|Tuesday, 21 August 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-10-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 5 October 2012 Issue No: 4191
 PM: Eurozone exit not a choice; promises Greek 'success story' in a yearPARIS (AMNA)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras emphasised here on Thursday that Greece will not choose to leave the eurozone -- he used the infamous "Grexit" term -- while at the same time warning that if the country left the common currency international markets would most likely target the next "weak link".
Samaras spoke at an event in the French capital commemorating the 125th anniversary of the International Herald Tribune's founding, within the framework of the "Global Conversation" initiative.
Moreover, the Greek prime minister emphasised that competitiveness must be restored not only in the Greek economy but throughout Europe, while stressing that Greece has already changed its course.
"I am absolutely confident that in year from now, a Greek success story would be a boost for the European project as a whole. It will be correctly perceived as a major proof that Europe can solve its problems and successfully overcome its difficulties," he said in a live address carried over an Internet link.
Samaras' address, in full, follows:
In this unique opportunity where we are celebrating the 125th Anniversary of a historic paper, the International Herald Tribune, I want to share with you some thoughts. Relevant with the problems my country faces today; but also relevant with the big challenges Europe faces as a whole.
After all, the "Tribune" has always been a unique forum for European and transatlantic discourse. And what a better way to celebrate its anniversary than addressing major challenges that our common to all of us, although for some of us they are truly dramatic.
As you all know, I come from a country that has not paid attention to the dimension of competitiveness since it joined Europe. And know it pays the price...
But Greece is not alone. Many people across the European Union suffered from the illusion that quantitative growth along with redistribution policies was enough to guarantee prosperity and a better future.
Thus the policy problem was, for many years, summarized in two sentences:
-- How to maximize annual nominal growth rates.
-- And how to redistribute it to the societies through the tax system and government handovers.
Competitiveness was forgotten under layers of bureaucratic red tape, barriers of entry, disincentives to innovation, all kinds of market distortions and dominant oligopolies in various centers as well as trade union power abuses.
At the same time, over the last decades other regions of the world made the decisive turn to competitiveness.
Stop and think for a moment: how much time does a new product or an innovative idea take to materialize and test itself in the market in other regions of the world compared to Europe?
The rest of the world is gaining ground in terms of competitiveness, while Europe in general is losing ground.
There are exemptions of course but Greece along with most of southern Europe wasn't one of them.
For decades we were trying to sustain a high level of nominal growth mainly though consumption and income redistribution policies. But when you are lagging behind in terms of competitiveness this can only produce high deficits both in the budget and in the foreign accounts. And when this happens, the only thing you can "redistribute" is borrowed funds to the detriment of future generations. This is exactly what happened to Greece for almost 30 years.
We are now trying to remedy all these wrongdoings. We are cutting government expenditures, eliminating red tape, buy passing bureaucratic inertia, fast tracking investments. We are moving ahead to a bold tax reform that imposes zero tolerance to tax evasion while providing incentives to investors. We are also moving ahead with an enhanced privatization agenda, capitalizing on idle public assets in a strategy that will make it possible to service our debt and launch our economy on a sustainable long term growth trajectory. In a nutshell, we are changing Greece at home and we are rebranding it abroad. There is a caveat to all this however:
Societies are not "engines" that you can turn off, change their defective parts and then put them back together again. People are not "spare parts", or naked numbers.
Politicians are, maybe, expendable. But democracy isn't.
Market distortions and government bureaucracy should be abolished. But social cohesion should be preserved.
Social pain is unavoidable at times of adjustment. But social turmoil and a break-down of law and order must be avoided.
Because, as history has proven times and again, if democracy collapses and societies disintegrate to chaos, no adjustment plan can survive.
So we are dealing with - as the economists often put it - a "constrained optimization" problem: how to maximize the efficiency of the adjustment plan, preserving social cohesion and democratic institutions.
According to our experience here is a list of what you must do right from the beginning:
In the past, we wrongly assumed that "demand will create its own supply". It would be equally wrong to assume now that the opposite will happen: that an improved "supply will automatically generate its own demand". The truth is that economic automatism does not work in a crisis environment; as it never worked in the past, in an environment full of distortions.
If you want to change the way people think, if you want them to brake away from bad habits of the past, then you have to inspire them to redefine their priorities.
Fiscal discipline should not be a "punishment" imposed by outsiders. It is a basic virtue that restores pride to the society as a whole. Nobody has pride, when relying on his creditors to keep him afloat every month.
And competitiveness should not be just another word. It is not only a technical term pertaining to efficient production of commodities. It is also a political prerequisite for a democracy to thrive and for a society to prosper. It is related to Freedom and Justice.
