|Monday, 4 December 2023|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-05-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 9 May 2013 Issue No: 4354
 Avramopoulos meets fYRoM's Besimi, notes Greek support for Balkans' European perspectiveMeeting Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Deputy Premier and Minister for European Affairs Fatmir Besimi in Athens on Wednesday, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed Greece's support for its northern neighbour's European perspective, provided it meets criteria set by the European Union.
"Greece's strategic goal is the creation of a space of peace, stability and develop-ment on our northern border," Avramopoulos underlined in statements after the meeting.
The Greek minister pointed out that fYRoM's European perspective, along with that of the rest of the region, was the most effective tool for carrying out this vision, provided that the criteria and conditions outlined in unanimous EU decisions were met and fulfilled.
Pointing to the need for a rapid pace in efforts to resolve an outstanding dispute over the use of the name 'Macedonia', he said the Greek side "will proceed to accept a name with a clearly geographic determinant, which allows no margins for irredentist policies and is in no way lacking in matters relating to the highly sensitive issue of cultural and historic respect".
Avramopoulos said that the entire spectrum of bilateral relations between the two countries was examined during his meeting with Besimi, alongside ways to continue and deepen cooperation in matters relating to European unification and the transfer of knowhow.
He especially underlined the need to see progress over the next few months in meeting the criteria set by the European Council. Among these he listed the implementation by Skopje of substantial reforms in key areas, of respect for good neighbour relations and, lastly, achieving a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.
"Greece comes to the negotiations on the name issue with a sincere desire [for a solution]," Avramopoulos underlined, noting that a solution will liberate major prospects for cooperation, benefiting both countries and all of southeastern Europe. He called for moderation and self-restraint to prevail during the talks underway at the UN, advising against "counterproductive statements that undermine the effort to build up good neighbour relations and hark back to a Balkan past that the people of the region have paid for dearly and must finally leave behind them."
Besimi, on his part, praised Greek initiatives to promote the 'Agenda 2014' for EU enlargement in the Balkans conveyed his best wishes for the success of Greece's EU presidency in that year. He said that he had seen "goodwill, hope and friendship, and an honest approach towards our European perspective," during his meeting with Avramopoulos, and discussed bilateral cooperation and the European Union agenda in different fields.
"The European perspective, which is our strategy, is an option that can bring sustainable economic prosperity and social progress," he added, particularly emphasising the importance of Greece's support in this process, as fYRoM's largest foreign investor and trade partner.
"I really do know that we will have the capacity and the courage as soon as possible to overcome all the challenges, including the name issue, and I look forward to finding a joint solution, acceptable for both sides," he added, reiterating his country's desire to join the European Union.
 Foreign minister notes 'special significance' of PM's trip to ChinaForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday stressed the importance of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' upcoming visit to China, noting that it had a "special significance".
Replying to questions during a press conference with visiting Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Deputy Premier and European Affairs Minister Fatmir Besimi, Avramopoulos stressed that the premier's trip to China confirmed the mutual respect of the two countries and their desire to build up strategic cooperation.
He noted that the visit will act as a springboard for further improving already excellent bilateral relations and open a new chapter for the economy and investments.
"This visit is taking place at an exceptionally important time, indicative of the recognition and confidence placed in the policy being followed in Greece for the recovery of the Greek economy," he added.
 Monday's Eurogroup to ratify May and June tranches totalling 7.4 billion eurosBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Monday's Eurogroup is expected to approve the disbursement of May's tranches amounting to 4.2 billion euros and of June's tranches totalling 3.2 billion euros in bailout funds for Greece, according to a European official.
The disbursement of the first tranche of 3 billion euros to Cyprus will also be decided on Monday.
According to the same official, the duscussion between the Finance ministers of the euro will focus on the assessment of the troika, that will be ratified, while, as the official clarified, the decision will be a joint one for the two tranches, totalling 7.4 billion euros. There are no other preconditions to be fulfilled for the two tranches to be disbursed, the same official said.
However, the European official stressed that the challenges remain the same for the Greek programme and concern the reforming of public administration, and mainly the taxation reform.
The official underlined that an effective taxation authority is required and pointed out that the government hired a tax revenues General Secretary. However, he said that for the undertaking to be completed successfully, there must also be a will on the part of certain classes of the population.
As regards Cyprus, a review of the course of the adjustment programme will take place at Monday's session and the political decision will be taken on the disbursement of the tranche for 3 billion euros.
