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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-03-25

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] March 25 anniversary celebrated throughout Greece
  • [02] Papandreou addresses PASOK Political Council
  • [03] Aspis Bank reports 48.1 million euros loss in '08
  • [04] Greek stocks end moderately higher
  • [05] Commission sets 2010 deadline for 'correction' of Greek budget deficit
  • [06] Volos-Syria ferry boat route considered
  • [07] OA privatisation finalised
  • [08] Pupils' parade for Independence Day
  • [09] Lights out on March 28
  • [10] FinMIn on EU recommendations
  • [11] PPC reports 305.9-mln loss in '08
  • [12] Athens Newspaper Headlines

  • [01] March 25 anniversary celebrated throughout Greece

    The March 25th national holiday, marking the commencement of the 1821 Revolution against Ottoman rule, was celebrated throughout Greece on Wednesday, with the main military parade in central Athens and local school parades in all parts of the country.

    Before the parade, a doology was held in Athens, officiated by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, prime minister Costas Karamanlis, parliament president Dimitris Sioufas, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, defence minister Evangelos Meimarakis, former Presidents Costis Stephanopoulos and Christos Sartzetakis, ministers, MPs, local government officials, and Areios Paghos (Greek supreme court) president George Sanidas, and other officials.

    In a statement after the parade, President Papoulias said that "today we are celebrating the greatest day of the Modern Greek nation, as a peoples, with hope, passion and a vision as their sole weapon, rose up for their liberty".

    The message of the 1821 uprising, Papoulias continued, was that when the Greeks are all united by an ideal and a purpose, they succeed in their goal, adding that this message was exceptionally timely today in the face of the global financial crisis.

    "We will overcome this crisis as well, with determination, and with the thought that we have overcome other crises as well and they did not bring us to our knees," the President stressed.

    "It is certain that this economic crisis will not bring us to our knees, despite the fact that many strata of the Greek society are going through hard times," Papoulias said, and expressed optimism that the future will be better.

    In his own statement, the prime minister said that Wednesday's anniversary was a day of national remembrance but also of contemplation.

    Today, he said, the country was facing the impact of an international financial crisis of unprecedented depth and extent, and could only follow the road of those who were being honored today, those who did their duty and turned over a free and proud homeland to the future generations.

    "The duty of our generation is to turn over to our children a stronger Greece, a juster and more human society.All together, with unity and solidarity, can succeed in this," Karamanlis added.

    Sioufas said that the anniversary was a 'symbol' of faith, principles and values for the Greek people and dictated national understanding, unanimity and unity to confront the problems in this turbulent period "and not only".

    Papandreou assured the Greek people that "we deserve, and can do, better", provided that "we serve the timeless values and principles such as freedom, democracy, equality before the law, equality, the rule of law and social solidarity".

    In serving those principles, it was certain that "we can create a well-government state" that rpotects the citiziens and his rights, Papandreou added.

    Karatzaferis said that seeing the counry's strong and tireless Armed Forces ready to effectively confront every crisis, was uplifting for morality.

    Meimarakis said that the military parade was in tribute to all those heros who gave their lives so that Greece could be free and strong, "and it is our duty to hand down a strong Greece to the younger generations", adding that the country's armed forces were strong and capable, and indicated that Greece can safely move forward, while also noting that investments in the national defence were invetments for peace, while the government's human-centered policy aimed at the security of the citizens.

    [02] Papandreou addresses PASOK Political Council

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, addressing the party's Political Council on Monday, stressed that the "government policy is unable to realize the true dimensions of the problem in Greece", and characterized the government as irresponsible, fatigued and dangerous.

    The words "historical responsibilities" and "crucial moments" now acquire their literal meaning, he stated, and referring to the government he charged out that it was turning its failures into blackmailing quandaries for the citizens, accusing it of being responsible for the high crime rate and the dissolution of the security forces. He also accused the government of downrating labor relations, encouraging employer arbitrariness and adopting "client relations policies" instead of policies for the unemployed.

    Papandreou underlined that the government has imposed new taxes on the small and middle incomes while affording tax gifts to the rich, accusing it of being responsible for the country's fiscal and international competitiveness deficit.

    Referring to the European Union, Papandreou stressed the need for a "progressive direction" and spoke about a "socially-oriented Maastricht with measurable goals as regards development and employment."

