|Saturday, 16 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 3 April 2013 Issue No: 4325
 BoG chief: Deposits in Greece secureBank deposits in Greece are secure, central Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos assured early Tuesday, speaking on a late night programme on state NET television.
"In no instance will the solution (of a haircut of deposits) that was selected for Cyprus be implemented in Greece," he said, adding that even in the event of shortfalls in the Greek programme, these would be made up for by a reduction in expenditures and rationalization of the public sector, and not with a haircut of deposits.
He explained that the Greek banks have already absorbed the 50 billion euros foreseen in the Memorandum for their recapitalization, and consequently their capital base has been substantially boosted. Their position was further boosted by the repatriation of deposits from abroad.
Indeed, he said, more than 19 billion euros in deposits had returned to Greece between June 2012 and mid-March.
On the timetable for the banks' recapitalization, Provopoulos said that the deadline set by the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's lenders for completion of the recapitalization process by end-April was "not realistic", and anticipated that the systemic banks will have completed the relevant procedures by end-May, adding that Greece could extend the deadline by a month.
He confirmed that the Troika has expressed reservations over the planned merger of National Bank of Greece (NBG) and Eurobank, but predicted that the merger would take place and that the relevant process will not be reversed. Provopoulos said that the word 'veto' does not describe the Troika's stance on this specific merger, explaining that whatever reservations arise from the large size the new bank (after the merger) would have, as well from the large share (approximately 40 percent) of the Greek market the new bank would have.
As for the repercussions of the crisis in Cyprus on the Greek economy, Provopoulos anticipated that there would be a further, but minor, reduction in GDP.
He said the recession in the Greek economy this year would approach 4.5 percent (against an initial forecast of 4.0-4.5 percent), explaining that the impact of the developments in Cyprus on the Greek GDP would be about 0.35 percent.
Provopoulos once again reiterated that the structural changes and restructure of the public sector need to proceed, and opposed the imposition of additional taxes, while indirectly, but clearly, favored continuation this year of the collection of the extraordinary surtax on real estate (EETHDE) via PPC electricity bills.
The central bank chief further stressed that the danger of Greece's exiting the euro has been distanced, but without this meaning that it has totally eclipsed. He also declined to predict when Greece would be able to return to the international markets.
 FinMin: Optimism on outcome of negotiations with TroikaFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras expressed optimism for a positive outcome to the government's negotiations with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's lenders, speaking to the press after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday.
Stournaras said that there is no issue of extending the negotiations with the Troika, adding that "a very good discussion" was held at his meeting on Monday with the representatives of PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR), the two junior partners in the three-party coalition government.
 Samaras gov't a guarantee for Greece's staying in the eurozone, spokesmanSince the component groups of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) "cannot communicate among themselves, they would better remain silent," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Tuesday, in a response to criticism by the party on comments relating to Greece's membership in the eurozone.
"In SYRIZA's polical multiplicity of languages, they are having a hard time understanding simple English. The euro is absolutely necessary for the fast recovery and development of Greece's economy, without the financially weaker classes losing anything," Kedikoglou said. The government of Antonis Samaras is the only guarantee Greece has of remaining in the eurozone.
 Government spokesman Kedikoglou on SYRIZA's positions on the currency; SYRIZA responseGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Tuesday responded to comments made by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) cadres that "the currency is not a fetish", by saying that "Greece is a fetish".
Interviewed by an Athens-based private radio station, Kedikoglou said, "We are doing what we have to do for our country. The best we can, and what our country needs in this difficult phase," noting that "whoever said something like that (to return to the national currency) is against the country and the economically weak".
"As far as SYRIZA is concerned, it resembles the political equivalent of the biblical Tower of Babel. One does not know whom to address first: [parliamentary spokesman Panagiotis] Lafazanis, who advocates bank nationalisation and leaving the eurozone, while alleging that the Greek people have been intimidated; [Deputy Yiannis] Tolios, who also spoke about phobia, stressing that we should get rid of phobias and return to the national currency; or to listen to [head of the party's financial policy Yiannis] Milios, who warns that a proposed exit from the eurozone would mean more suffering for workers and pensioners."
Kedikoglou said that "[SYRIZA leader Alexis] Tsipras is like a pendulum that changes position, depending on whether he is in the country or abroad. Can such a political party be regarded as serious? We are careful in order to do what we know to be the only realistic way to handle a very difficult situation and lead society out of the crisis without any more losses. The government protects the national interest. We are adamant in our position and everybody agrees, even SYRIZA cadres, that there is no issue for discussion. Outside the eurozone it will be much more difficult. It would be much more difficult for the weak."
In response to the government spokesman's statements SYRIZA noted that "we are welcoming him to the view that no currency is a fetish, neither the euro nor the drachma."
