|Wednesday, 21 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 25 April 2013 Issue No: 4344
 PM Samaras expresses satisfaction with course of economyPrime Minister Antonis Samaras expressed satisfaction with the course of the economy during a meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Develop-ment Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Wednesday, at the government headquarters in Maximos Mansion, central Athens.
The prime minister noted that, for the first time since the start of the recession, labour ministry figures showed hirings in March and April had outnumbered layoffs.
He underlined that this cannot be attributed to seasonal factors, since the tourism season has not opened yet. "We have an early indication that the unemployment rate increase has started to slow down," he said, adding that it "is a strong indication that remains to be confirmed in the months to come".
The prime minister focused on the fact that one in two companies are planning or considering investments in 2013, with over half the investment plans to concern the creation of more job positions, according to a report that was based on 1,085 companies with a turnover higher than a million euros.
"The atmosphere is starting to change, the psychology is starting to change," he said, noting that the labour ministry will draw 2.9 billion euros from social fund programmes to be used to support the unemployed and retrain vulnerable population groups and the young.
An estimated 715,000 people will benefit as a result, while over a billion euros will be disbursed to support private enterprises and employment, the prime minister said.
"The atmosphere has changed, the picture is changing, society will soon feel the difference and hope, which has already started to gain ground, will dominate again," Prime Minister Samaras noted. He also referred to the recapitalization of the banks, the repayment of overdue debts owed by the state and to new investments.
 PASOK comments on gov't meeting on unemploymentCommenting on the results of a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday to discuss unemployment, PASOK press spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata expressed satisfaction that "PASOK's proposals are acquiring a central role in the prime minister's agenda". PASOK is one of two smaller parties supporting Greece's three-party coalition government.
Gennimata said that PASOK had already prepared specific legislative measures for the immediate implementation of the party's programme for curbing unemployment, which it will send to the government for their inclusion in the omnibus bill to be discussed in Parliament.
Via PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, PASOK had some time ago submitted a comprehensive plan for tackling unemployment, with the support of 500,000 jobs in at-risk sectors and the creation of som 200,000 temporary jobs for the unemployed, she said.
She also noted that the prime minister's statements after the meeting on Wednesday "give one more answer to those that attempted and are attempting to present the programme to curb unemployment as a 'political favour'.
 PM Samaras, Venizelos to visit Olympia Highway sitePrime Minister Antonis Samaras will be inspecting on Thursday the site of the Olympia Highway project in the Peloponnese, it was announced on Wednesday.
Samaras will be accompanied by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left's (DIM.AR) parliamentary spokesman Nikos Tsoukalis, as party leader Fotis Kouvelis is currently on a trip. PASOK and DIM.AR are the ruling coalition's junior partners.
The works at the Olympia Highway site have resumed recently.
 Democratic Left's Kouvelis meets with European Parliament presidentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Progressive and pro-European powers must be strengthened in the coming European elections of 2014, Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis said in Brussels on Wednesday, following a meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
Schulz is also a member and former chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.
"We agreed with Schulz that the austerity policy now being implemented is not just socially unfair, but an economic dead-end as well," Kouvelis said. "It leads to economic stagnation and social rupture. Thus Euroscepticism increases and dangers greatly threaten the European structure."
Kouvelis called for changes in European policies dealing with the crisis and said his party supported the speeding up of economic and political unifiation in the EU. "Ethnocentrism and state hegemonies will lead the process of unification to a dead end," he warned.
On Greece, he said that he conveyed to Schulz the fact that the country's adjustment programme needed fundamental changes. "Return to fiscal health must be linked to development and social protection, urgently and completely," he noted, adding that "social and political stability is crucial for Greece, and this can only occur by correcting wrong policies. This is what we hope to do by participating in the government and that is what we are demanding of our allies in the European Union."
 DIM.AR leader Fotis Kouvelis meets with European Commissioner Laszlo AndorBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, a junior partner in the coalition government in Greece, expressed his party's opposition to "the austerity policies that downgrade the social state" in a meeting he had here on Wednesday with European Commissioner Laszlo Andor, responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion.
After the meeting, Kouvelis said that he underlined the need for the adoption of extraordinary measures in support of Greece aimed at relieving the unemployed and supporting those living in conditions of deep poverty.
He suggested the introduction of immediate intervention in support of households that have no employed members, in combination with programmes designed to support the young. He said that more than 400,000 families were in this category, adding that measures to support the unemployed over 55 with obsolete qualifications are also necessary.
Kouvelis said that he pointed out the need for a minimum guaranteed income across the country to ensure dignified living standards for the financially weak.
He concluded that the social state's refoundation is necessary in Europe and in Greece, adding that the country's adjustment and fiscal reform should take place in combination with social protection.
 Government spokesman Kedikoglou on SYRIZA's stance to OPAP's privatizationGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday called on Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) to clearly tell the Greek people "which interests it is serving" by fighting the privatization of the state-run lottery and betting pools agency OPAP. Kedikoglou made the statement in response to the stance adopted by the main opposition party toward the planned privatization.
He accused SYRIZA-EKM of doing everything possible to counteract the government's efforts to lead the country out of the crisis and referred to other examples, including investments like COSCO's and the goldmining operation in Skouries, Halkidiki, in northern Greece.
"They have no valid arguments and so they resort to illegitimate means - lies, slander, threats - and now to nonsense," he said, adding that OPAP's net profits in 2012 were 505 million euros and, therefore, the profits that correspond to the state's 34 pct share that is up for sale were just 171.7 million euros.
"They should wait and see what will be the price for OPAP's 34 pct. It will not be either two nor three times up. It will be more, despite the fact that these are times of deep crisis. Also, the tax on OPAP's gross profits - that was introduced by the present government and will continue to be collected by the state over the next years - is not counted. The specific tax has brought to state coffers the amount of 85 million euros in the first quarter of 2013 alone. The tender was a transparent transaction supervised by the European Union. There was not even the slightest objection to the terms of the tender or the overall procedure. SYRIZA is the only one reacting! But once again, its plans will fall through," the government spokesman said.
