|Tuesday, 20 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 16 April 2013 Issue No: 4336
 PM: As uncertainty escalates worldwide, Greece's position becoming strongerGreek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was upbeat on Monday as he announced that negotiations between the Greek government and the troika of Greece's creditors had concluded with an agreement clinched late on Sunday night for the disbursement of 2.6 billion euros in bailout loans to Greece.
"As uncertainty and concern escalate throughout the world, Greece is stabilising and its position is becoming stronger," Samaras commented, noting that the way was now open for the payment of the next bailout trance of 6.0 billion euros in May.
The prime minister said that the government's goal for this year was a primary surplus that would allow Greece to ask for a further reduction in debt. He also highlighted a number of positive policy measures agreed with the troika, which he said would help alleviate the difficulties of over-indebted businesses and households.
Among them he listed more flexible settlements with a greater number of installments for paying off taxes and social insurance contributions, new measures for low-income households with excessive debts and the reduction, for the first time, of the tax on property levied through electricity bills, which will be 15 percent lower in 2013.
"In addition, the Single Property Tax that will go into effect from next year, from 2014, will be independent of PPC bills and will be one of the lowest in Europe," he added, also announcing that work to broaden the tax base would start in 2013 and be completed in 2014, ensuring a fairer distribution of the tax burden.
The prime minister said that reductions of more tax rates will be examined at the next review of Greece's fiscal adjustment programme in June, such as VAT rates charged for catering and restaurant services, and announced plans for programmes using EU community funds to support the jobless and households with no working members, as well as the start of pilot programmes to provide a minimum guaranteed income and health care to 100,000 long-term uninsured citizens.
 PM: 'Sacrifices beginning to take effect, change is coming'Wrapping up his statements, Samaras appeared confident that the sacrifices made by Greeks have begun to take effect and that a change, which would soon become apparent to ever more people, was coming.
"I'm not saying that the difficulties are all behind us, far from it. I am saying, however, that the sacrifices are beginning to take effect. That the situation has started to change," he emphasised.
Noting that the government was fighting to bring investments and economic recovery, he pointed out that Greece had already improved its rankings in international competitiveness, climbing up 22 places, that inflation was among the lowest in the Eurozone and that the country expected a bumper year for tourism.
"In a short while, Greece will no longer depend on the memorandums. It will be growth-oriented, competitive and outward-looking. A Greece that is strong," he underlined.
Samaras appeared satisfied with the results of the negotiations with the troika, noting that this was the first time that 'budgetary gaps' were covered without additional austerity measures.
He said that the troika's report acknowledged that Greece was meeting its targets, with both the 2012 budget and the first quarter of 2013 surpassing forecasts, while the payment of overdue debts to the public sector had already begun and bank recapitalisation will be concluded in the next weeks. This will restore liquidity to the market and stop the six-year-long recession, he added.
The prime minister warned that 2013 will be a difficult year because all the failures of previous years had to be addressed and reforms that were decades overdue had to be completed.
"However, we are finally attaining our targets and the programme itself is starting to improve," he stressed.
"A few months ago, we changed the 'external' terms of the loan agreement: we obtained a new haircut of our debt, a reduction in interest rates to about half what we were paying in 2010, a suspension of the payment of interest and nominal capital. We managed to obtain the biggest debt restructuring ever carried out in history. And we did this without an intervening default that had been 'chasing' us for years. Now we are starting to change the terms of economic policy within the country," Samaras said.
The prime minister especially highlighted the fact that, at a time when insecurity was spreading and other countries feared a haircut of their bank deposits, Greece had fully secured the capital adequacy of its banks, security of its deposits and, very soon, also liquidity for the Greek economy.
He repeated that Greece's primary goal was to emerge from the crisis and bailout memorandums but stay in the euro and the 'inner core' of Europe.
Public sector lay-offs
Commenting on a programme to shed 15,000 public-sector jobs by the end of 2014, with 4,000 scheduled to go by the end of the current year, the prime minister clarified that the measure concerned employees "with convictions for criminal or disciplinary offences or who leave voluntarily or whose positions are abolished".
He emphasised, however, that each of these would be replaced by an equal number of younger people chosen based on their qualifications and merit, with one young person hired form everyone leaving.
"This is not the 'human sacrifice', as some claim...it is a qualitative improvement of the public sector. And it is a demand of Greek society," Samaras emphasised.
 FinMin: Agreement with troika, light at end of tunnelThe Greek government has reached agreement with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's interna-tional lenders, and the negotiation over the past few weeks has been concluded, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras announced Monday at an Economist conference in Athens.
"We have agreement with the troika," Stournaras said.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel. Patience and clear-headedness is needed. The 'prophets of doom' have been belied. Greece remains in the Eurozone, confidence is being restored rapidly. The major target today is to achieve a primary surplus in the budget as of this year so that we can seek implementation of the clause that was agreed at the Eurogroup of November 27, 2012. In other words to ask for a drastic reduction of the state debt. This will create a very positive flow to the development of things and will bring us to the threshold of the exit from the crisis," Stournaras said.
"We've had a smooth completion of the negotiations with the troika, in other words we have agreement. Consequently, the disbursement of the next tranches is expected without problem," Stournaras added.
"To date, two-thirds of the required fiscal adjustment for the period 2010-2016 and three-fourths of the required adjustment in competitiveness have been materialised. The remaining adjustment is tough but not unfeasible," he said.
