|Saturday, 17 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-03-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 11 March 2013 Issue No: 4307
 B2B conference opens Monday with speech by premierOver 500 Greek and foreign businesses have registered for the B2B networking event Europe 2020 Strategy for Growth: Promoting Business Partnerships in Greece, which opens at the Demokritos National Centre for Scientific Research in Aghia Paraskevi on Monday.
The event, organised by the Development Ministry, will be opened by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who will address the plenary session at 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
His address will be followed with speeches by Antonio Tajani, European Commission vice-president and Industry & Entrepreneurship Commissioner; Kostis Hatzidakis, development minister; Olga Kefalogianni, tourism minister; and Athanasios Tsaftaris, rural development ministry.
Hatzidakis and Tajani will give a joint press conference at 3:15 p.m. on Monday.
Tuesday's schedule will be devoted to B2B matching sessions. The day's opening address, at 9:30 a.m., will be delivered by Joanna Drake, the European Commission's SMEs & Entrepreneurship director (directorate general for enterprise and industry).
 'We will win the battle,' PM assures ND Political CommitteeLaunching preparations for the party's 9th Regular Conference in a few months time, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addressed ND's Political Committee on Saturday and expressed confidence that Greece will finally prevail, emerging from the crisis a winner.
"Today our homeland is fighting a battle, fighting a battle so that the country can overcome a crisis that is without precedent in recent decades. We are waging this fight with good omens. We will emerge from the crisis and give optimism and a smile to the young people," Samaras stressed.
Regarding ND's 9th Party Regular Conference, he said that this will "build Greece in the year 2020" and should be an "opening to society," and a chance to try out new forms of representation and new faces.
"The conference will not be a run-of-the-mill process. We will act unconventionally, we will go to all Greece, use the Internet, use new technologies, discuss thematic unities in all ways, discuss illegal migration, public safety. The conference will lead our thought and course," he added.
Carrying out an overview of what the three-party coalition government has achieved so far, the prime minister stressed that it had defied predictions of its rapid collapse, of Greece's inability to borrow funds and eventual exit from the Euro.
"We kept two fundamental pre-election pledges: we kept the country in the euro and managed to change the loan agreement, reducing the debt and obtaining an extension in the period of adjustment. We succeeded in getting the biggest restructuring of debt ever carried out. At the same time, we restored Greece's credibility abroad and strengthened unity at home," Samaras said.
The prime minister stressed that the months in the run-up to the conference must be a period of intense deliberation, in which the party must approach and listen to society, to which it was linked "by firm roots and strong traditions".
The prime minister also devoted a large part of his speech to criticising the main opposition party, 'Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA-EKM), for "insisting on past mistakes" and refusing to support the government's reform efforts. Among others, he accused SYRIZA-EKM of "turning away investors" and "making lawlessness their banner" but also of sending out mixed messages at home and abroad.
"We stand accused by those that at one moment want to tear up the memorandums, the next moment want to negotiate and still later to unilaterally abolish them. We are not dismayed by either their threats or their populism," Samaras said, stressing that the main opposition representing "the worst face of yesterday".
He emphasised that ND, along with the other two parties in the coalition government, "are holding up the weight of the country's recovery" while noting that Greece was now "out of intensive care but not out of the hospital".
"We have before us the wager of recovery and growth, we must relieve the lower classes and correct injustices. We first had to save the country from default and then to start supporting those that have the greatest need," he added, stressing that the current difficult situation would have been infinitely worse if the government had acted differently.
He also appeared confident that Greece would not be adversely affected by the election results in Italy, having secured its financing.
Referring to exploitation of Greece's Exclusive Economic Zone and the country's energy resources, Samaras noted that Greece needed Europe in order to achieve this, while Europe needed energy resources from Greece. He then referred to Europe's "democratic deficit" and said Greece would participate in talks for "more and better Europe".
Calling for unity, Samaras said that ND must now make one more leap forward and take the lead in setting the country back on its feet, adding that "a country is a precondition for democracy".
 SYRIZA-EKM slams Samaras speech to ND Political CommitteeResponding to the prime minister's speech to New Democracy's Political Committee earlier on Saturday, an announcement issued by main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left ' (SYRIZA-EKM) said that the "intolerant sermon given by Antonis Samaras can no longer convince anyone".
The party was scathing about the reasons given by the prime minister for ND's initial opposition of the bailout memorandum signed by Greece, saying it was not fitting for him to describe the first memorandum as "wrong medicine and then implement the third memorandum, increasing the dose of the same medicine".
"You cannot say that you care about the country and implement a policy that exterminates its people. You cannot talk about growth and fire people, taking measures that spread poverty right and left. You cannot speak in the name of democracy and daily undermine it with repressive tactics and civil-war-type divisive sermons," the announcement added.
