|Thursday, 23 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-12-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 11 December 2012 Issue No: 4244
 Greek debt buy-back process extended for 24 hoursGreece on Monday said it was extending a deadline for completion of a bond buy-back process until Tuesday 12.00 h (London time), in a move aimed at offering private bondholders more time to participate in the book-building process.
A statement by the Public Debt Management Organization's head Stelios Papadopoulos said: "Bondholders that have not yet offered their securities can take advantage of liquidity opportunities offered by the invitation. Investors also reckon in that even if Greece accepted all offered bonds it will continue cooperating with its official creditors towards examining further steps to put the country's debt into a sustainable course. Future measures could not include the opportunity to liquidate these bonds at levels offered in the current buy-back programme".
The Greek government aims to achieve a participation in the buy-back programme worth 30 billion euros. The issue was discussed on Sunday during a Euro Working Group meeting. According to sources, foreign investors' -- mostly hedge funds -- participation totaled around 16 billion euros, while Greek banks' participation was around 10 billion euros. Greece expects that the remaining 3-4 billion euros will be covered during the 24-hour extension of the process.
 PM returns from Oslo after Nobel Peace Prize award to EUPrime Minister Antonis Samaras was returning from Norway's capital Oslo on Monday, after attending a ceremony awarding the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.
Addressing other European leaders at the Nobel Peace Prize Banquet held after the award ceremony, Samaras outlined the situation in Greece and particularly stressed the sacrifices being made by Greek citizens, placing great emphasis on social cohesion in relation to the award given to the EU.
"We must ensure social peace. In Greece we have 58 percent unemployment among young people and this threatens social cohesion, it is something that can cause phenomena of political extremism and if this continues it can affect the rest of Europe," Samaras said.
Other speakers at the banquet included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
 Samaras meets Bavarian PMMUNICH (AMNA/F. Karaviti)
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was warmly welcomed in Munich on Sunday evening by Bavarian Minister President (local prime minister) and leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) party Horst Seehofer at Prince Charles Palace.
After the meeting, Samaras said "We are now closing the first chapter, we have passed through a series of difficult reforms in order to change page and to proceed to growth".
Referring to the loan and the EU and IMF's approval, Samaras noted that now the recapitalisation of the banks, the national contribution to the European restructure funds and the payment of outstanding debts to the private sector will be possible.
"Fifty percent of the economy is a matter of psychology," said Samaras adding that "When this changes and the people understand that we have left the 'drachma-phobia' behind us and realise that Greece is proceeding decisively to becoming a regular member of the eurozone, then Greece can move on to the next step, which is the attraction of major investments from abroad and from the interior and the major privatisations. All these will help Greece turn the corner and proceed to growth. This is the huge wager for Greece and for Europe. And Greece's success story will prove that Europe rose to the difficulties with prudence and solidarity".
On his part Seehofer, replying to a question whether he is convinced by what the current Greek government says and does, he said: "What the prime minister said on how Greece will exit from the crisis and the creation of better and more competitive conditions for investors were very convincing".
Referring to the changes in the Greek taxation system and the extension of the working years, he said that Greece was proceed with this more directly than Germany, which will have gradually completed it by 2030.
"It is not a matter of diplomacy or courtesy, as you might believe, but my conviction," he underlined, and reiterated that the Greek people and the government deserve respect because they are on the right track to overcome the causes of the crisis. "However, as is the case in the free economy too, only austerity and streamlining are not enough. A policy of competitiveness and progress is needed. And we say that the first steps have begun. And this is why we, the Bavarian government, support the Greeks on this path".
During the more than two-hour meeting, the two leaders' talks focused on specific sectors in which bilateral cooperation can be developed.
Seehofer indicatively noted the education sector and career orientation, and said his target is that when he visits Greece there will be tangible results.
 FM Avramopoulos at EU External Affairs CouncilGreek Foreign Affairs Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos participated on Monday in a European Union External Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, that focused on developments in the Middle East, especially on the peace process regarding the Palestinian issue, and the situation in Syria as well as EU-Russia relations in view of the EU-Russia Council, to be held on December 21.
Speaking on the Middle East peace process, Avramopoulos underlined, according to a ministry announcement issued in Athens, that the two sides, Israelis and Palestinians, should return to the negotiating table, safeguarding at the same time the prospect of a two-state solution, which constitutes the only viable prospect. The recent Greek vote at the United Nations General Assembly in favour of the upgrading of the status of Palestine in the UN, served, according to the minister, exactly this purpose. Avramopoulos also underlined that it was of crucial importance for the two sides to avoid actions that would undermine the dialogue.
