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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-01-11

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 11 January 2012 Issue No: 3970


  • [01] PM Papademos on exit from crisis
  • [02] PM Papademos holds talks with LAOS party leader Karatzaferis
  • [03] Greek debt to dominate Lagarde-Merkel meeting in Berlin
  • [04] Greece fully met EU funds' absorption rate targets, minister says
  • [05] No terms for troika's return to Athens, Commission says
  • [06] European Commissioner Damanaki on econ crisis in Greece
  • [07] Israeli DM Barak on visit to Greece, meets with Avramopoulos
  • [08] Education minister visiting Israel
  • [09] Foreign minister Dimas met with ethnic Greek minority in Albania representatives
  • [10] Minister rules out mass public-sector lay-offs, says labour reserve has 'run its course'
  • [11] SYRIZA's Tsipras accuses gov't of helping healthcare oligopolies
  • [12] Greece launches consultation to promote research and innovation
  • [13] Education minister Diamantopoulou calls for international cooperation in higher education
  • [14] ND economic staff meeting on Tuesday postponed
  • [15] Environment Minister Papaconstantinou to visit Nicosia
  • [16] Ecumenical Patriarchate on Ephraim issue
  • [17] Deputy health minister inaugurates new wings at Veria Hospital
  • [18] GSEE rules out agreement on cuts or a freeze in wages
  • [19] Agreement on wages imperative, labour minister stresses
  • [20] Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president on economic policy
  • [21] Greece raises 1.625 bln euro from 6-month T-bill auction
  • [22] Public sector debt to private sector 6.63 bln euros in Nov.
  • [23] Bussiness Briefs
  • [24] Greek stocks end 1.75 pct down
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [28] Church of Greece announces creation of structures to handle poverty
  • [29] Snow on Mt. Parnitha, ski resorts open to public
  • [30] Burglars make off with valuables worth 50,000 euros from jewelry shop
  • [31] Brief takeover of radio station by anarchists; 20 arrested
  • [32] Man caught carrying four kilos heroin
  • [33] Arrest for illegal possession of icons
  • [34] Three foreign nationals arrested for break-ins in southern Greece
  • [35] Two migrant trafficking rings dismantled
  • [36] Human trafficking ring busted; five foreign nationals arrested
  • [37] Museum, archaeological site visitors, revenues, post rise in September
  • [38] Special discount prices for 'crisis-tested' at Athens Concert Hall
  • [39] Minor accident shuts down Iraklio airport for two hours
  • [40] Cloudy on Wednesday
  • [41] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Papademos on exit from crisis

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, speaking to political reporters at the Maximos Mansion on Tuesday evening said that 2012 will be a difficult year as 2011 also was. However, he appeared optimistic, stressing "if we all work together systematically and decisively we can create conditions for an exit from the crisis."

    According to sources, the country can with these preconditions expect growth at the end of the year, with an increase in employment and the creation of opportunities for all. However, the coming weeks will be very crucial since three basic targets must be achieved.

    - Firstly, the country must observe all the commitments it has undertaken on the basis of the existing programme.

    -Secondly, the new programme must be shaped in a reliable way for fiscal restructuring and the recovery of the economy to be achieved.

    - Thirdly, the PSI bond swap programme must be completed in accordance with the basic characteristics, as they have been determined with the decisions of October 26.

    - If these targets are achieved both the European partners and the IMF will continue to finance the country unimpededly for the next three years.

    Sources of the government appeared certain that the cooperation government can carry out the task in a more effective way than a different government.

    In parallel, with the achievement of the three previous targets the government pursues the support of policies for economic and social activity and for the economy's growth which, however, is not anticipated for the current year.

    As regards the labour issue, the labour market etc, the same sources believe that the government's aim is the improvement of competitiveness and the increase of employment. In connection with the above issues the troika has raised the issue of the reconsideration of minimum wages, of the 13th and 14th salary, the automatic maturity and wages in public utilities (DEKO).

    On the question of the date of the elections, the sources believe that they must take place after the completion of the task that the present government has undertaken without, however, determining a precise date.

