|Friday, 23 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-07-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 29 July 2013 Issue No: 4419
 Italian PM Letta welcomed by PM SamarasItalian Prime Minister Enrico Letta arrived in Athens early on Sunday evening for a two-day working visit.
Letta was received at the Athens International Airport by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
The two prime ministers will hold a meeting at the government headquarters of Maximos Mansion at noon on Monday, and will then give a press conference.
 Italian PM to ANA-MPA: 'I am coming to Athens to encourage Greeks'Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta stressed that his visit to Greece on Sunday aims to give encouragement to Greeks and show that "there is a Europe that wants to help Greece help itself." Letta made the statement in an interview given to the ANA-MPA on Saturday.
The Italian premier stressed that his trip to Athens is one of his most important visits, mainly because his meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday will chiefly focus on the future of the European Union as a whole. He noted that Europe must change, so that its citizens stop seeing it as a "step-mother" meting out punishment but as a source of hope and positive opportunities.
He underlined that this spirit will also underpin cooperation between the successive Greek and Italian EU presidencies in the first and second halves of 2014.
"During the meeting with the Greek prime minister, we will lay the foundations for common European action, on how our presidencies can help Mediterranean Europe, its economic growth and also deal with the major issue of illegal migration," Letta said.
According to the 47-year-old prime minister, the keyword for all Europe at present was 'jobs'.
He noted the positive steps taken at the last European summit on youth employment and measures taken in Italy to reduce taxation for employers hiring young people.
"This problem, youth unemployment, is the scourge of our continent. It is urgent to give answers, they must become our common banner, because we cannot allow hope to be destroyed," he said.
He also referred to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project, announcing that he intends to visit Baku in Azerbaijan on August 11 in order to discuss plans for the pipeline that goes through Greece and ends in Italy.
 Defence minister to visit U.S. next weekDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos is due to visit Washington next week, in what is regarded as a key trip ahead of a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on August 8, as well as the currently volatile situation in the Middle East.
Avramopoulos has accepted an invitation from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to visit the United States and is due to meet his U.S. counterpart at the Pentagon on Tuesday (10:00 p.m. Greek time).
Their talks are expected to cover a series of issues pertaining to bilateral relations, military cooperation and security, the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and events in the Middle East.
Analysts point to recent signs that Greek-U.S. relations are going through a high point, including Obama's references to Greece as a "valuable friend and ally" and the general view of Greece as a strong factor for stability in the surrounding regions, in spite of its current economic problems.
Avramopoulos and Hagel are expected to discuss matters concerning Greece's neighbourhood, including the Balkans, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and the Middle East, and to examine ways to boost strategic cooperation and reaffirm Greek-U.S. strategic relations in the defence sector and in EuroAtlantic structures. The Greek minister will also brief Hagel on Cyprus' decision to go ahead with a process for joining the Partnership for Peace.
After meeting Hagel, Avramopoulos will lay a wreath at the Pentagon monument for the victims of 9/11 and visit the chapel for the 'Heroes of America' in order to sign the visitors' book.
During his U.S. visit, the Greek minister will also attend a ceremony at the Arlington cemetery and place a wreath at the monument of the Unknown Soldier, have meetings with members of the U.S. Senate and Congress and attend a ceremony at the Holocaust Museum, where he will sign an agreement between the museum and the Greek defence ministry.
 Finance Minister Stournaras on the negotiations with the troikaFinance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said in an interview in a Sunday newspaper that negotiations with the troika in September will not be easy. He clarified that "it will probably be the last difficult negotiation" before the fiscal programme ends, considering that the government efforts gave results for the period 2013-2014 and the country's creditors were convinced that there is no fiscal gap but discussion is still open for 2015 and 2016.
Stournaras said that the new Medium-term Fiscal Strategy currently prepared by the government should not show a fiscal gap because "it will have to be covered through the restructuring of the public sector" focusing on public-run companies, organizations and ministries and "not through additional tough fiscal measures".
He said that companies that are not viable should be made viable through privatizations, mergers and downsizing.
Stournaras underlined that the government has taken measures against tax evasion, noting that confiscations made so far correspond to over 2 billion euros.
Referring to the VAT reduction in the restaurant and catering sector to 13 pct, the finance minister warned that it will be raised again to 23 pct if the measure brings no results.
On the real estate property tax, he said that it had to be sent to taxpayers last year blaming the previous governments for the delay.
Stournaras underlined that "the Greeks owe nothing to the German taxpayers. They pay the loan with interest. It costs nothing to the German people".
Referring to his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble, he said that his opinion about Greece has changed and this has become obvious in Germany's stance.
