|Thursday, 27 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 21 January 2011 Issue No: 3700
 PM announces project for major photovoltaic park in NW GreecePrime Minister George Papandreou announced a major photovoltaic project in the northwest city of Kozani on Thursday, noting that the investment -- both the city and the western Macedonia region -- will serve as a model for "green and clean development" and renewable sources of energy.
He added that pollution heavy lignite-fired power plants will be replaced by new "cleaner tech" plants, while at the same time renewable energy sources will better support growth and boost employment.
Papandreou said the park is a "leading project and Kozani shows us the way to the new era."
Environment Minister Tina Birbili said the replacement of two lignite-fired power plants with state-of-the-art plans is on track, underlining that western Macedonia will remain the "energy heartland" of Greece.
PPC President Arthuros Zervos said the construction of the project is expected to begin this summer and slated for completion in 18 months.
 Technical specs of new major photovoltaic project in KozaniOne of the largest photovoltaic parks in the world, with a projected power production capacity of 200 MW, will be constructed in the northwest prefecture of Kozani by the Public Power Corp. (PCC) in cooperation with a strategic investor.
Prime Minister George Papandreou made the announcement on Thursday, speaking during an event hosted by the environment, energy and climate change ministry and the local municipality.
The 600-million-euro project will cover an area of 530 hectares at the site of an old lignite pit, and will employ some 550 workers. Carbon dioxide emission reductions are expected to be cut by 300,000 tons annually.
 PM urges more innovative thinking by ministersPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday addressed Cabinet members, underlining that their "role should not be limited to a discussion or ratification of draft laws, not even to consultations, but should also consider what the next moves will be".
In a previous Cabinet meeting the premier encouraged deputy ministers to present innovative ideas and pilot programmes.
"The government does not need to be overwhelmed by the management of day-to-day issues," adding that it also "needs to work for the major issues and overturn bad practices that are deeply embedded".
He urged his government ministers to become "instruments for change" in the public sector, stressing that the cabinet should set the example of an administration eager to learn and introduce innovation.
 Gov't has proved dedication to social justice and transparency, spokesman stressesThrough measures such as liberalising closed professions and amending laws on prosecuting ministers, with the limits set by the Constitution, the government had proved its dedication to issues of social justice and transparency in politics, government spokesman George Petalotis said on Thursday.
According to Petalotis, liberalising closed professions was a matter of social justice, professional freedom and equal treatment for all citizens since thousands of young people were now given a choice and access to professions that had been closed to them until now.
This would in turn boost competitiveness and result in lower prices and better services to the general public, while assisting in the country's economic growth, he said.
The spokesman particularly emphasised the importance of amendments to laws on the prosecution of ministers, saying it was a clear indication that the government was not settling but revising the operation of the current political system and the distortions that this generated.
Quoting the prime minister's statements that no law, on its own, could solve problems unless it was backed by the required political will to explore issues related to the law, Petalotis underlined that the government was proving that it had the will that was needed and prepared to exhaust all margins, even within the narrow framework of the existing Constitution, to meet its pledges concerning establishing transparency.
He contrasted this stance with that of the previous New Democracy government, which had manipulated the powers given to it under the Constitution in order to close Parliament early and ensure that certain cases would be statute barred.
The spokesman was replying to questions regarding ongoing Parliamentary probes of possible scandals, such as the Vatopedi Monastery land swaps inquiry or the Siemens kickbacks case.
 Pamboukis in IsraelGreek minister of State Haris Pamboukis was in Israel on Thursday for talks aimed at enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
While in Israel, Pamboukis will meet with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, energy and national infrastructures minister Uzi Landau, Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer and National Security Council chairman Dr. Uzi Arad.
Pamboukis is accompanied by deputy foreign minister Dimitris Dollis and a team of experts.
Talks are expected to focus on energy issues.
Replying to questions during a regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said that the creation of a Greece-Israel joint ministerial council reflects Greece's readiness to create an institutional framework that will facilitate the enhancement of bilateral cooperation, and the Pamboukis-Dollis visit to Israel was taking place in that context.
