|Thursday, 14 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 24 April 2013 Issue No: 4343
 Final changes to ministry structures approved, Admin. Reform minister Manitakis saysAdministrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis on Tuesday announced that the Government Council for Administrative Reform had approved the final changes to ministry structures. According to the minister, the changes approved would allow Greece to meet targets calling for a 40-50 percent reduction in administrative structures, effecting savings that exceeded 15 percent.
This marked the start of the crucial second phase, in which the studies had to be carried out and new institutions designed, Manitakis added.
The minister made the announcement after the conclusion of a meeting of the Government Council for Administrative Reform chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which met on Tuesday afternoon.
The government council for administrative reform also discussed coordinating efforts for the 'mobility' of 12,500 civil servants by June and another 12,500 by December. By the end of December 2013, the government must also remove 4,000 public-sector employees, many of which will have to go by June.
The minister stressed that each departure will be matched by the hiring of a new employee via the ASEP civil servants' recruitment council.
 DIM.AR's Kouvelis meets Barroso, calls for halt to recession, unemployment in GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni/M. Spinthourakis)
Meeting European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Tuesday, Greek coalition government partner Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party, stressed the need for immediate measures to halt the recession and unemployment in Greece.
In statements as he left the meeting with Barroso at the European Commission, Kouvelis said he'd expressed DIM.AR's opposition to "the austerity policies destroying society and undermining the prospects of an exit from the economic crisis". The party leader stressed that the only answer to the recession was to take immediate measures to kickstart the growth process.
Kouvelis said he had also emphasised the dire state of Greek society as a result of galloping unemployment and the need to take immediate steps to provide a social safety net, as well as a targeted reduction in taxes. Among these tax reductions, he suggested VAT on restaurant and catering services and taxes for heating oil.
DIM.AR's leader asked Barroso to speed up and extend the transfer of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds, their reorientation and an increase in the advance from the 2014-2020 support framework, as well as a more active role for the European Investment Bank.
Expressing the opinion that austerity policies and an increase of inequality within Europe will fuel centrifugal tendencies, a return to a narrow nationalist focus and greater strength to political extremes, Kouvelis stressed that Europe's future prospects lay in a real economic and political unification.
Meeting with EuroParliament socialists' group leader Swoboda
Kouvelis, speaking after his meeting head of the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Hannes Swoboda, stressed that "we must struggle for a Europe that forges ahead with its political and economic unification".
"We had an extremely useful discussion with Mr. Swoboda on the issues affecting Europe, which must emerge from the recession, exit austerity and forge ahead with the peoples of Europe," he said.
According to his aides, the meeting was held in a very good climate and there was broad agreement on the need to end austerity policies in Europe.
Swoboda noted that, while it was important for reforms to take place, people's needs must also be taken into account, because only in this way could the reforms have the support of the citizens.
While in Brussels, DIM.AR's president is also scheduled to meet Greece's European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki.
 Labour mobility to be priority issue for Greek EU presidency, Greek minister saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis)
Labour mobility will be a priority issue for Greece's EU presidency, which takes over in the first half of 2014, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas said in statements appearing in the "Agence Europe" bulletin on Tuesday. The minister said the focus will be on both legal migration within the EU and illegal migration from outside the EU, with the Greek presidency to seek a revision of the Dublin II treaty for which the EU member-states must reach a common position.
Other high priority issues will be those that most concern citizens, such as growth, employment and deeper economic and monetary union, he added.
Kourkoulas said that Greece considers the issue of labour mobility needs to be handled on a European level and cannot be resolved through national action alone, adding that this will benefit both Greece and the whole of the EU. He called for greater solidarity in the handling of the Schengen area, adding that Greece would like to see European policies for illegal migration and joint action against this reinforced.
The Greek deputy minister noted that there was sufficient time to finalise priorities and that Greece was working closely with the two interveneing presidencies (Ireland and Lithuania) in order to plan a legislative programme for the three six month presidencies (January 1, 2013 until June 30, 2014).
Noting that Greece's EU presidency will be a time of transition with the EU, with European elections in May and concern about the future of Europe, during which the EU had to show itself capable of dealing with the crisis and guaranteeing the European model.
This was the priority for Greece, he added, which hoped that to be one step closer to the end of the crisis at the time of its presidency and now saw encouraging signs that it had traversed more than half the distance.
 FinMin says reports abducted Syrian prelates are released 'not confirmed yet'There is no confirmation yet that two abducted church prelates in Syria have been freed, the Greek Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday.
Referring to press reports that Metropolitan Pavlos of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and Metropolitan Gregorios Yohann Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo, who were abducted from a suburb of the city of Aleppo in Syria on Monday, were released, the Ministry said, "We have been following carefully all developments and relevant information. Lately we have seen international and Greek press reports from various sources claiming that the two abducted metropolitans have been released. Up to now, no such information has been officially confirmed. For any confirmed development, an announcement will follow."
 PM in open line with Ecumenical Patriarch after abductions of two Orthodox Metropolitans in SyriaPrime Minister Antonis Samaras was in constant contact with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew after the abduction on Monday of a two Orthodox Christian Metropolitans in a suburb of Aleppo in Syria.
