|Monday, 19 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-07-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 12 July 2013 Issue No: 4404
 Omnibus bill discussion begins in Parliament's finance committeeThe Parliament's finance committee on Thursday began reviewing the Finance ministry's omnibus bill that includes staffing changes in the civil service, intending to complete its work by July 19 and submitting it to the plenum for debate and vote.
The draft bill was introduced to Parliament on Tuesday.
The opposition criticised the committee for being "a troika dictatorship, with a government of puppets", as Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Panagiotis Lafazanis said, and for "revealing the class nature of the system as well as the limits of urban democracy", as Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Nikos Karathanasopoulos said.
Democratic Left (DIMAR) MP Asimina Xirotiri said that speeding up the processing was alright "as long as our ears are open, because all these measures came without other opinions", while Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) deputy Ilias Panagiotaros expressed indifference as to the procedure, "as you will vote for these measures anyway". Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Notis Marias was against the proposal entirely.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras responded, "We are not following express procedures, where everything is discussed under a single article. It is simply that the bill's second reading comes sooner".
Despite a SYRIZA proposal, when the committee began its work, to follow the normal timeline for such bills, the majority of committee members decided to speed up the process.
Meanwhile, the committee is continuing to invite different bodies to give their opinion. On Friday it will hear the main private sector union (GSEE), local government employees union (POE-OTA, including municipal police and school guard representatives), teachers' unions, the main union of the civil sector (ADEDY), tax service staff unions, special needs unions, and chambers of commerce.
 Omnibus bill debate in four sessions Tuesday, WednesdayDiscussion of the draft omnibus bill legislating for the prior actions demanded by Greece's creditors before they disburse the next tranches of bailout loans will take place in four Parliamentary session next week, to be held in the morning and evening of Tuesday and Wednesday.
The timing of the debate was decided by the Parliamentary presidium on Thursday, while discussion of the conclusions of the Parliamentary preliminary investigation of the so-called 'Lagarde List' case has been scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon. This will discuss proposals to indict former finance minister George Papaconstantinou for two felonies, including breach of faith and tampering with an official document, and misconduct as a misdemeanour.
Discussion of a draft bill for Greece's new public broadcaster will be completed in two sessions on Thursday and Friday, along with main opposition SYRIZA-EKM's proposal for a Parliamentary preliminary investigation committee into the closure of the former public broadcaster ERT.
 GSEE: 'We are human beings, not numbers'Under the slogan "We are human beings, not numbers", the main private sector labour union GSEE and PAME, the labour union affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece staged on Thursday a protest and a demonstration march from Klafthmonos Square to the Parliament, where a committee is examining the government 's omnibus bill.
"Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras tabled an omnibus bill that foresees, among others, the abolition of the basic sectors of health and graphic designs at schools, which will lead to the layoff of 2,500 people within half an hour, while the pupils attending these course directions are left in the street," Stavros Tziotziotis, member of the Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (OLME) board told ANA-MPA.
Tziotziotis also said that in its last meeting OLME decided to go on continuous strike as of September, so that no school opens without its teachers and pupils. He also stressed that the government is planning to support private capital by forcing pupils to go to private colleges and by hiring school guards and employees in sanitation from private companies.
In an announcement, GSEE underlined that "the government's new interventions in labour relations; the reserve labour scheme; the mobilisation and layoffs; unemployment, which has skyrocketed; constant mobilisation orders; new surtaxes under the new tax structure; continuing shop closures in the private sector; the new undermining of the collective negotiations and all those that have led the labourers to squalor and deprive them of their democratic rights, cannot and should not remain unanswered."
 US President Barack Obama to meet with PM Antonis Samaras Aug. 8United States President Barack Obama will meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Washington DC on August 8, according to the PM's office Thursday.
In an announcement, Samaras' office said the agenda include bilateral, regional and international issues.
Meanwhile a statement by the White House Press Secretary on the visit said:
"On Thursday, August 8, President Obama will welcome Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of the Hellenic Republic to the White House.
"The visit will highlight the strength of the U.S.-Greek relationship today - bound together through enduring ties of kinship, common interests, and the NATO Alliance - and underscore the United States' ongoing support for Greece's efforts to reform its economy and promote a return to prosperity.
"The President also looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister a broad array of mutual interests and challenges, including U.S.-Greek defense cooperation, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, regional cooperation, mutual counterterrorism efforts, prospects for a settlement in Cyprus, developments in North Africa, and Syria."
 Leftist parties from around the world represented at SYRIZA congressRepresentatives of Communist and Leftist parties throughout the world are attending the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) congress taking place at the Tae Kwon Do facilities in the coastal city of Faliro from July 10 to 14, it was announced Thursday.
In its press release, SYRIZA said delegations would attend from the European Left Party group, led by its president Pierre Laurent (also secretary of the French Communist Party) and including vice presidents Maite Mola and Marisa Matias and executive board members Waltraud Fritz Klackl and Fabio Amato.
Members and observers of the European Left attending include the following areas and parties: Austria (Communist Party, CPO), Cyprus (AKEL, New Cyprus Party), Finland (Left Alliance, Communist Party of Finland), France (Parti Communist Francais, Parti de Gauche, Unitaire de Gauche, FASE), Germany (Die Linke, New Anticapitalistic Party), Italy (Rifondazione Comunista), Portugal (Bloco d' Ezquierda) and Spain (Izquierda-Unida, Communist Party of Spain, Gauche Unie et Alternative-EuiA).
Representatives have also been sent by several other countries and areas, including Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Congo, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Kurdistan, Norway, Palestine, Paraguay, Philippines, Scotland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uruguay, USA and Vietnam.
