|Sunday, 18 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 18 April 2008 Issue No: 2872
 PM in parliament: Reforms are the answer to the country's problemsThe only substantive response to the country's problems are reforms, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday, and accused main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou of being unable to understand the real problems facing the country, recognise the true needs of the times, and stipulate his own proposal. Karamanlis was speaking in parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy, held at the PASOK leader's initiative.
Reforms were the process that "leads from hopes to result", and "makes the desired, feasible", Karamanlis said, adding that this was the only way to ensure viable development, by increasing jobs, and the only way to increase the growth dividend, achieve an increase in incomes and reduction of poverty, and attain improvement of the lives of the citizens.
Responding in particular to an accusation by Papandreou that the government was using the current global financial crisis as an "alibi", Karamanlis said that the PASOK leader's statement was "not compromising the government, but his own party, and doing an injustice to himself".
The premier further criticised those who backed such a position, saying "it is incomprehesible that they are ignoring the international conjuncture, it is dangerous for them to believe that the modern economies develop in a void, it is irresponsible for them to claim that the conjuncture is nothing but the government's alibi".
"The government does not need an alibi. It is others who are in one place and say they are elsewhere," he added.
Karamanlis stressed that although the repercussions of the international crisis had reached Greece as well, they were nevertheless "milder" in relation to the eurozone, and would have been "even milder if we were not facing the deficits, the debts, the weaknesses left behind (by the preceding PASOK governments), and would have been even more adverse if we had not taken the road of changes".
The premier also described as "extreme" the PASOK leadership's stance of discouraging prospective investors from considering investments in Greece and urging them to not become involved in major infrastructures and DEKO (public utilities and organisations), and threatening them that they will find themselves face to face with PASOK.
"They (PASOK) went so far as to resort to Third-World views, that have no place in European countries, and are of no value whatsoever. They say things that are not possible. It is an outburst of irresponsibility, hypocrisy and distortion of reality," Karamanlis charged.
On the reactions to the reforms being advanced by his government, Karamanlis said that they "express an easy populism that costs nothing, long-standing fears and pathogenies of the past, and downward equalisation".
"We will not follow the path of misery, we will not bow to the conservatism of the accomodated, we will not compromise with inertia, stagnation, immobilisation of society and margina-lisation of the country," the premier stressed, adding that "in politics, wishes are not sufficient, the real problems require effective solutions, bold policies, and substantive replies to crucial questions".
Concluding, Karamanlis highlighted the significance of the inter-state agreements signed by his government, which he said rendered Greece an international energy hub. "They contribute to peace and stability, and enhance our geo-political role," he said, referring to the Turkey-Greece natural gas pipeline, the under-water Greek-Italian pipeline, the southern European corridor, and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
And now, he added, "following the initial deliberations last June, we are entering a new substantive round of contacts on the South Stream system of pipelines".
"When PASOK was speaking of 'slaps' against Greece, we were opening up new roads for the future," Karamanlis said.
 PASOK resists change, PM says in closing speechReplying to the arguments of the main opposition leader in his rejoinder and closing remarks, Karamanlis said that PASOK appeared to be doing its utmost to prevent change. He also accused the party of extreme populism and confused messages, in which it denounced as the opposition all the measures and policies that it had itself been planning when in government.
In particular, he pointed out that PASOK governments had started privatisations of state-owned public utilities and the search for strategic partners, policies that it had then dubbed developmental policies and was now denoucing as a "discount sale". Among these was the largest Greek ports, Piraeus, for which the last government had drawn up a concession contract, the premier said, submitting a copy of the contract to be included in the minutes.
He also brought attention to PASOK's inconsistent stance toward the status of OTE, which shifted from insisting that there would only be a single state-owned share to floating the majority of its shares on the stock market a few years later, while the 2001 budget included a statement that "the final phase of concluding a strategic alliance with OTE with an international telecommunications body was entering its final phase".
"This is what you did as a government, this is what you planned, this is what you said in your programme. Now you are posturing as rebels. Over what? The policies that you yourselves promoted, for the things that you voted unanimously in the budget, for what you say in your policy statement? We have not and do not take anyone by surprise. We do not say and unsay. The privilege of unreliability is exclusively yours," Karamanlis underlined.