 Gov't preparing the way for more wage cuts, SYRIZA, KKE chargeRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) criticised Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras over an interview published Sunday in Proto Thema, in which he said that negotiations with the troika of lenders in September were expected to be tough.
"As the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras prepares to lay off thousands of civil servants," the main opposition party responded, "the finance minister is preparing the ground for new memorandum measures come September; in other words, to increase the dosage of the same medication of memorandum that is killing society and the economy."
The main opposition party said that the use of presidential decrees to "dismantle the public sector, the further reduction of wages and pensions, the destruction of labour relations and privatisations" are the government's only plan and it must be stopped.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charged the finance minister with "admitting that the anti-popular slide downwards has no stop" and said that the so-called negotiation with the troika in September "will be carried out on the basis of defending the interests of capital - meaning new layoffs, privatisations, new taxes and levies, and foreclosures," and it called for leaving the European Union and cancelling the debt and the memorandums.
 "The time for the troika is over," EC Vice-president Reding saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
"The time for the troika is over," European Commission Vice-president and Commissioner responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding underlined in interviews in the Sunday editions of the Greek newspapers Real News and Kathimerini.
She underlined that "the European Union has the right tools to cope with its own problems," noting that the "European citizens do not trust the troika, and they are right" because "fundamental decisions, for example, on whether to fire tens of thousands of public employees, should not be taken behind closed doors".
Reding underlined that "we are grateful for the IMF's contribution to the various stabilization programmes in Europe. But this set-up has now run its course. This is no longer an emergency. By now, the EU has the right tools to cope with its own problems. That is why I say: The time for the troika is over...Europe is prepared and willing to solve its problems on its own - in the European way, with proper democratic control and accountability".
Referring to the rise of populism as a result of the economic crisis, she said that "at times of crisis it is easy to give in to populism. But populism and shallow nationalism are not the solution to Greece's problem...nor a response to our collective challenges."
"We have to stick to our values more than ever. And countries like Greece have to stick to the path of reform," she underlined.
 Commissioner Hahn sees 'visible improvement' in GreeceVIENNA (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)
The situation in Greece is visibly improved, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn said in a statement to Austrian radio on Saturday, following his recent visit to Greece.
The Austrian commissioner pointed to encouraging signs, such as this year's increase in tourist arrivals, and said that significant sums had been made available for the support of small and medium-sized enterprises, though absorption rates were not as high as he might like. He referred to micro-loans offered by the EU to individuals wanting to set up their own business and that this gave grounds for optimism.
Hahn pointed out that, before the start of the crisis, one in three Greeks had been employed in the public sector and stressed that "this could not continue in the future".
The Commissioner admitted that the things being asked of Greeks as part of the fiscal adjustment programme - though "not unjustifiably," as he was pointed out - would have led to similar confusion and disturbance in other countries. In spite of their severity, however, he suggested that the measures should be seen overall, as a "cleansing".
Asked whether the demands made on Greeks were "perhaps, too much," the Commissioner any reply and expressed only hope that the right balance will be found, while noting that Greeks, both those responsible and the general population, have recognised that their behaviour must change. He was equally reluctant to reply to questions on whether a new haircut of Greek debt might be necessary and on the impact of the German elections in September.
 German Finance Minister Schaeuble says "Greece hasn't crossed the mountain yet" while recognizing the progress madeBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
"Greece, undoubtedly, hasn't crossed the mountain yet," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Sunday underlined, speaking in the German radio and television.
He noted that "the only assistance available is for self-assistance" and characterized as "nonsense" the talk about "the bill arriving after the German elections".
Schaeuble said that based on the assistance programme for Greece that runs until 2014, the loan tranches will be disbursed every three months after they are approved following a troika report, and if Greece meets the terms set.
Referring to the Eurogroup decisions to disburse the next installment in sub-tranches because Greece has not met all its obligations, he said that step-by-step, month-by-month, the country will have to meet further terms, citing recent decisions approved by the Greek parliament.
He said that jobs will be cut in the public sector, noting that this is not easy to be done in Greece but there is no other choice.
"For as long as the terms are not met the sub-tranches cannot be released. The pressure remains," he said, acknowledging, however, that Greece comes from a very deep crisis.
He said that labour cost is reduced to 13 pct and noted that the country becomes more competitive, clarifying, however, that it "has not crossed the mountain yet". He underlined the need for effective administration, particularly as far as tax collection is concerned.
The German finance minister noted that an important progress has been made in recent years in the Eurozone adding, however, that countries will have to continue to implement adjustments.
