|Thursday, 14 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-03-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 30 March 2012 Issue No: 4034
 Spokesman details gov't obligations until EasterA government spokesman on Thursday said the government must continue sending the message that is determined to continue with reforms, stressing that this is an issue of major national importance because the country should not give the impression of backsliding.
Spokesman Pantelis Kapsis referred to visits made abroad by various government ministers following Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' instructions to present reforms implemented in Greece (Development Minister Anna Diamantopoulou visited Berlin, Interior Minister Tassos Yannitsis and a top Papademos aide, Giorgos Pagoulatos, visited the Netherlands, while Environ-ment Minister George Papaconstantinou was in Finland).
He stated that the common conclusion was that Greece's image has improved but that the government has to continue sending the message that is determined to proceed with the reforms.
Kapsis said the government's obligations until the Easter holidays include the adoption of preconditions for the recapitalisation of the banks through a legislative act to be approved by the cabinet, negotiations aimed at financing major public projects through EU funds and activation of a special fund for the financing of small and medium size enterprises.
Also, preparations aimed at cutting expenditures and adoption of draft laws within the framework of fundamental obligations stemming from the memorandum signed with the EC-ECB-IMF troika in view of important decisions to be made in June.
He stated that the prime minister will request in writing that the government ministers notify his office prior to any ministerial decisions or amendments concerning important issues.
He also underlined that the prime minister wants the full implementation of the law regulating the operation of higher education institutions.
 PASOK leader addresses party's election committee, promises 'minimal' campaignPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday addressed the first meeting of the party's National Election Committee, stressing that the upcoming elections would not determine the fate of the political parties but the fate of the country and each individual Greek.
He attacked main opposition New Democracy and said it was in an "frenzy after realising that, following the change of leadership in PASOK, the situation is being reversed".
Venizelos underlined that the elections would be an opportunity for "political catharsis" that must lead to a new system that did not repeat the mistakes of the past.
He repeated that the party's election campaign would be as minimal and low-key as possible, without campaign offices, posters and fliers but emphasised that this would not be a campaign pivoting on television and internet spots without personal contact with voters.
PASOK's leader also stressed that the current crisis did not date back to the last 2.5 years but the last five years and had been present in 2008 when the entire world was in the grip of a crisis as Greece wandered along carelessly, blaming ND for the "provocative and arrogant way" in which it was trying to conceal its own responsibility for the crisis.
He was particularly scathing about ND's attempts to downplay its involvement in the decisions taken by the current coalition government and its stance on the property surtax, stressing that the latter had been absolutely essential and that the government's decisions had also been signed and supported by ND leader Antonis Samaras and his ministers.
Concerning the actions that must be taken within PASOK, Venizelos stressed that cleaning up the political system had to begin within the party and that the process of selecting the candidates for Parliament would be an opportunity in this direction.
He noted that the goal would be a 60 percent 'renewal' of the party's Parliamentary group, selecting people that were "in touch" with local communities and had faith in the electoral outcome.
 ND leader highlights illegal migration issues at party meetingMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday promised tough action to tackle illegal migration during a meeting at the party.
"We will retake our cities. Illegal migration is a growing problem and we are pretending that we can't see it. Our cities have been taken over by illegal migrants and we will take them back," he stressed, adding that ND would abolish the law passed by Yiannis Ragoussis "that makes our country a magnet for illegal migrants".
Samaras said that migrants will be taken to reception centres or old army camps until they could be repatriated.
Commenting on the reactions from local communities opposed to receiving migrants, ND's leader noted that the state should properly inform local communities. He also noted that Greece must carry out certain actions before it seeks to negotiate alongside Spain and Portugal for a change in EU policies on the issue, one that will stop the flow of migrants and then promote their return to their own countries.
On the issue of a property surtax imposed by the government, he repeated that ND intended to abolish this and replace it with a uniform taxation on property that will be fairer and more effective.
"But this calls for a uniform property register, which does not exist. Until then, there will be a property tax along the lines of ETAK," he added.
Questioned about the measures that he intends to take in June, if ND is elected to power, Samaras said that money would be found by restricting wasteful state spending and equivalent measures and he ruled out all horizontal cuts that would only make the recession worse.
On the issue for further cutbacks to pensions, Samaras noted that there was no commitment to reduce pensions specifically and that ND was looking at equivalent measures, while promising to restore income for those on low pensions and for large families.
 KKE leader asks for strong support by votersCommunist Party (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga on Thursday underlined that her party should emerge powerful after the imminent elections as opposed to the parties of PASOK and New Democracy (ND) that should be extremely weakened.
Addressing factory employees in the port city of Volos, in central Greece, Papariga called on the Greek voters to reject the "intimidating dilemmas raised by ND, PASOK and their partners".