On the situation in Syria, the Greek foreign minister reiterated his country's steadfast positions in favour of a political solution and the start of a dialogue that would allow the Syrian people to decide on its future. Avramopoulos underlined the need of an immediate ceasefire and the importance of protecting the rights and security of all communities in Syria, pointing particularly to the country's Christian population and the Greek Orthodox community of the Middle East country.
On the upcoming EU-Russia Summit Council, Avramopoulos underlined the strategic character of the cooperation between the EU and the Russian Federation, highlighting the mutual benefit for the two sides from the deepening of the ongoing dialogue between them, both on a political level, in order to tackle common world challenges, and an economic level by giving emphasis on energy, trade and tourism.The Greek minister also backed the lifting of visa restrictions for Russian citizens, a move that would, according to Avramopoulos, open the gates of Europe to the Russian society of citizens.
On Tuesday, Avramopoulos will take part in the General Affairs Council which will examine a number of issues, including the preparation of the conclusions on the EU Council of Dec. 13 and 14. Later, the president of the Council, Herman van Rompuy will host a working lunch, while the EU enlargement policy conclusions will be on the afternoon meeting agenda.
 DM in Qatar; meets with successor to the throneDefence Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, who is on an official visit to Qatar, met on with the successor to the throne Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha and discussed issues regarding defence and military cooperation between Greece and Qatar, the developments in the Middle East and the wider region of the Southeastern Mediterranean as well as investments in the Greek defense industry.
Panayiotopoulos said that Qatar is interested in the Greek government preparations for a series of privatisations in the Greek defence industry. Qatar is open to investing immediately in other sectors in Greece, he added.
"They are waiting for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' official visit to Qatar in early 2013 and believe that by then the conditions will have matured in order to proceed with specific proposals, with specific investment plans, in Greece. I believe that a wider field is opening up and is substantive for specific actions that will bring new investments to Greece and will also bring the two peoples closer".
In his statements, Panayiotopoulos reiterated the two countries' volition to proceed more quickly in defence and military cooperation, both in the Navy and the Airforce as well as with joint exercises of the Armies' Special Forces".
Panayiotopoulos also met with the Chief of the Armed Forces, Major General Hamad bin Ali al Attiyah.
The Greek Defence Minister's visit to Qatar will wind up with a tour of Qatari military bases and meetings on defence cooperation issues in all sectors. The Greek delegation will return to Athens on Tuesday.
 PASOK's Venizelos sees a 'new starting point' for Greece"A new starting point for Greece is now taking shape," and when the state bond buy-back programme is completed, the country's public debt will be reduced by 10 percentage points, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told a party meeting on Monday evening.
He added that "it is a common secret internationally" that a new 'haircut' of Greece's debt will eventually take place, provided that the country sticks by its obligations.
Referring to the latest tax bill, Venizelos said the bill may not allow to persuade Greek citizens that it is a just, comprehensive, socially sensitive and developmental taxation system, but simply a package of austerity measures, including public spending cuts.
However, he described the tax bill as "necessary" and said that his party struggled to make arrangements as fair as possible, avoiding "irrational solutions."
Venizelos appeared satisfied for his party having managed to achieve a better tax deal for families with children, new self-employed professionals, the unemployed and rural population.
In an indirect criticism to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the New Democracy party, Venizelos said it was because of their "obsession" with calling early elections that led to serious delays in negotiations with the country's international creditors.
 SYRIZA: Tax bill tailor-made to Troika's measures"The new tax bill is tailor-made to the Troika's (EC, ECB, IMF) measures and is accompanied by the usual blackmail over the disbursement of the tranche," main opposition SYRIZA charged in an announcement on Monday.
The SYRIZA announcement predicted that very soon new barbarous Memorandum measures will follow in order to "correct' the failure of the preceding measures.
Even before the ink has dried on the ratification of the Mid-Term programme and the 2013 state budget, and after the standard reassurances that these will be the last austerity measures, the new tax bill shows the government's strategic persistence with the policy of austerity, recession and unemployment.
The announcement also added that the government is fully aware of the paralytic repercussions of the new tax-looting measures on the economy and the dramatic consequences that this will bring to the salary earners, the professionals and the small and medium size enterprises, and opts for austerity instead of growth, excessive taxation of the weaker and the medium strata instead of the taxation of wealth and clamping down on tax evasion.
