|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 24 April 2010 Issue No: 3476
 PM Papandreou: Greece formally asks activation of EU support mechanismPrime minister George Papandreou on Friday announced that Greece is formally asking for activation of the EU support mechanism for the Greek economy.
"The time has come for the decision the leaders of the European member countries to support Greece to give us the time that the markets are not giving us. It is a national and pressing need to formally ask of our EU partners the activation of the support mechanism that we jointly created, Papandreou said in a televised statement from the island the southeastern island of Kastelorizo, where he is on a visit.
Papandreou added that he has instructed finance minister George Papaconstantinou to make the necessary actions.
The premier said that the revised figures of the true size of the Greek fiscal deficit for 2009 released on Thursday (by Eurostat) "reminded all of us of the "unfathomable mistakes, omissions and criminal choices and the storm of problems legated to us by the previous government".
"We all -- the present government and the Greek people -- inherited a boat ready to sink, a country without prestige and credibility that had lost the respect of even its friends and partners, an economy exposed to the mercy of doubt and the appetites of speculation," he said.
From the very first day the PASOK government rolled up its sleeves and went to work to reverse this negative climate, set out a plan, took tough measures that many times hurt, but regained the country's credibility and created new alliances, Papandreou continued.
"After a veritable marathon, we sought and achieved a strong EU decision to support our country with an unprecedented, in EU history, mechanism. And we and our EU partners hoped that this decision would have been enough to calm and bring reason to the markets so that we could continue our country's financing at lower interest rates. In other words, that the necessary calm exists so that we could devote ourselves to our task, to the great changes the country needs, to make our economy viable and competitive, for Greece to stand on its feet and for the Greek people to feel pride," the premier said.
"The markets did not respond," he added, "either because they did not believe in the EU's determination, or because some sides decided to carry on with the speculation".
"Today, the situation on the markets threatens to deconstruct not only the sacrifices of the Greek people, but also the economy's smooth course, and the effort being made by the Greeks is at risk of being lost due to the even bigger lending interest rates and, even worse, by the difficulty in borrowing," he continued.
"We will not allow this," the prime minister stressed. "The time has come for the decision the leaders of the European member countries to support Greece to give us the time that the markets are not giving us."
"It is a national and pressing need to formally ask our EU partners for the activation of the support mechanism that we jointly created in the EU. I have already instructed the finance minister to take the necessary actions," Papandreou said, adding that "our partners will contribute immediately and decisively to give Greece the sheltered harbor that will enable us to rebuild our boat with sturdy and reliable materials, but also to send a strong message to the markets that the EU is dead serious and protects our common interest and our common currency".
"We are on a tough course, a new Odyssey for Hellenism. But we now know the way to Ithaca and have chartered the waters. We have before us a journey that is demanding for all of us, but with a new collective conscience and common effort we will reach there safely, for confident, fairer, prouder. Our final goal, our final destination, is to liberate Greece from surveillance and guardianship, to liberate the forces of Hellenism, every Greek, of perceptions, practices and systems that have been hindering them everywhere for decades, to give oxygen where there is asphyxiation, justice and rules where there is injustice, transparency where there is darkness, certainty where there is insecurity, and development for all," Papandreou continued.
"Our inspiration, our faith, is this land, from Kastellorizo to Corfu, from Crete to Evros. It is this wonderful people, it is our youth, with their abilities and visions. I am absolutely convinced that we will succeed. Provided that we Greeks believe in our abilities, our values, our very selves," the prime minister concluded.
Papandreou contacted by Merkel, Zapatero
Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke on the telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for approximately 20 minutes on Friday, shortly after he announced that Greece will request the activation of the support mechanism decided by EU leaders on March 25.
The call was made by Merkel, who contacted the prime minister while he was in a meeting to discuss the problems of the island of Kastellorizo with local officials.
Earlier that morning, Papandreou had also received a message from his Spanish counterpart and chair of the European Council Jose Luis Zapatero.
During the Kastellorizo meeting, Papandreou noted that Greece had enormous potential that was either untapped or prevented from expressing itself by corruption, untransparency and client politics.
 Finance ministry requests activation of EU support mechanismFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Friday officially requested the activation of a European support mechanism for Greece agreed by EU leaders, in a letter sent to Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commissioner for monetary affairs Olli Rehn and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet.
The letter signed by the finance minister reads:
"In accordance with the decision the heads of state and government on the 25th March 2010 for the provision of financial assistance to Greece when necessary and the subsequent decision of the finance ministers of the Eurozone on 11th April 2010, Greece requests the activation of the support mechanism".
 EU to activate mechanism as soon as possible, spokesmanBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)
Activation of a support mechanism for Greece will be made the soonest possible, Amadeu Altafaj, spokesman for EU Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Friday. Speaking to reporters, the EU spokesman said the mechanism was single, with the participation of the EU and the IMF, and stressed that although the EU and IMF have their own procedures everyone involved were working together and predicted that there was not going to be any problem to delay the activation of the mechanism.
Commenting on procedural issues, Altafaj remined that according to what is agreed, from the moment Greece requested activation of the mechanism, the European Commission and the European Central Bank will offer their recommendations before a Eurogroup have an unanimous decision on the issue.