In his closing remarks, meanwhile, the premier referred to "big financial interests" that had supported PASOK for "a quarter of a century" in exchange for public contracts handed out to five or six companies without proper tenders, while claiming that the main opposition's main concern was to maintain the status quo and prevent any change.
"Why did you run out of the revision of the Constitution? Is it not true that we declared all the articles of the Constitution concerning the protection of transparency to be up for revision...How is it that you doubt everything but then do everything possible to change nothing?" he asked.
Lastly, he focused on PASOK's unsuccessful attempts to privatise Olympic Airways, saying that had ended in a series of fiascos that had cost Greek tax-payers hundreds of millions of euros and underlined the incompetence of PASOK government.
 Papandreou: 'Red line' separates PASOK from ND on economic policyMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou spoke of a "red line" separating his party from the ruling New Democracy (ND) on matters of economic policy, addressing an off-the-agenda debate on the economy in Parliament on Thursday initiated by himself, as he submitted five proposals for the relief of bank borrowers.
Papandreou further offered to waive his Parliamentary immunity in order to face a possible lawsuit by Marfin Investment Group (MIG) vice-president Andreas Vgenopoulos, who recently announced that he intended to sue Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras for slander, due to the latter's comments regarding MIG's acquisition, and later sale, of a major stake in the telephony utility OTE.
"Could it be that you are serving the market forces, whereas we the forces of the state? Are you, perhaps, neo-liberals while we are statists? These are manufactured ideologies, Mr. Karamanlis. We have one big difference, the red dividing line: How your government, and how we, intend to serve the public interest," Papandreou said.
The PASOK leader dared the government to come to a rift with the "rackets", as he said, preying on the foodstuffs market, staple goods, oil and medicines, to "break" a banking cartel "in which the three largest banks hold 65 percent of the market, based on their assets," to reduce the "unusually high concentration of stockmarket transactions in a few companies", to introduce an independent and uniform monitoring of the financial services branch, and to systematically monitor the market and introduce a framework of sanctions.
"You won't, because you serve specific interests," Papandreou charged.
The main opposition leader said the "argument of imported inflation is turning into a joke". He said that the price of oil in dollars had indeed doubled, but this increase was "partially counter-balanced" by the rise in the euro parity against the dollar, and charged that oil prices had risen much higher in Greece than in the eurozone.
Turning to OTE, Papandreou said the securitization policy followed by PASOK differed from the ND government's "transfer of OTE to foreign hands", and warned that "the government's decision to concede control of the company (OTE) to Deutsche Telekom, is reversible, as is every decision that undermines the public interest".
Papandreou also attributed Vgenopoulos' libel suit against Tsipras to problems created by the "opening up of a Pandora's Box" by the government, which "taught some businessmen that they can decide for and order around the country".
"Mr. Vgenopoulos is acting like a sheriff...I'm prepared to waive my parliamentary immunity so that Mr. Vgenopoulos, or any 'Mr. Vgenopoulos' will not cite it as an alibi. I'm certain that other political leaders, too, would do the same," Papandreou said.
Responding to a proposal by Karamanlis for a common agreement on targeted reforms and citing the acute problem of over-borrowing in the Greek society, Papandreou submitted five proposals: Immediate abolition of the conditions that invalidate, in action, the prohibition of auctioning off first homes (for overdue debts to banks); clarifying that no such auctions can be made of borrowers' first homes for debts below 200,000 euros; stopping the auctioning of real estate at a price lower than its objective value, with the borrower receiving the difference after deduction of the money owed; extending the current arrangement for farmers, by which total debt (outstanding, including penalties) cannot exceed double the sum of the initial loan (instead of triple the sum for non-farmer borrowers) to the rest of the population; reduction of lending rates in Greece whenever the European Central Bank reduces its rates; and introduction of procedures for borrowers facing repayment problems, enabling them to extend the loan repayment period, without additional fees.
 KKE's Papariga slams main parties, rejects 'third way'In an attack on the economic policies followed by both ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, the leader of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Aleka Papariga told Parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy on Thursday that they essentially espoused the same policy of austerity for the broader masses.
"KKE rejects the logic of the third way. You're either with the people, or with capital. Stealing and exploitation of workers under capitalism is permanent. At ND and PASOK you are looking for alternative solutions to blunt the corners and to stretch the problems over time," she said.