 SYRIZA forms new alliance with leftist forces for upcoming electionsThe Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party on Thursday announced the formation of an alliance with politicians originating from PASOK and from the non-Parliamentary leftist and green movements, creating the "SYRIZA - Unifying Social Front" party in the upcoming general elections.
SYRIZA Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras stressed that the party was not aiming for the protest vote but for a "vote of power" and a "new people's majority".
The first act in this new political alliance was the Declaration of Common Positions made on Thursday, which Tsipras stressed would continue after the elections.
The main points in this, as presented by Tsipras, were the reversal of the memorandum and the loan agreements, a suspension of payments for as long as was necessary for the recovery of the economy and then a selective default and the payment of a portion of Greece's debt with conditions and terms to promote growth.
Other key points were a redistribution of wealth accompanied by social and economic justice, real growth with respect for the environment that was beneficial for society and the economic and productive restructuring of the country, a social protection 'shield' and defence of public goods, a multidimensional, independent foreign policy with active policies for peace, friendship and cooperation, departure from NATO and removal of NATO bases from Greece.
Tsipras underlined that the crisis now being experienced by Greece was the result of the political choices of the forces ruling the country for decades, PASOK and ND, that were now "entering partnerships to finish it off" and had signed an agreement to "sell off and socially dismantle" Greece.
He accused foreign and especially European Union officials of attacking SYRIZA and interfering with the election process in Greece, fearing that the two-party system was under threat, and he dismissed a recent focus on illegal migration issues as an attempt by the mainstream parties to create a diversion in the run-up to elections.
Asked about the possibility of cooperation after the elections with the breakaway Democratic Left party or the new party formed by former PASOK minister Louka Katseli, Tsipras said that SYRIZA "proposed policy convergences" but that did not look at things from the same angle as Dem. Left or Katseli's party.
 Veteran Left leader Yiannis Banias passes awayVeteran Left leader Yiannis Banias, a leading member of the former Renovative Left party and former MP of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance), died in an Athens hospital early Thursday after battling a severe illness for several weeks.
Banias was born in 1939 in Melissourgous, Arta.
A leading member of the pre-dictatorship Left, he later joined the Communist Party of the Interior (KKE-Int.), and served as the party's secretary general (party leader) from 1982 to 1988.
After a disagreement with Leonidas Kyrkos and the break-up of the KKE-Int., Banias founded the Communist Party of the Interior-Renovative Left (KKE Int.-Renovative Left), which was later renamed Renovative Communist and Ecological Left (AKOA), which is part of the SYRIZA parliamentary alliance.
Banias was elected to parliament for the first time in September 2007, as State MP, on the SYRIZA ticket, and held the seat until 2009.
 LA.O.S leader Karatzaferis on the issue of illegal immigrantsPopular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president Giorgos Karatzaferis on Thursday underlined that all illegal immigrants in the country should be deported, alleging that the reception centres' issue recently raised is nothing but an election campaign stunt.
Karatzaferis stated that "it is a shame having police sweep operations targeting illegal immigrants each time elections are coming up and soon after the polls are closed they are left to return to their usual ghetto areas in downtown Athens."
Referring to the election date that has not been fixed yet, he said that "this extended fluidity hurts the country."
 Expelled ND deputy: I will return to ND when Samaras leavesIndependent MP and former New Democracy MP Sotiris Hatzigakis who was expelled from the party said on Thursday that he will not be candidate in the next general elections, adding that he will return to ND only when current party leader Antonis Samaras and "his faction" leave.
In his statement, Hatzigakis referred to his long standing history with ND and his clash with what he called the ?Samaras system" comprised of "strange sects and factions" whose only relation with the historic party is their friendship with its leader.
Samaras had expelled Hatzigakis, a former minister with ND governments, from the ND parliamentary group in mid-October after a statement by the latter of "far-right droplets within ND that, with the label of the popular right, are seeking to distort the party's ideological identity".
 FM Dimas: Greek spirit continues to inspire the worldThe attack against Greece has energised the people's reactions throughout the world, said Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas during his address on Thursday at an event organised by the Diplomatic Employees Union at the Foreign Ministry in Athens.
Dimas stressed that the meaning and the context of the Greek culture touches all people's souls and the Greek spirit continues to inspire and to move the people, adding that the ecumenicality of Hellenism justifies the slogan "We are all Greeks".
The subject of the event was "modern philhellenism", reflecting the international support movement towards the Greek people which has evolved in the last two years, with its latest slogan being "We are all Greeks".
On his part, Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis said that "Greece has proved that it is a country with pride", noting that "We will be there where our people deserve to be".
 DM Avramopoulos to visit Washington next weekNEW YORK (AMNA/P.Panagiotou)
Greek National Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos will visit Washington on April 2-4, at the invitation of U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
Avramolpoulos and Panetta will meet on Tuesday afternoon (Greek time) April 3. According to diplomatic sources the two ministers are expected to discuss Greek-American relations as well as issues of Greek interest.
