|Monday, 23 October 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-01-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 16 January 2013 Issue No: 4271
 Government declares war on unemploymentThe government is declaring war on unemployment, Labor Minister Yannis Vroutsis said on Tuesday, after a broad meeting between the productive ministries authorities chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on dealing with unemployment.
"Our main concern for 2013 is how new jobs will be generated, particularly for the youth, who are having difficulties in finding work and are thinking of immigrating," Samaras stressed.
"The prime minister has sounded the alarm," Vroutsis said after the meeting, adding that that "we have declared war on unemployment, with the premier's office as the headquarters".
 Violence and daily market issues lead at meeting of three party leadersThe escalation of violence and the daily problems of the real economy occupied centre stage at the meeting on Tuesday of the three political leaders whose parties comprise the ruling coalition.
Coming out of the meeting at Prime Minister Antonis Samara's Maximos Mansion headquarters, PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos said society must unanimously condemn phenomena of violence. He called on democratic forces in parliament to present a common front before racism-based violence, indirectly hinting that the Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party should be excluded.
In terms of the economy, Venizelos said the three discussed mostly the problems the market and families face on a daily basis. He also said they discussed issues of national strategy, but did not provide details because he said both economy and strategy issues would be discussed at their next meeting.
Asked to comment on the so-called Lagarde list issue, he said that there was a crude political plot by political forces, abetted by specific individuals. "The facts have spoken," he added.
"The democratic forces must raise a fortified wall against those who attack democracy," Democratic Left (DI.MAR.) leader Fotis Kouvelis said after the meeting at the Maximos Mansion.
The three leaders, whose parties comprise the ruling coalition, also discussed the need to develop a social protection network for lower-income classes being affected most by the crisis and measures to stem unemployment, Kouvelis said.
To a query on what procedure the Parliament will use to vote on the so-called 'Lagarde list', DI.MAR's leader said that was a matter of the parliamentary presidents and the plenary session.
Asked about plans for the Hellenic PostBank (TT) and whether its restructuring will proceed, Kouvelis said he introduced the topic in the agenda to ensure that any decision does not harm the bank's employees.
Following a briefing he gave to the political leaders, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said that lawlessness will never be acceptable, whatever its source. Leaving the meeting, the minister said he briefed the leaders "about the latest incidents of violence and about the great effort being undertaken to strengthen public safety in the land."
 FinMin briefs PM, party leaders on developments in economyFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday briefed the leaders of the three parties supporting the Antonis Samaras coalition government on developments in the economy.
"They requested from me and I made for them a short briefing on the Eurogroup's decisions next Monday, on the next tranche and we spoke very briefly on development initiatives that we must take and also on the big tax bill that will be submitted in spring," Stournaras told reporters on leaving the Maximos Mansion.
Replying to a relevant question, he said there is no question of disagreement with the Merchant Marine's bill and added that "we replaced the luxury tax. It will be replaced with a sailing tax". He said that no discussion was held on the Hellenic Postbank and that "in any case, we have not yet concluded on the Hellenic Postbank".
Lastly, asked whether there is an issue of an increase in funds for public order, Stournaras said "this is not an issue that they have discussed with me".
Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias entered the Maximos Mansion after Stournaras, who gave a briefing on the course of investigations on the latest cases of violence.
 SYRIZA leader on contacts during Berlin visitBERLIN (AMNA/F. Karaviti)
Greek main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras put forward the issues of the forced WWII Nazi occupation loan, the submission of the case file of former Siemens Hellas and fugitive from Greek justice Mihalis Christoforakos, who fled to Germany where he was shielded from extradition to Greece as a German national, the humanitarian repercussions from the implementation of the austerity programmes in Greece, in his meetings with the German political leadership during his visit to Berlin, Tsipras said Tuesday in the German capital.
Tsipras further questioned whether the Greek government had ever put forward any of those issues in its own contacts with German authorities.
"In the meetings we had with the German political leadership, we expanded the agenda of the negotiation, putting forward the issue of the occupation loan. We asked of the German government to contribute to restoring the sense of justice in the Greek society by forwarding to the Greek judicial authorities the case file of Christoforakos, who is currently in the German courts, so that progress may be made on the Siemens case. And we highlighted the impasses from the three-year implementation of the Memorandum, which has led to country to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis," said Tsipras, who winds up his visit to Berlin later in the day with a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's special envoy for Greek-German cooperation, Deputy Labour Minister Hans Joachim Fuchtel.
"I ask myself whether the Greek government at any time put forward any of these issues in its contacts and meetings, in the repeated meetings that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had with Ms Merkel. Or is their perception of the negotiation is that we always tell our partners only what they want to hear? This is a crucial question," Tsipras added.