The priorities are clear, according to the official and concern the reforming and restructuring of the fiscal system and the gradual lifting of restrictions in the movement of capital.
 Anti-racism bill to be put up for public consultation by Friday, Justice Minister RoupakiotisA new bill calling for stringent measures against racism will be put up for public consultation by Friday, Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis told ANA-MPA in an intervew on Wednesday.
The bill is expected to introduce heavy legal repercussions against any show of or incitement to violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender orientation, and will also allow the prosecution of party deputies, pointing at recent incidents in and out of Parliament involving deputies of the extreme right party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi).
"Beyond making criminal charges stricter through the bill, we are looking for solutions to problems created by the behavior of party deputies, so that the operation of Parliament is highly effective," Roupakiotis said, "and to introduce repercussions for those who violate the law, the regulation and the operation of Parliament and convey beyond its walls a disregard for the institution - this is the worst of all."
The minister referred to article 5 of the Constitution, which said that the life, honor, and freedom of any person on Greek soil was safeguarded regardless of whether that person was a documented immigrant or not. It also said that a recent regulation adding to an older law fighting racism (Law 729 in 1979) was voted in by all parties in Parliament with the exception of Golden Dawn.
Asked what the support was among parties for the bill, he said, "I can assure you that all political forces - with the exception of a single party - are now mature enough to support new regulations that call for a new penal way of dealing with behaviors of a neo-Nazi nature."
 Democracy, apart from tolerance, also has rules of law, DIM.AR saysAn announcement by the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party on Wednesday stressed that "the bill that the Justice ministry is putting together aimed at dealing with racist violence, has a democratic content".
The announcement added that "in a period in which there is an upsurge in racist violence and an upward trend of the extremes, the law becoming more severe is an imperative action. Democracy, apart from tolerance, also has rules of law that all must observe and respect".
 Bill on racism 'in the right direction but late,' SYRIZA-EKM saysMain opposition SYRIZA-EKM on Wednesday hailed the government's decision to table a draft bill against racist violence in Parliament, saying that the measure was "moving in the right direction but late".
"The use of democratic institutions by the Nazis to foment or cover up criminal acts cannot continue to be tolerated," a SYRIZA-EKM announcement said.
"It is finally time to stop the short-sighted tolerant approach to the phenomenon of Nazism in the name of petty political expediency, it is time to stop peddling the sordid and historically uninformed theory of 'the two extremes'. It is time to put an end to 'immunity' for crimes against migrants," the party added.
At the same time, it warned against the dangers of overcompensating and thus violating fundamental political freedoms in the name of protecting democracy. "
It is a different thing to propagandise and foment a crime and another to exchange ideas - even when these ideas are repellent. Complete freedom of speech is a component element of every true democracy," SYRIZA stressed.
 Anti-racism bill a bid to stop Chryssi Avgi's rise, party claimsThe far-right Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) party on Wednesday slammed the justice ministry's draft anti-racism legislation as an attempt by the coalition government to stop its rise in the polls.
"The coalition government of submission and impoverishment of the Greek people is passing sordid laws to restrict the radical rise of Chryssi Avgi," its press office said in an announcement.
"They cannot forgive us for being the voice of Truth against the system of fraud, kleptocracy and betrayal," the announcement added, noting that the only racism in the country "is the racism against Greeks that are daily robbed and murdered by foreign criminals".
 Communist party blasts government's draft bill on racismThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a statement issued Wednesday that the draft bill presented by the government on dealing with racism and xenophobia "is neither innocent nor its real target is to confront racism, Nazism and the (far-right) Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party."
The draft bill, according to KKE, is based on and incorporates European Union decisions and laws, which by using racism as a pretext, actually target and restrict the political action by parties and movements opposing the system of exploitation and the European Union itself.
KKE said that on the basis of corresponding laws and the historically inaccurate equation of fascism-communism, which has become the official ideology of the EU, the action of communist parties is being penalised in several countries of the EU, at a time when fascist parties and groups act freely and even participate in governments.
KKE goes on to say that it is the people's own struggle that can isolate and neutralise the action of the Golden Dawn party and other agencies of racism, not the system that breeds, nurtures and utilises them, with the aim of dealing a blow to the popular struggle and labour and working class rights.
