|Friday, 23 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 12 April 2013 Issue No: 4333
 PM meets with exporters' associationPrime Minister Antonis Samaras met Thursday with the presidium of the Pan-hellenic Exporters' Association (PSE), as the government has placed high priority on promoting exports and improving the relevant institutional framework.
Development minister Costis Hatzidakis, who was also present at the meeting, said that Samaras has given clear instructions on boosting exports, adding that a 25-point programme for expediting the procedures was currently underway.
Hatzidakis said that the organisational model for exports was changing and a single agency on extroversion was being set up. He added that significant funding from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) that would be forthcoming would contribute to liquidity, and noted that the European Investment Bank (EIB) will for the first time adopt a programme for boosting exports with the coverage of letters of guarantee.
PSE president Christina Sakellaridi expressed surprise over the Prime Minister's knowledge on the real economy and expressed satisfaction with the governmental work being advanced.
"We share a common vision and found understanding," she said, and expressed optimism on the collaboration between state and enterprises.
 FinMin meeting with troika ahead of his departure for EurogroupFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras met on Thursday with the heads of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary fund troika delegation at the Finance Ministry.
After the end of the meeting Stournaras departed for Dublin to participate in the informal Eurogroup meeting in Dublin, and the negotiations with the troika will continue on Monday.
A high-ranking ministry official, who participated in the negotiations with the troika, stated that "we are very close on all issues and the minister is going to the Eurogroup with many issues closed, however, announcements will be issued on the 'package' in its entirety after the completion of the negotiations".
 Public sector issue remains openThe public sector issue remains open, a senior Finance Ministry official told ANA-MPA in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday after a new, marathon 6-hour meeting between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and the heads of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's international lenders.
The official expressed optimism, however, that in the coming days -- most likely on Tuesday -- there will be full agreement in the negotiations and a "package" deal will be announced.
According to sources, Wednesday's negotiation started with the 4 billion euros fiscal shortfall for 2013-2014 that had been discovered by the Troika, which the ministry official said has been 'closed'.
Discussions in Athens, however, will continue between the Troika technical teams and government staff up until Sunday, after which Stournaras will return to the talks.
The government hopes to secure speedy approval for the 2.8 billion euro tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan as the 5.6 billion euros in state bonds held by the ECB, which were not subject to the haircut of the Greek debt, mature on April 20.
 Gov't and troika 'close' to agreement on all pending issuesA meeting focusing on the hot issue of public sector layoffs demanded by Greece's lenders, concluded late Thursday evening between alternate finance minister Christos Staikouras and the troika heads, also attended by minister of Administrative Reform Antonis Manitakis.
Finance ministry sources said the two sides were close to agreement on the entire range of issues under negotiation, to resume Friday afternoon.
In the two-hour-long meeting, Staikouras acted for finance minister Yannis Stournaras, who earlier left Athens for Dublin, Ireland to take part in Friday's informal session of the Eurogroup.
 Justice Minister rejects indiscriminate labeling of civil servants as corruptJustice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis on Thursday voiced opposition to the creation "of a fear of being characterized as corrupt employee" among civil servants, warning that such an environment "hurts public administration and does not allow employees to perform their duties in a proper atmosphere".
Speaking in parliament, Roupakiotis said that the civil servants who have broken the law should not be allowed to keep their posts adding, however, that by saying that everybody is corrupt "we put psychological pressure on all public sector employees" and create conditions that block the smooth operation of public administration.
 Dev't ministry meeting with troika experts on 'red loans'The new arrangements to apply for over-indebted households' loans have been the focus of a meeting between the Development ministry leadership and the troika experts, on Thursday evening.
Ministry officials said that slow but steady steps are being made toward an agreement, as the non-serviced loans is a crucial matter to both the recapitalisation of the country's banks and the economy overall.
Negotiations between the two sides will continue for the next few days to achieve progress with the relevant draft bill.
Ministry officials noted that even though no agreement has been reached so far, the government is pressing on the troika to urgently address the specific issue, given that "red loans" are constantly on the rise amidst the current tough economic conditions.
 President receives Cyprus Parliament speaker; criticism of Cyprus bailout voicedPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Yiannakis Omirou, who relayed his disappointment with the stance adopted by Cyprus' European partners in brokering the island's bailout.
"Unfortunately our partners, especially the powerful leaders of the European Union, offered us 'bile and vinegar' instead of support and solidarity," Omirou said, adding that the crisis in Europe was chiefly a crisis of credibility since there was a violation of the fundamental principle of solidarity. This created problems not only for social cohesion but also for political cohesion, he added.
"We need fundamental changes within the European Union," he said.
Papoulias said that Greece suffered alongside Cyprus and noted that his recent reference to the "selective" nature of the decisions concerning Cyprus had "infuriated".
