|Monday, 23 April 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-03-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 22 March 2013 Issue No: 4316
 Eurogroup says 'ready to discuss' new proposal with Cyprus authoritiesGreek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras participated in an emergency teleconference of the eurogroup, the eurozone's finance ministers, on Thursday night, to take stock of the developments in Cyprus.
In a statement following the teleconference, eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that "the eurogroup stands ready to discuss with the Cypriot authorities a draft new proposal, which it expects the Cyprus authorities to present as rapidly as possible. The eurogroup would subsequently, on the basis of a troika analysis that needs to be undertaken, be prepared to continue negotiations on an adjustment programme, while respecting the parameters defined earlier by the eurogroup. After the conclusion of such negotiations the Cyprus authorities should begin legislating the elements of such an agreement."
He added, "The eurogroup reaffirms the importance of fully guaranteeing deposits below 100,000 euros in the EU. The euro area member states continue to stand ready to assist the Cypriot people in their reform efforts and stand ready to ensure the stability of the euro area as a whole."
 Finmin: Solution to Cyprus economic problem urgentGreek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stressed the need for an urgent solution to Cyprus' economic crisis as he left a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the premier's office on Thursday.
Stournaras said that Greece was at the side of the Cyprus Republic, supporting its decisions, and that a plan was already in place if Cypriot bank branches in Greece needed to be absorbed.
Commenting on an attack launched against him personally by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras, Stournaras noted that he had replied to every part of this in detail on Wednesday, before the appropriate Parliamentary committee.
In earlier statements to a group of some 20 MBA students from Columbia Business School, the finance minister again stressed that the Cypriot side must come up with a "Plan B" as an alternative to rejected European proposals since the country's banks could not remain closed indefinitely. He also assured them that the Greek banking system was protected against events in Cyprus.
The minister briefed them about the recapitalisation of Greek banks, action to tackle unemployment, the need to make Greece's agricultural sector competitive and the prospects of the Greek economy.
"The important issue is that the programme is on track. We have traversed two thirds of the distance and are near the target. In a marathon, however, the last kilometres are the hard ones," the minister added. Questioned about the possible impact of the German elections on Greece, Stournaras said that the result in Germany was not likely to affect developments in Greece for the worse.
 Cyprus has ultimate decision on deposits, EU sourceBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)
Asked by AMNA whether tonight's Eurogroup teleconference statement guaranteed that deposits below 100,000 euros on Cyprus would not be affected by any deal over the island republic's financial future, a source at the European Commission said that this was the wish of the eurozone countries.
But, the source added, the decision rested solely with Cyprus authorities.
 Council of Systemic Stability ends meeting, no press statementsThe Council of Systemic Stability convened on Thursday afternoon at the ministry of finance to assess developments as a result of the Cypriot government's apparent intention to lead the Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB) to special liquidation, ended without statements.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Bank of Greece (BoG) Governor George Provopoulos, Hellenic Capital Market Commission President Costas Botopoulos and other high-ranking officials.
 DIMAR leader: Solution for Cyprus must be within the eurozoneDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis expressed his support on Thursday to Cyprus and asked for a review of the Eurogroup's decision on Cyprus, adding that the solution must be found within the eurozone.
Kouvelis, in his statement, underlined that Cyprus should remain part of the effort for an exit from the crisis with a change of the European policy, stressing that Europe must manifest solidarity in order that the pathogenies and weaknesses of the banking system in the member countries to be dealt with through a Summit decision for the establishment of uniform transparency rules and tax harmonisation throughout the entire eurozone.
"Linking the streamlining of the banking system and the state's fiscal finances with the growth process via a Europe-wide economic policy that will fortify it is the only solution to avert a further aggravation of the crisis," noted Kouvelis, and concluded that "the economic and political European unification is now the immediate political choice to avoid centrifugal tendencies and in to invigorate the dynamic of the European vision".
SYRIZA: 'Catastrophic' decision on Cyprus part of "strategy of the dominant forces in Europe, under German hegemony'
Main opposition SYRIZA on Thursday launched a dual attack against the EU and the Greek government over the recent decisions taken on Cyprus' economic problem and the consequences they cause, at the same time defending the policy it has adopted since the June 2012 general elections in Greece that "there is no one-way path".
In an informational note assessing the developments since the Eurogroup decision on Cyprus and up until Wednesday night, a time span rife with developments, as SYRIZA called it, the main opposition party charged that the Eurogroup decision on Cyprus was a "catastrophic decision that is part of the strategy of the dominant forces in Europe, under German hegemony", aiming at the following two results: First, for generalization of the catastrophic austerity throughout the entire eurozone and conversion of the European countries into special economic zones with hunger salaries and absolutely insecure labor relations and, second, for a 'neo-colonialisation' of the economically weak countries, particularly the European south, in order to snatch their wealth-producing resources, namely natural gas in the case of Cyprus.