"Would it be possible for him to also realize how catastrophic the memorandum policy implemented by the government is?" the SYRIZA statement concluded, referring to Kedikoglou.
 DIM.AR to insist on unified property tax at ruling coalition meeting Wed.The Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party will oppose the contiuation of the property tax, collected through the Public Power Corporation (DEI) bills, this year as well, according to AMNA sources.
The party's executive committee, in its weekly meeting, called instead for the introduction of a unified tax levied on real estate.
Also discussed, sources said, was the party's support of a proposal by Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis to restructure public sector services.
The issues were brought up ahead of a meeting among the three ruling coalition parties' leaders on Wednesday.
 SYRIZA: Gov't escalates attack against societyThe three-party coalition government is escalating the attack against the majority of the society, main opposition SYRIZA said in an announcement on Tuesday, adding that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, hand in hand with the EC,ECB,IMF troika, is materialising the plan for the further dissolution of the social state and the devastation of labour relations, the closure of businesses, the privatisations and the layoffs, while at the same time 'jubilating' over Cyprus' destruction.
Meanwhile, PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR), instead of arguing on who will differentiate in public relations, beyond the government's line, should explain to the Greek people why they continue to support the memorandum of disaster, SYRIZA said.
 SYRIZA leader: HRADF is vehicle for sell-off of state propertyMain opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras tabled a question in parliament on Tuesday, charging that the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) is the "vehicle for implementation of the extreme programme of selling off the state property", and also charging violations of the Constitution in the appointment of HRADF president Takis Athanasso-poulos.
The question, which concerns the HRADF's activities, its decision-making process and the Fund's leadership, is addressed to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and asks that parliament be briefed on the method that was used in which the state assets were appraised at just 9.4 billion euros and whether the government will persist with the concession of strategic sectors of the economy to private business interests, and whether "it will continue to cover for the unlawful operation of HRADF".
Tsipras charged that the HRADF "is a vehicle for implementation of the most extreme programme of selling off the state property", and "operates with intransparent procedures, circumventing even its founding law and constitution".
"The initial goal of creating the HRADF was the collection of monies to pay off the state debt, which is now considered possibly not sustainable and will not become sustainable without a generous haircut, regardless of the sell-off the state assets," Tsipras said in his question, adding that "the appraisal of the state assets has no relation whatsoever to the initial appraisals, since according to the 2013-2016 denationalisations programme it is just 9.6 billion euros, while the initial programme of the first Memorandum anticipated the collection of 50 billion euros, and before 2010 these assets were appraised at a minimum of 285 billion euros".
He also charged that in the Fund's function to date "a series of violations of the Constitution and the laws arises" because the "appointment of Athanassopoulos, who is now pending trial, in an illegal manner, is an unprecedented circumvention of the Constitution", as well as the HRADF board's omission in making public, on the internet, its quarterly reports as required by law, the release of confidential information on public enterprises up for sale, as well as the change in the terms of the tender for the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) after the dossiers of the indicative offers had been opened, which are "unprecedented and deliberate violations of the legal process".
He further charged, as an "unprecedented manipulation", the refusal of access to the parliamentary parties of the minutes of the HRADF board's meetings, as well as the ousting of board members who disagreed with the decisions and had demanded that their objections be recorded in the minutes.
 Dutch foreign minister meets counterpart Avramopoulos in AthensThe economic crisis of Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations were main issues discussed at the meeting of Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos with his Dutch counterpart visiting Athens, Frans Timmermans.
Avramopoulos briefed the Dutch minister about the Greek people's sacrifices, the preparations to assume the EU's rotating presidency in the first six months of 2014, and the importance of Cyprus restoring its financial health as soon as possible. "Cyprus does not stand alone, because the European building is a single one and demands the application of the principle of solidarity," Avramopoulos said.
Referring to Turkey, he said its European perspective was directly related to respect of international law and alignment with the European acquis communautaire. "Whoever invests in crisis is committing a strategic mistake," he added, "as it is a 'pandemic' phenomenon which knows no borders and can get out of hand." But the "recent summit meeting with Turkey offered positive results, establishing an honest diplomacy in bilateral relations," he added.
Timmermans commented that Europe's solution to the Cyprus crisis "is not a model solution," as "every country has its unique circumstances." For example, he said, "In Cyprus, as in Greece, they speak Greek but the case of Greece is entirely different from that of Cyprus'."
After mentioning forecasts seeing a 20 pct increase of Dutch tourists to Greece this summer, the Dutch foreign minister said, "The more Dutch that come to Greece, the more they understand the Greek reality and stereotypes are destroyed," something also true of Greek students studying at universities in Holland.
Timmermans congratulated the government for "its brave steps," adding that in cirsis "there is only a European solution, not a Dutch or Greek one."
Topics discussed between the two also included nationalism in Europe, illegal immigration, and Syria and its humanitarian disaster.
