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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-01-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 27 January 2012 Issue No: 3982


  • [01] PM Papademos chairs meeting on government's economic programme
  • [02] PM Papademos and FinMin Venizelos hold meeting with IIF chief
  • [03] Discussion requested by Tsipras on PSI to be held in Parliament on February 10
  • [04] Putin receives Samaras in Moscow
  • [05] ND leader visits Moscow Patriarch during Russia visit
  • [06] No Foreign ministry expenditure in participation of FM in visit to Russia by ND party leader
  • [07] Labour minister to meet with troika on Friday
  • [08] 'No government reshuffle pending, ' gov't spokesman
  • [09] Papandreou planning series of meeting party officials, minister
  • [10] No special Greece summit planned, EU sources say
  • [11] Merkel: no discussion on Greece at next EU summit
  • [12] Greece lodges demarche with fYRoM over latest 'antiquisation' provocation
  • [13] Minister: Public sector to be considerably reduced by 2015
  • [14] Speeding up the application of justice common target for Greece, France
  • [15] Reps of foreign diplomatic missions visit western Greece
  • [16] European Ombudsman to chair seminar in Istanbul
  • [17] Gov't: Taxi sector deregulation law unveiled in early Feb.
  • [18] Greece signs cooperation agreement on the use of RES
  • [19] Greece, Cyprus ministers discuss energy sector issues
  • [20] Greece-Israel cooperation in research, innovation highlighted
  • [21] EU Commission asks Greece to amend laws on importing pharmaceuticals
  • [22] No shortage of gas supplies, DEPA stresses
  • [23] Business Briefs
  • [24] Stocks end 3.93 pct higher
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [28] 'Byzantium - Masterpieces from Greek Collections' traveling exhibition
  • [29] Orphan baby bears returned to wildlife
  • [30] Businessman Lakis Gavalas arrested for debts owed to the state
  • [31] Former Irakis soccer club officials arrested for VAT debts exceeding one million euro
  • [32] Strong earthquake jolts Santorini and Crete
  • [33] Athens Bar Association objects to broader notarial services
  • [34] International Grand Prix Maria Kalas will not be held this year
  • [35] Child pornography arrest
  • [36] Two arrested for selling illegal phone-tapping equipment
  • [37] Rainy on Friday
  • [38] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Papademos chairs meeting on government's economic programme

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos chaired a government meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday, focusing on the government's economic programme and, according to reports, the prime minister presented to ministers a text of general principles in light of the crucial negotiations being carried out by the government.

    According to the same reports, the ascertainment made many times was reiterated at the meting that the PSI and the new loan contract are interrelated, "everything is interrelated", as it was said characteristically, while a troika's report is also expected on the viability of the Greek debt based on the "completion" terms of the PSI.

    If it is assessed in this report, in which other indicators are also jointly assessed, such as the economy's growth rate, that the Greek debt is not viable, then the PSI will change, after it is pointed out first which points must be amended.

    It is also noted that if the European Central Bank "enters" the PSI, the final agreement will take on different characteristics, while on the other hand there are various assessments by analysts as well as institutional officials that if this does not take place, there may be a "funding vacuum", in which case the question also arises "who shall cover it."

    The same sources added that the guidelines were placed on the meeting's table of the upcoming tough negotiating with the troika, on the 10-page note that was prepared by its representatives and in particular all the aspects of the labour and salary issue, as well as the way of covering deviations of the 2011 budget amounting to 2 billion euros.

    Papademos, according to the same government sources, pointed out to the ministers the great pressure of time that exists for the negotiating on the new loan contract to be concluded and that the funding of the Greek economy is at stake.

    It was also revealed that this note containing the demands of the creditors for the country's funding has been given to the party leaders and the ministers involved. It was also stressed that the negotiation must have been agreed by February 13.

    Also examined in the meeting chaired by the prime minister were the requirements set by the troika, such as labour issues, auxiliary pensions, organisms' mergers, various institutional issues (such as issues concerning justice), taxation issues, issues regarding the awardings and procurements of public projects and other institutional issues, such as various decisions that have been submitted to the ministerial council and are not yet state laws.

    According to the same reports, signatures will be needed on the part of political party leaderships, however it has not been clarified at which stage of the discussions such a thing will be required and, lastly, the possibility of a meeting of party leaders with the prime minister on Saturday remains open.