Avramopoulos is also expected to have contacts with other U.S. officials and representatives of the Greek-American community.
 FM spokesman on EEZGreece commenced talks several years ago with Libya on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but these have been suspended due to the recent developments in that country, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told a regular press briefing on Thursday, adding that Athens has a firm determination to reopen thiese talks, in which all issues are discussed.
He said that Greece is in favour of the delimitation of all seazones, not only for reasons of exploitation of the marine resources, but also because delineation contributes to stability.
Delavekouras added that international law is clear with respect to the natural wealth off the Republic of Cyprus, and recalled a Cypriot government statement that its exploitation will be to the benefit of both communities on the island.
 EP regrets Turkey's remarks to freeze relations with Cyprus' EU PresidencyBRUSSELS (V.Demiris/CNA)
The European Parliament adopted on Thursday a resolution on the progress report on Turkey, pointing out that further progress of its accession course is closely related with reforms and keeping the promises it has undertaken as a candidate state.
The resolution also denounces Ankara's refusal to withdraw a casus belli threat against Greece while calling it to stop violations of Greece's airspace and flights of Turkish aicraft over Greek islands.
MEPs also regret Ankara's statements that it will freeze relations with Cyprus' EU Presidency if the Cyprus problem is not resolved by mid-2012. The Parliament expressed support for the ongoing UN-led reunification negotiations and asked Turkey to begin withdrawing its forces from Cyprus.
It "strongly supports the ongoing negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations" and "stresses that a fair and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue must now be reached as a matter of urgency and calls on Turkey and all the parties concerned to work intensively and with good will for a comprehensive agreement".
In addition, it calls on the Government of Turkey to begin withdrawing its forces from Cyprus and to transfer Famagusta to the United Nations in accordance with Resolution 550 (1984) of the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, it "calls, in parallel, on the Republic of Cyprus to open the port of Famagusta under EU customs supervision in order to promote a positive climate for the successful solution of the ongoing reunification negotiations and allow Turkish Cypriots to trade directly in a legal manner that is acceptable to all".
The resolution further "encourages Turkey to intensify its support for the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus".
It also calls on Turkey "to refrain from any new settlement of Turkish citizens on Cyprus, as this would continue to change the demographic balance and reduce the allegiance of its citizens on the island to a future common state based on its common past".
Moreover, "it regrets Turkey's statements that it will freeze relations with the Presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2012 if a solution to the Cyprus issue is not found by then" and "recalls that the European Union is based on the principles of sincere cooperation and mutual solidarity amongst all its Member States and that as a candidate country Turkey must commit to serene relations with the European Union and all its Member States; further recalls that the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is provided for in the Treaty on European Union".
In addition, "it emphasises that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has been signed by the EU, the 27 Member States and all other candidate countries and that it is part of the acquis communautaire" and therefore "calls on the Government of Turkey to sign and ratify it without further delay; recalls the full legitimacy of the Republic of Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, in accordance with UNCLOS".
It calls on Turkey to allow political dialogue between the EU and NATO by lifting its veto on EU-NATO cooperation including Cyprus, and consequently calls on the Republic of Cyprus to lift its veto on Turkey's participation in the European Defence Agency.
The rapporteur of the report, Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten said that the "interdependence between the EU and Turkey, stressed by our resolution, can only produce positive results if framed in a context of mutual commitment. For Turkey, this means concrete results in the reform process and improvement in the bilateral relations with its neighbours. For the EU, renewed efforts are needed to create conditions for the opening of the chapters.''
According to the resolution, MEPs note that EU-Turkey relations need fresh impetus, but will get it only if Turkey makes more progress on reform.
The resolution, on the Commission's 2011 report on Turkey's progress towards joining the EU, urges Turkey to do more to reform its judiciary and protect civil liberties and sets out concerns about its laws curbing media freedom and many trials of journalists.
The resolution voices concerns about the deterioration of media freedom and laws limiting the freedom of expression in Turkey, many court cases against journalists and excessively long pre-trial detention periods.
The Parliament stresses that reform for a modern, independent and impartial judiciary should create the right conditions for opening negotiations on judiciary and fundamental rights and on justice and home affairs. MEPs back the Commission's new approach of opening these chapters early on in the negotiating process and closing them at the very end.
The reform in the area of freedom of thought is vital, MEPs stress, calling for equal treatment of all religious communities. Equal rights for women are also needed, as well as zero tolerance of violence against women and children and the broadest possible access to education.
As regards constitutional reform, MEPs note that Turkey needs to put the 2010 constitutional reform package into effect and ensure a serene political process, based on consensus, for drafting a new civilian constitution. Civil society must be included in this process.
MEPs say that in drafting the constitution, Turkey should provide for full recognition of all its ethnic and religious communities, acknowledge the inclusive nature of modern citizenship and promote the constitutional protection of mother-tongue language rights.
