|Friday, 20 October 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-07-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 26 July 2013 Issue No: 4417
 Fast-track tax procedures bill passed by ParliamentThe Greek Parliament on Thursday passed the finance ministry's fast-track bill on the tax procedures code, with a slim majority made up entirely of MPs from the two parties in the ruling coalition.
All the opposition parties voted against the bill, with former coalition partner Democratic Left (DIM.AR) objecting chiefly to a decision to table the legislation as fast track.
Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) requested a roll-call vote for six articles included in the draft bill: they included article 5 for the notification of individuals via registered letters and e-mails, article 40 allowing banks to carry out procedures to collect taxes, article 46 for the provision seizure of assets without court decisions, article 47 for the compulsory execution of final court orders for debts still unpaid one month after notification, article 55 that reduces fines for tax offences and article 66 containing 'transitional measures' that the main opposition party considered to be "tailored" to a specific case.
Of the above, articles 5 and 40 were only supported by New Democracy and PASOK MPs, with 52 votes in favour and 41 votes against. The remainder were also supported by DIMAR, with 57 votes in favour and 36 votes against.
During the vote on the remaining articles and amendments, ND MPs Dimitris Kyriazidis and Nikitas Kaklamanis refused to vote in favour of an amendment extending a mobility scheme to school teachers with postgraduate degrees. This was tabled by Deputy Education Minister Symeon Kedikoglou, who said it was necessary in order to meet prior actions demanded by Greece's creditors in order to disburse bailout loans.
 'Out of line' deputies will be expelled, PM warnsND deputies who do not follow the party line on any draft bill fulfilling loan requirements ("prior actions") will be expelled from the Parliamentary group, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras later warned through the group's secretary Thanassis Bouras.
Samaras' warning came after Dimitris Kyriazidis and Nikitas Kaklamanis attested their presence without voting on an amendment by which teachers holding a post-graduate degree will be suspended and placed in a "mobility pool" when their courses are abolished.
The amendment canceled an omnibus' bill regulation voted a week ago in Parliament that excluded teachers in secondary technological education from the mobility scheme if they held a post-graduate degree or doctorate and would have transferred them to the relevant Regional Education Authority.
Deputy Education Minister Symeon Kedikoglou later clarified in Parliament that those with postgraduate degrees placed in the mobility pool as a result of the amendment will be given "bonus points" to help offset the latest change and increase their chances of a transfer to another public-sector post.
 PM Samaras says changes must speed up in civil sectorPrime Minister Antonis Samaras outlined the direction the government should take regarding the changes in the public sector and the staff transfers, at a meeting in the government headquarters of Maximos Mansion on Thursday afternoon that included Administrative Reform Minister and Deputy Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Evi Christofilopoulou, respectively, and general secretaries of the involved ministries.
Greece's commitments and reforms must be implemented immediately, he said, but not across the board. "We must convince citizens that these changes are in Greece's interest. Worthy public sector employees must not worry," he added, in reference to the transfers and gradual layoffs in the public sector.
Samaras, who is also leader of the New Democracy (ND) party, reiterated that he will not accept any divergence of ND deputies from the decisions made, as the country's exit from the crisis must not be jeopardised. He also said he expects all ministers to be actively involved in such decisions.
Speaking to the general secretaries, Mitsotakis asked them to start staff evaluations by the beginning of September the earliest and told the press, on his exit from the Mansion, that the measures to be implemented will not be taken across the board.
 Euro Working Group in new teleconference on Greece on FridayBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)
Eurogroup's Euro Working Group will hold a teleconference on Friday morning to see if Greece has implemented all prior actions required to approve the release of the next tranche of a bailout money to Greece.
According to information, shortly after the end of tomorrow's teleconference, the European Commission's representative in the troika will offer a technical briefing in Brussels.
 Each new loan tranche and blackmail usher in more sacrifices for the Greek people, SYRIZA saysMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Thursday accused the government of eagerly trying to implement "every footnote in the troika of creditors' demands", referring to the disbursement of the bailout tranche and the government's stance.
"The ongoing blackmail and hazing practices adopted in return for the disbursement of the installments are made to fit the government's 'success story' of social and economic destruction," SYRIZA said.
"Each new tranche and blackmail mean even more sacrifices for the Greek people, greater recession, unemployment and poverty," the party noted, adding that "supporting employment and economic growth are necessary preconditions for a socially fair exit from the crisis".