    [02] PM Papademos and FinMin Venizelos hold meeting with IIF chief

    Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos held a meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday evening with Institute of International Finance (IIF) chief Charles Dallara for talks over a voluntary PSI to reduce Greece's debt. According to governmengt sources, the discussion between the two sides will be continued on Friday at legal and technical level.

    [03] Discussion requested by Tsipras on PSI to be held in Parliament on February 10

    The off-the-agenda discussion requested by the head of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras, regarding the PSI and the new loan contract, has been set to take place in Parliament on February 10.

    [04] Putin receives Samaras in Moscow

    MOSCOW (AMNA - Th. Avgerinos)

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin received New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras here on Thursday, with talks reportedly focusing on overcoming whatever stagnation in Greek-Russian relations and prospects for boosting bilateral cooperation.

    "My meeting with the prime minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, took place in a very good climate and was exhaustive on all issues," Samaras told reporters afterwards.

    "I outlined the situation to Mr. Putin, as is being shaped in Greece today and the prospects that exist. He showed particular interest and a mood to assist our country. We also spoke of the problems in Greek-Russian relations and we examined ways to overcome them. We agreed to remain in contact. Greece needs all its friends today and Russia can prove to be a valuable friend," Samaras added.

    According to Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Russian prime minister met with Samaras in the former's capacity as the leader of the ruling United Russia party, a "brother" party with New Democracy -- an announcement apparently referring to a deviation from strict Russian government protocol.

    During the meeting, the spokesman said, the current situation was discussed, as well as prospects for the greater development of bilateral relations, with emphasis on economic cooperation even in diverse sectors, while the two leaders also exchanged views, in detail, regarding the crisis in the eurozone.

    According to reports, Putin expressed a strong interest in developments in Greece and their economic dimension, as well as in relations between Greece and Russia over the past period.

    Talks also touched on energy cooperation and Russian interest in privatisation tenders, particularly in major infrastructures projects, such as ports, airports and possibly railways.

    Putin placed particular emphasis on the issue of the construction of the southern portion of the South Stream natgas pipeline, whose construction is being accelerated and will start before the end of 2012, instead of the spring of 2013. Putin reiterated, according to the same reports, that Moscow desires that all serious decisions (quantities, pipeline course) to have been taken by the project's partner countries, such as Greece, by that time. The issue was also discussed earlier in the day between Samaras and the president of Gazprom's board, Alexei Miller.

    One Gazprom proposal apparently cited the construction of a power production unit in Greece, whose surplus electric power will be exported to Italy.

    During the Putin-Samaras meeting, in which the deputy director of the Russian prime minister's office Yuri Ushakov also participated, the bedeviled Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project was discussed. The latter project is now frozen due to a negative stance by the current Bulgarian government, although Russian interest remains, reports stated.

    The Greek side reportedly raised the issue of easier access of Greek farm products into the Russian market, a growing market for Greek exports, as well as overcoming the obstacles faced by Russian tourists in seeking holiday visas.

    [05] ND leader visits Moscow Patriarch during Russia visit

    MOSCOW (AMNA - Th. Avgerinos)

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, currently on a visit to Russia, on Thursday called on Moscow Patriarch Kirill and thanked him for his decision to assist in the charitable and humanitarian work being organised by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos and the Church of Greece for the poor and those stricken by the economic crisis in Greece.

    The Patriarch said that he was regularly briefed on the Greek Church's effort to distribute hot food to those in need and blessed the "collection of financial resources in all churches of the Russian Orthodox Church, hoping that this symbolic - and not only - gesture will help some people at this difficult time".

    He noted that coordination of Russian charitable organisations with their Church of Greece equivalents had begun so that the Russian Church might participate in "this good deed, the provision of help to those that are in need in Greece".

    The Patriarch also referred to the very good relations between the Greek and Russian Churches and particularly emphasised the huge response among Russians to the holy relics that had come from Greece, such as those of St. Demetrius or the Belt of the Virgin Mary from Mount Athos that brought crowds flocking to venerate the relic in Moscow.

    On his part, Samaras stressed the importance of the Orthodox faith in uplifting people spiritually during this difficult time, so that they might weather the crisis more easily and smoothly.

    [06] No Foreign ministry expenditure in participation of FM in visit to Russia by ND party leader

    Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras termed as false reports on the payment of the expenditures by the Foreign ministry for the participation of Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas in the visit to Russia by New Democracy party president Antonis Samaras.

    "Mr. Dimas is participating in the visit in the capacity of Vice President of New Democracy and there has been no expenditure by the Foreign ministry for this participation," the Foreign ministry spokesman said.