He said such meetings will take place much more frequently in the context of setting up the Joint Ministerial Council so that it will produce tangible results in specific time frames.
Asked to comment on reports of a prospective collaboration among Greece, Israel and the Republic of Cyprus in the energy sector, Delavekouras said that such a discussion "is premature", but noted that both sides were positively inclined, adding that "Greece's position is of strategic importance for the transfer of natural gas from the region to Europe".
 Gov't: Extent of illegal migration problem now obvious to EU partnersThe German government's decision to stop returning asylum seekers to Greece and to process asylum applications itself is described as an important step toward a renegotiation of the Dublin II Regulation, according to a statement issued by the government on Thursday.
"It is obvious that our EU partners begin to realize the extent of the problem faced by Greece being the main entry gate for illegal migrants and refugees. The systematic efforts we have made for the past months as the Greek government on bilateral contacts level and in international fora and meetings has started to give results," according to Deputy Labour Minister Anna Dalara.
"The basic elements of our policy are to show that the illegal migration issue is a European issue, to effectively manage the migration inflow, create integration mechanisms for the migrants living and working legally in Greece and to combat racism and xenophobic phenomena," the deputy minister underlined.
 FM spokesman briefed press on regional foreign policy issuesForeign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday briefed the press on a series of foreign policy and regional issues affecting Greece, while also taking questions.
As regards a reported recent statement by former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski -- who predicted failure of an upcoming meeting (Feb. 2) in New York between Athens' and Skopje's representatives to discuss the "name issue" -- the spokesman merely noted that this "shows a lack of focus on efforts to find a solution within the UN framework".
Responding to a relevant question, he stressed that the leader of the neighbouring country "has the future of his country in his hands ... he is responsible for the choices that will be made".
Referring to bilateral relations with neighbouring Albania, he stated that they are "fluctuating", while nevertheless reminding that "Greece supports the European course of Albania which, after all, is our ally in NATO".
Delavekouras said Albania's smooth course towards the EU expectedly means that the Tirana government respects the Union's principles and values.
"The (ethnic Greek) minority will have to be protected and its sense of security should be reinforced" within the framework of Albania's EU course, he said, noting that a census "conducted in compliance with EU standards" is still pending.
Responding to a question on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) delimitation issue, the foreign ministry spokesman stressed that Greece "seeks to define sea zones with its neighbors".
He cited the complication that emerged with Albania after a ruling by that country's constitutional court, while referring to Libya and Egypt, he stressed that relevant talks are moving forward. As per Cyprus, the level of bilateral relations is such that the relevant procedure is expected to take place as soon as a joint decision is reached.
Asked about EU member-states' Romania and Bulgaria, he expressed a hope that the process for their accession into the Schengen Pact will be completed soon. He pointed out that the extension of the EU Strategy of the Danube Region to the western Balkans and participation of the region's countries in the relevant process will be a useful step toward a closer cooperation with the EU.
Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will visit Montenegro on Jan. 26-27 for bilateral contacts and to attend an informal meeting of the SE European foreign ministers, the spokesman stated.
During his stay in Podgorica, the Greek foreign minister will unveil Athens' proposal for an EU-Western Balkans summit meeting during the Greek EU presidency to renew the European strategy in the region.
"The peoples in the region should re-examine the benefits of future EU accession; for example, through cross-border cooperation programmes or infrastructure projects in the region." He also added that the vision for the prosperity in the Balkans should be renewed.
Referring to the "Agenda 2014" initiative, he underlined the importance of utilising dates and symbols, such as the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI, which erupted in the western Balkans.
Finally, as regards an invitation extended to the Greek foreign minister to attend a luncheon of the Arab League ambassadors hosted by the ambassador of Lebanon to Athens on Friday, Delavekouras stated that an in-depth discussion will be held on regional issues, while he referred to "the serious political crisis in Lebanon" and Greece's stance to actively support efforts for the Mideast country's "stability and independence".
 FM spokesman on Cyprus talks: 'Situation does not inspire optimism'Before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's January 26 meeting in Geneva with Cyprus president Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu another meeting is scheduled between the two leaders in Cyprus, but "unfortunately the picture does not inspire optimism", Greek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said Thursday in reply to a question during a regular press briefing.