SYRIZA opined that this is an" especially dangerous decision that opened up Aeolus' wind bags" for the stability of the credit system not only in Cyprus and Greece but in the entire eurozone, and especially in the countries facing intense economic problems. "It is a bomb placed at the foundations of the eurozone itself, and this is why this move (in any of its versions) must first of all be cancelled, while bold measures must be taken to limit the damage that has already been caused before it becomes irreversible.
Reiterating the blame of the Greek government, SYRIZA said that the government has no right to vote in favor of a decision that essentially demolishes the credit system of Cyprus and puts the Greek credit system into peril, adding that the reactions by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis (the two junior partners in the three-party coalition government) "after the fact" against a decision voted for by the government they support indicates the their and their parties' total lack of credibility. In that light, the 'no' of the Cypriot people and the Cypriot parliament to the blackmail by the Eurogroup leadership and the fact that not only did the instant destruction, which the champions of the Eurogroup decision were extorting with, not come, but instead a tough negotiation is continuing, showing clearly and indisputable that: There are no one-way paths, but on the contrary there are very broad margins for negotiation and reversals, provided the strong popular resistances, political volition and respect of the democratic institutions exist.
It also shows that there is no country in the eurozone that does not constitute a systemic hazard, which means that every country, no matter how small, has strong negotiating weapons. The 'no' by the Cypriot people and Cypriot House of Representatives to the attempted blackmail comes to join the series of popular resistances in all the sorely-tried countries of the eurozone, and in that sense further broadens the existing prospects for toppling the dominant neo-liberal policy of the German leadership, which is multiply destroying the European societies and economies, SYRIZA continued.
In that context, it added, the three-party government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is doubly exposed, because with its vote in the Eurogroup it took part in the extortion of the Cypriot people, and because in the last elections it duped the Greek people and has been defrauding it to the present, either by spreading false news of one-way paths or by reproducing (in alliance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel) the blackmail and intimidation of the Greek people, instead of safeguarding the people's interests by demanding the reversal of the proven catastrophic policy of the Memorandum austerity.
Sooner or later, this Memorandum government will be called on to give account for this undignified 'Merkelism', SYRIZA warned.
As for the government's and its three parties' criticism of SYRIZA, "including the so-called proposals by SYRIZA cadres for seizure of bank deposits", it said that "these are the well-known lies and full distortion of the statements", adding that the Greek people are fully aware that it is not SYRIZA that is snatching their property and incomes but the consecutive Memorandum governments, with their unbelievable surtaxes, incomprehensible cuts to salaries, pensions and social benefits, the heavy 'haircut' of state bonds held by small-scale depositors, social security funds, hospitals and universities, and even the seizures of salaries and incomes above 1,000 euro of those who owe to the state.
 SYRIZA slams gov't for backing 'haircut' of Cyprus bank accountsMain opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday called for a "universal popular front" to support Cyprus and to overturn government policy in Greece, during a press conference held after the return of SYRIZA MP and Parliament Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis from a visit to the island republic.
Speaking about the results of this visit at the same press conference, Dragasakis strongly attacked the stance adopted by both the Greek government and the decisions taken by European leaders regarding the economic problems in Cyprus.
Tsipras, on his part, emphasised the geopolitical aspect of the decisions about Cyprus, stressing the need to resist the Eurogroup's decision. Using strong language to denounce EU leaders, he claimed that half were "gangsters" and the other half "submissive and afraid".
Prompted to outline SYRIZA-EKM's "geopolitical reply" to the crisis, Tsipras said that his party did not wish to choose protectors.
"We consider that a country that is subjugated and destroyed endures double damage, not just the obvious but also the downgrading of its geopolitical position," he said. SYRIZA-EKM's leader noted that the crisis depleted the potential for effective negotiation, while the geopolitical positions of Greece and Cyprus could be a vehicle, if properly used, for overcoming the crisis and negotiating as sovereign countries "our position in European and world affairs".
Dragasakis attacked Germany, especially, for resorting to propaganda about alleged money-laundering on Cyprus and pointed out that the specific tax and other regulations pre-existed Cyprus' accession to the EU and the Eurozone, which was signed by the German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. He also referred to other EU countries that had the same laws as Cyprus and said it was rank hypocrisy on the part of Greek politicians to adopt this propaganda.
Both Tsipras and Dragasakis, meanwhile, said that the risks from the implementation of the Eurogroup's decision for Cyprus would pose a threat to several countries, among them Greece, which might well be the next country asked to tax deposits as a way to raise funds.
Tsipras also attacked the government and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in person, saying that after the Cyprus Parliament's rejection of the Eurogroup plan, they failed to utter one word of support for the Cypriot people and under the "unprecedented blackmail attack" to which they were being subjected.
"It is SYRIZA-EKM's political position that the decision of the Cyprus Parliament preserves its position as a historic decision since the margins for negotiating remain," he said, noting that efforts for a solution were continuing, while no one underestimated the difficulty of the situation. He refused to comment on Russia's involvement, on the grounds that negotiations were still underway.
