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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-26

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 26 April 2013 Issue No: 4345


  • [01] PM Samaras tells cabinet 'we are close to our target'
  • [02] 'Recovery not far off,' PM says, after visit with coalition partners to Olympia Highway sites
  • [03] Olympia Motorway slated for completion in October 2015
  • [04] SYRIZA-EKM dismisses coalition's visit to Olympia Highway as 'communications fest'
  • [05] KKE party on new contracts for motorways
  • [06] DIM.AR's Kouvelis talks with European regional policy commissioner in Brussels
  • [07] Manitakis article withdrawn in wake of justice minister's objections
  • [08] Foreign Minister Avramopoulos meets with the special adviser to the UN secretary general on Cyprus
  • [09] FM Avramopoulos to visit Azerbaijan on Monday
  • [10] Countries of the European south must unite for big democratic change, Tsipras
  • [11] Public Order minister visits FBI, Police Dep't in New York City
  • [12] Minister, armed forces present restructuring plan to parliamentary committee
  • [13] Papoulias briefed by BoG governor Provopoulos
  • [14] European Commission denies Greek state is paying EU Task Force experts
  • [15] Finmin, labour minister hold meeting on unemployment with PASOK delegation
  • [16] Emma Delta gets one week extension to submit improved offer for OPAP
  • [17] SYRIZA-EKM MEP Hountis on Rehn's response as regards the VAT rate on food catering services
  • [18] National Bank raises target for private investors' participation to 12 pct
  • [19] Piraeus Bank expands acquisition of Cypriot banks' subsidiaries in Greece
  • [20] Intrasoft International wins IT contract with European Commission
  • [21] GSEBEE confederation addresses letter to PM, party leaders
  • [22] Civil servants' healthcare fund to be incorporated in IKA-ETAM
  • [23] SETE in favour of commercial stores operating on all Sundays
  • [24] 2.2 mln euros on programme for tackling marine pollution
  • [25] Ryannair pledges more tourist arrivals in Greece, wants lower airport duties
  • [26] Tourist arrivals, revenue up in Jan-Feb
  • [27] Greek trade deficit up 2.4 pct in Jan-Feb
  • [28] Greek stocks end 2.11 pct higher
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [32] Conference on new media and information
  • [33] '24 Hours for Greece' initiative to be held for 2nd consecutive year in Brussels on May 9
  • [34] Archaeological sites, museums serving cruiseship visitors to extend schedules in summer
  • [35] University professors demand uninterrupted access to e-libraries, scientific journals
  • [36] Health Inspectors' Corps investigation delays prompt prosecutor's intervention
  • [37] Commission refers Greece and Italy to Court for failure to enforce ban on cages for laying hens
  • [38] Foundation of Hellenic World founder/president dies
  • [39] PM, PASOK and DIMAR on Lazaros Efraimoglou's death
  • [40] New book presents profile of Greek Internet addicts
  • [41] Proastiakos employees call strike action on Easter holiday weekend
  • [42] Corinth Canal towboat crews on strike on Thursday
  • [43] Man sought on European warrant arrested at Greek-Albanian border
  • [44] Two arrests for unpaid debts to the state
  • [45] Fair on Friday
  • [46] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Samaras tells cabinet 'we are close to our target'

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, addressing a cabinet meeting on Thursday evening, stressed that "we are close to our target" and that "Greece is being reborn now, the prospect will be visible to all tomorrow, the Greek people are already seeing something changing and shall begin to hope again soon".

    The prime minister referred to the "successful negotiating" with the heads of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of Greece's international lenders, he spoke of the positive developments in the economy and drew the attention of his ministers to that "there must be no slackening as well as that we must not spoil things for petty disagreements".

    Insisting on the optimistic message, Samaras said "a few months ago the conditions were really gloomy, we managed the difficult measures well, the time has come now for us to manage the first alleviations, the first small reliefs and there are indications that things are going well. We cannot make mistakes now."

    Referring to the negotiating with the troika, he stressed that:

    whatever fiscal vacuum was detected, new measures were not necessary.

    there were for the first time tax rate alleviations mainly in the real estate tax received through PPC (the Public Power Corporation).

    it was recognised for the first time that we are within the programme's targets.

    for the first time many instalments were enacted for the payment of private citizens' debts to the tax authority and to banks.

    the payment of the state's overdue debts to private citizens is going ahead while in the Finance ministry's next bill an arrangement is being promoted for the offsetting of debts to and from the state.

    Samaras also focused on the pending issues that still exist, with the most important being the moving of 25,000 employees by the end of the year, meaning the double evaluation of posts and staff in the entire public sector. In these frameworks, 15,000 will be removed by the end of 2014, of whom 4,000 by the end of this year and 2,000 of them in the near future. The prime minister stressed that for those removed an equal number of new will be hired through ASEP, something that will contribute to the public sector's qualitative upgrading.

    The prime minister also spoke of the anomalies being observed "fortunately not in many cases when amendments to bills are submitted without the necessary consultations having preceded between the Parliamentary groups of the three parties", that support the government.

    He also drew the attention of his ministers to that when they have a legislative initiative to inform in time all three parties supporting the government through the relevant representatives of the Parliamentary groups and to consult with each other.