    [02] PM Papademos holds talks with LAOS party leader Karatzaferis

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis met on Tuesday evening for about 70 minutes with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos in the framework of the latter's contacts with the leaders of parties supporting the government.

    On leaving the Maximos Mansion, Karatzaferis told reporters "this time I have no statement to make to you."

    Earlier statements

    Speaking on an Athens-based private radio, Karatzaferis left open the likelihood that he might withdraw his ministers from the present government but underlined that he will continue to support it. Referring to the arrival of the troika (EC-ECB-IMF) representatives he called for a united national front.

    He said that prime minister Papademos is the best negotiator the country could have at the present moment, adding that the political party leaders should rally behind him.

    [03] Greek debt to dominate Lagarde-Merkel meeting in Berlin

    BERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)

    Greece's debt, reforms and the progress of the PSI bond swap programme are expected to dominate a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde in Berlin on Tuesday night, during which they will try to find a joint strategy on these issues.

    The meeting has been described as an "informal exchange of views" and will not be followed by a press conference. It is expected to examine all crucial issues concerning Greece's debt crisis, however, following doubts expressed by the IMF about whether this would be sustainable even after the planned debt haircut.

    They will also discuss a possible return of the troika to Hungary, where the economic situation has deteriorated rapidly in recent months.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Lagarde also had an unofficial meeting with Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble.

    [04] Greece fully met EU funds' absorption rate targets, minister says

    All targets set by the troika over absorption of EU funds in 2011 have been fully met, Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, after a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to brief the premier on developments concerning a National Strategic Reference Framework program, Chryssohoidis said the program's capital flows -including funding of a Greek development law - surpassed 2.0 billion euros in 2011. The Greek minister noted that absorption rates of EU funds were running rapidly and predicted that 2012 would be the "year of the NSRF".

    Government officials predicted that the country's fiscal deficit would total 9.6 pct of GDP in 2011, up from a budget target of 8.9 pct envisaged in a revised memorandum.

    [05] No terms for troika's return to Athens, Commission says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)

    There are no specific terms for the return of the troika delegation to Athens, a European Commission spokesman said on Tuesday, adding that a date has not been set yet for resuming talks with Greek authorities. Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for EU Commissioner Olli Rehn, speaking to reporters here, said Greek authorities have the responsibility for ongoing negotiations with representatives of the private sector over agreeing on a bond swap deal and noted that the Commission's responsibility was to examine and ensure that any deal would fulfil the terms of the October 26th agreement. He expressed the hope that an agreement would be reached the soonest possible.

    The Commission spokesman declined to comment on press reports over further cuts in private sector wages, saying that these issues would be examined during talks between the troika and the Greek authorities.

    [06] European Commissioner Damanaki on econ crisis in Greece

    European Commissioner for Fisheries Maria Damanaki (from Greece) on Tuesday pointed out the need for Greece to proceed with determination to fulfilling its commitments and the reforms, speaking on private radio station SKAI.

    "There is fatigue in Greece's relations with EU, and a feeling that the European institutions have completed their mission and are now awaiting Greece's response," stressed Damanaki, adding that Athens must accelerate the implementation of its decisions in order to meet its responsibilities, noting that meanwhile the problems exist and the European partners are not the ones who cause them.

    However she noted that responsibilities fall on Europe also, 'because it delayed in seeing the depth of crisis'.

    The Greek Commissioner said that the euro is not taboo for Greece, nor a given, and it should be a deliberate choice, while also underlining that "we can't be in the euro and not contribute to it".

    Referring to the payroll cost, Damanaki estimated that it should be reduced and that Prime Minister Lucas Papademos must be backed on this matter by the social partners.

    [07] Israeli DM Barak on visit to Greece, meets with Avramopoulos

    Greek defence minister Dimitris Avramopoulos met on Tuesday with visiting Israeli deputy prime minister and defence minister Ehud Barak, and discussed bilateral cooperation in the defence sector.

    The talks between the two men were held in a "good climate", and the political framework was set out for cooperation between Greece and Israel in the defence sector, while afterwards working groups of the two countries met to itemize the areas of cooperation.

    In statements to the press afterwards, Avramopoulos described Barak's visit to Athens as "important", as it is encompassed in the climate of understanding and friendship between the two countries and also extends to the sector of defence.

