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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-04

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

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

Thursday, 4 April 2013 Issue No: 4326

CONTENTS

  • [01] Coalition government leaders adopt uniform positions in negotiations with troika
  • [02] Coalition parties will find formula for real estate tax, gov't spokesman predicts
  • [03] DIMAR leader to APA: New debt write-off possible
  • [04] SYRIZA-EKM leader: We will not capitulate to the Memorandums
  • [05] PASOK, DIM.AR on Tsipras' press conference
  • [06] KKE: Differences within coalition gov't a ploy to avoid political cost
  • [07] FM Avramopoulos to visit Romania on Thursday
  • [08] FM convenes National Council of Foreign Policy for April 25
  • [09] PM Samaras, EU Commissioner Han to address conference on development
  • [10] SYRIZA leader presents plan on armed forces
  • [11] Justice Minister announces tighter security measures for prisons; hand grenades found at Trikala Prison
  • [12] Citizen Protection Minister Dendias meets with local government authorities ahead of the fire alert season
  • [13] Independent Greeks party delegation in Cyprus
  • [14] Greek Union of Businessmen present plan to boost competitiveness
  • [15] SEB chief: Grexit inconceivable, but not impossible
  • [16] Greece raises 41.1 mln euros from sale of four property assets abroad
  • [17] E.I.Papadopoulos enters packaged bread market with 6.0 million euros investment
  • [18] Shipping agencies on Shipping ministry's omnibus bill
  • [19] Seamen's strike on Wednesday
  • [20] Flights as normal at airports on Thursday, employees' strike ruled illegal and abusive
  • [21] FTSE Group keeps ASE in developed market category
  • [22] Business briefs
  • [23] Greek stocks remain under strong selling pressure
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [26] AMNA launches new web page on Thursday
  • [27] Young patient to be airlifted to Hanover in government aircraft
  • [28] Court hands out hefty sentences in 'Revolutionary Struggle' case, acquits three
  • [29] Internet access to thousands of PhD papers written by Greeks
  • [30] Greek parliament donates used electronic equipment
  • [31] Unexploded hand-grenades found outside Trikala prison perimeter
  • [32] Drug trafficker arrested with 5.7 kg of cocaine
  • [33] Two new metro stations open on Saturday
  • [34] Ferry rams into pier, no injuries
  • [35] Train crashes with car
  • [36] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [37] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Coalition government leaders adopt uniform positions in negotiations with troika

    The three political leaders forming the coalition government on Tuesday evening concluded a meeting under Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, during which they adopted a uniform position that will be kept in negotiations with the country's troika of international lenders (EC-ECB-IMF), starting this week.

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who also attended the meeting, told reporters that "the special levy on properties (EETHDE), will continue to be collected through electricity bills (DEH) in 2013", and efforts will be made to reduce the amount of the tax for those citizens already paying it off.

    The government's intension is to apply as of 2013 a reduction in the property tax of up to 10 pct, later rising to 15 pct.

    However, the exact amount of reduction in the levy will be finalised after negotiations with the troika, the heads of which are to arrive in Athens on Thursday.

    "We extensively discussed all pending issues on the negotiations agenda (with the troika), as the talks must be concluded in order for the (rescue loan) tranche to be disbursed," PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos said in a statement after the end of the meeting.

    On his part, Democratic Left (DIMAR) party leader Fotis Kouvelis told reporters that the government's uniform position in negotiations with the troika will be that "the special levy on properties be replaced by the Single Property Tax, which will be of a bracketed nature."

    The levy, according to Kouvelis, will continue to be collected through electricity bills, but for citizens not willing to pay it this way, it will be collected by taxation offices.

    [02] Coalition parties will find formula for real estate tax, gov't spokesman predicts

    The three party leaders in the coalition government will finally manage to reach agreement on a formula for a tax on real estate, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou predicted in statements to the private radio station SKAI on Wednesday.

    According to Kedikoglou, the proposed tax was already different from the controversial emergency surtax imposed via electricity bills in the last two years (which the junior coalition partner Democratic Left (DIM.AR) has refused to continue to support) since the sum involved will be much lower and only the collection method will remain unchanged.

    "Is it not better to ensure its collection, preserving the method of collection only, while changing the sum, given the emergency conditions of the Greek economy? Unless there is another alternative," Kedikoglou said, warning of the risk that a gap in revenues close to one billion euro might otherwise arise.

