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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-03-14

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 14 March 2013 Issue No: 4310

CONTENTS

  • [01] FinMin Stournaras speaks of progress in talks with troika
  • [02] SYRIZA: Negotiations with troika lack substance
  • [03] PM has brief meeting with admin. reform minister
  • [04] ADEDY rallies against layoffs in public sector
  • [05] PM: If given room, violence will demolish society
  • [06] Protest march against staff cuts in state culture services; riot police called in
  • [07] SYRIZA on PM's address
  • [08] KKE party on PM's address
  • [09] FM: Government will safeguard Greece's sovereign rights
  • [10] Greek ministers to attend Brussels meeting on unemployment
  • [11] Gov't condemns SYRIZA's 'lukewarm' condemnation of arson attacks in Thessaloniki
  • [12] Tsipras starts three-day London visit on Thursday
  • [13] Independent Greek leader Panos Kammenos visits Ierissos
  • [14] Thessaloniki mayor, council denounce arson at offices
  • [15] Jewish community in Greece calls for the removal of ministerial adviser
  • [16] Macedonia-Thrace Minister receives British ambassador
  • [17] President Papoulias holds meeting with Central Macedonia Regional Governor
  • [18] Parliament ratifies Protocol of Cooperation between Greek, Ukrainian Justice Ministries
  • [19] Eurodeputy faints at Parliament voting session (ADDS)
  • [20] Parliament strips immunity of MPs Kassidiaris, Tamilos
  • [21] Greek FinMin dismisses press reports on bank recapitalization timetable
  • [22] Fairfax Holdings interested in National Bank's recapitalization process
  • [23] Eurobank says country needs troika's positive assessment
  • [24] Greece gives 10 day extension in tender for Mikro Kavouri peninsula
  • [25] Albania approves trilateral TAP natural gas agreement
  • [26] Prefectures union head meets with FinMin over fiscal issues
  • [27] Entrepreneurship forum by AHCC and Agricultural University of Athens
  • [28] Tourism Minister Kefaloyianni visits the city of Sendai in Japan
  • [29] Greek embassy in Vienna hosts event promoting Greek islands
  • [30] European Commission initiative to improve marine activity planning
  • [31] Motor Trades turnover slumps 19.5pct in Q4 2012 yr/yr
  • [32] Wholesale turnover down 5pct in Q4 2012
  • [33] Electricity consumption down 12 pct in Feb
  • [34] Greek stocks jump 3.39 pct on Wednesday
  • [35] Greek bond market closing report
  • [36] ADEX closing report
  • [37] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [38] Acropolis Museum events to celebrate Independence Day
  • [39] Visitors up, revenues down in museums and archaeological sites in Nov. 2012
  • [40] Exhibition on architectural competition 'Rethink Athens' at Syntagma metro station
  • [41] KIS honors three Greeks as 'Righteous among the Nations'
  • [42] Peloponnese promoted at special event in Helsinki
  • [43] Army bomb disposal expert killed in explosion
  • [44] Army veterans protest in Thessaloniki against wage, pension cuts
  • [45] Large quantity of contraband cigarettes seized
  • [46] Quantities of narcotic substances found in inmate's cell at Corfu prison
  • [47] Rainy on Thursday
  • [48] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] FinMin Stournaras speaks of progress in talks with troika

    The Greek government is very close to a deal with the troika of the country's international lenders (EC-ECB-IMF), Finance minister Yannis Stournaras said after the end of a meeting late Wednesday evening between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, himself and the heads of the troika.

    Stournaras said the troika officials are to leave Athens but would come back in a few days to continue talks.

    The finance minister added that significant progress has been achieved on all issues on the negotiating table, with only some technical matters still being open.

    Replying to a question as to whether latest development would affect the disbursement of the bailout loan's March 2.8-billion-euro tranche, Stournaras appeared certain that Greece "will get the money," adding that discussions will continue to achieve a final agreement.

    Stournaras's earlier statements

    "Some [of the outstanding issues] might possibly be settled today", Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters on Wednesday, replying to questions after a lengthy meeting with the heads of the EC-ECB-IMF troika held at the finance ministry. Talks between the Greek government and troika were continuing, he added.

    The meeting lasted 2.5 hours and was also attended by Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Deputy Finance Minister George Mavraganis, the general secretary for public revenue Haris Theoharis and the prime minister's advisor Stavros Papastavrou.

    Stournaras made the statement shortly before setting off for the offices of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the Maximos Mansion, where meeting will take place between the troika representatives and prime minister.

    Gov't spokesman: Our red line is the national interest

    "Our red line is the national interest," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Wednesday, speaking to private TV station ANTENNA.

    Kedikoglou stressed that setting red lines is not a correct negotiations tactic for specific issues.

    Referring to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' meeting with the heads of the troika, he noted that it is not a meeting between equal partners because the troika heads are representatives of Greece's lenders "I clarify that neither Poul Thomsen (IMF mission chief to the Troika) is the one who decides about everything nor the other two members of the troika. They are only messengers, however their report they prepare and send to our lenders is important, if we want to call things by their name".