The EU spokesman said there were no dates for the activation of the mechanism, although he stressed it was not a matter of hours, or week, but of days.
Altafaj said community services were in constant contact and cooperation with Greek authorities and reminded that the EU believed that Greece has taken all necessary measures to drastically cut its fiscal deficit.
 IMF ready to move on Greek Stand- by Arrangement request, IMF director saysNEW YORK (ANA-MPA - A. Ellis)
In a statement issued on Friday, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the IMF was ready to move 'expeditiously' on Greece's request for immediate financial support.
"We have received Greece's request for a Stand-By Arrangement. We have been working closely with the Greek authorities for some weeks on technical assistance, and have had a mission on the ground in Athens for a few days working with the authorities and the European Union. We are prepared to move expeditiously on this request," he said.
 U.S. will support Greece at IMFWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
U.S. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs revealed on Friday the intention of the United States, that is the most important member of the International Monetary Fund and the country with the biggest percentage of votes in the Fund, to vote in favour of the granting of a loan by the IMF to Greece.
 European Commission, ECB and Eurogroup on assistance mechanismBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni-V. Demiris)
The Eurogroup president, the European Commission and the European Central Bank referred in a joint statement on Friday to the Greek government's request for the activation of the assistance mechanism.
The eurozone member-states will decide on the mechanism's activation, according to statements made by the EU's heads of state and governments on March 25, 2010 and the statement by Eurogroup on April 11.
The assistance will be based on the programme that is currently being prepared by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, in cooperation with the Greek authorities.
The European Council's president was informed on Greece's request for the activation of the mechanism that was agreed by the European Council on March 25.
As was agreed by the Eurogroup's finance ministers on April 11, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF are currently assessing the situation in Greece and are negotiating a joint programme with the Greek authorities. On this basis, the eurozone member-states will decide on the amount of the assistance and the conditions for the support.
The member-states have taken the necessarey steps at national level so as to provide immediate assistance to Greece.
The European Council president will remain in close contact during this procedure with the Spanish Presidency and the presidents of the Commission, Eurogroup and the European Central Bank.
 ND leader Samaras on support mechanism activationMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras on Friday criticized Prime Minister George Papandreou for his decision to request the activation of the EU/IMF support mechanism.
He underlined that his party will push for solutions and practices that "will end the IMF's stifling control on the country sooner than anticipated."
"Greece has the means, the resources and the people to pull itself out of the crisis using its own powers and regain the confidence of the foreign markets as well as its citizens'," Samaras said, accusing the ruling PASOK party of being solely responsible for the borrowing crisis plaguing the country.
Government reply to ND leader
Replying to main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, government spokesman George Petalotis on Friday said the main opposition leader's statements were a "monument to temerity, mockery of the people and political amnesia".
"He spoke as if he had never been a minister of the ND governments that led the country to chaos in five years," Petalotis said.
Greeks remembered ND well as the government that fed a state-sector rampant with wastefulness, corruption, untransparency, scandals and a mass of state hirings along party lines, he added.
The former ruling party had then abandoned the country to its fate, leaving the Greek people with a deficit of 13.6 percent of GDP as a 'dowry', Petalotis continued.
"Yesterday's figures from Eurostat confirmed in the most categoric way the pre-election lies and the blatant deception of the Greek people," the spokesman stressed.
"The admission of failure was expressed in the most revealing way by Samaras himself, when the spokesman of his party said that the government received from ND 'a deficit crisis and a debt crisis'. In as far as ND's proposals for the country's exit from the crisis were concerned, we are still waiting for them since, up until now, apart from wishful thinking they add nothing specific," Petalotis noted, calling on ND to admit the extent of its responsibility for the state of country.
 ND spokesman responds to government spokesmanMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos, responding on Friday to statements by government spokesman George Petalotis, said that the prime minister, through his spokesman, "is attacking ND to cover up with a screen of tension the dramatic responsibilites that (the ruling) PASOK has over the fact that Greece is falling under the supervision of the IMF."
According to Panayiotopoulos, "whatever the government's propagandist mechanism does, it cannot alter the truth, which is visible and admitted everywhere. It is the policy of Mr. (prime minister George) Papandreou that led the country to the IMF. The crisis of the public debt and the crisis of the deficits is the result of the past 30 years. The crisis, however, of borrowing is the product of the prime minister's mistakes and omissions. All have realised, now, that Mr. Papandreou's blatant failure to manage the crisis of borrowing led the country to the IMF."
 KKE: new austerity will not benefit Greek peopleThe government's decision to resort to the EU-IMF lending mechanism had been planned in advance a long time ago, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Friday in response to news that Greece had officially requested that the mechanism be activated.
"This was a choice of alliance to serve the long-term interests of Greek plutocracy, to give the government strong supports so that it can impose new harsh measures against the people," the announcement claimed.
According to the party, all the claims made by the government and its allies were excuses and misleading.
"The claim that there is no money is false, because at the same time it is giving away 17.5 billion to bankers, tens of billion through the developmental law to industrialists and shipowners, reducing taxation on capital and increasing its privileges. It is paying billions for NATO armaments and hundreds of millions for occupation forces beyond the border," the party said.