Metropolitan Pavlos of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and Metropolitan Gregorios Yohann Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo were abducted as they were returning from Antioch (Antalya, Turkey) to Aleppo on Monday evening and the deacon who was driving their car was shot and killed in the attack.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said late Monday night that Samaras has been informed of the abductions of the Greek Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox Metropolitans, adding that the premier immediately contacted foreign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos who was in Brussels for the spring meeting of NATO foreign ministers, to coordinate actions and initiatives aimed at locating and liberating the two Metropolitans.
The prime minister and foreign minister also spoke by phone with Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East, , who briefed them on the details and available information on the abductions and whom the assured of the Greek government's undivided support and the actions that were already in progress.
Kedikoglou noted that Avramopoulos has activated the Crises Management Mechanism at the foreign ministry and informed the European External Action Service (EAS), the EU's crisis management unit which is under the authority of the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He also spoke with other foreign ministers who could contribute to the liberation of the abductees, and further spoke on the phone with the new head of the Syrian opposition George Sabra, who assured Avramopoulos that he would act immediately for the location and liberation of the abductees, Kedikoglou continued.
Also, Avramopoulos will brief the NATO foreign ministers during Tuesday's meeting in Brussels, where the situation in Syria will be discussed, the government spokesman added.
Samaras, who is in constant contact with the Ecumenical Patriarch and with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, is being kept abreast of the situation, Kedikoglou added.
 SYRIZA, PASOK, AN.EL, KKE reactions to the abduction of the two Metropolitans in SyriaMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday communicated with Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East to express his support following the abduction of the latter's brother, Metropolitan Pavlos of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, and of Metropolitan Gregorios Yohann Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo from a suburb of the city of Aleppo in Syria on Monday.
Tsipras voiced concern about the fate of the entourage of the abducted church leaders and underlined that his party is ready to assist in any way possible to resolve the crisis.
SYRIZA strongly condemned such actions, which it said "ignite tensions between religions in a flammable region", and called on the Greek government to undertake the necessary initiatives for their immediate release.
Evangelos Venizelos, leader of PASOK, a junior partner in the government coalition, contacted Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, asking the latter to relay his concern to the Patriarch of Antioch.
Opposition Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party noted that the abductions and the assassinations of their two escorts by Islamists in Syria "is an event of decisive importance for our stance in Syria".
A press release from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charged that "the formation and development of the so-called antiregime powers and various gangs which are fully supported by the EU, US and NATO create the environment that results in dangerous developments for the peoples of Syria and the area."
 Abducted metropolitans released in Aleppo, AFPROME - Metropolitan Pavlos of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo and Metropolitan Gregorios Yohann Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo, abducted Monday from a suburb of the city of Aleppo in Syria by Islamist militants, have been freed on Tuesday, according to the organisation Oeuvre d'Orient as quoted by Agence France Presse.
Oeuvre d'Orient notified AFP news agency that the two church leaders were freed around 4:00 p.m. Greek time Tuesday and said "it is believed both Metropolitans already are at the Orthodox Church of Prophet Elijah in Aleppo."
Earlier in the day, the Syrian opposition, denying any involvement in the abduction, had instead accused the government of having organised it.
 Finance minister briefs junior coalition parties on gov't omnibus billFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday held a meeting with representatives of the three parties in Greece's coalition government, New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left
(DIM.AR), in order to brief them on the details of the omnibus bill due to be tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
The draft bill includes legislation implementing the prior actions agreed with the troika of Greece's lenders - the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - on which depend the disbursement of 2.8 billion euros in bailout loans remaining from the tranche due to be paid last December and a further 6.0 billion euros for the first quarter of 2013.
The meeting was attended by Antonis Bezas from ND, Filippos Sahinidis, Paris Koukoulopoulos, George Koutroumanis and Christos Protopapas from PASOK and Dimitris Hatzisokratis from DIM.AR.
 KKE on the government-sponsored omnibus billOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday rejected the omnibus bill due to be tabled by the coalition government on Thursday, stressing that it promotes the latest agreement with the troika of the Greece's lenders and is "yet another package of anti-popular measures further intensifying the problems experienced by workers and low-income households".
The KKE Central Committee press office statement underlined that the omnibus bill "promotes the layoffs of thousands of civil servants, using as an alibi the real problem of public sector employees convicted of corruption." The party announcement noted that "the real goal here is the abolition of steady work for all".
KKE also said that the extraordinary real estate surtax collected via electricity bills will become a permanent measure and underlined that the abolition of the Sunday holiday is among the government's plans.
 Parliament discusses pension rules in new billThree years after Greece first came under the loan agreement, and right before the vote on the sweeping bill on the economy this Thursday, Parliament opened discussion on the bill related to changing pension rules in the civil sector.
The bill is supported in principle by the ruling coalition parties of New Democracy, PASOK and the Democratic Left, while certain articles are expected to be passed by the opposition as well.
The main focus of the bill concerns the payment in advance of 50 pct of a monthly pension to those first entering pension status, for as long as they are waiting for the finalisation of their paperwork.