Delavekouras reiterated Greece's hope for "a change in the Turkish stance", given that "the Greek Cypriot side has made a serious effort, presenting constructive proposals, as requested by the UN secretary general, whereas the Turkish side appears to be trying to gain time".
"I hope that the aim of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey continues to be a resolution of the Cyprus issue and not maintenance of the impasse. Unfortunately, though, the situation does not inspire optimism.
 ND unveils "new emblem of the 21st century"The main opposition New Democracy party's new emblem was unveiled on Thursday during a high-tech presentation at the party's new headquarters on Syggrou Boulevard, where the entire ND facilities are slated to relocate to by the end of January.
ND's "new face", as party leader Antonis Samaras described it, comprises two wavy lines in orange and green and the party's title "Nea Dimokratia" (in Greek) in the party's traditional blue and light blue colors.
Samaras said that the new logo, which is the party's "new image" for the 21st century, embodies all of the values embraced by ND: transparency, leadership, humanity, certainty and calm force, while adding that the old symbol was not being "cast away" but becoming a part of history.
The ND leader further presented the party's revamped internet portal.
ND is relocating its headquarters at the end of January, moving from the neo-classical mansion it has occupied since the late '70s to a modern 7,000 sq.m. office building complex at 360 Syggrou Boulevard that will bring together the entire 640-strong ND staff which is currently scattered throughout 24 buildings and apartments around downtown Athens.
ND officials told ANA-MPA that relocation of all the party services and offices to the new building will result in a 32 percent saving in operational costs (including rents, electricity, cleaning bills, fees, etc.), is fully energy efficient, and boasts an ultra-modern telephone network that allows communication with all the regional organisations of the party at zero cost.
The neoclassical building on Rigillis street will not be abandoned, however, but will house the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy, while Samaras will also keep an office there as well.
In a discussion with reporters after presenting the new emblem and logo, Samaras said that the green colour in the new symbols represented the environment, adding that the torch in the old emblem would be entirely withdrawn.
Concerning the prospect of early elections, Samaras said that this was a decision for the prime minister but that ND was preparing for all developments.
In comments on the amendments being made by ruling PASOK to the laws for prosecuting ministers, ND's leader said the issue was a "communications gimmick" on the part of the government, which had dictatorially converted a multi-party consensual issue to a single-party issue.
 Main parties 'covering for each other', SYRIZA's Tsipras claimsCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday dismissed changes made by the government to laws for prosecuting ministers, saying that the changes were mere window dressing and did not essentially change anything.
"The law on the responsibility of ministers is in reality a law for protecting ministers and did not just fall out of the sky. It is a construct, a creation of PASOK and New Democracy, like the articles in the Constitution that, unless they are revised, do not allow any essential modification of this law," he stressed.
He called for an "end to the hypocrisy" saying that those responsible for the law had acted to conceal from the Greek people just how many billions of euros had been directed into party coffers and into the pockets of their friends and party functionaries.
 Ieronymos meets FM DroutsasArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos received on Thursday evening Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.
Talks focused on the Archbishop's visit to Syria and Lebanon next week. Ieronymos, apart from meeting with local church dignitaries, is also scheduled to meet in Damascus with Syrian President ΤέλοςφόρμαςΑρχήφόρμαςBashar al-Assad.
 Restructuring of Greek debt scenarios 'nonsense', Commission saysRecent scenarios over a restructuring of Greek debt were "nonsense", Amadeu Altafaj, the spokesman for EU Commissioner for Economic Affaris Olli Rehn, said on Thursday. Speaking to reporters, the EU spokesman commented on German press reports about a restructuring of the Greek debt, said these reports were "nonsense" and welcomed the dismissal of the reports by German authorities.
Altafaj expressed the certainty of the European Commission that Greece would be able to make it on its own after 2013 and noted that Eurogroup decisions, a fiscal consolidation and structural reforms program implemented by the Greek government and an anticipated decision to extend the repayment period for the loans offered to Greece by the EU and the IMF, would allow the country to service its borrowing needs after 2013.
