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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-05-17

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 17 May 2013 Issue No: 4361


  • [01] Greece, China sign series of agreements after Chinese premier's talks with Samaras in Beijing
  • [02] PM: China can be part of the Greek success story
  • [03] Greek delegation satisfied with contacts in China
  • [04] SYRIZA-EKM, Independent Greeks criticise PM for lacking plan, inconsistency
  • [05] DIM.AR: State must focus on urgently increasing revenues
  • [06] Government will respect court rulings against Hochtief in local authority dispute, minister stresses
  • [07] Venizelos addresses Woodrow Wilson center in Washington
  • [08] Athens mayor meets with New York's Michael Bloomberg
  • [09] Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece visits Boston
  • [10] Ecumenical Patriarch concludes visit to Milan
  • [11] Teachers postpone striking during examination period
  • [12] Opinion poll gives Syriza marginal lead over ND
  • [13] Fitch upgrades Greece's four systemic banks
  • [14] Investment spending decline to slow in 2013, survey
  • [15] EIB approves 215 mln euros loans for energy projects in Greece
  • [16] Greek trade deficit slightly up in Jan-Feb, Eurostat
  • [17] Greece falls deeper into deflation in April
  • [18] Greece-Russia business forum opens in Thessaloniki
  • [19] Intrasoft-Intrakat consortium wins telematics project in urban transport
  • [20] IOBE conference on the economic impact of the TAP pipeline
  • [21] MLS Informatics reports higher Q1 results
  • [22] Coca Cola HBC reports lower losses in Q1
  • [23] Municipality on Crete receives European Energy Award
  • [24] Congress tourism falling in Greece
  • [25] Greece remains top tourist destination for Serbs
  • [26] Del Monte Hellas says turnover up in 2012
  • [27] Air-traffic control work-stoppage on Thursday
  • [28] Greek stocks extend rally for fourth consecutive session
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [32] Homicide charges for man who stabbed young boy on Crete
  • [33] Bank robbers escape with one-mln-euro loot in Larissa
  • [34] Two arrested for burning Cameroonian shop are racist network members
  • [35] Human rights the focus of CCBE seminar
  • [36] Chinese journalists visit Greek Parliament
  • [37] Center for Talented Youth to be established in Thessaloniki
  • [38] Foreign national wanted on European warrant arrested
  • [39] Cloudy, strong winds on Friday
  • [40] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greece, China sign series of agreements after Chinese premier's talks with Samaras in Beijing

    BEIJING (ANA-MPA / S. Goutzanis)

    Chinese companies desire involvement in Greece's infrastructure sector, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday after talks with visiting Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The two premiers discussed all aspects of Greek Greek-Chinese relations during their meeting, especially economic cooperation and long-range strategic plans. Following their talks, a number of agreements and protocols were signed by the Greek side and the Chinese government.

    Samaras is on an official visit to China until May 19, accompanied by a delegation of some 60-plus Greek business leaders, after which he will fly to Azerbaijan for a one-day visit.

    "We are global shipping powers and we can cooperate in many areas. Since 2010 there has been heightened cooperation, while Chinese companies desire to become active in the infrastructure sectors. We will take action to boost commercial transactions, with the target of increasing the volume of transactions to eight billion euros in 2015," the Chinese premier said during a dinner for the Greek mission.

    Referring to geopolitical issues, Li noted that China is Greece's ally in the Cyprus issue and asked for Athens' help in improving China's relations with the European Union, especially in light of Greece's upcoming stint in the EU presidency in the first half of 2014.

    He also asked Athens to reduce bureaucracy and simplify the process for issuing visas.

    Responding, Samaras noted that the new investment law made provision for fast-track procedures that will make Chinese investment easier, adding that the Greek government "is here to look at everything, step by step, and facilitate our cooperation."

    Specifically, they discussed expanding the activity of the Chinese container company Cosco at the main port of Greece, Piraeus, and the possibility of Chinese investment in Greek railroads and regional airports and ports.

    The agreements signed by the two sides included:

    - A Cooperation Protocol with China Development Bank, signed by Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) President Stelios Stavridis and aiming to promote the Greek Privatizations Programme and the active participation of Chinese companies. Government officials hailed the interest expressed by the leading financial organization as a sign that the Chinese have confidence in Greece's prospects for economic growth.

    -A cooperation agreement between China Development Bank and Invest in Greece, signed by Invest in Greece Managing Director Stefanos Isaias, to promote economic cooperation in priority sectors, such as tourism, real estate, telecommunications, transport, energy and investment financing. Based on this, China Development Bank will promote Invest in Greece's plans for investments involving Chinese companies and finance their implementation after an assessment. The Greek government's intention to establish an Institute for Growth aimed at boosting the Greek economy was warmly welcomed by the China Development Bank, which will consider participating in the international cooperation.

    - A Cooperation Memorandum with the Chinese company Huawei, signed by Greek Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Costis Hatzidakis. In the next three years, the company will create a logistics hub in Greece and a center for research and innovation, in cooperation with leading Greek research centres and Greek technological companies. Also, Huawei is willing to cooperate with Greek universities and Research Centres and offer training to students and young graduates.

    - A Cooperation Memorandum with the Chinese company ZTE - again signed by Hatzidakis - which will undertake to turn the port of Piraeus into a transit and logistics hub for ZTE products in Europe and the greater Mediterranean region. ZTE is among the five leading manufacturers of telecommunications equipment worldwide. Its clients include more than 500 telecommunications providers worldwide and it has a presence in over 140 countries, including Greece.

    [02] PM: China can be part of the Greek success story

    BEIJING (ANA/MPA-S. Goutzanis)

    Greece is building a success story, and it wants China to be part of that story, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Thursday, speaking at the Academy of Social Sciences of China.

    In China on an official visit May 15-19 with a delegation of business people, Samaras said, "Greece is changing. I want to thank you because China is standing by us and supported our stay in the European Union. The Greek 'comeback' is already visible. I would not have been here if our course had not changed and we had not guaranteed our 'comeback'."

    "Greece is building a success story and we want China to be part of this story," he added.

    Speaking on the role China can play in bilateral relations, he said, "We want to work with Chinese enterprises. Chinese businesses can invest in logistics to bring Europe closer to China." The four sectors he highlighted included tourism, Greek agricultural products, coastal land development, and tourism/culture.

    He referred to the investment by China-based container company Cosco, which manages the container section of the port of Piraeus, saying that "Cosco made an important investment in the port of Piraeus during [economically] difficult times; now it can take advantage of Greece's location and invest in the ports of the island of Crete and the Athens airport."

    Speaking on the relationship between Greece and China, he said "ten years have passed since the first strategic agreement between the EU and China, and this [collaboration] can extend much further."

    Earlier in the day, the Greek premier attended the screening of a documentary on Greece (Glamorous Greece) produced jointly by Chinese television and Greek public television ERT, and was given a private tour of the Forbidden City.

    Full text of PM Samaras' speech at Academy of Social Sciences in China

    The full speech, including the Q & A, that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras gave Thursday at the Academy of Social Sciences of China, follows:.

    "Dear friends,

    It is a great honor and real pleasure for me - and for all the members of the Greek delegation - to be here in China today. For some of us, like myself, this is the first time and this has always been my dream; it is a life-long destination that I have finally reached. And it' s definitely Mr. President a great honor for me to be here, in this Academy of such a great international importance.

    May I first say that Chinese and Greeks, no matter how different we are in many aspects, we share something absolutely important and vital: We both carry a very rich cultural tradition with deep, very deep, influence over the centuries to all parts of the world.

