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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-01-30

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

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

Thursday, 30 January 2014 Issue No: 4573

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Samaras on Kefalonia: Island a safe tourist destination
  • [02] Interior minister and Commissioner Hahn to meet Feb. 6 over Kefalonia
  • [03] PASOK representation to visit Kefalonia
  • [04] KKE leader on conditions in Kefalonia
  • [05] DIMAR deputy visits Kefalonia to be briefed on damages from earthquake
  • [06] Europarliament delegation in Athens
  • [07] Gen.-Sec. for Information holds meeting on efforts to promote Greek EU presidency's work
  • [08] Deputy FM says Greece and Europe are in a 'transitional phase'
  • [09] SYRIZA wants 'the truth over the memorandum to be unveiled', its leader says
  • [10] Greece and UAE's Foreign ministers have phone contact
  • [11] Public Order ministry's draft law to bring 'radical restructuring'
  • [12] Venizelos addresses Greek-French Chamber of Commerce event
  • [13] Foreign ministry officials on reactions to FM's address at Greek-French Chamber of Commerce event
  • [14] Deputy FM Gerontopoulos addresses Parliament committee on SAE draft bill
  • [15] Europarliament representatives on troika assessment address Greek Parliament
  • [16] Public order ministry tables draft bill reforming emergency services, police in Parliament
  • [17] Medicine prices are down, Health Minister says
  • [18] Shipping and Aegean Minister asks for a common European strategy on illegal migration
  • [19] SYRIZA not interested in joining larger coalition, parl. spokesman says
  • [20] New Democracy parliamentary group to meet on Thursday
  • [21] ANEL party leader criticises gov't on ERT, unemployment
  • [22] Parliament votes in principle for power grid operator ADMHE bill
  • [23] Greek ombudsman asks for investigation into allegations of migrant 'pushbacks' at sea
  • [24] More arrested in Athens, Thessaloniki during manhunt for escaped terrorist Xiros
  • [25] President Papoulias hosts reception in honour of Diplomatic Corps
  • [26] Environment ministry initiative for strict specifications in TAP project construction and operation
  • [27] Processing of seismic data on hydrocarbon exploration completed, ministry says
  • [28] Primary surplus won't have any positive impact on daily lives, survey
  • [29] Piraeus chamber chief: Chambers should operate as business service centres
  • [30] Greek consumer confidence index down in Q4 2013, Nielsen survey
  • [31] Development minister in Rome on Thursday
  • [32] Agriculture Minister Tsaftaris meets with farmer representatives
  • [33] Bank credit to private sector fell 3.9 pct in 2013, Bank of Greece says
  • [34] Business loans up 28 pct in Nov-Dec 2013
  • [35] Play signs 900-mln-euro bond loan
  • [36] Greek insurance market has lost 2.0 bln euros during the crisis
  • [37] OTE shares to start trading under new nominal value on Jan. 31
  • [38] Cretan businesses received 17.8 mln euros of subsidies in 2013 as part of dev't law
  • [39] Greek bank deposits up by 1.8 bln euros in 2013, Bank of Greece says
  • [40] Record level of nights spent in Greek hotels, Eurostat
  • [41] Peloponnese tourism organization founded by local hotel owners
  • [42] Greek entrepreneurs invited to invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina during Thessaloniki event
  • [43] PPC trade unions call off strike action as ADMHE bill passes Parliament
  • [44] 'Attiko Metro S.A.' welcomes suggested solution for Thessaloniki metro station antiquities
  • [45] Voyatzoglou Systems to return capital to shareholders
  • [46] Inactive, environmentally harmful ships to be removed from Perama
  • [47] Greek stocks continue moving lower
  • [48] Greek bond market closing report
  • [49] ADEX closing report
  • [50] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [51] Launching of the exhibition ?Pink Wave Hunter? at the Benaki Museum
  • [52] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits Paris
  • [53] Former defence ministry official Kantas returned to jail after testifying
  • [54] Sailboat missing in Argosaronikos Gulf
  • [55] Greek air traffic controllers cancel work stoppage on Thursday
  • [56] Minor quake in Corinthian Gulf
  • [57] Overcast on Thursday
  • [58] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies Politics

    The government's 2014 priority is to fight unemployment, PM Samars says

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday presented the three pillars of the government's strategy against unemploy-ment, targeting more than 680,000 jobless citizens, during a meeting at the labour ministry.

    Samaras announced the setting up of a National Council for Employment, which will determine the medium-term strategy for unemployment.

    The first pillar affects 114,000 jobless citizens, from all categories of un-employed, and seeks to encourage private businesses to hire young people up to 29 years of age through "training vouchers", on the one hand, while also granting subsidies to businesses that hire unemployed aged between 30 and 60.

    The second pillar affects 240,000 unemployed and will effectively offer employement guarantees to young people. This programme will offer professional experience and expertise to unemployed up to 24 years of age, who have never worked before. Those unemployed will either be hired in the private sector for a specific period of time and with a large part of their salary being subsidized, or they will have the opportunity to improve their skills so they can find their first job.

    The third pillar affects 90,000 unemployed, from households whose members are all unemployed, and will involve commu-nity service in the public sector and local administration.

    Samaras termed unemployment "an insidious enemy that undermines social cohesion." He referred to policies aiming to strengthen employment and improve access to the labour market, pointing out that the total amount for those programmes, which will come from EU funds, will exceed 1.5 billion euros.

    He said the aim was for half of those currently unemployed to be able to get extra education and get their first job in the next two years.

    "We have started exiting the crisis, which was our top priority," he pointed out and said his aim was to "deal with injustice, through long-standing policies that bring development."

    Samaras referred to policies on fighting red tape, saying it was a "battle that would be extended" and pointed out that today's announcements were only the beginning.

    "I am aware of society's wounds. We need to intervene and escalate our efforts," he said, making clear he would not promise anything that could not be done.

    "We are hurting, but we will not promise things we can not deliver," he said, adding that the government is struggling to restore social cohesion.

    "We are at the beginning, every step will have a follow-up. We say 'No' to populism and big promises, we take steady steps forward," he said.

    He also referred to "Atlas" programme, which will be fully operational by the middle of the next year and will allow workers to have a full picture of their insurance and labour contributions. Samaras said that the system would do away with a need to validate health documents and allow pensions to be issued without delays.

    According to ministry officials, the 4.4-billion-euro programmes aimed at boosting employment will benefit a total of 440,000 people.

    They are based on three key-points: community service programmes, the youth guarantee programme and the utilization of the new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds for the period 2014-2020.


  • [01] PM Samaras on Kefalonia: Island a safe tourist destination

    The government wants to help the earthquake-stricken island of Kefalonia return to its normal routine and will see to it that it gets all the help it needs, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said from the island town of Lixouri on Wednesday morning.