"The issue is precisely that European collective institutional organs should take decisions that are implemented. Because, today, unfortunately, in the area of financial governance, it is the markets that rule and not democratically legitimate institutions, which are Parliaments and governments".
 Cyprus parliament president: Europe needs to change directionVisiting Cyprus parliament president Yiannakis Omirou on Thursday sent a message towards all directions, and particularly to Turkey, that the harsh economic condition that prevails in Cyprus should not give the impression, and it should never pass through anyone's mind, that this is the right moment for design against the national sovereignty and other interests of Cyprus.
Omirou met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, with whom he discussed, inter alia, the common policy line that Athens and Nicosia will follow on the national issues. "Together we will wage the battle for Hellenism," said Omirou and directly charged the Europeans for violation of the fundamental principle of solidarity. "They gave us bile and poison," he said, noting that the gap between North and South must not continue to exist given that it is not only the social cohesion but also the political cohesion that will be put into an ordeal".
"Europe needs a change of direction," the Cyprus parliament president concluded.
 Parliament president expresses full support of Greek Parliament to struggle waged by people of CyprusParliament President Vangelis Meimarakis expressed to visiting Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Yiannakis Omirou the full support and solidarity of the Greek Parliament as well as of all the Greeks in the difficult struggle that the Cypriot people and Cyprus are waging.
During the meeting held by the two men in Parliament on Thursday, Meimarakis spoke of difficult decisions that the Cyprus parliament was called on to take, stressing that it has before it an equally difficult task that is necessary however.
"And the Greek Parliament has experienced similar moments. We have experienced the harshness of the negotiations and we know that at this moment we are at a crucial point. This serious situation however does not eliminate the steadfastness of our views as regards the national issue, nor of course does it mean resignation from the struggle for the issue's course," Meimarakis said.
On his part, Omirou said "the Greek Parliament, as it has done in the past, is standing with determination by the side of the Republic of Cyprus today as well, by the House of Representatives in this crucial period of the bad econoimic position in which the Republic of Cyprus has found itself".
Omirou also strongly criticised the stance observed by the European partners on the problem of Cyprus, speaking of a cruel attitude, but added that "we shall tackle all the difficulties and the problems however. In any case, we know about difficulties. Our people proved this in 1974 as well after the terrible tragedy, with the loss of 70 percent of the country's natural resources, with 200,000 refugees, with missing persons, with enclaved and victims of that tragedy. We stood on our feet and revived the Cypriot economy".
 German reparations, occupation loan, are open issues for the government, foreign minister Avramopoulos saysForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday underlined that the Greek government reserves the right to raise different aspects of the German war reparations when it is deemed suitable and after considering all parameters.
A document forwarded to Parliament on April 5 bearing the foreign minister's signature also noted that the Greek government had intervened in the dispute between Germany and Italy in the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the case of the compensations to the families of the Distomo massacre.
The document, which was forwarded to Parliament in response to a relevant question by independent MP Nikos Nikolopoulos, also mentioned that the "issue of the occupation loan the Bank of Greece was forced to give to the German and Italian occupation forces is open and distinct from the issue of war reparations."
The foreign minister pointed out that "Greece has been concerned with the issue of the WWII German reparations for a long time," noting that this constitutes an issue with "historical, humanitarian, political and legal dimensions."
"Greece, taking under consideration the parameters mentioned and the existing conjuncture in bilateral and international relations has been raising the issue regularly within the framework of bilateral meetings between senior government officials and also during official contacts between competent ministries," according to Avramopoulos.
The foreign minister also noted that the foreign ministry forwarded the confidential report - prepared by the working group of the State General Accounting Office after studying WWI and WWII archives - to the president of the State Legal Council to process, evaluate and substantiate the claims raised by the Greek State.
Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Thursday responded to a relevant question by saying that the State General Accounting Office has prepared a report on the German reparations based on existing archives. It was handed over to the foreign ministry which in turn has forwarded it to the State Legal Council to determine whether the claims of the Greek state would stick, he underlined.
Delavekouras pointed out that the findings are confidential and noted that the political will has been expressed, considering that the specific process is underway in response to the moral and historical dimensions of the issue. Now the legal dimension of the issue is being considered, he added.
"We are expecting the State Legal Council's consultatory response," Delavekouras concluded.
 PASOK considers German reparations to Greece 'open'The PASOK party considers the issue relating to German World War II reparations to Greece is still 'open', said the party's spokeswoman Fofi Yennimata, replying to statements by Wolfgang Schaeuble, used the way used by the German Finance minister to reply to his American counterpart: "We do not need suggestions of any kind."
Yennimata stressed that "Greece does not expect to be saved through the reparations."
She also pointed out that German reparations to Greece was "an matter of honour, character, dignity and primarily of respect for our ancestors who were killed by the Nazis."