 Guns used in ND Headquarters attack not traced to past terrorist attacks or criminal actions, ballistics examination showsThe guns used in Monday's pre-dawn shooting attack against the New Democracy (ND) Headquarters in Athens have not been previously used in terrorist attacks or other criminal activities in the past, a ballistics examination of the shells collected from the site of the attack found.
According to the ballistics report, an examination of the two bullets and shells from a Kalashnikov firearm, with which the Prime Minister and ND leader Antonis Samaras' office was fired at, and the Magnum 357 revolver, a shell of which was found on the roof of the building, had not been used in any terrorist attack or other criminal activity in the past.
 Diotis admits to copying 'Lagarde list', denies all knowledge of CDIn testimony regarding the loss of the original 'Lagarde list' CD sent by France and the changes that were later discovered in the information this contained, former financial crimes squad (SDOE) chief Ioannis Diotis on Tuesday admitted to making a copy of the material onto a flash drive but denied knowing about the original CD or that the information had been sent by French authorities.
Diotis presented his testimony to the two financial prosecutors investigating the case as a written statement.
The former SDOE chief said that he had made the copy from another flash drive sent to him by outgoing former finance minister George Papaconstantinou in June 2011. In fact, he said he had enlisted the help of a lawyer then appointed to his office in order to make the copy, because he was not confident of his own skills in handling computers and did not want to risk causing any damage while inspecting the contents of the flash drive.
After examining its contents, he had then placed the USB in an envelope and immediately asked his colleague to completely delete all its contents because he did not want to have any copies in circulation before the minister had made a decision on how the information should be handled.
He claimed that Papaconstantinou had not mentioned the existence of a CD nor any accompanying documents, nor that the information had been supplied by the French finance ministry.
"If this had happened, anyone can understand that I would have handled it as a 'document' and would have no reason to treat is as illegal evidence," Diotis said in his statement, adding that no one apart from Papaconstantinou had known that the material in question was the 'Lagarde list' at the time.
The lawyer named by Diotis will be called to testify to the two financial prosecutors within the next few days.
Regarding a meeting held in Parliament on July 8, 2011 with then finance minister Evangelos Venizelos and the former premier George Papandreou - a date coinciding with that on which the USB flash drive was copied - Diotis said that the issue of the USB and the 'Lagarde list' was not discussed. He asserted that the issue came to the fore in September 2012, at which time he had advised PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos during a conversation over the phone to hand over the USB in his possession to the prime minister.
According to Diotis, he had given PASOK's president the USB at the end of July or in early August 2011.
The former SDOE chief asked the two financial prosecutors to order an expert examination to determine whether the contents of the USB had been damaged or altered and to investigate the metadata on the USB drive and the drive itself.
He denied having tampered with the information on the drive in any way and also denied charges of removing a document and breach of duty.
The 'Lagarde list' originally sent by French authorities on a CD in 2011, when Papaconstantinou was still finance minister, contained the names and bank balances of 2000-plus Greeks with sizeable deposits in a Swiss branch of HSBC. In the wake of media furore fired by rampant rumours of its existence, Venizelos handed over a copy of the list that had been in his personal files to the government in September 2012 but the original CD was never found. A copy of the original requested from France then revealed that information relating to two bank accounts, both belonging to family members of Papaconstantinou, had been deleted from the flash drive presented by Venizelos.
In earlier testimony, Venizelos said that he received the USB containing the list from Diotis, who had considered that it had been illegally obtained and could not be used as evidence.
 Gov't bashes SYRIZA on spokesman's statementsGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Tuesday said that main opposition SYRIZA's "audacity and personal targeting of its political opponents have ceased to surprise us", commenting on recent statements by SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis.
"It is to be pondered, however, why it is so hard for them to renounce all forms of violence," Kedikoglou added.
 Nimetz invites Greek, FYROM negotiators to NY meetings in follow-up to last week's talks in Athens, SkopjeNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
Another round of meetings on the FYROM name issue will be held in New York on January 29 and 30, the UN Secretariat announced.
The UN Secretary General's personal envoy in the talks between Greece and FYROM on the FYROM name issue, Matthew Nimetz, has invited the chief negotiators of the two countries, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece and Ambassador Zoran Jolevski of FYROM, to meet with him at the UN headquarters in New York on January 29 and 30, and both sides have accepted the invitation.
The announcement said that Nimetz will meet with the two representatives separately and jointly, in a follow-up to the discussions held with senior government officials of the two countries during his visits to Athens and Skopje last week (January 9-11).
 Venizelos meets AKEL's KyprianouPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos met on Tuesday with visiting Cypriot general secretary of AKEL party Andros Kyprianou ahead of the February 17 presidential elections in Cyprus.
The two officials discussed the political developments in Greece and Cyprus. Moreover, issues regarding the negotiation between the EC, ECB, IMF troika and Cyprus were touched upon, as well as the need for a closer cooperation between the two countries' financial policy entities.