 Manolis Glezos opposes SYN self-dissolutionSpeaking during the first congress of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), historical figure of the left movement and SYRIZA deputy Manolis Glezos placed himself against the SYNASPISMOS party's self-dissolution and incorporation into?SYRIZA-EKM.
He proposed the establishment of a scheme of joint action to be created, which would operate jointly for all political forces making up the coalition "allowing us to win the trust of the people and bring them in power."
 ND on the SYRIZA congress"Yesterday's misery is today's SYRIZA", according to a New Democracy (ND) announcement issued on Thursday in response to the congress proceedings of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition party.
ND said SYRIZA had unveiled itself, which was an indication of "the commune and class emancipation (SYRIZA leader Alexis) Tsipras is dreaming of".
According to ND, the presence of Louka Katseli, a former leading PASOK minister, in the SYRIZA congress shows that "there is money...to be managed again by Fotopoulos, Balassopoulos and Kalfayiannis [all leading trade union leaders], the strong pylons of the 'new' political structure created by Tsipras".
"Anyone who dares to express a different opinion than theirs, like Democratic Left (DIMAR) MP Nikos Tsoukalis is jeered in public," ND underlined.
 Maritime economic zones in Med. would boost growth, EC study shows; Commissioner Damanaki urges Turkey to ratify UNCLOSBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Spinthourakis - V. Demiris)
The establishment of maritime zones, including Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), in the Mediterranean would benefit the EU's Blue Growth and wider sustainability agendas, the European Commission concluded on Thursday based on a study for improved economic governance in the Mediterranean Sea region, conducted at the initiative of Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki.
In a written statement, Damanaki underlined that "there are huge untapped opportunities in the Mediterranean Sea, which could come to fruition by establishing Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The proclamation and establishment of maritime zones remains the sovereign right of each coastal state. It is our joint EU responsibility to ensure that the right conditions are in place for the blue economy to flourish. Mediterranean coastal states could agree on their maritime zones on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."
Referring to Turkey, Commissioner Damanaki said that if Ankara signs the UNCLOS it will benefit both Turkey and the EU and make the situation easier.
The study looked at the costs and benefits of establishing maritime zones in the Mediterranean and provided an analysis of the impacts of establishing EEZs on different sea-based activities. It concluded that EEZs could allow for a more effective spatial planning policy, which in turn could help attract investments and further economic activities.
The study also focused on the opportunities which EEZs and other similar zones would bring in terms economic costs and benefits, sustainability and governance of marine space and should be viewed in the context of the European Commission's Blue Growth agenda.
The EU Blue Growth Strategy aims at creating sustainable economic growth and employment in the marine and maritime economy to help Europe's economic recovery. These economic sectors provide jobs for 5.4 million people and contribute a total gross added value of around 500 billion euros. By 2020, these should increase to 7 million and nearly 600 billion euros respectively. It highlights the five areas with the greatest potential for growth: blue energy, aquaculture, maritime, coastal and cruise tourism, marine mineral resources and blue biotechnology.
An announcement issued by the European Commission on Thursday underlined that in the Mediterranean, as in other sea-basins, coastal states have a responsibility to regulate human activities and to further develop their blue economy in a sustainable manner.
It is also noted that a large part of the Mediterranean sea surface is currently beyond the jurisdiction or sovereignty of coastal States. It remains therefore largely unprotected as far as living aquatic resources and the marine environment are concerned. At the same time, proper economic development is difficult in an uncertain regulatory framework.
According to the announcement, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, the global community committed to maintain the productivity and biodiversity of important and vulnerable marine and coastal areas, both within and beyond national jurisdiction. However, there is no specific legal regime for implementing the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), particularly in relation to the protection of the marine environment in the areas beyond national jurisdiction.
This issue has been discussed at the UN since 2006, the European Commission noted, concluding that "the coverage of a greater portion of the Mediterranean Sea under the jurisdiction of the EU member states would ensure that in such areas, EU regulations concerning fisheries, environment and transport would apply and a higher level of protection would follow".
Responding to a question on the differences between Greece and Turkey as regards the EEZ issue, Damanaki noted that the EU is holding bilateral talks with Turkey and various issues are being examined in this context. She said that it should be clarified in talks with Greek authorities what Greece's intentions are, considering that it is for the benefit of Greece, the EU member states and all the Mediterranean Sea countries to proceed with the EEZ establishment.
She noted that she is aware of the concerns and the positions of certain Mediterranean Sea countries which, she insisted, will have to be discussed on the basis of existing principles.
The Commissioner also said that the EC is trying to assist in reaching an agreement through a dialogue with the member states to avoid any confrontations and find the best possible solutions.
 EU Commission decision on maritime zones in Mediterranean, positive for Greece, diplomatic sources sayDiplomatic sources in Athens believe that a European Commission decision regarding the establishment of maritime zones in the Mediterranean, including the Exclusive Economic Zones, could benefit Greek interests and the so-called "Blue Growth," as well as sustainability initiatives.
The decision was taken following a study carried out at the initiative of Greek Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki, looking into the costs and benefits of establishing maritime zones in the Mediterranean and providing an analysis of the impacts on various sea-based activities.
Greece's efforts to proclaim its EEZs, a question raised repeatedly at European level by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, would be facilitated by the specific decision, the same diplomatic sources believe.
 Damanaki on Crete on Fri. to hold debate on EU growth strategy and regional potentialEurope's growth strategy to recover from the economic crisis and the potential for the region of Crete will be at the centre of a debate on Friday between EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki and about 500 citizens, to be held in the Basilica of Agios Markos, Iraklio.
The debate is part of the Commission's contacts in various European towns to listen to citizens, their concerns and hopes for the future.
The Commission said in an announcement that Crete is a fitting location as it is the biggest island in Greece and one of the most popular destinations worldwide in the area of cruise tourism.
