|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-03-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 4 March 2011 Issue No: 3735
 FinMin: Greece will succeed in reining in public debtFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Thursday expressed his confidence that Greece will succeed in controlling its public debt.
Speaking during a briefing of the Economic and Social Commission (OKE) over the medium-term Fiscal Strategy Framework for the period 2012-2015, the minister said: "We will control our debt despite what some people say".
Controlling the public debt will be made through a fiscal consolidation program (achieving budget surpluses of more than 5.0 pct of GDP), economic growth (nominal growth rates of more than 2.0 pct), better management of the state property (1-2 pct of the GDP for a period of five years) and better borrowing terms.
Papaconstantinou stressed "it was easy for someone to slip but this will not happen as long as we follow the policy we have designed".
He noted that the government would like to further cut tax rates in the coming years if a battle against tax evasion was successful and sounded optimistic saying there were recovery signs in the economy. He underlined that the banking system should regain access in international markets to support growth, but restoring the country's credibility was precondition, while he reiterated that the government will not hit wages, pensions, or raise taxes.
OKE president Christos Polyzogopoulos said he was "worried and pessimistic" and noted that the climate must change.
Federation of Greek Enterprises president Dimitris Daskalo-poulos said everyone should participate in a dialogue over a medium-term framework and stressed that the memorandum signed with the EU and the IMF was a life jacket, although he underlined the need to draft a national memorandum of change which would surpass borrowers' memorandum.
The president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce Vasilis Korkidis wondered who many updates of the memorandum the Greek economy could afford and urged for measures to support growth and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
 IMF: Greek programme will succeedWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
"The Greek government has made it clear that bankruptcy was not an option," Caroline Atkinson, head of Foreign Relations at the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday. Speaking to reporters, the IMF official also stressed that Greece has reassured there will be not debt restructuring.
Atkinson said dealing with a difficult fiscal situation and public debt facing the Greek economy last spring focused on two pylons: reforms to deregulate the economy and create the best environment possible for economic growth and to create jobs, as well as to improve public finances.
Atkinson sounded optimistic over the course of the memorandum saying the IMF expected the programme to succeed.
She noted there different approaches to success and underlined it was a difficult programme, but added that the Greek government has fully pledged for its implementation. She also expressed her confidence that the European Union and the Eurozone will deal effectively with a debt problem.
Atkinson said the IMF maintained a very close and strong relation with the Greek government and respected the policies followed and determining the best way possible to dealing with the crisis.
 International campaign calls for independent audit of Greek debtA group of some 200 prominent academics, politicians, media personalities and other campaigners in Greece and abroad have issued a call for an audit of the Greek debt by an independent and international public commission.
Among the signatories of the petition are such notable figures as Noam Chomsky, Prof. Robin Blackburn, ex-MP Tony Benn, two former Ecuadorian ministers, New Left Review author Tariq Ali and Greek politicians such as Alekos Alavanos, Panagiotis Lafazanis, Sofia Sakorafa and Nikos Hountis.
In a press release on Thursday, campaigners said that such a Commission would "examine the legality and legitimacy of those debts, with a view to negotiating better terms and holding those responsible for unjust debts to account".
Noting that debt audits have been used across the world to hold those responsible to account, campaigners said they were angry at the way Greece's debt has mushroomed since the financial crisis in 2008 and believed that Greece's levels of debt are unsustainable. They also opposed austerity measures that they said were forcing the poorest in society to pay for the economic problems caused by the financial collapse in 2008.
"Greece has been at the forefront of EU rescue programmes, but the Greek people have been kept in the dark regarding the composition and terms of public debt. The lack of information represents a fundamental failure of the democratic process. The people who are called upon to bear the costs of EU programmes have a democratic right to receive full information on public debt. An Audit Commission can begin to redress this deficiency," they said in a call launched in Athens at noon on Thursday.
 PASOK National Council, PES summit on FridayPrime minister George Papandreou will chair the 11th congress of his ruling PASOK party's National Council on Friday, at which greetings will be addressed by leader of the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) parliamentary group Martin Schulz and president of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, who are in Athens for a two-day summit of the PES leaders that opens here on Friday.