    Lastly, Samaras referred to the positive signs:

    unemployment is halting

    over half of the enterprises of average and large size are considering investments

    big foreign businesses are coming to Greece

    the big projects are starting again

    the recapitalization of banks will being completed in a few days

    the returning of the export VAT will begin immediately after Easter

    this year's tourism will surpass every precedent.

    [02] 'Recovery not far off,' PM says, after visit with coalition partners to Olympia Highway sites

    "Our country is turning a new page. I truly believe that recovery is not far off," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said during his visit with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) parliamentary spokesman Nikos Tsoukalis to the Olympia Motorway construction site in Corinth, where work has resumed in the last few days.

    "The Greek people's sacrifices have not been in vain. Day after day it is proven that Greece has rolled up its sleeves and gotten down to work. The restart of the economy is here, we can see it. These motorways will generate thousands new jobs," underlined Samaras.

    [03] Olympia Motorway slated for completion in October 2015

    The Olympia Motorway is expected to be completed in two-and-a-half years, by October 2015, the project's chief engineer assured Samaras, Venizelos and Tsoukalis during their inspection of the Olympia Motorway construction site at Corinth on Monday morning.

    Asked by Samaras when the ordeal faced by commuters on the Patras-Corinth motorway will end, the chief engineer replied that certain sections of the motorway will be opened to traffic more quickly.

    He said that the new jobs along the Patras-Corinth stretch alone will reach 3,000, out of a total 25,000 jobs on all four of the major roads under construction.

    According to sources, the construction site will be working full-swing after Easter and the great majority of the workers will come from the surrounding areas. A number of local small and medium size enterprises along the route of the construction work are expected to benefit.

    Earlier, the prime minister, Venizelos and Tsoukalis, representing the three partners in the three-party coalition government, visited another construction site at Zevgolatio, where they were briefed on the progress of the project and the difficulties that have arisen, including the discovery of archaeological finds during excavation for the roadworks in the Corinth area.

    The three also visited construction sites in Mavra Litharia and Platanos, where they were old that five tunnels totaling 6 kilometres were being built, while the opening of some 200 meters of tunnel that was outstanding has been completed, and would be followed by the placement of electricity cables.

    [04] SYRIZA-EKM dismisses coalition's visit to Olympia Highway as 'communications fest'

    Main opposition SYRIZA-EKM on Thursday dismissed the coalition government's high-profile visit to the Olympia Highway construction site and the statements later made by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, as a "provocative communications fest".

    In a SYRIZA-EKM press office announcement, the main opposition party showered sarcasm on the visit, saying that "no matter what communications fireworks the government enlists, the harsh reality of abandoned highways, unacceptable agreements with major contractors, thousands of jobs daily destroyed as a result of memorandum policies, will stand in blatant contradiction".

    [05] KKE party on new contracts for motorways

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday "on the coalition government's position regarding the restarting of the projects", stressed that "the new change in the contracts in favour of the big contractors in the motorways constitutes a characteristic example of the known growth path of today that levels salaries, soars unemployment and sacrifices the popular needs for the benefit of the monopolies".

    KKE adds that "it is at least provocative from the point of the government to present whatever badly paid jobs as an alibi for the state money that it distributes to the monopolistic groups".

    [06] DIM.AR's Kouvelis talks with European regional policy commissioner in Brussels

    Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, head of a party delegation to Brussels, met on Thursday with European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn.

    Following the meeting, Kouvelis said they discussed development issues for Greece and he requested that the ratio of EU joint funding remains at 95 percent, as well as a larger advance payment on money related to the new fiscal framework for 2014-2020.

    "Greece must run in terms of development. We need these funds and I would like to believe that they will truly be dealt with according to the country's real needs," he said.

    DIM.AR is one of the two junior members of the ruling coalition, along with PASOK.

    [07] Manitakis article withdrawn in wake of justice minister's objections

    A controversial article included in the government's omnibus bill by Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis was withdrawn on Thursday afternoon, following strenuous objections voiced by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis. The proposed legislation would have countermanded court protection offered to employees that had filed suits disputing their dismissal, allowing them to remain in their jobs until there was a final ruling in their case.

    The decision to withdraw the article was taken after aides of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras contacted the head of the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party Fotis Kouvelis, who leads one of the two junior parties supporting the coalition government, and DIM.AR's leader then contacted the two ministers involved in the dispute.

    According to the government secretariat, the measure will be tabled once more after Easter with new wording that ensures the consent of all parties in the coalition government. An official government announcement with further clarifications is pending.

    Commenting on the issue during a press conference held in Brussels, where he is currently on a visit, Kouvelis said the problem arose due to the long delays before final court orders were issued, which meant that court rulings envisaged as temporary effectively lasted several years.

    "Those dismissed from their jobs - not only now but in the past - have the option, in accordance with the law, to resort to the courts and through a temporary order, provided this is issued by the court, to return to their jobs until there is a final judgement on the suit they have filed," he said.

    However, DIM.AR's leader continued, these temporary orders had effectively lost their temporary nature in the sense that a final ruling in a case often took several years to be issued.

    The solution, according to Kouvelis, was to retain the temporary orders suspending an employee's dismissal - which were an element of providing a legal process - but introduce a special legislative measure that specified a final date by which court rulings settling the employer-employee dispute had to be issued, including those between contract workers and the Greek state.