 IMF says Greece has made "significant progress"NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panayiotou)
The managing board of the International Monetary Fund will meet on Monday, 29 July to decide on the release of an 1.78 billion euros instalment to Greece, William Murray, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, Murray said that the IMF had accepted a cut in VAT on the restaurant sector in Greece because it was a "temporary measure which will not affect the programe's targets, while revenues will be covered with equal measures". Murray said there was no any sign that the IMF was going to leave Greece any time soon and noted that the Fund was operating in "full cooperation" with its European partners.
An IMF report on the Eurozone noted that "significant progress" has been made in Greece lately, underlining particularly reforms made in the labor market, in cutting dismissal compensations and taxation along with adopting legislation to deregulate so-called closed professions and the transport and energy services markets.
The report said that action was needed to improving competition in markets of services and products, improving business environment and conditions in labor markets. The IMF also repeated recommendations made to Greek authorities for measures to cut labor cost, facilitating investors, overcoming difficulties in product markets and amending existing legislation in export activity.
 Sustainable growth only through reforms, report says"There is no more room to cover a funding gap expected after 2014 with additional austerity measures. The solution is only reforms, a precondition for further funding assistance to Greece by its European partners. Therefore, the period until 2014 will be the country's last chance to avoid a worsening of the crisis," a report by the State Budget Office said on Thursday.
The Office, in its quarterly report on the Greek economy, stressed that "a return to sustainable growth will prove to be an elusive dream if critical reforms are not implemented". Commenting on delays in the programe, the report said that the greatest drawback was in reforms, such as in the public sector, privatizations, tax system, health and education.
The report noted that the country's economic situation remained critical in the second quarter of 2013, although they stressed that progress has been made in the fiscal section of the adjustment programe.
 Interior Minister: No more cutbacks in local administration"We had a certain obligation and we made across the board cuts. The cutbacks in school guards and municipality police are and should be the last horizontal cutbacks. What had to be done in the local administration has been done" said Interior Minister Yannis Michelakis on Thursday speaking to private TV SKAI.
Michelakis clarified that those municipal employees that had been hired illegally will leave.
 Ministers of education, health discuss using teachers in health sectorThe option of transferring educators affected by the government's public-sector staff "mobility scheme" to the health sector dominated a meeting on Thursday between Education Minister Costas Arvanitopoulos and Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis.
The plans of the two ministries include the absorption of 55-60 pct of 2,000 educators in the health sector.
After the meeting, Arvanitopoulos commented that teachers specializing in the vocational training of health professionals could be evaluated and absorbed by the ministry of health.
On his part, Georgiadis said that this solution will put an end to the anxiety of people affected by the "mobility scheme", noting that they could cover vacancies in various health sectors.
 Two universities scrapped in latest changes to higher education reform planTwo tertiary education institutes, the University of Western Greece and the University of Sterea Ellada will be abolished based on a draft presidential decree forwarded for processing to the Council of State (CoS), supreme administrative court, it was announced on Thursday.
The changes included in the specific draft presidential decree concern a total of four presidential decrees, namely, P.D. 75/2013 introducing additional faculties to the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), as well as Presidential Decrees 89/2013 and 99/2013, concerning the abolition of the University of Western Greece and the University of Sterea Ellada respectively.
A fourth presidential decree (96/2013) concerns the abolition and merger of departments and the renaming of a school in the University of Crete.
In the past three days, the ministry of education introduced another 10 changes in the 36 presidential decrees regulating the "Athena" tertiary education reform plan implemented in higher education institutions and technological educational institutes TEI.
 Kapsis: 'We want a strong, independent public television'The government wants "a strong and independent public television that makes the best possible use of taxpayers' money," Deputy Minister for Public Broadcasting Pantelis Kapsis said on Thursday in an interview with the Greek newspaper "Efimerida ton Syntakton".
He said the legal framework gave the new public broadcaster autonomy, so it would be itself responsible for deciding in what way expectations might best be met.
Kapsis stressed the degree of wasteful spending at the former ERT, saying that bad organisation led to bad use of resources and a "tight trade union corset that stifled initiatives" so that even ERT's building and internal layout had become outdated.
Asked whether the reforms might have been carried out more quickly and smoothly with ERT still operating, Kapsis noted that everyone had his own views on this issue. "I have the impression that even those supporting that it could be done while ERT was running sometimes acknowledge that all attempts to change ERT were blocked by trade unionists and their reactions," he said, adding that in his opinion ERT had to be changed "from scratch".
