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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 11 April 2013 Issue No: 4332


  • [01] Greek banking system adequately capitalized, BoG governor says
  • [02] Talks with troika heads to continue into next week, Stournaras says
  • [03] Eurozone official says talks with troika proceed in very satisfactory way
  • [04] SYRIZA leader: We will not govern with memorandum plan
  • [05] PASOK accuses SYRIZA leader of being 'ready to play dice with country's future'
  • [06] SYRIZA deputies briefed by National Bank chief executives
  • [07] SYRIZA central committee meeting on April 13-14
  • [08] Report on German reparations under legal review, FM Avramopoulos tells President Papoulias
  • [09] Public administration issue must be resolved, PASOK spokesperson
  • [10] SYRIZA warns of 'catastrophic consequences' on social insurance funds
  • [11] KKE criticises postponement of National Bank-Eurobank merger
  • [12] Investigating Committee decides to send invitation to former PM George Papandreou to testify in person
  • [13] Former financial crimes chief criticizes former FinMin Papaconstantinou
  • [14] Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos visits Lebanon
  • [15] Former ND Eurodeputy Schinas appointed Task Force coordinator
  • [16] PASOK leader Venizelos meets with Iraqi ambassador
  • [17] Greece the only Eurozone state to record a decline in labour costs in 2008-2012
  • [18] Greek budget deficit sharply down in Jan-March
  • [19] Greek fiscal deficit fell to 6.0 pct of GDP in 2012
  • [20] Reichenbach briefed by ESEE on proposed Small Business Development Bank
  • [21] National Bank's board was to meet again on Wednesday
  • [22] Parliament passes new investment law
  • [23] Investors'' Ombudsman launched to expedite stagnating investments
  • [24] Photovoltaic power surpass wind power for first time
  • [25] SAP Forum Athens ends
  • [26] Fur producing sector doing better after sharp decline in recent years
  • [27] Conference on olive oil on the island of Lesvos
  • [28] Public transport employees to hold protest rally on Thursday
  • [29] Building activity down 28.1 pct in Jan
  • [30] Greek stocks rally for second consecutive session
  • [31] Greek bond market closing report
  • [32] ADEX closing report
  • [33] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [34] Two suspects in Skouries gold mine arson held, police station shut down after residents attack
  • [35] Greek and Turkish architects attend Ottoman monuments conference on Lesvos
  • [36] Phishing charges drawn for eight people, 46 involved
  • [37] Man arrested for 21 million euro debt to state
  • [38] Arson attacks against local newspaper, bank branch in Patras
  • [39] Visitors and revenues in museums down in 2012
  • [40] Rail stoppages on Thursday and Friday
  • [41] Burglary at St. Dimitrios Church in Thessaloniki
  • [42] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [43] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greek banking system adequately capitalized, BoG governor says

    An economic recession in Greece is not going to affect -probably- Greek banks' capital adequacy and the 50 billion euros earmarked for this reason will prove more than enough, George Provopoulos, the Bank of Greece governor said on Wednesday.

    Addressing a Parliament's Economics Commission meeting, Provopoulos briefed parliamentarians over developments in the Cypriot banking sector and reassured that the Greek government has taken all measures necessary to prevent an expansion of the crisis while he underlined that deposits in Greek banks were fully secured, regardless of sum and financial institution.

    Commenting on the adverse developments in a merger plan between National Bank and Eurobank, the central banker said it reflected their weakness in securing that private investors would cover 10 pct of recapitalization needs, although he noted that final decisions rest with Hellenic Financial Stability Fund on the basis of the wider public interest. "The political system must be cut-off from banks' managements. I want good banks. I do not care if a bank is American, Swiss, or anything else. If banks had been foreign, they would not have been cut-off from markets, nor would they have had liquidity problems," he said.

    Commenting on the causes of the Cypriot crisis he said it was partly because of a Greek PSI program and said that Greece could not offer liquidity to Cypriot banks' subsidiaries in Greece. "Even foreign banks' subsidiaries were obliged to recapitalize their subsidiaries before exiting the Greek market," he noted.

    Provopoulos stressed that a merger plan between National Bank and Eurobank was not dead, but temporarily postponed. "BlackRock's report has not changed for the worse. The report envisaged a 60 pct drop in the domestic real estate property market and we are closer to that provision, not only in mortgage loans but in corporate property loans as well," Provopoulos said. He added, however, that no one could exclude a slight worsening of the situation. "I believe that we will not have to use extra money and that the 50 billion euros are enough. We will try to use less than 50 billion euros," the central banker said.

    Commnenting on a community plan called "Barnier directive" envisaging private depositors' participation in banks' restructuring in the future, Provopoulos said that this plan referred to the period after 2018 and for "isolated bank crises". This planning "has nothing to do with deposits in Greece", he added.

