|Wednesday, 13 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-04-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 29 April 2013 Issue No: 4347
 Parliament ratifies omnibus bill related to bailout termsA draft omnibus bill outlining a series of measures and prior actions agreed with the troika of Greece's troika of lenders was passed with 168 votes for, 123 against, one present but not voting, late on Sunday night. A total of 292 deputies voted.
The draft bill, which has been tabled as urgent in the form of a single article, covers a wide spectrum of measures and prior actions agreed by the Greek government and the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund in the memorandums outlining the terms and conditions of bailout loans to Greece.
 Finmin: Omnibus bill aims to make Greece more competitiveThe main aim of the measures outlined in the finance ministry's draft omnibus bill is to make Greece more competitive, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told Parliament on Sunday.
In his speech during the Parliament plenum's debate on the draft bill, which will culminate in a vote late on Sunday night, the minister also underlined that Greece continued to be cut off from the markets and depended entirely on EU-IMF fiscal support programmes for its funding.
"The aim is to improve competitiveness so as to increase exports, restore the normal flow of credit to the economy and to increase investments," he emphasised.
The minister also stressed that government negotiation, within these constraints, could point to some notable achievements, among them a reduction of public debt by 40 billion euros at the end of 2012, a 2 percent reduction in the interest rate on bailout loans, an extension of the repayment period for some of the country's loan obligations until 2040, a two-year extension of the fiscal consolidation period until 2016 and the return to Greece by Eurozone central banks of a sizeable portion of their profits from holding Greek bonds.
In exchange, Greece was called upon to preserve a stable political climate, carry out immediate recapitalisation of its banks, make use of funds reaching 44 billion euros from European funds by 2020 and improve its structural competitiveness through opening markets, improving their competitiveness and lifting any remaining obstacles to attracting foreign investments, he said.
According to the minister, the finance ministry's omnibus bill met precisely these demands, while the government's top priority for the current year was to ensure a primary surplus and thus give Greece the right to ask for a further drastic 'haircut' of its public debt.
Repeating that Greece had already covered two thirds of the way toward recovery, Stournaras admitted that the remainder would be harder because of 'reform fatigue' in Greek society.
"Today, however, we are fighting for the next generation, we are not dressing things up, not trading in hopes, we are not saying lies by claiming that we can stay in the euro without staying in austerity programmes," he emphasised.
Earlier in the debate, Stournaras announced that he accepted the first article of a PASOK-sponsored amendment for the temporary hiring of staff by local authorities as a way to fight unemployment but not the second article proposing a conditional reduction of employer contributions.
He also accepted an amendment tabled by the two junior parties in the coalition government, PASOK and Democratic Left (DIM.AR), settling pay issues for successful candidates of a 2010 civil service exam.
The minister additionally announced improvements to the wording of an article governing bake off products, which is included in the omnibus bill.
The draft bill, which has been tabled as urgent in the form of a single article, covers a wide spectrum of measures and prior actions agreed by the Greek government and the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika of lenders in the memorandums outlining the terms and conditions of bailout loans to Greece.
Labour Minister calls omnibus regulations 'last opportunity' for settlement of outstanding insurance fund debts
This omnibus bill is an opportunity for all those with outstanding insurance fund and tax debts to settle their obligations under the new regulations currently being debated in Parliament, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said on Sunday, adding, "It is their last chance."
During his speech in Parliament, Vroutsis said "Greece will not see another settlement opportunity" and said its beneficial terms should be taken advantage by all concerned. The seamen's pension fund (NAT) was excluded from the regulation, he said, because its terms were so favourable that had shipowners used it, the fund would have collapsed.
In terms of employment, Vroutsis said there there 2.4 billion euros that were guaranteed by the European Social Fund for programmes in Greece while a programme involving businesses and totalling 1 billion euros to help out 500,000 unemployed was being developed.
 Main opposition leader charges gov't with turning Greece into 'colony in debt'Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras unleashed strong criticism against all three parties in the coalition government, charging them with "a catastrophic policy that has transformed Greece into a colony in debt and its citizens into 'newly poor'."
Speaking in Parliament during the debate on the omnibus bill on Sunday, Tsipras charged, "You always save us at the last moment," he charged, "regardless of the repercussions. You have replaced the social state with a state of emergency. You have replaced the constitution with a memorandum article. You have turned Parliament into the approval agency of one article."
