|Friday, 20 April 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-05-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 23 May 2013 Issue No: 4366
 PM Samaras stresses need for access to cheap energy for financially weakBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stressed here on Wednesday the need to facilitate the access of the weaker financially households to cheap energy.
In a statement at the end of a European Council meeting, Samaras said that the cost of energy affects the cost of products and their competitiveness and for this reason the unification of the European energy market is of special importance, as well as of the inter-european networks. Something which, as he pointed out, concerns Greece in particular since it will end the energy isolation of the Greek islands.
Samaras also expressed his satisfaction over the fact that for the first time explicit reference to the exploitation and research of Europe's local energy resources was included in the summit's conclusions. The prime minister added that this interests Greece and Cyprus in particular, since there are very strong indications of the existence of serious energy deposits on the Greek continental shelf.
Lastly, the prime minister also expressed satisfaction over the fact that his proposal was accepted for there to be special reference in the text of conclusions to local "land and sea" energy sources so that it will include clearly the sea energy wealth of the member-states as well.
 PM Samaras addresses EU summit on energy issuesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Council meeting ended in Brussels Wednesday afternoon, with its conclusions stressing the need for research and development of local land and sea energy resources in Europe.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras had raised the issue earlier during his address at the summit.
Samaras said that economic powers in the rest of the world are currently racing to expand their own energy sources and to reduce their energy dependence. The most notable examples, as he put it, were the big steps taken recently by the U.S. and Japan in the exploitation of hydrocarbons from schistolithic deposits and hydrides.
The Greek premier stressed that this was very important for Greece, as well as Cyprus, as there were now strong indications that Greece is very likely to possess considerable energy deposits. Just like Cyprus, which has discovered them already and is proceeding to exploitation.
According to the prime minister, it was in the interest of all of Europe that the existing deposits be explored, discovered and tapped as soon as possible, since they can reduce Europe's energy dependence.
With regard to the achievement of the single energy market, Samaras underlined the meaning of "absolute interconnection" by which "energy isolation" of distant regions will be lifted and opportunities will be created for investments in these regions.
On the part of Greece this is very important, particularly for the connection of the islands with the unified energy network, Samaras said, who stressed that a fragmented market creates distortions of many kinds and big differences in the cost, annulling the completion of the single European market.
On the question of energy investments, Samaras said that care should be taken on the cost, as this not only affects competitiveness, but also social cohesion itself, meaning that it also causes "energy poverty" and such phenomena must be fought.
Speaking on "diversity of sources", the premier said that the Greek government (together with the governments of Italy, Albania and the other countries in the Western Balkans) took an initiative over the past months for the creation of a new alternate pipeline that will supply natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, the TAP pipeline (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline).
On Thursday, the prime minister's office said he was scheduled to meet with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who will be on a working visit to Greece.
 EU policy on fighting tax evasion must be 'clear-cut', PM SamarasBRUSSELS (ANA/MPA-M. Aroni)
The European Union needs to set out a clear policy on fighting tax evasion and on developing European energy sources, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in Brussels on Wednesday on his way to a EU summit meeting.
"We must link our competitiveness with the fight against tax evasion and the implementation of a clear-cut policy. The development of internal energy sources in the EU is of vital imprtance, both for Europe's energy security and for the right billing purposes," Samaras said.
 Gov't sources on Greek goals at EU summit: TAP pipeline, Greek islands top of the agendaBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA -- M. Aroni)
During the European summit taking place here on Wednesday, Greece will highlight the advantages of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) over its rival Nabucco and also push for EU funding to link isolated regions, such as the Greek islands, to energy networks, government sources said. The summit is expected to focus on energy issues and tax evasion.
Regarding energy networks, the goal of the Greek side is that the final statement released by the 27 EU leaders should refer to linking up isolated European regions, while it also hopes for an extension of favourable terms of European funding, apart from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), to Greek islands such as the Cyclades and Crete. The same sources noted that this could save the Cyclades island group alone up to 400 million euros a year in electricity costs.
The Greek side will also present the arguments in favour of the TAP pipeline: these include promoting a greater diversity of energy sources, the cheaper cost since it is 600 km shorter and also fully privately funded without European subsidies, plus the fact that it can supply countries now fully dependent on Russia for their natural gas, such as Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and even Bulgaria.
 SYRIZA on EU energy policyThe main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), in an assessment of the outcome of Wednesday's European Council meeting in Brussels noted that the EU's energy policy is of doubtful effectiveness and has consequences for the environment.