Earlier in the day, the Dutch foreign minister met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
 Greece can follow Irish example on memorandum, dev't ministerGreece does not have the luxury of losing time or rolling backwards, sowing doubts, because that would be the worst possible thing, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Tuesday after a round of contacts he had with local and regional officials and the ruling New Democracy party in Thessaloniki on Tuesday.
"After adopting a memorandum for a few years, the Irish are coming out of it very soon. If they succeeded, so can we," Hatzidakis said, "as long as we put it forward as a persistent goal."
In his contacts in the largest northern city, Hatzidakis said that priority of all projects belonged to the Thessaloniki Metro, which was impeded by the contractor's liquidity problems. "We are doing whatever we can to keep the project alive and help it overcome its problems," he noted. The Metro will be extended to the Kalamaria, the town adjacent to Thessaloniki on the east, while projects at the "Makedonia" airport are being restarted.
Hatzidakis also mentioned that the first congress for the 2014-2020 period of growth will take place in Athens on Thursday and attended by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn. This will be followed by 13 regional development congresses, he said.
 Independent Greeks leader visiting CyprusNICOSIA (AMNA/A.Viketos)
Cyprus Parliament Speaker Yiannakis Omirou and visiting Independent Greeks party president Panos Kammenos reassured here on Tuesday that Greece and Cyprus will walk together in these difficult moments to bring prosperity, growth and social cohesion again, in both Greece and Cyprus.
Kammenos also held separate meetings on Tuesday with left AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou, European Party (EVROKO) president Dimitris Syllouris and the leadership of the Ecologists Movement.
 ND, SYRIZA neck and neck in new opinion pollNew Democracy (ND) and main opposition SYRIZA were tied in first place in voters' preference, according to an opinion poll conducted by GPO for the private MEGA television station.
According to the poll results, ND and SYRIZA were tied at 20.3 percent each in the respondents' preference, followed by ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 9 percent, PASOK with 7.5 percent, Independent Greeks with 6.3 percent, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 5.8 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 5 percent, while 4.1 percent of the respondents expressed support for other parties, 6.1 percent said they would cast a blank vote and 15.6 percent declined response.
To a question of who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (and ND leader) was preferred by 46 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 29.3 percent, while 23.5 percent said neither of the two.
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between 28 March and 1 April 2013.
 New round of FYROM name talks at UN next weekNew York (AMNA/P. Panagiotou) -- Another round of meetings on the FYROM name issue will be held in New York on April 8 and 9, the UN Secretariat announced.
The UN Secretary General's personal envoy in the talks between Greece and FYROM on the FYROM name issue, Matthew Nimetz, has invited the chief negotiators of the two countries, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece and Ambassador Zoran Jolevski of FYROM, to meet with him at the UN headquarters in New York on April 8 and 9, and both sides have accepted the invitation.
The announcement said that Nimetz will first meet with the two representatives separately, followed by a joint meeting, for the purpose of continuing the UN-mediated talks aimed at reaching a "mutually acceptable solution" on the name issue.
 Deputy minister meets Estonian deputiesDeputy Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Notis Mitarakis met on Tuesday with the Estonian parliament's Finance Standing Committee, headed by its president, Sven Sester. Present at the meeting was Estonian Ambassador to Greece Andres Talvik.
Mitarakis briefed his interlocutors on the progress of Greece's fiscal adjustment programme, the Greek economy's prospects, the new investment law and the current economic environment, as well as the action taken to simplify export procedures.
 Data Protection Authority report presented in parliamentAppeals made by citizens to the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA) increased 20 pct and questions addressed to the independent watchdog rose 15 pct in 2011 compared with 2010, its president Petros Christoforou said on Tuesday.
Presenting the HDPA annual report to the parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency, Christoforou noted that a large number of cases will be impossible to handle due to personnel shortages and insufficient funding.
In 2011 the authority went through 2,098 cases. It issued 168 rulings, 7 recommendations and 2 directives.
 Deputy FM, Cuba's ambassador to meet Wed.Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will meet with Ambassador of Cuba to Greece Osvaldo Jesus Cobacho Martinez at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, according to a Ministry announcement.
 Palestinian Delegation on death of Palestinian detainee in Israeli hospitalThe Diplomatic Delegation of Palestine in Athens in an announcement denounced the death of Palestinian detainee Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 62, in an Israeli hospital earlier on Tuesday.
"Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh was suffering from a very serious health problem, but the Israeli occupation Authorities refused all medical care and did not respond with his release from the Israeli prisons, where the detainee has been over the past 10 years, resulting in his losing his life today, at the age of 62. It is yet another crime of the Israeli occupation," the announcement said.
"With the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, the number of Palestinian detainees, who died in the Israeli prisons over the past years increases to 207," it added.