    [02] SYRIZA: Negotiations with troika lack substance

    Main opposition SYRIZA on Wednesday sternly accused the government that it attempts to persuade the Greek people that it is negotiating with the Troika when in reality it only seeks a new public relations formula for the measures, which have already been decided measures.

    Furthermore, in an announcement, SYRIZA said "once again the infamous 'complications' that have arisen in the talks with the troika are only over how the memorandum's measures will be implemented, and not because of disagreements over the programme".

    "Unfortunately, the reality belies the government triumphantly. The commitment to the implementation of the programme, in detail, and the ratified third memorandum is the government's compass that proceeds without hesitation to the implementation of a disastrous austerity programme that has already left 1.5 million people jobless and 500,000 households without any income".

    SYRIZA reiterated its position that a necessary prerequisite for the country's exit from the crisis with society standing, is the reversal of the memorandum's austerity policy and a new strategy for Greece and for Europe with the main axis being the support of development, employment and the social state, as well as redistribution of the wealth and the social justice.

    [03] PM has brief meeting with admin. reform minister

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday had a brief meeting with Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, ahead of the premier's meeting with the heads of the EC-ECB-IMF troika representing Greece's creditors on Wednesday evening.

    Manitakis presented the prime minister with a detailed outline of the staff suspension-transfer programmes and the ministry's plans for restructuring the public sector in accordance with the commitments made by Greece under the medium-term adjustment programme with its creditors.

    Sources said that Manitakis also held a brief discussion with the premier on downsizing ministries and the merger, abolition and unification of public sector services and agencies, as well as on achieving targets set by the troika.

    [04] ADEDY rallies against layoffs in public sector

    The executive committee of Greece's umbrella union for civil servants, ADEDY, held a rally in Klafthmonos Square in central Athens on Wednesday afternoon against privatisations and possible layoffs in the public sector.

    "We want to send a double message," said ADEDY Secretary General Ilias Iliopoulos, "to the troika, to provide data on the percentage occupied by the public sector in all of the eurozone's countries from which it will appear the the Greek public sector is not one of the largest in Europe; and to the government, to publicise the number of civil servants, from which it will appear that the payroll of employees required to cover the needs of Greek society does not exceed 8 billion euros."

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Thessaloniki deputy Yiannis Amanatidis attended the rally and expressed his solidarity.

    [05] PM: If given room, violence will demolish society

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras expressed optimism that Greece will exit the crisis, speaking at an event on dealing with violence organised on Wednesday by his New Democracy party's (ND) youth organisation ONNED at the New Acropolis Museum, with the participation of center-right youth organisations from all over the world.

    "Be sure that Greece will succeed, it will emerge victorious from the battle," Samaras said, adding that no country is condemned if it does not succumb to its fate.

    The premier acknowledged that Greece is going through difficult hours, but stressed that the government and society are determined not to succumb "to those who wanted us finished".

    As for phenomena of violence, Samaras called for their condemnation, warning that in the opposite case "if we give it (violence) room, it will demolish the society".

    "We are not afraid of clashing with those who champion violence, because if we do our job well the extremists will have no reason for existence," Samaras stressed, and opined: "The Left meets anarchy, with populism serving as their link. The extreme right poisons the public, and the two extremes feed each other and poison society."

    In the context of its "Violence has no Color" initiative, ONNED is organising the event, titled International Conference of Youth against Violence of the Extremes, under the auspices of the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) and attended by 13 representatives of youth organisations from all over the world, including Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Colombia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Libya, Serbia, Slovakia, Norway, Taiwan, Tunisia and Finland, aiming at underlining the impasses of violence at all levels and also to send a universal message against extremism.

    A Joint Proclamation Against Violence will be signed at the end of the conference in an effort to underline the young people's faith in the role of the authorities and policy of tolerance and rationalisation, rejecting all forms of intolerance.

    [06] Protest march against staff cuts in state culture services; riot police called in

    Riot police were called in on Wednesday to prevent a protest march by civil servants in state services for culture from reaching the Acropolis Museum, where Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was addressing a New Democracy youth party event against political violence. The march was held to protest against staff cuts and to demand a return to an autonomous culture ministry, which is now merged as a sub-department with the ministry of education.

    The protestors were stopped by MAT riot police at the corner of Fillelinon and Amalias streets, who blocked traffic on those roads. They were finally allowed to go through to the Acropolis Museum at around 2:00 p.m. after the prime minister had left.

    Following the march, the former culture ministry staff decided on a series of labour mobilisations to press their demands, including their participation in a rally by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY and to join a strike on Thursday by archaeologists and non-civil servants employed in the public sector, joining a rally outside the central headquarters of the culture services building on Bouboulina Street.

    [07] SYRIZA on PM's address

    The Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), in an announcement, criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for his address on Wednesday at the "International Youth Conference against the violence of the extremes", stressing that "the strategy of tension and the civil war dissension does not only show the slipping of the government and of New Democracy to far-right positions, but openly undermines democracy and rights, and as such it must find against it all the progressive citizens".