It is also a significant player in regional cooperation for maritime policy and its marine biology research institute, ELKETHE, is one of the key research centres in the field, the announcement added.
The debate will be opened by Governor of the Region of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis and Iraklio Mayor Giannis Kourakis.
Greek member of the European Parliament, Spyros Danellis will also address participants.
The debate can be followed live on?http://webcast.ec.europa.eu. Citizens from all over Europe can also participate via Twitter by following?@DialogosPoliton?and using the hashtag #EUDeb8.
 IMF: No financial gap in Greece before August 2014NEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)
Greece will not face a financial gap until after July 2014, International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday, during the daily press briefing in Washington.
"There is no financial gap through July 2014," he said, adding that a gap was expected after July.
Rice said the IMF's board will convene at the end of July to decide on whether to give 1.8 billion euros in aid to Greece. No firm date has yet been set for the meeting, which will be announced seven days beforehand, while the next bailout tranche will probably be given in mid August.
The spokesman also referred to the decisions made by the IMF and its partners in the Greece bailout, the European Union and the European Central Bank, following their announcement on Monday that Greece's progress under the rescue programme was "broadly on track".
The review mission of the so-called "troika" of international lenders found that the embattled Greek economy was likely to return to growth in 2014, but key uncertainties remained to the outlook.
The Greek authorities have fallen behind in implementing some of the programme's measures aimed at getting the economy on a sustainable path, such as on its tax code and public administration reforms, Rice noted.
Asked whether the IMF will approve Greece's request to reduce VAT for restaurants and food catering businesses by 10 percent, the spokesman noted that the troika's agreement with the Greek government did not include a temporary reduction in VAT rates for this sector. The issue still occupied talks between Greek authorities and the troika, he added.
Eurozone finance ministers on Monday agreed to provide 6.8 billion euros in fresh aid to Greece under the bailout deal struck in 2012.
The IMF has committed to four years of rescue for Greece, which began under the troika's first Greek bailout programme that began in 2010.
With only two years remaining on the IMF support, concerns have emerged about Greece's capacity to exit recession and seek financing from the private markets.
Rice emphasised that the IMF assumes that Greece and the EU will live up to their commitments.
Under IMF policy, the Fund cannot grant new loans to a country under its loan programme if the country's financing is uncertain in the coming year.
"We want to take it one step at a time," Rice said.
Asked why the IMF was pushing for additional measures, even though IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde had said she was happy with the progress made by Greece, Rice noted that the IMF was not asking for additional measures in 2013 but the implementation of those already agreed.
He also rejected criticism that the IMF had helped the EU to "push problems under the carpet" in countries like Greece and Portugal, postponing solutions to serious problems until after the German elections, stressing that the IMF operated "transparently and in full cooperation with its partners".
 Social insurance supported with 187 billion euros in state funds in 2002-2012, finmin saysIn the 10-year period between 2002-2012, a total of 187 billion euros has been given to support Greece's social insurance system from the state budget, according to a document sent to Parliament by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras in reply to a question tabled by main opposition SYRIZA-EKM MPs.
SYRIZA-EKM MPs had charged that social insurance funds had been 'looted' as a result of bank recapitalisation.
Stournaras said that 62 percent of total social insurance spending in 2013 was derived from the state budget.
 Public broadcaster bill clears committee, heads for plenumThe draft bill for the new public broadcaster, known as NERIT, was approved on Thursday in principle and by article by the majority of the parliamentary committee reviewing it and will head to the plenum session of Parliament next week.
The second reading of the bill and its discussion concluded with main New Democracy and its coalition partner PASOK approving it, with a reservation by the latter concerning the transitional period, and all opposition parties rejecting it after fierce debate, some of it directed at Deputy Minister for Public Radio and Television Pantelis Kapsis.
Kapsis had earlier defended the government's actions as being legal and transparent, and called all charges to the contrary as unfounded.
"There is no legality issue with the transmission," he said, referring to the start of the transitional agency DT's programme that started Wednesday with archival material.
"It is self-evident that DT has a licence by definition. We've lost our senses here - right now, Aghia Paraskevi is occupied," he said, referring to the former public television facilities (ERT), "DT cannot broadcast its programme, and it is forced to resort to a private studio. The union members are the ones obstructing it...We have carried out exhaustive negotiations. The only ones harmed by the union members are DT and its employees," he responded.
 'Window of agreement opportunity closing', Kapsis tells former ERT staff as broadcasts beginThere is still a window of opportunity to come to an agreement with the former broadcaster ERT employees, Deputy Minister for Public Radio and Television Pantelis Kapsis said on Thursday, but if it does not succeed, then the government will go ahead without them.
"The government will not stay hostage to the unionists who at this point remain at the Aghia Paraskevi premises," Kapsis told private television station Mega, referring to the ERT headquarters.
The minister expressed his disappointment at the former employees' occupation of the facilities, as he said almost all their demands have been met. "We have essentially resolved all issues raised, all of them. I know there is disagreement over two-month contracts, but that cannot be resolved. But all the rest was resolved," Kapsis said, naming the compensation for layoffs, incentives for those wishing to go on early retirement, bonuses for laid-off staff and the hiring of 2,000 as staff from the former ERT to the transitional agency."
Responding to charges about the government's emitting a signal illegally, he said, "Is the public pirating itself? Whom does public television belong to? Is it a responsibility of the government and the state, or not? Employees have every right to react and I fully respect their union struggles, but that's one thing; it's another to occupy ERT's assets and forbid the regular transmission from the public agency."
The three channels of former ERT (ET1, NET and ET3) started broadcasting last night with a Greek comedy at 9:00 a.m., a film bought in the open market. The programme continued with documentaries, breaking overnight and restarting Thursday morning with a children's show.The programme of the transitional channel called Greek Public Television (EDT) that began transmitting its logo on the shutdown ERT public broadcaster frequencies on Wednesday morning is expected to be on air within the next few hours, sources said.