Tsipras added, "I'm trying to find a substantial argument to understand the optimism of the prime minister and the finance minister. The prime minister in such a critical bill does not show up to defend his choices. The prime minister is absent from critical parliamentary procedures."
 PASOK leader criticises main opposition, digs at FinMinPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos levelled criticism at both the main opposition leader and the finance minister in his speech in Parliament before the omnibus bill vote on Sunday night.
Venizelos, whose party is a junior member of the ruling coalition, criticised Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras of being "a prisoner of an unsurpassable conflict in his party - that of not being able to balance between a progressive, friendly to the populace European prospect and that of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) that says you cannot lie blatantly that you are in the eurozone and out of the memorandum."
The PASOK leader also criticised Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for his handling of a PASOK proposal on unemployment, saying "Nobody is making us a favour - this is a vital need of the government and an agreement of three party leaders that the government is obliged to apply. We do not need any favours, we want the application of policies. PASOK does not use blackmail."
 Independent Leader party walks off podiumIndependent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos charged the government with trying to force deputies to vote policies that serve the memorandum of lenders, during the discussion preceding the vote on the omnibus bill in Parliament on Sunday night.
He charged that the government was applying internal devaluation, which meant that minimum wages and pensions would drop further.
Speaking about the provision to settle outstanding debts, he said, "The measures included in the bill have been described in the troika [of lenders'] planning and this policy contains traps the average citizen cannot see."
Kammenos walked off the podium before finishing his speech in protest of the noise in the room. After the presiding official's lack of success in quieting the noise down, the party leader walked off.
 Golden Dawn leader charges gov't with 'subjugation' policyGolden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party leader Nikos Michaloliakos charged in Parliament on Sunday that in the dilemma of choosing between Greece and staying in the eurozone, "we would choose to return to the drachma, if necessary, to stop the subjugation."
During the discussion on the omnibus bill expected to be voted on tonight, Michaloliakos anticipated that following the national elections in Germany this autumn the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) would come to a clash that could end in the destruction of the euro, but in Greece, he claimed, the government will have already provoked the selloff of the country.
The extreme-right party leader also said that "[Finance Minister Yannis] Stournaras has said that if we don't move ahead, we will return to the drachma and fall back by decades. But we have fallen back by decades, Mr Finance Minister, and it seems that you have not realised it."
 Former KKE leader criticises gov't and main opposition on exiting crisis strategyBoth the government and the main opposition, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), offer solutions to exit the crisis that do not cast any doubt on the laws of the capitalist market, charged Aleka Papariga, chair of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) parliamentary group, on Sunday, during the debate preceding the vote on the omnibus bill in Parliament.
"Ruling New Democracy (ND) aligns with the predominant German, French and Dutch recipe, although Holland has begun asking for a relaxation [of the austerity programme]. SYRIZA, using a more relaxed recipe, believes it will bring development more easily. Are there any differences? At certain points there are, but from the point of view of the people, none. When you talk about development, who will do development? Business groups," Papariga said.
The government wants to get the loan tranche of 6.2 billion euros, combined with the payment of 5.6 billion euros for the unshaven state bonds that mature on May 20, she charged. "So you can understand whether it is worth succumbing to the blackmail of whether we will be given the money or not. The government is able to carry out blackmail," she said.
 Former PASOK minister downvotes omnibus billFormer high-profile PASOK minister and current independent deputy Andreas Loverdos said he would vote down the omnibus to be voted in Parliament on Sunday, because its regulations do not serve the real economy and do not help business.
Speaking in Parliament, Loverdos said "only a sick bureaucratic mind" could have invented the conditions for payment of outstanding debts.
"The political crisis and political tension will be the future perspective," but said that there was time for a change in direction.
 Discussion of government's omnibus bill begins in ParliamentDiscussion of the government's draft omnibus bill, outlining a series of measures and prior actions agreed with the troika of Greece's lenders (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), began before the Parliamentary Committee for Economic Affairs on Saturday.
Among the speakers appearing before the committee was Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who said that an amendment to give work to the unemployed via local authorities proposed by coalition government partner PASOK was "in the right direction".
The minister announced that the labour and finance ministry were now working together with PASOK to calculate the cost of the amendment and, if this was done by Sunday, would add the amendment to the omnibus bill. If not, he added, the legislation would be included in the next draft labour ministry bill.
According to Stournaras, Greece had now covered approximately two thirds of the adjustment programme and was doing better than the forecasts in the first quarter of 2013.