The resolution also urges Turkey to find a political solution to the Kurdish issue.
The resolution points out that Turkey is the only EU candidate country not benefiting from visa liberalisation. It calls for a roadmap for visa liberalisation once Turkey has signed the readmission agreement on illegal immigration.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-led talks are currently underway between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus with an aim to reunify the island.
Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus and has so far failed to meet its commitments to the EU related to Cyprus, including nornalising relations with Nicosia.
 PM and education minister discuss university law, funding issues on the phonePrime Minister Lucas Papademos held talks on the telephone with Education Minister George Babiniotis on Thursday. They agreed on the need to proceed with the implementation of the framework law for universities and deal with university funding issues.
 GSEE asks supreme court to annul Act of Cabinet implementing 2nd MemorandumThe General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, on Thursday filed a case with the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, asking it to annul an act of cabinet on February 28 that implements measures in the second Memorandum.
According to GSEE, this act of cabinet imposes wage reductions on the already meagre and over-taxed income of workers, leading to even greater recession, as well as violating basic labour rights.
The union claims that the act creates an environment where the right to unionise is essentially impossible to exercise, while the abolition of the right to unilaterally resort to labour arbitration in order to resolve wage disputes completely destroys the mechanism of collective negotiations and arbitration and shifts the regulation of working hours from the collective to the individual arena, through individual work contracts.
It also argues that other measures in the act deprive the trade unions of their most fundamental rights and tools, those of "collective autonomy and the right to strike".
GSEE emphasised in an announcement that it is determined to exercise all its rights before Greek and international courts in order to "defend individual and social rights in the country".
 Ombudsman notes increase in mismanagement in 2011, in annual reportGreek Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou noted an 8.5 percent increase in mismanagement and in negative attitudes of the public administration functionaries to the public, in her annual report for 2011 submitted on Thursday to parliament president Philippos Petsalnikos.
The 2011 report reflects the crisis in all its aspects, and also in its management, she said after submitting the report, adding that at the top of the list of problems are tax issues and social policy matters, while instances of mismanagement have increased by 8.5 percent.
What arises in general is a rift in the relations between state and society, she said.
 EU quarterly report on employment paints dire picture for GreeceBRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)
Painting a dire picture of employment prospects in Greece, the European Commission's quarterly report on employment and the social situation in the European Union published on
Thursday noted that 370,000 jobs were lost in the country of roughly 11 million people during the first three quarters of 2011.
It reported a sharp increase in unemployment levels that reached as high as 21 percent in December 2011, from 14.4 percent in December 2010 and 10.3 percent in December 2009, making it the second highest in Europe after Spain (23 percent).
It noted that this was the result of the deep recession in Greece, which was estimated as 6.8 percent in 2011 and is forecast to reach 4.7 percent in 2012, which had caused the economy to shrink 15 percent since the start of the crisis.
The report also noted a 22 percent reduction in the basic wage in Greece, which rose to 32 percent for young people, and pointed to a 2.8 percent drop in productivity during the first quarter of 2011.
Worst hit by unemployment in the country are medium-skilled workers (20.1 percent against 8.7 percent in the EU27) and low-skilled workers (14.6 percent against 5.7 percent).
Long-term unemployment increased to 9.1% of the labour force (355 000 people) and accounts for half of the unemployed. As the economic outlook for 2012 remains pessimistic about labour market recovery, long-term unemployment is likely not to have peaked yet. Poverty among the unemployed was an issue raised by the report, given that the maximum duration of unemployment benefit in Greece is 12 months and that unemployment benefit is subject to narrow eligibility conditions.
It also noted a doubling in youth unemployment, which ended at 45% in the third quarter of 2011 (48% in November 2011) - twice as high as two years ago - and their heavy contribution to the number of long-term unemployed. In the third quarter of 2011, some 45% of the unemployed aged 15 to 24 were long-term unemployed, against 30% two years earlier.
The report highlighted low access to life-long learning in Greece, with just 3 percent of the population participating in education or training against 9 percent for the EU27 average. Participation for those aged 25-34 was 7 percent in Greece against 15 percent in the EU and dropped to just 0.5 percent for those aged 55-64 versus 4.5 percent in the EU.
Gross disposable household income decreased by 9.3% in 2010, with lower-income groups losing a significant proportion of their income. Households in the bottom quintile (i.e. the poorest 20% of the population) lost an estimated 9% of their income, compared with 11% for households in the top quintile.
The overall at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate for the total population stood at 27.7% in 2010, higher than the EU27 average of 23.4%. The risk-of-poverty (income-poor) rate was 20.1% in 2010, following an increase from 19.7% in 2009, whereas the EU average is 16.4%. The risk of poverty for children (23.0%) is higher than the EU average which stood at 20.6% in 2010.