Earlier, Deputy Minister for Public Radio and Television Pantelis Kapsis had said that initially the programme will include feature films and documentaries, while the latest news headlines will be viewed in a ticker at the bottom of the television screen.
 Former ERT employees protest outside private studiosFormer Greek Radio and Television (ERT) broadcaster employees are currently staging a protest outside the private studios at the northeastern Athens suburb of Peania, from which the transitional Greek Public Television (DT) agency is transmitting as of Wednesday.
ERT employees have called unions and labourers to join their rally. Athens Newpapers Union (ESIEA) has declared a work stoppage from 1 to 6pm at all private channels.
In their announcement, ERT employees charged that the government for the last month had been "breaking the law and is attempting to terrify and slander and humiliate ERT and its employees through 'collaborating' media".
 Defence minister invited to visit IsraelNational Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos was given an invitation to visit Israel at a date to be determined via diplomatic channels, during his meeting with Israeli Ambassador in Athens Aryeh Mekel at the Greek defence ministry on Thursday.
The meeting focused on issues of mutual interest falling within the defence ministry's purview and issues concerning Greek-Israeli relations.
 Interview of Energy Minister Maniatis, Dep. Foreign Minister Kourkoulas on TAP projectThe Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will put Greece on the energy map of three continents "was the result of a cross-party and long effort," Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Thursday underlined, while Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas, who worked on the same goal in charge of the Greek economic diplomacy, described Greece's geopolitical and economic benefits in the Balkans considering that the pipeline will relieve the energy-thirsty region.
In an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA WebTV, they underlined that the selection of TAP to carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea region to Europe, passing through Greece, is a vote of confidence by the international business community, considering that it is a major investment that will clear the way for more investments.
The two government ministers described how TAP, which was regarded as an "outsider", won the race from rival Nabucco West despite the fact that the latter had an early start as a candidate and was favoured by the Europeans, who wanted the pipeline to pass through central Europe.
They said that Greek diplomacy, working hard and long while maintaining a low profile, secured this success which, combined with the discovery of hydrocarbons in eastern Mediterranean, can place Greece among the major world players for energy.
 Environment minister meets Russian envoyEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis met on Thursday with Russian Ambassadpor to Greece Vladimir Chkhikvishvili.
According to a ministry press release, the talks reaffirmed long-standing Greek-Russian ties and mutual assistance between the two countries, as well as enhancing already close coopeartion in the energy sector.
 Shipping minister: Greek seas should be protected from illegal migration, illicit tradeShipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Thursday underlined that the ministry's goal is to shield the Aegean Sea and all Greek seas from illegal migration and contraband trade practices.
In a press conference on Port Authority and Coastguard operations aimed at combating contraband tobacco products, Varvitsiotis said that the Coastguard and Port Authorities intervened in 33 instances during the first half of 2013, leading to 68 arrests and the confiscation of 128,320,960 packs of cigarettes, four freighters, a speedboat, a fishing boat, 18 trucks and 7 private cars. The unpaid tariffs to the state are estimated at 19,669,151 euros.
The majority of the contraband tobacco products come from China, UAE, Vietnam, Malaysia, Russia and Ukraine, among other countries.
The specific products do not meet EU health standards, while the financial damage caused to the EU as a result of the illicit tobacco trade is more than 10 billion euros a year.
 Gov't steps in to keep cash-strapped Onassio Centre afloatThe cash-strapped Onassio Heart-Surgery Centre was saved from imminent collapse on Thursday when the government stepped in and decided to hand over the centre's state funding for 2013, amounting to 7.0 million euros, immediately and up front.
The decision was made following a meeting held at the Onassio Centre on Thursday afternoon between Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and the hospital's board, including board chairman Dr. Ioannis Lekakis, to brief the minister on the centre's pressing financial problems.
Prior to the meeting, doctors and Onassio staff fearing the centre's financial collapse and further wage cuts had held a three-hour work stoppage.
Georgiadis then held a meeting with Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, who agreed to the immediate release of seven million euros in state funding earmarked for the Onassio, whose state funding had been slashed by half since 2012, when it was 14 million euros.
The government also agreed to settle outstanding debts of about 38 million euros owed to the Onassio by social insurance funds, dating back to the years before the foundation of the unified health services provider EOPYY and up to the end of 2011.
Also present at the meeting with Staikouras was Deputy Health Minister Zeta Makri, who managed to secure 500,000 euros as the second installment of a total 1.5 million euro to be spent on vaccinating the children of those lacking health insurance.
 State health sector strikes announced in response to suspension of 2,500 staffState hospital, welfare and ambulance service workers have announced planned 24-hour strikes on July 16 and July 24, during which their services will operate with a skeleton staff. The strikes are held in retaliation to an announcement that 2,500 health-sector employees of all types will be suspended on reduced pay as part of a public-sector 'mobility' scheme, until they are either transferred or laid off.
The strikes were announced by the Panhellenic Federation of State Hospital Employees (POEDHN), which said it was "infuriating" that national health service staff should be suspended when hospitals suffered chronic staff shortages and had been among the first to receive 470 workers in the first wave of public-sector transfers. The union spoke of a "policy to degrade and dismantle the national health system that is now in full swing".
The union said that its members will participate in Monday's protest rally with the local authority workers' union federation POE-OTA and joint a 24-hour strike announced by the civil servants union federation ADEDY and the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) next Tuesday. If the finance ministry omnibus bill is not passed before Wednesday, there may be another 24-hour strike on Wednesday as well.
The strike on July 24 will be combined with a protest rally outside the health ministry at 11:30 a.m.