Stournaras further noted that there have been "positive developments" regarding the budget in the first quarter of the year. "We achieved a primary surplus of about 500 million euro, against a projected primary deficit of over 1.5 billion euro. The harmonised consumer price index fell by 0.2 percent in March on an annual basis, in other words, it is negative (inflation) for the first time since 1968. This is very good news for the disposable income of the Greek citizens and for the country's competitiveness. Of course, it makes it a bit harder for the fiscal adjustment," he explained.
Stournaras further said that exports of goods were "going quite well and continuing in the first two months of the year".
"The most positive news is that bookings for tourism are at very satisfactory levels. Tourists are expected to exceed 16 million this year. The positive development in the current accounts balance is, perhaps, the best news we wave to date. Let me remind that the balance of current accounts had brought the deficit to a record high in 2008, and this year we anticipate that it will be around zero for the first time in very many years," Stournaras continued.
The most negative development to now is a continuing rise in unemployment, which has reached 27.6 percent despite the improved in the per-unit production cost, he added.
Continuing, the finance minister said that the developments in Cyprus are not expected to be such as to upset Greece's basic macroeconomic scenarios. The shoring up of the Cypriot banks; branches in Greece was achieved through their transfer to Piraeus Bank, and in a very short time at that.
Closing his address, Stournaras said that "they way in which we are seeking to remain in the Eurozone today is the most rational, in my opinion, and with the smallest cost for the country, particularly for the lower income groups of the population".
"All those who promise that they will take us out of the memorandum but keep us inside the Eurozone, lie shamelessly," he said, adding that the present government is supported by the responsible political forces of the country not only to keep Greece inside the Eurozone, but to change both Greece and the Eurozone.
The degree of cooperation and reciprocity that has been attained among ideologically different forces is without precedent in Modern Greek history, "and this is a note of optimism for the future", Stournaras said.
 IMF mission chief: Fiscal adjustment programme on trackGreece's fiscal adjustment programme is on track, International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief for Greece Poul Thomsen told an Economist conference in Athens on Monday, adding that agreement has been achieved in the negotiations between the Greek government and the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's international lenders.
Thomsen stressed that the achieving primary surpluses was a priority, and anticipated that Greece could attain its targets without new measures affecting salaries and pensions, provided the targets in relation to taxes were met.
There are no more margins for cuts to salaries and pensions or increases in taxes, he noted.
On the reduction in the number of civil servants, affecting those who do not perform, Thomsen said that a taboo still exists, but noted that there are a large number of new, talented people, who could replace them.
He further stressed the need for dealing more efficiently with tax evasion. Many of the rich do not pay their taxes, he said, and acknowledged that the liberalisation of professions has not yet brought the expected result.
On the banking system, Thomsen said that "we do not want the state to govern banks and the government to distribute the credits".
 Troika joint statement: Debt sustainability remains on trackThe recent steps taken by the Greek authorities suggest that the March milestones are likely to be achieved in the near future and hence the disbursement of the related 2.8bn euro from the EFSF (European Fiscal Stability Fund) tranche remaining from the previous Review could be agreed soon by the Euro area Member States, the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a joint statement issued in Brussels on Monday following completion of the current evaluation of Greece's adjustment programme.
Greece's debt sustainability remains on track, the joint statement said, adding that the Eurogroup and the IMF's Executive Board are expected to consider approval of the Review in May.
Below is the full text of the joint statement:
Statement by the European Commission, ECB and IMF on the conclusion of the review mission to Greece
"Staff teams from the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have concluded their review mission to Greece. The mission has reached staff-level agreement with the authorities on the economic and financial policies needed to ensure the program remains on track to achieve its objectives.
The mission and the authorities agreed that the economic outlook is largely unchanged from the previous review, with continued prospects for a gradual return to growth in 2014, supported by inflation well below the euro area average and improved wage flexibility, which are helping to restore the competitiveness of the Greek economy.
Fiscal performance is on track to meet the program targets, and the government is committed to fully implement all agreed fiscal measures for 2013-14 that are not yet in place, including adoption of legislation to extend collection of the real estate tax through 2013 via the Public Power Company. It remains important to respond promptly to any slippages that may emerge. The authorities have made important progress on measures to improve tax and debt collection, through reforms of the revenue administration to provide it with significantly more autonomy, powers and resources, and adoption of more effective and enforceable installment schemes. This was a major focus of the mission, given the importance of improving tax collection and reducing the scope for evasion and corruption in order to ensure a more balanced and fair distribution of adjustment and to support the achievement of fiscal targets and minimize the need for further adjustment measures.
Actions to fully recapitalize the banking sector as envisioned under the program are nearing completion, and the authorities have undertaken to develop a comprehensive strategy for the banking sector following recapitalization. Most of the ? 50 billion available under the program for recapitalization has already been disbursed to Greece and injected into each of the four core banks by the HFSF (Hellenic Fiscal Stability Fund) as advances to cover their capital needs. The mission' s assessment is that this will provide adequate capital, even under a significantly adverse scenario. These capital buffers will thus ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system and of its deposits.
Other main areas covered during the review included (i) administrative reform to improve the quality of the public service and strengthen accountability by streamlining its structures, removing positions, and reallocating staff, and through dismissals that are targeted at disciplinary cases and cases of demonstrated incapacity, absenteeism, and poor performance, or that result from closure or mergers of government entities not subject to the mobility scheme; (ii) liberalization of product and service markets including transport and retail trade; (iii) privatization of state-owned assets; and (iv) electricity sector reforms to ensure financial sustainability and avoid the build-up of debt. The mission also discussed with the authorities progress in strengthening the social safety net, including through targeted employment and training programs supported by the EU, pilot programs to extend unemployment benefits and provide minimum income support, a program to provide access to primary health care for the uninsured, and a scheme to reduce the financial burden on indebted low-income households which have been severely affected by the crisis.
