|Thursday, 23 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 8 January 2011 Issue No: 3689
 PM, Erdogan hold talks in ErzurumERZURUM (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Bilateral relations, including air space violations above Greek islands by the Turkish military and illegal migration issues, were discussed during a meeting between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish city of Erzurum on Friday.
The two premiers held two hours of private talks over a working breakfast in the northeast Anatolian city, before they were joined by Greek and Turkish foreign ministers Dimitris Droutsas and Ahmet Davutoglu, respectively. Papandreou was in Erzurum to address a Turkish ambassadors' conference, alongside Erdogan, following a formal invitation.
Diplomatic sources said that the talks between Erdogan and Papandreou focused mainly on the problems caused by Turkish military plane flights above the Aegean, while migration issues were touched on after the meeting was joined by Droutsas and Davutoglu. They stressed that the meeting in Erzurum did not aim to make decisions on specific issues, such as that of the Aegean continental shelf that is currently being discussed in exploratory talks between the two sides, but to create a framework for promoting good relations between Greece and Turkey through the mechanisms already set up, such as the High-Level Cooperation Council whose next meeting will prepare for an upcoming visit by Davutoglu to Athens in March.
After the meeting, which lasted longer than initially planned, the two prime ministers were also due to inaugurate the Erzurum Stadium that will host the upcoming World University Games (Universiade), in which university athletic teams from 75 countries will compete.
Afterwards, Papandreou will address the third annual Turkish ambassadors' conference, entitled "Visionary Diplomacy: Global and Regional Order from Turkey's Perspective". The meeting, which will also be addressed by Erdogan, is chaired by Foreign Minister Davutoglu and attended by 180 Turkish diplomats serving abroad and at the country's foreign ministry. The week-long session opened in Ankara on Monday and will continue in Erzurum.
The purpose of the conference is coordination of the ambassadors representing Turkey abroad, as well as an exchange of views between technocrats and the political authority.
Papandreou's presence is considered of particular significance, according to Turkish commentators.
The invitation to Papandreou reciprocates the Greek premier's invitation two months earlier to Erdogan to attend an international environmental meeting in Athens.
In statements to Turkey's Anadolu news agency on Friday, the Turkish foreign minister stressed that the fact that Papandreou and Droutsas will address the Turkish ambassadors' conference was "historic" and proof of the high level of relations between the two countries.
"Turkey always responds to sincere intentions of friendship, and when it is approached in such a way. That is our policy in the Balkans and the Middle East," he added.
 Papandreou and Erdogan inaugurate Erzurum's new stadiumERZURUM (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday joined his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in inaugurating the new Cemal Gursel stadium in the city of Erzurum in Eastern Anatolia, to rousing applause from the crowd of local residents attending the official opening.
Erzurum's new stadium will host the XXV Winter Universiade, or Winter World University Games, where athletic teams from universities in 75 countries will compete in 2011.
In a brief address, the Greek premier conveyed a message of peace and friendship from the Greek people and said that the two sides, while respecting their history, "have decided to overcome the prejudices of the past".
"We have taken bold initiatives to break the barriers of prejudice that divide our two peoples," he stressed.
The crowd was also addressed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who thanked all the Turkish ministers that had contributed to building the new stadium and Papandreou.
Afterwards, Papandreou will address the third annual Turkish ambassadors' conference, entitled "Visionary Diplomacy: Global and Regional Order from Turkey's Perspective". The meeting, which will also be addressed by Erdogan, is chaired by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and attended by 180 Turkish diplomats serving abroad and at the country's foreign ministry. The week-long session opened in Ankara on Monday and will continue in Erzurum.
Earlier on Friday, Papandreou and Erdogan held talks on bilateral issues over a working breakfast.
 PM details bilateral problems, prospects in high-profile address to Turkish diplomatic corpsERZURUM (ANA-MPA)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday covered the gamut of Greek-Turkish relations, differences and whatever prospects for resolution, speaking during a closely watched address at a conference here of Turkey's top diplomats and leadership.
