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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-10-25

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 25 October 2012 Issue No: 4207

CONTENTS

  • [01] FinMin deflects sharp opposition criticism over negotiations with troika
  • [02] SYRIZA's Tsipras accuses 'memorandum gov't' of 'creating indebted colony'
  • [03] SYRIZA leader accuses gov't of 'submission to Germany'
  • [04] Government spokesman on SYRIZA leader
  • [05] Kammenos: strong words over privatisations plan
  • [06] Ind'p Greeks leader addresses Parliament on privatisations
  • [07] KKE party leader on labour relations, privatisations
  • [08] Measures to Parliament next week, ministry source says; DIM.AR examining compromise proposal on labour issues
  • [09] The austerity measures of the new Memorandum, according to latest information
  • [10] PM's meetings on Wednesday
  • [11] PASOK: Labour issues front must not open
  • [12] Coalition govt efforts continue for agreement on labour reforms
  • [13] DIMAR sec. gen: Changes in labour regime should be tabled separately
  • [14] Democratic Left party's Parliamentary Group concludes session on labour issues
  • [15] KKE party on new labour issue measures
  • [16] KKE leader's televised statements
  • [17] Former FinMin blames SDOE for no action on 'Lagarde list'
  • [18] Former SDOE chiefs submit written statements in 'Lagarde list' investigation
  • [19] Tsipras meets with SAE president
  • [20] Ind. Greeks party leader to tour Magnesia at weekend
  • [21] ND deputies table question on activities of Turkish Consulate in Thrace
  • [22] Alternate culture minister to attend Sofia con'f
  • [23] Athens, troika talks in 'final stage', EU Commission says
  • [24] Berlin on troika report, possible extension of bailout programme
  • [25] IMF cites outstanding issues for Greek agreement
  • [26] Finmin to meet Bank Association presidium on Monday
  • [27] Tourism minister holds meeting with Task Force head
  • [28] Deputy Development minister on extroversion efforts
  • [29] Greek public debt at 150.3 pct of GDP in Q2
  • [30] New 24-hour bank strike on Thursday Oct. 25
  • [31] Sales season four times a year
  • [32] Business Briefs
  • [33] Stocks end 1.86 pct higher
  • [34] Greek bond market closing
  • [35] ADEX closing report
  • [36] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [37] Chestnut season celebrated in autumn
  • [38] Noted Greek sinologist inaugurates new lecture series on Chinese civilisation at Athens Univ.
  • [39] Bartholomew addresses message to Serres pupils
  • [40] Danish ambassador visits Nafplio
  • [41] Foreign detainees stage disturbance at Igoumenitsa lockup
  • [42] Drug arrests
  • [43] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [44] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] FinMin deflects sharp opposition criticism over negotiations with troika

    Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday sternly defended the Antonis Samaras government's handling of crucial negotiations with the EC-ECB-IMF troika to date, as well as what he called significant efforts to cut the deficit, lower borrowing costs and curb the extent of austerity measures mandated by the country's international creditors.

    Speaking in Parliament, the minister responded to sharp criticism by opposition MPs by saying that "...without the extension we should have presented a primary budget surplus of 4.5 pct of GDP by 2014. Without the extension we should have taken measures worth 18.5 billion euros and not 13.5 billion euros," Stournaras said, adding that Greece was currently borrowing from the EFSF with a lower cost, compared with Spain, Portugal, Italy or even Austria.

    He also defended the government's handling of tough negotiations with the troika saying that the troika agreed to change the mix of policy measures focusing on spending cuts (pensions, social spending, benefits and wages). He stressed that a package of measures agreed with the troika envisaged spending cuts worth 6.5 billion euros from cuts in wages, pensions and social benefits, instead of 9.0 billion euros demanded by the troika.

    In another part of his address, Stournaras defended the government privatisation programme, saying that privatisations support growth, as proceeds lower the country's debt and raised the country's current asset value. He announced that the government will table in Parliament a draft law with all prerequisite measures to ensure the disbursement of a 31.5-bln-euros tranche - evidence that negotiations with the troika are near completion.

    The minister said that the success of the privatisation program will offer a boost to the economy and help highlighting the country's comparative advantages, particularly its ports. "The state has to seek new revenue sources. We must reach a point where raising money from wages and pensions would be an one-way road," Stournaras said.

    Moreover, he stressed that a country with a deficit in its current accounts will "commit suicide" if it decides to implement a unilateral debt write-off because the creditors will stop lending.

    Stournaras made the comment in response to a proposal tabled by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Manolis Glezos, suggesting that Greece should demand the implementation of a unilateral debt write-off or at least a "memorandum and assistance" modeled after the steps taken by West Germany in 1953.

    "We are not self-sufficient in food production. We have to import meats, medicines, oil. So how could we opt for (this)?" the minister asked, adding that the government is trying to reduce debt through a reduction of interest rates and an extension in the repayment time.

    In response to a quip by MP Costis Dermitzakis (SYRIZA) that the country has not defaulted despite warnings that cash reserves would have lasted only until August, Stournaras said "we have not gone bankrupt because we have cash reserves from the previous loan tranche and because the implementation of the programme proceeds fairly well."

    Stournaras said that initially the troika wanted nine billion euros of the 11.5 billion euros in austerity measures to come from cuts in wages, pensions and benefits, instead only 6.5 billion euros will be collected and this is an "achievement on behalf of the government".