It also stressed that "today there are 4,800 Palestinan detainees in the Israeli prisons. 107 of them have been over 30 years in the prisons of Israel, which is refusing persistently to release them despite the fact that they have been in prisons long before the Oslo Agreement was signed (1993) and Israel must release them".
 Greek unemployment rate highest in the EUBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni)
Greece maintained its top position in unemployment in the European Union, with the unemployment rate rising to 26.4 pct in December 2012, while unemployment among young people -aged below 25 years old- was 58.4 pct, Eurostat said on Tuesday.
The EU executive's statistics service, in a report published here, said the figures were for February 2013, but for Greece the latest figures were for December 2012. Eurostat said unemployment in the Eurozone remained unchanged at 12 pct in February, compared with January, while in the EU-27 the unemployment rate rose to 10.9 pct in February, from 10.8 pct in January. The number of unemployed people grew by 76,000 in the EU-27 and by 33,000 in the Eurozone in one month. The number of unemployed people totaled 26.338 million in the EU-27 and 19.071 million in the Eurozone.
Greece (26.4 pct in December), Spain (26.3 pct) and Portugal (17.5 pct) recorded the highest unemployment percentage rates, while Austria (4.8 pct), Germany (5.4 pct), Luxembourg (5.5 pct) and Holland (6.2 pct) the lowest rates.
Unemployment among young people rose to 23.5 pct in February, from 22.5 pct in January, in the EU-27, while in the Eurozone the rates were 23.9 pct and 22.3 pct, respectively. The number of young unemployed in the EU was 5.694 million and in the EU 3.581 million. Greece (58.4 pct), Spain (55.7 pct), Portugal (38.2 pct) and Italy (37.8 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates among young people, while Germany (7.7 pct), Austria (8.9 pct) and Holland (10.4 pct) the lowest rates.
The unemployment rate eased to 26.4 pct in December from 26.6 pct in November 2012.
 Long-term unemployment rises to 39 pct in 2012, study showsThe long-term unemployed in Greece amounted to 39 pct of the total number of the registered unemployed in 2012, as shown by the findings of a study published Tuesday by the General Confederation of Greek Labour's Employment Institute (INE GSEE), based on data provided by the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED).
According to the same data, the unemployment benefit paid out by OAED is currently received by a mere 25 pct of the total number of the unemployed, compared to 30 pct two years ago.
The number of job positions has been dropping accumulatively, as the recession of Greece's economy mounted. In the last 30 months alone (August 2008 - December 2010), the number of jobs lost was equal to the number of jobs created in seven-and-a-half years (January 2002 to July 2008).
More specifically, the data show that 303,824 salaried job positions were created in the years of growth, while it took only two-and-a-half years of recession to eliminate 309,194 positions.
In total, in just five years - August 2008 to December 2012 - as many as 507,000 private sector salaried employees lost their job.
 Major employment programme announced for AtticaAn annual employment programme to be urgently implemented, valued at approximately 10 million euros, was announced on Tuesday by head of Attica region Giannis Sgouros. The plan, presented at the Regional Council, envisages hiring of some 1,500 employees.
Programme beneficiaries, according to Sgouros, will be Attica-based businesses offering jobs to unemployed people of up to 29 years of age in specialties and trades that have been worst hit by the economic crisis.
The project will be similar to the standards of business subsidy programmes run by the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), obliging employers to offer work of at least three months beyond the subsided period of one year.
 Deputy FM on TAP pipelineSpeaking in favour of the imminent ratification of the Greece-Albania-Italy agreement regarding the natural gas pipeline in Parliament on Tuesday morning, Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas said the construction of the TAP Interadriatic pipeline will be one of the most important investments taking place in Greece and will have a positive impact in the foreign markets in the current crucial economic phase.
Kourkoulas explained that the ministry and diplomatic forces has made tremendous efforts, especially in Brussels and Washington, to achieve their favourable neutrality in the TAP project.
The deputy Foreign minister stressed that the TAP will have zero cost for the Greek taxpayer. The project's construction will be funded entirely by private capital and it is regarded as one of the biggest foreign investments in Greece with its value exceeding 1.5 billion euros, creating thousands of jobs.
Kourkoulas also clarified that the host country's agreement under consideration anticipates the future channeling of gas to Greece's network. He reassured that the agreement will anticipate the observance of all environmental and other terms of the EU and the possibility of providing natural gas to Bulgaria through the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline and to western Balkan countries at a future stage.
 Greece unveils plan for new intercity road transport systemGreek Development and Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Tuesday unveiled a new system of intercity road transport, which is expected to be fully operational by 2015.
Presenting the plan, during a news conference, the Greek minister said a restructuring of the intercity road transport system was a commitment of the country and noted that timetables were progressing according to a plan agreed with the troika.
