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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-04-0

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

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

Thursday, 7 April 2016 Issue No: 5147

CONTENTS

  • [01] What we have to do is make sure the program review will be concluded without measures that cancel the economy's potentials, State Min says
  • [02] PM Tsipras says EU proposals on revision of Dublin Treaty are a step forward
  • [03] Austria knows Greece's borders are EU's borders, says country's minister
  • [04] Six ministers of EU member-states on two-day visit to Athens on Friday
  • [05] Slovakian foreign minister briefs Greece on priorities of Slovakia' s EC Presidency
  • [06] President Pavlopoulos officially invites Pope Francis to Lesvos
  • [07] Commission unveils plans to overhaul asylum system and migration policy
  • [08] EU Commission presents options for a more fair and sustainable system for asylum seekers
  • [09] Meeting underway between government's economic team and institutions
  • [10] Minister reiterates intention to remove all refugees from Piraeus port by Easter
  • [11] Dozens of migrants from Piraeus camp in central Athens to protest closed borders
  • [12] Sit-in protest at Piraeus port; migrants demand open borders Tension prevailed earlier at Piraeus port.
  • [13] More than 53,000 refugees in Greece
  • [14] No refugees and migrants arrived at northern Aegean islands in 24h
  • [15] ND leader: Tsipras is incorrigible and must leave now
  • [16] Gov't spox slams main opposition leader for demanding PM's resignation
  • [17] 24-hour strike of ANA-MPA on Thursday
  • [18] Political, economic stability key in allowing banks to support economy-head of banking body
  • [19] Piraeus Bank launches programme to support small enterprises
  • [20] Greek micro enterprises hit by crisis, report says
  • [21] Representatives of Russian contruction companies to attend conference in Athens
  • [22] Epsilon Net reports positive 2015 results
  • [23] OPAP talks to analysts via teleconference
  • [24] Intralot buys 49 pct in Eurobet in Bulgaria
  • [25] Greece sells six-month T-bills
  • [26] Greek hoteliers react to reports on overnight duty plans
  • [27] Foreign investors net buyers in Greek stock market in March
  • [28] Greek stocks extend losses for fifth session on Wednesday
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Journalists to participate in 24-hour strike on Thursday
  • [32] Patrick the bear is freed into the wild after a year in human care
  • [33] Partly cloudy on Thursday
  • [34] The Wednesday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glance Politics

  • [01] What we have to do is make sure the program review will be concluded without measures that cancel the economy's potentials, State Min says

    What we have to do now is make sure that the program review will be concluded without measures that cancel the potentials of the economy, State Minister Nikos Pappas on Wednesday said in an interview with News247 website.

    "The debt restructuring issue is rather important because our ultimate goal is the recovery of the economy. Debt restructuring is a means to restore the economy and not a pretext to destroy it on an IMF recipe," Pappas underlined and added: "What we have to do now is make sure that the program review will be concluded without measures that cancel the potential of the economy and afterwards the discussion on the debt to begin, as it has been agreed with the creditors, and a definite solution to be given."

    Pappas underlined that the discussion on the debt must start as soon as the first program review is concluded not because the government says so, but because the agreement says so. "Therefore, if the IMF wants to change the agreement or the parameters of the agreement, it will have to persuade the Eurogroup, the EU summit and the parliaments of the other member states that will be called to ratify the new agreement."

    The State Minister also noted that the conditions are mature so that the management of the economic crisis becomes a European issue. Asked if the IMF could be replaced, he said: "ESM could replace it. ESM is the financial arm. Right now the IMF participates and at the same time it does not participate. It is clear that after the conclusion of the first program review, it must take its final decisions."

    "Germany has said that the IMF needs to be part of the program. We do not agree with that view. In any case a solution can be found on EU terms. What is also critical is what the prime minister said in Davos. That the disagreements among the institutions should not constitute a pretext for delays," the State Minister stated stressing the importance of not repeating the same mistakes.

    [02] PM Tsipras says EU proposals on revision of Dublin Treaty are a step forward

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the proposals unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday to overhaul the EU's asylum procedure and migration policy are a step in the right direction.

    "The European Commission's proposals for the revision of the Dublin treaty are a positive step forward," he tweeted. "The Refugee Crisis requires comprehensive management and solidarity between all European countries," he added.

    [03] Austria knows Greece's borders are EU's borders, says country's minister

    Austria knows Greece's borders are also the external borders of the European Union, Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said on Wednesday, following a meeting with Greek counterpart Panos Kammenos in Athens.