    Meeting at labour ministry notes party agreement on wage issues; sees agreement by social partners within coming week

    In a meeting at the labour ministry on Thursday, the three political parties supporting the government of Lucas Papademos noted a convergence in their positions concerning wage and competitiveness issues and predicted that employers and trade unions would reach agreement on these by the middle of the coming week.

    The meeting was held between Labour and Social Insurance Minister George Koutroumanis, from the PASOK party, main opposition New Democracy's sector head for labour issues Nikos Nikolopoulos and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party representative Kostas Kiltidis. The minister briefed the party representatives on the ministry's agenda during negotiations with representatives of Greece's creditors concerning both labour issues and on supplementary pensions.

    The parties found that they had broadly similar positions concerning the need to preserve a minimum wage and to leave the 13th and 14th salaries in the private sector intact, on the need to reduce labour costs that were not related to take-home wages and general matters linked to wages and labour relations.

    Substantial differences between the parties remained on the issue of supplementary pensions, with talks due to continue until late on Thursday within a technical committee set up by the three parties in order to find mutually acceptable solutions that would reduce the cost of supplementary social insurance - a condition set by Greece's creditors for the signature of a new lending agreement.

    "The fact that there is initial agreement between the parties in relation to labour issues is a very fundamental point in the negotiations with the troika, more so than the fact that the parties do not want to participate in the talks, even though I asked for this," Koutroumanis said after the end of the meeting.

    The minister admitted that there were issues raised by Greece's creditors that were not on the agenda of talks underway between employers and trade unions, or social partners, noting that there would have to be a discussion regarding these.

    Once dialogue between the social partners was complete, "we will be in a position to see if further steps are needed or not," he added.

    On the issue of supplementary pensions, the minister expressed hope that there will be an agreement soon and noted that the representatives of the two parties had promised to send alternative proposals later on Thursday night.

    ND's Nikopoulos blamed the hold-up concerning supplementary pensions on the ministry's failure to order a feasibility study concerning the cost of unifying the supplementary pension funds or to provide figures concerning the funds' finances, as promised during a meeting on January 5.

    He called for short-term solutions to ease financing of the funds before the minister carried out the third consecutive cut in pensions, followed by medium-term policies based on proper studies and dialogue.

    [07] Labour minister to meet with troika on Friday

    Labour and Social Security Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis will have a meeting on Friday with the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund).

    According to sources the minister will ask for extension of the deadline in order for the social partners to decide on the basic issues.

    [08] 'No government reshuffle pending, ' gov't spokesman

    The government spokesman on Thursday responded to growing press speculation over a possible reshuffle, saying that this option "is not on the table at the moment. The top priority is an agreement on the PSI."

    Speaking to an Athens-based private radio station, Pantelis Kapsis repeated that he will not comment on statements by politicians, when asked if there will be "consequences" for Development Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis. The latter recently announced that he did not read the first Memorandum before approving it as a Cabinet member.

    "Mr. Chryssohoidis made a very loud statement, and I am certain that he did that fully aware of the possible con-sequences. He is fully responsible for his comments."

    The government spokesman expressed a view that Chrysso-hoidis is not keeping distances from the Memorandum.

    [09] Papandreou planning series of meeting party officials, minister

    Following his return from a Socialist International meeting in Puerto Rico, PASOK party president George Papandreou will hold a succession of meetings with party officials and ministers on Friday.

    Among the scheduled meetings are that with Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos, PASOK Parliamentary group secretary Vassilis Exarhos and Parliamentary spokesmen Petros Efthymiou and Christos Protopappas.

    It is surmised that these meetings will focus mainly on the fragmented image presented by PASOK during the vote on the finance ministry omnibus bill on Tuesday, where several articles were voted down.

    Papandreou is expected to demand that the Parliamentary group's cohesion should not be cast into doubt and, especially, that the government's work is not jeopardised.

    PASOK's president will later chair a meeting on the progress of PSI talks and the new loan agreement for Greece, in which government vice-president and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos is expected to participate.

    According to sources, meanwhile, Papandreou is very annoyed by recent statements made by development minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis and the minister's stance, which PASOK press spokesman Panos Beglitis described as "offensive" and a "major political issue" that needed to be immediately resolved and would be resolved by Papandreou.

    [10] No special Greece summit planned, EU sources say

    BRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)

    There are no plans to convene a special Eurozone summit to discuss Greece after next Monday's European Council meeting, sources in Brussels said on Thursday.