 Hospital mergers going ahead, minister saysMergers between hospitals and clinics were going ahead and, in several cases, the new legal entities had already been created and the required administrative changes were already underway, Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos said on Tuesday. He was speaking after a meeting with the directors of the 1st Health Region and the managers of hospitals falling within its boundaries.
The minister said the mergers of 661 clinics and departments ensured full use of the medical, nursing and administrative staff in the national health system. He said the ministry was following the progress of the reforms "with an open mind" and was working with hospital managements to deal with any "distortions or weaknesses" that emerged.
Tuesday's meeting was the first contact between health region and hospital managers to implement the new legislative framework for national health system units.
 CoE delegation in ThraceEuropean support to Greece on the issue of illegal migration is necessary and should continue regardless of the fact that the migrant flow from Turkey to Greece has been considerably reduced.
Former government minister Dora Bakoyannis led a delegation of the Council of Europe (CoE) ad hoc sub-committee on refugees and migration that made a two-day visit to the northeast prefectures of Evros and Rodopi.
Speaking to a local television station, Bakoyannis stressed that the CoE members should realize the heavy burden shouldered by the local community, the Greek taxpayers and the country as a whole as a result of the migrant inflow and, at the same time, acknowledge the noticeable progress made in the past three years. She underlined that Greece's effort should be supported and that a common European policy on the issue of migration should be drawn up "considering that these people do not wish to move to Greece but they are in transit on their way to the other European countries."
The committee visited the fence built along the Evros River, the migrant reception center at Evros Outpost, as well as Poros and Komotini. The illegal migration issue was discussed with local police representatives, EU external border agency Frontex officers and local authorities.
 Public administration, e-Governance minister briefs President on reform progressPublic Administration and e-Governance Minister Antonis Manitakis on Tuesday briefed President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the first results of the evaluation and on the course of the administrative reform in the public sector.
Manitakis presented to Papoulias the new organizational charts of his ministry and of the Environment Ministry after the implementation of the reform, adding that they were studies compiled by the civil servants themselves, without any extra pay and in extra time beyond their shifts.
"Public Administration has very worthy staff that can be utilized, and the government will do so," Manitakis said, adding that "the reform is progressing with determination, insistence, persistence and unwaveringly to attain its target".
Papoulias made note of a "Herculean task that delayed in commencing", stressing that the public administration needs to be cleansed of the stain of 'laziness', which I do not accept for the Greeks".
After the meeting, Manitakis said that 2013 will be the year of evaluation of the public sector personnel.
 Development minister and Task Force chief discuss motorways projectsEU Task Force chief for Greece Horst Reichenbach met with Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Tuesday to discuss the negotiations between the European Commission and banks on the restarting of the projects for four major motorways.
Speaking after the meeting in Athens, Reichenbach said, "I is early for us to be absolutely certain of anything. The European Commission will not become an obstacle, it will not delay the procedures at this stage, in order for there to be an initial political decision. Therefore when a final agreement is made, the Commission's decisions will come sooner".
The Development minister said he will be going to Brussels in the coming days to brief the relevant commissioners on the motorway projects so that the procedures will not be held up by the Commission.
 Task Force chief in parliament on WednesdayThe head of the European Commission Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach, will meet with the presidium of parliament's Standing Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice at the parliament building on Wednesday, at his request, to brief the presidium on the Task Force's work in Greece. The meeting is scheduled for 15:00
 Defence Minister expresses Greece's solidarity to Egypt over train accidentDefence Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos expressed his condolences to Egyptian Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisy and Greece's solidarity over a railway accident southwest of Cairo Tuesday that resulted in the death of 19 new recruits to the Egyptian army and the injury of another 105.
"I wish to express to you my sincere condolences over the tragic loss of your soldiers who were killed so unfairly in a train accident, earlier today," Panayiotopoulos said in a letter, "and to assure you that Greece is and shall be at Egypt's side and our thoughts will be with you in this difficult moment."
 Finmin briefed on progress of privatisations at HRADFFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday had a meeting with the head of the Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF) Takis Athanasopoulos regarding the progress of Greece's privatisations programme.
HRADF officials stressed that the first half of 2013 will be crucial, since 11 projects must go ahead in that time. The first quarter, in particular, must see the privatisation of the state betting and lottery organisation OPAP and the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA).
The same officials noted that no change in the schedule or the targets of the programme was made during Tuesday's meeting with the minister. Based on the current plan, the country's larger ports and airports will be privatised separately, while small regional ports and airports will be privatised in groups.
They reported strong interest from COSCO for Piraeus port and said that HRDAF's management is expected to brief Parliament on the privatisation of the Thessaloniki water and sewage company EYATh next week.
 Greek economic sentiment index rose to two-year high in DecGreece's economic sentiment index rose to 84.1 points in December, its highest reading in the last two years, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Tuesday.