"There is only one way. And that must be in constant conflict with interests and monopolies. It cannot be otherwise. We are not the magician Houdini to propose solutions without disagreement. It is preferable for each party to call a spade a spade," Papariga added.
KKE's leader asserted that the poverty line was actually much higher than that presented and that there were many more people were living in "extreme poverty" than the official figures showed, while attempts were being made to cover up the problems by creating the Poverty Fund and organising fund-raising charities.
In a reference to the acquisition of Hellenic Telecommu-nications Organisation (OTE) by Deutsche Telekom and PASOK's reaction to this, she criticised the main opposition for only now discovering the 'third way' when privatisations were actually required under the Maastricht Treaty that had been supported by PASOK.
She underlined that KKE rejected the Maastricht Treaty policies and demanded a referendum for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
 SYRIZA's Alavanos says it's time for 'new majority' of the LeftThe global financial crisis and the 'bankruptcy' of capitalist, neoliberal policies was highlighted by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) head Alekos Alavanos in Parliament on Thursday, during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy, while he stressed the need for a new approach.
"There is another way, the way of the Left, of the new majority," he told MPs.
According to Alavanos, this global crisis was "infiltrating our country through the doors and windows while we sit in our corner, not paying attention to what is happening in the world, without reacting". Pointing to demonstrations taking place throughout the world by people demanding bread, SYRIZA's leader blamed this was on the imbalance of the situation, with poverty on the one hand and accumulated profits on the other.
The model following by ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK - one that allowed markets a free rein, restricted the public sector, dismantled the welfare state and allowed ample room for massive profits - had led to the current crisis, Alavanos asserted.
He accused the two main parties of keeping silent about the real problems and being obsessed with the game of the two-party system, which he said was the "appendage" of these policies.
Noting that Greece was the only country not to tax profits from stock market shares, Alavanos said that everything that had acted as a "poison for the economy was being presented as a medicine". He also pointed out that the "patriarchs" of free-market policies that had raised the banner against state intervention were now in the humiliating position of asking the state to intervene and bail them out by "nationalising" their losses.
Alavanos was particularly scathing about the role of Greece's banking sector, saying that Greece had become a "kingdom of usury" and pointing to a recent surge in the number of property foreclosures. He said that instead of the state imposing conditions on banks, the banking sector was imposing conditions on the state and voiced concern about the role that the Post Office Bank, the National Bank of Greece and the Agricultural Bank of Greece will play and the lack of supervision of the sector and its activities.
 Karatzaferis: ND, PASOK both promoting anti-popular policiesPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) founder and president George Karatzaferis on Thursday, speaking in Parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy, charged that a "mechanism" outside the country's institutional framework, which he identified as comprised of "big capital and the vested mass media" is governing the country.
"We must begin a process of deliberation on who to return the country to the road towards democracy," he said from Parliament's podium.
The LA.OS leader, a former New Democracy deputy who left the party to form his own political grouping, also criticised the two major parties for anti-popular policies, saying that PASOK's 20-year tenure in power led to a party-dominated state sector and apparatus, whereas the current ruling ND government has been plagued by party-affiliated middlemen.
He also called on the government to table any agreement it has with Deutsche Telekom regarding state-run OTE, Greece's largest telephony and telecoms utility.
 President Papoulias concludes Ukraine visitKIEV (ANA-MPA/A. Avgerinos)
President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday concluded his three-day visit to Ukraine.
"These past three days we lived as if we were in Greece. And we lived in a better climate because here there is no grumbling, while when we are in Greece, we many times see things hazy," Papoulias said.
In contrast to the climate in Greece, President Papoulias said "here we saw things clearly, we saw the Greek soul, which really surpassed all the obstacles which it found on the road, which created and creates and is respected in a foreign country."
Referring in particular to the expatriate Greeks in Ukraine and of the region of the Azov Sea, Papoulias praised the "passion and their love for the motherland".
Summing up the results of his visit, Papoulias described as "very genuine and sincere" the meeting he had with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, with whom he discussed at length all the issues which concern the two countries and the existing prospects. This discussion is expected to continue in Athens as well, which the Ukrainian President will visit in November.
Papoulias departed from Marioupolis airport late afternoon for Athens.
