|Sunday, 25 February 2024
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-03-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 26 March 2013 Issue No: 4318
 President: 'It is a day of memory and honor'AMNA/"Today is a great day, it is a day of memory and honor, honor to those who rose up with passion of soul and the passion for freedom as their only weapon, and who gave us a free country and faced up to an Ottoman empire," Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said Monday, speaking after the traditional military parade in central Athens marking the 192nd anniversary of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day, which marks the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule on March 25, 1821.
"Their example is also a contemporary example for today's difficult moments as well," the President said, and expressed hope that "the message of this day will reach all the major capitals, and especially Berlin".
Noting that "our thoughts at this time are with sorely-tried Cyprus, Papoulias said: "The European Union's decision is "not permissible because it is selective. The EU should not select its victims as it thinks it should, because this creates a chasm with the dreams of the European peoples that the European Union can be a shelter for all the weak."
 PM: 'The Greeks can accomplish everything if they remain united'AMNA/ "Freedom means to wage, united, the war against the tribulations we face, our enemies that have designs against us, and our own bad self, far removed from divisive slogans, the fatalism of subjugation and from national inferiority complexes," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Monday, in a message on the 192nd anniversary of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day.
Samaras called the anniversary a "day of historic memory, in days of national tribulation, for all of Hellenism and today, especially, for Cyprus".
However, he added, "it suffices for us to look back at our entire contemporary history to realise how many tribulations we have gone through, always in a painful way, but always with success".
"And we always emerged stronger as a nation, better as a society, and prouder for what we are, more certain of what we can achieve. Provided that we remain united and standing," Samaras continued.
"The Greeks can accomplish everything if they remain united and standing," the prime minister concluded.
-- Parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis said that "today is a day of memory, of circumspection, of though on how to face the future".
"We showed that we are prepared, and if required we will respond with the same patriotism, the same force. Our thoughts are with Cyprus, with the Greeks everywhere in the world. We send to them the message that Greece will try, and will succeed, to stand tall once again, that it will once again live moments of glory," Meimarakis said, and congratulated the Armed Forces and Security Forces on the impeccable parade.
-- National Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos said that the message of the present day is exceptionally timely: "The lessons of history but also the great effort Hellenism is making today show that we can succeed again. And we will succeed Provided that we remain united, we will maintain our national and social cohesion and will combine daring with prudence, a high and strong morale with good sense."
 Party messages on Independence Day anniversary focus on economic crisis, hardships faced by Greece, CyprusThe economic crisis and the hardships faced by Greece and Cyprus were the dominant themes in the National Independence Day messages of the political parties on the 192nd anniversary of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day, which marks the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule on March 25, 1821.
"Today, the March 25 anniversary takes on a special meaning," main opposition SYRIZA said in its message. It charged that the three-party coalition government, in harmony with the Troika, irresolute, voiceless and catastrophic, projects the Memorandum policy as the one-way street for society and the country".
Their aim is to destroy whatever is left of the social state and the conquests of a century, SYRIZA said, warning that the labor rights, social security, public education, state property, health, the environment, and even democracy itself, are being sacrificed for the profitability of the big capital, for the creditors, for the select few.
"Today, more than ever, the immediate activation of all the working people, the unemployed, the youth is necessary in a large, collective and unifying struggle not only in Greece but in all of Europe. Today, particularly, the Greek people are at the side of the Cypriot people, knowing that the goal is a common one: to change the correlations, reverse the catastrophic policies of neo-liberalism and austerity. History shows that there are no one-way streets, that the only lost struggles are those that are not waged. The struggle for freedom, democracy and dignity is always timely," SYRIZA said.
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said that "our national independence is being tried amid exceptionally difficult European and international correlations", adding that the Greek people are undergoing "immense sacrifices in order to avert the worst, which we unfortunately see is threatening Cyprus".
He warned that "blind, conservative ideological choices and economic ethnicism are prevailing, which in reality halt and disdain the idea of European integration".
"This year, the March 25 anniversary finds Hellenism in the vortex of the economic, but also international-political crisis of Cyprus," Venizelos said,
In these conditions, he continued, "genuine patriotism is that which actively offers the maximum possible dignity, security and prospect, without big words, irresponsible demagogy and fleeting but dangerous delusions".
"The anniversary of the national rebirth imposes that we remember that 'national' is the 'true', and that the most crucial factor of our national strength is our unity," concluded Venizelos, leader of the larger of the two junior partners in the three-party coalition government.