According to SYRIZA, society and the economy are collapsing under the weight of the troika and the government, adding that this policy cannot continue. On the contrary, only a strategic plan that will overcome austerity, support development and promote social justice can guarantee the country's recovery and a socially just exit from the crisis.
 Independent Greeks party MPs to reconvene on ThursdayThe Independent Greeks party Parliamentary group on Monday announced its decision to reconvene this coming Thursday in order to prepare for the party's conference. The decision was taken late on Monday, during an emergency meeting of the party's MPs chaired by party leader Panos Kammenos.
In an announcement, the party said that the Parliamentary group had reaffirmed a decision taken on Monday morning to "rethink" party organs in light of the conference. The same announcement said that the party had decided to replace Parliamentary group secretary Costas Markopoulos until the meeting on Thursday, at the very least, due to his refusal to call the Parliamentary group meeting, saying that Panagiotis Melas will take over his duties.
The announcement also referred to an earlier news story about Independent Greeks released by AMNA citing an anonymous source within the party, questioning the extent to which the individual quoted actually represented the party's 'top officials' and also the truth of the statements made, which they stressed were made public without consulting the rest of the Parliamentary group.
"We declare that in the 'Independent Greeks' there are no 'top officials'. There are only independent Greeks in all parts of the country that are served by their MPs as simple soldiers. There are people who believed in us and we made a commitment not to betray them. And this is what we are doing," the announcement said.
The party's announcement was signed by party leader Panos Kammenos and the MPs Panagiotis Melas, Elena Kountoura, Yiannis Dimaras, Notis Marias, Mika Iatridi, Gavriil Avramidis, Rachel Makri, Marinos Ouzounidis, Pavlos Haikalis, Vassilis Kapernaros, Stavroula Xoulidou, Marina Chrysoveloni, Giorgos Davris, Costas Giovanopoulos and Chrysoula-Maria Giatagana.
The meeting was not attended by the MPs Costas Markopoulos, Terens Kouik, Maria Kollia and Ioannis Kourakos. The late afternoon meeting at the party's Synggrou headquarters was decided on after AMNA reported angry reactions from party members following a decision by Kammenos to walk out of a joint session of the Parliamentary group and the governing committee of the party earlier the same morning.
Citing what it called a "top party member" that asked to remain anonymous, AMNA reported that strong criticism was levelled at Kammenos over his decision to leave the meeting, including that of showing "cowardice and irresponsibility unacceptable in a party leader."
 Gov't to announce first 500 positions to be filled by 'reserve pool' of axed civil servantsThe Administrative Reform ministry is soon to announce the first 500 jobs that are to be filled by axed civil servants placed in the 'reserve labour pool' on reduced pay, possibly in the coming week. The jobs in question are mostly administrative positions in social insurance and pension funds, hospitals and the public order ministry.
The ministry plan is being processed in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Public-Sector Staff Selection (ASEP) and will be implemented through a ministerial decree, following an evaluation of the staff to be transferred by a three-member committee made up of representatives of the administrative reform ministry, the finance ministry and ASEP.
Ministry sources said that another 800 positions will be proclaimed at the beginning of the next year, since the 2000 staff placed in the reserve pool include 700 that have been suspended because they have in various ways transgressed the civil service code of conduct.
 Education minister, university rectors discuss closures and mergers of university departments, schoolsEducation Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos and Greek university rectors on Monday held talks on proposed mergers, closures and renaming of several university schools and departments in the country. The talks, lasting until well into the afternoon, were held to discuss implementation of the "Athena" plan due to be completed in February.
The rectors afterward said that the minister had agreed to include the criteria suggested by the universities for the mergers and closures of schools and departments. They also ask that for an individualised approach to the higher education institutes, taking into account the particularities of each one.
Concerning the number of admissions to universities, rectors said that the number must be reduced given that the number of schools and departments would be reduced but their view was not shared by the minister. In the past, Arvanitopoulos has said that the ministry intends to preserve the number of students admitted each year, despite the smaller number of schools and departments.
 Lambrinidis expects implementation of EU guidelines on freedom of religionVIENNA (AMNA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
European Union special representative on Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis on Monday said here that he expected that the EU would soon go ahead with the implementation of the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion, on the basis of a recent Austria-Italy initiative.