The in-work poverty rate in Greece was the second highest in the EU in 2010, while the rate of severe material deprivation stood at 11.6% in Greece, whereas the EU27 average was 8.1% in 2010.
The share of persons declaring that they were having great difficulty in making ends meet rose from 19% in 2007 to 24% in 2010 (and from 36% to 47% among those at risk of poverty). The share of people with arrears (mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase) rose from 26% in 2007 to 31% in 2010. The share unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day has risen to 8% of the population (6.5% in 2007). Homelessness is estimated to have risen by 25% between 2009 and 2011.
 Hydrocarbon seismic survey tender outcome to be decided after elections, minister saysThe winner of the tender for the conduction of seismic studies for hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) in the Ionian sea and in the sea area south of the island of Crete will be decided after the elections, deputy environment, energy and climate change minister Yiannis Maniatis said on Thursday, addressing an Economist energy conference in Athens.
Eight companies from the US, Norway, Britain and France, all global providers of geophysical services, submitted applications to the environment, energy and climate change ministry to conduct seismic surveys for hydrocarbons in the Ionian sea and in the sea area south of the island of Crete by the expiration of the deadline on March 2.
Maniatis said that there is substantial interest by both large and medium-size companies for explorations in Greece, adding that it would be unethical for decisions to be taken on the seismic studies a few days before parliament is dissolved ahead of the elections, which are expected on April 29 or May 6, while the ministry's initial timetable had planned for evaluation of the offers in early April.
He elaborated that a large number of large and medium-size companies have contacted the ministry and expressed interest in all the designated areas for seismic study, not just the Ionian and Crete but also the tenders for hydrocarbon exploration in Ioannina, the Patras Gulf and Katakolo.
An 'open door' invitation of interest for the three concessions -- an area in the Gulf of Patras, a second area west of Ioannina in Epirus prefecture, and in the region of Katakolo in Ileia prefecture, with an estimated potential of 250-300 million barrels over a period of 15-20 years -- expires on July 2.
Maniatis further said that the Greek state will collect, in the next 2-3 months -- the first million euros from the Greek hydrocarbons, coming from the sale of the survey data to prospective bidders for the Ioannina, Patras Gulf and Katakolo concessions.
He said that no inch of Greek land or sovereign sea area will be left unexplored, noting that in 15 years' time Greece will be able to meet up to 30 percent of its needs in hydrocarbons from domestic sources.
 WTO chief offers vote of confidence for Greek tourismTaleb Rifai, secretary general of the UN World Tourism Organization, offered a vote of confidence to Greek tourism on
Thursday, saying "Greece will have a positive growth although not in the same range as 2011".
Speaking to reporters during a visit in Athens, Rifai characterising the growth as "modest" and stressed that the impact of political and social uprising in North African countries will be not as strong as in 2011 and underlined that tourism trends will depend mostly on political developments in the country and more particularly on whether the Greek government could make it easier for tourists from growing markets such as Russia and China to get visas.
He praised the initiatives taken by Greek culture and tourism ministry to restructure entry process for tourists outside the Schengen Treaty and reiterated that Greek tourism could spearhead efforts to exit the economic crisis.
Rifai said Greece managed to highlight the significance of changing a Schengen Treaty to the international community and sounded optimistic over positive developments in the issue, which will help the entire global tourism community.
Greek Minister Pavlos Geroulanos told reporters that Greece will preside over Europe in the World Tourism Organization next month and will present its request for changes in the Schengen Treaty to international fora.
Earlier, Geroulanos, accompanying WTO's secretary general, visited Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
Speaking to AMNA, Geroulanos said he briefed the premier over developments in the visa issue and presented the government's initiatives.
"It is very important to become clear that facilitating entry process for travelers outside the Schengen Treaty was not related with raising illegal immigration. Instead, the benefits from higher tourism trends to Greece will have multiple benefits for Greek tourism, the economy and employment," the minister said.
 Report on Greek Internet economy unveiledInternet economy in Greece trails far behind other European countries but through well-targeted initiatives by the public and private sector it could contribute to the economic growth and create new job positions in the future, according to a report made public on Thursday prepared by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on behalf and with the support of Google.
The report, unveiled during a special event in Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) in the presence of politicians and businessmen, attempted for the first time to identify the value of the Internet economy in Greece. The report revealed that the Greek Internet economy contributed roughly 2.7 billion euro in 2010 representing 1.2 pct of the Greek GDP, much lower than the EU average of 3.8 pct of the GDP or Turkey's 1.7 pct.
According to the report, the economic crisis has an impact on the Internet sector slowing down its growth. It estimated that the domestic Internet economy will increase with an annual rate of 6 pct reaching 3.6 billion euro or 1.6 pct of the GDP in 2015. However, according to a more optimistic scenario, the average annual growth could reach 19 pct in 2015, corresponding to 2.9 pct of the GDP (an additional 2 billion euros), if measures are adopted to support the sector of digital economy.