    We have both carved deep and long paths in History.

    As some have said, other people count time in years or decades...

    Chinese and Greeks count time in centuries and millennia!

    We share other things too: Ancient China went through a period of "Spring and Autumn" during which "a thousand schools of thought" flourished. Ancient Greece had exactly the same experience, roughly during the same historical period in the Antiquity. When the pre-Socratic, naturalist philosophy produced the legendary "seven sages", or wise men.

    Ancient China had its period of "warring states", between the 5th and the 3rd centuries BC or BCE - Before our Common Era. About the same time, we experienced the same phenomenon, of Greek City States fighting for dominance amongst each other.

    Back in the sixties and the early seventies, Chinese studies were not so much in fashion, in the rest of the world, as they are today. But, being a Greek, I was always interested in China. I remember long discussions with some of my friends, trying to figure out "parallels" and "distinctions" between our cultures:

    Was Confucius closer to Plato or to Aristotle?

    Was Sun Tzu closer to the strategic realism of Thucydides or to the tactical pragmatism and mastery of Xenophon?

    Was General Sun Bin, this long descendant of Sun Tzu, a parallel to Alexander or to Ificrates? or to Miltiades for that matter?

    Was Lao Tzu, or Lao Tse, a parallel to Pythagoras or to Heraclitus?

    To tell you the truth, I never answered those questions, I don' t think that anybody has ever answered them in a satisfactory manner.

    But in any case, there is one thing certain about all these: Chinese Culture and Greek Culture gave "meaning" to human societies, across the borders and across the ages. They both provided time-transcending ideals, principals, norms, rationality, ethics and aesthetics that enriched spirituality, beyond short-lived intellectual fashions, trivial concerns or momentary impressions.

    Even in more recent time frames, our two countries, China and Greece, look so different in many aspects and yet so strikingly similar in many others.

    Indeed, we are so different in size, location on the globe and social systems. And yet so similar in other respects: we both suffered dramatically from foreign aggression and occupation during the Second World War. Our peoples fought on the same side of the anti-fascist war and endured a lot of suffering. And this binds us together even more.

    Finally, we both went through periods of painful transformation after the War. And we have covered a very long way in a very short time these last decades...

    And, here comes another striking difference among us: China is now rapidly emerging as a world power, is a big world power. Greece, on the other hand, is striving to overcome one of the most severe social and economic crisis of the last 50 years; a crisis that, for a moment, jeopardized all of our achievements in the last 30 years.

    In a short and shallow perspective, we seem to be on different "trajectories" or in opposing "phases". But in a broader and longer perspective, our destinies are closer than most "outsiders" can suspect.

    And this is precisely what I would mainly try to address today: Not the past of our countries, but our common prospects in the future. And I would not constraint my presentation to Greece alone. I would rather talk about Europe as a whole, of which Greece is and will remain an integral part.

    What makes it even more relevant now is that in the first half of next year Greece will hold the Presidency of the European Union. And, I think, this is a unique opportunity to reshape Sino-European relations.

    Of course, this is a much broader issue, extending way beyond Greece itself. It has to meet the consensus of all 27 members of our Union and all of our Institutions. But Greece can play a role in achieving it and this is what we intend to do. Because we believe it is to the best interests of all parties involved: Europe, China and Greece, of course.

    Now China and Europe are two unique pillars of our International System. They are the first and third political entities world-wide, in terms of population. They haven't posed any security threat for each other in the past. But they really need each other for a number of reasons, both economic and political, concerning trade and investment flaws as well as geopolitical concerns.

    Admittedly, there are some obstacles in the construction of a deep bilateral relationship. But there is a common scope from both sides to overcome these obstacles. Europeans and Chinese need each other. They are wise enough, experienced enough and non-aggressive enough, to make it happen. The sooner we realize it, I believe the more successful we are going to be.

    Already ten years have elapsed since the first Strategic Agreement between Europe and China. We believe that this can move much further and really faster...

    Now, how does Greece come into play? For starters it is the natural "gateway" to China. Despite the fact that we are a relatively small country, our Commercial fleet is the largest in the world and has already provided a very large contribution in the trade between China and Europe. Bilateral trade means transportation. And this, in turn, means commercial routes, transportation means and infrastructures. We can have a serious contribution in all these fields: Greek ports, Greek airports, and Greek railways can be a part of large commercial network extending way beyond Greece in the European hinterland, from South East to North West.

    Of course, this will not be the only path of trade between China and Europe; but both parties need "alternatives" to feel secure. And the "Greek gateway" can very well serve as a major route among other viable alternatives. We don't regard ourselves as "competing" with others, in serving the Sino-European trade. We rather think in the context of complementing other potential trade routes...

    One of the advantages of our proposal, however, is that most of the infrastructures exist. We need new construction works, mainly upgrading some of our ports and our railway system. And we already run a major multi-project privatization plan, including concessions to many pieces of ready infrastructures.

    We would want Chinese companies to play an active role in that. We can team up together to shape up this major gateway between China and Europe.

    Moving beyond infrastructures, we know that on trade routes there is a large scope for logistics providers. We believe it would be an excellent idea if Chinese companies took this opportunity and invest on logistic services in Greece, as part of a plan to bring China and Europe closer.

    Even beyond commercial routes, there is a large scope for communication networks. We know that this is an area where China is becoming more and more competitive on a world level. We strongly believe that all of Europe can benefit from such competition.

    On the other hand, there is a special national scope for Greece in all these considerations: In Tourism, in Archaeological visits, in Primary Sector exports and manufacturing. We don't produce very large quantities, at least for the scale of China. But we are proud for the quality of a number of our products: our extra-virgin olive oil which is the base for the famous Mediterranean diet; our fruits and vegetables - fresh, frozen or processed; our fisheries. All these and dozens more, present real opportunities for foreign trade and investment in manufacturing.

    Most of you have some idea about these Greek competitive advantages. But, if you asked me, the five most important advantages of Greece, are not so well known abroad.

    --Firstly, its unique coastal line: Our coasts are about as long as the coastline of all of Africa! This, including a unique archipelago of islands scattered in short distance from each other, offers vast opportunities for all kinds of economic activities, from sea sports to sailing and island hoping, to fishing and to transportation.

    -- Secondly, a unique combination of historical sight-seeing, from the prehistoric to the modern era. In a neighborhood of a few miles, you can visit temples from the classical period, the site of famous battlefields during the Roman years, monumental Byzantine churches of over thousand years, plus some of the most modern hotel resorts, close to sites from the ancient mythology. These combinations in the same vicinity present themselves literally all over Greece, from North to South, from East to West, from the legendary Mount Olympus to the Cycladic island of Delos, from one epicenter of our ancient civilization to the next.

    Not to mention unique natural sites of huge rocks, hanging as if from heaven, some of them even decorated on top with centuries-old monasteries.

    -- Thirdly, an equally unique diversity of animal and plant life: From wild flowers and herbs, to life stock breads, providing all kinds of production, manufacturing and export opportunities.

    -- Fourthly, Educational and Cultural exchanges. We are a small nation that has learned and appreciated the potential of Education. Whenever we had stunning successes in our history, education had played a key role. We know that you share the same experience and the same conviction. So we can join forces.

    Imagine an unprecedented dialogue between East and West Cultures. I can only express my pride for the fact that a Greek ship-owner, the late VasilisConstantacopoulos, has helped establishing a Center of Hellenic Studies in the University of Beijing. I want to pay tribute to his contribution and to his memory. This is definitely a good start. And as they say, the sky is the limit!