    "Our choice and commitment is a deepening of cooperation," he said, noting that the consolidation of bilateral relations had been late in coming.

    Avramopoulos further stressed that the cooperation between Greece and Israel is "pro-peace and frank, and is not aimed against anyone".

    On the contrary, he added, it could create new sources of wealth for the peoples of the two countries but also the peoples of the region.

    Avramopoulos reiterated that Greeks seeks understanding with all its neighbours and the countries of the southeastern Mediterranean, and stressed that Greece will continue to play a stabilising role in the region.

    Barak, in turn, stressed that Israel looks forward to closer relations with Greece. He thanked Greece for its assistance in last year's devastating wildfires in Israel.

    He also said that the two countries have a common interest in the resolution of the differences in the region, to the benefit of peace and of stability in the Middle East and the southeastern Mediterranean.

    Barak was received by Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and by prime minister Lucas Papademos later in the day, while in the afternoon he was expected to have talks with Greek foreign minister Stavros Dimas.

    [08] Education minister visiting Israel

    Cooperation between the two countries on the issue of apparatuses for the promotion of the assessment of universities and the creation of centres of excellence, as well as on the issue of humanity studies was agreed at the meeting that Greek Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou had with her Israeli counterpart Gideon Saar on Tuesday, first day of her visit to Israel.

    As was announced by the Education ministry, the minister invited Israel's eight schools offering classic studies and ancient Greek to participate in the Education ministry's new programme for Plato's Academy.

    [09] Foreign minister Dimas met with ethnic Greek minority in Albania representatives

    Foreign minister Stavros Dimas on Tuesday met with visiting representatives of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania.

    The meeting with Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ) president Vangjel Dule and Omonoia president Vasil Bollano focused on ethnic Greek minority issues.

    Dimas underlined that the minority should be a bridge of friendship with the neighboring country and stressed that the consolidation and protection of the rights of ethnic Greeks in Albania is a top priority for Greece.

    [10] Minister rules out mass public-sector lay-offs, says labour reserve has 'run its course'

    Administrative Reform and e-Government Minister Dimitris Reppas on Tuesday ruled out large-scale public-sector layoffs while briefing the appropriate Parliamentary Committee, while noting that the labour reserve measure had "run its course" and would not be extended.

    "There is no issue of lay-offs. In the agenda drawn up by this government and this minister there is no policy of lay-offs," he underlined.

    Concerning the labour reserve, Reppas noted that it would border on the ridiculous if every 53-year-old employee of the public sector automatically entered into retirement and left, saying this kind of policy had reached its limits.

    "We cannot examine such policies using only financial criteria. We did not expect great things from a fiscal point of view," he underlined, adding that the state could not be led to functional collapse through the departure of experienced staff.

    Reppas pointed to an impressive reduction in the number of public-sector employees relative to 2009, saying this had saved roughly two billion euro, and noted that the government's commitment was to reduce public-sector employees by 150,000 up until 2015.

    The minister said his top three priorities were also the commitments the country had made under the EU-IMF Memorandum, which included the labour reserve, the new uniform public-sector wage scale and a rapid reorganisation of state infrastructure.

    "By the end of January or early February we will be ready to present the administrative reforms that will create an efficient, non-bureaucratic state," he said.

    [11] SYRIZA's Tsipras accuses gov't of helping healthcare oligopolies

    Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday accused the government of transferring control of healthcare services to a few strong business interests.

    Speaking after the meeting he had with representatives of medical associations, Tsipras said that the goal of the memorandum is to create conditions allowing oligopolies in the sector of health to amass wealth. He stressed that the immediate goal was to obliterate private practice and transfer control of the offered healthcare services to the hands of a few.

    [12] Greece launches consultation to promote research and innovation

    Greece on Tuesday launched a double public consultation aimed at strengthening research, technological development and innovation in the country. The consultation, which will last until January 30, is under the auspices of the Education ministry and the General Secretariat of Research and Technology. All interested parties will submit their proposals to the <> website in the framework of the consultation procedure. The consultation is addressed to the scientific and academic community and to the country's productive forces.