 Nat'l foreign policy council convenesThe National Council of Foreign Policy convened in Athens on Thursday to discuss three issues dominating much of Greece's foreign policy attention of late, namely, the FYROM 'name issue', Kosovo and the latest developments over the long-standing Cyprus issue.
"Yet again it was ascertained that our country's strategic choices in foreign policy are not a field for clashes by political forces participating on the council," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.
Most of the participants at the meeting referred to a 'consensus' regarding Athens' policy vis-a-vis the FYROM 'name issue', while expressing a view that the latest "mobility" in diplomatic efforts surrounding the Cyprus problem must be exploited.
Moreover, several participants expressed concerns over the most recent political developments in neighbouring Turkey.
Former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos referred to "unanimity" when asked about Greece's policy over "name issue" with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), adding that Athens' positions were "clear, solid and well-founded".
All of the Parliament-represented parties -- sans the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) -- participate on the council.
 Parliament delegation to visit Greek peacekeeping force in AfghanistanAn inter-party Parliamentary delegation departs on Thursday evening for Kabul to visit the Greek peacekeeping force (EL.DAF) in Afghanistan.
The delegation, comprised of a total of 10 MPs from ruling New Democracy, main opposition PASOK and one from the LA.OS party, will be accompanied by a high-ranking group of Greek army officers, including army chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Dimitris Voulgaris.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) opposes any foreign presence in the strife-plagued country, while the leftist SYRIZA grouping in Parliament urged that no MPs accompany the military visit.
EL.DAF was established in 2002 and primarily concentrates on building infrastructure in the ravaged country.
 PM addresses event in honour of Leonidas KyrkosPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressed an event organised in honour of veteran leftist politician Leonidas Kyrkos on Thursday evening, saying that in the person of Kyrkos "we honour the many known people, as well as the many more anonymous Greeks who struggled for values, ideals, who consolidated democracy and contributed to national reconciliation."
Karamanlis added that Kyrkos is being honoured for his struggles for democracy, social justice and the overcoming of the political passions of the past.
The prime minister further said that he disagrees with many of his views and considers that his criticism on certain points is strict, but acknowledges that he has political foundations.
He praised Kyrkos's political contribution which, as he said, is unbreakably linked to his overall life stance.
Karamanlis made a brief account of Kyrkos's political contribution and said that positions of responsibility were required from all to enable democracy to be consolidated and for the country to forge ahead.
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said on his part that "it is an honour and responsibility for me to speak about the historic course of Leonidas Kyrkos in a few minutes."
Papandreou added that Kyrkos "is a realist, a man of contribution who wrote history with character and modesty," stressing that he was present during the great moments of the country's left and that "he is here again today with timely views on the renewed left's cooperation with PASOK."
Former Cyprus president George Vassiliou said that Kyrkos incarnates the struggles, the adventure and the tumultuous history of Hellenism in the second half of the 20th century.
"He was the bright mind who did not back down no matter how many difficulties he was faced with," he said and underlined Kyrkos's support for Greece's accession to the European Union.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group President Alekos Alavanos said that Kyrkos has the ability of proposing profound issues that require understanding and consensus with political opponents.
He added that "all in the Coalition are political relatives with Kyrkos, since for many he is their political father, while he remains an active member of SYRIZA."
Former prime minister Costas Simitis said that "we proceeded together with Leonidas Kyrkos without coinciding," stressing that Kyrkos showed courage in the struggle for a change in society and that he is an important man "who left his seal on the discourse and political concepts of the left with the broadness of his thoughts and views".
Former prime minister and honourary president of the ruling New Democracy party Constantine Mitsotakis praised his leading role in the creation of the Tzanetakis government in 1989 which, as he said, "was formed so that a major scandal of the time would not be written off" and noted that "a cleanup was a popular demand and we complied with it."
Mitsotakis also said that "it was an honest cooperation that closed the chapter of the civil war," while underlining that the Tzanetakis government was "a lesson for the members of the left who participated in it, because never before had the left assumed government responsibilities."
Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas referred to Kyrkos's life, struggles, prison terms and exiling. He focused in particular on the year 1949 when Kyrkos was sentenced to death, but fortunately for the country's political life and for himself the sentence was never carried out.