"We have a primary surplus, something that was forecast to be achieved at the end of the year. The debt was reduced and is forecast to fall below 110 percent of GDP in 2022. The unemployment rate will begin to fall from next year. Already in March we had more hirings and firings," Stournaras said.
The debate on the bill began with a clash between the government and opposition over the decision to table the bill as urgent, thus restricting the debate before the full Parliament to just a few hours since the vote will be held on Sunday night.
Stournaras defended the decision on the grounds that the Euro Working Group is due to convene on Monday in order to decide on the disbursement of the remaining 2.8 billion euros to be given to Greece from the previous tranche of bailout loans, as well as the 6.0 billion euros due to be given in May.
Main opposition SYRIZA-EKM MP Efklidis Tsakalotos rejected this reasoning, however, noting that the government had been given ample time to prepare the draft legislation now presented at the last minute.
"It is not our fault if you fight amongst yourselves, if you are inefficient, if you do not respect democratic process," he accused the coalition government, calling the draft bill "unacceptable".
SYRIZA-EKM MP Panagiotis Lafazanis also objected to the decision to table the omnibus bill as a single article, saying this prevented MPs from accepting or rejecting individual measures on their merits and thus violated the Constitution.
Similar objections were voiced by other opposition parties in Parliament but the urgent nature of the bill was finally approved by 26 votes in favour and 15 against.
 Syntagma metro station reopens after trade unions rallySyntagma metro station reopened late on Sunday after being shut down by the Greek police ahead of a protest rally against the omnibus bill due to be voted on by Parliament.
The rally was held in the late afternoon by the umbrella trade union groups of the private and public sector respectively, GSEE and ADEDY, in protest against a new round of austerity measures, among them planned dismissals of public sector workers, included in the bill.
 Foreign ministry: 'Nothing disputable' in status of Aegean islands and isletsForeign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Friday stated the following in response to a journalist's question regarding Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's response to a parliamentary question on the sovereignty status of Aegean islands:
"Apparently, they put someone up to asking this question once a year.
So I will give exactly the same response I gave the last time: I want to make it clear that there is nothing disputable, nothing is in doubt about the status of any island or islet in the Aegean. All of this is governed by international treaties that are absolutely clear, and that is why there are no grounds for disputing the status of any Greek islands in the Aegean.
I hope we won't have to say this again this time next year."
 Greek foreign minister on goals of Baku tripIn an interview with Azerbaijan's local news agency released on Sunday, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that EU issues will figure prominently in his agenda while visiting the country, as Greece gears up for its stint as EU presidency in the first half of 2014.
Among others, he noted, the trip will also serve to enrich the Greek presidency's programme and help upgrade EU relations with other countries.
The minister said his main focus, however, will be on two predominantly bilateral issues: energy cooperation and tourism.
"Greece is one of the closest and most easily accessible entry portals to European markets for Azerbaijan," Avramopoulos pointed out in the interview, noting that Azerbaijan already exported natural gas to Greece via Turkey and that Athens wishes to expand bilateral cooperation via the TAP pipeline.
"The construction of the pipelines that will transport Azeri natural gas to European markets via Greece, Albania and Italy - at the same time supplying gas to the Southeastern European markets along its route - is a major project that will benefit all involved and their people," Avramopoulos said.
He noted that Greece, Italy and Albania had already signed the agreement but the crucial decision now lay with the companies.
Replying to questions regarding tourism, Avramopoulos pointed out that bilateral cooperation between the two countries began eight years ago and he underlined the importance of the direct flights to be introduced by Aegean Airlines from May 28.
He said that Greek consular authorities had been given instructions to facilitate the issue of visas and noted that tourism was Greece's second largest industry after shipping, so that Greek knowhow could help Azerbaijan better exploit its own rich natural resources as a tourism destination.
 Deputy FM Tsiaras sent to Beirut to assist efforts for release of abducted clericsDeputy Foreign Minister Kostas Tsiaras on Friday left for Beirut in Lebanon in order to monitor efforts for the rescue of two abducted Orthodox metropolitan bishops at close hand, at the orders of Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The minister's presence in the area was judged necessary so that he might have a series of contacts and talks and coordinate efforts to find and arrange the release of the two abducted Aleppo clerics.
 Dendias gives press conference about NY visit resultsNEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)
Greek Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikolaos Dendias on Friday said his contacts at the FBI and New York Police Department (NYPD) while visiting New York had focused on "deepening relations" between Greece and the United States.
