|Friday, 20 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-11-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 14 November 2012 Issue No: 4221
 PM: Loan tranche issue finished, focus now on growthBRUSSELS (AMNA)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday flatly dismissed persistent speculation and reiterated that a pending bailout tranche allocated by the country's EC-ECB-IMF creditors will be disbursed without hindrance, while he also appeared certain that more funding will be available than originally planned.
"Greece is already at the next day ... Greece's sacrifices were fully recognised at yesterday's (Monday) Eurogroup (meeting), where the last expediencies were eliminated. An extension (of the period to meet fiscal targets) was officially announced, while the issue of an escrow account was also overcome," Samaras told reporters here, adding:
"Whatever (details) remain are few, of a technical nature, which deal with the execution of what has already been agreed to, and which will conclude once and for all in the next few days. The loan installment is expected to be disbursed normally, after a difference in approach between Europe and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- over the issue of the Greek debt's sustainability -- is solved."
Samaras was speaking to reporters after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy.
The Greek premier, in fact, again said that the goal is to receive more than the 31 billion euros earmarked for the country's borrowing needs in the next tranche.
"We're now in the next phase; we're now seeking resources for growth ... I am returning to Greece even more optimistic for the next day," he said.
The prime minister is in Brussels to attend a Friends of Cohesion Group meeting on the next National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
 PM Samaras holds meetings with European leadersBRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, in meetings he held here on Tuesday with European Commission President Jose Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, explained, according to reports, to his interlocutors that it would be unnatural for a country that has experienced the biggest austerity and recession to be punished in the EU's next budget, covering the 2014-2020 period, with the greatest of penalties on the issue of structural funds resulting in a decrease in EU inflows by 40 percent.
The same reports added that Samaras had insisted that there should be a different approach for Greece, stressing that what should be avoided is the logic according to which the country experiencing the worse today not to have access to the important investments and investment initiatives provided by the structural funds.
The prime minister also met with his counterparts from Slovenia, Malta, Slovakia, Romania and Estonia.
The meetings with all the European leaders took place in light of the crucial European Council to be held on November 22-23 and which will examine the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework of the 2014-2020 period.
According to the same reports, a coincidence of views occurred with most countries with no net contributions to the EU budget and which ultimately benefit from the structural funds.
 FinMin: Gov't expects final decision on Nov. 20BRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Aroni)
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, speaking along with Labour Minister Yannis Vroutsis at a joint session of the European Parliament's economic affairs and employment committee, said here on Tuesday that "Greece expects a final decision on Nov. 20" over a pending bailout loan tranche.
Both ministers said Greece has achieved unprecedented results for a country in such a short period of time, while underlining the sacrifices and efforts being made by the Greek people.
Stournaras said these sacrifices were not in vain and predicted that they are reaching their end. However, replying to a press question, he said he does not rule out the "possibility of an accident" in the event that the disbursement of the next tranche is not approved in a timely manner.
Referring to the results of Monday's Eurogroup session, Stournaras said it began with difficulty but developed satisfactorily. He expressed satisfaction over the fact that the Eurogroup's announcement for Greece provides political support and a resounding political message on the efforts being made by the Greek people.
Stournaras said the Greek economy's competitiveness has improved markedly and stressed that the country achieved maximum results amid a very difficult political environment.
Labour Minister Yannis Vroutsis said the measures taken in the last few months will lead to a surplus in the social budget of more than 2.0 billion euros and noted that the country's pension system is now sustainable.
In other comments, Stournaras said:
"Greece suffered from its exclusion from international financial markets."
He added that a distance between efforts made by Greece and fiscal results remained huge because of the recession.
The Greek minister underlined that European authorities should base their decisions on a new package of community funds to Greece, for the period 2014-2020, to the country's economic figures during the last three years, as the country risked losing significant funds because of the prevailing economic recession.
Stournaras urged the European Parliament to press towards a fairer distribution of funds for Greece and expressed confidence that the release of the next tranche of the loan and the efforts made by the Greek government will help the country to regain its credibility, and put it in on the right path to attract investments.
 Eurogroup approves extension, no decision on loan tranche, to meet again Nov. 20BRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)
Greece received a two-year extension to its fiscal adjustment programme, but no decision was made on the disbursement of an outstanding 31.5 tranche of an EU/IMF bailout loan at Monday's Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.