    So, imagine a dialogue between China and Greece, open to other parties, on philosophy, Mr. President, which you have studied so well, on mathematics, on comparative historical studies as well as on contemporary fields of applied science, as medicine, electronics and renewable energies. Joined research ventures between us, could really capture the attention of the spiritual world across continents and open up new roads for global understanding. I' ve just told at CCTV in an interview, I had that somebody on the plane, as we were coming, was reading Sun Tzu. And I said, why was he doing this? Was he trying to find out about historic weaponry? Of course not. What he was searching was the dynamic part of the wisdom that was radiating through the book. It's the wisdom you are looking for in Lao Tse, for instance, in Confucius for instance. What other countries, what other civilizations could ever open a such a dialogue and re-discuss the History and the development of the world through the ages talking about personalities of that high standard in the world of Philosophy, for instance, or History. To such a dialogue can be a very important part of the synergies we can look for among our two countries.

    --Last but not least, an immeasurable potential of human capital. We have talents and skills of thousands of Greeks, who have studied and excelled in Greek and foreign Universities. In almost any campus we can visit all over the western world, you will find large crowds of Greeks specializing on all fields of Science and Technology. Many of them are staying abroad because of the harsh recession that has hit Greece recently. And almost all of them would like to return to Greece and have a career commensurate to their education. The training and experience they have acquired is probably the most dynamic of the Greek advantage today.

    --And may I add, ladies and gentlemen, a final geopolitical point: Greece is stably anchored in the European Union. But if one just looks on the map, he will certainly realize that the stability, the prosperity and the extraversion of Greece, can play a vital role to the east Mediterranean beyond Europe. This is a troubled region, where along with our partners, we can help keep it stable and keep it growth oriented. We know that China has a profound interest in the Middle East and in North Africa regions. And we understand that our potential stabilizing role in this area is also something that you may appreciate.

    Now the good thing about all this is that we don't have to start from the very beginning. We already have Chinese companies established in Greece, like Cosco in the major Greek and Mediterranean Port of Piraeus. And, I have to admit that during difficult times, the Cosco investment was a valuable relief for Greece, keeping employment and job security when everything else was collapsing. So, now Cosco is expanding in Piraeus...

    We are also in the process of discussing plans for building a large airport hub from China to Europe and Northern Africa, based on the Greek island of Creta; or planning a privatization for our modern Venizelos airport in Athens, one of the most profitable? commercial airports in our part of the world. We find advanced Chinese interest about that airport as well.

    Indeed things have already taken place between our countries. There are two memoranda of strategic cooperation signed up since 2006. Some of them opened new grounds and came to fruition. In other aspects, however, things have stagnated, mainly due to the deep crisis Greece found itself in, since 2009.

    And this brings us to the last thing I would like to focus upon.

    Contrary to what was the case just a year ago, everybody is now recognizing Greece's success regarding the implementation of its Fiscal Consolidation program, believe me a very difficult and painful program. Greece is also praised by European authorities and the international press for its resolve to push for bold structural reforms.

    So we are now more than half the way through to make a real comeback, a way more than half through!

    We have already achieved the largest debt restructuring in History, without default!

    We have already concluded more than two-thirds of the most ambitious fiscal consolidation plan ever implemented, bringing down our deficit by more than 10 percentage points of GDP in three years; eliminating completely our primary deficit; covering three-quarters of our gap of competitiveness, while losing- please listen to this, you will realize how painful this is- 20 to 25% of our GDP in 4 years!

    These are important records on all counts; records of achievement; but also records of painful transformation of the entire country.

    So, you see Greece is transforming. It is changing the image abroad. And it is changing in essence at home.

    So, whatever stagnated in the past, can gain new momentum.

    And whatever succeeded in the most difficult circumstances in the recent years, can definitely succeed even more in the years to come.

    With this opportunity, I want to thank you today on behalf of all Greeks! During our most difficult moments in the last three years, China stood on our side. In a way that was very discrete, very steady and very comforting for us. With your public statements you supported Europe; you supported Greece's efforts to stay in the Euro! We felt it back home. And we won't forget it.

    The "Greek comeback" is already been reflected in the international markets, where if you look at the spreads- the gauge for country risk - have receded by about two-thirds of their record levels a year ago.

    Things are happening indeed! Greece is changing spectacularly, and Greek-Chinese relations have already made "inroads" that we are now ready to expand.

    Since I know how much you value sincerity and since this is exactly what we value the most, I want to tell you this:

    I wouldn't be here, if we hadn't turned in Greece our ship around.

    I wouldn't be here, if we hadn't succeeded in making a "comeback".

    But I am here, standing in front of you, because I can look at you straight in the eyes and tell you that, whatever has already worked in our relations so far, we can now speed it up, expand it, built on it. Whatever has not worked, we can fix it and we can make it happen.

    Our biggest political capital right now is the credibility we have managed to regain as a country, in a very short period of time. We have built our credibility in Europe, and - believe me again- it wasn't easy.

    We are now expanding our credibility beyond Europe.

    To sum it up, let me give a few key-words:

    --"Honor"! Chinese and Greeks perfectly understand what it means. It is a basic trait, characteristic, in both our Histories.

    --"Virtue"! Chinese and Greek certainly understand it. It is a key concept in both our Cultures.

    --Greece emerging as a "Gateway" between China and Europe. It is a prospect very significant for both of us.

    -- Building together this "Cultural bridge" I talked before about between East and West! It can have a tremendous impact world-wide. And we can make it happen.

    Finally: Turning Greece from a "scapegoat of Europe" to a major success story, has a symbolism much larger than Greece. It is a message that Europe can solve its problems and return to growth as well.

    The "Greek comeback" will also symbolize a "European comeback".

    To make a long story short, we want China to be a part of this success story.

    Thank you very much

    Questions and Answers:

    Question: You talked about structural reform and fiscal consolidation. These measures have played an important role in working out of the crisis and were also serve long term growth. My question is, going forward are you going to bring measures to stimulate short-term growth? And if there is any, how will you prevent conflict between the short-term measures and long term fiscal consolidation measures?

    Antonis C. Samaras: Thank you for the question. Look, austerity measures and tight fiscal policy were necessary, because our debt had expanded in an incredible manner. If you do not want to be depended on foreign creditors and if you want to have the possibility of standing on your own feet, you have to go through fiscal changes, in order to get rid of the huge debt problem. Our debt problem was so big that it had created spillover effects all over Europe. And this is what had created this unbelievable concept of the Grexit. We had to fight this. It was a national bet we had to win. And I can really tell you we are winning it, because if you see simply the market and the spreads and the fact that "Fitch", for instance, gave us back the B-position from the last one we used to be, which was basically called "junk bonds", one can realize that the difference is there today.

    On the other hand, we have a real problem and this is called unemployment. Unemployment has reached the incredible level of 27% overall. They have huge problems in France, with 10,3%. We have 60% unemployment among the youth over 15 years old, 60%! This is reaching a level of unbelievable social pain and dramatic problems in the area of social cohesion. So, we have to face this. How do you face it? Through the loans you got, through the funds, which are basically structural funds you can get from the Europeans, as we did, through investments that we are asking for, through privatizations we are doing, you can form what you call a shorten policy also. And you can allow money to circulate in a dehydrated economy, where starting from May up to the end of October I believe there is going to be enough rain in this dehydrated economy also from tourism, where this year we are hopefully going to break the record of 17 million people coming to Greece. I would love to make it 18 million with the Chinese next year. But what is important is that we are planning in a manner, so that we can have also a specific strategy for the problem of unemployment, which has been caused by what you've called "extreme austerity". So, on the one hand yes, fiscal consolidation was absolutely necessary, on the other hand, yes, we need fiscal stimulus, which can come through those measures I' ve just mentioned. And I think that this balance, I think that this absolutely need of the harmony, which is another well known word both for Chinese and Greeks, is something that you have to follow. It has to be harmonious. It cannot be overextended towards the A or the B part of it. It has to be balanced and this is what we are trying to do.

