|Tuesday, 26 May 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-12-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 14 December 2012 Issue No: 4247
 Samaras: 'Eurogroup's decision a vindication and new starting point'BRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Aroni)
The Eurogroup's decision to approve 49.1 billion euro in financial aid for Greece marked the end of a "long and difficult period of anxiety in Greece, stopping rumours of the country's exit from the euro," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a statement on Thursday.
In a press conference held in Brussels, the prime minister said that Greece had gained a great opportunity to emerge from the crisis standing and stronger, rather than isolated and on its knees.
"The money disbursed will be a vindication and a starting point," he told reporters, especially for the three parties in the governing coalition that had put their faith in the country's recovery rather than its destruction, as well as its place in Europe.
Samaras thanked the leaders of the two other parties in the coalition, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, as well as their MPs and those of his own New Democracy party, stressing that the three coalition partners had "fought and won their battles together".
"We have avoided the cliff," Samaras said, adding that Greeks had every reason to be optimistic.
The Greek premier stressed that no one had dared predict that Greece would finally receive financial aid from the EU and IMF amounting to approximately 52.5 billion euro, of which roughly 40 billion euro would remain in Greece while the remaining 11 billion euro would go toward a bond buyback to reduce debt by 20 billion euro.
He stressed that in the coming months, the Greek state would pay off all its outstanding debts to Greek citizens, noting that the Greek state currently owed sums in excess of nine billion euro.
Regarding the big tranche of 34.3 billion euro due to be disbursed in the next few days, Samaras said that this would be used to recapitalise the banks, restore liquidity to the Greek economy and to boost businesses and households. At the same time, he emphasised efforts to attract new investments and create new jobs.
"Unemployment will fall. This is always a key requirement," he promised.
Replying to the government's critics within Greece and those predicting that Greece would be ousted from the eurozone without a fight, Samaras said they were still unable to believe that Greece had managed to secure loans on the best possible terms for any country in a similar crisis and more cheaply than most European countries.
He also underlined his conviction that there were real prospects and hope for growth but also the need for unity.
"Only united can we succeed," he emphasised, saying that Greece had restored its credibility abroad but must now regain its self-confidence and sense of dignity at home.
 Finance minister: 'Today is the reward of many months of effort'Speaking after the prime minister, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said that the Eurogroup's decision was the reward of efforts lasting many months and a great respite for the country.
"In my book, the journey starts today but without the borders of uncertainty any longer," he said.
The finance minister explained that the Eurogroup had approved the disbursement of 49.1 billion euro to Greece from the EFSF, to which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would add another 3.4 billion euro, so that the total paid to Greece by March will be approximately 52.5 billion euro. The lion's share of this money would be a 34.3 billion euro tranche to be disbursed next week, of which 16 billion euro would go toward the recapitalisation and restructuring of Greek banks, seven billion euro would go toward the budget and covering outstanding state debts and 11.3 billion euro would cover the cost of a Greek bond buyback.
Regarding the need for reforms in Greece, Stournaras pointed out that Greece had so far covered an "essential requirement" for remaining in the euro but must now also meet the "requirement of adequacy" by implementing the measures passed by the Greek Parliament. Among others, he pointed out that the Eurogroup had especially emphasised the need to push through comprehensive tax reforms and to keep up the pace of structural reforms, as well as making progress on privatisations, improving absorption of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds and restoring liquidity to the banking system.
"Greece has gained time, has won an opportunity to carry out reforms at a comfortable pace and not with a knife at its throat," the finance minister said.
 Eurogroup gives final approval to disbursement of tranche to GreeceThe final green light for the disbursement of a long-awaited tranche of the EU/IMF bailout package to Greece was given by the Eurogroup on Thursday at their meeting in Brussels.
The eurozone Finance Ministers gave their final approval on Thursday for the EFSF to disburse a total of 49.1 billion euros to Greece, noting that the basic target is to contain Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio to 124 percent by 2020.
The disbursement will be made in installments, with the first 34.3 billion euros being immediately released in the next few days.
"The meeting has been completed. The disbursement of the economic aid has been accepted," a spokesman said for Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker announced after the meeting.
A Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers had tentatively approved the release of a pending 43.7-billion-euros tranche of the EC-ECB-IMF bailout loan to Greece at a meeting on November 27, which, to be disbursed in four installments, with a first disbursement of 34.3 billion euros to be approved by their December 13 meeting, while the balance would be disbursed in the first quarter of 2013 in three smaller installments.
The IMF was expected to issue an announcement later in the day.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, in Brussels welcomed the decision as "a good day for Greece", adding, however, that the effort must continue.
In a statement, the Eurogroup welcomed the result of the debt buy-back operation, which it said will lead to a substantial reduction of the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio, adding that this, together with the initiatives agreed by the Eurogroup on November 27 and full implementation of the adjustment programme should bring Greece's public debt back on a sustainable path, to 124% of GDP in 2020.
Greece and the other euro area Member States are prepared to take additional measures, if necessary, to ensure that this objective is met, the statement added.
The Eurogroup further said that continued fiscal and structural reforms, building on the strong commitment demonstrated in the recent past and the wide range of reforms already carried out, will allow the Greek economy to return to a sustainable growth path with higher employment, thus paving the way towards a more prosperous future.