The National Council will begin with an address by Council secretary Michalis Karhimakis, followed by MP Vasso Papandreou on the euro-bond issues.
Papandreou and Rasmussen will hold a joint press conference at 5:00 p.m. at the Zappion Press Center after the conclusion of the National Council, while they will have a working dinner in the evening.
 High praise for PM from PES president"Greece is in the rights hands, Europe is in the wrong hands," Party of European Socialists (PES) President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said on Thursday, in a statement prior to a meeting of PES Leaders in Athens on Friday and Saturday.
Referring to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who will co-host the meeting, Rasmussen said the Greek premier "has shown what true political leadership is all about" over the last year, under incredibly trying circumstances.
"He has brought Greece back on track after years of devastating Conservative Government. Despite being under enormous global scrutiny, he has kept to a path defined by clear goals and strong principles. As Prime Minister of Greece, he has been unwavering in his focus. That focus is the long term interest of the Greek people. Destructive policy choices from the earlier Conservative Government have made it necessary to introduce tough cuts. But George is also engaged in large-scale structural reforms that will ensure that Greece will grow again, creating thousands of new jobs and protecting the poorest in society. This is socially responsible," Rasmussen said.
The meeting in Athens will focus on the European Union and its economic governance, ensuring that this is done in an economically credible, and socially responsible way.
 PM to meet party leaders on Tuesday ahead of March 11 EU summitPrime Minister George Papandreou will be holding meetings with the leaders of opposition parties, before his departure, on Tuesday, with Paris being the first stop and then Brussels, where the European Union's special summit will be taking place.
According to reports, Papandreou will meet at 10 in the morning with main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, at 2 noon with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga and then with the president of the Radical Left Coalition's (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group Alexis Tsipras, while the time of the meeting with the president of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party's leader George Karatzaferis remains to be set.
The meetings, according to reports, were agreed on Thursday in telephone communications during which associates of the prime minister informed the party leaders of Papandreou's intention to meet with them.
 PM addresses PASOK women's sector con'fPrime Minister and ruling PASOK party president George Papandreou, in an address at a conference organised by his party's women's sector on the subject of "100 years of women's struggles", emphasised that "the political, legal, social and economic dimensions of gender equality and women's rights is an inseparable and self-evident part of democracy's operation."
He also referred to policies developed by PASOK as a movement, as a government, saying "we are proud because the equality of genders, the policies against discriminations and recognition of the rights of women were among our basic priorities."
 PM calls meeting on events in LibyaPrime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday called a meeting with leadership of the foreign and defence ministries to discuss the situation in Libya. During this he was also briefed on the operational capabilities of the NATO bases in Souda, Crete and Aktio, western Greece.
At the meeting were Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, Alternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis, Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis (who visited both Egypt and Libya while coordinated operations for the evacuation of Greeks in those countries) and foreign ministry general secretary Ioannis Zeppos.
The prime minister, who returned to his office on Thursday after a four-day bout with flu, asked to be briefed on the latest diplomatic and military developments in Libya and the action taken by the Greek government to defend the country's interests.
Papandreou also chaired a meeting with his closest aides to prepare for a session of PASOK's National Council on Friday and a meeting of the Party of European Socialists (PES) presidency that will take place in Athens on Friday and Saturday.
 Foreign ministry meeting on events in LibyaA meeting attended by diplomats, academics and a special envoy for the Middle East was held at the foreign ministry on Thursday to discuss events in Libya and the surrounding region, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras announced.
Talks focused on more immediate issues, such as the need for humanitarian aid, migration pressures and Greek businesses in the area, but also plans for the 'day after' and a Greek proposal for a 'Democracy Centre' to help countries in the region shape democratic societies.
The meeting decided to set up a working group that will submit its proposals and conclusions to the foreign minister before the EU General Affairs Council on March 10, which will pave the way for an EU summit.
Delavekouras noted that Greek business activity in the three countries of the region came to one billion dollars while he stressed the ministry's satisfaction with the successful operation to evacuate Greeks from five points in Libya.
Concerning the UN Security Council's decision to impose sanctions, Delavekouras said this was very important since it "acts as a legitimising factor that makes it easier to determine the next steps".