The government's cooperation with the EU and the IMF marks the escalation of the monopolies' war against the people. Not only will it not solve the problems but make them worse, it added.
"The people must learn from their experience. Just as with EMU before, so now the sacrifices that the parties of the plutocracy want to impose on them in order to make Greek capital stronger and more competitive will not bring any benefit to them. Instead, they will lead them to a never-ending catastrophe," KKE stressed, calling on people to rally behind the Communist party in order to overturn the anti-popular policy and strike back at monopolies.
 LAOS president on activation of EU support mechanismPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis characterised Prime Minister George Papandreou's announce-ment on the activation of the EU support mechanism a "bitter gift" for his nameday (Orthodox Christians celebrate St George's feast day on April 23) and a "defeat for the country".
Karatzaferis recommended "self-restraint" and avoidance of extremities and wondered why Mr. Papandreou made the announcement during his visit to the remote Aegean island of Kastellorizo, adding that the prime minister had admitted Greece's and his own defeat in the battle against the economic crisis.
Unfortunately, he said, the Papandreou government's endurance had reached its end.
 SYRIZA on Greece's recourse to IMF; request for EL supportOpposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras on Friday characterized Greece's recourse to the support mechanism as a "premeditated crime" and suggested holding a referendum "for the immediate exodus from the IMF mechanism."
He said that the government and the prime minister with their decision "push us into the IMF abyss."
Tsipras stated that "the government has no democratically legitimate authority to proceed with the adoption of such decisions," and added that "the prime minister will not be able to avoid popular discontent."
In reaction to Greece's recourse to the support mechanism, Tsipras addressed a letter to European Left (EL) party President Lothar Bisky on Friday calling for the support of the political powers comprising the party. He maintained that this is a "catastrophic choice for the country" signalling unfavourable developments for all Europeans.
Tsipras underlined that "coordinated action is necessary for mobilizations across Europe to ward off the attack on the people of Greece that will be followed by a future attack on all the people of Europe."
 Parliament President Petsalnikos on Greece's recourse to IMFParliament President Filippos Petsalnikos said Friday "the activation of the support mechanism is a one-way street following the persistence displayed by speculators," commenting on Greece's recourse to the EU/IMF support mechanism.
Speaking on the margins of the University Professors' Federation conference, Petsalnikos stressed that "by utilizing our own powers, above all, we will be able to meet our goals, set in the updated stability and development programme and pull the country out of this difficult situation."
"Every odyssey has an Ithaca," he concluded.
 PM launches 'campaign to support regions' in KastellorizoPrime Minister George Papandreou on Friday chaired a meeting of government ministers and local officials on the remote island of Kastellorizo, who outlined the problems faced by the island community. Papandreou was also made an honorary citizen of Kastellorizo.
In statements during the meeting, Papandreou noted that the government and the Greek people were waging a difficult battle in stormy times. He also announced that in Kastellorizo, the furthermost end of Greece, he was beginning a tour that would take in all the regions of the country, during which he would outline the major changes that the government is trying to make in order to boost growth and social justice.
"You know and we know that, because of the circumstances, the possibilities are more limited. But this does not mean that we have no possibilities. On the contrary, we have a great many, Greece has huge potential that is untapped. And not just untapped but potential that has been obstructed, that has essentially been stifled by a system, by dysfunctions, untransparency, corruption and client relations that all citizens are still paying for, even more so those that live far from decision-making centres," Papandreou said.
In this vein, he acknowledged the serious problems faced by Kastellorizo and said that he was there to talk and find solutions.
"We are with you because we consider that you have the same rights as every Greek man and woman, the right to the necessary infrastructure and services but also to the dreams of every Greek man and woman," he added.
The prime minister noted that the reorganisation of local government under the Kallikratis plan will lay the foundations for solving several problems concerning the state's organisation in local areas, while noting that the upcoming visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be an opportunity to discuss ways of facilitating visits by tourists from Turkey to the Greek islands, especially those near the Turkish coast.
"We began this campaign for all of Greece from here, from Kastellorizo, on a crucial day for Greece when we asked for the cooperation and help of our partners, through a new mechanism that we set up jointly. But we have also begun a new course of dialogue, consultation and support of the regions, through direct contact and, of course, through the major changes that will give authority, powers and funds to local government and the regions," the prime minister stressed.
 PM on activation of support mechanismPrime Minister George Papandreou, addressing the Dode-cannese economic and social committee in Rhodes on Friday, termed the developments brought about by Thursday's announcement by Eurostat on the country's deficit for 2009 "the drop that made the glass overflow and render compulsory the government's decision to request immediately the activation of the support mechanism."
"We took the decision that is imposed by the country's interest. It is a historical duty for us to prevent the worse for the Greeks. We took the decision that allows us to proceed with determination and calmness for the big changes," he said about the mechanism.
Referring to Eurostat's data, the prime minister stressed that "neither could we, nor did we want to conceal them, because it would be a time bomb in the foundations of the reliability of today, the foundations that we are buiding again for Greece."
 PM to receive gold medal of honour of city of RhodesThe municipal council of Rhodes decided unanimously on Thursday night to award the gold medal of honour of the city of Rhodes to Prime Minister George Papandreou and to proclaim him an honourary citizen.