 Eurogroup Statement on GreeceThe Eurogroup formally approved the second disbursement under the second economic adjustment programme for Greece, following the finalisation of the relevant national procedures and after having reviewed the outcome of the debt buy back operation conducted by Greece.
The Eurogroup welcomed the result of the debt buy back operation, which will lead to a substantial reduction of the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio. The Eurogroup reaffirmed that this, together with the initiatives agreed by the Eurogroup on 27 November and full implementation of the adjustment programme, should bring Greece's public debt back on a sustainable path, to 124% of GDP in 2020. Greece and the other euro area Member States are prepared to take additional measures, if necessary, to ensure that this objective is met.
On that basis, Member States have authorised the EFSF to release the next installment for a total amount of EUR 49.1 billion. The disbursement will be made in several tranches. EUR 34.3 bln will be paid out to Greece in the following days. The remaining amount will be disbursed in the first quarter of 2013. First, a further amount to cover bank recapitalization and resolution costs will be paid out in January 2013. Second, funds to cover budgetary financing will be disbursed in three sub-tranches, linked to the implementation of specific MoU milestones to be agreed by the Troika.
The Eurogroup is convinced that continued fiscal and structural reforms, building on the strong commitment demonstrated in the recent past and the wide range of reforms already carried out, will allow the Greek economy to return to a sustainable growth path with higher employment, thus paving the way towards a more prosperous future. We strongly encourage the Greek citizens to sustain their efforts and to implement the necessary reforms.
 PM: Solidarity is alive, Grexit is deadGreek prime minister Antonis Samaras said Thursday that solidarity in the European Union is alive, welcoming a Eurogroup decision earlier to release the disbursement of a 49.1 billion euro tranche of aid to Greece, calling it a new day for Greece but also for Europe.
"Solidarity in our Union is alive. Grexit is dead. Greece is back on its feet, the sacrifices of the Greek people have not been in vain and today is not only a new day for Greece, it is indeed a new day for Europe," Samaras said in Brussels after the meeting.
 PM Samaras arrives at EU SummitGreek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday afternoon termed as a "big success for Europe" the approval by the Eurogroup of the disbursement of a long-awaited tranche of the EU/IMF bailout package to Greece, at its meeting in Brussels earlier the same day.
Arriving for an EU Summit in Brussels and answering to a relevant question, the Greek premier said he was "very satisfied" with the deal.
"This is a big success for Greece, it is a big success for Europe and it is a big challenge for everyone from now on,? Samaras added.
 Juncker, Rehn express satisfaction at Eurogroup decision for GreeceBRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)
Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn on Thursday expressed satisfaction with the Eurozone's decision to disburse 49.1 billion euro in financial aid to Greece before March 2013.
Juncker said he was convinced that, given the successful outcome of a debt buyback and approval for continued support of Greece from several national Parliaments, the Greek programme was getting back on track and would stay there, provided the country met its commitments.
Rehn noted that Thursday's Eurogroup was the shortest since the start of the crisis and that its decision marked the end of many months of uncertainty, helping restore confidence, increase investments and create jobs in Greece.
He also stressed that those predicting Greece's exit from the Euro had been proved wrong, with the Eurozone actively committed to supporting Greece. Times might be tough for Greek citizens, he added, "but the European Union will continue to be at their side".
The Commissioner stressed that Greece must now keep up the pace of reforms, since much remained to be done, with special emphasis on tax reform and fighting tax evasion.
He also revealed that International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Directors Christine Lagarde had taken part in the meeting via a teleconference link, confirming that the IMF will continue to participate in the Greek programme.
Based on the decisions made by Euro area finance ministers on Thursday, Greece will receive 34.3 billion euro in the following days. The remaining amount will be disbursed in the first quarter of 2013.
Of this, 16 billion euro is expected be used for bank recapitalisation, 7 billion euro in cash for budget financing and around 11 billion euro to finance the debt buyback.
Greece and other euro area member states are prepared to take additional measures, if necessary, the Eurogroup said in a statement.
 Rehn: tax reforms must precede January trancheBRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Aroni)
Greece must complete and implement comprehensive tax reforms before the disbursement of the January tranche of bailout loans, European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn said in statements on Thursday. He was speaking shortly after Eurogroup finance ministers approved the disbursement of 49.1 billion euro in financial aid for Greece by March, spread out over several tranches.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the measures being introduced by a draft tax bill currently being prepared by the Greek government, the Commissioner noted that there still some issues that remained to be settled, though it was "very near the target".
 IMF chief welcomes Eurogroup decisionInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde on Thursday welcomed a Eurogroup decision earlier in the day to disburse a bailout loan tranche to Greece, adding that she will recommend to the IMF board that it complete its review of Greece's IMF-supported programme, which could take place in January.
"I welcome the Eurogroup's decision to support the debt buy back operation for Greece and its assurances to provide additional debt relief if necessary and provided Greece has achieved a primary budget balance in 2013. These steps will ensure that Greece's debt-to-GDP declines to 124 percent by 2020 and to substantially below 110 percent by 2022," Lagarde said in a written statement issued by the IMF headquarters.