In opening his address in the northeastern Anatolia city of Erzurum, Papandreou referred to an opportunity to "speak frankly and openly about our future. Will this be a future of peace or confrontation?"
The one-time Greek foreign minister, credited with initiating the so-called "earthquake rapprochement" of 1999 with the late Turkish FM Ismail Cem, referred directly to the challenges and day-to-day problems affecting bilateral relations, while he noted that his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has chosen to contribute to a new relationship of peace and cooperation.
"Nevertheless, trust is difficult to develop," he stressed, citing a provocation that occurred as late as Wednesday with the overflight of eight Turkish warplanes of "a small Greek isle (Agathonissi) with 150 inhabitants."
"... What's the meaning behind this violation of Greek sovereignty? These types of actions do not change the (legal) status in the Aegean, you can be certain of that. They (overflights) may have become routine for Turkey, but do not believe they are routine for Greece. Every such action is a reminder to Greeks that Turkey has not decided to establish different relations with Greece," he emphasised.
Conversely, he underlined that he doesn't believe "the actions of one day" can undermine the careful and systematic work conducted over years. Moreover, he called on Erdogan, whom he referred to as a "reliable interlocutor", to consolidate the "trust between us and, in the end, to build a stable peace".
In further touching on bilateral relations, he said ties should not be left to chance or to fate.
"We need to consolidate rules in our relations; principles and international law, agreements and rule of law. That's why it's a dangerous luxury to not solve the continental shelf delineation issue. This difference marked the beginning of the Greek-Turkish confrontation in the early 1970s and continues to be a major problem in our bilateral relations," he said, adding:
"Since 2002, with the exploratory contacts, we have attempted to ascertain whether there is common ground that could lead to an agreed to resolution ... We are obliged to make every effort at finding a mutually acceptable solution. If we don't achieve this within a reasonable amount of time, we must then seek recourse to international justice for a judgement based on international law. In the interim, steps must be taken to reduce tension."
At this point Papandreou again reiterated that "if Turkey truly means that it seeks peace they (overflights) must cease."
In a statement to most of his audience, top Turkish diplomats and envoys, he said:
"You are experienced diplomats and know very well that in today's world the threat of war has no place, nor does it solve problems. Certainly not by a Turkey that states that it wants zero problems with its neighbours," he said.
In reference to the long-standing Cyprus problem, Papandreou was equally succinct and direct.
"The time will come to have an open and substantive discussion between us over Turkey (EU's) candidacy. My vision has always been a Cyprus that will serve as a model for the peaceful and democratic cohabitation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, Christians and Muslims. Of course, the Cyprus issue never had as its basis religious dimensions.
"However, there should be no illusions. The international community will not legalise an invasion. Turkey's European course will not be completed as long as the occupation (of one-third of Cyprus by Turkey) continues. A new effort is needed," he said, while adding that Cyprus President Demetris Christofias is the leader that can produce a solution on the part of the Greek Cypriots.
 PM addresses press conference with Turkish counterpartISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday reiterated his determination for relations between Turkey and Greece to forge ahead, speaking at a press conference that he held with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, in Erzurum, following his address at the 3rd annual conference of Turkish ambassadors.
Papandreou stressed that great progress has been achieved in relations between the two countries, despite the problems existing between the two countries.
Referring to the Turkish prime minister, Papandreou said "I know that both of us want a good atmosphere to be created between Greece and Turkey," while not omitting to refer to the problems that are obstructing further development.
The Greek prime minister, replying to a question, confirmed the excellent personal relations that he has with the Turkish prime minister and noted that these relations also facilitate the two countries' relations.
"I can say that I call him a brother," the Greek prime minister said characteristically and added that Erdogan is straightforward and sincere.
 Turkish FM: Papandreou, Droutsas participation in Turkish ambassadors' conference "historic"ERZURUM (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)
Greek prime minister George Papandreou's and foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas' participation in the annual conference of Turkish ambassadors, currently taking place in Erzurum, is proof of the high level of the relations between the two countries, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Friday.
