|Monday, 16 October 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 19 April 2013 Issue No: 4339
 PM: Europe can contribute to speedy completion of EEZs of Med countriesA message to Europe that, with its stance, it can contribute to the efforts being made for speedy and safe completion of the procedures for declaring Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) not only by Greece but also by the other Mediterranean countries of Europe was issued by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, in his opening address to the 12th conference of the Euro-Med Cooperation and Investments Mechanism that opened in Athens on Thursday.
Samaras noted that the energy reserves in the wider region were under the jurisdiction mainly of European member countries.
"They are part of our European assets, that must be exploited -- the declaration of the EEZ is in the jurisdiction of the sates, but the EU can back these states so that everything can be completed with security," he said, adding that "we must rally together for something that unites us, we must raise our head for something that gives us prospect," Samaras said, emphasizing that Greece is at the most neuralgic point of the Mediterranean.
Indeed, the prime minister made mention for the first time of a prospect of connecting the EEZs of Greece, Cyprus and Malta, and stressed that the Mediterranean is much more than just a Sea, it is the most critical sea border of Europe.
Europe must be safeguarded from the dangers at its south, and that is where waves of migrants come, on the opposite coast are wealth-producing sources that Europe has need of, but also in the seabed of the Mediterranean, Samaras said, noting that Europe's energy sufficiency can hinge on the Mediterranean.
"Europe must make its presence felt in its neighbourhood. The Mediterranean plays and will play a decisive role for the security and international radiance of Europe, for its energy supply," he added.
 EU, EIB and IMO joining forces for development of 'blue economy in the Mediterranean'A conference taking place in Athens on Thursday and Friday is focusing on the maximization of marine and maritime cooperation between the Mediterranean countries, aiming at promoting opportunities for growth and the creation of jobs. Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-president Philippe de Fontaine Vive and Andrew Winbow, Assistant Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) committed themselves to joining forces, each in his own sector - European policy, funding, security - to support a viable "blue economy" in the Mediterranean.
"We are trying in the EU, through the Integrated Maritime Policy, to coordinate the various activities such as shipping, sea transport, fisheries, aquacultures, ports and coastal infrastructures, marine energy sources and marine tourism to avert the threats that illegal immigration, interstate crime, drug trafficking, illegal fishing constitute," Commissioner Damanaki said.
"Our aim is to determine and undertake activities that favour the development of dexterities, the creation of jobs, the protection and security of citizens, the protection of the environment and the 'blue' development in the region. The EIB must depend on the increase in the private sector's participation in this effort," Philippe de Fontaine Vive said on his part.
Andrew Winbow from IMO, placing emphasis on the protection of the environment, stressed that "the action must focus on two main sectors of vital importance: training, preparation and the dissemination of information and some form of monitoring and supervision to secure the effective implementation of the policies and practices that must be selected".
"Our aim is the mapping of all the European sea depths by 2020 to facilitate the excavation and the energy utilisation of the sea depths", he noted, underlining the contribution of the EU funds to the 2014-2020 programme in the research sector, as well as the EIB's positive stance.
Participating in the 12th conference of the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) are ministers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta and Palestine who are responsible for maritime policy issues, personalities in the sector of shipping, entrepreneurship, sciences and activities related to the sea.
 Government, ministers condemn Manolada shooting incidentThe Greek government and several cabinet ministers on Thursday condemned Wednesday's incident in Nea Manolada, Ilia when foreign farm labourers working on a local strawberry farm were shot and injured when they went to demand six months of unpaid wages.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said it was an "inhuman attack and an unprecedented and despicable action", which was "absolutely condemned by the entire Greek society."
"This unprecedented and despicable action is foreign to the Greek people's principles and the relevant authorities' action will be immediate and exemplary," he added.
Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias warned that "the economic exploitation of hundreds or even thousands of our fellow-humans, or their living in unacceptable conditions, cannot be tolerated today in the Hellenic Republic. The more so an attempt to murder them."
Dendias stressed that "in this direction, we have the active support of the overwhelming majority of the law-abiding residents of Ilia and the local authorities".
"I feel the need to reiterate that enforcement of the law is not only a self-evident obligation of all of us, but also a necessary condition for the country's economic recovery," Dendias added.
The minister is to visit the Varda police station handling the case on Friday morning, in order to be briefed into the progress of the investigation. He will be accompanied by Police Chief Lieut. General Nikos Papagiannopoulos, the General Inspector for Southern Greece, Lieut. General Yiannis Dikopoulos and the heads of the Financial Police and Service Against Racist Violence.
Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis similarly expressed his horror at what he called a "murderous" attack:
"The barbaric and inhumane armed attack by Greek employers against migrant workers in Nea Manolada, Ilia drags forth abhorrent images of a slave-era South that has no place in our country," he stressed, expressing his disgust and deep concern.
"I stress that the State will impose and uphold legality and give an immediate reply to this criminal action. I have already asked the Supreme Court prosecutor to give priority to the investigation of this case and to apportioning responsibility," he added, noting that society must condemn such actions and the political forces that support them.
Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, on his part, condemned "the inhuman working conditions, violence and human exploitation" to which the victims had been subjected by a local land owner and stressed that "upholding the law and legality in the labour market are non-negotiable."
He announced that he had asked Labour Inspectors' Corps Special Secretary Mihalis Kandarakis to urgently send a team to Manolada to investigate, adding that the events on Wednesday confirmed the need to involve the police in clamping down on 'black' undeclared labour.
The incident was also strongly condemned by trade union organisations, such as the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE representing private-sector workers and the civil servants' union federation ADEDY, and employer associations such as the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV).
GSEE said that conditions on Manolada strawberry farms "amounted to contemporary slavery" and stressed that those responsible must be brought to account, while calling for the exemplary punishment of those "choking even the few remaining labour and insurance rights and sinking social insurance funds through contribution evasion".
