|Thursday, 22 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-05-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 16 May 2013 Issue No: 4360
 Greece unveils plan to privatise Public Power CorporationThe Greek government on Wednesday unveiled a plan for the restructuring and privatisation of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) - the country's electricity utility - which envisages the creation of a "small PPC" with representative electricity production units to be sold to private investors, in its search for a strategic investor for PPC and the selloff of 40 pct of the electricity grid networks.
The plan, presented by the ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, has a timetable of completion by 2015 and is included in a memorandum of economic policy agreed with the troika. Ministry officials said the plan will raise revenue for the state through the privatisation of PPC, while it will also ensure the creation of healthy competition in the market and the liberalisation of the electricity market in Greece.
More analytically, the plan envisages:
1. The separation and privatisation of the System Administrator paving the way for PPC's exit from energy grid networks. In the first phase, to be completed this year, the plan envisages the entry of an investor through a share capital increase scheme offering up to 49 pct of the equity capital and the management. In the second phase, to be completed in the second quarter of 2014, the investor will be able to acquire at least 51 pct of the equity capital, with the state holding a statutory minority stake.
2. Creating a new vertical electricity company, which will own around 30 pct of PPC's existing production capacity and new units, along with a relative percentage of PPC's commercial activities. It will include lignite, hydro-electric and natural gas units. This project will be agreed on in consultation with the European Commission by the end of 2013, although early estimates are for 1,400 MW of lignite units, 500 MW of hydro-electric and 500 MW of natural gas units. The tender to sell the so-called "small PPC" will be made with the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. These procedures are expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015.
3. Privatization of PPC. Under the plan, the state will offer 17 pct of the company's equity capital to a strategic investor - from 51 pct currently owned by the state. This process is expected to be completed by the end of 2015 or early 2016.
The plan for the restructuring and privatization of Public Power Corporation was presented by the government to the European Commission.
In a letter to the representative of the European Commission in the troika, Matthias Morse, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras and Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou, underlined the benefits of the plan both to the Greek economy and the country's energy market.
The two government ministers stressed that the plan was a very significant step towards improving competition of the Greek economy.
There will be no layoffs at the Public Power Corporation (PPC) when it becomes privatised, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told NET public television on Wednesday.
Kedikoglou presented the selloff stages for the power company, which includes breaking off the system regulator (ADMIE), setting up a new power corporation and, finally, privatising the parent company. Part of the current PPC staff, the spokesman said, will come under the new company.
The plan is expected to take three years to complete, and negotiations will include looking into the best options for low-income households that use power under reduced rates.
Kedikoglou asserted that "there is great investment interest by large players in the global energy sector" and said that "the freeing of the energy market is something the coalition government has agreed on," while it is open to impoved proposals.
 PPC privatisation will only benefit monopolies, KKE chargesThe arrangements to apply in the restructuring and privatisation of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), unveiled by the government on Wednesday "promote the European Union guidelines for completion of the energy market deregulation to the benefit of monopolies, at the expense of the working class," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a comment issued Wednesday.
Such arrangements, KKE added, "will lead to further price increases for consumers, as well as to the destruction of any remaining labor rights and to a profit-driven management of the transmission system, risking its improper maintenance and leading to the looting of the country's lignite reserves and water resources."
 PM Samaras departs for official visit to ChinaPrime Minister Antonis Samaras left for an official visit to China on Wednesday to attract investment, boost the business and trade transactions and expand Greek-Chinese relations.
Samaras, who is heading a delegation of entrepreneurs, will meet on Thursday in Beijing with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, who will host a dinner in his visitor's honour. Later the Greek premier will speak to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
On Friday, Samaras will be received by China's president Xi Jinping and afterwards meet with the chairman of the National People's Congress of China Zhang Dejiang. Later he will address the Hellenic-Chinese Business Forum.
On Saturday the Greek premier will visit Hangzhou, where he will meet with the local governor and speak at the World Cultural Forum. Later in the day he will fly to Shanghai where he will hold talks with Shanghai mayor Yang Xiong and addresss a business Forum.
Included in the visit to China is a series of meetings in private with local officials and heads of Chinese business groups, while on Sunday the Greek prime minister will fly to Baku, Azerbaijan, where it is scheduled to meet with the political authorities. He will return to Athens late Sunday evening.
 PM's China trip will further boost phase of growth and investments, Hatzidakis saysThe prime minister's trip to China will help to further promote economic recovery as Greece enters the phase of economic growth and investments, Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Costis Hatzidakis said in Parliament, during a discussion on the "National System of e-Public Contracts and other clauses" draft law.
"This is the direction we are determined to follow. What is unfolding is our generation's war and we are determined to win it," he stressed, speaking before the Parliament's plenary session on Tuesday.
"During the past eleven months, the country has been climbing the stairs toward the summit and an exit from the crisis," he said, adding that the government is doing everything possible dictated by patriotic duty.
He accused the opposition of firmly rejecting all efforts made by the government to attract investors. "You want investments without investors, workers without entrepreneurs, results without effort and work. This is impossible," he said and called on main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) to try some self-criticism, accusing it of following a path that leads nowhere.
"Have a good trip with (Prime Minister) Mr. Samaras. But let me remind you of your trip to the Arab countries and the fact that, besides expectations, there is no assessment of investments yet. This trip will be judged by its results," SYRIZA-EKM Parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Papadimoulis said in response.
 Seventy-three business people accompanying the prime minister to ChinaSeventy-three business leaders are accompanying Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to China and will be attending two business forums, one in Shanghai and another in Beijing, during the official visit.