In statements to Turkey's Anadolu news agency, Davutoglu described as "historic" the fact that Papandreou and Droutsas will address the Turkish ambassadors.
"Turkey always responds to sincere intentions of friendship, and when it is approached in such a way. That is our policy in the Balkans and the Middle East," Davutoglu added.
 PM holds telephone conversation with Ecumenical Patriarch VartholomeosGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, before leaving Turkey late on Friday afternoon.
Papandreou briefed Vartholomeos on his discussions in Turkey on Friday.
 Reactions to PM's visit to ErzurumMain opposition New Democracy party vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos, in a statement on Prime Minister George Papandreou's address in Erzurum, Turkey, said that "the prime minister's participation in the annual meeting of the Turkish diplomats in Erzurum and secret discussions with the Turkish prime minister, obscure even further the under duress, at this time, Greek-Turkish relations, creating questions, skepticism and concern."
According to Avramopoulos, "it is certain that the prime minister was dragged to this meeting, without diplomatic preparation and a specific agenda."
On his part, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis called on the main opposition New Democracy party "to read, even elementarily, the prime minister's address at the conference of Turkish ambassadors," adding that "with audacity is ascertaining queries and unfortunate diplomatic moves in the visit by Mr. Papandreou to Turkey", as well as the opposition parties "that discover 'secret diplomacy'," as he said.
Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis on Friday referred to the Greek foreign policy moves as being "unthinkable" and expressed opposition to the visit of Papandreou to Erzurum.
Speaking to private television, Karatzaferis stressed that a new opportunity is being created in the energy sector of the greater area, adding that an alternative front by Qatar, Egypt, Israel and Greece can be created. "We are given an opportunity to lead ourselves out of the dead end that followed the shutting down of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline," he stressed.
He also maintained that Turkey creates "fait accompli conditions through diplomacy" and stressed that Greece's future passes through the exploitation of its mineral resources.
Finally, the Coalition of the Left (SYN) Political Bureau on Friday accused Papandreou of "continuing a policy of secret diplomacy" referring to his meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Erzurum.
 PM interview to Dow Jones NewswireNEW YORK (ANA-MPA)
Prime Minister George Papandreou, speaking in an interview with the Dow Jones Newswires agency and published in the Wall Street Journal newspaper, said that Greece does not discuss the restructuring of its debt that is held by private individuals and will return to the bonds markets this year, provided that conditions permit.
"We do not do such discussions (on the restructuring of the debt). Looking forward to growth, fiscal adjustment, the reforms we are doing and to the fact that we have a strong European support mechanism, we believe that we will have no problem in paying off the debt," the prime minister said.
Referring to the moves made for the new European stability mechanism that will be valid as of 2013, the prime minister noted that they created great unrest with the holders of bonds of the eurozone countries with a weaker fiscal position.
 Gov't on Greek-Turkish relations; Evros fenceGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Friday stressed that Prime Minister George Papandreou follows an extrovert foreign policy.
Speaking to a private radio station, Petalotis made the comment in response to opposition party accusations alleging "secret diplomacy".
Petalotis rejected the accusations made by Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on a joint exploitation of the Aegean with Turkey that presupposes ceding sovereign rights, characterising them as "fiction". He underlined that "the government has proved that it serves the national interests in the best way".
As regards a fence to be built along a stretch of Greece's land border with Turkey in the Evros prefecture, Petalotis stated that "this is an issue that had to be dealt with years ago ... had to be made a European issue, which was achieved through Frontex and other solutions that will help reduce the number of illegal migrants entering the country".
 Gov't: 'Evros fence will be built'Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Friday reiterated, in the strongest terms, that Greece will protect its borders and solve the illegal migrant problem.