Late on Tuesday, ND rapporteur Argyris Dinopoulos said a clause in the bill would allow the state to make use of inactive bank accounts to help out financially weaker strata of society. He also said that the cut-off point, after which main pensions would be subject to reduction would be 1,980 euros per month, instead of 990 euros, which is in effect at the present.
 Criticism from PASOK, DIM.AR of Vroutsis bid to oust OAED directorMembers of the PASOK and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) parties, the two junior partners in Greece's coalition government, on Tuesday criticised a move by Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis to oust the director of the Manpower Employment Agency (OAED) Ilias Kikilias, demanding his resignation.
DIM.AR Parliamentary spokesman Nikos Tsoukalis on Tuesday said the minister's action and especially the reasons given by Vroutsis for his decision had left a "painful impression". DIM.AR had also noted its displeasure when the minister's decision was announced on Monday.
"No issue concerning the ability of Ilias Kikilias, the OAED director, was raised. The demand of the labour minister, Mr. Vroutsis, was suddenly made public: 'I ask for the resignation of Kikilias' for reasons and justifications that - if you will allow me the expression - do not befit the criticality of the situation and the fact that the three parties are sharing government," Tsoukalis said on the ERA state radio station's 'First Programme'.
"The reason given was that he is exercising a personal policy and cannot reach an understanding with the minister in charge. I think it is self-evident that someone is thrown out of a three-party government, whether they are a secretary or a minister, not because they cannot come to terms with others but because they are inadequate for their task. We did not hear this given as a reason, a fact that I can inform you has left a painful impression," the MP added.
According to former PASOK minister and party member Christos Protopapas, in statements to the private radio station '9.84' on Tuesday, the friction was the result of Kikilias' refusal to tolerate attempted interference from New Democracy members, who wanted him to change regional OAED directors at will.
"Specifically, some exceptionally able individuals, ranking first in points, the best regional directors regardless of party," Protopapas said.
He noted that Kikilias did not belong to any party and was "a scientist and technocrat of very high prestige" who had been suggested as OAED's director by DIM.AR and not by PASOK.
 Greek government to present legislation on offshore companiesGreece' s finance ministry is mulling new legislation to regulate the activities of offshore companies, the ministry announced on Tuesday. The aim of the new legislation, which will be included in a tax reform bill, will be to regulate the operation of offshore companies which are not run from the country-base.
The finance ministry is focusing on offshore companies whose revenues are directed toward the place of living instead of the place of base, which means that these revenues cannot be taxed.
Deputy Finance Minister George Mavraganis, speaking in a parliamentary commission, said Greek financial crime authorities have already begun inspections of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands and said that the introduction of a powerful and independent Secretary for Revenue will significantly help in efforts to combat tax evasion.
 President Papoulias receives AKEL sec. generalPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received on Tuesday Cyprus' AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou at the presidential mansion.
The Cypriot official said to Papoulias that "things are bad. The situation has worsened. The decisions have led the credit sector and the economy on the whole to collapse, given that the restrictions applied have strangled the businesses".
On his part Papoulias noted the solidarity was not present adding that "what is happening now in Cyprus has nothing to do with solidarity" and that "all were astonished that the decisions on Cyprus have no relati8on to solidarity and rescue".
 SYRIZA-AKEL: leaders meet: Harsh dead-end pogramme imposed on CyprusMain opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras met on Tuesday with visiting secretary general of Cyprus' left-wing AKEL party Andros Kyprianou.
After the one-hour meeting, the two party leaders agreed that the harsh programme imposed on Cyprus, with memorandums and the bailout loan agreement is a dead-end progrmme.
Tsipras assured Kyprianou that SYRIZA will stand with solidarity at the side of the Cypriot people and will steadfastly support the efforts by Cyprus to exist the crisis and the 'harsh programme imposed on it".
"Today is also for Greece a black anniversary of the signing of the memorandum. It is our conviction that the Cypriot people must decide on their future. It is also our common conviction that the peoples of Cyprus and Greece must break the shackles and escape from the perpetual blackmail and stand on their own feet," Tsipras said adding : "It is our common struggle to move together with the peoples of Europe and the European south in hope of a new prospect".
Kyprianou stress the need for Cyprus to find other options in order to rid itself of the "dead-end policies they are trying to impose on it".
"We in Cyprus have come to know the tough face of Europe, led by Germany. The policies implemented do not address the needs of the peoples. They are dead-end policies. The harshness of the measures at Cyprus' expense obliges us to think of other options," Kyprianou said, adding that "no option will be more painful and will not entail risks. But what wants is what better serves the interests of the people".
On AKEL's round of meetings with the Greek political and state leadership, he said "our aim is to discuss with all the parties and for a public dialogue to ensue on the solutions that will determine Cyprus' destiny for many years to come".
 Ind. Greeks leader meets visiting AKEL general secretaryThe head of the Independent Greeks party Panos Kammenos on Tuesday met Cypriot left-wing party leader Andros Kyprianou, the general secretary of the island republic's AKEL party, who is on a visit to Athens. They discussed the situation in Greece and Cyprus, following the dramatic turn of events on the island.