    The spokesman also promised that a mechanism for the uniform property tax will soon be ready and expressed confidence that this time, as in the past, "the prime minister and the two party leaders show the highest sense of responsibility and will arrive at the right, realistic agreement".

    On the issue of a government reshuffle and the proposals made by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, Kedikoglou noted that the government's operation could be improved in a number of ways and every proposal and observation in this discussion was welcome.

    According to PASOK MP Filippos Sahinidis, also in statements to SKAI, agreement between the three parties on the method of collecting the single property tax was actually being blocked by the EU-IMF troika, which disputed the efficacy of any other collection method other than using electricity bills.

    [03] DIMAR leader to APA: New debt write-off possible

    VIENNA (AMNA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis opined that a new write-off of Greece's debt is possible, keeping in mind the upcoming German elections, in an interview on Wednesday with the Austrian Press Agency (APA), and at the same time rejected further cuts to salaries and pensions.

    Kouvelis, a junior partner in the three-party coalition government in Greece, said that the Greek state needs the support of the European Union for implementation of developmental programmes and investment initiatives, adding that the foreign investments that are moving forward are an important prerequisite for economic recovery and the generation of jobs in Greece, which is facing a crisis.

    He lauded the recently-announced agreement among Hewlett-Packard (HP), Cosco and TrainOSE to use Cosco's cargo terminal at the port of Piraeus as a hub and Trainose's adjacent rail infrastructure to distribute the American electronics giant's products in central Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the eastern Mediterranean and eastern Europe.

    Kouvelis said it was not easy to anticipate when the situation will have smoothed out in Greece, adding his personal belief that the first signs of recovery of the Greek economy will appear toward the end of the year.

    Kouvelis severely criticised the Eurogroup's bailout package for Cyprus (haircut of bank accounts), warning that the forced reform of the Cypriot banking system, "which they (EU/IMF) now want to apply every so often", cannot be accepted, and adding that the risk of harm to the European banking system as a result is "real and big".

    He did, however, welcome the fact that, in the case of Cyprus, deposits under 100,000 euros would not be touched, and added that a solution to the problem "within the eurozone" had been necessary.

    [04] SYRIZA-EKM leader: We will not capitulate to the Memorandums

    Main opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras stressed that "we will not capitulate to the Memorandums", during a press conference on Wednesday.

    "We will not say 'yes' to the blackmail and threats, we will not capitulate to the Memorandums," Tsipras said.

    Tsipras severely criticized the Greek government for its handling of the latest developments in Cyprus, adding that in Cyprus there had been only the people's determination not to accept the development (haircut of bank deposits), but there had been no determined government or the appropriate allies.

    He blasted the partners in Greece's three-party coalition government for not knowing, or not wanting the people to remember, the role played by some important 'no's in history. "It is now clear that the much-advertised programme for stabilisation and growth was just a 'bubble', and the only thing that exists is the lenders' raid on this devastated country to loot as much as they can," he said.

    Tsipras further said that his party is working on scenarios that will form the basis of its negotiations tactic, and "considers it a given fact that there will be coercion, that the partners will not accept the overwhelming defeat of their strategy", adding that SYRIZA has a plan for collaboration with the countries of the European south.

    SYRIZA-EKM's leader expressed his party's willingness to collaborate with forces outside its ranks in order to form a leftist 'social salvation' government that will reverse the present situation.

    In a scathing attack on the government and Germany's policy in Europe, Tsipras accused Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of preparing for the upcoming visit of the EU-IMF troika "holding a bouquet of yes's". Nor did he spare the premier's coalition partners: according to Tsipras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos "one burning concern" while the country was going up in flames, was to become a minister again and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party leader Fotis Kouvelis, while not voting for the measures in Parliament, passionately supported the government that yielded to all the troika's demands.

    Regarding his party's potential political alliances, SYRIZA-EKM's leader said that SYRIZA would not hesitate to stray beyond "politically correct" choices and frameworks, given the urgency of the crisis, but that the government finally formed would necessarily be leftist and radical in its actions. At the same time, he underlined that his party would not become a "supermarket" for politicians who had changed their minds with changing conditions.

    He repeated that in order for such a government to achieve its goals, there were three necessary conditions, listing these as:

    A government determined and able to convince others that it can obtain its goals in negotiations

    The people's support for the effort

    The existence of necessary alliances so that the balance of power in not absolutely negative

    On the issue of a National Bank of Greece-Eurobank merger, Tsipras pointed out that Greek banks were not under state control and that their managements had not been changed, as they had in other countries, in spite of receiving bailouts paid by tax-payers. He said that banks financed by the Fiscal Stability Fund must immediately come under state control.