"Together with the Greek adjustment program the eurogroup will further discuss (Greece's) financing needs and debt sustainability at an extraordinary meeting that will be convened on 20 November," the ministers said in a joint statement that was read out by eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker at a press conference after the meeting, adding that a few more "prior actions" remained to be implemented by the Greek authorities by then.
The Eurogroup acknowledged the considerable efforts made by the Greek citizens and welcomed the resolve of the Greek authorities to put the programme back on track, particularly after parliament's adoption of a "substantial set of reforms (omnibus bill of austerity measures) as well as a convincing budget for 2013" on November 7 and 11 respectively, Juncker said, adding that "these have received a preliminary positive assessment" by the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's international lenders.
He said that the ratification process for the disbursement of the next tranche by the euro-area national parliaments will begin shortly before November 20, after which the Eurogroup will convene again, possibly on November 26, either in person or by teleconference, to ascertain whether everything is in place for the final approval of the mammoth tranche to Greece.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, who also attended the meeting, expressed the IMF's satisfaction with the 'positive outcome" of the votes in the Hellenic parliament on November 7 and 11, but noted that the Greek authorities have to undertake a few more prior actions in the coming days.
She told the press conference that it was important for the IMF that all the matters are closed satisfactorily, namely the fiscal commitments, the structural reforms and the sustainability of the Greek debt.
The EU and the IMF are in disagreement over the sustainability of the debt, which became apparent with Juncker's and Lagarde's opposing statements regarding the reference year (2020 or 2022) during the press conference. Lagarde insisted that Greece should still be aiming to bring its debt to the 120 percent debt-to-GDP level by the original target of 2020 while Juncker opts for a 2022 deadline.
European economic and monetary affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn stressed the substantial progress that has been made by Greece in structural reforms, noting as an example the health sector, where an improvement of the prescriptions system has already generated savings of one billion euros and is expected to save another 800 million euros in the next two years.
He also expressed satisfaction with the reform in the pension age increase to 67, saying this will ensure the viability of the Greek pension system. He further praised the changes on the labor market, noting a 15 percent reduction in the cost per unit of production and the bridging of the competitiveness gap that had arisen in the period 2001-2009.
"Words have been backed by deeds," Rehn said, and made note of the many sacrifices Greece has made.
"As regards structural reforms, it is time to debunk the perception that no progress has been made. This perception is damaging, it is unfair, and it is simply wrong," Rehn said.
 Eurogroup statement on Greece"The Eurogroup welcomes the significant progress made towards a full staff level agreement between Greece and the Troika on updated programme conditionality, including a wide range of robust and necessary measures in the areas of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms, privatization, automatic correction mechanisms and financial sector stabilization.
The Eurogroup acknowledges the considerable efforts already made by the Greek citizens and is convinced that continued fiscal and structural reforms will - after another very difficult year - allow the economy to return to a sustainable growth path with higher employment, which is Greece's best guarantee for a more prosperous future.
The Eurogroup welcomes the resolve of the Greek authorities to bring the programme back on track, notably through the adoption by its Parliament, on 7 and 11 November, of a substantial set of reforms as well as a convincing budget for 2013. These have received a preliminary positive assessment by the Troika.
The Eurogroup notes with satisfaction that Greece has developed and committed to implement new instruments before the next disbursement, to enhance the governance of the programme that will help it to remain on track, notably by means of correction mechanisms to safeguard the achievement of the fiscal targets and a significant enhancement of the existing account for debt servicing.
Against this background, the Eurogroup concludes that the revised fiscal targets, as requested by the Greek government and supported by the Troika, would be an appropriate adjustment for the further path of fiscal consolidation in view of recent economic developments. The Eurogroup looks forward to the adoption of the related legal texts by the Council.
The Eurogroup calls on the Greek authorities to implement the few remaining prior actions as a matter of urgency so as to allow for a swift conclusion of the review.
Together with the review of the Greek adjustment programme, the Eurogroup will further discuss financing needs and debt sustainability, at an extraordinary meeting that will be convened on 20 November.
The Eurogroup expects that by that time, the necessary elements will be in place for Member States to launch the relevant national procedures required for the approval of the next EFSF disbursement, subject to the Troika's final positive assessment of all prior actions by the Greek authorities."