    Question: Your Excellency, good morning. I'm ... from the Institute for European Studies and someone that has immense interest in Greece and I benefited a lot from your excellent presentation this morning.

    (..)China and Greece established a comprehensive, strategic partnership in 2006, but cooperation in the various areas is still imbalanced, you've mentioned on many times that there are many ways to increase our cooperation and advance cooperation in various areas. My question is what preferential policies or good policies that you have to attract Chinese investment??

    Antonis C. Samaras: Strategic relation is, I believe, a relation that is not tactical and is not short-term. A relation which is strategic is one which is based on long-term and stable consideration. It cannot be time constrained. You cannot ask someone to help you just because you are in danger now and then forget about him after the danger is over. What I believe is important is that we have a strategic relationship in terms of the deep realization that the two countries can have sustained long-term synergies in the very long run, little by little. You know I don't want to create the impression that one can be so optimistic and dream things that cannot happen. I much more believe in the steady dreams of what your new President has talked about. It' s a dream that is tangible and the things we are talking about?for attracting, for instance, Chinese investments in Greece is something tangible. We have specific areas we are going to have privatization procedures, open bidding processes where the Chinese?will participate. They have already come to Greece many times, some of them I had the pleasure and honor to see them in my office. We will be there for a long time. We want to expand, we want to create job opportunities. The word "jobs" is the number one word that comes to my mind every morning when I see this unemployment level. And I know that China can really help. You are expanding all over the world. We are at the South-eastern part of Europe, we are at the tip of Europe, we are the borders of Europe. In an area where all the large commercial routes are starting to go to Asia. And geopolitically and geostrategically we are there. It' s obvious if you open the map, it' s obvious. And it' s again even more obvious if you open a History book, that we can have this deep relationship together, which will be based, however, on a strategic concept of cooperation, which by definition, I repeat, is not short-term. And what I' m trying to say, what I' m trying to convey to everyone is that over and above my government or your government this is History. I told the CCTV before, this morning, that we are not living in a cold era any more, Cold War era any more. We are not living even in a post-Cold War era any more. We are living in a new era. Everything has changed. We have jettisoned the past. And we are investing in the future. And if the two countries with the largest, most important world renowned, well known, unbelievable History do not merge their forces to create such synergies, if we do not do it, nobody else can do it. And we can do it, because of our "common DNA", which is written in our History in a long-term fashion that others cannot follow. We have always followed it?.

    [03] Greek delegation satisfied with contacts in China

    BEIJING (ANA-MNA/S. Goutzanis)

    The Greek government delegation accompanying Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in his official visit to China has expressed satisfaction with the reception extended and the responsiveness shown by officials during meeting in Beijing, a member of the delegation said Thursday.

    "The atmosphere has been very positive and beyond expectations," the government source said, adding that Greece has the potential to be part of China's planning in the next decade.

    Indicative of the Chinese interest was the fact that Samaras' meeting with his counterpart of China Li Keqiang, lasted for about forty-five minutes, "during which Li appeared deeply informed about developments in Greece and Europe. He knew not only the international reports on the state of the Greek economy, but even the movement of spreads in recent days. As an economist, (the Chinese premier) speaks in numbers, but he is also philosophical and knows what Greece has been through and what it can do to recover."

    The Greek official also said that the Chinese leadership has a deep knowledge of European affairs and wants a stable euro and a growing economy in the European Union, with Greece remaining a part of it.

    Antonis Samaras invited his Chinese counterpart to visit Greece, while there was also an official invitation by the President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias to the President of China Xi Jinping, who will on Friday receive the Greek premier.

    Greek officials also noted the extremely important meetings Samaras has had with the heads of China Development Bank, which manages funds of one trillion dollars. There was specific interest in expanding COSCO's investment in the port of Piraeus, as well as to Athens International Airport 'Elephtherios Venizelos'.

    Lastly, the official said the Greek government offered to provide hospitality in camps in Athens to children affected by the earthquake in China.

    [04] SYRIZA-EKM, Independent Greeks criticise PM for lacking plan, inconsistency

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) and the right-wing opposition party Independent Greeks on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, currently on a visit to China, for inconsistency and slavishly following the dictates of austerity memorandums demanded by Greece's creditors.

    According to SYRIZA-EKM, Samaras had no strategy for the country's economic reconstruction and an exit from the crisis and this was confirmed during his visit to China, in what the party called "another of his escapes from memorandum-dominated Greece."

    Attempts to politically deceive society through communications games were not a political plan for the economy but served to highlight the complete dead-end that the government's policies had led to, the party announcement added.

    The Independent Greeks announcement, meanwhile, accused the premier of inconsistency.

    "When Mr. Samaras is in China, he thinks of the unemployed every morning; when he returns to Greece, he orders civil mobilisation for all those struggling to protect their right to work," the party noted.

    The prime minister, "denounces the memorandum as being the main reason for unemployment when he is in the opposition, but when he is in office he implements it with religious fervour, so that unemployment rises to 27 percent," the announcement added.

    [05] DIM.AR: State must focus on urgently increasing revenues

    Efforts should be intensified and the necessary steps taken to bring Greece out of the crisis, said the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party on Thursday, following the release of data on the Gross Domestic Product.

    "The six-year recessional spiraling of the Greek economy has created asphyxiating pressure on families and businesses," the party said in its announcement, and proposed that as long as there were going to be no more cutbacks in pensions, wages, and bonuses, the state should focus on "the immediate increase of revenues by dealing with the black economy and tax evasion, shoring up liquidity in the market, strengthening investment expenses and supporting immediately the structures of social care and protection, along with promoting substantive programmes in fighting unemployment."

    [06] Government will respect court rulings against Hochtief in local authority dispute, minister stresses

    The government will respect the verdict of Greek justice if the Council of State issues a ruling in favour of municipalities seeking compensation from Hochtief and Athens International Airport, Interior Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said in Parliament on Thursday.

    "The government wants to respect the agreements it has signed with the Athens International Airport. But if there is a ruling of the Council of State that vindicates the municipalities in their claims, then it will respect the verdict of Greek justice," the minister said, in reply to a question made by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM Parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Papadimou- lis regarding Hochtief's debts to the surrounding local authorities.

    Papadimoulis noted that the contract for the construction of the airport in 1995 had foreseen the payment of compensatory taxes to the surrounding municipalities for the disruption and degradation of their environment as a result of the airport's operation, money that was never paid.

    The MP also noted that a law passed in 2008 calling for the issue of joint ministerial decisions establishing the amount and form of payment for these fees but that the ministerial decision was never issued. He accused successive PASOK and New Democracy governments of continued inertia and colluding with Hochtief at the expense of the public interest.

    According to the minister, local authorities are entitled to collect taxes for premises connected to the power grid, the uniform sanitation and lighting tax and the property tax. A 2001 environment ministry decision barred municipalities for charging the airport for sanitation and lighting services, on the grounds that it was self-servicing. The airport has also contested the municipalities claim for fees based on an official state document saying that taxes and other levies can be imposed providd that their sum does not exceed 0.5 percent of the airport's gross revenues. The airport claims to have paid more than 0.5 percent of gross revenues but mainly in the form of taxes rather than local authorities rates.