"We had and have different assessments of things," he said, adding that "Leonidas Kyrkos waged struggles for values and ideals with self-denial and a sense of self-criticism. We thank him for what he has offered to Democracy with his struggles and his example."
 Education Minister meets EU Commissioner for MultilingualismEducation and Religious Affairs Minister Evripidis Stylianidis met in Athens on Thursday with EU Commissioner for Multilingualism, Leonard Orban.
Stylianidis presented the overall programme which is being implemented by the Greek government on issues of multilingualism, noting that many languages are being taught at schools, including the Turkish and Slavic languages.
The Education Ministry said in an announcement that Orban "recognised Greece's important contribution both domestically and abroad on the issue of multilingualism and gave congratulations for the implementation of programmes for refugees, foreigners and immigrants in Greece."
 Prosecutor calls 7 former Siemens, OTE executives to testifyA total of seven former executives of Siemens Hellas and the state-run telephony utility (OTE) were issued summonses on Thursday to provide testimony to an Athens prosecutor regarding any knowledge they may have in a ongoing Siemens kickback and bribery case.
Additionally, the seven individuals were summoned as potential defendants if felony charges arise.
The development stems from a more-or-less global investigation by the Munich prosecutor's office into charges that the German multinational paid out bribes and kickbacks to win contracts around the world, including in Greece.
The local prosecutor's office has been investigating the Greek aspect of the case since 2006.
The summonses refer directly to a massive 800-million-euro contract in 1997 to digitalize all of OTE's landlines.
 NBG head sees limited impact from credit crisis on Greek economyThe impact from an international credit crisis on the Greek economy will be limited, National Bank of Greece (NBG) chairman and chief executive Takis Arapoglou said on Thursday.
Addressing an annual general shareholders' meeting, Arapoglou also expressed optimism over the course of the Greek economy, the domestic banking system and of the bank itself.
"The Greek economy, from its position, remains less vulnerable to a negative international conjecture, since it maintains the characteristics of a relatively closed economy. One additional positive element is the fact that the Greek financial sector has a high capital adequacy and zero exposure to high-risk products, while credit expansion to enterprises and households continues to show significant growth outlook compared with European average levels," Arapoglou said. Commenting on international financial and economic developments, the Greek banker said a procedure of returning to more stable and sustainable economic fundamentals would take more time than original estimates.
Arapoglou said National Bank's results in the first quarter of the year were in line with the Group's business plan and underlined that National Bank group would enjoy one more year of positive results.
Commenting on National Bank's share price, Arapoglou said that despite a significant decline, losses were limited compared with other European banks.
National Bank's chairman said the bank continues examining investment opportunities in countries with significant growth prospects, focusing on banks with strong presence and strong management. "Our main target is that any future acquisition will offer additional value to our investors," he said.
 Tourist minister attends inauguration of 'Tourist Panorama'Tourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos attended the inauguration of the "Tourist Panorama" exhibition on Thursday, that has completed 13 years of presence in the country's tourist developments this year.
Speaking during the event, Spiliotopoulos stressed the importance of tourism for the Greek economy, noting that it is a "national wager", since it constitutes the most significant apparatus for regional economic growth.
Describing the ministry's strategy, he said that it is based on the slogan of "multiformity, quality and viability."
He added that the goal of the new strategy remains the prolongation of the tourist period and this will be achieved with the diversification of the tourist product.
Focusing on domestic tourism, the minister said that, as far as the ministry is concerned, domestic tourism is an excellent opportunity to exercise social policy.
Lastly, he said that in this direction social tourism programmes this year include more options regarding destinations, accommodation and tourist services.
 PPC to sign memorandum of cooperation with RWEPublic Power Corporation will sign a memorandun of cooperation with Germany's RWE aimed at boosting cooperation in the natural gas and windpower park sectors, along with the construction of a coal-burning electricity power station in Albania -in cooperation with Titan Group, the Greek electricity utility's chairman and chief executive, Panagiotis Athanasopoulos said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, Athanasopoulos said the cooperation with RWE did not include the construction of a coal-burning electricity power station in Greece after the strong reaction by PPC's workers and local authorities. Athanasopoulos, however, said this was a "missed opportunity". PPC's chairman said the corporation did not plan cuts in electricity supplies during the summer and noted that an increase in PPC's electricity bills has been absorbed by two-thirds from an increasing fuel cost.