 PASOK on the issue of collective labour contractsPASOK, a junior partner in the coalition government, on Wednesday underlined that the contribution of all sides will be "decisive for a positive conclusion with the signing of a new collective labour contract".
In a statement marking the start of dialogue between employers and trade unions to negotiate a new National General Collective Labour Agreement, PASOK noted that the agreement will protect labour rights and a series of benefits, such as the marriage benefit, while simultaneously shaping labour market rules that combine competitiveness for Greek enterprises with security for employees.
According to PASOK, "the reduction in unit labour cost achieved in Greece, to the detriment of the workers, allows for and makes necessary the adoption of positive regulations for their protection," noting that the employers will have to respond.
"Similar moves for the signing of collective labour agreements will have to be made on sector and business level and in all enterprises," PASOK underlined.
 AN.EL responds to labour minister's statements on employmentOpposition Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party on Wednesday lashed out at the government in response to statements made by the labour minister, who spoke about positive prospects in the employment rate.
AN.EL labour sector head Pavlos Haikalis underlined that "the labour minister apparently lives in a virtual reality," adding that "the Greek people are being constantly misled, considering that 27 pct of the population is jobless and the situation will remain unchanged throughout 2014".
He said that the reduction in the number of layoffs is "deceptive", stressing that it is not by itself a sign of a turnaround in the employment rate.
Referring to the recent suicide of a member of the military attributed to financial problems, AN.EL called on the minister of defence "to take the necessary action to suspend the unfair measures that have a devastating impact on the members of the armed forces and their families".
 SYRIZA leader welcomes overseas voting, with conditionsGreeks abroad should be able to vote but true representation of their preferences should be guaranteed, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras told a Sydney-based Sunday paper on Wednesday.
Ellinon Logos (Voice of the Greeks), a newspaper founded in March this year, quoted the main opposition's leader as saying, "The vote of overseas Greeks in national elections must be guaranteed but in a way that would safeguard the untampered-with imprinting of political correlations in Greece."
In such an event, he said, "We would call for creating separate voting districts overseas which would guarantee the political intervention of all parties on an equal basis."
Speaking about austerity measures imposed by the memorandums, Tsipras noted that "for Greece to be able to be rid of the noose of the memorandums and take a new path, it needs the support and backing of overseas Greeks."
 DIM.AR's Hatzisokratis on the layoffs in the public sectorDIM.AR's head of economic and social policy Dimitris Hatzisokratis, a junior partner in the coalition government, on Wednesday referred to the 4,000 civil servants that will be laid off by the end of 2013.
Speaking on state-run ERA radio, he said that "they will come from four "reservoirs"; namely, those who are facing disciplinary action, the staff of abolished organizations and the redundant personnel as a result of mergers, who will be transferred to other posts or given the opportunity to retire. A similar outcome is expected from the restructuring of public administration."
He also said that the changes in the organizational charts and the civil servant evaluation process will play an important role, noting that the 4,000 layoffs can be an attainable goal.
 Tsohatzopoulos trial resumes briefly, then adjourns for Thursday after objections are filedThe trial of former PASOK defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and 18 others implicated in a money laundering and kickbacks in armaments procurement programmes resumed in an Athens criminal court on Wednesday after a break for Easter, only to be postponed again to Thursday after objections filed by his lawyers shortly after.
The defending lawyers for the former minister filed several objections with the court, one of which included the claim that the basic charge against him of kickbacks has lapsed; this claim also includes his former wife and his daughter.
A Council of Court of Appeals Judges has indicted Tsohatzopoulos, his wife Vicky Stamati, his daughter Areti Tsohatzopoulou, his former wife Gudrun, his close aide and former armaments secretary general Yannis Sbokos and 13 other individuals, on whom incriminating evidence of active participation in the scandal has arisen during the course of a lengthy judicial investigation, to stand trial.
Tsohatzopoulos, who is the main defendant in the case, is accused of money laundering via offshore companies that he owned, which he used for real estate transactions or other investment activities to legalize the money he received as kickbacks from military procurement deals signed when he was defence minister. In his actions he was assisted by businessmen, lawyers, his former and present wives and his daughter.
An objection by the defendants' lawyers was turned down by the court on Wednesday. They objected to the appearance in court of the Greek state, which is claiming a million euros from each of the defendants. The court ruled that the state's introduction of a civil suit is acceptable and legal, as it was harmed by the defendants' actions, who, it said, "reduced the authority and credibility of the state's services, as [the state was made to] appear unable to safeguard the security of its transactions."