IOBE, in its monthly report, attributed this positive development to a recovery of expectations in all sectors of the economy, with the exception of the construction sector, and to an improvement in consumer confidence. A successful completion of negotiations with the troika -despite significant burdens bringing to large parts of the population- contributed in soothing a widespread uncertainty of the country's course.
The report noted that a Eurogroup decision to approve the disbursement of a massive aid tranche -worth 49.1 billion euros- to Greece will allow the payment of part of the state's debt to the private sector, the continuation of a bank recapitalization plan and a partial lifting of a credit crunch in the economy. The most important development, however, was the lifting of monetary uncertainty and the clear message sent by the country's European partners to help Greece in overcoming its difficult problems. A successful completion of a state bond buy-back program and a recent upgrading of the country's credit rating confirmed a gradual improvement of an international climate towards the country.
Business expectations in the manufacturing sector showed that forecasts over the short-term trend of production worsened, while forecasts over the current level of orders and demand improved.
In the services sector, business expectations over current activity fell markedly, although expectations over short-term demand improved.
In the retail sector, business expectations over current sales improved in December with forecasts of inventories falling in the same month.
In the construction sector, business expectations remained negative over pending works and employment in the sector.
Consumer confidence showed a slight improvement, as Greek households were still pessimistic over their finances while households' forecasts improved over the country's economic situation. On the other hand, forecasts over unemployment deteriorate slightly.
 Average Greek exporter is a medium-sized company, survey showsThe new profile of the average Greek exporting company is a medium-sized firm whose main activity is in the food sector, while the vast majority are based in the Attica region, a report by the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters said on Tuesday.
The report was based on a sample of 1,162 enterprises registered with the Federation in the period 2010-2011. The report also showed that only 1.57 percent of all Greek enterprises intended to expand their products in foreign markets.
Christina Sakellaridi, president of the Federation, commenting on the report said: "The aim of the survey was to put a new tool in the hands of various groups and the state, enabling them to draft an even more efficient and more focused national export strategy".
More than 2,000 enterprises around the country made the bold move to expand in foreign markets during the last two years, reacting to a deep recession in the Greek economy. These companies used the crisis as an opportunity to expand abroad and, in many cases, this move ensured both their viability and their job positions, along with expanding their turnover. These companies, and all potential exporters, now need a steady business environment, the Federation said.
The report showed that 31.6 percent of enterprises that launched export activities in the 2010-2011 period were societe anonyme firms, another 23.3 percent were limited companies, 18.3 percent were personal companies and only 1.6 percent agricultural cooperatives. According to the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters' registry, 23 percent of exporting companies were large or very large enterprises, 44 percent were medium-sized and 33 percent were small and very small enterprises.
Thirty percent of exporters were enterprises in the food sector, followed by machinery-equipment (10 percent), transport/transport equipment and printing/packaging (6.6 percent). Building material (5.0 percent), clothing/footwear and export representatives/dealers (5 percent) followed, ahead of plastics (3.3 percent), IT/software (3.30 percent), pharmaceutical/cosmetics (3.3 percent), chemical/fertilizers (3.3 percent) and jewelry (3.3 percent). Popular art items (12 percent) was a strong exporting sector.
A 75 percent of enterprises in the survey were based in the Attica region, with the region accounting for more than 52 percent of total exports. Attica is followed by Macedonia (5.0 percent), central Greece and the Peloponese (5.0 percent each). Thessaly (3.3 percent), western Greece (3.3 percent) and Crete (1.6 percent) followed.
 Church of Greece and Tourism Ministry sign protocol on pilgrimage tourismA cooperation protocol on pilgrimage tourism was signed on Tuesday between the Tourism Ministry and the Church of Greece.
Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyanni stressed that pilgrimage tourism is the most dynamic type of specialized tourism. Moreover, Kefaloyanni outlined her ministry's initiatives to put special weight on specialized and alternative tourism aiming at extending the tourism season and enriching the existing tourism model.
"Indicative of pilgrimage tourism's dynamic," noted Kefaloyanni "is the fact that not only Christians are interested in coming to Greece but also people of other religions and dogmas, which will boost employment and the local communities".
On its part the Church of Greece's head of the Synodic Bureau of Pilgrimage Tours, Metropolitan Chryssostomos of Dodoni, noted that the signing of the protocol confirms the state's interest for cooperation in religious tourism.
In October, the Church of Greece and the Church of Moscow signed a cooperation agreement for the development, projection and promotion of pilgrimage tourism.
The cooperation agreement was signed in Moscow by Metropolitan Nektarios of Corfu, at the head of a Church of Greece delegation, while a Church of Greece delegation also visited Rome later in the month to collaborate with the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi (ORP), the Vatican's official bureau of pilgrimage tours, in view of the arrival of a large number of Roman Catholic pilgrims to Greece in the coming months following in the steps of St. Paul.