 Samaras interview in 'Axia': 'Greece will get back on its feet'Prime Minister Antonis Samaras underlined his conviction that Greece will get back on its feet, in an interview published on Saturday by the newspaper "Axia" under the headline: "I will not back down".
Samaras stressed his determination to stand up against those seeking to frustrate the government's efforts and repeated that there was no stumbling block in talks with Greece's creditors.
"There is a discussion about certain things. But I would not call this a 'stumbling block'. Chiefly a discussion on how the agreements should be implemented. These matters are not hard for us to resolve because it is our intention to implement the reforms we have put our signature to," he told the newspaper.
The prime minister also appeared confident that Greece will reach and possibly even surpass the target for privatisations, saying that he expected binding offers to be finalised during the spring for two major state enterprises; the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA)/Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) on the one hand and the state betting agency OPAP on the other. These would be followed by others within the course of the year, such as Hellenic Petroleum, meaning that Greece would meet the target of raising two billion euros from privatisations in the current year and might even exceed this, he added.
Regarding the gold mine investments in Halkidiki peninsula, which have excited violent opposition within the local communities where they are proposed to take place, Samaras said that the government will go ahead with the plans as there were no "objections on either environmental or any other grounds". He noted that the government, for the first time, is preparing legislation that will give the state significant rights from an investment that had been prepared before the present government came to power.
 Cyprus President in exclusive interview to AMNA; debt crisis, energy and Cyprus issue to dominate Athens visitNICOSIA (AMNA - A. Viketos)
In the first exclusive interview he has granted since the day of his election, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades spoke to AMNA on Saturday, ahead of his arrival in Athens on Sunday for two days of talks with Greece's state and political leadership.
In the course of this interview, Cyprus' president emphasised his close personal friendship with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and said his talks in Greece would focus on the economic crisis, energy issues and, of course, the Cyprus problem.
"At this moment in time we need Greece's experiences in both negotiating and implementing the memorandum [agreements for bailout loans]. We, in turn, offer Greece our own experiences in issues where we are more advanced, such as in the area of hydrocarbons," he said.
At the same time, he said, the two governments will closely discussed ways of coordinating their action regarding the Cyprus issue, stressing that he did not subscribe to the view that a "non-solution of the Cyprus issue is a solution".
While noting his opposition to "artificial deadlines" in this process, especially when there were attempts to impose these, he also noted his awareness that simply allowing time to pass without result was harmful for the interests of the Greek-Cypriot side and simply entrenched the division of the island.
"In this sense, deadlines are created by the facts and we must be taken into account in our planning for solving the Cyprus issue," he added, while pointing out that the dangers were perhaps even greater for the Turkish-Cypriot side, which was threatened with extinction.
Regarding Cyprus' position on the system of guarantor powers, Anastasiades said this was an anachronism, which had failed to ensure the independence and sovereignty of the Cyprus Republic, and had to be replaced by a new model, though it was premature to say what form this would take.
The Cyprus president expressed his opposition to employing "extortionist dilemmas" in negotiations for the Cyprus issue, noting that the Greek-Cypriot side had not operated in this way in 2004 and would not do so at present over the issue of natural gas. He also underlined that Nicosia's willingness to participate in talks for a solution was "given" and that Cyprus would respond affirmatively if called by the UN Secretary General to attend a meeting with the Turkish-Cypriot leader.
He also announced that the process for submitting Cyprus' application to join the Partnership for Peace was already underway.
On the economic front and signs of capital flight from Cypriot banks of a fears of a 'haircut' for depositors, Anastasiades ruled out all possibility of such a haircut. Quelling such fears and ending such rumours was one of the reasons he gave wanting to sign the memorandum agreements, saying Nicosia aimed to be ready to sign the memorandum as soon as possible and wanted to implement this faithfully, in order to avoid the prospect of a second memorandum.
Questioned about his statement that cooperation with Greece on all levels "will once again be a foremost political priority," Anastasiades said that this would practically translate into continual contact between the two sides at all levels, starting with himself and Samaras and spreading downward.
 Cyprus President arrives in Athens to begin official visitCyprus President Nicos Anastasiades arrived in Athens on Sunday afternoon in order to carry out an official visit due to begin on Monday.
Anastasiades was met at Athens airport by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. Samaras is due to hold talks with the Cyprus president at his offices on Monday afternoon.
Issues expected to dominate the agenda for the meeting are the progress of talks on the Cyprus issue, while the Greek premier will brief Anastasiades on the results of his recent meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul a few days ago. Other key issues will include the economic crisis and the major problems that Cyprus is currently facing in this area.
Anastasiades will also meet President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis and the leaders of the other political parties.
 SYRIZA leader calls for elections, stresses that austerity 'can't work'Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras on Sunday urged Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to call early elections rather than resort to new measures to shore up a failing programme, stressing that austerity "can't work".