Attending the trial are 11 of the 19 charged; among those not attending are Tsohatzopoulos' former wife and his daughter. The prosecutors will announce their ruling on the objections at Thursday's session.
 Meeting between Education minister and teachers proves fruitlessA meeting Wednesday afternoon between Education Minister Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos with OLME (secondary education teachers) unionists on the contentious issue of increasing weekly teaching hours to 23 from 21 has failed to achieve a breakthrough.
OLME representatives said after the meeting that none of their demands was satisfied.
However, Arvanitopoulos said that "at a time when all Greeks have made huge personal family sacrifices to help the country out of the economic crisis, teachers, too, have been asked to make their own contribution, given the need to avoid disruptions in school schedules."
"I believe that the vast majority of Greek teachers realise the difficult and critical circumstances and will contribute to the national effort," the minister said.
 Athens Mayor sues ultra-right Golden Dawn MP for assaultAthens Mayor George Kaminis on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against opposition ultra-right Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) MP George Germenis, who had physically attacked him last Thursday (during Orthodox Easter Week) while the mayor was visiting a municipal 'social grocery shop' near GD's old party offices.
In the lawsuit, Kaminis asked for the exemplary punishment of the GD MP for the charges of insult, factual insult, unprovoked assault, attempted physical harm and for other charges that may arise during the ensuing inquiry. The lawsuit also referred to a 12-year-old girl, who was injured during the incident while receiving her Easter present.
The attempt made by the GD MP to allegedly use his gun on the mayor is also mentioned. According to the lawsuit, the defendant attempted to reach for the gun he was carrying but was prevented by the Athens mayor's bodyguards, who forcibly escorted the MP from the premises even though he threatened legal action against them.
Earlier on the same day as the assault, police had been called in by Kaminis to prevent GD setting up a food distribution operation for Greeks only in Syntagma Square, in downtown Athens. The initiative had been called a "hate event" by Kaminis.
 KKE statement on the 68th anniversary of the end of WWIIIn an announcement issued on Wednesday on the occasion of the "68th anniversary of the day the red flag was hoisted on the Reichstag building, Berlin, a historic day of the peoples' victory signalling the end of WWII," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) honours "all those who sacrificed their lives, were tortured, wounded or left invalid, all those who fought in any way against the invading conquerors of the fascist imperialist 'Axis' between Germany, Japan and Italy and their allies, as well as the communist parties, and the national liberation and anti-fascist movements in capitalist countries."
"Today, fascism appears in the form of the Golden Dawn party (Chrysi Avghi) and other fascist groups. The Golden Dawn is an organization of the bourgeoisie, the capital; it is a fascist-Nazi organization, (...) it is the political descendants of the enemies of the people," KKE stresses.
The announcement sounded an alarm bell of the danger of a "generalized imperialist war" in the region, in which Greece might also be involved, and emphasizes that "the struggle to defend Greece's borders and sovereignty and the struggle to disengage from imperialist wars and interventions are -from the standpoint of the working class and the popular strata- integral to the struggle to overthrow the power of the capital, with peoples retaining sovereignty and power."
 Athens hosts annual Chiefs of European Navies meetingAthens will host the annual Chiefs of European Navies (CHENS 13) meeting on Thursday and Friday, the National Defence Ministry announced Wednesday.
CHENS was initiated in 1992 for exchange of information in naval strategy.
This year, 26 chiefs of Navy staffs from European countries will be attending, along with 4 observers representing international organisations.
 Deputy Development minister optimistic 2013 better than last yearGreek Deputy Development Minister Notis Mytarakis, speaking Wednesday after the session titled "Greek Forum 2013 - Economic Situation, business opportunities and prospects of the Greek economy", organised by Munich's Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Bavarian capital, said "we still have a great deal of work to do to convince the investors in Europe as well as all over the world that Greece is changing, but in any case and thanks to the systematic work that is being done I am optimistic that 2013 will be better compared to the previous year".
Mytarakis stressed that the climate for Greece is improving considerably. "It is much warmer than what we used to meet a few months ago. This is proved by both the private meetings with the members of the Bavarian government and the big participation of the business world in the event that Munich's Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised," he added.
 Government to retable amendment for 'strike duty' shipAfter making improvements and obtaining the consent of all three parties in the coalition government, the shipping ministry intends to bring back an amendment for emergency duty ships during ferry strikes lasting more than 48 hours, ministry sources said on Wednesday.