A statement issued earlier by SYRIZA-EKM said that "the government is left exposed in different ways after it was proved that the procedure for the sale of profit-making OPAP was fixed."
Referring to the prime minister, the main opposition party noted that he was particularly shown up given his statement on Oct. 9, 2011 at Thessaloniki's International Fair (TIF), that selling off a company "at a price that it is two or three times the net profits of an organization or company, then you are not selling it; you are practically giving it away."
SYRIZA pointed out that "instead of channeling the revenues of this profit-making organization to the social insurance funds, that are bleeding out as a result of the catastrophic memorandum policy, they proceeded to underappreciate it (OPAP) and give it away to their honorable friends."
"Only in North Korea and in Greece, do international tenders have only one bidder. We repeat, no one has immunity," SYRIZA noted.
 ND demands expulsion of SYRIZA-EKM MP for 'anti-Greek outburst'The New Democracy party, the senior partner in Greece's three-party coalition government, on Wednesday demanded that main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras expel one of the party's MPs over what it called an "anti-Greek outburst".
According to ND, the statements attributed to SYRIZA-EKM MP Christos Karagiannidis in an audio recording on the website parapolitika.gr was a "major political issue".
ND's criticism referred to a recorded extract of a speech given by the MP to SYRIZA-EKM's Central Committee, in which Karagiannidis is heard to say: "Let us leave aside national fantastic [ideas], our national enemies, because in this world there are no borders. There are no national borders. There are class borders".
"The only clearcut condemnation of the MPs anti-Greek outburst by Tsipras, who has only lately discovered concepts such as 'national responsibility' and 'issue of major national importance', is his expulsion," ND said in announcement.
 SYRIZA leader expresses grave concern over country's courseRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, addressing an event of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, expressed his grave concern over the country's course.
Tsipras said he has the feeling that the country is not going well, that the economy is not going well and that, apart from who will be the one to be called on to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, Greece was facing very big dangers. The government, he added, as governments usually do, is trying to beautify the atmosphere, to create an artificial climate of optimism and complaisance.
According to Tsipras, the Greek stance is that "we must start from this to realise that we must acquire a national vision on the national problem we are facing, because some thought that when this crisis started, it would concern the working people, the middle class and not Greek society in its entirety".
 German war reparations issue debated in ParliamentThe issue of German reparations and of the occupation loan constitutes a national issue, and its claiming is an interparty issue, at least for the parties that condemn Nazism. This seems the conclusion of the positions expressed by political parties and the government, in Parliament on Wednesday, during the discussion of a relevant question by the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA). In this framework, however, different approaches surfaced on the issue's handling, harsh criticism for its handling so far and disagreements on the possibility of offsetting the German commitments with those Greece has undertaken in the framework of the Memorandums.
"The issue of the reparations is open, but this time it will close with Justice triumphing, and in this move we are again present, as elected representatives of the people," the Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoluos said.
"In no way, however, must reference to the issue be considered a hostile move, for a people with whom we are going along together in the European family. The German citizens themselves have condemned this past, and they realise the Greeks' position, which in no way identifies democratic Germany of today with the past Nazi regime," Avramopoulos noted.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras urged the organization at political level of Greece's legal support in demanding German war reparations.
Tsipras asked that the necessary procedures be set in motion for the formation of an inter-party parliamentary committee to look into the issue of the German reparations, adding that only the "pro-nazi party" referring to ultra-fight Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) should be exempt from the committee.
He congratulated the State General Accounts Office for the "excellent work" it has done in collecting the documents and archives on the German reparations adding that, from here on political handlings are needed and "obviously the national issue of the German reparations is not a matter that concerrns only the worthy but nonetheless functionaries of the state" using the description the government has made of the State Legal Council.
Tsipras further called on the government to make all the documentation collected by the State General Accounts Office available to the National Council for Pursuance of the German War Reparations.
"The issue of the reparations did not close in a mutually acceptable manner," Foreign Minister Avramopoulos said, adding that "no Greek government has resigned the demands."
"What was denied to us, we demand. The outstanding issue of the war reparations exists," Avramopoulos stressed.
"There is no doubt that the issue is complex. There is also however, its other singular dimension, which is historical," the foreign minister said, noting that "the truth is that the matter should have been dealt with earlier, but sometimes history is not judged by time but by actions".
Some quarters attempted to connect the necessary fiscal adjustment and reforms in Greece with the issue of the reparations, Avramopoulos noted, adding "it is a mistake because it (the reparations) is an issue that is open for 60 years now and has no place in the timetable of the crisis, but its settlement will erase a dark point that was left by history and open up a new chapter in our relations".
 Strengthening of Greek-Bosnian economic cooperation discussedForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday stressed the political importance of the Belgrade-Pristina agreement for the region's future, while welcoming his Bosnia-Herzegovina counterpart Zlatko Lagumdzija.
The two ministers underlined that extensive ground exists for strengthening bilateral cooperation, that has a very good "20-year" basis, as Lagumdzija said, indicating to the tourist, commercial and economic sector and the energy sector in particular.
"Bosnia-Herzegovina is interested in being part of the economic cooperation of the wider region and of course we shall have a mutual interest on the TAP pipeline, for whose developments Mr. Avramopoulos has just briefed me," said the Foreign minister and vice president of the ministerial council of Bosnia-Herzegovina after the meeting.
Referring to the issue, the Greek Foreign minister, also in light of his visit to Baku next week, observed that "the circle of interested countries is widening" and expressed the wish and desire for the "welcoming" of Bosnia to the group of countries directly involved in the project and underlined the value of the programme for Greece's wider neighbourhood.
Avramopoulos noted the country's assistance for the speedier rapprochement of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the EU, as well as Greek support for its course towards NATO, while Lagumdzija reminded that the Greek Presidency will coincide with the 100th anniversary of an explosion of divisions and conflicts in Europe, that began from Sarajevo and which anniversary will have during the EU Greek Presidency "a reversed direction, that is reconciliation".