    He also referred to "new tools" namely, the "Green Development Fund" and the "new direction of the European Central Bank".

    Papandreou reiterated that the "European Parliament elections will assume the form of a referendum on the government policy and on the Europe we want" and concluded by underlining that "the challenges we are being called to meet are of a historical nature and the current course should not be allowed to continue."

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou

    [03] Aspis Bank reports 48.1 million euros loss in '08

    Aspis Bank on Tuesday reported an after tax and minorities loss of 48.1 million euros last year and said assets dropped 11 pct to 2.6 billion euros.

    Lending after provisions totaled 2.1 billion euros, down 4.0 pct, while saving deposits eased 10 pct to 2.0 billion euros and operating expenses jumped 40 pct to 109 million euros.

    The bank attributed its 2008 losses to lower net interest margin, a significant increase in operating expenses in the first half of the year and a restructuring programme cost.

    Financial transactions and commission revenues also negatively affected the bank's results, with net commission revenues down 18 pct to 24 million euros, while financial transactions recorded losses of 2.6 million euros.

    Aspis Bank said provisions totaled 23.1 million euros last year, of which 18.25 million euros were provisions for bad loans, sharply up from 3.4 million euros in 2007.

    [04] Greek stocks end moderately higher

    Greek stocks ended Tuesday's session moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market rose 0.28 pct to end at 1,694.28 points, off the day's highs, while turnover rose to 141.6 million euros of which 2.6 million were block trades.

    Most sectors moved higher, with the Utilities (3.79 pct), Oil (1.81 pct) and Constructions (1.76 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food/Beverage (2.56 pct), Raw Materials (1.13 pct) and Insurance (1.03 pct) suffered losses.

    The FTSE 20 index rose 0.11 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.16 pct up and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.20 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 105 to 89 with another 61 issues unchanged.

    [05] Commission sets 2010 deadline for 'correction' of Greek budget deficit

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA) -- Following an assessment in February of Greece's Stability and Convergence Programme, the European Commission on Tuesday proposed a deadline for a "correction" of Greece's budget deficit, which exceeded 3 pct of GDP in 2008.

    The proposed deadline takes into account of the respective fiscal and macro-economic situation of the country.

    Once the recommendation has been adopted by the Council, Greece will have six months to specify what measures it intends to take to progressively reduce its budget deficit.

    "National budgetary positions in the EU and elsewhere have deteriorated considerably in the last year and are set to deteriorate further on account of the economic crisis we are living through and the discretionary measures rightly adopted by Member States to sustain demand and promote investment," Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Tuesday, adding:

    "To limit the costs of the debt for generations present and future, it is crucial that governments devise an adjustment path whereby they commit to correct public deficits from the moment the economy starts to recover, which is expected to happen gradually in 2010. The Stability and Growth Pact provides the framework for this exit strategy and a return to sound and sustainable public finances in the medium-to-long term," he said.

    [06] Volos-Syria ferry boat route considered

    Consultations are underway between Greek and Syrian authorities for the re-activation of a commercial ferry boat route linking the port of Volos, in central Greece, with Syria. Contacts were launched in response to a relative interest expressed by the Syrian side, according to reports.

    The specific route was cancelled in 1986.

    Merchant Marine, Aegean & Island Policy ministry officials will visit Damascus at the end of the month to discuss possible arrangements within the framework of the continuing Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

    [07] OA privatisation finalised

    "Olympic Airlines on Monday has entered a new era, following a long period of decline, finally entering an era of high expectations and demands," Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said during a ceremony in the Greek capital for the signing of a deal handing over the national carrier to Athens-based Marfin Investment Group (MIG).

    "Olympic Airways has been for years the 'sick patient' of our economy, creating huge debts of one million euros daily, burdening taxpayers and causing serious legal problems for our country," Hatzidakis said, underlining that Monday marked the climax of arduous efforts by the government to sell-off OA, which lasted 18 months.

    The Greek minister, who was previously the transport minister and the pivotal interlocutor in efforts to privatise the previously debt-ridden carrier, stressed that it was very significant that the national carrier end up in the possession of a powerful and credible investor such as MIG, especially amid a difficult international conjecture.