The PASOK spokeswoman added that "Mr. Schaeuble's statements do not help the Greek people, as he probably believes."
 Veteran Greek politician criticises German finance ministerVeteran leftist politician Manolis Glezos - an iconic figure of Greece's WWII resistance movement after he lowered the Nazi flag from the Acropolis in then occupied Athens - on Thursday reacted to statements made by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble on the war reparations issue by calling Schaeuble "ignorant of history".
The 90-plus main opposition SYRIZA-EKM MP, who has devoted several years to campaigning for the payment of war reparations owed by Germany to Greece, criticised statements made by Schaueble as "a monument of autocracy and ignorance of the history of the 2nd World War."
"He is ungrateful, because he doesn't recognise the important contribution made by the Greek people, who through their resistance helped establish democracy in Europe. Or is it this resistance that he wants to take revenge from? Germany should take care because, at the end, it was defeated in both wars."
 Foreign ministry: political will to solve name dispute lacking on FYROM sideThe Greek foreign ministry on Thursday blamed the lack of progress in negotiations to settle the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on a lack of political will on FYROM's side.
"The process under [UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz] for a solution to the issue of FYROM's name has unfortunately dragged on a long time because the necessary political will on the other side is lacking," foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said.
He put off a reply to questions regarding the latest proposal made by Nimetz regarding the dispute until Greece's representative in the negotiations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilikis, had returned to Athens and the ministry had been fully briefed. Delevekouras repeated Greece's position on the need to find an "erga omnes" name qualified by a geographic determinant and said that Athens will give its reply to Nimetz once it is has evaluated his proposal.
On other issues, the spokesman expressed Greece's "great concern" over an apparent revival of nationalism, which had been responsible for great divisions and conflicts in the part of the world occupied by Greece. He was also critical of FYROM's failure to actually implement reforms and changes required by the European Union, stressing that reform did not end with the adoption of laws but with their implementation, as well as of the country's record on press freedom issues and its history of violent political clashes.
He pointed out that agreements between the political forces, including those mediated by the EU, were not being adhered to, most recently with the March 1 agreement between the government and opposition.
Also during Thursday's press briefing, Delavekouras confirmed that the General Accounting Office had sent the foreign ministry's its report on material in Greek archives relating to German war reparations and that this had been sent on to the Legal Council of State for evaluation, which the ministry was now waiting for.
 Deputy FM on Hellenic Presidency BureauGreece wants and can remain at the centre of European integration, Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas told Parliament on Thursday, during a debate for setting up the Bureau that will handle Greece's EU presidency.
He said the Greece's six-month EU presidency in the first half of 2014 will be "spare, functional and dignified", adding that the autonomous Hellenic Presidency Bureau will be set up within the foreign ministry, with a budget of 50 million euros, calculated "with exceptional thrift", which will be under the authority of the relevant deputy minister and the European Affairs SG.
This amount, he said, will cover all expenses by all ministries, as well the reinforcement of Greece's permanent representation in Brussels.
 KKE leader opens party's 19th CongressThe 19th Congress of the Communist Party of Greece opened on Thursday at the party headquarters in Perissos with an address by KKE secretary general Aleka Papariga.
In her speech, Papariga noted that the Congress will give an answer on how the struggle against the "barbarous and antisocial measures' will be organised, and referred to her party's proposal for a unilateral write-off of the debt and disengagement of the EU.
Replying to critics of the party, she stressed that the KKE has shouldered the biggest burden of the mobilisations.
Papariga underlined that the "revolutionary change in Greece will be socialist...the driving forces of the revolution will be the working class as a leader, the semi-proletariats, the poor farmers and the most oppressed sections of the middle classes of the cities."
She also noted that the "struggle against the repercussions of the crisis, averting a bigger bankruptcy of the people and a way out from the crisis to the people's advantage could, under certain conditions, become the link for organisation of the working classes' popular counterattack, the springboard for an as mass as possible support of the struggle to topple the rule of the monopolies, combined with the struggle against the imperialistic war and the participation of the Greek bourgeoisie in any way..
Moreover, Papariga sharply attacked the three-party coalition government's policy as well as main opposition SYRIZA's positions on the dealing with the crisis.
 Opinion poll gives ND 1pct lead over SYRIZAThe liberal New Democracy party (ND) takes the lead over the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) in voting preference in a nationwide opinion poll, April 5-9, conducted by Public Issue, commissioned by private SKAI television station and Kathimerini newspaper.
Specifically, in an estimated voting preference, the ND garners 28.5 pct (28.5 pct in March), against SYRIZA's 27.5 pct (29.5 pct in March).
Third place is taken by the far-right Golden Dawn with 11 pct (up from 10 pct in March), followed by PASOK 8.0 pct (7.5 pct in March). Fifth place is shared between Independent Greeks and Democratic Left parties, with 6.5 pct.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is preferred by 5.5 pct of respondents, while 6.5 pct of those asked expressed support for other parties and 21.5 pct opted for a blank and invalid vote and abstention.