The minister was speaking during a press conference held at the Greek press and communications office in the city on the results of his visit.
He stressed that they had also discussed ways to transfer U.S. know-how in law enforcement to Greece, as part of an effort to radically overhaul the Greek police force.
"The model used in New York to fight crime interests us a great deal, we have studied it and are trying to implement it," he said. Since his visit had taken place so soon after the terror strikes in Boston, they were also an opportunity to experience the way U.S. authorities had responded and acted, he added.
Questioned on migration issues, Dendias referred to the Independent Asylum Authority and the Migrant Reception Centres and overall government policy in this area, saying it had brought about "measurable results" and extracted praise from Greece's EU partners, with 30,000 migrants returned to their country of origin in recent months.
He also pointed to the negative aspects of the EU's Dublin Treaty and said that Greece proposed a new model in which the EU dealt with such as issues as "friends and partners".
On issues of racism and the actions of extreme far-right groups like the Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, the minister stressed that events like that recently in Manolada "were an affront to human existence" and stressed that the police response was immediate. He stressed that Greek society was not xenophobic and racist and that groups engaging in extreme behaviour like Golden Dawn will disappear once Greece emerges from the crisis.
Dendias was later due to visit the offices of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in Manhattan and meet its director and co-president Andreas Dracopoulos while he will also meet American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris.
 Justice minister on controversial measure for temporary court rulingsTemporary court rulings will remain as an institution but steps will be taken to prevent their excessive use, Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis said in an interview appearing the Sunday issue of the Greek newspaper "Eleftherotypia".
The minister said a measure to this effect will be tabled after the Easter holiday, while he was strongly critical of those drawing up the draft legislation he had refused to support the previous week, outlining the reasons for his refusal. Among others, he noted that the wording would have affected employees in the private sector.
He also strongly disagreed with the prospect of merging the justice and public order ministries, saying that "the thought alone of such a prospect is frightening."
 Finmin to 'Typos on Sunday': 'We are on the right track'Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras seemed confident that Greece's economy will see recovery, in an interview appearing in the Greek Sunday newspaper 'Typos tis Kyriakis'.
"We are on the right track," the minister said, noting that the country was 2.5 billion euros 'ahead' of targets but stressing that this was no time for complacency.
The finance minister warmly praised all three party leaders in Greece's coalition government, especially Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and stressed that the effort to get Greece's finances into order was collective.
"As finance minister I am the programme's keeper, I cannot consent when we have agreed that the deficit will be 'a' with measures that will make this 'a-plus'. I must take equivalent measures or my signature counts for nothing," he said.
With regard to VAT for food catering services, the minister said this was an issue raised with Greece's creditors a long time ago but Greece needed to provide reliable estimates of what the measure will cost in terms of revenue, in order to convince the troika to agree.
"We have handed over studies carried out by independent analysts, by the General Accounting Office, [Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras] has given his estimates that the loss will be of the order of 80 to 85 million euros and that we consider, in fact, that there will be collateral benefits from this reduction so that there is finally no cost. They said that they want to see and study them and discuss it again in June," Stournaras said.
 Junior coalition partners call for changes to government in 'Real News' interviewsThe leaders of the two smaller parties in Greece's coalition government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, have both told the 'Realnews on Sunday' newspaper that they would like to see changes in the structure and functioning of the government.
Venizelos noted that the situation in the country appeared to be coming under control, while it was becoming accepted internationally that Greece must not carry out additional fiscal austerity measures, so that the central issue was now to "highlight the national reconstruction plan as a national strategic target".
"The coalition government of the three parties must serve this aim, both in policy and in function. Both as a political framework and as a formation," he added.
Kouvelis noted that the operation of the government was linked to the efficiency of the government's work and stressed that it was imperative "to immediately solve any functional problems that have been observed and recorded," adding that the creation of an informal coordinating body would be useful.
"In this framework, we need to see what changes must be made to government structure, exclusively based on criteria of merit. The extended discussion and rumour about a reshuffle harms the government's efficiency," he said.
 Kammenos elected president of Independent Greeks partyThe founding conference of the right-wing Independent Greeks party has elected Panos Kammenos as president, bringing forward the party leader's election by one day.
The vote, originally scheduled to take place on Sunday after two days discussing policy and the party's charter, was finally held on Saturday night by acclamation. The decision to bring forward the vote was made in light of Sunday's Parliamentary debate of the draft omnibus bill implementing agreements with the troika.
