|Monday, 19 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-07-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 3 July 2013 Issue No: 4396
 Greece seeks technical agreement with troika by Saturdayhe Greek government seeks to reach an agreement -in a technical level- with the troika by Saturday to have a basis of discussion of a revised memorandum and on the disbursement of an 8.1 billion euros tranche of a bailout loan during a Eurogroup meeting scheduled for Monday, 8 July, senior government officials told ANA-MPA on Tuesday.
"The negotiation is in full swing taking note of all prior actions needed to be included in an omni-bill intended to be tabled to Parliament on Monday," the officials said. The meeting with the troika officials included Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, and Labor Deputy Minister Vasilis Kegeroglou.
A high-ranking official from the Health ministry said an agreement in principle with the troika has been reached over a new spending cutting mechanism, although it was still unclear whether the measure would temporarily close a fiscal gap in pension funds.
The official said that the measure will cover both clinic and diagnostics centers, adding that anyone overshooting a spending ceiling won't get paid while those denying healthcare services to citizens would be expelled from the health system for ever.
A Development ministry official said the ministry was ready with a draft bill allowing shops to stay open on Sunday and noted it was a matter of management whether this measure would be considered as a prior action in the memorandum. Both the government and the troika also agreed on the prior actions needed to set up an Investment Fund.
An Environment ministry official said there will not be any price increases in electricity rates by Public Power Corporation by the end of the year, although he noted that no such commitments could be made for 2014. He said that industrial electricity rates would be cut by 10-15 pct.
 European Commission: No three-day deadline in Greece's review by troikaBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The European Commission on Tuesday denied media reports according to which Greece had three days to settle pending issues of its current review by the troika of lenders mission in Athens before jeopardising the disbursal of its next loan tranche.
Simon O'Connor, a spokesperson for European Commission Vice President Olli Rehn, said that the only truth in the reports is that in order for the Eurogroup to be able to reach a decision or an agreement this coming Monday, talks in Athens must be through earlier.
"We have set no deadline," O'Connor said on behalf of Rehn, referring to a report by Reuters news service. He said the Commission does not comment on ongoing negotiations.
Asked whether the next loan tranche of 8.1 billion euros will be released in further installments, O'Connor said that in the last six months, the usual practice is to disburse the loans in installments, depending on the political terms agreed upon.
 Snag with EOPYY budget 'gap' overcome, health ministry says after talks with troikaThe snag that had arisen with a 'gap' in the budget of the state health services provider EOPYY, which was close to jeopardising the next loan tranches to Greece, was overcome in talks between Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and members of the troika mission representing Greece's creditors on Tuesday.
Georgiadis said the meeting was judged absolutely successful, since there was an agreement not to place any futher burden on Greek citizens and to keep EOPYY spending for private diagnostic centres and clinics to 600 million euros or less. Any amount exceeding this sum must be returned to EOPYY by the clinics and diagnostic centres, the ministry said.
The minister conceded that this was yet another "horizontal" measure but stressed that this was unavoidable. He also promised that the state will immediately settle any overdue debts owed to private centres and clinics to help them financially, since some were at risk of closing, and announced that inspection mechanisms will be installed to monitor EOPYY spending, similar to those in place for private insurance firms.
Among the prior actions demanded by the troika were tougher penalties for health sector corruption and wrongdoing, Georgiadis said. As an example of these new rules, he explained that a doctor now caught taking bribes will be required to pay a fine that is 50 times the amount of the bribe received.
A third prior action agreed was a change in current treatment protocols, so that only specific tests and medication can be justified for each category of patient.
Given that the ministry is on target for pharmaceutical spending, the minister requested and received an extension until the autumn in order to implement dynamic pricing systems for generic drugs and offered assurances that no one insured by EOPYY will lack necessary medication. He also noted that the troika, in order to provide a safety net, has agreed to allow access to the health system for all those unable to pay.
 Health minister: No more cuts in health sector, with troika agreementThere can be no further cuts in the health sector - and the troika representatives agree, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis said on Tuesday, following a review of his ministry by the visiting troika of lenders.
"We came to full agreement," Georgiadis said. "The issue is that there can be no more budget cuts in health, as we agreed that we had reached the lowest possible limit. I think we inaugurated a good collaboration to move quickly to reforms," he added.
Discussion on prior actions went very well, he said, with no pending issues.
Asked what he planned to do with the fiscal gap in the national health system (EOPYY), Georgiadis said, "The measure is known, we have announced it. For now, we will have a 'claw back', but we are moving to its restructure the soonest possible, so that it may operate on private business criteria and we may do away with uncontrolled expenditures. It is important to respect the Greek people's money to the last euro."
 KKE, AN.EL lash out at government and its meetings with troika representativesOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Independent Greeks (AN.EL) on Tuesday lashed out at the government referring to the meetings with the troika of Greece's creditors.
"The government with the European Union and the IMF pave the way for another round of attacks on health, social insurance, wages and labour rights. Social insurance and pension rights will be targeted again under the pretext of the sustainability of social insurance funds and state health services provider EOPYY. The guillotine for the pensions of the Self-employed Professionals Insurance Organization (OAEE) has been ready for some time now," KKE commented in response to the meetings of health and labour ministers with the troika representatives.