Speaking at an anti-Fascist event in the working-class west Athens district of Nikaia, the main opposition leader stressed that the current programme was doomed to fail and that the government will be forced to take more austerity measures that will lead the country into an ever-deepening humanitarian crisis. He urged Samaras to instead call elections and let people decide their future for themselves, indicating that elections were both inevitable and would have the character of a referendum.
Tsipras also appealed to all the political forces of the Left and their voters for joint action aiming at an electoral victory and the formation of a left-wing government of "social unity and national salvation" with SYRIZA at its core.
The main opposition leader was scathing in his attacks on the prime minister and the other parties in the coalition government, accusing Samaras of far-right policies and 'making de facto use' of the ultra-nationalists Golden Dawn. He also expressed acute concern about the way that the economic situation in Greece was unfolding, saying that either Greece "will finish with the memorandums or the memorandums will finish us".
Presenting his plans for the economic recovery of the country, Tsipras promised to raise the minimum wage and pensions to pre-Memorandum levels, saying that these measures were a necessary to kickstart the economy.
 Government reacts to Tsipras criticism, rejects call for electionsIn a strongly worded reply to criticism that 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras had earlier levelled against the government and prime minister , government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Sunday dismissed the main opposition leader's call for elections as "a fireworks display".
"Mr. Tsipras talks of the 'far-right' and extremes! He doesn't look within his own party where the extremists are having a party! And they are giving us lessons in moderation," he said.
"And Mr. Tsipras is also asking for elections. Why doesn't he ask whether the people want them? He clearly knows that they don't want them!" he added.
Kedikoglou said that SYRIZA's leader had nothing to say, no alternative solution to propose and was left with nothing else but the 'fireworks' of early elections.
On the issue of territorial rights and the Exclusive Economic Zone, the spokesman stressed that these were Greek but the necessary political support in order to exercise these would come from Europe.
"Tsipras wants Greece isolated and outside Europe so that it cannot demand its rights," he said, adding that neither Tsipras nor his party were in a position to give "lessons in foreign policy".
 Gov't policy the 'only option', PASOK leader tells 'Sunday Eleftherotypia'PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos has supported the government's policy for exiting the crisis as "the only option" in an interview due to appear in the newspaper "Sunday Eleftherotypia", stressing that there was no other "reliable alternative strategic choice".
At the same time, he noted that without ensuring social cohesion and without undertaking great and ambitious initiatives to tackle unemployment, the government will be unable "to transmit the messages that society is expecting in order to acquire the necessary sense of security and optimism."
Repeating his proposals for dealing with unemployment and over-indebted households, Venizelos stressed that the talks with Greece's creditors must be based on the common admission that the country can take no more austerity measures, either socially, financially or politically.
 DIM.AR leader Kouvelis positive on gov't performance in 'Proto Thema' interviewIn an interview printed by the newspaper "Proto Thema" on Sunday, in which he gave a positive overall assessment of the government's operation, Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis stressed his party's presence in the coalition government "had prevented measures and regulations that would have placed an even heavier burden on already heavily burdened citizens".
Kouvelis said that there will be a new haircut of Greek debt and did not rule out the possibility that this will be combined with a revival of demands to renegotiate the bailout memorandums.
Regarding public-sector workers, DIM.AR's leader appeared confident that Greece will be able to meet targets and align itself with standard practice among other EU member-states through the retirement of 150,000 public sector employees by the end of 2015, while having lower payroll costs than the EU average.
"Any policy of lay-offs is therefore unnecessary and will not yield any fiscal benefit," he said.
Commenting on PASOK's invitation to DIM.AR to run together in the next elections, Kouvelis said that his party wanted a restructuring of the area of democratic socialism but that this would not be achieved through a "top-down" approach and summit meetings.
"Our goal is to create the conditions for an alliance of broader forces of the democratic left, forces of social democracy and political ecology, that refuse the establishment policies and practices that led us to the crisis. This alliance will act jointly on social and political fronts, will be tested through interventions in the present transitional phase and will thus create a credible alternative solution and proposal for society," he said.
 Troika-gov't negotiations still 'open' on key issues, FinMin sourceAll fronts of negotiations between the government and the troika of lenders remain open, according to official sources speaking after a meeting Sunday between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and the representatives of the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
"Today we did not reach any conclusions; both sides are still evaluating actions," the Finance Ministry official said.
The source said that it was hoped negotiations would come to a conclusion before Prime Minister Antonis Samaras leaves for the European Summit meeting of heads of state, scheduled in Brussels on March 14 and 15. To that effect, the troika is scheduled to meet again with the Administrative Reform Ministry leadership on Monday over the reduction of staff in the public sector and the price of pharmaceuticals, both key issues in the schedule for the release of the next loan tranche to Greece of 2.8 billion euros.