In statements after being elected party leader, Kammenos promised delegates that "I will never betray you. And I promise you one more thing, that we will get our Greece back".
"We will become many, we will become and remain independent and we will take over the government of the country. We will raise the Greek flag high and give hope," he added.
 Independent Greeks founding conference begins in AthensThe founding conference of the right-wing Independent Greeks party began in Athens' Peace and Frienship Stadium on Saturday with a speech delivered by party leader Panos Kammenos.
In his speech, Kammenos noted that the "pro-bailout memorandum parties" had not been invited to attend but only representatives of foreign parties occupying the same political spectrum as the Independent Greeks.
He also voiced sharp criticism of the government, stressed the need for unity among Greeks and promised that this will be the priority for his party, making overtures to what he called "patriotic PASOK" and the "voters of the democratic, patriotic axis".
If his party should come to power, he promised to "find and mercilessly punish all those that were involved in scandals and who led Greeks to their current state," and to impound wealth stolen from the Greek people.
On Saturday and Sunday the conference will discuss the party's policy platformand will also vote its founding charter. It will end on Sunday evening with the election of the party president by the delegates.
The conference was also addressed by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM secretary Dimitris Vitsas, who noted that despite the very great ideological and policy differences between left-wing SYRIZA-EKM and the right-wing Independent Greeks, this did not prevent them from fighting together against the Memorandum austerity policies.
 Greek Communist Party message for Labour DayIn a message for Labour Day next Wednesday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Saturday said it was "extending its hand to all labourers, unemployed, young people and workers experiencing 'black days' and sorely tried by the repercussions of the capitalist crisis and the anti-popular policies of the coalition government and the European Union".
"It is a lie that the situation for workers will improve if the high profits of industrialists, bankers and ship owners recover. Even then the plutocracy, whose appetite as been whetted, will want workers cheaper than those today. This is shown by productive development of the United States, by the wages in big units returning from China to the U.S.," the party's announcement said.
 GD's 'Greek-only' blood drive provokes clashes in Larissa, TripolisMembers of the far-right nationalist party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) responding to the party's call for a "Greeks only" blood drive on Saturday clashed protestors outside hospitals in Larisa, central Greece and Tripolis in the Peloponnese.
Outside the PanArcadian Hospital in Tripolis, a camera man for a local television station complained that he was attacked by a GD party member and physically forced to erase footage recorded on his cell phone showing the faces of Golden Dawn members.
GD members also clashed verbally with members of anti-racist organisations in the city of Larisa, when the former organised a "Greeks only" blood drive at the Larisa General Hospital.
Dozens of anti-racist activists had gathered outside the hospital to protest but reactions were kept in check by a strong police presence, with the two groups kept separate by a police cordon.
The blood drive was completed under police supervision, whereupon both the Golden Dawn members and the protestors departed.
The head of the 5th Regional Health Service Lazaros Makris, meanwhile, stated that the blood donated by the GD supporters will be allocated wherever the hospital judges expedient, without conditions or restrictions.
 Development ministry denies press report on property foreclosuresResponding to a report in a Sunday newspaper about property foreclosures for unserviced mortgages, the Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks ministry issued an announcement denying that there had been any negotiation on this issue with the troika of Greece's lenders, the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
"There is also no issue of revoking the legislative measures for the suspension of auctions passed at the end of 2012. The axis of our policy remains protection of the citizens' property," the announcement said.
 Tax office revenues within budget targets, finance ministry saysTax office revenues were within or even better than budget targets in the first quarter of 2013, the Greek finance ministry said in an announcement on Sunday.
Specifically, the target for the q1 2013 was 6.2 billion euros while the actual revenues collected reached 6.21 billion euros.
In addition, the number of individuals with outstanding debts to the tax office was reduced by 16.2 percent in that period, or by 435,729 debtors.
General secretary for revenues Haris Theoharis expressed satisfaction with the results but stressed that the effort must be continuous and that there was no room for complacency.
 Piraeus Bank president 'optimistic' about banking systemPiraeus Bank governor Mihalis Sallas expressed confidence about the future of Greece's banking system and the economy in an interview published by the Sunday issue of the newspaper "Kathimerini".
"The situation remains critical and the challenges that have to be faced are major. Nevertheless, after some time, the first positive indications are appearing that create hopes for reversing the situation. The impressive improvement in the balance of payments, the reduction of the deficits, the prospects of achieving a primary surplus in the management of public finances are encouraging signs," Sallas said.