 No new restructuring of Greek debt, Schaeuble saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA - F. Karaviti)
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has ruled out any further restructuring or 'haircut' of Greece's debt but promised that Greece can count on support from its European Union partners after 2014, in an interview with the German paper "Bild am Sonntag" to be published on Sunday.
According to an advance excerpt of the interview given by the German news agency DPA, the German finance minister stressed that there could be no second 'haircut' but that Greece will continue to receive help if this was necessary and if it fulfilled its commitments.
He also appeared confident that the Eurozone was heading toward an exit from the crisis since the creation of new debt was declining to about half the rate seen three years ago, on average, while there had been good progress in implementing "economic and social reforms to generate growth".
 Details of staff mobility to be determined after evaluation, Interior minister saysThe details of public-sector restructuring, including the staff that will enter the mobility scheme, can be decided once there is an evaluation of public-sector structures and staff, Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis said in an interview with the newspaper "Ependytis" published on Saturday.
"We want a state that is neither too big where that's unnecessary nor lacking where citizens have need of it. This is the dual goal that mobility comes to serve," Mihelakis said.
Commening on municipal projects that received funding but were never carried out, the minister said a systematic effort has begun to include municipalities in development projects through Public-Private-sector Partnership programmes and to capitalise on the interest shown by foreign firms and potential funding from foreign banks, as well as to maximise the use of Community funding.
Mihelakis ruled out any more "horizontal measures" in terms of tax hikes or income cuts for either local government or central government staff, saying that "neither the real economy, nor society, nor the government could withstand them."
 SYRIZA attacks gov't policy of lay-offs; gov't spokesman repliesIn order to meet quotas set by Greece's EU and IMF creditors, the government is determined to make thousands of employees redundant using fast-track procedures, main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) said in an announcement on Saturday.
"With the demands of the creditors as its sole compass," SYRIZA said, the government is shutting its eyes to the disastrous repercussions of austerity policies on the economy and society.
"As the impasses of the programme become more obvious, so grows the dedication to the memorandum of a government whose blackmail alternates with its lies to the Greek people," the party said, adding that the true dilemma facing Greeks was between the memorandums and democracy.
"As long as the same road of austerity and autocracy continues, there can be no hope for growth and reconstruction, democracy will diminish, the social state will fall apart. Only the overthrow of memorandum policies and those expressing them and support for a programme to reconstruct the economy and protect the weaker classes can open the way to a socially just exit from the crisis," SYRIZA claimed.
Replying, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou attacked the main opposition party and said that "when your only plan is to employ everyone in the public sector, cancel all reforms and drive away every investor, then it is natural to resort to fairy-tales and false promises."
 KKE slams 'fast-track' firing, wage and pension cutsThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Saturday slammed measures for 'fast-track' lay offs, reduced labour rights, lower wages and pensions and privatisations, saying these measures amounted to the crushing the working classes and popular masses and ensuring an exit from the crisis benefiting big capital.
"This is the basic element of policies within the confines of the EU, which are served up either with the terror tactics of the ND-PASOK coalition government or the illusions sown among the people by SYRIZA," a KKE announcement said, urging the masses not to wait or compromise.
"The way out lies in the united struggle of workers in the public and private sector, in a social alliance to overthrow the policy of the government, the EU and the IMF," it added.
 DIMAR leader: Political stability does not mean giving in to troikaCriticising the government's 'all-or-nothing' stance to proposed reforms, opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis stressed that the answer was not to constantly give in to pressures from Greece's creditors.
"The country has need of political stability. But this, however, isn't tantamount to conservative policies or a constant conceding to the pressures from the troika," he said in an interview with the newspaper 'Efimerida ton Syntakton' printed on Saturday.
"The government's position that, if some critical and crucial draft bill is not passed, elections will be declared from the following day undermines the Parliamentary process and negates all possibility of negotiation," he pointed out.
Kouvelis underlined that the ask was not another round of early elections just 13 months after two successive recourses to the ballot but "real political confrontation and the maximum possible synthesis in order to promote effective policies for exiting the crisis".
He stressed that this was an issue for the entire political system, both government and the opposition, and the relations between them. Kouvelis also repeated his party's proposal for an alliance of "progressive forces" of the broader democratic left, political ecology and social democracy that will promoting the values of democracy, social cohesion and growth to benefit all sides. He stressed, however, that he did not count on PASOK in this effort.
 KKE's Koutsoumbas meets head of Germany's DKP party in AthensCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Saturday met the head of the German Communist Party (DKP) Patrik Kobele at KKE's headquarters in the Athens district of Perissos. Kobele is on an official visit to Athens as a guest of the KKE.
According to a KKE announcement, their talks focused on developments in Greece and Germany, "the rise of the class struggle in conditions of capitalist crisis" and experiences from the action of the two parties.