Delavekouras underlined that the international community had to remain united and stressed that a humanitarian disaster was currently underway in Libya, one that was being constantly aggravated by the constant use of force.
"The violence has to stop immediately. The attempt to control popular movements is wrong," he underlined.
 Defence minister on events in LibyaGreece is carefully monitoring all actions by countries in the Middle East and North Africa, National Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Thursday. He noted that the situation was still unfolding and levels of stabilisation were different in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya.
Venizelos was replying to a question made by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, who had asked whether the base at Souda in Crete might be used to launch an international or NATO operation in the region and whether Greece would ensure that there was at least one Greek officer on the base.
The minister pointed out that any international initiative in the region would begin at the United Nations Security Council, while noting that setting up a 'no fly' zone over Libya would take at least 14 days.
He noted that a Greek-flagged frigate was now stationed in international waters off the coast of Libya and interchanging with another frigate in Crete in the framework of action taken by NATO, while noting that the "appearance of an independent and distinct European voice" would not be easy.
The minister also pointed out that there was always a Greek officer at Souda, who controlled the movement of aircraft, ships and personnel, and he said it was unlikely that the base would be used to launch an operation given that there were the aircraft carriers of the U.S. Navy.
 Chinese minister expresses appreciation over evacuation effortsBEIJING (ANA-MPA)
Chinese Transport Minister Li Shenglin, in a letter of appreciation to Marine Affairs, Islands & Fisheries Minister Yiannis Diamantidis, expressed the sincere gratitude and respect of the Chinese government and people for Greece's efforts in the evacuation of several thousand Chinese nationals from Libya.
"With the strong support of the Greek government, and, mainly under your supervision, more than 13,000 Chinese have reached Crete so far," Li stressed.
Additionally, he praised the minister's recent visit to China, noting that the practical cooperation between the two ministries will lead to more important achievements, while he expressed a hope that the two sides will jointly promote cooperation in the shipping sector.
 President: Turkish Cypriot protests a 'ray of hope'Greece's President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias called the recent protest demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots on the occupied sector of Cyprus a "ray of hope", as he greeted Cyprus Social-Democrat (EDEK) party leader Yannakis Omirou on arrival at the Presidential Mansion in Athens on Thursday.
Omirou, in turn, said that the demonstrations' message to Ankara is for Turkey to get out of Cyprus, adding that the Turkish Cypriot demonstrators, who are putting forward chiefly political, rather than economic, issues, consider that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offended them and is pushing them to abandon their home, which will lead to the loss of the Turkish Cypriot element.
He further called for a joint front and struggle to end the Turkish occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.
"It appears that it has now been realised that if the 'guardian' situation of the Turkish Cypriot community, which is a lethal danger for the Turkish Cypriots, continues, there will be an expiration date for the Turkish Cypriot element," Omirou said, noting that before the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, according to a census, the Turkish Cypriots numbered 124,000 whereas the number today has plunged to just 75-80,000.
"And supposedly, the Turkish invasion, as Ecevit had said at the time, was to 'save' the Turkish Cypriots," Omirou stressed.
Papoulias and Omirou agreed that the protests are an exceptionally interesting and positive, as well as unexpected, development.
 Turkish foreign minister to visit next weekTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is expected in Athens for a three-day official visit starting on March 8, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras announced on Thursday.
Commenting on Wednesday's large rally by Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus, meanwhile, the spokesman noted that "the occupation army and the settlers have created a huge pressure on Turkish Cypriots, obstructing a solution and making their future more difficult".
He called on Turkey to "read the message" in the protest and act responsibly, facilitating progress and pushing aside obstacles that did not allow all the people of Cyprus to enjoy the benefits of the country's accession to the European Union.
The positions of Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu were "echoes of the past" and hampered the efforts for progress, Delavekouras added.
 FM spokesman on postponement of Albanian censusA Greek foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday referred to a general census in neighbouring Albania, following news that the census was postponed until the autumn instead of the previously scheduled April date.
Spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said the development, "combined with intense reactions by certain nationalist circles and, unfortunately, by some state functionaries, against the inclusion of voluntary questions regarding national origin, religious affiliation and the mother tongue of respondents create questions over the real reasons for the postponement."