    Greek authorities began procedures for revising a regulatory framework for Research in 2010 followed by the presentation of a draft law by the general secretariat and the National Council for Research and Technology. The aim of the new legislation is to draft a flexible and efficient regulatory framework for Research and Innovation, built around a Single Research Area based on excellence and which will be internationally competitive.

    The draft law promotes institutions and conditions which will lead to close and systematic cooperation between researchers working in public research centers, professors and researches in Universities, along with researchers working in the private sector. Their aim will be to maximize synergies among research groups, creating a critical mass of research efforts in specific sectors and concentrating research infrastructure and actions.

    A proposed restructuring of Research Centers will be implemented in two stages: the first, envisaging mergers of institutes and the second envisages widespread interventions in the research community of the country.

    [13] Education minister Diamantopoulou calls for international cooperation in higher education

    Education minister Anna Diamantopoulou on Tuesday addressed a letter to university rectors requesting scientific support to reach broad-based agreements in the sector of education with institutions in China, Israel and Germany, among others.

    Diamantopoulou, currently on a visit Israel, pointed out in her letter that international agreements in the sector of education could focus on attracting foreign students in Greece, creating postgraduate programmes in languages other than Greek or attract foreign lecturers, found branches of Greek universities abroad and engage in scientific cooperation with research centers.

    [14] ND economic staff meeting on Tuesday postponed

    New Democracy (ND) staff on economic affairs meeting, chaired by ND leader Antonis Samaras, on Tuesday at the party's headquarters in Athens has been postponed.

    [15] Environment Minister Papaconstantinou to visit Nicosia

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A. Viketos)

    Greek Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister George Papaconstantinou will be making a one-day visit to Nicosia on Wednesday.

    Papaconstantinou will be having a meeting with Cyprus Trade, Industry and Tourism Minister Praxoulla Antoniadou.

    His programme also includes meetings with the Advisory Committee on Natural Gas and the Cypriot Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sophoklis Aletraris.

    The Greek minister will be leaving Cyprus on Wednesday afternoon.

    [16] Ecumenical Patriarchate on Ephraim issue

    ISTANBUL (AMNA/A. Kourkoulas)

    The Ecumenical Patriarchate termed as "intervention" by the Russian church in its affairs the statements and demarches made in favour of Vatopedi Monastery abbot Ephraim.

    An announcement issued at the Phanar after Tuesday's meeting of the Synod stresses that Mount Athos is "normal territory" of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. "It is comprised indeed of Orthodox monks of various nationalities, this however in no way attributes to it a panorthodox character, allowing intervention of any kind in it by other Autocephalus Churches". The announcement was issued following the discussion of "the issue of the remanding in custody of Vatopedi Holy Monastery abbot Ephraim."

    [17] Deputy health minister inaugurates new wings at Veria Hospital

    Deputy health and social solidarity minister Markos Bolaris on Tuesday inaugurated new wings at Veria Hospital, in northern Greece, including an orthopedic clinic, an obstetric clinic and an intensive care unit (ICU).

    According to the hospital management, private donations will be used to upgrade the hospital's operating room and proceed with the construction of coronary angiography facilities.

    Financial News

    [18] GSEE rules out agreement on cuts or a freeze in wages

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing private-sector employees, on Tuesday said it would participate in talks with employer organisations on a new national collective agreement but ruled out any agreement leading to a cut or a freeze in wages.

    "We are opposed to all discussion on reducing minimum wages, or the 13th and 14th salaries or any kind of benefit included in the National Collective Labour Agreement," said GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos.

    This view was supported by all factions within the union, though each had a slightly different approach to the issue.

    PASOK-affiliated PASKE, for example, is prepared to discuss a reduction in the non-wage-related payroll costs in companies that have not laid off their staff, provided there are measures to make up for the reduction in social insurance fund revenues.

    During its meeting on Tuesday, GSEE's leadership decided to support an all-Attica strike on January 17 and authorised the GSEE secretariat to mobilise according to developments. The most likely outcome is a general strike in early February.

    Panagopoulos warned that any attempt to unilaterally impose a change in labour relations to the detriment of workers will lead to an immediate response with dynamic strike action.