To the question "who is the most suitable for prime minister, Antonis Samaras (ND) or Alexis Tsipras (SYRIZA)?," respondents gave Samaras 41 pct (down from 44 pct in March) and Tsipras 26 pct (down from 27 pct in March). Up to 31 pct of the respondents said "neither of the two".
 Public order minister rules out repeat of 'Keratea events' in HalkidikiPublic Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikolaos Dendias on Thursday ruled out any repetition of the events seen in the Attica district of Keratea over a planned landfill site, in the way the state handled those objecting to gold mines in Skouries, Halkidiki. He was commenting on Wednesday's events in coastal village of Ierissos, where many local residents object to the mines.
"There will be no repetition of the events in Keratea. The law will be imposed and a sense of legality restored. The state cannot back down because it would not be a state," he said in statements to the private radio station 'Vima'.
Questioned about the time the arrests in Halkidiki were made, the minister rejected the idea of criticism based on the time of executing the warrants, stressing that these were issued for seven crimes and 10 misdemeanours "that would make your hair stand on end".
"Should we restrict the police to 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. perhaps," he added.
He attacked main opposition SYRIZA-EKM, saying it should give careful thought to what it said since it was the main opposition, with institutional "obligations to the Constitution, the laws and society".
"I am not ready to say that the mobilisations there are incited by SYRIZA-EKM. In order to say this, I must then prove it. SYRIZA, however, does provide political backing to such phenomena," Dendias noted. He questioned the party's decision to defend people accused of "seven criminal offences and 10 misdemeanours" given that a representative of justice had been present.
Scuffles had broken out early on Wednesday between local residents and police in the town of Ierissos, Halkidiki peninsula after authorities arrested two local residents as suspects for the February arson attack on the installations of a gold-mining company Hellas Gold in the village of Skouries. Local residents accused police of using violence to storm the homes of the suspects, breaking down doors.
According to reports, some of the locals attacked the local police station in Ierissos and set fire to it, burning furniture and other objects. Scuffles between local residents and police had broken out again on March 7 in Ierissos.
The minister also replied to questions concerning conditions at detention centres for illegal migrants and, while admitting that these not perfect, stressed that there had been a "threat of collapse and imposition of the law of Golden Dawn" at the time when he had taken over the ministry.
"We are open to any new idea for solving the migration issue. We will continue to create detention centres until we complete the planning foreseeing 10,000 places of detention. A new centre will be created in Epirus and the site has been chosen, which is not a camp," he said.
He announced a restructuring of the police force in the next few months, saying this would be the first great reorganisation since 1984.
"The challenges now are unbelievable. The restructuring will increase the mobility of the police, include the creation of units with heavy weaponry that can meet the challenges of the times".
The minister also admitted shortcomings in fire-fighting mechanisms, especially the ageing fleet of planes and the lack of money to buy new ones.
 KKE on the incidents in IerissosOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday criticised what it called a "commando-style" police operation in the town of Ierissos on Wednesday, saying that it was "a show of force aiming to intimidate the local people fighting against the surrender of the region's natural resources to major business interests".
KKE called on the people to condemn such methods and practices and take coordinated action.
Locals in Halkidiki, northern Greece are opposed to the operation of the Hellas Gold goldmine facilities in the village of Skouries. Police searched private houses in Ierissos in the early morning hours on Wednesday, looking for the perpetrators of last February's arson attack on the installations of the gold-mining company.
 Deputy FM to chair Greek-Russian Interministerial Com'tDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Friday will chair jointly with Russian Transport Minister Maksim Yuryevich Sokolov the plenum of the 8th Economic, Industrial, Technological and Scientific Greece-Russia cooperation Interministerial Committee.
The works of the plenum will close with the signing of a relevant Protocol and Kourkoulas will inaugurate the 5th Greek-Russian Business Council.
 Athens Archbishop holds meeting with Russian officials on pilgrim tourismArchbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos held a meeting on Thursday with the members of the Russian delegation on tourist matters, focusing on Greek-Russian cooperation in the framework of religious tourism.
The Russian delegation was headed by Deputy Tourism Minister and alternate director of the Russian Federal Tourism Organisation Evgeny Pisarevsky.
Addressing the Russian delegation, Ieronymos referred to his recent visit to Russia and the opportunity he had to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while aso referring to the bonds between the two peoples with the common faith being the dominant element.
The Russian deputy Tourism minister stressed that the meeting with the Archbishop is one of the most important meetings held by the members of the delegation in the framework of their visit.
It is noteworthy, lastly, that the Churches of Russia and Greece have already signed a cooperation agreement on pilgrim tourism.