Restoring European competitiveness is defining who we are and where we want to go.
You probably noticed that talking about competitiveness I switched my main focus from Greece to Europe. This was not a "slip of the tongue". It is my strong belief that competitiveness is also a crucial prerequisite for European Integration.
Competition requires a common context acceptable by all. Without it, competition will evolve to sheer aggression, a war of everybody against everybody, a bellum omnium contra omnes according to Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan.
But competition also requires a driving spirit of constant challenge to prevail, an endless daring to fight, a trial and error process ending up in winning or losing. Otherwise, it becomes its opposite: apathy and fatalism.
I believe Competitiveness transcends ideologies and political stereotypes.
It is peaceful, since it relies on the coexistence of individuals within a common context; and it is also aggressive since everybody is trying to better everybody else.
It is conservative, since it always needs to preserve the common context within which competition takes place; and it is also progressive, since it always moves ahead to new forms, new ideas and new trends.
It is very orderly, since it has to obey strict rules; and it is very chaotic, since it always revolutionizes everything.
Competition is not synonymous to the law of the jungle, where only the "fittest" survive. It requires democratic rules, social safety nets, opportunities for everyone to win and second chances for those who lost. Competition is not the "prize of the winners"; it is the game that allows everyone to aspire that he/or she can win.
Competition is balancing individual incentives with social considerations of preserving the community, obstructing the strong from abusing their strength and allowing the "losers" of yesterday to become the "winners" of tomorrow.
Admittedly, in the last decades some of us forgot all about competitiveness.
Our debt crisis is to a large extent a competitiveness crisis. You can end up with a huge debt by many routes. But there is only one main highway to get out of it: Restoring competitiveness! And there is only one safe way to avoid a debt crisis in the future. Always keep on the edge of competitiveness.
Now, some might ask at this point: If competitiveness is the main target, why shouldn't Greece leave the euro-zone, return to its national currency again, devalue and gain competitiveness instantaneously?
My answer is straight and blunt: We are ruling out, completely, the prospect of exiting the euro. We know that this is not an option for us. It is a total disaster!
Greeks have already lost 35% of their standard of living in the last 5 years. If they exited the euro now, they would lose another 70% from the current levels, in the next few months! No society can sustain that. And no democracy can survive it.
A "Grexit" would be very destabilizing for the Union as well. Once one member country exited, it is most probable that the international markets would target the next "weakest link". Nobody knows where this could end. It would be very painful to everybody. And could prove fatal for many...
The truth is we cannot avoid the hard work to restore competiveness by a "quick fix", like a breakdown of the Union, or the expulsion of some of its members.
It wouldn't be a "quick fix", in the first place. It wouldn't be an "easy way out" for anybody. It would leave Europe less united and less hopeful. It would leave many of its members, hopeless and helpless...
Big political projects are driven by dreams. You never do something big without inspiration. If you kill a dream, you don't end up with more realism; sometimes you end up with more misery; and a dead end.
If you take away a couple o pieces from a puzzle - or, better, a political mosaic - you are destroying the whole image.
Take it from us, who have learned it the hard way: There is no "short cut", there is no "easy way" out - we should restore competitiveness! Not only for our economies to recover, not only for our societies to survive, but to preserve our Union and to prevail in a competitive world.
Greece is already reversing course. I am confident that Greece will make it. I am also confident that Europe can make it. We can come out of the crisis, stronger, wiser, more united, more self-confident and - above all - more competitive.
I am absolutely confident that in year from now, a Greek success story would be a boost for the European project as a whole. It will be correctly perceived as a major proof that Europe can solve its problems and successfully overcome its difficulties.
Some might think this is "a bit optimistic". There is nothing wrong with that. After all, to be competitive, you have to be optimistic. To succeed in something you have to believe in it.
In any case, my belief in my country and in Europe is my positive message tonight. After all competitiveness is not about optimism. It is about optimization: Always optimize what you have, to win the game. Always believe in yourself and inspire all around you to get the best out of them. For the Common purpose!
And this is exactly what we are doing in Greece today...
 PM Samaras speaks of unbelievable flow of immigrants in the countryPARIS (AMNA/O. Tsipira)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday there is an unbelievable flow of immigrants to Greece, since out of a total of 11 million inhabitants illegal immigrants are estimated at 1.5 million.
The issue of illegal immigration in Greece was raised during the discussion that followed the prime minister's address at the conference of the "International Herald Tribune".
"In Greece, however, they are like hostages, since in essense they want to go elsewhere," he said.