    Roupakiotis, who is one of the ministers included in the cabinet at DIM.AR's request, had earlier repeated his refusal to sign the draft legislation prepared by Manitakis. The proposed measure, which would have been effectively backdated to cover previous temporary court orders, affected a large number of contract workers disputing their dismissal from public sector jobs.

    The justice minister had categorically ruled out support for the legislation and refused his consent to any attempt to pass the measures without his signature. Outlining the reasons for Roupakiotis' objections, his aides claimed that these concerned issues of "substance, since there is an attempt to abolish any remaining elements of the rule of law and because there was a machination at the expense of the justice ministry, at the time when it contributes to the cohesion of the government".

    [08] Foreign Minister Avramopoulos meets with the special adviser to the UN secretary general on Cyprus

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos met on Thursday with the Special Adviser to the UN secretary general on Cyprus, Alexander Downer.

    Avramopoulos was briefed on the meetings Downer had in Cyprus and on his thoughts regarding the next steps in the UN process. They also discussed the outlook for reopening the negotiations.

    The minister noted that Greece supports the good offices of the UN secretary general and Downer's efforts. He underscored the importance of creating a climate conducive to the reopening of the negotiations - which were discontinued at the initiative of the Turkish Cypriot side - and said that the Republic of Cyprus's new government's immediate priority, as things stand, is to deal with the economic crisis.

    Avramopoulos also stressed that the Cyprus issue is a matter of respect for the principles, values and rules of the international community and international law. In this context, it is imperative that a solution be reached within the parameters set by UN resolutions and the Republic of Cyprus's membership in the European Union.

    Following the meeting, the foreign ministry's secretary general, Ambassador Anastassis Mitsialis, hosted a working luncheon for Downer.

    [09] FM Avramopoulos to visit Azerbaijan on Monday

    Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos will be paying an official two-day visit to Baku, capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, starting Monday.

    He will be received by Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and then meet with Prime Minister Artur Rasizadeh.

    Avramopoulos will also hold talks with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, with topics including bilateral political, economic and energy cooperation, regional developments and the relations of the European Union with Azerbaijan, in view of Greece's assuming the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2014. Their meeting will be followed by a press conference and an official dinner in honour of Avramopoulos, who is being accompanied by Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou.

    During his visit, the foreign minister will also meet with Culture and Tourism Minister Abulfas Garayev and representatives of the Greek community of Azerbaijan.

    [10] Countries of the European south must unite for big democratic change, Tsipras

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, in a statement during his participation in a march in Portugal on the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, stressed the need for a big democratic change in all the countries of the European South that will bring the needs of the peoples to the forefront.

    "Thirty-nine years ago democracy returned to Portugal. Shortly afterwards, it returned to Spain. Today, thirty-nine years later, a big, radical change is necessary in the European South," Tsipras said.

    He added that the return of democracy and social cohesion is necessary, speaking of a new Mediterranean Spring that will drive away the burdens of austerity from the peoples.

    Tsipras also stressed the need for the countries of the European South to join their forces for a common future.

    [11] Public Order minister visits FBI, Police Dep't in New York City

    Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias, on an official visit to the US, visited on Thursday the joint operation centres of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York Police Department (NYPD), according to a ministry press release.

    At the FBI, Dendias was briefed by local director George Venizelos on the departments dealing with information, cybercrime and investigations, the last of which also includes racism-related issues.

    Dendias was also briefed by NYPD officers on the inter-services cooperation with the FBI and on general crime-fighting issues.

    The minister will be speaking this afternoon at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York on "The safety of citizens and the state of law."

    [12] Minister, armed forces present restructuring plan to parliamentary committee

    National Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and the chiefs of staffs of each branch presented the armed forces' restructuring plan to the Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Thursday, at a seven-hour meeting.

    In comments to the press, Panagiotopoulos did not go into details but said that the new structure makes all three branches of the armed forces more efficient, and that administrative offices reduced to put more resources into the fighting units.

    [13] Papoulias briefed by BoG governor Provopoulos

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received the Bank of Greece (BoG) governor Giorgos Provopoulos at the presidential mansion.

    Provopoulos appeared optimistic over the successful completion of the banks' recapitalisation during his briefing of the President.

    "The crucial decisions will have been taken by the end of April and after the recapitalisation the banks will be strong and powerful for the benefit of the economy in order to play their role which is the financing of the real economy," said Provopoulos.

    Referring to the Cyprus crisis, Provopoulos said that serious dangers had existed from the crisis in the Cypriot banks but the relevant authorities managed to avert them. "If they had prevailed, things would be very difficult" he said and underlined the maturity the depositors showed during the crisis.

    Replying to Papoulias' query on the course of the bank deposits, the BoG chief said that according to March's figures the inflow continues and expressed the hope that it will continue "We will have tangible examples'.

    Papoulias also asked about the developments in National Bank of Greece (NBG), expressing his concern over the largest Greek bank "Given that I'm not watching closely the issue, there is sreserved optimism. I hope that it will succeed," added Provopoulos.

    [14] European Commission denies Greek state is paying EU Task Force experts

    Experts of the EU Task Force working with Greek authorities are being paid by their respective governments and by the EU budget, the head of the Athens office of the European Commission said on Thursday.

