|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-04-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 28 April 2011 Issue No: 3774
 Greek, Malta FMs discuss Libya, illegal migrationGreek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday emphasised that respect for UN resolutions and their implementation is "self-evident", when asked about any deadline concerning NATO operations in Libya.
Droutsas, speaking during a press conference with his counterpart and Maltese government vice-president Tonio Borg, reminded of a decision by the Greek government to provide operational support to NATO, without however, an active participation in military operations. He also noted that Athens from the beginning underlined the need to find a political solution, given the inability to find a solution only via military means.
On his part, the Maltese foreign minister said his island nation will fulfill all of the UN and EU resolutions for the implementation of sanctions against the Libyan regime. He added that Valletta is in favour of military-run humanitarian aid operations, such as the evacuation of foreign combatants from the desert, etc.
Conversely, Borg reminded that Malta has not allocated its airport for bombing runs. "The major and most difficult issue is where exactly the boundary of actions allowed by the UNSC resolution is," he said.
Additionally, both ministers touched on the issue of a possible wave of refugees fleeing North Africa for Europe, expressing concern that such a development will affect the European south more adversely.
Along these lines, Droutsas cited Athens' initiative to revise the Dublin II treaty, while Borg called for the liberalisation of the rules of implementation of European Directive 55 (2001), which was adapted for the Balkans but never implemented.
Borg noted that Malta has already accepted 1,000 refugees from Libya, which in comparative terms would translate into 200,000 refugees entering Germany.
Both ministers signed a memorandum of understanding for high-level bilateral contacts, whereas they will both attend an informal meeting of regional FMs on Friday in Cyprus, organised by the Cypriot FM, a meeting that will also be attended by representatives from Israel and Bulgaria.
 Droutsas meets visiting New Zealand foreign ministerGreek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas received New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Athens on Wednesday, discussing the situation in the Mediterranean and issues of bilateral political and economic cooperation. The visit is taking place ahead of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary since the Battle of Crete in May 1941.
After the meeting, the two ministers emphasised the significance of the Battle of Crete where Greeks and New Zealanders fought side by side in WWII, winning a victory that is widely regarded as decisive for the final outcome of the world war.
New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp will also be visiting the island of Crete in the next few days to attend celebrations for the anniversary.
In statements after the meeting, Droutsas again condemned the violent tactics of Syrian authorities to quell demonstrations in Syria, insisting that reforms were the only solution. Commenting on developments in the Arab world, he underlined that violence was not a solution and that only the search of a political solution was viable in the long term.
The Greek minister also briefed his counterpart on Athens' efforts to ensure the accession of the western Balkans to the European Union and to find a solution in the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
McCully noted that New Zealand was distant geographically but very close to Europe in terms of the European values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. He described his talks in Athens as very constructive.
Droutsas underlined that the economic reforms currently taking place in Greece will make it a very attractive prospect for foreign investors and he emphasised the country's potential as a gateway for investors to southeast Europe and as a tourist destination.
McCully also had talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis on Tuesday on bilateral economic relations, with emphasis on energy issues and especially renewable energy sources. Other topics discussed were developmental cooperation and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
 Gov't on illegal constructions; reshuffle speculationGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday referred to illegally built constructions in Greece -- which number into the hundreds of thousands -- and the prospect of their future legalisation in exchange for a fee, stressing that any such decision would take under consideration the protection of the environment.
Speaking on a private radio station, he said nobody will stop the crucial work underway, stressing that "a collective government decision will not be blocked by a minister, who might have a different view". He clarified that the settlement of the illegal constructions issue is a matter of a government decision, adding that the problem should be solved in the best possible way.
In an unrelated development, Petalotis said the finances of the public utilities, companies and enterprises should be put in order through spending cuts and wage reductions, while he rejected the prospect of any government reshuffle and snap election speculation.
As regards the size of the deficit, Petalotis pointed out that the fiscal adjustment achieved was notable, adding that the government is faced with major problems and fights every day for their solution.
 Mihelakis: 'ND 'state audit' a mistake'Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis on Wednesday repeated the party's position that the 'state audit' conducted by the ND government under Costas Karamanlis had "historically been proven a mistake".
Mihelakis, who first expressed the view during a radio interview on Tuesday, repeated the position during the regular press briefing in response to questions.
The spokesman said that his party had bravely dared to carry out its own self-criticism and stressed that people now looked to ND for solutions to the problems they faced.