    [02] Talks with troika heads to continue into next week, Stournaras says

    Negotiations between the Greek government and the troika heads of the country's international lenders - EC/ECB/IMF - are not expected to conclude before Friday's Eurogroup session in Dublin, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Wednesday evening.

    Speaking after a briefing meeting between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the government's economic staff, Stournaras said that talks with the troika will be continued into next week, as he will be returning from Ireland on Sunday.

    Asked what he will report at the Eurogroup on the negotiations, he said "it is enough for me to say that the negotiations are continuing and that we are on a good path".

    A senior Finance ministry official said on his part that there are many issues still open and that "the path is long" on the issue of the public sector. He added that it may be necessary for Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis to participate in the talks again, if the two sides find themselves close to an agreement.

    Stournaras earlier interrupted a six-hour-long meeting with the heads of the troika, which was to resume at 8:30.

    According to a senior ministry official there has been "an exchange of data that both sides must evaluate."

    The Finance minister stressed that there was no "snag" in talks with the troika and he was not worried about the disbursement of the next tranche of the bailout loan.

    [03] Eurozone official says talks with troika proceed in very satisfactory way

    BRUSSELS (AMNA / M. Aroni)

    A high-ranking European Union official on Wednesday expressed absolute satisfaction about the progress made in the negotiations between the heads of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's international lenders and the Greek government in Athens stressing, however, that no decision on the next loan tranche should be expected in the informal Eurogroup meeting in Dublin on April 12.

    According to the EU official, the talks with the troika in Athens proceed in a very satisfactory way.

    Referring to the approval of the 2.8-billion-euro March loan tranche, he said that there will be no decision in the next Eurogroup. He pointed out that the Working Group or the finance ministers of the eurozone will be in a position to make the necessary decisions as soon as the negotiations with the troika are completed in a satisfactory manner. He also avoided to define the issues that remain open in the talks saying that they are already known.

    Commenting on the suspension of the merger of the National Bank of Greece (NBG) with Eurobank, he said that the troika had expressed its objections from the beginning because of the size of the bank that would have resulted from the merger.

    Referring to the rumours concerning the reasons that led to the suspension of the merger, he stated that they are whispers that have nothing to do with reality and serve business interests.

    [04] SYRIZA leader: We will not govern with memorandum plan

    An alliance of the countries of Southern Europe against the German sovereignty in the eurozone was proposed by main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in an interview with private television station SKAI late Tuesday. Tsipras called on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to move in the latter direction and expressed his readiness to discuss ways to promote and support this initiative.

    Referring to the potential to create such an alliance under the current conditions, Tsipras said that the policy of the northern European countries and Germany to isolate one by one the southern European countries and impose their will on them must stop. Particularly for Greece, he said that the notion that Greece is a special case must come to an end.

    Regarding his meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who briefed him on the recent Eurogroup meeting on the crisis in Cyprus, Tsipras stressed that at the meeting the countries of the north had reassured that there was no problem but in the end the well-known solution (haircut of bank deposits) was imposed.

    That, he added, was why the delusion of the southern countries that if that they are in the good graces of the stronger countries everything will go well must be dispelled.

    Asked with whom will SYRIZA govern the country if it is elected, Tsipras said that when he receives a strong mandate he will table his programme, and expressed the hope that more political forces will follow, otherwise he added, they will be responsible for the major instability that will prevail in the country.

    The SYRIZA leader clarified that under no circumstances will he govern with a memorandum plan, or will he relax his stance, saying that individuals and forces will be found that will support a new national effort with SYRIZA as the backbone a Left-wing government of social salvation will be formed with a mandate for a harsh clash in Europe "in order to save our country".

    [05] PASOK accuses SYRIZA leader of being 'ready to play dice with country's future'

    Fofi Gennimata, spokesperson for PASOK, a junior partner in the coalition government, on Wednesday used sharp criticism and innuendos in comments on a television interview of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras that aired late Tuesday night.

    "With his interview yesterday, Tsipras again appears ready to play dice with the country's future. Euro wins the pot, drachma loses," Genimmata said, adding "Or is it the other way around?"

    [06] SYRIZA deputies briefed by National Bank chief executives

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MPs Giorgos Stathakis and Efklidis Tsakalotos on Wednesday met with National Bank of Greece (NBG) chief executive Alexandros Tourkolias and Deputy CEO Petros Christodoulou, a party announcement said.

    The NBG representatives briefed them on the latest developments as regards the suspended merger with Eurobank and presented their views on their bank's recapitalization course.

    On their part, the SYRIZA deputies expressed concern about the NBG recapitalization, which will most likely take place under the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), and its impact on the bank itself and the country's banking system. They also expressed objections to the fact that "society has no say in the HFSF decisions, when the Greek people shoulder a 50-billion-euro debt".