 Government to hire 400 extra doctors to man disability boardsThe labour and administrative reform ministries on Thursday signed a joint decision to hire an additional 400 doctors to man disability boards at Disability Certification Centres. The decision was announced by Deputy Labour Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, during a discussion on issues relating to certification issues, who said it aimed to end the long delays in the work of these boards, caused by a lack of specialists.
He explained that neurologists, psychiatrists and cardiologists were needed for roughly 80 percent of the cases that needed to be assessed but made up only 25 percent of the specialists available at certification centres.
 Greek unemployment rose to new record of 27.2 pct in JanGreek unemployment rate rose to another record in January, totaling 27.2 pct of the country's workforce, or 1,348,742 unemployed, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that a total of 806,803 people were added in the unemployment list since 2010 when the first memorandum was signed. Unemployment hit mostly young people, aged 15-24 (59.3 pct) and women (31.4 pct).
The unemployment rate was 21.5 pct in January 2012 and 25.7 pct in December 2012. The number of unemployed people totaled 1,348,742, up 281,048 from January 2012 (26.3 pct) and up by 95,709 compared with December 2012 (7.6 pct).
The number of employed people totaled 3,617,771 in the country, down 270,629 compared with January last year (-7.0 pct) and down by 11,653 compared with December 2012 (-0.3 pct).
The economically non-active population totaled 3,346,423.
Unemployment among women was 31.4 pct in January (from 25.4 pct in January 2012. The 15-24 age group was mostly hit by unemployment (59.3 pct in January this year from 51 pct in January 2012, followed by the 25-34 age group (34.2 pct and 29 pct, respectively). The unemployment rate in the 35-44 age group was 23.5 pct in January 2013 from 18.2 pct last year, while in the 45-54 age group it was 20.5 pct from 15.6 pct and in the 55-64 age group it was 16.8 pct from 11.6 pct.
Epirus-Western Macedonia (29.2 pct), Attica (28.4 pct), Macedonia-Thrace (28.2 pct) were the regions with the highest unemployment rate, followed by Thessaly-Central Greece (26.1 pct), Peloponese-Western Greece-Ionian Islands (23.4 pct), Crete (23.2 pct) and Aegean (19.8 pct).
 Deputy FinMin: New Single Tax will contain reduction in taxation on real estateDeputy Finance Minister George Mavraganis said that a reduction in taxation on real estate, which will appear in the new Single Tax on real estate to be announced in the coming period, is a given fact, speaking in parliament on Thursday morning.
"The citizens care paying less tax and the government, understanding the problem, has announced -- by the Prime Minister himself -- that the relevant tax in 2013 will be lower," Mavraganis said, adding that the Single Tax, which will replace the extraordinary surtax on real estate (EETHDE, the Extraordinary Levy on Electricity-Supplied Surfaces, which is calculated the built surface area of real estate properties and collected via electricity bills), will for technical reasons be collected in 2013 as well through the Public Power Corporation (PPC) bills.
"The government has announced that it is moving in the direction of the Single Tax on real estate. There is an issue with the transition, and for this reason the PPC can be used again, in 2013, for the collection of this tax," he said, noting that the government is working to reduce the tax and lighten the burden on the citizens "because the government's policy must be a policy of understanding and reason".
He left an "open window" for intervention in the problem of mistakes in the calculation of the EETHDE in cases where the municipalities have not informed the PPC in time on corrections to the surface area (square meters) of the real estate properties. The government, he added, is working in the direction of solving this problem.
Mavraganis was replying to a question submitted in parliament by ultra-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) MP Elias Panagiotaros, who accused the government of ignoring a Council of State ruling that the EETHDE is an extraordinary tax and as such should have been collected only in 2011 and 2012, as well as the Areios Paghos (Supreme Court) ruling that the surtax should be collected only by the Tax Bureau.
Panagiotaros charged that in place of the EETHDE a new "super surtax" was coming which would be extended to other built (developed) or unbuilt surfaces at a time when the people cannot meet their elementary needs.
Noting that he can submit "a pile of (electricity) bills, cases in which electricity was cut off because the consumers did not pay the EETHDE?.
"Electricity should not be cut off for non-payment of the EETHDE, and such instances should be dealt with by the services," Mavraganis replied, explaining that even today taxpayers may ask for the EETHDE to be removed from their PPC bills and be collected by the Tax Bureau offices instead.
 Greek pension funds to examine participation in National Bank's capital increaseGreek pension funds' boards are expected to convene in the next few days to examine their participation in a forthcoming share capital increase plan by National Bank.
Pension funds are currently own 16 pct of National Bank's equity capital and as fund executives said a decision not to participate in the share capital increase scheme could drastically reduce the public sector's equity stake in the bank. The value of pension funds' equity stake in National Bank is estimated at around 150 million euros, of which Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) -the largest Greek pension fund- has around 75-80 million euros.