He admitted that Greek public television's current programme was a "stop-gap solution" in order to at least partially comply with a Council of State ruling, promising a very different programme once the interim broadcaster was set up.
The minister also underlined that ERT had become over-bloated relative to its equivalents in other European countries, noting that the Irish and Portuguese broadcasters ran with just 2,000 staff whereas ERT had 4,500 on its payroll.
 Culture Minister meets French counterpart, UNESCO chief in ParisThe further enhancement of Greek-French relations in culture was agreed between Greek Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and his French counterpart Aurelie Filippetti during their meeting in Paris on Thursday. Both ministers agreed to undertake common actions during the Greek presidency the first six months of 2014.
The French minister accepted Panagiotopoulos' invitation to visit Greece, together with the General Director of the Louvre Museum archaeologist Jean-Luc Martinez.
Moreover, Panagiotopoulos briefed Fillipetti on the developments regarding the re-opening of Greek public television.
"It was a very important meeting during which we agreed to upgrade the two countries' relations in the sector of culture," the minister said.
During his visit to Paris, Panagiotopoulos also met with the General Director of UNESCO Irina Bokova.
Panagiotopoulos said that they discussed all issues linked to Greek-UNESCO relations and that he raised the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece. Moreover, the Greek minister expressed the Greek government's support for UNESCO's general director, who will be standing for re-election in the organisation's elections in the autumn.
Finally, Panagiotopoulos invited Bokova to visit Greece soon.
 Foreign minister sends condolences for victims of train derailment in SpainGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday sent a letter to his Spanish counterpart, offering his condolences to the families of those killed in the derailment of a Spanish train near Santiago de Compostella and expressing the support of the Greek people for the people of Spain.
 Vietnamese ambassador meets SYRIZA delegation in ThessalonikiVietnam's Ambassador to Athens Vu Binh on Thursday expressed his solidarity with the Greek people suffering as a result of the economic crisis, during a meeting with a local delegation of the main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) party in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
The meeting was requested by the Vietnamese official and included Parliamentary MP Despina Haralambidou, the vice-president of Parliament's Friendship Group and members of the party's Central Committee.
Vu Binh briefed the SYRIZA delegation on the situation in Vietnam and the foreign investments taking place there, which he said had helped boost growth and raise living standards, while key sectors of the economy remained under state control.
 DIMAR preparing proposed legislation, sources sayThe opposition Democratic Left party is currently prepararing a series of legislative proposals, sources within the party revealed to the ANA-MPA on Thursday.
They said a meeting of DIMAR's Executive Committee chaired by party leader Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday decided to prepare initiatives relating to the ability of hedge funds to handle overdue loans, preserving a moratorium on auctions, reducing a special consumption tax for heating oil and action to protect and support the unemployed.
 Advisory Council for public revenues secretariat appointedA government decision appointing the members of an Advisory Council for the General Secretariat of Public Revenues was published in the government gazette on Thursday.
The Council members will be the following:
1. Theodoros Fortsakis, Professor of Law, President of the Athens University Department of Law
2. Yiannis Stavropoulos, lawyer to the Supreme Court and Council of State
3. Katerina Savvaidou, Thessaloniki Aristotle University Law School fellow
4. Frank Daly, former chairman of Ireland's Revenue Commissioners in 2002-2008
5. Mats Sjoestrand, former Director General of Sweden's Tax Agency in 1999-2009.
 Greece unveils privatisation plan for Public Power CorporationThe Greek government on Thursday approved a privatization plan for Public Power Corporation which envisages the creation and sale of a "small PPC", the entry of a strategic investor and the sale of a majority equity stake in the country's electricity grids.
The plan was originally presented in May by the Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry and it is implemented as one of prior actions required for the release of the next instalment of a financial assistance programe to Greece. A new "small PPC" plan envisages the creation of a new company with a representative basket of electricity production units and customer base and will cover both a privatization programe and the deregulation of an electricity market by promoting competition on an equal basis between PPC's production capacity and private energy players. The new company will hold around 30 pct of PPC's production capacity including lignite units, hydro-electrics, natural gas units and access to lignite mines. The "small PPC" company will have a capacity of 1,400 MW of lignite units, 500 MW of hydro-electric and 500 MW of natural gas units.
The plan has yet to set the terms and conditions under which existing PPC's customers will be transfered to the new "small PPC". Under the timetable set, the new company will begin operations in early 2015.