    Samaras, who flew in from Brussels on Tuesday evening, said: "I came to Kefalonia to show that Greeks are standing by the island and to see for myself what the situation is" He thanked all civil engineers, university professors and volunteers for helping to assess the damages and restoring island services.

    An inspection of all schools is complete, the premier said, and those with no problems will open as normal on Monday, while students from damaged schools will be housed elsewhere, per orders given by him to relevant ministries.

    Stores and public buildings are being checked, while the island overall is a safe tourist destination, the premier said.

    Kefalonia experienced a an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale on Sunday and dozens of aftershocks in the days following. No deaths were reported.

    [02] Interior minister and Commissioner Hahn to meet Feb. 6 over Kefalonia

    Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis, who visited the island of Kefalonia with a delegation on Tuesday night by order of the prime minister, has contacted the permanent representation of Greece at the European Union to look into whether Greece can claim emergency financial aid for the Ionian island, his office said Wednesday.

    According to an announcement, Mihelakis is scheduled to meet with EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn on February 6 at 13:30 to discuss the possibility of activating the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF).

    Hahn expressed his support to the Greek government and Kefalonia residents and said the Commission would examine carefully his proposal for activation of the EUSF, while he reminded the minister of the terms and conditions for the fund's activation.

    Kefalonia was struck by a 5.8-Richter earthquake on Sunday and shaken by several tremors following; there are no casualties but there was more damage on the western part of the island.

    [03] PASOK representation to visit Kefalonia

    A PASOK party representation will visit the earthquake-stricken island of Kefalonia on Friday, a party announcement said. PASOK's secretary Nikos Androulakis will lead the delegation of party deputies.

    [04] KKE leader on conditions in Kefalonia

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) will fight with all its forces to ensure that immediate priority is given to the restoration of schools and public building and for the safety of retirement home residents in Lixouri and Argostoli, party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas said in a statement on Wednesday after the 5.8 Richter earthquake on Kefalonia on Sunday.

    Koutsoumbas also called for stricter control measures related to earthquake protection.

    [05] DIMAR deputy visits Kefalonia to be briefed on damages from earthquake

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) deputy Niki Founta paid a visit to the island of Kefalonia to talk with residents and be briefed by local officials on the conditions on the island following a strong earthquake on Sunday.

    Founta met with the deputy regional director and the mayor of Argostoli and was briefed about building inspections and safety measures.

    [06] Europarliament delegation in Athens

    A seven-member delegation of the Economic and Monetary Issues committee of the Europarliament is paying a two-day visit to Athens in the framework of the European Parliament's review of the implementation of the troika's policies in the member states under fiscal adjustment programs.

    Vice president of the European parliament and co-rapporteur of the committee's report Othmar Karas and co-rapporteur and member of the Europarliament Liem Hoang Ngoc participate in the delegation. Greece is represented by Europarliament MPs Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou and Nikos Hountis.

    The European parliament delegation will start its series of meetings on Wednesday with Greek Parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis.

    Afterwards the Greek parliament's vice presidents and the presidiums of the committees of Finance, Social Affairs, Production and Commerce, Institutions and Transparency, Budget Review and European Affairs will have a joint meeting with a delegation of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

    Moreover, the delegation will also meet with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, the vice presidents of the Bank of Greece (BoG), representatives of the Greek Banks Union, representatives of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE), the Hellenic Chamber of Trade and Commerce, the public sector umbrella union (ADEDY) and private sector umbrella union (GSEE), academics and experts as well as with representatives of the Civil Society.

    The Europarliament delegation will give a press conference on Thursday at 12.30 at the Europarliament office in Athens.

    [07] Gen.-Sec. for Information holds meeting on efforts to promote Greek EU presidency's work

    Secretary General for Information and Communication Andreas Katsaniotis on Wednesday called a meeting on coordinating the efforts by government ministries to inform Greece's public opinion on the Greek EU presidency's plans and achievements.

    Katsaniotis highlighted the importance of Greek citizens well informed on the successes of the presidency and the solutions it puts forward, as well as of the European Union's policies on wider issues.

    Meeting participants also referred to the positive reaction of European media to the secretariat's activities during the presidency, such as hosting foreign journalists, managing the presidency's website (www.gr2014.eu) and Twitter account (@gr2014eu) and organizing the main press center.

    [08] Deputy FM says Greece and Europe are in a 'transitional phase'

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/ O.Tsipira)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas, in an interview published by the French financial daily "La Tribune" on Wednesday, underlined that both Greece and the rest of Europe are going through a transitional period.

    Kourkoulas said that Greece was near the end of a deep recession with severe social and financial repercussions but had cleaned up its public finances "in record time" and was now able to attract foreign investors, while nobody was talking about a Greek exit from the Eurozone any longer.

    "It's not only Greece that is in a transitional period, but all Europe is going through a transitional phase as well," Kourkoulas said. The vital lessons that Greece was taught during the crisis give it an advantage as far as the Greek EU presidency is concerned and in view of the European Parliament elections. which "are expected to be especially difficult," he added.

    "Greece finds the possibility of expanding towards western Balkans very attractive," Kourkoulas said, stressing that: "Croatia's accession to the EU is a success, as is the official start of negotiations with Serbia."

    Answering a question regarding the name dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) in the framework of the Greek EU presidency, Kourkoulas made the following statement: "As far as fYRoM is concerned, we proposed the addition of geographical determinant in the name of the country, in order to make it distinct from the Greek region." Athens respected the neighbouring state's identity but also required similar respect in return, Kourkoulas added, suggesting that Skopje's political leadership was failing to make use of the "exceptionally flexible" Greek position on this issue.

    "Greece continues to be the wealthiest country in the region, with a competitive private sector and banks," the minister said, adding that the country was maintaining its technical expertise and infrastructure, while redirecting its production toward export markets, such as Turkey and Russia.

    "We have acknowledged abilities in relation to our telecommunications and technology. Tourism represents 15 pct of our GDP and offers important prospects for growth. Political stability is a condition for success," he said.

    [09] SYRIZA wants 'the truth over the memorandum to be unveiled', its leader says

    Greece needs to shed light on the behind-the-scenes deliberations of the country's bailout agreements, main opposition SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, on the occasion of the visit of a Europarliament delegation to review the implementation of troika's policies in the member states under fiscal adjustment programmes.

    "The Europarliament, the most democratic institution, has taken a step, which the Greek Parliament has not dared to, and this is something that the governmental majority is responsible for," Tsipras said. He blamed the government on the Committee's delayed arrival to Greece, while it denied SYRIZA's proposal for in depth talks between the delegation and the involved parliamentary committees.