On his part, AN.EL leader Panos Kammenos on Tuesday termed the troika "the coalition government's boss" and underlined that new measures and a new memorandum are imminent.
"The arrival of the coalition government's bosses will usher in a new memorandum, new threats, new layoffs, new measures," Kammenos said.
 DEPA privatisation failure 'will not automatically activate fiscal adjustment clauses,' FinMinThe automated adjustment clauses for Greece's fiscal programme will not be activated without specific agreement between Greece and its lenders, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in a document to Parliament on Tuesday.
Stournaras was responding to a question by Independent Greeks (Anexartiti Ellines) MP Maria Kollia Tsaroucha, who voiced concern over the repercussions of the failed privatisation of DEPA on the country's budgetary targets, especially after the withdrawal of Russian interest in acquiring the natural gas company in June.
"The automated adjustment clauses can only be activated after agreement between the Greek government and the representatives of our lenders," the finance minister said. He explained that "any delays in executing the privatisation programme are more than adequately covered by the faster execution of other structural reforms, such as the recapitalisation of credit institutions."
Asked to also inform Parliament whether the government intended to "apply new austerity measures burdening the Greek people after the failure of the DEPA privatisation process," Stournaras said, "The non-successful completion of developing one of the state assets that has been transferred to the jurisdiction of TAIPED [the agency handling privatisations] does not cancel in its entirety either the privatisation programme being applied or its importance for the Greek economy."
The government has "shifted its focus from promoting fiscal measures to freeing up funds and executing all those infrastructuring reforms that will strengthen the Greek economy," Stournaras added.
 Admin. Reform minister receives high school teachers union, stresses reforms will go aheadAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday stressed that the ministry will go ahead with measures for the suspension and transfer of high school teachers, whether these were voluntary or forced. In a meeting with a five-member delegation from the high school teachers' union OLME, Mitsotakis also underlined that the ministry's goal was not the dismissal of teachers but their transfer to other positions.
The meeting was held at the ministry on Tuesday afternoon, immediately after a protest march by teachers against dismissals, measures such as suspension from duty on reduced pay and obligatory transfers.
Mitsotakis noted that his own position was in favour of the "mobility" taking place voluntarily but noted that "in no case will he object if, at some point, it becomes obligatory."
He clarified that the number of teachers to be transferred and the priorities for such transfers will be decided by the education ministry, which will participate in the measure. He also promised that the ministry will make every effort to make the transitional period between one position and the next as small as possible.
 PM Samaras in Berlin on WednesdayPrime Minister Antonis Samaras will travel to Berlin on Wednesday to take part in a European Council on youth employment hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The prime minister will be back in Athens on the same day.
 Labour minister to accompany PM on Berlin visitLabour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis is to accompany Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on a visit to Berlin on Wednesday for a conference on promoting youth employment hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The meeting will also be attended by the ministry general secretary Anna Stratinaki and the head of Greece's Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) Theodoros Abatzoglou.
The roundtable will be attended by heads of state, labour ministers, European officials and the heads of European Union employment agencies.
 President of the Republic to visit Poland with ministersPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will pay an official visit to Poland on July 8 and 9, the presidency announced on Tuesday.
Papoulias will meet with his counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski and other political leaders on July 8 and next day visit the Nazi concentration camp sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau outside Krakow to pay tribute to the victims of Nazism.
He will be accompanied to Poland by Ministers Costis Chatzidakis (Development), Constantine Arvanitopoulos (Education), Olga Kefalogianni (Tourism) and Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas.
 'We are fighting for a better day', President Papoulias tells Greek-American studentsA group of Greek-American college students from the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), headed by institute president Nick Larigakis, was received on Tuesday by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Mansion.
"It is very important that you are coming to your second homeland to experience it, to experience its difficulties and take impressions that you will convey to your main homeland," Papoulias said to the students, as Foreign Ministry ambassadors were few and therefore the students' contribution was all the more significant.
"We did not hide our difficulties, we did not hide the fact that the financially weaker classes in Greece are suffering, but we are fighting for a better day," he added, referring to the tough generation of their grandparents and parents, who managed to achieve so much with such little means.
 SYRIZA leader holds talks in Moscow on crisis in Greece, developments in EuropeMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) president and European Left Party vice-president Alexis Tsipras held talks in Moscow on Tuesday with the leaderships of the state Duma's parties, focusing on joint action with the parties of the Russian Left, as well as on the situation prevailing in Greece and developments in Europe.
According to SYRIZA sources from Athens, Tsipras, who is accompanied by the director of his political office, Nikos Pappas and the party's head of Foreign Policy Costas Isihos, met with Alexey Puskov, president of the state Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Leonid Kalashnikov, secretary general of the Central Committee of the Russian Federation's Communist Party, as well as with Aleksandr Romanovic, a member of the directorate of the "Fair Russia" Party and governor candidate for Moscow.
An extensive briefing took place in the framework of the meetings on the positions of the European Left Party on its antineoliberal programme, as well as on its upcoming congress at the end of 2013. The Russian officials showed great interest not only in European developments, but also in the social and economic crisis hitting the EU, with Greece being the focus.