The prime minister further said "every morning I have to face these problems, something that other leaders do not have" and that "if you add instability to the economic crisis, you create a deadly mixture and for this Europe must help substantively on this issue".
Asked whether he is sure that the Greek police can cope, the prime minister said that one of the extremists' thoughts is that they could replace the police and stressed that "this will never happen".
He also pledged that Greece would respect its signature, but that Europe, on its part, should respect the principle of solidarity.
 Parliament to ask financial prosecutor for 'Lagarde list' of Greek Swiss bank account holdersFollowing a decision reached by the Parliament presidency on Thursday, the head of Parliament's committee for monitoring MP and party finances Athanassios Nakos announced that he will send a letter to financial prosecutor Grigoris Peponis on Friday, asking him to hand over the so-called 'Lagarde list' of Greek nationals with large Swiss bank accounts to the appropriate Parliament committee.
The decision was announced to MPs by Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis, who earlier on Thursday decided to re-assume his duties in full.
"Parliament will exercise its rights and ask for the list," Meimarakis said, in reply to sharp criticism voiced by main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA-EKM) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras, who attacked the coalition government parties New Democracy and PASOK
In the meantime, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos was convened a meeting of PASOK's Parliamentary group at the party's headquarters on Thursday, in which he attempted to deal with the fallout generated the 'Lagarde list' affair within his own party.
Revelations that a flash drive containing the Lagarde list had been in his possession since his stint as finance minister in 2011, which he handed over to the government only last week, have alienated many within PASOK ranks - not least former minister Yiannis Ragousis, who very publicly announced his decision to leave PASOK on Wednesday in response to the revelations.
Commenting on the furore concerning the list, Venizelos said it was 'no accident' that PASOK was at the centre of the controversy, noting that an attack on PASOK was an attack on political stability. He slammed those thinking that they were helping the government by attacking PASOK as "fools" and stressed that those seeking to shake political stability by these means would fail.
"If some people think that they can strike at me, I remind them that I know how to carry a burden in the name of the country and the party, guided only by the public interest," he said.
PASOK's leader stressed that the list must immediately be sent to Parliament's Committee on Institutions and Transparency, adding that this should be an initiative of PASOK's Parliamentary group.
In a thinly veiled reference to Ragoussis, meanwhile, he criticised those 'jumping' at a chance to distance themselves from the party at a time when it had the greatest need of unity, even though they had "huge personal responsibility for the political management of the critical period 2009-2010" and said it was provocative when those in the "hard core of party and government power" sought to adopt the mantle of the "new and untarnished".
 SYRIZA leader attacks Venizelos over 'Lagarde list'Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday again stepped up his attack on the government during an address in Parliament, saying that its political choices lead the country towards bankruptcy, while he again charged that a culture of silence, he used the phrase "omerta", exists between New Democracy and PASOK.
Speaking during debate on his party's proposal for over-indebted households, Tsipras referred to a "triangle that governs this country".
Referring to the so-called "list Lagarde" he charged that PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos kept the list in his home, and that when he called on the former to answer a previous tabled question Venizelos gave no answer.
"That's why when I said that the democracy operates under 'conditions of omerta' Venizelos was annoyed," he said.
Tsipras also charged that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was failing to properly brief Parliament MPs by not appearing in the legislature to respond to opposition queries.
 Protesting shipyard workers break into Defence MinistryUp to 300 protesting Skaramangas Shipyard workers pulled down a barricade and entered into the Defence Ministry in Athens on Thursday.
Riot police were called and scuffles broke out, as workers protested the lack of payment for the last six months.
The Defence Ministry is practically the only customer of the Skaramangas Shipyards, building amonst others, submarines there.
 Officer responsible for Defence ministry's guarding suspendedPolice officer Thodoros Kolokythas, who was reponsible on Thursday for protection measures at the Defence ministry, when employees of the Skaramangas shipyards entered the Pentagon's yard to protest the non-payment of their salaries over the past six months, has been suspended from his duties. The decision was taken by Greek Police (ELAS) chief Nikos Papayiannopoulos.
After the incidents ended, Citizen's Protection Minister Nikos Dendias called the chief and requested explanations on what had happened. According to reports, the force provided initially for the Pentagon, only 10 police without a riot police unit, was considered inadequate by the ELAS headquarters.
It was also revealed by headquarters sources that the officer responsible did not call for reinforcements in time, when the situation was beginning to get out of control, resulting in the protesters entering the ministry's yard.
A total of 106 people were questioned at the police headquarters under the supervision of two prosecutors.
