospects both in the domestic and external markets.

    Under the new structure, Heracles Cement will continue cement production from its two units in Volos and Evia, exploiting their comparative advantages, mainly their port facilities, to support the group's activities in Greece and in the wider Mediterranean region.

    The production unit in Halkida was hit by a plunge in construction activity in Attica, with sales falling by 80 pct in the period 2008-2013. The company said it will seek every possible solution to minimize the effect of its decision to close down the unit to its 236 workers.

    Heracles Cement said the decision will burden its 2013 results by 57 million euros, but expects a positive impact of 18 million euros annually in the following years.

    Trade unionists, reacting to the firm's decision, accused the French-owned company (the majority of its shares are owned by Lafarge) of engaging in "apparent blackmail" and alleged "profiteering practices".

    The workers' trade union president told AMNA that the management "refused to make exports and proceeded to shut down the Halkida production unit in order to keep cement prices high in foreign markets, where they have a leading role by engaging in cartel practices."

    Workers' mobilizations are planned for Wednesday in the city of Lamia, central Greece, outside the Sterea Ellada Regional Authority offices. Mobilizations are also planned by the Cement Workers' Trade Union Federation.

    [26] Defence ministry provides 142.6 million euros for military hospitals and pharmacies

    The Defence ministry announced that the amount of 142.6 million euros will be provided for military hospitals and pharmacies at a first stage for the payment of their debts owed to third parties.

    The NIMTS hospital has been provided with 50 million euros as a first instalment for the payment of its debts until 2011. The amount of 92.6 million euros was also provided for the military hospitals and pharmacies of the three branches of the Armed Forces.

    The relevant decision by the jointly responsible Defence and Finance ministries is part of the government policy's wider framework for the payment of public sector debts.

    [27] HRADF asks for postponement of OPAP's extraordinary general shareholders' meeting

    The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) on Tuesday asked for a postponement of an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting in OPAP to April 6. The Fund said the postponement was necessary since its new board was announced only last Friday, 22 March. OPAP has called for an extraordinary shareholders' meeting to approve a board plan for a five-year contract with Intralot. HRADF's new chairman, Stelios Stavridis, in a letter sent to OPAP's chairman said the new board needed more time to examine the deal.

    [28] Greek fur product exports to China up sharply in 2012

    Exports of Greek fur products to China and Hong Kong are rising sharply in the last few years, with the value of exports totaling 10.87 million US dollars in 2012, up from 8.335 million in 2011 and 5.213 million in 2010.

    A report by the Greek embassy in Beijing said that imports of fur products from China and Hong Kong totaled 9.45 million euros last year. The embassy report, however, underlined the necessity to establish a brand name for Greek exporting companies before attempting to access the Chinese market in order to avoid any illegal product copying.

    China imports fur products mainly from Denmark, Finland, Spain, Canada and the US.

    [29] Seamen's union announces one-day warning strike next week

    The Greek seamen's union federation PNO on Tuesday decided to hold a 24-hour warning strike for all classes of vessels next week on Wednesday, April 3. The strike is in protest against a draft omnibus bill that the shipping ministry is about to table in Parliament.

    PNO sources have warned, however, that the strike action will be moved forward if the draft bill is processed more rapidly than expected. Discussion of the draft bill will begin at the Parliamentary Committee for Production and Trade on Wednesday, while the plenum is due to vote on it next week.

    The seamen's union is demanding that the draft bill in its present form be withdrawn entirely and calls for the signature of new collective agreements, implementation of the relevant legislation, settling of unpaid wages owed to crews by ferry lines and a return to the provision of healthcare by the sailors' fund own provider.

    According to PNO, the draft bill changes rules concerning the composition of crews, scraps minimum 10-month contracts for crews on both ferries and sea-going vessels and virtually abolishes collective agreements for lower-level crew members, allowing ship owners to insist on individual contracts. It also notes that the "Labour Requisitioning Committees" envisioned by the draft bill are essentially a "backdoor" abolition of the right to strike, since they committee will be controlled by the shipping ministry.