The two Foreign ministers also signed a Memorandum on the Greek provision of know-how on European issues, while the issue of bilateral cooperation was also examined in the morning during the meeting Lagumdzija held with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
President Papoulias, welcoming the Bosnian minister, observed that "bilateral cooperation is good and can become much better", while Lagumdzija thanked the Greek President for the support Greece provides for Bosnia at political and economic as well as European level.
 Deputy FM on priorities of Greek EU presidency in first-half 2014BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
One of the priorities of the Greek presidency of the European Council in the first half of 2014 will be the mobility of workers, whether concerning migration inside the EU borders of illegal migration originating from outside the EU. IN statements to "Agence Europe' Greek deputy defence minister Dimitris Kourkoulas said that Greece is planning to focus interest on matter of concern to the citizens, such as growth and employment as well as boosting the economic and monetary union.
For Greece, he said, the issue of human mobility is very important, whether it concerns mobility inside the EU borders of illegal migration originating from outside the EU., The management of the matter at European level is of concern to Greece, which feels that it is a problem than cannot be solved through national action alone, but requires a cohesive European policy that will be not only to Greece's benefit but to the benefit of the entire EU.
This matter is of concern to the citizens, Kourkoulas continued, adding that the Dublin II regulation will be revised by the Greek EU presidency, and stressing that a common position among the partners is needed.
Greece maintains that more solidarity is needed on the issue of management of the Schengen area, although European policies dealing with the issue of illegal migration exist, and joint action is conspired very important, Greece feels that these policies need to be enhanced, Kourkoulas said.
He said that there is ample time to finalise the priorities, and Greece is working closely with the other two presidencies (Ireland and Lithuania) with which it has already developed a legislative programme for the three six-month EU presidencies from January 1, 2013 to June 30 2014.
Kourkoulas noted that the Greek presidency coincides with a transitional period in the EU, with the My 014 European Parliament elections and the renewal in the political faces. He added that the six-month period of the Greek presidency will be a transitional period and period of contemplation over the future of the EU, curing which the EU is obliged to boost its efforts to show the European citizens that it is capable of dealing with the existing crisis, that it has the necessary tools -- which id did not in the preceding years - to face the crisis and guarantee the European models.
For Greece, this is the priority, Kourkoulas stressed and voiced hope that during the Greek presidency, the country will find itself closer to the end o the tunnel, and underlined that there are encouraging signs that although the crisis has not ended, Greece has completed more than half the way to date.
 FM: Reported release of abducted Syrian Metropolitans still not confirmedThere is no confirmation 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, have been released, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday in reply to a relevant question on the fate of the two Metropolitans.
Referring to media reports, Avramopoulos said, "Unfortunately, yesterday's information that spoke of the release of the two clerics was not confirmed" and reiterated that the Foreign Ministry has activated the crisis management apparatus and is in continuous contact with foreign governments on the issue.
 Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Spindelegger calls for immediate release of abducted MetropolitansVIENNA (AMNA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on Wednesday called for the immediate and unconditional release of the two Metropolitan bishops, abducted at the borders of Syria with Turkey, strongly condemning their abduction and the assassination of their driver.
Spindelegger said that he was overwhelmed by the "unacceptable attacks" and pointed out that religion cannot be used as an excuse for acts of violence and the illegal restriction of the rights of others.
He noted that the Austrian foreign ministry is in contact with everybody involved to contribute to the efforts aimed at reaching a solution fast and stressed that this tragic event is a painful message for Christian minorities in the Middle East.
"An end should be put to all acts of violence instigated by religious fanaticism and Austria will continue in the future to support religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities around the world with all means available," he added.
 Inner Cabinet to convene on ThursdayThe Inner Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will convene on Thursday at 18:30.
The meeting will focus on items on the agenda and Samaras' briefing on current affairs as well as the selection of State Legal Council's vice presidents.
 Bakoyannis at PACE: Mixed impressions of reforms in TurkeySTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA-- N. Roussis)
New Democracy (ND) Deputy of State Dora Bakoyannis noted Turkey's 'casus belli' against Greece and he continuing occupation of 40 percent of the island republic of Cyprus by Turkish troops, on which minimal progress has been made, addressing the spring session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg on Tuesday, speaking on behalf of the Europarliament's European People's Party (EPP).
Speaking during the Post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey, during a discussion of French Socialist Rosette Durrieu's presentation of the report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) Bakoyannis, who heads the Greek parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, said:
"Few countries go through such a marked transitional phase as Turkey. The country is changing fast, and its importance is rising. Since 2004, when the monitoring of Turkey by the
Assembly ended, the country has embarked on major reforms, some of which are still pending. Twelve outstanding points still required action when the monitoring phase ended, and they are now reviewed by our Assembly.
My general impression of the reforms is mixed. On the one hand, there has been a stream of changes, most of them positive - for example, the redefinition of the army's role, the prevalence of political over military power and, most excitingly, the progress on issues regarding Turkey's large Kurdish component. There are many fields in which progress in adjusting to Council of Europe standards has been paramount, and I have mentioned only three that appear more important to me.
On the other hand, as Ms Durrieu's report clearly underlines, the general feeling is much more one of transition than of a completed set of reforms. On the republic's institutional front, much will depend, for example, on the expected changes in the constitution. In other fields, such as gender equality, the prevention of torture, pre-trial detention and the distinction between freedom of expression and terrorist propaganda, short-term results have not matched expectations. Finally, in many other important fields, such as conscientious objection and gay rights, no real steps have been taken.
On issues of special interest to Greece that also relate to the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe, there has, unfortunately, been little progress. The report mentions only some of them. It mentions that Turkey has not yet reopened the Halki seminary, thus refusing the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate not only its centuries-old title but the elementary right to train its clergy. However, there is no mention of Turkey's constant breaches of fundamental United Nations, Council of Europe and European Union principles, such as disrespect for the national sovereignty of Council of Europe member states; making overt threats, such as the infamous casus belli against Greece, which is exercising its rights in accordance to provisions in the law of the sea; and the unheard-of occupation of nearly 40% of the territory of a Council of Europe and EU state, Cyprus, at a time when Turkey is negotiating for full EU membership. Let me be clear: Greece supports EU membership for Turkey, because we strongly believe that this government will ultimately be able to solve its long-standing problems, so that it can be a full member of the European Union.