 Justice Minister Athanassiou on the release of terror suspect SakkasJustice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou on Thursday referred to the Council of Court of Appeals Judges decision to order the release from custody of hunger striker Costas Sakkas, arrested in connection to the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire terror group.
Athanassiou said that "the ruling is a response to all those who have been saying that the state had an interest in holding Costas Sakkas in custody".
"The Constitution allows no executive power intervention in court judgment, even more so on my behalf, considering my prior capacity as a court judge and a former president of the Association of Court Judges and Prosecutors," Athanassiou noted.
"The state has complete confidence in the judgment of the members of the judiciary, who always do their duty, indeed, under adverse circumstances. We work hard to overcome deeply rooted dysfunctions, seeking to accelerate and upgrade the justice administration procedures in terms of quality, much more so when the defendants are held on remand," the justice minister said.
"The state of law is the cornerstone of Democracy and harmonious social coexistence. This is our compass and non-negotiable principle," he underlined.
Costas Sakkas, who was remanded in custody pending trial, started a hunger strike over a month ago to demand his release on the grounds of having exceeded the maximum period of detention before trial allowed by law.
 'No fresh cuts in wages and pensions,' Venizelos assures from CreteThere will be no new reductions imposed on incomes, wages and pensions, government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos assured from Iraklio, Crete, during contacts with PASOK party officials and tourism bodies at a central hotel.
"Many major sacrifices have been made so far and tough policies would have to be implemented for some time. But the country cannot afford any fresh fiscal measures, the people cannot endure further income reductions. There will be no new reductions imposed on incomes, wages and pensions. It is the state that has to be changed. We should respond to society's cry of agony for a different state, and we should be decisive on that," Venizelos said.
At the same time, he appeared optimistic about market issues and tourism and noted that "our main concern is to support businesses," stressing that "without (the banking system's) recapitalisation we could not support the medium- and small-sized business." And "supporting business means supporting jobs," he added.
During his meeting with officials from the tourism sector, Venizelos outlined Crete's growth potential, speaking about tapping on all forms of tourism, especially religious tourism. He expressed optimism domestic tourism will start recovering, too.
On Friday, Venizelos will visit the cities of Rethymno and Chania.
 Ad hoc mass transfers of public-sector staff not a reform, Democratic Left saysThe opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party on Thursday criticised the government's plans for large-scale staff transfers in the public sector, saying that the implementation of a so-called 'mobility scheme' without a clear plan and under the threat of dismissal "fully distorts the reform effort and leads to disruption".
A party announcement stressed that the mobility scheme planned when DIM.AR cadre Antonis Manitakis had been minister had not aimed at the immediate, mass and blind transfer of civil servants to cover ill-defined staffing and service needs, carried out without evaluation reports.
"What was agreed was not the ad hoc transfer of civil servants, especially not under a regime of fearing dismissal, but the creation of a permanent mechanism allowing the transfer on a steady basis and gradually of 24,000 public-sector employees in the space of two years over 2013 and 2014," the party said.
 Igoumenitsa mayor, city council resign over municipal employee "mobility scheme"The mayor of Igoumenitsa, in northwest Greece, and the entire city council, with the exception of two city councillors, have decided to send their resignations to the interior minister and the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE) board on Friday. They are resigning in protest against the municipal employee "mobility scheme" decided by the government, it was announced on Thursday.
The decision was reached in an extraordinary city council meeting held earlier in the day.
Fifteen of the 17 city councillors present, tendered their resignations to Mayor Giorgos Katsinos, who signed his own resignation, while the two, who did not follow the example of their colleagues, justified their stance by saying that "the city council is elected to fight and not to resign".
 Public Order Minister Dendias announces opening of migrant reception center in MytilenePublic Order Minister Nikos Dendias on Thursday announced that an initial reception centre for illegal migrants will open in Mytilene, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, by August 30 and will be completed by the end of the year.
Soon after arriving on the island, Dendias visited the decommissioned military camp in Moria, which came under the jurisdiction of the ministry of public order on Wednesday. Afterward, he visited an enclosed area in the city's port used to shelter illegal migrants.
Dendias said that illegal migration causes problems to local communities and has a negative effect abroad, adding that this is the reason that makes the centre's construction a priority.
 KKE leader at Syntagma PAME rallyCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Thursday evening called on "all public and private sectors workers, self-employed, jobless, young people and pensioners to rally in the struggle to get rid, once and for all, of memorandums and bosses."
Koutsoumbas was speaking to reporters during a rally organised by the KKE affiliated trade union PAME at Syntagma square, central Athens.
The KKE leader also called for the creation of a "Popular Alliance to build a new society."
 KKE condemns arrests in TurkeyAn announcement issued by opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday condemned ongoing state repression and persecutions targeting popular movement organizations, political party cadres, members and organizations, exercised by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
"We condemn the new police operation in Gezi Park that led to mass arrests of Turkey's Labour Party (EMEP) cadres and members, as well as members of popular organizations," KKE underlined.
"The representatives of capital are fooled if they believe that they can break the popular resistance against the exploitation, oppression and repression that accompany capitalism," KKE underlined and expressed solidarity with the struggling Turkish people, demanding the immediate release of those arrested and the lifting of restrictions to trade union and political action.
 Former parliament president inveighs against FinMin's absence in ParliamentFormer parliament president, minister and PASOK MP Apostolos Kaklamanis berated Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday for failing to show up in Parliament, because of an impediment, in order to respond to a verbal question the former had tabled related to a change in state-set tax valuations of real estate property.
According to parliamentary rules, a verbal question is ex-agenda and needs an immediate reply.
The absence of the finance minister drew the ire of Kaklamanis, who said, "This is a process of devaluing and downgrading Parliament, and dangerous for democracy. With a 40-year presence in Parliament, I cannot allow any Stournaras - who did not even bother to introduce himself to the Greek people and request their vote to represent them in Parliament - to shut down Parliament."