    "The new Parliament, with SYRIZA holding its majority, will set up an investigation committee to unveil the truth about the memorandum and put the blame on those responsible." ?

    [10] Greece and UAE's Foreign ministers have phone contact

    Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos spoke on the phone on Wednesday with Foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, according to a ministry announcement.

    They discussed the organization and convening of the Joint Ministerial Committee and the Greece-UAE Business Forum, as well as ways of strengthening cooperation between the European Union and Greece with the United Arab Emirates.

    Venizelos reiterated that it is a Greek EU presidency's priority and committment to complete as soon as possible the process for the lifting of visas for citizens of the UAE.

    He also conveyed the warmest greetings of the president of the Republic for the rapid recovery of the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

    [11] Public Order ministry's draft law to bring 'radical restructuring'

    A Public Order and Citizen Protection Ministry draft law will be tabled on Wednesday that foresees a radical restructuring in the ministry, the police, the fire brigade as well as the General Secreteriat for Civil Protection.

    Minister Nikos Dendias presented the bill, which includes decoupling the ministry from police, turning the latter into a political organisation under a general directorate. Police headquarters will be abolished under its current form and will be replaced by a directorate overlooking three main and autonomous sectors: public order, security (set up along the FBI model) and foreigners/border protection sector.

    Changes will also take place in the Fire Brigade structure, which will act as the operational branch of the General Secreteriat for Civil Protection.

    The whole project, according to the data presented, will result in a 43 percent reduction in the police structure (including mergers of units and services), 30 percent reduction in the Fire Brigade and 36 percent in the General Secretariat.

    [12] Venizelos addresses Greek-French Chamber of Commerce event

    Foreign minister and government Vice-president Evangelos Venizelos noted in a Greek-French Chamber of Commerce event on Tuesday evening that there were "planning problems for which our partners are responsible and huge mistakes that had a very big social and political cost".

    Venizelos said that "we are at a crucial point and we will have to give a boost to the real economy".

    He called on France to become a strong foreign investor in Greece, while acknowledging the "honest role" played by the French banks in the Greek public debt reduction through the PSI.

    Referring to the Greek EU Presidency and the upcoming European elections, Venizelos noted that all European societies are faced with "new phenomena of Euro-skepticism and the fatigue of young citizens who identify Europe with austerity." France's role is very important, he added, because the EU's internal balance is based on the Berlin-Paris axis. "When this axis is upset and does not allow for equal roles in decision-making, everybody is affected, the European South in particular," he said.

    Venizelos noted that there can be no alternative proposal for Europe, unless France plays a decisive role, adding that the internal balance of powers in Europe will have to be reorganized.

    [13] Foreign ministry officials on reactions to FM's address at Greek-French Chamber of Commerce event

    Greek foreign ministry officials on Wednesday expressed surprise at what they called "misinterpretations" of a speech made by Foreign Minister and government Vice-president Evangelos Venizelos during his address at the Greek-French Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday night, as well as the extent of the coverage given.

    "The Greek foreign minister said what all of Europe is underlining," they noted. "In other words, he said that the preservation and further promotion of the European Union's momentum must also be based on strong Berlin-Paris cooperation, which has always constituted the driving force of united Europe."

    In any case, the same sources stressed, "Mr. Venizelos has also made similar references in discussions with German officials, without this giving rise to any kind of problem."

    Venizelos' speech was picked up by the online edition of Germany's 'Focus' magazine, which ran a special report saying said the Greek foreign minister was seeking to set up France against Germany and calling on Paris to take on a more active role in the EU. The 'Focus' article had been picked up from the French news agency AFP, which covered Venizelos' speech.--p

    [14] Deputy FM Gerontopoulos addresses Parliament committee on SAE draft bill

    Deputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos, responsible for diaspora issues, on Wednesday briefed the Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Greeks Abroad, noting that a broad consensus on the new World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) draft bill is necessary in order to be passed in Parliament with a strong majority.

    A major issue in the relevant draft bill is representation; namely, the voting rights of organizations or individuals in SAE.

    Gerontopoulos said that he is "very proud of the Greeks living abroad," adding that in each of the countries he visited he was warmly received by the local governments "partly due to the local Greek communities, which are the good image of Greece".

    He referred to the important work performed by the Church and the importance of disseminating the Greek language and culture, using examples from his visits to Korea, Armenia and Hungary. He also noted that in spite of the crisis, Greek schools abroad still receive funding through the general secretariat for Greeks abroad.

    [15] Europarliament representatives on troika assessment address Greek Parliament

    Vice president of the European Parliament Othmar Karas told deputies in the Greek Parliament on Wednesday evening that in a meeting he had with main opposition leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on December 11, the Greek opposition leader, even though he was asked to, presented no alternative proposals and exercised no criticism over the work of the Greece's troika of international lenders (EC/ECB/IMF).

    Karas stressed that during the hour-long discussion between Tsipras and the members of the representation of the European Parliament Committee on Economic and Monetary Policy, Tsipras said he supported the European Parliament and wanted to grant it more powers in contracts and negotiations with the troika.

    The representation of the EP Economic and Monetary Policy Committee is paying a two-day visit to Athens in the framework of an assessment of troika's policies in eurozone member states under fiscal adjustment programmes.

    [16] Public order ministry tables draft bill reforming emergency services, police in Parliament

    The public order ministry on Wednesday tabled a draft bill that introduces radical changes to Greece's police force, fire brigade and civil protection services in Parliament. The measures are designed to bring greater flexibility to the police force, in particular, freeing more officers from desk jobs and putting them on active duty, as well as improving coordination between the various security forces of the country.

    Tabling the draft bill, Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias said the goals included a more rapid response to citizens' calls for help, greater cooperation with society and greater efficiency in tackling crime and terrorism. A key goal is to reduce red tape and costs, as well as encouraging volunteerism in civil protection.

    Presenting the planned measures, Dendias described it as a "monumental" piece of legislation of great importance for both the government and society.

    Among others, it seeks to modernise and update the public order ministry and its services, loosening the now close ties with the police and converting the ministry into a fully political/civilian ministry service. For this purpose, a general directorate of financial and managerial planning will be set up that will act as a liaison between the police force, the fire brigade and the General Secretariat for Civil Protection.

    The fire brigade will become a sub-branch of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, which will be given enhanced powers to meet its new, upgraded role.

    Radical changes to the police force will include the abolition of the command in its current form, replacing this with a central supervisory staff having overseeing three separate and completely autonomous branches of the police force. These wiill be the Law and Order branch, responsible for general policing, the Security branch that is envisaged as a Greek 'FBI' and a Border Protection and Foreign Nationals branch dealing with migration issues.