Noting that Tuesday was the third anniversary since the former Greek premier George Papandreou had announced Greece's decision to resort to an EU bailout from the island of Kastellorizo, Kammenos said that the world was now seeing "the evolution of this drama, with the same economic hit-men and their local accomplices, being played out on Cyprus".
The same protagonists that had used Greek politicians to make the Greek people destitute and bankrupt the national economy, presenting the country with dilemmas that forced it to hand over national sovereignty, were now doing the same on Cyprus, he added.
"We had a Eurogroup decision with the consent of the finance minister of Greece and the Greek government, but also of Cypriot politicians, in order to lead to an undermining of the healthy Cypriot economy. These are methods that are implemented by centres that want to control peoples and lead to a European unification by force through the abolition of the concept of the nation-state," he said.
Kyprianou expressed concern and his party's belief that, through the decisions imposed on Cyprus by the EU, the Cypriot people and the Cypriot economy were allowed no margins for growth. He added that Cyprus, given the way events were unfolding, was now obliged by events to "seek an alternative option".
 KKE's Koutsoumbas receives visiting AKEL general secretary KyprianouThe Communist party of Greece (KKE) and Cyprus' left-wing AKEL party traditionally share close friendly relations, cooperation, creative discussion and exchange of views, KKE general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas said on Tuesday said after meeting in Parliament with visiting AKEL general secretary Andros Kyprianou.
Koutsoumbas noted that "the peoples of Greece and Cyprus and all the peoples in Europe should join forces and fight against the anti-popular strategy of the EU that targets the workers' rights and conquests".
He said that the two peoples and "our parties should fight against likely Annan-type plans that will be catastrophic for the peoples in the region" and expressed concern about the Anastasiades government proposal for Cyprus' accession into NATO.
Koutsoumbas noted KKE's firm position on Cyprus, supporting "a sovereign, independent, bi-zonal and bi-communal federation".
On his part, Kyprianou said that AKEL's positions greatly coincide with those expressed by KKE. He added that the EU has displayed cruelty with the anti-popular measures imposed on Cyprus, stressing that its decisions "lead the country's economy to disaster" and noting that "AKEL will not stand by and watch developments happen".
"We have to shape an alternative option," Kyprianou underlined.
He expressed concern about the efforts made for a solution to the Cyprus problem and repeated his party's position "for a solution that will be reached as soon as possible. A solution that will be fair, functional and sustainable as defined by relevant UN resolutions and high-level agreements."
The AKEL general secretary said that "our efforts will focus on the resumption of the talks but we will not accept any proposals that will be outside the agreed upon framework."
 ND party replies to statements by SYRIZA leaderAn announcement by the ruling New Democracy party, regarding statements made by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday, said that "not only did Mr. Tsipras not get his lesson from all that he said about Cyprus, but he is insisting on telling the people of Cyprus what to do".
The announcement speaks of perplexity on the part of the main opposition party leader "now that he is being disputed by the senior cadres of his party".
ND stresses that SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis in the Kyriakatiki Avghi newspaper accuses Tsipras "of lacking inspired speech that could create hope" and of a "Babel party".
ND also says "in ANT1 TV station, Mr. (Dimitris) Stratoulis pointed out that SYRIZA is not a president's party where the leader decides and the others go along".
Lastly, ND said that "the internal problems of SYRIZA do not concern anyone. The operation however for their transfer to society, either the Greek or the Cypriot, by panickstricken Mr. Tsipras proves that he is stepping in one place and finding himself in another".
 President Papoulias says National Bank must remain GreekPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who met on Tuesday with General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos and its secretary general Nikos Kioutsoukis, expressed concern over the National Bank's fate.
"I believe that it is a bank that must remain Greek, it must be saved, it must be strengthened. And I also agree that it is not only all those who will run to give money to the National Bank, it is also the ordinary man who considers the National Bank his Bank. And grew up with the name 'National Bank'," President Papoulias said.
He also stressed that all must make efforts to enable the Greek banks to remain Greek, because growth shall be Greek, as he underlined, it shall be for Greece and it shall not be for the foreigners.
"Foreigners can enjoy tomorrow's Greece of growth, but we shall create it and the Greek banks shall be the first and the best in this struggle and I shall say it, with the National Bank as a leader," the president noted.
 Live transmission of Europarliament session in Athens gets large turnoverYoung people packed the European Parliament offices in Athens on Tuesday to watch a live transmission of the European body's session in Brussels.
The event was an initiative of outgoing European Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, who wanted to raise participation in the planning of Europe's future, said Panos Karvounis, head of the European Commission office in Athens.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Karvounis said the event was part of the European Citizens Year, a response to the alienation of people from the EU because of the economic crisis. A series of actions were also planned for before the European Parliament elections in May 2014, he said, including an exhibition on May 9 - Europe Day - that year and screenings of short informative videos to encourage people to vote.
"The EU has seen people become alienated from the Union because of the crisis, because the political systems of member states blame Europe, therefore we are turning back again to the roots to see what citizens want of Europe, how they exercises their rights, the obstacles they face," he said.
Speaking of turnout in the last Euroelections, in 2009, Karvounis noted, "Last elections we had a 43 pct participation rate, and we want to raise that number. There is even a thought to have each large European political group propose a candidate for Commission president, to have more direct representation."