In his criticism, Kaklamanis also questioned where he drew the right to ignore the prime minister's orders to the ministers to be present in Parliament. "Does Stournaras has his own government? Probably yes, because with the sudden decisions he brings to Parliament and the knife he puts against our throats it means he does - he even might have his own sovereignty."
He continued, "He increases up to 40 percent the objective (state-set) real estate tax rates in working-class districts and reduces the objective rates in aflfuent neighbourhoods. I know that tax rates are dropping, but this is a tornado of price change. This decision makes no sense and undermines national efforts for the country to exit the crisis. The country cannot exit the impasse with incapable people believing differently."
Kaklamanis concluded, "I ought to call the prime minister to decide or else make use of the rules and shut down Parliament".
 Opinion poll shows ND lead over SYRIZANew Democracy (ND) leads by 1 percent over main opposition SYRIZA, according to an opinion poll conducted by Public Issue for private TV SKAI and Kathimerini newspaper.
According to the poll results, ND was leading with 28.5 percent, followed by SYRIZA with 27.5 percent, ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 11 percent, PASOK with 8 percent, Independent Greeks with and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 7 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 3 percent, while 8 percent of the respondents expressed support to other parties.
In response to who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (and ND leader) was preferred by 41 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 30 percent, while 27 percent said none of the above.
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between 3 and 8 July 2013.
 Air force academy graduates sworn-inPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Minister of National Defence Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday awarded the customary ceremonial swords to second lieutenants, after they sworn-in during a special ceremony held on the grounds of the Hellenic?Air Force Academy?at Tatoi's Dekelia air base, north of Athens.
The standard oath was taken by 153 new officers, including nine women.
In his address, President Papoulias spoke of the love and trust shown by the Greek people toward the Air Force for its role.
 Draft bill allowing shops to open 52 Sundays a year unveiledDevelopment Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas on Thursday unveiled a draft bill that will allow smaller retail shops to open for up to 52 Sundays a year, while all shops will be permitted to open for seven Sundays around Christmas, Easter and during the sales.
Under the bill, 'small shops' are considered those covering up to 250 square metres that are not part of a chain or a 'shop-in-shop' and which are not situated in shopping malls, discount department stores and discount villages. These will have the option to open on all Sundays allowed in their particular area.
The number of the 45 Sundays, in addition to the 'core' seven for all shops, where shops are allowed to open in each area can be restricted by order of the deputy regional authority chief of each region or by the mayors of Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus, provided this order is issued within two months. Failing that, shops will be free to open for as many Sundays as they like. Opening hours on Sunday will be after Sunday church services.
The measures are included in a draft bill on "Rules Regulating the Goods Market and Provision of Services" due to be tabled in Parliament later on Thursday.
Hatzidakis said that the changes harmonised Greek laws with those of the majority of European Union countries, especially competitive tourist destinations, and would help breathe life into city centres and allow tourists to make purchases that benefit the economy and grant a competitive advantage to smaller businesses over large ones.
The minister quoted recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) studies showing that Sunday opening for shops can create up to 30,000 additional jobs in commerce, while the increase in competition can generate savings of up to 309 million euros a year for consumers. According to Skordas, these savings are the result of an increase in turnover for businesses accompanied by lower prices.
The draft bill also includes a number of additional measures relating to operation of markets, including two additional sales periods in the first 10 days of May and November, a simplification of penalties for various transgressions to limit corruption and the abolition of outdated regulations that obstructed market operation.
Several measures concern the retail fuel market and include tougher penalties for those tampering with fuel pumps and other measuring organs - including revoking the business owner's licence - and requiring that fuel stations draw up written contracts with their suppliers, closer monitoring of fuel volume to discourage trade in contraband fuels and others.
 Greece launches tender for Xenia hotels in Andros, Skiathos and TsagaradaThe Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on Thursday said it has decided to proceed with the conduct of an international tender for the selection of preferred investor, who will conclude the transaction by virtue of the contract for the Xenia hotels in Andros, Skiathos and Tsagarada.
The tender process consists of three independent tender processes, one for each of Xenia Andros, Xenia Skiathos and Xenia Tsagarada. The progress and the outcome of the tender process as regards any one of Xenia Andros and/or Xenia Skiathos and/or Xenia Tsagarada shall not affect the tender process for the other Xenia Hotels to which this request for proposal refers.
The exploitation of each Property is anticipated to take place in the form of the operation of a hotel unit and/or the development of touristic - secondary residencies and/or other infrastructure, in accordance with the land uses applicable on each Property or within the context of the "Tourism - Leisure" general land use and/or within the context of the "Touristic - Secondary Residencies" general land use, as such land uses are provided in article 11 of Law 3986/2011.
 FinMin: We will not abolish the receipts-collection measureThe government will not abolish the collection of receipts for annual income tax filing, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday.
Responding to a strong attack by opposition parties, Stournaras told the Parliament's financial committee, which is currently discussing the omnibus bill, "We are not abolishing the receipts-collection measure and we will table an amendment in September that will include that tax incentives will be foreseen in the measure".
Stournaras clarified that the restructure of the Income Tax Code, included in the omnibus bill provisions, is not final and will be augmented by a series of new regulations in September so interested investors may learn of benefits and discounts.
 E-payments to help in battle against tax evasionA further promotion of transactions through payment cards, debit cards and credit cards, along with other electronic means, will lead to fundamental results in a battle against tax evasion, Greek Public Revenue secretary general Haris Theocharis said on Thursday.
Addressing a "Digital Banking Money Conference 2013", organized by Ethos Media in Athens, Theocharis said a new tax bill currently under debate in Parliament envisages the obligatory use of payment cards for transactions above 500 euros. He noted, however, that he could not foretell the outcome of the debate as there were different views of the subject, but he estimated "we will end up around the 500-euro sum".