In second stage, Greek authorities will sale 17 pct of PPC's equity capital, from a 51 pct majority stake currently owned by the state, preferably to a strategic investor. An international tender will begin in the third quarter of 2015 and was expected to be concluded by the end of 2015 or early 2016.
The privatization plan also envisages the sale of a majority stake in the Independent Power Trasmission Operator and a full withdrawal of PPC from transmission networks, although the Greek statek will maintain a statutory majority. A strategic investor will buy up to 49 pct in the Independent Power Transmission Operator -along with the management. This plan is expected to be completed this year. The strategic investor will buy up to 51 pct of the Operator by the second quarter of 2014.
 PPC S.A. trade union lashes out at Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE)The Public Power Corporation S.A. (PPC S.A.) trade union GENOP-DEI on Thursday strongly criticized the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) in response to the changes adopted in the operation of the electricity wholesale market effective for a transitional period until market competition is developed.
GENOP-DEI accused RAE of functioning as a sponsor/defender of private producers to the detriment of consumers.
Referring to the compensation raise received by natural gas plants - 88,000 euros/MW/year - in the form of Capacity Availability Certificates, GENOP-DEI underlined that the "amount is much higher than the reasonable cost they need to cover in order to survive" and that this decision "constitutes state subsidy".
 SYRIZA accuses ruling parties of 'having planned PPC selloff for years'The government's announcement on Thursday to sell a majority stake of the Independent Power Transmission Operation (ADMIET) to private investors and have the Public Power Corporation (PPC) withdraw fully from it was condemned by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party the same day.
In an announcement, the main opposition party's energy section charged the government with "selling off the country's public wealth" and accused ruling parties New Democracy and PASOK of "having planned the undermining and devaluation of PPC for years in order to sell it off."
They cited as examples of plans to sell it off "the fact they did not allow new units to be built, they introduced regulations against its interests, used it as tax collector to collect the real estate tax through its bills, they turned over of many of its activities to dubious-quality and excessively expensive private construction companies, and they asphyxiated it by forbidding new hires to replace departing personnel."
 KKE: Gov't using 'blackmail' to get loan tranche disbursementThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday attacked the government over its announcement on the breakup of the Public Power Corporation in order to sell parts of it, saying it is "the apex of its attack against the populace" that included higher bills for households and worsening relations for workers in the sector.
KKE charged that "the privatized power network means that its maintenance and expansion will be done on the basis of profit instead of on the need to cover popular needs."
In a separate announcement on Thursday, the party also railed against what it called the government's "endless blackmail and ideological terrorism at the expense of the people over the disbursement of this loan tranche," while each installment disbursed "ended up in the pockets of business groups, industry people, shipoweners and banks."
 DIM.AR's Kouvelis strongly objects sellout of PPC S.A. electricity networksOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday lashed out at the government over an act of cabinet for the "privatization of the Public Power Corp. S.A." adopted on Wednesday.
After meeting with technical staff ETE-DEI trade union repre-sentatives, he said that the act essentially ratified commitments undertaken by the finance minister and the deputy environment minister last May without taking into consideration the agreement of the three former government coalition partners and the prime minister's policy statements delivered on July 6, 2012.
He clarified that the three former partners in the government had agreed "...on a strategic in nature deregulation of the energy sector, while keeping (energy) networks under public control...," noting that he had categorically expressed his opposition to the selling of the power transmission networks, namely, the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE) S.A.
"Unfortunately for our country, the government with yesterday's decision has committed itself to implement unacceptable and damaging policies," Kouvelis underlined, adding that "this act does not guarantee the public interest and does not serve the citizens' common good".
 Independent Greeks slam PPC privatisation, revenue policyOpposition Independent Greeks party deputies on Thursday issued statements criticising government moves for the privatisation of the Public Power Corporation and commenting on harsh taxation.
"The splitting up of the PPC and its gradual sale is a dangerous and catastrophic action that will result in the loss of energy sufficiency for the country, an increase in power rates and the future destabilisation of the distribution system for the direct benefit of foreign energy speculators," said MP for Kozani Rachel Makri, in charge of energy issues for the party.
The party's Parliamentary spokesman and sector head for economic issues, the MP Notis Marias, slammed what he called a "continuing attack on Greek households" through the passing of fast-track laws allowing the seizure of salaries, bank accounts and real estate for small debts to the public sector at a time when the official figures showed that the available income of Greek citizens was failling due to unemployment and wage cuts.
 Environment Minister Maniatis meets with business sector representativesEnvironmental licensing procedures were discussed in a meeting on Thursday between Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) board members.
