|Saturday, 17 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-11-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 29 November 2012 Issue No: 4234
 PM tells Cabinet: Growth, investments, new jobs the fundamental goalPrime Minister Antonis Samaras expressed satisfaction with the recent Eurogroup decisions on Greece and the climate, vis-a-vis Greece, that has emerged abroad, and stressed that the priority now was on changing the climate at home and for relief of the social groups that are hardest hit by the crisis, addressing a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
"In the latest period we had the major issue of the European battle. This battle ended at the recent Eurogroup meeting," Samaras said, noting that the Greek market was no credible abroad.
"No one will be allowed to injure Greece's credibility," he warned, adding that he did not want to hear of gloating. "We must manage the problems correctly. We cannot speak of success when things are so difficult, that all has ended. We've been culling conclusions since yesterday (Tuesday). We will correct whatever mistakes in our operation," he added.
Samaras stressed that solidarity among the government ministers is necessary, as is coordination among the Cabinet members, and gave strict orders for completion of the prior actions by end-December, noting that they are "society-friendly actions and do good to competitiveness".
The premier presented three directions in which the government will act in the coming period: strict supervision of every ministry on its budget (there will be an automatic supervisory mechanism), implementation of the measures without relaxation, and everyone's assistance in the denationalisations.
The goal, he said, is for every ministry to present a primary surplus, and this is the purpose of the automatic supervisory mechanism.
"With the surplus, we can channel 70 percent to correcting injustices," Samaras said, while he set out growth, investments and the creation of new jobs as the fundamental goal.
The prime minister announced that a memorandum would be signed by alternate finance minister Christos Staikouras with the ministers of every ministry that has outstanding debts, as this was necessary for the credibility of the state,
He further told his ministers that he will be at their side and urged then to draw up time-tables and adhere to them.
"I will from here on be at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) infrequently and frequently at the ministries. I will be a different prime minister," Samaras said, and thanked Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for the "titanic work he accomplished in such a short time", as well as the other ministers who "gave their all, to the point of self-sacrifice".
 PM Samaras posts video-message on FacebookIn a message posted by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on his personal Facebook account, the Greek premier says that ?"we, Greeks, know very well that we can achieve anything, but only through unity and decisiveness."
The video-message, titled "Greece is just starting up," shows Samaras addressing the nation and saying that the country has many times been through tough times in its long history, but always found the strength and courage to stand up and walk ahead. He also underlines that it is necessary for Greece to enter again a path of growth with stability, security and consensus.
 Coalition gov't party leaders conclude meeting: Eurogroup decisions keep Greece in euroPrime Minister and New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras and the leaders of the two parties participating in his three-party coalition government -- PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis -- met on Wednesday to review the decisions on Greece taken at a Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday.
According to the coalition government's two junior partners, Venizelos and Kouvelis, no issue of a government reshuffle was put forward at their meeting, during which they were briefed on the Eurogroup meeting and decisions by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
"We have a new framework, a new starting point that we must take advantage of in the best possible way to the benefit of the real economy, to the benefit of the citizens, because now only a halting of the recession and positive growth rates can convince the Greeks that a prospect exists," PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told reporters after the leaders' meeting.
Venizelos stressed that "the climate (vis-a-vis Greece) has changed" and that "we also must believe in this cause", adding the importance of "the Greeks feeling more confident".
"We know the difficulties, we know what every household is going through, we know what it means to be unemployed, to have your business be at risk and to have lost income. But the country must remain standing, and now it can regain the lost ground and once again become autonomous and equal in Europe," he added.
Venizelos said that the immediate target now was "completion of all that we have undertaken in relation to the buy-back of the Greek bonds (Greek debt buy-back), the recapitalisation of the banks - not the bankers (an indirect reply to opposition criticism), for money to enter the market, for the state to pay what it owes to the market and, of course, for the liquidity to be channeled to the market".
He explained that this was why the recapitalisation of the banks is accompanied by three accords on liquidity, on reconstruction and on reacquiring the value of the banks, respectively, in order for the state to get back what it puts into the banking system.
Asked if a change in the operation of the government was put forward, Venizelos said that "this was not the subject of today's discussion", adding that "now we must take advantage of the moment, which is very important, the country must turn towards exiting the crisis".
DIMAR leader Fotis Kouvelis put the priority on growth and restoring and reinforcing the social cohesion, speaking in turn to reporters after the leaders' meeting.
Kouvelis said that a comprehensive plan for the country's recovery and a protection net for the hard-hit social strata is necessary.
"We will do everything needed for the country to move forward, for a developmental process and the creation of jobs," he said.
Kouvelis added that his party's decision to support the coalition government for Greece's continued stay in the euro and to avert political instability has been vindicated, and welcomed the Eurogroup decisions as an "exceptionally positive". development.