    [02] SYRIZA's Tsipras accuses 'memorandum gov't' of 'creating indebted colony'

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras addressed parliament on Wednesday during debate on a draft law concerning the privatisation of the country's ports and several public utilities.

    "Apparently the so-called 'Lagarde list'-- forgotten by (PASOK leader) Venizelos and lost by (former PASOK finance minister) Papaconstantinou -- is not the only list with the names of citizens holding large bank accounts. There are other lists as well involving German banks according to the testimony made by (former Siemens Hellas chief) Christoforakos and the so-called Siemens list," Tsipras said.

    "This explains why you have sided with those you have and build the axis of submission of a bilateral Greece-Germany agreement that turns Greece into a protectorate," he added.

    "The memorandum governments have taken office in a sovereign state and will hand over nothing but an indebted colony," he said, noting that "one of their goals is depriving of important tools the next government that will be elected by the people and have their support to rebuild the country and the economy."

    [03] SYRIZA leader accuses gov't of 'submission to Germany'

    Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the draft privatisations bill on Wednesday, main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras accused the government of having chosen "the axis of submission" and the "running of the country's finances by Germany".

    "The memorandum governments received a state and will hand over a debt colony," Tsipras said, stressing his opposition to abolishing the state's minimum share of public utilities and infrastructure, such as the country's ports.

    Referring to a letter sent by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble, in which the German politician said that Greek VAT should be paid into a special account for public debt, Tsipras asked that Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras make public his reply to Schaeuble.

    "The masks have fallen. It is now apparent why [Prime Minister Antonis Samaras] visited [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] and why he gave her the red carpet treatment when just a few days ago there had been an important meeting between [French President Francois Hollande] and representatives of the European south. Mr. Samaras picked sides. I wonder, however, why he did that. From weakness, from fear, because obviously the 'Lagarde list' that was forgotten by Mr. Venizelos and lost by Mr. Papaconstantinou is not the only list of major bank account holders. There are other lists at German banks - as shown by the unique testimony given by Christoforakos concerning the Siemens list," Tsipras said.

    According to the main opposition leader, fear of damaging revelations prompted the Greek government to tolerate the country's conversion into a protectorate and prevented it standing up to Merkel.

    Tsipras said that the aim of "humiliating sell-offs" of state organisations such as the state lottery OPAP or the dairy firm Dodoni aimed to deprive the next government voted by the Greek people of important tools with which to restore the country and the economy and he called the abolition of the state's share in public utilities "a crime against the coming generations".

    "You are not only selling profit-making organisations but also ports, the coastal zone and beaches for 99 years, without the citizens' right of access - and I wonder if PASOK and DIM.AR will vote for this article," he said.

    [04] Government spokesman on SYRIZA leader

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, referring on Wednesday to statements by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, said "Mr. Tsipras is invoking the historic 'Ohi' by the Greek people to justify his own NO. The NO to Europe, the NO to the euro and the NO to the unity of the Greek people. The NO to everything".

    The government spokesman added that "the NO by Tsipras is a YES to the isolation of Greece, to the impoverishment to which his policy would lead to and to dissension, that was always disastrous for Hellenism."

    [05] Kammenos: strong words over privatisations plan

    Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday accused the government and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras of "selling off state property to your friends" during a debate in Parliament on the government's draft privatisations bill.

    "Even the Germans have cottoned on that you are selling off state property to your friends - and are kicking up a fuss because they want to get everything," Kammenos said.

    He also warned the MPs supporting the government that "anyone that votes at this time to hand over the running of the country to foreign powers has personal responsibility".

    [06] Ind'p Greeks leader addresses Parliament on privatisations

    Opposition Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday accused New Democracy (ND) and PASOK, two of the three partners in the coalition government, of committing "crimes and felonies". He was speaking in parliament during a debate on the draft bill on the full privatisation of the country's seaports and public utility companies.

    Kammenos stressed that MPs who will vote in favour of the draft bill should be held responsible for handing over the country's operation to foreign powers.

    [07] KKE party leader on labour relations, privatisations

    Communist Party (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking in Parliament during debate on a draft privatisations bill on Wednesday, said "the reversal of labour relations, the privatisations and the buyoffs-mergers are the flagship of modern capitalist barbarism and are a crucial point of both mMemorandums".

    "The terms of the privatisations -the urgent procedures, the legislative lifting of whatever obstacles- are determined indeed by the memorandums and the crisis. The privatisations themselves, however, like the reversals in the labour market sector as well, are linked with the capitalist way of growth and the need for an accumulation of capital," Papariga added.

    [08] Measures to Parliament next week, ministry source says; DIM.AR examining compromise proposal on labour issues

    The package of austerity measures and reforms that will allow Greece to receive the next tranche of EU-IMF loans has been finalised and agreed and will be tabled in Parliament as two separate bills next week, a top finance ministry official told reporters on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party, one of the three parties supporting Greece's coalition government, was carefully examining compromise proposals for redundancy settlements that the labour ministry hopes will end the deadlock over labour relations measures that the party has refused to back.

    Close aides of DIM.AR leader Fotis Kouvelis were being briefed on the compromise proposals by Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, trying to work out all their repercussions in order to decide the party's final answer. Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras also held talks with DIM.AR's Nikos Bistis to discuss all aspects of the negotiations.