    According to the Community sources, holding such a meeting would have "no specific added value" at the present time. At the same time, they noted that discussions concerning Greece would inevitably take place on the sidelines of Monday's EU summit and, if there were a positive outcome in talks for a PSI voluntary bond swap, the EU leaders' would express their satisfaction at the development.

    They also expressed hope that PSI talks between the Greek government and the country's private creditors will soon be completed, as well as talks between Athens and an EU-IMF troika delegation concerning the fiscal adjustment programme and a new lending agreement.

    [11] Merkel: no discussion on Greece at next EU summit

    BERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)

    The issue of Greece will not be discussed at the European Council next Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday following her meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Her statement essentially confirms that the EU-IMF troika's report on Greece is not expected to be ready in time for the European leaders' meeting.

    [12] Greece lodges demarche with fYRoM over latest 'antiquisation' provocation

    The Greek foreign ministry on Thursday lodged a demarche with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), pointing to a controversial new neo-classical style arch in the central square of Skopje adorned with what Athens charges are irredentist depictions.

    Additionally, the arch features a reproduction of the 16-ray Vergina Sun -- alternately known as the Star of Vergina -- the same Hellenic symbol that the one-time Yugoslav province unceremoniously removed from the neophyte state's flag in 1995.

    Referring to the alleged irredentist scenes and the appearance of the Vergina Sun, Athens pointed to a violation of the September 1995 Interim Agreement, and specifically to the principle of good neighbourly relations.

    Amb. Alexandra Papadopoulou, the head of Greece's liaison office in Skopje, in fact cited what she called a series of recent actions aimed at no less than historical falsification, a policy targeting Greece and other neighbouring countries, a statement read.

    "Greece has repeatedly underlined that such actions, apart from violating the Interim Accord and the principle of good neighbourly relations - an essential precondition for the neighbouring country's European perspective - are also dangerous and constitute a threat to the stability of the Balkan region, which has, already in the past, suffered in the name of nationalism."

    Finally, the Greek foreign ministry called on the Skopje government to undertake corrective measures to rectify the aforementioned actions.

    [13] Minister: Public sector to be considerably reduced by 2015

    Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday appeared optimistic that a goal set to have the number of civil servants reduced by 150,000 in 2015 will be met, stressing that the labour reserve measure is not an option anymore.

    In an interview with an Athens-based magazine, Reppas pointed out that the public sector's operating cost has been considerably reduced in the past two years estimated to more than 2 billion euros. As regards the wage cost, public sector employees have witnessed wage cuts in three phases, the most recent one within the framework of the unified salary scale that leads to savings of up to 1.5 billion euros annually, he stressed.

    Reppas stated that the goal set to reduce the number of public sector employees by 150,000 in 2015 will be achieved through the implementation of the retirement to hiring ratio, adding that the main axis of the policy followed is the evaluation of employees and services ensuring better distribution of human resources in public administration.

    "A modern state can be created through the restructuring of organizations via mergers or abolitions," he said.

    As regards the labour reserve measure, Reppas commented that such across-the-board measures lead to dysfunctions, adding that at the same time a message was sent that the public sector is not a taboo.

    [14] Speeding up the application of justice common target for Greece, France

    Speeding up the application of justice was the main topic of cooperation in Paris between Greek Council of State president Panayiotis Pikramennos with his French counterpart, President of the Conseil d'Etat Jean-Marc Sauve.

    Pikramennos, accompanied by Greece's ambassador in France, Constantine Halastanis, met at the Palais Royal, where the French Supreme Annuling Court is housed, with Sauve and another six French judges.

    The aim of the meeting between the two presidents was the exchange of views on issues concerning the organising and functioning of justice, while particular emphasis was placed on the issue of the speedy application of justice, that is something required in the two countries' judicial systems and activities.

    Pikrammenos presented to the French officials the structure and organisation of the Greek Council of State and thanked his French counterpart for his proposal to offer know-how to Greek judges.

    [15] Reps of foreign diplomatic missions visit western Greece

    A delegation of 32 ambassadors, commercial and economic attaches serving in Athens launched a three-day visit to western Greece on Thursday by meeting with local entrepreneurs and production sector representatives in the western port city.

    Addressing the foreign envoys, Invest in Greece president Aris Syggros referred to the legal framework regulating foreign investments in Greece and to the role of western Greece as the gateway that links Europe with Greece and southeast Mediterranean.