The March 25 anniversary is a day of memory, indelibly recorded in the conscience of the Greek people. It symbolises the start of the heroic struggles for liberation, independence and the creation of the Greek state, the leader of the second coalition government junior partner Democratic Left (DIMAR), Fotis Kouvelis, said in his message.
"In the present difficult conditions Hellenism, in its entirety, is going through, the struggle concerns dealing with the dangers of the economic crisis with emphasis on protecting the weaker social strata, the country's incorporation into an internationalised economic and political environment and its participation in a course towards European integration. A course of political, economic and monetary unification which, in order to be sustainable, must consolidate the participation of all the member states, solidarity among the partners and the democratic participation of the peoples," Kouvelis said.
"Everything that has occurred these last three years in Greece but also everything that has taken place in recent days in Cyprus convince even the most unbelieving that the future of our children and our family tranquility and happiness are at risk," Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos said in his message.
"With faith in the ages-old values of Hellenism, and generating lessons, experience and courage from the epic struggle for independence, the anniversary of which we honor today, I call on Hellenism to a united struggle for Greece to remain a sovereign and independent country and not be turned into a protectorate of the German Europe," he said.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in its own message, said that the message of the 1821 Revolution is that "history is written with insubordination and disobedience to the laws and legality of the old orders, which do not leave on their own from the forefront of history but must be ousted by the revolutionary struggle of the people".
"In the history of the human societies, revolutions were always the vehicle for society to move forward," the KKE said, adding that "the people must believe, today too, to the justness and strength of their struggle, reject the blackmail by the parties of and the European Union".
"With organisation and alliance, the people must impose their own interests and their own power, disengage the country from the EU and the other imperialistic organisations, and turn the monopolies into their own property in order for them and their children to have a better life," the KKE concluded.
"In 1821 the Greeks, totally on their own, almost unarmed and condemned by the foreign forces, toppled an empire. Proof and lesson for us all, the Greeks of today -- who cannot compare to the giants of that beautiful and harsh era -- that nothing is gained without sacrifices, and freedom is not won without blood," the ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) said in its message.
It added that "Alamana, Maniaki, Messolonghi, are the brightest landmarks of resistance, the beacons that show the way and remind us of the Greeks' historic duty. Dervenakia, Tripolits and Valtetsi are the eternal examples of how tough we must deal with those who have designs against the freedom and integrity of our country".
 Barack Obama message on Greek Independence DayNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
US President Barack Obama congratulated Greece on its 192nd anniversary of independence and pledged his country's "continued solidarity as the [Greece] works to rebuild its economy."
In his annual proclamation on the anniversary, Obama referred to the contributions of Greek Americans and said that "America celebrates Greek Independence Day to strengthen the bonds between the birthplace of democracy and the world's oldest republic."
"In both America and Greece, we are inheritors to great republics, entrusted to safeguard the ideals that make representative government work," he said. "Our peoples have learned that democracy flourishes when we respect our differences, hold fast to the principles that unite us, and move forward with common purpose."
Calling Greece "a valued NATO ally," the US president concluded, "In the face of hardship, America stands with the people of Greece, confident they can meet the challenges of the 21st century while upholding their ancient ideals."
 US Sec. of State reiterates solidarity with Greece in statement on Greek Independence DayNEW YORK (AMNA/P. Panagiotou)
US Secretary of State John Kerry commended the people of Greece for their courage in these economic times, and reiterated that the US stands in solidarity with them as they strike to restore economic growth and stability, in a statement on the 192nd anniversary of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day, which marks the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule on March 25, 1821.
He also underlined the deep bonds of friendship and close cooperation between the citizens of Greece and the United States, based on their shared values and strong commitment to freedom and liberty, and noted that the United States is a partner and friend and looks forward to deepening cooperation in the years to come to foster a more secure and prosperous world.
The full text of Kerry's statement follows below:
"On behalf of the people of the United States, I congratulate the people of Greece on the 192nd anniversary of Greece's independence this March 25.
Ancient Greeks forged the initial principles of democracy, the ideals that form the basis of our own system of government. In honoring the founding of the Hellenic Republic, we recognize the positive legacy of governance for the people and by the people which remains unwavering today.
We also celebrate the deep bonds of friendship and close cooperation between the citizens of Greece and the United States, based on our shared values and strong commitment to freedom and liberty. The United States applauds Greece's efforts to reform its economy and lay the foundation for a more prosperous future. We commend the people of Greece for your resilience and courage during these trying economic times. We stand in solidarity with you as you strive to restore economic growth and stability.