I congratulate Turkey on launching the reforms, and I encourage the Turkish government to continue. If it is able to solve the Kurdish problem, and I hope it will, it will be able, with the help of Greece, to solve the problem of Cyprus."
Report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee):
"When the Parliamentary Assembly decided to end its monitoring of Turkey in 2004, there were 12 outstanding points which still required action, and which have been the subject of regular post-monitoring dialogue since then.
The Monitoring Committee recognises that a process of major reform is taking place in Turkey against a complex background of political transition involving the judiciary and the army, the Kurdish question and regional instability, not least in neighbouring Syria. Economically, Turkey has achieved much in a context of global crisis, confirming its position as a regional power. It has become a "benchmark" for Muslim countries in the southern Mediterranean following the upheavals of the Arab Spring.
There have been many reforms between 2004 and 2013, but these only partially respond to the remaining problem areas set out by the Assembly, the committee believes. It assesses each of the 12 outstanding points in turn, welcoming Turkey's progress in bringing its legislation into line with the European Convention on Human Rights, promoting the cultural and linguistic rights of the Kurds, stepping up dialogue with religious communities and establishing the institution of ombudsman. But it also spells out the steps Turkey still needs to take if it is to successfully complete its reform programme, such as further reform of the Constitution and continuing revision of the Criminal Code, as well as progress on freedom of expression, pre-trial detentions, local and regional decentralisation and resolving the Kurdish question.
Overall, the committee concludes, legislative reform and institutional change in Turkey is ongoing but incomplete. The Assembly should continue to follow future changes closely, while reiterating the full support of the Council of Europe, and in particular its Venice Commission, to help Turkey successfully completes its reforms."
 Citizen Protection Minister Dendias on visit to the United StatesPublic Order & Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias on Wednesday departed for an official visit to the United States.
Dendias will address an audience at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, at 5:30 p.m. (local time) on Thursday on the topic "Citizen's protection and the State of Law".
Earlier on Thursday, he will visit the FBI and New York Police Department (NYPD) centers of operations.
At 11:00 a.m. on Friday he will be received by Archbishop Demetrios of America at the Archdiocese.
Later on Friday at 2:30 p.m., Dendias will meet with Greek and Greek-American media at the Greek Consulate in New York.
 Six under arrest for lowering Greek flag at Athens University protestSix individuals out of 63 detained during a protest outside the entrance of Athens University were formally arrested and led before a public prosecutor on Wednesday, facing a charge of "offending symbols" for lowering the Greek flag flying on top of the university building.
Earlier on Wednesday, a group of about 30 anti-establishment activists had taken over the Athens University building for about half an hour in protest against the closure of the Greek Indymedia website and radio station, which was previously broadcast by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) server but shut down at the order of the NTUA Rector Prof. S. Simopoulos.
The group lowered the Greek flag flying at the top of the building, raising the red-and-black anarchist flag in its place and also draped the university entrance porch with a huge, floor-to-ceiling banner reading "Raise Your Voice, Fight Against State Censorship".
A strong force of police arrived on the scene soon afterward, detaining several individuals and lowering the anarchist flag.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou also condemned the incident, stressing that the "violent lowering of the Greek flag in the centre of Athens offends the patriotic sentiments of all Greeks."
He slammed the group's actions as "unacceptable" and said they should be condemned by all political parties, "even those that have avoided condemnation of similar actions in the past".
 Government condemns lowering of Greek flag in central Athens by Indymedia activistsGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday condemned the lowering of the Greek flag from the roof of Athens University by activists associated with the Indymedia website in Greece, raising a red-and-black anarchist flag in its place. The activists also covered the university's portico with a massive, floor-to-ceiling banner reading "Raise Your Voice Fight Against State Censorship" that covered the entire entrance.
"The violent lowering of the Greek flag in the centre of Athens offends the patriotic sentiments of all Greeks," Kedikoglou said.
He slammed the group's actions as "unacceptable" and said they should be condemned by all political parties, "even those that have avoided condemnation of similar actions in the past".
The activists were protesting against the shutting down of the Indymedia website and radio, previously broadcast from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) server.
 PASOK leader meets AKEL sec.general KyprianouPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday received visiting Cyprus AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou at his office in parliament.
"A friendly and frank discussion was held between the two officials on the crisis in Cyprus and Greece within the framework of the new phase that the crisis in the eurozone and the international economy has entered? said PASOK in an announcement.
 Annual meeting of EU Economic and Social Committees beginning on ThursdayThe annual meeting of secretary generals of the European Economic and Social Committee and of the Economic and Social Committees of the EU member-states, will be hosted by the Greek section on Thursday and Friday.
According to an announcement by the Economic and Social Committee of Greece, the initiatives and the interventions of the organised society of citizens on the handling of the fiscal crisis in Europe and Greece will be presented during the meeting, that will be the first of the meetings of the European social partners in the framework of the Economic and Social Committees for 2013.
The meeting's sessions will begin at the New Acropolis Museum at 2 p.m. on Thursday. Addresses will be made by Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis and the president of the Economic and Social Committee of Greece Christros Polyzogopoulos. Poland's Deputy Labour Minister Jacek Mecina will also be participating.
 Financial prosecutors investigating link between Lagarde list and capital repatriation 'amnesty' lawsGreece's financial prosecutors have asked banks for lists of individuals that repatriated sizeable amounts of capital between September 2010 and September 2011, availing themselves of a "tax amnesty" then in force, Greek authorities announced on Wednesday.
The request is made in the framework of the ongoing 'Lagarde list' investigation, with the prosecutors seeking to determine whether a link can be established between the list of individuals with deposits in the Swiss branch of HSBC - known as the Lagarde list - and the decision made by then finance minister George Papaconstantinou to extend favourable regulations for repatriating funds.
The decision extended a law by a previous finance minister, George Alogoskoufis, which gave those repatriating funds immunity from prosecution and required them to pay only a fixed amount of tax.