The recent steps taken by the authorities suggest that the March milestones are likely to be achieved in the near future and hence the disbursement of the related ? 2.8bn from the EFSF tranche remaining from the previous Review could be agreed soon by the Euro area Member States.
The mission' s view is that debt sustainability remains on track. Continued full program implementation, together with commitments by Euro Area Member States to consider future initiatives and assistance, if necessary, for achieving a further and credible reduction of the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio when Greece reaches an annual primary surplus, in order to keep debt to the programmed path, should help to ensure the long-term sustainability of Greece's public debt.
The Eurogroup and the IMF's Executive Board are expected to consider approval of the Review in May."
 Thomsen: IMF exec. Board to convene in second half of May to approve its share of trancheInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief for Greece Poul Thomsen said on Monday that the IMF's Executive Board will convene in the second half of May to approve its share of 1.8 billion euro in a 6.0 billion euro tranche for Greece for the first quarter of 2013, while the European Commission is likely to approve its 4.2 billion share of the tranche at the Eurogroup meeting scheduled for May 13.
Based on the above timetable set out by Thomsen after a meeting earlier with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, the 6 billion euro tranche is due to be disbursed before May 20, when the 5.6 billion euro in Greek bonds held by the ECB, which were not subject to the 'haircut', mature.
As for a balance of 2.8 billion euro outstanding from December, this is expected to be approved at a Euro Working Group in April.
Thomsen said that for Greece's fiscal adjustment programme to remain on track, tax evasion must be dealt with, competitiveness (as regards prices) must be reinforces, and the reforms in the public sector need to move forward. The delays in these three sectors, according to the IMF representative, is the reason why the programme is considered unjust by the citizens, but the government is aware of these matters.
On the public sector, Thomsen said that based on the agreement reached (between the government and the troika), the long-term goal of departures is met, but added that everyone is aware that the public sector requires new and well-trained civil servants.
The heads of the troika are slated to return to Athens in June for the next review of the Greek economy, while the government is expected to release the agreement reached during the current review possibly later on Monday.
 PASOK leader Venizelos on the completion of negotiations with troikaPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, head of one of the junior parties in the coalition government, on Monday commented that "the completion of this negotiation cycle with the troika is important in an insecure Europe," noting that "now, we should move fast to implement our own national reorganization plan".
After pointing out that Greece had exceeded set targets for reducing the 2012 deficit, he underlined that "this development is indicative of the great effort made".
Venizelos noted that "it has been accepted by our partners that neither the economy nor society can tolerate additional fiscal measures." He also underlined that Greece is close to achieving primary surplus, a development that paves the way for a further reduction of public debt in order to become definitively sustainable.
He said that society wants measures that will stop rising unemployment, preserve jobs and support enterprises while ensuring economic recovery, a return to economic growth and establishing a modern state that will serve the people.
Venizelos noted that civil servants have nothing to fear, since the majority are working hard to do their jobs well.
 SYRIZA on gov't agreement with troikaMain opposition SYRIZA sternly attacked the coalition government after the announcement that the government reached an agreement with the EC,ECB,IMF troika.
SYRIZA posed the question to the two junior partners, PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR), participating in the three-party coalition government: "What will they say now about the layoffs in the public sector that they had been denying in the past months?".
SYRIZA noted that "once again the completion of the troika's review reconfirmed the government's total commitment to the memorandum's programme of devastation and destruction. The 'substance of the negotiation' on which the government partners swear is 'layoffs, cutbacks in salaries and pensions and the dissolution of the social state'."
Referring to the government SYRIZA also posed the questions "Where does the impudence of those who maintained and continue to maintain that SYRIZA terrorises the Greek people with ungrounded scenarios of layoffs, when the implementation of the memorandum's programme is the very definition of terrorism? Is there any measure to the government's hypocrisy when after every discussion with the troika it baptizes the memorandum crime a success and itself the backbone of the national efforts? How many more times will it speak of 'the last measures'?"
"Unfortunately for the government and the parties that support it, the Greek people have totally realised the targets and the repercussions of the memorandum," underlined SYRIZA and noted that the "support of a programme of social and economic restructure on the basis of taxation of the wealth, support and restructure of the public sector, the fortification and the development of employment, are prerequisites for the country's exit from the crisis and the safeguarding of the social needs".
 AN.EL leader criticises prime ministerCommenting on statements made by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras about the conclusion of talks between the Greek government and the heads of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika, Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party leader Panos Kammenos on Monday said that the "drama the Greek people are going through can not be tackled with 'Zappeio'-style statements, lies and promises."
"The prime minister today turned the Maximos Mansion (PM's headquarters) into 'Zappeio 7' (the central Athens mansion where Antonis Samaras, as leader of the New Democracy used to announce his party's pre-election policy platform)," Kammenos said.
He stressed that "someone must immediately inform him that the drama the Greek people is going through cannot be tackled through 'Zappeio'-style statements, lies and promises, but through a proud national policy."
 SYRIZA-EKM, KKE on the government-troika agreementMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) on Monday lashed out at the prime minister "who had the audacity to announce new criminal measures jointly decided with the troika".
