|Saturday, 17 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-06-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 21 June 2013 Issue No: 4387
 PM Samaras: The coalition government will last out its remaining tenureIn a televised statement in the early hours of Friday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that the coalition government has a remaining tenure of three years, to be "exhausted to the benefit of Greek citizens."
The premier was speaking after a meeting of the three party leaders of the coalition government which failed to achieve a breakthrough in the issue relating to the closed-down state broadcaster ERT, following disagreement by Democratic Left (DIMAR) party leader Fotis Kouvelis.
"Fotis Kouvelis distanced himself from the framework of the agreed solution," Samaras said, adding that the DIMAR leader insisted on the reoperation of the (old) closed-down ERT.
Samaras stressed that a public television and radio will be operated and the "black" colour will be eliminated from television screens, but the government will not allow a return to the "sinful" past.
Samaras explained his stand on the issue of ERT, saying "the black screen will soon be gone and all the required staff will be re-employed in order to transmit regular programme of the state television."
He stressed that the government will continue its work together with those who support it.
He further underlined that his focus ever since he assumed the premiership of the tripartite coalition government has been "to keep Greece within Europe and the euro, to restore its credibility abroad... and carry on reforms and ensure the conditions to bring about recovery promptly."
He said that "better coordination" of the coalition government would be desirable, "but our goal is to complete the effort to rescue the country," in a four-year tenure.
"We hope to continue to enjoy the support of the Democratic Left party", he concluded.
 PASOK's Venizelos in favour of survival of coalition governmentA message of stability and responsibility to all directions was sent out by PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos late Thursday evening, speaking after a meeting of the three coalition government party leaders, which failed to achieve a breakthrough in talks over the fate of the now closed down state broadcaster ERT.
Speaking before a joint meeting of his party's parliamentary group and political council to consider latest developments, Venizelos clarified that PASOK did not want early elections and stressed that neither does the Greek people.
Venizelos threw himself in favour of the survival of the three-party coalition government, saying that there should be no "surprises" between its coalition partners nor "petty partisan behaviours," also calling on DIMAR, the other junior partner of the coalition government, to join the effort.
Venizelos further accused the New Democracy party of having opened a Pandora's Box by its decision to shut down the state broadcaster ERT, which in turn "raised concerns over the functioning of institutions and democracy."
He added however that there have been some efforts on the part of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras regarding a possible reopening of the public radio and television, with about 2,000 of its employees.
 'No agreement on ERT,' DIMAR leader saysFollowing a meeting of the three party leaders of the coalition government on Thursday evening, Democratic Left (DIMAR) party leader Fotis Kouvelis said in a statement that "there was no agreement on the issue relating to (state broadcaster) ERT."
Speaking from his party's headquarters and before going into a meeting of DIMAR's parliamentary group, Kouvelis added that "for DIMAR, the reopening of ERT was a matter of democracy." He stressed that ERT's restructuring should be done while the broadcaster is in operation and with its staff being "present".
The DIMAR leader strongly criticised the government on what he called the "black screen" of ERT television channels and the violent disruption of signal transmission.
"We are not the ones who are responsible" for this, Kouvelis said.
 SYRIZA says clear-cut solutions neededMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) commenting on the meeting between the three party leaders of the coalition government said late Thursday night that "clear-cut solutions are needed and everyone should assume their responsibilities vis-a-vis the people".
"The three-party government of the memorandums is collapsing under the impact of popular mobilisations and the failure of its policy," SYRIZA said in a statement.
 IMF warns Greece of funding stabilityNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
In a statement sparked by latest developments in Greece's political scene, spokesman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Gerry Rice on Thursday evening warned of the country's funding stability.
Specifically, Rice's written statement read as follows:
"There is an ongoing evaluation of the Greek program. The mission that was completed yesterday (Wednesday) has made significant progress. The discussions on policy have been discontinued and are expected to continue by the end of month. It remains a priority for the Greek authorities to implement the program immediately. Should the assessment is completed by the end of July, as expected, there will be no funding problems, as the program is funded until the end of July 2014."
 German Chancellor wishes Greek reforms and encouraging economic track continueVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her wish that Greece's reforms and positive economic track will continue, during a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Vienna on Thursday afternoon, on the sidelines of the summit of leaders of the European People's Party (EPP) member parties. The meeting focused primarily on economic issues.
Michael Spindelegger, Vice-Chancellor, Foreign Minister and leader of the Austrian People's Party, who was also the host of the EPP's Vienna meeting, stressed during his prolonged talks with the Greek premier his country's willingness to help out Greece through Austrian businessmen who are interested in investing in the country.
Samaras and Spindelegger exchanged views on an array of foreign policy issues, such as developments in Turkey, FYROM and the Aegean, as well as the course of the Greece's economy.