    [07] SYRIZA central committee meeting on April 13-14

    The Central Committee of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) will hold a two-day meeting on April 13-14 in Athens focusing on the political and economic situation ahead of the party's founding congress, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The meeting will be addressed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras.

    [08] Report on German reparations under legal review, FM Avramopoulos tells President Papoulias

    The Foreign Ministry is awaiting the legal substantiation of a report on German reperations to Greece, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias during their meeting Wednesday at the Presidential Mansion.

    Papoulias asked Avramopoulos on the report completed by the General Accounting Office working group early in March that includes information on a loan Greece made to Germany during World War II. The committee began collecting and digitizing data from its own dispersed archives in April 2012, and Papoulias himself had handed a related notam to Germany during his tenure as foreign minister.

    "We must have an unshakeable legal base, because such a move would be more legal than political," Avramopoulos said. "A report was submitted, which, after being evaluated by our ministry's services, was forwarded to the State Legal Council, as it needs legal substantiation - the political base is given - if we are to go ahead," he added. He said the legal opinion would not be late in coming.

    President Papoulias said Avramopoulos' response to his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu was "very good" and he had "read it carefully". He referred to a letter by Davutoglu that proposed a quadripartite conference on resolving the Cyprus issue and challenges to hydrocarbon exploration off the island. At the time, Avramopoulos had responded, "We do not agree with your proposal for a quadripartite conference, chiefly because such a proposal contravenes the fundamental and inalienable principle of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus."

    Avramopoulos told Papoulias that "I put things in their place, because the principle of sincere diplomacy works, it is effective. One must know what the other means and honesty, as much as it does not agree with the meaning of diplomacy, as it has developed, it does bring results in the end."

    "On the other hand," the foreign minister said, "I must tell you that Greece's position in our geopolitical environment, which is very fluid and undergoing great changes, is being reset. For these reasons, we have a targeted policy and, related to what I had told you last time, we have progressed, we have taken positive steps and are moving on."

    [09] Public administration issue must be resolved, PASOK spokesperson

    A country that has reached this point, like Greece, "cannot sustain and pay civil servants who have been accused of misconduct, and not have resolved this issue," said PASOK spokesperson Fofi Gennimata on Wednesday.

    During an interview at state-owned Greek Radio and Television (ERT), Gennimata said that the issue of the number of civil service employees and the restructuring of the sector "is a very important obstacle to completing negotiations" with the troika of lenders.

    [10] SYRIZA warns of 'catastrophic consequences' on social insurance funds

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday lashed out at the government accusing it of lacking a stable position and of meeting the troika's demands on the issue of the banks without resistance warning of "direct and catastrophic consequences on the social insurance funds".

    "The banks' recapitalization - the National Bank of Greece (NBG) in particular - will pulverize the value of shares owned by funds jeopardizing the present and future of pensions, because it follows after the PSI haircut," the SYRIZA statement underlined.

    According to SYRIZA, the country needs a government that will have as a priority the people's needs and will put an end to the memorandum policy which, regardless of how it is implemented, hurts the majority of Greek citizens.

    [11] KKE criticises postponement of National Bank-Eurobank merger

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charged on Wednesday that the government's recent decision to "postpone or cancel" the merger of National Bank and Eurobank "reflects the antagonism of the domestic and foreign (banking) groups, the movement of capital for investment to other sectors inside the EU and increases the concern of sections of the ruling class over the control of the domestic banking system".

    The KKE, in an announcement, said that the developments in the banking sectors in Cyprus and Greece are part of the general agreements and directions for a single monitoring and control of the banking system of all the EU member states, adding that the relevant decisions by the EU Summits had been hailed both by the three-party government of Greece and by main opposition SYRIZA.

    It added that all the different choices for recapitalisation of the banks converge into new sacrifices for the working class families and lead to new losses for the social security funds.

    For the popular strata, there is only one path, that of organising its struggle for disengagement from the EU and socialisation of the monopolies, the KKE concluded.

    [12] Investigating Committee decides to send invitation to former PM George Papandreou to testify in person

    An official invitation will be sent to former prime minister George Papandreou to testify in person at the Parliament's "Lagarde list affair" Investigating Committee on this coming Tuesday at 6:30.

    This was decided by the members of the Investigating Committee after a vote on the proposal submitted by the three deputies representing the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), calling for the legal summoning of Papandreou to testify as a witness. Eight member of the committee vote in favour of the proposal, while Panagiotis Rigas from PASOK party voted against.

    [13] Former financial crimes chief criticizes former FinMin Papaconstantinou

    Former head of the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE) Yiannis Kapeleris told the preliminary investigative committee on the so-called Lagarde scandal on Wednesday that he had no invovement in the list.

    Kapeleris also told the parliamentary committee that former finance minister Giorgos Papakonstantinou, whose liability the committee is checking, handled the whole issue the wrong way. "He should have given a clear order for an investigation and turn over the data on the list to the investigators. He did not do it," Kapeleris said, according to sources.