    The same high-ranking source in the finance ministry, with intimate knowledge of the progress of talks with the EU-IMF troika, told reporters that Greece's creditors had accepted a compromise proposal, whereby redundancy compensation beyond the first 16 wages and up to 24 months will be calculated on the basis of 2,000 euro per extra month, while the minimum period of advance warning of redundancy given to employees will not be three months, as the troika had originally demanded, but four.

    The measures agreed will be split into two draft bills, one dealing with the 'prior actions' and structural reforms and the second, probably the draft budget for 2013, with the fiscal austerity measures. The aim is to pass both bills by November 12.

    [09] The austerity measures of the new Memorandum, according to latest information

    The package of new austerity measures to be tabled soon in parliament will contain heavy measures to cut state spending by 13.9 billion euros in the next two years (2013-2014) as well as painful changes to the social security and labor regime, which have been designated as "prior actions" for the disbursement of an outstanding 31.5 billion euro tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan to Greece.

    According to the 92-page draft of the new Memorandum that the government will be called on to sign with its international lenders -- the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- 25,000 civil servants will be laid-off by the end of 2013, the tax rate on interest earned on bank deposits will increase, the special salary scales (i.e. military, police, fire brigade) will be drastically cut, pensions will suffer a further reduction, the retirement age and workers' social security contributions (monthly fees) will increase, and all social security funds without exclusion will be incorporated under the National Organisation for Healthcare Service Providers (EOPYY, the new unified primary healthcare organisation), while all family benefits will be abolished.

    The additional measures for 2013 alone amount to 9.2 billion euros in state spending cuts, of which 6.3 billion will come from the new cutback in salaries, pensions and benefits. Finance Ministry sources said late Tuesday night that agreement has already been reached on the largest part of the package of measures, noting that "we will go alone to Parliament, and whoever votes for the measures...", while the "tough negotiation" with the EC, ECB and IMF 'Troika' of Greece's international lenders to improve the terms of the austerity package will continue. In addition, Labor Ministry officials said that there has essentially been agreement with the Troika on the changes to the labor regime.

    According to the Finance Ministry, the only issue that essentially remains open is the taxation package. Latest information has it, however, that the tax rates will be reduced to 3-4 from the current 8, but the highest rate of 45 percent will be maintained, and also tax burdens for incomes above 26,000 euros, abolition of the additional tax-free ceilings for dependent children that will be applied retroactively to 2012 incomes, while from 2013 these tax-free sums will be replaced by family benefits to families with one or more children but on the basis of income criteria.

    The draft Memorandum contains the following measures:

    - Layoff of 5,000 civil servants in 2012 and another 20,000 layoffs in 2013 (totaling 25,000 layoffs in the public sector).

    - Drastic cut to 2,000 alternate teachers from the present 15,226.

    - Abolition of the remaining vestiges of the holiday bonus for all civil servants and pensioners.

    - Application of the uniform salary scale in the DEKO (Public utilities and organisations) as of January 1, 2013 with a ceiling of 1,900 euros on monthly gross incomes.

    - Increase of the retirement age by two years (including in the intermediate stages).

    - Reduction of the lump-sum retirement benefit (superannuity) by 23 percent, and imposition of a 3 percent contribution for those who received high superannuities after 1995, while the superannuity will be disbursed after the pensioner has reached 64 years of age (going on to 65).

    - Increase of the social security contributions (fees) also for those insured before 1993.

    - Reduction of pensions by 3-12 percent.

    - Incorporation of all the social security funds, without exception, to the EOPYY.

    - Replacement of all family benefits with a single benefit that will be given on the basis of income criteria.

    - Abolition of all the special seasonal unemployment benefits.

    - Reduction of the special salary scales retroactively from August 1, 2012 on a graduated scale of 2 percent to 35 percent.

    - Increase of the tax on interest earned on bank deposits to 15 percent from the current 10 percent.

    - The extraordinary 'solidarity' contribution will be maintained until 2018.

    - Abolition of all tax exemptions.

    - Increase of taxation on farmers and reduction of the fuel tax and VAT rebates.

    - Increase of the objective values of real estate as of March 2013 to bring them in line with the commercial prices, resulting in increases in a bevy of other related taxes.

    - Taxation of all OPAP (Greek football prognostics, numerical lottery and sports betting games operator) games.

    - Increase of public transport rates (tickets) by 25 percent as of March 2013.

    - Increase of Public Power Corporation (PPC) rates by 8 percent as of January 1, 2013.

    [10] PM's meetings on Wednesday

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meetings' with ministers that started early Wednesday morning continued throughout the day.

    Samaras met with Environment Minister Evangelos Livieratos and afterwards with Administration Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, Development Costis Hatzidakis, Labour Minister Yannis Vroutsis and Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras. According to information the talks focused on the new package of measures as well as on Democratic Left's (DIMAR) refusal to vote for the changes to the labour regime.

    Vroutsis said that several changes have been made in troika's (EC, ECB, IMF) initial positions and that he is in constant contact with DIMAR in order for a solution to be found.

    Earlier, the Italian ambassador to Greece Claudio Glaenzer paid a visit on Samaras.

    [11] PASOK: Labour issues front must not open

    "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras must exhaust all his abilities at the level of the political deliberation," PASOK spokesperson Fofi Gennimata said on Wednesday speaking on public radio.