The Greek prime minister, who left Vienna shortly afterwards to return to Athens for a scheduled meeting with the leaders of the two other parties in the coalition government, also held a private meeting with his counterpart of Ireland and European Union president Enda Kenny.
Participating in Thursday's enlarged EPP summit were heads of state and government, as well as opposition leaders, from EU member states countries and non-EU countries, together with the presidents of the European Council Herman van Rompuy and the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.
The EPP summit, convened by Spindelegger, was aimed at preparing for the upcoming EU Council, June 27-28.
The EPP, with membership by 73 parties from 40 European countries, has the largest Parliamentary group in the European Parliament with 268 seats out of a total of 754, while 13 of the 27 European Council leaders come from the EPP.
 PM Samaras in Vienna: Greece 'making progress every day'Greece has walked a long road, making progress every day, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in Vienna on Thursday as he prepared to attend the European People's Party (EPP) summit meeting.
Greece is going through a tough time which requires fiscal stability, reform, and strong and extensive social and political consensus.
The EPP summit meeting will be hosted by EPP President Wilfried Martens and Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, who is also chairman of the Austrian People's Party (OVP).
EU and non-EU heads of state and government and opposition leaders of EPP, along with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission - Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso - are participating. On the agenda is the preparation of the European Council, scheduled for June 27 and 28.
 KKE reaction to PM Samaras' statements"When the people hear the Prime Minister (Antonis Samaras) talking about the need for social consensus in order to carry on reforms, they now have the wisdom to understand that a new round of harsh anti-popular measures are about to come, and they are just being asked to put their shoulder to the wheel," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a statement on Thursday commenting on statements by the Prime Minister Samaras on the sidelines of a European People's Party (EPP) meeting in Vienna.
KKE added that there should be "no consensus, no subordination. Going along with the Communist Party is the only way to reinforce the people's alliance, as well as to exit the crisis to the people's benefit."
 Greek FinMin briefs Eurogroup on Greek developmentsLUXEMBOURG (ANA-MPA)
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras briefed his eurozone counterparts on developments in Greece noting that despite recent domestic difficulties, the country will fulfill its obligations deriving from the memorandum in order to receive the next disbursement of an 8.1 billion euros loan tranche.
Addressing reporters at the end of a Eurogroup meeting here in the early hours of Friday, Stournaras also said that Greece has lost significant time in reforming its public sector, particularly as far as the the issue of the public servants' mobility is concerned. The country should multiply its efforts in this sector in order to receive the next tranche with which it will respond to its obligations at least until the end of 2013, he added.
 PASOK wants immediate restoration of public radio and television, party leader Venizelos saysPASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, addressing a joint session of the party's Parliamentary Group and the members of the Political Council on Thursday, stressed, according to party sources, that PASOK is calling for the "immediate restoration of public radio and television" and "compliance with court rulings".
According to the same reports, Venizelos said that the party is in favour of the "radical" restructuring of public radio and television "with an organisational chart, timetable and guarantees" and stressed that PASOK will not vote for the ratification law for the Legislative Act.
"There was arrogance, offhandedness and reduced effectiveness", the PASOK leader said adding that over the past 12 months "considerable reformist steps have not taken place". As regards the issue of the updating of the programme agreement, Venizelos said that "words are not enough, we want actions and guarantees" and pointed out that PASOK's stance was and is "clear".
 DIM.AR leader on reinstatement of ERT broadcaster employeesDemocratic Left (DIM.AR) party leader Fotis Kouvelis will be attending Thursday evening's meeting between the leaders of the three parties supporting the government with the basis that there should be public radio and television with the reinstatement of all employees layed off from the broadcaster ERT until the new agency which the new institutional framework anticipates is shaped.
This resulted from the two-hour session of the Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Group at the party's offices in Athens, during which a discussion took place on all the issues that have been raised on the three leaders' negotiating table.
 Government rejects discussion of amendment against ERT's shutdownThe ruling coalition government, citing the Parliament's Rules of Procedure and the Constitution, on Thursday refused for a second time to debate an amendment tabled by opposition parties in Parliament to abolish the Legislative Act that took the ERT public broadcaster off the air last week.
Alternate Environment Minister Stavros Kalafatis voiced the government's decision to reject the discussion of the amendment tabled by opposition Communist Party (KKE) and Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party in the context of the national cadastre draft bill.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM), KKE and AN.EL walked out of parliament in protest, lashing out at New Democracy (ND), PASOK and Democratic Left (DIM.AR), the three partners in the ruling coalition, over their stance on the issue.
 ERT staffers to continue protests until broadcaster reopensEmployees of ERT said they would not stop their protests against the shutdown of the public broadcaster "if all of ERT does not open as if it never shut down, without any layoff and without any violation of labour rights".
