|Wednesday, 21 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-04-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 4 April 2012 Issue No: 4038
 Investments in RES a national priority, PM tells energy conferenceInvestments in energy, and more particularly in renewable energy sources, is a national priority, and Greece has the ability to become an energy hub in Europe and the wider region, prime minister Lucas Papademos said on Tuesday, adding that "we do not want an isolated Greece.
Addressing a conference on Renewable Energy Sources organised in Athens by the environment, energy and climate change ministry and attended by European Commissioner for energy Gunther Oettinger, Papademos said that the deregulation of the energy market, access of third parties to lignite, the denationalisation of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) S.A -- in which, he said, there has been exceptional interest in the first stage -- the further privatisation of the Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (ELPE), the entry of a strategic investor in the electricity networks and the procedures for the exploitation of hydrocarbons, together compose the potential of the sector in the coming years.
The conference focused especially on the Helios Project for the production of electricity from photovoltaics in Greece and its export to countries in central Europe with less sunlight, and Papademos noted that materialisation of the project will render Greece a mode European country in energy export.
"Energy should be produced where it costs less," he said, adding that if the same investment were to be made in central Europe, where there is less sunlight, it would cost an additional 6 billion euros on estimate. "In times of austerity, we do not have that luxury."
The premier also reiterated that over the last two years Greece has reduced its primary deficit by 8 percentage points of GDP, an achievement that has not been made by any other country in the OECD, adding, however, that the fiscal adjustment is a necessary but not a conducive condition for development, "and growth in the future, in order to be sustainable, must be founded on the country's comparative advantages and exports".
Addressing the same conference, environment, energy and climate change minister George Papaconstantinou announced that the long-term energy plan for up to 2050 would be put on Tuesday to public debate.
The plan, he said, provides for the electrification of transports, reduction of oil consumption, increase in use of biofuels, and improvement of the energy efficiency in the building sector.
The end goal is to reduce dependence on imported energy, while the case scenarios in the plan anticipate that the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions could reach up to 60-70 percent in 2050 compared with 2005, while electricity production from renewable sources could reach 85-100 percent, and RES could account for 60-70 percent in the energy balance, Papaconstantinou added.
On the Helios project, Papaconstantinou said that the development of photovoltaic panels would cover less than 0.1 percent of the country's expanse, will not burden the consumers, and will enable the country to export energy not only to the EU but to other neighboring countries as well, such as Turkey.
He said the full development of the project, which envisages the installation of 10 GW (gigawatt, or 10,000MW) of photovoltaics, requires a reinforcement of the networks, which currently have a maximum absorption capacity of 2,000 MW (megawatt).
The minister also stressed that materialization of the project does not mean concession of "the Greek sun to foreign powers...we will continue to tan ourselves in Greece in the summers".
Oettinger, in turn, noted that RES provide an opportunity for the creation of jobs, innovation and exports that could help Greece overcome the recession.
He acknowledged that the existing infrastructure was not sufficient for the full development of Helios, for which reinforcement of the networks will be required, as well as the hook up of the islands and new connections with the neighboring countries, all of which are steps that also serve the target of creating a European single energy market.
The Commissioner underlined that Greece has a key role to play in the integration of the regional energy market, while also stressing the need for liberalisation of the markets and enhancement of competition, adding that he will support these efforts of the Greek government.
 Greek defence minister meets U.S. counterpart in WashingtonNEW YORK (AMNA - P. Panagiotou)
Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, currently on a visit to Washington, on Tuesday met U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta for talks on issues of Greek interest, agreements on Greek-U.S. bilateral defence cooperation and defence-sector programmes, and the overall situation in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
In statements after the meeting, Avramopoulos said that Panetta had also thanked Greece for its contribution to the operations in Libya.
"I noted that the national defence system of [Greece], in spite of the economic crisis, continues to be one of the strongest and most reliable in the surrounding region and will always be at the service of peace, cooperation, security and stability in our region," Avramopoulos said.
According to the Greek minister, they also had the opportunity to discuss other major regional issues such as the Cyprus problem, the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greek-Israeli cooperation and to confirm a mutual desire to promote defence cooperation programmes.
He said that a meeting was simultaneously underway between the heads of the Greek and U.S. armed forces focusing on the technical details of a political agreement in this direction.
"It is important to note that none of the things that have been happening recently have in any way weakened Greece's strategic role," Avramopoulos added.
 DM in NY, meets with American Jewish Committee exec. dir. HarrisNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
Greek defence minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, on a visit to the US, on Monday met with senior representatives of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on a series of issues in the context of Greek-Israeli relations, during a dinner hosted by the AJC in his honor at the Committee's headquarters in Manhattan.