"On this basis, I intend to recommend to the Fund's Executive Board that it completes the first review of Greece's Fund-supported program. I expect that a Board meeting could take place in January," the statement added.
 German parliament's Budget Committee approves disbursement of tranche to GreeceBERLIN (AMNA/F.Karaviti)
The German federal parliament's (Bundestag) Budget Committee on Wednesday evening approved the disbursement of the next tranche of the EU/IMF loan package to Greece, thus authorizing German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to vote in favour of the release of the tranche at Thursday's Eurogroup meeting.
Earlier, Schaeuble said in a letter to the Bundestag that the German government is in favour of releasing the next tranche of the aid loan to Greece following the successful outcome of a Greek debt buyback programme, according to reports from the German capital. The letter stressed that following amendments made in a Greek rescue programme, the success of a debt buyback programme and the analysis for the sustainability of the debt, the German government approves the disbursement of the next tranche of the loan to Greece, reports in the German media said.
 SYRIZA reaction to Eurogroup decision"Godot finally came," said the head of the main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party's financial affairs portfolio Efklidis Tsakalotos, in a sarcastic comment on the results of Thursday's Eurogroup meeting and the decision to disburse financial aid to Greece.
He noted, however, that the respite would be short-lived, since Greece would soon find itself missing targets, having to impose more austerity measures and needing more bailout loans to avoid 'suffocation'.
According to Tsakalotos, dozens of comments about how Greece had regained its reliability, must get down to work, had defeated the 'drachma lobby' would be heard over the next few days, but the reality was that no one believed that Greece's debt was sustainable any longer, nor that the end of austerity measures had come.
"The new measures will be introduced automatically with every 'miss' of the programme," he noted. "This policy leads to a growing 'black hole' in which any money we are given in the form of bailout tranches is lost," he said, adding that euphoria would last "until next week when Godot leaves again, and we go back to waiting for him."
 Syriza calls loan release news 'a false dose of optimism'The prime minister's effort "to present himself and his government as 'saviours' once again has no ground to fall on and is unconvincing," the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) said on Thursday, commenting on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' statements after the Eurogroup meeting.
"The 'false dose of optimism'", the party said, "cannot hide the reality most people are experiencing from the extreme memorandum policy of austerity which reduces incomes, increases unemployment, intensifies recession and destroys the prospects of the country for a viable and fair development."
It added, "The populace, however, will become transformed, through its active participation, into a protagonist in developments leading to a change in direction, so that we do not find ourselves every so often as members of the audience to the same play."
 Samaras 'distant from Greek reality,' Independent Greeks chargeThe prime minister's statements over the Eurogroup decision to release the next loan tranche "show the absolute emotional and political distance he has from the whole of society," the opposition party of Independent Greeks charged on Thursday.
The party also accused PM Antonis Samaras of lying in order to "hide the truth from the people of where the money is really going" and said "there will be no breath of relief for the head of a family, the unemployed, the wage earner, the pensioner, the small-businessman and professional," they added.
 KKE criticises PM as 'brazen and provocative' over loan tranchePrime Minister Antonis Samaras' "bragging about the decision of the Eurogroup is a monument of brazeness and provocation at the expense of the people. The release of the loan tranche to Greece benefits capital, the support of which is where the money is going, instead of the people," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charged on Thursday.
"The Greek people are paying an exorbitant price for the debts, deficits and loans they did not themselves create, at the same time the Eurogroup announced additional measures against the people," it added.
 Foreign minister to visit Libya on Dec. 20, ministry announcesGreek foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday announced that Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is to visit Libya on December 20, in reflection of Greece's continued involvement and interest in north African countries.
The spokesman noted that Libya was still struggling to recover from the recent strife and regime change in that country and was now in a process of "rebuilding". At this time, Delavekouras added, the foreign minister wanted to signal Greece's presence and also remind Libya of certain outstanding issues.
Asked about the delineation of maritime zone borders, Delavekouras noted that Greece's standing position was to settle these issues with neighbours in order to avoid friction and boost regional stability. He pointed out that talks have been underway with Libya on this issue since 2007, while a similar discussion was taking place with Egypt.
 Situation for Syria's Greek Orthodox community 'very alarming', foreign ministry saysThe Greek foreign ministry on Thursday expressed strong concern about the safety of Syria's Greek Orthodox community, especially since the death of the Patriarch of Antioch had robbed them of any religious leadership, noting that the situation in Syria was "extremely alarming".
Replying to reporters' questions, foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras revealed that the Greek foreign ministry had asked specific members of the Syrian diplomatic mission to leave Greece, as other European countries had done.
He also referred to the conclusions reached by EU foreign ministers concerning developments in Syria, based on which the opposition coalition was seen as the most representative body and the one responsible for gaining the trust of all the communities in the country and beginnng a process of political consultation.
Delavekouras pointed out that Greece had from the start highlighted the dangers for the Syrian population, as well as the pressure put on neighbouring countries, as well as the risk that it might spread to the surrounding region, adding that the crucial point was the transition to a political process so that the Syrian people might decide their future for themselves. In this process, he added, the great wager was to create a political formation that had the trust of all the communities.