SYRIZA also expresses disagreement with the privatisation of the natural gas DEPA and DESFA enterprises and accuses the prime minister of "travelling abroad promising the selling of the state's best property assets in the energy sector to the big foreign private interests."
SYRIZA's position was and remains clearly against their privatisation and this is regardless of the price offered by any company of any country, the announcement pointed out. It stresseed SYRIZA is categorically opposed to the sale of DEPA and DESFA and it will do all it can to averted it.
 KKE party on EU summitThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Wednesday's EU summit, stressed that "the bigger business groups will benefit from the further promotion of the deregulation and unification of the energy market, that will obtain the energy deposits and the infrastructures. For countries such as Greece in particular, it will lead to greater energy dependence, to costly prices for the working class energy consumers, to the levelling of the rights of the sector's employees. The country is being involved even more in the contradictions of the big monopoly groups, and in particular before the privatisation of DEPA-DESFA as well and the struggle for the pipelines".
 Gov't still reviewing 'anti-racism bill', report pendingThe government's central legal review committee met on the so-called anti-racism bill, in the presence of Justice Ministry representatives, the government's secretary general Panagiotis Baltakos announced on Wednesday.
"Comments were made and clarifications requested in terms of the legal necessity of tabling the draft law, in relation to the existing legal framework and to specific articles contained in it," an announcement said.
The committee, structurally under the general secretariat, will issue a report when it completes the review of the draft law.
Commenting on the announcement, senior party officials in the coalition government partner Democratic Left (DIM.AR) said that ND should "leave aside the procedural shenanigans" and agree to bring the anti-racism bill to Parliament to be voted on.
Noting that this was the agreement made between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the leaders of the two smaller parties in the coalition government, PASOK's Evangelos Venizelos and DIM.AR president Fotis Kouvelis, they said the bill should allowed to come to Parliament and "anyone that wants to can vote for it."
Commenting on the issue later on Wednesday, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos also urged the government to bring the draft bill to Parliament and stop delaying.
"Tabling and voting the anti-racism bill is an international obligation of the Hellenic Republic and a fundamental measure for the self-protection of the democratic rule of law," Venizelos said, adding that the ongoing public debate on the issue "does not do justice to the government and the political framework for the cooperation of the three parties forming the Parliamentary majority."
 Parties continue criticism over anti-racism billCriticism continued to be traded among parties on Wednesday over the controversy of whether an anti-racism bill should be introduced in Parliament and how, as the government disclosed it was still reviewing the draft law's legal nature.
PASOK's spokesperson, Fofi Gennimata, on Wednesday termed the differences between main party New Democracy and main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) a "PR trick" and noted that a similar bill tabled in Parliament by PASOK had not been supported or voted by either party.
"If we truly mean that we want to obliterate racist and xenophobic phenomena in politics and daily life, we must, all non-extremist parties in Parliament, move to vote it in," Gennimata said.
"Bring the bill to Parliament. That is where everyone's political will will be judged," she insisted.
Responding to ND and PASOK, SYRIZA said that it was necessary to establish a strict legal framework against racist violence and against the protection of its perpetrators, but that its root causes had to be fought as well.
The party charged that the draft law was being delayed because the prime minister wanted to change its contents and accommodate extreme-right party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi). It also charged PASOK with skirting its responsibilities, as those lay squarely with the government, it said.
PASOK and the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) are junior members of the ruling coalition, headed by ND.
 Parliament tightening up arms-bearing rules for deputiesParliament will introduce a series of tougher regulations over arms-bearing by deputies, according to information Wednesday. Parliament president Vangelis Meimarakis is expected to announce the measures soon.
According to information, entry to Parliament for both deputies and visitors will be restricted to two checkpoints with metal detectors; the side door will be accessible only to the prime minister and his cabinet; only deputies will be allowed in the bar/restaurant and they will have to use an ID with a magnetic strip to enter; and deputies will have to hand over their handguns and pick them up when they leave. If they refuse to hand them over, the chief of Parliament security will register their names and every forthnight hand their names over to the parliament's president, who will publicise them at the end of every month.
Under current regulations, all deputies have the right to bear arms, but the issue became prominent after incidents leading to a controversial walk-out by extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) deputies last Wednesday.
 Greece-China memorandum on shipping unrelated to seamen's labour issues, minister tells ParliamentThe Greece-China memorandum for cooperation in shipping ratified by Parliament does not deal with issues linked to ship crews, pay or employment terms for seamen, Shipping and Aegean Minister Costis Mousouroulis stressed on Wednesday.