Speaking in a panel discussion on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, Lambrinidis, a former Greek foreign minister, especially thanked Austria for the initiative and stressed he was looking forward to an agreement that would clarify the controls to be applied in the framework of the supervision of respect for Religious Freedom, as well as what tools the EU would use in dealing with violations.
 Greek budget deficit down 39.9 pct in Jan-NovGreece's state budget deficit fell to 12.919 billion euros in the January-November period this year, down from a budget target for a deficit of 15.047 billion euros, official figures showed on Monday.
The state budget also recorded a primary deficit of 1.486 billion euros in the 11-month period, down from a budget target for a shortfall of 3.596 billion euros. The budget deficit was down 39.9 pct compared with the January-November period last eyar.
Net budget revenues totaled 45.793 billion euros in the 11-month period, down 1.5 pct from 2011, and lower by 27 million euros compared with a revised budget target. Regular budget net revenues totaled 42.837 billion euros, up 456 million euros from a budget target of 42.382 billion euros, reflecting higher income tax receipts, higher property tax proceeds and higher non-tax revenues.
Budget spending totaled 58.713 billion euros in the January-November period, down from a budget target of 60.867 billion euros. More analytically, regular budget spending fell short of provisions by 932 million euros reflecting lower primary spending, lower defense spending and lower spending on subsidies to state hospitals. Spending on interest totaled 11.433 billion euros in the 11-month period, down from a budget target of 11.451 billion euros.
State budget spending fell by 13.7 pct compared with the same period last year.
 Central government cash deficit down significantly in Jan-NovGreece' s central government cash deficit fell significantly to 7.7 billion euro in the January-November period, from 20.2 billion euro in the corresponding period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.
The central bank, in a report, attributed this positive development to a slight decline in budget revenues by 1.6 pct to 42.9 billion euro, from 43.6 billion euro last year, and a 23 pct reduction in spending to 48.9 billion euro from 63.3 billion over the same periods, respectively.
The Public Investment Programme shrank to 655 million euro in the 11-month period, from 1.6 billion euro in 2011, while spending on interest fell to 6.8 billion euro from 15.4 billion euro. The state budget recorded a primary surplus of 21 million euro in the January-November period, after a primary deficit of 3.6 billion euro last year.
 Labour minister at EBEA, announces programme for youth employmentLabour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Monday announced the launch of a programme to introduce at least 55,000 young people to the labour market from January, at the event "People in Crisis" organised by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).
The minister said the 'package' of actions will include an articulated programme for vocational training, practical education and subsidised employment for young people up to 29 years old and programmes to promote young entrepreneurs in innovative branches of economic activity and agricultural production.
Vroutsis also referred to the pressing need to take coordinated action to tackle unemployment, which had skyrocketed from 7.5 percent in 2008 to 26 percent at present, resulting in the loss of 700,000 jobs in the last three years and raising the number of jobless to 1.3 million.
Concerning the compression of labour costs as a result of the crisis, Vroutsis said that the government did not consider this a viable, long-term strategy for increasing competitiveness but was aiming for a new growth model based on a dynamic, outward-looking economy that generated value, quality and jobs.
"Limiting unit labour costs was a temporary, inevitable solution in order to quickly cover the competitiveness gap of the decade prior to the crisis," he said, promising that a 15 percent reduction will be fully achieved by the end of 2014 without further measures affecting private-sector salaries.
He also announced plans to clamp down on contribution evasion that now affected 30 percent of the labour market, stressing that this was a "financial and social crime".
 Development ministry announces free Sunday opening for small retailersDevelopment, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and deputy Development Minister Thanassis Skordas on Monday announced an end to restrictions on Sunday opening for all small retail outlets up to 250 square metres, allowing them to open on all Sundays in the year. Larger stores, irrespective of their size, will be able to open for seven Sundays a year.
The ministry also announced changes to market regulations, updating the previous set of regulations in force since 1946 and introducing stiffer penalties for adulteration of foods and fuel, 'skimming' of deliveries by pumps, fairer fines but also 50 percent discounts for those that pay fines without going to court.
Current rules allow free Sunday opening for shops in tourist areas and for all shops of the last Sunday of the year.