In an announcement after the ruling coalition partners met on Wednesday, the employees said they would also transmit through the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which is hosting their programmes.
They also said they would not accept liquidators or administrations "who will sell off public assets" and they criticised the government for delaying applying a Council of State decision to return ERT to operation until a new broadcaster is set up, which they said was "an act of unprecedented cynicism that ignored the existence of 2.650 employees and their families".
 IMF denies requesting shut down of ERTWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)
International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman Gerry Rice denied that the IMF had a hand in the closure of Greece's public broadcaster ERT during the regular press briefing on Thursday. Rice insisted that the IMF set the 'broad outlines' of Greece's fiscal consolidation programme but did not make specific recommendations regarding the decisions relating to state agencies.
Replying to questions about ERT and whether the decision to shut down the broadcaster was made by the EU-IMF troika in order to meet targets calling for 2,000 dismissals from the public-sector dismissals by the end of June, Rice insisted that the decisions concerning ERT were the sole responsibility of the Greek government, declining any further comment.
The government and creditors agreed on the targets of the fiscal reform programme but the IMF did not determine how these targets will be met in Greece or any other country, he emphasised. Replying to other questions, he insisted that the "details" of policy were decided by the Greek government.
The IMF spokesman also avoided replying to questions about Greece's privatisation targets and whether a derailment of this might block disbursement of future loan tranches to Greece, urging reporters to wait until the negotiations of the troika review mission were completed.
 DIM.AR Central Committee secretary Lykoudis on party's presence in governmentDemocratic Left (DIM.AR) Central Committee secretary Spyros Lykoudis on Thursday referred to the future of the ruling coalition government, in which his party is a junior partner.
Speaking to an Athens-based private radio station, he said that "apparently, we are close to an agreement," adding that DIM.AR president Fotis Kouvelis has clarified that the three partners in the ruling coalition will discuss the government reshuffle issue in early July.
Lykoudis also said that only a very small number of party cadres object to its participation in the coalition government, adding that their positions on the issue are interesting and not nihilistic.
He backed DIM.AR's government ministers, Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis and Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, and appeared to be open to changes in case of a reshuffle.
Lykoudis also underlined that decisions in the coalition government should be made collectively.
 SYRIZA leader addresses Kavala rallyMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, addressing a rally in the northern city of
Kavala on Thursday, said that "Mr. (Prime Minister Antonis) Samaras can't even go to elections unless he receives the permission of Mrs. (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel".
Tsipras criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on the occasion of the decision on the closure of broadcaster ERT, stressing that "with this decision the countdown has begun and very soon the three government partners will be called on to give answers".
He added that in their meetings they discuss how they will cling even more tightly to the chairs of power, how they will distribute ministerial posts, how the presidents of PASOK and DIM.AR will become government vice presidents.
"We grant them the ministerial posts, the Greek people will have the last say. Their political time is up and they are mistaken if they think that they can hold out for long," he said.
"The king is naked and his ugliness is visible in all its glory. The government's real face has been revealed in the most obvious way, when black fell on the screens of our television sets. The masks have fallen," Tsipras added.
Lastly, Tsipras stressed that "black, which the Samaras government represents, fell as a veil on the souls of all the democratic citizens of this country, who are aware that public radio and television, the symbol of the freedom of expression, did not go silent neither when the Nazis invaded the country, nor when the far-right colonels placed it in gypsum".
 Deputy FM addresses SAE organising committeeThe path for the new Overseas Hellenism Council (SAE) entered its final stretch on Thursday, with the organising committee convening on Thursday for its first session.
New Democracy party deputy Adonis Georgiadis, president of Parliament's Special Permanent Overseas Hellenism Committee, is presiding over of the committee, which will guide all steps until the election of the Council's new directorate,
"Expatriates must have a leading position among the creative forces that our country needs, through a relation of mutuality, sincerity and directness with the metropolitan centre", said Deputy Foreign Minister Costas Tsiaras on Thursday. Tsiaras is responsible for overseas Hellenism affairs.
Tsiaras stressed the absolute need for the utilisation of expatriates as national capital, saying that the government's priority is the reorganising of its institutional framework in modern developments, that is also dictated by the gravity of the situation in Greece.
He said "we are pursuing the creation of a SAE that will be more representative and creative, that will be able to activate all the forces of ecumenical Hellenism, placing emphasis mainly on youth".
 Exporters' delegation to accompany President Papoulias to PolandThe foreign ministry on Thursday invited a Panhellenic Exporters Association (PEA) delegation to participate in the official visit of Republic President Karolos Papoulias to Poland scheduled for July 8-9.
President Papoulias will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Coope-ration Panagiotis Mihalos.
