|Wednesday, 21 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-01-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 18 January 2013 Issue No: 4273
 Parliament approves setting up of preliminary investigation committeeDeputies of all parties voted in the early hours of Friday to set up a preliminary investigation committee to examine the role of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou for any liability in the so-called Lagarde list issue.
The decision came after lengthy discussion and disagreements over the voting process to be followed, including an over-an-hour-long interruption for new deliberations between the parliament president and party representatives. The vote used four ballot boxes and was conducted by roll call.
A preliminary committee will look at whether there was ministerial liability in the handling of a controversial list of Greek depositors at HSBC in Switzerland.
Several proposals were submitted by parties, involving examination of one or more of the following officials: former finance ministers Papaconstantinou and Evangelos Venizelos (currently PASOK leader) and former prime ministers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos. Following the count, Papaconstantinou was the only one to be named as the focus of the investigation.
The "Lagarde list" has been the focus of furious debate and accusations between parties in the last few weeks over speculation of possible tax evasion involving the list.
 Venizelos digs into SYRIZA during Parliament speechThe main opposition party is working to "topple the government" and to incriminate him personally, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos charged during his speech in Parliament on Thursday night, ahead of a vote on whether to set up a preliminary investigation committee on the so-called Lagarde list issue.
"Greece is entering a new phase and is becoming more stable in the midst of difficulties," he said. "Our target is its eventual return to self-reliance in Europe, and we need security and optimism for this to happen," but the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) "hoped to destroy the guarantor of this unity by targeting PASOK's president," Venizelos added.
Venizelos, whose party is member of the ruling coalition, also charged that former chief of the financial crimes squad (SDOE) Ioannis Diotis collaborated with SYRIZA in a "sorry plot of leaks" through interviews he gave after his replacement, to slander him.
 SYRIZA president Tsipras criticises PASOK party leaderRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) president Alexis Tsipras, speaking in Parliament on Thursday evening, criticised PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, stressing that those who managed power have a responsibility for where the country has reached.
"He told us about SYRIZA's flirt with violence to hide the love affairs that reached a marriage with vested interests," Tsipras said.
Replying to barbs by Venizelos on Tsipras' meetings with shipowners he has not publicised in the press, the main opposition leader confirmed that he is meeting them to request that they pay taxes because society is suffering.
"They told us about a crisis and default, and it was the average Greek who paid for it. At the same time they kept the USB memory sticks with tax evaders' names in the drawers," he added.
 Ind. Greeks leader defends proposal to investigate former PMsDefending his party's position that former premiers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos should also be investigated by Parliamentary in connection with the Lagarde list case, Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos on Thursday said this was a way to further explore the case.
"The Parliamentary preliminary investigation is a first stage and is carried out to establish criminal acts. Today we are not sending anyone to the firing squad. Parliament does not decide whether to imprison a politician but whether there are sufficient indications about a politician," he pointed out.
He was addressing Parliament during the debate on proposals to set up an ad hoc Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee for two former finance ministers, George Papaconstantinou and current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, and the two former premiers. The proposal to investigate Papandreou and Papademos was also backed by the far-right Golden Dawn party.
Kammenos asserted that there was a "powerful bloc" within the leadership of the ruling coalition to prevent further investigation of the case and challenged main opposition SYRIZA to answer why the responsibilities of the former prime ministers should be covered up.
 Papariga: 'truth not likely to emerge' in Lagarde list caseThe truth was not likely to emerge through the right to vote, nor through Parliament or justice, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said in Parliament, during Thursday's debate on setting up a Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee to probe the handling of the Lagarde list case.
Commenting on the defences presented by former finance minister George Papaconstantinou and the former head of the financial crimes squad (SDOE) Ioannis Diotis concerning their actions, Papariga said their arguments were notable for their "frivolity and foolishness".
"Have they perhaps decided to cover up very serious issues and perhaps not for personal gain? Are they being blackmailed or are they interdependent and have chosen to give foolish and frivolous answers to hide the truth?" Papariga suggested.
KKE will cast blank votes for in the case of former premiers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos, Papariga said. At the same time, she pointed out that Papaconstantinou could not have asked for the Lagarde list without Papandreou's knowledge and that Papademos should have found ways to be fully informed at a time when the fight against tax evasion was being touted as a top priority.
Parliament is to hold a vote later on Thursday night on whether Papaconstantinou, his successor at the finance ministry and current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, as well as Papandreou and Papademos, should be investigated by a Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee in order to determine should stand trial for their handling of the Lagarde list and the deletion of three relatives of Papaconstantinou from the original list.