According to SYRIZA-EKM, "the only thing on which the prime minister was right was that soon Greece will not depend on memorandums and neither on him in order to be saved."
The SYRIZA-EKM statement underlined that the prime minister "dares to call 'reforms that should have been made decades ago' the exhausting memorandum measures of austerity and the demolition of workers' rights".
Opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) commented on the government-troika agreement and the prime minister's statements, underlining that "layoffs in the public sector, no matter how they are done, pave the way for the abolition of a permanent and stable job both in the public and private sectors. At the same time, they promote the surrendering of crucial social policy sectors, such as, education, health, welfare and other services, to private interests."
The KKE statement said that the agreement "opens a new round of cruel measures," characterizing as "cynical provocation" the announcements made by the prime minister for the relief of the financially weak.
 Development minister speaks at Economist roundtableDevelopment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis presented an action plan for Greece's developmental reactivation at the "Economist 17 Roundtable with the Government of Greece - Overcoming Stragnation, Re-Igniting Greece's Potential" and called for guaranteeing the country's political stability and recapitalisation of banks as necessary to it.
Hatzidakis stressed that an effort is being made in cooperation with the World Bank for the continuous improvement of competitiveness and the economic environment, while the tools offered by the OECD are also being used.
He also referred to the four pillars of the government's plan for growth - liquidity, restarting of projects, structural changes and privatisations.
 Administrative Reform Minister Manitakis addresses Economist conferenceAdministrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis on Monday addressed an Economist conference in Athens, focusing on the positive aspects of the agreement reached a day ago with the troika of the country's lenders.
Referring to the issue of the involuntary departures of 15,000 civil servants, he said that a "qualitative goal" will be met with the removal of employees who are found to be inadequate, noting that this was the government's goal from the beginning.
He also referred to the successful measure of employee mobility, underlining that 2,000 employees have been transferred in three months despite the objections raised and the delays recorded. A total of 25,000 employees will be transferred by the end of 2014, he added, saying that the goal is ambitious but not infeasible.
Manitakis said that disciplinary action will become faster and more effective and noted that the activation of the Civil Servants Code has led to the removal of 940 employees who were found to be in violation.
 Anti-corruption National Coordinator under the prime minister to be appointed soonThe individual to be appointed as anti-corruption National Coordinator will be well-respected, highly regarded and answerable to the prime minister, according to a document signed by Minister of State Dimitris Stamatis and forwarded to parliament on Monday, in response to a question by independent MP Mimis Androulakis.
"A top priority and the expressed will of the prime minister and the government is to draw up a comprehensive national strategy against corruption and promote transparency aimed at restoring confidence between the state and the citizens, promote the effective and virtuous operation of institutions and contribute to the improvement of the domestic business environment," the document underlined.
The minister of state also clarified that the National Coordinator will be assisted in his task by a Coordinating Committee and by an independent consultative body with international experience and know-how on relevant issues.
 SYRIZA extends invitation to cooperation in congratulations to new KKE leaderRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Secretariat coordinator Dimitris Vitsas congratulated Dimitris Koutsoumbas on his election as new secretary general of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Monday, and called for joint action on social and political level between the two parties.
Vitsas said that building socialism in the 21st century required that political powers wishing to overturn the memorandums policies walked together without necessarily becoming identical. Before this prospect, he said in his message, "we all ought to shoulder our responsibilities, otherwise we will be accountable before history and the Greek people."
Koutsoumbas, 58, was elected secretary general early on Sunday morning at the party's 19th Congress, taking over the party leadership from Aleka Papariga, the first woman to head the KKE, who stepped down after 22 years at the helm.
 SYRIZA-EKM leader Tsipras addresses student audience in LarissaMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday spoke before a student audience in the technological educational institute (TEI) in Larissa, underlining that "the survival of a public education system in Greece has a direct impact on the country's productive development and future prospects". Tsipras visited the local TEI ahead of the student elections on April 17.
He lashed out at the government and its policies noting that "instead of slowly exiting the crisis, we are sinking deeper and deeper into it," and added that "what's killing us is the medicine prescribed and not the illness".
Referring to the education sector, he said that "the memorandum is not here to handle the debt crisis, but to change the facts; and education is one of its main targets. Implementing summary procedures and lacking a plan, the government is destroying tertiary education."
He characterized the education reform programme "Athena" as a "plan for cheap and downgraded education to suit a colonized and productively downgraded country."
Tsipras called on the students to raise their voice, demanding an education system that will meet social needs and a public, high-standard tertiary education.
The SYRIZA-EKM leader exchanged views with students and met with the institute's administration.
 Deputy Loverdos announces founding of new political partyDeputy and former PASOK minister Andreas Loverdos announced on Monday the founding of a new politcal party during the 1st Political Conference of the Radical Movement of Socialdemocrat Alliance.
Loverdos said in his address, in the presence of 1,200 people in the Sporting stadium in Athens, that the party's slogan "is rift, clash, creation and its name Agreement for a New Greece".
His address was attended by representatives of the "Action" and "Dynamic Greece" movements, as well as by independent deputy Christos Aidonis.
Loverdos said that the new party will be open as regards positions and leadership, it will lie between the borders of ruling New Democracy and main opposition SYRIZA parties, it shall have immediate action proposals and will make "the clash, the rift with all that brought us here."