Avramopoulos, who will be in Washington on Tuesday at the invitation of his US counterpart, Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, noted the "spectacular steps" that have been made in relations between Greece and Israel, adding that "a new geopolitical and geostrategic environment is being formed, opening up new prospects for both peoples".
Avramopoulos was welcomed by AJC executive director David Harris, who spoke warmly of Greece and of the constant improvement in Greece's relations with Israel and the Jewish element.
In a statement to AMNA, Avramopoulos said that he accepted with pleasure the invitation by his good friend, AJC executive director Harris, for Monday's meeting "which is another link in the chain of the relations between Greece and Israel, between Greece and the US, and also between the Greek American and Israeli American communities".
In recent years, substantial steps have been made in Greece-Israel relations, and in the face of the new reality being created by the generalised economic crisis, "peoples such as ours come even closer together, with a spirit of mutual understanding", Avramopoulos said.
At the same time, he continued, major dramatic developments were taking place in the wider region. "A new geopolitical and geostrategic environment is being formed. Greece and Israel have proceeded to a significant move, to cooperation of strategic importance that covers a wide range of issues," he said, adding: "Everything that began 20 years ago under the New Democracy (ND) government with (current ND leader) Antonis Samaras as the foreign minister, was recently updated with the signing of the new agreements and show that the Greece and Israel share a common path of developmental prospects in an era of major challenges. As peoples, we have learned both to confront them and to overcome them."
Avramopoulos said that he had the opportunity to exchange views with eminent personalities both of the AJC and of the economic, business and energy sectors.
He noted that he will visit Washington again in early May, for the AJC Global Forum 2012, in response to an official invitation to what he called "one of the largest and most important events of the year", where he will take part in a discussion with his colleagues from Germany and Israel and other eminent personalities on a series of issues having to do with cooperation, coexistence and a common prospect in a changing world.
"I than David (Harris) for his warm hospitality, and naturally I expect him soon in Greece, Avramopoulos concluded.
Harris, speaking in turn to AMNA, said it was an honor to host Avramopoulos at the AJC, and that this was another step in their deep friendly relations.
He said that for himself and the AJC, the history goes back some 30 years "when we commenced our relations with Greece and the close cooperation with our Greek American partners, such as Eddie Athens".
"In these 30 years, we have gone back and forth, with visits to Athens, to Thessaloniki, with the aim of improving the cooperation and friendship between Greece and the Jews, between Greece and the state of Israel," Harris said.
"As defence minister Avramopoulos said, today, in 2012, we are discussing a strategic alliance between Greece and Israel. And this is in favour of American and European interests in the region. We therefore welcome the spirit conveyed by Mr. Avramopoulos. We understand that today is a very difficult moment for Greece, and that is an additional reason why we are trying to understand Greece. That is why we were there in November, in January, and will go again in a few months," Harris said.
 PM to visit Cyprus on ThursdayNICOSIA (AMNA - A. Viketos)
Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will pay a two-day official visit to Cyprus later this week, according to an announcement issue by the Cyprus government on Tuesday.
Papademos, accompanied by foreign minister Stavros Dimas, Minister of State Pantelis Kapsis and a government delegation, will arrive in Nicosia on Thursday and depart for Athens on Friday night.
The Greek premier will be received by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias at 3:15 p.m. local time and hold talks with the participation of their respective delegations.
The Cyprus president will also host an official dinner in honour of the Greek premier at the presidential mansion on Thursday night.
During the visit, Papademos will also meet the Cyprus Parliament's speaker and address a special session of the Cyprus Parliament, meet Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos, hold separate meetings with the leaders of the political parties in Parliament and meet representatives of a committee for Cyprus missing and undeclared prisoners of war, the Cypriot refugees union and the committee of occupied municipalities.
 PM meets with AHEPA delegationPrime Minister Lucas Papademos on Tuesday met with a visiting Hellenic American Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) delegation, headed by its president John Grossomanides, with talks on the impact the economic crisis on the financially weak and ways to support those in need.
"We discussed with the prime minister ways to help the poor and the homeless and offer humanitarian assistance to help them deal with the crisis," the president of AHEPA stated afterwards.
They also discussed ways to boost tourist arrivals from the United States and investment opportunities in Greece.
 PASOK leader addresses local gov't officialsPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday said the economic crisis plaguing Greece is not over yet.
"Do Greeks believe that the crisis is over and that we can from now on decide outside the framework of our obligations towards our partners and the loan contract?" he asked, while addressing a meeting of local government officials.