 Eurogroup decision shows Greece's credibility is being restored, finmin Stournaras saysFinance minister Yannis Stournaras told the parliament's Economic Committee on Wednesday evening that the eurozone will likely exit recession in the second half of 2013 and that there is a general recognition of the prospects for Greece's exit from its economic crisis.
Briefing the committee on the outcome of the recent Eurogroup meeting, Stournaras said the decision for disbursement of a dual tranche of financial aid, amounting to 7.5 billion euros, as well a Eurogroup statement that "Greece is quickly regaining competitiveness," was proof of the country's credibility being gradually restored.
In addition, on the occasion of European consultations for the banking union, Stournaras noted that the deepening of EMU with a full banking union, was a condition for maintaining the common currency. The minister further questioned whether the main opposition (SYRIZA) wants the country to stay in the eurozone.
 Gov't 'deceiving Greek people' over claim of no additional austerity, SYRIZAThe government and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras "are still deceiving the Greek people" when they claim that there will be no additional austerity measures, a memo of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party said on Wednesday.
"No sooner did Samaras claim that the [lending conditions] memorandums would end in three years than the European Commission underlines in an eleven-page report that there is need of additional measures totalling 4 pct of the GDP over 2015 and 2016, or 8 billion euros' worth of new, painful measures," the party said.
The truth is that the Commission once again contradicts the prime minister, as cutbacks should be of the order of 1.8 pct of GDP for 2015 and 2.2 pct for 2016, SYRIZA said, while Greece has committed to take additional measures if there is a fiscal gap in the years 2013-2014.
"In other words, the Greek people will be called upon to take on additional burdens resulting from the dead-end policy the lenders are imposing and the coalition government is following" the SYRIZA memo added.
 SYRIZA leader expresses concern over future of Greece and EuropeMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, speaking after his meeting with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic in Zagreb on Wednesday, expressed his grave concern over the future of Greece, as well as the future of Europe.
Tsipras said that it is a very difficult situation for Greece and assessed that "it is very difficult for the Greeks to pay all of this debt". The problem, he added, "is that the Greek people are not responsible for this debt. And, of course, we believe that it is an issue of political choice for this situation to change."
"We believe that a major radical political change constitutes the solution for the future and in Greece we are doing all we can in this direction," Tsipras concluded.
 Oliver Stone, Slavoj Zizek lavish praise on Alexis Tsipras after Zagreb meetingAmerican film director Oliver Stone and Slovene philosopher Slavoj Zizek on Wednesday expressed their admiration and support for Greece's leftist main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, head of the 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) party, and wished him every success in becoming Greece' future premier.
Speaking after a lunch with Tsipras in Zagreb, Stone described Tsipras as "Greece's hope" and said that "this person will make a huge difference, not just in Greece but in all of Europe and perhaps the world."
He wished Tsipras the best of luck, adding that he would need it but also that he was a "tough nut" who would make it.
Zizek said that he believed in Tsipras and supported him, joking that some people called him the left-wing leader's secret advisor. "You should know that I look forward to this role of mine. In any case, I am happy to be here," he added.
Both Tsipras and Zizek, respectively billed as "the most dangerous man in Europe" and "the most dangerous philosopher of the West", will join forces in a debate on the future of the European Left taking place at 9:00 p.m. in Zagreb, as part of the 6th Subversive Festival - an event also attended by the leader of the French Left Front Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Tsipras arrived in Croatia on Wednesday for a two-day visit, during which he is to meet Croatian President Ivo Josipovic.
 Justice Minister Roupakiotis briefed DIM.AR on anti-racism billThe Executive Committee of the Democratic Left (DIM.AR), a junior partner in the coalition government, met on Wednesday in the presence of Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, who briefed the party cadres on the content and regulations included in the recently draft bill against racism currently in the process of public discussion. The briefing was carried out in consultation with DIM.AR leader Fotis Kouvelis.
The members of the committee expressed support to the draft law, noting that "its regulations leave DIM.AR's imprint on an acute social issue".
Roupakiotis briefed DIM.AR's leadership on the legislation concerning out-of-court settlements, a regulation that will benefit thousands of citizens.
In a meeting scheduled for the weekend, DIM.AR's Central Committee will discuss political developments and the party's position.
 Anti-racism draft bill tabled in parliament's legislative committeeAn improved and more severe version of the anti-racism draft bill was sent to parliament's central legislative committee on Wednesday evening, to be debated during a session on May 21, according to information from the government secretariat.
It stipulates more severe sentences and heftier penalties on phenomena of racism and xenophobia.
Last Friday, the draft bill was sent to the General Secretariat of the Government, as well as to the Minister of State Dimitris Stamatis and party leaders. The government then withdrew it temporarily, saying it required certain improvements.
 Independent Greeks party on recession and PPCThe Independent Greeks party, commenting on Wednesday on Eurostat data on the recession in Greece,said that the basic pursuit of the memorandum, which, according to a statement by party Parliamentary representative Notis Marias, was "for the Greeks to become poorer and the creditors richer", was achieved.
Marias said that "the data of Eurostat on the continued deep recession in our country proves that the basic pursuit of the memorandum was achieved, since the Greek citizens became poorer and the foreign creditors richer."
Moreover, the Independent Greeks party, in statements by Energy sector chief Rahil Makri, termed the privatisation process of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) as a "criminal sellout process and a dissolution of the country's basic energy momentum lever".
 KKE leader Koutsoumbas criticises new collective agreement as 'anti-worker'The new national general collective labour agreement (NGCLA) signed by the social partners in Greece "essentially legalizes all anti-worker practices, all anti-worker designs and changes with regard to collective labour agreements, and elsewhere, with the signature of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE)," opposition Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Wednesday said.
He underlined that "this takes us way back in time, when work equaled slavery".