    Included in the security branch will be the counter-terrorism unit, the organised crime unit, the electronic crime unit, the Attica, Thessaloniki and six regional Security Directorates. This branch will also supervise the forensic investigations service.

    The newly-created border protection and foreign nationals branch will be in charge of handling illegal migration and have four sub-directorates dealing with various aspects of migration throughout the country, including policing of borders, while collaborating with state services dealing with asylum issues.

    Emphasis is given to improving training of police officers and firemen, creating links between the police and fire brigade academies with universities for improved training and postgraduate studies and a shift to digitalisation, including electronic IDs, electronic services and others.

    According to the minister, the planned restructuring will help downsize structures by 43 pct in the police force, 30 pct in the fire brigade and 36 pct in the Gen. Secretariat for Civil Protection. It is expected to lead to a 50 pct improvement in levels of policing, which Dendias described as a "true revolution".

    [17] Medicine prices are down, Health Minister says

    Almost all medicine prices have been reduced, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis said on Wednesday at private TV station Ant1, reiterating his opposition to the sale of non-prescription drugs in places othen than pharmacies.

    He noted that he has excellent cooperation with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and they have already arranged a meeting in the coming days on the deregulation of non-prescription drugs, while adding that final government decisions are taken by the prime minister.

    As regards the return of money linked with illegal activities, he estimated that it would exceed 100 million euros. "The prime minister has decided the stolen money will be returned to Greek citizens with priority to the weaker strata of Greek society," Georgiadis said.

    [18] Shipping and Aegean Minister asks for a common European strategy on illegal migration

    Shipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Wednesday sent a letter to the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks, stressing the need for a common European strategy to deal with illegal migration flows while at the same time safeguarding human life and dignity.

    "Despite the Hellenic Coast Guard's continuous efforts to protect human lives at sea, and while guarding the Southern European border, human lives were lost in what is a tragic event," Varvitsiotis said, referring to the Farmakonissi incident where 12 migrants were drowned, among them children, when their fishing boat capsized while being towed to shore.

    "By the end of 2013, the Hellenic Coast Guard dealt with 615 incidents of illegal sea migration involving 10,902 persons of non-European citizenship," said the minister. He underlined that "the tragic incident in Farmakonissi related with illegal migration flows must be the last one."

    The minister added that EU cooperation "is the only way to put an end to similar situations at the common European borders."

    Varvitsiotis informed Commissioner Muiznieks that he has ordered an investigation into the incident and that a public prosecutor has filed charges against the trafficker involved.

    [19] SYRIZA not interested in joining larger coalition, parl. spokesman says

    Parliamentary spokesman for main opposition SYRIZA Nikos Voutsis strongly rejected media reports that his party intends to join a large coalition of political forces, calling the idea "a false dilemma" and "an invitation to complicity."

    Speaking during a plenum discussion in Parliament on a draft bill for the sale of a 66-percent stake in the independent power transmission operator (ADMIE), Voutsis said, "The invitation to a large coalition in Greece that you are issuing through manipulated media reports, is clearly an invitation to complicity in the neoliberal one-way street you are applying that leads to a humanitarian crisis. You are inviting us to collaborate. The Greek people will issue the response."

    [20] New Democracy parliamentary group to meet on Thursday

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is to chair a meeting of New Democracy's parliamentary group on Thursday, a party announcement said. The meeting will take place at 12.00 noon in Parliament.

    [21] ANEL party leader criticises gov't on ERT, unemployment

    Opposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday met with the board members of the journalists' trade unions - the Athens' Journalists Union (ESIEA) and Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) - to discuss developments in the public-run radio and television after the shutting down of ERT public broadcaster in June 2013.

    Kammenos said that "the issue of ERT should not be treated simply as a case where people lost their jobs illegally and unconstitutionally but as an issue of democracy."

    In separate statements, Kammenos criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for "toying with the hopes of unemployed Greeks," in comments following Samaras' announcement of programmes to fight unemployment. "With the 18 measures Samaras announced in the last elections - none of which were implemented - the government, which is losing credibility, is playing with the hopes of the two million Greeks it consigned to joblessness," ANEL's leader said and warned that "the Greek people will answer that."

    [22] Parliament votes in principle for power grid operator ADMHE bill

    The Greek parliament on Wednesday voted in principle for the environment ministry's bill on the sale of a 66 percent stake in Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE).

    The bill was voted for by 151 New Democracy and PASOK deputies, while 122 opposition deputies voted against it.

    Labour unions have protested ADMIE's privatisation, with public sector umbrella union ADEDY demanding on Wednesday the withdrawal of the bill. "The government is selling off the most important infrastructure that Greece has for its development, national security and social prosperity," ADEDY said in a statement.

    Public Power Corp (PPC) employees have gathered outside the Parliament, at Vassilissis Sofias avenue, protesting ADMHE's privatisation.

    Protesters have also occupied ADMIE's control centre in the Athens' northern suburb of Agios Stefanos, making energy imports literally impossible. Demand is being covered by public and private domestic energy units for as long as ADMIE's control centre is under occupation.

    [23] Greek ombudsman asks for investigation into allegations of migrant 'pushbacks' at sea

    The Greek ombudsman on Wednesday pointed to the need for an effective investigation into allegations that the coast guard was conducting illegal "pushback" operations to return migrants found at sea to where they came from.

    The ombudsman referred to the Farmakonissi incident and pointed out that - apart from children and adults being drowned and people missing ? issues related to the practice of migrants "pushbacks" should not be ignored, especially when these occurred at sea.

    The ombudsman said that in the Farmakonissi case, a thorough investigation of the incident through a sworn administrative inquiry does not discredit the coast guard but protects both the service and the prestige of Greek state against such improper or illegal conduct.

    [24] More arrested in Athens, Thessaloniki during manhunt for escaped terrorist Xiros

    Four people have been arrested in six police raids conducted on Wednesday, during an ongoing manhunt to recapture fugitive terrorist Christodoulos Xiros. The convicted November 17 terror group member has been missing since January 6, when he failed to return to Korydallos Prison after being granted furlough.

    In the home of one of the suspects arrested in Athens, police found, among other things, a bayonet, a gas mask, two portable transmitters, two knives, three slings, a flick-knife, a firecracker and printed matter.

    In the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, police found a knife, a sledgehammmer and two gas masks in two of the homes raided, while a quantity of drugs was found in the home of the fourth suspect.

    [25] President Papoulias hosts reception in honour of Diplomatic Corps

    President Karolos Papoulias hosted a reception in honour of the Diplomatic Corps at the Presidential Mansion on Wednesday evening.

    The event was attended by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the entire ministerial council, the leadership of the Armed Forces, Communist Party of Greece leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas and representatives of opposition parties.