"Some people live with the illusion that the (upcoming) elections are a social protest, but things are not like that," Venizelos said, adding that the country must be governed. "We must pose clear and correct questions ... society cannot give vague answers."
Venizelos also asked whether there are still Greeks "ready to accept the idea of denouncing the the loan contract." Moreover, he asked whether there are Greeks who believe that the idea of renegotiating the memorandums is credible.
 PASOK leader's scheduled meetingsPASOK President Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday met with a visiting Hellenic American Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) delegation and discussed the efforts by the country towards reconstruction.
Venizelos called on the representatives of the Greek diaspora organizations to contribute to the efforts made to restore the country's international prestige.
 PASOK leader meets with German deputy ministerPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos met on Tuesday with visiting German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Hans-Joachim Fuchtel.
"We want relations between the two countries to be reinforced at all levels. We want no misunderstandings to prevail and to be also understood that this relation is equal and mutually beneficial," Venizelos told reporters after the meeting.
The PASOK leader after noting that Germany is the most important trade partner of Greece and that the trade balance presents, for many years now, a surplus in favour of Germany, he underlined that the "presence of German companies in Greece is too strong."
In this context, Venizelos added, "we want Greek products to be present in the German markets."
 ND Spokesman: ND will get enough votes to form viable gov'tNew Democracy (ND) party's alternate spokesman on Tuesday expressed certainty that imminent general elections will produce a viable and strong ND government.
Speaking to public radio, Giorgos Mouroutis clarified that moves that will be made in case no viable government can be formed are dictated in the constitution, stressing that he repeats earlier comments by ND leader Antonis Samaras.
 Tsipras asks EU institutions 'not to interfere' in Greek electionsWith a letter sent to the European Commission and the European Parliament via their respective offices in Athens, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday asked them not to interfere with the elections in Greece in any way.
Citing an article in the newspaper "Vima tis Kyriakis" about plans for a television campaign with the slogan "Greece-EU Together", Tsipras stressed that, if this was the case, then the EU needed to show sensitivity and neutrality concerning internal democratic processes underway in a sovereign and equal member-state of the EU.
He called for the televised campaign to be postponed until after the parliamentary elections and for the two EU bodies to "refrain from any kind of initiative, direct or indirect, of intervention in the pre-election process in Greece, even if this is informal at present, and of affecting the judgement of the Greek people".
 Tsipras addresses rally of supportersRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras adressed supporters on Tuesday evening in the Piraeus Aigaleo district, flanked by French Communist Party (PCF) leader Pierre Laurent and Gregor Gyzi, President of the parliamentary group of the German Left party.
Tsipras said his party "will continue, will persist, will win," adding that he would insist "until the end on the cooperation of all 'antimemorandum' forces."
 New party delegation visits Parliament presidentA delegation of the newly formed Independent Greeks party, headed by Panos Kammenos, on Tuesday visited Parliament President Filippos Petsalnikos to inform him that the party has formed its own Parliamentary group, comprised of 10 MPs.
The party was founded by former New Democracy (ND) MP Panos Kammenos and the MPs comprising it (Elena Kountoura, Maria Kollia, Mika Iatridi, Mihalis Yiannakis, Costas Markopoulos, Christos Zois, Panagiotis Melas, Dimitris Stamatis, Spyros Galinos) are also former ND parliament deputies. They were expelled from ND after voting against the second loan memorandum.
The new Parliamentary group elected Panos Kammenos as its president, while the position of the parliamentary spokesman will be occupied by Christos Zois.
By forming a Parliamentary group, the party will have additional rights provided by Parliamentary regulations and also better representation in the media under the law during the pre-election period.
 Papandreou in New York for SI meeting on Global Economic IssuesNEW YORK (AMNA - P. Panagiotou)
Socialist International president George Papandreou, a former Greek premier, is currently visiting New York in order to chair an SI meeting on "Global Economic issues" taking place at the United Nations on Wednesday.
Arriving in New York on Tuesday, Papandreou was due to meet with former U.S. president Bill Clinton to discuss Greek issues and global affairs.
The SI meeting on Wednesday is expected to focus on developments in the Eurozone and the repercussions of the European crisis on a regional and global level as well as issues concerning the global economy as a whole.
On Thursday, Papandreou is due to be the keynote speaker at an event on the global economy organised by the 'New America' think-tank based in Washington.
 Labour Minister meets with German deputy ministerLabour Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis on Tuesday met with visiting German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Hans-Joachim Fuchtel and discussed vocational training issues.
They focused on know-how that can be offered by the German government to help link vocational training with labour market access. An issue of major importance for Greece with high unemployment rates particularly in younger ages.