    In view of the EU defence ministers' meeting on April 18-19 in Luxembourg, the two ministers discussed the need to set and implement a joint European policy to tackle the refugee crisis, secure the EU's external borders, distribute evenly the refugees and migrants in EU countries and the signing and implementation of agreements between the EU and third countries to readmit migrants. They also discussed strengthe-ning Frontex so that it can respond faster in its mis-sion.

    Doskozil also visited the refugee center in Schisto, accompa-nied by Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas.

    [04] Six ministers of EU member-states on two-day visit to Athens on Friday

    Six foreign and European Affairs ministers from EU member-states will visit Athens on Friday and Saturday to express their solidarity with Greece in dealing with the refugee crisis and discuss the issue with Greek officials.

    The ministers will be welcomed by Alternate Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis who will brief them on the management of the refugee crisis following the decisions of the European Council last March.

    The European Union delegation includes Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Kenders, French secretary of state for European affairs, Harlem D?sir, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, Italy's Secretary of State for European Affairs, Sandro Gozi, Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs Margarida Marques and Maltese Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Ian Borg.

    On Friday, the ministers will hold a brief meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, while on Saturday they will meet with ministers responsible for the management of the refugee crisis. A joint press conference of Xydakis and Kenders is scheduled after the meeting.

    [05] Slovakian foreign minister briefs Greece on priorities of Slovakia' s EC Presidency

    Foreign Minister of Slovakia, Miroslav Laj?k, briefed Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Wednesday on the priorities of Slovakia' s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of this year, during a meeting in Athens.

    According to the Slovak minister, these include fighting youth unemployment, promoting the digital economy and growth and issues of migration.

    The two sides discussed developments on the refugee issue and the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, as well as issues of regional politics.

    [06] President Pavlopoulos officially invites Pope Francis to Lesvos

    Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos officially invited Pope Francis to visit the Greek island of Lesvos in a letter delivered by the country's ambassador to the Vatican, the presidency said in a press release on Tuesday evening.

    In his letter, Pavlopoulos describes the difficult circumstances of the refugees stranded in Greece and noted the need to raise awareness on the issue in other European countries, saying that his visit would turn attention to their plea.

    "I am convinced that Your presence on the side of refugees, will not only console them, but will also turn everyone's attention to their dramatic situation, touching the hearts of people around the world," the President said in his invitation.

    "With this thought, I wish to invite You to visit one of the first entry points of refugees at the island of Lesvos, and be next to our fellow human beings who are suffering, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece," he added.

    "Your visit in Lesvos will strengthen significantly the efforts to raise awareness for the refugee drama and highlight the humanist principles of our common European civilization," the letter concludes.

    [07] Commission unveils plans to overhaul asylum system and migration policy

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)

    The European Commission announced a series of measures on Wednesday to change the bloc's asylum process and restructure the European Union's migration policies.

    In a joint press conference after the meeting, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the EU proposes two alternative solutions on the future review of the Dublin Regulation, which aim at a fairer distribution of responsibilities among member-states and more solidarity.

    He described the Commission's proposals as "bold" and "ambitious" and noted that in both alternative solutions asylum seekers will automatically be distributed among member-states according to an "allocation key". Avramopoulos said that the Dublic Regulations must be implemented until the new system is in place, while acknowledging it is difficult for countries that receive a large number of migrants, like Greece.

    On his side, Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the current asylum system is fraught with problems ranging from asylum shopping to irregular migration.

    "The refugee crisis has shown the weaknesses in our Common European Asylum System. Let there be no doubt: those who need protection must continue to receive it, and they should not have to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers. But the current system is not sustainable," he said. "Different national approaches have fuelled asylum shopping and irregular migration, while we have seen in the ongoing crisis that the Dublin rules have placed too much responsibility on just a few Member States."

    Timmermans also said that in the meantime, the EU will have to apply the existing law to stabilise the situation.

    Both Timmermans and Avramopoulos said that the Commission's aim is to submit legislation on these issues before the summer.

    [08] EU Commission presents options for a more fair and sustainable system for asylum seekers

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ Ch. Vassilaki)

    The European Commission on Wednesday started the discussion on the future revision of the Dublin Regulation, presenting options for a more "fair" and "sustainable" allocation system for asylum seekers among EU member states.

    The first option proposed concerns the maintenance of the existing Dublin criteria but with the addition of an "emergency relocation" mechanism to be activated in special cases, i.e. when a member state is "under disproportionate pressure."

    The second option concerns the transition to a new permanent asylum distribution system based on criteria such as "the size, wealth and the absorption capacity of each member state."