The issues discussed included the simplification, standardization and implementation of model rules aimed at making procedures less time-consuming.
Maniatis noted that the goal set by the environment ministry is to speed up and simplify the procedures necessary and contribute, in the best possible way, to the creation of a "road map" leading to the restructure of the investment framework by making it more enterprise-friendly and attractive to SMEs, as well as, large enterprises.
Both sides pledged to be in close cooperation and continue to exchange proposals aimed at improving the investment environment and liberating private initiative to have a more substantive role in the efforts made to lead the country out of the crisis.
 Energy minister meets Australian envoyEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis met on Thursday with Australian Ambassador to Greece Jenny Bloomfield for talks focusing on exploiting Greece's hydrocarbon and mineral wealth, as well as the National Land Registry.
Also discussed were issues relating to privatisations and investment possibilities in Greece.
 Investors for Thessaloniki Water 'warned off' by 130 citizen/trade union groupsPotential buyers of the Thessaloniki Water and Sewerage Company (EYATh) have been asked to withdraw their bids for the company in letters sent by 130 citizen and trade union organisations from 18 countries and 50 members of the European Parliament, it was announced on Thursday.
The potential buyers were warned that they would risk "blackening their reputation and increasing their business risk" as a result of extended and strong reactions by citizens.
Recipients of the letters included the French multinational Suez Environment, the Greek joint ventures Aktor SA and Terna and the Israeli group Mekorot and Arison Investment. They are warned that the Greek government put the water company up for sale against the will of Thessaloniki residents, who have launched several campaigns to stop the privatisation.
"International experience has shown that the privatisation of water usually makes prices shoot up and in many cases lowered its quality. Even though the trend in Europe is now to renationalise water system, they are forcing us to do the opposite," said the coordinator of the 'Save Greek Water' campaign Maria Kanellopoulou.
Others involved in the initiative include the water company's staff union, the head of Food and Water Europe Gabriella Zanzanaini and the independent Greek MEP Kriton Arsenis representing the 50 MEPs opposing the privatisation.
 Ministers, unions to sign agreement on VAT reduction in restaurantsFour ministers and representatives of trade unions will sign a formal agreement on Friday for the reduction of VAT in restaurants, bars and catering that is going into effect as of August 1. The agreement will reduce the VAT from the current 23 pct to 13 pct.
The measure, approved after negotiations with the troika of lenders, is meant to help boost tourism during the summer season.
Signees include Ministers of Finance Yannis Stournaras, Development and Competitiveness Costis Hatzidakis and Tourism Olga Kefalogianni, Deputy Development Minsiter Thanassis Skordas, and representatives of trade unions related to traders, tourism, restaurants and affected unions.
Businesses with reduced VAT will bear a special store sign.
 Dev't minister, bankers meet on speeding up fund disbursement to SMEsBank representatives met with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday to discuss how to disburse funds provided by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) and the European Investment Bank to bolster small and medium-sized businesses in Greece.
According to bank sources, the amount that will get to the payees, inclusive of bank leveraging, will reach close to 3 billion euros, while it would be realistic to expect about 1 billion euros to be absorbed by the end of the year, which would reach close to 2 billion euros with bank leveraging. A progress report will be issued monthly, with the first one to be presented at end-August.
Following the meeting, Hatzidakis said the next few months were critical in speeding up the absorption rates and said the Hellenic Bank Association had committed to this end.
Greek absorption of available funds and their disbursement by Greek banks was the main topic of discussion between Hatzidakis and visiting European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn on Wednesday.
At the time, Hahn told a press conference that the EU "allocated significant funds for the enterprises that have not reached their payees in full yet" and urged their speedy disbursement.
"I am aware of the needs to recapitalise banks, but the funds must go to their final payees," he said, while Hatzidakis had called on banks to utilize the liquidity instruments available and make use of the structural funds also, as this was a critical year to do so.
 Greek banks cut lending, suffer capital outlfow in JuneGreek banks further reduced lending to households and enterprises while they also suffered a capital flight in June, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank in a report said that bank deposits fell by around 700 million euros in the month to a total of 162.7 billion euros, from 163.4 billion a month earlier, although total deposits were up by 12.1 billion euros compared with June 2012.
The annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector stood at -4.1% in June 2013, from -3.7% in the previous month. The net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, amounting to 212 million euros (June 2012: positive net flow of 852 million).