"Greece cannot handle more illegal migrants on its territory and is determined to take all necessary measures to protect the borders, including the construction of the fence along a stretch of its land border with Turkey in Evros prefecture. At the same time, the goal set is that no illegal migrant will be left in the country," he stressed.
Papoutsis made the statement after submitting an amendment in Parliament providing that former army camps will be used as first reception centres for refugees and illegal migrants.
The amendment is included in the draft law on the establishment of an asylum service and a first reception service and harmonisation of Greek legislation to the 2008/115/EC Directive on common standards and procedures in member-states for returning illegally staying third country nationals.
Papoutsis stressed that "aside from the fence, infrared cameras and all advance technology means that we'll use in Evros and our borders, the draft law we are voting today also brings order to the whole situation that plagues our country for years and is an insult to Greece and the European law and order. Based on the draft law, those eligible will be granted asylum and international protection?but those who are in our country illegally, particularly, those who participate in illegal and violent actions will leave Greece?either through voluntary repatriation or through deportation. Greece can not take it anymore; the Greek society can not take it anymore. We have crossed our limits despite the fact that we are a democratic and tolerant society, the most tolerant in Europe."
Responding to a question on the construction cost of the fence, Papoutsis said the comparison should be made with the price paid by Greece when 200 illegal migrants, equal to the population of a small village, cross its borders on a daily basis.
 Bill ssylum ratified by relevant com'tCitizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis reiterated on Friday from Parliament that Greece is not a "free-for-all", reassuring at the same time that the construction of a 12.5-kilometre-long in Evros, on a portion of the country's land borders, constitutes "an obligation of ours that emanates from the Schengen Treaty on the guarding of borders and not merely a right and constitutional mandate."
 French minister urges EU help for Greece on illegal migration problemBERLIN (ANA-MPA/Y. Pappas)
French European Affairs minister Laurent Wauquiez called for EU support to Greece to help it stem the flow of illegal migration at its Evros border.
Wauquiez called on the EU to discuss Greece's proposal for a 'fence' at the Evros border. "The Europeans must realise that those borders are our common borders," he said.
In an interview appearing in the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung on Friday, Wauquiez noted that 70 percent of the illegal immigrants in Europe enter the EU through the Evros border between Greece and Turkey.
"That is exceptionally difficult for Athens. Europe must help," he said, adding that "when Greece proposes a fence...it must be discussed".
 Former army camps to be used as illegal migrant detention centresFormer army camps will be used as so-called first reception centres for third-country nationals who enter Greece illegally and are subsequently ordered to return to their home countries, according to an amendment included in a citizen protection ministry-sponsored draft law submitted in Parliament on Friday.
The amendment is included in the draft law on the establishment of an asylum service and a first reception service and harmonisation of Greek legislation to the 2008/115/EC Directive on common standards and procedures in member-states for returning illegally staying third country nationals.
The defense ministry will allow the former army campsites and their facilities to be utilised by the citizen protection ministry and as detention centres.
 ND attacks government over recession, party-political 'games'Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagioto-poulos on Friday commented on the figures released by Eurostat, saying that the government was sinking Greece ever deeper into a recession that exceeded even the worst predictions by failing to take measures to support growth.
He noted that ND had early on indicated the way that the economy might be reordered to bring growth, making specific proposals, while Prime Minister George Papandreou was "pretending to hear nothing and continuing on a course that leads to a dead end".
In response to announcements by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis about changes in political party funding and the requirement for MPs to declare the source of income and assets, Panagiotopoulos accused the government of playing party-political 'games' and trying to mislead public opinion.
The ND spokesman accused Ragoussis of overturning decisions taken by the political party leaders during a meeting chaired by the president and converting a cross-party effort to cleanse the political system and strike at corruption into a bid to impress the public.
"ND has proposals that can be immediately implemented that are capable of dealing with the problem effectively," he stressed, adding that the main opposition insists on the need to rise above parties in order to achieve the greatest possible social and political consensus for the effort to reform the political system.