On the prospect of a government reshuffle, he said that no discussion on such a prospect took place with Samaras and Venizelos, adding that "the issue was not brought up in any manner".
Asked if an updating of the three parties' programme agreement (for participation in the coalition government) is needed, Kouvelis stressed that the priority should be on policies for growth and social cohesion.
Leaving the meeting earlier, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said he briefed the leaders of the coalition government's three parties on Monday's Eurogroup meeting and outcome.
Stournaras said that in the coming days the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund S.A. (HRADF) will issue an announcement explaining how the Greek debt buy-back programme will be carried out.
Asked by journalists how easy or hard the buy-back process will be, Stournaras said that he is optimistic, adding that "nothing is easy, but we're trying".
The buy-back of the Greek debt is a precondition set out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release its portion of the 43.7-billion-euros tranche of the EU/IMF IMF bailout loan to Greece that was approved by a Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers at Monday's meeting in Brussels.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, who attended the Eurogroup meeting, welcomed the Eurogroup's decisions on Greece and added that once progress has been made on specifying and delivering the commitments made at the meeting, and "in particular the implementation of the debt buybacks", she would be "in a position to recommend to the IMF Executive Board the completion of the first review of Greece's program".
 KKE on party leaders' meetingThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), commenting the meeting of the party leaders that participate in the coalition government on Wednesday, stated that "the co-governance, with ungrounded gloating and fake promises, attempts to hide the fact that together with their European partners they are escalating the massacre of the people and that the conflicts are intensifying within the EU on how they will manage their own crisis".
"The talk about a better and stronger negotiation in EU is constantly proving to be dangerous for the people" noted the KKE in an announcement.
"Now the working classes' struggle for disengagement from the EU, the socialisation of the monopolies and the unilateral write-off of the debt comes first on the agenda," the KKE added.
 No time for celebrations, Greek FinMin says"This is not the time for celebrations, the difficult part for the country is now beginning, and we must think how to take advantage of this great opportunity," Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference to present the outcome of a Eurogroup meeting, the Greek minister said decisions taken during the Eurogroup meeting were very significant, creating the preconditions for Greece to remain in the Eurozone and to exit a vicious cycle of excessive debt and recession. Stournaras stressed it was imperative to move forward with reforms and privatizations. He said that the next tranche of an aid loan will be released by December 13.
Commenting on a Greek debt buy back programe, which he said would aim to reduce the nominal value of Greece's debt by roughly 30 billion euro, he said it would be voluntary and that it was the patriotic duty of all involved to participate and ensure it was successful.
The finance minister emphasised that Greece must now implement the structural changes passed by Parliament, press ahead with a privatisation programme and carry out reforms to make the social state more efficient, with social policies directed at those who really needed them, thus ensuring equal opportunities to health, education and other benefits for all.
Stournaras noted that the disposal of 10 billion euro for the bond buyback programme was a condition set by the Eurogroup in order to disburse the loan tranche of 43.7 billion euro (34.4 billion euro before December 13 and the rest in three installments within the first quarter of 2013) so that Greece's debt in 2020 is reduced from 144 percent of GDP to 122 percent of GDP.
The finance minister and the new head of Greece's Public Debt Management Agency Stelios Papadopoulos said that the bond buy back offer will be announced early next week, with two major international banks negotiating on behalf of the Greek state, and will remain 'open' for about seven days. The Greek state will put up roughly 10 billion euro borrowed from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to buy back bonds with a nominal value of nearly 30 billion euro. The loan from the EFSF will be in addition to the 43.7 billion euro financial aid tranche due to be disbursed by March 2013 and can be paid back from the proceeds of privatisations, they said.
Stournaras clarified that participation by banks in the bond buyback programme will not mean that they will receive additional capital. Regarding social insurance and pension funds, the minister said he would like them to "decide on their own" but indicated that there was also a 'plan B' if the bond buyback scheme didn't work.
The minister underlined, however, that "a face-value reduction of the debt is currently off the table".
Stournaras also used the opportunity to announce that he had asked his French counterpart Pierre Muscovici to send Greece a new copy of the controversial 'Lagarde list' - containing the names of nearly 2,000 Greeks with significant sums deposited in the Geneva branch of HSBC - indicating that it was just a matter of time before this arrived. The list and its fate since it was handed to the Greek government roughly two years earlier is currently the object of an ongoing judicial investigation that has just been sent to the Greek Parliament.
 Gov't spokesman: End to 'Grexit' storiesGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday, referring to the Eurogroup's decisions on Greece, said: "We have closed a very important chapter, a very difficult one with painful decisions, but we succeeded in safeguarding Greece's position in Europe's core, in securing the conditions that will allow us to exercise policies in order to quickly bring a new day to the country".