The net flow of credit to enterprises, in June 2013, was negative, amounting to 63 million euros (June 2012: positive net flow of 1.067 billion), and the annual growth rate of credit stood at -4.9%, compared with -3.9% in the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations stood at -4.2%, from -3.4% in the previous month, while the net flow of credit was negative and equal to 70 million (June 2012: positive net flow of 727 million). The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at -15.1% in June 2013, from -10.1% in May 2013.
The net flow of credit to sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships was positive, amounting to 12 million (June 2012: positive net flow of 49 million) and its annual rate of change stood at -1.6%, from -1.3% in May 2013.
In June 2013, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 161 million (June 2012: negative net flow of 264 million), and its annual growth rate stood at -3.6%, compared with -3.7% in May 2013.
 Greek households' income down 6.2 pct in Q1Greek households lost 1.9 billion euros from their available income in the first quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year, hit by an 11.1 pct decline in workers' earnings and an 11.7 pct decline in social benefits, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that Greek households' and non-profit institutions' available income fell by 6.2 pct in the first quarter of 2013 to 29 billion euros, from 30.9 billion euros in the corresponding period last year.
Workers' wages fell by 2.09 billion euros to 5.439 billion euros in the January-March period, while socia benefits dropped by 1.56 billion euros to 9.19 billion euros over the same period, falling to 38.3 pct of total spending from 46.7 pct in 2012. This decline came despite the fact that general governmet spending grew to 24.022 billion euros from 23.028 billion euros in 12 months, with primary spending rising to 22.158 billion euros from 19.605 billion euros.
Greek households' final consumer spending fell by 8.9 pct to 32.4 billion euros, while the net savings to gross available income rate fell to -11.7 pct in the first three months of 2013 from -15 pct in the same period last year.
Gross fixed capital investments by non-financial companies fell by 3.5 pct to 3.06 billion euros in the three-month period.
The general government's net borrowing requirements totaled 7.4 billion euros in the first quarter, up from 3.9 billion euros last year.
 Piraeus major loading dock completed, to be inaugurated in SeptemberThe car terminal loading dock at the Neo Ikonio area of the main Greek port of Piraeus is finished and will be inaugurated in September, it was announced on Thursday.
The completion was attested by managing directors Giorgos Anomeritis of the Port Authority of Piraeus (OLP) and Kostas Spiliopoulos of ErgOSE (Hellenic Railways' large projects subsidiary) who visited the site with administrative and technical staff from both organisations and from Aktor construction company, which built the dock.
The project is part of an agreement between OSE (Hellenic Railways) and OLP to construct a 17-km rail line linking the Thriassio Valley area with the facilities of Chinese-owned container company Cosco in Neo Ikonio, and feed into the national railway network as well. The project aims longterm at raising Piraeus' profile as a trade hub in the Mediterranean and Europe.
The railroad, which was completed in February, will begin operation once the dock is inaugurated in September. It will be used to convey goods and cars among OLP, the Cosco terminal in Piraeus, and Thriassio, cutting down significantly on overland travel and facilitating trade with the Balkans and Europe.
In March, state-owned TrainOSE signed a major agreement with Cosco and Hewlett-Packard to use the facilities to distribute the American electronic giant's products to European, African and Middle Eastern markets.
According to statistics published earlier this year, the port of Piraeus in 2012 handled close to half a million cars going to markets in the Mediterranean; of these, 54,785 were imported to Greece. OLP said earlier this year that although cars imported to Greece through Piraeus dropped in 2012 by 38.2 pct, those passing through on their way to other Mediterranean ports increased by 22.8 pct.
 Athens Mayor on Sunday store hours, city's fiscal successAthens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said on Thursday he supported the opening of stores on Sundays in the city's historical and commercial centre and took a strong stance against "fascism, racist and xenophobic phenomena and behaviours."
Reviewing the city's financial figures for the first six months of 2013, Kaminis said obligations had dropped from 289 million euros in 2010 to 209 million and noted that "with 22 pct fewer revenues we achieved a 28 pct reduction in overall demands." From an accounting gap of 47 million euros in 2010, the city registered a 12.5 million surplus at the close of the fiscal year in 2012, he added.
 Pharmacists demand payment of outstanding debts; threaten mobilizationsPharmacists on Thursday warned that they could resort to industrial action, possibly next month, to demand payment of outstanding debts owed by the state amounting to 75 million euros since 2010.