A similar call was made by ADEDY, which stressed the government should not shirk its responsibilities and said that trade unions were planning action to tackle such incidents.
"Phenomena of this type are counter to every sense of justice, humanity and refer us to social conditions in the Middle Ages, offending the whole of Greek society, which has been brutally injured by the conditions of severe austerity that prevail in the country as a result of the policies of the government and the troika," an ADEDY announcement said.
SEV spoke of a "barbaric exploitation of human beings that are subjected to a regime of black labour amounting to slavery," and said that the Greek state and Greek society must "must move with determination to punish and crack down on similar phenomena." SEV stressed that "there is no future for the Greek economy if it allows practices that crush human dignity and labour ethics."
The events in Nea Manolada were similarly condemned by the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE), the Athens Bar Association, political parties and many other organisations.
During an incident on Wednesday afternoon, 28 Bangladeshi field hands working on a Nea Manolada strawberry farm ended up in hospital after three gunmen armed with shotguns and a pistol opened fire on them. The farmhands had gone to meet with the farmer to demand six months of backpay owed to them for working on his fields.
Nine were taken to the university hospital in the western port city of Patras and the remaining 19 to a hospital in nearby Pyrgos. Eight were said to have serious but not life-threatening injuries and seven were still in hospital on Thursday afternoon.
The owner of the strawberry farm has been arrested and police are seeking three local men believed to be involved in the shooting and were employed as foremen on the farm.
 28 migrant fieldworkers injured in shooting incident, political parties demand attribution of justiceSome 28 foreign field workers -- Bangladeshi nationals -- were injured on Wednesday afternoon in Nea Manolada, Ileia prefecture, when three gunmen opened fire on them as they showed up for what they thought was an appointment with their employer to seek six months in back-pay for working his strawberry fields.
According to information, nine of the workers were taken to the university hospital in the western port city of Patras and the other 19 were taken to hospital in Pyrgos.
Reports also said that the owner of the strawberry fields has been arrested.
Sources said that eight of the workers suffered more serious injuries, but were not in a life-threatening condition.
Police are searching for three local men involved in the shooting, allegedly 'representatives' of the employer, who opened fire on the workers with shotguns when the former asked to be given the six months in back-pay owed them.
Police have beefed up security measures in the area to avert new violence.
The foreign workers were wounded by gunshots in Nea Manolada, in the Ilia prefecture in the Peloponnese, shortly after 6 on Wednesday evening.
According to reports, about 200 foreign workers in strawberry fields carried out a protest in the region to demand six months in back-pay. A clash followed with three Greeks who, according to police, are believed to be representatives of the employer.
One of them started firing against the workers, resulting in 28 people being wounded. According to reports, the police have arrested the owner of strawberry farm and are continuing investigations to locate the three Greeks.
The violation of the labor rights of the workers due to their origin is in every instance a racist act and should be treated as such," the PASOK division on human rights said in an announcement on the "incident of extreme violence in Nea Manolada", adding that the law enforcement authorities must mobilise immediately.
PASOK said that the incident must be investigated immediately, adding that the employment of undocumented foreign nationals, if proved, is done with the accountability of the employer and is not an alibi, according to the law, for non-payment of wage and all the more so for exercising any form of violence.
Main opposition SYRIZA said attribution of justice is urgent and pressing, adding that "the gunshots against migrant workers in Manolada, who were demanding pay owed them, is a criminal, racist act.
The SYRIZA press office, in an announcement, said this was not the first time that such incidences have occurred in the Manolada region against working migrants who, apart from extreme exploitation also suffer violence.
Democratic Left (DIMAR) condemned the "criminal attack against working migrants in Manolada" and called on justice to deal with the matter without delay. "It is an insult against the human being and his rights. Repelling violence and racism is a cause of the entire society," DIMAR said in an announcement.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) put "heavy blame" on the government and the local authorities in Manolada over the "modern-day slave trade and inhuman working conditions of the migrant laborers".
The KKE, in an announcement, condemned "the murderous attack against migrant field-workers by 'big landowners and foremen in Manolada because they (the workers) were demanding the self-evident, namely payment of pay owe them, resoling in more than 20 injuries, of which four in serious condition".
The KKE added that this was not the first time such an incident has occurred in this specific region.
This specific incident, by big-bosses with their henchmen attacking workers demanding their rights, is reminiscent of other eras and confirms that barbarity is synonymous to today's capitalist system, the KKE said, adding that Greek and foreign workers, united in a tight fist, must fight against this barbarity and the system that breeds it.
Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos categorically condemned the shooting of Bangladeshi farm workers seeking unpaid wages from a farmer in Manolada, while speaking on the sidelines of an emergency press conference.
"The results of neo-Nazism and the legalisation of the extremes, as the former prime minister Costas Karamanlis has called them, as well as the publicising of their positions, are grievous phenomena that offend our country and have nothing to do with Greece. The things that happened in Manolada are of course condemned by us all," he said.
A press release issued by the ultra-right nationalist party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) condemned an incident in rural Manolada, in which 28 Bangladeshi farm workers were shot when they went to demand unpaid wages from a local farmer, while calling for the immediate deportation of all illegal migrants and a "final end to the illegal labour of foreigners".
The party's press release also condemned "all those that illegally give work to illegal migrants, depriving thousands of Greek families of bread" and said blame for the incident lay fully on "the political establishment that has led us to the current pitiful stiuation, with millions of illegal migrants flooding the country."
"Those who brought the foreigners illegally into the country and until today tolerate 'black' labour and their exploitation should not now pretend to sensivity," the party said, adding that both left- and right-wing politicians shared responsibility for the exploitation of migrant workers and the huge problems that illegal migrants created for the Greek people.