A family member of Papaconstantinou included in the Lagarde list cited this legislation in testimony to the two financial prosecutors.
A closer examination of the issue was deemed necessary when it became apparent that Papaconstantinou had extended the favourable regime of the Alogoskoufis law just a few days after he first received the Lagarde list from French authorities at the end of September 2010.
The first extension by Papaconstantinou was from October 2010 until December 31, 2010. This was followed by a second extension from March 31, 2011 until September 30, 2011.
Banks are expected to send their replies to the financial prosecutors by mid May, while the two prosecutors have also sought the assistance of the general secretariat for information systems.
Papaconstantinou is now the focus of a preliminary Parliamentary investigation into the handling of the Lagarde list and the failure by Greek authorities to promptly follow up on the evidence this contained.
 Civil Servants Union to hold rally in Athens during omnibus bill discussionThe Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Wednesday announced the holding of a rally in Syntagma Square in Athens at 6:30 in the evening on Sunday April 28.
The rally will be taking place during the discussion and ratification in Parliament of the omnibus bill. ADEDY is reacting to clauses anticipating employee layoffs in the public sector and the subjection of others to a status of suspension, mergers and abolitions of public services.
For the same reason, ADEDY's Executive Committee calls on the Union's trade union members for a protest at the Finance ministry on Friday April 26 at 12 noon.
 Alternate health minister promises stiff fines for pharmaceutical-related offencesAlternate Health Minister Marios Salmas on Wednesday promised "punishingly" stiff penalties for those involved in incidences of corruption, theft and illegal trade involving pharmaceuticals.
"Inspections are continuing and all that remains is for penalties to be punishing," Salmas said, adding that a draft law introducing tougher penalties for all offences related to pharmaceuticals had already been tabled with the government's general secretariat.
He said these extremely stiff penalties will act as a deterrent against such phenomena, while inspections were daily uncovering new evidence.
As an example, he cited the discovery of thousands of boxes of pharmaceuticals without authenticity tapes and thousands of tapes without their boxes in a raid on Thessaloniki pharmacies. "This is a major violation. All the offenders found through inspections by authorities in the next few days will be punished with the new fines," he added.
 Armenians stage march to Turkish embassyArmenians staged a peaceful march to the Turkish embassy on Wednesday afternoon, in the framework of events for the 98th anniversary of the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks, on April 24, 1915. As the protesters reported, the slaughter of the Turks had 1,500,000 victims, while the western part of Armenia continues to be under occupation up to now as well.
The Armenians, according to an announcement, demand from Turkey "to recognise and condemn the genocide it carried out against them and return the historic Armenian territory it occupies illegally and where, for years, it is aiming at eliminating every trace of the rich Armenian cultural heritage".
 Commissioner Damanaki to launch new online market intelligence tool for fisheries and aquacultureBRUSSELS (AMNA / M.Aroni)
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, will officially launch the new European Market Observatory for Fishery and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) at the European Seafood Exposition here on Wednesday.
"If you want to know market trends and market drivers for wild or farmed seafood products, the Market Observatory is the tool for you," she said, adding that "what counts today is value, not volume, of production. With this modern tool we empower economic actors through accurate, real-time market information".
The Observatory is an EU-wide interactive web-tool offering up-to-date data on volume, value and price of fisheries and aquaculture products throughout the supply chain, from when they land to port to when they are displayed on supermarket shelves.
It is updated daily with production information from the local to the EU-wide level and includes data on imports, exports and consumption trends. It regroups in one single place information that was previously spread over several sources, formats and languages. It is multilingual, user friendly and free of charge.
For example, with three clicks those interested can get the cod prices in early April over 14 market places in 7 European countries. Just as easily, one can research the wholesale prices for trout in late March in France, Italy and Spain or the retail prices in four chosen countries. The main EU tropical shrimp suppliers of the last 5 years are 4 clicks away. So are the main EU exporters to Spain for small pelagic species by volume and by price. If one needs to know what is caught, farmed, imported or eaten in a specific area, can easily get all those core figures by a simple search. The parameters of any search to obtain customized and updated results weekly, monthly or whenever can be saved for a later visit to the website.
The Observatory has been developed by the European Commission to facilitate structural planning and decision making for economic operators, NGOs and policy makers. Each user can obtain customized results according to their specific interests or preferences.
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 Efforts will intensify to reduce VAT rate on food catering services, Finance Minister Stournaras saysFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday said that every possible effort will be made to reach an agreement with Greece's lenders by June that will allow reduction of the VAT rate on food catering services.
Stournaras made the comment after a meeting held at the government headquarters in Maximos Mansion, chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
According to Stournaras, Parliament will vote on the omnibus bill sponsored by the coalition government this weekend.
A clause for reducing VAT cannot be added to this omnibus bill because the country's troika lenders wouldn't have approved it, sources said.
 One in two enterprises plan new investments in 2013, ICAP surveyOne in two enterprises are planning or considering new investments in 2013, the majority of which (58 pct) will lead to an increase in job positions, a survey by ICAP showed on Wednesday.
The survey, conducted in February on a sample of 1,095 enterprises with a turnover of more than 1.0 million euros, was carried out under the auspices of the development ministry with the cooperation of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) and was presented during Wednesday's meeting on combating unemployment chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
The greater majority or 83 pct of enterprises planning new investments in 2013 are focusing in Greece, 12 pct both in Greece and abroad and 5.0 pct are focusing outside the country. Almost one in two (48 pct) will cover their investment costs with own capital, 35 pct through bank borrowing and 17 pct using subsidies.
In a report on the 2011-2012 period, ICAP said that a total of 8,390 enterprises completed share capital increase plans worth 7.8 billion euros while 438 enterprises carried out investments worth 5.0 billion euros, which maintained or even increased job positions. These investments focused mainly on the purchase of equipment-machinery, building-facilities, sales networks and acquisitions.
 More people hired than fired in March and April, Labor MinisterLabor market figures appear to have stabilised with hirings exceeding layoffs, according to Labor, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, who presented the figures at a meeting called by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras earlier on Wednesday to review progress on employment issues.