The two sides committed themselves to continuing the mutual briefing, dialogue and joint action, whose aim is to make the positions of the European Left Party known on a broader basis, as well as prospects of cooperation and joint action with the parties of the Russian Left being examined immediately.
 SYRIZA-EKM leader addresses question on Nutriart in ParliamentMain opposition SYRIZA-EKM leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday tabled a question in Parliament for the labour, finance and development ministers, asking what action the government intends to take in order to prevent the closure of Nutriart and the food-manufacturing firms it operates, including the brand names Katselis, historic flour packager and biscuit-maker Allatini and Plaza.
Tsipras called for action to prevent the firing of 500-odd Nutriart employees, stressing that these were specialised staff with 20 and 30 experience.
The main opposition leader said that Katselis had been a profitable company before a takeover by the David group, which burdened the newly formed Nutriart with huge loans taken out in order to buy Katselis, while subsequent company managements had grossly mismanaged its operations and driven up its debts to 120 million euros. According to Tsipras, both the banks giving the loans and the majority shareholders appointing the company's managements shared responsibility for its failure.
 State MP: 'No chance, ever, of ND collaborating with neo-Nazis'New Democracy (ND) will never collaborate with neo-Nazis, State Deputy Chryssanthos Lazaridis told private Mega TV on Tuesday, following a question prompted by comments made by Vyron Polydoras, ND member and former minister about a possible collaboration with extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi).
Lazaridis, a close associate of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, said of the majority party: "ND will never, ever collaborate with neo-Nazis. As you see, I am not saying 'Golden Dawn', I refer to them as neo-Nazis. This is not accidental, and I am not the only one doing it, the party does so as well. We call them what they are, not by the name they use. This is what Polydoras himself explained. Because this was open to misinterpretation, he was clarifying it."
Asked to comment on the now defunct public broadcaster ERT, Lazaridis referred to the blank (or "black") screens as "not the government's choice. The blank screens resulted from the fact the radio station became occupied and began transmitting illegally."
"We took the risk of shutting down ERT, as it should have done, without any violence, in order to allow a very great reform to go ahead, to set a precedent and to have everything carried out in the most peaceful way," he added.
 ND says Tsipras' real goal is cessation of paymentsA New Democracy (ND) press office announcement on Tuesday said that the real goal of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) leader Alexis Tsipras is the interruption of Greece's financing, namely, the cessation of payments.
In response to statements made by SYRIZA-EKM MP Nikos Voutsis, ND commented that "SYRIZA-EKM wants hospitals, schools, the security forces, the armed forces, to stop operating and pensions and wages to go unpaid. Tsipras and his fellows must rest assured that we will not allow him to destroy everything that the sacrifices of the Greek people have built until now."
According to the ND announcement, Voutsis had stated on Vima FM radio, in response to a question on the likelihood of a cessation of payments, that "there is a period of a few months - last year we had calculated it to be 5-6 months with a cost of 4.2 billion euros - when the country will not be paying its obligations etc. during the renegotiation of the loan contracts. During these months the country will be able to stand on its feet, relying on its own resources and production. If a longer period is necessary we will decide with the people what to do".
 SYRIZA-EKM MP Yiannis Milios says new painful measures coming after the summerMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA-EKM) MP and head of economic policy Yiannis Milios on Tuesday warned that new painful measures are likely to be announced at the end of the summer.
In an interview with ANA-MPA, Milios said he didn't expect talks with the troika to produce anything more than "an agreement and a timetable," adding that "the 'negotiations essentially pave the way for new measures that will be announced at the end of summer, namely, pension cuts and further reductions in social spending".
He also said that "the troika and certain people in the government believe that mass layoffs should start in the greater public sector for symbolic reasons, namely, in order to break any resistance in the labour market".
Responding to a question on social reactions, he stressed that "the reaction of society is not predictable. It comes very suddenly and it is very powerful when it comes. Therefore, I do not think that continued implementation of the measures will be met calmly. I believe that very soon we will witness mass, consciously-made and peaceful reactions".
Referring to SYRIZA-EKM's priorities if it takes office, he said that it will focus on putting an end to the disaster, create a shield of protection for society, as well as a fair taxation system that will distribute the tax burden depending on the ability of citizens and companies to pay and immediately implement measures for tackling unemployment.
Responding to a question on the euro, he said that "it is an issue of social strife and not a monetary issue."
"The slogan remains, on one hand, no sacrifice for the euro and, on the other hand, no self-deception about the drachma," he added.
 DIMAR: Parliament must remain open through the summerThe Democratic Left (DIMAR) party will request that Parliament remains open through the summer and its plenum sessions continue to convene, according to party sources quoted on Tuesday after the party's weekly executive committee meeting under leader Fotis Kouvelis.
The party said that if summer sessions are held as they usually are every summer, they will not include the draft laws it has tabled, on lifting the ministerial decree that led to the shutdown of public broadcaster ERT and on antiracism, jointly sponsored with its former coalition partner PASOK.
Other issues discussed were DIMAR members on state agency boards, who will not be asked by the party to resign, and preparations for the party congress to be held in November.