 SYRIZA leader at Kalavryta Massacre memorial event; deputy mayor dies during ceremonyMain opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday attended an event commemorating the 69th anniversary since the Kalavryta Massacre during World War II. The ceremony was more than usually eventful, since the deputy mayor of Kalavryta Costas Assimakopoulos collapsed during memorial service and had to be rushed to the local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
In statements after the ceremony, Tsipras stated that "younger generations must learn that fascism has never been accepted and will never be accepted in this country, even if the latter-day supporters of the Nazis in Greece try to falsify history".
On the issue of German war reparations, the main opposition leader said that this was not just a financial but also a moral issue, adding that relations between peoples should be based on dignity and mutual respect.
The government was represented by Alternate Foreign Minister Haralambos Athanassiou, while it was also attended by the German Ambassador to Greece Wolfgang Dolt.
 Greece ready for socialism, KKE leader saysSocialism is necessary and timely, and Greece has the material conditions to build it, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said at a press conference on Thursday.
Presenting the party's position for the upcoming 19th party congress scheduled for April 11-14, 2013, Papariga said that the party hoped it could help people experienced in workers' movements and young people newly participating in them to understand the causes of their suffering and to see what the future would bring if these causes were not comprehended.
The KKE must respond to the urgent and critical problems of the people, Papariga said, with a "relentless struggle in formulating a people's alliance, which will move the great popular majority to action and consciously open the way to a fundamental overhaul that by definition is identified with popular labour power and popular economy."
The popular alliance will under no circumstances turn into a unified political party, while the KKE will always remain ideologically, politically and structurally independent, she clarified.
Referring to the party's programme, Papariga said that Greece was dominated by monopolies, it experienced the socialisation of labour and there was an opposition between capital and labour, where capital, in its survival interest, had to bring a worker to a point of poverty, while the crisis revealed the limits of the capitalist system, not discounting the threat of war it engendered.
She added, "The people will liberate themselves when they don't see separate links in the system chain, but can see the whole chain." This viewing angle would allow the popular movement to prevent the worst from happening and to open the way for an overthrow, bringing a change of class to power.
Explaining further the programme, the KKE leader said that the popular alliance would consist of the most politicised sections of labour class and poor self-employed people and rally social powers above all, while the party would not demand acceptance of its programme as a condition to joining. The KKE is not afraid of experienced labour masses joining the alliance, she underlined.
"The KKE must keep fighting in the direction of socialism," Papariga said. Responding to criticism that this kind of direction puts the party at a distance from people's daily problems, the party leader noted, "Since 1918, we have posited the issue of the necessity of socialism - let them tell us whether for the last 94 years the KKE has been cut off from the daily struggle for people's problems." She added, "The KKE will never compromise and take socialism out of its programme; that is what some people are aiming for."
 SYRIZA opposes electricity rate hikesThe main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) party on Thursday expressed its opposition to any raise in electricity rates, following a meeting between a SYRIZA delegation and Public Power Corporation (PPC) President Arthouros Zervos at the PPC's headquarters.
The delegation also urged Zervos to refuse to carry out the government's decision to continue collective a property surtax via electricity bills, in spite of a court decision finding this payment method unconstitutional.
"Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras letter to the PPC's board provokes the Greek people, since under the protection of his immunity as minister, he is urged the president and board of PPC to carry out offences. Specifically, to disregard a court decision but also a decision of the citizen's ombudsman," the main opposition stressed.
The party said the rate hikes requested by PPC's management - as high as 48.5 percent for certain categories - were "horrific" and blamed "neoliberal policies and the deregulation of the energy market" that forced PPC to buy 35 percent of its power from third parties.
 Greece-Bulgaria High-level Cooperation Council on December 17A meeting of the High Level Cooperation Council of Greece-Bulgaria will be held in Athens on December 17. The meeting will seek to enhance bilateral cooperation on all levels, with meetings between the prime ministers and foreign ministers of both countries. During its course, Greece and Bulgaria will sign a series of agreements relating to culture, sports, tourism and agriculture.
 Hellenic Air Force to train Qatari cadetsGreece's Air Force will undertake the training of Qatari Air Force staff, Greek defence minister Panos Panayiotopoulos announced on Thursday after a tour of airbases in Doha, in the context of a two-day official visit to Qatar.
The Hellenic Air Force will send trainers to Qatar for this purpose, while Air Force cadets from Qatar will also be able attend the Air Force academies in Greece.
It is believed that the agreement will extend to the other branches of the Armed Forces at a next stage.
 Greek unemployment shoots to 24.8pct in Q3, jobless top 1.2 millionUnemployment in Greece shot to 24.8 percent in the third quarter of the year, 7.1 percentage points higher than the corresponding quarter in 2011, with the number of jobless topping the 1.2 million figure, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday, adding that unemployment among young people (15-24 age bracket) reached 56.6 percent, and 65.4 percent among young women.