 Barnier at joint meeting of Parliament com'ts this monthEuropean Commissioner Michel Barnier, responsible for Internal Market and Services, will address a joint meeting on Jan. 14 of Parliament's standing committees on economic affairs and production as well as the standing committee on European affairs.
 Amendment on cram schools tabled in parliamentLegal and natural entities alike will be able to open private cram schools in Greece, according to an amendment submitted in Parliament by Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Friday.
The amendment was prepared for the harmonisation of Greek legislation to the 2006/123/EC Directive on services in the internal market.
The necessary preconditions a legal entity will have to meet include: being based in an EU state, clearly stating in its charter that offering education services is among its purposes and not being declared bankrupt.
 Greece must trim 1.3 billion euro in health care costs, minister saysHealth Minister Andreas Loverdos once again underlined the need to drastically reduce spending on health in Greece, in an interview with Real FM radio station on Friday, pointing out that the country was currently one of the highest spenders on public and private health throughout the world.
"We are the 6th-highest country on the planet for spending on public and private health. We spend 10 percent of our GDP, 25 billion euro a year, on public and private health care. Do we have services to match? Of course not," the minister said.
The minister said that total cuts in spending on health from the start of the year until the end of 2011 would have to reach 1.3 billion euro and that the measures that would achieve these savings must be decided by the end of January and announced to the public by February 5, before the EU-IMF inspection team arrived on February 10 to check Greece's public finances.
He also stressed that the government programme to cut back on wasteful spending in health had to succeed because otherwise it would have to be replaced by other, horizontal measures that would be unjust and unpalatable for everyone.
"If all goes well we will have an unobstructed course toward the 15 billion euro we are due to receive in March. If things do not go well I don't know what precise complications we will have," he added.
Concerning hospital mergers, the minister clarified that this essentially meant that one governor would be in charge of more than one hospital and that nearby hospitals would be asked to pool and share resources, such as staff or units.
 Greek banks: Economic recovery nearingGreek bankers on Friday expressed optimism that the time of economic recovery was near, helped by steps made in the last eight months and led by reformed tax legislation in the country.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Regional Development & Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis, representatives of the Hellenic Bank Association acknowledged that pressure on Greek state bonds was making it harder for the economy to exit the crisis.
The meeting, part of a regular monthly contact, focused on developments in the banking system and in the Greek and global economy.
The meeting also discussed the distribution, by the Bank of Greece, of state guarantees worth 25 billion euros among Greek financial institutions. This is the third liquidity pylon offered to Greek banks as part of a government plan to boost liquidity in the local market.
Meanwhile, Chryssohoidis also briefed the banking sector representatives that the government will launch tenders for new programmes worth 4.0 billion euros in March, as part of a new development law.
He also cited the ministry's policy priorities in the first three months of the year and noted that the ministry will begin talks with the European Investment Bank over a loan, worth 2.0 billion euros, to finance business programmes, while a new Business Fund was expected to begin operating by the end of January - with a capital of 1.4 billion euros - aimed at supporting liquidity in the Greek market.
 Energy investmentsFunding for energy investments valued at over 1 billion euros from the Public Investments Program is provided by decisions signed by the energy and regional development ministries.
The investments concern infrastructure projects by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the National Natural Gas System Manager (DESFA), which included expansion of electricity and natural gas transport and distribution networks.
 GDP shrinks 4.6% in Q3The Greek economy shrank by 1.3 pct in the third quarter of 2010, compared with the previous quarter of the year, and by 4.6 pct compared with the corresponding period in 2009, Eurostat announced on Friday.
The EU executive's statistics service, in a report, said Greece recorded the worse economic recession in the EU-27, where the average GDP grew by 0.5 pct in the third quarter, on a quarterly basis, and by 2.2 pct on an annual basis.
 Vehicle registrations down 37.1% in 2010Car registrations (including new and used ones) fell 37.1 pct in 2010, after recording a 60.7-pct decline in December, the Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that total vehicle registrations (including cars, buses and trucks) were down 57.9 pct in December and 35.1 pct in the year.