The report shows that the Greeks have not embraced the Internet as much as other countries. Among others it is revealed that Greece imports services and goods via e-commerce worth 1.8 billion euro, while its exports are just 0.7 billion euro, namely, 1 euro of exports for every 2.6 euro of imports. This is due mainly to the fact that 57 pct of the Greek consumers prefer to make their purchases abroad because they cannot find the goods they want in Greek sites.
The Greeks feel insecure when making their buys online and prefer shopping in actual stores. However, there were examples of companies such as, airtickets.gr, skrutz.gr among others, that even amidst the crisis have managed to show an upward course with sales in the country and abroad which is attributed to the extensive and proper use of Internet options.
Another notable exception is the relatively high percentage of Internet users who have accessed the Internet on their mobile handset, 30 pct, close to the EU average of 36 pct.
The report outlined five proposals aimed at boosting Internet economy in Greece, namely, encourage small and medium size enterprises to offer online services and accelerate the release of 1.5 billion euros in National Strategic Reference Framework NSRF funds; improve infrastructures; boost the confidence of Greek consumers; expand e-government and invest in digital media education.
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and a leading advisor on business strategy.
 Bank credit to private sector falls further in Feb.The annual growth rate of total credit granted to the domestic private sector decreased further to -3.8 percent in February 2012 from -3.3 percent in the previous month (December 2011: -3.1 percent), the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, totaling 1.188 billion euros (February 2011: positive net flow of 123 million).
The net flow of credit to enterprises in February 2012 was negative, amounting to 695 million euros (February 2011: positive net flow of 279 million) and the annual growth rate of credit decreased to -2.7 percent from -1.9 percent in the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial enterprises decreased to -3.3 percent in February 2012 from -2.6 percent in the previous month and the annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries, which includes significant intra-group transactions, decelerated to 7.1 percent in February 2012 from 10.5 percent in January 2012.
The net flow of credit to sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships was negative amounting to 109 million euros (February 2011: negative net flow of 16 million) and the annual rate of change of credit decreased to -7.8 percent in February 2012 from -7.3 percent in the previous month.
In February 2012, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 383 million euros (February 2011: negative net flow of 139 million). As a result, the annual growth rate of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions decreased to -4.3 percent in February 2012 from -4.1 percent, in January 2012.
 Measures to ease pressure on over-indebted households withdrawnMeasures designed to ease the pressure on over-indebted households, included in article 49 of the labour ministry's draft omnibus bill, were withdrawn by Labour Minister George Koutroumanis on Thursday, after discussion on the bill had begun in Parliament.
The labour minister said that the decision to withdraw the measures was taken because consultation with the European Central Bank was continuing and that they would be re-tabled as an amendment once the ECB report on the issue was released some time next week.
The specific article introduced a series of measures to ease pressure on households with an excess debt burden, such as an extension for debt settlement, more favourable interest rates and a freeze on a debtor's main residence, as well as a ban on seizing sums less than 1,500 euro in bank accounts, or 2,000 euro for joint accounts.
It also introduced changes to the regime for out-of-court debt settlements and made the measures for households open to entrepreneurs that had one-person businesses and do not have the right to file for bankruptcy under the code for businesses.
 Greek Producer's Price Index up 6.8 pct in Feb.Greece's producer's price index in the industrial sector grew 6.8 pct in February this year, compared with the same month in 2011, after an increase of 8.5 pct recorded in February 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, attributed the 6.8 pct increase of the index to a 6.9 pct rise in the domestic index and a 6.2 pct increase in the external market index.
The Producer's Price Index was up 0.7 pct in February from January, after an increase of 1.4 pct in the corresponding period last year
 Building activity fell 37.7 pct on average in 2011Building activity dropped by an average 37.7 pct in volume last year, after a 50.3 pct plunge recorded in December, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, also said that building permits dropped by 28.4 pct in 2011.
The size of private building activity in Greece totaled 2,971 permits in December, down 41.8 pct compared with the same month in 2010.
In the 12-month period from January to December 2011, private building activity fell 28.4 pct based on the number of building permits and by 37.7 pct in volume, compared with the previous 12-month period.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Premium production by insurance companies operating in Greece totaled 4.77 billion euros in 2011, down 7.1 pct compared with 2010, a report by the Hellenic Association of Insurance Companies revealed on Thursday.
-- Quest Holdings SA on Thursday announced its return to profitability in 2011, with earnings totaling 1.5 million euros, after losses of 850,000 euros in the previous year.
-- Alpha Trust Andromeda on Thursday said its losses widened to 13.873 million euros in 2011 from a loss of 3.14 million euros in 2010. Gross income totaled -11.94 million euros reflecting a loss of 12.75 million euros from securities transactions and earning of 810,000 euros from portfolio gains.