    Responding to press reports claiming that the experts are being paid by the Greek state, head of the EC Athens office Panos Karvounis told ANA-MPA that "the Task Force consists of 60 officials of the European Commission, 32 of which are working in Brussels and 28 in the Athens offices. Their salaries are being paid from the EU budget, according to staffing regulations."

    He added that the experts are public servants of member-states cooperating with Greek authorities, are being paid by their countries, and get paid an additional 92 euros a day per person for travel expenses including transportation and hotels. "These amounts are being paid by the NSRF and the ESF, while Greece contributes with 5 percent," Karvounis added.

    "In terms of training seminars in which Dutch experts training Greeks to fight corruption participate, the 350-euro amount mentioned [in press reports] as their fee is not a fee per person, but for all trainers involved in every training seminar," he said, adding that again the NSRF and the ESF covered the fee, with Greece contributing 5 percent. In addition, trainers do not get the 92-euro allotment like the others do, he said.

    The seminars are held in Greece, Holland and Belgium, and according to the signed agreement will conclude five months after its signature on April 19.

    Financial News

    [15] Finmin, labour minister hold meeting on unemployment with PASOK delegation

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Thursday held a meeting on unemployment with a delegation from the PASOK party, one of the three parties supporting the coalition government, comprised of the the MPs Paris Koukoulopoulos, George Koutroumanis and Filippos Sahinidis.

    [16] Emma Delta gets one week extension to submit improved offer for OPAP

    Emma Delta, the sole eligible bidder in a tender to buy a 33 pct stake in Hellenic Football Prognostics Organisation SA (OPAP), on Thursday asked for and received a one-week extension of a deadline to submit an improved offer in the tender.

    Representatives of the investment group asked from Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) for more time in order to reach their final decisions over a demand by HRADF to improve its initial offer. Emma Delta offered 622 million euros for the acquisition of a 33 pct stake in OPAP. An independent evaluator and the government's privatization advisors believe that the offer should range between 615-650 million euros. Jiri Smejc and Melissanidis Group are the main shareholders of the investment group, while Lottomatica also participates.

    Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund unanimously accepted Emma Delta's request and said it will examine the issue again in a meeting on May 1.

    [17] SYRIZA-EKM MEP Hountis on Rehn's response as regards the VAT rate on food catering services

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) MEP Nikos Hountis on Thursday called on the government to proceed with immediate unilateral reduction of the VAT rate on food catering services following the "figures provided by the European Commission, which virtually admitted that the VAT increase measure has failed to bring to the state coffers the anticipated revenues."

    Hountis commented on the written response he received from the European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn and accused the government of being unable to persuade the country's troika of lenders to agree to the reduction of the VAT rate, even after it was proved to be ineffective.

    "The increase of the VAT rate on food catering services proved to be a big mistake, based on the figures provided by the European Commissioner. The tax was increased. The food catering services sector and the Greek tourism became less competitive and revenues haven't increased," Hountis underlined.

    [18] National Bank raises target for private investors' participation to 12 pct

    National Bank on Thursday said it was raising its target for private investors' participation in a forthcoming share capital increase plan to 12 pct from 10 pct currently, following strong investment interest expressed by both existing shareholders and other investors.

    The bank's board said it will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to raise the target for private investors' participation to 12 pct, or 1.171 billion euros, from 975.6 million euros currently. A bank's statement said that if the new target was achieved, then the bank's warrants will represent 7.33 additional common shares for each one share of the share capital increase plan. Under the current plan, warrants' rights are 9 shares.

    National Bank said its shareholders totaled around 250,000, including 70,000 shareholders of Eurobank who exchanged their shares with National Bank's shares during a share swap transaction.

    National Bank also said it has raised its equity stake in M.I.Maillis to 23.18 pct from 18.44 pct.

    [19] Piraeus Bank expands acquisition of Cypriot banks' subsidiaries in Greece

    Piraeus Bank on Thursday announced an agreement with Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus Popular Bank (CPB) and Hellenic Bank to acquire the treasury, clearing and settlement operations in Greece, along with CPB's mutual funds operations.

    The agreement is part of a recent acquisition of the three Cypriot banks' subsidiaries in Greece by Piraeus Bank.

    [20] Intrasoft International wins IT contract with European Commission

    An Intrasoft International and European Service Network (ESN) consortium has won an international tender for the supply of IT and communications services to the European Commission's directorate general for Research and Innovation, worth around 30 million euros.

    Intrasoft International has a 45 pct participation in the consortium's budget.

    The contract will have maximum four-year duration and is one of the most significant contract-frameworks in research and technological development of IT and communication sectors in the EU. Under the contract, Intrasoft International will design and create IT products, promotional material and internet applications, along with offering technical services in electronic communications and strategic advisory in communications.

    [21] GSEBEE confederation addresses letter to PM, party leaders

    The Small Manufacturers and Traders' Association (GSEBEE) has addressed a letter to the prime minister and the leaders of the political parties, requesting an immediate meeting with them, following information that an amendment is being promoted by the Labour ministry and with which the way pensions of OAEE (formerly TEBE) are calculated changes.

    "OAEE needs good management and knowledge on the part of the administration and political leadership and not pension cutbacks. And above all serious dialogue for the finding of solutions for the most underfinanced by the state budget insurance organisation in Greece," GSEBEE stresses.