    [07] Venizelos addresses Woodrow Wilson center in Washington

    NEW YORK (ANA-MNA/P. Panagiotou)

    The institutional integration of the International Monetary Fund in the eurozone has essentially been a catalytic change that has transformed the conditions of the European integration, PASOK party president Evangelos Venizelos told an audience at Washington's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Thursday.

    In his speech, ?The eurozone crisis: Challenges and opportunities for the European South," Venizelos made an extensive analysis of political and economic developments, in which he stressed that the more integrated eurozone member states have been separated from the EU-27, and as a result there is a growing distance between eurozone members and non-member countries in the EU.

    Meanwhile, in an interview with the "Washington Times," Venizelos said that efforts are being made to change the perception that Greece was "a wasteful country", also warning of the risk of a growing rift within the eurozone between the countries enjoying economic stability, such as Germany, and the less stable nations of the European south.

    [08] Athens mayor meets with New York's Michael Bloomberg

    NEW YORK (ANA/MPA-P. Panagiotou)

    New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg offered to share technical know-how and innovative city projects, during a meeting with Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, on an official visit to the city.

    "Bloomberg is at the end of his third-year term, and all of the terms were very successful, so we have a lot to learn from him," said Kaminis, who was actually born in NYC, "and he has offered to help us in technical know-how and on innovation projects for cities."

    Kaminis also met with officials on volunteerism, on which the two cities have been in touch. "We want everyone to know that groups of Greek citizens are constantly volunteering spontaneously and take initiatives to look after public spaces and support social groups. The city has an obligation to support and assist these initiatives as much as possible."

    The two mayors did not discuss issues of violence and how NYC dealt with that, Kaminis said, as in Greece the issue of crime in general is under the state's jurisdiction rather than the city's.

    Kaminis also addressed the Council of Foreign Relations with a speech on "Redefining Athens", including city council initiatives to support low-income families, introduce business initiatives for youth and improve neighbourhood public spaces.

    [09] Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece visits Boston

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)

    Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece on Thursday arrived in Boston on his first visit to the United States, following an invitation from Archbishop Demetrios of America.

    Archbishop Ieronymos will be proclaimed an honorary professor of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston during the graduation ceremony on Saturday.

    The Archbishop visited the Boston Art Museum on Thursday and the scene of the bloody bomb attack near the finishing line of the Boston marathon race last month. Later in the evening, he will attend a formal dinner given in his honor by Metropolitan Bishop Methodios.

    On Saturday afternoon, accompanied by Archbishop Demetrios, he will visit New York for a series of meetings with US officials and members of the Greek-American community. He will also visit Greek Orthodox churches, schools and institutions.

    [10] Ecumenical Patriarch concludes visit to Milan

    ROME (ANA-MPA - Th. Andreadis)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Thursday wrapped up a two-day visit to Milan, during which he had a series of cordial meetings with Cardinal Angelo Scola, the city's Catholic archbishop.

    The Patriarch invited Scola to visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Istanbul, with the cardinal immediately accepting the invitation and agreeing to carry out a visit between December 31 and January 2.

    Patriarch Bartholomew's trip to Milan was organised to mark the 1700th anniversary since the signature in the city of the Edict of Milan, through which Constantine the Great established tolerance for all religions in the Roman Empire and ended the persecution of Christians.

    During his stay in the city, the Ecumenical Patriarch led a mass in the Santa Maria In Pontone Church given for the use of Milan's Greek Orthodox community, attended by Cardinal Scola.

    In statements afterward, Scola stressed the need to show that dialogue had made a real contribution toward a positive climate and in creating the much-vaunted pluralistic society, describing the Ecumenical Patriarch's visit as "a great gift".

    [11] Teachers postpone striking during examination period

    The secondary education teachers federation (OLME) will not go ahead with a strike during the nationwide university entry exams period starting on Friday, they decided after a meeting ending early Thursday morning.

    According to sources the teachers will hold a demonstration on Friday afternoon in downtown Athens while they also plan to hold other mobilisations.

    OLME's board will wrap up its meetings with all political parties next week and reconsider its options. It may alsoreconvene during the day Thursday; if so, it will issue an announcement.

    [12] Opinion poll gives Syriza marginal lead over ND

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leads by a marginal 0.5 percent over New Democracy (ND) party, according to the May Barometer, conducted by Public Issue for SKAI TV and Kathimerini newspaper.

    According to the poll results, SYRIZA was leading with 28 percent (up from 27.5 percent in April), followed by ND with 27.5 percent (down from 28.5 percent in April).

    Third place is taken by ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 11.5 percent, from 11 percent in April, while fourth place is shared between PASOK and KKE with 6.5 percent, followed by Independent Greeks with 6 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 5.5 percent. Undecided respondents gathered 8.5 percent.

    In response to who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (and ND leader) was preferred by 40 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 30 percent, while 28 percent did not respond.

    The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between 10 and 15 May 2013.

    Financial News

    [13] Fitch upgrades Greece's four systemic banks

    Fitch Ratings on Thursday upgraded Greece's four systemic banks in the aftermath of its decision to upgrade the country's credit rating on Tuesday.

    Fitch said it upgraded National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank Ergasias Long-Term Issuer Default Ratings to 'B-' from 'CCC', Short-term IDRs to 'B' from 'C' and Viability Ratings to 'b-' from 'f'. The agency has also revised the Greek banks' Support Rating Floors to 'No Floor' from 'CCC' and affirmed the Support Rating at '5'.

    These rating actions follow the banks' recapitalisation and a more stabilised macroeconomic environment in Greece, which is reflected in the agency's upgrade of Greece's sovereign rating to 'B-' from 'CCC' with a Stable Outlook. The Outlook on the banks' Long-term IDRs is Stable, reflecting the close correlation with that of the sovereign.

    In the absence of Greek authorities' ability to support the Greek banks, as evidenced by the sovereign's weak creditworthiness and the receipt of a sizeable IMF/EU bail-out plan which included support to banks, the four banks' Long-term IDRs and senior debt ratings are now driven by their improved stand-alone fundamentals as expressed by their VRs, Fitch said in a statement.

    The upgrade of the VRs reflects the banks' recapitalisation, which is in its final stage, and a more stabilised macroeconomic environment in Greece, as expressed by the sovereign upgrade. Despite the upgrade, at the 'b-' level the VR denotes weak prospects for ongoing viability as per Fitch's rating definitions, the credit rating agency said.

    [14] Investment spending decline to slow in 2013, survey

    Investment spending in the Greek industrial sector fell by 20 pct last year, compared with 2011, a survey by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.

    The survey, conducted in the period March-April 2013, showed that most industrial sectors suffered a decline in investment activity, with the clothing/footwear sector suffering a plunge of more than 90 pct. Investment spending in the chemicals sector fell by 40.1 pct, while in the textiles sector dropped by 64.6 pct, with investment activity in the two latter sectors falling faster compared with the previous year. Investment activity in the non-metal mining sector soared 76.3 pct, while in the food/beverage/tobacco sector rose by 9.7 pct in 2012. Investment spending in the other sectors fell by 11.5 pct last year, with investments in the refinery sector rising 0.1 pct.