    [30] First cruiseship of summer season docks at Aghios Nikolaos, Crete

    The Cretan city of Aghios Nikolaos welcomed on Tuesday the first cruiseship of this year's summer season.

    The cruiseship "Silver Wind", with 224 passengers on board, will remain until the afternoon at Aghios Nikolaos and then it will sail for Kusadasi.

    The vessel had set off from Malta.

    [31] Business Briefs

    -- Inform Lycos on Tuesday said its consolidated sales totaled 98.8 million euros last year, from 102.8 million euros in 2011, a decline of 3.9 pct, while EBITDA jumped 24.1 pct to 9.6 million euros in 2012, from 7.7 million euros in 2011.

    [32] Greek stocks end 4.9 pct down

    Greek stocks suffered heavy losses in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, falling to new 2013 lows, hit by concern over the effects of an agreement to bail out Cyprus. Comments made by Eurogroup's head that the model used for Cyprus could become the basis for other cases in Europe, burdening shareholders, bondholders and large depositors, undermined sentiment in the market. Market sources stressed that developments in Cyprus could delay a privatization programe in Greece and underlined the problems facing large Greek-listed enterprises with established activities in Cyprus.

    The composite index of the market fell to its lowest level since December 20, 2012, ending at 884.94 points, off 4.90 pct. Turnover rose to 79.283 million euros. The Big Cap index dropped 5.28 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.95 pct lower.

    All sectors suffered losses, with the Financial Services (10.18 pct), Personal Products (9.81 pct), Telecoms (9.26 pct) and Utilities (8.95 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Eurobank Properties (0.70 pct) and Eurobank (0.39 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher. MIG (14.04 pct), Jumbo (10.66 pct), PPC (9.58 pct) and OTE (9.26 pct) suffered the heaviest losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 106 to 32 with another 16 issues unchanged. Pairis (29.48 pct), Haidemenos (27.71 pct) and Varvaresos (19.67 pct) were top gainers, while Ideal (29.92 pct), G.E. Demetriou (23.08 pct) and Intertek (20.89 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -3.64%

    Commercial: -1.44%

    Construction: -3.69%

    Oil & Gas: -4.15%

    Personal & Household: -9.81%

    Raw Materials: -5.77%

    Travel & Leisure: -3.64%

    Technology: -2.48%

    Telecoms: -9.26%

    Banks: -1.80%

    Food & Beverages: -4.98%

    Health: -7.06%

    Utilities: -8.95%

    Financial Services: -10.18%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, OPAP, Coca Cola 3E and PPC.

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.73

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.04

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.60

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.75

    National Bank of Greece: 0.70

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.26

    OPAP: 6.55

    OTE: 4.80

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.21

    Titan: 12.80

    [33] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 10.56 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.90 pct and the German Bund 1.34 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, one sell order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate eased to 0.54 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate was 0.33 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.

    [34] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 3.40 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 16.452 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,833 contracts worth 8.222 million euros, with 26,838 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 37,569 contracts worth 8.230 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (15,204), followed by National Bank (3,116), Alpha Bank (3,688), MIG (1,720), OTE (7,124), PPC (2,879), Intralot (719), GEK (350), Coca Cola Hellenic (333), OPAP (554), Ellaktor 210) and Mytilineos (739).

    [35] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.305

    Pound sterling 0.861

    Danish kroner 7.564

    Swedish kroner 8.481

    Japanese yen 123.07

    Swiss franc 1.239

    Norwegian kroner 7.61

    Canadian dollar 1.33

    Australian dollar 1.244

    General News

    [36] Interior minister honours Otto Rehhaggel in presence of Joakim Fuchtel

    Interior Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Tuesday awarded an honourary plaque to Otto Rehhaggel, former coach of Greece's national soccer team, in the presence of German Deputy Labour Minister Joakim Fuchtel.