    The trade union also decided to send a delegation to each of the political leaders in order to ask them to defend the collective labour agreement.

    [19] Agreement on wages imperative, labour minister stresses

    Labour and Social Insurance Minister George Koutroumanis on Tuesday stressed the need for a three-way agreement between unions, employers and the government on labour issues and private-sector wages, in order to discourage a further rise in joblessness.

    "In the conditions that have been created in the country, it is imperative that there is a trilateral agreement in order to boost competitiveness and preserve jobs and, if possible, to create a buffer to the increase in unemployment," he said.

    In statements to the radio station "Vima", the minister explained that the government was not insisting on a reduction of the minimum wage and prepared to consider alternatives to lowering the cost of wages.

    He underlined that the issue of labour cost was one constantly raised by the EU-IMF troika, not by the government, which had asked the social partnerns to "broaden their agenda" in order to address the issue of competitiveness and cost of labour.

    At the same time, he admitted that a generalised reduction of private-sector wages will bring about an even deeper recession.

    Regarding supplementary pensions, he said that the govern-ment's target in unifying the social insurance funds was that there would be no reduction in pensions that represented 20 percent of total pension incomes.

    [20] Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president on economic policy

    "The resources of the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) are the main tool that our country possesses to support employment and to create opportunities for thousands of people, who found themselves without work. Unfortunately, until today, this valuable weapon remains unused in the framework of a deadlocked economic policy that functions on the logic of easy solutions. Over the past two years, instead of the knife going into the extravagance of the state, it is going into the Public Investments Programme. Instead of resources being utilised to strengthen liquidity in the market, the state is in essence declaring a stoppage of payments towards the private sector."

    This was stressed by Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Costas Mihalos in an event held by the chamber on Tuesday afternoon in cooperation with ELANET concerning the ESPA programme: "National Reserve of Unpredictables."

    Mihalos made the assessment that it is time for both the government and Greece's partners to realise that without growth Greece will not succeed in averting default.

    [21] Greece raises 1.625 bln euro from 6-month T-bill auction

    Greece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a 26-week Treasury bills issue raising 1.625 billion euros from the market.

    The Public Debt Management Organisation, in an announcement, said the interest on the six-month issue dropped slightly to 4.90 pct from 4.96 pct in the previous auction of same T-bills in June 2011.

    Bids submitted totalled 3.495 billion euros, or 2.80 times more than the asked sum of 1.250 billion euros.

    The auction was held through the market's primary dealers with settlement date set Friday, 13 January.

    The organization covered the asked sum of 1.250 billion euros and accepted non-competitive bids totalling 375 million euros.

    [22] Public sector debt to private sector 6.63 bln euros in Nov.

    The public sector's debt to the private sector totaled 6.63 billion euros at the end of November, slightly down compared with 6.7 billion euros a month earlier, the Finance ministry said on Tuesday.

    In an announcement, the ministry said pension funds topped the list of biggest debtors with 2.85 billion euros, followed by state hospitals (1.65 billion), government ministries (965 million euros) and municipalities (940 million euros).

    The National Defense ministry was the biggest debtor among government ministries (269 million euros), followed by the Infrastructure ministry (292 million euros). The Finance ministry said that several general government agencies failed to disclose details of their debts.

    [23] Bussiness Briefs

    -- Selonda Aquaculture on Tuesday announced the sale of its subsidiary Selonda UK Ltd to Anglesey Aquaculture Ltd for free with the precondition that the buyer would take over Selonda UK debt to banks and suppliers.

    -- Societe Generale on Tuesday announced it has significantly raised its participation in Geniki Bank's equity capital to 98.96 pct from 88.44 pct.

    [24] Greek stocks end 1.75 pct down

    Greek stocks remained under pressure for the sixth consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday as the market largely ignored a strong performance by other European markets. The composite index dropped 1.75 pct to end at 625.35 points, with turnover remaining a low 29.418 million euros. A comment by a Fitch Ratings economist that "Greece leaving the euro currency cannot be ruled out", along with negative comments made by UBS over the financial situation in Public Power Corporation dampened sentiment in the market.