Koutsoumbas said that the workers' movement will have to be vigilant, "never give way and continue unfolding its action at the workplace in all sectors. Primary trade unions will have to be in a state of readiness because the setbacks will keep coming and will be bigger".
 Opinion poll shows ND marginal lead over SYRIZANew Democracy (ND) leads by a marginal 0.9 percent over main opposition SYRIZA, according to an opinion poll conducted by Marc for private TV Alpha.
According to the poll results, ND was leading with 21.6 percent, followed by SYRIZA with 20.7 percent, ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 9.4 percent, Independent Greeks with 5.6 percent, PASOK with 4.8 percent the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 4.5 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 4 percent, while 10.2 percent of the respondents said they have not decided yet .
In response to who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (and ND leader) was preferred by 46.5 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 29.4 percent, while 24.2 percent did not respond.
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between 11 and 13 May 2013.
 President Papoulias receives AHI delegation at Presidential MansionPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias received a delegation of the American Hellenic Institute, headed by its president Nick Larigakis, at the Presidential Mansion on Wednesday.
"It is extremely important at a time when Greece is making many efforts, to overcome this crisis and I must tell you that from the beginning I was one of those who were optimistic that we shall overcome the crisis. Despite the fact that the sacrifices are great and the weaker social classes paid and are paying a high price. But it was a struggle we had to wage, we are waging it and I see that this year things are moving and maybe next year we will be in a better state than we are today," President Papoulias said.
He also referred to the enormous problem of the unemployment among young people, but also to the stance observed by U.S. President Barack Obama in relation to Turkish-Israeli rapproachement.
"And of course, President Obama had to think that of course Turkish-Israeli relations preoccupy him, but on the other hand we also have 30,000 Turkish occupation troops in the Republic of Cyprus," President Papoulias added.
 "Greece is a safe country," health minister says after visiting boy stabbed on Crete in Athens hospitalThe condition of an 11-year-old Russian boy stabbed by a Dutch entertainer in a hotel parking lot is serious but not life threatening and he remains sedated at "Aglaia Kyriakou" Children Hospital in Athens, Greek authorities announced on Wednesday. The boy was stabbed repeatedly and sustained injuries to his chest, back and legs after he confronted his assailant with stealing his laptop and mobile phone.
Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos and a Russian Embassy diplomat visited the boy to be briefed on his condition.
"I am sincerely sorry for what happened. Greece is a safe country. Greece is a hospitable country and the National Health System is in a position to meet any challenge, whether it concerns a Greek citizen or a tourist," Lykourentzos commented.
He praised the state agencies involved for their cooperation in arranging an airlift to carry the boy quickly and safely to Athens and announced that the boy will undergo surgery. He offered assurances that the young patient is being offered proper care by the medical and hospital staff.
Police said a 20-year-old Dutch animateur, working as a entertainer at a hotel in Hersonissos, on the island of Crete, was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly stabbing the boy, who was vacationing with his family at the same hotel.
The man stabbed the boy twenty times and abandoned it in the hotel's parking lot, where he was found by police at 2:30 a.m. in a comatose state. The parents had reported him missing after a three-hour search. He was taken to the main hospital of Iraklio but was airlifted to Athens in a C-130 military aircraft in critical condition early Wednesday morning.
Police arrested the suspect, who they said confessed. They also confiscated the boy's laptop and mobile phone, which were found among the man's effects.
 11 year-old boy stabbed, suspect arrestedThe National Federation of Hoteliers will cover all housing expenses for the family of an 11-year-old Russian boy stabbed on Crete after confronting a Dutch entertainer at a hotel with stealing his laptop and mobile phone.
Police said a Dutch animateur, 20, contracting as entertainer by a hotel in Hersonissos, on the island of Crete, was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly stabbing the boy, who was vacationing with his family at the same hotel.
The man stabbed the boy twenty times and abandoned it at the hotel's parking lot, where he was found by police at 2:30 a.m. in a coma. The parents had declared him missing at the police after a three-hour-long serach for him. He was taken to the main hospital of Iraklio but transferred to Athens by military craft due to his critical condition early Wednesday morning.
Police arrested the suspect, who they said confessed; they also confiscated the boy's laptop and mobile phone they found on his possession.
The federation made its decision after contacting the Athens, Attica prefecture and Cretan hotel unions. It expressed its regrets over the incident and said it was a rare and single-occurrence event, and expressed its best wishes for the recuperation of the boy.
 Recession has also hurt Greece's 'black economy', Austrian academic claimsThe chronic economic crisis ravaging southern European countries, such as Greece and Spain, has also struck a blow against their formerly thriving informal economies, Austrian academic and authority on 'black' economy issues Dr. Friedrich Schneider told the ANA-MPA on Wednesday.
According to figures due to be presented by Dr. Schneider in Thessaloniki on Thursday, based on figures collected in 2013, the recession in the formal economy in both Spain and Greece is so strong and the reduction in incomes so great that it has also caused demand to plummet in the informal economy, for services such as cleaning, child care and private lessons that were normally undeclared and uninsured.
As a result, the black economy's share in Greece has declined to just 23.6 pct in 2013, from 24 pct in 2012, 25.1 pct before the crisis in 2007 and 28.2 pct in 2003. In Spain it has fallen to 18.6 pct of GDP in 2013, from 19.2 pct in 2012 and 22.2 pct in 2003.
Based on 2013 figures, Greece ranked ninth among the 27th EU member-states for the size of its informal economy, with the Community average at around 18.4 pct of GDP. The rankings are topped by Bulgaria, where the black economy represents 31.2 pct of GDP, followed by Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus, Malta and Poland.