Speaking on private Vima FM radio station, Kedikoglou avoided comment on the bonds' buy-back issue but anticipated that it will go "smoothly". Moreover, he underlined that the Eurogroup's decision contains a clause that foresees that if Greece is in a recession, a deviation from the targets will be allowed", adding that "even the worst case scenario, there will be no further cuts in pension and salaries". Moreover, he noted that a return of bank deposits to Greece is expected following the Eurogroup's decision. "The bank deposits will return to Greece, roughly 80 billion euros in deposits are expected, because a huge profit has been secured by the Eurogroup's decision," he said.
"Full stop to Grexit stories," Kedikoglou concluded.
 SYRIZA sees further deterioration in Greece following Eurogroup outcomeMain opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) on Wednesday predicted that living standards and the overall economic state will deteriorate further in the wake of the Eurogroup's recent decisions for Greece's debt.
Analysing the impact of implementing these decisions, sources in the main opposition party pointed out that a condition for them would be continuing the austerity policies that had already proven disastrous both in Greece and the rest of the Eurozone.
In light of this, sources within the party accused the government of "looking on in guilty silence while the IMF and the German government negotiated ways to handle the failure of the second memorandum. A negotiation whose aim, was to continue precisely the same policy of austerity and recession, in spite of its failure".
The party referred to a number of elements in the agreement that it believes will cause rapid deterioration of the state of society and ultimately cause Greece's debt to continue to rise as a result of deepening recession, while dismissing remedies proposed under the deal as "mere aspirins".
It also noted that the commitment of more public funds toward paying off public debt when these might have been made available to finance developmental efforts would perpetuate the recessionary pressure and the destruction of the economy, further weakening the country's ability to service its debts.
SYRIZA said that Greece's position in the eurozone was now made even more precarious, since the policy that had placed it at risk was continuing and the same was happening throughout the Eurozone.
Sources in the main opposition also slammed the government's claim that a more aggressive implementation of the policy that had caused the problems would provide a solution, while they were particularly scathing about the stance adopted by the left-wing coalition member Democratic Left (DIMAR).
"The coalition government and the parties that make it up will quickly go the same way as the previous memorandum governments: they will collapse and become discredited," SYRIZA concluded, adding that the sooner this happened, the better it will be for Greek society and the economy.
 SYRIZA: Gov't running out of time"The government is running out of time," main opposition SYRIZA said on Wednesday, commenting on the meeting of the party leaders participating in the coalition government held earlier in the day.
A SYRIZA announcement added that "the artificial dose of optimism" will not take the society out of the crisis and will not save the government, just as it did not save the previous memorandum governments".
SYRIZA underlined that the governmental partners' attempt to present the Eurogroup's results as "a national success" lack seriousness and can't change the cruel reality that the majority of the society is suffering from the extreme and disastrous policy of the memorandum".
 Independent Greeks party says PM's Eurogroup message 'artificial optimism operation'Opposition Independent Greeks party spokesman Christos Zois termed Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's message through his website in a social network site regarding decisions taken at the Eurogroup "an operation of organised artificial optimism".
Zois added that the country is continuing "the same path of a deadlocked programme of guaranteed failure ". "Despite the organised artificial optimism operation that is being emitted also by the advertising message by the prime minister himself, in order to give the impression of a new start, the truth is that Greece is simply continuing on the same tested path, of a deadlocked programme of guaranteed failure for which the Greeks are being led with certainty to impoverishment while in parallel they are being burdened with new debts", he also noted.
 President Papoulias to receive PM Samaras on ThursdayPrime Minister Antonis Samaras will be received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Mansion at 11:00 on Thursday, whom he will brief on all developments, also in the wake of the decisions taken by the Eurogroup on Tuesday morning.
 DIMAR not to back proposed probe into signature of bailout memorandumThe Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party, one of the junior members of Greece's coalition government, on Wednesday decided not to support a proposal for a Parliamentary investigating committee to determine whether there was political responsibility for events that led Greece to sign the first memorandum for bailout loans. The proposal was tabled by main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) and is due to be discussed on Thursday.
The decision was taken during a meeting of DIM.AR's Parliamentary group called by party leader Fotis Kouvelis in order to brief the party's MPs on what occurred during Monday's Eurogroup meeting and the issues discussed in his meeting with the other two coalition leaders, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK President Evangelos Venizelos, earlier the same day.
According to sources, the three coalition leaders agreed that priority must now be given to boosting growth and social cohesion and that further clarifications were needed concerning a bond buyback scheme, especially its impact on banks and pension funds.
Kouvelis told his MPs that there had been no discussion on a government reshuffle but that he raised the issue of the new taxation bill, stressing that this should be based on social criteria. The coalition leaders also agreed to meet next week to discuss foreign policy issues.