-- MLS Informatics on Thursday reported lower profits in 2011, with net after tax earnings totaling 1.3 million euros last year, from 1.6 million euros in 2010, for a decline of 18.7 pct.
-- Korres Group on Thursday reported higher sales but lower profits in 2011. The Group said exports grew 15 pct last year, with sales in priority markets such as Germany, Spain and Russia rising by around 18 pct.
-- Folli Follie on Thursday reported a 7.3-pct increase in its 2011 profits to 91.3 million euros from 85.1 million euros in 2010.
 Stocks end sharply lowerStocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday amid a negative climate in other European markets. Uncertainty over the terms of a bank recapitalisation plan, combined with renewed turbulence in the sovereign bond markets of Spain and Portugal undermined sentiment in the Greek market.
The composite index fell 2.37 pct to end at 734.77 points, off the day's lows of 725.13 points. Turnover remained a low 41.655 million euros. The Big Cap index fell 2.66 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 3.29 pct down and the Small Cap index fell 2.16 pct.
The Commerce sector was the only one to record gains (1.12 pct), while Utilities (7.09 pct), Chemicals (4.89 pct) and Banks (4.31 pct) suffered losses. Alpha Bank (9.25 pct), PPC (8.56 pct), Eurobank (8.28 pct) and National Bank (4.33 pct) were top losers among blue chip stocks, while Marfin Popular Bank (2.15 pct) and Folli Follie (1.28 pct) were the only ones to scored gains.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 97 to 39 with another 24 issues unchanged. Kordellos Bros (29.85 pct), Fieratex (25.91 pct) and Euroholdings (20 pct) were top gainers, while Ilyda (28.07 pct), Mathios (20.65 pct) and Alpha Trust Andromeda (20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.35%
Personal & Household: -0.92%
Raw Materials: -2.19%
Travel & Leisure: -2.40%
Food & Beverages: -0.05%
Financial Services: -2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.97
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.42
HBC Coca Cola: 14.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.74
National Bank of Greece: 1.99
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.62
Bank of Piraeus: 0.30
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 18.32 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 18.01 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 20.11 pct and the German Bund 1.86 pct. Turnover was a low 2.0 million euros, equally distributed between buyers and sellers.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 1.36 pct, the six-month rate was 1.08 pct, the three-month 0.78 pct and the one-month rate 0.42 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.5 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 14.569 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,889 contracts worth 8.318 million euros, with 15,939 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 38,255 contracts worth 6.251 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (15,798), followed by Cyprus Bank (2,274), OTE (2,605), PPC (986), Piraeus Bank (2,025), National Bank (9,702), Marfin Popular Bank (631), Mytilineos (555), Hellenic Postbank (401), ATEbank (346), GEK (522), OPAP (598) and Intralot (313).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.347
Pound sterling 0.848
Danish kroner 7.548
Swedish kroner 8.977
Japanese yen 110.85
Swiss franc 1.223
Norwegian kroner 7.746
Canadian dollar 1.347
Australian dollar 1.302
 Greece lagging behind in reducing road deaths, EU Commission report notesBRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)
Greece is lagging behind significantly in the rate of cutting road deaths over the last decade, compared with the rest of the European Union, based on the latest statistics released by the European Commission on Thursday.
Over the last decade (2001-2010), the number of road deaths in Greece fell by just 33 percent, compared with an EU average rate of 43 percent. The average annual reduction in the EU over this period was 6 percent, as opposed to 4 percent in Greece during the same period. This trend was reversed in 2011, however, where the number of road deaths fell by 13 percent in Greece relative to 2010, whereas progressed slowed to - 2 percent in the rest of the EU and some countries with good road safety records had a significant increase in deaths.
Fatal accidents involving motorbikes have also stubbornly resisted improvement over the last decade, with Greece having one of the highest rates of deadly motorcycle accidents in the EU. According to the data presented by the Commission, motorbike accidents corresponded to 15 percent of road deaths in the EU, as opposed to 29 percent in Greece and 23 percent in Italy.
 Restoration works planned for Fortress of AkronafpliaThe Fortress of Akronafplia (Acronauplia) is one of the most important monuments of the city of Nafplio, and in recent years has been treated more as a tourist attraction rather than an archaeological site.
This is soon to change, however following a decision by the 25th Ephorate for Byzantine Antiquities to carry out restoration works aiming to showcase the monument.
Akronafplia, also known as Its Kale (Inner Castle), is the oldest part of the city of Nafplion, and was a town in its own right up until the 13th century. With the advent of the Venetians and Franks it was incorporated into the city's fortifications.
Later, a part of it was used as a political prison (1936-56), but the Greek government subsequently decided that the view from its location would benefit the local tourism and built a hotel complex (Xenia) there which still stands today.