Other issues that need to be resolved relate to the settlement of debts to the state and the unified tax on real estate, which has been collected through the Public Power Corporation (PPC) bills.
At the same time, the pressure is on the government to announce the new head of the Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF). The president of the agency, which oversees privatisations for the state, resigned on Saturday, along with the Finance Ministry secretary general, after being served criminal charges in connection with a case of alleged mismanagement involving the former board of the PPC in 2007.
 Labour ministry meeting with troika ends: deal closer, sources sayA meeting between representatives of the EC-ECB-IMF troika and the Greek labour ministry ended on Sunday without final agreement but with the two sides slowing inching closer to a deal, ministry officials said. The meeting was held to hammer out the details of debt settlement schemes that will allow the country'ss social insurance and pension funds to collect overdue debts.
Ministry sources reported "significant progress" at Sunday's meeting and a "convergence of views" on a number of points. They said that negotiations were proceeding step-by-step and appeared confident that a final agreement will be reached within the next few days.
The Greek side has proposed measures in line with established international practice that also take into account the true state of the Greek economy, the acute liquidity problems and allow the largest possible number of debtors to enter into a debt settlement arrangement.
Representatives of Greece's creditors, on the other hand, suggest a standard debt settlement arrangement with 18 installments and an emergency scheme of up to 36 installments. They also demand that steps are taken to ensure that those entering the debt settlement schemes can meet their obligations and that the funds will collect the money envisioned in the budget.
 Finmin confident concerning talks with troikaEmerging from a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Saturday, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras seemed confident of a good outcome in the government's negotiations with the EC-ECB-IMF troika representing Greece's creditors.
"There is a solution for everything," he told reporters in response to questions and emphasised the troika's "positive attitude".
He also fully agreed with the prime minister's statement ruling out further austerity measures and pointed to alternatives, such as reducing tax evasion or privatisations.
The meeting between Samaras and Stournaras was held to discuss the finance minister's meeting with the troika on Sunday and was briefly attended by Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos, in order to examine progress in the recapitalisation of banks.
According to sources, meanwhile, the prime minister is to meeting with troika officials at the start of next week.
 Greece will insist on its rights under international law, FM tells 'Sunday Kathimerini'Greece will insist on its rights under international law, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed in an interview with the "Sunday Kathimerini". In terms of the country's Exclusive Economic Zone, Athens will act on the basis of its plans and its strategy, in the framework of its territorial rights under international law, he said.
"No one should doubt our will and determination to defend [these rights]," he added, underlining that no one should make the mistake of underestimating Greece.
Avramopoulos warned Ankara to avoid surveys of the Greek continental shelf, stressing that exploratory talks on delineating the continental shelf from Evros to Kastellorizo must first be concluded.
The foreign minister called for solutions to the problems that exist through "honest diplomacy" and also referred to a law on the muftis, saying this was an important step for helping the Moslem minority through its greater integration in society.
 Deputy foreign minister Tsiaras wraps up visit to AustraliaMELBOURNE (AMNA - S. Hatzimanolis)
Deputy Foreign Minister for expatriate affairs Costantine Tsiaras wrapped up a visit to Australia on Sunday by attending a reception in his honour at the house of the Greek consul in Sydney.
In statements at the gathering, Tsiaras declared himself positively impressed "by the exceptional energy of Australia's Greeks" during his eight-day visit, which took in the Australian cities of Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, saying that it had given him an opportunity to "rekindle relations between the Greek state and Greek communities".
"Expatriate Greeks have an enviable presence in the social, scientific, economic and political affairs of Australia. Through their participation in public affairs, they have become potential ambassadors of our country and regulatory factors in the social, economic and political fields of the country," he said.
Tsiaras also referred to numerous meetings he had with Australian politicians, in which both sides had noted a desire for bilateral cooperation and agreements on a series of economic, educational and cultural issues.
Regarding the objections raised by many expatriates to new paperwork demanded of them by changes in Greek tax law, Tsiaras said that he had contacted Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on this issue and learned that a six-month extension will be given for submitting the tax certificates required from residents abroad.
He pledged that the government will soon table new and simpler legislation that will not create inconvenience for Greeks living abroad and that the Greek side will strive to sign an agreement with Australia for the avoidance of double taxation.
 Deputy Foreign Minister to Brussels for meetingsDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will be attending the EU's Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday. The agenda includes EU relations with Russia, Japan, Iraq and the Southern Neighbourhood (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria).
Later on the same day, Kourkoulas will be attending the EU's General Affairs Council meeting, which will focus on preparing for the European Council on Thursday and Friday.
 ND opens the way for return of expelled party membersFollowing a meeting of the New Democracy party's Executive Secretariat chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the party has announced that clearing a path for the return of expelled party members to its ranks.