 Papaconstantinou: Some want me to be the scapegoatFormer Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Thursday, addressing the parliament plenum, said that "some want me to be the scapegoat, the man on whom they will put the entire blame for the sins of the post-dictatorship period, the people's rage for the difficulties they are going through," he stressed.
In a debate in parliament on party motions for the establishment of a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on political accountability in the handling of the so-called "Lagarde list", naming him as one of four political figures proposed for investigation, Papaconstantinou said that he heard about the removal of three of his relatives' names, the only names that had been removed, on "the same day that the whole world learned of it, on December 28, 2012".
"I did not become wealthy from politics, I don't have bank accounts in Swiss banks and I do not own offshore companies. I only have loans. How many of those who executed me in public with summary procedures can say the same thing?" asked Papaconstantinou.
 Political parties, Papademos outline positions as discussion begins on 'Lagarde list' inquiryDiscussion opened in Parliament prior to a vote on setting up a preliminary investigating committee to examine ministerial and prime ministerial responsibility over the so-called Lagarde list issue.
Parties have separately proposed one or more former officials to be investigated for possible liability in delaying or obstructing investigation of the list of Greek depositors abroad for possible tax evasion. The officials include former finance ministers George Papaconstantinou and Evangelos Venizelos, and former prime ministers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos.
New Democracy (ND) parliamentary rapporteur Christos Markoyiannakis said that "serious indications" have arisen that create "the impression of clear-cut inefficiency bordering on the intentional, but the investigation will show..."
However, he added, there was no evidence to support an ad hoc parliamentary preliminary investigation committee for anyone other than Papaconstantinou. He was dismissive of a motion by main opposition SYRIZA to refer Venizelos, saying that two-thirds of their announcement was "a political manifesto with clich? expressions".
SYRIZA parliamentary rapporteur Zoe Constantopoulou said that the "Lagarde list" affair probed the double-speak and the hypocrisy of those who had led the country in the most critical post-dictatorship period. She charged that the accused individuals were holding the CD of names in their private possession, informally, without admitting its existence, and hiding the fact from parliament and the MPs who asked about it, receiving lies in reply, at the same time that they were asking for the MPs' vote to pass merciless tax measures.
"Why don't you want all the matters concerning the attitude of Papaconstantinou and Venizelos to be answered and investigated?" she asked the parliament plenum, and warned that any MPs who do not vote in favour of referring both former finance ministers to the parliamentary probe committee "place themselves on another list, the list of those who cover up crimes against the Greek people".
Democratic Left (DIMAR) parliamentary rapporteur Vassilis Economou said that his party believed that "we must remain devoted to the true incidents, as they come to parliament from justice".
"Our concern must be the full disclosure of the real incidents and the truth. We do not concoct the guilty or innocent, we do not have the authority to refer (anyone) to special court on (charges) of political accountability just to serve our purposes," he said.
Economou added that the political responsibilities of Venizelos "are a given fact, but this does not entail the existence of penal responsibilities as well".
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) parliamentary rapporteur Yannis Giokas said that the responsibilities of Papacon-stantinou and Venizelos were indisputable and should be further investigated by a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee, adding that his party would cast a "blank vote" in the cases of Papandreou and Papademos.
He said that the Greek people, who were suffering, were witness to a "dance of millions", adding that the "Lagarde list" shows that the cause of the crisis is the excessive accumulation of profits that were stagnating in deposits (abroad) while their owners were demanding cheaper labor in order to invest in the ruins of the hell for the people".
Independent Greeks parliamentary rapporteur Vassilis Kapernaros said it was necessary to investigate the accountability of all four political figures-- the two former finance ministers and the two former prime ministers.
He said that every document that reaches a service in any way must be entered into the "incoming" ledger together with its date of reception.
"You say that Papaconstantinou didn't do this. But did Venizelos, perhaps? What hinders you from attributing this to Venizelos?" he asked the parties of the three-party coalition government.
He also said that on July 8, 2011 then premier Papandreou and the finance minister had a meeting in Papandreou's office in parliament with the SDOE (finance ministry's financial crimes squad) chief on the issue of tax evasion, and "after that meeting the memory stick 'changed'. How was it changed? Shouldn't we find out?"
On Papademos, Kapernaros said the Lagarde list case concerns all who were involved, "unless he himself admits that he was titular (prime minister)".
Ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) parliamentary rapporteur Elias Kassidiaris said that "George Papacon-stantinou, Evangelos Venizelos, George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos are potential defendants over the Lagarde list and key parties to Greece's conversion into a protectorate. He added that his party will "seize the opportunity" to send them to special court "because it may be over the Lagarde list, but this court will try the individuals that put Greece into the IMF".
In a written deposition submitted to the parliament president, former premier Lucas Papademos said that he has no accountability whatsoever in the affair, and as such the motion pertaining to him is ungrounded.
He added that during his tenure as prime minister, no briefing, information, events had been brought to his attention warranting any inquiry into matters related to the so-called Lagarde list.
 MPs decide single vote with four ballot boxes on 'Lagarde list' probeThe parliament plenary on Thursday decided that a single vote will be held with four ballot boxes -- one for each of the four individuals on which motions have been tabled for investigation by a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on accountability of political figures in the so-called 'Lagarde list' affair.
The final decisions on how to organise the vote on a Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee for the 'Lagarde list' case had been left up to the MPs themselves, after the political parties failed to agree on the process on Wednesday.
The MPs decided that a single vote will be held, but with four ballot boxes, for each of the four individuals that political parties have proposed be investigated, in order to ensure that the secrecy of the vote is respected. Four ballots sheets will be handed out to the MPs for the vote, each containing the name of one of the four individuals and the specific wrongdoings that individual is being referred to the parliamentary probe committee for investigation.
Parliament later on Thursday will be called on to decide whether the politicians that handled the 'Lagarde list' should face a criminal investigation over their failure to make use of the information this contained in order to uncover possible tax evasion or illegal income, and also in connection with the three names removed from the list that were family members of former PASOK finance minister George Papaconstantinou.
The ruling three-party coalition (New Democracy, PASOK, DIMAR) has proposed that there be a preliminary investigation only for Papaconstantinou, main opposition SYRIZA wants an investigation of both Papaconstantinou and his successor at the finance ministry, current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, while the Independent Greeks party has motioned that the investigation also include former premiers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos.
The 'Lagarde list', sent roughly two years ago to the then Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou by the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde (currently managing director of the IMF), contained the names of 1,991 Greek citizens with sizeable bank accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC bank.
The list had ended up in the hands of French authorities about four years ago when they seized digital evidence from the house of former HSBC employee Herve Falciani.
 Golden Dawn party to vote in all four ballotsGolden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) Secretary General Nikos Mihaloliakos on Thursday announced his party's decision to vote in all four ballots and vote in favour of the referring to an investigatory committee of George Papaconstantinou, Evangelos Venizelos, George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos.
Mihaloliakos criticised the fact that "the impunity of ministers is consolidated more by the constitution and the laws instead of national sovereignty, that is being conceded with the law that Parliament ratified".
He added that "God willing and if the people want, Chryssi Avghi will abolish the article of the constitution that allows the ratification of laws on the concession of national sovereignty, when it concerns Greece's European integration".
Also commenting on the proposal by the three-party government, Mihaloliakos said that the target is for the feeling of justice to be satisfied, but in reality an effort to deceive the Greek people is taking place.
 Diotis' former aide to testify in 'Lagarde list' inquiry on MondayThe aide named by former financial crimes squad (SDOE) chief Ioannis Diotis as the woman that helped him create a copy of the 'Lagarde list' onto a USB flash drive and then erase one of the two copies created has been summoned to testify to the two financial prosecutors investigating the case on Monday.
The female lawyer is being called as a suspect for the crime of assisting in the falsification of an official document.
Diotis said that he had enlisted her help in copying the information on the USB handed to him by the then finance minister George Papaconstantinou, asking her to purchase a USB flash drive specifically for this purpose, because he was not confident in his own skills with computers. According to his testimony, he then also asked the lawyer to explain how the information on the flash drive could be deleted and then proceeded to delete the contents of one of the flash drives in his possession, based on her instructions.
 Lagarde list case file on its way to ParliamentThe Supreme Court Prosecutor on Thursday forwarded the so-called Lagarde list case file to the ministry of justice, which will now send it on to Parliament.
The case file had been sent to Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Nikos Pantelis by the two financial prosecutors, Grigoris Peponis and Spyros Mouzakitis.
The case file includes the controversial USB flash drive and a copy of it, as well as, a special 'read-only' copy that was created by the Electronic Crimes Squad at the request of the two financial crimes prosecutors, which can be "read" but cannot be modified.