 Greek court clears German magazine of defamation chargesA Greek court on Tuesday ruled that a controversial cover story run by Germany's 'Focus' magazine in February 2010 under the headline 'Cheats in the Euro-family' was not an insult to the Greek people, acquitting the publisher and dismissing charges against five journalists. The story depicted the 'Venus de Milo' making an obscene gesture with her middle finger on the magazine's front cover and described Greeks as the "con-men of Europe".
The court ruled that the publisher of the magazine had not insulted the country because the statue on the cover was not wrapped in the Greek flag. Earlier, the court had cleared five journalists of the magazine of defamation charges, arguing that the controversial texts referred to actions made by Greek politicians and were not intended to insult the Greek people.
The three-member misdemeanours court also ruled that according to recently passed legislation slander has been converted to a minor offence and is written off with conditions.
As soon as the hearing began, the presiding judges cleared the court of the civilian case plaintiffs, ruling that they had suffered no damage and had no direct legal interest in the case.
One of the plaintiffs, lawyer Theodoros Frangakis stressed "we do not know what has changed and the Greek justice with this decision virtually accepted that the Greeks are cheats, corrupt and tax-dodgers. This decision is reprehensible."
 NGO objects to gov't policy vis-a-vis massive wave of illegal immigrationThe Greek government's plan to round up and detain what it calls "irregular migrants" and asylum-seekers in country, "including those suspected of carrying infectious diseases such as HIV", was called "deeply alarming" by Amnesty Interna-tional on Monday.
The international NGO opined that "those considered vulnerable to such diseases, based on their country of origin, poor living conditions, occupation as sex workers or their drug use, will be targeted."
"The Greek authorities must withdraw such measures immediately, which will only exacerbate the stigmatization of migrants and asylum-seekers in the country," AI spokesperson Jezerca Tigani said.
According to the group, "there are no appropriate facilities at Greece's borders for the identification of those in need of international protection, such as victims of torture and unaccompanied or separated asylum-seeking children...Amnesty International understands that migrants and asylum-seekers diagnosed with an infectious disease will be transferred to special hospital units for treatment under police guard."
The group's press release, nevertheless, did not offer proposals on how to prevent individuals who are not eligible for asylum -- illegal immigrants, economic migrants, irregular migrants, potential guest workers, trafficked sex workers, drug smugglers or unofficial tourists -- from entering the country.
 Greek-Turkish mixed committee discusses border bridge projectA mixed Greek-Turkish committee for the planning and monitoring of public works convened in the northeastern Greek city of Alexandroupolis on Tuesday in order to discuss the construction of a new road bridge at the Kipi-Ipsala border crossing between Greece and Turkey.
The meeting was attended by the Greek infrastructure ministry general secretary Sergios Lambropoulos and decided to set up a sub-committee made up of experts from the Egnatia Odos motorway company and the Turkish motoways authority that will oversee the first stage of the project, which is a land survey due to be completed in the next three months.
The two sides also signed a protocol of cooperation and understanding.
 Gov't presents policy report on domestic energy sector up until 2050Greece aims to fully cover its needs in electricity from renewable energy sources, investing 45-63 billion euros on power production units and new networks by 2050, a policy report presented on Tuesday by Envrionment, Energy & Climate Change ministry states.
The report said a decline in energy demand as a result of an economic crisis in the country will be temporary and predicted a significant increase in demand in the long-term. The report examines three scenarios over trends in energy demand and the ways of meeting this demand in the coming decades without taking into account any finding from oil and gas explorations which are expected to begin in the country.
The first scenario is based on the continuation of current policies, the second scenario aims at reducing CO2 emissions by 60-70 pct and maximising renewable energy sources' share to 100 pct of electricity production and the third scenario aims at minimizing investment cost on renewable sources. Investments in the energy sector are forecast to range from 45 in the first scenario to 80 billion in the second and 63 billion euros in the third scenario.
"The energy sector plays a vital role in all sustainable growth policies worldwide and it is one of the sectors which could attract new investments and capital in the next few years, creating new job positions, strengthening the geostatic position and competitiveness of our country. The main targets of the government's policy is to differentiate the energy mix, gradually limiting dependence on coal, strengthening energy security, taking advantage of renewable energy sources and fulfilling targets to deal with climate change," George Papaconstantinou, the relevant minister said, commenting on the report.
 ILO reps meet with commerce sector organisation headNational Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) president Vassilis Korkidis and a visiting delegation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Tuesday reportedly agreed that labour costs are not a key-factor in the competitiveness of the Greece's economy.
The meeting was held as a follow up to an earlier meeting last November.