    [08] KKE party on PM's address

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's address, at an event on dealing with violence organised on Wednesday by his New Democracy party's (ND) youth organisation ONNED at the New Acropolis Museum, with the participation of center-right youth organisations from all over the world.

    "The prime minister's address on extremes constitutes a vulgar propaganda effort to conceal the reactionary theory of 'law and order', authoritarianism and state repression against the people, the working people, farmers and the self-employed who are struggling for their survival in conditions of crisis," the KKE said in an announcement.

    The announcement added that "it is also known to all that the popular movement has nothing to do and is opposed to fascist demagoguery and the racist attacks of the, according to the prime minister, so-called 'far-right'. The people united must confront state repression and the authoritarianism of the government and the employers".

    [09] FM: Government will safeguard Greece's sovereign rights

    The Greek government will safeguard all of the country's sovereign rights as these derive from international law, the Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday night, following a note verbale submitted by Turkey to the UN in which Ankara disputes the Greek islands' right to a continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

    The Foreign Ministry announcement reads as follows:

    "The Foreign Ministry has been notified with regard to the verbal note Turkey sent to the United Nations in response to the Greek verbal note of 20 February 2013.

    Turkish verbal note, as expected, reiterates Ankara's well known views, and rebuts the Greek positions set out in the text sent to the UN Secretary General

    It challenges the right of the Greek islands to a continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, in violation of article 121 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is in accordance with international jurisprudence and customary international law, and thus necessarily binding for all countries in the international community.

    The Greek government, as in its recent efforts, will continue to safeguard all of the country's sovereign rights deriving from international law."

    Meanwhile, Turkey's verbal note will be published in the UN's online "Law of the Sea Bulletin", following publication of Greece's verbal note submitted to the UN on 20 February.

    A diplomatic source told AMNA that this is the usual practice followed regarding countries with opposing positions on the Law of the Sea.

    [10] Greek ministers to attend Brussels meeting on unemployment

    A tripartite meeting will be held in Brussels on Wednesday focusing on the acute problem of youth unemployment in Europe.

    The meeting will be attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and representatives of the three countries that will hold the rotating EU Presidency in the next 18 months (Ireland, Lithuania, Greece), as well as representatives of European trade unions. Greece will be represented by Labour Minister Ioannis Vroutsis and Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas.

    Greece's employers are to be represented by the head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) Dimitris Daskalopoulos, who is expected to argue that "policies of one-sided and extended austerity" will not help solve problems of competitiveness in the European south nor save European social welfare systems but instead act to undermine social cohesion.

    The meeting will take place just hours before an EU Summit meeting. Social partners will brief Barroso and Rompuy on the problem and suggest measures against the widespread EU problem of unemployment. The social dimension of the problem will dominate the first part of the EU Summit to be launched on Thursday afternoon. The proceedings will be completed on Friday at noon with the participation of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

    "We want more funds and more initiatives, not only from the Social Fund but from other structural funds as well, to deal with the problems of unemployment and poverty," Kourkoulas told AMNA.

    The promotion of e-governance, part of which is the unification of the banking system, will also be discussed in Thursday's European Council meeting. "The Greek side seeks its implementation within the agreed time framework, guaranteeing bank deposits Europe-wide and ensuring beneficial consequences for economic growth," the deputy foreign minister said.

    Friday's EU Summit meeting will focus on the strategic EU-Russia relation and prospects for a new bilateral agreement.

    Greece believes that there is room for improvement in EU relations with Russia. On visa issuance in particular, Greece is in favour of facilitating visa issuance procedures for Russian tourists and businessmen visiting the country. The Greek side wants closer political cooperation with Russia on regional and international issues for mutual benefit.

    [11] Gov't condemns SYRIZA's 'lukewarm' condemnation of arson attacks in Thessaloniki

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday criticised an announcement issued by the main opposition party 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) concerning the arsonist attacks on the offices of New Democracy party members in Thessaloniki, saying it was not sufficiently unequivocal in its condemnation.

    "SYRIZA finds it very difficult to outrightly condemn criminal-murderous attempts against workers. For shame," Kedikoglou said.

    In its announcement, SYRIZA-EKM said that the attacks on the offices of ND MPs in Thessaloniki "are absolutely unrelated to the political struggle against the memorandum and its proponents and find us opposed. At the same time, they cannot be used as an alibi for continuing the strategy of tension by a government determined to restrict democratic rights for the sake of implementing the memorandum."

    [12] Tsipras starts three-day London visit on Thursday

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras begins a three-day visit to London on Thursday during which he will meet with deputies and officials of the shadow government of the Labour Party and address the Greek Observatory of the London School of Economics (LSE) on the Greek crisis and exiting from it.