    Regarding the euro, finally, Tsipras said his statements in the United States had been misinterpreted and that the euro was not the central focus of SYRIZA-EKM's policies. He stressed that the party's main concern was to put an end to austerity policies, not the currency under which these were being implemented.

    "Our goals is to save Greece in the eurozone and the euro, not to save the euro in Greece and especially not to save the euro in Greece at all costs," he underlined, challenging the government to explain what "at all costs" might mean.

    Government spokesman on Tsipras' interview

    A tough and, at the same time, ironic government statement issued after a press conference given by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday hinted at contradictions in the latter's position as regards the euro.

    "Tsipras was clear; on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday in the eurozone; on Monday,Wednesday, Friday we have the drachma and on Sunday it's referendum day. He was also perfectly clear that his 'big plan' is to blackmail partners, lenders and Europe," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou underlined.

    Kedikoglou added that Tsipras did not understand anything from his stance as regards Cyprus, "we predict that Tsipras will continue to waver between (the positions expressed by party cadre) Lafazanis and (former party leader) Alavanos. He couldn't care less if such an attitude hurts the country."

    [05] PASOK, DIM.AR on Tsipras' press conference

    The PASOK and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) parties, both junior partners in the three-party coalition government, strongly criticized main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras in response to his press conference on Wednesday.

    A PASOK press office statement noted that Tsipras "gave another press conference laden with platitudes, empty boasting and contradictions to hide his embarrassment for his two recent strategic blunders."

    PASOK characterized as "strategic blunders" the "nationally irresponsible and dangerous positions he expressed as regards Cyprus" and his "desperate collaboration with (Independent Greeks (AN.EL) leader Panos) Kammenos".

    "He cannot explain his stance to his cadres and much more to the Greek people who can see and understand," PASOK noted.

    "He did not learn anything from the very sad events on Cyprus," DIM.AR commented on Tsipras' press conference, adding that "he heralds the country's bankruptcy and invests in ruins and destruction".

    The people and society have become aware of his party's contradictions, u-turns and political dead end, DIM.AR noted, underlining that "it is not a coincidence that his only ally is Mr. Kammenos' party".

    "The so-called realistic turn is now history," the DIM.AR statement concluded.

    [06] KKE: Differences within coalition gov't a ploy to avoid political cost

    Any apparent differences between the three parties in the coalition government regarding the implementation of the measures were simply an attempt to pass the political cost to each other, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Wednesday.

    "The parties of the coalition government have made a commitment to Greek plutocracy and the troika to promote the measures that lay low the people. Any differences between them concern the way in which the measures are enforced and shifting the political cost onto each other," the announcement said, ahead of Wednesday evening's meeting between the three party leaders in the coalition government.

    The main problem of working class families "sinking into despair, unemployment and destitution" was not how to pay the electricity bill levy, taxes and debts but how to be rid of this burden, KKE added.

    [07] FM Avramopoulos to visit Romania on Thursday

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos will travel to Bucharest on Thursday for a one-day working visit.

    Avramopoulos will be holding talks with Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his Romanian counterpart Titus Corlatean.

    The two ministers will examine ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation between Greece and Romania and will also discuss latest developments in Cyprus and efforts to handle the crisis at European level, as well as for the EU Multiannual Fianancial Framework (long-term budget) 2014-2020.

    The agenda also includes regional developments in the region of Southeastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as cooperation between the two countries in the framework of regional organisations.

    Statements by the two ministers to the press will follow, while Corlatean will host a working luncheon in honour of the Greek Foreign minister. Avramopoulos will then leave for Zagreb, Croatia, for a working visit.

    [08] FM convenes National Council of Foreign Policy for April 25

    Greece's National Council of Foreign Policy (ESEP) will convene on Thursday, April 25, and will be chaired by Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, it was announced on Wednesday.

    A foreign ministry announcement added that Avramopoulos has already sent letters to the representatives of the Parliamentary parties.

    The meeting will focus on the country's relations with its European partners, latest developments in the Middle East, Greek-Turkish relations, developments concerning the protracted Cyprus issue and the European prospects of Western Balkan countries, as well as Greece's relations with these countries, the announcement said.