ELSTAT, in a report, said that in the 3rd Quarter of 2012 the number of employed amounted to 3,739,018 persons while the number of unemployed amounted to 1,230,918. The unemployment rate was 24.8% compared with 23.6% in the previous quarter, and 17.7% in the corresponding quarter of 2011
The number of employed persons decreased by 1.4% compared with the previous quarter, and by 8.3% compared with the 3rd Quarter of 2011. The number of unemployed persons increased by 5.3% compared with the previous quarter and by 40.2% compared with the 3rd Quarter of 2011.
The unemployment rate for females (28.9%) is considerably higher than the unemployment rate for males (21.7%).
By observing the unemployment rate for different age groups, we notice that the highest unemployment rate is recorded among young people in the age group of 15-24 years (56.6%). For young females, the unemployment rate is 65.4%
As regards the educational attainment level, the unemployment rate is higher among persons who have not attended school (41.0%), and among those who have completed tertiary and post-secondary vocational education (28.0%). The lowest unemployment rates are observed among persons who have completed post-graduate studies or have doctorate degrees (12.6%), and among those who have completed university (17.2%).
Also, 43.9% of those looking for job as employees are looking exclusively for a full time job, while 48.2% are looking for full time job, but, if needed, would accept to work part time, and 7.8% are looking for a part time job or they do not care if they found a full or a part time job.
Further, 5.2% ?f the unemployed persons did not accept a job offer, during the 3rd Quarter of 2012, because of various reasons. The main reasons reported were: a) the working hours were not convenient (25.7%), b) the location of the job was not suitable (24.2%), and c) the wage was not satisfactory (24.0%).
The percentage of the "new" unemployed, that is the percentage of persons who entered for the first time labour market, is 24.7%. We should note that the percentage of the "long term" unemployed, that is the percentage of persons that have been looking for a job for more than 1 year (irrespectively of being "new" or "old" unemployed), is 62.6%.
The unemployment rate is higher for persons of foreign nationality (33.1%) compared with those of Greek nationality (24.0%). We also note that the percentage of the economically active persons with foreign nationality is much higher than the corresponding percentage for persons of Greek nationality (72.3% compared to 51.7%).
The geographical areas (NUTS II regions) with the highest unemployment rate are Western Macedonia (31.0%) and Sterea Ellas (29.6%). The lowest unemployment rates are observed in the Ionian Islands (11.4%) and Southern Aegean (13.3%).
During the 3rd Quarter of 2012, 95,355 persons who were unemployed one year ago found a job. During the same period, 36,844 persons who were inactive one year ago got into employment. On the contrary, 207,924 persons who were working one year ago, during the 3rd Quarter of 2012 are unemployed and 93,198 persons, who were working, are now inactive. In addition, 130,114 persons who were inactive one year ago, during the 3rd Quarter of 2012 entered labour market and are searching for a job.
If we examine changes in employment by different sector of economic activity, we see that compared to the 3rd Quarter of 2011 there was a decrease in employment in all sectors. In the primary sector the decrease was 2.5%, in the secondary 13.8% and the tertiary sector 8.0%.
The percentage of part time employment amounts to 7.9% of the total of the employed. The percentage of part timers who choose to work part time because they cannot find a full time job is 62.0%, while 8.7% choose a part time job for other personal or family reasons, 5.0% because they are looking after children or incapacitated adults and 24.3% for other reasons.
The percentage of employees is estimated at 63.1% of the total of the employed persons and is by far lower than the mean percentage of employees in the European Union which is 80%.
 Development minister meets German Economy Minister in BerlinBERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)
The obstacles to investing in Greece have been lifted, Germany's Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said on Thursday after a meeting with Greek Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Kostis Hatzidakis in Berlin.
"The obstacles were a lack of reforms. These obstacles no longer exist," Roesler said, expressing his respect for the sacrifices made by the Greek people and Berlin's willingness to support Greece.
Hatzidakis, on his part, stressed that Greece will succeed and underlined Athens' determination to proceed with reforms.
The two ministers agreed to set up a team of experts from their respective ministries to deal with issues relating to energy, business and competitiveness and to monitor the implementation of programmes.
They also discussed setting up a Greek investment fund along the lines of the German investment bank KfW to support small and medium-sized businesses facing liquidity problems.
According to Roesler, the main message was that security was now restored and bills will be paid, albeit with a small delay. After this, investments would come, he added.
Hatzidakis said that the Greek government was now determined to proceed with structural reforms, pointing to Athens' implementation of 72 prior actions required by its creditors and noting that this tempo will be kept up.
"The direction of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is that there is no political cost, only national cost. This is the battle of our generation and Greece must succeed," he added.
The Greek minister had earlier met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's special envoy for Greece, Deputy Labour Minister Hans Joachim Fuchtel, and is scheduled to hold talks with German industrialists and business people. Accompanying Hatzidakis during his meetings was Deputy Development minister Notis Mitarakis.
 Development minister in Germany for investment talksBERLIN (AMNA/F. Karaviti)
A Greek ministerial delegation met on Thursday with top-level government officials and business people in Berlin and discussed progress in and future planning of structural changes and investment opportunities.
Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis and Deputy Minister Notis Mitarakis met with German Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Philipp Roesler, Deputy Labour Minister and special envoy to Greece Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, representatives of the Federation of German Industries, the German Industrial and Commerce Chamber, and economic advisors of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Hatzidakis stressed ways in which Berlin could support Greece's efforts to change and called for innovative initiatives, while the German officials expressed support in particular sectors such as a Greek investment fund. Business representatives also expressed interest in investments in Greece.