 Three being sought for Manolada incident, police sayPolice on Thursday announced that a manhunt has been launched to find the three foremen accused of opening fire on 200 Bangladeshi farm workers on a strawberry farm in Nea Manolada, Ilia and injuring 28 people. According to a spokesman for the Greek Police (ELAS) Christos Parthenis, one of the three has a pending court case over a similar incident that led to the injury of a foreign national last August.
The 57-year-old land owner running the strawberry farm is already in custody, following his arrest in Lappa, Achaia on Wednesday on a charge of morally instigating attempted homicide and violating laws on the employment of foreign nationals.
Also under arrest is a 38-year-old man from Pinia, Amaliada, who is accused of harbouring two of the suspects sought by police for some hours. In a raid on his home, police found a can of pepper spray and a shot gun whose licence had expired.
According to the spokesman, the land owner and the three foremen - aged 39, 27 and 21 years old, respectively - were equipped in a manner reminiscent of U.S. plantation bosses during the slavery era, while the armed attack on the migrant workers did not take place in the heat of an altercation but later, indicating criminal intent.
By order of the chief of police, the Attica Security Police Department Against Racist Violence will also be involved in the investigation of the case, in order to determine whether the three foremen might be implicated in other acts of violence targeting foreigners.
One of the three men, the 27-year-old, is already facing trial for injuring an Egyptian labourer in August, again following a dispute over unpaid wages. Acting with another Greek man that had not participated in the events on Wednesday, the 27-year-old had been accosted by workers demanding their money and had attempted to drive away in his car. When the Egyptian tried to stop them, the two Greeks had rolled up the car window so that they caught the man's hand and then dragged him a considerable distance so that he was injured. A trial over the incident is pending.
During the incident on Wednesday, a police investigation showed that there was an argument between the three foremen and the migrants over six months of unpaid wages, after which the three foremen left. They returned a few hours later with two shotguns and a pistol and started firing at the gathered foreign labourers.
Evidence found on the scene included five empty shotgun shells and one unused shotgun shell, 15 iron pipes and 12 makeshift clubs, among others.
Of the 28 labourers injured in the shooting, seven have not yet been discharged from the Patras University Hospital and Pyrgos General Hospital though none appear to have sustained life-threatening injuries.
Police have briefed the Amaliada public prosecutor on the actions and the course of the investigation so far, while the main investigation has been assigned to the Amaliada security police in cooperation with the Varda police station.
The spokesman also stressed that no illegal migrants have been detained in connection with the incident so far.
 Police announce action to clamp down on illegal labourDuring the briefing, Parthenis announced plans for a police campaign to clamp down on undeclared and uninsured labour, on the basis of a new labour ministry law passed by Parliament nine days earlier. Once this is published in the government gazette, it will give the ELAS Financial Police powers to investigate incidents of 'black' labour and start systematic inspections throughout the country.
"I want to make it clear that both the leadership of the Greek Police and the political leadership of the [public order and citizen protection ministry] is determined to stamp out such phenomena involving the exploitation of foreigners, which offend our country's culture," the spokesman said.
 PM Samaras congratulates ONNED for student election victoryPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday appeared determined to push ahead with substantive changes in the country's production model, speaking of the need for an immediate reversal of mentalities and stereotypes.
Addressing members of the New Democracy party's youth group ONNED, at the group's headquarters, Samaras stressed that he was "determined, in every way, to reverse all of yesterday's mentalities and stereotypes and the country's worn-out production model."
The premier visited ONNED's offices to congratulate its members for the victorius outcome in Greece's student elections on Wednesday, saying "the party won the battle of ideas, quality in education, resolve for sweeping reforms and the new generation's bet."
Samaras expressed satisfaction over the large turnout in the student elections, pointing out that young people offer strength and "we provide stability."
 Tsipras pledge to scrap bailout memorandums harshly criticised by PASOK leaderMain opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday addressed the annual economic forum organised by the Hellenic Business Union (EENE) on "The crisis in the Eurozone: challenges and opportunities for the European South" and repeated his party's determination to scrap the bailout memorandums if elected to power.
"The memorandum will end on the same night as the elections when our people give us a large majority and a clean mandate in a government of social salvation," he said.
Tsipras spoke of five immediate actions for the country's exit from the crisis, saying that his party's main priorities will be economic stabilisation, a mobilisation of productive potential for recovery, establishing a sense of social security and justice for the Greek people.
These included: the replacement, through a law passed by Parliament, of the catastrophic bailout memorandums with a national plan for economic, social and environment reorganisation of the country and the start of a "real" negotiation concerning the country's loan obligations; "social just and viable" fiscal stabilisation; establishing a stable labour and tax framework; a national plan to tackle unemployment and restoring social welfare institutions.
He stressed SYRIZA-EKM's determination to put an end to the austerity 'adventure' and transform Greece "from a recipient of third-party decisions to a politically equal partner and real participant in shaping European developments."
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, whose party is a junior member of the coalition government, replied to Tsipras and accused him of indulging in "old-style party rhetoric" that PASOK had "broken all ties with".
"We know how great the difficulties are and how the difficulty of the negotiations will disprove the easy words," he said, appealing to all "healthy forces to stand behind the effort for national recovery".
He disputed what he called the "deceptive idea that there is an easy path within the euro and within Europe" that Greece might follow and was harshly critical of SYRIZA-EKM's stance toward the bailout memorandum agreements, especially Tsipras' statement that these will "end" on the night of the elections.
 Independent Greeks leader charges 'frame' using fake evidence against his partyIn an emergency press conference on Thursday, the head of the Independent Greeks party Panos Kammenos said his party had been the target of a "mud-slinging attack using fake evidence" in the run-up to the elections, which had cost the party a seat in the Ioannina constituency.