The mayor said that the prime minister "inspires, leads and guides in a course of radical changes that will turn the current gloomy reality into a hopeful prospect for the Greek people."
He also referred to his international recognition and his election to the Presidency of the Socialist International.
Moreover, as an honouratry citizen "he will become an ardent supporter and participant in the collective effort to shape a road map for the development and prosperity of the border islands."
The awarding of the gold medal will take place during a special event in a new visit to the island by the prime minister.
 Turkish PM Erdogan in Athens May 14-15Tallinn (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a delegation of 10 ministers will pay a two-day official visit to Athens on May 14-15.
The announcement was made on Friday morning by Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during joint statements in Tallinn, Estonia on the sidelines of an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
Davutoglu called the upcoming visit one of "historic importance for Greek-Turkish relations", which "opens a new era in economic cooperation also".
The Turkish foreign minister also described as "excellent" the sideline meetings with Droutsas on Thursday and Friday, as well as the Greek alternate foreign minister's recent visit to Turkey, which had "practical results" and during which the two sides decided the establishment of a High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, the agreement on which is due to be signed in Athens during Erdogan's visit.
Davutoglu said that the Turkish prime minister will be accompanied on his Athens visit by 10 ministers, who will attend the first conference of the High-Level Council. The Turkish delegation, he added, will include the ministers of economy, foreign trade, European affairs, energy, transports, education, and the environment.
"I am very pleased to announce this today, from Tallinn. It is good new for our two countries, for the future of our region, and for Europe," Davutoglu added.
Droutsas, in turn, stressed that "we take advantage of every opportunity in the international fora to meet", adding that the most important decision taken was the determination of the dates of Erdogan's visit to Athens, during which the 1st conference of the High-Level Cooperation Council will take place.
"Naturally, the visit will be a very important event, and also the beginning of a new era in the relations between the two countries, the consultations and cooperation," Droutsas said and, turning to Davutoglu, said: "We are awaiting you and look forward to this visit".
Droutsas also had a sideline meeting later Friday with Albanian foreign minister Ilir Meta.
 Statement on the telephone communication between Papandreou and ErdoganISTANBUL (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas)
The details of the visit to Athens on May 14-15 by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were discussed in a telephone communication he had with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on April 16, according to a statement issued by the Turkish PM's office on Friday.
The statement also rejects press reports on alleged economic assistance from Turkey to Greece. "There was no suggestion for economic assistance and the discussion did not include such issues," the statement mentioned.
 Alt. FM Droutsas' contacts in EstoniaTallinn (ANA-MPA / N. Melissova)
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas conferred with Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn.
"The lifting of the visa requirement within the EU, an issue of great concern for Albania, and ways in which it can be achieved was discussed at the meeting," Droutsas said, underlining Greece's sincere support to Tirana's rapprochement with the EU.
Meta briefed Droutsas on the agreement concerning the delineation of the sea zones of Greece and Albania following a relevant ruling issued recently by Albania's Constitutional Court which is currently being assessed by the political leadership in Albania.
"The discussion focused on the completion of this important agreement for the two countries," Droutsas said.
The 28 NATO foreign ministers participating in the informal meeting to be completed on Friday also decided to present Bosnia-Herzegovina with a "road map" for the country's course to the North Atlantic Alliance.
"This is an important decision considering that Greece supports the western Balkan states' course to the Euro-Atlantic structures," the alternate FM stated.
As regards the discussion on NATO's new strategic concept, he said that the goal is to be approved in the next NATO summit meeting in November. He also referred to the participation of foreign ministry general secretary Yannis-Alexis Zepos in the Team of Experts that is processing this new perspective, stressing that through him "Greece can contribute to the effort with its ideas and proposals."
The informal NATO meeting also focused on the relations between the alliance and Russia. Outlining the Greek position on the cooperation of the two sides, Droutsas said that "we are being faced with common challenges that can be effectively dealt with through joint efforts," stressing that cooperation should intensify.
The alternate foreign minister also had bilateral meetings with his Norwegian counterpart and the Australian foreign minister.
The Greek delegation will return to Athens on Friday afternoon.
DM on Ankara's mutual armament spending reduction proposal: Greece is well-intentioned, but not naive, has no delusions
Greece is always prepared to look into the prospects of reducing its armaments programs, but it doesn't have any delusions, defence minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Friday, adding that the rhetoric by Turkey does not suffice, but actions are also necessary.
Replying in parliament to a current question tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, Venizelos stressed that Greece needs to be very cautious and examine in-depth the Turkish side's proposal for mutual reduction of the two countries' armaments programs.
"We need actions, not rhetorical fireworks, from the Turkish side," Venizelos said, adding that Greece is "well-intentioned, but not naive".
Greece is prepared for discussion, founded on international law, but this does not depend on Greece's good will, he said, adding: "Unfortunately, in recent years we have been seeing on the part of the Turkish side airforce and naval practices that demand that we be vigilant. There is always the risk that the internal institutional and political tension in Turkey will be exported outward. We are fully aware of the way that the Turkish defence industry is developing and have no delusions with respect to the correlation of forces."