    [22] Civil servants' healthcare fund to be incorporated in IKA-ETAM

    The civil servants' healthcare fund OPAD is to be incorporated in the IKA ETAM social insurance fund for all employees, Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis announced on Thursday.

    The decision was made during a meeting on Thursday with the General Secretary for Social Insurance Panagiotis Kokkoris and IKA governor Rovertos Spyropoulos, in order to provide a better service to civil servants and also save funds.

    "This change will improve services for roughly 1.5 million insured in the public sector and at the same time achieve significant savings in funds, since rents and other operating expenses will cease to exist," the minister said.

    OPAD's approximately 250 employees will also be incorporated in IKA-ETAM structures and help improve services at IKA-ETAM branches, Spyropoulos said.

    [23] SETE in favour of commercial stores operating on all Sundays

    The Federation of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) is in favour of commercial stores operating on all Sundays of the year and of a decrease in VAT to make the tourist product more competitive. SETE representatives met on Thursday with Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, together with representatives of the Taxi Federation.

    On the question of Sundays, the minister reiterated that the proposal is for the operation of all commercial stores seven Sundays a year and optionally the operation of the sector's small ones on all Sundays of the year.

    Hatzidakis said that "it is reasobable for different views to exist. We are here, we must go there where all of Europe is", adding that "every idea can contribute positively".

    It is noteworthy that the drivers' representatives as well as the small merchants disagree strongly with the deregulation of shops' operation.

    [24] 2.2 mln euros on programme for tackling marine pollution

    Shipping Minister Costis Mousouroulis announced a 2.2-million-euro funding programme from the so-called "Blue Fund" for dealing with marine pollution, during a briefing of parliament's standing committee on maritime affairs on Thursday.

    Mousouroulis noted that the funding programme for the current year was based on planning and not on piece-meal approval of expenditure as in the past.

    The fundamental pillars of the programme will deal with extraordinary instances of marine pollution, averting and neutralising pollution that could result from shipwrecked and semi-submerged vessels during fuel removal operations, carrying out sample collection and lab analysis and boosting the mechanism for dealing with pollution.

    In 2013, the minister added, the infrastructures of the island and mainland port authorities have been beefed up, a broad network of collaboration with the Civil Protection secretariat general has been developed for the formulation of a national policy on dealing with pollution, with the focus on creating a stricter legislative framework.

    He further stressed the need to intensify efforts all round on protecting the marine environment, through raising the public awareness on these matters.

    [25] Ryannair pledges more tourist arrivals in Greece, wants lower airport duties

    Ryannair on Thursday expressed its intention and commitment to bring 10 million tourists to Greece over the next three years on the precondition that the Athens International Airport cut its tax per passenger to 5.0 euros, from 12 euros currently, while the remaining airports of the country cut their taxes to zero for the airline's new scheduled flights.

    The Athens International Airport reacted to Ryannair's proposal saying that the airport was operating under a specific business model, as all other metropolitan airports around the world, based on growth and maintaining long-term relations with airline companies.

    Ryannair's deputy chief executive and operational manager, Michael Colley, speaking to reporters criticized the Athens airport's policy, saying it was the biggest problem in raising tourism trends in the country's capital, as the airport remained very expensive and non-competitive with other European countries. He also expressed his concern that forthcoming privatizations of regional airports in Greece could lead to a sharp increase in airport duties.

    Ryannair currently uses the Chania airport as its base. It currently operates a flight schedule of 25 destinations and with the addition of 10 new ones it expects its passenger traffic to surpass 500,000 annually in the airport.

    [26] Tourist arrivals, revenue up in Jan-Feb

    Tourist arrivals grew by 6.9 pct in the January-February period this year, while tourism revenues grew by 2.9 pct over the same period, compared with the first two months of 2012, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

    The central bank, in a report attributed this development to higher tourism proceeds from visitors outside the EU-27 (up 33.9 pct to 136 millin euros), while tourism revenue from EU-27 member-states totaled 120 million euros, down 18.6 pct from 2012.

    Tourism revenue from Eurozone states totaled 80 million euros, down 21.5 pct, while revenue from non-euro zone EU member-states fell by 11.8 pct in the January-February period. Tourism proceeds from Germany fell by 22.7 pct to 24 million euros, from France totaled 9.0 million euros (-18.6 pct), while from the UK tourism revenue fell 26.5 pct to 18 million euros. Tourism revenue grew 68.4 pct from Russia to 6.0 million euros and from the US (up 18.5 pct) to 15 million euros.

    [27] Greek trade deficit up 2.4 pct in Jan-Feb

    Greece's trade deficit (including oil products) grew 2.4 pct in the first two months of the year, after rising by 7.2 pct in February, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report on the country's merchandize trade, said that the trade deficit, excluding oil products, fell 9.6 pct in February and by 5.0 pct in the first two months of 2013. The value of import-arrivals totaled 3.963 billion euros in February, up 7.3 pct from February 2012, although excluding oil products, imports fell by 5.4 pct.

    The value of export-deliveries totaled 2.157 billion euros in February, up 7.4 pct from the same month last year, although excluding oil products the value of exports fell by 1.7 pct.