Under the new draft legislation, the new system will operate under three categories of transport lines, paving the way for participation to every kind of buses, such as tourist buses. Hatzidakis said the draft legislation was not final and noted he was open to dialogue with all interested parties.
"It is a reform based on a specific method, according to community legislation, envisaging a transition period by 2019. However, basic procedures must begin now to have results the soonest possible and to avoid facing any vacuum in the domestic transportation services," he said.
 Greek-listed companies report 6.6 billion euros losses in 2012Greek-listed companies recorded accumulated losses of 6.6 billion euros in 2012, the second worst performance in history, a survey by Beta Securities showed on Tuesday.
The survey noted that last year's results were not fully comparable with 2011 as Cypriot banks, Alapis and some other companies failed to report their 2012 results. Beta Securities estimated that losses could surpass 10 billion euros, if these companies reported their financial results.
Accumulated turnover fell by 0.3 pct to 79.09 billion euros last year, while operating earnings totaled 6.88 billion euros, down 3.3 pct from 2011.
The rate between profitable and loss-making companies was 3 to 7, as 72 listed companies reported profits and 161 losses. From the 72 profitable enterprises, 30 recorded an increase in earnings, another 30 lower profits and 12 managed to return to profitability. From the 161 loss-making enterprises, 77 reported higher losses, 68 limited their losses and 16 turned to loss-making.
OPAP, Thessaloniki Port, Piraeus Port, Folli Follie, Terna Energy, Motor Oil, Hellenic Petroleum, Metka, Jumbo, Hellenic Telecoms were the top performers among blue chip stocks, while Thessaloniki Water, Athens Water, Sarantis, Elval, Plaisio, Crete Plastics and Autohellas were top performers in the mid capitalization category and Kri-Kri, Iktinos, Kyriakidis Marbles, Karamolegos, Karatzis and Flexopack were top performers in the small capitalization category.
 Alpha Bank unveils details of share capital increase planAlpha Bank on Tuesday unveiled details of a share capital increase plan, worth 4.5 billion euros, due to be approved by an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting scheduled for April 6. The plan envisages the participation of the private sector with 550 million euros in cash through a rights' issue with the issuance of new common shares worth 457.1 million euros and the issuance of new common shares worth 92.9 million euros through a private placement to selected strategic and institutional investors.
The plan also envisages the participation of Hellenic Financial Stability Fund with bonds issued by the European Financial Stability Fund and the issuance of new common shares worth 4.1 billion euros. The offer price of the new shares will be determined by a board meeting. Private sector investors will also receive -without any further burdening- a warrant offering the option to buy Alpha Bank's shares at a fixed price every six months for a period of 4-1/2 years. These warrants will be traded in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Alpha Bank stressed, in a statement, that it will remain in the private sector on the precondition that it achieves a target for private investors' participation in a bank recapitalization plan. The bank said the recapitalization plan will open a new chapter in its 135-year-long history of the group.
 EU-bankers forum looks at investment agency proposalsOptimism for quick and positive results in the negotiations between the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB), the KfW German banking group and French experts aimed at setting up an investment agency to take over part of the investment risk in Greece, was expressed by the speakers who addressed an investment forum held in Athens on Tuesday within the framework of the initiative "Restarting Economic Growth".
KfW Group vice-president Lutz-Christian Funke noted that a "third investor" should be introduced in the Greek market in the form of an agency, not a bank, modeled after KfW but smaller in size, to share investment risk.
He noted that the banking system across Europe has changed, adding that a project which a few years ago was funded by four banks now can be funded by 12 banks "even in Germany where the banking sector is in better shape". He underlined that KfW can help toward this direction and that similar investment agencies operate in France and Portugal, pointing out that the most attractive sector for investments is the energy sector.
Addressing the forum, Invest in Greece Group Executive Chairman Aristomenis Syngros stated that planning is necessary for the endeavor to be successful, while National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) President Vassilis Korkidis underlined the problem of financing.
Projects to process household waste in Greece, a chronic problem, was an issue also raised at the conference, with EU fines pending if the country does not comply with deadlines.
Panel coordinator and president of the Greek Company for Solid Waste Management Constantinos Aravosis said that political will and corporate competitors were the main delay factors, besides financial ones, while other speakers mentioned the inability of Greek banks to finance such large projects, the lack of clarity in guarantees offered to foreign investors, which discouraged funding, and lack of information to local authorities, who reacted to projects on hearsay alone.
 Shipyards workers meet defence ministerWorkers at the Skaramangas Shipyards held a protest outside the National Defence Ministry on Tuesday to protest a change in their work schedules, placed on rotation, and other issues.
The president of the shipyard workers' union and president of the National Federation of Ironworkers (POEM) met with Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, who said, according to sources, that the ministries of defence and development would meet with shipyards owner Iskandar Safa within the next two weeks.