    "The responsibility is no longer connected to the place of first entry," the Commission stated on the second option, adding that different versions of this option are possible.

    Finally, the European Commission underlined that it will work on a series of measures to "support legal migration in Europe" and "integration policies". Among these measures are a more 'structured' resettlement programme and the revision of the European Directive on the Blue Card to more "flexible entrance requirements."

    [09] Meeting underway between government's economic team and institutions

    A meeting between Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Economy Minister George Stathakis and Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis with representatives of the institutions was underway in Athens on Wednesday evening.

    According to finance ministry's officials, the meeting will focus on the process through which the negotiations will reach a draft agreement in the next days.

    The Greek side has already submitted its proposals on 1.8 billion euro package of measures on the pension and the tax system, as well as on the non-performing loans and is now expecting the response of the institutions.

    [10] Minister reiterates intention to remove all refugees from Piraeus port by Easter

    Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Dritsas reiterated on Tuesday his intention to transfer most of the refugees and migrants stranded in Piraeus port to organized accommodation centers by Easter, during a meeting with ministry and coast guard officials, as well as representatives of volunteers and refugees.

    Dritsas said that representatives of the refugees said that the people who are staying at Piraeus want to move to a more organized center, while he added that the port will not become a permanent refugee camp.

    The meeting aimed at improving the information received by refugees and migrants, so that they can be convinced to be transferred.

    [11] Dozens of migrants from Piraeus camp in central Athens to protest closed borders

    About 40 refugees and migrants left on Wednesday evening from the port of Piraeus where they were camping and reached Syntagma square in central Athens, in protest to Europe's closed borders.

    According to information, the group intends to camp on the square throughout the night. Police forces are already on the site.

    [12] Sit-in protest at Piraeus port; migrants demand open borders Tension prevailed earlier at Piraeus port.

    Migrants and refugees are staging a sit-in protest after the end of their briefing by the involved ministries secretary generals.

    The refugees are very annoyed and ask for the borders to open. "We are also humans and the borders must open," said and underlined that the conditions in many hosting facilities are not good.

    Port authorities attempted to arrest one person which brought tension between migrants and authorities. One migrant threatened the officers that he will hit them with an infant.

    The condition has calmed down, however, the sit-in protest continues.

    [13] More than 53,000 refugees in Greece

    The number of refugees in Greece exceeded 53,000 on Wednesday, according to data of the Refugee Coordination Crisis Management Body. There were just 68 new arrivals, while the total number of those who remain in the islands is 6,384.

    14,797 are hosted in Attica, 4,720 of whom in Piraeus. In Evia, Fthiotida and Larissa there are 2,566 people, while in southern Greece 340. At the camp, at Idomeni there are 11,269 refugees and another 1,264 at the gas station at Polykastro. Overall, in northern Greece refugees amounted to 28,955.

    [14] No refugees and migrants arrived at northern Aegean islands in 24h

    No refugees and migrants arrived at the islands of the northern Aegean over the last 24 hours for the first time after several months.

    According to the police, 463 refugees on Lesvos and 208 refugees on Samos came before the readmission agreement which was entered into force on March 20. All of them are free and stay in facilities outside the hot spots.

    [15] ND leader: Tsipras is incorrigible and must leave now

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a statement on Wednesday called Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras incorrigible and accused him of damaging the country and must leave now.

    "Today we all know the conclusion of Mr. Tsipras performance that started on Saturday," said Mitsotakis noting that the IMF remains in the programme and, as he claims, stronger than before along with its very often excessive demands.

    Mitsotakis said that unfortunately Greece's position and credibility were further weakened and that new very painful measures for all the citizens are on the way. He referred to a tax shock planned by the government which will strangle the economy and will dramatically worsen the crisis in parallel with the uncontrolled, as he said, condition in the refugees crisis that leads the country to suffocation.

    "At this crucial point, seriousness, truth, determination, credibility inside and outside the country is necessary. This government does not offer anything of those. Mr. Tsipras is incorrigible. He damages the country. Nobody expects nothing from him and that's why he must leave right now."

    [16] Gov't spox slams main opposition leader for demanding PM's resignation

    Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili criticized New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday of trying to gain political benefit from a stalled program review and calling for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' resignation, saying his expectations were disproved.

    Mitsotakis said earlier accused Tsipras of damaging the country and called for his resignation, following the fallout of the IMF leaks over the weekend.