    [09] PM Samaras, EU Commissioner Han to address conference on development

    The mapping out of the country's comprehensive growth strategy for 2014-2020 is currently made a top priority, an announcement by the Development ministry says in view of Thursday's First National Development Conference.

    Main speakers at the conference, to be held at the Athens Concert Hall, will include Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and visiting European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn. A speech will also be delivered by Development minister Costis Hatzidakis.

    The event will be covered live, at the address: www.espa.gr

    [10] SYRIZA leader presents plan on armed forces

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) president Alexis Tsipras, in an interview with the www.OnAlert.gr. website on Wednesday, presented his party's plan on the creation of armed forces of a "new type", with reforms in the structures and the institutions governing their operation.

    Tsipras, heading a SYRIZA delegation, will visit the Regular Air Force Headquarters, as well as the 110 Combat Squadron and the Operations Centre in Larissa on Thursday, while the tour will be concluded with a visit to a combat squadron.

    Replying to questions, he said that in democracy the basic preconditions concerning the military are two: the military does not intervene in politics, always functioning in the framework of the constitution, but politics as well does not intervene in the military's daily function. The first was satisfied definitely and irrevocably in 1974, while the second was circumvented systematically and is still being unprecedentedly circumvented until today.

    The SYRIZA president further said that the results of that are more or less known: corruption, vested interests, partisanship and the lack of meritocracy, clientele relations on an unprecedented scale - since even the transfers emanating from a minister's "environment" - and of course procurements policies that rocketed the expenditures of Defence to great heights, without substantive care for the fate of the defence material in a depth of time.

    The nucleus of the Defence policy processed by SYRIZA and presented by Tsipras is:

    Firstly: To schedule all those structural changes that have been mature over decades and promote solutions to longstanding Defence problems, for which "wireless silence" had been imposed both inside and outside.

    Secondly: To promote the necessary changes at institutional level, which has been happening in other countries for years, to enable an institutional framework that will at last strengthen responsibility and oblige democratic accountability and social control on all agencies involved in the planning and functioning of Defence. That means, in short, a final end to the status of "tight" departments.

    [11] Justice Minister announces tighter security measures for prisons; hand grenades found at Trikala Prison

    Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis on Wednesday announced increased security measures in prison facilities nationwide, including updated weaponry for prison guards and the bullet-proofing of the windows in prison guard towers. On the same day, bomb disposal experts had set up an operation to neutralise two hand-grenades found outside a correctional facility in Trikala, from which 11 convicts had escaped on March 22.

    Roupakiotis said that one of the facilities in either Trikala, Domokos or Malandrinou will become a maximum security prison. He also announced the hiring of 500 new employees for the prison system, while 220 civil servants will be transferred to the ministry of justice.

    Prison staff members who are suspected of breaking the law will be investigated by the financial crimes squad (SDOE), while the working hours of prison staff will be increased from 34.5 hours a week to 37.5 hours.

    Roupakiotis announced that a legislation soon to be approved will allow individuals serving life sentences for embezzlement to have their sentences reduced if they agree to return the entire sum they have embezzled.

    Also, the justice ministry is considering transforming an abandoned army camp into a detention facility for individuals serving minor sentences of less than two years for petty financial crimes.

    The minister also announced the cessation of prosecution against individuals accused of offenses punishable with up to one year in prison, except in cases concerning a refusal to pay alimony and in labour dispute cases.

    [12] Citizen Protection Minister Dendias meets with local government authorities ahead of the fire alert season

    The restructuring of the Fire Brigade under the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, the financing of municipalities, the aged water-bombing aircraft fleet, shortages, volunteerism, as well as, fire prevention and firefighting in the upcoming fire alert season, dominated Wednesday's meeting between Citizen Protection & Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and local authorities in the greater Athens region.

    The meeting, that focused on preparations for fire prevention and improved cooperation with local authorities, was also attended by the general secretaries of civil protection and public order and the Fire Brigade leadership.

    Dendias noted that a relevant draft law under preparation seeks to improve conditions in the firefighting sector and coordination when handling natural disasters. He said that the Fire Brigade and the water-bombing aircraft are responsible for firefighting underlining, however, that prevention plays a decisive role and is the responsibility of municipal authorities and volunteers.

    General Secretary for Civil Protection Patroklos Georgiadis noted that despite the tough fiscal circumstances the sum allocated to the local administration authorities is 18.4 million euros, the same with last year's.