The Greek government on Thursday reiterated its position that there was no discussion over a restructuring of the Greek debt. Government spokesman George Petalotis, speaking to reporters, categorically rejected speculation that the country was discussing a restructuring of its debt and noted that the government was strictly adhering to its goals.
 IMF supports loan repayment extension, says not to debt restructuringWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/Ath. Ellis)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is in favor of a decision to extending the repayment period of a loan to Greece, but opposes a restructuring of the Greek debt, David Halley, an adviser at IMF's external relations department said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, the IMF official said: "We support a longer period of repayment for the Greek program which could have been achieved through the transformation of our current loan to an Extended Fund Facility," Halley said, adding that "this is something we could recommend to our board. Of course, for this we have to work together with our European partners".
Commenting on speculation over a restructuring of the Greek debt, he said "the Greek government has repeatedly said it did not intend to seek a restructuring of its debt something that it is not in the interests of the country and we agree with this".
 Greek housing tax exemptions discriminatory, EU court rulesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that Greek laws exempting first-home buyers that were either permanent residents of Greece or Greek citizens from paying tax on house purchases were discriminatory and in violation of EU rules.
The court found in favour of the European Commission's case against Greece, namely that the laws discriminated against those not resident in Greece and restricted the right to free movement within the EU.
The Greek law only exempts residents of Greece or Greek citizens that have worked abroad for at least six years from the tax due on the purchase of their first home. The Commission argued that this was clearly discriminatory against EU citizens that were not Greek. It pointed out that EU rules forbid all open discrimination on the grounds of nationality but also 'covert' discrimination through criteria that lead to the same result, such as place of residence.
The court agreed that the Greek laws were a deterrent to persons not resident in Greece that, based on the right to freedom of movement within the EU, wished to buy their first home in that member-state and establish themselves there.
The court rejected Greek arguments that the laws were justified as a social policy designed to facilitate first-home buyers and in order to restrict speculation in real estate, tax evasion and abuses, pointing out that Greek laws did not oblige the buyer of a property to use this as a permanent resident nor did they forbid him to let the property.
The court found that Greece could use other, less discriminatory methods to ensure that the buyer of property was not the owner of other properties in Greece, such as requiring buyers to register in tax records or a land registry.
 Greece raises another 119.4 mln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Thursday raised another 119.429 million euros from non-competitive bids submitted in an auction for three-month Treasury bills, held on Tuesday.
An announcement by the Public Debt Management Organisation said the state borrowed another 150 million euros through additional non-competitive bids and 49.429 million euros through a public offering to private investors. Greece raised 650 million euros from the auction of the three-month T-bills on Tuesday.
 RAE questions PPC limits for photovoltaic unitsThe Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) on Thursday questioned the methods used by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to set limits for photovoltaics in the power grids of 16 prefectures in the country, which led the PPC to stop accepting further applications for photovoltaic installations to be hooked up to the national grid in those areas.
RAE chairman Nikos Vasilakos sent a letter to PPC head Arthouros Zervos asking for clarifications concerning the technical restrictions the PPC took into account in setting the limit for each area, as well as specific examples of how these restrictions were applied.
He noted also that the reasons given by PPC to justify its decision, namely that the network would be "saturated" and that it would be impossible to cover the demands at reasonable cost and within a reasonable space of time, had to be made more specific and actually indicate what the power company considered "reasonable cost" and time.
Among others, Vasilakos asked whether PPC had considered the possibility of small-scale investments that would greatly increase the networks' ability to absorb more power, such as improving lines, installing devices to offset unused power and others.
Clarifications on this issue were also given on Wednesday by the leadership of the environment and energy ministry, which said that a working team had been set up between the ministries involved and the PPC in order to find solutions to the problems that had arisen, noting that these were mostly local and did not concern entire prefectures.
According to the PPC, the electricity grids in the prefectures of Viotia, Karditsa, Fthiotida, Eurytania, Kastoria, Kilkis, Kozani, Xanthi, Florina, Aitoloakarnania, Arta, Preveza, Messinia, Ileia, Arcadia and Lakonia should be considered 'saturated' and authorities should stop accepted new applications for photovoltaic units in those areas.