    The country's trade deficit totaled 1.806 billion euros in February, up 7.2 pct from last year, but excluding oil products the deficit fell by 9.6 pct.

    In the two-month period, imports totaled 8.083 billion euros, up 7.3 pct from 2012, although excluding oil products imports fell by 1.5 pct.

    Exports totaled 4.386 billion euros in the January-February period, up 11.7 pct from last year, while excluding oil products exports grew by 1.6 pct.

    The trade deficit grew 2.4 pct to 3.697 billion euros in the first two months of 2013, but excluding oil products the deficit was down by 5.0 pct.

    [28] Greek stocks end 2.11 pct higher

    Greek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, boosted by a sharp advance in bank share prices, as investors seemingly discounted a positive outcome in Greek banks' efforts to cover a 10 pct participation of private investors in their forthcoming share capital increase plans, ensuring that they will remain under private control.

    The composite index of the market jumped 2.11 pct to end at 970.93 points, its highest closing since March 13, off the day's highs of 972.35 points. Turnover also rose significantly to 82.308 million euros.

    The Big Cap index jumped 3.08 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.47 pct higher. All sector indices moved higher with the Banks (15.81 pct), Raw Materials (4.62 pct), Financial Services (4.56 pct), Commerce (4.25 pct) and Utilities (3.11 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    Piraeus Port (-0.42 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end lower, while Piraeus Bank (18.61 pct), Eurobank (17.62 pct), National Bank (15.80 pct), Alpha Bank (14.56 pct) and MIG (6.93 pct) scored the biggest gains.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 95 to 47 with another 27 issues unchanged. Sfakianakis (19.97 pct), Pegasus (19.05 pct) and Piraeus Bank (18.61 pct) were top gainers, while HOL (15.31 pct), Sato (14.29 pct) and Douros (13.19 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.52%

    Commercial: +4.26%

    Construction: +1.15%

    Oil & Gas: +1.91%

    Personal & Household: +0.40%

    Raw Materials: +4.62%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.25%

    Technology: +0.98%

    Telecoms: +2.23%

    Banks: +15.81%

    Food & Beverages: +0.05%

    Health: +1.93%

    Utilities: +3.11%

    Financial Services: +4.56%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Bank of Piraeus, Alpha Bank, National Bank and PPC.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 1.18

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.40

    HBC Coca Cola: 18.40

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.37

    National Bank of Greece: 0.71

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.23

    OPAP: 6.88

    OTE: 6.43

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.27

    Titan: 14.18

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 10.12 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 10.03 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.35 pct and the German Bund 1.23 pct. Turnover was a low 2.0 million euros, equally distributed between buy and sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained mainly 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.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 5.39 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 16.850 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,853 contracts worth 9.819 million euros, with 35,149 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 44,065 contracts worth 7.031 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (20,939), followed by Piraeus Bank (12,237), Eurobank (565), MIG (1,564), OTE (3,269), PPC (2,234), OPAP (914), Hellenic Exchanges (208), GEK (380), Sidenor (125), Intralot (395), Ellaktor (461) and Mytilineos (487).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.327

    Pound sterling 0.858

    Danish kroner 7.567

    Swedish kroner 8.725

    Japanese yen 131.62

    Swiss franc 1.251

    Norwegian kroner 7.768

    Canadian dollar 1.357

    Australian dollar 1.285

    General News

    [32] Conference on new media and information

    Modern journalism, social media, the new media and citizen journalism were a few of the topics addressed in a conference on the New Media and Information hosted by the secretariat general of mass media on Thursday.

    A broad and constructive dialogue was opened by the participating academics, foreign experts and journalists focusing on the developments, the prospects and the potential created through the use of new technologies and digital applications by conventional mass media.

    Addressing the conference, Secretary General of Mass Media Yiannis Panagiotopoulos conveyed his experience as a professor, noting that by using the social media tools made his communication with his students closer.

    "The main characteristic of these emerging groups is freedom," he said, adding that "in a country facing a crisis, the new information media can contribute to achieving economic growth. Because informed citizens, are better citizens".

    ANA-MPA President Antonis Skyllakos noted that "day-by-day, internet gains ground in the field of information," pointing out that it blossomed when the mass media were in crisis. He also underlined the need to have rules regulating its operation.

    [33] '24 Hours for Greece' initiative to be held for 2nd consecutive year in Brussels on May 9

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    The "12 Hours for Greece" event will be held for the second consecutive year in Brussels on May 9, which is the day that ?Europe Day" is observed throughout the EU.

    The initiative, which commenced in 2012, aims at improving Greece's image abroad through a series of Greek actions. The organisation and management of the initiative is by a group volunteers by Belgian and other European citizens who reside in Brussels.

    The entire effort is coordinated again this year by Willem de Jonge, general director at Medecins Sans Frontieres - Greece, who told a press conference in the Belgian capital on Thursday that last year's event held on My 16drew more than 2,000 people of various nationalities and attracted some 10,000 visitor via Internet live streaming, while more than 12,000 euros were collected and were donated to the Hamogelo tou Pediou, (Child's Smile) non-profit child advocacy organisation.

    This year's second' edition' of the event will contain projects and ideas that arose in Greece in the context of the crisis and will focus on of the most important value that Greece has given to Europe and the world, namely democracy.