The sources said that the defence ministry has allocated 75 million euros for work to restart on submarines, while the EU has responded positively to a Greek request that the shipyards be allowed to repair ships of foreign navies, something currently prohibited. The issue will also be placed at the discretion of the owner.
Also present at the meeting were the ministry's special secretary Antonis Economou and the head of the Greek state's arbitration team, professor Panagiotis Bernitsas.
 Eldorado Gold determined to stay in GreeceEldorado Gold is determined to stay in Greece and dismissed recent reports that the company was allegedly examining to leave the country.
Eduardo Mura, vice-chairman of Eldorado Hellas, speaking to reporters during a news conference in Thessaloniki on Tuesday, said: "There is no evidence that the company was considering to leave", adding that Eldorado has tripled the number of its workers in one year and reiterated that exports could reach 1.0 billion US dollars annually when its activities reached full production capacity. He noted that the company has offered a 50-million-euro letter of guarantee to safeguard environmental restoration and stressed that the investment was boosting liquidity in Northern Greece by 800,000 euros daily.
Mura said the company has completed investments worth 100 million euros in the last 12 months in its goldmines in Chalkidiki and Thrace and planned to invest around 1.0 billion euros over the next five years. He said the company "has many reasons to believe it had the support of the majority of citizens in the municipality of Aristoteles. "We are open and receptive to a rational dialogue to win the confidence of those reacting," he said.
Petros Stratoudakis, chief executive of "Hellenic Gold" said the company will soon become the first company in Greece -since the crisis- to sign a wage increase contract with its workers.
 Vivartia Group expands activities in LibyaVivartia Group on Tuesday announced the signing of a strategic agreement to expand its activities in the Libyan market.
The Goody's-Everest group signed an agreement with Libyan company Tasty Franchise Ltd for the development of Goody's and Flocafe chains in Libya. Under the agreement, the company will operate a network of at least 10 Goody's fast-food restaurants and 10 Flocafe units in all large cities of the country, with the first units expected to begin operations by this summer.
The group has already signed similar agreements with Albania, Belarus, FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro and the UAE and is operating networks of more than 20 units in Cyprus, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.
Commenting on the deal, Yiannis Artinos, chief executive of Vivartia Group, said: "The group is making its first stop in the developing market of North Africa. The new agreement with Tasty Franchise Ltd for 20 new units adds another country to the group's portfolio, aiming at seven million new consumers."
 Egypt lifts restrictions on Greek cotton importObstacles preventing the export of Greek cotton to Egypt have been lifted, the ministry of agriculture and foods announced on Monday.
The Egyptian ministers of foreign trade and agriculture notified Agriculture and Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris that all measures prohibiting the import of Greek cotton to the North African country have been lifted.
Cotton is among the top Greek exports to Egypt and export flows had recorded a dramatic reduction in the past two years, reaching 85 pct in the second half of 2012, as a result of the measures imposed by the Egyptian authorities after citing a emergency situation.
Before the measures were introduced, exports of processed and unprocessed cotton, were at 71 million euros, corresponding to 34 pct of all Greek exports to Egypt.
 Number of American tourists expected to increaseThe number of American tourists visiting Greece, traveling individually or on cruise ships, is expected to increase, according to the US embassy in Athens.
US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Virginia Bennett on Tuesday conveyed this forecast to authorities in Chania, on the island of Crete, noting that Greece is a popular destination for American tourists.
In a meeting with the region's deputy governor Apostolos Voulgarakis and the city's mayor Manolis Skoulakis, Bennett said that summer season bookings have increased; she will suggest to her friends and acquaintances to visit Crete because it is a warm and hospitable place, she added.
The American official also expressed satisfaction for the services provided to ships that have used local marinas and underlined that US citizens visiting Greece felt safe.
 First low cost airline flight for summer season to ZakynthosLow cost airline Easy Jet's first flight to Zakynthos for the summer season was carried out on Tuesday. The flight left from Gatwick airport, Britain with 156 passengers on board and landed at the Ionian island's airport.
Easy Jet flights to Zakynthos are scheduled every Sunday and according to the company another flight within the week will be added in the near future.
Meanwhile, local tourist entities appear optimistic for the course of the tourism flow in the summer of 2013.
 Civil Aviation Authority employees call 24-hour strike on ThursdayThe Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (YPA) employees will hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday, April 4, to protest a rider on the authority's reorganisation submitted to parliament by the ministry of development, competitiveness, infrastructure, transport & networks, it was announced on Tuesday.
According to the YPA employees' federation (OSYPA), the rider "destroys the structure of YPA and prepares the ground for the sellout of Greek state airports with uncontrollable consequences for tourism and local society."
 Olive production, table olive consumption down in 2011-2012, ICAPDomestic consumption of table olives will drop by 8 pct in 2011-2012, as opposed to a 25 pct increase recorded in 2010-2011, ICAP Group said on Monday.