In a later development, a Skaramangas Shipyards representative announced that ten of the 106 employees would be brought before a prosecutor, while the rest would be released.
Employees of the Skaramangas Shipyards were remaining, at press time, outside the police headquarters building, as well as employees from other sectors, calling for the release of their colleagues.
 Protesting shipyard workers demonstrate outside Greek Police headquarters, block Alexandras AvenueClashes between police and protesting shipyard workers continued on Thursday, as hundreds of workers from the Skaramangas shipyard and other workplaces gathered outside the central headquarters of the Greek Police on Alexandras Avenue to protest against the arrests of their colleagues earlier the same morning.
The shipyard workers demonstrated outside the building, lobbing firecrackers and other objects at the entrance. They said dozens of their colleagues had been taken into custody during scuffles with police at the defence ministry. Among their ranks was the head of Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing the private sector, General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos, as well as the head of the PPC workers union Nikos Fotopoulos and a number of MPs.
Alexandras Avenue was blocked in both directions as a result of the protest until late on Thursday afternoon, when the protest was confined only to the lanes in the direction of city centre and Patission Street. Several shipyard workers remained on the scene, however, demanding the release of their colleagues.
The protestors did not rule out a march to the first-instance courts near Kypseli if information that some of those arrested were taken to court are confirmed.
The incidents were triggered when 300 protesting Skaramangas shipyard workers pulled down a barricade and stormed into the defence ministry in Athens on Thursday morning.
Riot police were called in and scuffles broke out as workers protested the lack of payment for the last six months.
The defence ministry is essentially the shipyard's only customer, placing orders for submarines, among others.
 Cuts to armed forces a 'red line from which we cannot retreat', President saysPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday said there must be no further cuts to Greece's armed forces, after inspecting the Navy fleet at Faliro Bay. He was accompanied by Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and the leadership of the Greek Navy.
"Alongside the people, the Armed Forces are suffering also. They have to maintain their maximal deterrent force during this crucial period," the president stressed, saying that this had to be understood by the country's political leadership and by those coming from abroad to negotiate cutbacks.
"There is a red line from which we cannot retreat: that is our national security. And this is a message that they must receive in Brussels," he said.
The president also congratulated the men of the Navy for continuing its great traditions and inaugurated an exhibition of Navy uniforms in the last century to mark the 100th anniversary since the Balkan Wars on board the historic Battleship Averoff, which has been converted into a museum.
 KKE party leader calls on working people to block new measuresThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) held protest events and marches nationwide on Thursday, protesting against the new economic measures prepared by the government. The events are expected to continue through Friday.
KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga, who was present at Ethnikis Antistasis Square in the Piraeud district of Amfiali, said that "working people have great power in their hands and can at this stage render difficult and block the new savage measures. The price will be very hefty if these measures pass".
 KKE party holds protest rally in AthensThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) held a protest rally at the Athens University in central Athens on Thursday evening against the government's new measures. The demonstrators held a march through Stadiou street to Omonia Square and proceeded to Parliament, "calling on the people to condemn en masse and to struggle against the barbaric measures that the government of capital and the troika are bringing to Parliament immediately for ratification".
 KKE held rallies and demonstrations in various cities throughout the country on Thursday.
 ND MP files complaint report over claims of 600-billion-euro 'rescue' by expatriatesNew Democracy (ND) MP Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday filed a complaint with Supreme Court Prosecutor Ioannis Tentes concerning the Greek expatriate organisation "End National Debt", which claims it has raised or received pledges totalling an astronomical 600 billion euros to help the country pay its foreign debt.
The Parliament deputy underlined that the figures presented by a foreign firm, which allegedly represents funds that belong to Greek expatriates, are either forged or untrue.
Georgiadis said a crime of disseminating false news is being committed. He also requested an investigation to determine if fraud is being committed, considering that false events are being presented as "real" to mislead public opinion, as he said.
The former LA.OS party MP said in his complaint report that "conspiracy scenarios" are being created, causing problems in the country's relations with other countries, namely, the United States and Canada.
The complaint report will be forwarded to the head of the Athens first instance court prosecutor's office.
 Meimarakis says he's reassuming dutiesParliament President Evangelos Meimarakis on Thursday said he was re-assuming his duties, a week after an Athens weekly newspaper published allegations by a man who claimed he was told that Meimarakis was involved in real estate money laundering between 2005 and 2008.
Earlier, Meimarakis said he feels completely vindicated from developments in the case, underlining that the groundless allegation has been dropped, as he noted.