The Akronafplia Fortress, the oldest of Nafplio's three castles, rises above the old part of the city and was the Acropolis of Nafplio. Walls of several eras are saved on it. The lower section of the fortress walls date back to the Bronze Age, while most of the remaining structures were built by the Venetians in the 15th century.
 Hellenistic and Roman era cemetery uncovered in ThessalonikiPart of an ancient Greek cemetery of the Hellenistic and Roman era was uncovered in Thessaloniki during excavations for the construction of "Dimokratia" station of the Metropolitan Railway of Thessaloniki. A total of 75 tombs, 45 of which have already been examined, were unearthed in an area of 500sq.m.
Most of the tombs are box shaped, one is circular and others have tiled roofs. A large number of altars used for funerary ceremonies were also found, as well as many funerary offerings dated between the 2nd and 3rd century A.D.
 One dead in post office shooting in PiraeusA 30-year-old woman was fatally injured in a shooting at an ELTA post office in Piraeus on Thursday morning.
The woman, a post office employee, was shot by a 36-year-old mailman who is believed to be a former companion of the victim.
The man has been arrested and is being questioned by police, who are also taking statements from eyewitnesses.
The postman and the victim had worked together at the ELTA post in Keratsimi, from where the woman asked for a transfer, and on Thursday began her first day on the job at the main Piraeus post office.
The 36-year-old man stormed into the Piraeus post office on Thursday morning, took out a pistol and shot the woman at least twice, without any prior exchange of words.
 Police launch migrant sweep in central AthensThe Greek Police on Thursday launched a major migrant sweep designed to clear central Athens of illegal economic migrants and street peddlers, the majority of which come from African or Asian countries.
The migrants picked up are being led to special holding cells prepared for the purpose and will afterward be taken to 30 reception centres set up throughout Greece using emergency procedures, where they will await deportation back to their own countries.
The citizen protection ministry that ordered the sweep operation has made preparation of the Attica reception centres a priority, both because the vast majority of undocumented migrants are collected in the capital and also because of the opposition from other towns to the "importing" of migrants to their area.
 Explosion at police station causes minor damage, man arrestedAn explosion occurred outside the police station of Korydallos, near Piraeus, in the first morning hours of Thursday after a 29-year-old man threw a home-made explosive device into the station's courtyard.
Earlier, the man had been seen entering the environs of an apartment building located behind the police station, from where he threw the device.
Police on duty inside the station chased the man and arrested him.
The explosion caused minor damage, breaking windows in neighboring apartment buildings and the ground floor of the police station, but no injuries.
A cap and a pair of gloves were found in the possession of the man, who will give testimony at the GADA police headquarters.
 Abbot Ephraim is released with conditionsA ruling issued on Thursday by a Council of Court of Appeals Judges decided in favour of the release of Vatopedi Monastery Abbot Ephraim, who was being held in custody as a suspect in the controversial land swap case involving the Greek state and the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos.
The council decided that Abbot Ephraim will be released with conditions after posting a 300,000 euro bail. According to the ruling, Abbot Ephraim will have to appear regularly at a police station while he is banned from leaving the monastery grounds.
The council accepted a relevant proposal submitted by a court of appeals prosecutor who had disagreed with the examining judge's position that the abbot should be held on remand pending trial.
A petition filed by Abbot Ephraim last December for his release had been rejected by the examining judge despite the prosecutor's disagreement.
 Illegal migrants repatriatedThirty-nine foreign nationals were repatriated on Thursday within the framework of actions against illegal migration.
Specifically, 25 Bangladeshi nationals, 7 Romanians, 3 Moroccans, 2 Polish nationals, one Spaniard and an Algerian were sent back to their countries of origin on commercial flights from Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" to Dhaka, Bucharest, Casablanca, Warsaw, Algiers and Madrid in accordance with court decision regarding illegal entrance into Greece.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Presidential Decree on the evaluation, promotions and the salaries of civil servants mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "How 720,000 civil servants will be evaluated".
AVGHI: "The agreement of the 'sold-out' Greece".
AVRIANI: "Israel's strategic choice to export natural gas to Europe via Greece".
DIMOKRATIA: "The generation of 245 euros".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Contract for promotion or ...layoff".
ESTIA: "Outrageous taxation".
ETHNOS: "New evaluation system for salaries and promotions".
IMERISSIA: "Crucial test with DEPA (Public Gas Organisation)".
LOGOS: "Illegal migrants sweep operation a pre-election move".
KATHIMERINI: "Stifling stench of populism".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Final opportunity for the settlement of overdue debts".
NIKI: "Earn money from your bank deposits".
RIZOSPASTES: "Private psychiatric clinic owners kick out patients whose social security funds have not paid their debts".
TA NEA: "New blow for civil servants".
VRADYNI: "Public sector: Individual contracts with evaluations and layoffs".
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