    "We believe that we should have started from the political negotiation, particularly on the debt sustainability issues as well as the disbursement and the extension of the loan....we accepted the premier's opinion because he is the leader and we support in every way Greece's and the Greek prime minister's efforts".

    Referring to the labour issues, Gennimata said that PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis -- the two junior partners in the three-party coalition government -- had stated from the outset that the Labour Minister should not enter into negotiations with the EC, ECB, IMF troika, before having the leaders' approval. "We say that this is a front that must not open....we are waiting to see the results of this effort".

    Gennimata opined that "the efforts must continue in order for a package that all three parties of the coalition government agree to support will be tabled in parliament.

    [12] Coalition govt efforts continue for agreement on labour reforms

    A new effort was initiated by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday evening to facilitate agreement by the three political parties of the coalition government on the measures demanded by the EC/IECB/IMF troika on labour reforms.

    Venizelos had a telephone contact with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis.

    According to reports, Kouvelis told Venizelos that his party will not vote in favour of labour changes demanded by the troika, unless there is some improvement on the harsh measures.

    Venizelos also briefed Samaras on Kouvelis' position, and the two agreed to continue their efforts towards an agreement.

    [13] DIMAR sec. gen: Changes in labour regime should be tabled separately

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) central committee secretary general Spyros Lykoudis on Wednesday said that he hopes that the labour regime changes will be tabled in parliament as a separate article and not be contained in a single draft law, warning that if the latter happens there will be an impasse, speaking on private radio "VIMA".

    "We want the government to succeed but we also ask for respect for our sensitivities," said Lykoudis, underlining that "there are limits that clash with our principles".

    Lykoudis stressed that the upset of the labour regime does not produce any fiscal benefit, noting that a solution would be for the labor regime changes to be tables in parliament as a separate article. "We do not want a governmental crisis," he added.

    Moreover, Lykoudis did not rule out the possibility of a new meeting between Prime minister Antonis Samaras and the two junior partners of his coalition government (PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis) within the day, and expressed hope that agreement will be reached.

    [14] Democratic Left party's Parliamentary Group concludes session on labour issues

    The two-hour session of the Democratic Left party's Parliamentary Group came to an end on Wednesday evening after after assesing the situation and the compromise proposals on the labour issues in the negotiations between the Greek government and the EC/ECB/IMF troika.

    According to reports, although it was considered that progress was achieved, the party's position remains steadfast not to vote for the labour issues, since considerable pending questions still exist.

    The Democratic Left party participates in the Antonis Samaras coalition government.

    [15] KKE party on new labour issue measures

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Wednesday on "the measures being promoted by the government-troika on the labour issues", said that "the government is deceiving the working people. While the labour jungle of the starvation salaries and flexible uninsured labour already exists, while the new measures extend it as well, the government partners are attempting to present as a great success that some antilabour reversals decided in advance at the EU will not be promoted by them now, but in the next antipopular package of measures".

    [16] KKE leader's televised statements

    If with one's policy one does not clash in the field of the economy, one will not do accomplish anything even if one has the most radical political slogans, Communist Part of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka said on private SKAI television on Wednesday.

    Questioned on Tuesday's meeting of the leaders of the political parties supporting the coalition government, Papariga said that the three parties do not have differences in their strategy, adding that even the margins for any negotiation or exertion of pressure are reduced when one considers the EU as the only way.

    On labor issues, Papariga said that the slackening of labor relations has been an EU direction for the last 20 years, adding that she tries not to focus on the surface of things but to bring out the depth, extent and nature of the crisis.

    Asked if she predicts a political and economic impasse and what the KKE's position would be, Papariga said that the answer is for the people to come to the front-line and assume the responsibility, stressing that the forging of a popular alliance that "wants work" is necessary, but there are objective prerequisites for its creation, given the big capital's strategy against public and private sector workers.

    It is a crisis of the capitalist road to development and the new element in this is that they cannot manage it, she said, noting that reliable studies estimate that any recovery to come will not exceed 1 percent, she said, stressing that the people must go into a counter-attack in the direction of disengagement from the EU, a unilateral write-off of the debt and the socialisation of the monopolies.

    Asked what the KKE would do, Papariga said that the popular rule would proceed to socialisation of the very large enterprises in industry, such as the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry and the major enterprises in the fields of energy and infrastructures.

    To a comment that the latter were state enterprises, she clarified that there is a difference between a state enterprise and a socialised enterprise, but "not with PASOK terms".

    [17] Former FinMin blames SDOE for no action on 'Lagarde list'

    Former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Wednesday put blame on the ministry's financial crimes squad (SDOE) regarding the handling of the so-called 'Lagarde list' containing the names of 1,991 Greek citizens holding large bank accounts abroad, in a testimony before the parliamentary standing Institutions Committee, saying several times that the SDOE was obliged to proceed with an investigation of the list and should not have waited for any political order by anyone to do so.

    "It was the SDOE's duty to investigate and pinpoint tax violations. On January 25 I convened a meeting on the matter at the finance ministry. The legal advisor was categorical that the data could and should comprise the basis for a tax audit. Consequently, SDOE was obliged to investigate this type of information. SDOE should not await political orders to carry out or not carry out audits, it has autonomy on this. I gave the data in order for the audits to be made," Papaconstantinou said.