On the other end of the spectrum, the smallest 'black' economy is that of Austria (7.5 pct), followed by Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The Austrian academic is to present his findings at the International Conference on International Business 2013 organised by the Macedonia University and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), in collaboration with a number of Greek and foreign universities.
 Parliament waives Parliamentary immunity for four MPs but not SYRIZA's TatsopoulosParliament on Wednesday voted to waive immunity from prosecution for four MPs facing lawsuits and charges but declined to do the same for SYRIZA-EKM MP Petros Tatsopoulos, who had been sued for defamation by the far-right party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) MP Christos Pappas.
The request for Tatsopoulos was rejected by 121 votes against and 73 votes in favour, with four MPs abstaining and one invalid vote.
Parliament voted in favour of lifting Parliamentary immunity for Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni to face a charge of defamation, New Democracy MP Nikitas Kaklamanis for a breach of duty case brought against him by a local authority employee, GD MP Ilias Panagiotaros for a charge of defamation and independent MP Odysseas Voudouris for a charge of manslaughter through negligence.
Addressing Parliament, Tatsopoulos said that he would ask for his immunity to be waived so he could face the charges against him, noting that GD's plan was to take advantage of the period when his Parliamentary immunity was lifted in order to beef up its civil suit against him and "create a climate of criminalisation of political speech and a production line of lawsuits in Parliament".
The charge concerned an interview given by Tatsopoulos to the magazine 'Lifo', in which he had referred to GD MPs as "pimps" over their actions and their agitation in support of protestors outside the theatre 'Hytirio' in central Athens, which had led to the cancellation of the play "Corpus Christi" in October 2012.
The premiere of the play - considered "blasphemous" by the protestors - had to be cancelled after a group of some 200 gathered outside to harass theatre-goers and the cast, causing damage to the theatre entrance. Among them were GD MPs George Germenis, Ilias Panagiotaros and Christos Pappas. A court had earlier rejected requests by religious groups to ban the play.
Riot police were called in and tried to restore order by removing protestors from the scene but the MP Christos Pappas intervened, releasing a man after he had been detained and was being led to a police van.
 DM Panayiotopoulos visits 3rd Army Corps in ThessalonikiDefence Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, addressing officers and servicemen of the 3rd Army Corps/NRDC-GR in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, underlined the decisive role played by the Armed Forces in averting the country's bankruptcy.
The minister said "the country is now moving forward on the path of reconstruction, a tough one but a one-way path to the future."
Panayiotopoulos reiterated that "the state has absolute awareness of the contribution of the Armed Forces and that it will start paying its dues when recovery gains momentum." He also expressed satisfaction over the Armed Forces' level of operational readiness.
 Trial of former defence minister Tsohatzopoulos continuesThe trial of former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and other 18 defendants, charged with money-laundering and taking kickbacks for armaments' procurements programmes, continued on Wednesday with the testimony of witnesses, starting with a finance ministry financial crime squad (SDOE) official.
In his testimony, Nikos Maitos spoke about "unusual practices" followed in the transfer of a neoclassical house, located at the foothills of the Acropolis, from the offshore company NOBILIS to Tsohatzopoulos' wife.
He also referred to the real estate on Komna Traka and Kifissias, which appeared as the property of the offshore firm TORCASO and were transferred to Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos.
The witness presented the findings of his investigation into the case and underlined that other individuals and not those appearing on paper were hidden behind the offshore companies. He did not name the real beneficiaries of the offshore companies, saying that he has no knowledge of their identity.
The trial was adjourned until Friday, when Maitos will continue his testimony.
 Greek Permanent UN Representative on human traffickingNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greece's Permanent Representative at the UN, ambassador Mihalis Spinelis, speaking in the framework of a high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on the theme of the International Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, stressed that preventing the phenomenon, protecting victims and prosecuting those responsible are the main axes of the international strategy in the fight against human trafficking.
The Spinelis underlined the importance of supporting international cooperation at all levels with the aim of combatting the hideous crime of the human trafficking, pointing out that Greece's efforts also focus on these axes, as the country has received an unprecedented wave of illegal immigration over the past 10 years.
Ambassador Spinelis also referred to the worsening of the problem of human trafficking as a result of the international economic crisis, underlining the especially vulnerable position of certain population groups, mainly women and children.
Lastly, the Greece's Permanent Representative said that now was the suitable time to take action and that a decisive and comprehensive approach is necessary "to put an end to this plague".
 Greece 'EU's entry gate for China', SEV officialFood and beverage exports are a promising area for business cooperation between Greece and China, as are Greek-Chinese joint ventures and the exchange of know-how, Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) vice-president Thanassis Lavidas told ANA-MPA on Monday.
Lavidas, who also heads the federation's Business Council for International Actions, stressed the "strategic importance" of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' visit to China on May 15-19, noting that SEV supports initiatives promoting extroversion.
In addition to the government delegation, the Greek mission will include a business delegation of 50-60 businessmen seeking to launch business collaborations in sectors of mutual interest.
"Greece is a small country compared to China, but can become the EU's entry gate for China. Steps have already been made, such as COSCO's investment in the port of Piraeus, but there is still a lot that can be done," he said.
He clarified that the Chinese are not easy to negotiate with but sectors of mutual interest for the creation of joint enterprises can be found through sincere dialogue.
Referring to exports, Lavidas underlined that farm products are the country's biggest advantage and that geographic distance and the ensuing transport costs are not a problem. "The Chinese believe in the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Quality products at competitive prices such as Greek olive oil and wines have a great potential for growth," he underlined.
As to what the Greek business community expects from the prime minister's visit, Lavidas said that such trips open up the channels of communication. "Business deals are closed in just a few hours. This is an opportunity to sit across a table and discuss areas of action in which we can cooperate. Bilateral relations are excellent and we have many things in common. Most importantly, we share the same values, a fact that makes such meetings easier," he concluded.