The memorandum only refers to cooperation in the exchange of expertise, the training of state administrative staff and the implementation of international labour treaties, the minister clarified in response to a question tabled in Parliament by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM.
SYRIZA's question related to a demand by the Panhellenic Union of Merchant Navy Seamen calling for the Greece-China memorandum to be withdrawn.
 SYRIZA tables draft law reversing post-2010 legislation for easier dismissalsMain opposition SYRIZA-EKM and party leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday tabled a draft law in Parliament for the abolition of all legislation passed after 2010 that facilitates the dismissal of employees. The laws in questions were among the requirements made of Greece under the terms of bailout memorandums.
SYRIZA-EKM noted that the new laws introduced since 2010 made it much easier and cheaper to fire employees, whether singly or in groups, encouraging employers to behave in an arbitrary manner and proceed with mass lay-offs using the economic crisis as a pretext, driving unemployment up to unprecedented levels.
According to the party, the laws facilitating firing did not only reduce the cost of dismissals but, in the context of soaring unemployment and shrinking unemployment benefits, were also a means of blackmail for further reductions in wages and longer hours.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras interviewed by 'El Pais'In an article run by the Spanish newspaper "El Pais" on Wednesday, main opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras said that his party's strategic goal is to contribute to a "sincere and substantive dialogue" between all leftist and progressive forces in Europe and thus work together on a effective "line of resistance against the neoliberal elite".
The Greek main opposition leader noted that among the countries of the European south, in particular, which face great difficulties in common, a sincere dialogue of leftist and progressive forces and the broadest possible alliances between peoples are a necessary for creating 'cracks' in the austerity policies, for halting the recession and promoting reforms that establish democracy and equal cooperation in Europe.
Tsipras stressed the destructive impact of austerity policies in Greece, which he says have failed to stabilise the country's debt and restore the confidence of international markets in the economy while inflicting war-era hardship on the country.
He ends by saying that overcoming the European crisis and saving the common currency will need equal cooperation, democracy and a "political and ideological defeat of the austerity doctrine".
 PASOK leader attends German SPD anniversary eventBERLIN (ANA-MNA/F. Karaviti)
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos is taking part in a two-day (Wednesday and?Thursday) event in Leipzig to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), during which the "Progressive Alliance" held its founding congress.
The congress was welcomed by the SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, as well as President of the International Federation of Trade Unions Michael Sommer.
Venizelos participated in a panel entitled "Together for Social Justice," with other panel members including the first Secretary of the French Socialist Party Harlem Desire, the General Secretary of Britain's Labour Party Iain McNicol and Leader of the Labour Party of Israel Shelly Yacimovich.
During the discussion, Venizelos referred to the current reality saying that "some governments in the Eurozone decide what should be done in other countries," and highlighted the need "to reopen the institutional debate for the political integration of Europe based on equality of member states and their peoples".
He noted that "all the peoples of the European Union have an equal right to decide their future and the future of the Union," stressing discrepancies in the cost of borrowing should be addressed.
The PASOK leader spoke of a "politically conservative and economically neoliberal" dominant perception in Europe, under pressure from the markets and rating agencies.
In statements on his arrival at the event, Venizelos said "the Progressive Alliance is not an agency competitive to other organisations, such as the Socialist International."
"The German Social-Democrats can help Europe to overcome the spinning, continuous recycling of the crisis," the PASOK leader added.
Referring to the Progressive Alliance, Venizelos spoke of a "network of parties, organisations and socialist, progressive, labour force personalities in all continents... As PASOK and as Greeks, we have an obligation to participate everywhere so as to promote our views and our national interests and to contribute to the shaping of favourable conditions for our ideas and our country."
Responding to a relevant question, Venizelos assured that "none of the parties participating in the Progressive Alliance has dividing intentions."
 Golden Dawn 'underlings of the system', KKE leaderThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) offers the most unifying policy to Greek voters, as it does not separate workers into rightists and leftists but calls them to join a popular alliance based on common class interests, party secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas told NET state television on Monday.
In an interview that covered a wide spectrum of issues, Koutsoumbas said among other things that the main opposition party, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), went under constant shapeshifting, "taking the worst elements of [socialist] PASOK in its behaviour as main opposition and in the way it wants to manipulate the movement," charging it with a "constant change in position on key issues."