According to the pharmacists' association PFS President Kyriakos Theodosiadis, the government can and should undertake a legislative initiative to overcome the dysfunctions that delay the payment of older outstanding debts and to speed up the payment of 2013 debts, noting that this was a government and memorandum pledge.
 Greek stocks end slightly higherGreek stocks ended slightly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, remaining in a tight range course on lack of fresh incentives and directions in the market. The composite index rose 0.27 pct to end at 843.55 points, after falling as much as 1.13 pct during the day. Turnover improved slightly to 24.55 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 0.43 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.63 pct higher. Piraeus Bank (5.06 pct), Titan (1.92 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (1.80 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (1.92 pct), Ellaktor (1.89 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (1.49 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Health (2.62 pct), Technology (2.11 pct) and Food (1.80 pct) sectors scored gains, while Oil (1.41 pct) and Travel (1.09 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 65 to 56 with another 18 issues unchanged. Alko (26.64 pct), Forthnet (20 pct) and Elgeka (18.52 pct) were top gainers, while AXON Holdings (20 pct), SIDMA (19.93 pct) and Crete Building (19.39 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.41%
Personal & Household: +0.04%
Raw Materials: +0.66%
Travel & Leisure: -1.09%
Food & Beverages: +1.80%
Financial Services: -0.97%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and Folli Follie.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.433
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.66
HBC Coca Cola: 19.24
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.62
National Bank of Greece: 2.55
Eurobank Properties : 6.99
Piraeus Bank: 0.935
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 8.48 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.16 pct and the German Bund 1.68 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. 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 rose to 0.13 pct.
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.34
Pound sterling 0.876
Danish kroner 7.568
Swedish kroner 8.737
Japanese yen 133.79
Swiss franc 1.255
Norwegian kroner 7.942
Canadian dollar 1.379
Australian dollar 1.460
 Businessman, former defence ministry staff charged over suspect contractThe assistant public prosecutor against corruption Popi Papandreou on Thursday announced that a total of 19 individuals, including defence ministry staff and a well-known businessman, have been charged over a suspect procurement contract signed with the defence ministry in 2001, which resulted in more than 40 million euros in damages to the state.
Among those charged are two former defence ministry general secretaries, a former chief of the Army General Staff, the owner and CEO of the company that was awarded the contract and 14 members of the military that sat on committees evaluating and taking decisions concerning the specific project.
The charges against the defendants include breach of faith at the expense of the state and of morally instigating and colluding to carry this out.
The investigation into the case was prompted by examination of a 2001 contract to supply 18 "jammers" and 11 surveillance centres for an "electronic war programme" that was supposed to sabotage or interfere with enemy communications. The total value of the contract was 72 million euros before VAT, with an advance of 35 million euros.
It was the size of the advance that first raised questions, since in similar cases there is a commitment that the advance should not exceed 40 percent of the total value of the project, which in this case was never completed.
The company and the state resorted to arbitration in a dispute of failure to complete the specific contract in 2007. The final ruling found in favour of the company and the Greek State was fined 3.0 million euros as solely responsible for the failure to execute the contract. In fact, the arbitration also allowed the company to take back the letters of guarantee it had issued and keep the advance, as a result of actions and decisions taken at the time by the defence ministry general secretary.
All 19 suspects in the case have been summoned before the public prosecutor and, according to sources, have denied the charges against them. The case has now been forwarded to the examining magistrate for corruption cases.
 Four new metro stations open on FridayThe metro line extension ending in the southern Athens suburb of Elliniko will open to public on Friday. The new extension includes four new stations at Ilioupoli, Argyroupoli, Alimos and Elliniko.
The distance between Elliniko and Syntagma square will be covered in 14 minutes, said Transport, Infrastructure and Networks Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis. "It is a project that will bring relief to the people in the southern suburbs of Athens. A project that will bring growth to Athens' neighbourhoods," said Chryssohoidis.
The metro station at Haidari is expected to open to the public at the end of October and afterwards the works for an extension to Pireaus will start.
Attiko Metro president Christos Tsitouras announced that a new 1.1-km tram line will be constructed to link the existing coastal tram line with Argyroupolis metro station.
 Shipowner Victor Restis to testify Friday over 5.8mln-euro bank loanShipowner Victor Restis, arrested on Tuesday for misappropriation of funds and money laundering at the expense of First Business Bank (FBB), will be testifying before a prosecutor on Friday, it was announced Thursday.
Restis was arrested in connection with a 5.8-million-euro loan issued by FBB, where he was a majority stakeholder, allegedly for a former associate of the defendant. On Friday he will testify before a magistrate on Friday for the charges of misappropriation of funds and money laundering.