He also placed responsibility for the audit squarely on the shoulders of then finance minister George Alogoskoufis, downplaying the role of the former prime minister Karamanlis. He stressed that the party was now looking firmly forward and that ND leader Antonis Samaras will soon be presenting a comprehensive and updated ND programme for exiting the crisis.
Mihelakis went on to describe relations between Samaras and Karamanlis as "very good".
 Vougias outlines road safety strategy targetsDeputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Spyros Vougias on Wednesday stressed the government's determi-nation to take measures to reduce the number of deaths due to traffic accidents in Greece. Vougias was speaking during a two-day conference of European transport ministers marking the launch of the "Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020".
Vougias said the 3rd strategic plan for road safety in Greece set a target of reducing traffic accident deaths by 50 percent by 2020, from 1281 to 640, and intermediate targets of 100 fewer dead by 2014 and 50 fewer dead each year until 2020.
He said a decisive factor for reducing traffic accidents was a stricter traffic code but also proper enforcement by traffic police and proper behaviour on roads by the public, from school children to elderly drivers.
 Alt. DM files slander suit against blog siteAlternate Defence Minister Panos Beglitis on Wednesday announced that he will file a lawsuit against a local blog site in the southern city of Corinth for posting "sordid and slanderous" insinuations, as he said, involving defence contracts.
Beglitis said he will appear at the Corinth courthouse on Thursday morning to offer testimony on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed against the blog "Korinthix", while the local prosecutor and the Greek Police (ELAS) chief were also notified.
 Finance ministry meeting on fighting tax evasionA team of government ministers held a meeting at the finance ministry on Wednesday to discuss the national operational programme to fight tax evasion, which is finally to be presented in detail on Monday instead of Thursday, as originally planned.
Attending the meeting were Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis and Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Haris Kastanidis.
The operational programme will outline a series of actions to restrict tax evasion, proposals for institutional changes to the tax system and measures to better coordinate and improve the operation of tax, judicial and prosecuting authorities.
It is expected to include measures and targets covering a three-year period from 2011 until 2013, in the framework of government efforts to restrict tax evasion and boost revenues. Among others, the measures will focus on inspections of individuals declaring low income that does not match their standard of living, VAT returns and restricting contraband trade.
Meanwhile, in an announcement on Wednesday, the finance ministry announced plans to conduct spot checks of tax statements submitted by a random sample of tax-payers each month, as soon as tax statements are received, in order to check that they have gathered enough receipts to be eligible for the tax-free allowance.
The ministry said that it would also take into account the ratio of income declared and receipts produced and amount of tax rebate due.
 Power sector deregulation, PPC discussed by ministersA meeting between Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou and Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili on Wednesday focused on the further privatisation of the listed Public Power Corp. SA (PPC SA) as well as power sector deregulation.
The finance ministry's medium-term fiscal policy framework provides that up to 17 pct of the PPC shares will be sold in 2012 (limiting the shares owned by the state from 51 to 34 pct). However, public control and management of the PPC will be maintained. Details will be unveiled by May 15.
Meanwhile, the process for the deregulation of the country's power market is underway, providing for electricity exchange between PPC and private companies, allowing PPC competitors to have access to 40 pct of lignite-produced electricity.
Birbili has previously expressed a view that the two procedures (lignite-fired power generation and privatization) cannot take place simultaneously, considering that access to lignite electricity production will lead to a depreciation of PPC share prices.
 Greek bond spreads, CDS hit new highsThe premium demanded by investors to hold Greek 10-year bonds continued to rise on Wednesday, reaching a peak of 16.17 percent and driving spreads with benchmark German bunds up by 1292 basis points.
The yield for shorter-term two-year Greek bonds was driven even higher to 23.9 percent.
Credit Default Swaps (CDS) insuring Greek debt against default reached an all-time high of 14.89 percent.
 Interest rates rise on ECB hikeSeveral Greek high-street banks announced higher interest rates on loans and deposits following a 0.25 percent hike in the European Central Bank's main lending rate.
Banks that announced changes in interest rates for their products included Eurobank, Piraeus Bank, Marfin Egnatia Bank, Millenium Bank, Hellenic Bank and FBBank.
The hikes announced ranged from a minimum 0.25 percent, keeping step with the ECB increase, but some deposit interest rates were raised by up to 0.35 percent and for loans by up to 0.5 percent.