    [13] Independent Greeks party delegation in Cyprus

    NICOSIA (AMNA/A. Viketos)

    Independent Greeks party president Panos Kammenos stated here on Wednesday, in relation to a relevant question by AMNA, that "there is no question of us being found in a (Greek) government with forces supporting the memorandum".

    He said that with the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) "we are trying to converge on certain issues, such as the issue of the attack Cyprus is sustaining by the troika", but reiterated that "there are contrasts on national issues which constitute red lines for us".

    Kammenos, who was addressing a press conference on the conclusion of the visit by a delegation of his party to Cyprus, termed the question on to what extent he could find himself in a government with SYRIZA hypothetical, adding that he does not believe in opinion polls and recommended patience "for us to see what the Greek people will decide".

    He further said that "we shall seek to get the majority from the Greek people and the popular mandate to rule with our national proposal. We Independent Greeks are a movement that shaped a governance proposal" and added that the final proposal will be ratified at the congress on April 25-26.

    "Whatever postelection consultations will have to do with the convergence on our scheduled positions," he said.

    Financial News

    [14] Greek Union of Businessmen present plan to boost competitiveness

    Greece needs a flat tax rate and an external devaluation of the euro, among others, to regain its international competitiveness, the Greek Union of Businessmen said on Wednesday.

    Dr. V. Apostolopoulos, president of the Union, speaking to reporters during a press conference said that "growth needed tax incentives not subsidies. It also needed specific actions of public policy and cooperation between the public and private sector. New investments needed a simpler tax regime and regulatory framework while a flat tax rate could resolve the problem of a complex tax system in the country".

    He added that Union members believed in "patriotic entrepreneurship", meaning the creation of wealth and employment in Greece without relocating businesses abroad. This slogan calls for the signing of a "social contract" to avoid turning one social group against another.

    The Union recommended the introduction of a 10 pct transition tax for the years before 2009 for all enterprises and individuals, the immediate repayment of all overdue debt by the state, restoring a ceiling on social insurance contributions for wages more than 2,435 euros, cutting VAT for tourism, promoting education and medical tourism, closer cooperation between public and private sector enterprises in the services sector and better preparation in privatizations.

    [15] SEB chief: Grexit inconceivable, but not impossible

    Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) president Dimitris Daskalopoulos voiced conviction on Wednesday that there is no possibility, today, of a Greek exit from the euro (Grexit), or a break-up of the European Union, but added that he could not rule out the possibility of an "accident".

    Asked what the possibilities were for a Greek exit from the eurozone, Daskalopoulos replied "I don't know", adding that "this is something that we don't want and should not think of".

    He also said that the future of the EU is "uncertain", but opined that "it will survive", given that "the investment that has been made in the Union is very great".

    As for the prospect of layoffs in the public sector, Daskalopoulos said that the Troika does not want "heads", but "serious indications that we are willing to make the required changes".

    He further said that the relocation of Greek enterprises to other Balkan countries was a "big blow".

    [16] Greece raises 41.1 mln euros from sale of four property assets abroad

    The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on Wednesday said that a sale of four state real estate property assets abroad raised 41.1 million euros. In a statement, HRADF said the tender was successful and noted that the sum raised was 27.1 pct higher than an independent evaluation and 13.6 pct higher than the start price.

    The sale needs approval by the State Auditor, while a legal dispute needs to be resolved for the property in Nicosia, Cyprus. The Fund said a new tender will be launched in the next 15 days for the property assets in Tashkent and Lublijana.

    For the property asset in London (Holland Park W11) the highest bidder was Richard Deitz & Marina Nacheva (27,462,880 euros). For the Nicosia asset (Aghios Prokopios, Egomi) the highest bidder was Tofarco Limited (8.3 million euros). For the property in Brussels (Montoyer 25, Leopold) the highest bidder was Home Invest Belgium (3.24 million euros) and for the Belgrade asset (Kralja Milutina 6) the highest bidder was KM6 Consortium (2.075 million euros).

    [17] E.I.Papadopoulos enters packaged bread market with 6.0 million euros investment

    E.I.Papadopoulos, a Greek biscuit and bakery product industry, on Wednesday unveiled plans to expand its activities in the packaged bread market aiming to obtain a 30 pct market share in the next two to three years.

    Ioanna Papadopoulou, chairman and chief executive, speaking to reporters, said the company has completed an investment worth 6.0 million euros in its main production unit in Inofyta for a new production line and will begin distributing its new product in the market by mid-April, at a competitive price.