 China 'not an easy market without training', chamber presidentThere is keen interest in China for investments in Greek infrastructure, such as ports, airports and railways, while there is also great interest in real estate, Hellenic-Chinese Chamber President Konstantinos Yiannidis underlined on Monday in an interview with ANA-MPA. At the same time, he noted that problems like red tape were an obstacle to this effort.
Yiannidis said that a recent clause offering long-term residency permits to investors who are non-EU nationals will be an additional motive for the Chinese.
"We hear a lot about China's great interest in investing in Greece, but for now it is mostly interested in infrastructure investments," he noted, adding that such agreements are reached at state level. "The visit by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Beijing will help clarify things," he said, referring to the large delegation currently in China.
"Bilateral relations were established 41 years ago and are based on the fact that Greek history and culture are highly respected by the Chinese and their education system: two peoples with ancient civilizations, with an exceptional presence in world history, two peoples that appear to be so different from each other and yet have so much in common," he stressed.
There are success stories of Greek businesses in China, the chamber leader said, noting that "Folli Follie is known across the country. The more the Greek entrepreneurs are 'trained', the more they travel, open up, analyse, study and know about the country, the greater their chance for success will be...It is not an easy market and it would not be advisable for someone who has not exported to other countries to start with China. I think that to increase the chance for success, Greek businesspeople should target one province at a time."
Referring to the tourism sector, he said there was a lot of room for improvement. "A trip to Greece is a dream of a lifetime for the Chinese. Chinese couples come to the island of Santorini to get married. Greece has started to become a 'must-have' destination," he said, noting that there were some 30 Chinese travel agencies in Athens and their number was rising.
Concerning the future of investments, Yiannidis said that "we have reached a very good point and we can be optimistic. Red tape in Greece is still strong but, at the same time, the new investment law, the simplified licensing, the fast-track process for major investments, are very encouraging signs for the Greek investment environment...A next step will be for society to realise that without investments there can be no economic growth or new jobs".
 Greek business presence in China risingIn recent years, more Greek enterprises are seeking access to the developing Chinese market, with exports acquiring an urgency under the present economic climate.
Based on figures provided by the Office for Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Greek Embassy in Beijing, the productive investments in China between 1978 and 2010 consisted of 101 investment plans with a contract capital of roughly 175 million US dollars. The implemented investments reached 89.5 million US dollars, corresponding to roughly 0.02 pct of the country's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
There are over 1,000 Greek companies with steady commercial relations with China, mostly engaged in imports and less so in exports. Roughly 100 Greek companies are active in the Chinese market, in sectors covering a wide range - mining, commercial refrigeration, jewellery, cosmetics, plastics, furniture, information technology, gambling, foods, shipping, consulting and tourism services, trade and food catering among others.
Folli-Follie bijoux and accessories company is among the best-known Greek companies active in China, with 100 stores across the country, in cooperation with Fosun International. Also, S&B Industrial Minerals S.A., which has signed a contract with Angnag Industry Group in northern China in January 2010, Plastika Kritis plastics manufacturer, FHL Kiriakidis - Marbles and Granites, Iktinos Hellas marble industry, Coco-Mat bedding company, Apivita cosmetics, the elevator manufacturer Kleeman Hellas, Frigoglass, Intralot, paint manufacturer Vitex, glass manufacturer Yalco Constantinou S.A. and Minerva olive oil products.
The wine companies active in China include Tsantalis, Boutari, A. Megapanos and the Vaeni Naoussa Wines.
"The Asian market has momentum," FHL Kiriakidis financial director Lefteris Kondilis told ANA-MPA, adding that "it is traditional and is based on relations of trust between foreign investors and local entrepreneurs. It is very difficult for a company to enter the Chinese market but through a lot of work and attention to quality and innovation the necessary relations of trust can be built and proper conditions for a successful business cooperation can be created."
Referring to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' trip to China from May 15 to 19, he said that the premier must restore confidence in Greece and convince Chinese entrepreneurs that the country has an adequately organised framework for business (taxation, red tape, licensing, labour relations, and so on) that will be helpful in making investments in Greece.
Yalco Constantinou S.A. managing director Sokratis Constantinou characterized China as a "difficult market" for a foreign company. "The differences in mentality and the unstable taxation framework make it difficult for companies wishing to become active in the Chinese market. It needs plenty of patience and enough capital for a Greek company to have a successful presence in the specific market," he said.
Hellenic-Chinese Centre of Entrepreneurship president Afroditi Bleta told ANA-MPA that the Greek companies wishing to expand their activities to China should be careful because "the road is not easy and there are traps along the way."
She said that there is a lot of room for cooperation between the two countries' companies in the sectors of food and beverages, marble, shipping, mining and processing of minerals, cosmetics and accessories, tourism, and energy, among others.
Bleta noted that the business and consumer culture in China is very different from that of Greece, stressing that it varies from one Chinese province to the next. Selecting the right associates, importers and distributors is of vital importance, as is product labeling and patenting, she said.
 Euro Working Group ratifies 4.2 billion tranche for GreeceDuring a teleconference on Wednesday late afternoon, the Euro Working Group ratified the disbursement to Greece of the tranche of 4.2 billion euros of the country's financial aid for the first quarter of the year.
According to reports from EU sources, the disbursement must be ratified now by the relevant committees of certain parliaments, such as the German Parliament's Budget Committee. This is expected to take place by Friday at the latest to enable the amount to be credited on the same day to the special account held at the Bank of Greece.