The amendment is to be attached to the draft bill "Tourist ships and other statutes" that is currently in the process of public consultation.
The two original amendments brought by MPs allowing the Coastal Shipping Council to appoint an 'emergency duty' ship when seamen went on strike for more than 48 hours had been rejected by Shipping Minister Costas Moussouroulis as problematic.
According to sources, the ministry's aim is not to create a strike-breaking mechanism but to ensure the supply of essential goods and pharmaceuticals to the islands during strikes. Among the criteria to be employed in implementing the measure will be whether there are alternative transport connections to a specific island and whether goods produced there are perishable.
The proposal is strongly opposed by seamen's unions, however, which accuse the minister of machinations targeting the right to strike.
 Interest rate spread widens in MarchThe spread between lending and deposit interest rates widened further in March, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
In a report, the central bank said that the overall average interest rate on new deposits decreased, while the corresponding rate on new loans remained almost unchanged. The interest spread between loan and deposit rates increased by 5 basis points to 3.06 percentage points.
In the case of deposits, in March 2013, the average interest rates on overnight deposits from households remained almost unchanged at 0.49 pct, while the corresponding rate from non-financial corporations decreased by 5 basis points to 0.44 pct. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to one year decreased further by 13 basis points to 4.36 pct. The overall average interest rate on all new deposits decreased by 6 basis points to 2.72 pct.
In the case of loans, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity (a category which includes credit card debt, open account loans and debit balances on current accounts) remained almost unchanged, in March 2013, at 14.78 pct. On the contrary, the average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year decreased by 14 basis points to 7.96 pct.
The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity increased by 4 basis points to 7.56 pct, while the corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors remained almost unchanged at 10.02 pct.
In March 2013, the overall average interest rate on the outstanding amounts of all deposits decreased, while the corresponding rate of all loans remained almost unchanged. The spread between loans and deposits increased by 5 basis points to 2.90 percentage points.
In particular, in March 2013, the average interest rates on outstanding amounts of deposits from households and deposits from non-financial corporations with an agreed maturity of up to two years decreased by 5 and 20 basis points to 4.51 pct and 4.31 pct, respectively. The average interest rate on outstanding amounts of housing loans with over five years' maturity exhibited a marginal change and stood at 3.19 pct. The corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors saw a marginal change as well and stood at 6.03 pct, while the rate on corporate loans increased by 14 basis points to 4.80 pct.
In March 2013, the overall average interest rate on all deposits (including overnight deposits) decreased to 2.93 pct, while the corresponding rate on loans remained almost unchanged at 5.83 pct.
 Greece raises 1.3 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Wednesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue, raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at a lower cost.
The Public Debt Management Organization in a statement said the auctioned raised 1.0 billion euros while it also accepted non-competitive bids worth 300 million euros. The yield of the issue was set at 4.20 pct from 4.25 pct in the previous auction of same T-bills in April 9.
Bids submitted totaled 1.705 billion euros, 1.71 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers, while settlement date was set for Friday, 10 May. The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 9 May.
 Hirings more than dismissals in Jan-AprilThe Greek labor market showed signs of improvement in the first four months of the year, with the number of new hirings surpassing the number of dismissals, official figures showed on Wednesday.
A report by Ergani, the information system of the Labor Ministry, said that a total of 20,460 new openings were created in the January-April period this year, after a decline of 32,691 jobs recorded in the same period last year. In the March-April period period, hirings totaled 38,248 more than dismissals, while in April new hirings totaled 89,779. In April, employment grew by 29,298 job positions, more than double the figure of 14,435 recorded in April 2012.
The report noted however that comparative figures should be dealt with cautiously as data were not electronically recorded until February 2013, when the real-time information system went live.
Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, commenting on the data, said the figures offered positive evidence over employment developments in the country.
The greatest mobility was recorded in the regions of Crete (15,044 hirings, 3,613 dismissals) and Southern Aegean (14,382 hirings and 1,116 dismissals), while in Attica dismissals were more than new hirings (28,216 and 26,952 respectively). The tourism sector recorded the biggest number of new hirings, along with the restaurant and coffee sectors and the services sector.