    The plenary session will vote on an opposition proposal to call former prime minister George Papandreou to testify at the committee.

    A colleague of PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, Sophia Belba, is scheduled to testify Wednesday evening.

    [14] Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos visits Lebanon

    The important role played by Greece in southeast Mediterranean, despite its fiscal problems, was acknowledged by the state and political leadership of Lebanon during the two-day formal visit to Beirut by Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos following an invitation by the country's government, a defence ministry announcement said on Wednesday.

    The visit focused on the promotion of bilateral military and defence cooperation.

    Wrapping up his visit, Panagiotopoulos said that Greece is the "political bridge between Europe, NATO, the Arab countries, the Mediterranean region and the Middle East," adding that its "policy contributes to building a framework of stability, security and good cooperation between the peoples living in the greater region."

    During his stay in Beirut, Panagiotopoulos met with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He also had talks with Defence Minister Fayez Ghosn, Deputy Prime Minister Samir Mokbel, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Chief of the Armed Forces Gen. Jean Kahwaji, former prime minister Fouad Siniora and Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid Joumblatt.

    Panagiotopoulos also visited the grave of the assassinated former prime minister of Lebanon Rafic Hariri.

    [15] Former ND Eurodeputy Schinas appointed Task Force coordinator


    Margaritis Schinas, a former New Democracy party Eurodeputy and current alternate director of the European Commission's group of advisers, was appointed on Wednesday by the college of Commissioners, coordinator of the Task Force and the of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), in Athens.

    A relevant announcement issued by the European Commission, notes that Schinas will coordinate both the sessions of the officials of the DG ECFIN in Athens, as well as the Task Force group in Greece, in the framework of the implementation of the memorandum and the technical aid to Greece. Schinas will also be in regular contact with the Greek authorities and all the agencies involved that are working closely with the Delegation of the European Commission in Athens and will be assuming his new duties on May 16, 2013.

    Lastly, the Commission's announcement says that Schinas is alternate director at the European Commission's Advisers Office. He served as alternate director at the office of the European Commission's vice president, Loyola de Palacio and from 2004 to 2007 director of the office of the Cypriot Commissioner at the European Commission Markos Kyprianou. He was elected Eurodeputy with ND in 2007 and remained in this position until 2010. He studied Law at the Aristotelio University in Thessaloniki, Public Administration and Politics at the London School of Economics and Social Administration at the College of Europe in Bruge.

    [16] PASOK leader Venizelos meets with Iraqi ambassador

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday met in parliament with Iraqi Ambassador to Athens, Burhan Jaf.

    The meeting that lasted roughly 30 minutes focused on developments in Iraq and on improving Greek business presence in Iraq, a party announcement said.

    Financial News

    [17] Greece the only Eurozone state to record a decline in labour costs in 2008-2012


    Average hourly labour costs fell by 11.2 pct in Greece in the period 2008-2012, Eurostat said on Wednesday. The EU executive's statistics service, in a report published here, said that Greece was the only Eurozone member-state to record a decline in average hourly labour costs in that period. The hourly labour cost in Greece was 16.7 euros in 2008, 17.1 euros in2010 and 14.9 euros in 2012, ranking the country fifth among Eurozone member-states with the lowest hourly labour costs in 2012.

    Slovakia (8.3 euros/hour), Estonia (8.4), Portugal (12.2), Malta (12.3), Slovenia and Greece (14.9 each) recorded the lowest labour costs in 2012. Labour costs are made up of wages and salaries and non-wage costs such as employers' social contributions.

    In 2012, average hourly labour costs in the whole economy (excluding agriculture and public administration) were estimated to be 23.4 euros in the EU-27 and 28.0 euros in the euro area. However, this average masks significant differences between EU Member States, with hourly labour costs ranging from 3.7 euros in Bulgaria, 4.4 in Romania, 5.8 in Lithuania and 6.0 in Latvia, to 39.0 in Sweden, 38.1 in Denmark, 37.2 in Belgium, 34.6 in Luxembourg and 34.2 euros in France.

    Within the business economy, labour costs per hour were highest in industry (24.2 in the EU27 and 30.3 euros in the euro area), followed by services (23.7 and 27.6 euros respectively) and construction (21.0 and 24.3 euros). In the mainly non-business economy, labour costs per hour were 22.9 euros in the EU27 and 27.2 in the euro area.

    Labour costs are made up of wages & salaries and non-wage costs such as employers' social contributions. The share of non-wage costs in the whole economy was 23.7% in the EU27 and 26.1% in the euro area, varying between 8.2% in Malta and 33.6% in France.

    [18] Greek budget deficit sharply down in Jan-March

    The Greek budget deficit fell to 1.366 billion euros in the January-March period this year, from 7.279 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2012 and from a budget provision for a shortfall of 4.85 billion euros, Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras said on Wednesday.