The most interesting Polish economic sectors for Greek exporters are, among others, renewable energy sources, IT, innovation, environmental protection, recycling, waste management, constructions, building materials, fresh fruits & vegetables, foodstuffs and tourism.
 Meeting looks at enhancing Greece-Germany cooperation on fire fightingFurthering cooperation between Greece and Germany on fire fighting and volunteering has been the focus of a meeting on Thursday between Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias and Germany's Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, who is special emissary for the Greek-German Assembly.
The two men agreed to arrange a new meeting to further examine the issues involved and ways to strengthen the existing level of cooperation between the two countries in the specific areas.
 KKE leader highlights risk of regional conflicts at East. Med. left parties' conferenceCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Thursday highlighted the heightened risk of regional conflicts around the Eastern Mediterranean, sparked by the clashing interests of "imperialist centres and power blocs" in the area. Koutsoumbas was addressing a Meeting of Communist and Labour Parties of the Eastern Mediterranean, Red Sea and Persian Gulf taking place in Athens.
"The opposing interests in the region increase the risk of local military conflict that will become more generalised, since imperialist centres and power blocs are clashing in our broader region, and in conditions of ongoing, repeated crisis," Koutsoumbas said.
He also accused the "imperialists" of employing Goebbels-type propaganda to persuade their working class populations to back military intervention and imperialist wars, dressing them up as wars on 'terrorism' or 'weapons of mass destruction' and efforts to 'restore democracy'. In this, they were supported by the "opportunist" forces of the Left that repeated the arguments of the bourgeois political forces and facilitated imperialist intervention, such as SYRIZA in Greece, he added.
Participants in the conference included Communist and labour parties from Algeria, Jordan, Iran, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Turkey.
 European Commission takes Greece to EU Court of Justice over nitrate pollutionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
The European Commission is referring Greece to the EU Court of Justice for failing to take measures to guarantee that water pollution by nitrates is addressed effectively, it was announced on Thursday.
The European Commission reached the decision after deliberating that although the Nitrates Directive has been in force since 1991, Greece has not designated a number of zones vulnerable to nitrates pollution, and has not adopted measures to effectively combat nitrates pollution in these zones.
Nitrates are essential for plants to grow, and they are widely used as fertilisers, but excess levels cause severe water pollution. The Nitrates Directive aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices. The EU member states have to designate areas that are vulnerable to nitrate pollution and adopt measures to reduce and prevent pollution in those areas. These must include closed periods when manure and chemical fertilizers cannot be spread, a capacity for storing manure when it cannot be spread, and limitations on fertilizer application.
Water quality data shows that some areas of Greece not currently designated are in fact vulnerable to pollution by nitrates. The European Commission is, therefore, pressing Greece to take action by designating more areas and designing appropriate plans to deal with the problem.
The European Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Greece on October 1, 2012, urging swift action to redress the situation. In response to this reasoned opinion, Greece designated some additional Nitrates Vulnerable Zones. Although this new designation is a step in the right direction it does not address all grievances as identified by the European Commission, as other areas still need to be designated as vulnerable zones, or have only been partially designated. The European Commission has therefore decided to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
 Parliament approves environment ministry bill on land cadastre organisationsThe Greek Parliament plenum on Thursday passed an environment, energy and climate change ministry bill that abolishes the Hellenic Land Registry and Mapping Organisation and the transfers all its responsibilities of the National Land Registry SA, which is renamed National Land Registry and Mapping SA.
The bill was approved unanimously, since two of the opposition parties had earlier walked out in protest against the government's refusal to discuss an amendment concerning the state broadcaster ERT and far-right Golden Dawn was absent during the vote on the articles.
 Lifting sanctions on Iran could boost global trade by one trillion dollars, Dr. Narsi Ghorban saysGlobal transactions with Iran could reach one trillion US dollars in 2013-2020 if the sanctions imposed on the country are lifted and exports of Iranian oil are restored to pre-embargo levels, Dr. Narsi Ghorban told ANA-MPA on Thursday.
Dr. Ghorban, representative of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-Iran), managing director of Narkangan Gas to Liquid International Company (NGTLIC), chairman of Doran Energy Iran and director of the International Institute for Caspian Studies (IICS), expressed the hope that the new Iranian government, which will formally assume office in July, will achieve a more positive outcome in the negotiations with the G5+1 (USA, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China). However, in anticipation of developments, Iranian oil exports have been reduced by half in the last six months, while the once quickly developing infrastructure sector, aimed at ensuring increased oil production, has been put on slow motion.