Table olive production increased by 26 pct in 2010-2011, while in the period 2011-2012 it is expected to drop by 19 pct.
According to ICAP, table olives are mostly sold in bulk. Imports of olives are very low, as opposed to exports that are very high, corresponding to a large part of the domestic production. Therefore, trade balance has remained positive for the past few years.
Greek packaged olives face an intense competition from other European countries with strong trade labels that control a significant market share. Competition from third - mainly Mediterranean - countries offering their products in low prices is also intense.
 Business briefs-- Centric Holdings on Tuesday said its consolidated turnover fell 11.1 pct to 504 million euros in 2012, from 567 million euros in the previous year.
 Greek stocks end significantly lowerGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens stock Exchange on Tuesday, with market sentiment hit by reports that the troika's was allegedly expressing reservations over a National Bank-Eurobank merger plan ahead of completion of a bank recapitalization plan this month. Analysts said that a wave of forthcoming share capital increase plans by banks would burden a fragile market.
The composite index of the market fell 1.48 pct to end at 856.29 points, off the day's lows of 843.81 points. Turnover was a low 46.753 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 1.79 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.10 pct lower. The Commerce (3.05 pct), Travel (1.77 pct) and Food (0.97 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (12.21 pct), Raw Materials (8.02 pct), Financial Services (7.08 pct) and Banks (4.33 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Intralot (3.83 pct), Folli Follie (3.10 pct) and OPAP (1.46 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (14.29 pct0, MIG (11.15 pct) and Alpha Bank (8.45 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 95 to 42 with another 18 issues unchanged. G.E.Demetriou (28.57 pct), Crete Constructions (21.15 pct) and Hellenic Sugar (20.55 pct) were top gainers, while Teletypos (20 pct), Vioter (19.78 pct) and Alsinco (19.23 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.42%
Personal & Household: +0.38%
Raw Materials: -8.02%
Travel & Leisure: +1.77%
Food & Beverages: +0.97%
Financial Services: -7.06%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Coca Cola 3E, National Bank and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.65
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.20
HBC Coca Cola: 21.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.47
National Bank of Greece: 0.63
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.21
Bank of Piraeus: 0.19
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.41 pct and the German Bund 1.31 pct. Turnover totaled 8.0 million euros, of which 5.0 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 3.0 million were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-monnth rate was 0.54 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate was 0.33 pct, the three-month rate was 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 3.61 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 8.995 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,594 contracts worth 3.452 million euros, with 26,971 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 29,948 contracts worth 5.543 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (7,017), followed by National Bank (5,929), Piraeus Bank (6,398), OTE (2,817), PPC (2,202), Mytilineos (1,422), OPAP (748), GEK (692), Hellenic Petroleum (298), Eurobank (124), MIG (253), Intralot (714), Jumbo (199) and Metka (106).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.303
Pound sterling 0.859
Danish kroner 7.566
Swedish kroner 8.435
Japanese yen 121.59
Swiss franc 1.234
Norwegian kroner 7.579
Canadian dollar 1.320
Australian dollar 1.245
 Three flight officers get top distinctions in NATO training campThree officers of the Greek Air Force received distinctions after completing NATO's Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) at the Albacete air base in Spain from March 4 to 27.
Captain Theoharis Katsaros was voted best trainee in the group; first lieutenant Ioannis Sianos was voted second best, a rank held by other trainees as well; and major Marinos Bogatinis, a TLP trainer, was voted best trainer for the third time in a row.
The programme trains NATO pilots in creating and leading combined air operations (COMAO). Participant countries included Greece with four Mirage 2000-5s, Belgium, Holland and the US with ten F-16s, as well as France, Italy, the UK and Poland with fighter aircraft including helicopters and other electronically-controlled craft.
 Plan for University Space Research Center in Kalamata proposed by US Messinian organisationsPlans for the creation of a University Space Research Center in the wider region of Kalamata that could also include a launch center for space shuttles outside the earth's atmosphere, combined with the prospects of developing 'space tourism' in the area, were presented to Kalamata Mayor Panagiotis Nikas by the president of the "Aristomenes" Association of Messinians of New York Spyros Yannopoulos, vice-president of the Messinian Amphictyony and representative of the Messinian Associations of America George Dimopoulos and Amphictyony secretary general Panagiotis Bazigos.
The plan is an initiative of American scientist Prof. Pericles Papadopoulos, who is of Messinian origin, will be funded by private capital and will have the support of NASA, the representatives of the Messinian associations told the Mayor, adding that the government has also been informed.
Details of the plan will be presented by Prof. Papadopoulos himself when he visits Greece this summer.
The US Messinians' representatives said that, apart from Prof. Papadopoulos' desire to contribute to his land of origin, studies have shown that the geographical position of the Kalamata region, at a spot that joins Europe, Asia and Africa, is conducive to the development of "space tourism".