He rejected a call for a censure motion against Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras proposed by the Independent Greeks party, noting that Stournaras was not following his own policies but those of the country's prime minister.
 ND, PASOK parties react to Tsipras press conferenceThe ruling New Democracy party and PASOK reacted strongly to the press conference held on Thursday by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras.
ND said that "we were not surprised by Tsipras's recent delirium. He has not realised what is happening in Cyprus. He has not realised what is happening in Europe," adding that " he is exercising 'policy' in such crucial moments on such crucial issues, launching accusations and insults against the Greek government" and charging that "he has no policy, as he is not proposing any alternative plan, either for Cyprus or Greece, or for the eurozone."
ND also went on to say that Tsipras "has no memory. He speaks a great deal of 'resistance', but forgets that his party had supported the Annan Plan wholeheartedly" and that "Greece supported and supports Cyprus from the beginning to the end of this ordeal - this is a responsible stance. Word without substance and impressionist tactics constitute a fit of irresponsibility".
On its part, PASOK spoke of "national irresponsibility" that "is heightening, unfortunately, and is being exported from Greece to Cyprus without respect for the anxiety of the Cypriot people" and referred to "the exercising of cheap and irresponsible opposition" and to "amateurish reading of international correlations."
PASOK also underlined that "SYRIZA's leadership has rushed to use the dramatic events that Cyprus is experiencing as a lever for the exercising of cheap and irresponsible opposition in Greece" and that "they thought, with tragic political cunning and unbelievable national irresponsibility, that they can use Cyprus as a laboratory for the testing of their deadlocked and dangerous policy that is based on the amateurish reading of international correlations."
 SYRIZA, Independent Greeks leaders to meet FridayMain opposition leader Alexis Tsipras will meet with minor opposition party Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos one hour after noon, at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, at SYRIZA's office in the parliament building.
The two opposition leaders will discuss "all issues", according to Independent Greeks sources.
However, the focus of the discussion will be a motion of censure against Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras tabled in Parliament by the Independent Greeks, which requires the signatures of 50 MPs in order to be discussed in parliament.
Independent Greeks holds 18 seats in the 300-member unicameral parliament, while main opposition SYRIZA has 71 seats.
 KKE on developments in the economic crisis on CyprusDevelopments show that the rejection of the Eurogroup''s plan by the Cypriot Parliament is not enough, if it leads to the blackmail of workers, opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday underlined.
"The people of Cyprus should not submit to blackmail as to what path will lead them to bankruptcy. Plan A with the haircut of bank deposits, plan B with the haircut of social insurance funds or another halfway plan," KKE noted.
"All plans are accompanied by drastic reduction of wages, pensions and labour rights, as well as, by unemployment and privatisations," according to the KKE statement, which concluded that "the people should reject the anti-popular measures and sacrifices and follow the road to disengagement from the EU, overturning the anti-popular policy".
 Archbishop of Cyprus: We must all put our hands in our pockets to save Cyprus"Here that we are we must all put our hands in our pockets to save Cyprus," Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus said on Thursday, speaking to private TV station MEGA.
To a question whether the so-called 'plan B' will be passed by parliament, he said that "it will be passed because there is no alternative solution", adding: "Things are not easy. We were awaiting something from Russia, there were indications from the wealthy that could contribute and they did not respond positively. We must see the reality and must take a position."
 Administrative Reform Minister: Measures aim at safeguarding repute of honest, capable civil servantsThe measures taken by the Greek government for the removal of civil servants who mar the picture of public administration aim at safeguarding the repute of the immense majority of honest, worthy and capable civil servants, Administrative Reform and e-Governance Minister Antonis Manitakis told parliament on Thursday, clarifying that Greek legislation foresees suspension for civil servants who has been committed to trial for a felony.
Replying to a question tabled by main opposition SYRIZA deputy Nikos Vroutsis, Manitakis also rejected the claim that a civil servant may be suspended ipso jure is simply prosecuted for a disciplinary offence. He stressed that it is not possible for a civil servant who has been referred to trial on felony charges, such as forgery, fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation, bribery, sexual harassment, etc., to remain in service.
Manitakis said that a situation of tolerance and impunity had existed, adding that all measures must be taken to show that those who break the law for their own benefit and have been referred to trial will be temporarily removed from their service until a final court ruling. "If we don't take measures to restore the sense of disciplinary responsibility, if the public administration does not show that it deserves the respect of the citizens, we cannot pride ourselves. And we don't when, at any sacrifice, we tolerate impunity and do not stigmatize criminal acts," Manitakis said.
 Interior Ministry on international day against racismDespite considerable progress, racism continues to constitute a dominant threat for the individuals and the ethnic and religious groups all over the world, the Interior Ministry said Thursday, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
It further notes that the day constitutes a special commemmoration of the need for a continuous effort by societies to eliminate the scourge of racism and all forms of racial discrimination. An opportunity is being given on this day for humanity to stress its dedication to the values of humanity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence of people, and its abhorrence of cases of racism and violence appearing in societies."