    IOBE said it expected investments to fall by 7.6 pct this year, a figure revised upwards from a 19 pct drop envisaged in the previous survey of October. Investments in the chemicals business is projected to fall by 40 pct this year, in the non-metal mining sector to fall by 15.5 pct, in clothing/footwear to ease by 3.5 pct and in the textile business to drop by 11.7 pct. Investments in food/beverage/tobacco are expected to fall by 1.2 pct in 2013.

    Investment priorities by Greek industries remained unchanged in 2012, with investments in boosting production capacity remaining at the top of the agenda (26 pct in 2012 from 28 pct in 2011), followed by investments in production capacity for new products (24 pct). Investments on replacing existing capital equipment followed with a 20 pct and spending on improving production methods (15 pct). Investments on protecting the environment totaled 11 pct as investments in introducing new production methods (3.0 pct).

    Investment priorities are changing slightly in 2013, IOBE said in the survey.

    Technological developments positively affected investment decisions by Greek enterprises in 2012 and are expected to continue doing so this year, the survey said. Negative factors behind investment decisions were profitability, availability and funding costs and taxation.

    [15] EIB approves 215 mln euros loans for energy projects in Greece

    The European Investment Bank (EIB) approved two loans worth 215 million euros to finance projects in electricity energy and natural gas in Greece.

    EIB, in a statement issued on Thursday, said that a loan worth 190 million euros will be offered to Public Power Corporation to fund projects of energy security and efficiency. It has approved a loan facility worth 950 million euros in 2009 for energy projects in Greece; the latest loan is the last tranche.

    The Bank is also offering a 25-mln-euro loan to DESFA to expand its natural gas transportation system to the Peloponnese through a high-pressure pipeline. This pipeline will be used for the operation of a combined cycle electricity production power station in Megalopoli which is also funded by the European Investment Bank (280 million euros in the 2011-2012 period).

    [16] Greek trade deficit slightly up in Jan-Feb, Eurostat

    BRUSSELS (ANA/MPA-V.Demiris)

    Greece's trade balance showed a deficit of 3.7 billion euros in the first two months of 2013, Eurostat said on Thursday.

    The EU's statistics service, in a report, said that Greek exports grew 11 pct in the January-February period to 4.3 billion euros, from 3.9 billion in the same period last year, while imports grew 7.0 pct to 8.1 billion euros from 7.5 billion euros, leaving the country with a slightly higher trade deficit of 3.7 billion euros, from 3.6 billion euros last year.

    Germany (30.4 billion), Holland (9.3 billion) and Ireland (5.1 billion) recorded the highest trade surplus in the two-month period, while the UK (17.9 billion), France (15.3 billion), Spain (3.8 billion) and Greece (3.7 billion) the highest trade deficit.

    [17] Greece falls deeper into deflation in April

    BRUSSELS (ANA/MPA-Maria Aroni)

    Greece fell deeper into deflation in April, with the inflation rate falling to -0.6 pct, from -0.2 pct in March and 0.1 pct in February, Eurostat said on Thursday.

    The EU executive's statistics service, in a report published here, said that the average inflation rate in the Eurozone fell to 1.2 pct in April, from 1.7 pct in March and in the EU-27 the inflation rate fell to 1.4 pct from 1.9 pct over the same periods respectively.

    Greece (-0.6 pct), Latvia (0.4 pct) and Sweden (0.0 pct) recorded the lowest inflation rates in the EU, while Romania (4.4 pct), Estonia (3.4 pct) and Holland (2.8 pct) the highest rates.

    [18] Greece-Russia business forum opens in Thessaloniki

    Hundreds of Russian entrepreneurs "want to put their money in Greece" but are forced to put their plans on hold because they lack information on the Greek market, St Petersburg Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs President Sergey Vladimirovich said in Thessaloniki on Thursday. To cover the gap, he suggested the establishment of an investment information office for Greece in the Russian city.

    Speaking in a press conference in the context of the 1st Greek Russian Business Forum ERMIS hosted in Thessaloniki, he pointed out that Russian investors are mostly interested in the sectors of tourism, infrastructure, construction and energy.

    Vladimirovich, who owns real estate in the Halkidiki peninsula, northern Greece, noted that in Greece he "feels at home, and the more businessmen come to Greece feeling at home, the stronger the economy will become". He added that he and his family feel as safe and comfortable in Halkidiki as they feel in St Petersburg.

    Addressing the forum earlier, he expressed satisfaction about the improvements made in visa issuance for Russian citizens wishing to visit Greece, noting that the people of St Petersburg, a city with a population of over 5 million, "can become very good customers for any Greek product".

    Greeting the forum participants, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou referred to the good bilateral economic relations between the two countries, noting that Greek exports to Russia increased 22 pct in 2012, and added that Greece expects roughly one million Russian tourists this year.

    Business meetings between representatives of 48 Russian companies and hundreds of Greek companies are scheduled in the context of the two-day forum that opened on Thursday, hosted by Greek Russian Center ERMIS, a not-for-profit company founded by the Chambers of Serres, Halkidiki and Kavala.

    [19] Intrasoft-Intrakat consortium wins telematics project in urban transport

    A consortium of Intrasoft International and Intrakat has won a tender for a telematics project in urban transports in Attica. The consortium will take over the survey, funding, installation, support and maintenance of an integrated telematics information project in Road Transport SA for a period of 12 years.

    Under the plan, the consortium with install a network of 1,000 "smart" bus stops in the Attica region, offering passengers full information over the time schedule of bus service. The information will be available through through passengers' smart phones or computers.

    The project will significant upgrade urban transport in the capital, offering better services to citizens and will contributed in raising passenger traffic, increasing revenues and improving management of transport fleet.

    The project is part of a public sector-private sector partnership programe and will be funded by community funds (40 pct) and private sector funds (60 pct).

    The value of the contract is estimated around 27 million euros.

    [20] IOBE conference on the economic impact of the TAP pipeline

    The importance of the construction of the natural gas Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) was acknowledged by all parties in a conference hosted by the Foundation for Economic & Industrial Research (IOBE) on Thursday, with the exception of the opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE), whose representative expressed disagreement, suggesting that the benefits for the people are not guaranteed.

    According to an IOBE report presented at the conference on the economic impact from the construction and operation of TAP on Greek territory, the pipeline will create 4,800 jobs for 54 years and an added value of 18 billion euros, mainly in the regions of northern Greece that it passes through.

    Construction of the pipeline will depend on the final decision reached by the Shah Deniz Consortium in Azerbaijan, expected in June, on whether the TAP or Nabucco pipeline be supplied first.

    An interstate agreement in support of the pipeline project was recently signed in Athens between Greece, Albania and Italy, in the presence of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras who will be in Azerbaijan on Sunday.

    Addressing the conference, foreign ministry general secretary Panagiotis Mihalos said that a diplomatic marathon is taking place for the pipeline, pointing out the project's geopolitical and economic importance. "This project will bring Greece back to the international investment scene," he stressed.

    In a written message, Deputy Environment Minister Assimakis Papageorgiou noted that Greece's participation in the natural gas south corridor will strengthen its role as an energy hub. He underlined that the implementation of a 1.5-billion-euro foreign investment is important in shaping an investment environment.

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) MP Evgenia Ouzounidou-Athanassiadou said that the pipeline is an issue of national-strategic importance noting, however, the absence of a national energy planning.

    [21] MLS Informatics reports higher Q1 results

    MLS Informatics SA on Thursday said its turnover totaled 2.19 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, up 4.0 pct from the same period last year.