He attacked the newspaper "Eleftheros Typos" and a news website, as well as an unidentified 'big banker' and members of the New Democracy party, claiming that they had organised a deliberate frame targeting the party's election result by accusing an Ind. Greeks candidate of having taken money from the National Intelligence Service (EYP).
Kammenos said that he had visited the Supreme Court prosecutor Ioannis Tentes earlier on Thursday to brief him on the issue and be informed on the progress of three lawsuits filed a year earlier against the head of the EYP, an EYP department head whose signature is on the receipts and the Ind. Greeks candidate.
 Barack Obama to address White House event on Greek Independence DayU.S. president Barack Obama is expected to reiterate his country's solidarity with Greece for its economic recovery during an event at the White House in the early hours of Friday (Greek time).
Due to president Obama's commitments, the customary annual ceremony to celebrate the national day of March 25 and the Greek Independence Day of March 25 has been moved to Friday (at 01:00 local time).
In addition to president Obama and Archbishop Demetrios of America, who are to address an audience of 350 guests, the event is also to be attended by US vice-president, Joe Biden, members of Congress, Greek origin officials of government departments and many other Greek-Americans. The Greek government will be represented by ambassador to Washington, Christos Panagopoulos.
The American president will highlight the fact that "every year, America celebrates the Greek Independence Day to strengthen ties between the birthplace of democracy and the oldest democracy in the world." He will add "we reflect on the ancient Greek principles that inspired the founders of our nation to assign the powers of government in the hands of the people."
Barack Obama will also emphasize that "our nations (USA and Greece) have learned that democracy flourishes when we show respect for our differences and persist on the principles that unite us to move forward with a common purpose."
 Frontex reports drop in migrants crossing Greek-Turkish land border, increase on sea borderBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
There has been a significant reduction in the number of illegal migrants attempting to cross the land border between Greece and Turkey since August 2012 but increased migration pressure on the islands of the eastern Aegean, according to the annual report presented on Thursday by Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen.
The Frontex chief said that illegal crossings of EU borders were roughly halved in 2012 relative to the previous year (down to 72,430 tracked in 2012 from 141,060 in 2011), largely due to the heightened security along the Greek-Turkish land border in Evros after August 2012.
The numbers of illegal migrants crossing the Greek-Turkish land border fell by 44 percent in 2012, Laitinen added, as a result of a phenomenal mobilisation of human and other resources, including 1,800 Greek police officers patrolling the border. He said this led to a reduction in the numbers of illegal migrants crossing the border from 2,000 a week in August 2012 to just 10 a week in October 2012.
However, the reduction along the Greek-Turkish border resulted in a shift of migration flows to the Bulgarian-Turkish border (where trackings increased fourfold) and the sea border between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, where the numbers tracked peaked from September 2012, with migrants attempted to get from the coast of Izmir to the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Agathonissi, Farmakonissi and Symi.
In his report, the Frontex chief also referred to the unsatisfactory conditions for the detention of migrants in Greece while recognising the efforts being made by Greek authorities to address the problem. The report also noted that Greece was more a 'transit country' than a destination country for migrants, most of whom continued to reach other EU member-states after arriving in Greece.
 Justice ministry promoting transfer of Albanian inmates to Albanian prisonsThe Justice ministry is promoting the transfer of Albanian inmates from Greek to Albanian prisons.
Through an initiative by Deputy Justice Minister Costas Karangounis initial discussions have already taken place with senior Albanian Justice ministry officials on the sidelines of the regional conference of Justice and Interior ministers held in Belgrade.
The two sides agreed on the start of bilateral negotiations to determine the framework and in particular the terms with which the Albanian inmates in Greek prisons will be able to serve the remainder of their sentences in prisons in their country.
As is reported by the Justice ministry, the first target of the Greek side is for 500 Albanian inmates (of serious crime) to be forwarded to prisons in Albania soon.
This initiative by the deputy Justice minister is part of the overall effort to decongest Greek prisons in which, according to recent data, about 8,000 foreign nationals are being held, of whom 2,500 are Albanian citizens.
 FM Avramopoulos, DM Panayiotopoulos attend Israeli embassy celebrationForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Defence Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos expressed the Greek government's position in favour of further strengthening relations between Greece and Israel, during the celebration held by the Israeli embassy on the occasion of Israel's 65th independence anniversary.
Avramopoulos, in an exclusive statement to ANA/MPA, revealed that he will go to Tel Aviv next month for the preparation of the Joint Greece-Israel ministerial Council, while Israel's new Defence Minister Yaalon, is expected in Athens soon, as was stated by his Greek counterpart.
"The further strengthening of relations between Greece and Israel, for the benefit of peace, stability and security in the wider region of the Mediterranean is a position of the (Antonis) Samaras government," the Defence minister said on his arrival at the celebration.
Israel's ambassador to Greece Arye Mekel termed Panayiotopoulos "a greart supporter of relations between the two countries and a big friend of Israel".
The event was also attended by a number of other Greek ministers.
 Inspection finds third USB stick associated with Lagarde list affairA second inspection done on a laptop belonging to Ioannis
Diotis, former head of the Economic Crime Squad (SDOE), has been sent to Parliament's investigation committee by two financial prosecutors investigating the Lagarde list affair, sources said on late Thursday evening.
The expert report drawn up on the hard drive of the computer shows that there are traces of 23 USB sticks, three of which are associated with the Lagarde list.
According to the same sources, the third USB stick was "entered" for the first time on the computer by Diotis on 15/7/2011 and the last connection was made on 16/1/2012.
Also the search found a total of 2,059 files on the hard drive, but three files containing information about former finance minister George Papaconstantinou's relations are missing.