Korkidis underlined that ESEE does not want more wage cuts, despite the fact that many small and medium size businesses are exerting pressure toward this direction.
According to ESEE, the sector's collective bargaining agreements should not be abolished, while he expressed confidence in social dialogue.
On their part, ILO representatives stressed that it wishes to support the preservation of collecting bargaining and other forms of social dialogue in Greece recognising, at the same time, that the problem is not only Greek and has a wider European dimension.
 Plaisio Computers announces 2.0-mln-euro investment in ThessalonikiPlaisio Computers on Tuesday announced the opening of a new retail shop in Thessaloniki -investment worth 2.0 million euros- and said the group has renovated its retail units in Psyhico, the Athens Mall and Vouliagmenis along with the reopening of its historic first shop off Stournari street, in central Athens.
 Mutual funds' assets down 1.57% in 2012Assets under management by mutual funds management companies operating in Greece fell 1.57 pct to 5.146 billion euros at the end of March, from 5.229 billion euros in January 1, 2012, official figures showed on Tuesday.
The top five mutual funds management companies accounted for more than 75 pct of the market, with Eurobank EFG Management topping the list with a 29.11 pct market share, followed by National Asset Management (18.4 pct) and Alpha Asset Management (15.37 pct).
 Bussiness Briefs-- The parent company of Coca-Cola 3E reported losses totaling 34.8 million euros last year, while on a consolidated basis, results showed net profits of 268.9 million euros in 2011, down 37 pct from 2010.
 Stocks extend decline for seventh sessionStocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, extending their decline for the seventh consecutive session, as an early recovery effort easily abated during the day. The composite index of the market fell 0.62 pct to end at 709.20 points, off the day's highs of 727.29 points. Turnover shrank to 28.520 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.67 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.91 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 1.54 pct. OTE (3.28 pct), Alpha Bank (2.66 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (1.75 pct) and Piraeus Bank (1.59 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Coca Cola 3E (3.41 pct), Viohalco (2.71 pct) and MIG (2.66 pct) were top losers.
The Telecoms (3.28 pct), Health (1.71 pct) and Commerce (1.24 pct) sectors scored gains, while Food (3.31 pct), Travel (1.96 pct) and Financial Services (1.08 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 79 to 61 with another 17 issues unchanged. Ilyda (27.76 pct), Kyriakoulis (23.24 pct) and Elgeka (22.12 pct) were top gainers, while Atti-kat (16.67 pct), Maillis (15.29 pct) and Sato (13.68 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.49%
Personal & Household: -0.04%
Raw Materials: +0.16%
Travel & Leisure: -1.96%
Food & Beverages: -3.31%
Financial Services: -1.08%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.87
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.33
HBC Coca Cola: 13.86
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.80
National Bank of Greece: 1.74
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.54
Bank of Piraeus: 0.26
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 19.19 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 19.12 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 21 pct and the German Bund 1.81 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate eased to 1.40 pct, the six-month rate was 1.07 pct, the three-month rate was 0.77 pct and the one-month rate 0.41 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.351
Pound sterling 0.845
Danish kroner 7.552
Swedish kroner 8.925
Japanese yen 110.94
Swiss franc 1.221
Norwegian kroner 7.673
Canadian dollar 1.340
Australian dollar 1.304
 The economic crisis is rejuvenating the Greek countrysideThe crisis is rejuvenating the Greek countryside. Since the 1950s onwards, the countryside was 'withering' due to a mass relocation of citizens to the major urban centres in search of - what else? - work and a better life.
Today, this flow is being reversed, with hundreds of people, mostly young people, deciding to take the road of return, seeking the destiny that they can not find in the large cities. The return trend made its first appearance in 2008 and is growing constantly, as revealed by the facts and figures. Before 2008, barely 300 people turned up for the informational events organized in various areas on new farm cultivations. Today, however, the interested persons showing up exceed 1,000 and a veritable 'battle' takes place to secure a place in one of these informational events.
The survey conducted by the Panhellenic Confederation of Agricultural Cooperation Unions (PSEAS) indicates that whereas the number of people employed in the agricultural sector was on the decline up until 2008, an increase of 6.38 percent was recorded between that year and 2010, which translates into 32,946 new work positions, of which 97 percent were in farming and the remaining 3 percent in fishing.
Indeed, the increase in employment is especially impressive in the 15-44 age bracket recorded in the Aegean islands (+52.5 percent) and Crete (+31.9 percent). Further, an overwhelming 25,000 of the newcomers were involved in the tree cultivation and vineyard sector.
