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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 10-05-09
From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <www.ert.gr/>
 EU to Shield Euro from SpeculatorsSunday, 09 May 2010 18:20
Having fully realized that the crisis has not to do only with Greece, Europe is rushing, even after months of delays and ambiguous messages, to prevent a domino effect. Under the mounting pressure exerted by the world markets, Ecofin is holding an off-the-agenda meeting to discuss a proposal on a stabilization mechanism intended to provide a multi-billion euro safety net for other euro zone countries with bloated public finances such as Portugal, Spain or Ireland. Britain, which does not belong to the single currency union, expressed its objections to such a mechanism. In the meantime, US President Barack Obama appeared very concerned about the Greek debt crisis and its impact on European economies.
EU sources said the European Commission will ask EU finance ministers to extend an existing aid mechanism for non-euro zone countries to nations in the single-currency bloc.
The Commission will also ask the extraordinary meeting of ministers to raise the existing amount available under the mechanism, called the balance-of-payments facility, by 60 billion euros.
The maximum available now is 50 billion euros.
EU sources said the 60 billion top-up would be used as base capital, or collateral, for borrowing on the markets, which would allow the Commission to raise up to 10 times that amount.
The 60 billion top-up would be guaranteed by all 27 members of the European Union and the loans, if paid out to an EU member, would carry conditions set by the International Monetary Fund, one EU source said.
Statements before the Meeting - Britain Raises Objections
"We are going to defend the euro," Spanish Economy Minister Elena Salgado told reporters as she arrived for the talks.
Today's Ecofin sitting is an important meeting for the support of the euro zone, commented the French Finance Minister, further adding that decisions had to be made to restore stability within the euro zone.
Upon his arrival, Sweden's Finance Minister sounded positive on the creation of a stabilization mechanism. He did not even rule his country contributing to the mechanism although Sweden is not a euro zone nation.
However, the first objections have already been expressed, with the British Finance Minister claiming that his country would not contribute to the campaign to have the euro currency defended.
Obama Appears Concerned
In the meantime, US President Barack Obama said he was very concerned about the Greek debt crisis and its impact on European economies.
"I am very concerned about what's happening in Europe. But I think it is an issue that the Europeans recognize is very serious. If we can stabilize Europe that will be good for the United States," said Obama.
Obama also had a telephone contact with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders discussed the financial situation in the eurozone and the need for decisive measures so that the markets' trust can be restored.
Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA/MPA News item: 36367
 Unleaded Fuel Prices Go UpSunday, 09 May 2010 17:16
Unleaded fuel prices in Greece have shot up. Few petrol stations in the Attica basin sell the unleaded below 1.5 euros per litre. In the countryside, however, prices are ten to twenty cents higher. Rises in fuel prices caused inflation to climb to 4.8% in April, as opposed to 3.9% in March.
Unleaded fuel prices in Greece have soared after the hikes in taxes and the speculators' practices. At the same time, petrol station owners have warned that prices will go even higher in summer due to the new raised VAT rates and the upward spiraling of world prices.
According to figures released by the Development Minister, the highest unleaded fuel price recorded in Athens stands at 1.769 per litre, in Magnisia, central Greece, at 1.720 per litre, in Lasithi in Crete at 1.713 and in the Ionian island of Kefalonia at 1.710 per litre.
Average fuel rates in Athens amount to 1.513 per litre, with drivers trying to located the less expensive petrol stations.
Aiming to contain prices, Economy Finance Louka Katseli is negotiating with fuel market representatives. She has already met with the boards of the refineries. She is to hold consecutive meetings with the representatives of petrol station owners in the coming week.
News item: 36366
 Gang with Homicides and Armed Robberies in Its Record Broken UpSunday, 09 May 2010 16:43
A gang which had 21 armed robberies in its record was finally broken up. Police arrested seven Albanian nationals, aged 17 to 41, while another one is on the run.
Armed Robbery Solved
Police officers solved a homicide case pending since 29 March, when gunmen stormed a store, killed the owner's brother, 62, and made away with the money.
Police broke up an eight-member gang responsible for the above crime. Consisting of Albanian nationals, the gang had committed another five attempted homicides and 21 armed robberies in four months' time. Seven gang members, aged 17 to 24, were seized, while another one is still on the loose.
The gang members committed five armed robberies on 29 March, with the 62-year-old man being the fourth in row. They shot at him and then made away with a few euros in their pockets.
All seven were referred to the prosecutor, while authorities investigating their involvement in other felonies.
Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA/MPA News item: 36365
 Cabinet to Discuss Pension Bill on MondaySunday, 09 May 2010 16:31
The pension bill to be unveiled Monday before the cabinet aspires to bring about radical changes in the security system. Under the new pension system, the new default retirement age of 60 will take effect as of 2011 instead of 2013, strong incentives against early retirement are promoted and pension funds are to be merged into three.
* With the exception of disability pensions and those belonging to the hazardous occupations regime, employees will be entitled to draw their state pension at the age of 60 after 35 years in service as of 2011.
* As of 2020, all employees will be entitled to draw their state pension at the age of 65, including those who were first insured before 1 January 1993.