According to the figures, there were 8,950 more hirings in March this year than there were layoffs. In April (as of April 24), there were 15,198 more hirings than layoffs.
Vroutsis said the new information system used by the ministry, dubbed "Ergani", is "a pioneering tool for Labor Ministry interventions in employment and in controlling undeclared work". Ergani digitally links the Labor Inspector Agency, the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) and the ministry, giving figures on employment at real time.
 Local governments show primary surplus in Q1Greek local government's consolidated budget showed a cash surplus of 394.8 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, with the surplus totaling 36.7 million euros in March, after a shortfall of 22.3 million euros in the same month last year, Interior ministry said on Wednesday.
In a report, the ministry attributed this surplus mainly to a positive course of revenue despite a 13.5 pct fall in state budget subsidies in the January-March period.
Spending were down by 14.2 pct in the three-month period, compared with the same period in 2012, while spending in March fell by 24.7 pct.
Evripidis Stylianidis, Interior Minister, commenting on the results said local governments achieved primary surplus for the third month in a row helped by a systematic work made last year, adding that the results dismissed early criticism over the efforts made by local authorities.
 European Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Olympic Air by Aegean AirlinesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it has opened an in-depth investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the proposed acquisition of Olympic Air by Aegean Airlines. The companies are the two main Greek airlines offering passenger air transport services on Greek domestic and international routes. Each of the companies operates a base at Athens International Airport. The Commission has concerns that the transaction may lead to price increases and poorer service on several domestic Greek routes out of Athens, where the merged entity would have a monopoly or an otherwise strong market position. The opening of an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 3 September 2013, to take a decision on whether the proposed transaction would significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquin Almunia said: "We have the duty to ensure that Greek passengers and people visiting Greece can travel at competitive air fares, even more so during challenging economic times."
The Commission's initial market investigation indicated that the proposed transaction raises serious competition concerns on a number of Greek domestic routes where Aegean and Olympic currently compete or are well placed to compete. These routes are used not only by Greek passengers, but also by a large number of foreign travelers, given the popularity of Greece as a tourist destination.
The Commission's assessment takes account of relevant factors, such as the state of the Greek economy and the financial situation of the parties. However, the investigation so far showed that the proposed acquisition would give the merged entity a monopoly on the routes from Athens to Hania, Santorini, Mytilene, Corfu, Alexandroupolis and Kos, to the detriment of ticket prices and service level offered to passengers travelling on these routes. On other Greek domestic routes where both airlines operate alongside Cyprus Airways (i.e. from Athens to Thessaloniki, Heraklion and Rhodes), the transaction would remove an important competitor.
Moreover, the Commission's investigation provided indications that the two airlines' largest competitor, Cyprus Airways, may not continue to act as a viable competitive force on the Greek domestic market in the future. Finally, the Commission's initial market investigation revealed no indications of entry prospects that would occur on a scale and within a timeframe capable of constraining the merged entity and disciplining its pricing behaviour.
The commitments proposed by Aegean during the preliminary investigation did not address these serious competition concerns.
The Commission will now investigate the proposed acquisition in-depth to determine whether its initial concerns are confirmed or not.
On 26 January 2011, the Commission prohibited the first proposed combination of Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines in case M.5830 In that case, the Commission found competition concerns on 10 Greek domestic routes out of Athens, with a quasi-monopoly on nine of these routes and a loss of potential competition on one route. As part of its current investigation, the Commission is examining the changes in the market circumstances that have occurred since the 2011 decision.
Aegean is a Greek airline providing air transport of passengers and, to a more limited extent, cargo services. Since 1999, Aegean has been offering scheduled flights on Greek domestic routes and international short-haul routes. It operates a base at Athens International Airport. It currently serves approximately 53 international and domestic short-haul destinations. Aegean is a member of the Star Alliance.
Olympic is a Greek airline active in air transport of passengers and cargo. Like Aegean, Olympic operates a base at Athens International Airport and currently serves approximately 45 short-haul destinations, mainly within Greece. Olympic does not belong to any airline alliance.
Merger control rules and procedures
The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies with a turnover above certain thresholds (see Article 1 of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it.
The vast majority of notified mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has a total of 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (phase II).
There are currently three other on-going phase II merger investigations. The first one examines the proposed combination of Munksjo and the European label and processing business of Ahlstrom, in the paper industry, with a deadline on 7 June 2013. The second phase II investigation concerns the proposed acquisition of a roaming technologies company Mach by its rival Syniverse), with a deadline on 30 May 2013. The last ongoing phase II investigation was opened in March into the proposed acquisition of Shell's Harburg refinery assets by Nynas of Sweden). The deadline here is 6 September 2013.
 Uninsured labor thriving in GreeceUninsured labor is thriving in Greece, with the rate of uninsured workers totaling 40.5 pct of the country's workforce with 52 pct of Greek enterprises employing uninsured workers, a report by the Special Service Control and Security of Social Insurance Institution IKA showed on Wednesday.
The report was presented by Marcos Tountas, director of the service, during a news conference organized by representatives of the Panhellenic Union of Workers in IKA.
The report showed that only in March, a total of 979 enterprises in a sample of 1,891 inspected by the special service, were employing uninsured workers and that from a total of 7,959 workers in these enterprises, 2,295 were uninsured. Commenting on recent developments in Manolada, Tountas said that: "The whole of Greece is a Manolada" and underlined the limited capabilities of inspection mechanisms because of a lack of staff and the necessary means.
IKA's inspection mechanism is currently manned with 25 inspectors, with workers' representatives noting that each inspector would have to make 16,000 inspections each year in order to cover the around 400,000 active enterprises in the country. They said that inspections fell dramatically in the last few years, from 107,115 in 2009, to 46,370 in 2012.
 Shipping ministry to resubmit article for lower crew contracts, sources sayShipping ministry sources on Wednesday announced plans to resubmit draft legislation allowing shipping firms to draw up individual contracts with lower crew members on Greek-flagged ships, after making improvements and providing clarifications to the smaller parties in the coalition government. They said the new, improved version will probably be tabled in Parliament after the Easter holidays.