He added that it will be "a party without high-profile politicians, where young people will have the lion's share. A party of responsibility with plain speech and effective work that will contribute to the new Greek recovery. Lastly a European party, in favour of the EU's political union".
 Alternate Education minister addresses Council of Europe conference in MoscowAlternate Education Minister responsible for culture Costas Tzavaras presented at the 10th Conference of Council of Europe Culture Ministers taking place in Moscow the policies being implemented by the Greek state to facilitate and widen access - physical, mental and digital - to culture.
The Conference is being attended by member-state ministers and Council of Europe observers, as well as experts from the sector of culture.
According to a relevant ministry announcement, Tzavaras referred in his address to a series of targeted actions for the cultural incorporation of sensitive groups and the digital access of the cultural heritage, that the Culture General Secretariat is implementing, through its services and supervised agencies, and presented examples of selected actions and educational programmes.
 Minister condemns violence in sportsAthletics are an integral part of society and everyone must guard them against a minority perpetrating violent acts in sports venues, Deputy Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports Minister Yiannis Ioannidis said on Monday.
Referring to incidents on Sunday during the Super League football game between AEK and Panthrakikos, when fans of the former chased players off the field and clashed with police, Ioannidis said, "We condemn any form of violence in sports venues, whoever perpetrates it, and stress that we will oppose and fight any transgressive behaviours."
 Papoulias, Stournaras meeting postponed for TuesdayPresident of Republic Karolos Papoulias' meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras scheduled for Monday at 2 30 p.m. has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Presidential Mansion, according to an announcement on Monday.
 Debate in parliament on German reparations postponedThe scheduled for Monday discussion in parliament on main opposition SYRIZA's query regarding the German war reparations was postponed given that Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is currently abroad and could not be present at the discussion.
Parliament's press office clarified that the discussion will take place on another date, before the Greek parliament breaks for the Orthodox Easter (May 5).
 Macedonia-Thrace minister receives European local administration delegationMinister of Macedonia-Thrace Theodoros Karaoglou on Monday received a 25-member delegation of local administration officials from Belgium, Malta, Italy and Portugal.
The courtesy call, made within the framework of the European programme "Redesigning our cities", focused on "the importance of closer friendly relations between the European peoples".
"Such initiatives help to build bridges of friendship and reinforce cooperation ties," Karaoglou said, adding that it is "a notable effort that brings cities closer, unites peoples and shows the way to cooperation on European level to overcome the crisis".
 Parliamentary committee on two-day visit to BerlinBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
A delegation of the Greek parliament's Permanent National Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee will be meeting with top-level officials in Berlin on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The delegation consists of committee president Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, vice-president Dimitris Saltouros, secretary Maria Yiannakaki and members Constantine Tassoulas and Vassilis Hadzilambrou.
The Greek politicians are scheduled to meet with State Secretary of the Foreign Office Emily Haber, Chairman of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee Ruprecht Polenz and Foreign and Security Policy Advisor for the Chancellery Christoph Heusgen. They will also attend a closed session at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
 Foreign minister to represent Greece at Thatcher funeralGreek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is to set off for London on Monday, in order to represent Greece at the funeral of former British prime minister, Baroness Margaret Thatcher.
 Greek FinMin says banking union process underwayGreece expects that European authorities will agree by the first half of 2013 on a business plan allowing the European Stability Mechanism to directly recapitalize European banks, on the precondition of agreeing on an effective single bank supervisory mechanism, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Monday.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question by independent deputy Mimis Androulakis over the future of a banking union in Europe, the Greek minister said that the banking integration plan was based on the decisions taken in the December 2012 Summit over a new architecture of Economic and Monetary Union and envisaged the foundation of a European Banking Union on the creation of European supervisory mechanisms and managing banking crisis, with the aim to eradicate self-perpetuating trends between credit institutions, development prospects and public debts among member-states. These mechanisms are a Single Supervisory Mechanism within the European Central Bank, a European Restructuring Mechanism and a Joint System of Deposit Guarantee.
Stournaras, in his letter, said these mechanism were expected to achieve in the medium-term a coordinated supervision of banks, offering supplementary support to member-states in cases of systemic inadequacies in trans-state banking groups and supporting national deposit guarantee schemes. The Greek FinMin noted that a European deposit guarantee scheme currently reached 100,000 euros per depositor per bank.
 FinMin holds meeting with American Council of Foreign Relations presidentFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras held a meeting at the Finance ministry on Monday with the president of the American "think tank" Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Richard Haass, as well as a delegation of the CFR, focusing on the economic situation and investment opportunities in Greece, with emphasis on Greek-American cooperation.
Haass served as a high-ranking State Department cadre during the 1981-2003 period, he was Special Assistant to United States President George H. W. Bush and advisor to former secretary of state Colin Powel, as well as former vice president of the Brookings Institute.
 Agricultural development minister meets exporters, discusses strategy for boosting farming exportsIn a meeting with the presidency of the Panhellenic Exporters' Association (PSE) on Monday, Agricultural Development Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris outlined plans for targeted action to increase the penetration of Greek farm products in target export markets.
The minister underlined the importance and necessity of outward-oriented agricultural production in Greece, noting that this was a ministry priority. He also outlined plans for targeted penetration of Greek farm products in powerful international distribution networks, with a specific geographical approach, as well as effective promotion of Greek farming products in dynamic target markets, pointing to recent examples of ministry initiatives in this direction.