 Athens unveils initiative in fYRoM 'name issue'Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos has proposed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Athens and Skopje in order to boost the mission of UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz for a solution to the still unresolved "name issue" -- a nagging and thorny obstacle to the complete normalisation in relations between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM).
The official letter by Avramopoulos to his counterpart in the fYRoM government, Nikola Poposki, was announced on Thursday by foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras, who responded to a relevant question during a regular press briefing.
He clarified that the initiative was undertaken in support of the efforts by the UN special envoy, adding that Athens is merely attempting to jump-start the process. He added that whatever MoU will not replace the September 1995 Interim Agreement, "which is in effect until it is challenged ... and clearly sets the basis, the framework and the parameters of a solution to the "name issue".
Delavekouras said the initiative "is tangible proof" of the Greek side's determination and political will to find a solution, "with mutual respect to each side's history and culture". The Skopje government is now called upon to "make its position clear," he said.
Furthermore, he said the signing of such a memorandum "will free up bilateral relations' potential and offer a new perspective" to the neighbouring country's Euro-Atlantic integration, but above all, "will be a loud response to all those who cultivate animosity, nationalism and even hatred."
The Greek foreign ministry spokesman mentioned that the UN envoy, EU, NATO and the US administration have already been notified over the Greek foreign ministry's initiative.
The entire text of Avramopoulos' letter can be found at the following website: http://www.mfa.gr//en/current-affairs/news-announcements/foreign-ministry-announcement-regarding-letter-from-foreign-minister-avramopoulos-to-fyrom-foreign-minister-poposki.html
Meanwhile, according to an AMNA dispatch from Skopje on Thursday, the spokesman for the fYRoM government, Aleksandar Georgiev, said his country will respond to the letter after it is carefully studied.
He clarified that the letter was received late on Wednesday night and that it will take some time to be examined. "Soon after the letter is studied we will state our position," Georgiev said.
Certain media in Skopje highlighted a specific reference in the letter, namely, that a mutually agreed to name will be used for all purposes (erga omnes).
 Turkish FM in Athens on Oct. 10Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday confirmed that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will visit Athens on Oct. 11.
Davutoglu is scheduled to meet with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
 Deputy FM: No military solution in Syria conflict"Greece believes there is no military solution, internal or external, for the Syria conflict," Deputy Foreign Minister Costas Tsiaras said on Thursday, addressing a conference on the Middle East, hosted at the foreign ministry.
Referring to Athens' position on the current strife in the Middle East and ongoing efforts at democratisation, he said "the road will be neither short nor easy ... our role as older democracies should be one of support and not one of intervention.
"We are certain that the prospect of a political solution coming from the Syrian people themselves still exists..."
Regarding the Israel-Palestinian issue, Tsiaras expressed the Greek side's disappointment over the recent lack of bilateral negotiations between the two sides, while he underlined that Greece believes that unilateral actions cannot satisfy either Israel's desire for security nor the Palestinians' goal of an independent state, something that Greece supports.
He also condemned violence and threats against Israel that undermine the prospect of peaceful co-existence, while he clarified that the continuous upgrading of Greece's relations with Israel emanates from the fact that the countries have no bilateral differences between them, whereas bilateral cooperation on multiple sectors and fields exists.
 Minister: 40 universities in Greece too manyEducation Minister Costas Arvanitopoulos on Thursday underlined that "upgrading public universities is a top priority", while at the same time expressing a view that the 40 higher education institutions around the country are excessive for a country with 11 million people.
Arvanitopoulos said the upgrading of state universities is promoted through a recently amended law that will improve the institutions' administration.
As regards the large number of university institutions, he said that it is the result of decisions that met neither academic nor developmental criteria, and clarified that the problem can be solved through mergers.
Referring to the prospect of private universities finally being recognised as such by the Greek state, he said their operation depends on a revision of Article 16 of the Constitution, but as far as colleges are concerned a legislative regulation is in the works in compliance with European Directives, ensuring that the professional rights of graduates will be recognised if certain very strict terms are met.
 Former deputy interior minister Leonidas Tzanis commits suicideFormer deputy interior minister (in the Costas Simitis governments) and Parliamentary deputy Leonidas Tzanis committed suicide on Thursday afternoon in the eastern Greek city of Volos.
The name of the 57-year-old politician appeared on the list of political figures who are involved in cases of illegal wealth that are being probed by the Economic Crime Squad (SDOE).
According to reports, he hanged himself in his home's parking lot, where his wife found him.
Tzanis abstained from politics over the past years and worked as a lawyer in Volos.