It added that all social agencies "must unite their forces to end racism and contribute in every possible way to achieving this target."
 Chamber presents Breakthrough Greece initiative to Dev't MinisterAmerican-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce president Yanos Gramatidis and his associates presented Breakthrough Greece, an important initiative promoting Greece internationally, to Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis on Thursday.
Breakthrough Greece highlights Greek innovation and dynamic entrepreneurship, promoting abroad healthy and extroverted Greek firms as well as businessmen.
Mitarakis said after the meeting that "the initiative of the Hellenic American Chamber contributes to our efforts to promote a Greece that is healthy, businesslike, innovative and extroversive. We look forward to continuous cooperation with the Chamber in this direction".
Gramatidis said that the Chamber continued to provide substantive services to the economy, contributing to growth with specific and effective tools while supporting entrepreneurship, and expressed the hope that the meeting would lead to an effective cooperation with the government.
 Greek current account deficit down 84.7 pct in JanGreece's current account deficit shrank to 222 million euros in January, down by 1.2 billion euros or 84.7 pct compared with the same month last year, reflecting reduced deficits in the trade balance and the incomes balance, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a report, said that the trade deficit fell by 689 million euros, as exports grew by 128 million euros or 11.4 pct, while spending on imports fell by 244 million euros or 11.4 pct in January.
The net import bill for oil and ships fell by 299 million and 18 million euros, respectively, and the trade deficit excluding oil and ships declined by 372 million euros.
The services surplus remained broadly unchanged (+0.2%), as slight improvements in the travel balance and the "other" services balance were almost offset by lower net transport receipts. More specifically, travel spending in Greece by non-residents declined by a mere 6 million euros, while travel spending abroad by residents fell by 60 million euros; as a result, the travel balance showed a small surplus in January 2013, against a deficit in January 2012. Net transport receipts fell by 67 million euros, mainly on account of lower net receipts from "other transport services".
The income account deficit shrank by 412 million euros, primarily on account of lower net interest, dividend and profit payments. In particular, mainly as a result of the PSI, in January 2013 net interest receipts of 28 million euros were recorded, against net interest payments of 411 million euros on Greek government bonds/Treasury bills held by non-residents in January 2012.
Finally, the current transfers balance showed a higher surplus (by 124 million euros) year-on-year, reflecting "other" sectors' net transfer receipts of 190 million euros.
In January 2013, the capital transfers balance showed a deficit of 9 million euros, well below the 2012 deficit.
Finally, the overall transfers balance (current transfers plus capital transfers) recorded a surplus of 897 million euros, up by 139 million euros year-on-year.
In January 2013, non-residents' direct investment in Greece showed a net inflow of 556 million euros (against a net outflow of 156 million in the same month of 2012).
Under portfolio investment, a net inflow of 882 million euros was recorded (compared with a net outflow of 82 million in January 2012).
As regards "other" investment, a net outflow of 1.4 billion euros was recorded (against a net inflow of 2.2 billion in January 2012), which is mainly attributable to a 12.2 billion euros decline in non-residents' deposit and repo holdings in Greece (including the TARGET account).
At the end of January 2013, Greece' s reserve assets stood at 5.4 billion euros.
 Greek state budget deficit sharply down in Jan-FebThe Greek state budget recorded a deficit of 789 million euros in the January-February period, from a shortfall of 495 million euros in the same period last year, and a budget target for a deficit of 2.63 billion euros, the Finance ministry said on Thursday.
The ministry report said that a primary surplus of 487 million euros was recorded in the first two months of 2013, from a surplus of 368 million euros in 2012 and a budget target for a deficit of 1.353 billion euros.
Net state budget revenues totaled 8.634 billion euros in the January-February period, up by 689 million euros from a budget target, while net regular budget revenues grew 3.1 pct to 7.750 billion euros in the same period.
The report, however, said that budget revenues fell short from targets in a series of revenue categories, such as:
VAT, a decline of 7.2 pct
Other indirect consumption taxes (mainly tobacco tax) by 33.2 pct
Vehicle registration duties by 57.9 pct
Special consumption tax on energy products by 3.9 pct
On the other hand, budget revenues surpassed targets in proceeds from individuals' tax incomes, property taxes (+33.1 pct) and special revenues from selling mamagement and operating licenses of state property (62 million euros from the IBC contract).
Tax returns totaled 96 million euros. The Public Investment Programe's revenues totaled 884 million euros, significantly up from budget targets.
State budget spending totaled 9.422 billion euros, down 1.153 billion euros from budget targets, reflecting lower primary spending (-766 million euros from targets). Budget spending was down 3.4 pct from the same period last year.