    Presenting the figures, Staikouras said the state budget recorded a primary surplus of 508 million euros in the three-month period, from a deficit of 334 million euros last year and a budget target for a shortfall of 2.338 billion euros. The minister said the figures showed that "an undoubtedly painful but necessary fiscal restructuring process was continuing".

    Net budget revenues totaled 12.348 billion euros in the January-March period, up 8.8 pct from a budget target, while regular budget net revenues totaled 10.721 billion euros, up 1.5 pct from targets.

    However, VAT revenues were down 7.3 pct, or 260 million euros, from budget targets, reflecting a 126 million euros shortfall in oil products and a 144 million euros deficit in tobacco proceeds. A special consumption tax on energy products fell 1.5 pct short of budget targets in the three-month period. On the other hand, income tax proceeds surpassed targets by 1.5 pct, property taxes were 16.6 pct higher and other indirect tax proceeds surpassed budget targets by 75.8 pct (mainly because of delayed VAT payments).

    The ministry report noted that net pre-tax return proceeds were down 9.0 pct compared with last year and down 3.0 pct from budget targets. Tax returns totaled 213 million euros in the January-March period, raising the total sum of tax returns to 783 million euros.

    Public Investment Program revenues totaled 1.627 billion euros, up 837 million euros from budget targets.

    State budget spending totaled 13.714 billion euros, down 1.824 billion euros from budget targets. Regular budget spending fell by 1.153 billion euros form budget targets, mainly because of decline in primary spending. State budget spending fell by 6.404 billion euros, or 31.8 pct compared with the same period last year, reflecting an 11 pct decline in primary spending and a 73 pct drop in interest payments.

    [19] Greek fiscal deficit fell to 6.0 pct of GDP in 2012

    Greece's fiscal deficit fell to 6.0 pct of GDP, or 11.6 billion euros, in 2012, down from a budget provision of a deficit of 6.6 pct of GDP, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, however, said that the country's fiscal deficit rose to 10 pct of GDP, or 19.3 billion euros, if the capital offered for the support of the domestic banking system (4.0 pct of GDP) were included.

    Finance ministry officials said the country's fiscal deficit could fall further to 5.6 pct of GDP after completion of all technical controls on the figures.

    The country's fiscal deficit will have two differed figures, one without the capital support to banks and another with them. Similarly, in 2013, the budget will include the sums offered by Hellenic Financial Stability Fund for the recapitalization of Greek banks.

    [20] Reichenbach briefed by ESEE on proposed Small Business Development Bank

    Efforts by Greece's small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs to establish a Small Business Development Bank were the focus of a meeting on Wednesday between the board of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) and the head of the European Commission Task Force in Greece Horst Reichenbach.

    Such a bank would specialise in the trade sector and offer specific products, such as guarantees and small loans.

    According to reports, discussions on the issues will continue next week between ESEE, the Greek Bank Association and Reichenback, who said he will consider the viability potential of the proposal.

    In comments he made about the plan presented, Reichenback said that it would be possible that such a bank might be operational in six months' time.

    [21] National Bank's board was to meet again on Wednesday

    National Bank's board was to convene again on Wednesday to reach its final decisions over a share capital increase scheme, as part of the bank's recapitalization, in the aftermath of a Bank of Greece's decision to temporarily suspend a merger process with Eurobank forcing the two banks to seek separate capital increases.

    The board meeting is expected to call for an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting to decide on a combination of actions, such as participation of existing shareholders in the capital increase scheme, a rights' issue for new shareholders, issuing of convertible bonds (CoCos) and a possible reverse split of the share price.

    Eurobank's board on Tuesday agreed to call for a general shareholders' meeting on Tuesday, 30 April.

    Under the existing legislation, part of the capital increase can be made with the issuance of CoCos, reducing equally the capital needed through common shares.

    [22] Parliament passes new investment law

    The parliament plenary passed a new investment law after a heated exchange on Wednesday.

    Earlier, main opposition SYRIZA rapporteur Dimitris Papadimoulis had demanded for a roll-call vote, as per a motion tabled by SYRIZA the previous night, not on the bill in its entirety but on a specific article concerning prospective betrayal of trust by bank administrations with respect to loans that have been extended to non-profit public sector legal entities.

    Parliament had passed the bill in its second reading (by article) last Thursday, but the specific article was added to the bill later, in acceptance by the government of a relative amendment submitted by MPs.

    Papadimoulis demanded that the article be annulled, claiming it comprised a "scandalous regulation" that would provide amnesty to bankers who had approved bad loans to political parties, and submitted his own amendment "to annul the scandal".

    Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos also said that his party would submit a similar amendment for annulment, accusing the government of introducing its own amendment/article in order to save the bankers who issued illegal loans totaling 225 million euros to political parties.