 Greek banks' losses from haircut/buy back programmes total 26.5 bln eurosGreek banks offered 100 percent of their bond portfolios in a debt buy-back programme, contributing to the success of the project which was a precondition for the release of a 44-billion-euro loan tranche to Greece.
Greece will also receive another 10 billion euros as a loan to fund the buy-back programme, raising the money received from its creditors to around 202 billion euros, with the remaining tranches of the aid package totaling 43 billion euros.
Following completion of the buy-back programme and the liquidation of all state bonds held by Greek commercial banks, the total real haircut on state bond holdings reached 74.3 pct of the initial nominal value of bonds which were included in a Greek bond exchange program (PSI+). More analytically, the four largest Greek banks, National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank, participated in a PSI+ programme with their bond portfolios worth 35.7 billion euros, which ranged from 9.5 percent (Eurobank) to 15.6 percent (Piraeus Bank) as a percentage of their total assets. These figures were not significantly higher compared with the ratios of bond/assets in Italian or Spanish banks.
The four banks suffered losses worth 26.5 billion euros (pre-tax) from their participation in the PSI+ and the buy-back programme, with Alpha Bank recording the lowest loss (4.4 billion) and National Bank the highest (11 billion euros). Banks' shareholders -- including around 500,000 individual small shareholders and pension funds -- suffered a loss of more than 95 percent in their investments in bank shares in the period since 2007.
The four banks' capital needs are currently estimated at around 27 billion euros, although this figure could rise further because of a deeper than expected economic recession in the country. Analysts said that capital needs would be significantly smaller - excluding the impact of the PSI+ and the bond buy-back programme -- because the four banks have already recorded significant bad debt provisions in their balance sheets.
 Shipping minister meets with Task Force chief over structural funding packagesThe future restructuring of the port system and the introduction of a new management system in Greek ports were among the issues discussed at a meeting between Shipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Moussouroulis with Horst Reichenbach, head of the European Commission's Task Force for Greece, on Thursday.
The meeting focused on the projects cofunded by the European Union's National Strategic Reference Framework ("ESPA") for 2007-2013, and the ministry's programme for the ESPA II package for 2014-2020.
 Competition Commission approves General Bank buyout by Piraeus BankGreece's Competition Commission on Thursday approved the buyout of General Bank by Piraeus Bank, finding that the resulting consolidation will not infringe on the requirements of free competition in the relevant markets.
 Greece takes part in Hawaiian tourism congressNEW YORK (AMNA/P.Panagiotou)
Despite natural disasters, climatic changes and wars, tourism increased globally by 4.6 percent in 2012, according to a large tourism congress held by the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) in Hawaii that attracted over 700 organisations, agencies, ministries and industries.
Greece was represented by Deputy Secretary General of the National Tourism Organisation (EOT) Andreas Fiorendinos, who attended along with staff from the US branch of EOT.
Findings presented at the congress include the following: the number of tourism travellers is expected to double next year, from the present 1 billion to 2 billion; tourism is the third largest industry, followed by the car industry and banking sectors; one in 12 workers globally works in tourism-related sectors; and 9 percent of investments are made in the tourism sector.
According to the Greek delegation, "the country's presence was absolutely necessary and especially successful, judging by the top-level contacts that took place."
 Greek stocks down on profit-taking on ThursdayGreek stocks slipped significantly on profit-taking on the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as investors cashed in on short-term gains made in six bullish sessions earlier in the week, in which the general index posted accumulated gains of 7.79 percent. As a result, the general index lost 1.54 percent to end at 859.76 points at the close of trade. Turnover was a moderate 61.757 million euro.
The Big Cap index ended 1.75 percent lower and the Mid Cap index fell 0.90 percent. The Commerce (2.81 percent), Financial Services (2.21 percent) and Telecoms (1.06 percent) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Technology (-3.73 percent), Construction (-3.55 percent) and Banks (-2.87 percent) suffered losses. MIG (7.24 percent), Folli Follie (2.85 percent) and OTE (1.06 percent) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (-6.10 percent), Viohalko (-5.85 percent) and Eurobank (-5.35 percent) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 88 to 63 with another 22 issues unchanged. HOL (19.92 percent), Eurobrokers (19.64 percent) and ALCO (18.00 percent) were top gainers, while Fieratex (-21.69 percent), Cyclon (16.52 percent) and SATO (14.29 percent) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.02%
Personal & Household: -2.62%
Raw Materials: -1.04%
Travel & Leisure: -2.66%
Food & Beverages: -1.78%
Financial Services: +2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, OPAP, National Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.54
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.35
HBC Coca Cola: 16.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.93
National Bank of Greece: 1.35
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.66
Bank of Piraeus: 0.37
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds moved to 11.29 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday from 10.57 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.64 pct and the German Bund 1.35 pct. Turnover was a low 2.0 million euros, of which 1.0 million euros were buy orders and 1.0 million were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the six-month rate was 0.33 pct, the three-month rate was 0.18 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount 0.39 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 38.933 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 17,712 contracts worth 26.761 million euros, with 36,929 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 76,453 contracts worth 12.172 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Bank of Cyprus's contracts (19,697), followed by National Bank (11,737), Piraeus Bank (9,984), Alpha Bank (7,904), MIG (6,080), OTE (5,478), OPAP (3,814), GEK (3,287), Ellaktor (2,277), Eurobank (1,630) and PPC (1,624),
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.327
Pound sterling 0.822
Danish kroner 7.572
Swedish kroner 8.852
Japanese yen 110.82
Swiss franc 1.227
Norwegian kroner 7.442
Canadian dollar 1.304
Australian dollar 1.257
 'Princesses of the Mediterranean in the Dawn of History' exhibition opensAn exhibition titled 'Princesses of the Mediterranean in the Dawn of History, spanning the 10th century BC to the Archaic Period (6th century BC) opened Thursday at the Museum of Cycladic Art in central Athens, running through April 10, 2013.