 Public Order minister visiting BritainPublic Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias on Tuesday began an official visit to Great Britain, where he will meet with Home Secretary Theresa May and Minister of State for Immigration Mark Harper to discuss issues of police cooperation, illegal immigration and border policies.
According to a Greek Police announcement, Dendias will also meet with other officials and visit relevant service offices before returning to Athens on Thursday.
 Alt. Environment Minister and head of armed forces discuss land planning issues affecting officersAlternate Environment Minister Stavros Kalafatis on Tuesday had a meeting with the head of the Armed Forces General Staff Gen. Mikhail Kostarakos to discuss the Pikermi-Rafina Urban Land Reparceling Zone and the problems that have arisen for the Autonomous Officers' Building Organisation.
Kalafatis suggested that the "Land Bank" could be a key developmental tool that can be used to resolve the problems of all building societies throughout the country.
The environment ministry is now examining the issue, which has plagued the Greek state and the majority of officers in the Greek armed forces for about 40 years.
 DIMAR welcomes Croatia's EU accessionOpposition Democratic Left (DIMAR) on Tuesday termed July 1 "a historical day for Croatia", marking the country's formal accession to the EU.
An announcement by DIMAR's European and Foreign Policy sector underlined that Croatia's formal entry into the EU under Zoran Milanovic's government is undoubtedly a positive event for Croatia itself and for the promotion of a progressive and social Europe.
The accession constitutes an important step for the Western Balkan region and its European prospect, the party said.
 Audit firms present findings on PASOK's financesThe findings of the six audit firms appointed by PASOK to conduct an investigation into its finances were delivered in a sealed envelope to party general director Nikos Salagiannis on Tuesday, to be opened in the next political council meeting. The sealed envelope option was chosen to prevent any leaks.
In case information on the content of the envelope becomes public, its origin will be traced back to Salagiannis or any of the six audit firms, according to party cadres.
Information about the party's finances that came to light a while ago was politically damaging for PASOK, based on opinion poll results.
 Energy minister receives Israeli envoyEnvironment and Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Tuesday received the Israeli ambassador to Greece Arye Mekel for talks focusing on cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus, especially in the energy sector.
The meeting was held in view of the next Greece-Israel Supreme Council of Strategic Cooperation, due to convene in Israel in the coming autumn. During this, several agreements of cooperation that also pertain to the Greek Environment and Energy ministry are expected to be signed.
 New Deputy Foreign Minister sworn inNewly-appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Akis Gerontopoulos was sworn in office on Tuesday before President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
His swearing-in was delayed because Gerontopoulos was abroad when the cabinet of the new government took place last Tuesday.
 Association of Judges and Prosecutors meets with Justice ministerThe board of the Association of Judges and Prosecutors met on Monday with Minister of Justice Charalambos Athanasiou, on current issues in the justice area.
Athanasiou referred extensively to the priorities set by the ministry on what he called a reasonable public demand for fast and reliable justice.
 Commission clears 114-mln-euro state support for infrastructure project at the port of PiraeusBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
The European Commission on Tuesday cleared the way for a 114 million euros state support for an infrastructure project at the port of Piraeus. In a statement, the EU's executive said it has found a 113.9 million euros Greek support for an infrastructure project of 120 million euros at the Port of Piraeus to be in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the project will further the objectives of EU transport policy and cohesion without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
In September 2012 Greece notified plans to support an investment project by OLP, the port authority, to extend existing infrastructure for cruise ships at the Port of Piraeus by 2 docking stations. The project is co-financed with 96.9 million euros from EU Structural Funds.
The project will improve the exploitation of cruise services at the Port of Piraeus and support regional development by creating jobs and boosting economic activity through the passengers, crews and companies that it will attract. Greece carried out an in-depth cost-benefit analysis showing that the income to be generated for the Port Authority from the use of the infrastructure over the next 20 years will be insufficient to cover the investment costs. Therefore, the project would not be carried out without public funding.
The Commission found that the public funding of 113.9 million euros is limited to the funding gap identified in the study. The funding is therefore necessary to make the project possible and it remains limited to the amount strictly necessary to achieve its goals. Finally, the potential distortions of competition and trade between Member States to be generated by the creation of additional capacities at the Port of Piraeus are relatively limited, because the port of Piraeus will still have a relatively low market share in cruise traffic in the Mediterranean. The positive effects of the project for the cruise market of the Mediterranean Sea and on regional development clearly outweigh any potential distortions of competition brought about by the aid.
The Commission therefore concluded that the project is in line with Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), that allows aid for the development of certain economic activities, provided that it does not unduly affect trade and competition.
 DESFA seeks to expand partnership with TAPDESFA -Hellenic Gas Transportation System Operator- is interested in a partnership with TAP natural gas pipeline project both in Greece and in Albania, George Paparsenos, the company's chief executive told a conference held in Athens on Tuesday.
TAP was officially selected as the main pipeline to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan -through Greece and Albania to Italy. DESFA's interest focuses on the operation and maintenance of the pipeline on Greek and Albanian soil, while Paparsenos expressed interest for an equity participation in the pipeline. DESFA is currently in a privatization process (the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund sells 66 pct of its equity stake) with Socar, the Azeri natural gas company, being the only candidate in the tender.