As you celebrate this special day, know that the United States is a partner and friend. We look forward to deepening our cooperation in the years to come to foster a more secure and prosperous world."
 'Painful' decision on Cyprus, but halts course to chaosThe Eurogroup decision on Cyprus reached in the first hours of Sunday is "painful", but it "halts the course to the chaos that would have resulted from an irregular default and exit from the Eurozone", Greece's government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said later Monday, stressing that "Hellenism in its entirety supports Cyprus and will not allow anyone to take advantage of its temporary weakness".
The most important thing now, he continued, "is how we will help Cyprus stand on its feet again", and warned that "now is not the time for divisive slogans, or irresponsible cries...Now we look forward".
"Cyprus has worked miracles many times, and will do so again. It has the ability to take advantage of its unique position and its wealth-producing resources to return soon to prosperity and growth," the Greek government spokesman added.
 Venizelos: Punitive solution imposed on CyprusPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos accused the eurozone of inability to assess all the parameters of the Cypriot crisis, charging that the majority of the eurozone, led by Germany, imposed a "punitive" solution on Cyprus, thus turning "a banking and fiscal crisis into a national tribulation".
Venizelos expressed his wholehearted support for the Cypriot Hellenism and stressed that averting possible adverse international-political repercussions from the latest economic developments is the primary concern.
On the stance of the Greek political parties, he said that the conclusions have been reached on which is the responsible, progressive and patriotic stance, while regarding the Greek issues he stressed that the national strategy voted for by the Greek people in the June 2012 elections leads to national recovery.
Venizelos said that "our thoughts today, day of the national anniversary, are with the Cypriot people who are experiencing, in an extreme way, the conversion of a banking and fiscal crisis into a national tribulation".
"We are at the side of Cypriot Hellenism with all our being, and our first concern is to avert possible adverse international-political consequences of the latest economic developments. The international existence and security of Cyprus is a fundamental national priority for Greece. It should have been a fundamental priority for Europe as well, which, as the Eurozone, proved incapable of assessing all the parameters of the Cypriot crisis," Venizelos said.
"The Eurozone, in which prevail the well-known correlations, with Germany at their center, selected Cyprus as a field for 'punishment and teaching a lesson'. The reasons are not credit or fiscal related, but primarily symbolic, and this choice was made despite the cost it could have for the European credit system," Venizelos continued.
"The Cypriot political forces will make their own assessment of the handlings, not only during the final phase but of the entire critical period. We in Greece, I believe, had already drawn our conclusions on what is the responsible, secure, progressive and truly patriotic stance and what the limits of demagogy and populism are," he said.
"The Greek people have in the last years been living the painful experience of the crisis, recession and unemployment. However, it knows very well that a better and safer alternative solution did not, and does not, exist. The national strategy that the Greek people ratified last June leads to national recovery, on three conditions: truth, unity and work," the PASOK leader concluded.
 PASOK: Using Cyprus 'battle for survival' to exercise opposition is 'nationally irresponsible'PASOK charged on Sunday that it is nationally irresponsible that, at the time that Cyprus is waging a battle for its very survival, that some people in Greece are using Cyprus as a means to exercise an opposition "that is proving to be cheap and blind", in an announcement regarding the latest developments in Cyprus and a critical Eurogroup meeting scheduled for later in the evening.
PASOK said that it supports the decisions of the organs of the Republic of Cyprus for reasons of national duty, and stressed that it criticises the "punitive and violent nature of the eurozone decisions, the broader negative impact of which Europe has not yet comprehended".
Because there is no other field that offers itself more, or more safely, than the European field, "the destructive experience Cyprus is undergoing must be placed under control and be minimized with the decisions the eurozone is called on to take today (Sunday)," PASOK continued.
It added that the Greek people "have already realised full-well what the case of Cyprus teaches", and have "seen what it has avoided".
"The Greek people have realised how difficult a negotiation that leads to tough, but safe, results at the least possible cost is," PASOK concluded.
 PASOK on Cyprus' continental shelf, EEZThe crisis in Cyprus and its 'high risk' management by the Eurogroup, with a narrow fiscal rationale and the aim of annulling the island republic's current economic model, cannot alter the facts of International Law and particularly the International Law of the Sea, which constitute fundamental acknowledgements of the European Union and its member states," the PASOK press office said late Sunday, in an announcement, in reply to a Turkish foreign ministry announcement on the marine zones (continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone-EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus.