In an announcement on Saturday, ND said that it had decided to "rescind the penalties imposed on party members for violating the charter during the exercise of trade unionist activity" and that these could rejoin the party lists if they so wished. The decision, sources said, concerns trade unionists such as Nikos Kioutsoukis and Thymios Lymberopoulos.
 Ministry gen. secretary, privatisations agency head resign over PPC chargesFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras has accepted the resignations of finance ministry general secretary Georgios Mergos and Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF) President Takis Athanasopoulos, both of whom face charges in connection with a case of alleged mismanagement involving the former board of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) in 2007. The two men offered their resignations on Saturday.
In a letter to Stournaras, Mergos said he had not participated in the board meeting where the decision referred to in the case was taken and, for this reason, there was no basis for the charges against him. He is to be replaced by Christina Papaconstantinou, who will also retain the post of general secretary for fiscal policy.
The minister issued a statement thanking both Mergos and Athanasopoulos for their contribution to the ministry.
Sources at the prime minister's office, meanwhile, said that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras immediately accepted the resignations of of the two men as soon as the charges against them became known.
Proposals for a replacement to head the HRADF are expected to be presented to Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee on Monday.
An Athens public prosecutor on Friday slapped criminal charges, aggravated by laws for those found guilty of public-sector embezzlement, on the entire former board of the PPC and the heads of the company METKA over an agreement signed in 2007, through which PPC allegedly incurred damages amounting to 100 million euros.
The charges concern a contract signed with METKA for the construction of a PPC plant in Aliveri and a natural gas pipeline needed to operate the plant. Based on the public prosecutor's findings, the PPC board had been aware at the time of signing that there were problems with obtaining a licence for the natgas pipeline and that the work could not be completed on time, leading to losses in revenue, premature payment and additional borrowing costs.
 Tsipras urges alliances at Levy Institute forumWith a call for a "social and political alliance that aims to build a new Greece," main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras used the two-day forum organised by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and the Athens Development and Governance Institute (ADGI-INERPOST) to signal the necessity of such alliances and his party's readiness to make them.
"Alliances are the foremost issue that concerns us," he told the forum on exiting the crisis that began in Athens on Saturday night. He stressed that this was the main factor that had boosted SYRIZA-EKM's percentage in the May elections but also the reason why the June result "was not what we wanted", due to the stance adopted by the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Seeking such alliances contained the threat that SYRIZA-EKM would be pressured to give up its radicalism and 'lose its soul', Tsipras noted, but ended by saying that "others must become radical, not we become conservatives".
Noting that the entire political system set up after the fall of the junta had become "rotten", the main opposition leader said that a "new social and political alliance must be established based on the need to build a new Greece".
He stressed that SYRIZA-EKM must show itself prepared to do what was necessary to achieve this goal and said the party's proposal "is renewed and directed, not just to the forces of the Left, but also to all the citizens and groupings that in June became afraid of a risk of exiting the euro and, finally, voted for one of the three government parties".
It was possible to put together an alliance of leftist, environmentalist and progressive forces, not on the basis of political 'arithmetic' or from the top down but on the basis of dialogue and an effort to overturn today's dead-end policies of austerity and recession, Greece's main opposition leader said.
According to Tsipras, the policies of the memorandum were incompatible with the concept of the political 'centre' and centre-left and there had to be an alliance of forces that would overturn this policy, in which SYRIZA-EKM could possibly act as the core.
In addition to dialogue for crafting alliances, Tsipras also urged specific goals and especially called for the prevention of privatisations, saying that the "toil of the Greek people must not be sold off".
 Independent Greeks leader opens party's 'pre-conference' with harsh attack on governmentIndependent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos on Saturday opened a "pre-conference" held by his party's Attica branch in Peristeri with harsh criticism of the government, which he called an "employee of the creditors that is handing over the country's national sovereignty".
Kammenos said that taxes were paying for people's wages and pensions, not money borrowed from the EU and the IMF, and that the economic crisis had been converted into a national crisis.
He pledged support for households struggling to meet mortgage payments and announced that his party was setting up a network of lawyers to provide legal advice to Greeks at risk of losing their homes. He also urged people to rise up and resist, saying that his party would work together with "the movements of the squares" and claiming that "a National liberation front is beginning, until the last collaborator leaves our country".
In his 20-minute speech, Kammenos demanded a 'haircut' for people's loans similar to that given to banks and urged the government to lower the cost of heating oil to one euro per litre. He also defined his party as belonging to the "centre" and the "democratic, patriotic axis".
 KKE's Papariga stresses party's opposition to proposed gold mine investmentsCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Saturday stressed her party's opposition to planned gold mining investments in northern Greece, underlining their serious environmental repercussions.
"We are radically opposed to this investment since, worldwide, the method of cyanide extraction of gold has direct and long-term repercussions on the health of residents, creates problems for the water table, destroys agricultural wealth and harms livestock breeding, fishing and tourism," she said while visiting the prefectures of Evros and Rodopi.