Referring to the banking system, Sallas noted that the important thing was to complete the recapitalisation of the banks in order to restore its capital base and for all systemic banks to play their critical role adequately and finance the market.
"Our priority, therefore, is the needs of the real economy," he added.
Concerning Piraeus Bank, Sallas said that it had already raised the minimum private-sector participation needed, allowing the bank to remain private, and that the next goal was to raise funds of up to 733 million euro so that the bank was not burdened with the cost of convertible bonds.
 Deputy development minister highlights measures to boost transparency at private investments directorateResponding to an article appearing in a Sunday newspaper, Deputy Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Notis Mitarakis said that the government had taken "direct institutional measures to boost transparency at the General Directorate for Private Investments".
He noted that the article referred to exclusively to cases in the period before the general elections and that the present ministry leadership had carried out a series of major changes to the laws to boost transparency, for which the article had failed to give credit.
 Meeting on use of Piraeus Port 'Pagoda' building on TuesdayA meeting on the management of Piraeus port infrastructure, focusing particularly on the use assigned to the so-called 'Pagoda' building, will be held at the shipping and Aegean ministry next Tuesday, Piraeus Mayor Vasilis Mihaloliakos told the ANA-MPA on Saturday.
Those taking part will include Shipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Mousouroulis, Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) chief Stelios Stavridis, Piraeus Port Organisation President George Anomeritis and also Mihaloliakos.
The mayor said the meeting will discuss all legal matters relating to the concession of the Pagoda building to Piraeus, at the orders of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, adding that the building will most likely be used to house the municipality's central services.
He also announced that an international tender has already been launched for the exploitation of other buildings in Piraeus, such as the Tower, the Ralleio building, the town hall and two buildings on Thivon Street.
According to the Piraeus Port investment programme for 2012-2016, the 1960s "Pagoda" building in Agios Nikolaos was to be converted into a passenger station for cruiseships and a luxury five-star hotel. It was originally built to serve passengers on ocean liners.
 Deadline for Greeks abroad to file income tax extended to June 28MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
The deadline for Greeks living abroad to file income tax has been extended to June 28, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's office said in a letter to the Australian and New Zealand Federation of Cretans.
Federation secretary Ioannis Trypidakis released a letter by the Greek premier's office to the community members who had expressed concern over taxation issues for property owned in Greece.
According to the letter, the Greek government "recognises and appreciates what you and the rest of the Greek organisations abroad have achieved and continue to achieve with love for your country."
It said that "in a relevant change of the taxation law to make it more just and simpler in its application, we have moved to regulate the issue of identification for overseas Greeks before tax authorities in Greece through article 43 of law 4141/2013 (published in the Government Gazette, or FEK, A' 81/08.04.2013). At the same time, under the regulations of circular number 1062/28.03.2013 (published in FEK B' 884/11.04.2013), the deadline for filing supporting documents for income tax of individuals living abroad has been extended to June 28, 2013."
Through the letter, the Greek premier also expressed his personal support of Greeks abroad and wished the Federation members Happy Easter.
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.319
Pound sterling 0.852
Danish kroner 7.567
Swedish kroner 8.686
Japanese yen 130.05
Swiss franc 1.245
Norwegian kroner 7.735
Canadian dollar 1.345
Australian dollar 1.284
 Kilkis police dismantle major counterfeiting ring in ThessalonikiA counterfeiting ring producing hundreds of thousands of forged bank notes was traced to a print shop in Thessaloniki's Toumba district and dismantled by the Kilkis police department, Greek authorities announced on Saturday. According to a police announcement, the bust is one of the biggest counterfeiting cases to be unravelled by the Greek police force.
Acting on a tip-off and after a 20-day investigation, Kilkis officers carried out raids that led to the discovery of 675,000 forged 100-dollar notes, eight trial colour prints of 500-euro bills, 15,000 sheets of paper with half-printed notes of 100 dollars and the printing machinery used to produce them.
The proceeded to make five arrests, including the 40-year-old suspected leader of the ring and several of his alleged accomplices.
A later police announcement said that the 40-year-old had rented the print shop from a 55-year-old owner and used it to print the forged bank notes at night. Police believe the group planned to distribute a large number of the counterfeit notes in Greece and neighbouring Balkan countries.
The first arrests were made during a raid on Friday, when a 32-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman were intercepted while negotiating the sale of forged 100-dollar bills with a nominal value of 80,000 dollars for the sum of 10,000 euros.