PASOK noted that "the European Union must realise that every direct or indirect dispute of the sovereign rights and international legal character of the Republic of Cyprus constitutes a dispute of the ability of Europe itself to forge and apply a credible security policy of the European space".
 DIMAR: Prevalence of conservative policies that undermine unity and solidarity in EUDemocratic Left (DIMAR) on Monday expressed its solidarity with the sorely-tried people of Cyprus over the "painful" decision of the Eurogroup "which denotes the prevalence of conservative policies that undermine unity and solidarity in the EU".
"Cyprus' misadventure annuls the propaganda myths of unilateral solutions that lead out of the eurozone," DIMAR said, adding that it considers the achievement of a solution inside the euro as a necessary choice, since "only in this way can Cyprus avert economic and political isolation and bankruptcy".
He described as positive that fact that deposits in Cypriot banks of up to 100,000 euro are guaranteed and the protection of deposits in the Cypriot banks' branches in Greece, together with the preservation of the jobs.
"Cyprus remains a part of the struggle for a change of policies in the EU so that the European idea may be rejuvenated in the conscience of the peoples, and the economic and political unification may be advanced with decisive steps," DIMAR concluded.
 Europe must stand by Cyprus, DI.MAREurope must show its allegiance to Cyprus, Democratic Left (DI.MAR) party said on Saturday, as the problem of the island democracy relates to all of Europe.
"The European Union is at a crossroads," DI.MAR, one of the junior members of the ruling coalition, said, and "the only viable solution is a Europe-wide economic policy that will place the restructurings of economy under a common development process."
The party said that countries' debts "will either be dealt in common through the acceleration of the economic and political unification, or it will smother the economy of the EU members states and undermine the Eropean dream."
 SYRIZA calls Eurogroup decision 'painful extortion' of CyprusMain opposition SYRIZA called the Eurogroup decision on Cyprus a "painful extortion" to which Cyprus was led "under the weight of blackmail and threats".
"Cyprus could have avoided this development if those who managed the proud 'no' of the Cypriot people were not the same ones who had supported last Friday's 'yes'. And chiefly if Cyprus had not been left desperately alone at the Eurogroup," SYRIZA said, charging that "with their stance on the issue of Cyprus, the countries of the (EU) South shot themselves in the legs", since "a generalised haircut of deposits, following the example of Cyprus, will soon be a choice for their own bailout programmes".
SYRIZA accused the Greek government of "not lending support to Cyprus but of identifying itself totally with the blackmail by the lenders" and of "refusing to give Cyprus just two (2) billion of the 50 billion euros earmarked for the recapitalisation of the Greek banks, when the Greek PSI cost the Cypriot banks 4.5 billion euro", and "even refused the prospect of the provision of temporary liquidity via the ELA (the European Central Bank's Emergency Liquidity Assistance tool) to annul the Eurogroup's extortionary timetable and give the Cypriot side time for negotiation".
It added that "apparently the intelligence" of the "moral and physical instigators of the catastrophic, for Greece and Cyprus, PSI, who were severely critical of SYRIZA", cannot fathom "the salvation of a country and people from the fury of neo-liberalism, but only options of subjugation".
 Cyprus the first of 'broader haircut policy for deposits,' SYRIZACyprus is the first laboratory animal in a broader policy of haircuts of bank deposits, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said in an announcement on Cyprus economy developments on Saturday.
"Today, when the austerity programmes are reaching their limits because they have made peoples poorer and taxing poverty is no longer productive, robbery is being extended from wages and pensions to deposits, and Cyprus is being chosen as the first laboratory animal in a broader haircut of deposits," the main opposition party said.
SYRIZA charged that if the Cyprus government accepted the haircut, under pressure from the Greek government, the strategy "will not be an exception for Cyprus only; it will become the first step towards a generalised choice that will soon arrive before our own door," and called on the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras "even at the very last moment, not to acquiesce to the European agencies and the haircut of deposits."
 ND accuses SYRIZA of desperately seeking to justify its dead-end, opportunistic policyNew Democracy (ND), replying to criticism by main opposition SYRIZA, on Monday accused the main opposition of "despe-rately seeking opportunities to 'justify' its dead-end and opportunistic policy".
ND charged that SYRIZA does not care about Cyprus, the Cypriot banks or the deposits and livelihood of the Cypriots, but "cares only about narrow party benefit".