According to Dr. Ghorban, who clarified that he expresses his own views and not those of the Iranian government or the organizations he represents, the situation in Syria could lead to the country being split into three zones of influence (Sunnites, Alevis, Kurds), threatening to start a "tsunami" that could hit Lebanon and Jordan. In such an environment, a strong and democratic Iran, without problems of its own, could be an important ally for the countries of the West, he said.
 Tsohatzopoulos fined with 613,000 euros for "unjustified assets"The Court of Audit, Greece's supreme fiscal court, on Thursday slammed former PASOK defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos with a fine of 613,000 euros, after cross-checking his financial affairs. The fine was imposed for money-laundering discovered in the period 1998-2010.
According to the Court of Audit decision (No. 2173/2013), the cross-checks proved that Tsohatzopoulos had "unjustified assets" and clarified that the specific amount was not included in source of wealth statements submitted by Tsohatzopoulos at the time.
Tsohatzopoulos is currently on trial for money-laundering and taking kickbacks for armaments' procurements programmes while in office.
 Dep. development minister to Azerbaijan for Black Sea Trade and Development Bank meetingDeputy Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Notis Mitarakis is to depart for Azerbaijan on Friday, in order to attend the annual meeting of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) governors' board.
During his stay in the capital Baku, he will have a meeting with the chairman of the BSTDB Board of Governors, Azerbaijan's Finance Minister Samir Sharifov.
 State privatisation agency approves new offer for DESFA saleThe state privatisation fund (TAIPED) informed Socar, the Azeri natural gas company, that it is giving the go-ahead to the buyout of 66 percent of DESFA, the Natural Gas Transmission System Operator, according to sources.
Socar's new and improved offer, worth 400 million euros, will pave the way for the country's participation in the TAP natural gas pipeline project.
In an announcement Thursday, TAIPED said that it was satisfied with the offer and had started the process of completing the bid the soonest possible.
 Russian Railways' participation in TRAINOSE and Greek ports privatisation possibleMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
The Russian Railways are discussing the possibility of participating in the privatisation of Greek assets, through a joint venture of Greek and western European companies, the head of the Russian state company Vladimir Yakunin told reporters.
"We are holding talks with Greek and western companies, we want to create an alliance, a group", replied the head of the Russian Railways at a press conference, in the framework of Saint Petersburg's International Economic forum, when asked if it will participate in Greek privatisations autonomously or in cooperation with other partners.
Yakunin clarified that the Russian Railways are planning to pay the price of the buyout in the case of a successful conclusion, with money that will be secured mainly from borrowing.
Yakunin, the head of the Russian Railways colossus for many years and a man who is considered as belonging to President Putin's environment, had stated last March that his company is interested in the privatisation of TRAINOSE and ports in Greece.
 Greece examines plan to launch Commodities ExchangeThe Greek government will examine the creation of a Commodities Exchange if the project were assessed as viable and beneficial to the national economy, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday.
In a report to Parliament, Stournaras said that the institution of a Commodities Exchange existed in the past but its operation was suspended because of lack of business. In the report, two documents - one from the Athens Stock Exchange and another from the Capital Market Commission - were attached which showed that the project of creating the regulatory framework covering the operation of a commodities market and of its products was still under examination.
The Athens Stock Exchange presented a pre-survey on the creation of a Commodities Exchange with olive oil as the main trading product, based on the examples in other European markets and focused on developments and prospects of trading emission rights, electricity power and natural gas which are not included in commodities markets.
The report noted that the pre-survey highlighted that the crucial part of success of the project was creating a successful cost/quality network of warehouses and certification offices, capable of guaranteeing and safeguarding pyshical delivery of products. It also stressed that Hellenic Exchanges -the operator of Greek markets- was capable of covering all technical demands of the project, as it operated a modern network of members in Greece and abroad.
Stournaras noted that Greek authorities were drafting a new legislation based on the needs of the two surveys and the recommendations of all participants in the Greek capital market.
 Eight Greek companies to list in MSCI Emerging Markets indexEight Greek-listed companies' shares will be included in the MSCI Emerging Markets index from November, following the Greek capital markets' downgrade from a developed to an emerging market by MSCI.
The eight Greek companies which will be included in the index -and their percentage weighting- are: National Bank (19 pct), OTE (19 pct), OPAP (18 pct), Alpha Bank (11 pct), PPC (11 pct), Jumbo (9.0 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (7.0 pct) and Folli Follie (6.0 pct). An HSBC report said that the downgrade of the Greek market to emerging market will immediately spark capital outflows around 194 million US dollars from the market, but at the same time capital inflows would total more than 1.0 billion dollars when the Greek companies' shares begin trading in the MSCI index in November.
 Greek budget deficit sharply down in Jan-MayGreece's state budget primary deficit fell to 970 million euros in the January-May period, significantly down from a budget target for a primary shortfall of 4.165 billion euros, the Finance ministry said on Thursday.