 German State Secretary Haber meets with PASOK, DIM.AR delegationVisiting German Federal Foreign Office State Secretary Emily Haber met here on Wednesday with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos whose party backs the coalition government. The meeting took place at the party's central offices in Athens and was attended by former finance minister Filippos Sahinidis. No statements were made afterwards.
Earlier, the German official had met with a delegation of the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party, a junior party in the coalition government.
According to a party announcement, she expressed "appreciation on the seriousness and responsible manner in which DIM.AR faces the country's problems, as well as support of the German government in effort for reforms and growth."
"Tuesday's eurogroup decision regarding Greece was also examined during the meeting, while the DIM.AR delegation briefed, in detail, the German side on the work underway, underlining at the same time the need of support for the weaker social strata during this transitional period that the country is going through," the announcement read.
 Foreign minister cancels trip to AlbaniaIn a last-minute announcement on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that he was cancelling a planned visit to Tirana in reaction to the statements made by the Albanian premier on Tuesday to mark the centenary since Albania became independent.
Expressing Greece's displeasure, Avramopoulos stressed that statements of this sort did not contribute to cultivating a climate of friendship, trust and good neighbour relations between the two countries, nor to efforts to adopt joint initiatives in areas of mutual interest, such as in politics, economics and energy.
 Berisha's spokeswoman clarifies:'no territorial claim against neighbours'TIRANA (AMNA)
A spokeswoman for Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha on Wednesday offered explanations over the Albanian premier's eyebrow-raising statements a day earlier, on the occasion of the country's 100th anniversary of independence, in which he referred to the "...national independence of all Albanian territories from Preveza to Presevo and from Skopje to Podgorica".
Spokeswoman Erla Mehilli said Berisha's statement touched on "the historical context (that existed) 100 years ago, and does not entail any territorial claim against our neighbours to the south, north or east."
The Albanian spokeswoman's clarification was issued following the announcement in Athens on Wednesday announcing the cancellation of Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos' planned visit to Tirana, in reaction to the quip made by Berisha.
 Public Order Minister Dendias announces police force reorganizationPublic Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias on Wednesday announced that the Greek Police (EL.AS) force will undergo major restructuring through staff cutbacks and more efficient utilization of personnel.
Addressing the 22nd Conference of the Federation of EL.AS Officers at the Greek Police headquarters in Athens, he said that the 61,000 police officers currently on active duty are too many for a country the size of Greece, considering the advancements made by technology.
He noted that a relevant report by the Centre for Security Studies will be completed by next week and underlined that a dialogue will be launched with the sector's trade unionists before any definitive decisions are made.
Dendias also stressed that efforts are being made on behalf of the ministry to improve the salaries of police officers through the introduction of a "special conditions allowance".
Referring to the planned reorganization of EL.AS, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Dimitris Tsoukalas said that the issue will have to be discussed in Parliament, suggesting that a cross-party committee will have to be set up for this purpose.
The conference was formally opened by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, who noted that "human values are being crushed today," while pointing out that "values cannot be lent or granted by any IMF. They grow inside the people through struggles and sacrifices."
 Public order minister announces future staff cuts in fire brigadePublic Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias on Wednesday made it clear that Greece's fire brigade would not escape staff cuts as part of a restructuring, along the same lines as cuts announced for the police force.
In a ceremony for the handover to the new chief of the fire brigade at the firemen's academy in Kifissia, Dendias indicated that the fire brigade had more than enough personnel.
"We are in a phase of changes and these changes cannot leave out the fire brigade," he said, suggesting that it was a "misconception" that that the fire brigade was understaffed and that it actually had a significant surfeit of personnel.
Dendias said a restructuring of the force will seek to make better use of the human resources available, based on a plan proposed by the new chief, adding that the system was more important than the numbers.
Sources in the fire brigade indicated that there would not be a reduction in the permanent positions on the force at present but, due to the roughly 4,000 firemen employed on the basis of five-year contracts, the number of firemen exceeded the envisaged permanent posts by about 70, meaning that there would be no replacement for those that went into retirement.
Dendias thanked the outgoing fire brigade chief Panagiotis Bonatsos and welcomed the new chief Sotiris Georgakopoulos.
 Education minister on creation of higher education 'task force'BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Papoutsaki)
Education sector initiatives, interventions and reforms implemented in Greece were outlined by Education Minister Costas Arvanitopoulos, who addressed the European Parliament plenum on Wednesday, within the framework of the meeting of EU education ministers here.
Arvanitopoulos said the creation of a five-member technical assistance "task force" is being considered, comprised of experts and specialists that will assist universities and tertiary technological institutions in financial management and better utilising resources.