 Government-troika talks to continue, senior finance ministry official says"The negotiation is continuing," a top finance ministry official reported on Thursday, after the conclusion of another round of talks between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and the heads of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika mission in Athens.
The same source said that a new meeting has been officially scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Friday and that the government was seeking daily meetings until the upcoming Eurogroup meeting on Monday.
The aim of the negotiations to arrive at some formula to 'bridge' a discrepancy of some 2.5-plus billion euro between the government's proposals for an austerity cuts package amounting to 13.9 billion euro and the troika's own estimates of what these measures will yield. Troika officials are currently insisting on more 'hard-core' cuts to wages, pensions and benefits that will yield immediately quantifiable results, rather than general cuts to ministry spending proposed by the government.
They are also demanding a rapid resolution of Greece's commitments under the terms of bailout loans, such as opening of closed professions, full market deregulation and a drastically reduced public sector to the merger and abolition of state organisations and agencies and the firing of public-sector staff, the same source explained.
Among the key differences between the government and troika is the IMF's estimate that the recession in 2013 will run at 5 percent as a result of the new measures, while the finance ministry estimates that GDP will shrink by 3.8 percent in the same period. This is considered particularly significant because it affects estimates of whether Greece's debt is sustainable and whether the IMF can continue to contribute to the bailout loans.
 Talks aim at finding 'feasible, sustainable solution' in Greece, IMF spokesman saysWASHINGTON (AMNA/P.Panagiotou)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday said there was no timeline for concluding ongoing negotiations between the EC-ECB-IMF 'troika' and the Greek government.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters that the IMF supports Greece in implementing a "full and credible programe" of fiscal consolidation and noted that negotiations were focused on finding "feasible and sustainable solutions".
Responding to questions, Rice acknowledged that time does matters, nevertheless, ahead of the Eurgroup and EU Summit meetings in October, and stressed that the situation was difficult.
The IMF spokesman declined to comment on whether the Fund would accept a political solution in case troika negotiations failed, while commenting on the so-called "Lagarde list" of the names of up to 2,000 Greek citizens with bank deposits in Switzerland, as well as press claims of "social unrest" in south European countries, Rice merely underlined the need for fair measures and efforts to combat tax evasion.
 SEV turns down GSEE proposal for bilateral talks on labour issues, excluding governmentThe Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) on Thursday turned down a proposal for bilateral talks made by the country's main umbrella trade union group for the private sector, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE). SEV also expressed surprise at GSEE's proposal to exclude the government from the negotiations between the two sides, instead of holding the customary three-way talks.
Replying to GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos in a letter, SEV's executive vice-president Haris Kyriazis noted his surprise at the timing of the request for bilateral talks "when, at that precise moment, your representative at the three-way talks was stating that he categorically refused all discussion on wage issues, in particular, underlining that he had instructions to depart if the other two sides insisted on talking about them."
He also pointed out that the formula of three-way talks with the participation of the state was decided jointly and at GSEE's insistence, on the grounds that any agreement between the social partners ran the risk of not being respected by the government and Greece's creditors.
"We thus arrived at three-way dialogue so that any decisions would have a binding character for the labour minister. This is particularly important at the present stage also, because of the new issues raised by the troika," Kyriazis added.
"SEV continues to believe that at this stage the trilateral formation is the most effective for discussing the entire spectrum of labour relations, issues and problems," the letter concludes.
 Memorandum signed on strengthening trade relations between Greece and IsraelA Memorandum of Understanding aiming at strengthening economic cooperation between Greece and Israel was signed on Thursday morning by Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEA) president Constantine Mihalos and the president of the Israeli-Greek chamber Gila Lieber Golan, in the presence of Israeli ambassador to Athens Arie Mekel.
"In this period of deep crisis golden opportunities are appearing," Mihalos said, stressing that the memorandum's target is closer cooperation between Greece and Israel. He announced that EVEA will carry out a business mission in November, that will target the energy sector.
"The memorandum reflects the real will of the two countries to strengthen their cooperation and proves that we are not staying with words only," Golan said, adding that the aim is to bring the two peoples closer, for results with mutual benefit.
"We have excellent cooperation at government level and the time has come to pursue greater involvement by the private sector as well," the Israeli ambassador said, who termed as dramatic the improvement in bilateral relations over the past years, despite the extremely serious economic crisis, as well as the objectively very difficult political conditions due to the two elections and the change of parties in power.
The value of Greek exports amounted to 148 million euros in 2011, increasing by 50 percent compared to 2010, as against 135.89 million euros of imports from Israel.