 Labour Minister: No cuts in minimum wage, or mass layoffsThe minimum wage will not be lowered and there will be no mass layoffs, Labour Minister Yannis Vroutsis after his meeting on Tuesday with the troika representatives of Greece's lenders, it was announced by the Labour Ministry.
"There is neither an issue of further cutbacks of the minimum salary nor of massive layoffs," Vroutsis said.
 Talks with troika progressing in positive climate, Labour ministry officialsGreek Labour, Social Security and Welfare ministry officials on Tuesday categorically dismissed reports alleging that the troika has proposed new cuts in minimum wage and minimum pension during the current round of negotiations.
"Negotiations are continuing. The climate of talks on Labour ministry issues is positive," Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis told reporters after the meeting.
Ministry officials told ANA-MPA that top-level ministry officials reassured the troika that procedures to approve a new draft bill on a new mechanism of setting minimum wage in the country were under way.
The officials noted that the minimum wage will remain stable to the end of 2016 and will be reviewed with the new mechanism in 2017. They added, however, that the troika proposed a review of existing limitations in layoffs and that the two sides agreed to gradually review an existing framework to harmonize with practices in other European countries. Greece and Holland are the only EU member-states where a ministerial decision is required to approve mass layoffs.
The meeting reaffirmed that the ministry has achieved its targets in restructuring the pension system, although the troika focused on a shortfall of 450 million euros expected to be presented by OAEE -the self-employed and professionals fund - by the end of 2014. The two sides also agreed to review a proposal to impose a 2/1,000 euros extra contribution on companies' turnover to support OAEE.
 Disputes should be resolved through arbitration, EC Task Force chief Reichenbach saysEuropean Commission Task Force for Greece chief Horst Reichenbach on Tuesday urged banks to opt for the settlement of disputes through arbitration rather than courts, during a press conference after an event on the out-of-court settlement of civil and commercial legal disputes.
"It should be made absolutely clear to the banks that the intent on a political level is for solutions to be found through the institution of arbitration," Reichenback stressed.
The EC Task Force chief referred to the economic situation in Greece, noting that the six years of recession it has experienced are a unique phenomenon in the history of developed countries. He added that the Task Force focused on supporting people with low incomes and the unemployed, noting that "as a Task Force, we believe that the measures aimed at supporting the unemployed are of inestimable value."
Referring to the institution of arbitration, he said that it is a good way to resolve disputes between two parties, noting that it is an alternative with many advantages and a flexible process that allows the parties involved to have control over the outcome.
Justice ministry general secretary Nikolaos Kanellopoulos noted that the option of the Special Arbitration will become mandatory to speed up the settlement of cases concerning overindebted households.
He added that a total of 54 Independent Administrative Commissions will be established in order to resolve disputes between citizens and the state, underlining that the goal is to reach a settlement in 2-3 months instead of 7 years, as is currently the case. He also announced that by September, there will be 300 certified arbitrators in the country.
The event was organized by the justice ministry with the support of the European Commission Representation in Greece and the EC Task Force.
 Deputy Development minister holds meeting with Task Force headDeputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis discussed the national exports strategy with Task Force head for Greece Horst Reichenbach, while it was ascertained that timetables set are being observed.
The process of the unification of extroversion agencies in the wake of the study by the Dutch experts, was also examined during the meeting. The Dutch experts have proposed the unification of the Exports Promotion Organisation and Invest in Greece and the transfer of the Economic and Trade Attaches to the Development ministry. The ministry's intention is to have a relevant bill submitted in Parliament in the coming period which is being prepared by a committee of the jointly responsible ministries and agencies.
Also participating in the meeting were the head of the European Commission's delegation in Greece Panos Karvounis and the head of the Task Force's Athens Office Zorzetta Lali.
 Environment minister, Germany's special envoy discuss cooperation in environment, energy issuesEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Tuesday held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's special envoy to Greece, German Deputy Labour Minister Hans Joachim Fuchtel, discussing cooperation on a regional authority level between Greece and Germany in environment and energy-related issues.
In particular, they talked about waste management and the transfer of knowhow between German and Greek local authorities in this area. Among the ideas put forward was that of establishing municipal prizes in waste management, separation and recycling to help increase the penetration of successful models and the exchange of knowhow on reclaiming land and restoring the natural environment after mining operations.
Maniatis and Fuchtel also discussed the organisation of a Greek-German conference under the auspices of the environment ministry, with the participation of Greek think-tanks and German parties, to discuss the various ideological angles relating to sustainable development, innovation and youth employment issues.
Another issue emphasised was the support by German banks of energy conservation programmes for public buildings in Greece. Maniatis and Fuchtel noted that joint action by Greek and German companies with assured financing from banks could lead to significant savings, since the Greek state currently spent nearly 600 million euros annually on energy.
The meeting additional discussed the extent to which Greece can promote programmes to finance youth employment, along the lies of the Youth Guarantee programme, in order to boost vocational training and help tackle severe joblessness.