Mostly interested in developing farming activity are young people and unemployed, as reflected in the applications submitted for the lease of farmland, which is perhaps the most ambitious program introduced by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Foods aiming to develop commercial, business and farming activity. In the first stage, some 304,000 acres will be leased throughout Greece in 16 geographical peripheries, including Kavala, Xanthi, Evia, Pella, Imathia, Kilkis, Pieria and Serres. Indeed, 3,500 applications have been finalized to date of a total of 6,500 applications submitted for some 1,700 farm plots available.
According to statistical data, 35 percent of the applications are by unemployed people and 29 percent by young people up to 35 years of age. Also, 62 percent of those applications do not own any farmland, while 11 percent own farmland of up to 2.5 acres.
The farmland leasing program is open to young people up to 35 years of age, young farmers, registered unemployed and professional farmers.
The duration of the lease is 5-25 years, with the rent just 20 euros per acre per month.
 Recovery can be fuelled by agricultureFarming and animal breeding Schools throughout Greece have been inundated with applications for enrollment this year, compared to last year, with interest coming even from Cyprus. Indeed, in some instances it is impossible to matriculate all the candidates, while for the first time telephone calls for information on the requirements for enrollment in these Schools in the autumn of 2012 have started coming in before the summer.
"Having in mind the thought that the recovery of the Greek economy could be generated by agriculture, pupils from Evros, Crete, Lesvos, Andros, Sifnos, Macedonia, the Peloponnese and many other parts of Greece, have contacted the Averof School of Agriculture, which is in Larissa," the School's director Christos Villis explained.
He noted that in the past year there has been increased interest in such specializations as farm machinery technicians and small industry technicians, while the increase in pupils this year is estimated at 50 percent in relation to last year.
The increase in the number of applications for admission to the Professional Dairy School of Ioannina is even larger, with applications having already doubled to 160 from 80 last year, according to School director Costas Mantzaris.
The growing 'return to nature' trend was also affirmed by agriculturalist Evaggelos Vergos, director of the American Farm School in Thessaloniki's Department of Adult Education and Research, which offers short courses, seminars, workshops and conferences on sustainable rural development.
"This year, doctors, lawyers, political scientists came this year to learn how to make cheese. Next year, they will also learn how to make beer. Others come as a hobby, while others come in search of real employment opportunities," Vergos said.
Thousands of people have been waiting on long lines to secure a spot in agricultural seminars for adults organised by the
Agricultural Ministry's Institute of Agricultural Sciences. Most of them unemployed, they are turning to farming, beekeeping and other agricultural activities in order to find a way out of the economic crisis.
A total of 1,150 people attended the short-term (120 hours) seminars organised by the Institute in the first half of 2012 (from February to June) while the Institute, in order to meet the pressure from the increased public interest, is introducing for the first time this year 40-hour accelerated course, which are expected to be attended by another 200 people.
Interest in the Institute's seminars has more than doubled over the last two years. In the first half of 2010, 641 people had attended the short-term seminars, while no accelerated courses were organised, and in the first half of 2011 a total of 815 people attended the short-term seminars and again no accelerated courses were organised.
The main category of entrants in the seminar programs today is unemployed people from 20 years of age and up. According to statistics, the main interest in the seminars in 2005 was youth from 18-20 years of age and pensioners who were looking for a hobby, whereas today the largest proportion is unemployed people of all ages, with beekeeping being the most popular occupation.
Dimitris Papadopoulos, a private employee who has been unemployed since December and needs five more years of work stamps for full retirement, tells us that he had followed beekeeping seminars 15 years ago as a hobby, but today is seriously considering making it a profession.
Vera, a 50-year-old woman from the Ukraine who came to Greece in search of a better life, has been unemployed for the past five years and has turned to beekeeping for a better professional prospect.
Since last year, interest and demand have arisen in snail farming, while an increasing number of people are also turning to orchards and herbs, followed by flower growing, vine cultivation, organic farming and organic animal breeding, mushroom cultivation and vegetable farming.
Twenty-seven year-old Lazaros from Volos, who did professional photography for weddings and christenings for a decade, has now decided to put aside his camera lens and take up farming. "I always liked life in the village. I got sick and tired of the city and so I woke up one morning, packed my possessions and left, heading for his family's village in Aridea, Pella.
Lazaros tells us today that he has not regretted his decision for one minute, despite the physical fatigue involved. Today, he cultivates a 15-acre expanse of potatoes and a 2,500-tree cherry orchard.
The individual accounts of Greeks who turned their back on urban living and professions not only in Greece but abroad to "return to the village" and take up agricultural activities is endless, and for many the future prospects are limitless.