    He strongly reacted to press articles alleging alteration of the original list. "I will not tolerate claim of alteration of the list," he said, adding that "a copy of the electronic file, which came from France in CD format, was made. I asked that a copy be made in USB format because it is safer".

    Papaconstantinou said he gave the USB to then SDOE chief Yiannis Diotis, and that he gave the original material together with the accompanying letter "for confidential safe-keeping in my office" but added that he does not know where it is. "I'm sorry, but I do not know where it is. We should ask from France to re-send the list in order to stop all this speculation," he said.

    The list, sent to Papaconstantinou by the French finance minister Christine Lagarde contains the names of 1,991 Greek citizens that have sizeable bank accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC bank.

    The list had ended up in the hands of French authorities roughly four years ago when they seized digital evidence from the house of former HSBC employee Herve Falciani, who was wanted by the Swiss authorities and who had illegally copied details of bank accounts that belonged to roughly 20,000 people.

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras last week confirmed in a letter to the two financial prosecutors investigating the so-called 'Lagarde-list' that there was no official record at the ministry that the list had been received.

    The minister's letter was sent in reply to a request from the prosecutors that all protocol records and other accompanying documents attached with the list presented to Papaconstantinou by Lagarde be forwarded to their office.

    Stournaras informed them that after a search of the ministry's confidential records, there is no entry concerning a CD. According to judicial sources, meanwhile, there is clear evidence that the list was presented to the finance ministry in the form of a CD, along with an official document and protocol number by French authorities.

    [18] Former SDOE chiefs submit written statements in 'Lagarde list' investigation

    Two former heads of Greece's financial crimes squad SDOE, Yiannis Kapeleris and Yiannis Diotis, on Wednesday submitted written statements to the financial prosecutors investigating the fate of the so-called 'Lagarde List' that was given to the finance ministry by French authorities. The list, originally on a CD whose current whereabouts are unknown, gives the names of 1,991 Greek nationals with sizeable bank accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC.

    Both former SDOE chiefs have been summoned to testify as suspects in the case and are under investigation for removing an official state document. The charges against them may also be compounded by laws concerning embezzlement of state funds, if they are charged with failing to use the Lagarde list and thus being the cause of a loss in potential tax revenue. Both men deny all charges.

    The financial prosecutors must now decide whether or not to prosecute and also whether the case must be referred to Parliament based on the law for ministerial responsibility.

    In testimony before the Parliamentary Committee on Institutions and Transparency earlier the same day, former finance minister George Papaconstantinou blamed the ministry's financial crimes squad (SDOE) for failing to conduct an investigation based on the information on the list, saying several times that the SDOE had been obliged to investigate and should not have waited for any political order from above.

    "It was the SDOE's duty to investigate and pinpoint tax violations. On January 25, I convened a meeting on the matter at the finance ministry. The legal advisor was categorical that the data could and should comprise the basis for a tax audit. Consequently, SDOE was obliged to investigate this type of information. SDOE should not await political orders in order to carry out or not carry out audits, it has autonomy on this. I gave the data in order for the audits to be made," Papaconstantinou said.

    He also strenuously denied allegations that the original list had been tampered with and said that he had given the original CD sent from France to his office for safe-keeping, after making a USB copy, but denied all knowledge of its current whereabouts.

    The list had ended up in the hands of French authorities roughly four years ago when they seized digital evidence from the house of former HSBC employee Herve Falciani, who was wanted by the Swiss authorities and who had illegally copied details of bank accounts that belonged to roughly 20,000 people.

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras last week confirmed in a letter to the two financial prosecutors investigating the so-called 'Lagarde-list' that there was no official record at the ministry that the list had been received.

    [19] Tsipras meets with SAE president

    The Greek people need unity, determination, and a political leadership that will inspire the collective vision, and not terrified leaderships that cannot rise to the circumstances, main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said Wednesday, commenting on the statements by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis after Tuesday's meeting of the leaders of the three parties supporting the coalition government.

    In a statement Wednesday after a meeting with Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) president Stephanos Tamvakis, Tsipras said that the country must reject the perpetual economic supervision by "those who want to render the country a debt colony", adding that Greece is already facing an unprecedented crisis, an economic and social disaster it has never seen before except after war.

    Tsipras praised the SAE and its efforts to help the Greek people and attract serious investors to Greece, while at the same time supporting the new immigrants leaving the country in search of a better fate.

    The two men discussed the losses suffered by Greeks abroad who had purchased Greek sovereign bonds, due to the haircut of the Greek debt and the PSI, adding that this showed the unreliability of the Greek state.

    [20] Ind. Greeks party leader to tour Magnesia at weekend

    Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos is to carry out a tour of Magnesia prefecture from Friday to Sunday.

    Kammenos will attend the inauguration of his party's office in the coastal city of Volos on Friday and meet local officials and church leaders on Saturday. On Sunday he will visit the island of Skiathos to attend celebrations of the anniversary of 'Oxi' day, when Greece entered into WWII by waging a victorious war against Italian Axis forces.

    [21] ND deputies table question on activities of Turkish Consulate in Thrace

    Thirteen deputies of the New Democracy party, headed by Savvas Anastasiadis, submitted on Wednesday a question in Parliament to the Foreign minister on the activities of the Turkish Consulate in Thrace.

    [22] Alternate culture minister to attend Sofia con'f

    Alternate Culture Minister Costas Tzavaras departed for Sofia on Wednesday to attend the 8th Ministerial Conference on Cultural Heritage in South-East Europe, entitled "Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development".