    Papadopoulou said the packaged bread in slices market was growing at annual rate of 3.0 pct in Greece, with an estimated value of more than 100 million euros. The company aims to gain market share from the private label category, currently at 50 pct, and stressed that its products will be distributed only in the domestic market. She said that the company hired 55 new workers for its new production line, raising its workforce to 1,150. "We did not cut wages, nor we have dismissed any worker. On the contrary, we raised our workforce by 30 pct to cover the needs of our new production line," Papadopoulou said.

    Papadopoulou said its 2012 turnover rose 2.0 pct to 121 million euros last year, while pre-tax earnings were stable at 12.5 million euros. Its market shares in biscuits were 62.5 pct in value and 62 pct in volume. She noted that the company cut its product prices by 5-10 pct last year. Exports accounted for 10 pct of its turnover.

    [18] Shipping agencies on Shipping ministry's omnibus bill

    Panhellenic Merchant Marine Seamens Union president Antonis Dalakogiorgos, speaking at a joint press conference organised by the Federation of Greek Ports Employees and the the Dockers Union of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) with other shipping agencies said that "we shall do everything so that the Shipping ministry's omnibus bill 'restructuring and other clauses' will not pass through in Parliament, since the inividual changes that will be taking place do not cover us."

    Dalakogiorgos said that Wednesday's 24-hour strike mobilisation by seamen was successful in all the country's ports despite, as he said, efforts of terrorisation and intimidation with the government's civil mobilisation in the last labour action, while calling once again for the omnibus bill's withdrawal.

    Federation of Greek Ports Employees president George Georgakopoulos spoke of a "broom" bill that is coming to level issues having to do with shipping and to sell out the ports.

    He said he is categorically opposed to whatever scenario either for the sale of shares or the concession of services of the ports and expressed support for the preservation of their public character.

    [19] Seamen's strike on Wednesday

    Ships will remain docked at ports throughout the country on Wednesday as seamen are staging a 24-hour strike in protest of an Omnibus bill by the Merchant Marine Ministry on "restructure and other provisions" currently in its second reading in parliament.

    Protests over the omnibus bill are escalating, and Merchant Marine ministry civilian personnel are also taking part in the strike, while dockworkers will hold a five-hour work stoppage from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

    Seamen's', dockworkers' and ministry and port authority staff unions have called for withdrawal of the Omnibus bill, which has already been passed in its first reading ('in principle'), even at the last minute.

    [20] Flights as normal at airports on Thursday, employees' strike ruled illegal and abusive

    An Athens court ruled that the 24-hour strike called for Thursday by Civil Aviation Service employees was illegal and abusive.

    The decision was taken following a recourse by the Civil Aviation Service's board and, consequently, flights will be carried out as normal at all of the country's airports.

    [21] FTSE Group keeps ASE in developed market category

    FTSE Group maintained the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) in the developed market category following completion of its regular evaluation of the Greek capital market.

    In a statement, FTSE Group said it maintained Greece in a watch list for a possible downgrade to emerging market during its next regular evaluation of the market in September.

    FTSE Group said that Greek authorities continued slowly implementing the development of a new regulatory regime and noted that although many of these changes reflected progress towards aligning with the rest developed markets, international investors have noticed that these reforms do not fully respond to market practices.

    [22] Business briefs

    -- GEK-Terna Group, a Greek-listed construction company, on Wednesday announced the signing of a contract worth 36.8 million US dollars to build a new hospital in Iraq.

    [23] Greek stocks remain under strong selling pressure

    Greek stocks came under strong selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday hit by worries over developments in a bank recapitalization plan and uncertainty over a merger plan between National Bank and Eurobank. The composite index of the market dropped 2.16 pct to end at 837.82 points, its lowest closing since December 6, 2012, while turnover shrank to 38.886 million euros.

    The Big Cap index fell 2.04 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.25 pct lower. The Personal Products (3.88 pct) and Travel (0.07 pct) sectors were the only ones to record gains, while Commerce (5.46 pct), Technology (5.03 pct), Oil (4.44 pct) and Banks (3.93 pct) suffered losses.