    PPC suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day among blue chip stocks (-6.61 pct), followed by Hellenic Petroleum (6.09 pct), Motor Oil (5.36 pct) and Mytilineos (-4.29 pct). On the other hand, Piraeus Bank (0.91 pct), Coca-Cola 3E (0.54 pct) and OPAP (0.16 pct) were top gainers.

    The Food (0.55 pct) and Travel (0.09 pct) sectors scored gains, while Oil (5.84 pct), Utilities (4.89 pct), Personal Products (4.15 pct) and Raw Materials (3.31 pct) ended lower. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 95 to 55 with another 20 issues unchanged. Dias Fish Farms (30 pct), Nakas (29.92 pct) and Newsphone Hellas (24.39 pct) were top gainers, while Motodynamic (29.43 pct), G.E.Demetriou (25.42 pct) and Paperpack Tsoukaridis (20.75 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Industrials: -1.25%

    Commercial: -2.87%

    Construction: -0.15%

    Oil & Gas: -5.84%

    Personal & Household: -4.15%

    Raw Materials: -3.31%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.09%

    Technology: -1.83%

    Telecoms: -1.83%

    Banks: -2.26%

    Food & Beverages: +0.55%

    Health: -0.50%

    Utilities: -4.89%

    Chemicals: -0.30%

    Financial Services: -2.55%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP and PPC.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.42

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.39

    HBC Coca Cola: 12.97

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.71

    National Bank of Greece: 1.31

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.29

    OPAP: 6.25

    OTE: 2.68

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.22

    Titan: 11.35

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 27.16 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 27.38 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 27.03 pct and the German Bund 1.87 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged with the 12-month rate falling to 1.87 pct, the six-month rate easing to 1.54 pct, the three-month rate falling to 1.26 pct and the one-month rate dropping to 0.89 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 8.430 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,211 contracts worth 5.025 million euros, with 16,824 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 24,897 contracts worth 3.405 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (14,293), followed by OTE (228), PPC (1,525), OPAP (393), Piraeus Bank (788), Alpha Bank (4,546), Marfin Popular Bank (459), Mytilineos (145), Cyprus Bank (1,771), Hellenic Petroleum (215), Hellenic Postbank (150) and Motor Oil (155).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.3

    Pound sterling 0.840

    Danish kroner 7.547

    Swedish kroner 8.944

    Japanese yen 99.87

    Swiss franc 1.231

    Norwegian kroner 7.770

    Canadian dollar 1.321

    Australian dollar 1.256


    [28] Church of Greece announces creation of structures to handle poverty

    The Church of Greece on Tuesday announced welfare measures in support of poverty-stricken population groups. The announcement was made after the Holy Synod session on Tuesday, the first in 2012.

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece briefed the hierarchs on the meeting he had on Christmas Eve with prime minister Lucas Papademos. He also referred to the meeting held at Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters, on Dec. 28, 2011 attended by the prime minister, government officials and Metropolitan Bishop Chryssostomos of Patras.

    The Holy Synod announced that measures will be taken aimed at developing social and welfare structures to handle the problem of poverty faced by many people in the country.

    The Holy Synod statement also referred to the imminent meeting between the hierarchs and the prime minister to discuss Church and State issues.

    [29] Snow on Mt. Parnitha, ski resorts open to public

    Snow was falling on Mt. Parnitha surrounding Athens on Tuesday, bringing a sharp drop in temperatures in the Greek capital.

    Snow has been falling in the last days on high ground in several parts of the country, replenishing the ski resorts which are now open to the public.

    Currently open to the public are the ski resorts at Mt Parnassos, Karpenissi and Pelio (central Greece), Kalavryta (Peloponnese), Seli, 3-5 Pigadia, Pisoderi and Vassilitsa (north-western Greece) and Metsovo, as well as several smaller ski centers scattered around the country.

    All the ski resorts throughout Greece now have ample snow for skiing, but several are currently closed to the public for precautionary reasons due to ongoing heavy snowfall and strong winds

    [30] Burglars make off with valuables worth 50,000 euros from jewelry shop

    Unknown individuals broke into a jewelry shop in Hania, on the island of Crete, early Tuesday and took jewelry, watches and other valuables.