KKE's general secretary also stressed that the benefits for the state will be entirely dwarfed by the resulting damage, while the jobs created would be a "drop in the ocean of unemployment in Evros and all Greece".
"When we have 1.5 million unemployed, one cannot settle for jobs that undermine growth sectors of the prefecture," she pointed out, stressing that KKE rejected the dilemma 'growth or unemployment' presented by the government and called for growth "by the people and for the people" without external dependencies and with the abolition of joblessness.
Commenting on Thursday's statement by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou that the government was "re-examining" the proposed investment in Perama, Papariga accused the government of "playing for time" in order to crush the local opposition in Halkidiki and create delusions of victory in Evros. She called on people in both areas to join together in fighting the government's plans and resist attempts to disorientate them.
Earlier, Papariga met Alexandroupolis Mayor Evangelos Labakis and regional authority officials at the municipality's headquarters, as well as local groups opposing the gold mining projects. She also visited the villages of Komaros, Sapes and the town of Komotini.
 Information points to death of Greek abduction victim in Nigeria, foreign ministry saysThe Greek foreign ministry on Sunday announced that available information points to the death of a Greek citizen abducted by terrorists in Nigeria on February 16, saying that it had notified the family.
The Greek citizen was employed by the Lebanese company Setraco and was working in Bauchi, in northern Nigeria, when armed men attacked the compound housing the company's personnel and abducted seven people. A terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for the attack but did not subsequently communicate with authorities or express demands for the release of the hostages.
The ministry stressed that the Greek side at all times made it clear to all involved that its top priority was the protection and safety of the hostages.
"This defined our stance in every aspect of the handling of the case. Based on the information we have, no operation was mounted to free the hostages," a ministry announcement said.
"As soon as the Greek citizen's abduction became known, the foreign ministry's Crisis Management Unit was activated and coordinated with the other competent Greek Services, keeping the abductee's family apprised continuously.
To maintain contact and coordinate with the other countries involved, a team of specialized personnel was set up and carried out a number of meetings with the corresponding teams of the other countries.
The Greek Embassy in Nigeria was reinforced with high-ranking personnel, and the Embassy staff, diplomats and police officers, maintained contact with the Nigerian authorities and local Embassies, while Greece's Embassies in the involved countries were in contact with the corresponding Foreign Ministries," the ministry said.
Throughout this time, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos was in contact with his counterparts with the other countries involved, the ministry said, while he has communicated with the victim's mother and expressed his own and the state's grief and undivided support for her loss.
 Attempted suicide at work a labour accident, court rulesAttempted suicide resulting from constant and extreme pressure by an employer for longer hours constitutes a labour accident, according to the Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) of Greece.
The Court awarded a 50-year-old woman 60,000 euros for emotional distress and ruled that the notice of termination served by her employer was based on hatred and vengefulness, therefore it was illegal and an excessive measure.
The woman had been working since 1993 at a sausage factory in northern Greece at various capacities. In April 2008 she was asked to work additional hours and take on additional chores in other companies of the same group, which she rejected. She was constantly pressured to change her mind until June 2008, when she was asked again to do so, the pressure of which led to her cutting her veins at work. She was taken to hospital, given a two-month leave, and after returning to work was served termination papers in August 2008.
The court upheld an appeals court decision recognising the arduous and unusual tasks she faced. Regardless of whether the injury was self-inflicted, it was a labour accident, the court ruled, because it resulted from a sudden and violent event during the execution of her duties that would not have happened outside of her job and its execution under the specific circumstances.
 Greek military, security forces march in protest over pay cutsThousands of Greece's military and security forces personnel, both retired and in active service, joined a protest march to Parliament held to demonstrate against the cuts in their pay and pensions.
The march was held on Saturday and preceded by a rally at Klafthmonos Square, with participants including the association of Naval Academy graduates, the Iraklio retired officers' union, the Panhellenic Military Federation, the Attica prefecture retired officers union and other groups.
 Cyprus crisis the focus of late Sunday meetings at FinMinMinisters and bank officials held several consecutive meetings at the Finance Ministry Sunday night to discuss how to best support Cyprus at the upcoming meeting with the Eurogroup Thursday and Friday.
The meetings were held at the Finance Ministry among the Finance and Development Ministers Yannis Stournaras and Kostis Hatzidakis, Bank of Greece governor Giorgos Provopoulos and Cyprus Finance Minister Michalis Sarris, in Athens along with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades for an official visit on Monday.
According to its spokesman, in these meetings Cyprus is requesting Greece's help, initially at a political level, in order to formulate a common negotiating policy with Greece at the Eurogroup.
On Monday, Anastasiades will meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis and leaders of the other political parties.