    Jumbo (5.37 pct), Viohalco (5.10 pct) and Frigoglass (3.33 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (11.90 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (7.23 pct) and PPC (5.58 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 92 to 46 with another 19 issues unchanged. Nutriart (20 pct), Teletypos (16.67 pct) and G.E.Demetriou (12.96 pct) were top gainers, while Crete Constructions (20.63 pct), Attica Holdings (19.92 pct) and NEL (16.67 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.75%

    Commercial: -5.46%

    Construction: -0.26%

    Oil & Gas: -4.44%

    Personal & Household: +3.88%

    Raw Materials: -3.82%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.07%

    Technology: -5.03%

    Telecoms: -1.99%

    Banks: -3.93%

    Food & Beverages: -2.85%

    Health: -3.44%

    Utilities: -3.98%

    Financial Services: -1.24%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Coca Cola 3E, PPC and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.62

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.91

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.50

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.93

    National Bank of Greece: 0.59

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.19

    OPAP: 6.29

    OTE: 4.43

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.18

    Titan: 13.00

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 10.8 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 11.1 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.08 pct and the German Bund 1.28 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, one buy order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained largely unchanged. The 12-month 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.

    [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.302

    Pound sterling 0.861

    Danish kroner 7.565

    Swedish kroner 8.450

    Japanese yen 121.76

    Swiss franc 1.235

    Norwegian kroner 7.558

    Canadian dollar 1.320

    Australian dollar 1.242

    General News

    [26] AMNA launches new web page on Thursday

    The Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) on Thursday morning (11 a.m.) will launch its new web page, offering its content in a modern design, improved browsing and speedier access to news items.

    The new electronic page will offer at a glance all the latest news covering from politics and the economy to sports and world developments, in addition to photographs of all major domestic and worldwide events.

    The Greek national news agency's "NEWSroom" on the Internet is available in Greek, English, French, Russian, Albanian and Chinese at: http://www.amna.gr

    [27] Young patient to be airlifted to Hanover in government aircraft

    A 15-year-old boy suffering from a rare illness, which cannot be treated in a Greek hospital, will be airlifted to a specialized medical unit in Hanover, Germany using the government aircraft to undergo surgery, the health ministry announced on Wednesday.

    Manolis Vogiatzis will be taken to International Neuroscience Institute in Hanover, where he will be operated on to have a cavernous angioma removed from his brain. According to his attendant doctors at Patras University Hospital, the specific operation cannot be performed in a Greek hospital.

    The young patient will fly to Hanover on board the prime minister's aircraft to guarantee special cabin pressurization conditions during flight. Permission to use the aircraft was given following communication between the health minister and the prime minister.

    [28] Court hands out hefty sentences in 'Revolutionary Struggle' case, acquits three

    An Athens Appeals Court on Wednesday handed out maximum prison sentences to three of eight defendants on trial for the actions of the terrorist group "Revolutionary Struggle", while another three were acquitted. Among those receiving the maximum prison sentences were the fugitives Nikos Maziotis and Panagiota Roupa.

    After a trial lasting several months, the three justices on the bench handed down prison sentences of 50 years to Nikos Maziotis and 50 years, six months each to Panagiota Roupa and Costas Gournas - the three defendants considered to be the leaders of the terror group, who had claimed political responsibility for its actions. Under Greek law, each of them will serve a maximum of 25 years in prison. The three were found guilty of forming and participating in a terrorist organisation, attempted homicide, collusion in setting off explosions, aggravated damages and other offences.

    Another two defendants, Christoforos Kortesis and Evangelos Stathopoulos, were found guilty of forming a terror organisation and given sentences of seven years and seven years, six months respectively, effective immediately.

    The court decided to acquit the defendants Sarantos Nikitopoulos and Kostas Katsenos due to reasonable doubts, in spite of the public prosecutor's recommendation that they be found guilty. It also acquitted Maria Beraha, the wife of Kostas Gournas, finding that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges against her.

    Both Roupa and Maziotis were absent from the court and their whereabouts are still unknown several months after they violated the terms of their release and disappeared. The two were both released from prison after the 18-month period for which prisoners can be held on remand had expired.

    The couple attempted to "testify" via two letters delivered to the court by their defence lawyers, in which they defended their actions and choices in "Revolutionary Struggle".

    [29] Internet access to thousands of PhD papers written by Greeks

    Thousands of PhD theses written by Greek researchers and scientists that constitute a significant source of knowledge can be found in the renewed website of the National Archive of PhD Theses (EADD) (www.didaktorika.gr) that offers easy access to its digitized content, a service provided by the National Documentation Centre (NDC).