Commenting on the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' recent visit to China and the ensuing business agreements, the KKE leader said that despite the new positions that might be created and the increase of productivity, the problem of unemployment will not be resolved. "Because we are talking about monopoly groups, we will have an intensifying of labour aiming at profit-making." For example, he said, Cosco (which runs the container terminal at the main port of Piraeus) "can give '1,500' job openings, but it also led tens of thousands of others to unemployment."
As to the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, he said party members are "underlings of the system, a Nazi-like and dangerous form, and the political system tolerates this; it may also play a role in the reformation of the political system." Golden Dawn "does not threaten the capitalist system," he said, adding that it must be dealt with by the mass movement on ideological and political terms, besides the use of legal means.
 Former minister concealed that Lagarde list was sent officially, former SDOE chief claimsIn an attack on former finance minister George Papacon-stantinou on Wednesday, the former head of the SDOE financial crimes squad Ioannis Diotis accused Papaconstantinou of having concealed that the so-called 'Lagarde list' of Greeks with HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland had been sent through official channels by French authorities.
In an announcement issued in response to press reports concerning the affair, Diotis repeated that the USB flash drive containing the files was sent to him informally and outside official channels by Papaconstantinou, without any of the accompanying documents, and he asserted that the former minister had never mentioned that it came from French authorities but instead highlighted the role of the Greek intelligence service EYP in collecting the evidence.
According to Diotis, the lack of this vital information had led him to the conclusion that the evidence had been illegally obtained and was therefore unusable as the basis of an investigation.
Diotis also threatened to take legal action against sections of the press seeking to present his testimony in the case as conflicting and contradictory.
 Independent Greeks party leader visiting U.S.Independent Greeks party president Panos Kammenos, who is visiting the capital of the United states, made an address at the Capitol in the framework of the official conference of AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association).
Kammenos is having contacts in Washington with senators and Greek American officials.
Kammenos referred in his address, that was attended by the governors of AHEPA of all the states of the U.S. as well as senators of Greek descent, to national issues that concern Cyprus, Greek-Turkish issues and the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM).
He also referred to Greek-American relations, the economic crisis and the widening of Greek-American economic relations in the sector of the extraction of oil and natural gas.
 Independent MP to announce founding of new partyIndependent MP Nikos Nikolopoulos will give a press conference at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday to announce the founding of a new party, the Christian Democrat Party of Greece.
The press conference will take place at the ESIEA press union building in downtown Athens, and Nikolopoulos is expected to announce that his party plans to participate in the elections for the European parliament in 2014.
 Council of State finds Parliament staff pension rules unconstitutionalThe plenum of the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, on Wednesday ruled that the Parliamentary regulations governing pension issues for Parliament staff - such as the amount of pensions or the age or retirement - are unconstitutional and therefore invalid.
According to the court, Parliamentary regulations are not empowered to regulate pension issues based on article 73 of the Constitution, which requires that they be determined by law. In fact, the justices further specified that the relevant law should be sent to the Council of State for its opinion.
The court's ruling was issued in relation to a case filed by a former Paliament employee disputing the final amount of his pension. The court's decision will act as a precedent for subsequent cases that come before the courts.
 Greek regional unemployment rates among top-10 in EU, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)
Greek regions were among the EU regions with the highest unemployment rates in 2012, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive's statistics arm, in a report published here said that Western Macedonia was the fifth EU region with the highest unemployment rate (29.9 pct) and the first in youth unemployment (72.5 pct), while the Peloponnese (61.4 pct), Epirus (60.5 pct), Central Macedonia (60.4 pct) and Central Greece (59.1 pct) were included in the top-10 of EU regions with the highest unemployment among young people.
Western Macedonia (25.1 pct) and Attica (24 pct) were also among the top-10 regions with the highest unemployment rates among men, while Western Macedonia (36.8 pct), Central Greece (36.3 pct) and Thessaly (30.5 pct) were among the top-10 in women.
The Peloponese (68.6 pct) and Northern Aegean (67.3 pct) were among the highest rates in long-term unemployment in the European Union.
In the EU, the unemployment rate ranged between 2.5 pct in Salzburg and Tirol and 38.5 pct in Ceuta (Spain).
Regional unemployment rates varied widely across the EU27 in 2012, with the lowest rates recorded in the regions of Salzburg and Tirol (both 2.5%) in Austria and T?bingen, Oberbayern and Trier (all 2.7%) in Germany, while the highest rates were registered in the regions of Ceuta (38.5%), Andaluc?a (34.6%), Extremadura and Canarias (both 33.0%) in Spain and Dytiki Makedonia (29.9%) in Greece.