The ministry said the changes will apply in the current year, since the issue of the ministerial decree will allow shops to open on the last two Sundays of the year, on December 23 and December 30. A more permanent measure will later be tabled in Parliament and additionally provide for:
- free opening of shops up to 250 square metres on all Sundays on a voluntary basis, provided that they are not in any way part of a chain or "shop-in-a-shop" arrangement. The ban on Sunday opening will also extend to shopping malls and retail centres while a decision on franchise chains is still pending. The ministry will propose opening hours between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Sundays, while the minister has also left open the possibility of making shops that open on Sunday stay closed on Monday morning.
- free opening for seven Sundays a year for all retail outlets, regardless of size, with the ministry proposing two Sundays before Christmas, one before Easter and one each during the two regular sales period and the two new sales periods to be established in May and November.
Hatzidakis said that the new system will bring Greece in line with what exists in nearly all other EU countries and give Greek consumers and tourists a chance to shop on more days and more hours, while keeping a balance between smaller and larger shops. He stressed that the labour conditions for workers were not affected in any way by the measures.
Under the new system, the new sales periods will extend from the second Monday of January until the end of February (winter sales), from the second Monday of July until the end of August (summer sales), in the first 10 days of May and the first 10 days of November (interim sales periods).
Measures concerning 'tampered' fuel pumps will include prison sentences of up to six months, confiscating the equipment used to tamper with readings, fines of 30,000 euro for each pump and rescinding the operating licence of the offender, as well as banning the issue of a new licence for a similar enterprise to the offender, his spouse and relatives up to the second degree.
The size of the fine will be decided by ministerial decision, restricting the margins for graft between inspectors and offenders. Also, appeals against the fines can only be carried out on condition that 20 percent is paid in advance while the fine is halved if the offender does not contest it in court.
 Structural reforms will boost employment, Mitarakis saysIn today's globalised and highly competitive environment, the future belongs to those who prepare for it, Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Monday in an address to the "People in Crisis" event, organized in Athens by the Commercial and Industrial Chamber of Athens (EBEA) and a private firm.
The event looked into sky-rocketing jobless rates in Greece, as well as into the new employment and job market conditions.
Mitarakis stressed that structural reforms can lead to an increase in employment opportunities and that the government should create a solid framework to this direction, based on fiscal stability, liquidity, structural reforms, new investments and utilization of state assets.
Speaking during the same event, EBEA president Konstantinos Michalos, said that unemployment in Greece may even reach up to 30% at the end of the year. He said the notion of professional career is now taking on a new context which has to do with flexibility, initiative and challenge.
 SEV's Daskalopoulos blasts govt's energy pricing policyDimitirs Daskalopoulos, president of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), on Monday evening criticised the government's policy on energy, especially on issues regarding pricing and the cost of energy.
Speaking during the Federation's General Council Meeting, attended also by undersecretary for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Asimakis Papageorgiou, Daskalopooulos said "what we ask form the government is not to systematically saw off the branch that can flourish."
He added that it was impossible for the country's industrial sector to boost competitiveness mainly because of new taxes imposed by the state on production, making it highly costly.
The SEV president specifically referred to a rushed decision by the Public Power Corporation (DEH) to go ahead with an increase in electricity rates for medium and high voltage industrial consumption.
 Inflation up 1pct in NovemberGreek inflation rose by one percent in November, year-on-year, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in November 2012 compared with November 2011, increased by 1.0%. In November 2011, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 2.9%.
The CPI in November 2012 compared with October 2012 decreased by 0.5%. In November 2011, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was 0.2%.
In the twelve-month period from December 2011 to November 2012 compared with the period from December 2010 to November 2011 the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 1.6%. The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous year (December 2010 to November 2011), was 3.6%.
Also, the Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in November 2012 compared with November 2011, increased by 0.4%. In November 2011, the annual rate of change of the HICP was 2.8%.
The HICP in November 2012 compared with October 2012, decreased by 0.3%. In November 2011, the monthly rate of change of the HICP was 0.2%.
In the twelve-month period from December 2011 to November 2012 compared with the period from December 2010 to November 2011, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 1.2%. The previous year, in the corresponding twelve - month period, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 3.4%.
 Imports rise 10.1pct in October, post 8.4pct decline for 12-month periodGreek imports rose by 10.1 percent in October, after several months of decline, according to flash estimates on the country's commercial transactions released on Monday by the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
ELSTAT, in a report, said that the total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, in October 2012 amounted to 2734.2 million euros against 2483.3 million euros in October 2011, recording an increase of 10.1%.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, for the 12-month time period of November 2011 - October 2012 increased by 6.8% compared to the corresponding 12-month time period of November 2010 - October 2011.