    "The more Mr. Mitsotakis' expectations are disproved, the more he is exposed," Gerovasili said. "Mitsotakis cannot hide his disappointment for the fact that the plans of some extreme circles to stall the negotiations and create again credit asphyxiation to the country have come to nothing."

    NOTICE TO SUBSCRIBERS

    [17] 24-hour strike of ANA-MPA on Thursday

    Please note that due to a general strike called by public sector union ADEDY on Thursday, ANA-MPA will not be sending news stories out from 06:00 on Thursday morning (April 7) to 06:00 on Friday (April 8).

    The strike will affect the update of stories on the subscribers' online service, the renewal of the website and the issuing of the twice-daily Bulletins.

    Financial News

    [18] Political, economic stability key in allowing banks to support economy-head of banking body

    Political and economic stability as well as the effective management of non-performing loans (NPLs) are two of the five main preconditions that would allow the domestic banking system contribute effectively to Greece's growth and provide loans to small and medium-sized businesses, the head of the Hellenic Bank Association, Louka Katseli, said on Tuesday.

    Katseli, who is also the governor of the National Bank of Greece (NBG), was speaking at an event organized by Greek-German Business Forum and the Economist Conferences on Greek innovation and the role of start-ups in the economy's return to growth.

    The NBG governor said the first precondition is to complete the country's program review to achieve political and economic stability in the country so that banks can help the real economy. "The banking system, not only in Greece but also internationally, is not isolated from the wider economic and political environment. The successful completion of the first review of the Greek program is the first key parameter in building confidence and reducing uncertainty," she said.

    The second precondition is ensuring a climate of stability to the financial system that would allow the return of bank deposits. The third is the effective management of NPLs and specifically of business portfolios held by banks.

    The fourth element is creating innovative funding tools to attract investments, by limiting the cost of money, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as improving corporate governance in the banking system. Katseli said the last precondition is to have a comprehensive rebranding of the Greek financial system.

    [19] Piraeus Bank launches programme to support small enterprises

    Piraeus Bank on Wednesday presented a new programme, called "Piraeus Business 360o" designed to meet the needs of a modern enterprise through a combination of products and services. This programme is focusing on small enterprises and self-employed professionals seeking to include their investment plans in a 2014-2020 EU funds programme.

    Pireaus Bank said the package will offer five options to businesses, flexible funding tools, management of daily transactions, supporting enterprises through advisory services, safeguarding an enterprises through specialized insurance coverage programmes and creating more competitive conditions.

    [20] Greek micro enterprises hit by crisis, report says

    The number of "micro" enterprises in Greece does not exceed 610,000, with total employment reaching 1.1 million workers, the National Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) said in a report released on Wednesday.

    The report, based on European data analyzed by the Confederation, said that the participation of micro enterprises' added value to the total added value of the private sector remained at high levels and was significantly higher compared with the average participation of the sector in Europe throughout the recession. Micro enterprises continued offering around 60 pct of job positions in the private sector, remaining almost double compared with the average European level.

    In the 2010-2015 period, the added value of micro enterprises in Greece fell by 33.3 pct or by 9.0 billion euros, to 18 billion euros, almost equal to the added value of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

    The report showed that more than half of micro enterprises expressed fears over their future in the near future, hit by an adverse business environment burdened by over-taxation, economic instability, lower consumption, lack of liquidity, bureaucracy and other business hurdles.

    ESEE president Vasilis Korkidis, commenting on the report said that "Unfortunately, positive European estimates do not reflect reality in Greece as Greek micro enterprises showed a deterioration of their economic condition. It is clear that in a crisis period, those Greek SMEs which remained open or remained in the country, instead of growing, they shrank and became smaller".

    [21] Representatives of Russian contruction companies to attend conference in Athens

    Ten representatives of Russian construction companies will be in Athens on Thursday to attend a one-day conference on the needs of the Russian market in construction, which will be held at the Metropolitan Expo center, as part of the Domotec exhibition.

    The conference, titled "The needs of the Russian market in construction and building materials" will be opened by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas.

    [22] Epsilon Net reports positive 2015 results

    Epsilon Net on Wednesday said its 2015 turnover totaled 10.992 million euros, up 11.26 pct from the previous year, while pre-tax earnings jumped 43.56 pct to 415,000 euros from 289,110 euros in 2014.

    After tax earnings amounted to 361.930 euros, from 335,970 in 2014, for an increase of 7.73 pct.

    The company said its workforce grew more than 9.0 pct in 2015 reflecting a continued increase in its turnover.