Among the regions, 53 had an unemployment rate of less than 5.2% in 2012, half the average for the EU27. They included twenty-two regions in Germany, eight out of nine regions in Austria, seven regions in the Netherlands, five in the United Kingdom, four in Belgium, three in Romania, two in the Czech Republic, one in Italy and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. At the other extreme, 25 regions had a rate higher than 20.8%, double that of the EU27: eleven regions in Spain, ten regions in Greece and four French Overseas Departments.
 Greek current account deficit shrank 51 pct in Q1Greece's current account deficit shrank by 51 pct in the first quarter of 2013 to 2.3 billion euros, from 4.8 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a report, attributed this positive development to a reduction of the country's trade deficit by 1.35 billion euros in the January-March period, as exports receipts grew 4.1 pct and import payments fell by 5.2 pct in the three-month period.
In March 2013, the current account balance showed a deficit of 1.3 billion euros, down by 952 million (or 42.5 pct) year-on-year. This development is mainly due to declines in the trade deficit and the income account deficit.
The trade deficit contracted by 365 million euros, mainly as a result of a 377 million decrease in the net oil import bill. Net payments for purchases of ships increased by 26 million euros and the trade deficit excluding oil and ships shrank by a mere 14.5 million euros on the back of a lower import bill (down by 91 million or 5.0 pct), while the corresponding export receipts fell in March (by 77 million or 6.6 pct).
In the first quarter of 2013, the current account deficit contracted by 2.5 billion euros or 51.2 pct year-on-year, to 2.3 billion. This development principally reflects significant declines (of 1.35 billion and 806 million) in both the trade deficit and the income account deficit, respectively, as well as a concurrent increase of 324 million in the current transfers surplus, while the services surplus fell by 16 million.
In more detail, the trade deficit shrank on account of a 449 million (or 18.9 pct) decrease in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships, lower net payments for purchases of ships by 57 million (or 15.9 pct) and a lower net oil import bill by 844 million (or 26.8 pct). Receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships rose by 4.1 pct, while the corresponding import bill fell by 5.6 pct.
A contraction in the services surplus in the first quarter of 2013 is mainly attributed to a drop in net transport receipts, which offset an improvement in the travel balance and lower net payments for other services. The income account deficit fell by 806 million year-on-year, mainly owing to a sharp decline in net interest payments on Greek government bonds held by non-residents (following the PSI).
Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of 1.7 billion euros, up by 324 million year-on-year.
In the first quarter of 2013, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 1.1 billion euros, up by 39 million year-on-year. This mainly reflects increased net EU capital transfers to general government.
The overall transfers balance (current transfers plus capital transfers) recorded a surplus of 2.8 billion in the first quarter of 2013, up by 363 million year-on-year, reflecting the above-mentioned development in EU current transfers.
In the January-March 2013 period, direct investment showed a net inflow of 1.3 billion euros (against a net outflow of 518 million in the same period of 2012). Under portfolio investment, a net inflow of 543 million was observed (against a net outflow of 37.0 billion in the same period of 2012).
Under "other" investment, a net outflow of 1.7 billion euros (against a net inflow of 42.5 billion in the first quarter of 2012) is almost exclusively attributable to a 23.2 billion decrease in non-resident credit institutions' and institutional investors' deposit and repo holdings in Greece (outflow).
At end-March 2013, Greece's reserve assets stood at 5.5 billion euros.
 Overdue tax debt up in AprilThe value of overdue tax debt to the state totaled 3.095 billion euros in April, up 917 million euros from the previous month, official figures showed on Wednesday.
A report by the finance ministry' s IT department said that the total value of overdue tax debt to the state (individual and corporate) grew to 58 billion euros in April, from 57.28 billion euros in March. The report said that collection of new overdue tax debt was 401 million euros in April, up from 140 million in March, while collection of older overdue debt was 754 million and 606 million euros, respectively.
The report said that one in four self-employed people and businessmen failed to submit VAT statements and to pay taxes in April. Tax inspections on VAT payment resulted to 25.1 million euros in new taxes and fines, however only 7.8 million euros were collected in April.
 Greece annuls tender for Afantou property asset, to launch newGreek authorities on Wednesday annulled an international tender to sell a real estate property asset in Afantou, Rhodes, after the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) examined a number of comments made by investors and local authorities.
HRADF, in a statement, said it will launch procedures for a new tender after into account the comments by both investors and local authorities. The new tender will focus on the exploitation of the northern part of the real estate property (golf course), and promoting the tourism/leisure part of the development process as the best growth and environmentally-friendly option for the region.