According to Arvanitopoulos, definitive decisions on the mergers of roughly 150 higher education institutions in Greece will be reached by February. He underlined that the large number of tertiary institutions in the country is the result of decisions that served only parochial needs but not strictly academic criteria, clarifying that the problem can be solved through mergers.
He also referred to reforms considered in general and technological education in the country.
 Lebanese president on formal visit to GreeceLebanese President General Michel Sleiman, accompanied by his wife, will make a formal visit to Greece from Dec. 6-8, 2012, at the invitation of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
 Gov't prepares plan to pay state debt to private sectorA decision by the Greek government to pay part of the state's overdue debt to the private sector, which totaled 9.3 billion euros in September 30 (including VAT returns), is expected to offer a first liquidity injection to the domestic market by mid-December.
Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras is expected to present an integrated plan to fully pay the state's overdue debt, along with signing a series of memorandums with other government ministries, leaving each minister responsible for the settlement of their ministries' debts.
According to the plan, the state must pay all 9.3 billion euros of outstanding debt by the end of 2013, without however reaching a decision on the sum to be paid this year. The finance ministry will also set three criteria to speed up payment in certain professional sectors, while it was considering adopting an offsetting agreement, or even ask for a "haircut" of the state's debt.
The government will use part of a 10.6 billion euros included in a tranche of 34.4 billion euros - expected to be released by December 13.
 Shipping minister calls on London shipping community to support Greek RegistryShipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Mousouroulis on Wednesday briefed the members of the London based Greek shipping community on prospects appearing in the Greek economy, also following the successful conclusion of Monday's Eurogroup.
The minister, who has been on an official visit to the British capital since Monday, presented to the members of the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee the main lines of the plan he has prepared to make the Greek Registry more attractive for ships, while calling on the Greek shipping community to support this effort.
The ministry's aim is to achieve more effective organising for speeding up and shortening the approval act for registering ships under the Greek flag and the further recognition of the Greek Registry internationally.
The Shipping ministry is already proceeding with flexible oraganising aiming at eliminating bureaucracy and the computerisation of all services related to shipping activity, while it is creating an Electronic Registry for the simplification of the process for the inclusion of a ship in it.
Greece has the sixth biggest Registry in the international market with 1,989 ships, of which 862 are ocean-going.
 Greek banks raised dependence on ELA in Oct.Greek commercial banks raised their dependence on the Emergency Liquidity Assistance fund operated by the Bank of Greece in October. The central bank, in a monthly report, said that Greek banks borrowed 122.8 billion euro from ELA in October, up from 100.3 billion in September, while at the same time, Greek banks cut their borrowing from the European Central Bank to 6.5 billion euros in October from 30.3 bln in September. This development reflects an ECB decision not to accept Greek securities as collateral until completion of a troika's report on the Greek economy.
 Bank credit to private sector shrank further in Oct.The annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector shrank further in October, to -4.8 percent, from -4.5 percent in September 2012, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, attributed this development solely to the financing of insurance corporations and said it was related to intra-group transactions of credit institutions with their subsidiaries. The net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, amounting to 1.037 billion euro (October 2011: negative net flow of 510 million euro).
The net flow of credit to enterprises in October 2012 was negative, amounting to 605 million euro (October 2011: positive net flow of 225 million euro), and the annual growth rate of credit was more negative at -5.6 percent, from -4.9 percent in the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations was less negative at -4.4 percent from -4.6 percent in the previous month, while the annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries was significantly more negative at -23.5 percent in October 2012, from -10.2 percent in September 2012.
In October 2012, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 328 million euro (October 2011: negative net flow of 554 million euro), and the annual growth rate of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions stood at -4.1 percent from -4.2 percent in September 2012.
 Seven candidates short-listed in OPAP saleSeven, out of eight candidates who have expressed interest in buying 33 pct of OPAP, will be included in a second phase of an international tender held by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund after completion of evaluating the initial eight binds in tender.
The next stage of the tender process will include:
-Emma Delta Ltd, an investment fund managed by Emma Delta Management Ltd with Jiri Smejc (66.7 pct) and George Melissanidis (33.3 pct) as owners,
-a consortium of Gauselmann AG (55 pct), Playtech Ltd (41 pct) and Helvason Ltd (4.0 pct),
- Primrose Treasure Limited, a subsidiary of Fosun international,
- Third Point LLC and
- TPG Capital.
 Tourism ministry presents "Amazing Athens" SmartPhone AppThe SmartPhone App "Amazing Athens" is the most recent "technological tool" at the disposal of the tourism ministry within the framework of an international tourism promotion campaign focusing on the City of Athens, it was announced on Wednesday.
Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyanni noted that the English-speaking SmartPhone App, a tourist guide created for mobile phones and tablets, will be available in February and constitutes an attempt to overturn the dominant view that "Athens is nothing more than a stopover for tourists heading for the Greek islands".
The application is the result of collaboration between the ministry of culture and the "Stavros Niarchos" Foundation.
 OECD report on local economic growth in disadvantageous regions on CreteThe Regional Government of Crete participates in a two-day seminar on "Developing tourism outside of established localities" that opened on Wednesday in Trento, Italy hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
A special report focusing on the exploration, analysis, processing and presentation of a new developmental model for the Lassithi Plateau region on the island of Crete will be drawn up by the international organization following an agreement with the Regional Government of Crete.
According to local authorities, the report will focus on the fact that the sustainability of disadvantageous mountainous rural regions will have to be reinforced, underlining that such regions cannot depend exclusively on farming activities. They noted that supplementary or alternative activities will have to be developed to provide prospects for employment and additional income for the local population.
 Qatar to launch new Athens-NY daily flightQatar Airways will launch a daily, year-round Athens to New York flight in mid-June, the airline's CEO Akbar Al Baker announced in Athens on Wednesday at a press conference the 8th anniversary of Qatar Airway's service to Greece.
Al Baker said that Qatar Airways supports its presence in Greece not only in good times but also in the period of crisis, adding that Greece is an important market for the company.
"We will continue to support our presence in Greece, also creating new jobs," he said.
Qatar Airways added Athens to its rapidly-growing international network in mid-June 2005 with the launch of non-stop scheduled flights from Doha to the Greek capital. The inaugural flight from Doha touched down at Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' International Airport (AIA) on June 16, 2005.
Asked whether other companies in Qatar plan to invest in Greece, Al Baker noted that the companies in his country proceed with investments without any 'grand announcements' preceding them, adding that Qatar has expressed its "strong commitment" for investments in Greece.
Athens is a hub for 31 European destinations that are contained in Qatar Airways'' network of itineraries, which commenced in 2005 with six weekly flights to Athens and increased to two daily flights three years ago.
The Athens-Doha flight has become the top destination, in absolute number of passengers, at the AIA, surpassing the airport's New York destination for the first time in the AIA's history.
Al Baker also reiterated his company's commitment to continue developing the Athens route.
 DE.PA to launch e-auction for natgas suppliesDE.PA, Greece's public gas provider, on Wednesday announced a first e-auction for the supply of natural gas, to be held in the first two weeks of December.
All licensed gas suppliers, major consumers and gas distributors are eligible to participate in the electronic auction. The first auction will cover a natural gas quantity of 365,000 MWh.
 OGA pensions at 67 for those born after 1948The farmers pension and social insurance fund OGA on Wednesday announced that the retirement age for all those born in 1948 or later will increase to 67 years, based on a new law passed earlier this year. The change affects all those that would have gone into retirement from January 1, 2013, who will now have to wait until 2015.
Those affected will have to continue paying social insurance contributions until the end of their 66th year, while the new retirement age of 67 will also apply to all old-age pensioners that are uninsured.
OGA's management stressed that all those insured by OGA must pay their social insurance contributions by December 28, 2012 because their health books will not be renewed unless they are fully paid up.
 Saving deposits in Greek banks up in Oct.Saving deposits in Greek banks rose by 900 million euros in October to 155.2 billion euros, from 154.3 billion euros in September, the Bank of Greece announced on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said the October figures offered evidence that depositors were gradually regaining their confidence in the Greek banking sector, as saving deposits by enterprises and households rose by around 1.4 billion euros in the period August-October.
 Hellenic Sugar says profits up 135.28% in July-SeptHellenic Sugar Industry SA on Wednesday reported a spectacular 135.28 pct increase in its net after tax earnings to 7.465 million euro in the three-month period from July 1 to September 30, 2012, while turnover rose 7.48 pct to 50.707 million euro. Consolidated turnover (including subsidiaries in Serbia) totaled 76.113 million euro, up 24.94 pct from the same period last year.
Gross profit margin, however, fell to 14.74 pct in the three-month period, from 17.16 pct last year, while consolidated figure was 22.65 pct from 25.16 pct, respectively.
EBITDA was 5.262 million euro, up 12.13 pct from 2011, while consolidated EBITDA jumped 47.99 pct to 14.233 million euro.
Parent pre-tax profits jumped 132.51 pct to 713,540 euro, while consolidated pre-tax profits rose 101.73 pct to 8.613 million euro. Net parent profits was 236,570 euro.
 Business Briefs-- Kri-Kri SA, a Greek-listed dairy industry, on Wednesday said its net after tax profits (parent) totaled 6.7 million euro in the January-September period, up from 4.3 million euro in the corresponding period last year.