 Cosco appoints new president, after Captain Jiafu's retirementCosco Group announced on Tuesday the retirement of Captain Wei Jiafu, president of the board.
In the announcement dated July 1, Cosco announced a series of changes in the group's leadership which says that Ma Zehua will be appointed president of the board and Li Yunpeng director of the board and president of Cosco.
Moreover Cosco announcement clarifies that Captain Wei Jiafu retires and will not have no position in Cosco Group hierarchy.
 Changes in management will not affect investment plans, COSCO saysChanges in the leadership of COSCO Group, announced July 1, will in no way impact the Chinese group's investment plans in Greece, top officials of China Ocean Shipping Group Company said on Tuesday, following the retirement of chairman Captain Wei Jiafu, 63.
Cosco President Ma Zehua, 60, was appointed as the group's new chairman and Communist Party of China commissioner, while Executive Vice President Li Yunpeng will succeed Ma as president. Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) executives regard Ma as a permanent choice, not a transitional one.
The above changes, says the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), is seen by foreign press reports as a sign of Beijing's discomfort with Cosco's losses in the last two years.
A SYRIZA announcement onj Tuesday also wondered what the Greek government intends to do to safeguard public interests, instead of organising fiestas aimed at creating an artificial climate of optimism.
 Greek bank lending interest rates must converge with Eurozone rates, Zanias saysGreek banks' lending interest rates, particularly for loans to enterprises, need to converge with existing interest rates in other Eurozone member-states, George Zanias, president of the Hellenic Bank Association said on Tuesday.
Addressing an event organized by the French-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Hellenic Bank Association on: "The role of banks in financing the economy: current developments", Zanias stressed that prevailing significant differences in corporate lending interest rates between Greece and other Eurozone states raised hurdles in achieving the necessary growth rates which could lead to a significant reduction in unemployment. He noted that during this period of high lending interest rates, funding of enterprises by co-funding programs with the European Investment Bank and other funding mechanisms played an important role in maintaining cash flow to enterprises.
Zanias stressed that a successful completion of a recapitalization plan of Greek banks signaled a vote of confidence in the domestic banking system. He underlined the need to fully repay all overdue debt by the state to the private sector, which totaled 4.0 pct of the country's GDP. He said that Greek banks will focus more on funding enterprises with export activity.
 Union of Greek Shipowners annual report presentedUnion of Greek Shipowners president Theodoros Veniamis, presenting the annual report for 2012, stressed in his opening note that Greek-owned shipping has prospects to provide many jobs to young people being hit by unemployment. However, he said the precondition was the existence of a suitable legislative framework that will permit the hiring of lower-level crews with competitive terms.
Veniamis added that "it was just unfortunate that at a time when Greece faced a major economic crisis, international shipping -owing to its endemic nature of intense fluctuations in the freight market- is also facing a deep and lengthy crisis."
According to the report, despite the unfavourable international economic conjuncture, revenues from providing shipping services in foreign exchange in 2012 amounted to 13,286 million euros compared to 14,097 million euros in 2011, meaning a decrease in the region of 5.75 percent, while 192,000 people in Greece were involved directly or indirectly in various shipping sectors.
The Greek flag fleet age profile in 2012 was 11.3 years - with 50 percent of the fleet aged below 10 years - and of the Greek owned fleet 10.2 years, while the average age of the international fleet was 12.7 years.
The Greek shipping register in 2012 numbered 1,939 ships (having a capacity of over 100 gt), while the Greek owned fleet numbered 3,428 ships (bigger than 1,000 gt) with 245.14 million dwt, accounting for 15.56 percent of the international capacity in dwt.
The Greek flag holds the sixth place in the international classification (in dwt) and the second in the EU (in gt).
 Hellenic Financial Stability Fund deputy CEO resignsDeputy CEO of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund Marios Koliopoulos tendered his resignation to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Fund CEO Anastasia Sakellariou on Tuesday.
In his resignation letter, Koliopoulos justified his decision on the need to clarify and safeguard the operational framework of the Fund, following the successful recapitalisation of Greek banks.
 Samos entrepreneurs to finance chartered fights next yearAn initiative by tourism sector representatives on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, to launch cooperation with a low-cost airline in an effort to attract more tourists in 2014, was announced in a press conference on Tuesday.
Samos & Ikaria Hotel Owners' Association President Kostas Kiriazis said that a new association will be created with the participation of representatives of the local tourism sector who will pay a 100-euro contribution each. The amount raised will to be used to charter a low-cost carrier that will undertake to offer four flights a week in the period from April 1 to November 15, 2014.
Local tourism sector entrepreneurs say that if the move is successful it could result in 20,000 more tourists arriving next year.
 Greek workers' wages down 10.1 pct in Q1Greek workers' wages dropped by 10.1 pct in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the decline in wages covered most economic activity sectors in the country except for the primary sector, the public sector and the health and education sectors.
The wage index fell 10.09 pct in the January-March period this year, after a decline of 7.76 pct recorded in the first three months of 2012. The statistics service said that the index fell by 4.25 pct on average in 2011 and by 5.52 pct in 2012.