He also reminded that the specific census questions comprise an obligation on the part of the Albanian government towards the EU.
 FM spokesman on fYRoMForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday stated that "we are interested in the future. We wish to achieve to a solution to the fYRoM name issue and also we want to facilitate the neighboring country's accession into the EU and NATO."
Delavekouras made the comment when asked about a statement reportedly made by fYRoM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on the stance adopted by his landlocked country in the past.
Responding to a press question on the imminent opening of a public hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) on March 21, following fYRoM's recourse to the ICJ, Delavekouras said Greece is very well prepared and will demonstrate, amongst others, that fYRoM violated the September 1995 "Interim Accord".
 PASOK MPs table question on red tapeThirty five ruling PASOK party MPs on Thursday tabled a question in parliament on the issue of red tape and its consequences on the country's economic growth.
The question was addressed to Regional Development & Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis.
The PASOK deputies pointed out that red tape is the enemy of economic growth, healthy entrepreneurship, extroversion, transparency in transactions and the people's daily life.
They underlined that the system operates in such a way that businesses, the citizens, society and economy are being tormented by hundreds of red tape procedures and despite the steps made for improvement the results remain negative.
The MPs also referred to corruption that is directly linked to the bad organization of the state mechanism, the ineffectiveness of the laws and the need to lift the red tape difficulties that prevent new businesses from being set up.
 Group of journalists express support for hunger-strike migrantsA group of influential Greek journalists, including the head of the national journalists union POESY Stamatis Nikolopoulos, investigative journalist Stelios Kouloglou and columnists from several Athens dailies, on Thursday expressed support and solidarity with the 300-odd illegal migrants on hunger strike to demand legal residence status.
At a press conference at the "Ypatia" building where the mass hunger strike is taking place, the journalists asked the government to immediately begin dialogue with the hunger-striking migrants. They also announced a decision to send a delegation of journalists to Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos and ask him to undertake an initiative to resolve the problem.
The 300-odd migrants housed in the Ypatia building have been on hunger strike since January 25, taking only tea, sugar, salt and water, to demand measures granting legal residence to all migrants currently in Greece. Several of them were previously legally resident but were unable to renew residence permits to stay in the country because they could not gathered the minimum number of work stamps required.
Five weeks into the hunger strike, at least 70 have needed hospitalisation for dehydration and onset of kidney failure, while doctors monitoring their condition have warned that the risk of a sudden death or irreversible damage to the health is rising daily.
So far, the government had ruled out all possibility of a mass legalisation for migrants, including those on hunger strike, and emphasised that the government cannot allow itself to be pressured into backing down by such methods.
 Gov't: Migrants' supporters hypocritical, preventing them from receiving foodThe government on Thursday lambasted the most vocal supporters of nearly 300 hunger striking migrants currently demanding their legalisation, with a spokesman referring directly to unbridled "hypocrisy".
"Hypocrisy has its limits much more when human lives are at stake," spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said, referring to "those who are supposedly in solidarity" with the illegal migrants still on hunger strike at the Hypatia street building in downtown Athens.
Petalotis said the government "calls on all those who allegedly support the struggle of the migrants to realise that they have no right to play with the lives of these people and the country's fate internationally."
He underlined that the government respects the migrants' right go on a hunger strike, while nevertheless emphasising that "we will not allow those exploiting these people to prevent them from receiving food and water".
The government proceeded even further, charging that there is evidence showing that specific physicians tending to the hunger strikers, as well as supporters, prevented them from receiving food and water when they (migrants) requested it.
"The hypocrisy of those allegedly in solidarity with the hunger strikers has crossed all limits ... we should see who these people are."
He also said that hospital authorities will be ordered to proceed with the "self-evident", referring to specific accusations made by Attiki Health Inspector Aris Mousionis in a radio interview, according to which, hunger strikers admitted to hospitals were prevented by their escorts from receiving food.