Also, the case file includes depositions made by relatives of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, whose names were on the Lagarde list, and explanations given by the two former Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) chiefs Ioannis Diotis and Ioannis Kapeleris.
 IMF chief: Greece has made progress, programme moving in right directionNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
Greece has made progress, and its programme is moving in the right direction with strong fiscal adjustment and notable labor-cost competitiveness gains, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director and Executive Board Chair said early Thursday (Greek time) after the IMF Executive Board's decision Wednesday to approve the disbursement of a loan tranche of 3.24 billion euros, in its participation in the January installment of an EU/IF bailout package to the country.
The IMF announced on Wednesday that it had " completed the first and second reviews of Greece's economic performance under a program supported by a four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement for Greece," stressing that "completion of a Greek program review allows the disbursement of a loan tranche worth 3.24 billion euros (4.3 billion US dollars), raising the Fund's participation to a Greek rescue program to 4.197 billion units of special withdraw rights (around 4.86 billion euros or 6.46 billion US dollars)".
"The tranche is part of a joint funding package to Greece agreed with Eurozone member-states, worth 172 billion euros, expanding over a four-year period," an IMF press released explained.
Following the Executive Board's discussion, Lagarde said:
"The program is moving in the right direction, with strong fiscal adjustment and notable labor-cost competitiveness gains. While the program has been adjusted to take account of the deeper recession and implementation capacity, the strategy remains focused on restoring growth, competitiveness, and debt sustainability. Forceful structural reforms and broad-based domestic support will be needed to meet challenges, alongside long-term support from Greece's European partners.
"Greece has made progress with structural reforms, reflected in recent actions to reduce non-wage labor costs and reform the product market. However, much more remains to be done to achieve the critical mass of reforms needed to boost productivity and lower prices. Ambitious reductions in barriers to competition are crucial. It will also be important for the government to deliver its privatization plans and to take appropriate steps to strengthen the governance of the process, if necessary.
"Efforts must continue to restructure and strengthen the banking system. With the finalization of the bank recapitalization framework, it is vital that the new monitoring and supervisory framework be made effective to protect the public interest and prevent state interference in management. Additional financing from euro area member states to allow Greece to redeem treasury bills from banks could support liquidity and credit creation.
"Greece's fiscal effort has been impressive by any measure. The frontloaded adjustment will help bring spending back towards pre-euro levels, and has been designed to protect the most vulnerable. Looking ahead, Greece needs to radically overhaul its tax administration to bolster tax collections, fight tax evasion, and shrink the public sector, in particular through targeted redundancies.
"Steps are being taken to put Greece's debt on a more sustainable path. Greece's European partners have extended repayment periods on their loans and provided assurances that they will consider additional conditional measures and assistance to reduce debt to substantially below 110 percent of GDP by 2022.
"Euro area member states have committed to work together with the Greek authorities and the IMF to ensure the success of the program, reaffirmed the IMF's preferred creditor status, and committed to providing adequate support to Greece during the program and beyond, provided that Greece continues to cooperate closely with the IMF in the implementation of appropriate adjustment policies. This would facilitate a return to debt sustainability and timely repayments to the Fund."
 No exemption to the single wage scale in the public sector, minister saysThere will be no exemptions in the implementation of the single wage scale in the public sector, Development and Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis stressed on Thursday.
Responding to the ongoing strike action by Athens Metro employees, who object to the measure, Hatzidakis said the government would make no concessions on this issue and the law will have to be implemented.
 New legislation on asylum, migration issues pending, Alt. interior ministry revealsThe interior ministry is currently working on a fairer and more efficient process for granting asylum in order to address the problem of migration, Alternate Interior Minister Haralambos Athanasiou said on Thursday at a two-day seminar on migration policy in crisis-stricken Greece at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The minister said that this will be included in new legislation being prepared by the interior ministry and will regulate all related issues, such as naturalisation for long-term residents, in order to speed up the procedures and avoid a back log of cases building up.
Athanasiou noted that the new procedures would strive to establish the real ties of the candidate to Greece, rather than being a formality, and would be marked by a change in the underlying philosophy.
"Until now it was granted in the hope that someone will become assimilated into the country. Now it will be given to foreign nationals that are assimilated as a reward for their efforts," he said.
 Greece must act to stop racist attacks, Amnesty International saysAmnesty International criticised Greek authorities over their failure to take decisive action for the murder of a Pakistani man in Athens' Petralona district, in an announcement issued the same day, on Thursday.