 FinMin satisfaction with Eurogroup outcomeBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Spinthourakis)
Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras expressed satisfaction with the Eurogroup decisions on Monday night, noting that they in effect clinched a two-year extension for Greece's fiscal consolidation.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels after the meeting of the eurozone finance ministers, Stournaras said that the full report by the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's international lenders is expected by November 17, to be ratified by the Eurogroup at an extraordinary meeting on November 20.
After that, the eurozone member countries will put the Troika report to their national parliaments and will have six days for its approval so that when the Eurogroup meets again, tentatively on November 26, a decision will be taken on the disbursement of the outstanding 31.5 billion euro tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan to Greece.
Stournaras further expressed certainty that the entire 31.3 billion euro tranche will be disbursed in full.
Asked whether the disbursed funds will be deposited in the central Bank of Greece (BoG) or in the ECB, Stournaras said that they will be deposited in the BoG, but noted that from here on the review of the Greek state's expenditures and revenues will be on a monthly basis and that if diversions arise from the initial estimates the necessary correctional measures will be taken. This, he added, concerns both the course of public expenditures and revenues, and the revenues from the planned denationalisations.
As for the remaining 'prior actions' that the Greek government must implement in the coming days, Stournaras said that they are basically a few administrative decisions that do not require parliamentary procedures.
Stournaras also expressed optimism that agreement will be reached between the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the sustainability of the Greek debt, but did not go into detail on the content of such an agreement.
 French president Hollande: 'We support Greece'PARIS (AMNA / O. Tsipira)
French President Fran?ois Hollande on Tuesday said a solution to the Greek economic crisis remained one the main targets of France's European policy.
Speaking at a press conference at the Elysee Palace, Hollande explained that a change in Europe's orientation was one of the major options of his policies.
Referring to Greece, the French president said the Greek government "has tabled and endorsed through Parliament a new, harsh programme, one aimed at reducing the deficit. Greece now awaits the support of Europe and of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); support that we have promised.
"I consider that, beyond some points still pending, and which are related to technical details, we owe Greece this support, to put an end to any doubts regarding the integrity of the eurozone," Hollande emphasised.
 Aid to Greece in 'bundled' payment of 44 billion euro, Bild reportsBERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)
The German government is pushing for a "bundled" payment of financial aid promised to Greece in 2012 as a single tranche of more than 44 billion euro, according to a pre-release of a news story due to appear in the German newspaper "Bild" on Wednesday.
Citing government sources, the newspaper said that this corresponds to separate tranches of bailout loans due to be given to Greece in 2012, including the 31.3 billion euro due in the second quarter of 2012, 5.0 billion euro for the third quarter and 8.3 billion euro for the last quarter.
The German newspaper said that the Greek government has asked for the entire amount of financial aid for 2012 to be disbursed.
The report has not been denied by the Greek finance ministry in Athens, where a top ministry official told AMNA that "we are making efforts [in this direction] but haven't secured it yet".
"Tough negotiations are underway and nothing is a given," the same official added.
A German finance ministry spokesperson questioned about the report, however, said that no final decision concerning the disbursement of financial aid to Greece has been taken yet.
 Greece at the focus of Mediterranean economic development forumThe sessions of the forum on the Mediterranean's development, taking place in Milan, came to an end on Tuesday with an address by Greek-Italian Chamber president Dr. Ioannis Tsamihas. The forum, inaugurated by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, wasattended by government delegations from 35 countries.
Tsamihas focused his address on the possibilities of the European south and of the countries of the Mediterranean, stressing that Greece constitutes the gate of the Mediterranean countries to the markets of the east, a fact that is not only capable of restructuring the Greek economy but assisting the rest of the countries in the region as well.
 SYRIZA leader interviewed by 'Wiener Zeitung': Samaras gov't hanging by a threadAUSTRIA (AMNA - D. Dimitrakoudis)
The Greek government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is "already hanging by a thread", main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras asserted in an interview with the Austrian newspaper "Wiener Zeitung".
The interview was published on Monday, one day after the Greek MPs approved a punishing austerity budget and less than a week since an omnibus bill introducing a swathe of draconian structural reforms finally squeaked through Parliament with a slim majority of 153 votes. According to Tsipras, this clearly indicated that the days of the present government were numbered since it would face massive opposition from society when it actually tried to implement the changes.