Regal ladies or princesses; priestesses or healers; women of authority or knowledge; local women, who stood apart from the rest; other women, who accepted and adopted the cultural traits of different societies or of the men they married in their homeland - local or foreign men - or even those women, who for reasons of intermarriage, traveled from one place to another, are the women this exhibition examines. Through their stories, one can distinctly perceive how these women played a contributing role in broadening the cultural horizons of their time, including their involvement in the development of the archaic Mediterranean culture, according to the organizers.
In an attempt to give a Mediterranean dimension to the role of women in the dawn of history, namely from the 10th century B.C. to the Archaic period (6th century B.C.), around 24 burial assemblages of women from Greece (Attica, Euboea, Macedonia, Crete), Cyprus, Southern Italy, and Etruria, "princesses" in the broader sense of the term, will be displayed. Analysis of these specific burials reveals how, the concentration of grave gifts and the similarities in burial customs, establish a strong ideological connection and a collective social dimension between countries and civilizations; it appears that these women, who held high status positions in their societies, were carriers of cultural and social information.
The great advantage of this exhibition lies in its selection of artifacts; these artifacts belonged to real women, not mythical or other figures. A genuine, tangible dimension is thus given, whereby specific deceased women are the protagonists and consequently, the human element plays a definitive role. The opportunity is afforded to discuss the interpretative issues and approaches of a woman's role in the Early Iron Age societies.
More than 500 artifacts from the 24 burial assemblages will be on display.
The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Cycladic Art (MCA) with the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture, the Italian Embassy in Greece and the Presidency of the Italian Republic.
The curators of the exhibition are Professor Nicholas Chr. Stampolidis, Director MCA, and Dr. Mimika Giannopoulou, Archaeologist MCA.
The exhibition will run through April 10, 2013
 Ex-bank governor arrested over fears of fleeing the countryBusinessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, former governor of Proton Bank, was arrested at his home in Vouliagmeni on Thursday on a warrant by the second special investigator handling the case.
Lavrentiadis had not been called yet to give testimony over multiple charges related to money laundering but was arrested on suspicion of fleeing the country, despite an order preventing him from exiting Greece.
The businessman and another 26 individuals are facing the charges after a prosecutor launched an investigation of loans made by Proton Bank to Lavrentiadis-related companies that did not fulfill the necessary viability criteria. The amounts loaned total 701 million euros.
All of the defendants had their property and assets seized by court order on Wednesday, following a petition by the old Proton Bank shareholders, who claimed the damages were incurred by bank executives without their knowledge.
 Police announce bust of illegal gambling, money laundering outfitPolice in the prefecture of Magnisia on Thursday announced the dismantling of a criminal organisation that had set up a huge illegal betting, gambling and money laundering racket, operating in Volos and Thessaloniki. In a press conference held at the Thessaly police headquarters in Larissa, they announced the arrest of 44 suspects, including three suspected of being the criminal gang's leadership.
These were a 37-year-old identified as the gang leader, and his two 'lieutenants', a 34-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man. Another 18 suspects arrested were 'players' caught in the act while participating in various illegal gambling games, while another eight suspected members of the criminal gang are being sought.
Police also found and confiscated large sums of money, bank books, bonds, property deeds, luxury vehicles, boats, computers, electronic surveillance systems and drugs that are to be used as evidence in the case.
The gang is estimated to have made more than 30 million euro over the last five years, while lost tax revenue as a result of their activities is believed to exceed 10 million euro.
Authorities have drawn up charges against 87 individuals in total, ranging from forming a criminal organisation and fraud, to setting up and participating in illegal gambling games and money laundering. The arrests and charges follow a police investigation lasting several months. This tracked the group's activities as far back as 2007, starting at first with illegal fruit machines and then extending to illegal betting and fraud, operating through a network of six Internet cafes and coffee shops in Volos, the Athens district of Nea Ionia and Almyros in Magnisia.
The suspects arrested were led before a Volos public prosecutor, while an investigation into the group's activities is continuing.
 Mix-up prompts protest outside mayors' meeting in MaroussiThe Civitel Olympic Hotel in the Athens suburb of Maroussi was the scene of tension and scuffles between riot police and local authority workers who gathered to protest against lay-offs of local government employees on Thursday.