"This attack is not an isolated case. We have seen a dramatic escalation of racially-motivated attacks over the past year," Marek Marczynski, Europe and Central Asia deputy programme director, said, adding that the international organisation "has received testimonies and information about four Egyptian nationals who have been attacked and injured over the past two months in the areas of Pireus, Keratsini and Moschato."
He underlined that "the Greek authorities must investigate racially-motivated violence and bring the perpetrators to justice. They must take urgent action to put an end to the long line of intimidating racist attacks in the country."
According to the Greek police, the stabbing death of a 27-year-old Pakistani man in the early hours of Thursday morning may be the result of an argument over who had right of way. Two Greek men, a 29-year-old fireman serving at Markopoulo and a 25-year-old private employee, were arrested in connection with the incident. Investigating officers are examining witnesses to determine whether the killing was a racist crime before they send the case file to the public prosecutor.
 Greece offers three army officers for EU training mission in MaliGreece is prepared to send three army officers to the EU Training Mission in Mali, the Greek national defence ministry said in an announcement on Thursday, following a request made by the European Union.
"Greece is prepared to provide three officers of the Army to the EU Training Mission Mali, who will assist in the training of the forces of African countries participating in the mission," the announcement said.
 FinMin: Economy could overcome recession by end of yearBERLIN (AMNA/ F. Karaviti)
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras predicted that the Greek economy could possible overcome the recession by the end of the year and that 2014 could be the year in which the country's GDP will start steadily rising, in an interview appearing in Thursday's edition of the German financial newspaper Der Handelsblatt.
Stournaras also expressed hope that this year's primary surplus will not limit itself to the programme's predictions but that there will be a small further gain. He added that the first positive results are appearing, as bank deposits are on the rise again, the T-bill interest rates are falling, confidence is returning to the markets, there is big interest in the denationalizations, imports are increasing and competitiveness is being regained.
On the prospects of the eurozone, Stournaras underlined the need for economic integration and the creation of a real economic union while, to a relevant question, he did not rule out the issue of euro-bonds "at the end of this road".
He assured, however, that this did not mean that Greece will abandon the fiscal consolidation.
When congratulated by the newspaper editor for the achievement of a primary surplus, Stournaras said that the kudos belong to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, adding that all the ministers had a part in this achievement. "I could not have done it alone," he said.
To a comment that he had the most unenviable job in Greece, he quipped: "No, in the world".
 Greece raises another 375 mln euros from T-bill auctionGreek authorities on Thursday accepted non-competitive bids worth 375 million euros in a three-month Treasury bill issue auctioned on Tuesday, 15 January, increasing the total sum raised from the market to 2.0 billion euros.
The Public Debt Management Organization, in a statement, said that the settlement date was set for Friday, 18 January, while the interest rate of the issue was set at 4.07 pct, down from 4.11 pct in the previous auction of same securities in December 18, 2012. The asked sum was 1.75 times oversubscribed.
 Agricultural Minister Tsaftaris in Berlin for the International Green WeekAgricultural Development and Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris is to depart on Friday to attend the formal opening of the International Green Week in Berlin - an international trade fair for foods and farm products - following an invitation from Germany's Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Ilse Aigner.
The Greek pavilions, that will be visited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will feature products from the North Aegean Region and the municipality of Langadas near Thessaloniki, as well as, private companies active in the food sector.
Germany was the second largest importer of agricultural products in 2011, with 12.9 pct, after Italy (15.6 pct). Fruits and vegetables are the main exports to Germany, corresponding to 52.71 pct of Greek exports destined for the German market.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, Tsaftaris will attend the 5th Agricultural Ministers' Summit held with the participation of 83 countries.
 Taxpayers' new overdue debt rose to 13.2 billion euros in 2012Taxpayers' net new overdue debt to the Greek state rose significantly in 2012, totaling 13.2 billion euros. This added to an existing overdue debt of 43.5 billion euros from past years, finance ministry officials told AMNA.
The officials said that new overdue debt surpassed 1.0 billion euros in December, reflecting taxpayers' inability to meet their tax obligations.
 National Bank wins Global Finance awardNational Bank of Greece won the best bank in Greece in Trade Finance award for 2013 from the Global Finance magazine, the bank said in a statement.
The evaluation criteria for the award focused on the scope and completeness of the bank's services towards its customers and the bank's active participation in global- or regional-level developments. The award justified National Bank's strategy to focus on Trade Finance and particularly exports, a significant support for restoring the Greek economy.
 Sunday operation for stores is fully optional, Dev't Ministry sources say ???Stores will have the option of remaining open on Sunday on a voluntary basis, according to Ministry of Development sources on Thursday.