 OTE reports lower Q1 resultsHellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Wednesday said its first quarter turnover fell 11.4 pct to 1.045 billion euros, from 1.180 billion euros in the same period last year. OTE said net profits totaled 167.5 million euros in the
January-March period, down 45.6 pct from the same period in 2012, while net profits - excluding capital gains - rose by 5 pct. Net profits were positively affected by an after-tax capital gain of 65.7 million euros in the three-month period from the sale of Hellas Sat.
Operating expenses, excluding amortization and extra charges, totaled 682 million euros in the first quarter from 761.8 million euros last year (down 10.6 pct), reflecting a 11.9 pct decline in payroll spending. EBITDA margin was 35.4 pct, almost unchanged from a 35.5 pct in the same period last year.
Fixed investments totaled 102.8 million euros, from 118.5 million euros last year.
OTE said adverse economic conditions prevailing in Greece had a negative effect on its results. However, a more dynamic sales policy helped the group to report improved operating results in the first quarter of 2013.
In Romania, fixed telephony revenues fell 9.2 pct in the first quarter, reflecting a 24-pct drop in wholesale revenues as a result of a reduction in end-call fees in the country.
In the Greek mobile telephony market, a decline in Cosmote's revenues in the first quarter reflected excessive reductions in end-call fees and intensifying competition in the market.
In Albania, revenues were negatively affected by aggressive pricing policy in the country.
Commenting on the results, Mihalis Chamaz, OTE's chairman and chief executive, said: "We managed to maintain our profitability thanks to cost reduction measures. As expected, our quarterly revenues reflected lower end-call fees, adverse economic conditions and intense competition. Enhanced cash flows led to a further reduction of borrowing, with net borrowing down by more than 50 pct, or by 2.3 billion euros. We do not expect a significant improvement in our operating environment in the net quarters."
 Vivartia reports 8.7 pct decilne in 2012 salesVivartia, a member of Marfin Investment Group, on Wednesday announced lower sales and higher losses, burdened by a write down of assets in 2012.
Vivartia, the largest Greek food industry, said consolidated sales totaled 604.84 million euros last year, down 8.7 pct from 2011, while EBITDA totaled 1.7 million euros in 2012, after pre-tax losses of 183.49 million euros in the previous year. Net losses totaled 169.85 million euros.
Vivartia said its policy priorities for 2013 were to continue its rationalization process to meet new challenges in the market as a result of lower available income.
 Coastal passenger traffic up in Easter periodPassenger traffic in the domestic coastal shipping sector is expected to grow by around 20 pct this year, compared with 2012, helped by the unusually late celebration of the Easter holidays, which fell on May 5 in 2013, and good weather conditions prevailing in the country, the president of the Association of Passenger Shipping Companies (SEEN) Mihalis Sakelis told ANA-MPA on Wednesday.
Sakelis, commenting on tourism officials' forecasts of a positive tourism trend this year, stressed that the passenger shipping sector would not be significantly affected, as most tourist arrivals on large Greek islands were mainly charter air flights. He noted that 90 pct of passenger traffic were Greek citizens, travelling in the July-August period. Sakelis reiterated that the sector urgently needed measures to ensure its recovery, such as a reduction in VAT on passenger tickets.
A total of 114 shipping routes were carried out in the last five days of previous week (Holy week) from the port of Piraeus, with 82,551 passengers, up from 93 routes and 69,676 passengers in the same period last year.
 Ionian Hotel Enterprises reports 2.1 mln euro profits in Q1Ionian Hotel Enterprises on Wednesday said its profits totaled 2.1 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, after losses of 1.3 million euros last year. EBITDA totaled 194,000 euros in the January-March period this year, after earnings of 7,000 euros last year, while turnover was unchanged at 5.2 million euros.
 Ten days of spring sales in Athens stores, May 16 to 25In a move aimed at invigorating consumption in Athens after the Greek Easter period, the Athens Traders Association announced a spring sales period of ten days, starting from Thursday 16 to Saturday 25 May.
The Board of the Association called on all traders to participate in the initiative, tapping on the comparative advantage of offers by all stores together for a specific period of time, and sell products to shoppers at attractive prices.
Business wishing to participate in the initiative will have to notify the office of the Attica Region and the Athens Traders Association.
Details by each business will be entered in the website www.pameathina.net on which consumers can be informed on the various buying opportunities during the ten-day sales period.