 TI report: Petty corruption still plagues GreeceDespite the punishing economic crisis in the country, instances of petty corruption are still widely reported in Greece, particularly in the public sector, namely, hospitals, tax offices and construction licensing bodies.
For the first time, however, a change in the citizens' attitude toward bribery or under-the-table transactions offers a gleam of hope, according to the 2011 National Survey on Corruption in Greece, unveiled on Tuesday by Transparency International-Greece.
According to the survey, the public sector still takes the "lion's share" of the petty corruption's pie, as indicated by the increased percentage of households who report corruption incidents in the public sector (7.4 pct in 2011 versus 7.2 pct in 2010) compared to the private sector (3.4 pct in 2011 versus 4 pct in 2010).
The financial crisis seems to have affected the so-called "fakelaki" (money put into small envelopes) as well, given the fact that the 2011 survey records a reduction of the bribe amounts, requested and paid, which shrinks the overall estimated cost of petty corruption for the year of 2011 by 78 million euros (554 million euro in 2011 versus 632 million euro in 2010). Nevertheless, the amounts spent on petty corruption remain significantly high.
Hospitals, tax offices and construction licensing bodies still occupy the first places of the public services ranking list in terms of petty corruption. The 2011 corruption "pricelist" is undergoing a discount period, given that "fakelaki" starts from 100 euro for a routine medical surgery that is moved up on a list, while it is also the lowest "price" for arrangement of a financial records audit. The private sector also makes "special offers" in some instances, where a substantial reduction of the average amounts of bribes is noted (from 1,623 euros in 2010 to 1,406 euros in 2011).
Due to a significant increase in the sample (12,000 respondents), the 2011 survey helps draw conclusions regarding the geographical distribution of corruption, as well as the individual characteristics of corruption victims. The state's tax policy - especially the measure of collecting receipts - seems to effectively influence people's social perception of petty corruption, given that it is the first time and to such an extent that respondents perceive the non issuance of receipts during transactions as a corruption incident. Furthermore, a hopeful message comes from citizen's engagement, as a significant percentage of the respondents (25.3 pct for the public sector and 21.6 pct for the private sector) stated that they refused to pay the requested bribes.
The survey illustrates the social profile of the victims of petty corruption (based on 22.2 pct of the respondents). They are mainly male, 45-54 age group, educated, live in the region of Attica, under a self-employed or employer status.
The 2011 National Survey on Corruption in Greece was launched by Transparency International-Greece Chairman Costas Bakouris and opinion polling company Public Issue S.A. Chairman and CEO Yiannis Mavris.
 ECHR pilot judgement calls for remedies against delayed justice in GreeceSTRASBOURG (AMNA - N. Roussis)
The long delays of the Greek justice system are a "systemic problem" and a violation of the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable space of time, according to a pilot judgement adopted by the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday.
The court urged Greece to introduce remedies for this problem within the space of a year, noting that there are more than 250 cases concerning the length of judicial proceedings currently pending before the Court, of which over 50 are criminal cases.
The judgement was issued following an application by Greek citizen Ioannis Michelioudakis on 4 September 2010 over the excessive delay of criminal proceedings against him for a perjury-related charge. Michelioudakis had been initially sentenced to 22 months imprisonment on February 5, 2003 but the total duration of the criminal proceedings concerning his case had exceeded seven years.
The ECHR upheld his complaint and ordered Greece to pay 3,000 euro in compensation, as well as 1,230 euro in court costs. It also agreed that there was no effective remedy within the Greek judicial system for complaints about the excessive length of criminal proceedings.
The court noted that measures being taken in Greece, such as increasing the number of judges, building new courtrooms and computerising court records did not address the issue of providing a remedy for excessive delays in the administering justice within the Greek judicial system.
 Greek research papers gaining ground in scientific periodicals, EKT report findsGreek research papers are gaining ground in terms of their position and appeal in international academic periodicals, based on a study unveiled by the country's National Documentation Centre on Tuesday.
The study conducted by Dr. Evi Sahini covered the period 1996-2010 and found that a steady increase in the number of Greek papers published up until 2008, which fell in the years 2009-2010. It is published on the website www.ekt.gr/metrics and will soon also be available in English.
Based on the findings, Greece contributes 2.4 percent of scientific papers published in the European Union and 1.14 percent of those published in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This almost doubled the country's share relative to 1996, bringing to 20th place among the 34 OECD countries.
In terms of citations, Greece had the fastest rate of increase relative to EU and OECD countries through the period 1996-2010, while in the period 2006-2010 Greek papers received 222,132 citations and almost quadrupled the equivalent rate in 1996-2010.