The ministry's position is that the measure under consideration will not only be fully voluntary, it will also allow stores "to be closed on Monday mornings, instead of Sundays, if they wish so."
In addition, shop operators who find that operation on Sundays is unprofitable can always return to the old system, the sources said, stressing that the new legislation simply allows those who want to work more to do so, freely.
Based on data and surveys from countries where the market operates in similar ways to Greece, the ministry believes the operation of stores on Sundays would result in prices being trimmed down, while there will be an increase in employment openings and higher turnover.
 Surprise visit by cruise ship to HeraklionA tourism breather in the heart of the winter for the market in Heraklion, Crete, was the surprise docking of the cruise ship "Queen Mary 2" at the city's port on Thursday.
The cruise ship with 2,500 passengers and a 1,000-member crew on board, had been originally scheduled to dock in Piraeus port but gusty winds prevented it from reaching Piraeus, and the ship's captain subsequently asked the Heraklion port authorities permission to dock in Heraklion until the winds subside.
Passengers and crew had the opportunity to visit the Cretan city's archaeological sites and its market.
 Cretan products well-placed to hit Middle Eastern marketsCretan products could easily will a place in the markets of the Middle East, as they are of an excellent quality and enjoy an international name. This message was conveyed by top officials from major supermarket chains from Kuwait and Lebanon, in the sidelines of a series of meetings held at the Chania Chamber with local business representatives.
"The products we saw," the foreign entrepreneurs said, "are excellent beyond our expectations and we are confident, as we had a first taste, that there will be certain agreements in our countries with Cretan exporters."
Meetings in Chania followed a similar series of meetings in Iraklio held recently within the framework of the Prefecture of Crete's targeted promotion of local products to foreign markets.
Products presented to interested foreign importers include olive oil, olives, rusks, honey, cheese and marmalades.
 International exhibitions DETROP, OENOS open in Thessaloniki in MarchThe international food and wine exhibitions DETROP and OENOS, respectively, will be hosted by exhibition organizer HELEXPO in Thessaloniki on March 7-10, it was announced on Thursday.
DETROP is a food, beverages, machinery and equipment exhibition and OENOS is wine exhibition and both are aimed at promoting the sectors' private companies in foreign markets.
 Horse DNA burgers not exported to Greece, food authority saysThe Greek market, unlike the Irish and UK markets, was not supplied with the frozen beef burgers containing horse DNA, the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) announced on Thursday.
According to EFET, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) published the findings of sample testing on Jan. 15 that traced horse DNA in meat burgers produced by two processing plants in Ireland, Silvercrest Foods and Liffey Meats, and by Dalepak Hambleton in the UK.
The horse DNA-tainted beef products were sold in Ireland and the UK by supermarket chains Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, and Dunnes Stores and Iceland.
EFET has contacted authorities in both countries and received confirmation that the products in question were not exported to Greece.
 Postbank staff to continue strike on Thursday, FridayThe TT Hellenic Postbank staff union on Thursday decided to continue strike action with two rolling 24-hour strikes on Thursday and Friday, with workers continuing a sit-in at the banks headquarters.
 Greek stocks end flat on ThursdayGreek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market rising 0.10 pct to end at 953.71 points, after rising as much as 0.89 pct and falling by 0.83 pct during the session. Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks such as OTE, PPC and Mytilineos. Turnover remained a moderate 45.586 million euros.
The Big Cap index eased 0.05 pct and the Mid Cap index rose 0.78 pct. The Telecoms (2.95 pct), Raw Materials (2.31 pct) and Utilities (2.16 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains, while Commerce (4.54 pct) and Constructions (3.31 pct) suffered losses.