Venizelos stressed the need for not only a genuine and powerful national consensus on foreign policy and defence issues, especially at this time when the country is going through an economic war crisis, but also a change of practices.
"We want a peace dividend and for the sweat of the Greek people to be channeled to growth, health, education, new jobs. For us, there is only one criterion with respect to armament expenditure: the rational assessment of the real threat. There are many interests, and many are those who have interests and want to lead Greece in a different direction. But we are reacting, having imposed an austere fiscal defence policy aiming at the least cost with the greater benefit," the defense minister continued.
Venizelos further spoke of a "firm, legible foreign policy" being followed by the country, adding that Greece has a "fundamental strategic perception...we believe in good neighborhood and the need for peace and stability in the wider region".
"In no instance will the Greek people feel that the country's national sovereignty is being reduced and its power capability. We want a peace dividend not because we are economically weak but because our goal is truly peace in the region," he added.
Karatzaferis called on the government to be very cautious on the Turkish proposals, given that "Ankara's stance and practices, such as the daily sailing of the Turkish flag off Sounio do not indicate a disposition for peace".
The LAOS leader was also skeptical on Turkish European minister of state Egemen Bagis' proposal for mutual reduction of the two countries' armaments programs, calling on the government to be extremely cautious, noting that Turkey has planned 4 billion dollars in armaments for 2010 alone, while the expenditure is slated to reach 50 billion dollars by 2023.
"These moves are not bridges of peace," Karatzaferis warned.
 Loverdos rejects SYRIZA criticism of social insurance reformsThe social insurance issue would be "a stick of dynamite for public finances" unless there was immediate intervention in the bankrupt pension system, Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos stressed on Friday in Parliament.
He was responding to criticism from the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras, who accused him of allowing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) technocrats to dictate what he should do and adopting "the most extreme neoliberal policies".
Loverdos underlined that Greece had to show self-denial and use the support tool decided by European leaders on March 25 in order to unfailingly implement the Stability and Growth Programme.
 Deputy FM Kouvelis wraps up meetings in ChicagoNEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis referred to the efforts made by the government and the people of Greece to overcome the crisis and place the country on a new developmental course in the meetings he had in Chicago with local officials, businessmen and leading members of the Greek-American community.
Kouvelis referred to the measures taken by the government and the prospects that are being opened in the sector of investments, while he also presented its positions on a number of issues that play a decisive role in development including environmental protection, renewable energy sources, cultural activities and tourism.
The deputy FM departed for Athens on Friday morning.
 Memorial service for late statesman Constantine KaramanlisThe annual memorial service for the late statesman and founder of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party Constantine Karamanlis was held on Friday at the Konstantinos Karamanlis Foundation in the Filothei suburb of Athens, marking the 12th anniversary of his death.
The memorial service for the former prime minister and president was attended by former President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos, the late statesman's nephew former prime minister Costas Karamanlis, the leader of main opposition New Democracy Antonis Samaras, the deceased's brother former MP Achilleas Karamanlis, former president of parliament Dimitris Sioufas, his close associates, ministers and ND officials.
 IMF submits recommendations over fiscal and tax reformsThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday submitted a package of recommendations to the finance ministry aimed at improving Greece's fiscal management and taxation administration.
The text of the document, submitted by a team of IMF experts jointly visiting Greece with European Commission and European Central Bank (ECB) officials and titled "Basic guidelines and recommendations by the IMF technical assistance for improvement of the fiscal management and taxation administration in Greece", notes inter alia that the effort for fiscal adjustment focuses mainly on the state budget, but the immense overshooting of expenditures mainly concern the general government (health and social security system).
From the basic guidelines and recommendations of the IMF technical assistance, it arises that immediate actions are needed to regain control of the fiscal finances.
The recommendations stressed there was urgent need for structural changes and measures -both direct and medium-term- to help in restoring credibility and achieving its fiscal goals. A fiscal adjustment effort focuses mainly on state budget, but extensive overspending are mainly related with the general government (health and pension systems). Direct actions to control public finances should include: fiscal inspection and publication of data on a monthly and quarterly basis, controlling spending, improving a procedure of drafting and monitoring -through presentations in Parliament- of a fiscal strategy with specified fiscal targets for the state, pension funds and municipal authorities, translating budget and fiscal targets into credit ceilings for each ministry for next year (June) and adapting a regulatory framework to implementing these changes.
A medium-term strategy should include: adopting a medium-term program of changes, the finance ministry taking over the responsibility for drafting and implementing a fiscal policy, the state accounting office operating pre-emptively, ministries gaining control over their budgets and the Parliament gaining more supervision over the budget.
The recommendations also said the main challenges for the country's tax system were: high tax-evasion and corruption, efforts to improving structural weaknesses, improving tax collection and publishizing a strategy for combatting permanent tax evasion. The IMF urgred for the set up of new mechanism to improving management of the tax system, such as creation of a task force to combatting tax evasion at the Finance ministry and creating another high-level group with the participation of all related ministry officials.
Top priorities for combatting tax evasion should include: a stricter inspections program, with heavy fines against tax evaders, ensuring tax revenues for taxpayers with higher incomes, drafting detailed plans, effective monitoring of progress and reviewing of results of tax policies.