Issues expected to dominate the agenda of the meeting with Samaras are the progress of talks on the Cyprus issue, while the Greek premier will brief Anastasiades on the results of his recent meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul a few days ago. Other key issues will include the economic crisis and the major problems that Cyprus is currently facing in this area.
 Titan considering HQ move abroad as future alternativeBERLIN (AMNA/F. Karaviti)
Cement producer Titan is reviewing the possibility of moving its headquarters abroad, as one of future options the company has to deal with the current crisis that has reduced demand to 1960s levels, according to its managing director Dimitrios Papalexopoulos in an interview to Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Papalexopoulos was quoted by Die Welt's Sunday edition as saying, "We are a company with a 110-year history in Greece, and this tradition brings great responsibility. But nobody knows whether the situation will stabilise long term or whether the crisis has passed. That is why we must be ready for any alternative."
He also told the paper that Titan was borrowing under very unfavourable terms and he described the high unemployment rate of young people - which has climbed to 60 pct - a "catastrophe for Greece" leading many to abandoning the country.
 Deputy FM visits Modern Greek department at Flinders University, AdelaideMELBOURNE (AMNA - S. Hatzimanolis)
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister for expatriate affairs Costas Tsiaras, currently in the city of Adelaide in southern Australia, on Saturday paid a visit to the Modern Greek Studies department at Flinders University.
The visit lasted about three hours, with the minister accompanied by a delegation from Greece and the Greek Ambassador in Canberra Haris Dafaranos, as well as the Greek General Consul in Adelaide Christos Maniakis-Grivas. He expressed support for the Greek studies programme at Flinders and satisfaction at initiatives to promote research and on-line teaching courses, pledging the Greek government's assistance to the department's initiatives.
The minister also visited the facilities of the Greek centre 'Logos' that was founding with assistance from the South Australian government and the Greek government following an agreement in 2010.
 Three-day Athens Academy event on Greek Language this weekendAn Athens Academy event on "The Greek Language: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" is taking over the weekend, under the auspices of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
The three-day event was launched at the Athens Academy on Friday, in the presence of Papoulias, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos and other leading political, military and cultural figures. It is organised by the Union of Greek Regions, the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece and the "Hellenic Linguistic Heritage" society, of which Papoulias was the first president.
Alongside the event, there will be an exhibition of rare books on the Greek language published between 1476 and 1900 from 'Georgios Dolianitis Library,' which was also inaugurated on Friday. Dolianitis was a former general secretary of the Hellenic Linguistic Heritage society.
The Athens Academy event is the latest in a series of activities organised by the society in efforts to raise awareness in about the importance of the Greek language and to promote its national and global significance.
 Protest in Thessaloniki over Halkidiki gold mines, educational reforms (ADDS)A protest rally and march was held on the square outside Thessaloniki's City Hall on Saturday by Halkidiki residents protesting against a planned gold mining investment in the peninsula's Skouries region. The protest was joined by residents of Thessaloniki, members of political and environmental organisations and movements that oppose the proposed gold mines and delegations of protestors from Kilkis and Thrace, two other areas where similar investments are proposed.
Meanwhile, a second protest rally made up of students, teachers and school pupils opposing the 'Athena' educational reform plan had gathered in front of the Eleftherios Venizelos statue in the city and later moved down Tsimiski Street in order to meet with the march against the gold mine investments at Agia Sofia Street.
The peaceful protest march ended in front of Thessaloniki's White Tower monument later on Saturday afternoon, where some protestors remained to hear speakers opposing the operation of the gold mines but without blocking traffic.
 Protesters rally at Syntagma against austerity and other issuesA rally at Syntagma Square to protest austerity measures and other issues ended on Sunday evening.
Protesters collected before the Parliament building in the afternoon, interrupting street traffic, holding balloons and placards, and chanting slogans against the memorandums, the Athena plan on higher education, and the goldmines on the northern peninsula of Halkidiki.
Police used teargas to disperse the protesters and arrested a young man outside the National Gardens,
 Seven escape from Feres jail in EvrosPolice mobilised throughout the northern Greek region of Thrace on Sunday, setting up road blocks in the early hours of the morning in order to recapture seven escaped prisoners that broke out of Feres jail in Evros.
The escape was discovered during a roll-call on Sunday morning, where seven inmates were found to be missing. A subsequent search revealed that bars had been cut, possibly using files, in a corridor leading to the exercise yard. From there, the missing inmates are presumed to have climbed over the wall and escaped.
Trade unionists for the police force have noted that the Feres jails are not a permanent prison facility but designed for the temporary holding and transfer of inmates, who should be serving their sentences at the Komotini prison. They also stressed that the police force has never officially accepted delivery of the specific facility.
The leadership of the Greek Police from northern Greece has now arrived on the scene while an extensive search is underway to recover the five fugitives, who face charges for criminal offences such as drug-dealing and migrant trafficking.