The total value of imports-arrivals, excluding oil products, for the 12-month time period of November 2011 - October 2012 decreased by 8.4% compared to the corresponding 12-month time period of November 2010 - October 2011.
The total value of exports-dispatches, excluding oil products, in October 2012 amounted to 1528.5 million euros against 1343.5 million euros in October 2011, recording an increase of 13.8%.
 Greek industrial production index up 2.0 pct in Oct.Greece's industrial production composite index rose 2.0 pct in October, compared with the same month last year, after a 13 pct drop recorded in October 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to a 15.8 pct increase in the mining production index and a 1.1 pct rise in manufacturing production in October, reflecting a 48.6 pct jump in oil and coal production and a 6.4 pct rise in pharmaceutical products. On the other hand, food production fell by 3.0 pct, beverages were down 9.5 pct, tobacco fell by 0.3 pct, textiles dropped 13.2 pct, footwear/leather production dropped 28.7 pct and clothing fell 8.4 pct. Electricity production edged 0.8 pct higher in October, while water production rose 2.0 pct in the month.
The average industrial production index in the January-October period fell 3.8 pct, after a 7.5 pct decline recorded in the corresponding period last year.
 Dromeas wins 500-mln-euro contract with German armyDromeas - a Greek-listed office equipment company - on Monday announced it has won an international tender to supply the German army with office furniture, worth 500 million euro. The company said the products will be manufactured in its facilities in Serres.
 Business Briefs-- The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on Monday asked a consortium of comprised of OPAP Investment Ltd, Lottomatica Giochi e Partecipazione Srl, Intralot Lotteries Ltd and Scientific Games Global Gaming Sarl to present a higher bid in a tender to sell Greece's state lotteries.
-- Foreign investors raised their participation in the capitalization of the Athens Stock Exchange in November, to 51.4 pct from 50.6 pct in October, up from 49.1 pct in November 2011.
-- Varagis -a Greek-listed furniture group- on Monday said an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting approved a board plan for a share capital increase worth 4.65 million euros through a capitalization of reserves and an increase of nominal share price to 1.34 euros from 0.62 euros per share.
 Stocks end 1.42% higherStocks ended significantly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, pushing the composite index to its highest closing since Oct. 26 despite nervousness in the market following a government's decision to extend a bond buy back programe by 24 hours and a negative climate prevailing in other European markets due to political developments in Italy. The composite index of the market rose 1.42 pct to end at 852.63 points, after falling by 0.99 pct early in the session.
Turnover was a thin 51.062 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 1.36 pct and the Mid Cap index soared 3.92 pct. The Financial Services (7.79 pct), Health (6.95 pct) and Personal Products (5.73 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food (-2.18 pct) was the only sector to end lower. MIG (13.21 pct), Intralot (5.70 pct), PPC (4.66 pct) and Folli Follie (4.53 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Coca Cola Hellenic (2.24 pct), National Bank (2.14 pct) and Motor Oil (0.74 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 120 to 41 with another 17 issues unchanged. Cyclon (23.82 pct), Kreka (23.6 pct) and Unibios (21.88 pct) were top gainers while NEL (20 pct), Alsinco (19.79 pct) and Yalco (19.57 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.24%
Personal & Household: +5.73%
Raw Materials: +4.43%
Travel & Leisure: +4.39%
Food & Beverages: -2.18%
Financial Services: +7.79%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, Fourlis and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.59
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.17
HBC Coca Cola: 16.60
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.89
National Bank of Greece: 1.37
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.68
Bank of Piraeus: 0.38
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds remained at 13.77 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, unchanged from Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 15.07 pct and the German Bund 1.30 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.55 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.33 pct, the three-month rate was 0.18 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.63 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 14.283 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,745 contracts worth 5.566 million euros, with 32,568 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 40,950 contracts worth 8.717 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (12,630), followed by Alpha Bank (6,278), Piraeus Bank (3,635), Cyprus Bank (1,115), MIG (2,213), OTE (4,733), PPC (1,345), OPAP (3,155), Cyprus Popular Bank (946), Mytiilneos (885), GEK (1,412), Intralot (1,081) and Eurobank (346).
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.312
Pound sterling 0.816
Danish kroner 7.571
Swedish kroner 8.763
Japanese yen 107.82
Swiss franc 1.224
Norwegian kroner 7.434
Canadian dollar 1.295
Australian dollar 1.250
 China, Greece sign memorandum on culture, tourismThe China Cultural Heritage Protection Centre and Geo Routes Greece have signed a cooperation memorandum in Beijing aiming to further enhance the cultural and tourism bonds between the two countries.