    "MIG's successful course during all these years is creating high expectations and makes us optimistic over the future of Olympic," he said.

    Olympic Airlines cost around 350 million euros to Greek taxpayers annually, Hatzidakis said, adding that the state would receive 177.2 million euros from the sale and another 150 million euros annually from tax and social insurance contributions. At the same time, Greece will enjoy a healthier environment in air transport, without monopolies or unfair practices which will work to the benefit of consumers, he noted.

    Andreas Vgenopoulos, vice-chairman of MIG, expressed his satisfaction over the signing of the agreement by saying: "We did our duty; it was inconceivable not to have an Olympic".

    He expressed the company's commitment to create a new airline company, healthy, strong and in the benefit of MIG's shareholders, its workforce, the tourism sector and the national economy in general. "We promise to do everything to make Greeks proud for a new Olympic," he said.

    The agreement

    Marfin Investment Group Holdings S.A. announced that the definitive legal agreements (share sale and purchase agreement, shareholders agreement as well as all other necessary legal documentation) have been signed between the company and the state the acquisitions of Pantheon Airways S.A (flying operations), MRO NewCo (technical base) and the Ground Handling NewCo (ground handling services) (collectively the "Acquired Entities"). The above mentioned agreements are subject to ratification by the Greek Parliament, expected to take place in the next few weeks, and will thereafter be vested with the validity of a law of the Greek State.

    MIG informs investors about certain aspects of these transactions:

    · All Acquired Entities are effectively start-up businesses, which own only selected assets to be sold by the Hellenic Republic and carry no liabilities or obligations whatsoever;

    · The Acquired Entities are not in any way the successors, in a legal or any other manner, of the state-owned aviation companies, including but not limited to Olympic Airways, Olympic Airlines, Olympic Aviation etc. This is safeguarded by national legislation that is already in place and has been vetted by the European Commission;

    · In a period of unprecedented financial and economic instability, the nature of the transaction ensures that MIG maintains significant strategic flexibility regarding the operations of the Acquired Entities. Indicatively, MIG can select at its own discretion the assets that it wishes to acquire (such as aircraft and technical equipment at a very favourable environment), the way in which such assets will be acquired (purchase, leasing etc.), the number and type of employees that it wishes to recruit, the routes in which the new airline will operate and a broad array of more strategic alternatives. MIG's full flexibility at this stage will enhance its determination to create a very efficient aviation business with strong competitive advantages.

    MIG, in close cooperation with the recently retained aviation management team and external consultants, is currently finalising a detailed strategic and operational business plan for each of the Acquired entities. Post finalisation of this exercise, MIG will be able to provide visibility regarding its plans for, and the prospects of, the Acquired Entities.

    Marfin Investment Group is the largest Greek business group in the wider South East European region. It numbers in excess of 50,000 employees and associates and has a presence spanning over 40 countries.

    MIG is headquartered in Greece and listed on the Athens Exchange. 58% of its share capital is held directly or indirectly by Greek strategic, institutional and retail investors and 24% is held by international institutional investors. Dubai Group owns a c.18% stake in the Company, is represented on its BoD via 3 non-executive members and has no involvement in the management of the company.

    [08] Pupils' parade for Independence Day

    The traditional pupils' parade commemorating the March 25 Greek Independence Day was held in Athens on Tuesday.

    As in previous years, the education minister represented the Greek state. The parade included participation of students from 12 elementary schools, 14 junior high schools and 14 high schools, led by Kalavryta high school students holding the 1821 revolutionary banner.

    In statements afterwards, Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos stressed that "in order to conquer the future we should draw lessons from the past and history."

    [09] Lights out on March 28

    The Municipality of Athens is participating in the Earth Hour global event on March 28, which is being held to raise public awareness on the need to take action on climate change and energy conservation. Greece occupies the top place worldwide with the largest number of individual participations, followed by Canada and Australia, which pioneered the event.

    With the slogan "Turn off the lights, see the difference" the people of Athens are called on to participate in the initiative on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 pm (local time) and switch off lights for an hour.

    The Municipality of Athens will turn off the lights on Lycabettus, the City Hall, all the municipal buildings and the Technopolis cultural center. A music concert will be held on Pnyka Hill hosted by the City of Athens, SKAI TV and WWF Greece.