Members of the local authority employees union federation POE-OTA targeted the hotel in the mistaken belief that a meeting was going to be held there with the German chancellor's special envoy to Greece, German Deputy Labour Minister Hans Joachim Fuchtel. In fact, the meeting was actually between Greek and German mayors discussing bilateral cooperation on a local government level and Fuchtel was not scheduled to be there.
The meeting was being held in the framework of the twinning of Greek and German municipalities, with the attendance of the mayors of Vrilissia, Halandri, Psychiko, Eretria and Dorida and the idea was to exchange knowhow in the areas of tourism, culture, youth exchange programmes and energy conservation.
 Education ministry launches oral hygiene programme in schoolsThe education ministry on Thursday announced the launch of an oral hygiene programme for children in 950 schools around the country. The programme will be carried out in 800 extended-hours schools and 150 remote schools throughout the country, targeting roughly 30,000 school children in the second year of primary school.
It will include a visit by dentists to the school but also classes on oral hygiene and the briefing of parents on the benefits of various dental treatments.
As part of the programme, there will also be training of private and hospital dentists in the diagnosis of mouth cancers and an epidemiological study on the oral health of the general population, using a sample of about 6,000 people of various age groups.
 ERT ousts TV general director SpyropoulosThe Greek television and radio foundation (ERT) board on Thursday announced the removal of general director for television Costas Spyropoulos from his duties, to be temporarily replaced by Johnny Kalimeris.
Junior coalition government member Democratic Left (DIMAR) blasted the move as a violation of every sense of upright administration and meritocracy in the public sector, adding that the "pretext? for the removal of Spyropoulos citing his decision to finance a Greek documentary revealing the reasons of the penetration and promotion of Turkish cultural sub-products is ridiculous and dangerous.
The accusation that Spyropoulos was promoting the Turkish cultural propaganda does not stand, as he was doing precisely the opposite, while his removal is unfounded because Spyropoulos was acting with the context of his authorities with transparency and consistency, a DIMAR announcement added.
The move is dangerous because such arbitrary practices undermine the dissemination of Greek documentaries throughout the world, DIMAR said.
 Nana Mouskouri makes gift to Athens homelessInternationally renown singer Nana Mouskouri made a 10,000 euro gift to the city of Athens on Thursday towards people who are homeless and poor.
Following a meeting with Mayor of Athens George Kaminis, Moukouri said, "As a Greek, I consider it my responsibility to be present at all efforts to stand by and help my fellow countrypeople who are threatened by poverty. I am following your efforts and wanted to send a message to Greeks that nobody is alone and nobody must remain alone."
 Man sought on Italian warrant arrested in northern Athens suburbA 72-year-old man was apprehended in the northern suburb of Drosia on Thursday on a European arrest warrant issued by Italy over cigarette smuggling charges.
The man, who is allegedly related to a bank heist at the Kallirois Street branch of the former Ergasias Bank in 1992, is also facing charges of falsifying his identity and driver's licence. The man was led before the appeals and first-instance prosecutors of Athens.
He has been arrested again in the summer of 2010 over charges related to cigarette smuggling.
 Mostly overcast, cold on FridaySlightly overcast with rain developing in most areas of Greece and snow in the mountains; fair on the eastern Aegean islands. Winds mostly north-northeasterly, 3 to 5 Beaufort, reaching 6 at sea. Temperatures -4C to 14C in most areas except the islands and Crete, where they start at 7C; freezing temperatures overnight in the mainland. In Athens, generally fair with northeasterly winds 3 to 5 Beaufort and temperatures from 2C to 13C. In Thessaloniki, the same, with slightly lower winds and temperatures from -2C to 8C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Eurogroup meeting in the afternoon that was expected to approve the disbursement of a 34.5 billion euro tranche of an EU/IMF bailout package to Greece, the withdrawal of a regulation drastically cutting back the salary privileges of parliamentary employees after the latter called a sudden strike over the cutbacks, the assignment of the management of the state lotteries to the OPAP-Scientific Games consortium for the next 12 years and the deregulation of tuition fees in private schools were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Thursday.
AVGHI: "A drop in the bucket for debt and liquidity".
DIMOKRATIA: "Double defeat for Stournaras (Finance Minister)".
EFIMERIDA TON SYTAKTON: "Lives out on the street - Study on the homeless".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Provocative 'political favor' to parliamentary employees".
ELLADA: "Total recall of Kokkalis in the state lotteries".
ESTIA: "The deliberations are ineffective".
ETHNOS: "New mutiny over the privileges in parliament".
IMERISSIA: "Signal for re-start (of economy)".
KATHIMERINI: "New blackmail in parliament".
KERDOS: "The tranche finally coming".
LOGOS: "Tuition fees being deregulated".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The capital being sought to cover the debt buy-back".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Intensification of the popular struggle to avert the Public Power Corporation's (PPC) price hikes".
TA NEA: "Tax-revelation - The 'smart-alecs' and 'fools' of the Tax Bureau".
VRADYNI: "Auxiliary pensions after the latest cuts".
6DAYS: "Provopoulos (central Bank of Greece governor) belies the government".
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