During the period 2006-2010, Greek papers received 4.49 citations on average, up from 3,82 in 2004-2008, while the average number of citations in the EU was 5.34 and in the OECD it was 5.43.
There was also an improvement in the percentage of Greek papers cited, which rose to 65.5 percent and approached the EU average (66.3 percent) and the OECD average (66.5 percent). In the same five-year period, 509 Greek papers were classified among the top 1 percent of most-cited papers, 2,393 were in the top 5 percent, 4,591 were in the top 10 percent, 11,024 in the top 25 percent and 20,190 in the top 50 percent.
The vast majority, or 82.5 percent, of Greek papers published were carried out with the participation of state universities, followed by independent research centres (13.7 percent), public health organisations (11.5 percent), technical educational institutes (4.6 percent), other public research bodies (3.3 percent). Private health organisations accounted for another 2.8 percent and other private research foundations for 1.8 percent.
The study also found an increase in the papers published in collaboration with other Greek or foreign research bodies, with the rate approaching the OECD and EU average at 67.2 percent.
 Gang forging documents for tax use bustedThe West Attica security police on Tuesday reported the arrest of a criminal ring forging fake tax documents that it then sold to businesses so they could fraudulently claim VAT returns or have their tax debts written off.
Police arrested two Greek men aged 63 and 59 years old, respectively, as well as a 31-year-old Albanian national that were led before a Piraeus public prosecutor. A fourth man is also being sought.
Over the last three years, the ring had an organised workshop in the Piraeus district of Drapetsona where police found and confiscated dozens of official business stamps and invoices, a special tax office machine for perforating documents, cheques and bank books. Dozens of stamps and invoices were also found in the homes of the three men arrested in Drapetsona, Nikaia and Megara.
The criminal gang is believed to have raked in substantial profits from their activities, since their cut for each forged tax document was between 8-12 percent of the sum it was for.
 Explosion in building housingSimitis's office
An explosion occured shortly before nine o'clock Tuesday evening at the fifth floor of a building where the office of former prime minister Costas Simitis is situated, in Academias str, central Athens.
Many people were present in other offices of the building at the time of the exlosion. None was hurt, while the fire that broke out was exstinguished by the firebrigade. Police are invasting into the affair.
Proton Bank case defendants barred from leaving country
A judicial council on Tuesday upheld a decision by first-instance prosecutor Yiannis Dragatsis barring six individuals from leaving the country pending trial in the case of the unsecured loans issued by Proton Bank. The ruling also affects high-profile business magnate Lavrentis Lavrentiadis.
A total of 28 individuals will stand trial on five felony charges in relation with the mismanagement of Proton Bank and loans made out to companies owned by Lavrentiadis, who held a controlling share in the bank up until recently.
The charges include forming a criminal organisation, fraud, embezzlement, legalising income from illegal activity (money-laundering) and breach of faith.
Three locals arrested following shoot out with policemen
Three locals aged 26,28 and 30 were arrested early Tuesday in the Athens suburb of Gerakas when a police car spotted a van with three men on board moving suspiciously in the area.
The two policemen followed the van and the driver swerved it around and brought it in front of the police car and stopped. The policemen signaled to the three passengers to remain in the van in order to check them.
The three men got out the car and rushed the policemen, and one of the officers fired warning shots, injuring two of the suspects in the legs.
The injured are the 28 and 30 year-old, who were taken to the hospital and remain there under guard. The third man was arrested.
The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
The withdrawal of the amendment for the tank trucks, the losses on the Athens Stock Exchange Market, and the new austerity measures expected after the general elections, mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "End to demonstrations in the center of Athens".
AVGHI: "16 billion euros in measures after the elections".
AVRIANI: "New package of austerity measures after the general elections".
DIMOKRATIA: "The Nazis had also stolen antiquities".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Bonus to Germany from the Greek crisis".
ESTIA: "Early elections favour the extreme parties - The hastening of elections a major political mistake".
ETHNOS: "How GENOP (PPC employees union) has burdened the PPC".
IMERISSIA: "Stocks' 'vaporisation' - Nosedive of bank shares -Trading suspended for 16 listed companies".
KATHIMERINI: "Prime Minister Lucas Papademos halts 'favour' amendments".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The bill from the measures reaches 14.5 billion euros".
NIKI: "Government cuts all benefits".
LOGOS: "The 'secret' commitments lead us to new measures".
RIZOSPASTIS: "PASOK and New Democracy (ND) advance new nightmarish measures for the people".
TA NEA: "Withdrawal of the ...tank truck with the favours".
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