    Financial News

    [26] Environment ministry initiative for strict specifications in TAP project construction and operation

    The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project consortium on Wednesday said that it welcomed an initiative lauched by Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis, who has launched a process of dialogue with the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region and other local authorities to ensure that the strictest European regulations will be observed in TAP's construction and operation.

    According to a relevant announcement, the consortium is committed to meeting the highest international standards with respect to the methods and the environmental and social specifications that will be employed until the project is ready to begin operating at the end of 2019.

    TAP managing director Kjetil Tungland stated that the consortium has completed the initial planning and is at the phase of conducting hearings.

    He underlined that the consortium is committed to transparency and dialogue, noting that the local population will be receiving precise, documented and scientific information concerning the project.

    TAP country manager in Greece Rikard Scoufias said that the consortium plans guarantee that land owners will receive full and fair compensation, that the highest safety standards are being observed and that answers will be accessible to all those with questions or concerns. He also stressed that cooperation with the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) and the Geotechnical Chamber of Greece will be another positive step toward this direction.

    [27] Processing of seismic data on hydrocarbon exploration completed, ministry says

    The environment, energy and climate change ministry on Wednesday announced that the processing of seismic survey data collected by Norwegian company PGS in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete has been completed.

    The data, which includes information on 12,500 km of seismic lines, was loaded onto the "Greece MegaProject" database operated by the ministry, and will be available to oil companies by the end of February.

    "The preliminary data evaluation revealed an interesting geological formation similar to areas already producing hydrocarbons in neighbouring countries," Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yannis Maniatis said, stressing that "the interpretation of the data that will follow in coming months will reveal the most attractive regions in relation to oil capacity."

    The ministry decided to present the data collected at international conventions and to brief various oil companies regarding all activities in progress. In addition, in a few days the ministry will begin promoting Greece in international oil markets with a delegation's participation in the NAPE convention in Houston, Texas on February 4, attended by thousands of oil companies representatives.

    Maniatis also briefed foreign ambassadors regarding investment opportunities in relation to oil sector in Greece.

    [28] Primary surplus won't have any positive impact on daily lives, survey

    Greek citizens, in their majority, believe that a primary surplus presented by the economy will not have any positive impact on their daily lives, a survey by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) said on Wednesday.

    The survey, titled "Economic Barometer", was conducted by Alco and its findings were analyzed by EBEA's center of survey and research. the survey was based on a sample of 1,000 citizens, aged above 18 years in the period January 21-24, 2014.

    Presenting the survey, Constantinos Mihalos, president of EBEA said that "the exit of the economy from a deep recession does not seem to be near, according to Greek society. And the worst of all is, the vast majority of citizens do not believe that a primary surplus presented by the Greek economy will have any positive impact on their daily lives."

    The survey showed that both the rate of pessimism and optimism declined in the latest barometer, compared with the previous one, with the number of non-respondents rising significantly.

    Greek citizens were more optimistic over their personal finances, while the personal pessimism index declined in the survey.

    A 66 pct of respondents said a primary surplus will not have any impact on their daily lives, while only 22 pct were optimistic and 12 pct declined to respond.

    The Greek society believe that raising employment and economic recovery should be the top priorities for the Greek government in 2014, followed by exiting the memorandum, political stability and a change in government. The survey also showed that the majority of citizens were in favour of the Sunday opening for shops.

    [29] Piraeus chamber chief: Chambers should operate as business service centres

    Chambers need to undertake the whole process of licensing and operate as Business Service Centers, president of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vassilis Korkidis said in a letter to Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Wednesday.

    In view of the final stage of the draft law for the simplification of the licensing procedures, Korkidis, who is also president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE), underlined that chambers can contribute to the reduction of costs and eliminate delays and bureaucratic rigidities that plague entrepreneurship for several years.

    [30] Greek consumer confidence index down in Q4 2013, Nielsen survey

    Greece's consumer confidence index fell by three points to 45 in the fourth quarter of 2013, after rising for the previous three quarters of the year, Nielsen said on Wednesday.

    Nielsen, in a its quarterly report, said that the global consumer confidence index was unchanged at 94 points in the fourth quarter of 2013, while the European index eased by one point to 73 in the October-December period.

    The report said that a decline in the Greek index showed that Greek consumers remained largely uncertain over their job security and the economy (47 pct and 32 pct respectively). Eight in 10 Greeks doubted that the country could overcome the economic crisis anytime soon, expecting an economic recession to prevail for at least the next 12 months. A 31 pct of Greeks spend their available income to pay loans, credit cards and debt in general, while a 36 pct of Greeks said they have no available income, up 2 points from the previous survey. A 85 pct of Greeks have changed their consumer habits, being more cautious over their spending, focusing on cheaper consumer products and cutting their spending in entertainment outside their homes. A 40 pct of respondents said they would continue buying cheaper consumer products even after an improvement of economic conditions in the country.

    Nielsen said that nine out of 10 countries with the lowest consumer confidence index globally belonged to regional Europe, with countries such as Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Portugal.

    [31] Development minister in Rome on Thursday

    Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis will visit Rome on Thursday to participate in the intergovernmental conference on European industry, ahead of the European Council on Industry Policy, according to a ministry statement.

    The conference agenda includes the development of European industry as well as energy cost. European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, EU ministers for Development and Industry and the chairwoman of Business Europe Emma Marcegaglia are among the participants.

    [32] Agriculture Minister Tsaftaris meets with farmer representatives

    Agriculture and Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris on Wednesday met with farmer representatives to discuss taxation issues and the problems created as a result of the damage caused to the country's citrus production.

    The farmers' representatives stated after the meeting that the minister pledged to contact the Hellenic Agricultural Insurances Organisation (ELGA) management to start the assessment of damages and then proceed with the activation of the EU de minimis rule. According to producers, the damages caused to the citrus crop by the November rains correspond to losses of 50 pct of their income.

    The farmers' representatives also demanded that their colleagues with annual turnover of less than 20,000 euros should be excluded from the new taxation measures.

    After the meeting with the minister, the representatives of the farmers announced that they are considering an escalation of their protest mobilisations on Monday, February 3. They said that in their meeting with the minister they "got only promises" and that they are "determined not to hand over their farms without a fight."

    [33] Bank credit to private sector fell 3.9 pct in 2013, Bank of Greece says

    Bank credit to households and businesses slowed down in 2013, with total credit extended to the domestic private sector shrinking by 3.9 percent to 217.9 billion euros from 227.6 billion euros at the end of 2012.

    According to Bank of Greece data released on Wednesday, the net flow of credit to corporations was negative in December, amounting to 110 million euros. The annual credit growth rate stood at -4.9 percent from -4.7 percent in November 2013.

    The annual credit growth rate to non-financial corporations was -5.0 percent compared to -4.6 percent the previous month, with a negative net flow of credit of 91 million euros.