The European citizen can use the structure of the European Ombudsman, "even in an incomplete institutional framework, to press executive organs to improve the institutional framework and the legislation for citizens," said Leonidas Antonakopoulos, head of the European Parliament's Greek office.
"We want to make it clear in this difficult time of crisis that the EU legislative bodies are not sitting idly by, but intervene with targeted programmes and planning - through the National Strategic Reference Framework, structural funds and the Social Fund, all of which are not very widely known - to significantly reduce unemployment," he told ANA-MPA.
 European Corporate Partnership Responsibility awards presentedThe European Corporate Partnership Responsibility awards, the European Commission's new institution on the promotion of better practices, were delivered on Tuesday evening to the winning businesses at a special event organised by the Greek Network for Corporate Social Responsibility.
The awards were handed out, among others, by Parliament First Vice President Ioannis Tragakis and the head of the European Commission office in Greece, Panos Karvounis.
Tragakis said in a brief address that the role of businesses is not just profits. Their role is to serve society and the environment, which is why they are being given awards today.
 Special agency managing local authority funds to be reorganizedThe interior ministry has launched a reorganization of its Special Agency for the management of local authority funds to ensure better coordination and more European funds for local administration in the period 2014-2020, it was announced on Tuesday.
The reorganization is designed to facilitate planning and implementation of National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) co-financed actions.
The Special Agency's reorganization is taking place in the framework of reforms undertaken by the interior ministry and approved by the Government Council for Administrative Reform that convened on March 1, chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
 Case file on two former ministers sent to ParliamentA case file was drawn up against former PASOK ministers of Finance and Health George Papakonstantinou and Andreas Loverdos following a charge by a Greek citizen and forwarded to Parliament by Supreme Court prosecutor Vassilios Pliotas on Tuesday.
According to the cover memo, the charge is related to "acts and oversights of the ministers apparently done during the carrying out of their duties."
No further information was made available.
 Finance Ministry: State will have multiple benefits from denationalization of OPAPThe Finance Ministry assured that the state will have multiple benefits from the denationalization of OPAP (the Greek football prognostics, numerical lottery and sports betting games operator), adding that the sales process for OPAP was the most transparent ever, in a document submitted in response to a question tabled by main opposition SYRIZA.
The ministry response charged that SYRIZA's economist "live in their own world and make their own scenarios which they call on their supporters to belie, but the reality belies them daily'.
In the case of OPAP, SYRIZA provokes the people with ungrounded lies. The sales procedure was the most transparent ever. Over four months, the company's figures we on the internet, and absolutely accessible to all the interested parties, the ministry document said, adding that the company's 10-year plan was also available on the internet, and the companies participating in the tender had independent consultants, adding that hundreds of people worked on both sides, while there was not even one complaint of insufficient data. Independent assessors assessed all he conditions of the future developement of OPAP . Everything that needed to be taken into consideration was available on the internet, the ministry said.
It added that SYRIZA must realise that the market prices are not determined by its desires but by the market rules, which were absolutely adhered to by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), as the successful course to now proves.
From the denationalization of OPAP, the state will reap multiple benefits. It will collect the price of the denationalization with the institution of a special tax regime of 30 percent on the gross profits. Not only will it make up for the loss of revenues to the state from the dividend it will collect, but addition revenues will also be generated.
For the financial year2012, the state will collect in May 203 112 million euros in taxes and another 62 million euros in dividends for the 34 percent it has in OPAP. For 2013, with the special tax regime, it has already collected 85 million euros in taxes in the first quarter alone.
This simple arithmetic apparently has no relation to the South Korea model, and apparently populism and the outdated statist mentality have their limits, the ministry announcement added.
 Greek budget deficit falls sharply to 1.35 billion euros in Q1Greek state budget recorded a deficit of 1.354 billion euros in the first quarter of 2013, sharply down compared with a deficit of 7.279 billion euros recorded in the corresponding period last year and a revised target for a budget shortfall of 4.185 billion euros, the Finance ministry said on Tuesday.
In a report, the ministry said the regular budget recorded a primary surplus of 520 million euros in the January-March period, from a deficit of 334 million euros in 2012 and a revised target for a primary deficit of 2.338 billion euros.
Net state budget revenue totaled 12.338 billion euros in the first three months of the year, up 8.7 pct from a budget target. The regular budget's net revenue totaled 10.724 billion euros, up 1.5 pct from a budget target, reflecting a 16.6 pct increase in proceeds from property taxes, a 74.5 pct jump in indirect tax proceeds and 3.9 pct rise in income tax proceeds. On the other hand, VAT proceeds fell by 6.1 pct in the three-month period, special consumption taxes (tobacco) fell 19.8 pct and energy consumption taxes were down 5.1 pct.
Tax returns totaled 213 million euros in the first quarter, not including a 570 million euros payment for the repayment of previous year's tax returns.
Public Investment Programme's revenues totaled 1.614 billion euros, up from a budget target of 790 million euros, reflecting higher EU fund inflows.