    Parliament vice-president Ioannis Tragakis rejected the SYRIZA motion for a roll-call vote on the article, on the grounds that the rules of parliament do not allow a roll-call vote on a voted regulation.

    The bill was finally passed in total by a parliamentary majority, which Papadimoulis later called a "parliamentary coup".

    [23] Investors'' Ombudsman launched to expedite stagnating investments

    Greece on Wednesday launched the institution of Investors' Ombudsman, a new service of the Invest in Greece Agency, which aims to facilitate and expedite stagnating investments.

    The Investors' Ombudsman, which is envisaged to facilitate speed up all types of investments in Greece above two million euros, is part of a wider framework of actions by the government to boost investment incentives in Greece and is introduced with the Development Ministry's new law on "Establishing a Growth-Friendly Environment for Strategic and Private Investments".

    Invest in Greece CEO Stephanos Issaias and Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure and Networks deputy minister Notis Mitarakis presented the new service at a press conference on Wednesday, noting that its purpose is to expedite investments that are 'stagnating' due to bureaucracy and other dysfunctions of the Greek public administration.

    Mitarakis explained that the Investors' Ombudsman is a practice that is applied in other countries, such as Canada, Russia and Australia, and will contribute to unblocking and facilitating the materialisation of investment plans above 2 million euros in which specific problems with the public administration, such as bureaucratic obstacles, delays, disagreements and other difficulties have arisen during the licensing process.

    Issaias, in turn, explained that the service, is now available to investors electronically or by phone at 210-3355770, and is provided without charge.

    Immediately after an investment case is brought to the attention of the Ombudsman, either in writing or in face-to-face meetings at the Invest in Greece offices, the staff, which currently numbers seven members, will monitor every development or issues faced by the investor and act to expedite the licensing process.

    The aim, in the initial pilot stage, is for the Investors' Ombudsman office to manage some 35 cases weekly, and 120 monthly, meaning that each staff member will be assigned some 17 cases monthly.

    It was also noted that a proclamation has been issued for the transfer of civil servants from other services to enhance the staffing of the service.

    [24] Photovoltaic power surpass wind power for first time

    The power of photovoltaic units surpassed that of windpower units for the first time ever in February, totaling 1,615 MW, compared with 1,495 MW of windpower units, without taking into account small photovoltaic units on rooftops with a total power of 329 MW.

    The Electricity Market Operator, in a report, also said that the accumulated deficit of funding renewable energy sources (RES) in Greece could reach 695 million euros this year and 1.39 billion euros in 2014. The Operator noted that delays in payment to energy producers extend up to 4-5 months, while the government has frozen new licenses for building new units.

    The Association of Photovoltaic Enterprises urged the government to raise a national goal for photovoltaic energy in the country.

    [25] SAP Forum Athens ends

    The SAP Forum Athens, organised by SAP Hellas (a leading provider of solutions and applications for operational software) and its associates, has been concluded.

    Business officials who attended this year's SAP Forum, whose sessions were opened by Manos Raptopoulos, Managing Director, SAP Hellas&Cyprus, COO South Europe, had the opportunity to be briefed on latest developments in technology and innovations provided by SAP to businesses of all sizes and exchange views and ideas in the framework of innovation development.

    [26] Fur producing sector doing better after sharp decline in recent years

    Despite losses in the leather processing and clothing sectors the last few years, the sector of fur is experiencing a resurgence, according to a report by private Hellastat statistical and economic data service released Wednesday.

    Based on the state Hellenic Statistical Service (ELSTAT) figures, production dropped from 2005 to 2011 by an average of 13.4 pct per year, 15.6 pct in 2011 and a whopping 36.2 pct the first nine months of 2012, affected by the negative turn in production of the clothing and shoe production industry in general.

    Turnover, however, in 2011 rose by 10 pct compared to 2010, benefitting from a rise in demand from abroad (Russia, China, among others), according to the Association of Fur Producers of Kastoria, the northern city traditionally associated with fur production and processing.

    Hellastat loooked at 65 businesses with total turnover for the statistical sampling of 2011 showing an increase of 17.6 pct to 209 million euros. Of these, 59 pct registered a rise in sales, with an average increase coming to 9.4 pct.

    Operational cost rose to 19.54 mln euros (48 pct up from 2010), while before-tax profits improved, to climb above 3 mln euors (a rise of 31 pct).

    [27] Conference on olive oil on the island of Lesvos

    The island of Lesvos in the northeast Aegean will host a two-day conference on April 12-13 on the promotion of local olive oil production and distribution.

    The conference will be held in Papado, Geras region, at The Odysseas Elytis cultural centre within the framework of a partnership relation initiative between Greece and Germany aimed at setting up a network of regions, municipalities and citizens.

    Agriculture and Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris and Alternate Interior Minister Haralambos Athanassiou will participate in the conference proceedings.