 New public transport fares announcedThe government on Thursday announced the new public transport fares that go into effect from February 1, which in some cases will be up to 80 percent higher than previously based on a joint decision of the transport and finance ministries.
The new system will have two kinds of basic ticket: a cheaper 1.20 euro fare for single journeys using buses, trolleys and trams and the more expensive ticket valid for 90 minutes on all means of public transport, whose price has been raised from 1.00 euro to 1.40 euro.
Fares have risen across the board, including monthly and weekly travel cards after many years. The new list of fares are the following:
Single bus, trolley and tram fare: 1.20 euro
90-minute travel pass valid on all public transport: 1.40 euro
24-hour travel pass valid on all public transport: 4.00 euro
Seven-day travel pass valid on all public transport: 14 euro
Bus ticket to Saronida: 1.60 euro
Ticket on express bus to and from the airport: 5.00 euro
Single metro ticket to and from the airport: 8.00 euro
One-month bus pass: 20.00 euro
One-month travel pass for all public transport: 45 euro
One-year pass for buses, trolleys and trams: 200.00 euro (valid until 31 January 2012)
One-year travel pass for all public transport: 450.00 euro (valid until 31 January 2012)
One-month metro pass to and from airport: 140.00 euro
One-year metro pass to and from airport : 1,000.00 euro (valid until 31 January 2012)
Under the new fare system, the monthly and one-year passes for use only on the ISAP electric railway and the metro have been abolished while the Proastiako railway ticket will be valid for all means of public transport for 90 minutes.
Those eligible for half-price fares will include card-holding members of registered large families, persons aged over 65 (on display of their ID card or passport), children aged seven to 12 years old, teenagers aged 13 to 18 on display of an ID card or passport, students that have an OASA card, students at vocational training colleges up to 22 years old that have a certification of attendance and an ID or passport, students at universities and colleges abroad up to 25 years old on display of a student ID and an ID or passport.
Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Spyros Vougias announced in Parliament that the government is also considering introducing a reduced fare for registered unemployed but that nothing definite has yet been decided.
 Public sector temporary contract workers held protest outside Supreme CourtRepresentatives of temporary contract workers in the public and broader public sectors on Thursday held a demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Athens, which was in session to examine their demand for permanent worker status.
Limited incidents erupted with the protesters throwing eggs and empty bottles when it was announced that Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes had recommended that their demand for a permanent work status be rejected.
The protesters will reach a decision on their future stance during the weekend.
 General gov't deficit at 17.5 bln euros in Jan-NovGreece's general government cash flow deficit totaled 17.505 billion euros in the January-November period last year, the finance ministry announced on Thursday.
The ministry, in a report, also announced that the state's outstanding debt towards third parties totaled 8.3 billion euros at the end of October 2010, up from 7.8 billion euros a month earlier.
The report said the outstanding debt to hospitals was 6.53 billion; 660.15 million euros to pension funds; 365.28 million euros to municipal authorities, as well as 116 million euros to other legal entities.
Government ministries' and regions' outstanding debt totaled 620 million euros at the end of October.
 Greek current accounts deficit down in Jan-NovGreece's current accounts deficit shrank by 2.6 pct in the January-November period last year, compared with the same period in 2009, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday. The central bank, in a report, said the deficit fell to 22.1 billion euros in the 11-month period, reflecting mainly a decline in the trade deficit and an increase in the services surplus.
The country's trade deficit recorded a 10 pct increase in exports, reflecting mainly higher receipts from the export of oil products which integrate very low national added value. On the other hand, export of other products eased slightly to 10.2 billion euros from 10.3 billion euros in the same period in 2009. Imports fell 11.6 pct because of the economic recession. As a result, the country's trade deficit fell by around 4.0 pct to 26.8 billion euros in the 11-month period.
Tourism revenues fell to 9.4 billion euros, transport revenues rose 15.6 pct to 14.1 billion euros, with the services surplus rising slightly to 12.7 billion euros. The current transfers surplus dropped 84 pct to 197 million euros, from 1.2 billion euros last year. This development reflects a 14 pct decline in revenues due to limited absoroption of community funds.