Theocharis said that from September onwards, Greek authorities will start offering incentives for people to use payment cards in their transactions and said the public needed more education to adopt the use of e-payment systems.
 Greek unemployment rose to 26.9 pct in AprilGreek unemployment rose to 26.9 pct in April this year, from 23.1 pct in the same month in 2012, and up from 26.8 pct in March, with the number of unemployed people totaling 1,337,051 in the country, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in its monthly report, said that around 6 in 10 young people (aged 15-24) were unemployed (or 57.5 pct) and seeking jobs abroad. The unemployment rate shot up by 15.1 points, or by 745,650 people, since April 2010 when Greece sought a bailout from the troika.
The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) recently said that the unemployment rate could reach 27.8 pct of the workforce in the next months as a wave of dismissals in the public sector was expected.
The number of unemployed people grew by 194,746 people in April compared with April 2012 (up 17 pct) and by 24,025 from March 2013 (up 1.8 pct). The number of employed people totalled 3,636,042, down 4.2 pct from April last year but up 1.2 pct from March.
The unemployment rate among women was 30.5 pct (26.7 pct in April 2012) and 24.2 pct among men (20.5 pct last year). The 15-24 age group recorded the highest unemployment rate (57.5 pct), followed by the 25-34 age group (36 pct), the 35-44 age group (23.4 pct), the 45-54 age group (21.3 pct), the 55-64 age group (16.3 pct) and the 65-74 age group (8.7 pct).
In a geographical distribution, Epirus-Western Macedonia (30.2 pct) topped the list, followed by Macedonia-Thrace (29.4 pct), Attica (27.7 pct), Thessaly-Central Greece (26.5 pct), Crete (25.3 pct), the Peloponnese-Western Greece-Ionian Islands (23.8 pct) and the Aegean (20 pct).
 Greek banks cut funding dependence from EBC, ELAGreek banks further cut their dependence from the European Central Bank and the Bank of Greece's funding mechanisms in June.
The central bank, in its monthly report, said that total funding by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Greece's Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) fell to 81.9 billion euros in June, from 85.3 billion euros in May.
More analytically, dependence from ELA rose slightly to 20.8 billion euros in June, from 19.9 billion in May, while borrowing from ECB's funding operations fell to 61.1 billion euros from 65.4 billion euros over the same months, respectively.
 PPC fined with 4.4 million eurosThe Energy Regulatory Authority on Thursday announced it fined Public Power Corporation (PPC) with 4.4 million euros for abusing its dominant position in the domestic electricity market in delaying drafting its new electricity rates for large industries in the country.
The fine was imposed while PPC and the Environment, Energy and Climate Change inistry were promoting a 15 pct reduction in this category of electricity rates. The fine was imposed after industrial enterprises appealed against a PPC decision in February 2012 to introduce a single electricity rate in the category.
 Intralot wins six-year license for betting services in PolandIntralot on Thursday said it was awarded a six-year operating license for online betting services in Poland. The company said its subsidiary in Poland, Totolotek, will offer sport betting and mutual betting on sport events through the internet while the company also plans to introduce live betting services.
Totolotek was founded in 1992. It was acquired in 2005 by Intralot and operates a network of around 400 units around the country.
 Praktiker Hellas unaffected by developments in Praktiker AG, officials saysPraktiker Hellas, as all other companies operating abroad (Praktiker International GmbH) and Max Bahr companies (Premium Brand of the Group in Germany), are not affected by developments in Praktiker AG, company officials told ANA-MPA on Thursday.
The officials said that current developments in Praktiker AG cover portfolio restructuring plans for the Group's specific activities in Germany, following some units' failure to meet their financial obligations.
Praktiker Hellas remains the only profitable chain in its sector in Greece and one of the best performer in Praktiker Group, with annual turnover of 196 million euros and pre-tax profits of 3.5 million euros in 2012. The company operates a network of 14 units and a recently upgraded e-shop. It began its activities in Greece in 1991. Praktiker Hellas expects positive results this year.
A Reuters report on Thursday said that Praktiker was facing bankruptcy because of a lack of liquidity and its high debts.
 Cost of average hotel price up in JulyThe cost of average hotel prices is rising in the most popular Greek destinations in July, a survey by trivago.gr showed on Thursday.
Average overnight cost in a double room in Imerovigli, Santorini, was 335 euros in July, remaining at the top of the list of the most expensive Greek destinations, followed by Oia, Santorini (319 euros) and Firostefani, Santorini (288 euros).
The destinations recording the biggest hotel price increases in July are Vasiliki, Lefkada (up 78 pct compared with July 2012), Kardamena, Cos (+72 pct), Aghios Stephanos, Mykonos (+67 pct), while Mykonos and Ialysos, Rhodes followed with prices increases of 59 pct.
Elounda, Crete, was the most expensive destination in July 2012 with an average room price of 291 euros, followed by Oia, Santorini (258 euros) and Imerovigli (256 euros).
 Inspections on farm products show no violationsThessaloniki regional authorities on Thursday announced that no violations of food safety rules were found in over 1,750 inspections performed on fresh and packaged farm products, dried nuts, bottled wines and animal feed during the month of June.
"Protecting public health is a priority," Thessaloniki regional vice-governor Giorgos Tsamaslis underlined, referring to the intensified inspections in the food market.
 Real-time flight info a feature of new Athens International Airport web siteThe Athens International Airport (AIA) inaugurated its new official web page (www.aia.gr), which includes real-time flight information, traffic feed for access to the airport, maps, and an application allowing for pre-booking of parking spaces.