"In Cyprus, though, all this demagogy has gone bankrupt. This is directly and absolutely clear," ND said, adding that SYRIZA does not care about a "nationally proud stance" on any issue, nor has manifested such a stance on any issue, but rather "on all the open national issues it demands Greece's full retreat....on many issues, it justifies the worst arguments of Greece's enemies".
ND warned that SYRIZA was leading Hellenism to total isolation and criticising all those who resist it, but added that the people in Greece and Cyprus have realised this. "But SYRIZA has yet to realise this, if it had, it would be ashamed," ND concluded.
 KKE: Eurogroup decision will lead to layoffs, new cycle of harsh measures for Cypriots"The Eurogroup decision for the recapitalisation of the Cypriot banks will lead to immense losses for Cypriot working peoples' social security funds, layoffs and a new cycle of harsh measures, just like the Greek people are undergoing," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) warned on Monday, adding that the Cypriot government was using the same blackmail and anti-popular measures on the Cypriot people as those used by the Greek government on the Greek people.
"The myth of the pro-popular negotiation, inside the EU and with the prevalent, in the economy, monopolies is revealed," the KKE said, adding that "management of the crisis 'inside the walls', regardless of the recipe, plan or international alliance, made, has always the working people as the victim, who are called on to make tough sacrifices to support the recovery of the big capital," it said.
"The people of Greece and Cyprus can draw their own conclusions and strengthen their struggle for disengagement from the spurious alliance of the EU and to overthrow this policy," the KKE added.
 Cyprus' DIKO, EDEK parties comment on Eurogroup decisionNICOSIA (AMNA/A. Viketos)
The Eurogroup decision on Cyprus averted disorderly default and the complete collapse of the economy, Democratic Party (DIKO) president Marios Karoyian said on Monday, but "opens a tough and long-term testing period of the Cypriot people's patience, stamina, and - above all - sense of honour and creativity."
Karoyian added that it was necessary to build a new national identity and political, collaborative understanding and decisiveness now. He said that DIKO had three priorities - criticism and self-examination for the unforgivable mistakes made; assigning political liabilities for the averted bankruptcy in a manner that was painful; and punishment of those who undermined the salvation of the country and the lenders dictate their terms.
The Eurogroup's decision was "unprecedented, painful, and unacceptable," charged Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) party secretary Dimitris Papadakis, and was a decision that "imposed a raid on deposits that has been rejected by parliament."
The decision, he said, will throw Cyprus into a recession, radically increase unemployment and lead to shutdowns in businesses and to social misery. "Unfortunately, the government was not well prepared and handled the negotiations in an amateur manner," he charged.
He also added that EDEK will propose in parliament that criminal charges be filed against all who led Cyprus to this state, and requested that outflowing capital the past few weeks be investigated.
 FinMin to brief President, partiesFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras will be received at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, whom he will brief on the developments in Cyprus and the relevant Eurogroup decisions.
At 3:00 p.m. Stournaras will meet with Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras and at 3:45 p.m. with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga. Both meetings will be held at the party leaders' offices in Parliament.
President notes important role of Church in this time of crisis, at luncheon hosted for Holy Synod on Feast of Orthodoxy
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias underlined the important role played by the Church of Greece in the multi-level, ethical and spiritual crisis the country is going through, addressing Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece at the traditional luncheon the President hosted for the Holy Synod in observation of the 'Feast of Orthodoxy', which is celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent.
Papoulias noted that Greece is going through a tough trial, with unemployment downgrading the standard of living and the widespread poverty and financial inequalities putting the social cohesion at risk.
"In such conditions, extremity, violence, intolerance and division find room to develop," he warned, adding that the role of the Orthodox Church is exceptionally important today. "More and more of our compatriots look to the Church's social contribution and its support," he said, given that "the crisis we are going through is multi-dimensional, it is an ethical and spiritual crisis".
"Our system of values is being shaken, fundamental principles of our democracy are being disputed, and this is the reason why the word spoken by the Church is also of exceptional importance today. I am touched when I hear the Hierarchs who preach love, solidarity, tolerance, who work to preserve the social peace," Papoulias continued.
He underlined the Orthodox Church's unwavering position for absolute respect of human liberty and human rights, which automatically renders the Church a leader in the struggle for a genuine and integrated democracy.
Papoulias made particular reference to the "scourge" of poverty, noting that his is why the social solidarity taught by the Church is so important.