 Alumil sets up new company in DubaiAlumil SA on Tuesday announced the founding of a new company Alumil Middle East JLT in Dubai which will start activities in the commerce of building materials in the wider region. The company said the new company was set up by Alumil Gulf FZC, a subsidiary of Alumil SA.
 Greek stocks end near 2013 lowsGreek stocks came under strong selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday pushing the composite index of the market near its 2013 lows. The index dropped 3.24 pct to end at 823.83 points, very close its 2013 lows of 822.95 points. Turnover remained a disappointing low 43.25 million euros.
The Large Cap index fell 2.65 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.13 pct lower. Eurobank Properties (4.82 pct), Metka (1.91 pct), Folli Follie (1.69 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (0.21 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Intralot (14.63 pct), Piraeus Bank (13.60 pct), Korinth Steel (8.51 pct), Ellaktor (6.82 pct) and Viohalco (6.18 pct) were top losers.
The Commerce (1.67 pct) and Food (0.17 pct) sectors were the only ones to score gains, while Banks (5.34 pct), Utilities (5.27 pct), Raw Materials (4.73 pct) and Personal Products (4.20 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 92 to 40 with another 16 issues unchanged. Pairis (30 pct), Athina (20 pct) and Boutaris (20 pct) were top gainers, while Selman (19.67 pct), Intralot (14.63 pct) and Sato (14.29 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.68%
Personal & Household: -4.20%
Raw Materials: -4.73%
Travel & Leisure: -2.73%
Food & Beverages: +0.17%
Financial Services: -2.63%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Titan, OTE, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.425
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.51
HBC Coca Cola: 18.69
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.90
National Bank of Greece: 2.36
Eurobank Properties : 7.18
Piraeus Bank: 0.985
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 9.43 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 9.06 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.13 pct and the German Bund 1.70 pct. Turnover was an improved 13 million euros, of which 6.0 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 7.0 million euros were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate was 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.22 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe July contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.38 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover shrinking to 9.077 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,152 contracts worth 5.918 million euros, with 49,918 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 9,212 contracts worth 3.159 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Intralot's contracts (1,572), followed by National Bank (1,444), Alpha Bank (1,076), Eurobank (728), OTE (1,495), PPC (790), GEK (395), Ellaktor (284), Jumbo (150), Hellenic Exchanges (154), OPAP (158), Mytilineos (143).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.321
Pound sterling 0.870
Danish kroner 7.572
Swedish kroner 8.831
Japanese yen 132.03
Swiss franc 1.253
Norwegian kroner 8.038
Canadian dollar 1.396
Australian dollar 1.443
 PM Samaras receives Giannis Antetokounmpo, picked by NBA team Milwaukee BucksPrime Minister Antonis Samaras received international basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo and his family at Maximos Mansion, government headquarters, on Tuesday in the presence of Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and Minister of Sports Yiannis Andrianos.
Addressing the young basketball player, selected a few days ago by the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 15 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the prime minister thanked him for honoring Greece and underlined that he has become a role model for many, noting that all Greeks have witnessed how much he struggled since he was a child to help his siblings.
The prime minister wished him success saying characteristically, "I wish you to make America go crazy over your slam dunks".
He thanked him for a cap the young basketball player gave him as a present and told him that the Greek people will be watching his career abroad. He thanked him for holding the Greek flag with his brother when the draft results were announced and presented him with the "Axion Esti" icon.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Antetokounmpo said that the prime minister was "friendly" and a "basketball fan".
"He knew about basketball. He is a very cool guy," he said, adding that after the prime minister thanked him in a very emotional moment, he wanted to know about the school he attended and where he grew up before wishing him health and a bright future.
"He will come to America to watch me play," Antetokounmpo said, and referring to his future in basketball he said that he has set many goals.
He displayed the icon the prime minister had given him as a gift and said that his present to him was a cap with his signature. He also said that he had spoken with the prime minister's son, who is "also a basketball fan".
 New culture minister meets Central Archaeological Council membersNew Culture and Sports Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos on Tuesday met with the members of the Central Archaeological Council, urging them to "continue doing your duty, taking into account the difficult situation in the country."
The minister stressed that the process of growth and attracting investments must go ahead but in ways that did not "suck out the soul" and character of Greek culture.
He praised the Council's work and said he closely followed its crucial mission, saying his goal was to assist in this mission in order to achieve about the greatest possible positive results for the country.
The minister underlined that a balance must be found between unfettered growth and the opposite extreme of absolute stagnation.
"We can find solutions for all things, and I mean solutions leading to growth and investments that respect our culture. The argument is not 'come to Greece to play at a casino'. We are not the Las Vegas of the Mediterranean. Our argument is 'come to the country that has been the cradle of civilisation for thousands of years, the homeland of theatre. This is what we must combine so that Greece develops quickly," he said, adding that Greece is "fighting an economic war that must be won".
 Mario Frangoulis gives series of concerts throughout GreeceClassically-trained singer Marios Frangoulis will tour Greece this summer to celebrate his 25-year career on Greek and international stages.
Frangoulis will sing Classical-Crossover songs from musicals and the international cinema and give his own interpretation of compositions by Nino Rota, John Lennon, Nicola Piovani and others.