The China Cultural Heritage Protection Center, which operates under the jurisdiction of China's Ministry of Culture, is the only national body for the protection and promotion of China's cultural heritage.
In his statements, the president of the Center Qiao Shenqian underlined that the two countries, with their important cultural contribution to humanity, are today closer than ever. "We are pleased about our cooperation with an organisation that highlights and promotes Greece's cultural heritage and contributes to society's development".
On his part, the head of Greece's Geo Routes Yannis Balakakis said that every effort will be made for the facilitation, by the Greek authorities, for the issuance of visas to Chinese citizens who are interested in visiting Greece, which will decisively contribute to increasing the tourist flow to Greece.
Geo and Aegean Routes are thematic routes of a cultural nature, under the auspices of the EU and UNESCO, aiming to showcase the unexplored Greece, promote the country's cultural heritage and contribute on the development of the local societies via Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
 Christmas Town in Technopolis, AthensThe municipality of Athens will set up a Christmas town for young and old at the Technopolis in downtown Athens from Thursday, December 20, through Monday, January 7.
The "Christmas Tale in Technopolis" will include three carousels, an indoor ice skating rink, a fairytale town, a Santa's corner and a toy workshop.
The indoor and outdoor grounds of the Technopolis will be transformed into a Christmas park with games and activities for all and especially for the children.
A Christmas market will be set up in the courtyard where the visitors will be able to buy Christmas decorations at affordable prices, hot mulled wine, doughnuts and other Christmas sweets and confectionaries.
The Christmas Tale will be open to visitors from 12.00 noon until 22:00 daily, and from 10.00 a.m. to midnight on weekends.
 'Eleftherios Venizelos' exhibition at Athens International AirportPassengers and visitors at Athens' "Eleftherios Venizelos" International Airport (AIA) will have the opportunity to learn about the role of the late statesman Eleftherios Venizelos in the formation of Greece's historic route, through the updated exhibition hosted in the airport's premises.
The exhibition was inaugurated on Friday and is organised in cooperation between the AIA and the National Research Institute "Eleftherios K. Venizelos", with the support of the Periphery of Crete.
The life and times of the Crete-born Venizelos is projected on a system of six screens in the exhibition halls, while newspaper articles of the time and archive material are also on display.
 Trial for DIAS motorbike police twin homicide starts on MondayThe trial of four men accused of gunning down two DIAS motorbike police officers that were ambushed in the working-class district of Rendi in March 2011 began before a Three-Justice Criminal Appeals Court in Athens on Monday. The hearing, which began in a tense atmosphere, will continue on Thursday.
Monday's hearing concerned four of the 15 suspects implicated in the case for forming a criminal organisation, including a 20-year-old whose recent accidental release caused a stir and who was present in the courtroom. The four on the stand face charges of homicide for killing the two young policemen.
The victims of the shooting were Ioannis Evaggelinelis, 23, and Giorgos Skylogiannis, 22, who were shot dead by the occupants of a car that they were pursuing on March 1, 2011, after a robbery at a kiosk in Menidi. The culprits set up an ambush, stopping the car in a dark spot in the Rendi vegetable market and lying in wait until the pursuing motorbike police came near. Once the DIAS team came into view, they go out of their vehicle and started to shoot with kalashnikov rifles and a gun.
 Two charged for killing jewellery shop owner last MayThe Attica Police Crimes Against Life department on Monday announced that it had two suspects for the killing of a 35-year-old jewellery shop owner that was shot dead during an armed robbery at his shop on Plastira Street in the Athens suburb of Lykovrisi last May.
The two suspects were identified as Albanian nationals, aged 23 and 26 years old, respectively.
The 23-year-old was arrested at Athens international airport last Friday following a coordinated police operation between the Crimes Against Life department and the Athens Airport police.
Based on the findings of a police investigation, the two suspects entered the victim's shop wearing motorcycle helmets and carrying guns and had shot and fatally wounded the owner, after removing money and jewellery that they found. They then drove off on a motorbike that they later abandoned at Synggrou park in Maroussi, along with the helmets and guns, a Kalashnikov rifle and a Makarov pistol.
The two robbers then lay low for a few days, hiding in the house of a friend in Nea Makri, and finally escaped to Albania. The 23-year-old was arrested at the airport when he attempted to return.