    After-tax earnings jumped 31 pct to 570,000 euros, while EBITDA rose 22 pct to 1.55 million euros in the January-March period. The company's net position was 18.37 million euros in the first three months of 2013, up from 17.67 million euros on December 31, 2012.

    [22] Coca Cola HBC reports lower losses in Q1

    Coca Cola HBC on Thursday reported comparable net losses of 15.9 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, down 17 pct from losses of 19.1 million euros in the corresponding period last year. Comparable operating losses fell 9.0 pct to 1.0 million euros.

    The volume of sales was unchanged at 426.7 million boxes in the January-March period, rising 7.0 pct in emerging markets and falling by 3.0 pct and 7.0 pct in developing and developed markets respectively.

    Net sales revenue was 1.431 billion euros in the three-month period, from 1.433 billion in the same period last year. Coca Cola HBC said its board will seek shareholders' approval to pay a 0.34 euros per share dividend to shareholders.

    The company managed to raise or to maintain its market shares in the beverage market in most of its markets, including Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine.

    Commenting on the results, Dimitris Lois, the company's chief executive, said: "For the remainder of 2013 we expect the continuation of adverse economic and commercial conditions, particularly in our developed markets. We expect further progress in raising our operating efficiency and adhere to our strategic commitments. The listing of our group in the premium market of the London Stock Exchange was successfully completed in April 29. We believe that this development will strengthen our share's liquidity and facilitate access in international markets".

    [23] Municipality on Crete receives European Energy Award

    The municipality of Malevisi, on the south Aegean island of Crete, received an international award on energy saving in the two-day MEDEEA - Implementation of European Energy Award international conference completed in Cyprus on Thursday.

    The municipality of Malevisi was distinguished for the planned participation of the village of Keramoutsi in the "Green Villages" programme. Keramoutsi is one of the six villages in Greece where ecological interventions will be made in private houses designed to make them completely environmentally-friendly in terms of energy consumption.

    The conference praised environment-friendly policies implemented in 320 municipalities in seven countries - namely, Spain, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, Cyprus and Greece - while drawing up new strategic plans in energy policy until 2020 in the context of the Covenant of Mayors European network for the climate change.

    The municipality of Malevisi was the first municipality in Greece to apply for the production of "green" electricity using a hybrid energy production plant. The local authority has also launched a desalination process to ensure quality drinking water in the region while protecting the fragile underground aquifer.

    [24] Congress tourism falling in Greece

    Congress and convention tourism is on the decline in Greece, according to data by the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) showed on Thursday, putting the country outside the top 20 most popular congress destinations in the world in 2012.

    Athens fell to the 35th position with 55 conventions last year, down significantly from the 19th position ranked in 2011.

    The two previous years undoubtedly were very difficult for the Greek congress market, but a deep economic crisis does not justify the country's fall in the world rankings, HAPCO, the Greek Association of Professional Congress Organisers said in a statement.

    HAPCO noted it was imperative to push forward for a partnership between the private and public sector with direct and essential actions. HAPCO has repeatedly recommended the necessary actions for the recovery of the market.

    [25] Greece remains top tourist destination for Serbs

    Greece remain the top tourist destination for Serbs according to "Dnevnik" newspaper, which says that "Greece was and remains a 'magnet' for Serb tourists" and the Greek beaches are the no 1 choice for them.

    Turkey and Spain follow in their preference.

    Another article appearing in "Novosti" newspaper says that Serb tourists are already on the beaches and the tourism season for Greece opened on May 1.

    According to a travel agency reprentative the sale of tourist packages for Greece have increased by 20 percent this year, alnog with the number of tourists that plan their holidays earlier in order to find better prices. This has resulted in the sale of 40 pct of packages as early as April, over 10 pct in the last few years.

    [26] Del Monte Hellas says turnover up in 2012

    Del Monte Hellas, a subsidiary of US multinational Del Monte Corporation, on Thursday reported higher sales but lower profits in 2012.

    The company, based in Larisa with a workforce of 950 workers during its peak summer period, said its revenue totaled 20.84 million euros last year, from 16.20 million euros in 2011, for an increase of 28.6 pct. Del Monte Hellas, which operates a processing unit of canned fruit, juices, tomato products and canned vegetables and olives, reported EBITDA of 670,000 euros, down 28.7 pct from the previous year. Pre-tax profits fell 34 pct to 330,000 euros in 2012, while net after tax profits dropped 50 pct to 200,000 euros.

    Del Monte said the vast majority of its production was exported.

    [27] Air-traffic control work-stoppage on Thursday

    Air-traffic controllers in Greece called a 4-hour work-stoppage until 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.

    Only emergency flights and international flights passing through Greek airports will be served, their trade union general secretary Serafim Petrou told ANA-MPA on Wednesday.

    [28] Greek stocks extend rally for fourth consecutive session

    Greek stocks extended their rally for the fourth consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with buying activity remaining focused on bank shares. The composite index of the market jumped 1.85 pct to end at 1,134.28 points, a new 21-month high, for a net gain of 9.66 pct in the last four sessions. Turnover remained a strong 148.265 million euros.

    National Bank (19.05 pct), Piraeus Bank (16.16 pct), Eurobank (12.79 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (4.35 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (3.15 pct), Folli Follie (2.74 pct), Ellaktor (2.40 pct) and Frigoglass (1.21 pct) were top losers.

    The Big Cap index rose 2.80 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.14 pct higher. The Banks (11.33 pct), Food (4.30 pct) and Travel (1.70 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Commerce (2.74 pct), Raw Materials (1.58 pct) and Constructions (1.20 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 83 to 78 with another 22 issues unchanged. Q&R (29.24 pct), Attica Bank (27.62 pct) and Motodynamic (20.31 pct) were top gainers, while Boutaris (19.64 pct), PC Systems (18.57 pct) and Medicon (18.22 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -0.29%

    Commercial: -2.74%

    Construction: -1.20%

    Oil & Gas: -0.28%

    Personal & Household: +0.31%

    Raw Materials: -1.58%

    Travel & Leisure: +1.70%

    Technology: -1.10%

    Telecoms: +1.35%

    Banks: +11.33%

    Food & Beverages: +4.30%

    Health: -0.44%

    Utilities: -0.41%

    Financial Services: +0.09%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.62

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.42

    Coca-Cola: 21.81

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.99

    National Bank of Greece: 1.50

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.59

    OPAP: 8.10

    OTE: 7.60

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.58

    Titan: 14.10

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slighly to 7.39 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 7.32 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.73 pct and the German Bund 1.32 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, one buy order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.48 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.39 pct, the six-month rate was 0.30 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 1.41 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 26.566 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,894 contracts worth 21.058 million euros, with 40,079 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,404 contracts worth 5.508 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracs (6,354), followed by MIG (3,872), OTE (1,594), PPC (1,777), OPAP (544), Hellenic Exchanges (306), Viohalco (260), Mytilineos (773), Sidenor (271), GEK (688), Ellaktor (214), Intralot (1,120), Piraeus Port (117) and Eurobank Properties (102).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.308

    Pound sterling 0.858

    Danish kroner 7.564

    Swedish kroner 8.718

    Japanese yen 134.13

    Swiss franc 1.263

    Norwegian kroner 7.649

    Canadian dollar 1.333

    Australian dollar 1.331

    General News

    [32] Homicide charges for man who stabbed young boy on Crete

    A 20-year-old Dutch man, who admitted to stabbing an 11-year-old Russian boy in a hotel parking lot and leaving him for dead, was on Thursday charged with attempted homicide, illegal possession of a knife and theft.