Police next arrested the alleged mastermind of the operation and a 57-year-old man that came to the location in two vehicles, carrying the forged bank notes up for sale.
More forged bank notes, printing equipment, chemicals, a computer, USB flash drives, cash and other evidence were found in the two vehicles and the home of the 32-year-old suspect, a pick-up truck owned by the 40-year-old, a warehouse he was renting in Thessaloniki, his holiday home in Pieria and the print shop itself.
The police investigation is continuing on a national and European-international level in order to determine the exact range and duration of the criminal organisation's illegal activities within and outside Greece.
Those arrested will be led before a Thessaloniki first-instance court prosecutor.
 Local residents stage protest over gold-mining project in HalkidikiLocal residents in the Halkidiki peninsula on Saturday organised a protest against a planned gold-mining project near the village of Skouries, gathering in a location known as Kalogeriko to voice their objections to the start of work to open roads through the forest by the mining company Hellas Gold.
The protestors gathered early on Saturday morning, claiming the company was guilty of illegal logging and that company representatives had not produced the necessary licence for the work when asked.
"People are worried about their area, concerned that there are no mechanisms to monitor the repercussions on the environment," said local resident Giorgos Lagontzos to the ANA-MPA.
A representative for the company, Constantinos Georgantzis, stressed that the work was being carried out legally and that the company had nothing to hide but had been vindicated on all issues by the Council of State.
The work was stopped, however, after a clash with residents in the morning.
Protesting residents finally departed on Saturday afternoon, after receiving assurances that a meeting will be held on Monday - most likely at the Polygyros public prosecutor's office - with representatives of the company, the police, residents and the forest department to determine whether the company has a licence for the work in the forest.
 Member of SDOE financial crime unit arrested on extortion chargePolice in Thessaloniki on Saturday announced the arrest of a 47-year-old member of the finance ministry's SDOE financial crime squad and a 42-year-old alleged accomplice accused of extorting a local business man.
According to the complaint filed by the victim, the 42-year-old had impersonated an SDOE employee and demanded 2,000 euros so as not to impose fines for tax violations on his business.
Police lay in wait at a pre-arranged meeting point within the city's vegetable market on Friday, arresting the 42-year-old when he turned up to take the money from the business man. A police investigation then revealed that the suspect had intended to share the blackmail money with the 47-year-old SDOE employee, who was also arrested.
 Police chief visits Patras, discusses law enforcement issuesGreek Police Chief Lieut. Gen. Nikos Papagiannopoulos on Sunday paid a visit to the Achaia police headquarters in the port city of Patras in order to take part in a meeting on law enforcement issues in the region. Other participants included Western Greece General Police Chief Lieut. Gen. Athanassios Matsikas, Achaia Police Chief Costas Kyriakopoulos and senior officers in Patras.
According to sources, one of the issues that dominated the meeting was a series of recent murders in Patras and the progress of the investigation to solve a double murder outside a nightclub in the city.
 Youth arrested for murdering his grandmother for 25 eurosAn 18-year-old has been arrested as the leader of a gang of five suspects that killed his 75-year-old grandmother for the sum of 25 euros.
The announcement was made by police on Saturday, who said they had cracked the brutal murder of the elderly woman that was discovered on December 3, 2012 in the Athens district of Neo Iraklio, when the woman was found bound and gagged in her bedroom in a state of advanced decay.
In addition to the woman's grandson, the other suspects include two Greek men aged 24 and 20 years old, a 34-year-old Albanian man and a 25-year-old Albanian woman. The three Greeks were arrested in Athens on Friday and the two Albanians on the Ionian island of Lefkada.
All five were led before an Athens public prosecutor facing charges of collusion to commit murder and robbery.
 Search launched for three escaped from Corinth migrant centreLaw enforcement authorities in Corinth on Saturday launched a search to find and arrest three Afghan nationals that escaped from the "closed reception facility" for illegal migrants at the city's old army base on Friday night.
The three Afghans slipped out of the detention centre by climbing a pillar and jumping over the fence into the surrounding unlit streets.
 Migrant traffickers arrested in northern GreeceAlexandroupolis illegal migration police on Saturday announced the arrest of two individual that were caught trying to smuggle illegal migrants into the interior of Greece, on a rural road near Alexandroupolis in the extreme northeast of Greece.