Greece's main opposition leader also criticised the strategy adopted by Samaras, claiming that the prime minister's plan was to simply give Greece's creditors whatever they demanded and then "make do" with whatever they chose to give in return. Tsipras stressed that this not only doomed to fail but also completely divorced from the prime minister's pre-election pledge to renegotiate the austerity package with Greece's lenders.
Tsipras expressed doubts about Samaras' credibility when in just four months he had lost so many deputies in Parliament and was reduced to such a small, fragile majority during a pivotal vote, as well as having the "overwhelming majority of the population" ranged against him.
According to Tsipras, the programme would be impossible to implement in practical terms and he used the privatisation programme as an example, pointing out that the original target to raise 50 billion euro had since been revised downward to just 10 billion euro in the next four years.
Stressing the rapidly emerging humanitarian and job crisis in Greece, Tsipras also noted that even if his party did not demand elections, it would not have to wait long because events in society will demand them.
Asked what he would do if elected prime minister, Tsipras said that austerity policy will have to be abandoned because it generated further recession, increasing debt and reducing tax revenues. He emphasised the need for a genuine renegotiation with Greece's creditors to re-examine the terms of the loan agreements.
He also called for a generous write-off of Greece's debt along the lines of the debt relief afforded to Germany under the 1953 London Debt Agreement, with a growth clause for paying off the remaining debt, public investment to rekindle economic growth and a European-wide 'Marshall Plan' to resolve Europe's debt crisis.
Asked to reply to those accusing his party of populism and of fuelling popular discontent among Greeks, Tsipras joked that SYRIZA was not needed for this and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel "will suffice when she asserts that countries with a debt above 80 percent should lose their sovereignty, or when she openly asks for the creation of an escrow account to which our country will have no rights. This gives rise to anger".
Tsipras reiterates proposal for international conference on all southern European countries facing debt problems in interview with CNN
Greek main opposition SYRIZA's position that the Memorandum has failed was analysed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in an interview on Tuesday with CNN, while he also reiterated his proposal for a international conference on all the southern European countries that have debts and similar problems with Greece.
Tsipras said that the programme implemented in Greece in the last two and a half year has not met any of its aims and has brought the Greek society before an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Commenting on the outcome of Monday's Eurogroup meeting, the SYRIZA leader stressed that they did not take any substantial decisions because the Greek debt is not sustainable.
"SYRIZA believes that a prospect of prosperity for the European people does not exist with the policy being implemented. We are supporters of the united European and of the European idea and for this reason we demand that this austerity policy is halted and that we turn towards sustainable solutions for the debt and for growth," Tsipras said.
DIMAR condemns differing stance by two deputies
The Democratic Left (DIMAR) executive committee, which met on Tuesday, has condemned the stance of its deputies Odysseas Voudouris and Petros Moutsinas for not following the party's line in the voting of the new package of austerity measures in parliament last week.
DIMAR president Fotis Kouvelis also warned the two deputies against their tactic of not observing the party's collective decisions.
According to reports, in a statement issued for party members and organizations, DIMAR explains that "the stance taken by Voudouris and Moutsinas is distant to the party's collective processes and is regarded as political violation of party decisions."
DIMAR is a junior partner in the Antonis Samaras coalition government. The party's line was to vote 'present' in last Wednesday's parliamentary vote of the austerity package.
Automatic suspension for public-sector staff without degrees, ASEP recruitment
In a circular issued on Tuesday, the government ordered the automatic suspension of all public-sector staff hired on the basis of indefinite private-sector contracts that have only completed secondary education and were not recruited through the civil service staff selection agency ASEP.
The Administrative Reform and e-governance ministry circular also stipulated issues governing staff transfers, automatic suspension of employees facing serious charges and abolition of positions in the public sector.
The measures concern mainly clerks, secretaries and other junior-level administrative staff, with personnel departments given five days to send lists of staff to be suspended. A copy of the circular was also posted on the government website http://diavgeia.gov.gr/
In an accompanying note, the Administrative Reform and e-Governance ministry clarified that staff involved will not be laid off but eventually transferred to other public-sector services with staff shortages, especially those coming into direct contact with the public.
In a statement on Tuesday, Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis appealed to civil servants to cooperate so that measures to reform public administration can be carried out in accordance with a circular.
He stressed that the measures "seek to restore the prestige of the civil service and legality in the public sector" and "deal with a climate that denigrates civil servants".