New car registrations totaled 183,877 in 2010, down 35.1 pct on 2009, after falling by 18.4 pct in the previous 12-month period. Motorcycle registrations totaled 61,763 in 2010, down 15.5 pct from the previous year, after a recording a decline of 28.9 pct in 2009. December registrations were down 44.5 pct.
The Federation of Car Importers and Dealers (SEAA) said the Greek car market had fallen to 1990 levels and stressed that car sales were down 62.6 pct in the second half of 2010, compared with the six-year average figure.
SEAA said that the crisis hitting the sector has led to 15,000 jobs been lost in the sector since early 2009, or 17 pct of the workforce in the car sector and reiterated a call to the government to adopt measures aimed at supporting the market.
 Local businessman wanted in connection with 'black market' warehouseA local businessman is wanted by the financial crimes squad (SDOE) in connection with a "black market" warehouse on Socratous Street in Athens, in which authorities found thousands of counterfeit brand name items, it was announced on Friday.
The name of the businessman was found in ledgers and invoices seized in the third-floor warehouse, a space that contained roughly 200,000 belts, all knock-off brands, packaged and ready to be sold.
An investigation is underway to determine if the seized products were destined to be sold in stores as genuine.
 Stocks recover on Fri.Stocks recovered at the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, after a 3.22-pct decline suffered in the previous two sessions of the week, helped by renewed interest in blue chip stocks, although bank shares remained under pressure. The composite index of the market ended 1.23 pct higher at 1,390.84 points, for a net loss of 1.63 pct in the week. Turnover improved further to 99.993 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.11 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 1.30 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.35 pct higher. OTE (4.62 pct), Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (3.90 pct), Mytilineos (3.83 pct) and Cyprus Bank (3.0 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (2.91 pct), Alpha Bank (1.64 pct) and MIG (1.54 pct) were top losers.
The Commerce (8.65 pct), Telecoms (4.62 pct) and Food (3.84 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (4.61 pct) and Financial Services (0.94 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 78 to 72 with another 52 issues unchanged. Mohlos (11.11 pct), Hellenic Sugar (10.61 pct) and Ideal (10 pct) were top gainers, while Allatini Ceramics (18.87 pct), AXON Holdings (14.81 pct) and Sanyo Hellas (14.29 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.03%
Personal & Household: +0.75%
Raw Materials: +2.89%
Travel & Leisure: -0.81%
Food & Beverages: +3.84%
Financial Services: -0.94%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, OPAP and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.59
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.35
HBC Coca Cola: 20.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.71
National Bank of Greece: 6.04
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.60
Bank of Piraeus: 3.00
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market remained a thin 6.0 million euros on Friday, of which 3.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 3.0 million euros were sell orders. The six-month Treasury bill was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 3.0 million euros. The 10-year benchmark bond yielded 12.73 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.50 pct, the six-month rate 1.22 pct, the three-month 1.0 pct and the one-month rate 0.76 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -3.73 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover a low 28.651 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,252 contracts worth 22.449 million euros, with 33,470 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,148 contracts worth 6.202 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (4,607), followed by Eurobank (1,599), MIG (521), OTE (899), National Bank (3,171), Alpha Bank (1,579), Marfin Popular Bank (765), Cyprus Bank (359) and Hellenic Postbank (194).
 Public debate on presidential decree for protection of Lake PamvotidaA draft presidential decree on the protection, preservation and management of biodiversity in Lake Pamvotida, the eponymous lake in the NW city of Ioannina, will be open to public discussion until Feb. 6.
The greater lake region is described as an "eco-development" region that will undergo active management aimed at ensuring the preservation of protected habitats and animal species.
Different views on the institutional framework for the protection of the lake can be presented on the internet by citizens and institutions alike at: www.opengov.gr <http://www.opengov.gr>.