    The annual credit growth rate to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at -3.3 percent in December compared to -6.4 percent a month earlier.

    The net flow of credit to sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships was positive, amounting to EUR 76 million in December 2013 and its annual growth rate stood at 0.9 percent, compared to zero rates in the previous month.

    Households' mortgages and consumer loans fell to 100.8 billion euros at the end of 2013 from 106.5 billion euros at the end of 2012.

    The outstanding amount of housing loans was decreased by 3.3 percent to 71 billion euros from 74.6 billion euros a year earlier.

    Consumer credit posted a bigger drop, as their outstanding amount fell 3.9 percent compared to 2012 to 28.3 billion euros.

    [34] Business loans up 28 pct in Nov-Dec 2013

    Greek Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Wednesday said he saw signs of improvement in the funding of business through Greek banks' funding tools in the November-December period last year.

    Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Hellenic Bank Association, Hatzidakis said there was an increase of around 28 pct in funding and noted that the use of existing funding tools and a new series of tools gradually entering the market would lead to a further improvement. Loans with subsidized interest rate totaled 100-150 million euros at the end of June, rising to around 1.2 billion euros at the end of December and expected to reach 2.0 billion euros by the end of March.

    George Zanias, president of Hellenic Bank Association, said that the 28 pct increase in funding showed a dynamic improvement of liquidity in the market.

    The Greek minister said that borrowers were responding to an initiative to renegotiate non-performing loans and noted that around 1,000 borrowers sought a renegotiation of loan repayment with Piraeus Bank. Zanias noted that around 800,000-1,000,000 borrowers have renegotiated their loans with banks in the last few yeas.

    [35] Play signs 900-mln-euro bond loan

    Play, a Poland-based mobile telephony operator in which the Greek group Olympia Development has a majority equity stake, has signed a five-year bond loan worth 900 million euros.

    The company, a leading branch in Poland' s telecoms market, said the loan was seven times oversubscribed, evidence of the company's dynamic presence in global markets. Costas Karafotakis, Olympia Development's chief executive, commented on the bond loan and said the company achieved the best pricing with the interest rate of the issue set at 5.25 pct. Karafotakis said the new capital will be used to refinance Play's debt (totaling 580 million euros, mainly from China Development Bank, but local banks in Poland as well). A part of this money will also used to cover the company's investment needs. Karafotakis said Third Point is a new shareholder in Play, after the investment fund purchased a 10 pct equity stake held by the Restis Group. Olympia Development owns 50.3 pct of Play's equity capital, with Novator owning the remaining 49.7 pct. Play has a subscriber base of 11 million subscribers and enjoys a 20 pct market share.

    [36] Greek insurance market has lost 2.0 bln euros during the crisis

    The Greek insurance market has lost around 2.0 billion euros during the crisis, according to figures unveiled on Wednesday by Alexandros Sarrigeorgiou, president of the Hellenic Association of Insurance Companies and chief executive of Eurolife Insurance.

    Addressing the annual congress of the company, Sarrigeorgiou said that the Greek insurance market fell from 5.5 billion euros (a historic record in premium production) in 2009 to 3.5 billion euros in 2013 and stressed that premium production fell by around 10 pct in 2013. He noted, however, that the market was near its bottom.

    Sarrigeorgiou said that the domestic insurance market expects turbulent times ahead because of new stricter regulatory framework and preparations for the introduction of a Solvency II directive.

    [37] OTE shares to start trading under new nominal value on Jan. 31

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) shares will start trading under a new nominal value of 2.83 euros per share on the Athens Stock Exchange as of Friday, January 31, following a share capital increase.

    OTE's extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, held on December 30, 2013, decided the increase of the company's share capital by 215,666,171.16 euro with capitalization of reserves, amounting to 215,666,171.16 euros (out of tax-free reserves of previous years amounting to 253,724,907.25 euros, following the deduction of corresponding tax which amounts to 38,058,736.09 euros), by increasing OTE share's nominal value by 0.44 euros.

    The share capital increase shall be effective with a respective increase of the nominal value of the share from 2.39 euros to 2.83 euros.

    The Company's share capital, following its increase, amounts to 1,387,125,600.87 euros, divided into 490,150,389 common registered shares of a nominal value of 2.83 euros each.

    [38] Cretan businesses received 17.8 mln euros of subsidies in 2013 as part of dev't law

    Authorities approved and granted 17.8 million euros of subsidies to 161 businesses in Crete in 2013 as part of the development law implementation.

    According to head of the Cretan prefecture Stavros Arnaoutakis, the approval and payment of subsidies aimed at improving the competitiveness of the economy, supporting entrepreneurship, strengthening balanced development, increasing employment, promoting technological change and innovation, protecting the environment and generally achieving regional convergence.

    [39] Greek bank deposits up by 1.8 bln euros in 2013, Bank of Greece says

    Greek bank deposits rose in 2013, according to Bank of Greece data released on Wednesday.

    Bank deposits of households and businesses rose to 163.2 billion euros in December from 161.042 billion euros in November.

    On a yearly basis, deposits last year increased by 1.8 billion euros.

    The rise is mainly attributed to seasonal factors, as deposits "traditionally" increase in December due to the payment of Christmas bonus (for certain categories of employees) and the payment of interest credits for the second half of the year.

    [40] Record level of nights spent in Greek hotels, Eurostat

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Greece recorded the highest increase (11.7 percent) in nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in 2013, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics service said nights spent in the EU 28 grew 1.6 pct in 2013 compared to the previous year.

    There has been a steady increase in the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in the EU28 since 2003, only interrupted in 2008 and 2009, coinciding with the beginning of the financial crisis. Each year since 2010 has seen new record levels.

    The number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in 2013 increased in nearly all EU member-states, for which data are available, except for Italy (-4.6 pct), Cyprus (-3.7 pct), the Czech Republic (-1.2 pct), Finland (-0.7 pct) and Belgium (-0.5 pct). The largest increases were recorded in Greece (+11.7 pct), Malta (+7.8 pct), Latvia (+7.3 pct), the United Kingdom (+6.5 pct), Bulgaria (+6.2 pct), Slovakia (+5.5 pct) and Hungary (+5.0 pct).

    Among the member states for which data are available, the highest number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in 2013 were recorded in France (405 million nights, +1.1 pct compared with 2012), Spain (387 mn, +1.0 pct), Italy (363 mn, -4.6 pct), Germany (355 mn, +1.3 pct) and the United Kingdom (320 mn, +6.5 pct). These five member-states accounted for 70 pct of the total number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in the EU28.