 Greek capital markets welcome decision to activate support mechanismGreek capital markets welcomed a decision by the government to officially ask for the immediate activation of an EU/IMF support mechanism on Friday. Greek stocks recovered strongly soon after the news, with the composite index of the market rising more than 1.5 pct in midday trading, while the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell rapidly to around 512 basis points, after rising as much as 600 basis points on Thursday.
 Greece will not face any borrowing problems, FinMin saysGreece will not face any problems with its borrowing, Finance Minister George Papakonstantinou said on Friday. Speaking to reporters, a few hours after the Greek government officially asked for the immediate activation of an EU support mechanism, the Greek minister said the need to activate this mechanism was made clear after recent developments, an upwards revision of the country's fiscal deficit by Eurostat and a downgrade of the Greek economy.
Papakonstantinou said a letter sent to Eurogroup, the European Commission and the European Central Bank was a signal to begin procedures. "We started the procedure," he said adding that there was no immediate need of borrowing.
Papakonstantinou said he had already contacted with EU Commissioner Olli Rehn, Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker and the vice-president of the European Central Bank, Lucas Papademos (the president Jean-Claude Trichet was in Washington).
The Greek minister stressed that a three-year program will cut the country's fiscal deficit and will put the country on the road of sustainable growth. The European Commission was already preparing its own report, as well as the European Central Bank. Papakonstantinou will take part in an IMF spring ministerial meeting in Washington.
 Employers, trade unions on activation of EU support mechanism"The business sector hoped that in the end we would manage to avoid the IMF hurdle," Athens Chamber of Industry and Commerce (EBEA) Chairman Constantine Mihalos stated on Friday following the announcement by Prime Minister George Papandreou that Greece will request the activation of the EU/IMF support mechanism.
"It is everybody's wish that the government's famous 'safety net' will not become a net that will trap in muddy waters the social cohesion and the growth of our economy," he said.
National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) President Vassilis Korkidis said that "the activation of the support mechanism can be an opportunity for a fresh start and not the end for the country's economic independence," pointing out that "in simple words the IMF is a solution for the banks and a blow to the national economy and the country's political dignity."
"Certainly, the support mechanism does not constitute a safe haven and definitely does not guarantee that we will have the anticipated results but, nonetheless, no one can say for sure what will be the end result of this choice," Korkidis said.
"The recourse to the EU/IMF support mechanism should not be viewed as a punishment but as a necessary treatment," Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos stated.
"This is literally the last chance for us to make Greece a truly European country. It is up to us not to miss that chance," he concluded.
Civil servants umbrella federation ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros characterized the recourse to the IMF as a negative development and stressed that "only social resistance and the escalation of mobilizations can bring hope back into our lives."
The head of the private-sector umbrella trade union group GSEE Yiannis Panagopoulos described the development as "unpleasant and painful," adding that it was "the result of an unprecedented fiscal derailment the country was led to by unwise policies."
Panagopoulos said the trade unionist movement has a duty to defend the rights of workers, unemployed and pensioners.
 ADEDY to hold protest rally next TuesdayThe civil servants' umbrella union ADEDY called on its members to attend a protest rally taking place next Tuesday evening at 6:30 in downtown Athens.
ADEDY's announcement said that the government's decision to activate the European support mechanism and borrow from the International Monetary Fund marks a new barbarous attack on worker rights and a new downgrade for society.
"We the workers will continue to escalate our struggle against the anti-popular measures of the government, the EU and the IMF," ADEDY said.
 Public transport strike next TuesdayCommuters will face problems getting to work next Tuesday, due to a work stoppage announced by public transport workers so that they can attend a protest rally against the government's austerity measures at Kotzia Square.
Public transport buses and trolleys will be withdrawn from circulation between 11:00 and 17:00 next Tuesday, and there will be no trains running on the Athens metro, the ISAP electric railway or the tram.
So far, the only means of public transport in Athens that will be running normally is the Proastiakos railway, whose staff have not decided to join the strike.
Those planning to use public transport on that day should also allow an extra hour before and after the times of the six-hour work stoppage, during which trains and buses will gradually be withdrawn from circulation.
 Meeting on NEK-PPC cooperation at environment ministryDeputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Friday met the CEO of Bulgaria's electricity company NEK to discuss issues concerning bilateral cooperation between NEK and Greece's Public Power Corporation (PPC). The meeting was also attended by the ministry general secretary Kostas Mathioudakis and the head of the Regulatory Authority for Energy Nikos Vassilakos.
 Stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange, unable to hold on to their initial sharp gains as investors rushed in to take profits. The market reacted positively to a decision by the Greek government to request activation of an EU/IMF support package. The composite index of the market fell 0.15 pct to end at 1,857.96 points, after gaining as much as 4.56 pct in intra-day trading. Turnover was an improved 316.664 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index eased 0.04 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.83 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.42 pct. Chemicals (1.48 pct) and Constructions (1.14 pct) scored gains, while Commerce (3.04 pct) and Utilities (2.65 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Altec (13.33 pct), Edrasi (12.5 pct), Attica Publications (9.52 pct) were top gainers, while Shelman (20 pct), Nutriart (18.18 pct) and Loulis Mills (9.71 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 92 to 88 with another 48 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.32%
Personal & Household: -0.88%
Raw Materials: -1.69%
Travel & Leisure: -0.23%
Food & Beverages: +0.41%
Financial Services: -1.17%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.00
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.77
HBC Coca Cola: 20.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.81
National Bank of Greece: 11.52
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 5.63
Bank of Piraeus: 5.74
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds on Friday shrank to 551 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, from 5.92 bps on Thursday, shrinking as low as 525 bps after the Greek government announced its decision to request the activation of an EU/IMF support mechanism. The Greek bond yielded 8.58 pct and the German Bund 3.07 pct. Turnover in the market rose to 790 million euros, of which 695 million were sell orders and the remaining 95 million euros were buy orders. The three-year benchmark bond (March 20, 2011) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 145 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.22 pct, the six-month rate 0.95 pct, the three-month rate 0.64 pct and the one-month rate 0.40 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -2.30 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover rising sharply to 158.747 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 29,824 contracts worth 136.395 million euros, with 24,574 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 27,155 contracts, worth 22.352 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (10,476), followed by Eurobank (3,476), MIG (760), OTE (1,149), Piraeus Bank (2,425), Alpha Bank (3,573), GEK (712), Intracom (363), Ellaktor (419), Mytilineos (416), Cyprus Bank (548) and Hellenic Postbank (403).
 Foreign Exchange rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.341
Pound sterling 0.874
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.667
Japanese yen 126.11
Swiss franc 1.447
Norwegian kroner 7.939
Canadian dollar 1.344
Australian dollar 1.458
 Tempi section opens temporarily for weekendThe Tempi section of the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway will temporarily open for the next two weekends to facilitate drivers and May Day holidaymakers. According to authorities the section will open on Friday at 8am and will re-close Monday morning at 6pm.
The Tempi section of the country's main north-south highway has been closed to traffic since December 17, 2009 following a massive landslide, which claimed the life of an Italian engineer who was project director of a bridge being constructed at the site while arriving to inspect damage caused by falling rocks.
With most of the repairs completed, Tempi was also reopened temporarily for the Easter holiday.
Traffic is currently being diverted along other routes.
 Registration of quarries operating nationwideThe detailed assessment of the current state of quarries which are in operation nationwide was requested by Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis with a document forwarded to all prefectural and regional authorities on Friday.
The statement issued clarified that the move is aimed are recording violations in the quarries' operating permits and the observance of environmental and rehabilitation studies, among others.
 Eretria exhibition opens at Nat. Archaeological MuseumGreece's National Archaeological Museum in central Athens will be open to the public between the hours of 13:30 and 17:00 on Monday due to the opening of the visiting exhibition "Eretria: A look at an Ancient City".
The exhibition will be at the National Archaeological Museum for four months, until August 25.
 Woman arrested for participation in terrorist group to be remanded in custodyA 19-year-old woman arrested on Thursday and accused of participation in the "Conspiracy of Nuclei of Fire" terrorist group would be remanded in custody after making a prolonged testimony before an investigating magistrate on Friday.
An arrest warrant had been issued against her since last September as, according to the anti-terrorist squad, fingerprints of hers were found in an apartment that members of the group reportedly used in the Athens suburb of Halandri.
The young woman denies any involvement whatsoever in the group.
 New arrest in illegal antiquities trading caseNew evidence connected to an illegal antiquities trading case in the northwest Greek prefecture of Grevena led to the arrest of one more suspect by police on Friday.
Following the arrest of a man in the rural region of Petra on Thursday, another 41-year-old resident of Grevena was arrested as his accomplice on Friday.
After the second arrest, police searched the homes of both suspects and found a number of objects that are protected under the law for antiquities, as well as weapons.
These included a 69-cm sword with a blade of 47 cm, a copper bracelet with a diameter of 6cm, the base of a copper bottle 5.5 cm across, the copper base of a vessel 8cm across, three copper buckles, a copper pin, a copper bead, two sections of copper grips, a copper object that may possibly be an earring and an iron spear tip 8.5 cm long.
All the above items date to the archaic and Classical eras of Greek antiquity, according to the first estimates of the archaeological service.
Police also discovered a front-loading 'Springfield' rifle and a Byzantine triptych depicting the 'Life-giving Spring' and the saints Athanasius, George, Vlassios and Demetrius on either side.
The two men arrested are to appear before an examining magistrate to answer to the charges against them.
Police made the first arrest on Thursday acting on a tip-off, which led them to the first suspect and two others that were in the process of digging up two Bronze Age ceramic vases using a metal detector and excavation tools.
Two of the suspects managed to evade arrest, with the second arrested on Friday.
The two vases, 20 and 13 centimeters tall respectively, are of great historical and archeological value, according to archaeologists.
 Cloudy, rainy on SaturdayCloudy and rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 26C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Athens, with southerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 14C to 24C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 21C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEurostat's upward revision of Greece's 2009 fiscal deficit to 13.6 percent of GDP, the skyrocketing of the Greek 10-year bond spread to nearly 600 basis points, and Thursday's nationwide strike in the public sector mostly dominated the headlines on Friday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Unionists give the final blow to coastal shipping with new strikes in ports".