 Court rejects petition against operation of goldmines in HalkidikiThe Council of State on Thursday rejected a petition filed by eight associations in Halkidiki peninsula, northern Greece, demanding the suspension of a ministerial decision dated July 26, 2011 that approved the environmental terms set for the operation of the Kassandra goldmines by Hellas Gold S.A., a subsidiary of Canadian-based goldmine operator Eldorado Gold Corp.
The ruling took note of the Environmental Impact Study conducted, according to which the consequences from the operation of the goldmine are unlikely to hurt "protected areas" belonging to the "Natura" network, while there will be no intervention whatsoever in "habitat 9180".
The majority of the local community strongly objects to the operation of the goldmines alleging that it will cause major environmental disaster affecting farming, stock-breeding and fishing, while its impact on tourism will be devastating.
 Cyprus bank's employees protest outside Finance MinistryCyprus Bank employees in Greece on Thursday staged a protest outside the Finance Ministry.
According to information, Finance Ministry officials reassured the bank's employees that Greece is ready to absorb the Cypriot banks in Greece as soon as the 'green light' is given from Cyprus, and reiterated that the bank deposits in Cypriot banks' branches in Greece are totally secured.
Moreover, the employees asked from the ministry to safeguard the 5,000 work positions in the three Cypriot banks that are active in Greece.
 Labour minister on IT system monitoring Greek employmentSince the start of March, Greece has been operating an electronic system that comprehensively monitors employment levels and wages throughout the country, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis informed Parliament's Social Affairs Committee on Thursday. He said the innovative system will be fully completed and operational on October 31.
The minister explained that the system, through an electronic link-up of systems at the country's main social insurance and pension body IKA-SEPE and the Manpower Employment Organisation OAED, was able to track the flow of hiring, dismissals and wage levels throughout the country, down to the last individual.
The committee was also addressed by agencies and organisations involved in the area of employment and labour, which presented their opinion on a draft bill to deal with contribution evasion and the black labour market.
Vroutsis told AMNA that all businesses active in the country will be obliged to provide data on labour flows, enabling the authorities to know the number of employees, type of employment, wages, sector and size of workforce in each business.
"For the first time, we will be able to exercise a real employment policy, precisely because we will have all the facts at all levels," Vroutsis added.
 Russian travel agents praise presentation of Peloponnese tourism productVisiting Russian travel agents and the chairman of the Moscow Committee for Tourism and the Hotel Industry Sergey Shpilko on Thursday said they were favourably impressed by a presentation of the "Mythic Peloponnese" and regional cuisine organised for their benefit by Peloponnese Regional Authority chief Petros Tatoulis. The presentation was attended by Greece's general consul in Russia Ioannis Pliotas.
Shpilko warmly praised the area's natural beauty and asked Tatoulis to share his experiences from the organisation of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, when he was deputy culture minister, to help Russia in the organisation of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The Greek general consul also outlined steps taken by the consulate to facilitate the issue of visas in order to boost Greek tourism in the Russian market.
 Greek merchant shipping fleet down in JanGreek merchant shipping fleet fell by 3.4 pct in January, compared with the same month last year, to 1,933 vessels, after a 4.1 pct decline recorded in January 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the Greek merchant shipping fleet capacity totaled 43,603,165 gross registered tons in January, up 0.1 pct from the same month last year, after an increase of 0.5 pct recorded in January 2012.
 Greek Food Industry gradually adapting to new conditionsEconomic growth is a one-way road for exiting the crisis, Evangelos Kalousis, president of the Federation of Greek Food Industry (SEVT) said in a speech during the annual general meeting of the Federation. He underlined, however, that to achieve economic growth a solution was needed in the country's financial sector and promoting the necessary fiscal reforms. Kalousis noted that "enterprises must survive, new investments are needed, new job positions to be created, to finance the economy and the market to function". He reassured that the Greek market was gradually adapting to new conditions, to meet consumers' needs and abilities, while he noted that the state should make right and fast interventions in basic sectors to further strengthen competitiveness in the market, such as a stable and simple administration and tax system for enterprises and simplifying procedures for new investments. Kalousis expressed his confidence that Greece can and will exit the current dead-end.
Development Deputy Minister Thanassis Skordas, addressing the meeting said Greece needed to become again a country of producing wealth. "I am one of those believing that we must be proud of the Greek Food Industry and for Greek products," =he noted.
SEVT represents 85% of the Food Industry in Greece. Its members are Associations of the Industry Sectors, as well as many individual enterprises of the Industry. The Food Industry is currently the leader of the Greek economy. It accounts for 25% of turnover, controls 25% of total capital, produces 24% of total value added and employs more than 22% of all employees in manufacturing. It is a dynamic, competitive, export-oriented industry, with extensive investments and trade in Greece, the Balkans and all of Europe.
 OPE organises biggest Greek fair participation in UAEThe largest number of Greek participants in the food and mass feeding equipment sector, 56 companies, attended the Gulfood fair at the United Arab Emirates recently.