 ND officials meet with Cyprus EDEK party leaderMain opposition New Democracy party vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos and foreign affairs sector head Panos Panayiotopoulos on Thursday met with the president of the Social democrat Movement of Cyprus (EDEK) Yiannakis Omirou, with talks focusing on developments in the Cyprus issue and events in the wider region and their repercussions on Greece and Cyprus.
Also discussed were relations between the two parties.
 KKE rejects FinMin's dialogue proposalCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Thursday rejected the finance minister's new proposal for dialogue, stressing that "we are fighting the government's policy, that is a foregone conclusion, it does not change with dialogue; the only dialogue that can take place is on the streets with the people."
Speaking after her meeting with officials of a union representing employees of the ATEbank-affiliated Greek Sugar Industry in the northern city of Serres, Papariga charged that "the government's policy is leading to a surge of the debt and deficits, not to their decrease."
 Parliament ratifies bilateral agreementsThe Greek Parliament on Thursday ratified three bilateral agreements for cooperation between Greece and other states or international organisations.
These included an agreement for cooperation between Greece and the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe to found a support bureau for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases; a Memorandum of Cooperation with Qatar in health and medicine; and cooperation with Serbia to prevent and fight crime, especially organised crime.
 Gov't on economic growth"The government has invested in the sector of development and its coordinated actions have started to give results," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said on Thursday, referring to a number of actions undertaken.
He characteristically said that in 2011 the market will be assisted through a 10-billion-euro package, in 2010 the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) absorption exceeded all expectations reaching 18.5 pct, while the files of major projects with a budget of 4.65 billion euros have already been submitted to the EU. He also referred to the 380-million-euro programmes in support of green tourism programmes, medium and small sized businesses and young entrepre-neurship.
As regards the rise in unemployment, he said that it is a very alarming phenomenon but it was expected considering that the country is in the middle of a crisis.
Commenting on the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) "economic barometer" results, according to which, six out of 10 respondents have a negative opinion about the decision to ask for the IMF's assistance, Petalotis pointed out that the government has resorted to a three-party mechanism and referred to the cause that led it to the decision.
Petalotis criticised the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on the occasion of the Internet-backed mobilisation planned for Thursday outside the house of former premier Costas Simitis in Athens, characterising it as "instigated and orchestrated".
 Deputy foreign minister meets Greek businesses active in N. AfricaDeputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis on Thursday held a meeting with Greek business people with activities in North African countries, especially Egypt and Libya, and stressed that Greece's economic diplomacy was not "stepping back" as a result of the upheaval in the region.
"On the contrary, we are moving forward dynamically," Kouvelis stressed. "This is not the time to back away but to seek a role for Greece through economic diplomacy in the region."
The meeting formed part of a series of foreign ministry initiatives coordinated by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas to support Greek business people, assess the situation and examine the next steps with mutually beneficial action in these countries.
Speaking to the ANA-MPA, Kouvelis stressed that the biggest risk was in Libya where the situation was most fluid and there was uncertainty about whether government contracts and terms of payment with businesses would be honoured by the government that arose there.
"We are trying to ensure that there are no damages and that signed contracts are honoured," he said.
The deputy minister also asked companies active in the region to record any damages they suffered as a result of the unrest, so that the Greek state might seek compensation from a future Libyan government.
Kouvelis underlined the Greek government's willingness to support a Greek presence in Egypt and to contribute to a positive business and investment climate in that country but stressed that the Egyptian side must also acknowledge Greece's contribution and respond to demands for easier procedures and to uphold the terms of contracts with Greek businesses.
The most important Greek companies active in Egypt and Libya are Mytilineos Holdings, J&P Avax, P. Samaras Group, Phytorgan, Titan Cement, Chipita, J&P Energy, Terna, SN Argyros-Bluepoint, Papasavvas, Kopelouzos Group, Piraeus Bank, Antaea Medical, Olympic Air, Marac Electronics, CCC Group, Kourtidis, Vegas Oil & Gas (Vardinoyiannis group), Handris Hellas, Er-Lac Koutlis AVEE, National Bank of Greece, Hellenic Petroleum, Maritech, and Intracom Defence Electronics.
 EBEA 'Economic Barometer': Pessimism on economy, personal financial situationAn overwhelming 8 in 10 respondents to an 'Economic Barometer' survey by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) said they were pessimistic about the overall course of the economy and their own personal financial situation.