    The meeting will focus on the conclusions of an international working group, while a discussion and vote on the Sofia Declaration will also take place.

    Financial News

    [23] Athens, troika talks in 'final stage', EU Commission says

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Spinthourakis)

    A spokesman for the European Commission on Wednesday dismissed reports of an agreement between the EC-IMF-ECB troika and the Greek government over a set of measures to close the fiscal gap for 2011-2014.

    An agreement "has not yet been reached", the spokesman said in reply to a press question.

    He noted, however, that considerable progress has been achieved between the two sides and negotiations are now in their final stage.

    [24] Berlin on troika report, possible extension of bailout programme

    BERLIN (AMNA / F. Karaviti)

    The German government again referred to an EC-ECB-IMF troika report when called on to comment on Wednesday's press reports -- before statements made by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on a possible extension by the Greek government to meet fiscal targets -- according to which, the troika and Athens are considering an extension plan to will allow the country to meet terms of the bailout programme.

    German chancellory spokesman Steffen Seibert said there was no basis for this discussion because the troika has not yet issued a report on Greece's compliance with the bailout programme.

    On behalf of the German ministry of finance, spokesman Martin Kotthaus noted that Berlin expects the troika report, adding that when it will be ready the necessary discussion will take place and decisions will be made.

    [25] IMF cites outstanding issues for Greek agreement

    NEW YORK (AMNA/P.Panayiotou)

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in an announcement on Wednesday that "outstanding issues" remained regarding the terms of Greece's bailout package.

    The announcement added that "there has been progress in recent days, but some outstanding issues remain to be agreed upon to reach full staff level agreement."

    Financing issues will be discussed with Greece, the announcement also said.

    [26] Finmin to meet Bank Association presidium on Monday

    A meeting between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and the presidium of the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) to discuss the terms and schedule of bank recapitalisations has been postponed until Monday.

    The meeting will also discuss the proposal to impose a one-off emergency levy on banks in order to pay the outstanding 550 million euro dividend due in 2012 for state aid received by banks through the issue of privileged shares.

    [27] Tourism minister holds meeting with Task Force head

    Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni held a meeting on Wednesday with the head of the EU Task Force for Greece Horst Reichenbach, focusing on the extension of the tourist period and the exchange of know-how on tourist issues.

    Kefaloyianni said in a statement that she briefed Reichenbach on the changes and reforms taking place in the tourist sector to enable Greece to become a strong competitive and tourist force, stressing at the same time that tourism could function as a lever for an exit from the crisis.

    Kefaloyianni also requested from the Task Force head the transfer of know-how for the best possible use of the European funds, not only for the current funding period but for the next one as well, as she said.

    [28] Deputy Development minister on extroversion efforts

    Deputy Developmenrt and Competitiveness Minister Nikos Mytarakis, speaking after his visit on Wednesday to the Greek pavilion at the SIAL Food-Beverages International Exhibition being held in Paris, said that the Greek exporters "were showing the way in this difficult conjuncture".

    "They are expressing Greece which is struggling and winning. With excellent quality and competitive prices. The messages from the Greek presence are very positive and optimistic. It is the duty of the state to strengthen the efforts of extroversion that support economic growth and the creation of new jobs," he added.

    Mytarakis talked with the Greek exporters participating in one of the most important international exhibitions of the sector.

    [29] Greek public debt at 150.3 pct of GDP in Q2

    BRUSSELS (AMNA/Maria Aroni)

    Greece' s public debt jumped to 150.3 pct of Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter of 2012, from 136.9 pct in the first quarter, but it was down from 158.8 pct of GDP in the corresponding period last year, Eurostat said on Wednesday.

    The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report published here, said that Eurozone's public debt rose to 90 pct of GDP in the second quarter of 2012, from 88.2 pct in the first quarter and 87.1 pct in the same period last year, while the EU-27 public debt rose to 84.9 pct of GDP from 83.5 pct in the first quarter and 81.4 pct in the same period in 2011.

    Eurostat said that Greece (150.3 pct), Portugal (117.5 pct) and Ireland (111.5 pct) recorded the highest public debt, while Estonia (7.3 pct), Bulgaria (16.5 pct) and Luxembourg (20.9 pct) the lowest public debt rates.

    [30] New 24-hour bank strike on Thursday Oct. 25

    The bank employees' union (OTOE) convened on Wednesday to assess the situation and decided to call a new 24-hour nationwide strike for Thursday, Oct. 25, calling for the withdrawal of an amendment anticipating the accession of bank employees' health funds to the National Organisation for the Provision of Health Services (EOPYY).

    A delegation of bank employees and bank employee pensioners, headed by OTOE's leadership, also requested from the Parliamentary parties to have the amendment withdrawn.

    [31] Sales season four times a year

    Sales in retail stores nationwide will take place four times a year, Deputy Development Minister Thanassis Skordas announced on Wednesday, adding that a public debate on the issue will be launched soon.

    A relevant proposal made by market representatives suggests that winter sales will begin on the first Saturday of January and summer sales on the first Saturday of July. Their duration will be determined through dialogue and will range between 4 and 6 weeks. Two ten-day discount periods in the beginning of May and November will also be allowed.