    Stylianidis said that "in 2004 we won the European Championship because Mr. Rehhaggel imposed on the Greeks discipline, cooperativeness and rationality. In parallel, however, he respected the Greeks' enthusiasm, imagination and explosiveness and gave them free ground to develop their creativity and their talent to astound all of Europe. It is necessary for this spirit to be conveyed to politics as well."

    The Interior minister called on Rehhaggel "to wear Greece's national emblem once again and convey to the German public opinion and political world that the Greeks honour their commitments, respect their agreements, proceed with reforms and patiently endure enormous sacrifices because they believe in the idea of a different Europe that respects solidarity, mutual respect and freedom."

    Lastly, Stylianidis requested from Rehhaggel, a Goodwill Ambassador for Greek-German cooperation, "to contribute to Greece's recovery with the opening of German markets to Greek products, strengthening German tourist wave to Greece, cooperation between Greek enterprises with Greek ones and the promotion of investments in Greece."

    [37] Archaeologists on Thessaloniki metro construction site dispute

    The Association of Greek Archaeologists on Tuesday suggested the reconsideration of a ministerial decision allowing the removal of antiquities unearthed during construction of the Thessaloniki metro, which are to be showcased elsewhere, thus allowing the stalled project to be completed.

    In a letter addressed to Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras and the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), the association noted that two months after the ministerial decision the public debate that followed with the participation of local authorities and scientists has proved that the antiquities unearthed at the Venizelos Station construction site can coexist with the metro project if the station is redesigned.

    "Alternative options were never presented in the KAS meeting that decided in favour of the removal of the antiquities," the Association of Greek Archaeologists underlined.

    Archaeologists reject the position of the project contractor that the findings should be removed because they cannot coexist with the city metro under construction. They suggest that the antiquities can be showcased in a subterranean museum that can be visited by metro commuters and tourists.

    The dispute began after construction works in downtown Venizelos Station unearthed a well-preserved marble-paved road and remains of shops and public buildings dated from the Byzantine Period.

    [38] Austrian, German ambassadors to have open discussion with Pierce pupils on Wednesday

    The ambassadors to Greece of Austria and Germany will hold an open discussion with the pupils of the Pierce lyceum-American College of Greece on Wednesday, during an event titled "Friends of Greece and Tomorrow's Leaders Discuss How to Move Forward With a Renewed Mindset".

    The event, to take place at the Pierce theater in Aghia Paraskevi beginning at 3:00 p.m., is open to the public, with free entry, while the discussion will be conducted in English.

    The event is organised in collaboration with the International Public Diplomacy Campaign 'Repower Greece'.

    [39] Ionian University rector offers free food to Cypriot students

    Cypriot students at the Ionian University will be provided meals for free, following University rector Anastassia Sali's initiative in order to support the students from Cyprus.

    The rector has personally undertaken the expense of the Cypriot students' meals.

    Students from Cyprus have been asked to appear on Tuesday 26 March to register in order to get advantage of the offer immediately.

    [40] 4.4R quake off Crete

    A light earthquake was recorded at 10.55 p.m. Monday in the sea region of northern Crete.

    The quake registered 4.4 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre 40 km northeast of Rethymno.

    No damage has been reported.

    Weather forecast

    [41] Rainy on Wednesday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 7C and 21C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 12C and 20C. Local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 11C and 16C.

    [42] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    DIMOKRATIA: "What is coming for Greece".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "The fall of Cyprus, whose turn is it now?".

    ELLADA AVRIO: "Bank deposits haircut and new measures in Greece".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "UBER ALLES Cyprus' execution, message to the South".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They are devastating Cyprus, bomb on bank accounts".

    ESTIA: "Painful decision for Cyprus".

    ETHNOS: "Agreement with blood and tears".

    TA NEA: "Cypriots' Odyssey and the northern states' cynisism ".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Painful rescue plan with uncertain results".

    VRADYNI: "Haircut on bank deposits in other countries, too".

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