According to members of the probing committee, a "memory stick" handed by Diotis to the then finance minister Evangelos Venizelos was entered into Diotis' computer 8/7/2011 at 14:01:41 pm and disconnected the same night at 11:01:44 pm.
 Exercise 'Pyrpolitis 3/13' concludes successfullyThe exercise "Pyrpolitis 3/13", that was held on Thursday morning at the order of the National Defence General Staff chief to a section of the speedy reaction force, with the aim of holding operations on an island in the eastern Aegean, was successfully concluded.
According to reports, the exercise was carried out on the island of Kos, while its scenario anticipated the holding of defence operations in the event of an offensive against the island.
Special army and navy forces participated in the exercise with the role of an attacker and all of the island's forces with the role of defender.
 FinMin confers with central bank chief on recapitalizationFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras met with central Bank of Greece (BoG) government George Provopoulos on Thursday for talks focusing on progress in the recapitalization of the Greek banks.
Stournaras had recently said that the recapitalization of the country's four systemic banks must be completed by April 30 (from the 50 billion euros that have been earmarked for that purpose), while by the end of June there will need to be a strategy for the entire domestic banking sector, including the smaller banks.
The strategy will be drafted by the Hellenic Fiscal Stability Fund (HFSF) and the Finance Ministry, in collaboration with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and (International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's international lenders.
During that time (April 30-July 31), the expedience of a possible buy-out of the smaller banks by the four systemic banks -- Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, National Bank of Greece (NBG) and Eurobank -- will be examined.
 FinMin holds second meeting with Shenzhen Airport-Friedmann Pacific Asset Management consortiumFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday met the heads of the Chinese consortium comprising Shenzhen Airport and Friedmann Pacific Asset Management Ltd, holding the second such meeting in the space of a month.
The consortium confirmed the interest of Chinese investors in the upcoming privatisation of Athens International Airport but also regional airports in Greece, as well as cargo and logistics activities.
It is led by the Shenzhen Airport company, which manages a rapidly growing Chinese airport that handles roughly 30 million passengers and 828 thousand tonnes of goods each year. The airport is the base of the Chinese airline company Shenzhen Airline, which has been a member of the Star Alliance group since November 2012.
Friedmann Pacific Asset Management Ltd is an investment firm with a strong presence in infrastructure projects and aircraft leases.
The consortium's aim is to further boost the position of the Athens International Airport by attracting airlines from SE Asia and establishing direct flights between Greece and China. It is currently preparing its business plan and preparing to formulate its proposal.
It has already indicated a desire to submit an official bid when the Hellenic Real Asset Development Fund (HRADF) begins the relevant tender for Athens airport, in order to acquire the share currently held by Hochtief.
 Development minister holds talks with Cyprus Communications ministerDevelopment Minister Costis Hatzidakis held talks on Thursday with Cyprus Communications and Works Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos, focusing on the course of public works' implementation in a period of fiscal crisis and the future of Cyprus Airways.
As regards public works, Hatzidakis said that Greece's experience was discussed in relation to the repercussions of the crisis on projects, as well as the moves made in Greece to increase funding for the projects so that the budget will not be burdened further. Also discussed was the gloomy future of Cyprus Airways and the decisions of the Cyprus government that will determine the course of the Cypriot air carrier.
Lastly, the progress of the Blue Med programme was discussed, through which the airspace of Greece and Cyprus will be unified operationally with the airspaces of neighbouring countries in the framework of the European Union's programme aimed at reducing the cost of flights.
 Australian Embassy, IOBE, HABC hold event on 'Structural Reform'An event was organised on Thursday in Athens by the Australian Embassy, the Hellenic-Australian Business Council (HABC) and the Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE), entitled "Structural Reform: An Australian Success Story."
The event was held on the occasion of a visit to Greece by Professor Gary Banks, Dean of the School of Government of Australia and New Zealand (ANZSOG) and former Chairman of the Australian Productivity Commission. The event was addressed by the Australian Ambassador to Greece Ms. Jenny Bloomfield and IOBE chairman Odiseas Kyriakopoulos.
Ms. Bloomfield referred to the social and economic stability currently enjoyed by Australia, as a result of the extensive economic and social reforms in decades, and the opening of the Australian economy to competition.
She Stressed the role of Professor Banks as one of the most influential scientists of Australia, Chairman of the Productivity Commission in Australia's effort to implement the structural changes that have ensured economic and social stability for two decades.
"In Australia, through the will of the political leadership, technocratic and scientific support institutions such as the Productivity Commission and a broad social consensus, we conducted a national debate that allowed us to formulate a shared vision for the future of our country. We drew a roadmap for the implementation of radical changes that have led to economic growth... The important lesson of our experience is that the future of any country lies in the hands of its citizens," Ms. Bloomfield said.
Odiseas Kyriakopoulos referred to the significant progress made in fiscal adjustment and emphasized the key role of structural change for the country's return to a growth path.
"It is certainly obvious that reform experiences cannot simply be transplanted from country to country, but we can learn important things from the experiences of other countries such as Australia," Mr Kyriacopoulos said.
Professor Gary Banks
In his speech, Professor Banks referred to the strategy and challenges encountered to achieve the transition of Australia from the protectionist regime to a free market.
According to Professor Banks, a change in Australia's model of economic operation was dictated by the decline of the economy.
In 1950 the Australian economy was in fourth place, according to the classification by OECD, dropping to 14th place in 1983.
The implementation of reforms in the early 1980's and the liberalization of markets and the economy, allowed Australia to regain lost competitiveness and in 2010 the economy was back in 5th place (OECD).
Referring to the obstacles encountered in the course of the effort, he said that there is a lag between cost, which is usually immediate, and benefits which are achieved in the long run. He also noted that, while the cost of a reform is specific, the benefits may cover a much wider range of factors.