 Bodies of two illegal migrants recovered from Evros RiverThe bodies of two young Afro-Asian illegal migrants, aged approximately 20, who drowned in the cold waters of Evros River were recovered at noon on Friday in the Petalo, Ferres region by members of the Alexandroupolis fire brigade.
One of the bodies was found on the shore of the Evros river, near the Xirodentro observatory, while the second body was found floating in the water nearby.
Authorities believe that the two men attempted to swim across the Evros River to Greece and died of hypothermia due to the subzero temperatures in the area in recent days.
The bodies were taken to the Alexandroupolis General University Hospital for post-mortems to determine the precise causes of the deaths.
 Foreign nationals arrested for armed robbery following police chaseFour Albanian nationals were arrested following a police chase and an exchange of gunfire with police officers in the west Athens district of Ilion on Friday afternoon, following an armed robbery of a nearby super market.
According to reports, three of the four suspects entered the super market armed with assault rifles and pistols, seizing an unknown amount of money and fleeing in a stolen car driven by a fourth accomplice.
They were detected by a police patrol car, however, and an ensuing chase led to a collision of the suspects' vehicle with another car.
The suspects were subsequently chased on foot and finally arrested in the courtyard of a home. The weapons and the money from the heist were recovered and confiscated.
 New public transport stoppages on MondayPublic transport employees are renewing mobilisations next week in protest to changes to the commuter network proposed by the government.
The unions of Metro and Athens Electric Trains (ISAP) train drivers have called a four-hour work stoppage on Monday beginning at 12:00 noon to hold a general assembly in order to determine the further course of their mobilisations.
At the same time, bus and trolleys will not be running from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday due to a five-hour stoppage.
Tram employees are expected to follow in the footsteps of their bus and trolley colleagues, although no formal announcement has yet been made on their intentions.
Commuters are advised that the public transportation means will not be picking up and letting off passengers at least half an hour before and half an hour after the stoppage hours, given that time is required for drivers to deliver and pick up the vehicles before and after the stoppage.
 German reporter arrested for entering restricted border areaA German reporter was arrested in the border region of Kastanies-Nea Vyssa, Evros prefecture, on Friday morning for entering a restricted military area.
The reporter, 46, was detected while traveling in a car in the restricted border district, according to a police announcement.
Authorities said that the man "did not observe anticipated rules of access and procedures of journalistic coverage, which have been publicised and require a special permit from Greek authorities."
The reporter, identified as Jorg Uwe Heuer, is accused of violating the law on security measures for restricted areas. Heuer is reportedly a correspondent of the paper Hamburger Abendblatt and for other publications.
 Four arrests for burglaries in IoanninaFour people were arrested in the NW city of Ioannina together with four more people and two foreign nationals for burglaries against shops and churches in the city and the wider region.
In Ioannina, two women posing as customers entered a jeweler store and with the method of distraction stole a case containing jeweler worth 20,000 euros.
 Woman perishes in apartment fireA 66-year-old woman died in a fire that broke out in her first-storey apartment in the Athens suburb of Halandri on Thursday morning.
A strong team of eight fire engines distinguished the fire, which completely destroyed the apartment, before it spread to other apartments.
 Cloudy on SaturdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 17C. Fair in Athens, with light winds and temperatures ranging from 3C to 15C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 11C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomic issues and an arrangement for payment of VAT by businessmen in installments were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Friday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The 'source of wealth' of politicians to be put through sieve".
AVRIANI: "Retire four years earlier".
ELEFTHEROS: "Admire them! Big waste by ministries, public organisations, in time of sacrifices".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They 'broke' the threshold of the 739.40 euro minimum salary".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Chaos with the tolls".
ETHNOS: "Tax hunt for large-scale debts to state".
ESTIA: "Why the markets are hesitant".
IMERISSIA: "Payment of debts to the Funds in 60 installments".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Additional revenues of 2.5 billion euros sought for 2012".
TA NEA: "VAT will be paid (by businessmen) with three installments per month".
VRADYNI: "Freeze on foreclosures to June 30 for debts up to 200,000 euros".
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