Cyprus Bank (3.73 pct), Mytilineos (3.30 pct) and OTE (2.95 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (6.31 pct), Eurobank (5.08 pct) and Folli Follie (4.55 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 80 to 77 with another 24 issues unchanged. Logismos (29.35 pct), AAA (19.91 pct) and Technical Publications (19.83 pct) were top gainers, while Progressive (26.34 pct), Pegasus (19.93 pct) and Boutaris (18.70 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.69%
Personal & Household: -0.15%
Raw Materials: +2.31%
Travel & Leisure: +0.40%
Food & Beverages: +1.18%
Financial Services: -0.77%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, OPAP, Coca Cola 3E and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.28
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.69
HBC Coca Cola: 17.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.90
National Bank of Greece: 1.24
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.67
Bank of Piraeus: 0.30
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 9.89 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 10.18 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.50 pct and the German Bund 1.61 pct. Turnover was an improved 10 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. The 12-month rate was 0.57 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 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 1.73 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking to 9.514 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 1,650 contracts worth 2.707 million euros, with 35,241 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,999 contracts, worth 6.807 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (5,961), followed by National Bank (3,958), Piraeus Bank (1,730), Cyprus Bank (1,000), OTE (2,566), MIG (677), Mytilineos (769), GEK (586), Intralot (1,365), Ellaktor (302), Hellenic Petroleum (275), Sidenor (310) and Terna Energy (238).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.356
Pound sterling 0.846
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 8.772
Japanese yen 121.11
Swiss franc 1.264
Norwegian kroner 7.516
Canadian dollar 1.339
Australian dollar 1.288
 Fragments of antiquities to be restored to their original monuments in New Acropolis MuseumTwenty-seven fragments of antiquities will be moved from the storage are of the Old Acropolis Museum to the nearby New Acropolis Museum, after the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved an application by the new Museum for their concession.
The New Acropolis Museum plans to integrate the 27 objects with the monuments they belong to and are on display in the Museum's galleries, as part of an ambitious ongoing project to match fragments in storage at the old museum to the monuments they originally come from.
The objects include column capitals, marble bands, roof spouts, anthemions (marble flower-patterned ornamentation) and roofing tiles from antiquities already on display in the new Museum.
Most of the fragments have retained their original colors in spots, which the Museum believes may be used to enrich knowledge as to what their use was.
Several fragments that belonged to the Parthenon will be put on display in the western section of the Museum's second storey, together with the remnants of an earlier parthenon in the Gallery of Archaic Sculpture.
 Santorini caldera land belongs to public, Supreme Court saysLand bordering the caldera of Santorini (or Thera) island belong to the public, not to individuals, the Supreme Court decided on Thursday.
The court case involving the Aegean Island was initiated by a societe anonyme which had begun construction at less than 90 stremma (22.2 acres) from the sea and wanted to overturn a decision by the Appeals Court of the Aegean region.
Santorini's most renowned natural feature was formed when an underwater volcano blew up and sank part of the island in prehistoric times; it is the site of the island's main port.
The public defender said no private individual had a right to the area because it is a grassland, pasture, and precipice. Cycladic Island land that is forest, beach, pasture or of common use cannot belong to anyone except the state, the defence said.
Similar cases concerning other islands are pending.
 Foreign national stabbed to death, two suspects arrestedThe stabbing death of a 27-year-old Pakistani man in the early hours of Thursday morning may be the result of an argument over who had right of way, police revealed later the same day.
Two Greek men, a 29-year-old fireman serving at Markopoulos and a 25-year-old private employee, were arrested in connection with the incident that took place in the Athens district of Petralona at 3:20 a.m. on Thursday.
Questioned by police, the two suspects claimed that the argument began when the Pakistani man blocked their way with his bicycle while they were riding a scooter. In the ensuing argument, one of the two men stabbed the Pakistani man in the chest and killed him. The two suspects then fled on their scooter and were finally located by police in Syntagma Square, in the centre of Athens, based on a number plate given to police by a taxi driver who saw them flee the scene. At the time of their arrest they were found to be carrying two switchblades.
Investigating officers are still looking into the possibility that the killing was a racist crime before they send the case file to the public prosecutor, collecting witness accounts to clarify the details.
Colleagues of the fireman say that he had not previously displayed racist behaviour but he has been suspended from duty and will undergo an internal inquiry.
 Petralona residents hold protest march for migrant's slayingResidents of the Athens district of Petralona and anti-racism groups held a protest march on Thursday following the killing of a 27-year-old Pakistani national that took place in the district at dawn.
The rally was followed by a walk through the neighbourhood to disseminate information on the incident. Chanting anti-fascism slogans, participants walked to the location where the slaying took place and observed a minute of silence.
Two men, aged 25 and 29, have been arrested for the killing. According to reports, they were riding a motorcycle when they attacked and knifed the victim.
 Prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand diesANKARA (AMNA/A. Abatzis)
Prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand died in an Istanbul hospital on Thursday evening, aged 71. He began working for Milliyet daily in 1964 and had worked for Sabah, Posta, and Hurriyet newspapers. Birand had also been a presenter in the main news bullletin of the Kanal D television station over a number of years and authored several books.