The Orthodox Church of Greece is preparing similar collaborations with the Orthodox Churches of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Albania with the aim of projecting and promoting pilgrimage tourism.
Chryssostomos recently told a press conference that the purpose of the accords is a more systematic collaboration and coordination of actions in the field of pilgrimage tours, which he said were much more than the layman's perception of religious tourism, and is founded on four spiritual axes for the promotion of the religious, historic and cultural wealth combined with the development of an ecological conscience.
"It is proof of the role the Church is called on to play in the course of time, which is not limited to unilaterally meeting the religious needs but extends to an overall confrontation of the problems and crises faced by the people, which frequently characterize entire eras and periods of history," Chryssostomos explained at the press conference.
He also noted that great interest has been expressed by private and public agencies in Greece and abroad for collaboration with the Synodic Bureau for the compilation of multi-lingual, digital (CD and DVD format) publications of all the cultural monuments, pilgrimage sites and monasteries of the Church of Greece, adding that tangible and visible results on this were expected in the near future.
 Grant Thornton, Mazar's and KPMG take over as commissioners in Greek systemic banksGrant Thornton, Mazar's and KPMG have been appointed as commissioners - independent accountants at the country's largest bank with the task of controlling credit policy decisions and having a say in the restructuring of troubled loans.
The European Union has informed the country's four large, systemic, banks that Grant Thornton will take over as commissioner in National Bank and Eurobank - the two banks are in the process of merging -, Mazar's in Alpha Bank and KPMG in Piraeus Bank. Their first job will be to evaluate the situation of each bank and setting - in cooperation with the banks' managements - the main business targets. The independent accountants will submit quarterly progress reports to the European Union.
The four systemic banks have already submitted their business plans, while they are currently working on revised plans. Greek bankers said they were fully prepared to work together with commissioners and looked forward to a fruitful cooperation.
 National Bank has no plan to withdraw from NYSEThe National Bank of Greece (NBG) on Tuesday said it has not drafted any plan to withdraw from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) -where the bank trades its ADRs on its common and preferred shares.
In an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange -replying to press reports- the bank said, however, it was constantly examining all data and prospects of its share transaction in organized markets and was immediately informing investors over any developments.
 Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a 13-week Treasury bill issue raising 1.625 billion euros from the market at a lower cost. The Public Debt Management Organization, in a statement, said that the yield of the issue was set at 4.07 pct, down from 4.11 pct in the previous auction of same T-bills in December 18, 2012. Bids submitted totaled 2.82 billion euros, or 1.75 times more than the asked sum. The organization also accepted non-competitive bids worth 375 million euros. Settlement date was set for Friday, 18 January.
The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 17 January.
 Greek mutual funds' assets up 13.7 pct in 2012Greek mutual funds' assets grew 13.7 pct in 2012, helped by a strong rise in share prices and a recovery in Greek bond prices, official figures showed on Tuesday.
A report by the Association of Institutional Investors said that all mutual fund categories recorded positive returns during the year, with the Greek equity fund category yielding an average 43.98 pct. Asset management funds' assets also grew by 22 pct in 2012. Capital under management grew 10 pct to 9.41 billion euros from 8.54 billion euros in 2011. The report also showed that capital outflows in the mutual funds market shrank by 76 pct last year.
 Greek trade deficit falls to 13.2bln euro in 10-month period, Eurostat saysBRUSSELS (AMNA/V. Demiris)
Greece's trade deficit fell to 13.2 billion euro in the 10-month period of January-October 2012, Eurostat, the EU's statistics authority, said in a report released in Brussels on Tuesday.
According to EU figures, Greek exports rose by 13 percent against the corresponding period in 2011, reaching 20.9 billion euro in the 10-month period of 2012 from 18.5 billion euro in the same period in 2011, while exports fell by 9.0 percent to 34.2 billion euro from 37.2 billion euro in the 10-month period in 2011, bringing the trade deficit down to 13.2 billion euro from 13.2 billion euro in the 10-month period in 2011.
The highest trade surplus in the EU was posted by Germany, with 157.7 billion euro, followed by the Netherlands with 41 billion euro and Ireland with 35.6 billion euro.
The highest trade deficit was registered by the United Kingdom with -139.8 billion euro, followed by France with -69.1 billion euro, Spain with -29.3 billion euro and Greece with -13.2 billion euro.
 Bounced checks totaled 1.3 bln euros in 2012The value of unpaid bills and bounced checks fell in 2012, compared with 2011, as a deep economic recession and a lack of liquidity in the market deteriorated credit conditions in the country.
The value of bounced checks totaled 1.3 billion euros in 2012 (125,025 in volume), a report by Tiresias SA, the market's watchdog, said on Tuesday. The value of bounced checks exceeded 2.0 billion euros in 2011.