Manitakis said that steps had been taken to ensure that all transfers were as rapid and fair as possible, without leaving room for outside pressure and clientelism, stressing that the government was determined to implement the measures since reforming public administration was vital in order to overcome the crisis in the country.
The measures extend automatic suspension without pay for staff facing disciplinary proceedings for serious penal or disciplinary offences until their case comes to trial. They also introduce a more flexible, effective and objective system for transferring civil servants to other posts.
The compulsory suspensions and staff transfers will mainly affect administrative staff without further education degrees that were not recruited via the civil service staff selection body ASEP. They will start with public-sector agencies considered to have a large number of administrative staff fitting the criteria.
Manitakis also clarified that the suspension of staff will automatically cease once their transfer to another position is decided and they will undertake their new duties immediately. He stressed that it was not in the interests of the staff not to accept their transfer, since this would extend their suspension and an unfavourable salary regime.
 KKE party on abolition of tenure in public sectorThe Communist Party (KKE), in a statement on the ministry's circular allowing the suspension of public sector employees hired outside the Supreme Staff Selection Council (ASEP) process, stresses that "the government is pushing hundreds of employees into the ante-chamber of unemployment".
KKE said "the hundreds of thousands of unemployed of the private sector have nothing to benefit from the increase in the unemployed and from the abolition of tenure, which the government, plutocracy and the EU, as a right, want to wipe out from everywhere".
 ADEDY demands govt to call off public sector layoffsParliament President Enangelos Meimarakis on Tuesday promised to convey to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras an appeal by the civil servants' union federation (ADEDY) for a suspension in a government plan to proceed with with public sector layoffs.
ADEDY unionists, who staged a demonstration outside the ministry of administrative reform earlier in the day, had earlier tried to meet with Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, although the latter was not in the building. Instead, they met with Meimarakis.
Earlier on Tuesday, ADEDY president Costas Tsikrikas said, in a statement, that the latest austerity measures are "taking us a century back." He also asked the government to call off layoffs in the public sector.
ADEDY secretary general Ilias Iliopoulos said any public sector layoffs will be a 'casus belli'.
 KKE leader tours Larissa, Magnesia"An overall strategic way out (of the crisis) is need, which should be anti-monopolistic and anti-capitalistic," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga told a dense rally of supporters in the central Greek city of Larissa, which is part of her tour of the Larissa and Magnesia regions.
"The people should take over power, as well as the economy and state assets, to push ahead with growth that will not be serving the monopolies", Papariga said in analyzing KKE's strategy to deal with the economic crisis.
She added that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras "is not telling us what the 31 billion euros (of the EC-ECB-IMF loan tranche) will be used for...it will be used mainly to save the banks and the monopolies... while the two-year extension (to attain fiscal targets) will entail new tough measures."
Papariga will be in the city of Volos Wednesday evening for a meeting with the board of the local Technical Chamber, and is scheduled to address an event.
 Greece raises 4.0625 bln euros from T-bills auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned two series of Treasury bills raising 4.0625 billion euros from the market. The Public Debt Management Organization, in a statement, said it raised 2.7625 billion euros from the auction of one-month T-bills and another 1.3 billion euros from the auction of three-month Treasury bills.
The interest rate on the one-month issue was set at 3.95 pct and on the three-month issue at 4.2 pct (down slightly from 4.24 pct of the previous auction). In the one-month auction, bids submitted totaled 2.765 billion euros, 1.3 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers and settlement date was set for Friday, 16 November. The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum.
In the three-month issue auction, bids submitted totaled 1.66 billion euros, up 1.66 times more than the asked sum, while non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum will be accepted. Settlement date of the issue was set for Friday, 16 November.
 Nationwide work stoppages on Tuesday and WednesdayUmbrella public sector labour federation ADEDY has declared a nationwide work stoppage from 12:00 noon until the end of the shift on Tuesday and a rally outside the Administrative Reform and e-Governance Ministry at 12:30 p.m.
ADEDY is protesting against the induction of civil servants into reserve labor and possible subsequent layoffs.
On Wednesday, in the context of the "European Action against austerity policies", the two umbrella labour federations ADEDY and GSEE (representing the private sector) have called a nationwide work stoppage from 12:00 noon until the end of the shift and a protest rally in Klafthmonos Square in downtown Athens.
Forty labour organisations in 23 European countries will participate in the mobilisation.