State budget spending totaled 13.692 billion euros in the January-March period, down from a budget target of 15.538 billion euros. Regular budget spending was down in the first quarter. State budget spending fell by 32.7 pct in the first three months of 2013, compared with the same period last year, reflecting an 11.1 pct decline in primary spending and a 73 pct plunge in interest spending.
 Global trade deals would generate exports creating 21 million jobs, ICC saysThe International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on behalf of global business finalized recommendations for World Trade Organization (WTO) member-countries to the on-going Doha trade negotiations that could boost global GDP by 960 billion US dollars annually.
According to an ICC Hellas statement on Tuesday, several hundred business leaders and trade experts met for the ICC World Trade Agenda Summit, held on the first day of the ICC World Chambers Congress.
ICC Hellas and other Greek chamber representatives are participating in the four-day Congress in Doha, Qatar set to gather 1,000 delegates from chambers of commerce, as well as from multinational and small- and medium-sized companies.
Delegates met on Monday to give their stamp of approval to a final set of business priorities that would provide a debt-free stimulus to the global economy at a time when governments are struggling to inject growth into their economies.
By simplifying customs procedures - through trade facilitation measures - alone, member countries would deliver global job gains of 21 million, with developing countries gaining more than 18 million jobs and developed countries increasing their workforce by three million.
ICC and the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry in March 2012 launched the ICC Business World Trade Agenda in response to calls from WTO members and from G20 leaders for fresh approaches following a 12-year impasse in multilateral trade negotiations.
"ICC has consulted with business around the world to develop a set of practical steps for reaching a new trade consensus," said ICC Chairman Gerard Worms. "As the actors of trade in the daily marketplace, we are well placed to shed new light on stalled (Doha) talks. We will mobilize CEOs around the world to make the case to national governments for this new trade agenda."
The five recommendations developed by the initiative that could achieve tangible outcomes by the end of 2013 to harvest gains from the WTO's Doha Development Round, include the conclusion of a trade facilitation agreement and the implementation of duty-free and quota-free market access for exports from least-developed countries. Also, phasing out agricultural export subsidies, renouncing food export restrictions, expanding trade in IT products and encouraging growth of e-commerce worldwide.
Business recommendations from this event will be delivered to G20 leaders and WTO ministers ahead of the next G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg and the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali later this year.
"The potential gains in terms of exports, jobs and GDP growth from multilateral trade liberalization are substantial," said Victor K Fung, ICC Honorary Chairman; Chairman, Fung Group. "For these reasons, international business strongly encourages political leaders to steer clear of protectionism and nationalism - and return to building inclusive open trade to stimulate global recovery and growth for many years to come."
 Piraeus Bank's shareholders approve share capital increase planA General Assembly of Shareholders on Tuesday approved a 7.335 billion euro share capital increase.
With the completion of the share capital increase, it is estimated that Piraeus Bank's own capital will reach 9.2 billion euro, and it capital adequacy index will surpass 14 percent.
Piraeus Bank's chairman Mihalis Sallas, addressing the general shareholders' meeting, expressed his optimism over the future of the Greek economy and the efforts made by the Greek government to exit the crisis. "A large effort is being made by the government for reconstruction of the Greek economy and to restore confidence abroad. I soundly believe that we can make it. That's why we call Greek and foreign investors to invest in Greece and the Greek banking system. Participation in banks' share capital increase plans offers the possibility to boost funding of economic activity and establishes confidence to the banking system. We always have to look forward to the future and to correct past mistakes. Significant steps have already been made. We expect the economy to present primary budget surplus this year which will enable us to demand a debt rescheduling. This prospect will signal a reverse of economic recession, opening up new jobs and combating excessive unemployment," Sallas said.
The shareholders' meeting approved a board plan for a share capital increase scheme, envisaging the issuing of new common shares worth 7,335,000,000 euros to cover the bank's capital requirements. This capital will be covered by investors through private placement and partial waiver of existing shareholders' rights up to 400 million euros, a rights' issue for any remaining shares to existing shareholders and the board. Hellenic Financial Stability Fund will cover the remaining sum, of which up to 570 million euros for additional capital requirements arising from the purchase of ATEbank's healthy leg, up to 524 million euros for additional capital requirements arising from the purchase of Cypriot banks' subsidiaries in Greece.
Piraeus Bank, with the deals to buy Millennium Bank Greece and Geniki Bank, from Portugal's BPC Group and France's Societe Generale, has already covered the minimum 10 pct requirement of private sector participation in a forthcoming share capital increase plan. Following completion of the capital boosting scheme, Piraeus Bank's equity capital will total 9.2 billion euros while its capital adequacy rate will surpass 14 pct.
 Probank reports better Q1 resultsProbank on Tuesday said its consolidated profits totaled 17.9 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, while parent profits totaled 19.3 million euros in the same period.
Assets grew by 2.2 pct to 3.4 billion euros, compared with the corresponding period last year, deposits grew by 7.2 pct, net operating income fell 6.0 pct to 30.2 million euros in the January-March period.
The bank said that its loans (after provisions) to deposits rate fell to 81 pct in the first quarter of the year, from 91 pct last year, with loans falling by 4.9 pct over the same period to 2.5 billion euros. Probank said a 4.0 pct cut in payroll costs and lower administrative costs reduced the bank's net operating result by 14 pct to 9.2 million euros in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period in 2012.