    [32] Business Briefs

    -- Greece spectacularly improved its business environment during the last year, raising its ranking by 22 spots to 78th position amongst the 185 countries evaluated in World Bank's Doing Business 2013 report.

    -- Allianz Hellas on Wednesday announced the successful completion of a share capital increase plan, worth 134 million euros.

    -- Piraeus Bank on Wednesday said it owned 10.0165 pct of voting rights in Athens Water Co., which represents 10,667,588 direct and indirect voting rights in the listed water utility.

    [33] Stocks end 1.86 pct higher

    Stocks ended significantly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as news that the government reached an agreement with the troika over the controversial issue of labour reforms boosted sentiment in the market, reversing an initial sharp decline of prices.

    The composite index rose 1.86 pct to end at 889.78 points, off the day's highs of 892.55 points. The index had fallen as low as 855.06 points early in the session.

    Turnover remained a strong 103.206 million euros.

    The Big Cap index rose 2.10 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.46 pct higher. Utilities (6.53 pct), Oil (3.86 pct), Telecoms (3.78 pct) and Banks (2.34 pct) were top gainers among market categories, while Health (1.27 pct) and Constructions (0.29 pct) suffered losses.

    PPC (8.14 pct), Motor Oil (4.48 pct), Cyprus Bank (3.83 pct) and OTE (3.78 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Cyprus Popular Bank (1.52 pct) and Titan (1.19 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 76 to 58 with another 31 issues unchanged. Olympic Catering (20 pct), Elfico (17.86 pct) and Athina (16.56 pct) were top gainers, while Druckfarben (10 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (10 pct) and Ilyda (9.63 pct) suffered losses.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.12%

    Commercial: +0.01%

    Construction -0.29%

    Oil & Gas: +3.86%

    Personal & Household: +1.21%

    Raw Materials: +0.49%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.93%

    Technology: +0.89%

    Telecoms: +3.78%

    Banks: +2.34%

    Food & Beverages: +0.90%

    Health: -1.27%

    Utilities: +6.53%

    Financial Services: +1.18%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 2.34

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.78

    HBC Coca Cola: 17.00

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.83

    National Bank of Greece: 2.41

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.29

    OPAP: 5.11

    OTE: 3.84

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.65

    Titan: 15.00

    [34] Greek bond market closing

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened significantly to 16.42 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 15.32 pct on Tuesday, as pressures on the Spanish bond market hit regional European markets. The Greek bond yielded 17.98 pct and the German Bund yielded 1.56 pct. Turnover in the market was 11.0 million euros, of which 4.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 7.0 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 0.63 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.39 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.

    [35] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.40 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 32.981 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,086 contracts worth 15.040 million euros, with 32,002 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 89,608 contracts worth 17.941 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (22,164), followed by Alpha Bank (17,153), Cyprus Bank (9,648), OTE (3,464), PPC (3,919), OPAP (5,260), Piraeus Bank (17,822), Eurobank (1,845), Cyprus Popular Bank (3,269), Intralot (1,279), Mytilineos (730) and MIG (941).

    [36] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.313

    Pound sterling 0.820

    Danish kroner 7.571

    Swedish kroner 8.785

    Japanese yen 104.88

    Swiss franc 1.228

    Norwegian kroner 7.546

    Canadian dollar 1.299

    Australian dollar 1.271

    General News

    [37] Chestnut season celebrated in autumn

    Chestnut season is celebrated every autumn, from mid-October to mid-November, in many regions across Greece with special events organized to promote the chestnut's nutritional value.

    In the context of these events, the 9th annual chestnut festival will be held October 26-28 in one of Laconia prefecture's mountain villages, Arna, on Mt. Taygetos. The three-day festival features artistic events and an outdoor market where visitors may purchase not only chestnuts but other autumn produce from the local producers.

    Annual "Chestnut Festivals" also take place in the mountainous village of Kastanitsa, Arcadia prefecture, in Paleochori in Kavala prefecture, Damaskinia in the prefecture of Kozani, Agiasos on the island of Lesvos and Karitsa in the prefecture of Larissa.

    In antiquity, the chestnut tree was regarded in Greece as the tree of Zeus. Mount Olympus, home of the gods of the ancient Greeks, was said to have had an abundance of chestnut trees producing this sweet, edible nut.

    Once peeled of their hard, dark brown outer shells and bitter inner skin, chestnuts can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, roasted, boiled, mashed, preserved and candied. A special type of coffee with calming effects is produced from dried chestnuts, while the chestnut tree leaves are used for their therapeutic properties in lung diseases and rheumatism.

    The sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), originally native to southeastern Europe and Asia Minor, was introduced into Europe from Sardis in Asia Minor; the fruit was then called the 'Sardian Nut'. It has been a staple food in Southern Europe, Turkey and southwestern and eastern Asia for millennia, largely replacing cereals where these would not grow well, if at all, in mountainous Mediterranean areas

    Alexander the Great and the Romans planted Chestnut trees across Europe while on their various campaigns. The Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401-399 B.C. thanks to their stores of chestnuts. Ancient Greeks like the physician, pharmacologist and botanist Dioscurides and Romans such as Galen, the prominent physician and philosopher of Greek origin, wrote of chestnuts to comment on their medicinal properties. To the early Christians chestnuts symbolized chastity. Until the introduction of the potato, whole forest-dwelling communities which had scarce access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates. In some parts of Italy a cake made of chestnuts is used as a substitute for potatoes.