    The suspect appeared before an Iraklio public prosecutor with a strong police escort on Thursday, where he was formally charged, and is due to appear before an Iraklio examining magistrate to testify on Monday. At that time, Greek authorities will have also appointed a lawyer for his defence from the Iraklio bar association list.

    The 20-year-old, hired as an 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 mother at the same hotel. The victim was stabbed 20 times and sustained injuries to his chest, back and legs after he confronted his assailant with stealing his laptop and mobile phone.

    According to the boy's attending doctors at the Aglaia Kyriakou Children Hospital in Athens, where he was airlifted early on Wednesday morning, his condition is serious but not life-threatening. A medical bulletin issued earlier on Thursday mentioned that a long operation performed by neurosurgeons suggested that the boy's bone marrow may have been affected when he was attacked.

    During police questioning the suspect admitted his actions, describing in detail what he did. He said that he believed that he had killed the boy and dragged him a few meters away where he left him in order to bury him later after finishing his work at the hotel. He also said that he then washed up and cleaned the knife before putting it away. Police have also recovered the knife used in the attack, as well as the stolen phone and laptop found in the suspect's effects.

    According to the Russian news agency Ria-Novosti, Russian authorities may arrange a special flight for the boy's transfer to Moscow if this is judged necessary, after consulting with Greek doctors and the boy's family. An earlier announcement by the Russian foreign ministry said that the Russian Embassy was in close contact with the boy's mother and attending doctors and also investigating the possibility of engaging a local lawyer to independently assess what civil litigation might be called for, while Russian consular authorities were awaiting an official description of the circumstances of the attack.

    The boy's mother has been provided free board in a hotel near the children's hospital, as well as medical and psychological support during her ordeal, they added.

    [33] Bank robbers escape with one-mln-euro loot in Larissa

    Two individuals held up the main branch of National Bank of Greece in the central Greek city of Larissa and left with 1 million euros, was reported on Thursday.

    The two were armed with an automatic rifle and a gun and had not covered their faces when they walked in the bank and held up employees and clients.

    To circumvent the bank's security door, the robbers escaped out a window to an adjacent building under construction.

    Police have launched a manhunt to locate the prepetrators.?

    [34] Two arrested for burning Cameroonian shop are racist network members

    Two Greek nationals arrested on Wednesday for setting fire to a shop owned by a Cameroon national in Aghios Panteleimonas, central Athens, are members of a network that has carried out racist attacks over the last ten months at least in the area, police said Thursday.

    The Anti-Racism Division of the Attica Police said the two charged and their three accomplices were the "frontliners" sent out to perpetrate acts based on racist motives. Searches in the homes of the two were conducted in the presence of judicial authorities and uncovered racist graffiti.

    According to police, the two suspects, both aged 34, and three others went to the Cameroonian shop on Monday, made racist comments about the 34-year-old owner and threatened him with arson. They set the shop on fire at 2:00 a.m. Tuesday.

    The suspects were sent to testify before the Athens prosecutor on charges of arson, threatening and specific damages with collaboration, as well as for violations of a 1979 law on actions that denote racial discrimination, the police said in an announcement Thursday, while three of their accomplices are being sought.

    [35] Human rights the focus of CCBE seminar

    A three-day seminar of the plenum of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) began in the Athens seaside resort of Kavouri on Thursday.

    The works of the seminar, which will focus on human rights, were inaugurated by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis.

    The CCBE is the representative organisation with the EU of the bars and law societies of 42 member countries, representing over 1 million European lawyers.

    [36] Chinese journalists visit Greek Parliament

    A delegation of Chinese journalists visited the Greek Parliament and met with Parliament President Vangelis Meimarakis on Thursday.

    They were briefed by him on the state of the Greek economy and the interest of the government in improving relations with China, which he called "of strategic interest" and said the Chinese people should visit the country for its natural beauty and cultural history.

    First Parliament President Yiannis Tragakis, who was also present, mentioned the Chinese investments in Greece and to the Greek studies department at the University of Shanghai, which he said played an important role in improving relations between the two countries.

    [37] Center for Talented Youth to be established in Thessaloniki

    The first "Centre for Talented Youth International" will open in the summer of 2014 in Thessaloniki's Anatolia College in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University and the support of Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

    Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, CTY International Network Director of International Relations Simeon Brodsky said that the center supports and encourages academic talent and contributes in tracing and educating talented children.

    US Ambassador to Athens Daniel Bennett-Smith noted that the center will offer university-level education to charismatic and talented students in Greece, regardless of their social class.

    The center will launch its operation in the summer of 2014 and will be open for charismatic students from all over Greece, ages 7-18. Three-week-long complete summer programmes and innovative teaching methods will offer to participants the necessary experience, further broadening their education. Student selection will be made through special tests and interviews.

    Full scholarships will be granted by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The foundation will also grant scholarships to 10 Greek students to participate in a relevant programme in the United States this summer.

    In the future, the Thessaloniki CTY plans to be open to students from all SE Europe.

    The first CTY was established in Baltimore, MD in 1979. Now, such centers are in operation in countries worldwide.

    [38] Foreign national wanted on European warrant arrested

    A 38-year-old Albanian national wanted on a European warrant issued by the Italian authorities was arrested while attempting to get into Greece from the boarder station of Kakavia on Wednesday.

    The suspect was wanted by the Italian authorities for participation in a drug dealing ring which activated from August to October 2007 in Italy .

    The suspect was sent before Ioannina prosecutor.

    Weather forecast

    [39] Cloudy, strong winds on Friday

    Strong southeasterly winds of up to gale force at sea and a rise in temperatures are forecast on Friday, with overcast skies, possible showers and conditions favouring dust clouds from the African continent. Winds will blow mainly from the south and east, ranging from 4-8 Beaufort. Temperatures will be between 14C and 29C. Cloudy in Athens, with temperatures from 17C to 29C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 14C to 27C.

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

    AVGHI: "They're selling off the Public Power Corporation network" it charged, after the government announced the breakup of the company to make it more attractive to investors.

    DIMOKRATIA: "Receipts that reduce taxes" in annual income tax returns, including doctor expenses, rental expenses, housing loan interest, hospital bills, insurance expenses, tuition and the rent of main home.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Obama slams the door in his face," about Prime Minister Antonis Samaras not invited to the White House although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "What changes is private sector wages" after the six-month collective labour agreement signed by the main private sector union (GSEE) with some employers' unions.

    ELLADA AVRIO: "Tourism mined" it charged, with what it called mass infusion of foreigners, especially

    Eastern European ones, in Greek tourism enterprises, employed as "interns" and paid slave wages.

    ESTIA: "The whole truth of strikes" called for a law that would apply to strikes across the public sector to protect society from union high-handedness.

    ETHNOS: "Fast-track pensions for women" for women working in the public sector, banks and public utilities.

    IMERISSIA: "Mass purchases of bonds and shares" it said following the Fitch rating agency's upgrading of the Greek economy.

    KATHIMERINI: "Berlin: Immediate reduction of VAT, haircut to follow" about the lifting of the burden of the Greek debt, after German national elections.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "New plan for radical tax overhaul" it claimed were coming from the Finance Ministry, in the planning stage now.

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Public Power Corporation's privatisation a new blow to the populace" it said, calling for popular resistance to the plans.

    TA NEA: "The great night of education" was the name it gave to the union meeting teachers held in which they decided to postpone their strike during the national university entrance exams, which start Friday.

    VRADYNI: "A critical hour for the national exams" it warned, as certain teachers might not obey the union's decisions and move to strike despite a civil mobilisation order by the government.

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