    [23] OPAP talks to analysts via teleconference

    Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics S.A.(OPAP) on Wednesday reported an 1.6 pct increase in gross revenue and an 8.8 pct rise in EBITDA in 2015. Kamil Ziegler, chairman and chief executive of OPAP, presenting the results to analysts via a teleconference, stressed that 2015 was signaled by successful performance on economic level despite difficulties and economic uncertainty in the country which affected the company's activities.

    He noted OPAP's significant contribution to public revenue which surpassed 500 million euros in 2015 through the GGR tax. Ziegler said that the state budget's provision for an economic recession this year left no room for excessive optimism. He said that OPAP was in talks with the government to replace a special duty on the company's transactions with alternative measures and stressed that OPAP will declare a zero figure for the first quarter because of the technical inability to collect the duty.

    He said that the VLTs project remained in suspension and that an mediation process was currently underway, while he stressed that all investment plans were frozen and could restart after authorities efficiently changed regulations to combat illegal gaming in the country

    "We are committed to the project but there must be a fair and balanced regulatory framework for VLTs which will safeguard public interest and public revenue and at the same time allow the economic viability of the VLTs business activity, OPAP and its partners," Ziegler said.

    [24] Intralot buys 49 pct in Eurobet in Bulgaria

    Intralot on Wednesday announced that its subsidiary in Bulgaria BILOT acquired a strategic stake in Eurobet, a lottery games company in Bulgaria for an undisclosed sum.

    Intralot will buy 49 pct in Eurobet, acquiring a network of 1,100 units in the country. Intralot has established a strong presence in Bulgaria after buying a 49 pct in Eurofootball -a live bet company- in 2002, operating a network of 850 units. The acquisition needs approval from Bulgarian competition authorities and it is expected to be completed by June 2016.

    Antonis Kerastaris, Intralot's CEO, commenting on the agreement said: "We are proud to expand our presence in Bulgaria through purchasing a strategic stake in Eurobet. Through synergies created with Eurobet we will be able to further enhance our business activity in Bulgaria and to maintain our leading position in the region".

    [25] Greece sells six-month T-bills

    Greece on Wednesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issues draining 1.1375 billion euros from the market. The Public Debt Management Orgranization, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue was 2.97 pct, unchanged from the previous auction of same issue last month. Bids submitted were 1.3 times more than the asked sum of 875 million euros. Settlement date was set for Friday, 8 April. The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 7 April.

    [26] Greek hoteliers react to reports on overnight duty plans

    Greek hotel owners on Wednesday strongly reacted to reports alleging that the government examined the imposition of overnight duty to Greek hotels, noting that "any such thoughts, wherever they come from, are extremely dangerous".

    Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, in an announcement, said that "any further burdening of the competitiveness of the Greek tourist product -after the increase of VAT- would be catastrophic and essentially it would cancel the ability of Greek tourism to support public revenue and offer jobs to Greek citizens". The Chamber noted that it has already made all necessary actions to authorities, warning of grave consequences and demanding the scrapping of any such plans.

    [27] Foreign investors net buyers in Greek stock market in March

    Foreign investors raised their participation in the capitalization of the Greek stock market in March to 60 pct including the participation of Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, while excluding HFSF's participation their share rose to 63.3 pct in March from 62.3 pct in February.

    Foreign investors were net buyers in March with capital inflows of 5.93 million euros, while Greek investors were net sellers with capital outflows of 5.91 million. The value of transactions amounted to 1.602 billion euros in March, up 25.6 pct from February and up 14.6 pct from March 2015. Average daily value of transactions was 80.11 million euros in March, up from 60.74 million in February but down from 89.32 million euros in March last year.

    The number of active investor codes fell to 17,253 in March from 21,159 in February and 32,776 in March 2015. The market's capitalization was 34.68 billion euros at the end of March, up 11.4 pct from a month earlier but down 11.9 pct from March 2015.

    [28] Greek stocks extend losses for fifth session on Wednesday

    Greek stocks eased lower for a fifth session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, falling below the support levels of the 560 points and with the turnover remaining low, as investors remain cautious over the outcome of negotiations between the Greek government and the country's creditors.

    The composite index fell 1.27 pct to end at 554.12 points, registering an intraday high of 562.88 points and a low of 553.30 points. During the last five sessions, the main index has lost a total of 4.27 pct. The Large Cap index fell 1.70 pct and the Mid Cap index fell 0.29 pct lower.

    Trading volume totaled just 48.181 million euros with 120,344,402 stocks changing hands. Turnover was a low 56.164 million euros in volume of 111,968,707.