PSE President Christina Sakellaridi praised the minister's extensive knowledge and experience in the field and said that Greece was currently one of the main suppliers of farm produce to the world's developed economies and increasing its market share in developing markets.
During the meeting, the two sides agreed on closer cooperation between the ministry and PSE in lifting bureaucratic obstacles to exports of farm goods, in the framework of implementing the Single Window for Exports and other programmes to support farm exports and production.
The PSE also presented the results of statistical surveys showing that the importance of the agricultural sector in Greece's exports increased significantly in 2012. Specifically, the share of Greek farming/livestock breeding exports increased to 26.8 percent of the total value of Greek exports in 2012, up from 25.4 percent in 2011 if one discounted fossil fuels.
 Greek enterprises plan to raise their workforce in 2013, surveyUp to 68 pct of Greek enterprises plan to increase or maintain their workforce in 2013, a survey by Regus showed on Monday. The survey, conducted on a sample of more than 26,000 enterprises in 90 countries, showed large interest in hirings in the fields of sales and marketing in Greece. These figures kept the country's business confidence index to a positive trend, rising since October 2012, although it remained below the world average.
On an international level, the business confidence index rose to 114 points, up three points from October 2012, while in Greece it jumped 15 points over the same period to 59 points. Another 14 pct of enterprises said they planned to increase their number of employees by more than 5.0 pct, Regus said, adding that 44 pct of enterprises planned to hire more staff in the fields of sales and marketing, while a 26 pct said they focused more on operation personnel.
On a global level, 85 pct of enterprises said they planned to raise or maintain their workforce this year, while one in four said they planned to increase their personnel by 5.0 pct.
 Greek banking system restoring its strengthGeorge Zanias, the chairman of National Bank, on Monday expressed satisfaction over the return of 19 billion euros to the Greek banking system in the period between July 2012 and March 2013.
Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, Zanias said that the Greek banking system was restoring its strength through specific procedures, such as restructuring and consolidation of banks which began last summer and a recapitalization process.
The Greek bank noted that it was in this framework that banks adjusted their figures to the best and rationalizing their operating costs. "The main challence for the country's systemic banks is a timely implementation of a recapitalization process," Zanias said.
He said that the Greek banking sector has secured all the necessary capital for its recapitalization and noted that Greek banks were not the source of the problem for the country's crisis, as in other countries. He underlined that the size of the Greek banking system was one of the smallest and well below the European average, while he stressed that the acquisition of Cypriot banks' subsidiaries in Greece and their recapitalization cut the infection chain to Greece.
 2013 expected to be the best tourism year for Rhodes2013 will be a year-record for tourism on the island of Rhodes, according to data to date and the local tour agencies' estimations.
The increase in the tourist flow is expected to reach 20 percent, which brings an air of optimism to the local economic entities.
Despite the fact that the season has not started off very well, from the first days of June until the first ten days of October the tourism flow will make a dynamic reappearance, according to island officials.
 Cretans associate the island's economic growth with tourism, an opinion poll showedPeople on the south Aegean island of Crete believe that local economic growth largely depends on tourism (39.7 pct) and that there should be emphasis on the specific sector, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Technical University of Crete made public on Monday.
The primary sector (24.8 pct), commerce (11.1 pct), exports (8.4 pct), shipping (4.6 pct), building construction (5.3 pct), industry (4.3 pct) and insurance-banking services (1 pct) were also considered important in generating economic growth.
The telephone interviews were conducted on March 13-15, 2013 on a random sample of 948 households representative of the local population. The respondents were aged 18-60.
 Greece a favourite destination for Swedish travellers, Eurostat reportsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
Greece was the favoured destination of Swedish nationals (13 percent) travelling abroad in 2011, as well as Cypriots (33 percent), based on a Eurostat report on the travel habits of Europeans released on Monday.
The report did not include figures for trips carried out by Greek nationals abroad in that year, while recording a total of 1.1 million trips abroad (9 percent of total trips) in 2010. Of these, 35 percent of trips by Greek nationals were to countries outside Europe, 7 percent to Turkey and 6 percent to Bulgaria.
According to the report's findings, the most popular destinations in roughly one billion trips carried out by Europeans in 2011 were to Spain (13 percent), followed by Italy and France (9 percent each).
In absolute numbers, Germans carried out the most trips abroad (73 million journeys), followed by Britons (44 million journeys), the French (22 million journeys) and the Dutch (16 million journeys). As a percentage of population, the most trips outside their own country were carried out by Luxembourgians (100 percent), Belgians (74 percent), Slovenians (56 percent), Dutch (52 percent) and Austrians (50 percent).
Based on Eurostat's figures, the majority of Europeans travelling abroad visit a neighbouring country, with the exception of Swedes (who prefer Greece), Britons (who prefer Spain) and Romanians (who prefer Italy).
 Electricity consumption down 8.0 pct in Q1Demand for electric power dropped 8.0 pct in the first quarter of 2013, official figures showed on Monday, although the figures did not include renewable energy sources' production (mostly photovoltaic units connected to the low voltage grid) which has recorded a spectacular increase in the last 12 months.
The electricity transmission operator, in a report said that electricity consumption fell 7.99 pct in the January-March period this year, compared with the corresponding period in 2012, while electricity consumption fell 7.69 pct in March.
Renewable energy sources significantly raised their market share in the country's energy balance, helped by increased rainfall, with electricity production by hydro-electric power units rising three times compared with 2012, while production in March was five times more. Production by other renewable energy sources (wind power, larger photovoltaic) grew 32 pct in the first quarter of the year. Electricity production from lignite power stations fell by 19 pct and from power stations using natural gas as fuel by 33 pct, leading to a plunge of electric power prices in the daily wholesale market.