In his return address, the Archbishop stressed that the secret to the struggle was and always is unity and self-sacrifice.
"The hardships, the crises and the impasses in this world have always existed, exist today and will always exist. We have a duty to remain standing...The meal you hosted today, with love, for us, marks the common path of the Church and State, each with its duty and authority, with their objective purpose the ministration of the human being, the Greek and this blessed country, Greece," Ieronymos said.
 Samaras congratulates Netanyahu on forming coalitionPrime Minister Antonis Samaras congratulated late on Friday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his new centre-right coalition.
During a telephone conversation, the two leaders gave the go-ahead to the convening of the Greece-Israel Government-to-Government Council in the near future. The meeting will be prepared through diplomatic channels.
 Justice Minister to meet with PMJustice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis will be meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras over the next few days, to brief him on jail conditions and ask for more funds to increase staff at jails and provide additional equipment, it was announced on Monday.
 Cyprus banks to open Tuesday except for two under consolidationNICOSIA (AMNA/A. Viketos)
Despite calculations that the expected haircut of deposits over 100,000 euros at the Bank of Cyprus is expected to reach 30 pct, on Monday a banking source did not rule out a "surprise" haircut of close to 40 pct.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Cyprus announced that because of the restructuring and consolidation of the Bank of Cyprus with Cyprus Popular Bank, both banks, which shut down on March 16, will remain closed on Tuesday and Wednesday as well, to complete the process. The two banks' branch networks in Greece have been acquired by the Piraeus Bank.
All other banks will open on Tuesday under normal working hours, the bank said.
 Albania's parliament ratifies TAP pipeline projectTIRANA (AMNA/I. Patsos)
Albania's parliament unanimously approved the agreement of Greece, Albania and Italy on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) natural gas project, on Monday.
Of 140 deputies, all present (120) voted for the agreement, which had been signed in Athens in February and approved by the Albanian government on March 13. Albania expects to see investments totalling close to 2 billion dollars and a lot of job opportunities created.
"The TAP pipeline is a strategic opportunity for Albania and we must continue to support this project," Agriculture Minister Genc Ruli, said.
 Crete to see more Russian visitors this year, officialsThe successful promotion in Russia of the island of Crete as a holiday destination may result in a 30 pct surge in Russian tourists this summer, said hotelier and travel agency officials on Monday.
Returning from the Moscow tourism fair MITT 2013, vice-prefect of Crete and head of the delegation Evripidis Koukiadakis said that "Crete was promoted in a unified way in the Russian market and internationally. The increase of Russian tourists visiting Crete is expected to exceed 30 pct this year."
Similar evaluations were also made by the presidents of travel agents and hoteliers on the island, respectively. While in Russia, delegates met with Russian tourism officials, mass media and local religious leaders, including the bishop of Moscow.
The region's stand at the fair was visited by the Greek secretary general of tourism, the ambassador and consul of Greece in Russia, the secretary general of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) and staff of the EOT office in Moscow.
A 25-member Russian delegation will visit Greece in the near future to explore the options in specialised tourism, including religious and historical monuments and nature sites.
 E-purchases up 14 pct in Greece, reportA 26.9 pct of Internet users in Greece made e-purchases in the first quarter of 2012, an increase of 14 pct compared with the same period last year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said. The statistics service, in a report, said that the majority of users making e-purchases were between 25-34 years old, while most purchases were made from domestic enterprises.
The statistics service said that the average annual growth of users making electronic purchases through the Internet totaled 18.5 pct in the 2008-2012 period. The majority were men (56.9 pct), while women accounted for 43.1 pct.
Pharmaceutical products (36.1 pct), clothing-footwear-sport items (28 pct) and e-learning material (27.5 pct) recorded the biggest percentage growth rates in the period April 2011-March 2012, followed by food products (25 pct), event tickets (16.2 pct).
On the other hand, telecom services dropped 40 pct, pc hardware fell 37.1 pct, hotel bookings dropped 26 pct, pc software fell by 25.9 pct and travel services fell by 21.5 pct in the 12-month period.
Purchases from domestic enterprises grew by 24.9 pct compared with the previous 12-month period, from EU member-states purchases accounted for 41.3 pct and from third countries 24.3 pct.
The report said that 13.7 pct of e-purchases were made through a mobile device (smart phones, hand pc, PDAs, MP3 players, e-book readers).