The Exports Promotion Organisation (OPE), coordinating the Greek delegation, said the participants had the opportunity of making business contacts and expanding their trade activities in the UAE and the region of the Middle East and North Africa generally.
Gulfood is an important annual event for the international food and mass feeding equipment market. The number of exhibitors who participated in this year's exhibition exceeded 4,200, came from 110 countries, and visitors exceeded 70,000.
Food consumption in the UAE is growing annually at an average of 12 percent, mainly due to a population increase.
 Greek gastronomy in BrusselsThe Greek gastronomy is currently being presented in Brussels, a result of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) bureau in Belgium and the Greek Tourist Enterprises Association (SETE) within the cooperation framework with the Brussels Tourism Organisation.
For three days, Greek chefs will be hosted in several restaurants in Brussels in order to promote and acquaint the Belgians with proposals for Greek tourism destinations such as Crete, Athens, Rhodes, Corfu, Volos, Thessaloniki and Zakynthos.
Gastronomy is one of the main sectors of the communicative promotion of Greek tourism.
 Thrace Plastics says profits up 71.4 pct in 2012Thrace Plastics Group on Thursday said its net profits jumped 71.4 pct last year to 7.0 million euros, from 4.1 million euros in 2011. Consolidated turnover jumped to an all-time high last year, boosted by strong exports (85 pct of sales were exports). Consolidated turnover was 264.7 million euros in 2012, up 2.1 pct from the previous year, gross earnings rose 13.2 pct to 51.2 million euros, EBITDA rose 13.3 pct to 25 million euros, pre-tax profits rose 24.3 pct to 9.8 million euros. Net borrowing fell 31.8 pct to 34.5 million euros. The group said sales were moving in normal levels in the first quarter of 2013 despite signs of slower demand in the European market.
 First charter flights inaugurate summer season on CreteWith three charter flights, two from Germany and one from Israel, the summer season for Eastern Crete opens on Friday.
A total of 490 visitors will arrive on the charter flights, namely 324 German tourists from Frankfurt and Dusseldorf and 166 from Tel Aviv will arrive at Heraklion airport "Nikos Kazantzakis".
More charter flights from Austria and Russia are expected next week to land at the same airport, which give a first positive indication for the tourist flow to the island this year.
 Greek stocks end lower, market volatileGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. Traders said the market was extremely volatile on nervousness over developments in Cyprus, as the Cypriot government was seeking alternative solutions in reaching an agreement with the troika, averting a collapse of its banking system.
The composite index of the market fell 0.63 pct to end at 924.86 points, after falling as low as 907.07 points during the session. Turnover, however, remained a low 48.765 million euros. The Big Cap index was unchanged, while the Mid Cap index fell 0.85 pct.
The Personal Products (4.07 pct), Travel (2.76 pct) and Utilities (2.41 pct) sectors scored gains, while Financial Services (6.38 pct), Technology (3.88 pct) and Food (3.73 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Jumbo (4.88 pct), PPC (3.83 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.21 pct), OPAP (3.03 pct) and National Bank (2.34 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (14.6 pct), Viohalco (5.14 pct), Terna Energy (4.07 pct) and Coca Cola Hellenic (3.74 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 77 to 54 with another 22 issuesunchanged. Fieratex (29.29 pct), Attica Holdings (19.77 pct) and AEGEK (19.15 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (20 pct), Sprider Stores (19.35 pct) and NEL (18.99 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.23%
Personal & Household: +4.07%
Raw Materials: +0.54%
Travel & Leisure: +2.76%
Food & Beverages: -3.73%
Financial Services: -6.38%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Coca Cola 3E, OTE, OPAP and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.73
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.23
HBC Coca Cola: 21.90
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.06
National Bank of Greece: 0.70
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.25
Bank of Piraeus: 0.19
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was flat at 10.34 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 10.38 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.70 pct and the German Bund 1.37 pct. Turnover totaled 14 million euros, of which 12 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 2.0 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.33 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 3.21 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking to 10.984 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,065 contracts worth 5.949 million euros, with 27,085 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,829 contracts worth 5.435 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (6,430), followed by Alpha Bank (4,997), Piraeus Bank (2,390), OTE (3,145), PPC (1,895), MIG (985), Eurobank (337), Mytilineos (632), GEK (654), Ellaktor (577), Coca Cola Hellenic (277), OPAP (370) and Intralot (315).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.310
Pound sterling 0.864
Danish kroner 7.564
Swedish kroner 8.490
Japanese yen 124.79
Swiss franc 1.240
Norwegian kroner 7.661
Canadian dollar 1.340
Australian dollar 1.256
 Twice life plus 25 years for killers of motorcycle squad police in RendiAn Athens criminal court handed down prison sentences of twice life plus 25 years to each of three defendents for the March 2011 ambush against DIAS motorcycle squad policemen, resulting in the death of two of the law enforcers, in Rendi, near Piraeus. A fourth man also charged in the case, who evades arrest, was not tried with the other three, but will be tried separately after his apprehension, according to the court ruling.