    In 2013, non-residents accounted for 45 pct of the total number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments in the EU28 compared with 55 pct for residents. After the two Mediterranean islands, Malta (96 pct) and Cyprus (93 pct), the highest shares of nights spent by non-residents were registered in Croatia (92 pct), Greece (79 pct), Austria (71 pct) and Latvia (70 pct), and the lowest in Romania (18 pct), Germany and Poland (both 20 pct) and Sweden (23 pct).

    In the EU28, the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments by non-residents grew by 4.8% between 2012 and 2013, while nights spent by residents decreased by 0.8 pct. In 2013, the largest increases for non-residents were observed in the United Kingdom (+16.7 pct), Greece (+13.2 pct) and Latvia (+9.4 pct), and for residents in Greece (+6.7 pct), Estonia (+6.1 pct), Bulgaria and Slovakia (both +5.3 pct).

    [41] Peloponnese tourism organization founded by local hotel owners

    Hotelier associations and unions from the seven prefectures in Peloponnese, southern Greece, founded the Tripolis-based Peloponnese Tourism Organization (PTO), the first inter-regional tourism promotion body, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Its goal is to promote Peloponnese as a whole to domestic and foreign tourism markets.

    Alternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos, who is elected in the Peloponnese prefecture of Lakonia, welcomed the effort and suggested that hotels should promote locally produced products in their menus.

    [42] Greek entrepreneurs invited to invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina during Thessaloniki event

    President of the Bosnian Serb Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Milorad Dodik and Bosnian Serb Republic Prime Minister }eljka Cvijanovi  on Wednesday invited Greek entrepreneurs to invest in their country, while addressing an event inaugurating a Bosnian Serb Republic Representation Office in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

    "There is great interest in cooperation. We are not an EU member but we operate under the community's rules," Dodik said after briefing Greek entrepreneurs regarding investment opportunities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and underlined that "this is very important for Greek entrepreneurs, while there is a possibility for further initiatives to make it even more convenient for them."

    Greek International Business Association (SEVE) President Dimitris Lakasas addressed the event and said that the Bosnian Serb Republic is interested in importing all types of industrial products, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, as well as fruits and vegetables. He also highlighted the important role of tourism, with the majority of Bosnian Serbs visiting Greece for their holidays.

    Lakasas listed high transport costs as a key obstacle to the export of goods to Bosnia-Herzegovina, noting that this might be corrected if Russian entrepreneurs invest in the development of a rail link to Thessaloniki port and combined transportation from the northern Greek city to the Balkans and Turkey, giving Greece a comparative advantage in the Balkan markets.

    The head of the Representation Office Vassilis Lambrou stressed that this will be open to every entrepreneur and that Bosnia is a country of investment opportunities, exports, imports, and "a country with a European profile with a high growth rate."

    [43] PPC trade unions call off strike action as ADMHE bill passes Parliament

    Public Power Corporation (PPC) employee unions decided on Wednesday evening to call off industrial action after Parliament passed in principle an environment ministry bill for the sale of a 66 percent stake in the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMHE).

    The unions said in a press release that "unfortunately, government MPs conformed with party discipline in this case also, ignoring the sell-out of the country's wealth."

    The unions are to meet again in the coming days to decide on their next moves in view of the conclusion of the bill's debate before the Parliament plenum.

    [44] 'Attiko Metro S.A.' welcomes suggested solution for Thessaloniki metro station antiquities

    'Attiko Metro S.A.' on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with the solution offered by the Central Archaeological Council concerning the antiquities unearthed during construction of the 'Venizelos' metro station in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, which have blocked progress in its construction.

    "With this decision, the Council supports both the construction of the station and the display of the antiquities unearthed within the station,'' the company said.

    Giving its expert opinion, the Council suggested the removal and subsequent repositioning of antiquities found within the station. From a total of six solutions examined, two were short-listed; one drawn up by the culture ministry in collaboration with 'Attiko Metro S.A.' and one suggested by university professors G.Papakostas and A. Alexopoulou from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), which was finally selected as the best solution by the Municipality of Thessaloniki.

    Both solutions shortlisted call for the return of all significant finds to the station. 'Attiko Metro S.A.' emphasised that the station will be redesigned, with collaboration to ensure the optimal operation of the station, while taking into account all the parameters that must be met.

    The decision was also welcomed by the culture sector of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), which said that it was a "vindication" of the party's positions.

    [45] Voyatzoglou Systems to return capital to shareholders

    Voyatzoglou Systems SA on Wednesday said that an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting approved a board plan for a capital return of 0.92 euros per share.

    The shareholders' meeting unanimously approved a capital increase plan worth 5,819,000 euros through the capitalisation of reserves and an increase of the company's nominal share value by 0.92 euros to 1.52 euros per share. The meeting, at the same time, approved the reduction of the company's equity capital by 5,819,000 euros and the return of the 0.92 euros per share increase to its shareholders.

    [46] Inactive, environmentally harmful ships to be removed from Perama

    Sixteen inactive ships in the sea region of Perama in the seaport of Piraeus, were characterized as dangerous and harmful to the environment by a special committee set up by the Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (PPA) board, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The ships' owners have been notified to have them removed, pursuant to Law No. 2881/2001, otherwise PPA will proceed with their auctioning.

    PPA president and CEO Giorgos Anomeritis said that a total of 35 ships have already been removed, while another 14 are in the process of being auctioned off.

    [47] Greek stocks continue moving lower

    Greek stocks continued losing ground in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, remaining on a downward trend for the fourth consecutive session. The composite index of the market ended 0.93 pct lower at 1,126.35 points, reversing a 3.0 pct advance early in the session. The index fell as much as 1.50 pct to 1,119.86 points. The index is down 7.92 pct in the last four sessions.

    Turnover was an improved 83.94 million euros. The Large Cap index fell 1.13 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.51 pct lower. Piraeus Port (1.65 pct), OTE (1.61 pct), Titan (1.36 pct) and Intralot (1.05 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Frigoglass (4.71 pct), Folli Follie (3.93 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (3.74 pct) and Piraeus Bank (3.61 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Health (1.76 pct), Telecoms (1.61 pct) and Insurance (1.55 pct) sectors were top gainers, while Commerce (3.88 pct), Banks (3.04 pct) and Food (2.72 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers and decliners were equally distributed (67 each), with 18 issues unchanged. Medicoin (19.86 pct), AAA (19.71 pct) and Aegek (18.52 pct) were top gainers, while Douros (19.39 pct), Parnassos (15.58 pct) and Galaxidi (10.11 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +1.55%

    Industrial Products: -0.06%

    Commercial: -3.88%

    Construction: +0.81%

    Oil & Gas: -0.22%

    Personal & Household: -0.67%

    Raw Materials: -2.05%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.17%

    Technology: -1.60%

    Telecoms: +1.61%

    Banks: -3.04%

    Food & Beverages: -2.72%

    Health: +1.76%

    Utilities: -0.09%

    Financial Services: -0.61%

    Chemicals: -1.25%

    Media: +0.68%

    Real Estate: +0.08%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Piraeus Bank and OPAP.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.63

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.25

    Coca Cola HBC: 19.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.98

    National Bank of Greece: 3.16

    Eurobank Properties : 7.20

    OPAP: 9.50

    OTE: 10.07

    Piraeus Bank: 1.60

    Titan: 18.65

    [48] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 6.97 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 6.96 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.71 pct and the German Bund 1.74 pct. Turnover was a strong 40 million euros, of which 35 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 5.0 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.566 pct from 0.569 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.49 pct from 0.492 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.402 pct from 0.404 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.30 pct from 0.301 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.237 pct from 0.241 pct.