There was also a discussion on the need to strengthen cooperation between Communist and labour parties in Europe in order for Communists to "respond even more decisively to the needs of the class struggle, strengthen the front against the EU and the strategy of capital".
 Alt. Agriculture Minister urges shift to quality in Agroterra interviewAlternate Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Maximos Harakopoulos stressed the need to shift to quality production in an interview published by Agroterra magazine on Saturday. The minister noted that 3.9 billion euros will be spent from 2014-2020 as part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to fund rural development programmes.
Harakopoulos ruled out any haircut of farmer debts but said that formulas were being sought to help them pay off mortgage loans with the 'bad' ATEbank. He also supported changes in laws governing cooperatives.
The minister said the new CAP was a valuable tool for supporting quality primary production and placed emphasis on young farmers, noting that their future was the future of farming in Greece and Europe.
"I consider very important the fact that each member-state will be able to direct a part of the annual subsidies in a targeted way, in order to link support with production," he said, noting that support must serve a specific strategy of support for nationally important areas.
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.345
Pound sterling 0.873
Danish kroner 7.568
Swedish kroner 8.741
Japanese yen 132.8
Swiss franc 1.251
Norwegian kroner 7.982
Canadian dollar 1.384
Australian dollar 1.455
 Deputy mayor in Attica region arrested for extortion, briberyA deputy mayor in a western Attica municipality was arrested for extortion and bribery, it was announced on Sunday.
Authorities arrested him after a food booth vendor reported that the suspect had demanded the amount of 1,000 euros in order to issue a license for his business. He had also demanded an additional 1,000 - 1,200 euros that had to be paid every two months to ensure that the license will be valid.
He was arrested in his office during a police operation after receiving marked bank notes. Authorities found in his possession a total of 4,000 euros including the marked bills.
The 45-year-old deputy mayor, who is a literature professor, was responsible for the municipality's financial affairs.
 Major forest fire on the island of RhodesFirefighters are battling a major forest fire ranging in the south end of the island of Rhodes, while another wildfire in the region of Messara on Crete was put under control in the early morning hours on Sunday.
Six water-bombing aircraft, four helicopters and more than 250 firefighters with at least 30 fire engines are battling with the flames on Rhodes, while a total of 65 firefighters have arrived on the island from Thessaloniki to assist in the firefighting efforts.
The fire erupted late on Saturday afternoon and fanned by the strong winds blowing in the region at the time, burned its way through 3,000 hectares of forest land.
 Winds rekindle fire on the island of Crete, villages threatenedA wildfire that was put under control at noon on Sunday on the island of Crete was rekindled in the afternoon by strong winds.
The fire broke out at noon on Saturday in the area between the villages of Alithini and Pompia in Messara region of Iraklion prefecture. It is now threatening again Pombia and the villages of Antiskari and Pigaidakia village, where helicopters were called in for assistance.
The fire has already caused extensive damage to local farms.
 Mainalos ski resort chalet damaged in fireThe chalet housing the cafeteria of the Mainalos ski resort in Ostrakina, Arcadia prefecture suffered extensive damage as a result of a fire that began on Saturday for unknown causes.
The fire has been put out by the Tripolis fire brigade and local authority water-trucks but not before it caused severe damage to the building and equipment.
An investigation to find out the cause of the fire was begun by the Tripolis fire brigade.
 Three octogenarians die at fire in summer home at OroposThree elderly residents of Oropos, on the northeastern coast of Attica prefecture, died in a fire that broke out at their summer home early on Sunday morning, while a fourth one is hospitalised with minor injuries.
According to the fire department, an 84-year-old man tried to alert the other three residents in the one-storey house and was taken to hospital with minor injuries by the fire department. Another male resident, 82, tried to leave the house but was crushed by part of the roof, while two women, both 83, were found dead, probably by smoke inhalation.
Ten firemen and five trucks put out the fire which, accoding to preliminary findings, was caused by a shortcircuit in a fridge located at the front part of the house.
 Rescue operation for distressed Belgian vessel completedGreek authorities on Sunday announced that a rescue operation to tow the Belgian-flagged private vessel Enterchats that sailed rudderless, due to mechanical failure, a nautical mile south of Chrissi islet off Ierapetra on Crete, was completed successfully. All three passengers on board are safe.
The vessel was safely towed to Chryssi islet.
 Police catch convict wanted for robbery, other crimesPolice on Saturday announced the arrest of a local man on the island of Zakynthos with outstanding convictions for a series of criminal offences - including robbing a bank. The fugitive and a foreign national that was with him at the time were arrested at Makrys Gialos on the island's Volimia region on Friday night. Both men were in possession of firearms and money.