The value of unpaid bills totaled 193.1 million euros in 2012, down from 233.2 million euros in the previous year.
 Government to introduce transit and docking tax for leisure craftThe government on Tuesday announced plans for a transit and residence tax for all private leisure craft in Greek waters, irrespective of their flag. The measure is to be included in a draft bill on marine tourism that is due to be tabled in Parliament by the finance and shipping ministries in the near future.
A finance ministry announcement said that the new 'sailing fee' will include a charge for docking at non-private marinas that are currently free. The new levy will coincide with the abolition of 'luxury goods' taxes previously imposed on leisure boats that failed to generate the expected returns and actually caused public revenues to slump.
"With the 'Sailing and Residence Levy' it is estimated that there will be a trend for the return of craft to Greek waters and Greek marinas, boosting the economies of islands and coastal regions and creating thousands of new jobs, as well as putting an end to uncertainty over the taxation treatment of leisure craft," a ministry announcement said.
According to the ministry, the previous tax regime for leisure boats led to a loss of jobs, VAT revenue and turnover for all related business activity, while the yield of the luxury tax on an annual basis was minute. It also had a disastrous effect on Greek companies importing leisure craft, whose sales literally collapsed since no Greek or foreign buyer imported to Greece due to the high VAT (23 percent) and additional 10 percent 'luxury goods' tax that led to a cancellation of all planned imports.
The measure also led to further indirect losses of revenue, due to the lower income tax, turnover and profits of Greek companies active in the sector.
 Dutch tourist arrivals expected to rise in 2013Positive messages for Greek tourism have come from the Utrecht Travel and Tourism Fair that was held from 8-13 January, in which the Ionian Islands Periphery took part with its own pavilion.
According to estimates of the Ionian Islands Periphery delegation, the climate regarding Greece has completely changed in The Netherlands, and a 5-10 percent increase in Dutch tourist arrivals is expected in 2013.
Among the Ionian Islands, Cephalonia comes first in the preferences of the Dutch tourists who, however, have expressed annoyment over the suspension of the Corfu-Italy sea link which accommodated a large number of tourists opting to come to Greece by car.
 Winter sales period opens TuesdayThe winter sales period officially opened on Tuesday, January 15, with discount of up to 70 percent on offer in a bid to attract customers after a lackluster holiday period.
The reduction in real incomes and pensions, rising unemployment and a higher VAT rate on staple goods have changed the everyday priorities of the consumers, and therefore winter sales are eagerly awaited by consumers this year, according to consumer organizations.
At the same time, merchants are offering major discounts in the hopes of drumming up sales, which have plummeted in the last few years as cash-strapped shoppers have reduced their purchases to the bare essentials.
The winter sales period will run through February 28.
 Greek stocks end 1.78 pct downGreek stocks continued moving lower for the second consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, as sellers kept the upper hand in the market. Selling focused on bank and other blue chip stocks. The composite index dropped 1.78 pct to end at 951.05 points, off the day's lows of 941.02 points. Turnover fell to 66.923 million euros.
The Big Cap index dropped 1.85 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.75 pct lower. All sectors moved downwards, with the exception of the Travel sector (+0.34 pct), Health (4.57 pct), Personal Products (3.46 pct) and Banks (2.26 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Frigoglass (1.51 pct), Intralot (1.46 pct) and Piraeus Port (0.93 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Apha Bank (5.88 pct), Terna Energy (5.57 pct) and Jumbo (4.16 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 117 to 51 with another 10 issues unchanged. AAA (19.85 pct), Boutaris (19.64 pct) and Perseus (19.57 pct) were top gainers, while Fieratex (27.65 pct), Douros (20 pct) and Hatzioannou (20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.19%
Personal & Household: -3.46%
Raw Materials: -2.50%
Travel & Leisure: +0.34%
Food & Beverages: -2.37%
Financial Services: -0.05%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, Alpha Bank, National Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.28
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.38
HBC Coca Cola: 17.28
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.16
National Bank of Greece: 1.25
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.67
Bank of Piraeus: 0.29
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 10.23 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 10.14 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.72 pct and the German Bund 1.49 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, one sell order.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to higher. The 12-month rate was 0.56 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.33 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.73 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 24.798 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,673 contracts worth 14.146 million euros, with 35,794 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 48,285 contracts worth 10.652 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (10,187), followed by Alpha Bank (7,873), Cyprus Bank (1,014), Piraeus Bank (9,417), MIG (3,309), OTE (2,778), PPC (2,708), OPAP (2,784), Eurobank (685), GEK (958), Intralot (2,096), Ellaktor (1,082), Mytilineos (1,081), Sidenor (343) and Hellenic Petroleum (259).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.352
Pound sterling 0.842
Danish kroner 7.574
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 Former WSJ Online editor details explosive impact of social media on journalismThe now pervasive debate on the impact of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, on journalism and how it shapes reporting, dominated a lecture here on Monday by Bill Grueskin, the former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Online.