 Tobacco farmers demonstrate over subsidy cutsTobacco farmers from all areas of Greece organised a demonstration outside the Greek agriculture ministry on Thursday, gathering in Vathis Square in central Athens to protest against subsidy cuts for tobacco crops under the new Common Agricultural Policy that will slash their income.
The president of the farmers' union PASEGES called on the prime minister, the government and the political parties to raise the issue of tobacco subsidies at the next EU summit.
After their rally in Vathis Square, the protesting farmers marched to the Parliament building and handed their resolution to representatives of the all the political parties. Representatives of the farmer unions PASEGES, GESASE and tobacco growers are to meet European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development Mariann Fischer Boel at the Greek agriculture ministry on Friday, after which she will hold talks with the ministry's political leadership.
 PASOK leader holds talks with farmers unionsMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou held talks on Thursday with delegations of the PASEGES and GESASE farmers unions and of tobacco producers, focusing on their problems.
"Due to the policy of the New Democracy party tobacco producing farmers will be losing 50 percent of direct subsidies after 2009, the losses are great and the result will be an acute social problem in the tobacco regions," Papandreou said afterwards.
Papandreou said that it "is estimated that during the three years (until 2009) tobacco producers will be losing 600 million euros" and pointed out that this money will be transferred to programmes that will be managed by the agricultural development minister, while expressing reservations that this management will be taking place "with untransparency and in the way of favours."
The PASOK leader underlined his party's support for the farmers' demands and said that the government has made no preparation to enable new crops to be developed in these regions and noted that the subsidies must be directed to the tobacco producers to enable them to adjust to new conditions.
 Aspis Bank to pay 0.02-euro dividend to shareholdersGreek banks could suffer lower profits or even losses if the current international negative economic conjecture continued for long, Constantinos Karatzas, Aspis Bank's chairman and chief executive said on Thursday.
Addressing an annual general shareholders' meeting, Karatzas said Greek banks' problems with non-performing loans was much smaller than projected by certain domestic media. Commenting on Aspis Bank, Karatzas said it was adjusting its strategy to deal with liquidity problems in the market by cutting its operating costs. He said Aspis Bank will begin activities in the Balkans, starting from Bulgaria, where it was expected to open its first branch this year, aiming to develop a network of 20 branches in the next three years.
"Aspis Bank is not for sale, nor merger," Karatzas said. The shareholders' meeting approved a board plan to pay a 0.02-euro per share dividend to shareholders.
 Greek stocks end 0.55 pct higherGreek stocks moved cautiously higher on Thursday, with the composite index at the Athens Stock Exchange rising 0.55 pct to end at 3,966.75 points. Turnover was a low 239.12 million euros, of which 8.5 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher with the Raw Materials (2.17 pct), Utilities (2.11 pct) and Travel (1.81 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Technology (1.38 pct), Media (1.34 pct) and Telecommunications (0.44 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 0.55 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 0.10 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 0.03 pct higher. Ideal (11.26 pct) and Elbisco (10.0 pct) were top gainers, while ANEK (26.92 pct), Lyberis Publications (9.76 pct) and Desmos (9.09 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 119 to 115 with another 50 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.15%
Personal & Household: +0.26%
Raw Materials: +2.17%
Travel & Leisure: +1.81%
Food & Beverages: +1.69%
Financial Services: +1.27%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank Bank, Bank of Cyprus and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 19.76
Public Power Corp (PPC): 27.00
HBC Coca Cola: 30.56
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.86
National Bank of Greece: 32.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.08
Bank of Cyprus: 7.84
Hellenic Post Bank: 12.44
Piraeus Bank: 19.40
Titan Cement Company: 27.78
Marfin Popular Bank: 5.00
Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 5.00%
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 113.006 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.58 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.02 pct. Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 9,151 contracts worth 92.205 million euros, with 28,929 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 188 contracts worth 4.514 million euros, with 397 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,934 contracts worth 10.351 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,171), followed by Eurobank (270), Marfin Investment Group (720), OTE (849), OPAP (436), Alpha Bank (301), Marfin Popular Bank (1,051), Mytilineos (525) and Hellenic Postbank (1,539).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.506 billion euros on Thursday, of which 666 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 840 million sell orders. The 10-year Greek benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 467 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds fell to 0.50 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.60 pct and the German Bund 4.10 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate eased to 4.02 pct from 4.05 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate fell to 4.05 pct from 4.07 pct, the one-month rate was 4.39 pct and the 12-month rate 4.82 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.599
Pound sterling 0.808
Danish kroner 7.520
Swedish kroner 9.459
Japanese yen 164.04
Swiss franc 1.612
Norwegian kroner 7.973
Canadian dollar 1.602
Australian dollar 1.707
 Eurobarometer on personal data protectionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
A total of 65.4 percent of Greeks declare that they are aware of the conditions set in the Greek law regarding personal data protection, according to the results of the European Union "eurobarometer" poll that were made public here on Thursday.