The ministry, in a report, said that the state budget deficit was 3.843 billion euros in the five-month period, down from a deficit of 10.876 billion euros in the same period last year and down from a budget target for a deficit of 7.062 billion euros.
State budget net revenue totaled 19.165 billion euros, up 2.3 pct from a budget target for the January-May period, while regular budget net revenue grew 0.4 pct to 17.444 billion euros.
The report said that corporate tax income was 71.5 pct down compared with budget targets (reflecting a delay in tax statement deadlines), VAT proceeds were down 3.5 pct, proceeds from a special consumption tax on energy products fell short by 4.8 pct and other tax income was down 12.6 pct in the five-month period. On the other hand, income tax proceeds were 13.4 pct larger than expected, property taxes surpassed provisions by 20.1 pct, while proceeds from indirect taxes were 60.2 pct higher.
State budget spending totaled 23.009 billion euros, down from a budget target by 2.784 billion euros. Regular budget spending totaled 21.867 billion euros, down by 1.675 billion euros compared with budget targets. State budget spending were down 25.2 pct compared with the same period last year.
 Greek exports up 5.0 pct in Q1Greek exports grew 5.0 pct in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year, despite a slight decrease in the average European exports in the same period, Dimitris Lakasas, president of the Northern Greece Exporters' Union.
Lakasas said that Greek exporting companies needed political stability and liquidity in order to maintain this positive trend. Lakasas presented a survey based on Eurostat figures, which showed that exports fell by 1.0 pct in Germany, by 3.0 pct in France, by 1.0 pct in Italy and by 0.3 pct in Holland (all together accounted for 53.6 pct of European exports). Exports of goods fell 1.2 pct in the Eurozone in the first three months of the year, while Greek exports of goods rose by 5.0 pct over the same period. Greece ranked 19th in the list of EU-27 member-states based on export activity. Greek exports contributed 15.5 pct to the country's Gross Domestic Product, up by 1.9 percentage points compared with the first quarter of 2012.
Exports of food and beverage rose by 16.3 pct in the first quarter, after falling by 8.0 pct in the rest of Europe. Exports of industry goods fell 5.4 pct in Greece, after rising by 2.0 pct in Europe.
Turkey (helped by exports of oil products) is the country's top export partner, with a 10.1 pct market share of all exports, followed by Italy (9.6 pct), Germany (6.7 pct), Gibraltar (5.1 pct), Bulgaria and Cyprus (4.0 pct each). Greek exports fell in the US, China and India, while exports rose in Turkey, South Korea, Russia and Switzerland.
 OPAP says Intralot wins tech supply tenderThe OPAP state gaming organisation on Wednesday announced that Intralot will remain as technological supplier of the organisation after winning an international tender.
An OPAP board meeting unanimously approved the results of the tender which envisaged the supply, installation, operation and technical support of all necessary equipment and software. In an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange, OPAP said that Intralot will be called to sign all relative contracts after submitting a letter of guarantee.
 Greece raises 1.6 billion euros from T-bill auctionGreek authorities on Thursday accepted non-competitive bids worth 300 million euros in the framework of a three-month Treasury bill auction, raising the total sum drained from the market to 1.6 billion euros.
Settlement date was set for Friday, 21 June, while the interest rate of the issue was set at 4.02 pct.
 Low-cost holidays programme for low-income citizens announcedTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Thursday announced that the 2013-2014 "Tourism for All" programme of subsidised holidays for low-income citizens will be launched in July and end in May 2014.
The 5-million-euro programme will be implemented with the assistance of the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) over two periods: July to December 31, 2013 and February to May 31, 2014.
The programme's eligibility is for 72,000 people and offers low-cost holidays of up to six days to financially vulnerable social groups, while benefiting the tourism sector and local economies.
 Eurolife Insurance reports improved Q1 resultsEurolife Insurance on Thursday said its premium production totaled 82 million euros in the first quarter of 2013, up 12 pct from the same period in 2012, while pre-tax earnings jumped 37 pct to 20 million euros in the January-March period.
Premium production grew 8.0 pct in the life insurance sector totaling 59 million euros, while pre-tax earnings grew 31 pct to 12 million euros.
In the general insurance business, premium production rose 24 pct to 23 million euros, while pre-tax earnings soared 46 pct to 8.0 million euros.
Eurolife Insurance said its market share in the life insurance sector rose to 14.3 pct while in the general insurance sector rose to 3.5 pct.
 No ERT fee on power bills - for nowThe government has suspended the collection of a fee on behalf of ERT on power bills until a new broadcaster is set up.
A decision by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Press Minister Simos Kedikoglou published in the Government Gazette (FEK) on Wednesday said that the ERT fee would be suspended "as of June 11, 2013 and until the establishment of a new agency to provide public radio and television services".