The fugitive had been convicted in his absence to 23 years imprisonment by a Patras Criminal Court.
Police are also seeking a third individual that was with the convict and the second man shortly before their arrest but managed to escape, for whom there is an outstanding arrest warrant issued two years ago.
 Migrant-trafficking gang dismantledA migrant-trafficking gang transporting illegal migrants into Greece and other European Union countries has been dismantled through the arrest of five Afghan nationals, a police announcement said on Saturday. The suspected leader of the gang, a Turkish national, is being sought.
The gang was using an apartment in the centre of Athens to illegally detain the migrants in order to extort money from their families. One of the five arrested was responsible for finding illegal migrants and bringing them to the apartment, where he handed them over to two gang members that acted as "jailors" and were responsible for physically and mentally abusing their victims in order to blackmail them into handing over money for their passage to another EU country.
Another of the gang members had a foreign exchange and cash transfer centre in Athens that was used by the members of the gang to move sums that they obtained through their illegal activities.
The gang is so far considered responsible for the abductions of two Iranian nationals and one Syrian national that were detained in the central Athens apartment in order to persuade their families to send money. The suspects arrested will be led before an Athens public prosecutor.
 Gang members arrested for burglaries on Corfu islandPolice arrested 6 individuals accused of committing a number of burglaries on the Ionian Sea island of Corfu since the beginning of the year, it was announced on Sunday.
The suspects, four teenagers aged 15 and 16, a 45-year-old man and a woman, 43, all Roma gypsies, were arrested during a police operation in the region of Livadi Ropa, while other two, aged 53 and 57, were also identified as members of the same gang.
According to police, the gang operated since the beginning of the year and carried out 20 burglaries taking electronic devices, jewelery and cash estimated to more than 140,000 euros.
 3.9 Richter tremor in KozaniA mild tremor measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale shook the region of Kozani at 7:38 a.m. on Saturday.
According to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki's Geophysics Laboratory, the epicentre of the quake was 25 kilometres southeast of Kozani, at the southwest end of Lake Polyphytos. This was the same region responsible for earthquake activity at the start of July, with the strongest quake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale.
 Mini-heatwave forecast this weekTemperatures are expected to soar in Greece over the next few days, climbing as high as 39C by Tuesday in the first mini-heatwave of 2013. Greeks throughout the country have responded by flocking to the seaside to escape the searing heat, especially those living in urban areas.
High temperatures will start to rise from Monday, when they are forecast to reach 37-38C, especially in western parts of the cuntry, before peaking at about 39C on Tuesday. The hottest regions will be in Attica, central Greece, Thessaly and urban areas that are not near the sea.
This is the first time that temperatures will climb so high this summer, though meteorologists say the phenomenon will not last long enough to be classed as a full-blown heatwave, which requires at least three days of high minimum and maximum temperatures.
In fact, Saturday and Sunday are expected to be slightly cooler than Friday by one or two degrees, as a result of northerly breezes, and temperatures are expected to subside again from Wednesday.
High temperatures on Monday
Generally fair with high temperatures and variable winds 2 to 4 Beaufort, reaching 6 at the Aegean Sea. Temperatures ranging from 20C to a high of 37C on the mainland and 38C on the western part of Greece including the Ionian islands, lower in the Cycladic Islands and Crete (31C) except the southern part of the island, and reaching 33C on the western Aegean Islands. In Athens, fair, with northerly winds 3 to 6 Beaufort. Temperatures from 23C to 36C, slightly lower in the east and north. In Thessaloniki, fair with variable winds 2 to 4 Beaufort. Temperatures from 21C to 34C.
 The Sunday edition of Athens newspapers at a glanceAVGHI: "Hidden agenda on wages, pensions, layoffs"
EPOCHI: "Mobility scheme in parliament"
ETHNOS: "Loan settlements coming in September"
KATHIMERINI: "(Viviane) Reding: troika's time is up"
KYRIAKATIKI DIMOKRATIA: "Surprise US plan for Greece"
KYRIAKATIKI ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Colpo grosso targeting Greece"
KYRIAKATIKOS RIZOSPASTIS: "Working-class families have a right to holidays"
PROTO THEMA: "(Finance Minister Yiannis) Stournaras: I admire (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble for his fortitude"
REAL NEWS: "Andreas G. Papandreou Foundation on a (financial crime squad) SDOE list"
TO PARON: "Tax evaders are protected"
TO VIMA: "Red October"
TYPOS TIS KYRIAKIS: "Hot autumn brings early elections scenarios"
VRADYNI: "(Social Insurance Foundation) IKA: retirement before the end of 2013"
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