After a marathon deliberation that lasted more than 12 hours, the court served two life sentences each to Ioannis Savvidis and Andreas Pofidis for the two killings and another 25 years each for six counts of attempted homicide against police, as the physical perpetrators of the crimes. A third defendent, George Emerzidis, received the same sentence, as an accomplice to the above crimes.
By decision of the court the case against a fourth defendent, Vitali Tersenidis, who evades arrest, was separated from the other three and the suspect will face trial when apprehended.
Another 11 defendents were seved sentences of two to nine years incarceration for several felonies and misdemeanors, including establishment of a criminal organisation, illegal possession of firearms, etc.
Police officers Ioannis Evangelinelis, 23, and George Skylogiannis, 22, were shot dead in the vicinity of the Rendi central vegetable market on March 1, 2011, by gunshots fired from a car.
According to the charges, the three main defendents and the fourth defendent who has evaded arrest had stopped their car in a dark spot and when they were approached by the motorcycle squad police emerged from their vehical and opened fire on the law enforcers with Kalashnikov semi-automatic firearms and a pistol.
The motorcycle team had given chase to the suspects after a hold-up of a kiosk in the Menidi district.
 Former prefect Psomiadis and five prefecture employees on trial in Lake Koronia caseThe trial of former Thessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis and another five prefecture employees in the Lake Koronia case opened on Thursday and will continue on Friday with the testimonies of eyewitnesses.
According to a ruling issued by the Misdemeanor Court Judges Council, the five are accused of breach of duty for the purpose of benefiting illegally other parties.
The former prefect is accused of not setting up special bodies (in violation of existing legislation) to carry out inspections and implement the imposed sanctions on owners of factories and other units that pollute the lake. Also, he is accused of delaying a repeat inspection of the factory plants in question, of delaying the imposition of fines suggested by environment inspectors and of arbitrarily reducing them by 24,660 euros.
His co-defendants, who were prefecture employees at the time, are accused of inadequately executing their duties by not making extensive inspections and by not imposing administrative measures.
It should be noted that roughly 10 million euros have been used so far to save Lake Koronia without concrete results.
Lake Koronia, located east of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, in recent years was faced with extreme ecological disaster as a result of pollution from agricultural and stock-breeding run-off and industrial waste waters.
 Arrest warrant issued for erstwhile minister's former sister-in-lawA Greek examining magistrate investigating a kickbacks case against former minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Thursday issued a warrant for the arrest of Tsohatzopoulos' former sister-in-law, the sister of his German ex-wife Gudrun Moldenhauer-Tsohatzopoulos. The warrant is for money laundering and concerns alleged involvement in moving the illegal gains of the former minister, now held in prison pending trial.
Sources from the magistrate's office said the charges are based on evidence that the sum of 1,455,000 Swiss francs was deposited by companies controlled by the former minister into an account belonging to Tsohatzopoulos' former sister-in-law. This account was held jointly with a second individual whose connection to the case had hitherto gone unnoticed and whose arrest has also been ordered.
The money in the account was traced from an account belonging to the company MIE, known for its involvement in the case of the now notorious submarines case, which was deposited into an account belonging to the son of a representative of the offshore company Morelia, Oratios Melas, and finally into the account belonging to Tsohatzopoulos' former sister-in-law.
Tsohatzopoulos and another 18 individuals currently face trial, due to begin on April 22, for kickbacks linked to suspect defence ministry contracts for TORM1 missiles and submarines ordered by Greece when Tsohatzopoulos was defence minister.
 Tzavaras message on World Poetry DayOn the occasion of World Poetry Day on 21 March, Alternate Education Minister responsible for cultural affairs Costas Tzavaras, said in a message on Thursday that celebrating World Poetry Day "depicts in the most perfect manner (French painter Eugene) Delacroix's message that 'There is no art without poetry'".
Referring to the ministry's decision to declare 2013 "Cavafy Year", honouring the memory of the great Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933) on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, Tzavaras noted: "The poetry of Cavafy was decisive for the revival and recognition of Greek poetry both on Greek and European level. From Homer, Hesiod and the lyric poets until today, the Greek language was and still is a means by which a certain poetic discourse is expressed, which, in its highest moments, meets the element of World Cultural Heritage."
World Poetry Day was established by yhe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and to "give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements," according to UNESCO.
 World Council of Hellenes Abroad rep calls for unity to overcome difficultiesGreeks worldwide need to join forces and overcome difficulties no matter how insuperable they seem, said Theodore Spyropoulos, USA coordinator of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), on the occasion of the March 25 national anniversary marking the commencement of the 1821 Greek revolution against the Ottoman rule.
He noted that this year's anniversary coincides with "the changeable and fluid international conjuncture in which our brothers in Greece and Cyprus are being tested by serious economic and social problems unknown to younger generations of Hellenes."