* As of 2011, both men and women will fall under the same retirement age.
* As of 2011, provisions that entitled single and divorced daughters and sisters to state pension will be abolished, while all pension funds will be merged into three in 2018.
Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos, in his interview with Real News paper, said that the bill is ready to be approved by the cabinet and be tabled to Parliament.
"It was given the green light by the EU, something which I had promised to the Prime Minister, the government and the people. I have made it up until now. Lies circulated by people on TV do both political and personal harm. They are lying. I can't wait for the cabinet meeting so that I have the chance to prove Kassandras wrong in Parliament," said Loverdos.
Unions, on the other hand, are on standby, underlining that they would keep fighting.
Source: NET, NET 105.8
News item: 36364
 Ecofin Steps up Emergency Measures to Cement Euro CurrencySunday, 09 May 2010 12:56
After months of delays and ambiguous messages, Europe is rushing to cover the time lost and shield the euro currency from the speculators' greediness. With the world markets' pressure piling up, the Ecofin is holding Sunday an off-the-agenda meeting in Brussels to discuss the creation of a mechanism capable of guaranteeing stability within the eurozone and to decide on measures against the speculators, whose pressure has spooked the other side of the Atlantic, as well.
The measures, which will be activated when eurozone nations plunge in a borrowing turmoil, mean to send a stern message before the world markets open on Monday. They also aim to protect stability within the single currency union.
In the meantime, Britain said Sunday it would decline to sign any agreement on the creation of a stability mechanism, which some describe as the European version of the IMF, which will be able to earmark hundreds of billions euros in emergency cases.
The International Monetary Fund will also hold a sitting on Sunday to discuss the loan to be given to Greece.
On Monday, the Greek political leaders will meet under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic. However, the left leaders, Papariga of KKE and Tsipras of SYRIZA, decided to abstain from the meeting.
Source: NET 105.8, NET
News item: 36363
 Polls Indicate the Greeks' Stance on the MeasuresSunday, 09 May 2010 12:34
Two opinion polls that appeared in Sunday papers suggested that the majority of the Greeks welcomed the austerity measures taken by the government. A third, though, showed the opposite.
A nationwide survey carried out by Kapa Research on behalf of To Vima tis Kyriakis paper, the majority of the Greeks took a positive stance on the new tough measures announced by the government, however, a significant percentage expressed their objections. In particular, 55.2% of the respondents welcomed the new package of measures, while 44.6% of them turned it down. The majority of the people of Greece preferred a EU-IMF bailout package, even if it is followed by austerity measures over default, appearing willing to make sacrifices so that the crisis is resolved, said an ALCO poll commissioned for Proto Thema newspaper. However, the survey conducted by Public Issue for Kathimerini tis Kyriakis paper indicated that 66% of them are against the measures. 77% of those surveyed said the measures are unfair, while 57% claimed that they mean to serve vested interests. Finally, 68% of the respondents gave a positive rating to the street protests, even though they are of the opinion that they won't be able to prevent the implementation of the measures.
Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA/MPA News item: 36362
 Blast in Russian Coal Mine Kills 12Sunday, 09 May 2010 12:00
Two blasts at a big Siberian coal mine killed at least 12 people and the search for dozens trapped underground was halted after a damaged ventilation shaft choked the mine with smoke and gas, Russian officials said Sunday.
Itar-Tass news agency cited a source at the coal company as saying 12 people were dead.
Another 41 people were injured in the explosions at the Raspadskaya mine in the Kemerovo region in Russia's coal-rich Kuzbass late Saturday, Valery Korchagin, a regional emergency official, told Reuters by telephone.
The first explosion was caused by methane gas but authorities did not specify what caused the second blast.
Korchagin said 64 miners and 20 rescuers were still underground nearly nine hours after the first explosion, which came just before midnight (1 p.m. EDT) Saturday.
Rescue operations were suspended because of dangerous conditions and fears of further explosions after the second blast some four hours later damaged the ventilation shaft, Korchagin said.
"To conduct rescue efforts now would be to send people to their death," Kemerovo region governor Aman Tuleyev said at the site, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. He said they would continue once suitable conditions are restored.
Source: Reuters News item: 36360
 Polls Open in German Regional ElectionsSunday, 09 May 2010 11:27
Voters in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), are voting in a regional election that could change national politics. A defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and their liberal allies would end the coalition's majority in the upper house of parliament.
The campaign has been overshadowed by the government's decision to contribute to a huge rescue package for Greece.
Meanwhile many cities in NRW are on the brink of bankruptcy.
The state, home to 18 million people, is Germany's industrial heartland and regarded as a weathervane for national politics.
Ms Merkel has campaigned in the state until the last minute, but opinion polls suggest the ruling coalition is behind the combined support for opponents including the Social Democrats, Greens and the former communist Left Party.
The coalition in NRW between Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats mirrors the one at the federal level.
A new coalition in NRW, ending Chancellor Merkel's majority in the upper house the Bundesrat, would jeopardise long-promised tax cuts and health system reforms.
Source: BBC News item: 36357