 Igoumenitsa port police intercept van containing guns and drugsThe Igoumenitsa port police drugs' squad on Saturday reported the discovery of an arms cache that included four Kalashnikov machineguns in a van going through the departure gate for international travel. Nine Bulgarian nationals and two Italian nationals were arrested in connection with the find.
The guns were discovered in the early hours of Saturday morning during a check carried out with the assistance of a specially trained police dog. Hidden inside the side panels of the vehicle were the four rifles, five silencers, five clips, 46 bullets and 1.4 kilos of hashish split up into packets.
Six of the suspects arrested were riding with the driver of the vehicle, while the remaining four were in a car that was following the van.
An investigation has been launched by the Igoumenitsa port police and the guns will be sent to the Greek Police ballistics lab for further investigation.
 Heavy rain causes flooding, extensive damage on SamosMore than 50 basements were flooded, while two cars and a container were swept out to sea, during heavy rain that descended on the island of Samos on Saturday. Damage was also reported to another 15 containers and fishing boats on the shore, as well as a large motorbike that was dragged away by the muddy floodwater and found several metres away from where it had been parked.
Local inhabitants said it was the heaviest rain seen on the island since 1998, when damage had been less extensive. Most of the problems are located around the town of Iraio, where the Samos Deputy Regional Authority Chief Themistoklis Papatheofanous earlier declared a state of emergency.
 Explosion at courier offices in PangratiA homemade bomb exploded at 10:20 p.m. on Sunday night at the Swift Mail courier offices on the corner of Efroniou and Astydamantos, in the Pangrati section of Athens.
According to preliminary reports, there were no injuries. The explosion damaged the office on the ground floor as well as broke windows in the apartment building across.
Police is investigating.
 Youths attack Acropolis police station with petrol bombsA gang of 15-20 young people armed with petrol bombs attacked the Acropolis police station on Leoharous Street about half an hour after midnight on Sunday.
The attackers came up on the station suddenly and threw seven petrol bombs into the entrance before running away down Kolokotroni Street. Police succeeded in putting out the flames, which damaged one police force motorbike and one privately-owned motorbike.
A search has been launched to find the perpetrators.
 Arson attack on Eurobank ATM in ThessalonikiAn Eurobank cashpoint machine (ATM) was attacked using two improvised incendiary devices in the early hours of Sunday morning in Thessaloniki. The attack occurred at 3:20 a.m. in the city centre and only one of the devices went off, police said.
 Super League resultsOlympiacos beat AEK 3-0 at home in a game played for the Super League on Sunday evening.
Standings after 25 weeks of play: 1. Olympiacos 66
2. Asteras 50
3. PAOK 49
4. Atromitos 41 (24 games)
5. Panathinaikos 35
6. PAS Yiannina 35
7. Xanthi 31
8. Levadiakos 29
9. Panionios 28 (24 games)
10. Platanias 27
12 Veria 27
13. Panthrakikos 26
15. Aris 25
16. Kerkyra 20
NOTE: Panathinaikos has had two points deducted.
 Overcast on MondayGenerally overcast with brief rain spells locally in western and northern Greece. Low visibility in early morning hours on the mainland. Southerly winds 3 to 5 Beaufort, reaching 7 in the Aegean Sea. Temperatures from 10C to 24C, lower in Macedonia and Thrace. In Athens, overcast. West-southwesterly winds 3 to 5 Beaufort. Temperatures from 10C to 22C. In Thessaloniki, overcast with local fog in the morning hours. Weak winds. Temperatures from 8C to 18C.
 The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceETHNOS: "The 1,301 civil servants that broke faith"
AVGHI: "Cracks in the strong-arm policy"
FREE SUNDAY: "They are losing control of the economy again"
KATHIMERINI: "Reducation of property transfer tax to boost real estate market".
KYRIAKATIKI DIMOKRATIA: "Ottoman-style land register on the way"
KYRIAKATIKI ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The 5-3-1 system for sharing the state".
KYRIAKATIKOS RIZOSPASTIS: "Strong people's Alliance, movement for the people to win".
LOGOS: "Scam with medicines is emptying the market"
NIKI TIS DIMOKRATIAS: "Loans: nine super solutions for the super haircut"
TO VIMA: "Country motionless. Households and businesses issuing SOS"
TYPOS: "State of emergency programme for 400,000 unemployed".
PROTO THEMA: "Big-time contractors were setting up the projects with politicians".
TO ARTHRO: "Credibility finished?".
PARASKINIO: "Did they 'whack' Christodoulos?".
TO PARON: "Pushing toward an eruption. Ruthless, the troika has forbidden numerous installments for IKA and tax debts".
REAL NEWS: "No more poison".
VRADYNI ON SUNDAY: "Minimum wage, all the changes"
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