 Greek stocks jump 6.06 pct on WednesdayGreek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as buyers took the upper hand in the market after a five-day Easter holiday in the market, pushing the composite index above the 1,000 level and near its 2013 highs of 1,044.76 points. Bank shares soared 25.81 pct as foreign institutional investors continued their aggressive buying of Greek bank shares ahead of completion of their share capital increase plans.
Positive forecasts over the Greek economy made by the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, combined with positive comments made by international firms over Greek state bonds and the privatization of OPAP, all contributed in creating a very positive climate in the Greek market. A record rally in international markets also contributed in Wednesday's rally of prices.
The composite index jumped 6.06 pct to end at 1,043.28 points, off the day's highs if 1,057.71 points. Turnover soared to 168.384 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 7.37 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 7.79 pct higher. National Bank (27.34 pct), Piraeus Bank (25.21 pct), Alpha Bank (24.35 pct) and Eurobank (21.33 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks. Folli Follie (-0.63 pct) was the only blue chip to end lower. The commerce sector was the only sector to end lower (-0.62 pct), while Banks (25.81 pct), Technology (10.44 pct) and Raw Materials (9.32 pct) were top gainers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 140 to 30 with another 19 issues unchanged. Demetriou (29.63 pct), National Bank (27.34 pct) and Piraeus Bank (25.21 pct) were top gainers, while Nafpaktos Mills (18.83 pct), Vioter (18.81 pct) and Alsinco (18.52 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.68%
Personal & Household: +1.66%
Raw Materials: +9.32%
Travel & Leisure: +3.85%
Food & Beverages: +3.79%
Financial Services: +6.26%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Alpha Bank, OPAP and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.43
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.87
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.74
National Bank of Greece: 0.86
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.26
Bank of Piraeus: 0.29
 Greek bond yields fall to pre-crisis levelsGreek bond yields fell significantly in the last few days, reflecting an improving climate in international markets. The 10-year Greek benchmark bond yield fell to the lowest levels since October 2010 before the country agreed to a bailout plan with the troika.
In the domestic electronic secondary bond market, the yield of the 10-year bond was trading at 9.5 pct to 9.6 pct, levels last seen in October 15, 2010.
In the latest sign of an improving climate for Greek debt, Morgan Stanley recommended investment in Greek debt to its customers in a report released on Tuesday, .
This positive trend is also affecting Greek corporate bonds, creating a more favourable environment for large Greek enterprises. OTE's bond price broke a new record high of 108.3 basis points, pushing the yield to a low of 5.83 pct. Hellenic Petroleum's bond price was up to 103.5 basis points.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 8.46 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 9.73 pct and the German Bund 1.27 pct. Turnover was a thin 3.0 million euros, of which 2.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.0 million euros were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.49 pct, the nine-month rate fell 0.39 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.30 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 3.78 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising significantly to 31.844 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,006 contracts worth 19.544 million euros, with 36,775 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 39,302 contracts worth 12.300 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (18,562) followed by Eurobank (2,455), MIG (1,318), OTE (7,013), PPC (3,022), OPAP (1,599), GEK (1,220), Motor Oil (222), Mytilineos (914), Hellenic Exchanges (145) and Sidenor (152).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.333
Pound sterling 0.859
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.668
Japanese yen 131.84
Swiss franc 1.252
Norwegian kroner 7.704
Canadian dollar 1.338
Australian dollar 1.306
 Greek Embassy Press Office director in London receives best diplomat on press issues awardLONDON (ANA-MPA / I. Karipidis)
The director of the Greek Embassy Press Office in London, Spyros Diamantis, was awarded the prize of best diplomat on press issues, a unique distinction established by the British magazine "Diplomat".
The "2013 Outstanding Contribution to the Press Corps" award was presented by former British Ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer who praised Diamantis' work as the vice-president of the Diplomatic Press Attache Association of London (DPAAL), noting that as the director of the Greek Embassy Press Office, he offered "excellent" services to his country during a very difficult period.
Diamantis told ANA-MPA that he is very honoured and pleased with the distinction, noting that it reflects the great effort made by the diplomatic mission in London to meet the challenge of global mass media.
 Bulgaria's caretaker prime minister Rajkov visits Zografou Monastery in Mount AthosBulgaria's caretaker prime Minister Marin Rajkov arrived at the Mount Athos monastic community, in Halkidiki Peninsula, northern Greece, on Wednesday morning accompanied by two members of his government, the Minister of Transport, Information Technology & Communications Kristian Krastev and Culture Minister Vladimir Penev.