The poll showed that 65.4 percent of Greeks (69.2 percent among the "27" nations) declare that they are "very or quite aware" of the law on personal data protection, while 32.7 percent say that they are "not adequately informed" (30.2 percent in the "27").
Moreover, 25.3 percent of Greeks declare that the degree of protection from the Greek law on personal data protection is "high" (27.6 percent among the "27", 45.7 percent that it is "moderate" (55.9 percent among the "27") and 21.8 percent that it is "low" (11.3 percent among the "27").
Asked whether in the framework of combatting international terrorism, they would be prepared to have telephone conversations monitored, 42.3 percent of Greeks said "no" (27.2 percent among the "27"), 15.9 percent "yes", but only for persons considered suspicious of involvement in terrorist acts (31.1 percent among the "27"), 36.4 percent said "yes", stressing that even suspected terrorists must be monitored under the supervision of a judge or with an equivalent legal guarantee (29.8 percent among the "27") and 3.4 percent declare "yes in every case" (9.1 percent among the "27").
 Police officer fatally injured in shoot-out during bank robberyA 39-year-old police officer was fatally injured in a shoot-out during an armed bank robbery in the Holargos suburb of Athens, on main Messogion Avenue, on Thursday morning.
The policeman, who also worked at a private security company, was on duty for the company as a guard at the Alpha Bank branch on Messogion Avenue when two armed robbers entered the bank shortly before 9:00 a.m., immoblised customers and employees, and grabbed an unknown sum of money from the tellers.
The guard chased the robbers after they existed the bank and ordered them to stop. The perpetrators shot at him and he returned the fire, but the policeman was injured, and the robbers fled the scene on a motorcycle.
The guard was rushed to nearby IASO General hospital in critical, where he underwent surgery for gunshot wounds to the abdomen, but died shortly afterwards.
Police investigating the scene said that a "battle" had taken place, as they collected more than 15 cartridges.
 Partly cloudy on FridayPartly cloudy weather with southerly, southeasterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 7-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 3C and 25C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southerly, southeasterly 5-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 11C to 23C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 20C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe FYROM name issue and UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz's talks in Skopje on Thursday and Athens on Friday, the ten-year high in the inflation rate, spiralling fuel prices and the concern it has caused in Europe, the National Town Plan tabled in parliament on Wednesday, and opposition reactions to Marfin Investment Group's (MIG) sale of its 19 percent share package in OTE (Hellenic Telecommonications Organisation) to Deutsche Telekom were the main front-page items in Thursday's newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Skopje backing down on the name? Number of fanatics decreasing", adding that recent survey by respected "think tank" in FYROM after Greece's veto on FYROM membership at the recent NATO summit indicates that the FYROM public is moving away from absolute intransigence on the name issue and that the correlations are changing on the domestic front in the neighboring country.
APOGEVMATINI: "Earthquake in the global economy - Oil prices hit all-time high (at 115 dollars per barrel)", adding that the spiralling oil prices and continuing collapse of the dollar parity against the euro is causing new problems in the world economies.
AVGHI: "Government to sell the TAP-OTE's (OTE employees' social security/pension fund) package of shares in OTE - The legality of the transaction in doubt".
CHORA: "The Condoleezza (US secretary of state Rice) Mysteries - US diplomatic 'dribble', with pressure on Turkey", adding that the Greek veto on FYROM accession to NATO, the rejection of the Annan Plan for Cyprus, and the Greece-Russia cooperation in the energy and armaments were altering the US foreign policy plans.