Greek-owned ships under a foreign flag can currently hire Greek sailors with individual labour contracts but not Greek-owned ships under the Greek flag.
The article allowing Greek-flagged ships to also sign on lower crew members with individual labour contracts on long-haul voyages and for leisure craft was not passed by Parliament with the rest of the shipping ministry's omnibus bill, being opposed by the two smaller coalition partners.
According to the Hellenic Union of Merchant Fleet Seamen (PENEN), which has been locked in a dead-end negotiation with ship owners since 2010, the proposed legislation is an attempt by Shipping Minister Kostis Mousouroulis to create a fait accompli, bypassing collective bargaining entirely.
Legal experts commenting on the issue to the ANA-MPA, however, said that the collective agreements for seamen have effectively lapsed, since there is no provision in them for residual duration, noting that ship owners want the introduction of company and individual labour contracts.
The Panhellenic Seamens' Union (PNO), on the other hand, asserts that the terms and conditions of previous collective agreements continue to apply, even though new agreements have not been signed.
The collective labour agreement for open-sea voyages is the same since 2010, while for coastal shipping there has been no agreement signed since 2010 for the Adriatic and since 2011 for the ferry lines in the Aegean.
Ship owners and the 14 unions representing the sector are currently at loggerheads, with the former asking seamen to accept cuts to pay and benefits and the latter demanding pay rises and the immediate payment of backpay owed by certain ferry companies.
 Greek authorities reject a request made by AGET HeraclesGreek authorities on Wednesday rejected a request made by AGET Heracles cement industry -a subsidiary of Lafarge Group- to lay off its 229 workers in its cement factory unit in Halkida, essentially shutting down the unit. The Supreme Labor Council of the Greek authorities on Wednesday rejected a request made by AGET Heracles cement industry -a subsidiary of Lafarge Group- to lay off its 229 workers in its cement factory unit in Halkida, essentially shutting down the unit.
The Supreme Labor Council of the Employment, Social Insurance and Welfare ministry, with five votes in favor and one against, rejected Heracles Cement plan and recommended to Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis not to approve the demand. The cement industry said that the shutting down of its unit in Halkida was imposed by financial reasons because of a plunge in domestic construction activity and inactivity of the group to distribute its surplus production to international markets.
 Turkish delegation visits Crete for waste management exchange of know-howA Turkish delegation of mayors and other local officials from the northwest area of Balikesir met with Iraklio Mayor Yiannis Kourakis, head of the association of towns handling waste management on Crete (ESDAK), on Wednesday.
Mayors Mustafa Goksel of Bigadic, Ismail Cankul of Kepsut, three town council members, and the manager of the Turkish Association of Environmental Management, along with technical staff, visited Pera Galinos, a model landfill station (XYTA) site, and other waste management facilities of the Iraklio prefecture.
Mayor Yiannis Kourakis said local authorities are interested in collaborating with the visiting town officials, while the Turkish delegation invited him to visit Turkey in September.
 SBBE recommends actions to restart building activityThe Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) on Wednesday presented a series of recommendations aimed at dealing with a dramatic fall in building activity in the country.
Building activity has fallen by 85 pct in the last eight years, recording average annual declines of 35 pct in the last few years. Since 2008, the industry has lost almost 50 pct of job positions, while around 180-200,000 new property assets remained unsold.
In a memorandum sent to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, SBBE recommends a series of actions such as a cut in property taxes, reducing notary expenses and reducing VAT on new building licenses as part of a plan to restart sales of new property in the country and boost budget revenue. SBBE also recommends a gradual cut in VAT on building materials and reduced objective property values to be harmonized with current market values which have fallen by 35 pct since 2005.
 Greek stocks end at five-week highsGreek stocks ended at their highest levels since March 15 in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with the composite index of the market surpassing the 950-point technical level. Buying interest focused on bank shares and PPC. The composite index rose 0.92 pct to end at 950.84 points, with turnover falling to 48.955 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.25 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.79 pct higher. The Commerce (5.03 pct), Banks (4.27 pct), Utilities (3.57 pct) and Financial Services (3.10 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Oils (0.85 pct) and Constructions (0.52 pct) suffered losses.
Eurobank (6.63 pct), Alpha Bank (5.10 pct), National Bank (4.42 pct) and PPC (4.38 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Viohalco (2.18 pct), Titan (2.10 pct) and Motor Oil (2.04 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 85 to 70 with another 24 issues unchanged. Fieratex (29.07 pct), Pairis (24.11 pct) and Pasal (19.08 pct) were top losers, while HOL (20 pct), Alpha Grisin (12.38 pct) and Paperpack (10.59 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.85%
Personal & Household: +1.14%
Raw Materials: +1.32%
Travel & Leisure: +1.09%
Food & Beverages: -0.01%
Financial Services: +3.10%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, S&B, Alpha Bank, PPC and Bank of Piraeus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.03
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.15
HBC Coca Cola: 18.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.28
National Bank of Greece: 0.61
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.19
Bank of Piraeus: 0.23
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 10.03 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 10.11 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.26 pct and the German Bund 1.23 pct. Turnover was a thin 3.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.52 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.42 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 4.88 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover falling to 9.391 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,195 contracts worth 5.244 million euros, with 34,683 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 22,244 contracts worth 4.147 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (8,006), followed by Piraeus Bank (7,822), OTE (2,325), PPC (1,505), Eurobank (323), MIG (238), OPAP (480), Mytilineos (226), GEK (333), Ellaktor (398) and Sidenor (49).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.320
Pound sterling 0.865
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 8.717
Japanese yen 131.4
Swiss franc 1.248
Norwegian kroner 7.793
Canadian dollar 1.354
Australian dollar 1.284
 Bad living conditions for migrant labourers a chronic issue, Greek Ombudsman saysThe Greek Ombudsman's office had warned the authorities about the living conditions of migrant workers in the Manolada area as early as April 2008, but "any checks carried out were situational, and the causes underlying this continuing problematic situation were never sought or dealt with," office head Kalliopi Spanou told the Parliament's Special Standing Committee on Equality, Youth and Human Rights on Wednesday.