On Monday May 20, Greek bonds (which were not included in last year's PSI) amounting to 5.6 billion euros must be paid off; they are mainly held by the European Central Bank. Also, by the end of August, the state must pay off Greek bonds amounting to 4.9 billion euros.
With regard to the tranche of 3.3 billion euros (from the eurozone) for the second quarter of the current year, the amount is expected to be disbursed in June, provided that three prior actions have been fulfilled. These concern the deregulation of the power market, the implementation of legislation to deal with corruption and the bill on indebted households.
The heads of the EC-ECB-IMF troika are expected to arrive in Greece in early June for a new evaluation of the economy. Ways to cover the fiscal gap for the 2015-2016 period will be examined by the creditors' representatives in early autumn.
 Greek economy shrank 5.3 pct in Q1, EurostatThe Greek economy shrank by 5.3 pct in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the corresponding period in 2012, after shrinking by 5.7 pct in the fourth quarter of 2012, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The European Commission's statistics service, in a report, also said that the eurozone economy shrank by 1.0 pct in the January-March period, compared with the same period last year, for a decline of 0.2 pct compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. In the EU-27, the economy shrank by 0.7 pct on an annual basis and by 0.1 pct on a quarterly basis.
 Greek GDP fell to 2005 levels in Q1The Greek economy shrank by 5.3 pct in the first quarter of 2013, with the country's Gross Domestic Product falling to 42.255 billion euros to lower levels from the first quarter of 2005 (44.206 billion euros).
The year 2013 will be the sixth consecutive year of recession in Greece, with estimates for a 4.2 pct decline in GDP. A gradual recovery is projected from 2014, with the Greek GDP expected to grow by 0.6 pct.
The country's GDP shrank by 0.2 pct in 2008, 3.2 pct in 2009, 5.1 pct in 2010, 7.2 pct in 2011 and 6.4 pct in 2012.
Meanwhile, in a teleconference on Wednesday the Euro Working Group is expected to approve the disbursement of a 4.2 billion euro tranche to Greece. This money is expected to be credited to a special account in the Bank of Greece on Friday as the country faces a repayment of Greek state bonds, held by the European Central Bank and worth 5.6 billion euros, next Monday, May 20.
 New CAP funds for Greece to reach 18.5 billion eurosPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Agricutural Development Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris who announced that the total amount corresponding to Greece from the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is expected to be 18.5 billion euros for the coming 7-year period.
"I am bringing you 'fresh' news because I returned from Brussels a few hours ago, therefore I am pleased to be behaving the opportunity to brief you," Tsaftaris told Papoulias.
Tsaftaris added that for the next 7 years "we shall have equally considerable funds in support of agriculture and stockbreeding in particular."
Tsaftaris said the total amount corresponding to Greece from the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is expected to be 18.5 billion euros.
The minister stressed to President Papoulias that Europe is now obliging all the member-states, taking into consideration the demographic aging of the agricultural population, to spend compulsorily 2 percent of the total budget of the new CAP for young people to enter the first stage sector.
Tsaftaris also announced to President Papoulias that the ministry is hiring 100 young research scientists for research, technology and innovation in the country, 60 now and 40 next year, who will be allocated to various Institutes and stations.
 METKA, SEPCOIII discuss cooperation in energy project in IraqMETKA on Wednesday confirmed it was in talks with SEPCOIII - a Chinese construction company - on a plan to cooperate in an energy project in Iraq.
In a statement to the Athens Stock Exchange, METKA said it was in talks with SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction Corporation, based in Qingdao, China.
SEPCOIII was founded in 1985 and has built energy power units with a total capacity of 30,000 MW in China and another 20,000 MW in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan in the Middle East.
 Considerable increase in tourist arrivals at Piraeus portThere has been an increasing number of arrivals of home porting and transit tourists at the Piraeus Port in the first quarter of 2013, according to data presented by Piraeus Port Organisation (OLP) president and managing director George Anomeritis, who said that by the end of the year cruise ship passengers will be serviced by three stations.
Anomeritis said a 5,600-square-metre second international station for cruise ship passengers will be inaugurated on May 27, while a third station, of 3,500 square metres will be ready by the end of the year.
Presenting data on tourist arrivals and departures at the port, Anomeritis said there has been an increase of 24.68 percent in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same quarter in 2012.
The number of home porting passengers in the first quarter this year rose by 22.05 percent and amounted to 8,120, compared to 6,653 in 2012.
Transit passengers increased by 24.94 percent and amounted in the first quarter to 88,948 compared to 71,194 in 2012.
 New public site to track progress in tax, debt collectionA new site set up by the Secretariat General for Public Revenues will allow the public to check on progress in state tax collection, the Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday.
The site, www.publicrevenue.gr, is showing the current year's tax collection targets and the percentage of the goals met.
It will also post state data on the number of outstanding debts and audits conducted and the percentage of revenues collected in either case. More data will be added over the next few days, including the effectiveness of revenue collection in various services affiliated with the ministry, under which the Greek tax service operates.
The site also includes a strategic plan to fight corruption, as well as a code of conduct for employees of the ministry.
 No decision to tax farming land, finance ministry saysNo decision has been made to impose a special tax on farming land, the finance ministry stressed in an announcement issued on Wednesday in response to press reports.
 New head of HFSF appointedChristos Sklavounis was appointed on Wednesday new president of the General Council of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund.
The appointment was made by decision of Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
Sklavounis was until recently an executive with UBS in London, Eastern Europe and Greece.
 Mytilineos Group reports improved Q1 resultsMytilineos Group on Wednesday said its turnover totaled 356.5 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, from 358.6 million euros in the same period last year.
The company, in a statement, said that EBITDA totaled 50.2 million euros in the January-March period, up 23 pct from last year, while the EBITDA margin rose to 14.1 pct from 11.4 pct over the same periods, respectively, reflecting basically lower costs in the metal sector.