ELEFTHEROS: "The civil servants' lump-sum retirement benefit at risk - Warning bell sounds following the wave of applications for early retirement".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Thriassio Plane a toxic waste dump site - Thousands of cubic metres of (toxic) waste to be stored in totally inappropriate site in Meletani, Mandra".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "National...Concrete...Plan - Build: Outside the town plans, on the coast - National Town Plan of wishes and discounts tabled by Souflias (environment, town planning and public works minister)".
ESTIA: "Shameless lies by PASOK (main opposition party) - The 'inanities' on the OTE issue".
ETHNOS: "ASEP (civil service hiring examinations board) examinations up in the air - 6,000 bogus 'honor' degrees from private TEE (technical professional schools) being recalled".
KATHIMERINI: "The prosecutor tracing the Siemens kickbacks - Six former executives of the company's Greek subsidiary and of OTE to testify today".
LOGOS: "Greece not in a rush - FYROM's people and leaders divided - Nimetz's meetings will be exploratory (of the intentions)".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The striker's slogan is 'the wealth to the workers' - The big militant strike mobilisation (PAME strike and rallies on Wednesday) a step forward".
TA NEA: "Put a brake on seizures of homes (for overdue payments on mortgage and consumer loans and credit cards) - Real estate put on auction for debt just 5,000 euros".
TO VIMA: "High cost of living hurting low and medium income earners".
VRADYNI: "Tenure for thousands of assistant teachers/professors (in public schools) - Express solution being advanced by education minister Stylianidis".
 Ryan: do not miss opportunity for Cyprus solutionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Britain believes there is now a real opportunity for a political settlement in Cyprus, that will reunite the country, and welcomes the commitment of the political leadership to implement the process agreed by the leaders of the island's two communities.
In statements to the press Thursday, having concluded her meetings here, Britain's Special Representative for Cyprus Joan Ryan expressed full support for the ongoing process that has begun between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities and stressed that London will not do anything to derail that process.
She also said that the property issue, security concerns and the functionality and viability of the solution are some problematic areas which the leaders of the two communities will have to tackle.
She described her visit as "really interesting and exciting", saying that she saw a "very significant change of mood", a positive feeling among the people, a strong sense of optimism and a belief that this is a real opportunity to solve the problem.
"The priority now must be to move to rapid and full implementation of the March 21 agreement", she added, and described the establishment of bicommunal technical committees and working groups as a "very important step".
The committees and the groups will begin work on Friday with a view to discuss day to day concerns and substantive issues to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations between the two community leaders, as agreed on March 21 by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Ryan said it was important for people to keep talking to resolve issues that may arise and called on people not let difficulties become obstacles and not to let obstacles become barriers.
The UK, she stressed, will support and encourage this process, noting that it has no secret agenda and no plan being cooked up.
"We want reunification not partition, we want stability, security and prosperity," she added, pointing out that "this is the best opportunity for a solution for many years; this opportunity must not be missed."
Asked if Christofias and Talat could meet, as agreed in June, she said there is a time scale to such a meeting but not an exact date, noting that with good progress the two leaders might meet by the end of June or beginning of July.
On difficulties they may have to deal with, she said that everybody is aware of difficult challenges on this road and identified priority areas for the people who focus on property, security and a functional and viable solution.
Questioned on the future of two military bases Britain has retained since 1960, when Cyprus gained its independence from British colonial rule, she said she did not want to preempt the outcome of fully fledged negotiations and issues of interest to the UK that may come up for discussion.
As for Britain's future role as a guarantor power for Cyprus' independence, Ryan reiterated London's commitment to this process and added "there is nothing we will do that will stop this process finding its way forward."
 Russia in favour of long lasting Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Titov assured on Thursday that his country is in favour of a long lasting Cyprus settlement on the basis of UN resolutions, adding that the Russian Federation will try to be as helpful as possible in efforts to find a solution.
Speaking after a meeting in Nicosia with Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcos Kyprianou, Titov said Russia would be using its close and friendly relations in order to ensure a positive atmosphere for the negotiations.
Kyprianou said the relations between Cyprus and the Russian Federation were traditionally very close on a political level and that Russia had always stood beside Cyprus in trying times.
He added that they discussed the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, the expectations of the Greek Cypriot side from the process which begins on Friday, and the basic aspects and principles for a settlement.
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