Labor, Welfare and Social Insurance Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, said that the government will not try to give any directions to pension funds which have autonomy in reaching decisions based on their reserves and in the framework of their interest. Greek pension funds have suffered significant losses from a PSI programme and are facing severe liquidity problems.
Pension funds' capital reserves totaled 15.79 billion euros before the PSI programme, while the nominal value of their Greek bond portfolio was 6.52 billion euros. These sums suffered a haircut of 53.50 pct.
Pension funds had suffered significant losses even before the Greek bond haircut. IKA had suffered a loss of 580 million euros in its bond portfolio in late 2010, while the value of its mutual funds in its portfolio had been reduced by 185 million euros.
The Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) estimates an economic recession of 4.6 pct this year and an unemployment of 27.6 pct. Analysts stress that every percentage point of recession burdens the country's social insurance funds by 500 million euros annually.
IKA reported a 14 pct shortfall in its revenue in the first three months of the year, double the initial estimate for a 7.0 pct shortfall, while undeclared labor is estimated to add losses of at least 6.0 billion euros annually to social insurance funds.
 Deputy Development Minister Mitarakis on the goldmine investment in SkouriesDeputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis on Thursday stated that he is in favour of the goldmine investment in Skouries, in Halkidiki Peninsula, northern Greece, pointing out that he supports investments that meet strict environmental protection terms, have won their case in the courts and have all necessary licensing.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 2nd business forum in Thessaloniki, Mitarakis said that for years Greece was not investment-friendly and as a result investments rejected in Greece were made in other countries.
"With an unemployment rate climbing to 27 pct, we have no other option than to embrace investments that meet the preconditions, regardless of being big or small, Greek or foreign," he said.
 Tourism minister, Russian tourism agency chief discuss boosting bilateral tiesTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Thursday held talks on boosting Greek-Russian ties in tourism with the head of Russia's Federal Agency for Tourism Evgeny Pisarevsky.
During the meeting, Kefalogianni highlighted Greece's investment in specialist tourism services, which she said offered Russian visitors a rich variety of alternative proposals in religious tourism, marine tourism, sports tourism and health-related tourism.
She expressed optimism that arrivals from Russia will be higher in 2013 than in previous years and that the relations cultivated with Russia will "bear fruits".
"Early bookings are going very well and we are confident that this year we shall receive a large number of Russian visitors to the country," the minister said, adding that this was exceptionally significant in a year when Greece looked to tourism to help jump-start the economy and increase state revenues.
Kefalogianni underlined that Greece wanted its cooperation with Russia to have a long-term horizon, not to be "opportunist and passing".
Pisarevsky said current forecasts predicted that roughly one million Russian tourists will visit Greece in 2013, while adding that relations between Russia and Greece were of "strategic importance, not only in tourism but also in all economic, political and social activities".
The Russian official also noted that Russia hoped to attract Greek tourists to visit the country and was making efforts to make the Russian Federation a tourism destination, highlighting the best of Russian traditions in culture and religion and showing the new face but also the background of a modern, democratic Russia.
 Mediterranean port, customs officials meet in PiraeusPort and customs officials from Jordan, Lebanon, Italy and Spain are meeting with their Greek counterparts during a two-day meeting at the Piraeus Port Organization to exchange know-how and best practices in custom and port issues, in the framework of implementing a CUSTOMMED European project.
The meeting will focus on cooperation and exchange of knowledge, views and best practices, between partners and Greek authorities in existing custom and port procedures in the transport of passengers and cargo by ship, train on TIR vehicles.
Piraeus Port Organization participates in CUSTOMMED, a European project aimed at improving transfer of cargo and passengers between Middle East, North Africa and the European Union, through a European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) - Mediterranean Sea Basin Joint Operations Programme - with the creation of networks and adopting common procedures and technologies.
The project is implemented through bilateral cooperation. CUSTOMMED aims at improving efficiency of trans-border trade, with the development of a road map between Lebanon and Jordan and the adoption and implementation of joint customs and trans-port procedures between Lebanon and the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Greece and Spain.
 Business forum held in ThessalonikiThe year 2013 will be a very difficult and transitional year for the country, Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Thursday.
Addressing a 2nd business forum organized by the Macedonia-Thrace ministry in Thessaloniki, Mitarakis said: "We cannot and we must not hide the truth from the people that 2013 will be difficult, but we are doing better." The measures being promoted, combined with structural reforms and privatizations that are expected to run faster this year, will begin to show significant signs of stabilization, he added.
He noted that a new community funds programme for the 2014-2020 period - surpassing 20 billion euros - will be a very useful tool in efforts to combat high unemployment in the country. Mitarakis said the Greek Parliament on Wednesday approved a new investment and development law and said a plan to integrate export support agencies will be completed this year.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou underlined the importance of the forum in exchanging ideas and positions among the region's productive groups as it struggles with high rates of unemployment and de-industrialization. "Our aim is that the heads of all productive chambers of the region should meet regularly and discuss their current problems," Karaoglou said.