 Credit conditions remain tight in MarchA protracted shortage of credit in the country continued shrinking the value of unpaid bills and bouncing checks in March 2013, official figures showed on Monday.
The value of bouncing checks totaled 45.804 million euros in March, down 77.33 pct compared with the corresponding month last year, but up 0.25 pct from February. In the three-month period from January to March, tth value of bouncing checks fell to 212.973 million euros.
The value of unpaid bills totaled 10.119 billion euros in March, down 42.27 pct from March 2012.
 Seamen on strike TuesdayShips will remain docked at ports throughout the country on Tuesday due to a 24-hour nationwide 'warning" strike called by seamen in protest over a Merchant Marine Ministry omnibus bill for restructure of the sector, which is being introduced to the parliamentary plenary for debate.
The seamen's strike affects all categories of ships, and will commence at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday to 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, while dockworkers' and merchant marine ministry employees' unions will be participating with work stoppages.
It is as yet unknown whether the executive committee of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) will meet again on Tuesday to decide on further mobilisations, PNO sources told ANA-MPA that any decisions would hinge on the course of developments, while a new mobilisation has been scheduled for the May 1 Labor Day.
PNO has asked for withdrawal of the omnibus bill, which it considers is an attempt to overturn the institutional framework in place today (ship crew compositions, collective labor agreements also in sea-going vessels, and other demands).
 Greek stocks end lower on profit takingGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, as investors continued taking profits in the wake of last week's spectacular gains. Bank shares, such as Eurobank (-21.14 pct) and National Bank (-17.05 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The composite index of the market eased 0.11 pct to end at 925.49 points, after falling as much as 2.22 pct during the day. Turnover remained a disappointing low 54.046 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.89 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.76 pct higher. The Construction (4.76 pct), Personal Products (3.01 pct) and Utilities (2.52 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Banks (9.16 pct), Financial Services (3.48 pct) and Travel (3.25 pct) suffered losses. Ellaktor (8.59 pct), Piraeus Port (7.11 pct), Viohalco (5.51 pct) and Intralot (4.30 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (21.14 pct), National Bank (17.05 pct) and Piraeus Bank (9.76 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 72 to 67 with another 16 issues unchanged. Audiovisual (27.48 pct), Kathimerini (19.93 pct) and AEGEK (17.82 pct) were top gainers, while Pairis (30 pct), Eurobank (21.14 pct) and Douros (19.64 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.08%
Personal & Household: +3.01%
Raw Materials: -1.04%
Travel & Leisure: -3.25%
Food & Beverages: -0.98%
Health : +1.80%
Financial Services: -3.48%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, OTE, HBC Coca Cola and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.81
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.52
HBC Coca Cola: 19.85
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.00
National Bank of Greece: 0.54
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.28
Bank of Piraeus: 0.19
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 9.87 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday. News that Greek authorities have reached an agreement with the troika, paving the way for disbursement of a new tranche of a bailout loan for Greece helped sentiment in the market. The Greek bond yielded 11.12 pct and the German Bund 1.25 pct. Turnover was a thin 4.0 million euros, of which 3.0 million euros were sell orders and 1.0 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate was 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 premium of 0.71 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 16.809 million euros.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,849 contracts worth 10.247 million euros, with 30,024 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 36,844 contracts worth 6.562 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (16,189), followed by Alpha Bank (4,602), Piraeus Bank (3,080), Eurobank (1,496), OTE (2,361), PPC (1,954), OPAP (1,984), Mytilineos (692), Ellaktor (968), Intralot (528), Hellenic Exchanges (211), MIG (239) and Sidenor (176).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.327
Pound sterling 0.865
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 8.496
Japanese yen 129.75
Swiss franc 1.232
Norwegian kroner 7.613
Canadian dollar 1.355
Australian dollar 1.276
 STASY mulling change in policy for stations near sports venues, following Sunday clashesThe management of Greece's urban fixed-rail transport company STASY SA on Monday said it may revise its policy on train services to stations serving sports facilities, following Sunday night's events at Irene station after the game between AEK and Panthrakikos.
In an announcement, STASY noted that such incidents were a "long-standing phenomenon that cannot continue," and that it would re-examine its policy during the holding of sports events "in order to protect public transport property and its standing property assets but, chiefly, to ensure the safe and smooth transportation of the public".
STASY left open the possibility that stations that the police consider high risk for violent incidents may stop operating entirely during sports matches. It clarified that such decisions will be taken after consultation with the Greek Police and with ample warning to enable members of the public to plan their journeys.
AEK football fans clashed with police at the Irini train station on Sunday, after interrupting the game at the adjacent Olympic Stadium when AEK scored a goal against itself in favour of rival Panthrakikos team.
The fans interrupted the game by entering the sporting arena, caused damages within the stadium and then clashed with police, first outside the stadium and then at nearby Irene train station, on the overground light railway line from Piraeus to Kifissia.
Train service was interrupted and incidents continued late at night after the arrest of an unspecified number of people.
 Eight arrested in violence at soccer stadiumEight spectators were arrested and another three were detained during violence before and throughout a Super League soccer match between the 'eternal adversaries' Panathinaikos of Piraeus and Olympiacos of Athens at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Faliro, near Piraeus.