With respect to the Memorandum, 6 in 10 respondents gave a negative evaluation of Greece's recourse to the EU-IMF support mechanism and disagree with the strict implementation of the conditions of the updated Memorandum.
The survey, conducted by ALCO on behalf of the EBEA, concerns the first two months of 2011 and was conducted from February 22 to 28 on a sampling of 100 respondents throughout Greece.
 Registered unemployment up 5.51 pct in JanThe number of unemployed people registered with the Workforce Employment Organisation (OAED) grew 5.51 pct in January from the previous month to reach 689,558, of which 295,529 were men (42.86 pct) and 394,029 women (57.14 pct).
OAED in a monthly report said new hirings were 16.71 pct lower while lay-offs rose 7.06 pct and the number of people taking unemployment benefits fell 7.06 pct. The 30-54 age group topped the group of registered unemployed with a 62.31 pct share, followed by the age group below 30 (28.29 pct) and the over 55 age group (9.40 pct).
OAED announced five new programs aimed at boosting employment and putting a break on rising unemployment in the country. The programs will be implemented this year and will cover around 100,000 workers, or unemployed people. These programs envisage the subsidizing of job positions, extending the operation of tourism enterprises, supporting young scientists and supporting special categories of the population.
 Economic sentiment index up in FebGreece's economic sentiment index recovered for the second consecutive session to 79.4 points in February, from 75.6 in January, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
IOBE, in a monthly report, attributed this improvement to an increase in all economic sectors, with the exception of the services sector.
Business expectations recovered strongly in the manufacturing and retail sectors, while constructions improved moderately. Despite the improvement all indices remained at very low levels, while consumer confidence also showed signs of improvement. The February figures underline a more calm evaluation of economic developments and probably expectations that conditions would be less adverse this year compared with 2010, reflecting estimates for a slower recession.
 Stocks end moderately upStocks ended moderately higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, following a similar trend in international markets. The composite index rose 0.68 pct up to end at 1,580.67 points, but off the day's highs of 1,596.40 points. Turnover, however, remained a low 99.126 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.87 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.20 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.74 pct. Titan (6.76 pct), ATEbank (5.33 pct), Ellaktor (4.72 pct) and Cyprus Bank (4.58 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while PPC (2.82 pct), Jumbo (2.23 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (2.13 pct) were top losers.
The Construction (5.14 pct) and Telecommunications (3.75 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (2.03 pct) and Personal Products (1.62 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 89 to 61 with another 58 issues unchanged. Technical Publications (18.92 pct), Maillis (12.5 pct) and Mevaco (10 pct) were top gainers, while Sprider Stores (16.67 pct), Spider (13.64 pct) and Alter (8.16 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.51%
Personal & Household: -1.62%
Raw Materials: +1.42%
Travel & Leisure: -0.12%
Food & Beverages: +0.15%
Financial Services: +0.37%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.94
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.39
HBC Coca Cola: 19.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.37
National Bank of Greece: 6.65
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.59
Bank of Piraeus: 1.56
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 890 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.99 pct and the German Bund 3.30 pct. The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover 11 million euros. Turnover was a low 36 million euros of which 31 million were sell orders and the remaining 5.0 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.78 pct, the six-month rate 1.38 pct, the three-month 1.09 pct and the one-month rate 0.86 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.48 pct in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with turnover a low 37.406 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,113 contracts worth 29.781 million euros, with 30,571 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,529 contracts worth 7.624 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,737), followed by Eurobank (979), MIG (606), OTE (1,131), Piraeus Bank (713), Alpha Bank (2,168), Marfin Popular Bank (1,284), Cyprus Bank (1,001) and Hellenic Postbank (504).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.396
Pound sterling 0.858
Danish kroner 7.516
Swedish kroner 8.827
Japanese yen 114.34
Swiss franc 1.294
Norwegian kroner 7.776
Canadian dollar 1.357
Australian dollar 1.371
 Loucas Yiorkas with "Watch My Dance' with to represent Greece at 2011 Eurovision song contestCyprus-born singer Loucas Yiorkas, featuring rapper Stereo Mike, will represent Greece at the 2011 Eurovision song contest in Dusseldorf, Germany in mid-May with the song "Watch My Dance".