    Aegean Airlines (2.14 pct), Motor Oil (0.54 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (0.28 pct), Grivalia Properties (0.27 pct) and Titan (0.17 pct) made the biggest gains among blue chip stocks, while Ellaktor (-4.17 pct), OPAP (-4.03 PCT), Alpha Bank (-3.39 pct), PPC (-3.33 pct), Piraeus bank (-3.33 pct) and Viohalco (-2.78 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day, with 37,285,139 and 14,168,830 stocks respectively changing hands.

    Among market sectors, Oil (0.45 pct), and Real Estate (0.02 pct) scored gains, while Banks (-3.04 pct) and Travel (-2.76 pct) had the greatest losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 56 to 34 with another 17 stocks remained unchanged. Varvaressos (19.23 pct) Frigoglass (13 pct) and Kekrops (11.79 pct) were top gainers, while ANEK (-17.42 pct), KREKA (16.44 pct) and Vioter (16.36 pct) were top losers.

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 9.14 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.96 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 9.25 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.11 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate fell to -0.005 pct from -0.004 pct, the nine-month rate was -0.069 pct, the six-month rate was -0.132 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.248 pct from -0.246 pct and the one-month rate was -0.339 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The April contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.60 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. The FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed at 150.66 points, registering losses of 1.70 pct. Volume on the Large Cap index totaled 2,096 contracts with 12,392 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 33,359 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (16,113), followed by Piraeus Bank (9,637), Alpha Bank (3.059), Eurobank (2,079), MIG (780), PPC (518), OTE (353), OPAP (250), Ellaktor (74), GEK (54), Motor Oil (41), Mytilineos (32), Hellenic Petroleum (28) and Viohalco (26).

    General News

    [31] Journalists to participate in 24-hour strike on Thursday

    Journalists in Greece were added to the numerous unions that will participate in the 24-hour strike called by public sector union ADEDY on Thursday, which is protesting against the government's proposed social security and pension reforms.

    Because of the strike, news will not be published or transmitted from 06.00 on Thursday until 06.00 on Friday and will affect all public and private media outlets, along with broadcaster ERT, ANA-MPA, municipal radio stations, the general secretariat of information and communication and press offices.

    The Journalists' Union of Athens Daily Newspapers called on all journalists to participate in the protest rally at Klafthmonos square at 11.00 (local).

    [32] Patrick the bear is freed into the wild after a year in human care

    An orphaned young bear which was rescued in the mountains of Florina in northwestern Macedonia on March 2015 was released back into the wild on Wednesday after a year in the care of an environmental center.

    Patrick, the bear, who was just a few weeks old when he was found by the Arktouros Environmental Organization, lived under the close supervision of his carers who provided food and shelter but also training on how to survive in nature for when he would be released. When he was found a year ago, Patrick weighed just three kilos and was weak. A year later, he's a healthy young bear weighing 45 kilos that has learned to survive in nature.

    According to Arktouros, Patrick's care program was extended by almost two months because the unusually high temperatures in Greece didn't allow him to go into hibernation. Therefore, instead of releasing the bear during winter in a hibernation nest, he was kept until spring so that he would be freed directly in the forest.

    On Wednesday, Patrick was sedated and transported to a forest area, away from humans and inhabited regions, where he was freed. His carers left him food so that he wouldn't have a difficulty surviving in the first few days of his new life. The staff of Arktouros said they will continue to monitor his movements through an attached collar-transmitter that will provide information on his well-being.

    This is the third rehabilitation operation of an orphaned bear for the center and the most difficult, given the animal's very young age.

    Weather forecast

    [33] Partly cloudy on Thursday

    Partly cloudy and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Cloudy in the afternoon in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 08C-26C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts with temperatures between 09C-26C. Scattered clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 12C-25C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 09C-25C; the same for Thessaloniki, 09C-23C.

    [34] The Wednesday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glance

    AVGHI: You're being seen (referring to Panama papers)

    DIMOKRATIA: They are threatening judges

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel, (IMF chief Christine) Lagarde agree that the IMF remains on the program

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: IMF remains; take additional measures

    ETHNOS: Disability benefits targeted

    IMERISSIA: Companies transfer their activities abroad

    KATHIMERINI: Merkel, Lagarde put more pressure

    KONTRANEWS: Merkel, Lagarde want more blood

    NAFTEMPORIKI: The full tax package

    RIZOSPASTIS: Big rally at Syntagma on Sunday

    TA NEA: Tsipras' companies and the truth

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