Police also arrested another two Albanians aged 23 and 24 years old, respectively, for assisting the two robbers in their escape after the murder.
The 23-year-old murder suspect in custody will be led before an examining magistrate on Monday, while the search continues to find and arrest the second culprit in the shooting.
 Two arrests for drug smuggling at Kipoi border crossing in EvrosCustoms officers at the Kipoi border crossing in Evros on Monday announced a major drug bust, in which large quantities of heroin coming to Greece from Turkey were intercepted at the border crossing.
With the help of the sniffer dog Diego, customs officers located 38 parcels of heroin concealed within a car door, containing about 20 kilos of the drug in total.
The 31-year-old Turkish national driving the vehicle claimed to have no knowledge of the drugs and said that he was travelling from Ankara to Germany, where he lives and works. The drugs and the vehicle were impounded and the suspect led before an Alexandroupolis public prosecutor.
The bust was followed by a second shortly afterward, when customs officers arrested a 30-year-old passenger on a Turkish coach after finding 280 grammes of cannabis in his possession. A repeat offender, the same man had a previous arrest for possession of half a kilo of heroin and had done time abroad.
The drugs were confiscated and the 30-year-old brought before an Alexandroupolis prosecutor.
 Event hosted by Amnesty International to mark Human Rights DayAmnesty International hosted a special event on Monday to mark the International Human Rights Day, jointly organized with the House of Arts and Letters.
The event was titled "Light a candle for people in danger," and the international organisation called on citizens to write a letter of support to people in danger and light a candle to symbolically light up the hard times people are going through around the world.
 Tobacco trader shot in Ilissia armed robberyA 47-year-old tobacco trader was shot in the legs by two unidentified armed robbers with a sawn-off shotgun on Monday afternoon as he was heading toward a bank branch on Mihalakopoulou 31 in the Athens district of Ilissia.
The two men were riding on a motorbike and shot at the tobacco trader, injuring him in the leg, before grabbing a bag containing approximately 30,000 euro that he intended to deposit in the bank. The injured man was rushed to the Red Cross hospital, where doctors say he is out of danger, while a search has been launched for the two robbers.
In a similar incident outside a petrol station in Tavros in Athens on Monday, two armed men shot in the air with a gun and grabbed an unknown quantity of cash from the till before speeding away on a motorbike.
 Administrative court judges end industrial actionAdministrative court judges on Monday decided to call off their strike action and return to their duties, following an extraordinary general meeting of their association.
The association also decided to cooperate with other unions of court judges, in preparing law suits to be filed with the Salary Court in an effort "to restore pay and tax injustices against court justices."
A fresh general meeting will be held on Jan. 21, 2013, to examine developments and determine further action.
 Super League resultsOlympiacos Piraeus drew 2-2 with Panathinaikos in a match played away over the weekend and Monday, retaining its lead in the Greek Super League soccer championship.
In other action:
PAOK Thessaloniki - Levadiakos 1-0
Kerkyra - PAS Yiannina 0-2
Atromitos Athens - OFI Crete 3-2
Platanias Crete - Veria 0-0
Xanthi - Panionios Athens 4-0
Asteras Tripoli - Aris Thessaloniki 1-1
Panthrakikos - AEK Athens 1-0
Standings after fourteen weeks of play:
1. Olympiacos 36
2. PAOK 28
3. Asteras 25
4. Atromitos 24
5. Panionios 21
6. PAS Yiannina 21
7. Panathinaikos 20
8. Levadiakos 18
9. Panthrakikos 17
10. Platanias 16
11. OFI 14
12. Xanthi 14
13. Kerkyra 12
14. Veria 12
15. Aris 12
16. AEK 11
NOTE: Panathinaikos has had two points deducted.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe preparation of the new tax bill and the bank loans arrangements, dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greece will soon see light at the end of the tunnel".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "They are spreading fear on the new taxes".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Favourable regulations for OEK (Labour Housing Organisation) loan holders, too".
ESTIA: "Middle classes pushed to the extremes".
ETHNOS: "The new taxes for salary earners and professionals".
IMERISSIA: "Regulations for red 'loans' - Open line between banks and enterprises".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Who will pay the taxes' bill".
TA NEA: "Stars' (entertainers) tricks with main social security fund (IKA)".
VRADYNI: "Changes in Spatial and Town Planning, and decentralisation of authorities".
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