The labour unions in Portugal and Spain have declared a 24-hour general strikes while in Austria the labour unions will distribute leaflets to the citizens with the slogan "We are all Greeks"
A four-hour work stoppage will also be held in Italy while demonstrations have been scheduled in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and Finland.
 Cooperation between Tourism, Agricultural Development ministriesTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and Agricultural Development Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris discussed the promotion of joint actions aimed at the further linking of the first stage farm sector with tourism, during their meeting at the tourism ministry on Tuesday.
Cooperation between the two ministries was decided in order to promote and support high-quality Greek farm products in tandem with promoting the country's tourism sector. The relevant actions will be included in a National Tourist Organisation campaign.
The two ministers exchanged views and agreed that the country's rich agricutural heritage, as part of its culture, must also constitute part of its tourism. For this reason, they will proceed with the immediate implementation of targeted joint initiatives, with the aim of utilising Greek agriculture's special characteristics, such as tradition, culture, biodiversity, the production process and the high nutritional value of certain farm products.
 Domestic tourism a victim of the crisisDomestic tourism is expected to post a loss in 2013, with tourist-related industry officials estimating a two-digit decline over 2012.
Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA) president George Telonis told AMNA that the Greek tourists will once again "shine" with their absence on the Greek tourism scene, as a result of the economic crisis that has reduced to a minimum the money available from their incomes for vacations.
Telonis said that the Greek tourist is very important for the local economy, and the wager no is to have a substantial increase in arrivals in 2013 in order to make up for the losses.
Domestic tourism dropped by half in 2012 against the previous year, with big repercussions on the local economies.
Indicatively, according to data released by the Thessaloniki Hoteliers' Association, the situation as recorded in the first eight months of the year is irreversible, with 100,000 fewer overnight stays of Greek visitors (15.89 percent decline) against the same period in 2011, with overnight stays falling to 515,080 from 612,379 in the corresponding period in 2011.
 Greek-Chinese study on use of natgas in shipsThe use of liquefied natural gas as an alternative marine fuel will be the focus of a joint research programme undertaken by two groups, Greek and Chinese, a programme approved by the development ministry and China's ministry of science and technology.
The project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and research findings are expected in three years.
The Greek research team will focus its work on passenger ships and ferry boats, while the Chinese group will concentrate on container carriers.
Prof. Alexandros Theodoulidis explained that the use of natural gas as a fuel in ships is not an expensive alternative. The research, he said, will focus on natural gas storage tanks on ships and related safety systems.
Engine conversion to allow ships to use natural gas instead of diesel could take place in Greece, as local shipyards can offer the required solution in the construction of storage tanks and safety systems.
Many shipping companies are reportedly considering using natural gas in their vessels, and are also looking into new ship orders to avoid engine conversion.
 Industrial import price index up 4.9 pct in SeptGreece's import price composite index in the industrial sector rose 4.9 pct in September, compared with the same month last year, after an 8.3 pct increase recorded in September 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday. The statistics service, in a report, attributed this increase in the so-called imported inflation to a 0.8 pct rise in the import price index from Eurozone countries and an 8.4 pct increase in the import price index from countries outside the Eurozone in September.
The import price index fell 0.8 pct in September against August 2012.
 Business briefs-- Frigoglass on Tuesday said its sales grew 0.1 pct in the first nine months of the year to 438.894 million euros, from 438.566 million euros in the corresponding period in 2011.
 Stocks end slightly upStocks ended slightly higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
Analysts said market sentiment was nervous as investors largely ignored developments in a Eurogroup meeting on Monday, and focused more on the terms of a bank recapitalisation plan. The composite index rose 0.37 pct to end at 775.72 points, after falling as much as 1.92 pct early in the session. Turnover was an improved 83.240 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.12 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.56 pct higher. The Travel (2.67 pct) and Oil (2.23 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (2.81 pct) and Health (1.42 pct) suffered losses. OPAP (2.73), Ellaktor (2.68 pct) and Motor Oil (2.67 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (7.13 pct), National Bank (3.97 pct), Alpha Bank (3.21 pct) and Piraeus Bank (2.67 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 63 to 55 with another 28 issues unchanged. Druckfarben (21.74 pct), Minerva (20.86 pct) and Nutriart (19.67 pct) were top gainers, while Fieratex (30 pct), Boutaris (18.75 pct) and Sprider Stores (18 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.23%
Personal & Household: -0.55%
Raw Materials: +1.41%
Travel & Leisure +2.67%
Food & Beverages: +1.16%
Financial Services: +1.17%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Piraeus and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.51
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.10
HBC Coca Cola: 17.20
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.33
National Bank of Greece: 1.45
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.69
Bank of Piraeus: 0.37
 Greek bond market reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 16.68 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 16.63 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 18.01 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.33 pct. Turnover remained a thin 1.0 million euros, one buy order.