The concerts will be held in several Greek cities, starting with Thessaloniki on July 4 at the Theatro Dassous and ending in Larissa on September 10.
 Aegean prefectures to promote Greek island visa programme in Izmir, TurkeyThe North and South Aegean prefectures will present travel visa information on the Aegean Islands at the Izmir Chamber of Commerce in Turkey, on Wednesday afternoon. The event will provide information on a recently introduced programme to speed up visas for Turkish nationals visiting the Greek islands.
The event, organised by Aegean Communications SA and supported by Chamber president Ekrem Demirtas, will also be attended by Athanasios Yiakalis and Yiannis Macheridis, directors of the North and South Aegean prefectures respectively.
 Two Trikala jailbreakers killed in shootout with policeTwo of the Trikala jailbreakers who had played a leading role in the armed clash and the slaying of a policeman in Distomo in the Viotia prefecture, were killed shortly before 10 on Tuesday night in a shootout with EKAM police in the region of Koniska in the Etoloakarnania prefecture, western Greece.
According to reports, police had set a blockade in a ravine in the framework of searching taking place in past days in the region of Trihonida, where the jailbreakers had been detected. The two wanted men were attempting to pass from the spot on foot resulting in their clashing with police and being killed in the shootout.
Police forces in Koniska have already been provided with backup.
 Authorities dismantle international heroin-smuggling ring, arrest sixGreek police on Tuesday announced the dismantling of an international heroin-trafficking ring bringing drugs from Turkey to Italy via Greece. They said six people were placed under arrest during a sweeping police operation in three separate locations.
Those in custody include two Greek nationals and four Albanian nationals, while 23 kilos of heroin were found and confiscated during arrests in Kavala, Karditsa and Thessaloniki.
The operation was carried out with the collaboration of the Thessaloniki Security Police drugs squad, the Drama police drugs squad and the Athens office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
The two Greek suspects, aged 53 and 43 years old, acted as intermediates in the trafficking chain, picking up the drugs in order to turn them over to the Albanians, aged between 25 and 30 years old, so they might be transported to Italy.
Authorities started to crack the case when they arrested the two Greek nationals in Kavala and Karditsa on June 26, with 41 packages of heroin weighing nearly 23 kilos in their possession.
Questioned by police, they revealed that they were to deliver the drugs to the Albanians in the early hours of Tuesday in Oreokastro, Thessaloniki. When the four Albanians turned up to the rendezvous, driving luxury vehicles with specially designed hiding places in the seats to place the heroin, they were met by police officers and placed under arrest.
The two Greek nationals have already been remanded in custody after appearing before an examining magistrate in Kavala while the four Albanian suspects are to be led before a Kavala public prosecutor.
 Road to Elafonissos beach, Crete, to reopen on FridayThe road section at the Topolia tunnel in Kissamos, Hania prefecture, on Crete that was closed for fear of landslides will re-open on Friday, it was announced on Tuesday.
The specific road has high-volume traffic during the summer because it leads to the popular Elafonissos beach, which together with Samaria gorge are the most popular natural sites for tourists going to the island of Crete.
 Russian woman, 20, found dead in Crete hotelA 20-year-old Russian woman holidaying on the island of Crete was found dead in a hotel in Agia Pelagia, Iraklio on Tuesday.
Rescue workers and an ambulance service doctor called to the scene were only able to confirm the girl's death.
According to initial estimates, authorities have ruled out the possibility of criminal action and are waiting for the coroner's report to shed further light on the cause of death.
 Two arrested for trafficking 15 kilos cocainePolice on Tuesday announced the arrest of two Albanian nationals caught bringing roughly 15 kilos of cocaine into Greece, in a police operation set up in response to a tip-off.
One of the two suspects under arrest was the driver of a Tirana-Athens long-distance coach, who police consider responsible for bringing the cocaine into Greece.
The two suspects were led before an Athens first-instance court prosecutor on Tuesday while a search continues to locate and arrest another accomplice.
 4.7R quake jolts NW GreeceAn earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale was recorded at 1.45 pm on Tuesday. According to Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki Geophysics Laboratory the quake's epicentre was located in the area of Polyfytos lake near Kozani, northwestern Greece.
 Fair on WednesdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 15C and 34C. Fair in Athens with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 19C and 33C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 17C and 30C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras & VP and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos government:
'Whatever you say, Mr.Thomsen'" about the head of the IMF mission to Greece
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Troika to government: Proceed with layoffs and impose new taxes"
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Confusion with tax statements"
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Four 'hiring' packages for 1,282 positions in public utilities and organisations"
ESTIA: "New Democracy (ND) and PASOK's co-existence"
ETHNOS: "Real estate tax 'locks' in place"
IMERISSIA: "Three burning fronts - Harsh negotiations with the troika over the 8.1bn loan tranche of the loan"
KATHIMERINI: "All fronts with troika are open"
LOGOS: "Big brother casts his shadow over Europe"
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Troika detects many gaps and wants to break the tranche in installments"
RIZOSPASTIS: "New antipopular reversals from government and troika"
TA NEA: "Outcry for the Big Brother"
VRADYNI: "Tranche in...installments"
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