    [13] Independent Greek leader Panos Kammenos visits Ierissos

    The goldmine investment in Skouries, in Halkidiki peninsula, northern Greece, constitutes an "economic and environmental crime," opposition Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos said during his visit in the town of Ierissos, Halkidiki on Wednesday.

    Kammenos addressed a meeting of locals and assured them that his party will be on their side and will not allow this crime to be committed.

    "They will not turn our country into a graveyard," Kammenos said and lashed out at former environment minister George Papaconstantinou for approving the project.

    [14] Thessaloniki mayor, council denounce arson at offices

    Thessaloniki's municipal council condemned the arsonist attacks of three New Democracy politicians late on Tuesday night as "illegal acts that endanger human lives and undermine public interest in the worst way possible."

    Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and town councilman Panagiotis Avramopoulos expressed the council's support of the three deputies and their colleagues and called for the strengthening of democratic principles to face the repercussions of the gradual economic and social crisis.

    Nobody was hurt but damage were caused to the political offices of Alternate Environment Minister Stavros Kalafatis and New Democracy party deputies Costas Gioulekas and George Orfanos.

    [15] Jewish community in Greece calls for the removal of ministerial adviser

    The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) on Wednesday called for the "immediate removal" of Ioannis Kotoulas from his post as an interior ministry adviser on citizenship issues. His removal has also been requested by the Thessaloniki Jewish Community.

    "The positions of the ministerial adviser expressed in his 'revisionary' books on Hitler and the attempted shameless justification of Hitler's concentration camps, the bombardment of Greek cities by Luftwaffe and Nazi policy, insult the memory of the victims of the German Occupation and Holocaust," a KIS statement underlined.

    [16] Macedonia-Thrace Minister receives British ambassador

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou received on Wednesday the British ambassador to Greece John Kittmer, with whom he discussed issues of common interest.

    The talks focused on the bilateral cooperation in commerce and economy and the exceptional relations between the two countries was underlined, while the desire of the two sides for closer cooperation was also expressed.

    The tourism sector was touched on, particularly the potential for increasing the tourist flow from Britain to northern Greece as well as enhancing bilateral trade, given that Britain is Greece's fourth commercial partner in exports of agriculture products.

    After the meeting Karaoglou said: "With Mr. Kittmer we agreed that there is room to further improve our mutual and profitable cooperation, with more investments and joint ventures."

    On his part, Kittmer thanked the minister for his hospitality. In the afternoon the British envoy will visit the Macedonian Struggle Museum, where he will be given a tour of the historic exhibition on the British presence in Greece.

    [17] President Papoulias holds meeting with Central Macedonia Regional Governor

    Central Macedonia Regional Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas met in Athens on Wednesday with President Karolos Papoulias.

    The focus of the meeting were the efforts of the Province to absorb funds from the Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA), as well as intervention issues in the sector of social policy to relieve groups of the population suffering from the economic crisis. Tzitzikostas also had contacts with government officials and ESPA agencies.

    [18] Parliament ratifies Protocol of Cooperation between Greek, Ukrainian Justice Ministries

    The Greek parliament plenary on Wednesday ratified a Protocol of Cooperation between the Justice Ministries of Greece and the Ukraine, with the MPs of the three parties supporting the coalition government -- New Democracy (ND), PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR) -- and the Independent Greeks voting in favor.

    Main opposition SYRIZA, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) MPs voted against.

    [19] Eurodeputy faints at Parliament voting session (ADDS)

    New Democracy Eurodeputy and European Parliament vice-president Giorgos Papastamkos fainted during a voting session on Wednesday.

    Papastamkos, 58, was presiding over the vote when he interrupted the session at 2:30 p.m. local time "for personal reasons". He then got up, walked away from his seat and fainted. He was given medical assistance.

    Later reports said Papastamkos was admitted to a Strasbourg hospital where he remains in a serious condition.

    [20] Parliament strips immunity of MPs Kassidiaris, Tamilos

    The parliament plenary on Wednesday voted in favor of stripping the parliamentary immunity of ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) MP Elias Kassidiaris and New Democracy (ND) MP Michalis Tamilos.

    This will result in both of them appearing before a regular court, Kassidiaris on charges of attacking (punching) Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Liana Kanelli during a live television programme in June 2012 and Tamilos on charges relating to non-payment of insurance contributions for Trikala local council employees during his term as the town's mayor.

    Financial News

    [21] Greek FinMin dismisses press reports on bank recapitalization timetable

    Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday reiterated that a recapitalization process for Greek banks was progressing under an existing legal framework.

    The Finance minister with his comment dismissed recent press reports presenting various scenarios over a possible further extension of deadlines in a timetable to recapitalize Greek banks and possible consequences on a wave of merger and acquisitions between financial institutions, currently underway.

    Stournaras told Parliament recently that a bank recapitalization plan must be completed soon after the end of April.

    [22] Fairfax Holdings interested in National Bank's recapitalization process

    The National Bank on Wednesday confirmed that Fairfax Holdings, a Canadian holdings company, was interested in participating in the bank's forthcoming share capital increase plan.