    The event will include a reading of Plato's Republic in a 10-hour session by 200 people who will read of excerpts, an all-day taste-testing of Greek foods and wines, discussions on the theme of 'democracy', a Greek cinema festival, introduction to traditional Greek dances, a concert featuring Greek mezzo-soprano Alexandra Grava (in a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the birth of Constantine Cavaffy.

    The event will be transmitted live through web streaming.

    The money collected this year will be donate to the Greek branch of Mededcns Sans Frontiers, the Make-A-Wish Hellas orgnisation and the ELEPAP society for the protection and rehabilitation of Children with a Disability.

    The message, it was stressed at the press conference is that "Greece survives despite the hardships", and now that Greece is attracting the spotlight of the international mass media less, the citizens of the country continue to suffer and need support.

    [34] Archaeological sites, museums serving cruiseship visitors to extend schedules in summer

    Archaeological sites and museums near ports will have extended hours of operation in the summer to serve cruiseship visitors, said Alternate Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports Minister Costas Tzavaras, during a meeting he had with representatives of the Association of Cruiseship and Shipping Agency Owners on Thursday.

    Association President Theodore Kontes said the museums and archaeological sites would be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., according to assurances by the minister, who also said that a special group at his ministry will be on 24-hour contact with all tourism-related sectors to deal with problems arising during the visits of tourists arriving on cruiseships.

    According to tourism specialists, Greece should expect an additional 1.5 million visitors this year over 2012, when arrivals dropped by 5.5 percent (or 909,625 people) over 2011 figures. The National Statistics Service said that in 2012 arrivals in Greece totalled 15,517,622 from 16,427,247 the year before.

    [35] University professors demand uninterrupted access to e-libraries, scientific journals

    The Panhellenic Federation of University Professors (POSDEP) on Thursday protested against the "likely interruption of the academic community's access to e-libraries and scientific journals", warning that such a development "will create irreversible problems and dysfunctions affecting their work".

    In a letter addressed to Education Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos, POSDEP president Stathis Stathopoulos underscored that the issue is "very crucial and important for all the members of the academic community and much more."

    The issue, which was raised by the federation in the past as well, has resurfaced following a relevant question tabled in parliament by Democratic Left (DIM.AR) MP Maria Repoussi.

    In his letter, the POSDEP president cited an earlier response that was given on the issue by the ministry of education which, according to the university professors' federation, provided no clear answer as to what steps will be made to solve the problem and when.

    [36] Health Inspectors' Corps investigation delays prompt prosecutor's intervention

    A Thessaloniki first-instance court prosecutor on Thursday announced the start of a preliminary inquiry to determine the reason for long delays in completing investigations of financial scandals involving the state hospitals in the northern Greek city. The inquiry ordered focuses on possible liability on behalf of health ministry Inspectors' Corps staff.

    Indicative of the situation is the fact that, in recent years, the First Instance Court Prosecutor has ordered investigations into eight separate cases and none of them has been completed. On the contrary, some case files haven't been opened yet and remain on the Health Inspectors' shelves for more than two-and-a-half years, with the risk that the charges will become statute-barred.

    The Health Inspectors' Corps has blamed the delays in public hospital inspections on personnel shortages.

    [37] Commission refers Greece and Italy to Court for failure to enforce ban on cages for laying hens

    Today, the European Commission on Thursday decided to take Greece and Italy to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the failure to correctly implement Directive 1999/74/EC banning "un-enriched cages" (battery cages).

    The political decision for the ban on "un-enriched" cages was taken in 1999. Greece and Italy had twelve years to ensure a smooth transition to the new system and to implement the Directive.

    As from 1 January 2013, Directive 1999/74/EC requires that all laying hens are kept in "enriched cages" with extra space to nest, scratch and roost, or in alternative systems. Thus cages can be used only if they provide each hen with at least 750 cm? of cage area, a nest-box, litter, perches and claw-shortening devices, allowing the hens to satisfy their biological and behavioural needs.

    On the 26 of January 2012, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice asking Greece and Italy, together with 11 other EU Member States to take action to address deficiencies in the implementation of the EU legislation concerning the welfare of animals, and specifically to implement the ban on "un-enriched" cages for laying hens which applied as of 1st January 2012. This was followed by a reasoned opinion on the 21st of June 2012. Of the 13 Member States that received letters requesting them to correctly implement this directive, only two Member States remain non-compliant.

    Full compliance by all Member States is essential to avoid market distortions and unfair competition. Lack of enforcement of the ban of "un-enriched" cages put businesses that invested in complying with the new measures at a disadvantage.

    Greece and Italy so far, despite repeated calls by the Commission to address the situation, have failed to adequately comply with applicable EU law. The Commission looks forward to these Member States ensuring compliance.

    [38] Foundation of Hellenic World founder/president dies

    Foundation of the Hellenic World founder and president Lazaros Efraimoglou died of heart failure on Wednesday night in an Athens hospital at the age of 81.

    Efraimoglou, who was born in Athens in 1932 and studied Economy in Britain, came from a family of Asia Minor merchants.

    For more than 5 years he was an elected member to the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry as board member, and later as its president in 1981-88.

    In 1985 he was elected as vice-president of the Association of Chambers of Europe, holding the post until 1988.