He might also be facing felony charges for submitting inaccurate 'source of wealth' (pothen esches) tax statements from 2008 to 2012. In the statements for the years 2008-2011, Restis had declared his participation in a total of six companies, based in different parts of the world, while in 2012 he included 8 companies in his statement. However, according to evidence investigated by the prosecutor, Restis had stakes in roughly 251 companies, some of them offshore companies based in Liberia and the Marshall Islands.
Restis has denied all charges and says the money ended up with a former business partner of his.
 Police on trail of women trafficking ringA major Greek police operation was underway in cooperation with Spanish and US authorities as well as EUROPOL on Thursday to locate members of an international trafficking ring that sexually exploited women by forcing them into prostitution.
Ten members of the ring have been already arrested, while investigations are underway in Athens, Kavala, Volos, Corinth and Crete.
According to information, the ring brought women from the Dominican Republic via Turkey and chanelled them to Greece and Spain, where they were forced to work in bars and similar venues.
 Minor in custody for Nemea fireThe fire brigade on Thursday announced that a minor has been detained as a suspect for setting a fire that broke out on Wednesday near the village of Aidonia in Nemea. The investigation is still underway and no details concerning the charges have been released.
 Wildfires raging on Hios, Andros, in MegaraThree separate wildfires had broken out on Thursday afternoon in Greece, two on the Aegean islands of Hios and Andros and one near the town of Megara in west Attica.
The fire on Hios was burning through pine forest in the Pityos region near Agios Isidoros and does not pose a threat to any inhabited areas. A force of 42 firemen and 15 fire-engines has been sent to put out the flames, assisted by a 12-man team on foot, a water-bombing aircraft and a helicopter.
The Megara fire began at 1:15 p.m. in an area of forest known as Morfeika and is now considered under control.
The fire on Andros began around dawn inside a ravine in the region of Kypri, which was largely inaccessible to fire-fighting forces on the ground. A water-bombing aircraft and a helicopter are assisting in the fire-fighting effort.
 Foreign nationals arrested for production of counterfeit banknotesPolice in Tripoli, southern Greece, have arrested two foreign nationals for fraud and production of thousands of counterfeit banknotes which they distributed in the market, it was announced on Thursday.
The two suspects, a 37-year-old from Rwanda and a 28-year-old from Cameroon, managed to convince their victims that they could turn packs of white paper the size of banknotes into genuine 50- and 100-euro bills.
They were arrested on Wednesday night in a Tripoli hotel, where they met with an undercover police officer posing as a prospective buyer of 250,000 euros in counterfeit money for which he had agree to pay 80,000 euros.
Police found in their possession and seized 1,200 counterfeit 50-euro bills and 60 counterfeit 100-euro bills.
 Silver medal for Greek team in Open Water Swimming World ChampionshipsGreece on Thursday won the silver medal in the 5km team event at Open Water Swimming world Championships held in Barcelona. The three-member Greek team (Spyros Gianniotis, Antonis Fokaidis and Kelly Araouzou covered the distance in 54min. and 3.3sec and took the second place after the German team that finished in the first place with in 52.54.9.
It was the second medal for Spyros Gianniotis, who won the gold medal in the 10km event on Monday.
 Hot weather on FridayFair and hot weather and northwesterly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging fronm 19C-37C. Sunny in the south and in the islands, 20C-37C. Fair and hot in Athens, 23C-37C; scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 21C-36C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Government cutting to pieces Public Power Corporation (PPC) to sell it off.
DIMOKRATIA: Final attack at first home.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The egg of the snake".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The changes in the list with the 8,296 suspensions (mobility scheme in public sector).
ELLADA AVRIO: Shame on you Mr. Papoulias (Karolos, President of Republic) -They have hidden the anniversary of the restoration of Democracy in Greece with excuse the austerity.
ESTIA: Absurdity over Sunday-holiday.
ETHNOS: Bank employees to take pension with bonus.
IMERISSIA: PPC'S privatisation with...three-phase law.
KATHIMERINI: The 4 billion euros tranche 'stuck' for eighty civil servants.
LOGOS: Shops open on Sunday and with law.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Green light to PPC's privatisation in three moves.
RIZOSPASTIS: Against the express auctions to salaries, pensions and people's wealth.
TA NEA: Rebellion against layoffs -25 mayors to resign.
VRADYNI: Reversal in social security system.
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