    In a statement, following a question by the Capital Market Commission, the National Bank said that in the framework of a recapitalization process of all Greek systemic banks it was examining alternative possibilities.

    Fairfax Holdings has expressed interest in participation in the recapitalization process of the expanded National Bank Group, the statement noted.

    Fairfax Holdings was founded in 1985 and is based in Toronto, Canada. Its activities aim at acquiring equity participation in companies seeking high returns and building long-term relations.

    National Bank is currently in an operational merger process with Eurobank.

    [23] Eurobank says country needs troika's positive assessment

    A positive assessment by the EC-ECB-IMF troika is a "one-way road" for the government and the country and a necessary precondition for improving the country's credibility abroad, Eurobank analysts said on Wednesday. In a weekly bulletin, the bank's analysts said that any effort to postpone unpleasant but necessary decisions will not improve the situation but necessarily lead to additional measures in the future.

    The report noted that a positive assessment by the troika will allow the disbursement of a loan tranche worth 8.8 billion euros by the end of April. Eurobank said that figures released by the government over the January-February period confirmed that budget revenues were lagging behind targets, while unemployment remained the highest in the European Union for the fourth consecutive month.

    [24] Greece gives 10 day extension in tender for Mikro Kavouri peninsula

    Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on Wednesday announced a 10-day extension to a deadline for submitting interest in a first stage of a tender for the "Mikro Kavouri" peninsula in Vouliagmeni, Attica, due to increased interest expressed by Greek and international investors.

    The new deadline will be March 29, instead of March 19 initially planned. National Bank, in cooperation with the Fund has launched an international tender to find an investor with the aim to jointly exploit the bank's and the fund's assets in the peninsula, which include Astir Palace Vouliagmeni Hotel complex.

    [25] Albania approves trilateral TAP natural gas agreement

    The Albanian government approved the trilateral intergovernmental agreement on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) natural gas project - involving Greece, Albania and Italy - during a meeting in Tirana Wedneday.

    In his statements, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said that the project will strengthen cooperation among the three countries on a new level and will affect significantly the development of Albania's economy. It is one of the largest planned projects in Albania, he said, and reiterated that it carries strategic significance for the economic development of the three countries, the region and Europe in general.

    [26] Prefectures union head meets with FinMin over fiscal issues

    Attica prefecture director and president of the union of all prefectures of Greece Yiannis Sgouros met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday to discuss fiscal issues.

    Following the meeting Sgouros said "we can cooperate on issues such as developing the real estate assets of regions, and on rationalising the prefectures' operational costs."

    He also said that there would be another meeting at the Finance Ministry which all regional prefects would attend to discuss issues in depth.

    [27] Entrepreneurship forum by AHCC and Agricultural University of Athens

    Issues like intellectual property, the importance of proper mentoring, financial resources, the importance of incubation, problems and best practices adopted in the domestic and international labour market, dominated in the 2nd Make Innovation Work (MIW) Forum held at the amphitheater of the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA).

    University professors, business executives, entrepreneurs and labour market representatives focused on the initial stage of the conception of a business idea, drawing up a business plan and implementing it.

    The forum was held on Tuesday at the initiative of American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AHCC) in cooperation AUA.

    [28] Tourism Minister Kefaloyianni visits the city of Sendai in Japan

    Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, who is on a formal visit to Japan, met on Wednesday with Sendai Mayor Emiko

    Okuyama and was briefed on the efforts made to rebuild the region destroyed by a devastating earthquake that hit the northeast coasts of the country two years ago.

    Kefalogianni presented the Sendai mayor with two drawings made by schoolchildren in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and expressed support to the victims' families and also, her admiration for the Japanese people and the efforts they make to overcome the catastrophic consequences of the earthquake.

    After touring the city, Kefaloyianni noted that she "understands the pain and agony of the people," adding that "often problems and difficulties of daily life make people stronger".

    "The Greek people can understand the problems of the people of Sendai and the greater region because they too are tested socially and financially as a result of the recession plaguing Greece. We do not stop, we look toward the future and move ahead," Kefalogianni said.

    Kefalogianni is visiting Japan to promote tourism sector investments in Greece.

    [29] Greek embassy in Vienna hosts event promoting Greek islands

    VIENNA (AMNA - D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The Greek Ambassador in Vienna Themistoklis Dimidis on Wednesday addressed an event to promote tourism on the Aegean islands of Sifnos, Milos, Paros and Ios, held at the historic building of the Greek embassy in the city. The event on the four islands of the Cyclades group was organised by the Greek National Tourism Organisation's office in Austria.

    The ambassador praised the exceptional natural beauty of the islands and stressed the importance of promoting Greek tourism as a way of boosting the Greek economy and overcoming the crisis.

    Roughly half a million Austrians visit Greece each year, placing the small country of 8.4 million inhabitants at the top of the world list for tourist arrivals in Greece relative to its population.

    [30] European Commission initiative to improve marine activity planning

    BRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission, following an initiative by Greek Commissioner Maria Damanaki, on Wednesday tabled a proposal on improving the planning of marine activities and the management of Europe's coastal regions.