    Earth Hour is an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. It was pioneered by WWF Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 and achieved worldwide participation in 2008.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Lycabettus hill in Athens

    [10] FinMIn on EU recommendations

    Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, commenting on Tuesday on the recommendation made by the European Commission to the Ecofin Council on the procedure regarding Greece's excessive fiscal deficit, said that the proposals contained in the Commission's recommendation fully confirm the necessity of the measures that the government has already announced and which concern both the state expenditures' cutback programme and income policy in the public sector.

    Papathanasiou added that the measures are already being implemented and the government believes that the goal of reducing the fiscal deficit below 3 percent of GDP by the year 2010 can be achieved.

    He said that the Commission is asking three things from Greece:

    Fiscal adjustment must begin in 2009, to have the deficit reduced below 3 percent by 2010 in a reliable and viable way.

    Greece must strengthen the fiscal adjustment plan by using clearly defined and permanent measures to decrease current expenditures, including a prudent income policy in the public sector, so as to be able to contribute in this way to the necessary reduction of the debt as a percentage of GDP.

    Continuing reforms in the health sector and the social security system must be applied fully.

    "All the above recommendations have already been included in the government's planning, they have been announced and they have started being implemented. The Commission's recommendations show that the government's plan is the only realistic and workable way to secure the country's exit from the crisis, with security and safety," the minister added.

    Referring to opposition criticism of the government, Papathanasiou said that "the Commission's recommendations do not adopt any of the irresponsible and populist proposals of the main opposition party's (PASOK) leader Mr. George Papandreou. No mention is made of an increase in taxation for businesses, as PASOK's leader is repeating monotonously. Because such a thing, particularly at a time of crisis, would lead to a dramatic increase in unemployment rates, similar to those bequeathed to us by the PASOK governments in 2004."

    Papathanasiou noted that no mention is also made of taxing ecclesiastical property "since the Commission is aware, unlike Papandreou, that the Church's real estate is being taxed for the first time in the country through the ETAK."

    "The dialogue on the exit from the crisis requires difficult but necessary decisions. And not unattainable and populist promises," the minister concluded.

    [11] PPC reports 305.9-mln loss in '08

    Public Power Corp. (PPC), Greece's listed electricity utility, on Tuesday reported losses totaling 305.9 million euros in 2008, after profits of 222.3 million euros in 2007. The power utility added that losses excluding CO2 spending totaled 216.3 million euros for the year.

    Pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings (EBITDA) totaled 343.6 million euros in 2008, down from 818.7 million euros in 2007, for a decline of 58 pct.

    PPC said pre-tax losses totaled 395.9 million euros last year, after pre-tax profits of 276.4 million euros in 2007, of which 165 million euros were revenues from the sale of Tellas.

    The power utility said revenues rose 13 pct in 2008 to 5.82 billion euros, from 5.15 billion euros in the previous year. PPC said 53 pct of total revenues were spent on fuel, energy purchases and CO2 emission rights, sharply up from 41 pct in 2007.

    Hydroelectric production was 169,000 MWH in 2008, down 5.4 pct from the previous year and sharply down (-52.5 pct) from 2006, while electricity production from lignite-fired stations fell by 3.9 pct in 2008.

    PPC's participation in Larco -- a nickel production unit -- came to zero, burdening the Group's results by 22.5 million euros and the parent's results by 30.8 million euros.

    Commenting on the results, P. Athanasopoulos, PPC's chairman and chief executive, said a worsening of results in 2008 highlighted the group's weaknesses, the vulnerable points of its business model and of the Greek electricity market as well.

    Athanasopoulos said PPC's EBITDA margin rose to 30 pct in the first two months of the current year, up from 19 pct in the corresponding period in 2008. He also said that according to preliminary figures, pre-tax profits in the January-February period totaled 190 million euros, from 69 million euros last year.

    [12] Athens Newspaper Headlines

    The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The economy, the European Commission recommendations and internal party affairs were the main front-page items in Wednesday's dailies.

    TO VIMA: "Beam of light for overcoming the crisis".

    KATHIMERINI: "The Commission's 10 recommendations".

    AVGHI: "The big trick with Olympic Airways".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "No battle is in vain - Movement for insubordination to NATO and EU".

    NIKI: "Karamanlis' 'escape' (from the political scene) plan".


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