    The event is sponsored by the Northern Aegean Regional Authority, the Lesvos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Athens and the Greece-Germany Assembly (DGV) in Thessaloniki.

    [28] Public transport employees to hold protest rally on Thursday

    The public transport employees will demonstrate at 18:00 on Thursday outside the ministry of development, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The federation of railway employees and the public transport trade unions underlined in a joint statement that they want a meeting with Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Costis Hatzidakis to demand the signing of a collective labour agreement, free transport for the jobless, students and the disabled and the lifting of the back-to-work order currently into effect for fixed-line public transport employees. They also expressed their opposition to the privatization of public transport.

    [29] Building activity down 28.1 pct in Jan

    Building activity fell by 28.1 pct in volume in the January and by 35.6 pct in the number of permits issued, compared with the same period last year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    Building activity is projected to continue falling over the next few months and is expected to be hit hardly if the government decides to raise objective property values around the country.

    The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that building permits issued in January totaled 1,406, down 35.6 pct from January 2012, while volume of building activity dropped 28.1 pct in the first month of 2013, compared with the corresponding period last year.

    [30] Greek stocks rally for second consecutive session

    Greek stocks continued moving sharply higher for the second consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 900 level. Buying interest was again focused on bank shares, particularly National Bank (+27.18 pct) and Eurobank (+26.18 pct) as the market discounted a decision by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund to give a green light to forthcoming share capital increase plans by the two banks. Traders said a sharp recovery in bank share prices was attributed to Greek banks' efforts to improve their share prices and to set better 50-day average prices ahead of their share capital increase plans.

    The composite index ended at its day's highs of 903.13 points, up 3.03 pct. Turnover was a moderate 68.037 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 4.20 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.39 pct higher. The Food sector was the only one to end lower (-0.94 pct), while Banks (16.04 pct), Personal Products (8.25 pct) and Financial Services (6.61 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    Intralot (-1.03 pct0 and Coca Cola Hellenic (-0.99 pct) were the only blue chips to end lower, while National Bank (27.18 pct), Eurobank (26.18 pct), Piraeus Bank (16.75 pct), Alpha Bank (13.33 pct) and Jumbo (9.84 pct) were top gainers.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 110 to 35 with another 18 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +4.76%

    Commercial: +5.29%

    Construction: +4.78%

    Oil & Gas: +3.82%

    Personal & Household: +8.25%

    Raw Materials: +4.91%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.50%

    Technology: +2.75%

    Telecoms: +3.42%

    Banks: +16.04%

    Food & Beverages: -0.94%

    Health: +3.44%

    Utilities: +4.23%

    Financial Services: +6.61%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.73

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.05

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.63

    National Bank of Greece: 0.60

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.29

    OPAP: 7.05

    OTE: 5.45

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.22

    Titan: 13.80

    [31] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 10.11 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.40 pct and the German Bund 1.29 pct. Turnover was a thin 3.0 million euros, two buy orders.

    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.

    [32] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 2.41 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 30.066 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 14,126 contracts worth 20.006 million euros, with 26,673 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 65,865 contracts worth 10.060 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (24,781), followed by Alpha Bank (14,127), Piraeus Bank (5,861), Eurobank (3,512), MIG (1,312), OTE (3,791), PPC (4,714), OPAP (1,080), Mytilineos (938), Intralot (1,195), GEK (1,513), Ellaktor (1,033), Hellenic Exchanges (524) and Sidenor (288).

    [33] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.328

    Pound sterling 0.867

    Danish kroner 7.568

    Swedish kroner 8.460

    Japanese yen 131.64

    Swiss franc 1.236

    Norwegian kroner 7.618

    Canadian dollar 1.348

    Australian dollar 1.261

    General News

    [34] Two suspects in Skouries gold mine arson held, police station shut down after residents attack

    Two people remanded in custody as suspects in the February fire-bomb attack at the Hellenic Gold facility in northern Greece's Skouries village got an extension to give their deposition, to Sunday.

    The two were arrested on warrants and are being held in Thessaloniki, where they were transferred from the Halkidiki peninsula to prevent any more incidents by residents and others protesting their detention.

    Earlier on Wednesday, scuffles broke out between local residents and police in the town of Ierissos, on Halkidiki, as authorities conducted another investigation to find the perpetrators the arson attack on the installations of the gold-mining company.

    Incidents led to an attack on the police station of Ierissos, which was shut down after what police headquarters said was "serious damage wreaked this morning by residents on the interior of the station and its equipment, making its further use as police service impossible."

    Services will be taken over by the Polygyros police department.

    [35] Greek and Turkish architects attend Ottoman monuments conference on Lesvos

    Greek and Turkish researchers and architects attended a two-day conference on the island of Lesvos on the preservation and use of monuments of the Ottoman period on the northeast Aegean Island.

    The conference was organised by the Lesvos Chamber and came under the aegis of the Greek branch of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a non-governmental association acting as technical advisor to UNESCO.