Representatives of productive chambers urged the government to urgently adopt development policies before it is too late as the intensive austerity programe implemented cannot bear fruit.
 Eurobank to hold extraordinary General Assembly on April 30Eurobank's board decided on Thursday to call an extraordinary General Assembly on April 30. The General Assembly will be deciding, among other things, on an increase in the bank's share capital for drawing capital up to the amount of 5.8 billion euros through the issuing of new, common and name shares with a vote.
 Eurobank dismisses reports of contacts with investorsEurobank on Thursday categorically dismissed reports alleging that it was in contact with representatives of Marfin Investment Group (MIG) or any other investors as part of its efforts to raise capital for a forthcoming share capital increase plan.
In a statement to the Capital Market Commission, Eurobank said that it has not made any contact with Marfin Investment Group SA Holdings or any other investors. The bank said it was "evaluating all possible options and will inform investors promptly on its actions".
 Greek stocks extend rally for fourth consecutive sessionGreek stocks extended their rally for the fourth consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, supported by strong buying interest in bank shares. Eurobank's share price jumped 28.57 pct closing to 0.38 euros, from 0.11 euros on Monday, while National Bank's share price rose by 15.19 pct. The Capital Market Commission has started an inquiry into trading in bank shares in the last four days, following a decision to temporarily suspend a merger deal between National Bank and Eurobank.
The composite index of the market rose 2.63 pct to end at 926.91 points, for a net gain of 12.63 pct in the last four sessions.
Turnover was a moderate 66.194 million euros. The Big Cap index rose 3.38 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.24 pct higher.
The Food sector (-0.64 pct) was the only one to end lower, while Banks (10.16 pct), Utilities (7.39 pct) and Health (5.90 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Eurobank (28.57 pct), National Bank (15.19 pct), Alpha Bank (11.35 pct) and PPC (8.17 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Intralot (4.15 pct), Metka (0.96 pct) and Coca Cola Hellenic (0.70 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 107 to 34 with another 25 issues unchanged. Dionic (29.25 pct), Hatzikraniotis (29.09 pct) and Eurobank (28.57 pct) were top gainers, while Fieratex (29.13 pct), Revoil (15.29 pct) and Mihaniki (14.66 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.77%
Personal & Household: +0.51%
Raw Materials: +4.02%
Travel & Leisure: +1.75%
Food & Beverages: -0.64%
Financial Services: +3.15%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and Bank of Piraeus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.81
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.49
HBC Coca Cola: 19.91
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.00
National Bank of Greece: 0.69
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.38
Bank of Piraeus: 0.24
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 10.05 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.35 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.30 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.43 pct, the six-month rate was 0.33 pct, the three-month rate was 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.52 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover easing to 23.686 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,572 contracts worth 14.125 million euros, with 29,239 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 67,779 contracts worth 9.561 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (29,643), followed by Alpha Bank (11,081), Piraeus Bank (7,628), Eurobank (3,102), MIG (2,524), OTE (3,155), PPC (4,107), OPAP (944), Mytilineos (653), GEK (699), Ellaktor (541), Intralot (2,528) and Hellenic Exchanges (150).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.331
Pound sterling 0.864
Danish kroner 7.568
Swedish kroner 8.438
Japanese yen 132.35
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 7.589
Canadian dollar 1.344
Australian dollar 1.259
 Santorini ideal destination for tourism, but also gastronomyThe island of Santorini is promoting the island's unique cuisine and products throughout the world, having declared 2013 the Year of Gastronomy on Santorini, with the aim of acquiring a high position worldwide not only as a tourist destination but also as a "gastronomic destination".
The picturesque southern Aegean island, with its lacy coasts and spectacular volcanic 'caldera', produces a series of native products that are unique in the world, due to its singular subsoil, and frequently supply cannot keep up with the high demand.
These unique qualities were showcased by Thira Mayor Anastasios Zorzos, the head of archaeological digs at Akrotiri Christos Doumas and the chief of the Santorini Volcano Study and Monitoring Institute Michalis Fytikas, at an event in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
According to the speakers, Santorini enjoys singular weather conditions, such as little rainfall, which results in the plants growing large root systems, given the produce a unique taste. As the plants adapt, they fruit they produce develop tough peels but more tasty fruit and become more resilient to the weather conditions.
"Through tourism, we will try to project our products, and we have drafted a plan to brief the tavernas, hotels, wineries and owners of rooms-to-let, especially this year which is the Year of Gastronomy," Mayor Zorzos said while Fytikas, a professor of geology, said that given that Greece has active volcanoes on Santorini, Nissyros and in Methana, it could unify the volcanic regions and project the beautiful geological landscapes that developed over the centuries from the volcanic explosions.