    [49] ADEX closing report

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.50 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 31.965 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,810 contracts worth 20.365 million euros, with 46,268 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,785 contracts worth 11.600 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,349), followed by Alpha Bank (1,415), Piraeus Bank (3,478), MIG (1,258), OTE (3,277), PPC(2,614), OPAP (757), Hellenic Exchanges (323), Mytilineos (890), Hellenic Petroleum (368), GEK (239), Ellaktor (252), Intralot (297), Folli Follie (181) and Frigoglass (230).

    [50] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.381

    Pound sterling 0.834

    Danish kroner 7.574

    Swedish kroner 8.932

    Japanese yen 141.83

    Swiss franc 1.243

    Norwegian kroner 8.564

    Canadian dollar 1.540

    Australian dollar 1.576

    General News

    [51] Launching of the exhibition ?Pink Wave Hunter? at the Benaki Museum

    The Benaki Museum along with the DESTE foundation are launching events and exhibitions of contemporary art trends from groundbreaking artists. The first collaboration between the two institutions is the exhibition of the new artist Andro Wekua which opens tonight at the Benaki Museum.

    Wekua's work is the architecture-sculpture reconstruction including 15 models of the city of his childhood, Sukhumi. Along with his family, the then-13-year-old Andro was forced to leave his city during the 90s because of the war in Abkhazia. He then moved to Switzerland and finally settled in Berlin.

    Andro Wekua might not be famous in Greece but his work is popular in European and American museums. The inspiration for his work, entitled ?Pink Wave Hunter?, began in 2008 with the need to express through art the narrative of his childhood experience and traumas.

    He used various media (plaster, wax, bronze, wood) to create a fluid urban landscape with the memory of the seaside of Sukhumi. He added elements through internet research and created a mainly monochromatic set which oscillates between fantasy and reality.

    The facades, cafes, government buildings, the train bridge, the lighthouse and the movie theatre are memories of a fictional city filtered by the personal vision of Andro Wekua. "The work starts from an earthy, solid starting point," said director Angelos Delivorias on Wednesday at the Benaki Museum, announcing the collaboration between the two institutions.

    The exhibit "Pink Wave Hunter" will run until March 23.

    [52] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits Paris

    PARIS (ANA-MPA / O. Tsipira)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is currently on a three-day visit here, on Thursday will be proclaimed honorary professor of the Catholic University of Paris (ICP).

    On Thursday morning, he will attend mass at the Greek Cathedral of Saint Stefanos and at noon he will attend a Turkish embassy luncheon.

    During his visit, the Ecumenical Patriarch attended a conference at the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences and events hosted by Christian Orthodox organisations, while he also had meetings at the French foreign ministry.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch will depart from Paris on Friday.

    [53] Former defence ministry official Kantas returned to jail after testifying

    Former defence ministry official Antonis Kantas, who served as alternate director for armaments purchases on Wednesday completed his lengthy testimony before examining magistrates concerning the investigation into the Self-propelled Howitzers (PzH2000GR) armament programme case, after which he was returned to jail.

    Though the magistrates did not order his detention on remand for the specific charge, allowing his release on condition he did not leave the country, Kantas remained in custody over the ongoing submarines and anti-aircraft systems cases that he allegedly received kickbacks for.

    Kantas had testified before examining magistrates Spyros Georgouleas and Christoforos Markou on charges of money-laundering and taking kickbacks in order to favour the German company Wegmann as the supplier of the Self-propelled Howitzers.

    Kantas' defence lawyers, commenting on the magistrates' decision to release their client in one of the cases against him, said "it is a strong message that those who cooperate with justice are treated favourably."

    [54] Sailboat missing in Argosaronikos Gulf

    A rescue operation is underway at the sea region of Argosaronikos Gulf to locate a Dutch-flagged sailboat with one person on board that sailed from the Alimos marina to Lavrio on Tuesday.

    In his last contact on Tuesday, the 27 year-old said he was facing an engine failure, but that he would continue his trip only with the use of the sails.

    Three coast guard vessels and a helicopter are searching the area.

    [55] Greek air traffic controllers cancel work stoppage on Thursday

    Incoming and outgoing flights at Greek airports will take place as scheduled on Thursday, as air traffic controllers union suspended a three-hour work stoppage.

    Greek air traffic controllers had announced they would walk off their jobs on Thursday as part of a Europe-wide strike of the sector.

    [56] Minor quake in Corinthian Gulf

    A minor earthquake measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale was recorded on Wednesday at 11:15 am. The quake was felt in the city of Patras as well as across all the coastal areas of Achaia, Etoloakarnania, Fokida and Corinthia prefectures.

    According to the Geodynamics Institute of the National Observatory of Athens, the quake's epicenter was located in the Corinthian Gulf and its depth was five kilometers.

    Weather forecast

    [57] Overcast on Thursday

    Scattered cloudover in the western, central and northern parts of the country, with light and brief rain in Thessaloniki, Evia and the mainland and weak snowfall on higher elevations. Southeasterly winds in 4-7 Beaufort in the west and northeasterly 4-5 Beaufort in the east, rising to 7 in the northern Aegean. No major change in temperatures. No further details available as of this writing.

    [58] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies

    AVGHI: Taxes have risen up to 900 percent since 2010.

    DIMOKRATIA: A 'havoc-report' for Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Hard landing.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' cards burned.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Deductions to be reduced in supplementary pensions.

    ESTIA: Tax evasion ninety years ago.

    ETHNOS: Sweep-arrangement for the 'red loans'.

    IMERISSIA: Over 1 billion euros primary surplus in 2013.

    KATHIMERINI: Europarliament Vice President Othmar Karas to newspaper: Troika made mistakes, but Greece has been rescued.

    KERDOS: Social consensus for the reforms.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Tough game with award the banking union.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Communist Party's verbal question on farmers' problems.

    TA NEA: Tax Bureau: Black Monday with burning-fines.

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