    The burglars used a crowbar to break the safety bars, smashed the window and grabbed valuables worth approximately 50,000 euros.

    Police are investigating the case.

    [31] Brief takeover of radio station by anarchists; 20 arrested

    A group of some 30 self-styled anarchists staged a brief takeover of private FLASH radio station just before noon on Tuesday.

    The group stormed into the studio and disrupted the programme on air at the time, read out a statement of support for the Revolutionary Struggle terrorist group broadcast on air, and an extensive economic analysis of the crisis in Greece.

    They then exited the studio, but remained on the radio station premises because police had gathered outside, while the scheduled programme resumed broadcasting.

    The take-over finally ended just before 3:00 p.m. when police moved in and arrested 20 people.

    The anarchists repeatedly demanded that police depart so that they could leave the radio station but authorities refused. Following negotiations with police, they finally exited the radio station and were arrested in the presence of a public prosecutor and led to police headquarters.

    They are to be charged with "praising criminal acts", "provoking unrest" and related offences and will be led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday.

    [32] Man caught carrying four kilos heroin

    Drug squad officers on Tuesday arrested a 26-year-old Albanian national, who was caught transporting nearly four kilos of heroin from Hania to Iraklio on the island of Crete in a suitcase.

    The 26-year-old had boarded an inter-city bus and got off in the region of Talos where drug squad officers were waiting for him, acting on a tip-off. In his luggage they found 3,855 grammes of heroin, one of the largest quantities ever confiscated on the island.

    The suspect refused to give police the code to unlock the suitcase and his mobile phone, claiming that they were not his, and refused all cooperation with the authorities. He has no previous criminal record but police are convinced that he is an important link in the drug-trafficking network on Crete.

    The estimate street price of the heroin confiscated is nearly 100,000 euro.

    [33] Arrest for illegal possession of icons

    A 61-year-old man was arrested in Aetoloakarnania prefecture on Tuesday for illegal possession of two icons dating to the 17th and 19th century respectively.

    Police, acting on a tip-off, flagged down a truck driven by the suspect on the 4th kilometer of the Astakos-Mytikas stretch of national highway, and a search of the vehicle turned up the two large-size icons hidden beneath various farming materials.

    The icons, which were seized by police, portrayed "Abraham's hospitality", dating to the 17th-18th century, and the "Road to Emmaus", dating to the 19th-20th century.

    A subsequent search of the suspect's home and antique shop in Karpenisi turned up an old Gospel, a pistol, and two old-style hunting rifles.

    [34] Three foreign nationals arrested for break-ins in southern Greece

    Police arrested three Georgian nationals, aged 27, 32 and 36, accused of grand larceny after it was established that they had committed 6 thefts and break-ins targeting private houses, authorities in the prefecture of Arcadia, southern Greece, announced on Tuesday.

    Two of the suspects, a 32-year-old with a fake residence permit and a 27-year-old, resisted arrest but were finally apprehended and placed in custody.

    The third individual was arrested shortly afterwards.

    During questioning they confessed that they had broken into two private homes in the city of Tripolis on Monday morning and had made off with jewelry and cash. They also confessed to other four break-ins in the region.

    [35] Two migrant trafficking rings dismantled

    The Attica Aliens Department on Tuesday announced that it had successfully uncovered two Pakistani migrant-trafficking rings that had raked in vast profits by transporting illegal migrants from Greece to other EU countries.

    In raids on Monday, authorities arrested three Pakistani nationals aged 29, 27 and 22 years old, respectively, in the Athens district of Sepolia. A fourth member of the criminal gang is being sought. Acting on a tip-off, arresting officers first arrested the 29-year-old, who acted as the gang's bursar and took the money from the migrants. The other two gang members, responsible for guarding the money collected by the gang bursar, were found at his home during the raid and arrested.

    Police estimate that the gang made more than 400,000 euro by transporting migrants to various EU countries in the last two years.

    In the apartment, they found and confiscated the sum of 13,530 euro, 21 notebooks containing the names of large numbers of foreign nationals, 13 credit cards, two bank books, three mobile phones and a personal computer.