Professor Banks also referred to a series of innovative public institutions in Australia, which contributed decisively to supporting reforms such as the Productivity Commission and the Office of Best Practice Regulation.
Australia's Productivity Commission is an independent government agency that examines discriminatory policies, programs and regulatory actions, and provides research and consulting services regarding reforms that serve the long-term national interest.
The Commission has an advisory role for a wide range of activities including issues of sectoral support and trade policies, regulatory frameworks for infrastructure and public services, competition and consumer regulation, labour market reforms, social and environmental programs, reduction of bureaucracy in the business industry and productivity issues.
John Kalogirou, Professor of Economic Technological and Industrial Strategy at NTUA, referred to the importance of the international transfer of knowledge and experience on both the design and implementation of public policies to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the Greek economy. He stressed the urgent need to develop a strategy to improve the competitive position of the Greek economy.
Professor Nikos Vettas, Athens University of Economics & Business, referred to the growth and productivity increase programme in Australia and noted similarities and significant differences from the Greek case.
In Greece's case, according to Mr. Vettas, design and implementation of such a policy has been relatively much less important than the fiscal adjustment.
 GSEE seeks start of talks on national collective labour agreementThe General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union group representing the private sector, on Thursday sent out letters inviting employer associations to begin talks to negotiate a new national general collective labour agreement.
In the letter, GSEE says the 'starting point' for the new agreement should be an agreement made on February 2012 with employers that set the minimum wage at 751.39 euros a month. The minimum wage has currently been set at 586.08 euros a month by an act of cabinet.
GSEE also asked the social partners to back a new joint resolution to demand a return to full and universal application of the national collective labour agreement, its extension to all economic sectors and similar trade agreements, and restoration of the residual duration of collective labour agreements.
The letter was sent to the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEBEE), the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) and the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
 Tourism minister a keynote speaker at WTFL 2013Addressing the 2013 World Tourism Forum Lucerne (WTFL) as keynote speaker on Thursday, Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni repeated her conviction that 2013 will be a bumper year for the Greek tourism industry, with record arrivals to the country.
Noting the rising trend in the tourism market worldwide, the minister particularly emphasised the issue of tourist visas needed by a significant percentage of visitors and said that Greece was making every effort to facilitate and improve the process of issuing visas as much as possible.
The minister also referred to the economic, geopolitical, demographic and technological changes brought about by globalisation and outlined initiatives taken by the tourism ministry in this framework, such as the National Tourism Observatory or the specially adjusted and targeted promotional policies using new technologies, and highlighted the 'durability' of the Greek tourism product, in spite of the global economic crisis.
On the sidelines of the forum, the Greek tourism minister met Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs Marie-Gabrielle Fleisch, "Switzerland Tourism" Director J?rg Schmid and UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai. She also gave interviews to the Swiss, German and Austrian media.
 Zakynthos tourist season opens on SaturdayThe tourist season opens officially for the island of Zakynthos on Saturday with the arrival of the first charter flight of the season from the Netherlands and in a couple of days later with a charter flight from Russia.
Low cost airline Easy Jet and Ryanair flights have already landed on the island since the end of March.
2013 has brought optimism to the local businesses given that all estimations say that an increase in tourist arrivals will be recorded.
The local businessmen say that the low rates and the offer are the reason the tourists preferred Zakynthos for their holidays.
The first German tourists are expected to arrive on the island in fifteen days while the Russian tourists are expected to double from 2012 and create a dynamic prospect for the future.
 Piraeus Bank to sell ATE Bank Romania for 10.3 mln eurosPiraeus Bank on Thursday said it has signed an agreement with Dorinel Umbrarescu, owner of a business group with main activities in the construction sector in Romania, to sell its 93.27 pct equity holding in ATE Bank Romania for 10.3 million euros.
Piraeus Bank, in a statement said that the transaction will be completed following the spinoff of ATE Bank Romania's assets. The deal is also subject to approval by the country's competition authorities.
 Alpha Bank hires JP Morgan as advisor in share capital increase planAlpha Bank on Thursday said it hired JP Morgan as financial advisor in its forthcoming share capital increase plan. The bank said that an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, held in April 16, approved a board plan for a share capital increase plan aimed at covering a 10 pct of the bank's recapitalization needs from private investors.
 Draft law allowing department stores, shops to open on Sundays to be tabled soonThe government will table in parliament a draft law that will allow department stores and small shops to open on Sundays deputy development minister Thanassis Skordas said on state ERA radio station on Thursday.
He said the option of opening for business on all 52 Sundays of the year will apply to small shops below 250 square meters in area and will be voluntary. "Whichever shop wishes to, may open (on Sundays), it is not obligatory," he said.
As for the larger, department stores, this will apply for seven Sundays a year, Skordas added.
On the arrangements being advanced for the settlement of 'red' loans, he noted that: "Today, in the country, mortgage loans have been given -- talking about only this category of loans -- valued at 80 billion euros. If, therefore, we were to speak of a 20 percent 'haircut' for example, you can understand that the immediate need would arise for an additional 16 billion euros for the banks' recapitalization. A 'haircut' of the loans would require a provision of an equal sum from the system. As you can understand, 16 billion euros cannot be found at this time".
 One million euros set aside for riot-damage compensationFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday ordered that one million euros be set aside for the payment of compensation to businesses and properties damaged by rioters during a demonstration held in Athens in February 2012.
 Shipping minister addresses 12th FEMIP conferenceShipping Minister Kostis Mousouroulis, addressing the 12th two-day conference of the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), taking place at the Athens Concert Hall with the participation of representatives from all the Mediterranean countries, determined sea tourism as a basic sector having great development possibilities for Greece.
Replying to a question by a reporter, Mousouroulis said that Greece has all the preconditions - many islands, rich environment and history - to succeed in this sector, however he said that many steps must still be taken.