Pre-tax results showed a 9.5 pct drop in losses in the first quarter.
Probank said it was in the final stage to completing its recapitalization which will allow the bank to remain in private hands and noted it expected improving business conditions this year.
 Ministers, shipowners and businessmen attend IOBE report presentationGreek shipowners are prepared to voluntarily contribute to tax revenues beyond the tax measures already taken, Association of Greek Shipowners president Theodoros Veniamis said on Tuesday, during an event at the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) at the Evgenides Foundation in Athens.
The event to present IOBE's report on "The contribution of oceangoing shipping to the Greek economy - Results and perspectives" was attended by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras - a former president of IOBE - and Shipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Moussouroulis.
Veniamis said that Greek shipping would continue to take the lead on a global level because of its high degree of adaptability in international shipping circumstances.
Stournaras said oceangoing shipping was a "champion sector" that could play a leading role in the development of the Greek economy, especially in its contribution to the state's fiscal health through a tax revenue agreement with the prime minister.
Moussouroulis said that Greeks have great potential and the reborn Shipping Ministry is taking intitatives to support them, such as training courses for young seamen and the update of the ship registry process.
Also speaking at the event were IOBE president Odysseas Kyriakopoulos and manager Angelos Tsakanikas.
 Hoteliers Chamber president: Tourism and exports can contribute significantly to bringing Greece out of crisisThe president of the Hoteliers Chamber of Greece George Tsakiris expressed optimism that Greek tourism together with exports, can drastically contribute to briniging Greece out of the crisis, in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA WebTV on Tuesday'
Tsakiris said that a more than 7 percent increase in tourism revenues is expected this year, coupled by a 10 percent rise in tourist arrivals.
He warned, however, that enterprises and regions that have connected their growth to domestic tourism, which is collapsing, would not benefit from the increase in the tourist wave to Greece.
Listing the contributing factors to this year's anticipated rise in tourism, Tsakiris underlined a reversal of the negative image of Greece that had traveled to the markets abroad in the last few years, as well as reduced hotel rates.
Tsakiris explained that the hotel prices this year are steadily reduced, and Greece now attracts customers from other destinations, adding that we need to "target our own clientele with our own Value for Money".
He called for a lightening of the hotels from "their excessive taxation" that render their viability very difficult, noting that hotel establishments pay three different taxes for thier commercial establishments, and not simply real estate.
 Tourist arrivals down 5.5 pct in 2012Tourist arrivals fell by 5.5 pct in 2012, totaling 15,517,622 or 909,625 less compared with 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report based on a survey compiled by the Bank of Greece, said that tourist arrivals from Europe (which accounted for 89.3 pct of total arrivals) fell 5.5 pct last year, while arrivals from EU member states fell by 8.5 pct in 2012.
Poland (43.5 pct), France (15 pct), Germany (5.9 pct), Belgium (24.4 pct), Italy (9.6 pct), Bulgaria (12.7 pct) and Holland (14.7 pct) recorded the biggest percentage declines in tourist arrivals last year, while arrivals from Cyprus fell by 3.4 pct. On the other hand, tourist arrivals rose from the UK (9.3 pct) and Russia (18.4 pct).
Germany remained the biggest incoming tourism source for Greece, with a market share of 13.6 pct, followed by the UK (12.4 pct) and France (6.3 pct). Arrivals from America were down 22.4 pct last year, while arrivals from Asia grew by 6.2 pct, from Oceania fell 1.2 pct and from Africa were down 2.7 pct.
A 71 pct of tourist arrivals was from air travel, 23.2 pct from road travel and 5.8 pct from the sea.
 Export promotion event to take place in Athens on April 26Exporters, representing a very active sector in Greece, will have the opportunity to contact foreign buyers and representatives of investors, as well as to be briefed on financial and foreign trade issues during a special event jointly hosted by the Panhellenic Exporters Association and Warwick Legal Network (WLN) in Athens on April 26.
More than 60 distinguished legal experts and legal firm representatives from 21 countries will undertake to facilitate the exchange of know-how and establish connections between Greek exporters and foreign buyers.
The event entitled "Safe haven for international entrepreneurship" is hosted for the first time in Greece within the framework of the WLN annual conference.
 Folli Follie sells 51 pct of Duty Free Shops for 200 mln eurosFolli Follie on Tuesday announced the completion of the sale of a 51 pct equity stake in Duty Free Shops SA to Swiss group Dufry AG for 200.5 million euros in cash.
In a statement, Folli Follie Group said it maintained a 49 pct equity stake in Duty Free Shops and stressed that the deal will transform the company into an international enterprise which will have immediate synergies on FF Group.
Folli Follie Group said the deal helped to bringing the group's bank net debt to almost zero.
 Business briefs-- Trastor, a Greek-listed real estate investment company, on Tuesday said that a general shareholders' meeting approved a board plan to pay a 0.10 euros per share dividend to shareholders.