The financial transactions balance showed that the investment portfolio category recorded a net outflow of 24.1 billion euros, from a net inflow of 32.5 billion euros in 2009, while foreign direct investments showed an increase to 709 million euros from 586 million euros last year.
 Grecotel expects 6.0 pct rise in overnight stays this yearGrecotel SA expects an increase in overnight stays at its hotels and higher operating earnings this year. Presenting the first official forecast for the 2011 tourist season, Marie Daskalantonaki, Grecotel's chief executive officer, said the company expected a double-digit growth rate in tourist arrivals from the UK and eastern European countries and a slight increase in tourist arrivals from Germany and other Central European countries, for now. Grecotel's figures were based on a forecast model including existing online reservations, tour operators sales and charter flights.
Grecotel forecasts that overnight stays at its hotels to total 1,443,000 this year, up 6.0 pct from 2010, with a turnover of around 120.5 million euros and gross operating earnings of 48 million euros.
The company said it would increase its sales campaign abroad by 30 pct this year. Grecotel, which is 50 pct owned by TUI A.G., was founded in 1981 and currently operates 22 hotels around Greece value around 869 million euros.
 Stocks end significantly higherStocks continued moving higher for the second consecutive session at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushed by strong buying interest for Greek bank shares, particularly by foreign portfolios.
Market analysts said that despite official rejections, investors were increasingly discounting an agreement towards a lasting solution of the debt crisis plaguing Greece, Portugal, Ireland and possibly Spain.
The composite index of the market jumped 2.62 pct to end at 1,546.93 points, with turnover a strong 148.721 million euros. Cyprus Bank (6.64 pct), PPC (4.83 pct), OTE (3.62 pct), National Bank (3.28 pct) and OPAP (3.04 pct) were to gainers among blue chip stocks, while Jumbo (2.33 pct) and Piraeus Bank (1.91 pct) were top losers.
The Big Cap index rose 2.68 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.46 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 1.58 pct. The Health (4.94 pct) and Utilities (4.72 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Personal Products (0.64 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 118 to 46 with another 63 issues unchanged. Lazaridis (20 pct), Technical Publications (17.5 pct) and Varvaressos (14.29 pct) were top gainers, while Attica Publications (20 pct), Tsoukaridis (19.47 pct) and Tegopoulos (17.14 pct) were major losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.54%
Personal & Household: -0.64%
Raw Materials: +0.65%
Travel & Leisure: +3.07%
Food & Beverages: +2.88%
Financial Services: +3.41%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and HBC Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.73
HBC Coca Cola: 21.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.35
National Bank of Greece: 6.92
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.99
Bank of Piraeus: 1.54
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell to 818 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 837 bps on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.34 pct and the German Bund 3.16 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 34 million euros of which 18 million were sell orders and the remaining 16 million euros were buy orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 12 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.55 pct, the six-month 1.25 pct, the three-month rate 1.01 pct and the one-month rate 0.78 pct. (ANA-MPA)
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.12 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 54.652 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,822 contracts worth 41.593 million euros, with 31,236 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 27,498 contracts worth 13.059 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (8,269), followed by Eurobank (1,674), MIG (753), OTE (1,219), PPC (811), Piraeus Bank (6,055), Alpha Bank (3,376), Intralot (876), Cyprus Bank (1,228) and Hellenic Postbank (476).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.358
Pound sterling 0.850
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.020
Japanese yen 111.82
Swiss franc 1.297
Norwegian kroner 7.937
Canadian dollar 1.357
Australian dollar 1.369
 Ancient Olympia to acquire Botanical GardenThe Ancient Olympia archaeological site will soon acquire a Botanical Garden, after the go-ahead was given Wednesday by Greece's Central Archaeological Council (KAS).
The "Olympic Botanical Garden" will be plated in a 25 acre expanse between the northern and northwestern slopes of Cronus Hill (Kronion), between the ancient site's Archaeological Museum and the Hill just above the site.