Wishing to provide a clear indication for this, he stressed that Greece, while being third in the number of cruise passengers in the Mediterranean, is sixth in revenues.
According to data by the European Cruise Council Report in 2011 the first country in passenger travel in Europe was Italy, with 5,403,000 and revenues totalling 4.5 billion followed by Spain, with 4,911,000 passengers and 1.1 billion, Greece with 4,473,000 passengers and 580 million, France with 2,010,000 passengers and 972 million, while the United Kingdom that was ninth, with 541,000 passengers, received 2.5 billion euros, meaning that while it had 1/8 of travel it had five times the revenues.
 Heating oil consumption down, revenues up in Oct 2012-Feb 2013Consumption of heating oil dropped 68.7 pct in the October 2012-February 2013 period to 567,634,000 litres from 1,833,800,000 litres in the previous corresponding period, the Finance ministry said in a report to Parliament.
The ministry report, however, said that state revenues from a special consumption tax on heating oil jumped to 244 million euros in the five-month period from 141.5 million euros in the same period in 2011-2012, boosted by a sharp increase in the tax rate.
The report also said that heating oil subsidies totaled 59.2 million euros to 346,687 eligible households. The Finance ministry plans to negotiate with its international creditors changes in tax policies to help in the economic recovery of the country, such as a VAT on tourism and a special tax on heating oil.
 Business Briefs-- Cooperative Bank of Chania on Thursday announced it has become main shareholder in BIOXYM, a fresh fruit juice company, after purchasing Piraeus Bank's equity stake in the company through its 100 pct subsidiary "Cretan Holdings".
 Greek stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks remained under pressure pushing the composite index of the market lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, despite strong gains recorded by OPAP, OTE and PPC. OPAP's share price rose significantly following news that two bids were submitted in a tender to sell a 33 pct equity stake of the Organization, OTE rose strongly after a decision by MSCI to list its shares in the MSCI Global index, an upgrade from its current listing in the MSCI Small Cap index.
The composite index fell 0.53 pct to end at 918.81 points, off the day's lows of 915.24 points. Turnover rose to 69.622 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.20 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.97 pct higher. The Financial Services (6.73 pct), Travel (5.32 pct) and Telecoms (4.75 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food (8.47 pct) and Banks (2.99 pct) suffered losses. MIG (13 pct), OPAP (6.20 pct) and VIOHALCO (5.62 pct) were top gainers, while Coca Cola Hellenic (8.6 pct), National Bak (7.44 pct) and Eurobank (3.07 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 83 to 55 with another 30 issues unchanged. Fieratex (22.81 pct), Yalco (19.35 pct) and Sfakianakis (13.49 pct) were top gainers, while PC Systems (19.39 pct), Sato (18.97 pct) and Perseus (17.13 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.72%
Personal & Household: -1.04%
Raw Materials: +2.34%
Travel & Leisure: +5.32%
Food & Beverages: -8.47%
Financial Services: +6.73%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, S&B, HBC Coca Cola, OPAP and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.76
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.87
HBC Coca Cola: 17.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.30
National Bank of Greece: 0.51
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.25
Bank of Piraeus: 0.19
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 10.26 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 10.11 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.48 pct and the German Bund 1.22 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
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 1.92 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 15.597 million euros.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,617 contracts worth 7.103 million euros, with 33,427 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 25,659 contracts worth 8.494 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,905), followed by Alpha Bank (3,765), Piraeus Bank (3,553), MIG (1,008), OTE (4,725), PPC (1,704), OPAP (1,203), Folli Follie 1,232), GEK (1,359), Mytilineos (507), Ellaktor (249) and Hellenic Exchanges (130).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.324
Pound sterling 0.867
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 8.628
Japanese yen 130.33
Swiss franc 1.234
Norwegian kroner 7.700
Canadian dollar 1.356
Australian dollar 1.282
 Solidarity to Greece event organised by mass media in Belgium, May 31An event aimed at showing solidarity to Greece, titled ?Workers Run & Bike for Greece?, will be organised in Brussels on May 31, at the initiative of state and private mass media in Belgium's? Dutch-speaking?region of Flanders.
A report titled "Flemish mass media companies take part in a Run & Bike for Greece" in De Morgen newspaper, said the solidarity initiative was taken by the state broadcaster VRT, with participation of a number of Flemish media companies.
Runners will cover a distance of 44 km, while bikers will pedal for 75 km.
Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Theotokos foundation, a private, non-profit organisation operating in Ilion, Athens, offering services to children and youngsters with developmental disabilities.
 Entrance to museums, archaeological sites free on Thursday, World Heritage DayEntrance to museums and archaeological sites throughout Greece are free to public on Thursday in observance of the UNESCO-designated International Day for Monuments and Sites, informally referred to as World Heritage Day.
World Heritage Day is observed on April 18 each year around the world with different types of activities, including visits to monuments and heritage sites, conferences, round tables and newspaper articles.
The theme of this year's theme is "The Cultural Heritage of Education"(schools, universities, libraries, academies, etc.) in its expressions in different geo-cultural contexts, and the Culture Ministry has scheduled a series of events that will take place at the participating sites.
The International Day for Monuments and Sites was proposed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) on 18 April 1982 and approved by the General Assembly of UNESCO in 1983. The aim is to promote awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage of humanity, their vulnerability and the efforts required for their protection and conservation.
As stated on the World Heritage Day website, "World Heritage is the shared wealth of humankind. Protecting and preserving this valuable asset demands the collective efforts of the international community. This special day offers an opportunity to raise the public's awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the efforts that are required to protect and conserve it, as well as draw attention to its vulnerability."