 Greek stocks end significantly lowerGreek stocks came under strong pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday pushing the composite index of the market below the 900-point level, following a similar trend in international capital markets hit by comments made by Federal Reserve's governor, Ben Bernanke, that a period of ultra loose monetary period was coming to an end. National Bank's share price fell 8.02 pct. The composite index dropped 3.66 pct to end at 884.02 points, off the day's lows of 880.60 points. Turnover was a low 41.94 million euros.
The Large Cap index fell 3.92 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.72 pct higher. Eurobank Properties (1.21 pct), Korinth Steel (0.45 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (0.43 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (8.02 pct), Titan (6.57 pct), Folli Follie (6.50 pct), PPC (6.21 pct) and Jumbo (4.71 pct) were top losers.
The Technology (0.72 pct) and Oils (0.05 pct) were top gainers while the Commerce (-6.44 pct), Utilities (-4.86 pct), Health (-4.49 pct) and Banks (-4.38 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 66 to 59 with another 22 issues unchanged. Nakas (29.91 pct), Galaxidi (26.84 pct), Audiovisual (20.47 pct) and Progressive (20 pct) were top gainers, while Haidemenos (9.93 pct), Ilyda (9.43 pct) and National Bank (8.02 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.05%
Personal & Household: -3.82%
Raw Materials: -2.67%
Travel & Leisure: -3.72%
Food & Beverages: -3.72%
Financial Services: -3.88%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, HBC Coca Cola and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.415
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.950
HBC Coca Cola: 18.300
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.980
National Bank of Greece: 3.670
Eurobank Properties : 6.670
Piraeus Bank: 1.340
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 8.7 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.35 pct and the German Bund 1.65 pct. Turnover totaled 11 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.50 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.41 pct, the six-month rate was 0.32 pct, the three-month rate was 0.21 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 1.15 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking at 57.113 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 25,743 contracts worth 39.020 million euros, with 55,200 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 51,773 contracts worth 18.093 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (10,853), followed by Eurobank (4,406), MIG (8,654), OTE (7,074), PPC (4,743), OPAP (3,163), Hellenic Petroleum (1,524), Mytilineos (3,127), Hellenic Petroleum (935), Ellaktor (1,784), Intralot (1,374), Terna Energy (2,208), Frigoglass (267), Jumbo (217), Motor Oil (238).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.339
Pound sterling 0.867
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 8.802
Japanese yen 131.2
Swiss franc 1.250
Norwegian kroner 7.967
Canadian dollar 1.385
Australian dollar 1.453
 Police on trail of stolen truck, say occupants may be escaped Trikala inmatesPatras police are on the trail of a stolen Mitsubishi 4X4 truck, whose occupants failed to stop at a police road block on Reresi bridge in the mountains of Nafpaktia early on
Thursday. The truck was reported stolen by the owner in Filothei, Fokida prefecture at around 4:00 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Police suspect the culprits may be the escaped inmates from Trikala prison, who shot down a police officer during a police chase a few days ago, as well as causing the death of a young woman in Corinth some months earlier, during an exchange of fire with a police car in pursuit.
The owner of the van, in statements to Lepanto TV, described how the culprits broke into his house and stole the keys to his truck, as well as 300 euros and three pairs of trousers. He said the culprits pushed the car out of its parking space before starting the engine. The owner said the sound of the engine woke him and he immediately called the police.
 Mickey Mouse and Disney friends to disembark in PiraeusMickey Mouse, Minnie and other well-loved Disney characters will be among the passengers disembarking from the cruise ship "Disney Magic" that is due to sail in to Piraeus port for the first time on Friday. The ship, operated by the U.S. cruise company Disney Cruise Line, is expected to arrive on Friday morning with 2,380 passengers on board, the majority of them children.
The ship will be met by Piraeus Port Organisation board chairman George Anomeritis and senior OLP staff, who will present the captain Robert Olmer with a commemorative plaque and books for the ship's library.
At the cruise company's request, OLP will also organise a theatre performance for school children featuring Mickey Mouse and Minnie, put on by the ship's actors, in the OLP events hall at 12:15 p.m.
The 83,338-tonne "Disney Magic" is specially designed to cater for younger passengers, with play areas, water slides, film theatres, in addition to offering entertainment and activities for older age groups, and is decorated throughout with characters and images of well-known and loved Disney characters. The ship is 264 metres long, has 11 decks and the capacity for 2,700 passengers and 1,005 crew members and actors.
OLP's management consider that the company's decision to include Piraeus and the Greek islands in its list of destinations is of crucial importance, confirming the steady rising course of the cruise sector in the Mediterranean and Greece, as a location offering quality, safety, natural beauty and classic culture.