The Botanical Garden will contain plants native to the area, including wild olive trees, almond trees, pomegranate trees, pines, arbutus, plane trees, cypress trees and walnut trees, as well as 6,000 bushes of aromatic and medicinal herbs and shrubs such as rosemary, lavender, myrtle, mint and rosemary. Only plants with horizontal or compact root systems that require a planting depth of not more than 80cm will be planted so as not to damage sub-ground antiquities.
The estimated 150,000 euros required have been pledged by the Municipality of Munich in Germany.
The Garden will be used mainly for educational purposes, where visitors may learn about the plants that grow naturally on Cronus Hill and the surrounding region, but also their history.
Every plant will have a sign containing its scientific and everyday name in Greek, Latin and English, and historical information on the plant, as well as its mythological connotations.
 Acropolis Museum to stay open until 10:00 p.m. on FridaysStarting on January 28 this year, the Acropolis Museum will henceforth stay open until 10:00 p.m. on Friday evenings so that visitors can tour the exhibits while also viewing the floodlit Acropolis at night.
At the same time, the museum will also begin a programme for the conservation and restoration of the Caryatid sculptures - structural columns holding up the temple's porch that were carved to look like young women - from the Erechtheum.
The programme includes using laser tools to clean the sculptures from atmospheric pollution and remove factors causing damage, affix less secure areas of the marble and restore their structure. The museum has chosen not to move them from the gallery during the process, in order to avoid the strain of an additional move. It also hopes to allow visitors to get first-hand experience of procedures that until now took place in inaccessible laboratories.
On January 28 at 8:00 p.m., conservation specialist Costas Vassiliadis will present the process for cleaning the Caryatids to the public.
 Protection plan for Mt. OlymposThe creation of a modern system for protection of the Mt. Olympos National Park against natural disasters and wildfires was approved for funding on Thursday.
The project, titled "Drafting of Special Management Plan for Olympus National Park Region" was approved for funding by Macedonia-Thrace Decentralised Administration secretary general Thymios Sokos, with a budget of 109,040 euros and a materialisation deadline of 22 months.
The project includes drafting of the Management Plan and updating of relevant studies that have been carried out by the Pieria prefecture Forestry Service, which are necessary for ensuring protection of the area from natural disasters and fires.
 President meets with reps of Martyr Cities & Villages in WWII NetworkPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday met with representatives of the newly formed Network of Martyr Cities and Villages of Greece during WWII.
He stated that the meeting was his duty and that it "couldn't be timelier". Papoulias reminded that in 1995, in his capacity as the foreign minister, had asked the then Greek ambassador to Germany to deliver a verbal note, through which the Greek government stated that it claimed all war reparations.
Receiving a book entitled "Greek Holocausts -- 1940-45", presented to him by the visiting delegation, Papoulias, who wrote its preamble, suggested that it should be translated into several languages, particularly into German.
 Prinzhorn collection on show at Benaki MuseumPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias is to inaugurate an exhibition of the Prinzhorn collection called "Cause of Death: Euthanasia" on Thursday night, at the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street.
The collection belongs to the University of Heidelbert psychiatric clinic and has toured several European cities before coming to Athens for the first time through collaboration of the Greek Psychiatric Society, the Goethe Institute in Athens and the arts organisation "Aion".
The exhibition features 96 works of art produced by 18 mental patients ultimately killed in the "euthanasia programme" of Nazi Germany in gas chambers, in the specially designed psychiatric wards of the 3rd Reich or through gradual starvation.
Their works were collected by the psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn, primarily on their artistic merits, after World War I.
The exhibition will run at the Benaki Museum until February 13, 2011.
 Greek & World Almanac - 2011 by the ANA-MPAThe "Greek and World Almanac - 2011", a detailed publication of last year's political and economic reality is again published by ANA-MPA.
This year's edition marks the 28th consecutive year that the Greek almanac has been published.
In the 752-page publication also lists detailed economic developments in Greece and abroad, news on Cyprus, domestic, European and international sports tournaments' results. An English language section is also included.
The "Greek and World Almanac - 2011" can be found at bookstores or can be ordered online at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>.
 Limited incidents in Amfissa Prison after failed attempt to smuggle drugs into the facilityLimited incidents were recorded in Amfissa Correctional Facility, central Greece, after the arrest of an individual on Thursday morning who attempted to smuggle drugs into the facility by tossing them over the fence and into the prison yard, the justice ministry announced.