    Deputy Defence Minister Costas Spiliopoulos referred to the unique characteristics of western Greece.

    [16] European Ombudsman to chair seminar in Istanbul

    ISTANBUL (AMNA - A. Kourkoulas)

    European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros will be chairing a seminar taking place in Istanbul on Friday to discuss the experiences of European Union countries and plans to establish the institution of an ombudsman in Turkey.

    The meeting with be attended by Turkish government and judicial officials and the ombudsmen of EU countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Greece.

    While in Istanbul, Diamantouros also paid a visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Fanar on Thursday.

    Financial News

    [17] Gov't: Taxi sector deregulation law unveiled in early Feb.

    Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Makis Voridis on Thursday told reporters that a draft law on the deregulation of the taxi sector will be sent to Parliament for approval in early February, following a new round of contacts with the political parties and trade unions.

    He also clarified that the "right combinations" will be achieved through dialogue, in case objections are raised on behalf of the 'troika' (EC-ECB-IMF) representatives.

    A crucial meeting will take place on Friday between the minister and troika representatives within the framework of their contacts with government ministry leaderships to determine whether the reforms included in the loan agreement are being implemented.

    Voridis stated earlier on Thursday that the draft law has already been presented to the troika representatives, but it will be discussed again with another delegation currently visiting Athens. He added that common ground will have to be found, clarifying that the deregulation of the specific profession will have to take place based on specific rules.

    [18] Greece signs cooperation agreement on the use of RES

    A cooperation agreement in support of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) was signed on Thursday between Greece, Germany, Spain and Slovenia, within the framework of the International Feed-In Cooperation two-day meeting.

    Through this agreement Greece becomes formally a member of the international initiative aimed at promoting the use of clean energy sources.

    The declaration was signed by Environment Minister George Papaconstantinou who underlined that an effort is being made focusing on the promotion of investments that contribute to the country's economic and environmental recovery.

    Papaconstantinou stressed that the success of the initiatives already undertaken is reflected by the RES produced energy that corresponds to roughly 2.4 GW up 28 pct in the first nine months of 2011.

    The International Feed-In Cooperation is a joint project between Germany, Spain, Slovenia and now Greece. The four countries are convinced that feed-in tariffs are most suitable to effectively and efficiently promote renewable energies for the generation of electricity.

    A feed-in tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies. This is achieved by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers, typically based on the cost of generation of each technology. For instance, technologies, such as wind power, are awarded a lower per-kWh price, while solar PV and tidal power are offered a higher price, reflecting higher costs.

    [19] Greece, Cyprus ministers discuss energy sector issues

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos/CNA)

    Cyprus Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Praxoula Antoniadou held a meeting here on Thursday with Greek Deputy Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yiannis Maniatis on the occasion of his visit to Cyprus at the invitation of the Institute of Energy for Southeastern Europe (IENE).

    Speaking to the media after the meeting which was held at the Ministry of commerce, Maniatis noted that the energy sector and particularly the exploitation of hydrocarbons offer the opportunity to develop a new strategic cooperation between Greece and Cyprus.

    He said the discovery of hydrocarbons creates new prospects for both countries adding that it is essential to take advantage of natural gas opportunities.

    He also said that this is an historic opportunity to overcome many of the problems of the past.

    Maniatis said that groups of experts on the natural gas issue of Cyprus and Greece could exchange expertise and exchange views "to help us in achieving our common purpose which is to upgrade the role of both countries in Europe's energy security.''

    On her part Antoniadou said that they had briefed each other on the course and planning of the two countries regarding issues of exploitation of each country's natural wealth.

    She said that they both expressed the need to exchange knowledge and experiences on these issues more systematically, adding that ''we had an interesting and productive discussion.''

    The Cypriot minister of commerce noted that the hydrocarbon sector "is an area of particular importance for the entire Eastern Mediterranean region and offers the prospect to the countries of the region to become a new source of energy, particularly for the EU, enhancing Europe's energy security''.

    During his stay in Cyprus, Maniatis addressed the 1st Energy Symposium on Cyprus' energy sources and the new facts in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Maniatis will be departing for Athens on Friday.

    In December 2011 Cyprus President Demetris Cristofias announced that the results of the exploratory drilling in Cyprus' block 12 are positive, describing the discovery of hydrocarbons as historic for the island.

    Noble Energy, which did the drilling, discovered 310 feet of net natural gas pay. The drilling reached a depth of 19,225 feet in water depth of about 5,540 feet.