Grueskin, who today holds the prestigious post of academic dean of at the Columbia graduate school of journalism, cited two well-known cases of correspondents who were catapulted onto the international limelight not for their gritty reporting -from the Mideast - but for a private email, in the first instance, and via a controversial Facebook posting in the second instance.
The veteran editor detailed the case of Farnaz Fassihi, the WSJ bureau chief in Baghdad whose private email to friends from war-torn Iraq went viral over the course of several weeks, mainly due her bleak description of the country following the US-led invasion a year earlier and stinging criticism of the then Bush administration amid an election year.
Grueskin said the digitally reproduced and disseminated email acted as an "accelerant" of criticism of the war at the time, while he added that, in hindsight, the private email should have easily found its way onto the op-ed pages of the influential newspaper instead of generating questions over Fassihi's objectivity in covering the conflict.
"Despite (US) President (George W.) Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remain a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come," was one of the more prominent statements in the circulated email.
Conversely, the former WSJ editor pointed to the negative feedback after a FB post by the NY Times chief correspondent in Jerusalem, Jodi Rudoren, who wrote on Palestinians' attitude towards death in the Gaza Strip while attending a funeral of victims killed in an air raid, where she stated: "... I've been surprised that when I talk to people who just lost a relative, or who are gathering belongings from a bombed-out house, they seem a bit ho-hum"
Grueskin said the aftermath resulted in an immediate rebuke of Rudoren and the institution of a policy by the NY Times to vet all social media posts by reporters and correspondents by its New York City-based editors, a policy he said was impractical.
Moreover, he pointed out that while Fassihi's email took weeks to circulate, Rudoren's FB comment last November was transmitted around the world in seconds.
Grueskin also noted that the explosion of social media has brought "webmetrics" into play in the newsroom, with individual media professionals now able to gauge their impact or "following", as well as "take their following with them (to another media outlet)". The down side, he added, is that journalists run the risk of becoming "brands" or emphasizing social media presence more to the detriment of reporting in the "real world".
The lecture, entitled, "Journalism in a New Media Age" was held at the Lambrakis media group's auditorium. A second lecture will be held on Tuesday at the campus of the Deree College in northern Athens.
 Condolences by government, ND party over death of Greek American journalistForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, New Democracy (ND) party Political Committee secretary Manolis Kefaloyiannis and ND's Overseas Hellenism secretary Takis Skandalakis on Tuesday expressed their condolences over the death of Greek American journalist Dimitris Kastanas.
Avramopoulos said that Kastanas "gave a voice to Hellenism of America and at the same time he brought the American public into contact with 'the image of a Greece that made us all proud with its history and its culture'."
Kedikoglou said that Kastanas "succeeded in winning the hearts of the millions of Greek American viewers, conveying the image of a Greece that made them proud for its history and its culture".
Kefaloyiannis stressed that Kastanas devoted his life to the briefing of Overseas Hellenism, while Skandalakis said that the deceased "for many decades constituted one of the basic pylons of Hellenism of New York".
 Patras Carnival events kick off on SaturdayEvents leading up to the main Patras Carnival parade on March 17 begin in the western port-city on Saturday with several happenings and performances in the city centre and a street party that will last late into the night.
The Patras Carnival will kick off on Saturday n the city's Aghios Georgios Square at 11:00 a.m., with revelries lasting to Sunday, March 17, the eve of the Clean Monday holiday that marks the beginning of the 40-day Great Lent leading to Orthodox Easter.
The Carnival culminates on Sunday, March 17, with the grand parade of floats, winding up with the traditional burning of King Carnival, which is accompanied by fireworks displays.
The western port city of Patras, home of Greece's first and longest-running Carnival, also pulled out all stops this year with a bevy of events that will also culminate in the theme float parade on Sunday.
The city promises a number of surprises, with music, dance, various happenings, activities for children and street theater designed to spread cheer and a merrymaking atmosphere
Two musical scenes will also be set up along the Rigas Ferraios pedestrian street, where live music bands and orchestras will perform and troupes from dance schools will put on dance displays
Street theaters will also put on a show complete with stilt walkers, puppet theater, and a Treasure Hunt organized by carnival float troupes.
This year's Carnival King will also parade through the streets of the city center with due dignity, accompanied by the Carnival Queen and entourage on bicycles, winding up at Aghios Georgios Square where the official launch of the carnival season will be officially declared by Patras Mayor Yiannis Dimaras at 9:00 p.m. The traditional "chocolate war" will also be held, and a new song written for this year's Carnival will be presented for the first time.
 Body of woman found in summer home 10 years after her deathThe mummified body of a 43-year-old woman was discovered recently in her summer home on Egina island a decade after her death, police said.