"The insufficient intervention of the state in labour conditions for weaker segments of society like migrants, besides leading to possible violations of labour laws can also lead to extreme phenomena of violence, such as those in Manolada," Ombudsman Spanou said, referring to the shooting of migrant labourers who were shot on Wednesday last week after demanding six months of back pay.
The incident resulted in the remanding of custody of three foremen and the strawberry production owner allegedly giving the order to shoot, and brought reactions by parties, tax inspectors, the Supreme Court and the European Commission.
 Staff and visitors oust Golden Dawn members from General Hospital of NikaiaStaff at the General Hospital of Nikaia, in the greater Piraeus port region, booed and ousted about 25 members of the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) on Wednesday when the latter tried to force their way in and look for immigrants being treated there.
"A group of about 25 fascists wearing the well-known dark-colored shirts with the Golden Dawn sign invaded the hospital and, before they were noticed, photographed themselves at the entrance, then proceeded and photographed themselves at the gynaecological clinic," an announcement by the hospital's doctors said.
The doctors said that the individuals were forced to leave "after a coordinated reaction by the hospital community, cursed by the staff and citizens who gathered at the courtyard," while the administration called the police.
"The hospital of Nikaia is a hospital and area of toleration and care for poor, refugees, and immigrants. That is the way it has always been and that is the way it will remain," doctors said, who called on all health workers, relatives of patients and residents of Nikaia to participate in the antifascist rally they are organising on Saturday at 12 noon, at the Perivolaki area of Nikaia.
 Two more arrests over Acropolis Securities' 40-billion-euro debt to Greek statePolice on Wednesday arrested two board members of Acropolis Securities SA for their share in the brokerage's debt to the state, which approaches a staggering 40 billion euros (or roughly 18 percent of Greece's GDP).
According to an announcement issued by the Attica Security Protection of Property Rights Department, which carried out the arrest, each of the brokerage's former board members now in custody is charged with unpaid debts to the state of approximately 6.38 billion euros.
Those arrested on Wednesday include the Acropolis Securities vice-president, aged 49, and a 46-year-old member of the brokerage's board. The precise amount of their debt to the state, as listed in the court orders against them, comes to 6,388,681,939.10 euros each.
According to the police, the debts of Acropolis Securities SA, combined with the fines imposed on the brokerage by the finance ministry's financial crime squad SDOE, is just shy of 40 billion euros and has been divided equally among each member of the former and current board.
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 two arrests on Wednesday complete the round of arrests in connection with the case.
Acropolis Securities SA was also the brokerage firm involved in the notorious structured bonds scandal of 2007, in which a number of Greek pension funds lost money through the purchase of these complex financial instruments at well over their going rate on the market, and has since had its license revoked.
All six suspects arrested will be led before the appropriate Misdemeanours Court prosecutor.
 313 kilos of hashish seizedA 33-year-old Albanian on Wednesday attempted to smuggle into Greece from Albania 313 kilos of hashish, but he was arrested when police stopped him at the village Nea Selefkia, northwestern Greece.
Police revealed in the suspect's truck the drugs hidden in a specially formed crypt.
According to police the drugs were destined for the Athens market.
Igoumenitsa police are conducting an investigation.
 Illegal cigarettes consumption up sharply in GreeceMore than 3.0 billion illegal cigarettes were consumed in Greece in 2012, an increase of 16 pct compared with 2011 and a sharp 330 pct rise compared with 2008, a STAR report by KPMG released by Papastratos showed on Wednesday.
The survey showed that illegal cigarettes in Greece accounted for 13.4 pct of cigarette consumption last year, up from 10.1 pct in 2011, recording the biggest percentage increase in the EU along with the UK and Italy. The previous collection of data (in September 2012) showed that illegal cigarettes not directed to the domestic market rose further to 15.7 pct of consumption.
Papastratos Group said the state's loss from illegal cigarette trading reached 430 million euros.
The survey also said that so-called illicit whites - brand names exclusively circulating in the illegal market - rose sharply last year to around 6 out of every 10 illegal cigarettes consumed in the country.
In the EU, a total of 65.5 billion illegal cigarettes were consumed last year, a size which surpassed the legitimate markets of France and Portugal together, with Poland, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia named as the main sources of origin, with estimated tax losses of 12.5 billion euros.
Nikitas Theofilopoulos, Papastratos' chairman and chief executive, commenting on the findings of the survey said the group was starting a campaign against illegal tobacco product which was rapidly rising.
 Painting exhibition at Ukraine embassy on anniversary of Chernobyl tragedyAn exhibition of paintings by Vladyslav Dolgov (Ukraine) and Stratos Papadopoulos (Greece), devoted to the 27-year anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy will take open on Friday, April 26 at the culture and information centre of the embassy of the Ukraine in the Filothei district of Athens.
 Courthouse bomb drill in ThessalonikiSecurity forces in Thessaloniki staged a preparedness drill for the prospect of a bomb being planting at the northern Greek capital's courthouses.
The drill caused traffic confusion in the city center as bomb-disposal experts and security officers rushed to the courthouse complex in the framework of the preparedness exercise.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 8C and 27C. Fair in Athens with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 26C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 10C and 24C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "That's the big trick with OPAP".
DIMOKRATIA: "Government 'pulled the trigger' against the public sector".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "The welchers' surplus".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Turmoil for 30,981 civil servants".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Installments starting from 10 euros for debts to Tax Bureau and social security funds".
ESTIA: "National wealth destroyed".
ETHNOS: "First wave of layoffs in public sector".
IMERISSIA: "Systemic banks win the wager".
KATHIMERINI: "PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos disagreed at the last minute on the omnibus bill'.
LOGOS: "The new public sector in the heart of the summer".
NAFTEMPORIKI: 'Budget at the razor's edge with shortfalls (in revenues) and overshooting (spending targets)".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Looting of working classes with the omnibus bill".
TA NEA: "VAT 'fever' in government".
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