    He was elected to parliament for the first time in November 1989 in the Athens A district on the New Democracy (ND ticket) and founded the Foundation of the Hellenic World that same year.

    In 1999 he was decorated by the President of the Republic with the medal of the Order of the Phoenix.

    He was married to Ourania Kli and the couple had one son, Dimitris.

    Efraimoglou's funeral will be held on Fiday afternoon at Athens' First Cemetery.

    [39] PM, PASOK and DIMAR on Lazaros Efraimoglou's death

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and the Democratic Left party (DIMAR) on Thursday expressed their condolences over the death of Lazaros Efraimoglou, founder and president of the Foundation of the Hellenic World.

    "As a businessman, Lazaros Efraimoglou was distinguished for his leading role in the development of the Chambers' institutions, as a politician he served our party and the public interest, as a Greek he offered his entire fortune to the Foundation of the Hellenic World," Premier Samaras said.

    Venizelos said that Efraimoglou was "a man of vision who put his forces at the service of Greece, in many ways," while a statement by DIMAR said the deceased had dedicated his life to saving and presenting, through pioneering new technologies, the history of Hellenism."

    [40] New book presents profile of Greek Internet addicts

    Greek Internet addicts are in the majority - 90 percent - male and usually around 15 years old, spending an average of 42 hours per week on the Internet, according to a new book in Greek by a seasoned police officer heading a cybercrime subdivision of the Athens police that was presented on Thursday at the National Historical Museum in Athens.

    "Addiction to the internet," as the book is titled, is a collaboration of policeman Manolis Sfakianakis, president of the Greek Society for the Study of Internet Addiction Disorder Constantine Siomos, and psychiatrist Georgios Floros. "It is the first collaboration of psychiatric health specialists with an established police officer," Siomos said during the presentation.

    According to data in the book addicted people have used the Internet for six years on average before being diagnosed, while the majority are addicted to Internet games specifically (97 percent). Internet addicts log on mostly at home (79 percent), at Internet cafes (67 percent) and at school (17 percent).

    In 72 percent of cases, psychiatrically-diagnosed symptoms follow addiction.

    "The book was written with an aching heart and is a distillation of the the thousands of actions we carry out," Sfakianakis told the audience.

    [41] Proastiakos employees call strike action on Easter holiday weekend

    Proastiakos suburban railway services will be disrupted on the May 4-5 weekend, coinciding with the Christian Orthodox Easter holiday, due to strike action called by its employees, it was announced on Thursday.

    On Saturday, May 4, the Proastiakos will not run from 18:00 p.m. until the end of the shift, while a 24-hour strike has been called on Sunday, May 5.

    The Proastiakos employees are opposed to the privatisation of rail operator TRAINOSE, demand a new collective work contract, implementation of the labour law and abolition of the wage cuts imposed.

    [42] Corinth Canal towboat crews on strike on Thursday

    The towboat crews at Corinth Canal, southern Greece, called a 24-hour strike on Thursday protesting against the decision of the finance ministry-supervised managing company operating it, to incorporate them in the uniform public sector wage scale.

    According to the strikers, the decision does not take under consideration the fact that they are seamen and are paid based on the collective work contracts signed by their union PNO.

    A new industrial action has been called for May 1 and 2.

    The Corinth Canal in the Peloponnese connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea.

    [43] Man sought on European warrant arrested at Greek-Albanian border

    A 34-year-old Albanian was arrested at Kakavia border station, on the frontier with Albania, on the basis of a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden over bank robbery charges, it was announced on Thursday.

    The man was apprehended while attempting to cross the borders into Greece, after a police check showed that a European arrest warrant was pending against him, issued by the Swedish authorities in connection with two bank robberies committed in the country in 2007.

    The suspect will appear before a prosecutor in the northwest city of Ioannina.

    [44] Two arrests for unpaid debts to the state

    Two individuals were arrested on Thursday in Kato Achaia, in Peloponnese, southern Greece, for millions of euros of unpaid debts owed to the state.

    A 38-year-old man, owner of a food company, was arrested for debts amounting to 998,934 euros.

    A second individual, a 47-year-old businessman active in the sector of farm products, was arrested for debts reaching 537,107 euros.

    Weather forecast

    [45] Fair on Friday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 2-5 beaufort. Temperatures between 10C and 29C. Fair in Athens with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 28C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 11C and 27C.

    [46] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: "Restoration now of (pursuance of )German reparations and occupation loan".

    DIMOKRATIA: "Nightmarish data on Health system".

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Professor of anti-constitutional law".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Open rift in the government'.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Sweeping changes in Armed Forces'.

    ELLADA AVRIO: "Law 'robbery' for unpaid labourers".

    ESTIA: "Three- party (government) disagreement".

    ETHNOS: "The sweeping law (omnibus bill) for public sector, real estate and debts".

    IMERISSIA: "Dice cast for OPAP (Greek football prognostics, numerical lottery and sports betting games operator), fever up for DEEPA(State Natural Gas Company)".

    KATHIMERINI: "Disagreement in government over contract workers in public sector'.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Penal charges against those who do not submit VAT statements at start of next week".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' announcements for development a mockery for jobless and workers.

    TA NEA: "Counterbalance for all debts'.

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