 Greek stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks edged lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday as the market showed signs of consolidation around the 940-point level. The composite index of the market eased 0.12 pct to end at 942.18 points, off the day's lows of 929.50 points. Turnover remained a disappointing low 53.272 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.34 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.48 pct higher. The Commerce (3.73 pct), Industrial Products (2.05 pct), Technology (1.68 pct) and Constructions (0.89 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Travel (3.47 pct), Health (1.78 pct) and Banks (1.77 pct) suffered losses.
Viohalco (4.57 pct), Folli Follie (3.79 pct) and Jumbo (1.43 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (21.3 pct), OPAP (3.95 pct) and Hellenic Exchanges (2.60 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 82 to 64 with another 26 issues unchanged. Fieratex (29.71 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (19.44 pct) and Spider (18.92 pct) were top gainers, while Eurobank (21.30 pct), Sato (19.15 pct) and Forthnet (18.45 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.52%
Personal & Household: +1.41%
Raw Materials: +0.21%
Travel & Leisure: -3.47%
Food & Beverages: -0.02%
Financial Services: -1.47%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Folli Follie, OTE, OPAP, Alpha Bank and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.98
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.85
HBC Coca Cola: 18.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.29
National Bank of Greece: 0.59
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.18
Bank of Piraeus: 0.23
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 10.11 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 10.21 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.36 pct and the German Bund 1.25 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.52 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.43 pct, the six-month rate was 0.32 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 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 5.47 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 13.016 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,603 contracts worth 7.412 million euros, with 34,820 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 30,732 contracts worth 5.604 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (11,483), followed by Piraeus Bank (7,083), Eurobank (3,312), MIG (464), OTE (2,053), PPC (1,616), OPAP (2,591), GEK (577), Mytilineos (231), Ellaktor (441), Intralot (400) and Hellenic Exchanges (84).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.318
Pound sterling 0.864
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.721
Japanese yen 130.49
Swiss franc 1.240
Norwegian kroner 7.792
Canadian dollar 1.355
Australian dollar 1.286
 Traffic policewoman killed on duty; Minister Dendias expresses deep sorrowPublic Order Minister Nikos Dendias expressed on Tuesday his deep sorrow over the loss of a traffic policewoman who was run over by a car while on duty in the Athens suburb of Kifissia.
"I express my deep grief and sorrow for the unexpected loss of police officer Adamantia Siafla, who lost her life this morning while directing traffic in Kifissia. At these hours, our thoughts are with the husband and children of the unfortunate police officer and all her relatives," Dendias said.
The National Federation of Police Officers issued a similar announcement expressing its sorrow and adding that "unfortunately, the Greek police also registers important losses, with many of our collegues losing their lives in traffic accidents."
The police woman, aged 42 and mother of two, was killed on Tuesday morning. The female driver of the car was arrested and is being held at the local police precinct, which is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of the incident.
 Brokerage firm board members arrested for state debts reaching 6.4 billion eurosThree former board members of the Athens-based brokerage firm Acropolis Securities SA were arrested on Tuesday, each facing charges for unpaid debts to the state reaching the extraordinary sum of 6.4 billion euros (roughly 3 percent of Greece's GDP).
The arrest of the 40-year-old former vice-president of the brokerage, Theodoros Priniotakis, and his two sisters Christina and Katerina, aged 30 and 37, both former board members, followed the arrest a few days ago of the company's former president.
The brokerage firm was involved in the structured bonds scandal that erupted in Greece in 2007 and has since had its license revoked.
 Illegal medicines trafficking ring broken upA major joint operation conducted by the Greek Police (EL.AS) Organized Crime Squad and the financial crimes squad SDOE is in progress in Athens and other cities nationwide, targeting the members of a large network active in the sector of medicines that engaged in trafficking illegal drugs used in assisted reproduction procedures, it was announced on Tuesday.
Involved in the network are pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and private individuals. According to information pertaining to the case, a number of suspects are being questioned by authorities, while considerable quantities of the illegal medicines have been confiscated.
Further details will be made available to the media after the investigation is completed.
 Young man threatens suicide in Ioannina; police on the sceneA young man in the Kardamitsia district of the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina on Tuesday climbed up to the roof of a two-storey building and was threatening suicide, for reasons as yet unknown.
Police have sped to the scene and are attempting to bring the man down, while fire brigade officers are preparing to set up a net to catch him if he jumps.
 Fair on WednesdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 9C and 26C. Fair in Athens with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 10C and 25C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 11C and 23C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "OPAP's (the Greek football prognostics, numerical lottery and sports betting games operator) sale a rigged game".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Government's wager on OPAP's sale".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Enough with the political favours!".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Hirings via ASEP (Civil Service Personnel Hiring Examinations Board ) for vacant positions in public sector".
ESTIA: "PASOK was the one that taught corruption".
ETHNOS: "Arrangement-breather with VAT rebates- Businesses debts to state will be balanced with VAT rebates due t0 them".
IMERISSIA: "Objection to OPAP's price'.
KATHIMERINI: "Negotiation over OPAP's price".
LOGOS: "Warning of social explosion".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Economic staff lowers its expectations on OPAP's sale price".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Rally of forces against the monopolies".
TA NEA: "400,000 jobless behind the clash among the government partners".
VRADYNI: "The fine for illegal buildings to be reduced to 50 percent '.
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