    Speakers referred to the collaboration between Greek architects studying Ottoman monuments on Lesvos and those working on architecturally comparable monuments in the neighbouring city of Aivali on mainland Turkey, drew comparisons between the buildings, and presented the activity of the movement "Cohabitation and Communication in the Aegean," which has been actively promoting architectural collaboration between the two sides in the past 15 years.

    Architects and city planners from Greece and Turkey presented their studies on the preservation and showcasing of historical monuments, including the restoration work that changed the identity of the old town of Aivali, and tours taken on Mytilini monuments of the Ottoman period.

    The meetings were open to the public and concluded with discussion on the importance of awareness of cultural heritage and its promotion to the wider public.

    [36] Phishing charges drawn for eight people, 46 involved

    Charges were drawn for eight people who stole names and passwords of bank customers (phishing) and proceeded to transfer money, pay utility bills and insurance fund fees, charge mobile phones and withdraw money from ATMs.

    Police did not name the that notified the Electronic Crimes Division, but said that so far 46 people were involved in the thefts. The charges drawn relate to a 41-year-old Greek, two Romanian nationals (aged 29 and 38) and another five foreign nationals.

    Up to now, police have found 79 transactions that carried out through Internet links in Greece, Romania, Germany and the United Kingdom. The identity of 23 users has been determined with transactions involving 120,000 euros, although the total amount involved has not been determined yet.

    Investigations in Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli resulted in the confiscation of two hard disks and a modem-router, all of which were sent for analysis. The case file will be examined by the First-Instance Court of Athens.

    [37] Man arrested for 21 million euro debt to state

    A 70-year-old former managing director of a construction company was arrested by Attica security police on Tuesday for overdue debts to the state of 21,742,215 euros, police said on Wednesday.

    The man will appear before a public prosecutor

    [38] Arson attacks against local newspaper, bank branch in Patras

    Two arson attacks were made against a local newspaper and a Hellenic Bank branch in the western port city of Patras early Wednesday.

    According to reports, a group of unidentified persons broke the windows of the offices of "Peloponnissos" newspaper and threw two fire-bombs into the interior, causing a fire. Intervention by the Fire Brigade, however, prevented the fire from spreading.

    The same group then went to the Hellenic Bank branch where it again threw a fire-bomb, with the ensuing fire causing damage to the bank's ATM machine and a parked motorcycle.

    Earlier, the same group had vandalized a National Bank ATM.

    [39] Visitors and revenues in museums down in 2012

    The number of visitors to museums throughout Greece dropped by 2.8 percent in 2012 and revenues fell by 18.4 percent, the Independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday. In December 2012 the number of visitors to museums increased by 31.3 percent and the revenues increased by 2.4 percent compared with November 2012.

    Visitors in the archaeological sites around the country rose by 54.3 percent in December 2012 and revenues rose 33.6 percent in comparison with November 2012. In 2012 the number of visitors in archaeological sites rose by 2,7 percent but the revenues fell 12.3 percent in comparison with the same period in 2011.

    [40] Rail stoppages on Thursday and Friday

    Rail services will be disrupted on Thursday and Friday, as Hellenic Rail (OSE) and Proastiakos suburban railway employees will be staging four-hour work stoppages on both days.

    The stoppages will take place from 8:00 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday.

    As a result, several OSE itineraries that overlap into the stoppages will be cancelled or re-routed.

    Travelers are advised to call OSE at 14511 or check the revised itineraries on the webpage before setting off.

    [41] Burglary at St. Dimitrios Church in Thessaloniki

    Unknown individuals at dawn on Wednesday dawn broke into Aghios Dimitrios church, patron Saint of Thessaloniki, and took a bishop's miter and other valuables.

    According to information the perpetrators broke into the church from a window that had been found broken last Sunday but had not been repaired yet.

    Police have launched an investigation to find the perpetrators.

    Weather forecast

    [42] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-5 beaufort. Temperatures between 5C and 24C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures between 8C and 23C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 7C and 19C.

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

    AVGHI: "Final blow to social security funds".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Megaton scandal".


    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Prices fall, high cost of living remains...".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Sweeping changes in high school (lyceum) from September".

    ELLADA AVRIO: "Banks crack, social security funds collapse".

    ESTIA: "Margaret Thatcher: The seal of a great leader".

    ETHNOS: "76,444 freshmen in Universities and colleges this year".

    IMERISSIA: "Athens Stock Exchange 'sees' solution".

    KATHIMERINI: "Legislation for express layoffs".

    LOGOS: "Zero hour for public sector".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Controls on banks' stock transactions".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party's (KKE) 19th Congress starts on Thursday".

    TA NEA: "Prosecutors and Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) probe the Greek offshore companies"

    VRADYNI: "Pensions, elderly put through the sieve".

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