 Shipping minister on European Sea DayShipping and Aegean Minister Costis Mousouroulis, speaking Wednesday during a special event held in Parliament on the occasion of European Sea Day, that was held in Valetta in Malta this year, said that the government has activated all aspects of sea policy with the utilisation of European programmes and funds in support of maritime labour and decreasing bureaucracy.
Mousouroulis said that maritime policy and growth are linked directly with investments and according to the existing law on the reestablishment of the ministry the issue in question is being organised in a more effective way. He stressed that Greece has submitted an official request to the European Commission for the European Sea Day to be held in Piraeus in 2015 or 2016.
 Bill on non-performing bank loans to be tabled by mid June, ministry saysA draft bill outlining measures for non-performing loans from banks to private individuals, as well as measures for an overhaul of the Teiresias system tracking bad debts, is to be tabled in Parliament by mid-June according to an announcement by Deputy Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transports and Networks Minister Athanassios Skordas in Parliament on Wednesday.
The announcement was made during debate on a draft bill tabled by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) for a full or partial write off of debts owed by "working class households".
Skordas criticised the KKE bill as "unenforceable" and "full of holes" and said the development ministry bill will intervene on behalf of citizens fairly, in the framework of a sustainable financial system.
The KKE bill was supported by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM spokesman Athanassios Petrakos and the Independent Greeks.
Coalition partners PASOK and Democratic Left urged the government to take measures to relieve the plight of poorer households and set up a safety net for vulnerable groups.
 Strong interest in Greek-listed companies' roadshow in New YorkForeign investors are showing strong interest in participating in an investment forum, organized by Hellenic Exchanges in cooperation with the Hellenic-American Chamber and the support of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund in New York, June 5-6.
Socrates Lazaridis, chairman of the Athens Stock Exchange said foreign investment groups have shown great interest in the forum while new funds -which came to Greece last year- asked for information about Greek enterprises while many of them had contacted the Greek government. Lazaridis attributed this increased interest to progress made by the Greek economy, adding that the message which will be sent by Greek enterprises was that Greece was worth new investments. He noted that liquidity in the market was steadily rising, foreign institutional investors maintained and were enhancing their positions in the market, while listed companies with exports accounting for more than 60 pct of their turnover achieved a 51.9 pct increase in their share performance last year and by another 10.6 pct in 2013.
G. Grammatidis, president of Hellenic-American Chamber said the basic message of the forum focused on a new economic and business environment framework currently underway in Greece, also emphasizing on new opportunities arising and reforms made in Greece.
This year's roadshow will bring together 28 Greek-listed enterprises, up from 15 in October 2012 and 15 in June 2011. The organizers have already planned 307 meetings, up from 267 in last year's forum and 213 in 2011.
 Qatari company buys 2.5 pct stake in MLS MultimediaMLS Multimedia on Wednesday said an investment company based in Qatar purchased a 2.5 pct equity stake in the company after buying 310,425 shares from the company's main shareholder, Ioannis Kamatakis, at a price of 2.70 euros per share.
Under an agreement signed between the Qatari company and MLS, the two companies will begin commercial activities in Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries. Under the new terms, the investment company has the option to buy another 2.5 pct equity stake in MLS Multimedia in the next 12 months.
 Hellas Online returns to profitability in Q1Hellas Online on Wednesday reported a pre-tax profit of 28,815 euros in the first quarter of 2013, after losses of 4.465 million euros in the corresponding period last year.
HOL said its income fell 8.8 pct in the January-March period to 56.5 million euros from 62 million euros in 2012, reflecting a decline in end-call fees.
Operating costs, excluding amortizations, fell by 14 pct, reflecting an efficient cost-cutting programe implemented by the management.
EBITDA grew to 17.7 million euros in the three-month period, from 16.7 million euros last year. HOL also managed to reduce its bank debt by more than 10 million euros.
The company said its total LLU customer base totaled 496,167, up 5.2 pct from the same period last year, while its market share rose to 27.1 pct. HOL said its investment programe totaled 6.3 million euros in the first quarter, for a total of 410.6 million euros since early 2006.
 Chipita reports higher losses in 2012Chipita, a Greek snack industry owned by UFIB group based in Cyprus, on Wednesday reported losses totaling 76 million euros in 2012, hit by write down of the value of its holdings. The company said sales totaled 115.42 million euros last year, from 144.90 million euros in 2011, a decline of 20.4 pct, while gross earnings totaled 43.41 million euros (20.2 pct) and EBITDA dropped 25.6 pct to 8.93 million euros.