 Greek stocks end significantly lowerGreek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as bank shares remained under pressure on worries over the success of a Greek bond buy back programme - a prior condition set by the IMF for the release of the next tranche of a loan to Greece. The composite index dropped 2.87 pct to end at 822.72 points. Turnover was a moderate 62.319 million euro. The Big Cap index plunged 3.96 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.62 pct lower.
The Health (1.42 pct) and Construction (0.89 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (8.15 pct), Technology (5.37 pct) and Utilities (4.95 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Titan (1.54 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end higher, while Eurobank (11.04 pct), Cyprus Popular Bank (9.43 pct) and Alpha Bank (8.93 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 90 to 61 with another 16 issues unchanged. HOL (19.43 pct), Mihaniki (19.02 pct) and Bioter (16.19 pct) were top gainers, while Olympic Catering (19.88 pct), NEL (19.79 pct) and Sato (18.52 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.19%
Personal & Household: -4.71%
Raw Materials: -3.55%
Travel & Leisure: -3.45%
Food & Beverages: -1.58%
Financial Services: -3.15%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Piraeus and Bank of Cyprus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.53
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.60
HBC Coca Cola: 17.71
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.58
National Bank of Greece: 1.43
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.70
Bank of Piraeus: 0.37
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds remained almost unchanged in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with turnover totaling a thin 3.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.58 pct, the six-month rate was 0.35 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate was 0.10 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 1.66 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 16.298 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,397 contracts worth 6.458 million euros, with 30,561 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 64.010 contracts worth 9.840 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (25,792), followed by Alpha Bank (18,800), Cyprus Bank (1,800), Piraeus Bank (7,806), OTE (1,947), PPC (1,115), OPAP (1,377), Cyprus Popular Bank (1,215), Eurobank (1,093), Intralot (1,195), Ellaktor (394) and GEK (492).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.308
Pound sterling 0.818
Danish kroner 7.571
Swedish kroner 8.746
Japanese yen 107.02
Swiss franc 1.221
Norwegian kroner 7.451
Canadian dollar 1.301
Australian dollar 1.252
 40,000 people have perished in road accidents since 1990More than 40,000 people, mostly youths, have died in road accidents since 1990 to the present, and the number could be substantially larger as the figure does not include victims who died days after the traffic accident, according to statistics submitted to a parliamentary special committee on the issue.
Representatives of the Panhellenic Association "SOS Traffic Crimes" and the Crete Association for Assistance and Solidarity to Families of Traffic Accident Victims, who were called to brief to the Committee, said that these are "traffic crimes, not accidents".
The phenomenon has been aggravated in the economic crisis, and according to "SOS Traffic Crimes" member George Kouvidis, the attitude of drivers today is worse than ever. "Cars are neglected and uninsured. For someone to go outside is like playing his life in a video game, with the 'traps' that are everywhere," he said, citing the case of the father of a youth that had been killed "because a driver ran over a red light as he was speeding at 100 kilometers an hour on (downtown Athens) Stadiou street, lived not only the pain and mourning but also the treatment of the judicial authority, which in most instances causes rage to the families of the victims".
"The driver was convicted to 18 months imprisonment with a 3-year suspension, was kept in custody at the police station for five hours, had his driver's license returned to him the next day, and the court acknowledged his post-pubic age as a mitigating circumstance," Kouvidis continued.
He charged that "the UN is currently 'running' a road safety programme for 2011-2020, a global programme to reduce road accidents, but Greece, as always, is systematically absent from all the international fora".
A person circulating on the road of Greece faces twice the risk of losing his life than in the other EU countries, and five times the risk than in Sweden, Kouvidis said.
Kouvidis charged that former minister Haris Kastanidis, in a regulation he had advanced, reduced driving under the influence of alcohol and substances from a misdemeanor to a petty offence, while other ministers, past and present, have legislated "horrific" regulations on the allowable age of school buses (from 22 years to 28 years) and on victims hit by uninsured cars or cars insured with insurance companies that have closed.
"SOS Traffic Crimes" member Faedon Karydakis, an Athens Polytechnic Professor whose 15-year-old son was killed in a hit-and-run incident while crossing the busy Kifissias Avenue on his way to school by a tampered car speeding at 170 kilometers an hour that overran a red light and abandoned the seriously injured teen, predicted that by the time the judicial process ended, the statute of limitations on the felony charge of fatal negligence will have expired.
The chairman of the Crete Association for Assistance and Solidarity to Families of Traffic Accident Victims urged that the road deaths be dealt with as "traffic crimes" and not "traffic accidents", and called for the establishment of a drivers' register that will be drawn up upon a candidate driver's application for a license, that would contain all the traffic violations by the driver, so that judges presiding at road accident trials would have knowledge of the said driver's previous violations.