The number of Israeli tourists visiting Greece in 2011 amounted to 380,000, compared to 280,000 in 2010, while 2012 is also expected to close with a considerable increase. In parallel, new direct charter flights to and from Tel Aviv were inaugurated in 2011.
 Scientific and professional agencies express absolute disagreement with new taxation arrangementsTen scientific and professional agencies expressed their absolute disagreement with the new taxation arrangements and the accession of their funds to the National Health Services Provision Organisation (EOPYY). They also decided to call for a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the presidents of the parties participating in the government and with the relevant ministers.
The agencies express their absolute disagreement with the promotion of arrangements that "wipe out the free professionals branch, ignoring the unfavourable economic situation particularly of young people who are unable to cope with their basic professional and living needs", as a relevant announcement said.
 Media social insurance fund EDOEAP sues state for 71.2 million euroThe journalists' and media sector social insurance fund EDOEAP on Thursday filed a civil suit against the Greek State, demanding 71,235,247 euro in compensation for losses incurred as a result of its forced participation in the PSI bond swap programme that shaved roughly 80 percent off the nominal value of the bonds that had been in its possession on March 9, 2012.
In its suit, EDOEAP claims that the state's actions violated the 'principle of equality' since there is nothing to offset the loss to its assets and also that the fund's constitutional rights, arising from the state's obligation to protect EDOEAP and all other social insurance organisations regardless of their legal form, have been compromised.
The suit also argues violations of the 'principle of proportionality', and of sections of the European Convention for Human Rights on the protection of property and social insurance.
 Bank interest rate on deposits, loans down in Aug.The average interest rate for new deposits and loans decreased in August, the Bank of Greece announced on Thursday.
In a monthly report, the central bank said that in August 2012, the average interest rates on overnight deposits from households and from non-financial corporations remained almost unchanged at 0.47 percent and 0.40 percent respectively. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to 1 year, decreased further by 26 basis points to 4.56 percent. The overall average interest rate on all new deposits decreased by 14 basis points to 2.72 percent.
The average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined decreased by 8 basis points in August 2012, to 14.83 percent. On the contrary, the average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased significantly by 44 basis points to 8.32 percent, in August 2012, from 7.88 percent in the previous month.
The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity decreased by 4 basis points to 7.57 percent.
Similarly, the corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors decreased by 7 basis points to 10.14 percent. The average interest rate on corporate loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year decreased significantly by 43 basis points to 7.24.
Finally, the average interest rate on housing loans at a floating rate or with an initial fixation period of up to one year decreased by 14 basis points to 2.99 percent. As result of the above developments the average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations decreased, in August 2012, by 4 basis points to 5.85 percent.
In August 2012 the overall average interest rate on outstanding amounts of all deposits remained unchanged, while the corresponding rate on all loans decreased.
 Business Briefs-- A Public Power Corp. (PPC) extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board plan for the signing of a new natural gas supply contract with DE.PA, while at the same time waiving an option for the purchase of a 30-pct equity stake in the latter.
-- Greece's economic sentiment index stood at 76.1 pct in September, unchanged from August, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) reported on Thursday.
-- Public Power Corp. (PPC) has recommended the deregulation of electricity bills in Greece, according to a timetable envisaged in a memorandum to lift hurdles in the power market.
 Stocks end 1.62 pct higherStocks resumed their upward trend at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, after Wednesday's correction, as market sentiment remained positive despite a delay in talks between Greek officials and the "troika" in finalising a new austerity package.
The composite index of the market rose 1.62 pct to end at 790.04 points, finding strong resistance at the 790 level. Turnover, however, eased to 44.028 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.58 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.80 pct higher. The Health (7.28 pct), Financial Services (6.16 pct) and Commerce (3.76 pct) sectors were top gainers, while Travel (1.21 pct) and Raw Materials (0.71 pct) suffered losses.