Net after tax and minorities earnings totaled 10.4 million euros in the first three months of 2013, from 10 million euros last year.
METKA's turnover eased to 134 million euros in the first quarter, from 170.7 million euros last year, EBITDA eased to 22.9 million euros, although the EBITDA margin remained at very high levels (17.1 pct). Net after tax and minorities earnings totaled 16.1 million euros, down from 23.5 million euros in 2012.
The metals and mining sector of the group reported a turnover of 112 million euros in the first three months of 2013, down from 117.8 million euros last year, although EBITDA returned to profits of 6.3 million euros from losses of 1.9 million euros last year.
The energy sector's turnover jumped to 113.9 million euros from 77.4 million euros last year, accounting for 32 pct of the Group's turnover. EBITDA jumped to 21.6 million euros, from 14.5 million euros in 2012, boosted by the launch of Korinthos Power unit.
 Plaisio Computers to pay 0.09 euros per share dividend to shareholdersA Plaisio Computers annual regular general shareholders' meeting on Wednesday approved a board plan to pay a 0.12 euros per share (gross) dividend to shareholders. The company said net dividend payment -after tax- will be 0.09 euros per share.
 Greek stocks jump 3.74 pctGreek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, in the aftermath of the country's credit rating upgrade by Fitch -the credit rating company cited the stabilization of the Greek economy and a significant progress in reducing fiscal deficits as the main reasons behind its decision.
The composite index of the market jumped 3.74 pct to end at 1,113.67 points, its highest closing since early August 2011, while turnover rose further to 143.13 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 4.44 pct and the Mid Cap index rose 4.69 pct. Titan (0.70 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end lower, while Eurobank (26.57 pct), Piraeus Bank (19.57 pct), National Bank 8.62 pct), Intralot (8.33 pct) and Alpha Bank (7.63 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day. PPC also jumped 7.52 pct after the government unveiled the timetable of its privatization.
All sector indices moved higher with Banks (10.45 pct), Utilities (7.07 pct) and Financial Services (6.34 pct) scoring the biggest gains. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 131 to 36 with another 22 issues unchanged. Attica Bank (29.9 pct), Q&R (29.9 pct) and Eurobank (26.57 pct) were top gainers while Alsinco (20 pct), Sato (19.54 pct) and Pairis Plastics (19.4 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.06%
Personal & Household: +1.89%
Raw Materials: +4.36%
Travel & Leisure: +5.19%
Food & Beverages: +1.71%
Financial Services: +6.34%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Bank of Piraeus, National Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.64
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.44
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.03
National Bank of Greece: 1.26
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.52
Bank of Piraeus: 0.50
 Greek 10-year bond yield falls below 8%The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bond fell below 8.0 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, as a surprise move by Fitch on Tuesday to upgrade the country's credit rating to B- further improved borrowing terms for the Greek state.
The 10-year Greek bond yielded 8.6 pct in the domestic market, while the German Bund yielded 1.27 pct, with the spread falling to 7.37 pct, from 8.11 pct on Tuesday. The yield spread was 27 pct in July 2012.
Despite the significant improvement, the yield of the 10-year Greek benchmark bond remained at least 2.0 pct higher from the levels seen before the country entered the support mechanism of the EC-ECB-IMF troika. Before the signing of the memorandum the 10-year Greek bond yield was 6.4 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 2.26 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 21.976 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,397 contracts worth 14.215 million euros, with 40,506 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 27,354 contracts worth 7.761 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (11,729), followed by MIG (4,613), OTE (2,643), PPC (2,406), OPAP (948), Mytilineos (1,283), Intralot (1,027), GEK (712), Hellenic Exchanges (329), Sidenor (213), Piraeus Port (116) and Ellaktor (421).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.305
Pound sterling 0.859
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.724
Japanese yen 134.02
Swiss franc 1.268
Norwegian kroner 7.654
Canadian dollar 1.333
Australian dollar 1.321
 President receives Euroleague champions Olympiacos: 'You have made Greeks proud,' he saysPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Euroleague basketball champions Olympiacos Piraeus, congratulating them on their second, 'back-to-back' Euroleague title after a sensational game in London on Sunday night.
"You have made Greeks proud," Papoulias said, addressing the players and coach Georgios Bartzokas, the first Greek coach with a winning team in the Euroleague. The president also congratulated the team's management, coaches and all those that worked to help Olympiacos prevail for a second consecutive year, after their 2012 Euroleague victory in Istanbul.
The owners of the Olympiacos basketball team, the brothers Panagiotis and Georgios Angelopoulos, presented Papoulias with a red-and-white Olympiacos shirt with the number "1" and his surname printed on the back, while Georgios Printezis gave him a season ticket for the team's games and the Peace and Friendship Stadium. The president then presented each member of the team with an honorary medal.
"I want to congratulate you on your achievement....you have sent a message that even with less money than other teams, Greeks succeed in distinguishing themselves and gaining the summit," he said.
Deputy Sports Minister Yiannis Ioannidis, a former basketball coach that brought six teams to the Euroleague final four and reached three finals without once coming away with the trophy, emphasised the "message of optimism" conveyed by the team at a difficult time for Greece.
"This is your most important achievement. Olympiacos succeeded in proving that when there is a team and we are all together we are perfectly capable of achieving things that even great countries cannot achieve," he said, congratulating the team on both their victory and their impressive centenary score in a European final.
In statements after leaving the meeting with the president, the team members and owners said they felt deeply honoured to be received by the country's first citizen, stressing that there was no greater honour.
Team coach Bartzokas, speaking on behalf of the team, said: "it is a huge honour for our team to be received by the president of the Republic. For all that participated in this achievement."