    [38] Noted Greek sinologist inaugurates new lecture series on Chinese civilisation at Athens Univ.

    Author, translator and an expert sinologist Sotiris Halikias is amongst the few Greeks in the world fluent in ancient Chinese, having the distinction of translating Confucius and Mencius (Meng Zi) directly from the original text, no less.

    Born on the Ionian island of Lefkada in 1947 and a resident of Brussels for years, he recently returned to Greece for a three-month cycle of courses for postgraduate students at the University of Athens. Nevertheless, the lectures are open for anyone interested in learning more about China, the nation that has rapidly become one of the main pillars of the world's economic and political order over the past two decades. The lectures, entitled "China: Tradition and Novelty", were launched last Monday and will continue until January 2013.

    "When I was a student I could not resist the charm of the (1960s) Cultural Revolution. China, the country of constant and all-embracing revolution appeared eager to establish its new society on the absolutely available space that was created as a result of the demolition of the past; both material and immaterial. Reality finally won out when testimonies of the victims of this tragedy began to surface," he told AMNA, referring to both his personal path what led him to the East and the study of one of the most ancient and greatest world civilisations.

    Halikias, an architect and urban planner by training, said that he felt he had to understand the deeper framework of this radical phenomenon, adding that initially he studied the great texts of French sinology and then decided to learn the Chinese language itself, preferably its ancient version.

    The lectures' subheading is "Chronicle of an unanswered challenge", which is also the title of his new book -- in bookstores in a few months, published by Indiktos Publications.

    He clarified that "the specific subheading attempts to underline the fact that China's inevitable meeting with the West was a continuous challenge to its economic, social and cultural entity until the present time and, at the same time, constitutes a process leading to the formation of modern China. However, even today the country's political and cultural differences with the western world are evident. In other words, there are clear indications that the issue of China's peculiar participation, in what we call the world of Novelty, remains open."

    "A common element of all spiritual tendencies in the Chinese culture is the perception that human society remains an integral part of the general flow of the world," he stressed, noting that a fundamental consequence of this viewpoint is that people cannot live independently of nature and cannot downgrade it by merely exploiting its resources. "Obviously, the global ecological crisis that has taken up dramatic dimensions makes the Chinese perspective very timely," he stressed.

    "No other great civilisation has identified so completely with a single historical figure, that became both its founder and main exponent, as was the case with Confucius and the civilisation of China and the Far East," he said, speaking about the great 5th century B.C. thinker who believed that an ideal human society is possible, in an obvious parallelism with Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher.

    "China has arrived in our country and, having become a substantive global factor, raises issues that demand of us to have knowledge of its centuries-old historical journey and its important civilisation," he stressed.

    The main topic of his lectures is recording the historical path of China's relations with the Western World since 1842 and the unceasing confrontation taking place in the country between the advocates of tradition and those who support complete acceptance of the western way of life and thought.

    [39] Bartholomew addresses message to Serres pupils

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Wednesday conveyed an anti-racist message while speaking to high school students in the northern Greece city of Serres.

    "A struggle should be waged by Orthodoxy, even towards our non-Orthodox brothers, to cultivate the idea of tolerance and understanding of different cultures; a struggle against racial distinctions and racism..."

    [40] Danish ambassador visits Nafplio

    Danish ambassador to Greece Mette Knudsen on Wednesday visited the city of Nafplio in the eastern Peloponnese, within the framework of a two-day tour of the region.

    Her meeting with the city's mayor focused on the implementation of Kallikratis local government reform and the relation of the central government with local administration.

    [41] Foreign detainees stage disturbance at Igoumenitsa lockup

    Detainees at a lockup in the extreme northwest port city of Igoumenitsa staged protests on Tuesday to decry what conditions at the facility, although the situation was reported as back to normal a day later.

    According to reports, 92 detainees -- all identified as Third World nationals that illegally entered the country -- began the disturbance by yelling and hitting the walls with their hands and other objects. Eleven injuries were reported.

    Igoumenitsa is a magnet for Third World illegal migrants attempting to reach west European destinations by stowing away on Italy-bound ferry boats that depart from the port.

    [42] Drug arrests

    Eight individuals, seven men and a woman, were arrested on Tuesday in Hania, Crete island, on drug dealing charges.

    Police found in their possession 396.1 grams of heroin, 89.1 grams of cannabis, 18 mobile phones, 13 bank account booklets and 8,070 euros in cash, all of which were seized. Moreover police confiscated two cars and a motorcycle.

    Weather forecast

    [43] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-6 beauforte. Temperatures between 10C and 24C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-6 beauforte winds and temperatures between 14C and 23C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13C and 23C.

    [44] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' meeting with his coalition government partners, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on the package of new austerity measures dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Greece will be saved by those who dare".

    AVGHI: "Government teetering".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Extraordinary contribution until 2018".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Playing with fire at the last minute".

    ESTIA: "International example to be avoided".

    ETHNOS: "On the verge of a rift - Government in suspended animation - Tranche up in the air".

    IMERISSIA: "Dramatic developments - Cracks in the government".

    KATHIMERINI: "Cracks in the coalition government".

    LOGOS: "Crime against the labour regime...".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Government in ordeal after the painful decisions".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The people can show that they cannot be manipulated".

    TA NEA: "Dangerous impasse".

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