    The initial data that emerged from the exploratory drilling and the evaluation checks carried out indicate the existence of a natural gas reservoir ranging from 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) with a gross mean of 7 tcf.

    Cyprus has signed an agreement to delineate the Exclusive Economic Zone with Egypt and Israel with a view to exploit any possible natural gas and oil reserves in its EEZ. A similar agreement has been signed with Lebanon but the Lebanese Parliament has not yet ratified it.

    [20] Greece-Israel cooperation in research, innovation highlighted

    Bilateral cooperation with countries that enjoy high indexes in research and innovation, like Israel, is a goal of strategic importance for Greece, research and technology general secretary Konstantinos Kokkinopolitis stressed on Thursday.

    Addressing a conference on Greece-Cyprus-Israel cooperation, hosted by the Panteion School, he referred to a recent visit to Israel, accompanying the Greek education minister, during which a bilateral cooperation agreement on research, technological development and innovation was activated.

    [21] EU Commission asks Greece to amend laws on importing pharmaceuticals

    BRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)

    The European Commission on Thursday issued a reasoned opinion asking Greece to amend legislation concerning the pricing of similar imported pharmaceuticals. The Commission found that existing rules in Greece prevent the trade of parallel imported pharmaceuticals and thus violate EU rules on free movement of goods.

    Specifically, the Commission considered that national authorities were not justified in asking each importer to provide the details of a pharmaceutical product anew when these were already at their disposal, including information concerning its pricing.

    The Commission has given Greek authorities two months in order to brief the Commission concerning the corrective measures that will be taken to harmonise Greek laws with those of the EU.

    [22] No shortage of gas supplies, DEPA stresses

    There are no shortages or problems in supplying consumers with natural gas, Greece's Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) emphasised in an announcement on Thursday.

    Despite the record high demand caused by recent low temperatures and the decrease in imports from Turkey's BOTAS, which cut off the supply completely on January 18, demand has been covered by increasing the amounts delivered via the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline and from the Liquefied Natural Gas station at Revythousa, DEPA said.

    Specifically, the daily supply of Russian gas was increased above the maximum provided in the contract until January 31 based on an agreement with Russian Gazprom. The company also came to an agreement with Algeria's Sonatrach to speed up delivery of a planned order of LNG to Revythousa, bringing it forward to January 25, as well as securing two additional loads of LNG to be delivered on January 22 and January 24.

    [23] Business Briefs

    -- Container traffic grew significantly last year at the two piers operated by the Piraeus Port Authority and a subsidiary of Chinese multinational Cosco, despite an ongoing international economic crisis.

    -- Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) on Thursday successfully completed the sale of its 20 pct equity stake in Telecom Serbia, raising around 400 million euros from the transaction.

    -- Greece's Capital Markets Commission on Thursday extended for another six-months a ban on short selling activity at the Athens Stock Exchange.

    [24] Stocks end 3.93 pct higher

    Stocks continued moving higher on Thursday, led by banks as investors discounted that talks over a PSI programme would be completed with more favourable terms for Greece.

    The composite index of the market ended at 766.23 points, with a gain of 3.93 pct, off the day's highs. The index is up 22.53 pct compared with its closing in January 10, while the bank index is up 80.20 pct over the same period. Turnover surpassed the 100 million euros level for the first time in several weeks, totaling 118.354 million euros.

    Piraeus Bank (29.94 pct), Eurobank (28.81 pct), Alpha Bank (28.41 pct), Hellenic Postbank (22.40 pct) and National Bank (18.14 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Viohalco (2.75 pct), Coca-Cola 3E (2.68 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (0.65 pct) were top losers.

    The Big Cap index soared 6.64 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 4.82 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.96 pct. Banks (18.94 pct), Financial Services (7.80 pct) and Raw Materials (4.48 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (6.20 pct) and Food (2.56 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 118 to 48 with another 20 issues unchanged. Piraeus Bank (29.94 pct), Eurobank (28.81 pct) and Pasal (28.75 pct) were top gainers, while Zampa (18.42 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (16.67 pct) and Douros (16 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +2.32%

    Commercial: +1.41%

    Construction: +1.74%

    Media: -6.20%

    Oil & Gas: +0.72%

    Personal & Household: +0.84%

    Raw Materials: +4.48%

    Travel & Leisure: +3.99%

    Technology: +2.08%

    Telecoms: Unchanged

    Banks: +18.94%

    Food & Beverages: -2.56%

    Health: +3.92%

    Utilities: +3.88%

    Chemicals: +1.88%

    Financial Services: +7.80%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Cyprus and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 1.13