In interbank markets, interest rates remained largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.58 pct, the six-month rate was 0.36 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 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 1.41 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising slightly to 28.730 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,567 contracts worth 15.883 million euros, with 31,215 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 89,376 contracts worth 12.847 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (36,301), followed by Alpha Bank (24,780), Piraeus Bank (14,449), Cyprus Bank (2,379), OTE (2,342), PPC (1,847), OPAP (1,884), Cyprus Popular Bak (1,015), Eurobank (1,646), GEK (765), Intralot (500), MIT (115) and Mytilineos (315).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.288
Pound sterling 0.811
Danish kroner 7.569
Swedish kroner 8.736
Japanese yen 102.44
Swiss franc 1.222
Norwegian kroner 7.435
Canadian dollar 1.29
Australian dollar 1.237
 Rare letters by 1821 revolution hero Karaiskakis up for auctionA rare collection of letters written by Georgios Karaiskakis, the revolutionary hero and a top general in Greece's 1821 war of independence against Ottoman rule, is being put up for auction by the P. Vergos auction house next week on Wednesday, November 21.
The collection includes seven letters addressed to a committee of refugees from Psara on the island of Aegina, one to the Greek Command and one to the British general Richard Church.
One of the letters includes an account of the victorious battle of Arachova that had just been won by the Greeks on November 24, 1826 in what would be one of the key moments of the Greek revolution.
In his account, Karaiskakis describes arriving in Arachova on the 18th of the same month and waging a five-hour battle that trapped the Turkish forces on a barren, rocky slope without food, water and supplies, where they remained under siege for seven days before they attempted a charge earlier that morning.
He then recounts how Greek forces took up their positions and slew approximately 1,300 of the enemy, naming several leaders of the Turkish forces (whose heads would be sent on in a second letter) that were killed. He also reports taking some important captives and how Greek troops shared a wealth of spoils and loot, including a thousand horses.
His letter to the Greek Command on March 4, 1826 betrays his bitterness at being sidelined by the leaders of the Greek revolution while that to Church on April 18, 1827 is among the last he ever wrote since he died of wounds sustained in battle just five days later.
Letters by Karaiskakis are extremely rare and very few have been put up for auction to date.
 Athens Univ. rector condemns takeover preventing election processUniversity officials on Tuesday again decried the violent takeover of administrative computer centres by groups of self-styled "students", ostensibly to stop an electronic vote amongst faculty and staff to appoint new administrative councils -- part of a high-profile reform to combat petty partisan influence in filling such posts.
Athens University rector Theodosis Pelegrinis called for an end to the takeover university hall, following a meeting of the rector's council.
"Apart from the election process, which is conducted under the responsibility of the central election committee, and which can be extended with the implementation of alternative solutions, the electronic isolation of the university must stop," Pelegrinis said in a statement.
He called for an immediate end to the takeover and the restoration of the computer room operation.
The statement was echoed by the national federation of university lecturers (POSDEP), which condemned what it called the "unprecedented raid yesterday (Monday) by a small group of students at the computer room of the University of Athens, and after the constant exhortations by a small group of professors at the institution."
"... The academic community is precluded from the opportunity of electronic communication for an indefinite period, with serious and negative repercussions, primarily for scientific and research work," the statement added.
Finally, POSDEP called on academic staff to "isolate" what it called groups of very few professors, and to participate in the election process at all schools and faculties.
Meanwhile, the head of the Athens first instance prosecutor's office on Tuesday ordered a police investigation of the incident, following relevant press reports. The prosecutor requests that perpetrators using various methods to block the election process at higher education institutions be identified.
Extreme left and self-styled anarchist groupings within and outside universities have threatened to block the election process by taking over computer rooms, amongst others, while several professors have reported threats against them by unidentified individuals.