Net, after tax, losses totaled 76 million euros in 2012 from losses of 56.12 million euros in 2011, an increase of 35.4 pct.
Chipita said its workforce totaled 832 workers last year, down from 930 in 2011 and 978 in 2010.
UFIB Group operates production units of croissants and other snacks in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
 Building materials' prices down 1.4 pct in AprilBuilding materials' prices fell by 1.4 pct in April this year, reflecting lower fuel prices, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to a 13.1 pct decline in diesel oil prices, a 4.5 pct fall in windows, a 4.0 pct decline in steel pipes, a 2.9 pct fall in cement, a 2.8 pct decline in doors and an 1.8 pct decline in elevators, while on the other hand electricity prices rose 12.3 pct, bricks rose 4.9 pct and plastic pipes rose 3.4 pct.
The index fell 0.2 pct in April from March 2013, after an increase of 0.2 pct recorded in the corresponding period last year.
 Greek stocks remain under pressureGreek stocks remained under pressure for the third consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as investors continued taking profits in blue chip stocks, particularly banks, although selective buying in OTE, Alpha Bank and Mytilineos, offered some support to the market. The composite index fell 0.94 pct to end at 1,080.65 points, off the day's lows of 1,063.80 points, with turnover remaining a strong 151.28 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 1.33 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.39 pct higher. Eurobank (20.94 pct), Korinth Pipes (3.86 pct), OTE (2.17 pct), Mytilineos (1.95 pct) and Alpha Bank (1.24 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (9.57 pct), OPAP (3.85 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.59 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (3.23 pct) were among top losers.
The Technology (4.13 pct), Raw Materials (2.65 pct) and Telecoms (2.17 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (4.51 pct), Travel (3.38 pct) and Oil (2.11 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 79 to 75 with another 31 issues unchanged. Pairis (29.88 pct), Attica Bank (21.75 pct) and Eurobank (20.94 pct) were top gainers, while Varvaresos (20 pct), Alpha Grissin (19.51 pct) and Boutaris (14.94 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -2.11%
Personal & Household: -0.92%
Raw Materials: +2.65%
Travel & Leisure: -3.38%
Food & Beverages: -1.07%
Financial Services: -1.37%
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: 0.57
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.86
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.00
National Bank of Greece: 1.04
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.44
Bank of Piraeus: 0.35
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 6.77 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 6.62 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.15 pct and the German Bund 1.38 pct. Turnover was a thin 3.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell 0.47 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.38 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.29 pct, the three-month rate was 0.20 pct and the one-month rate was 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 2.43 pct in Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 19.112 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,542 contracts worth 14.099 million euros, with 38,324 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,009 contracts worth 5.013 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (5,383), followed by MIG (2,254), OTE (2,654), PPC (1,498), OPAP (731), Mytilineos (528), Sidernor (350), GEK (585), Ellaktor (202), Intralot (112), Hellenic Exchanges (170) and Motor Oil (101).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.311
Pound sterling 0.868
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.673
Japanese yen 135.26
Swiss franc 1.278
Norwegian kroner 7.577
Canadian dollar 1.351
Australian dollar 1.345
 UNICEF: One in three Greek children living in povertyThere are over half a million poor or socially marginalised children in Greece, while 322,000 of these are in dire straits materially, according to a report by "The state of the children of Greece 2013" conducted by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the University of Athens, presented Wednesday in downtwown Athens.
"The situation is very troubling," said UNICEF's Greek branch director Lambros Kanellopoulos to ANA-MPA, and called on the government to heed the organisation's proposals to deal with them.
The organisation is holding a radio marathon on May 28 to raise money for children through appeals on radio. According to Professor Dimosthenis Daskalakis, the survey is based on 2011 data. Highlights of the findings include the following:
The report also included data on immigrant children and safety issues. It said, for example, that children in Greece are exposed to accidents at a much higher rate than in other countries of the eurozone; for children 15-19 years old, the fatality index from transportation accidents is 17.8 pct, compared to 9.2 pct, the EU average.
Also, criminality has increased in under-age children, from 2010 to 2011, by 53.4 pct; for children 9 to 13 years of age, it has climbed to 58 pct. Most (87.1 pct) are boys, and two-thirds are Greek nationals. The most common crime is stealing, by 72.2 pct.