The 'Disney Magic' is the third 'Disney Cruises' ship to set sail from Barcelona with stops at Greek ports and harbours this year. The company currently offers four difference 'packages' from Barcelona, including a 12-night trip that also includes Greek destinations.
In general, port authorities reported a record number of cruise ship arrivals in Piraeus on June 19, when eight cruise ships docked at Piraeus without problems, bringing 15,000 passengers.
 Going the distance: Thessaloniki approves 'smart signpost' programme to encourage walkingHow often have you found yourself sitting and fuming in traffic, wondering whether it might have been faster to walk? Thessaloniki municipality now intends to answer this question for over 100 destinations in the city, through an innovative 'smart signpost' system that also lets you know the distance you will travel and the number of calories you will burn as you walk or cycle.
The city's municipal council has approved the purchase and placement of the special signs for busy locations with heavy pedestrian traffic within Thessaloniki, in order to encourage walking in the interests of public health and to relieve traffic congestion.
The arrow-signposts will provide information on the distance between different locations in kilometres, the time needed to cover the distance at an average walking speed of 4-5 kilometres and hour and the calories that will be consumed on uphill journeys, as well as the time needed to cycle.
"Cities must be planned for people. Respect for pedestrians in the first great step we must make to make our cities alive, safe, sustainable and healthy," said Thessaloniki Deputy Mayor for the Urban Environment Andreas Kourakis.
The project is included in the city's technical programme and 2013 budget and is set to cost 55,000 euros, with 70 percent funding from the European Regional Development Fund and 30 percent of the municipality, in the framework of the "Thessaloniki Energy Conservation" act.
 Three arrests for debts to the state totaling 150 million eurosThree people were arrested in Athens and Piraeus in the last two days for outstanding debts to the state of roughly 150 million euros.
A 35-year-old man, chief executive of a private company was arrested in Athens on Thursday for debts to the state amounting to 132,548,000 euros. A nine-month prison sentence was also pending against him for unpaid social insurance contributions to IKA-ETAM social insurance fund.
A 59-year-old man, a former representative of a Piraeus municipal company, was arrested on Wednesday for company debts to the state of roughly 13,030,000 euros. The municipal company's manager was also arrested a few days ago.
A 68-year-old woman, the manager of a import/export company was also arrested on Wednesday for debts of 4,698,200 euros owed to the state.
 Czech tourists missing in Cretan gorge found in good healthPolice said a tourist couple of Czech nationality that went missing Wednesday afternoon south of Hania on the island of Crete was found and in good health.
Three hours after a police, fire and local volunteer search began, the two notified their room owner that they were at Lefka Ori (White Mountains).
The two left Epanohori village yesterday afternoon to get through the Agia Irini gorge to Sougia, but became lost. They then called relatives in Czechoslovakia who notified the owner of the house they were staying at in the village slightly after midnight who in turn notified the police.
Civil Protection head of Chania prefecture, in comments after the search was called off, issued a call to tourist room and building owners to notify their visitors that they must keep in touch with them regularly when they go off on a trek.
Authorities are doing the best they can, he said, but in this as in many cases bad communication makes them look for lost tourists in wrong areas.
 Foreign nationals arrested for drug traffickingPolice in Athens arrested the members of two Albanian drug-trafficking gangs and raided a drug lab operating in Agia Paraskevi district, it was announced on Thursday.
A 27-year-old Albanian man was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Agia Paraskevi having in his possession 9.0 kilos of heroin, 286 grams of a cutting agent, over 2,000 euros in cash and drug cutting equipment.
An Albanian woman, 28, was arrested on Tuesday in the district of Kesariani, accused of being a member of a cocaine-trafficking ring. Police found in her possession 2,615 grams of cocaine and a precision scale.
Other two individuals, also Albanian nationals, one of them with a criminal record, are still wanted.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 19C and 36C. Fair in Athens with northerly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures between 24C and 34C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 22C and 34C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "They're selling broadcaster ERT in return for positions"
DIMOKRATIA: (Played on the ERT staff union POSPERT and the game of poker, with) "POKERT"
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Tough bargaining for a new share-out"
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "A package agreement or..."
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Coalition rulers come closer - ball now on PASOK, DIMAR court"
ESTIA: "Greece drowning in a teacup storm"
ETHNOS: "Difficult labour for new agreement"
IMERISSIA: "Steps towards crisis defusion"
KATHIMERINI: "Final meeting for the restart"
LOGOS: "An extension to the thriller"
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Coalition looking for crisis defusion"
RIZOSPASTIS: "Regional Communist and Labour parties meet today"
TA NEA: "Lucky Tuesday! Towards a solution"
VRADYNI: "Council of State time for the coalition"
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