The heroes of the 1821 Revolution against the Ottoman rule should serve as a source of inspiration and motivation, he underlined, adding that "by displaying great patriotism they raised the banner of Hellenism's indestructible values of dignity, freedom and independence."
 Three-day strike action by Greek railway workers from SaturdayGreece's railway system will shut down for three days from Saturday to Monday due to 24-hour rolling strikes declared by the Panhellenic Federation of Railway Workers. The strike will include the Proastiakos suburban railway serving the airport, so that there will be neither Proastiakos nor metro trains between Doukissis Plakentias station and Athens' international airport during the strike.
Railway workers are demanding the signature of a collective labour agreement and protesting against the unilateral imposition of the uniform public-sector wage scale by the management of Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE). Passengers who have already bought tickets to travel on the day of the strike can either ask for a refund or a 'travel coupon'.
In addition to all trains scheduled to depart on the three days of the strike, the strike will affect some journeys on Friday, such as the 500-501 trains between Athens and Thessaloniki, the 1686 train from Alexandroupolis to Dikaia, the 743 and IC 85 trains between Thessaloniki, Edessa and Florina, the 3593-3592 Thessaloniki-Larisa-Thessaloniki lines, the 2576-2577 lines from Larisa to Volos and line 2536 from Athens to Halkida.
Also, the 500-501 Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens trains running on Tuesday will not have split-level vehicle transportation cars, while the 1681 and IC 82 lines will not run on that day.
The strike will also extend to OSE goods trains, which will remain stationary for roughly a week due to eight-hour rolling work stoppages declared by their union from 10:00 p.m. on March 26 until 6:00 a.m. on March 29.
 ISAP Irene-Kifissia section will be closed after 22:30 this weekendThe ISAP electric railway section between Irene Station and Kifissia Station, in greater Athens, will be closed on Saturday and Sunday (March 23-24) from 22:30 p.m. until the end of the shift due to works that are being carried out, it was announced on Thursday.
Commuters can use OASA bus lines.
 Police arrest former colleague for drug trafficking, arms possessionPolice discovered a small arms cache in the house of a 53-year-old retired police officer, who was arrested at dawn on Wednesday at the port of Igoumenitsa in northwest Greece after 12 kilos of heroin were found in his car, it was announced on Thursday. The drugs were destined for Italy and were found in his car during a police spot check at the Igoumenitsa Port main gate.
The arms cache was discovered in the suspect's house in the city of Florina. Police seized a revolver, a pistol, four handgun magazines, hundreds of cartridges and a photograph of an ancient inscription most likely carved in marble.
Also, police found a Kalashnikov, three handgun magazines, a revolver and tens of cartridges hidden in his parents' house.
 Winds tie up Zakynthos boats, weather better by Friday afternoonShip routes to Zakynthos were the latest to be interrupted by winds 8 to 10 strong on the Beaufort scale, lashing the Ionian and Aegean Seas as of Thursday evening and prompting sailing bans by the port authorities.
Severe weather conditions of rain and thunderstorms were expected in western Greece, moving into central and northern Greece and the islands of the Aegean. The weather is expected to start improving gradually from the west and winds to have dropped in strength by midday Friday.
 Travelling exhibition on Olympic Games opening in QatarAlternate Education Minister responsible for cultural affairs Costas Tzavaras will be inaugurating the exhibition titled "Olympic Games: Past and Present", in Qatar on Wednesday March 27.
It is the largest international exhibition on Ancient Olympia, and will be opening to the public on March 28, after showing in Berlin from August 2012 to January 2013.
The exhibition will be hosted at Qatar's Olympic Games and Sports Museum to June 30, 2013 and is split into two sections - "Olympia: Myth, Cult, Games", which includes over 600 objects from Greek and European museums and findings of recent excavations in Olympia that have not been presented to the public so far, and "Olympics: Values, Competitions, Mega-Events", dedicated to the history of modern-day Olympic Games.
The exhibition is under the auspices of Greek President Karolos Papoulias and the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the Qatar Museums Authority.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 6-10 beaufort. Temperatures between 7C and 19C. Fair in Athens with northerly 7-9 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 18C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 7C and 15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Harsh negotiation".
DIMOKRATIA: "The solution for Cyprus!".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Russian roulette".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel's torture of Cyprus".
ELLADA AVRIO: "The Cyprus euro depends on Moscow".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Cyprus under pressure to succumb to the 'haircut'."
ESTIA: "Where the 'no' policy leads".
ETHNOS: "Rugged landing- Europe tightens the noose".
IMERISSIA: "In search of a compromise".
KATHIMERINI: "Agonizing efforts for a solution".
LOGOS: "Agony without end in Cyprus".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Three-front 'battles' on Cyprus rescue".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Cyprus financing scenarios antipopular".
TA NEA: "From Russia with love".
VRADYNI: "Knife to double pensions".
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