MIG (9.97 pct), Cyprus Bank (6.84 pct), Viohalco (4.29 pct) and Folli Follie (3.85 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while PPC (2.25 pct), OPAP (1.41 pct) and Ellaktor (1.17 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 85 to 58 with another 21 issues unchanged. Parnassos Enterprises (23.2 pct), Centric Holdings (21.9 pct) and Athina (20 pct) were top gainers, while Logismos (29.77 pct), Edrasi (19.42 pct) and Yalco (14.53 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.62%
Personal & Household: +1.88%
Raw Materials: -0.71%
Travel & Leisure: -1.21%
Food & Beverages: +1.93%
Financial Services: +6.16%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, Sarantis and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.78
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.91
HBC Coca Cola: 15.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.56
National Bank of Greece: 2.01
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.09
Bank of Piraeus: 0.42
 Greek bond market closingThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds continued shrinking to 17.76 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 17.84 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 19.21 pct and the German Bund 1.45 pct. Turnover totaled 2.0 million euros, of which 1.0 million were buy orders and the other 1.0 million sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were almost unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.67 pct, the six-month rate was 0.43 pct, the three-month rate was 0.22 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.21 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking to 9.736 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,106 contracts worth 3.022 million euros, with 31,644 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 37,916 contracts worth 6.714 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (11,577), followed by Alpha Bank (4,539), Cyprus Bank (3,398), MIG (1,074), OTE (1,453), PPC (1,570), OPAP (2,640), Piraeus Bank (7,721), Eurobank (1,148), Intralot (1,222) and Mytilineos (330).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.314
Pound sterling 0.816
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 8.739
Japanese yen 103.41
Swiss franc 1.230
Norwegian kroner 7.539
Canadian dollar 1.297
Australian dollar 1.286
 Foreign ministry to host con'f on HolocaustA one-day seminar on the policy adopted by recent Greek governments to preserve the memory of the WWII Holocaust as well as to ensure respect of human rights, religious tolerance and to combat anti-Semitism, will be hosted by the foreign ministry on Friday.
The event will be addressed by ministry's general secretary, Amb. Vassilis Kaskarelis and the Belgian president of the International Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF), Amb. Jan Deboutte.
 2 suspects, illegal migrants arrested in NE GreeceTwo alleged migrant smugglers and 13 illegal migrants were arrested in a rural region near Alexandroupolis, extreme northeast Greece, in a joint operation by border guards and EU external border agency Frontex officers, it was announced on Thursday.
The two suspects, a 34-year-old Bulgarian and an Iranian, 22, were arrested while attempting to transport 13 illegal migrants (10 Syrians and three Pakistanis) to Thessaloniki in two private cars.
In a separate incident, a 46-year-old local man was arrested in Didimoticho, also near the border with Turkey, after police found in his car four illegal migrants from Georgia.
 One dead, four injured in KomotiniA 29 year-old man was killed and four others, among them a woman and a minor, were slightly injured during a clash between two families late Wednesday in the Muslim quarter in the town of Komotini, in the northeast province of Thrace.
The incident reportedly began after a disagreement between members of the two families, leading to the shootings.
The victim was shot and later died at a nearby hospital.
According to initial reports, seven people were involved in the incident.
 Tension easing at Iraklio airport after farmers withdraw from hallsTension was easing at Iraklio airport, Crete, on Thursday evening after farmers withdrew from its halls and assembled at the intersection of Senetaki and Ikarou streets, outside the airport. Earlier, a young farmer who had been taken to the police headquarters was released, a development that defused the situation.
The incidents began at noon when a group of farmers attempted to enter the runway and were prevented by police who used teargas, while the farmers began to throw stones and other objects at the police.
 Policeman arrested for firing weapon while drunk released pending trialA Thessaloniki police officer arrested for firing his weapon in a nightclub while drunk was released after appearing before an examining magistrate on Thursday but barred from leaving the country and ordered to report to his local police station once a month.
In his statement to the magistrate, the officer said he felt ashamed by his actions, which he attributed to his drunkenness at the time.
He had been arrested in the early hours of Monday morning after he had gone into the nightclub, opened fire and demanded money from the owner.
 Foreign nat'l arrested for break-ins in HaniaPolice on Crete arrested a 26-year-old Georgian national accused of breaking into numerous residences and stores in the city of Hania over the past 10 months, it was announced on Thursday. The suspect, a convicted felon, is accused of committing at least 14 break-ins, stealing property estimated at roughly 35,000 euros.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-6 beauforte. Temperatures between 11C and 30C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-5 beauforte winds and temperatures between 17C and 29C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 15C and 29C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe furore over the so-called "Lagarde list" and the turmoil it caused within the PASOK party as well as government's ongoing negotiations with the EC-ECB-IMF troika delegation mostly dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The door opens for investments".
AVGHI: "PASOK drags government and measures with it".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Former Financial Crimes Squad chief points to PASOK leader Venizelos over Lagarde list".
ESTIA: "The essence of simplicity".
ETHNOS: "Lagarde list's side effects".
IMERISSIA: "Final countdown".
KATHIMERINI: "The list causes political storm".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Gap between government and troika widens".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Today we demonstrate with Communist Party against measures".
TA NEA:" The other list".
VRADYNI: "30 percent cuts in utilities and public organisations' employees' salaries".
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