    The proposal, in the form of a draft directive, aims at the enactment of a joint European framework on marine planning and the integrated management of coastal regions in the European Union's member-states, with the purpose of "ensuring that the increase in marine and coastal activities and the use of resources in the sea and the coasts remains sustainable".

    Commissioner Maria Damanaki, responsible for marine affairs and fisheries, said about the issue that "today we are proposing a new step towards the European Union's integrated marine policy and we are offering a new tool...The initiative will facilitate sustainable growth and investments in the sea."

    Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said that "the specific initiative will contribute to a healthy environment and better living conditions for the EU's 200 million citizens living in coastal regions".

    [31] Motor Trades turnover slumps 19.5pct in Q4 2012 yr/yr

    Turnover in the Motor Trades sector slumped by 19.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the same period in 2011, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    ELSTAT, in a report, said that the Turnover Index for Motor Trades (division 45) in the 4th quarter 2012 compared with the 4th quarter 2011 decreased by 19.5%. The index in the 4th quarter 2011 compared with the 4th quarter 2010 decreased by 16.2%.

    The Turnover Index for Motor Trades (division 45) in the 4th quarter 2012 compared with the 3rd quarter 2012 decreased by 0.5%. The index in the 4th quarter 2011 compared with the 3rd quarter 2011 decreased by 10.3%.

    The Turnover Index for Sale of Motor Vehicles (group 451) in the 4th quarter 2012 compared with the 4th quarter 2011 decreased by 28.8%. The index in the 4th quarter 2011 compared with the 4th quarter 2010 decreased by 12.0%.

    The Turnover Index for Sale of Motor Vehicles (group 451) in the 4th quarter 2012 compared with the 3rd quarter 2012 increased by 0.7%. The index in the 4th quarter 2011 compared with the 3rd quarter 2011 decreased by 4.4%.

    [32] Wholesale turnover down 5pct in Q4 2012

    Turnover in wholesale trade fell by 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.

    ELSTAT, in a report, said that the Turnover Index in Wholesale Trade in the 4th quarter 2012 compared with the 4th quarter 2011 decreased by 5.0%. The index in the 4th quarter 2011 compared with the 4th quarter 2010 decreased by 20.5%.

    The Turnover Index in Wholesale Trade in the 4th quarter 2012 compared with the 3rd quarter 2012 increased by 3.9%.

    The index in the 4th quarter 2011 compared with the 3rd quarter 2011 decreased by 0.6%.

    [33] Electricity consumption down 12 pct in Feb

    Electricity consumption dropped 12 pct in February as energy demand fell because of a deep economic crisis and milder weather conditions in the month, compared with the same period last year, the Independent Power Transmission Operator (IPTO) said on Wednesday.

    In a monthly report, IPTO said that electricity consumption in its distribution network (households, enterprises, etc) was 11.97 pct down last month, while consumption in the high-voltage grid fell 4.44 pct over the same period. In the January-February period, electricity consumption was down 6.98 pct compared with the corresponding period last year. Electricity energy production was covered by lignite units (45 pct), natural gas units (25 pct), hydroelectric power stations (18 pct), renewable energy sources (7.0 pct) and imports (4.0 pct).

    [34] Greek stocks jump 3.39 pct on Wednesday

    Greek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange as investors discounted a positive outcome in negotiations between the Greek government and the troika. Buying activity focused on selected blue chips such as PPC, OPAP and OTE, while bank shares remained under pressure.

    The composite index of the market jumped 3.39 pct to end at 973.12 points, its highs for the day, while turnover rose to 76.073 million euros.

    The Big Cap index jumped 3.23 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.07 pct higher. The Bank sector was the only one to end lower (-2.04 pct), while Utilities (8.08 pct), Raw Materials (5.93 pct) and Travel (5.56 pct) were top gainers.

    PPC (8.66 pct), Terna Energy (7.25 pct) and Mytlineos (6.68 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (5.42 pct), Eurobank (4.04 pct) and National Bank (2.99 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 107 to 43 with another 21 issues unchanged. Progressive (30 pct), Flexopack (20 pct) and Spider (20 pct) were top gainers, while Teletypos (19.81 pct), Attica Holdings (19.75 pct) and Pegasus (19.40 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +2.85%

    Commercial: +3.69%

    Construction: +2.83%

    Oil & Gas: +3.28%

    Personal & Household: +1.61%

    Raw Materials: +5.93%

    Travel & Leisure: +5.56%

    Technology: +3.08%

    Telecoms: +4.32%

    Banks: -2.04%

    Food & Beverages: +3.34%

    Health: +2.99%

    Utilities: +8.08%

    Financial Services: +4.70%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, HBC Coca Cola, OPAP, PPC and National Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.80

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.90

    HBC Coca Cola: 21.50

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.37

    National Bank of Greece: 0.78

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.31

    OPAP: 6.85

    OTE: 5.80

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.20

    Titan: 14.55

    [35] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 9.33 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 9.21 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.70 pct and the German Bund 1.47 pct. Turnover was a thin one million euros, one sell order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.54 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.43 pct, the six-month rate was 0.32 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.