 Manhunt continues for Trikala prison escapees, third convict recapturedPolice continued a manhunt on Sunday for eight inmates still at large after Friday's prison break by 11 inmates from Trikala prison, recapturing a third prisoner near the Trikala border with Larissa on Sunday evening.
Police have set up road blocks to all road accesses leading to the Greek-Albanian border, while patrols were scouring the surrounding mountains where passage routes to the neighbouring country abound.
Police have trained police dogs with them, while thermal cameras are being used at night.
Eleven inmates escaped from the Trikala jail after an operation on Friday night that sent two guards to the hospital, one critically injured
Two of the escapees were apprehended by police on Saturday and a third on Sunday, while the other eight still remain at large.
Four of the escapees had been trapped by police in the vicinity of the jail, while the two that were arrested on Saturday are Albanian nationals aged 27 and 30. All eleven were convicted on theft and robbery charges.
The escape was made with outside help by unknown persons in two cars who started firing at the guards as a diversionary tactic while the eleven men climbed out with ropes, hooks and self-made ladders.
According to a Justice Ministry announcement, the escape was "unprecedented and planned like a military operation, using Kalashnikovs and hand grenades," and carried out around 8:30 p.m., "while the convicts had not returned to their cells yet."
In an announcement describing the operation, the ministry said that "unknown persons, split into two groups, with two vehicles and heavy arms, opened fire at the guards outside and at the vehicle used by the jail patrol which was parked outside the jail and was caught in the cross-fire." An additional two police cars, one in motion and the other parked, were also attacked.
"During the fire exchange that lasted over half an hour and turned the area into a battlefield," the ministry said, "two guards outside were injured in the abdomen, one of them seriously. It was determined that 11 foreign nationals convicted over robberies and thefts managed to escape from the G2 jail wing after taking advantage of the armed clash of outsiders with the forces there."
The jail is surrounded by EKAM swat teams and searches "have so far not turned up additional firearms or shells that would confirm the use of firearms by convicts inside the jail during the escape attempt," the ministry said.
Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis rushed to Trikala, where he visited the injured guards in Trikala Hospital on Saturday afternoon, accompanied by deputy minister Costas Karagounis and the ministry secretary general.
Roupakiotis went afterwards to the prison, were he was briefed on the circumstances surrounding the attack on the prison guards and jail-break.
After the briefing, he said that a "perfectly organised plan" had been executed, during which hundreds of gunshots were fired and handgrenades thrown, of which five exploded, seriously injuring two members of the prison's outside guards, while also immobilizing the police car and guards' car stationed at the facility.
Roupakiotis said it was an unprecedented operation, noting that "up to know we were discussing how to prevent someone escaping from inside, since that is where the danger existed...now we have to redesign the guarding of the prisons, because as it seems, with the form that organised crime has taken, the there is a threat of interventions from the outside to help those on the inside (escape)".
Following Friday's prison break, law enforcement authorities believe that lifer Panagiotis Vlastos was preparing a new attempt to break out of the Trikala incarceration facility, after an attempted prison break by the notorious inmate by helicopter was foiled by authorities a month ago.
Police press spokesman Christos Parthenis said Saturday that after the escape of the 11 inmates a search was conducted of Vlastos' cell, which turned up five blades, four saws and two knives.
He also said that the two inmates that were re-captured were found in the Krinitsa area of Trikala some 4-5 kilometers from the jail, and were both Albanians, aged 27 and 30.
According to information collected so far, he added, the escape was planned by eight of the escapees, which was carried out with help from accomplices from the outside, who 'raided' the prison facility and riddled the main guardbooth and several sides of the building with hundreds of bullets fired from Kalashnikov firearms, seriously injuring two guards.
Meanwhile, the identities and photographs of the eight escapees still at large were released later Sunday by police.
 Migrant-smuggling ring disbanded, four smugglers arrested, 29 illegal immigrants detainedAttica police broke up an organised ring of migrant smugglers, arresting four ring members-- three Indian nationals and a local man -- and detaining 29 illegal migrants -- in a coordinated operation on Saturday, while four more persons were wanted.
Police said that four migrant smugglers were arrested and four more, two Greeks and two foreign nationals were wanted, while 29 illegal migrants -- 8 from India, 8 from Bangladesh, 6 Syrians, 3 Pakistanis, two Sri Lankan nationals, and one each from Lebanon and Afghanistan -- were detained.