Authorities also intercepted five illegal migrants among a group waiting to be picked up by the two men, who fled upon seeing the police.
 Four arrested for sale of contraband cigarettesA man and three women were arrested on Saturday for selling contraband cigarettes in the centre of Thessaloniki. Police confiscated 5,800 packets of cigarettes on which no duty had been paid, costing the Greek state an estimated 16,700 euros. The suspects will go before a Thessaloniki public prosecutor.
 Man arrested on suspicion of violating antiquities, cultural heritage lawsPolice on Saturday announced the arrest of a 28-year-old man from Terpni in Serres, northern Greece, for possession of an antique printed edition of the New Testament dating from 1765 and five gold coins. The arrest was made following a tip-off that the man was seeking buyers for the items via two accomplices in Thessaloniki.
All three were charged with violating laws on the protection of antiquities and cultural heritage and will appear before a Serres public prosecutor.
 Two caught with 2.5 kilos heroin in DrapetsonaTwo Albanian nationals were caught holding more than 2.5 kilos of heroin, during a raid by a police drug squad in the Drapetsona district of Piraeus on Saturday.
The 35-year-old man and 29-year-old woman will be led before a public prosecutor for possession of 2,540 grammes of heroin, 55 grammes of cocaine and 740 grammes of cannabis.
Police also confiscated the sum of 815 euros, two precision scales, three cell phones and a car.
 Two arrested for migrant trafficking; 15 illegal migrants caughtPolice on Sunday announced the arrest of two men caught in the act of smuggling 15 illegal migrants into the country, intercepted near Soufli by Border Police based in Alexandroupolis.
The 40-year-old Albanian national and a 26-year-old Afghan national picked up the migrants in Soufli and intended to take them to the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Police first stopped the vehicle driven by the Afghan man, which carried seven people, and then that of the Albanian, containing another eight migrants. The Albanian man attempted to flee but without result.
Ten of the migrants were Syrian nationals, three were from Iraq and two from Afghanistan.
Further investigation showed that one of the vehicles driven by the traffickers had been reported stolen in Attica roughly six weeks earlier.
Both cars were confiscated and the suspects led before an Alexandroupolis first-instance court prosecutor.
 Weak tremor in eastern PeloponneseAn earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale shook the region of Astros in the eastern Peloponnese at 7:31 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, with no damages reported at press time.
According to the Euromediterranean Seismological Centre, the quake's epicentre was 108 km southwest of Athens and 4 km northwest of Astros, in the Kinouria region, and occurred at a depth of 10 km.
The quake was felt throughout the central Peloponnese.
 Weak tremor in sea off Aigio, PeloponneseAn earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale shook the coastal town of Aigio at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, causing minimal damage. According to the Athens Observatory Geodynamic Institute, the epicentre of the quake was in the sea of the Corinthian Gulf, about 13 kilometres east of Aigio.
The quake was felt in Aigio and other areas of Achaia, Fokida, Corinth, Aitologakarnania and Viotia.
 Hot and sunny on MondayHot, sunny weather with some scattered clouds is forecast throughout the country on Monday, the start of Orthodox Holy Week. Winds variable, measuring between 2 and 5 on the Beaufort scale. Temperatures will range from a minimum of 8C to a maximum of 31C. Sunny in Attica, with temperatures from 10C to 30C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 11C to 29C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceAVGHI: "The OPAP 'Colpo Grosso'".
DIMOKRATIA: "National crime. Troika forcing Greece to let armed forces fall apart".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "They're preparing 'stick of dynamite' for university entrance exams. Teachers threaten strike".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Trick with layoffs in the civil service".
ETHNOS: "The list of fire for the public sector. The organisations being abolished".
KATHIMERINI: "All pensions from a single fund".
KERDOS: "Recapitalisation bring new investment tools".
LOGOS: "Ten solutions from the Consumer Protection Society of Crete".
NIKI: "Loans. Three sure-fire solutions for writing off debts".
PARON: "Tax-terrorism. A hurricane of billion-euro burdens behind 'facilitations'"
PROTO THEMA: "110,000 homes heading for foreclosure"
Realnews: "Searing documents on occupation loan. Documents on the great heist"
RIZOSPASTIS: "People's alliance for people's power. KKE's programme and charter".
TO ARTHRO: "Roupakiotis: protector of bogus employees"
TO VIMA: "Merkel's plan for a new Maastricht".
VRADYNI: "The 17 key points for early retirement".
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