    [36] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.53 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising sharply to 61.116 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 22,660 contracts worth 35.358 million euros, with 32,981 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 117,901 contracts worth 25.758 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (34,879), followed by Alpha Bank (15,382), Piraeus Bank (6,068), Cyprus Bank (5,485), MIG (7,966), OTE (9,085), PPC (5,349), OPAP (6,997), Cyprus Popular Bank (1,589), Mytilineos (3,014), Hellenic Petroleum (2,436), GEK (6,830), Ellaktor (2,836), Intralot (4,658), Terna Energy (1,709) and Hellenic Exchanges (687).

    [37] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.317

    Pound sterling 0.880

    Danish kroner 7.568

    Swedish kroner 8.417

    Japanese yen 126.46

    Swiss franc 1.250

    Norwegian kroner 7.554

    Canadian dollar 1.350

    Australian dollar 1.276

    General News

    [38] Acropolis Museum events to celebrate Independence Day

    The Acropolis Museum will celebrate Greek Independence Day, March 25, with a series of events highlighting restoration work and the use of colours in sculpture, and free entrance to the museum and its collections from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Events, in order of presentation, are scheduled as follows:

    11:00 a.m.: Museum conservators will demonstrate the use of colour by painting a sandal on Rider 700 from the Acropolis frieze. Meet at the Information Office; by order of priority.

    12:00 noon: Visitors can hear conservators talk about the use of lasers to clean the second Caryatid in the museum and ask questions. Meet at the Caryatids, first floor.

    12:30 p.m.: Lambrini Gioti will perform (piano, vocals) with Giorgos Tsimbouxis (bouzouki, vocals) on music of Markos Vamvakaris, Manolis Chiotis, and others on the theme of "Love (Eros) in Greek 20th Century Songs". Meet at the Parthenon Hall, third floor.

    3:30 p.m.: Archaeologist guides of the museum will present their report on the collection of archaic statues still preserving traces of their colours and will hold an open discussion on use of colour in pre-classical times. Meet at the Information Office; by order of priority.

    In addition to the above, the Information Office or the bookstores will be loaning out special backpacks with games that help families learn more about the museum's collections. The restaurant, on the second floor, will also be offering a traditional Greek plate on its menu.

    [39] Visitors up, revenues down in museums and archaeological sites in Nov. 2012

    The number of visitors to museums throughout Greece increased by 9.6 percent in November 2012 however, revenues fell by 6.3 percent, compared with the same month in 2011, the Independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday. In the first eleven months of 2012 the number of visitors to museums fell by 4.1 percent and the revenues fell by 18.9 percent compared with the correspondent period in 2011.

    Visitors in the archaeological sites around the country rose by 19.5 percent in May 2012 and revenues rose 11.1 percent in comparison with September 2011. In the first eleven months of 2012 the number of visitors in archaeological sites rose by 2 percent but the revenues fell 12.8 percent in comparison with the same period in 2011.

    [40] Exhibition on architectural competition 'Rethink Athens' at Syntagma metro station

    An exhibition featuring the entries for the architectural competition "Rethink Athens" is to go on display at the Syntagma metro station exhibition area in central Athens, from Thursday until Tuesday, March 26. The exhibition will open its doors to the public at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday and subsequently be open from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on a daily basis.

    The architectural competition invited ideas on redeveloping the centre of the city and was originally shown by the Onassis Foundation, attracting more than 21,000 visitors in 11 days. The public's enthusiastic response prompted the Onassis Foundation to approach the Athens public transport organisation STASY SA and propose transferring the exhibition to Syntagma metro station, which lent its support to the idea and offered use of the metro gallery area.

    The exhibition will allow visitors to see the various proposals put forward for improving the centre of Athens, including the award-winning proposal that was chosen for restructuring the city centre. It will also hand out information material outlining the goals of the 'Rethink Athens' competition organised and funded by the Onassis Foundation and of the winning proposal.

    Among these goals are to revive the city centre and encourage the return of businesses, residents and life in the city and the role played by the Onassis Foundation in organising the competition and the studies required until the project is given as a contract.

    [41] KIS honors three Greeks as 'Righteous among the Nations'

    Three Greek Christians were honored by the Jewish community in Greece for saving Greek Jews during the WWII Nazi occupation and Holocaust at the risk of their own lives, during a ceremony on Tuesday evening organised by the Israeli Embassy and the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS).

    At a ceremony attended by Greek Deputy Justice Minister Costas Karagounis, Israeli Ambassador to Greece Arie Mekiel and KIS President David Altiel bestowed medals and the Yad Vashem organisation's honorary title of "Righteous among the Nations" to Lela Karagianni and George and Polymnia Theodorakis, which were presented to their descendents.