    The National Archive of PhD Theses collects and provides access to PhD papers submitted to higher education institutions in Greece, as well as, PhD theses submitted to foreign universities by Greek scholars and certified by the Hellenic NARIC, the agency that recognizes qualifications.

    The EADD website currently contains more than 29,000 PhD theses, in printed form, in electronic format, as well as, bibliography records with metadata.

    The National Documentation Centre (NDC), responsible of keeping the National Archive of PhD Theses since 1985, is an active member in the DART-Europe partnership of research libraries and library consortia working together to improve global access to European research theses.

    [30] Greek parliament donates used electronic equipment

    The Greek parliament is donating its used electronic equipment to schools in remote areas of the country, orphanages and professional lyceums, with the aim of to assist educational institutions and public benefit entities that can't afford to buy electronic equipment.

    The parliament has donated and continues to do so, electronic, mechanical, educational and other related items such as computers, faxes, scanners, printers and television sets, as well as books, to schools mostly in remote areas, orphanages, educational foundations of Greeks Abroad and special schools.

    [31] Unexploded hand-grenades found outside Trikala prison perimeter

    Army bomb disposal experts on Wednesday destroyed two hand grenades found outside the Trikala Prison from where 11 convicts had escaped on March 22. The hand grenades were found during a continuing investigation by the bomb disposal team outside the prison perimeter.

    Meanwhile, in an abandoned van used by the escaped convicts and their accomplices in the jailbreak, police found and seized bullets and parts of hand grenades.

    [32] Drug trafficker arrested with 5.7 kg of cocaine

    Police arrested a big-time drug trafficker in the Athens district of Ilioupoli on Wednesday afternoon, following many months of investigations

    The man was found possessing five kilos and 773.5 grams of cocaine. He lived in luxury homes, possessed expensive cars and had a laboratory for adulterating and packaging cocaine.

    He is a 40-year-old Greek, born in Germany, father of three, who sold large quantities of cocaine and presented himself to his family as a car dealer, lived in a luxury maisonette in Glyfada and rented three private garages in the districts of Ilioupoli, Paleo Faliro and Glyfada.

    Apart from the cocaine, four pistols, 660 cartridges, seven luxury cars, 96 licence plates, 97 credit cards in various names, the amount of 39,350 euros and many forged seals and documents were found in his possession and confiscated.

    [33] Two new metro stations open on Saturday

    Two new Athens metro stations, one in front of the Peristeri Town Hall and the second in Anthoupolis, will be inaugurated on Saturday morning. According to the Athens Metro, 50,000 passengers are expected to use the new stations daily.

    Moreover, a third new metro station in Haidari will open in September, while the extension to Helliniko that includes four more stations is expected to open in July.

    [34] Ferry rams into pier, no injuries

    A car/passenger ferry rammed into a pier in the port of Heraklion, Crete, early Wednesday, due to high winds in the area, but no injuries were reported.

    The Phaestos Palace docked in port with the help of a tugboat, and the 715 passengers were safely disembarked.

    The ferry will resume its itinerary after an inspection by local merchant shipping inspectorate officials.

    [35] Train crashes with car

    A train crashed with a car on Wednesday noon near Kamaroto village, northern Greece.

    The car overran the rail bars and crashed into the oncoming train, which had fifty passengers on board.

    The car driver was injured and was rushed to Serres hospital, while none of the train's passengers were injured.

    The train was carrying out the itinerary Alexandroupolis-Thessaloniki.

    Weather forecast

    [36] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 4C and 22C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 22C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 9C and 18C.

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

    AVGHI: "Lies' time is running out".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Crazy 'ideas' for the surtax on real estate".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Poison in the vein".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Landmine to Memorandum 2".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Troika's bomb on OAEE (social insurance fund for self-employed and freelance workers) pensions

    ESTIA: "The nightmare of Tsipras' (Alexis, main opposition SYRIZA leader) drachma".

    ETHNOS: "Burning law for 2,000 civil servants who have been indicted for criminal offences".

    IMERISSIA: "Difficult test for 8.8 billion euros".

    KATHIMERINI: "In search of an agreement in a heavy climate".

    LOGOS: "The 'thorns' on the table (at Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' meeting with party leaders that participate in the coalition government, PASOK Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic left Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday)".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Six open fronts just before troika's arrival".

    NIKI: "The final arrangements for unlicenced buildings".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party (KKE)'s proposal for the relief of the working classes".

    TA NEA: "Balancing act and bargaining".

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