Olympiacos' number 4, the 27-year-old American power forward Kyle Hines, similarly declared himself overwhelmed by the president's invitation:
"It's a great honour! I really want to thank the President of the Democracy of Greece for inviting us to come and hosting us today in his offices [at the presidential mansion]. It?s a great honour for me especially, being a foreigner, to have the chance to meet him and share this championship with him".
"It was always a goal of mine when I joined Olympiacos to win championships and make the fans of Olympiacos and everybody in Greece proud and happy. Two days after we won the Euroleague Championship in London the feeling for me is better. Each day it gets better and better," said Hines, a few minutes after he had shaken hands with the president.
 Turkish state returns seized building to Ortakoy communityISTANBUL (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas)
A building seized by the Turkish state in 1985 was returned to the community of Ortakoy (Messochori) after a decision of the General Directorate of Benevolent Foundations (Vakufs) in Turkey, it was announced on Wednesday.
The Ortakoy community had brought its case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming back its assets and the Turkish state decision comes ahead of an imminent ruling.
Ethnic Greek community representatives and the representative of the Non-Muslim Minorities in the General Directorate of Foundations in Turkey, Pantelis Vingas, have been notified of the decision.
The building in question housed the community elementary school. It was seized by the Turkish state in 1985 because it "did not have an adequate number of students". Later, an attempt was made to have it demolished and replace it with a park. The building, an interesting and characteristic sample of 19th century architecture, survived and after being renovated it was used by the ministry of European affairs.
Minister Egemen Bagis had pledged on the day the building reopened that it will be returned to its rightful owners.
 Six year-old girl missing in sea region of FarmakonissiA six year-old girl has gone missing at sea near Farmakonissi, in the eastern borders of the Aegean Sea, after 21 fellow illegal immigrants on board destroyed the vessel in order to attract and be rescued by the Greek coast guard.
A search and find operation is under way in the area while the rest of the immigrants were transferred to Leros island.
 Thieves removed 2.0 km of copper cable, Thessaloniki road maintenance reportsThieves have stripped two kilometres of copper cable from the Thessaloniki-Perea road network, disabling street lights along the route and making it especially dangerous for motorists at night, the Central Macedonia Region road maintenance department reported on Wednesday.
Central Macedonia Regional Authority chief Apostolos Tzitzikostas underlined that maintenance work on the lighting system along that road had been completed just a month earlier but the new thefts had already disabled the system and urged police to take more drastic measures to protect public property.
 Foreign nationals arrested for forgeryThree foreign nationals were arrested accused of forging travel documents, Athens police announced on Wednesday.
Three Pakistanis were arrested for supplying foreign nationals with forged travel documents for a fee. The documents were used by illegal migrants in order to stay in the country and be able to go through passport checks.
A police search in their apartment in Peristeri district revealed tens of forged passports and rubber stamps that belonged to Greek and foreign authorities. The apartment was fully equipped with computer, printer, scanner, a device used to detect forged documents and various tools.
 Former company CEO arrested for state debts exceeding 18 million eurosGreek police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a 48-year-old businessman, a former company CEO, for outstanding debts to the state of almost 18.223 million euros.
Other arrests for state debts included that of a 46-year-old in Maroussi for personal debts of 113,330.02 euros and a 43-year-old company manager for state debts of 97,193.44 euros.
All three were led before an Athens Misdemeanours Court prosecutor.
 Local businessman found hanged on the island of RhodesA local businessman on the island of Rhodes was found hanged on Wednesday, the second such incident on the southern Aegean island since last Saturday.
Police said the 55-year-old man was found hanged on the seashore outside the city of Rhodes and are not ruling out the likelihood of suicide.
Last Saturday, a 59-year-old was found hanged in his house in Rhodes' Old City.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 12C and 29C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 13C and 28C. Possible local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13C and 27C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: "Taxation and terror" are coupled, the paper claims, as the government adopts terrifying US tactics to audit taxpayers.
ETHNOS: "The new tax for farmland" will be included in a new property tax that will supersede all other taxes as of 2014 and include plots of land outside city plans.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Deposits, loans, expenses in the clutches of the tax services" after the authorities start conducting cross-checks between declared income and actual expense receipts.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Teachers' union (OLME) armed heavily against civil mobilisation" as teachers rally against a government order preventing strikes going into effect Wednesday
ESTIA: "Lenin's admirer" is a reference to main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, who referred to the Soviet leader during his address before Greece's influential federation of businessmen (SEV).
AVGHI: "A lesson in struggle and democracy" given by high school teachers, who showed up in droves at their union meetings after the government ordered their mobilisation.
VRADYNI: "A cry of anguish from employees in the press" as regional newspapers face closure over revenues as companies are no longer obliged to publicise their balance sheets.
ELLADA AVRIO: "Firefighting turned over to a bankrupt company" according to which a Finance Ministry draft law extends its contract with Skylink company, which has declared bankruptcy.
KATHIMERINI: "An American model of finding tax evaders" refers to the US Internal Revenue Service methods adopted by the Greek tax authorities to determine actual income and tax evaders.
RIZOSPASTIS: "GSEE signed a collective bargaining agreement slashing wages" it charges, after the largest private-sector umbrella union signed a new, six-month labour agreement with some of of the unions of employers.
TA NEA: "Which expenses betray us" lists the ways the tax services can cross-check tax records and catch tax evaders.
IMERISSIA: "Bank deposits, expenses and property serve as proof" to tax authorities to catch tax evaders.
NAFTEMPORIKI: "New generation of taxes and how they will be implemented" in terms of the audits the Finance Ministry and its tax services plan to do.
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