The Mayor expressed the municipality's agreement with the plan, and called for more specialised proposals.
Mayor Nikas told AMNA that it is a "pioneer plan" which, if it goes ahead, will create developmental prospects not only for the city of Kalamata but also for the entire Peloponnese and will contribute to scientific research and to upgrading the University of Peloponnese, "which cannot remain outside the plan, since we are talking about a university research center".
He said that although the creation of a university space research center appears to be an ambitious project, the Greeks, and especially the Messinians, have proved throughout history that they are capable of major, and not small and unimportant, endeavors.
"In these tough times the country is going through, with the deep economic crisis, we need or to have vision, to plan and work with our eyes on the future and the coming generations," Mayor Nikas said.
 First TEDMED conference to open April 21 at Onassis Cultural CentreThe first TEDMED (Technology, Entertainment, Design Medicine) conference in Athens will open on Sunday, April 21, at the Onassis Cultural Centre, on Syngrou Avenue, with talks focusing on a common dream - improving the future through health and medicine.
Following the format of the successful TED conferences in the US - of an event "devoted to ideas worth spreading" - the Athens conference will hear "representatives of health sectors and innovative leaders in business, academics, technology, research, mass media and culture" who will speak and then share their ideas in discussion with the public.
Greek speakers include Despina Sanoudou, assistant professor of pharmacology in the Athens Medical School, who became a lecturer at Harvard University's Medical School when she was 27. She will speak on allergic reactions to medication, and what patients can do about it, including tailoring therapy to individuals.
Also speaking will be doctor Stelios Kybouropoulos, psychiatrist in training at the Attikon University Hospital who was born with spinal muscular atrophy and who will speak how the effectiveness of drug treatment can be improved through a better doctor-patient relationship.
 German students visit PeloponneseTen students from the vocational training school Walter-Hecker-Schule in Kassel, Germany, accompanied by their teachers, visited the village of Karioupoli in Gythio, Peloponnese in southern Greece, for a month within the framework of the "Ger-Mani" (Germany-Mani) programme.
The visit was funded by the IdA European programme allowing students from across Europe to enrich their vocational training with experience gained from visiting different European countries.
During their stay, the German students visited Athens, Corinth, Nafplio, Argos, the archaeological site of Mycenae and Monemvasia.
 Half ton of hashish seized in Igoumenitsa portIgoumenitsa coast guards located and confiscated 577 kilos of hashish at midnight Monday hidden in a truck in the city's port.
The illegal cargo, destined for Italy, was hidden under a load of wood and olives in a Greek-registered open-back truck driven by a Bulgarian national.
Officials found 14 bags of hashish separated into one-kilo packets.
According to sources, the truck had left Athens for Corfu, where it loaded the cargo, and then on to Igoumenitsa to board a ferry for the Italian port of Bari.
The Greek owner of the truck as well as the Bulgarian driver were arrested.
 Wildfire in Laconia is under controlA large wildfire in the region of Koumousta in Laconia prefecture, southern Greece, was put under control on Tuesday, a day after it broke out, after burning many acres of an area undergoing reforestation along Mt. Taygetus in the Peloponnese.
Firefighters will remain in the region until the fire is fully contained.
 Two new wildfires in Laconia prefectureTwo new wildfires broke out in the Peloponnese region of Laconia on Tuesday and have spreading due to strong winds blowing in the area.
The first fire started at noon at Karyes, Mt Parnonas, and the second broke out one hour later at Karavostasi Itilou, Mani.
Strong fire brigade forces from all over the Peloponnese and volunteer groups are struggling to control the fires, but their efforts are being hampered by the strong winds.
The large number of wildfires in Laconia over the past few days have alarmed authorities, and a delegation of the Arson Crime Department arrived in the city of Sparti on Monday to conduct an investigation.
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 7C and 20C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with local showers and northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 20C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 9C and 17C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "The black hole that swallows the government".
DIMOKRATIA: "What is happening with National Bank of Greece".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) blackmail: Surtax or new measures".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tax Bureau's ultimatum for the overdue debts".
ELLADA AVRIO: "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to coalition government partners (PASOK leader
Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis): Either we agree, or elections".
ESTIA: "How an economy is destroyed".
ETHNOS: "2,700 euros benefit to 35,000 unemployed".
IMERISSIA: "Banking 'fever'."
KATHIMERINI: "News for the tranche in May".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Drat EU Directive for the new banking landscape'.
RIZOSPASTIS: "Government prepares new devastating measures for the working classes".
TA NEA:" 'Oil hopes' from Ionian Sea and Crete".
VRADYNI: "The trains that depart (Germans, French, Russians and Chinese vie for TRAINOSE)".
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ANTONIS SKYLLAKOS