 Major police operation to locate drug dealing gangA major police operation was launched on Crete early Tuesday against a drug dealing and weapon trafficking ring in which are policemen are alleged to be involved.
According to information, more than 17 persons have already been arrested, among them Greeks, Bulgarians and Albanians as well as two police officers, while 3-4 suspects were wanted
Authorities discovered a large cannabis plantation in a remote region of Rethymno and set up a discrete surveillance for a long period of time, monitoring the suspects' actions.
Police managed to identify the suspects, in Lasithi, Heraklion and Rethymno, who were operating in two groups.
More than 200 police officers, police special forces and a police Internal Affairs team from Athens are taking part in the operation.
 One sentenced to life imprisonment for murder of pensionerTwo Syrian nationals aged 25 and 19 were convicted late Monday by a court on Crete island of homicide during an attempted robbery against a 98-year old retired policeman.
According to the case file the two perpetrators broke into the pensioner's house in order to rob him but the victim got wind of them and reacted. The two robbers tied up and gagged the victim, resulting in his death from asphyxiation.
The 25-year-old was given a life sentence for the homicide and 15 years for robbery, as well as a 600 euro fine, while the 19 year-old was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for the homicide and robbery and two months for illegal possession of a firearm.
Two locals aged 49 and 42 and a third Syrian were also convicted in the case. The 49-year-old local was sentenced to 14 years and six months imprisonment for moral instigation of the robbery and setting up a criminal gang while the 33-year-old Syrian was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for moral instigation of the robbery and setting up a criminal gang, as well as nine months for illegal possession of a firearm, while both were acquitted of moral instigation of the homicide.
Finally, 42-year-old other local, who according to the case file transported the perpetrators with his car to the victim's house was found guilty of illegal possession of a weapon and was given a suspended sentence of 8 months.
 Package with bullets found at Heraklio airportA package containing 200 machinegun shells was discovered on Tuesday at Nikos Kazantzakis Airport in Heraklio on Crete island.
It is the second incident in less than a week, given that last Wednesday a similar package containing 250 bullets was found in the airport.
The package was sent via a courier company from Hania, Crete, addressed to a destination in Ileia prefecture.
The identity of the dispatcher and the recipient of both packages are unknown.
Police are conducting an investigation.
 Huge quantity of contraband cigarettes seized, man wantedThe finance ministry's financial crimes squad (SDOE) seized nearly 14 million contraband cigarettes in a container that had arrived from the United Arab Emirates), representing a loss of 2.3 million euro in evaded taxes to the Greek state, while a 34-year-old man was wanted, SDOE announced on Tuesday.
A SDOE team, together with Piraeus Customs authorities, on Monday conducted a search of a container that had arrived a day earlier from the UAE, with the accompanying documents saying it contained cardboard packaging material, but discovered instead 13,980,000 contraband cigarettes of the "Ruby Super Slim" brand.
A 34-year-old Greek man is wanted in the case. According to the police, the man has leased a warehouse facility in the northern Attica region for storage of the contraband cigarettes. A subsequent search of the warehouse did not turn up further contraband products.
 Suspect of robbery on Crete arrestedPolice on Tuesday announced that they have solved the case of the robbery of a PROPO state betting agency last Sunday in Ierapetra on Crete island.
A 31-year-old Albanian national has been arrested while two accomplices are wanted.
On Sunday night three unknown individuals ambushed the owner of the agency, attacked and injured him and grabbed approximately 15,000 euros cash from him.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 4C and 22C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 19C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 6C and 16C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceMonday's Eurogroup meeting and the continuing deliberations on the Greek debt, mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Race for the disbursement".
AVGHI: "Hidden clauses and new measures".
DIMOKRATIA: "Black out! The Chinese water torture over the tranche continues".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "6.4 billion euros in hidden measures".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "IMF chief Christine Lagarde , German FinMin Wolfgang Schauble duel over debt's haircut".
ESTIA: "MPs' improper behaviour".
ETHNOS: "Two-year extension for Greece".
IMERISSIA: "Wager for the banks- The harsh recapitalisation conditions a challenge".
KATHIMERINI: "Yes to extension, disagreement over the debt".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The extension requires 32.6 billion euros in new loans".
RIZOSPASTIS: "People to choose their own course of development".
TA NEA: "Grey smoke - Positive sign (without decision) for the tranche".
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