    Also confiscated were several hand-written notes with records of sums from illegal transactions.

    In a separate operation in central Athens on Monday night, police arrested a 39-year-old Pakistani active in a second migrant-trafficking ring that also transported migrants to other EU countries, in addition to exploiting and deceiving foreign nationals in order to get their savings.

    The second group charged each prospective 'client' between 2,000 and 3,000 euro, obtaining the sum of 200,000 euro in total.

    Using venues such as mobile phone service shops, the gang collected money entrusted to them by migrants in order to deposit in a bank or send back to their country. When the unlucky migrants realised that they had been tricked, they would go back to demand their money and find the shops closed.

    Another three Pakistani nationals are being sought in connection with the actions of this group, while the ones in custody will be led before a public prosecutor on Tuesday.

    [36] Human trafficking ring busted; five foreign nationals arrested

    A human trafficking ring set up by Pakistani nationals was busted in Nea Kios, Argolida prefecture in southern Greece, police announced on Tuesday.

    Acting on a tip-off, Argos Police raided the suspects' house and found a 17-year-old Romanian girl locked in a room against her will.

    According to police, two of the suspects, aged 28 and 29, drove the girl to their house in Nea Kios where they sexually abused her and forced her into prostitution.

    Five Pakistanis, aged between 21 and 29, were arrested in relation to the case and charged with abduction and trafficking in humans while two of them are accused of forming a criminal organization.

    [37] Museum, archaeological site visitors, revenues, post rise in September

    The number of visitors to Greek museums rose by 6.5 percent on average in September 2011, with the exception of the Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, which posted declines of 5.7 and 15.6 percent respectively, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Tuesday.

    ELSTAT, in a report, also said that museum revenues declined in the same month by 1.3 percent.

    In the nine-month period January-September, museum visitors declined by 2.3 percent and revenues by 3.8 percent.

    Conversely, visitors to archaeological sites in September rose by 21.3 percent and revenues by 2.6 percent. In the nine-month period, visitors to archaeological sites rose by 16.8 percent and revenues by 7.9 percent.

    [38] Special discount prices for 'crisis-tested' at Athens Concert Hall

    As of January 1, Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) has extended an "open invitation to culture" addressed to all those "tested by the economic crisis".

    Athens Concert Hall announced special discount tickets and special offers for young people under the age of 25, the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and families with many children, stressing that "no one should be excluded from the right to enjoy culture."

    Ticket prices will be between 5 and 10 euros for young people under the age of 25, the unemployed and the disabled, while for the elderly over the age of 65 and for families with many children ticket prices will be between 8 and 15 euros for all Megaron productions, except from the opera.

    [39] Minor accident shuts down Iraklio airport for two hours

    The 'Nikos Kazantzakis' airport at the city of Iraklio on Crete was shut down for approximately two hours on Tuesday after a minor accident involving a Learjet plane that blocked the runway.

    The Learjet, with six people on board, was coming in to land for refuelling when the tyre on its rear left landing wheel blew out and remained on the runway until 5:00 p.m.

    The plane was transporting a patient from Frankfurt to Khartoum.

    Weather forecast

    [40] Cloudy on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -3C and 12C. Cloudy with rainfall or sleet in Athens, with northerly 4-8 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 4C to 8C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 7C.

    [41] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel's and French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recommendation to Greece to fulfill its commitments in order to continue to receive loans, and deliberations between government and employees' federations on changes in labour relations, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Next loan tranche in danger...!".

    AVGHI: "The colpo grosso with the PSI".

    AVRIANI: "Merkel's blackmailing ultimatum brings general elections in February".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Mockery with the salaries in the private sector".

    ESTIA: "The danger of bankruptcy".

    ETHNOS: "Hirings of 26,000 unemployed a breather".

    IMERISSIA: "Last chance".

    KATHIMERINI: "Merkel: Measures first, then tranche".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "German-French pressure over the new package of economic support".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Greece must follow the lead of the struggle of striking 'Hellenic Steel Industry' workers".

    TA NEA: "Ultimatums and bargaining...".

    VRADYNI: "Loans: How you will beat the banks in court".

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