Researcher Ekaterini Traka, spoke of the unique agricultural products of Santorini, such as the Santorini cherry tomato, which is known since 1870-18880 when it was first cultivated. Santorini also grows crocus (saffron) in several parts of the island, while Santorini capers and its white-skinned eggplant are also famed throughout the world, but production is too small to meet the demand, she added.
 Four escaped convicts involved in Isthmia chase and shooting death, police sayAuthorities on Thursday announced that four individuals were involved in the shootout with police during a car chase in Isthmia, Corinth, earlier in the month. During the pursuit, a 25-year-old woman named Katerina Zogali was fatally injured by a stray bullet fired against police by the four men riding in the white VW transporter van, stolen from Assos, Corinth. All four were identified as escaped convicts that broke out of Trikala Prison last month.
Forensic investigation of the van, which was later found abandoned in Mandra, Attica, revealed new DNA evidence on three of the four suspects.
Police announced that the genetic material recovered belongs to Marian Kollia, 36, who was identified early in the investi-gation, Ilir Kupa, 27, and Klement Kala, 25.
A fourth escaped convict, Ermal Lita, 35, who participated in the shootout, was also identified by a fingerprint.
Mugshots of the four, who are wanted by police, were released soon after the bloody jailbreak from Trikala Prison last month.
 Three police officers suspended over lock-up facility escapeThree police officers were suspended following the escape of three foreign nationals in the early morning hours of Thursday, from a lock-up facility in Agios Dimitrios Police Station, greater Athens region. A special inquiry has also been ordered into the circumstances of the escape.
The three officers, including the officer on duty, the lock-up facility guard and and police station guard, found out about the escape after the three fugitives were long gone.
The three foreign nationals, two Algerians and an Afghan, aged between 19 and 23, escaped through a hole they opened in the lock-up facility wall using a metal blade.
Two of the fugitives were accused of thefts and one was held pending his deportation.
 Former head of media sector pension fund released from jail pending trialThe former president of the media sector pension fund, known as TSPEATH and later renamed ETAP-MME, Dimitris Kapranos, on Thursday was released on conditions following a relevant decision by the Council of Court of Appeals Judges.
Kapranos had been in custody since November 2011, held on remand pending his trial for felonious mismanagement in the so-called structured bonds affair.
According to the ruling, he is barred from leaving the country and will have to appear at a police station twice a month.
The one-time newspaper columnist is accused of approving, in July 2006, the purchase of a structured bond worth 130 million euros by TSPEATh. He is to be tried on four felony counts, namely, breach of faith, fraud, money-laundering and bribery.
 32nd Book Festival in ThessalonikiThis year's Book Festival to be organised for the 32nd consecutive year by the Federation of Publishers of Northern Greece June 7-23, is devoted to the 70th anniversary of the death of Kostis Palamas.
The festival will be held in a central square around the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos (in Aristotelous street above Egnatia street), due to works continuing along the beach.
Kapranos has denied all charges
 107 kilos of hashish seizedA 32-year-old Albanian national was arrested on Thursday as he attempted to smuggle 107 kilos of hashish into Greece through the Krystallopigi border station.
Police, in cooperation with customs employees and the assistance of a sniffer dog, discovered hidden in the suspect's truck 100 plastic bags filled with hashish.
The suspect was arrested, charged with drug dealing, and will be sent before the local prosecutor.
 Contraband cigarettes seized, two arrestedA large quantity of contraband cigarettes was seized in Thessaloniki on Thursday and two men, aged 37 and 24, were arrested.
Police found in the second suspect's house 176,632 packets of contraband cigarettes. On the possession of the 37-year-old police found a gun with a cartridge and shells, narcotic pills and cell phones.
The investigation revealed that a long-term conviction and a 600,000 euros fine for smuggling illegal migrants into the country were against the 37-year-old.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-4 beaufort. Temperatures between 6C and 25C. Fair in Athens with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures between 10C and 24C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 9C and 21C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Subordination and authoritarianism downhill".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: " 'Terror-state' ".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Cover up and authoritarianism ".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The seven secrets of the income tax statement ".
ELLADA AVRIO: "Plan for extraordinary taxation of interest".
ESTIA: "Unbelievable inefficiency".
ETHNOS: "Layoffs or else you won't get the tranche".
IMERISSIA: "Banking 'fever' ".
KATHIMERINI: "Harsh game with National Bank of Greece and Eurobank".
LOGOS: "Bank deposits haircut with law".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Hellenic Financial Stability Fund will bring reversals to banks".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Communist Party of Greece 19th Congress starts on Thursday".
TA NEA: "Europe SOS! 13 countries in the red".
VRADYNI: "Traps in tax statement".
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