Many of the changes concerned loans or accounts using the ECB rate as a reference and the majority will go into effect from this Friday, while some changes will be implemented over the course of May and early June. Classes of loans affected include mortgages, consumer loans, credit cards but also loans to businesses.
 Petrol prices scale new heightsPetrol prices resumed their upward climb on Wednesday after stabilising over the Easter holiday.
The average price for unleaded petrol reached a new record of 1.71 euro per litre on Wednesday, up from 1.708 on Tuesday and 1.709 on Monday. The highest price recorded was 1.899 euro per litre in Magnesia prefecture and the lowest was 1.619 euro per litre in Athens.
The regions with the highest petrol prices were Crete, the Eptanisa island group and Eastern Aegean islands while the lowest prices were in Attica and Thessaloniki.
Heating oil prices also reached a new high at 0.919 euro per litre on average, ranging from 0.85 euro per litre in Kavala to 1.03 euro per litre in the Cyclades islands.
 Air China to inaugurate Beijing-Athens routeA new and highly anticipated air route linking China with Greece (via Munich) will be inaugurated on May 11 by Air China, according to reports here on Wednesday.
The new route is expected to boost tourist arrivals from the Far East country to Greece, as more and more Chinese nationals are expressing interest in travelling to the east Mediterranean country, according to the Chinese government's informational website.
The new route will be serviced by Airbus A330 planes, with two flights scheduled every week -- Wednesday and Saturday. The flights will take off at 12:40 a.m. (local time) from Beijing and arrive in Athens at 10 a.m. local time the next day. The flight is estimated to last 13 hours and 25 minutes.
 Increased slot requests by airlines raise tourism expectationsA notable increase in airline requests for slot clearance in Greece's regional airports has raised expectations for this year's summer tourist season.
The slot clearance requests (SCR) nationwide increased 13 pct, leading to estimates of higher foreign tourist arrivals, according to reports.
Based on the available figures, the slot requests increased 19.6 pct in the airport of Rhodes; 23 pct for Kos; 15.6 pct for Corfu; 15 pct for Irakleio and 14 pct for Thessaloniki.
 Stocks end sharply lowerGreek stocks came under strong selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday to end lower, following a new and sharp increase in bond spreads and speculation over bank stocks. The composite index fell 1.79 pct to end just over the 1,400 level, at 1,400.06 points, with turnover remaining a low 78.77 million euros.
The Big Cap index dropped 2.21 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.07 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 1.48 pct. Health (1.90 pct) and Chemicals (0.38 pct) were the only sectors to post gains, while Banks (3.59 pct), Utilities (2.44 pct) and Raw Materials (2.98 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 45 to 101 with another 48 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.88%
Personal & Household: -1.02%
Raw Materials: -2.98%
Travel & Leisure: -0.60%
Food & Beverages: -0.54%
Financial Services: -2.67%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 3.54
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.75
HBC Coca Cola: 18.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.15
National Bank of Greece: 5.05
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 3.30
Bank of Piraeus: 1.03
 Greek bond market closing reportThe 10-year Greek benchmark bond yielded 16.07 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, while the German Bund yielded 3.27 pct, with the yield spread rising to a record high of 1,280 basis points.
Turnover in the market was a low 40 million euros, of which 4 million were buy orders and the remaining 36 million sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 14 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates changed lightly. The 12-month rate was 2.115 pct, the six-month rose to 1.66 pct, the three-month was 1.36 pct and the one-month rate was 1.21 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount 1.92 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 27.154 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,963 contracts worth 21.796 million euros, with 29,084 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,370 contracts worth 5.358 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (5,118), followed by Piraeus Bank (959), Alpha Bank (767), OTE (704), Eurobank (668), ATEbank (540) and GEK (450).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.488
Pound sterling 0.899
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 9.070
Japanese yen 122.47
Swiss franc 1.307
Norwegian kroner 7.905
Canadian dollar 1.417
Australian dollar 1.376
 Arrests in major extortion, loan-shark ringOne of the largest alleged extortion and loan-sharking rings was reportedly detected in Thessaloniki, police announced on Wednesday.
The alleged "mastermind" of the criminal ring, that numbered a total of 22 suspects, was a 34-year-old man arrested in Athens. Authorities have arrested another eight individuals, including the former's 29-year-old wife and a lawyer. Charges have been filed against 13 individuals, including a man currently incarcerated in the Larissa prison serving time for manslaughter and extortion.
The ring was active in Thessaloniki, at least for the past five years, as well as in Athens, preying on nightclub owners who borrowed money with interest rates of up to 10 pct.