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.78

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.50

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.07

    National Bank of Greece: 2.41

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.76

    OPAP: 7.68

    OTE: 3.08

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.45

    Titan: 13.05

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 26.22 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 25.79 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 28.12 pct and the German Bund 1.90 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.77 pct, the six-month 1.44 pct, the three-month rate 1.14 pct and the one-month rate 0.75 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 Thursday, with turnover rising signifantly to 43.048 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,676 contracts worth 22.373 million euros, with 24,638 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 116,435 contracts worth 20.675 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (57,983), followed by Cyprus Bank (12,909), MIG (2,285), OTE (2,709), PPC (1,891), OPAP (1,074), Piraeus Bank (4,568), Alpha Bank (26,436), Marfin Popular Bank (1,639) Mytilineos (1,510), Ebank (697), GEK (51and Ellaktor (527).

    [27] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.334

    Pound sterling 0.850

    Danish kroner 7.545

    Swedish kroner 9.010

    Japanese yen 103.51

    Swiss franc 1.225

    Norwegian kroner 7.761

    Canadian dollar 1.336

    Australian dollar 1.251

    General News

    [28] 'Byzantium - Masterpieces from Greek Collections' traveling exhibition

    An exhibition tentatively titled "Byzantium - Masterpieces from Greek Collections" will travel to the US in the autumn of 2013, containing some 300 masterpieces from Greek museums, public and private collections and monasteries, as well as finds from recent excavations, to be shown first at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, followed by the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California.

    The exhibition, which will run through spring 2014, aims to familiarise the American public with the Hellenic civilization throughout the Byzantine era, and thus will cover all periods of Byzantine history, from 330 AD to 1453 AD.

    Greece's Central Archaeology Council (KAS) on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for the organisation of the traveling archaeological exhibition, to be organised by the culture and tourism ministry's general directorate for Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, in collaboration with the Benaki Museum.

    The exhibition will comprise five unities, tentatively titled "From the Ancient to the Byzantine World", "The Christian World", "The Intellectuals", "The Joys of Life" and "Byzantium at a Crossroads".

    The exhibition is budgeted at 3.2 million euros, of which 2.5 million are in insurance premiums.

    This event will be enhanced by a second, equally significant, exhibition being prepared in tandem by the ministry in collaboration with National Geographic magazine, which will pertain to the Ancient Greeks throughout the ages, from pre-historic times to the beginning of the Hellenistic Period.

    The aim is for the second exhibition to coincide with the Masterpieces exhibition.

    [29] Orphan baby bears returned to wildlife

    Two orphan baby bears that were rescued nine months ago by the Arcturos non-governmental conservation organisation of the Brown Bear, were returned to their natural environment and when they wake up from winter hibernation they will be free to adapt in the wildlife.

    The two baby bears were found in mountainous areas of Argos Orestikon and Trikala, northwestern Greece, frightened and in bad shape. Today they weigh 50 kilos and have learned how to climb trees and search for food, avoid humans and live as wild animals.

    Arcturos had implemented a new adaptation programme which includes a special diet and the exclusion of human presence in order to safeguard the bears' smooth re-adaptation to wildlife.

    Little John and Nikitas were transferred and were settled into their new home, after being medicated. However, they will be closely watched, via satellite, from the transmitter-collars they wear.

    [30] Businessman Lakis Gavalas arrested for debts owed to the state

    Businessman Lakis Gavalas was arrested on Thursday for the second time for debts owed to the state that exceed 7.5 million euros. He was arrested in Athens at noon and is expected to be brought before a prosecutor on Friday.

    The businessman had also been arrested on December 3, 2011 by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) for debts amounting to about 1.5 million euros, but that concerned a different company.

    The exact amount of debts, for which he is being accused this time, amounts to 7,597,233.96 euros.

    [31] Former Irakis soccer club officials arrested for VAT debts exceeding one million euro

    Greek police on Thursday announced the arrests of the former president and deputy president of the Thessaloniki-based Greek soccer club Iraklis, Yiannis Takis and Dimitris Dimitriou, respectively, for outstanding VAT payments exceeding one million euro.

    The two men are accused of failing to pay 1,048,382.59 million euro in VAT that the club owed for the period between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011.

    They were arrested on Thursday morning by Thessaloniki Security police and are due to be led before a misdemeanours court prosecutor to face criminal-level charges.