APOGEVMATINI: "Government, abashed and confused, is watching the economy collapse, entrepreneurship dying out and unemployment skyrocketing".
AVGHI: "Unconditional surrender".
AVRIANI: "National rescue government needed to bring country out of the crisis - Politicians have huge responsibilities that led us to bankruptcy".
ELEFTHEROS: "Social security and labour issue: How Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos deceives the workers - He tabled a different draft law in parliament from the one he had presented".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "IMF ultimatum to George Papandreou - Dominique Strauss-Kahn makes shocking statements: He devastated the European support mechanism".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Out of control - The vise gets tighter - EU considers new increase in deficit probable".
ESTIA: "Eurostat report indicates that Europe is over-indebted".
ETHNOS: "Immediate recourse to the support mechanism - Ministers' pleas of agony to Prime Minister George Papandreou".
IMERISSIA: "Thriller over the recourse".
KATHIMERINI: "Dangerous games with time - Arguments and hesitation in government".
LOGOS: "IMF sets the rules ...for the assistance to Greece".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Crucial decisions for the Greek economy".
NIKI: "How we will save our money - Unbelievable! Speculators are betting on Greece's bankruptcy".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Workers, professionals, farmers, young people and women stood up for their rights in the 48-hour strike".
TA NEA: "IMF's hour - Bargaining, behind-the-scenes and statements".
TO VIMA: "Last-ditch bargaining for cutbacks in salaries, too - Dramatic climate at (Thursday's informal) Inner Cabinet meeting".
VRADYNI: "They will exhaust us in order to ...save us - Cutbacks in salaries in public and private sector".
 UNSG welcomes President's commitment for resumption of the talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed on Friday Cypriot President Demetris Christofias' commitment for the resumption of the Cyprus UN-led talks, as expressed after the change in the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot Community.
According to an official announcement, President Christofias had Friday a telephone conversation with the UN Chief.
''The Secretary General of the UN expressed gratification and welcomed the immediate declaration and commitment of the President of the Republic, after the change in the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community, to continue the talks for a solution to the Cyprus problem, on the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions and on all that has been agreed on between the two communities as the basis of the negotiations. He (Ban) congratulated Christofias for the efforts he exerts for a solution,'' the announcement added.
On his part, Christofias, ''reiterated to the UNSG his commitment and his readiness for the immediate resumption of the negotiations and expressed hope that the new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Dervis Eroglu will observe the agreed basis and the talks will resume from the point they left off.''
The president underlined once more that the role of Turkey in the efforts to achieve a solution ''is decisive,'' adding that ''consequently, Turkey must respect the relevant UN resolution and play a positive role in the solution of the Cyprus problem.''
President Christofias and the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began UN-led talks for a mutually agreed settlement to the problem of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The process was interrupted on March 30 ahead of the so-called ''presidential elections'' in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.
 Christofias: Cyprus is an important player in international shipping sceneNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus plays an important role in the international shipping scene, President of the Republic of Cyprus has stressed.
Addressing the 21st Annual General Meeting of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC), in Limassol on Friday, President Christofias said that Cyprus is a world maritime power and a modern, qualitative and complete maritime complex.
He stressed that the government will continue and intensify its efforts to lift the unacceptable restrictions Turkey imposes to the Cyprus flag and Cyprus related vessels.
"According to the Ankara protocol and to the international law in general, Turkey acts against the law, and it is criticized systematically, especially by our EU counterparts, whom the interests "are negatively affected by that illegal behavior", he said.
In addition, President Christofias noted that the lifting of those restrictions constitutes a conventional obligation of Turkey towards the European Union and for that reason, "we constantly demand from our partners to exert their influence towards Turkey", in order to change its stance.
President Christofias reiterated that the firm target of the government is the finding of a comprehensive and final solution to the Cyprus problem, "the reunification of our homeland and the people".
"Such a development will open new prospects for development for the Cyprus maritime and the Cyprus economy in general", he added.
Minister of Communication and Works, Erato Kozakou Markoullis, addressing the CSE 21st Annual General Assembly said that during the last few years, Cyprus' maritime policy focused on the enhancement of maritime safety and security, by implementing a series of legislative and administrative measures.
"The above measures proved to be quite successful, enabling Cyprus to achieve a 'White List' status in the flag assessment system maintained by the Paris and the Tokyo MoUs on port state control. During 2009, the flag of Cyprus was removed from the "List of Targeted Flag States" of the U.S. Coast Guard", she said, stressing that these achievements offer new prospects and create new challenges for Cyprus shipping.
Markoullis pointed out that Cyprus' efforts and attention should be focused not only on keeping up the present successes but also on how to accomplish a positive and substantial influence on the developments and trends in the international shipping industry. "To that end, Cyprus will continue its dynamic and constructive participation in all international maritime fora and the EU", she added.
Referring to the economic crisis, she said that "the competitiveness of our shipping industry has helped to alleviate the consequences of the crisis. It is my strong belief that, with our combined efforts, our shipping industry will not only overcome this crisis, but will strengthen its position in the international arena", she added.
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