An announcement by the AIA said that in the near future the ATH Airport application will be redesigned for iPhone, Android & Windows and a new interactive airport map in HTML5, compatible with all iOS based devices, put up. The site was created in cooperation with companies Mozaik and GreekGeeks.
According to official data cited by the AIA, approximately 9,500 absolute unique visitors access the Athens airport web page on a daily basis.
 Greece lifts ban on short selling of bank sharesGreek Capital Market Authority on Thursday announced it was lifting a ban on the short selling of bank shares starting Monday, 15 July.
The Capital Market Commission said its decision was taken following the successful completion of a bank recapitalization plan. The ban was applied to protect investors during the recapitalization process.
 Greek stocks continue moving lowerGreek stocks continued moving lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, unable to hold on to early gains, with the composite index of the market falling to its lowest levels since December 2012. The index ended 0.98 pct lower at 811.51 points, extending its decline for the third consecutive session during which it has fallen by 5.46 pct. The index was up 1.43 pct early in the session.
Turnover remained a disappointing low 37.88 million euros. The Large Cap index fell 0.76 pct and the Mid Cap index ended unchanged. Jumbo (2.19 pct), Coca Cola HBC (0.88 pct), National Bank (0.77 pct) and Athens Water (0.35 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Intralot (8.39 pct), MIG (6.21 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (3.89 pct) and Motor Oil (3.84 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Personal Products (1.92 pct) and Food (0.85 pct) sectors moved higher, while Oil (3.87 pct), Health (2.90 pct) and Financial Services (2.44 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 87 to 48 with another 19 issues unchanged. Autohellas (22.53 pct), Teletypos (19.51 pct) and Spider (17.86 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (20 pct), Medicon (19.90 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (19.79 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -3.87%
Personal & Household: +1.92%
Raw Materials: -1.82%
Travel & Leisure: -0.72%
Food & Beverages: +0.85%
Financial Services: -2.44%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank, OTE and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.398
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.26
HBC Coca Cola: 19.48
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.67
National Bank of Greece: 2.63
Eurobank Properties : 6.96
Piraeus Bank: 0.85
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 9.46 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.04 pct and the German Bund 1.61 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.51 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.42 pct, the six-month rate was 0.33 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe July contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking further to 9.829 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,966 contracts worth 6.969 million euros, with 51,888 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,721 contracts worth 2.860 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,420), followed by Eurobank (2,596), Alpha Bank (2,363), Piraeus Bank (2,800), OTE (533), PPC (551), GEK (586), Intralot (262), Mytilineos (158), Hellenic Petroleum (162), MIG (200) and OPAP (192).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.324
Pound sterling 0.875
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 8.836
Japanese yen 131.57
Swiss franc 1.26
Norwegian kroner 8.047
Canadian dollar 1.377
Australian dollar 1.437
 Municipal employees, police stage protest outside Athens City Hall in Kotzia SquareProtesting municipality workers and municipal police gathered outside the Athens City Hall in Kotzia Square, central Athens on Thursday afternoon, continuing their demonstration against public-sector reforms such as staff suspensions and a 'mobility' scheme.
The protestors demanded that the municipal council that was in session at that time suspend all municipality operations in retaliation to the government's plans.
Municipal police had begun a motorised protest march earlier on Thursday, starting at Agiou Konstantinou and heading for the offices of the smaller ruling coalition partner PASOK before continuing to the party headquarters of the ruling coalition's leader New Democracy.
 Eight detained after attack against social activities centre in AthensEight persons were detained Wednesday night after allegedly having attacked the social activities centre "Synergeio" at the Athens district of Ilioupolis.
According to police a group of 30 individuals wearing black and riding motorcycles attacked with clubs and crowbars and damaged the building while they slightly injured two minors and an adult that were at the spot the time of the incident.
Eyewitnesses said that the attackers shouted slogans for extreme right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) party and threw flyers and leaflets with content supporting the extreme right.
 Two more detained over goldmine incidentsTwo males aged 17 and 73 were detained by police last night at incidents that broke out initially at Polygyros and later at the Megali Panagia juncture, both on the Halkidiki Peninsula in northern Greece, related to protests against the Hellenic Gold mining site at Skouries.
The teenager was arrested when he tried to break through a police cordon to reach his father outside the Polygyros court, where residents of the town of Ierissos were brought over charges related to an arson at the Skouries worksite in February. The father was one of those appearing at court.
The older man was arrested after a scuffle with police at a road block between the rural Paleochori-Megali Panagia road to protest the jailings of the Ierissos residents.
Both males were expected to appear before the Polygyros prosecutor. Ierissos residents have set up roadblocks at the town exits, although police said cars could still go through the main road.
Hellenic Gold is a subsidiary of Canada-based Eldorado Gold Corporation.
 Aghios Dimitrios metro station to shut down Friday noon for maintenanceThe Athens metro stop of Aghios Dimitrios will be shut down from 12 noon on Friday until the early hours of Saturday due to maintenance works that are part of the metro line's extension to Elliniko.
According to an Urban Rail Transport SA (STASY) company announcement, the trains will stop at Dafni station. Passengers can use a temporary bus shuttle set up at Dafni station, Dafni Station-Aghios Dimitrios Station (no. 201).
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA): Reversal and creation leap.
DIMOKRATIA: Troika does not know what to do!
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Public Humiliation.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Government 'lays off' 15,000 pupils!
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The arrangement for new debts to Tax Bureau and social security funds.
ELLADA AVRIO: Transition mockery for thousands of civil servants.
ESTIA: Tax-induced recession.
ETHNOS: The new reserve labour wave will be in the health sector.
IMERISSIA: Double SOS - Recession and over taxation lead to an impasse.
KATHIMERINI: Government afraid of 'rebellion' in New Democracy (ND) and PASOK.
LOGOS: Dramatic decline in umployment.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Debate on new measures to start in September.
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