Police were led to the ring last September when a search was held in the house of the 34-year-old after charges were filed against him for using illegal force on a local businessman. The search revealed a dairy kept by the suspect that included names of businessmen and private loan agreements.
Indicative of the ring's activities was the fact that in 2009 alone it lent more than 2.5 million euros.
The main suspect in the case has paid no taxes since 1995 and allegedly has lent the sum of 514,000 euros to Iraklis FC, a first division football club, in return for the control of the club's television rights.
The 34-year-old and his wife also allegedly engaged in money laundering by purchasing luxury cars, jewelry and real estate. The value of one of the six private houses they purchased is more than 4 million euros.
 Dead body found in Ano Liossia dumpThe dead body of a woman of Asian origin, believed to be about 30 years old, was found by employees at the Ano Liossia dump on Tuesday afternoon. Workers at the dump found the body in a plastic bag and called the police.
An inquiry has been launched by Attica Security, which is treating the incident as a case of murder motivated by personal differences between foreign nationals, who then dumped the body in the dump in order to get rid of the evidence.
Numerous dead bodies of foreign nationals have been found in the Ano Liossia dump in recent months.
 Nafplio prison staff call for measures to stop overcrowdingStaff at Nafplio prisons have sent a letter to the prison's management, the justice minister and prosecuting authorities to protest about conditions of overcrowding in the prison.
In an announcement on Wednesday, they stressed that the latest bill designed to relieve prison overcrowding had minimal impact on the Nafplio prison, which was currently holding nearly 530 inmates, noting that it moved more than 120 prisoners a week and received remand prisoners from all areas of Greece.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe various new measures expected as a result of the upward revision of the public deficit were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Wednesday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Legalisation of unauthorised buildings unconstitutional."
AVRIANI: "Government a circus leading the country to collapse".
DIMOKRATIA: "Per capita 'tax' for farmers".
ELEFTHEROS: "Former minister Thanos Mikroutsikos launches 'mortars' against [Prime Minister George Papandreou]".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They are even slapping taxes on tourism!".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Raids on hospitals, pension funds, local government, public utilities, tax evasion, contribution evasion".
ESTIA: "Utter failure with the deficit".
ETHNOS: "Civil war in ranks of government-New Democracy".
IMERISSIA: "Markets down 15 percent. Deficit at 10.5 percent - New measures on the way".
KATHIMERINI: "Deficit leads to additional measures".
LOGOS: "Eurostat revision brings wave of new measures".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Public deficit and debt off target".
NIKI: "Public prosecutor to bank for 2.7 million euro fraud".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Anti-popular war escalates using deficit and debt as pretext".
TA NEA: "Mass transfers of national health service doctors".
VRADYNI: "New sweep for wages and pensions".
 President Christofias: 'We want a solution now'NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic Demetris Christofias said he put things straight during his meeting on Wednesday with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, pointing out that the Greek Cypriot side wants a solution but a solution has to be the result of an agreement and meet the conditions set by UN resolutions and high level agreements, and honour the convergences agreed on with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Speaking to reporters after Wednesday's meeting in the framework of the UN-backed direct negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem, President Christofias said that Eroglu credited statements he had made to misinformation he had received from journalists.
He also noted that during Wednesday's meeting they continued the discussion on issues which concern internal security.
The president said he raised the statements Eroglu had made and "put things straight, both about the issues he made about a so called war the Greek Cypriot side is ready to make and about other statements," cautioning at the same time that "we have to be careful."
Regarding allegations made by Eroglu that President Christofias did not want to meet because of the Easter holidays, the president said because last year he and Talat had agreed not to meet, Eroglu had thought this was the case this year. "But such an issue was not raised by anyone. If it had, I was ready to meet during the Easter holidays," he stressed.
He added that every time he repeats that the Greek Cypriot side is not talking about a new partnership but an evolution of the Republic of Cyprus to a federal state.
President Christofias also said he made it clear that "we want a solution before Cyprus assumes the EU Presidency."
"The point, however, is to agree. How can we achieve a solution when there is talk about a new partnership, two states? And then we have Turkey which is arrogant and cynical towards the Republic and the EU. We want a solution right now. But the point is, a solution should be the result of an agreement and there are certain preconditions set out by UN resolutions and the high level agreements and the many convergences agreed on with Talat that we must honour," he concluded.
UN-backed direct negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem began in September 2008. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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