They visited the Mount Athos administrative center in Karyes before arriving at the Bulgarian Monastery of Zografou where they will stay overnight. On Thursday, they will attend the Saint George feast day celebrations. They will depart for Bulgaria on Thursday morning after a litany to take place in honor of Saint George.
The Bulgarian officials arrived in Ouranoupolis by car on Tuesday night, a village in the northwestern part of the Athos leg of the Halkidiki peninsula.
 Serbs chose Greece for their summer vacationsGreece is the most popular destination for the overwhelming majority of the Serbs who intend to spend their summer vacations abroad, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Serbian National Association of Travel Agencies (YUTA).
YUTA Director Aleksandar Senicic told Vesti Online that roughly 70 pct of the Serb tourists chose Greece for their summer vacations, followed by Turkey, Spain, Egypt, Tunisia, Montenegro and Croatia.
The Serb newspaper Danas reported an 20 pct increase in vacation packages sold so far. Many travel agencies say that the cheap package holidays to Greece have been sold out for the May-June low travel season, while equally high demand is recorded for the high season months of July and August.
 Police union deplores shortage of working patrol cars in ThessalonikiMore than half of Greek Police (EL.AS) patrol cars in Thessaloniki are out of commission and many of those in use are "wrecks" and a threat to the safety of their crews, the local Police Personnel Association (EAYTh) charged on Wednesday.
The Thessaloniki police trade union noted that many police officers have to use their own private cars as a result of the shortages, while the best service cars are reserved for high-ranking officers and not available for officers on duty.
The police trade union called on the ministry of citizen protection and the EL.AS leadership to "solve this pressing problem, which affects police performance in protecting citizens and combating crime."
 Five foreign nationals arrested for entering restricted military zonePolice on Wednesday arrested five foreign nationals who were detected, without having an entry pass, in a restricted Security Coverage Zone in the northern region of Ferres, Evros prefecture.
The five, two Dutch nationals aged 37 and 24, two Belgian nationals aged 32 and 24 and a 29-year-old German female national, will be brought before a prosecutor.
 Emergency weather forecastA turn of weather for the worst was forecast on Wednesday by the National Weather Service (EMY), with strong thunderstorms expected on the mainland and the western part of the country from the afternoon on, spreading to the north and northern Aegean later in the evening.
Rain and thunderstorms are expected midday in Attica, becoming stronger in the afternoon.
On Thursday, strong weather conditions will be restricted mainly in the south, particularly the Peloponnese and on Crete, weakening gradually.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 12C and 24C. Local showers in Athens with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 15C and 22C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 14C and 20C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailiesat a glanceAVGHI: "Hypnotism before the new measures," referring to the optimism about the economy as reported in the press following a recent IMF report.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Invasion by the Canadians," interested in privatisations and investments in Greece.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "A war of nerves fells 10,000 students," who are now contending with the possibility of teacher mobilisations as they are about to start national exams towards university entrance, on May 17.
ESTIA: "The clashing rocks of the economy," referring to Ulysses' trials, was the metaphor the daily used after Greece succeeded in earning the EU's and IMF's acknowledgment of progress in fiscal affairs.
ETHNOS: "Tax Service going over loans with fine-tooth comb" to compare them with income tax returns of individuals for possible tax evasion.
IMERISSIA: "Alpha Bank test case" for being the first to proceed to recapitalisation and thus leading the reform in the banking system.
KATHIMERINI: "Price drop brings record tourist flow" as the room and board prices have shown sharp drops - in May, for example, by 15.2 percent compared to the same month last year.
LOGOS: "National high school exams up in the air" pending a meeting of the education minister with the largest high school teachers' union (OLME) to discuss demands of the latter, as exams leading to university entrance loom ahead.
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Recovery comes closer after six years of recession" it said, quoting European Commission officials, foreign analysts and credit rating companies.
RIZOSPASTIS: "Dangerous escalation of intervention in Syria"; the daily condemns the involvement of the Greek government in what it says are Syria's domestic issues.
TA NEA: "An initial test for 206,000 civil servants," referring to a questionnaire they will have to fill out in order to evaluate their positions, skills and correct placement in the public sector.
VRADYNI: "Illegal home structures: Bye-bye to settlement," of homes or additions not built legally but eventually included in town planning with provisions and tax payment; this is threatened by a provision allowing a neighbor or environmental organisation to challenge the decision of a case.
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