Four were arrested on charges of attacking police with stones, flares and other projectiles outside the stadium while two were arrested after a taser, a firecracker and 12 rounds of bullets were found in the car they arrived at the stadium in, a seventh man was arrested for carrying two flares, and the eight for holding a forged season ticket.
The arrestees will be taken before a Piraeus prosecutor.
 Austrian director, author presents book on 'real Greece' in ViennaVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austrian political, literary and religious personalities attended the presentation of a memoir, "Greece Blossoming - An Odyssey through Another Greece", by author and director Fabian Eder at the Vienna Town Hall on Monday.
The book is based on a documentary of the same name Eder made in April last year while sailing from Crete to western Greece, interviewing locals at stops along the way. Sections of the book were read at the event by well-known Austrian actors, including Eder's wife Katharina Steinberger.
The film has been screened at a special event at the European Parliament and in a joint Austrian, German and Swiss television programme in Austria, while details on its history are available on a site by the title name.
Eder focused on the younger generation of Greeks who talked about their hopes and daily worries because he wanted to promote a more authentic aspect of Greece rather than the "maniacally miserly daily references that immobilise people and give rise to fears which do not lie far from hate," he told ANA-MPA.
The book presentation was attended among others by former Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky, former vice-chancellor and minister Erhard Busek and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Mid-Europe Arsenios. Party representatives and the Greek ambassador were also present, while vice-mayor and vice-governor of Vienna's federal state Maria Vasilakou, of Greek descent, delivered the main address.
 Academic cooperation between Thessaloniki's AUTH and Chinese institutionsThessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH) signed a scientific cooperation agreement with the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) and soon will proceed with the signing of an agreement with HANBAN/Confucius Institute leading to the establishment of a Confucius Institute in AUTH, it was announced on Monday.
"Summer school" courses will also be available at AUTH for Chinese students.
HANBAN/Confucius Institute is a public institution affiliated with the Chinese ministry of education committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide.
In the past two years, AUTH has signed cooperation agreements with seven major Chinese universities. Among the goals set is holding a Sino-Greek conference in 2014 in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), China's highest academic research organization in the fields of philosophy and social sciences.
 Man charged with lethal knife attack on young woman, remanded in custodyAn Igoumenitsa examining magistrate on Monday ordered that a 25-year-old livestock farmer arrested on a charge of murdering a 20-year-old woman be remanded in custody pending trial. The suspect will be led to jail after both the magistrate and public prosecutor agreed that he should remain in custody.
The suspect had assaulted the victim, a student from Paramythia, with a knife and killed her in the town square of Filiata. The suspect was led before the magistrate under heightened security due to the angry reactions prompted by his fatal attack on the young woman.
 Prisoner escapes from hospital in ThessalonikiA 32-year-old prisoner taken to Thessaloniki's Ippokration Hospital to undergo medical tests managed to escape on Monday afternoon. Thessaloniki police authorities have launched a manhunt to locate the fugitive and bring him back into custody.
Police later announced that the 32-year-old Greek national of Georgian descent managed to escape in a taxi after slipping past his guards in the waiting room of the hospital's out-patient clinic. In slippers and with bandages on one leg, he left via the hospital's main exit and hailed a taxi, asking the driver to head west.
The taxi driver's suspicions were aroused, however, and after letting off the 32-year-old off at the location he requested, he immediately informed the police.
The 32-year-old had been arrested a few days earlier for an outstanding conviction and eight-year prison sentence for theft and was being held at the Evosmos police lock-up.
 Elderly woman found brutally murderedAn 82-year-old woman was found brutally murdered in her home in Villia, Attica on Monday, with a wound to the head possibly inflicted by a knife. The victim's body was discovered by neighbours and family members.
Police said the murder was possibly linked to a robbery, since the door had been forced open and the contents of the house disturbed.
The case is being investigated by Attica Security police.
 Rail stoppages on April 16-18Rail services will be disrupted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as Hellenic Railways (OSE) and Proastiakos suburban railway employees will be staging four-hour work stoppages from 20:00 p.m. to midnight, it was announced on Monday.
Several OSE itineraries that overlap the stoppages will be cancelled or re-routed as a result.
Travelers are advised to call OSE at 14511 or check the revised itineraries on the webpage www.trainose.gr.
Metro trains between Doukissis Plakentias station and Athens' international airport will run according to schedule.
 Live hand grenade set off beneath Galatsi apartment buildingUnidentified individuals threw a live hand grenade into the parking area beneath an apartment building in the Athens district of Galatsi, at around 3:20 a.m. on Monday morning. The explosion caused minor damage to two motorbikes and a car parked under the building.
Attica police are conducting an investigation.
 Rainy on TuesdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 8C and 21C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens with northerly 4-8 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 18C. Possible local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 8C and 19C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: "New bomb from Berlin".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Troika, take everything".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Beginning with 14,000 layoffs and then comes (abolition of) tenure".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The new retirement benefit for 1.3 million salary earners'.
ELLADA AVRIO: "They are saving the civil servants charged with breach of duty - 'Envelope' (bribe) becomes legal".
ESTIA: "Public sector the 'sacred cow'."
ETHNOS: "The agreement for 15,000 layoffs in public sector".
IMERISSIA: "The huge venture".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Layoffs, debts and real estate in the final agreement".
TA NEA: "How, when and from where 15,000 civil servants will leave - Arrangement- breather for small debts'.
VRADYNI: "Expenditures that reduce taxation".
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