With "Watch My Dance", a musical composition by Yiannis Christodoulopoulos and lyrics by Eleana Vrachali, Yiorkas was the winner of Wednesday night's national final in Greece for the country's entry in this year's 56th Eurovision song contest through voting by viewers and a panel of judges from among six contestants.
Yiorkas must first clear the hurdle of the first semi-final for Eurovision in Dusseldorf on May 10 to win a spot in the Eurovision final four days later.
 Policeman, port official arrested in Patras for migrant, contraband cigarette smugglingThe Patras port authority said Thursday it is investigating a migrant-trafficking and contraband cigarette smuggling ring in which a police officer and port official are implicated.
It said the 44-year-old police officer and 39-year-old port official have been arrested, while a Sworn Administrative Inquiry (EDE) has also been ordered.
The investigation began after port authorities, acting on a tip-off, located in the port of Patras a truck in which migrants and contraband cigarettes were hidden as it was preparing to board a ferry to Italy.
Five migrants were found hidden among crates of oranges, as well as 266,800 cartons of contraband cigarettes and a pistol.
The two detainees are charged with complicity in the transport of the migrants and contraband cigarettes.
 Contraband cigarettes seizedA total of 124,500 packs of contraband cigarettes found in a truck were seized at the intersection of ancient Corinth in southern Greece. The 42-year-old driver of the vehicle was arrested, it was announced on Thursday.
Police searched the vehicle following a tip-off.
 German woman linked to terror probed released with restrictionsGerman national Marie Fee Meyer, 27, who faces charges of belonging to a terrorist group, was released from custody with restrictions following a decision by an examining magistrate on Thursday. The 27-year-old has denied any involvement in urban terrorist activity.
Meyer is banned from leaving the country and will have to appear at a local police station on a regular basis.
A misdemeanour court on Feb. 9, 2011 ordered that she was to be remanded in custody until she is tried on charges of belonging to an ultra leftist terrorist group.
The examining magistrate and public prosecutor had disagreed over whether she should remain jailed, so her case was referred to the misdemeanour justices' council.
 Foreign nationals arrested for church break-insDozens of icons and communion cups stolen from churches throughout southern Greece were found hidden near a residence leased by a Romanian national in the village of Parori, near Sparta, on Thursday.
Police were led to the discovery following a tip-off.
The suspect was arrested and reportedly told police that he was planning to transport the loot to Romania. Evidence that surfaced during questioning led to the arrest of a second Romanian, after police allegedly found more stolen goods in the latter's residence.
 Arsonists torch bank in KessarianiArsonists targeted a Eurobank branch in Kessariani shortly before dawn on Thursday, causing material damage but no injuries.
The perpetrators broke the bank's glass facade and set fire to the branch, using flammable liquid, which was quickly put out by firemen before spreading.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -1C and 18C. Cloudy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 6C to 12C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 9C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEconomic issues mainly dominated the front-page headlines of Athens' newspapers on Thursday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "They're destroying the historic Commercial Center of Athens".
AVGHI: "Last minute appeal for the hunger-striking migrants".
AVRIANI: "Storm of credit rating downgradings before the bankruptcy".
ELEFTHEROS: "Unlimited money to the political parties, as the Police Department is collapsing".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Explosion in Greek Police, rage in society".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Change of salaries in 15 professions".
ESTIA: "Scandalous loans to the political parties".
ETHNOS: "New selection system for school principals".
KATHIMERINI: "Big increase in objective values of real estate on the horizon".
LOGOS: "Reduction of 1 in 3 in personnel, 1 in 6 in salaries".
IMERISSIA: "All enterprises fighting for survival".
NIKI: "How 200 million euros changed hands".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The markets interfering in the European dialogue".
PONTIKI (weekly): "In the eurozone's 'freezer'."
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government devastating the small and medium size farmers and animal breeders - KKE question tabled in parliament".
TA NEA: "Objective real estate values - Burning increases".
VRADYNI: "The salaries are not to blame, but the huge profits".
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