    The distinctions were presented to Karagianni's grandson Alexandros Papagiannis and the Theodorakis couple's daughter Lydia, who was just two years old at the time.

    "We Jews have a long memory and do not forget those who helped us. Seventy years later, we continue to seek out and pay tribute to those people," Ambassador Mekiel said, adding that "this is becoming even more important in our days as we see phenomena of extremism and racism reviving in Europe".

    "The Greek Jewry lost 86 percent of its pre-War population during the German occupation," Saltiel noted, adding that "with bonds of brotherhood a society may be saved".

    Karagounis sent a strong message against intolerance, saying: "The toxic waste of racism must know that 2013 is not 1930, nor will we allow it to happen again". He said he was at the ceremony as "a friend of the Greek Jewry", whose contribution he acknowledges, but also as a "friend of Israel, an agent of democracy and freedom in the Middle East".

    Bestowment of the title of "Righteous of the Nations" requires the approval of the Israel's Knesset, and the title has been bestowed on 310 Greeks.

    Lela Karagianni was honored for providing shelter to Solomon and Regina Cohen and their daughter Shelly in 1944, while the Theodorakis couple was honored for providing shelter to Beatrice Matalan in September 1943, despite the fact that they already had a two-year-old daughter and Polymnia was pregnant at the time.

    [42] Peloponnese promoted at special event in Helsinki

    The Peloponnese on Monday was presented as a tourist destination for all seasons at a special event in Helsinki.

    Finnish tour operators as well as other officials attended the event, which was hosted in a historic building in the Finnish capital.

    Special reference was made to the Peloponnesian gastronomy as well as to the alternative forms of tourism that are being developing and the services.

    Prefect of Peloponnese Petros Tatoulis addressed the event and noted the region's advantages and natural beauty.

    [43] Army bomb disposal expert killed in explosion

    An army bomb disposal expert was fatally injured early Wednesday while in the process of neutralizing unexploded mortar shells at the firing range "Psilos Stalos" in the area of Lavara, extreme northeastern Greek region of Evros.

    The injured man was rushed to Didymoteicho hospital where despite the doctors' efforts he succumbed to his injuries.

    Two more army bomb disposal experts were more lightly injured and also rushed to hospital for treatment.

    [44] Army veterans protest in Thessaloniki against wage, pension cuts

    Army and security forces' veterans supported by members of the armed forces in active service demonstrated in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, protesting against the implementation of austerity policies involving wage and pension cuts.

    The protesters rallied at Aristotelous Square, in the center of the city, and later marched to the ministry of Macedonia-Thrace where they met with minister Theodoros Karaoglou.

    The demonstrators observed a minute of silence in memory of an army bomb disposal expert killed on Wednesday morning in the process of disarming a mortar shell at a firing range at Lavara, in the northeast prefecture of Evros. Another two army officers were also injured in the explosion.

    [45] Large quantity of contraband cigarettes seized

    The finance ministry's financial crimes squad (SDOE) on Monday seized nearly 1,250,000 packs of contraband cigarettes in two containers that had arrived from the Sri Lanka on 12 February, representing a loss of 3.87 million euros in evaded taxes to the Greek state, while a 34-year-old man was wanted, SDOE announced on Tuesday.

    A SDOE team, together with Piraeus Customs authorities, on Monday conducted a search of the containers, with the accompanying documents saying it contained wooden fences, but discovered instead contraband cigarettes of the "Gold Classic" and "Raquel" brands.

    A 39-year-old Cypriot man is wanted in the case, appearing to be the recipient of the cargo.

    [46] Quantities of narcotic substances found in inmate's cell at Corfu prison

    Quantities of several narcotic substances were found Wednesday in the cell of an inmate and in the courtyard of the penitentiary on Corfu island by prison guards.

    The guards found 71.4 grams of heroin, 6.4 grams of cocaine and 9.6 grams of cannabis in the cell of a 26-year-old Albanian inmate and another 40 grams of cocaine in the prison's courtyard.

    An investigation was underway into how the narcotics were smuggled into the prison.

    Weather forecast

    [47] Rainy on Thursday

    Rainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 4-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 6C and 21C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 4-8 beaufort winds and temperatures between 14C and 19C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 8C and 17C.

    [48] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: "Economy and government in free fall".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Venizelos (Evangelos, PASOK leader): 430 euros salary for all".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "In Athens for shopping".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Moscow presses Athens".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New EU legislation: Pay the debts to professionals within 60 days".

    ESTIA: "Real estate taxes a major issue".

    ETHNOS: "Reversals in University base entry grades".

    IMERISSIA: "Russians for DEPA (Public Gas Corporation), Chinese for Athens International Airport'.

    KATHIMERINI: "New points of disagreement with the troika".

    LOGOS: "Year of 'apocalypse' for businesses".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "State an unreliable payer despite EU ruling".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "People's struggle for survival against government, troika's measures".

    TA NEA: "State will pay its debts to professionals, and with interest".

    VRADYNI: "Employment for 400,000 households with all members jobless".

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