 Foreign national arrested for 2009 kidnapping of shipownerPolice on Thursday announced the arrest of a 34-year-old foreign national from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), sought in connection with the kidnapping of ship owner Periklis Panagopoulos in January 2009. The suspect was arrested after an investigation lasting several months, conducted by the Attica Security Crimes Against Property department, and is also accused of a series of armed robberies targeting banks. Among others, he is believed to have been an accomplice of the notorious criminal Mihalis Makrygiannis.
The suspect was arrested in Peristeri on Wednesday afternoon and has several outstanding convictions and arrest warrants against him. They include a sentence of 15 years, eight months passed by an Athens Criminal Appeals Court for possession of an improvised bomb and participation in the criminal gang that kidnapped Panagopoulos and three warrants for forming a criminal organisation, pimping, extortion and robbery.
A police investigation implicates the suspect in 21 bank robberies carried out in various parts of Greece from May 2012 until March 2013, with a collective loot of 250,000 euros, and robberies carried out in collaboration with Makrygiannis and an escaped inmate from May until October 2012.
At the time of his arrest and during a raid of his home, police found and seized: a tazer, a bullet-proof vest, shells of various calibres, three replica guns, three wigs, a fake ID and driving licence, heroin, a number of mobile phones and clothes worn during the robberies, as well as a sum of money.
The suspect was led before a Misdemeanours Court prosecutor and is to appear before an examining magistrate.
 Young patient who underwent brain surgery in Germany returns home healthyA 15-year-old boy who was airlifted to Hanover, Germany, via a government aircraft for brain surgery two weeks ago, returned healthy to his home in Patras on Wednesday.
Doctors at the German clinic removed a cavernous angioma from the student's brain in an operation that could not be performed in Greece.
According to information the 15-year old boy will continue his therapy in Patras in order to completely recover his mobility.
 Normal Proastiakos train services to airport resume from FridayTrain services on the Proastiakos suburban railway lines Kiato-Athens Airport and Ano Liosia-Athens Airport will return to normal from Friday, following the completion of works on the railway infrastructure.
More information is available at the telephone number 14511 and the website www.trainose.gr
 Metro workers work stoppage on May DayThe Athens metro employees' union announced on Thursday that they will hold a work stoppage from the start of the shift until 9 a.m. on May 1 (Labour Day) stating that "May 1 is a strike not a holiday".
The union says that will participate in the nationwide May Day labor strike with an early morning work-stoppage noting, that they will "operate the metro (during the rest of the day) to facilitate the striking labourers to participate in the mobilisations".
 Two get life sentence for 2011 murder of Thessaloniki psychiatristA Thessaloniki Mixed Jury Court on Thursday handed down life sentences to two men, aged 45 and 34 years old, respectively, for the brutal murder of a 46-year-old psychiatrist killed in his practice in December 2011.
The two were drug addicts attending an OKANA rehabilitation programme, where they met the victim, and had visited him at his practice in order to get a prescription for drugs.
When he refused, they stabbed him with a knife and then left him bound and gagged while they made their getaway, causing his death. On their way out, they set fire to the doctor's surgery to cover their traces. Testifying before the court, the two defendants blamed each other for the murder.
 Police shootout in Mandra with gunmen in a carA police pursuit involving a shootout between DIAS Group police and unidentified persons travelling in a car bearing stolen licence plates occurred at 8:10 Thursday evening in the western Attica region of Mandra.
According to police, the policemen attempted to check the car's passengers but they opened fire on them and sped up in an effort to get away.
Police returned the fire and chased them but the perpetrators succeeded in escaping.
No policeman was wounded during the exchange of shots, but it is unknown whether any of the perpetrators was wounded.
A police operation was continuing late Thursday evening in the wider region to locate and arrest the gunmen.
 Octogenarian arrested for attempted murderAn 88-year-old man from Rhodes was arrested on Thursday charged with attempted murder and illegal possession of arms.
The octogenarian is alleged to have shot and injured a fellow villager over property differences.
The incident occurred Thursday morning in a farming area of Kameiros region when the suspect shot and injured in the face a 68-year-old man with a shotgun.
The injured man was taken to hospital and the suspect initially fled, but was arrested later.
The suspect indicated to police the spot where he had hidden the shotgun, which he illegally possessed.
 Large hashish plantation discovered in SounioPolice on Wednesday discovered a large plantation containing 2,410 indian cannabis trees, in the National Sounio Forest in a forested region at the location of Kaos in the municipality of Lavreotiki, southeastern Attica.
Three Greeks, aged 41, 43 qnd 53, were arrested on the spot who were reportedly in charge of the plantation.
Police uprooted the trees and discovered more evidence that led them to the roof of an apartment building in the Athens region of Zografou, where those arrested had reportedly stored 215 kilos of unprocessed cannabis.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 2C and 20C. Slightly cloudy with possible local showers in Athens with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 10C and 19C. Local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 8C and 16C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Bloody strawberries'.
DIMOKRATIA: "18,450 euros 'gift' to PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos' man".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Strawberries soaked in blood'.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The strawberry mafia shot 35 migrants".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Arrange debts to tax bureau, social security funds, banks and Public Power Corporation".
ELLADA AVRIO: "Loans arrangement a 'bubble'."
ESTIA: "Elections are a mental battle"
ETHNOS: "Express evaluations for 50,000 civil servants".
IMERISSIA: "Battle for OPAP (the Greek football prognostics, numerical lottery and sports betting games operator) - Two bids submitted for the acquisition of 33 percent".
KATHIMERINI: "Shooting in cold blood against foreign field workers'.
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Battle of trenches over Sunday opening of shops".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Armed murderous attack against migrant workers in Manolada".
TA NEA: "Sweeping draft law for VAT, debts and surtax".
VRADYNI: "Pension at 62 with successive insurance".
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