After several days of investigation, police said they located a house in the Tavros district of Athens that was used by the ring to house illegal immigrants for transfer to other EU countries. They said two private buses boarded illegal immigrants from Tavros and other parts of Attica prefecture, for transport to Italy, but were intercepted by policy at the Elefsina toll station.
The illegal immigrants had paid 2,000-4,000 euros each to the smugglers.
 Police confiscate 217 kg of hashish in NW GreeceOver 217 kg of hashish were confiscated by police at Sagiada, a northwestern town across from Corfu, while an Albanian national was arrested for drug trafficking.
The 48-year-old was arrested after a search of his car yielded 188 packets totalling 217.6 kg of heroin and will be led to prosecuting authorities of Igoumenitsa. The car owner, a female Ukrainian national, is being sought.
 Hashish seized at border, four arrestedIn a coordinated operation between narcotics squad police from Ioannina and Igoumenitsa, 201 kilos of hashish were seized at dawn Sunday near the village of Ragio in Thesprotia prefecture, and four men were arrested.
The drugs were found in seven satchels hidden in a car with two Greek nationals on board, while a second car with another two Greeks was being driven ahead of the first vehicle, acting as a look-out.
The hashish, according to police sources, was destined for Athens.
All four men were arrested, while the Ioannina police are investigating the incident.
 Police find second batch of heroin linked to retiree policemanPolice in Florina found 10.6 kg of heroin, a Kalashnikov-type gun and dozens of bullets on Saturday associated with a retired policeman who was arrested in the northwestern city of Igoumenitsa for drug trafficking.
The 53-year-old man was detained on Wednesday before boarding a ferry for Italy, after a police dog located 12 kg heroin stashed away in a specially designed hiding place between the back seats and the trunk of his car.
In subsequent searches at the man's home in Florina, police found arms, while the nearly 11 kg of heroin, the gun and ammunition were discovered at a storage space he shared with a relative.
The retiree is believed to be part of an organised drug ring that may have brought the heroin from Turkey, according to the police, who also found evidence linking him with the neighbouring country.
 Rain on TuesdayMostly overcast throughout Greece on Tuesday, with rain and scattered thunderstorms that will be more intense in the west, north, and the islands of the eastern Aegean and the Dodecanese islands, but will lose strength from midday on. West-southwesterly winds in the north reaching 7 Beaufort. Temperatures ranging from 5C to 20C. In Athens, increasingly overcast until midday, leading to brief rain spells. Southeasterly winds 4 to 5 Beaufort, changing to northwesterly later in the day. Temperatures from 10C to 18C. In Thessaloniki, overcast with local rain, variable winds from 3 to 4 Beaufort. Temperatures from 9C to 16C.
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesThe weekend editions of Athens' dailies, mostly circulating Saturday and a few extra editions circulating on Sunday because of the Greek Independence Day holiday, which will be marked on Monday, a national holiday, at a glance:
AVGHI: "Nicosia looking for solutions beyond the troika - Battling without help, despite unbearable pressure"
DIMOKRATIA: "The Cyprus File: Nightmare for deposits in Greece too - A dramatic look behind the scenes the last 24 hours"
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Euro-scepticism at a high - Metron Analysis' monthly barometer on the days of the crisis"
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The euro cracks under Germany's assault on Cyprus - European depositors worried after the 'haircut'"
ESTIA: "Historic anniversary issue - March 25, 1903"
ETHNOS: "Cold-blooded execution - Eurogroup: Ultimatum for agreement, bankruptcy otherwise"
KATHIMERINI: "How the drama of Cyprus was played out - The critical contacts up to late Saturday night - Shielding of the depositors (in Cypriot banks' branches) in Greece - The secret bargaining between Moscow and Berlin - Schauble's (German finance minister) agenda for the EU South".
LOGOS: "Solution now! Market throttled - Hundreds of Greek businesses trapped"
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Comprehensive solution for Cyprus banks - Domestic bank sector situation normalising"
RIZOSPASTIS: "Cyprus people must stop the sacrifice of its rights - One way only, break free of the EU and overturn the anti-popular struggle"
TO VIMA (extra edition): "The new Merkel (German chancellor) economic dogma shakes up the eurozone - The sacrifice of Cyprus and the depositors - Nicosia-Troika agreement for 'haircut' (of bank deposits) from 4 percent to 10 percent - Critical eurogroup meeting in Brussels (on Sunday evening)".
VRADYNI: "Insurance guide for Social Security Foundation (IKA) and the civil sector - All new regulations for long-term insured people"
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