Tensions ran high inside the facility when a foreign inmate sought to assume responsibility for the attempted drug smuggling and requested the suspect's release.
The foreign national in question assisted by fellow inmates broke surveillance cameras and set mattresses ablaze.
Calm was restored when prison guards proceeded with the use of chemicals. No clashes were recorded between inmates and prison personnel, according to the justice ministry statement.
 Rain and storms on FridayWet weather with rain and storms is forecast on Friday, starting in the west and moving the east Aegean. Winds south southwesterly, from 3-6 Beaufort. Temperatures will range from 1C to 16C. Clouds and rain in Athens, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 14C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6C to 11C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe intended opening of the so-called 'closed' professions and changes to the ministers' accountability law were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "New measures for health - Omnibus bill tabled yesterday (Wednesday)".
AVGHI: "They're 'closing' the small (professions), opening the big ones".
AVRIANI: "Politicians fooling the people, putting blame on the judges".
DIMOKRATIA: "Judges livid with 'always innocent' politicians".
ELEFTHEROS: "Judges 'denuding' the politicians on Siemens scandal, say justice was never asked, in writing or verbally, for opening of bank accounts".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Unconditional 'opening' for 150 professions".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Two-speed professions - 5 major professions 'opening' with window, and another 350 without conditions".
ESTIA: "No simplification has been made in taxation"
ETHNOS: "All the 'closed' professions opening in 4 months - Landscape in 160 professions changing with sweeping law".
IMERISSIA: "4.6 percent bounce-back on Athens Stock Exchange".
KATHIMERINI: "Opening of closed professions, without discounts".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Restrictions being lifted in 'closed professions'."
RIZOSPASTIS: "Health a victim to profit - Downgraded services to the people".
TA NEA: "Closed professionals - All (almost) changing".
VRADYNI: "Labor ministry responding to unemployment with new wave of contract workers".
 US official: Status quo in Cyprus not in interests of two sidesNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The status quo in Cyprus has gone on for far too long and is in the interests of neither side on the island, US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said on Thursday, assuring that the US would be helpful in any possible way in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
Speaking after a meeting in Nicosia with President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, Gordon noted that his presence in Cyprus was an expression of the US active involvement in the Cyprus issue and that he was on the island to get a better understanding of the perspectives of the two sides.
''I am here for talks with leaders on both sides. I had dinner last (Wednesday) night with Mr. Downer, the Special Adviser to the UN. I just had an excellent meeting with President Christofias and I reiterated our strong support for the bilateral relationship between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus, and I reiterated our longstanding support for a Cyprus solution, based on a bizonal bicommunal federation,'' he said.
Gordon added that he ''had talks on both sides of the island and will continue to reiterate what Secretary Clinton has said, which is that the status quo in Cyprus has gone on for far too long.''
Asked if there would be a more active involvement of the US in efforts for a Cyprus settlement, Gordon said, "The US is actively involved.''
''I consider my visit here an expression of our active involvement. We have said for a long time and continue to believe that the best approach on Cyprus is direct talks between the two sides and that has not changed. We welcome that the leaders on both sides continue to have those direct talks. My visit here was simply to get a better understanding of the perspectives of the two sides and I just want to reiterate that the US is prepared to be helpful in any way we can,'' he said.
Replying to questions, Gordon said ''we believe the best approach is for the parties to talk directly,'' adding that ''the only way there is going to be a Cyprus settlement is if both sides agree to such a settlement.''
''I will be in close touch with both sides to see how we might be helpful. We do not think it is our role to try to impose a solution that would not work, but we are very committed to a solution,'' he said, adding that ''the status quo is in the interest of neither side and we will be helpful in any way we can.''
Asked if he was planning to visit Athens and Ankara as well, Gordon said ''not on this trip, this is a trip just to Cyprus.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led Cyprus talks are underway between President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu with a view to reunify the country. The UNSG has invited both leaders at a meeting in Geneva on the 26th of January to review progress made so far at the Cyprus talks and decide on the next steps.
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