    Takis, 48, and Dimitriou, 40, were appointed to the club's board by a Thessaloniki first-instance court at the recommendation of the Iraklis club.

    [32] Strong earthquake jolts Santorini and Crete

    A moderate earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale shook the islands of Santorini and Crete at dawn Thursday.

    According to the Athens Observatory's Geodynamic Institute and Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geophysics Lab, the quake was recorded at 6:24 a.m. at a distance of 224 kilometers south of Athens, with its epicentre 48km southwest of Santorini, in the sea area between Santorini and Crete

    The quake had a shallow epicentral depth of approximately 30 km. and was felt on Santorini and Crete, particularly in the city of Iraklion, as well as the wider region.

    No damage was initially reported.

    Santorini residents are worried due to minor seismic activity in the region over the past few days, although seismologists did not link Thursday's quake with the recent seismic activity and were reassuring and urged calm.

    [33] Athens Bar Association objects to broader notarial services

    Lawyers' unions expressed opposition on Thursday to a demand by notaries public to undertake the issuance of divorces by mutual consent, grants of probate and payment orders, amongst others.

    Athens Bar Association president Yiannis Adamopoulos said such demands serve "sector interests", accusing the notaries of claiming authority assigned to attorneys and courts of law. He also claimed that notarial service is distinct from the practice of law.

    [34] International Grand Prix Maria Kalas will not be held this year

    The International Grand Prix Maria Kalas for pianists will not be held this year for financial reasons.

    The Culture ministry and the Athens Municipality's Cultural Organisation are unable to fund the event that has been held every year since 1975, while the financial contribution of the International Artistic Ateneum Centre that organised the international contest is not enough.

    [35] Child pornography arrest

    A 32-year-old man was arrested in Athens on Thursday charges with child pornography over the internet.

    Police electronic crimes squad officers conducted a search of the man's residence, in the presence of a prosecutor, and confiscated three computer hard disc drives, two USB memory sticks, three videotapes and a cell phone.

    Police said that a large number of electronic files containing child pornography were found in the disc drives and memory sticks, as well as audiovisual material of the man in sexual intercourse with young persons, whose ages were being investigated.

    The detainee will be taken before an Athens public prosecutor.

    [36] Two arrested for selling illegal phone-tapping equipment

    Greek authorities on Thursday reported the arrest of two men running electronic goods shops in the centre of Athens for selling illegal devices used for tapping phones, surveillance and recording private conversations.

    They were arrested by members of the electronics crime squad for crimes against telecommunications security and privacy.

    The devices in question, which were activated via a mobile phone, had been advertised on the Internet.

    The two arrested were the 57-year-old shop owner and the 33-year-old manager of a shop selling similar services in central Athens. They have been charged with violating telephone and verbal communications privacy and provoking other to commit crime.

    The arrest was based on complaints that websites were offering devices capable of bypassing telephone line security and recording conversations held on the phone and also to eavesdrop on private conversations in a given locality.

    In a raid on the premises of the two shops on Wednesday, police found and confiscated 78 such bugging devices, 14 surveillance devices using a SIM mobile phone card, two telephone transmitters without a microphone and four devices for tapping mobile phones.

    The two men arrested will be led before an Athens first-instance court prosecutor on Thursday, while the owner of one of the two shops is still being sought.

    Weather forecast

    [37] Rainy on Friday

    Rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 4-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -4C and 13C. Rainy in Athens, with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 2C to 9C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from -3C to 4C.

    [38] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The ongoing PSI negotiations, the restructure of the National Taxation System and the turmoil in parliament ahead of the new loan agreement, mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "15,000 unemployed to be hired in municipalities beginning next month".

    AVGHI: "They loot and leave".

    AVRIANI: "PASOK fifth in popularity".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "PASOK plays games on Papademos' back".

    ESTIA: "The 'unprepared' ministers".

    ETHNOS: "Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' ultimatum to the parties".

    IMERISSIA: "Political agreement on reduction of tax rates".

    KATHIMERINI: "Creaking in government, heavy climate outside".

    LOGOS: "13 billion euros in measures 'lock in'."

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Europe-IMF dispute over 60 billion euros in bonds".

    NIKI: "Yes to 13th and 14th salaries, no salary increases for the next four years".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Working class, rise up against the anti-labour massacre".

    TA NEA: "Collapse in PASOK parliamentary group's cohesion worries Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) ahead of the new loan agreement".

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