 Crime of passion on LesvosA crime of passion was revealed late Wednesday on the island of Lesvos. The perpetrator of the crime is a 45 year-old businessman who strangled and afterwards buried his 40 year-old wife in the sand because he was jealous of her.
The victim's daughter from her first marriage had reported her disappearance to police on Wednesday noon.
The suspect confessed to police that he strangled his wife during an argument on Tuesday evening in their home in Mytilene. Afterwards he took the body and buried it in the sand in a wetland in Geras Bay, which was later recovered following the suspect's indication of the spot.
The businessman will be sent to a Mytilene prosecutor charged, with premeditated homicide in an extremely heinous manner.
 Athens Metro, electric railway and tram not running on FridayThe Athens Metro, the electric railway (ISAP) and the tram will not be running on Friday due to a 24-hour strike called by the employee unions, reacting to their inclusion under the public-sector-wide single salary scale.
Employees in the rail services declare that the government's insistence to include them in the single salary scale abolishes "the collective labour agreement in an illegal and violent way" and obliges them to begin mobilisations to defend their labour rights.
 Journalists in state media to hold 3-hour strike on FridayJournalists working in state mass media and the broader public sector are to hold a three-hour work stoppage from 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. on Friday, the Athens journalists' union ESHEA announced on Thursday. The strike will affect the state broadcaster ERT, AMNA, the general secretariat for information, the radio stations 'Athens 9.84', 'Kanali 1 90.4 FM' and 'Epikinonia FM' and the Parliament television channel.
The work stoppage will take place so that journalists can attend a meeting concerning the latest developments concerning labour relations and a plan for a Joint Ministerial Decision regulating pay issues for journalists in state media.
 Free flu shots for citizens without health insurance in IraklioThe 7th Health District of Crete will be offering free flu vaccines for those lacking health insurance at its Iraklio headquarters on Monday and Tuesday. The vaccinations will take place on the ground floor at the Citizens' Service Centre for Health and Social Solidarity Issues between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
Those wishing to receive the vaccine will be able to do so without any charge by presenting their police ID card. The measure was deemed necessary due to the increase in the number of people lacking health coverage.
 Free tutoring for schoolchildren offered by Kordelio-Evosmos municipalitySixty schoolchildren from financially challenged families are being offered free tutoring by educators teaching various courses within the framework of the Social Tutorial School programme, in Kordelio-Evosmos municipality in western Thessaloniki, it was announced on Thursday.
The goal is to offer schoolchildren a valuable tool, thus contributing to their education and academic progress, according to the responsible municipal authorities.
 Migrant trafficking ring dismantled with 14 arrestsPolice have dismantled an human trafficking ring, bringing illegal immigrants from Turkey to Greece and helping others leave Greece illegally to Italy and other European countries.
Following investigations lasting for months, and assisted by the Coast Guard, 14 people were arrested in the Attica prefecture and Rhodes, including the ringleader, while at least 14 more people are being sought in Turkey, Belgium and Germany through Interpol. A yacht and a speedboat used to transport them have been confiscated.
 Foreign nationals arrested for migrant smugglingThree Romanian nationals were arrested on Thursday after a police search revealed a total of 19 illegal migrants hidden in their truck.
Police stopped the truck at the Dikeon intersection, in the prefecture of Evros, northeast Greece, and arrested the two drivers in the cab, both Romanians, aged 41 and 60 respectively, after finding 19 illegal migrants hidden in their vehicle (6 Afghans, 6 Eritreans, 5 Syrians and 2 Iraqis).
A 37-year-old Romanian, driver of a leading car who acted as a scout, was also arrested.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 5-9 beaufort. Temperatures between 5C and 17C. Cloudy with showers in Athens with southerly 6-8 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 9C and 12C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Ballots of guilt".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Government uses all tricks to protect PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos from the ballots ordeal".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Transfers with bonus for 12,000 students".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Marked ballots".
ESTIA: "The Greece of creators will prevail over the destroyers".
ETHNOS: "Pensions of deceased still been collected from social insurance funds".
IMERISSIA: "5 billion euros in bank deposits returned to Greece in December".
KATHIMERINI: "Extreme clash ahead of the ballots".
LOGOS: "Massacre over the ballot".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "One of four loans in the 'red'."
RIZOSPASTIS: "Manipulation for the cover-up of 'Lagarde list' affair".
TA NEA: "Fake war with seven ballots in parliament".
VRADYNI: "New wave of cutbacks in pensions".
6 DAYS: "Three votes, seven ballots and a...funeral".
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