Included in the report were also statistics on youth unemployment, lack of adequate nutrition, exposure to pollutants (Greece is second in the EU in children exposed to air, water and ground pollution in their residences), and the government reductions in health services for low-income families.
The full report is available on the organisation's site, at www.unicef.gr.
 Archbishop Ieronymos wraps up New York City visitNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece is wrapping up his visit to New York City with a tour of the Metropolitan Museum's Byzantine art collection.
Accompanied by Archbishop Demetrios of North America, Ieronymos was given a ground and aerial-view tour of "Ground
Zero" of the September 11, 2001 attacks by Steven Plate, director of construction at the World Trade Center. Among others, Plate pointed out the ground where the new St Nicholas Greek Orthodox church will be rebuilt after being razed by the terrorist attacks.
Archbishop Ieronymos led a brief prayer for the victims and while on Floor 26 of the new building signed one of the walls, by Plate's request.
Earlier in the day, Ieronymus had led a liturgy with Archbishop Demetrios and metropolitans and bishops, at the Sts. Constantine and Helen church in Brooklyn, which was celebrating its centennial; his was the first visit by an Archbishop of Greece. Greek consul Evangelos Kyriakopoulos, Cyprus general consul Koula Sofianou and a representative of Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz were among those attending.
Following the service, the community offered a dinner in Ieronymos' honour.
 International Kalamata Dance Festival to open July 18The International Kalamata Dance Festival will celebrate its 19th year when it runs from July 18 to 25.
This year's programme is "strongly experimental," organisers said, and showcases Greek choreographers and dancers "who do not give up, despite the difficulties."
Most of the performances will take place at the Kastro (castle) amphitheatre, with other venues hosting performances that annually attract troupes from several countries, including France, Belgium, Central Africa and Latin America.
The festival is funded by Greece and the European Union's structural funds, and details of the programme will be forthcoming and posted on www.kalamatadancefestival.gr.
 Universities of Aegean and Izmir decide furthering cooperationThe first scientific meeting between the University of the Aegean and Turkey's Ege University of Izmir held in the Turkish city, was considered a success.
The meeting was attended by members of the two universities' scientific staff, headed by their deputy rectors, deputy professor Nikos Soulakellis and professor Attila Silcu, respectively. Research efforts were presented in sectors that can form topics of cooperatioon between the two universities at research and educational level.
As it was announced at the end of the meeting, efforts must be continued so that cooperation through joint actions can be widened.
 Police discover over 1,000 hashish trees in CretePolice discovered and uprooted 1,020 indian cannabis trees, having a height of between 0.50-1.5 metres, in Hania on the island of Crete. The hashish plantation was located in the inaccessible region of "Kyparissos" in the municipality of Platanias.
The plantation was organised with an automatic watering system, while tents and mattresses were found that reveal that the plantation was guarded systematically. Police had been guarding the plantation for some time, waiting to arrest the cultivators. However, they did not appear and the trees' uprooting was decided on Wednesday.
 Five-year-old girl survives fall from 4th floorA five-year-old girl has been more than lucky as she survived a fall from a fourth-floor balcony, in the centre of Larisa, central Greece on Wednesday late afternoon.
According to reports, the girl felt dizzy and fell off the balcony but initially landed on the rich foliage of a tree and then into the arms of a passerby.
The girl was transferred to hospital as a precaution.
 Greek Olympic champion Pyrros Dimas elected to IWF executive boardGreek weightlifting champion Pyrros Dimas, who won three gold and one bronze Olympic medals as well as three world championships during a career spanning the early 90s to mid '00s, has been elected the 29th member of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) executive board, it was announced on Wednesday.
Dimas was elected at the IWF Electoral Congress held in Russia on Monday and Tuesday.
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures between 14C and 30C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with southerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 18C and 29C. Cloudy with local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 15C and 27C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' extreme-right veto".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Russians close in upon DEPA (State Gas Company)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Troika (European Commission, European Bank,
International Monetary Fund) to government: Change the law for layoffs".
ESTIA: "Bureaucracy uncontrolled".
ETHNOS: "Time of judgment for 200,000 civil servants".
IMERISSIA: "They (markets) see growth and buy bonds".
KATHIMERINI: "IMF: Check out lawyers and doctors' assets".
LOGOS: "Lethal memorandum - The crisis kills the Greeks".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Finance Ministry seeking new revenues from pending tax cases".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Profits for the monopolies and new burdens for the households".
TA NEA: "Your gun, please, Mr. deputy".
VRADYNI: "How the issue of illegal buildings will be resolved".
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