 Police launch operation in Zephyri and Ano Liossia in clampdown on crimeGreek Police launched a major operation early Wednesday in Zephyri and Ano Liossia in western Athens, in the context of a clampdown on crime, with the participation of hundreds of police officers from all police divisions.
The police checks are focusing mainly on Roma camps, around which many side streets have been closed to traffic.
This is the second such police operation in the area recently.
 Noted real estate tycoon arrested for debts to stateNoted real estate magnate Babis Vovos has been arrested for more than one million euro in debts to the state, and will appear before an examining magistrate on Thursday on felony charges.
Vovos is accused of non-payment to the state of 1.01 million euros, which includes approximately 220,000 euros in non-payment of taxes of salaried services to the Social Security Foundation (IKA), which is a felony.
An Athens court was due to hear an application by Vovos' company for classification under protective clause of Article 99 of the Bankruptcy Code, but the hearing was postponed. The court, however, rejected an application by Vovos for extension of a provisional order suspending the execution of demands by the company's creditors.
 Arrests for child porn trafficking over the InternetA military officer, a court officer, a businessman and a 71-year-old retiree are among 10 people accused of possession and trafficking of child porn materials through the Internet, authorities announced on Wednesday.
Eight of the 10 defendants are in police custody and two of them are in prison pending trial, within the framework of a police electronic crimes squad operation, code-named "Gridlock", which unfolded over the last 15 days around the country.
The child porn network was discovered through the electronic crimes squad's TLO Child Protection System, which monitors file-sharing sites and other online sources for computers that host child pornography. According to police, the defendants allegedly downloaded or traded in child pornography on peer-to-peer networks.
Police searched the suspects' homes and confiscated four laptops, 10 computer hard drives, child porn photos and digital archives, as well as two shotguns.
Authorities announced the identities of three of the defendants, in accordance with relevant legislation and approval by a prosecutor.
 Florina bank robbers make getaway with 110,000 eurosAn armed robbery occurred at a branch of the Agricultural Bank in Filota in the Florina region, northern Greece, with the robbers making their getaway with 110,000 euros.
According to police, four persons entered the branch office and, threatening employees and customers at gunpoint, seized the money from the cash desk. Bank employees said that a woman was among the four armed robbers who fled the scene in a stolen car.
 Piano marathon in ThessalonikiA piano marathon began at the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki on Wednesday morning.
The piano marathon will last for 14 hours and is due to be wound up at midnight.
Forty-two pianists, professionals and non-professionals from Athens and Thessaloniki, are competing in the 'marathon'.
The first-ever piano marathon marks the end of the Piano Festival, which opened in the Museum on October 24 and in the context of which piano recitals by noted artists took place every Wednesday.
The museum's visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibits to a background of piano music by pianists performing Erik Satie's avant-garde work "Vexations".
"Thessaloniki is considered the 'piano city' because it has produced the biggest names in the field in recent years," one of the organizers, Nikos Kyriosoglou, told AMNA.
The organizers plan to turn the piano marathon into an annual event.
 Tanker adrift due to engine failure near SkyrosThe Malta-flagged tanker "Ioutro" on Wednesday sent out a distress signal, reporting that it was adrift due to engine failure about 12 nautical miles from the northwest coast of the island of Skyros in the Aegean. The ship was manned by a crew of 14, five Greeks and nine Filipinos.
Southerly winds of up to five Beaufort are currently blowing in the region and the tanker is reportedly between the islets Skyropoula and Skantzoura. It is unknown whether it is carrying cargo.
A coast guard vessel and a tug are currently heading to the ship's reported location to offer assistance.
 Bag of dynamite found in Ano VoulaA bag containing 131 old sticks of dynamite was found on Wednesday morning on a sidewalk in the coastal town of Ano Voula, southeast of Athens.
The bag of dynamite was removed by police, who have launched an investigation.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-9 beaufort. Temperatures between 6C and 21C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 6-9 beaufort winds and temperatures between 16C and 21C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 14C and 18C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe day after the Eurogroup's decision on Greece and the government's priorities, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
AVGHI: "Ten nails on Greece's crucifix".
DIMOKRATIA: "We are saved".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Disastrous triumph".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The four secrets of the agreement".
ESTIA: "Wrong recipe for taxation".
ETHNOS: "Growth, work and investments the wager".
IMERISSIA: "The keys of the agreement".
KATHIMERINI: "Buy-back of bonds the key".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Obscurities in the bonds buy-back programme".
RIZOSPASTIS: "People must attempt the way of counterattack and rift"
TA NEA: "The wager of the three - The new package has gifts and traps".
6 DAYS: "The five black holes of the decision".
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