The body of the 1959-born Athens resident Irini Xenou was discovered after in November 2012 after neighbors decided to clean up the yard of dried weeds and garbage that had accumulated over the years.
The woman, who was single and had no parents or siblings, had not been seen by her neighbors since 2002.
After cleaning up the yard, the neighbors came upon a door to the house that had been built in with cement blocks, and when they broke through with the assistance of police, the found the mummified corpse.
Neighbors told police that the woman had been a loner and that they hadn't seen or spoken to her for a decade.
 Female suspect in 'Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire' case released with conditionsA 25-year-old woman arrested on Jan. 11 on charges of being a member of the group "Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire," has been conditionally released after giving testimony before the special investigator.
The woman denied the charges, said she is not an anarchist and questioned the findings of the police, which said it had found her DNA in a weapons cache in Polytechnioupoli of the Zografou section of Athens.
Both the investigator and prosecutor released her on condition of not leaving the country, of presenting herself at a police station and of not socialising with defendants involved in the "Cells of Fire" case.
 Police raid warehouse filled with knock-off PAOK-club goodsPolice on Tuesday confiscated tens of thousands of counterfeit PAOK football club goods during a raid on a warehouse in Sindos, Thessaloniki.
The raid was carried out in the wake of a complaint filed by the Thessaloniki-based club's management, which said that the company involved was supplying goods with the club colours and logo over the Internet without the club's permission and without any prior contract.
During the raid, police confiscated 25,518 objects ranging from mugs to stickers with an estimated commercial value of 33,000 euros.
Following the club's complaint, the company involved reached an out-of-court settlement with the Thessaloniki team, offering compensation for lost profits from the sales of its products and the lawsuit against them was withdrawn. PAOK's management has underlined, however, that it will take legal action against other businesses that use the club logo without permission.
 Gang members arrested by Larissa policeSeven individuals, all members of the same gang, were arrested and charged with a series of break-ins and drug trafficking, Larissa police on Tuesday announced.
According to authorities in the central Greek city, the suspects, aged between 31 and 65, face felony charges for forming a criminal organisation, drug trafficking and possession, grand theft, selling stolen goods and illegal possession of guns. A 47-year-old was also arrested accused of fencing.
The suspects are accused of committing a total of 12 thefts in which goods valued at around 51,000 euros were taken, including jewelry, electronic devices and mobile phones.
Based on the findings of a police investigation, the criminal organisation has been active since Nov. 2012.
A total of 71 pieces of jewelry, 65 of which were not accompanied by proper certificates, were found and seized by police during searches in pawnshops and gold trading stores.
Six of the items of jewelry had been stolen from the house of a 51-year-old and sold to pawnshops by the 35-year-old gang leader.
The majority of the seized stolen objects have been identified and returned to their owners.
 Fire breaks out in abandoned army camp building in ThessalonikiA fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon in an abandoned building in the closed "Pavlos Melas" army camp situated in Thessaloniki's western district of Stavroupoli.
Firefighters have arrived at the scene. Nearby buildings are not threatened by the flames.
Another building in the same army camp had suffered serious damage in two separate fires that broke out a few days apart a year ago.
The abandoned army camp buildings serve as refuge for homeless people looking for shelter particularly during the winter .
 Free tutoring for schoolchildren offered by Trikala municipalitySchoolchildren from families with financial problems will qualify for free tutoring according to a decision by the City of Trikala in central Greece, it was announced on Tuesday.
Eligible for the free tutoring programme, implemented in cooperation with the local tutorial schools' association, will be secondary education pupils whose families are facing grave financial difficulties.
 Metro employees' trade union calls strike for Thur.Athens metro employees will hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday, Jan. 17, their trade union announced on Tuesday.
The strike will be held in protest against "government measures that abolish the collective labour agreement", according to a statement issued by metro trade union SELMA.
 Police raid puts an end to long-term squatting at Kypseli houseA police raid on Tuesday ended the occupation of an old home in Kypseli, on the corner of Lela Karagianni and Drossopoulou, with the arrest of sixteen people.
Squatters have been occupying the building since 1988. All detainees were released later in the day.
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 5C and 18C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens with southerly 6-8 beaufort winds and temperatures between 7C and 17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 7C and 14C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "The Memorandum is dead".
DIMOKRATIA: "Crazy bullets".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Who benefits?".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Alert in police over possibility of new terrorist attack".
ESTIA: "Unwritten laws of politics".
ETHNOS: "Testimony 'rocket' on the attack against New Democracy headquarters in Athens".
IMERISSIA: "Rage over taxes and PPC (electricity) rates".
KATHIMERINI: "Reappearance of guerrilla warfare".
LOGOS: "Political conflict in the 'red'."
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Green light for the 9.2 bln euros tranche".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Exhausting increases up to 25 percent in PPC (electricity) rates".
TA NEA: "Front against terror".
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