|Tuesday, 20 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-07-31
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 19 September 2012 Issue No: 4178
 PM has three-hour meeting with finance ministerPrime Minister Antonis Samaras had a three-hour meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday, as ongoing negotiations between the Greek government and the EU-IMF troika continued.
As he was leaving the meeting, Stournaras predicted that spending cuts and other measures to reduce the budget deficit by more than 11.5 billion euro will probably be finalised on Sunday.
"I hope, by Sunday. We don't have much time, however," he said in reply to questions. Speaking off camera, he admitted that there was a gap between the government's positions and those of the troika but indicated that this gap "was closing".
 Greek FinMin sees 'light at the end of the tunnel'Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday expressed his optimism over a successful completion of negotiations with the troika, which were currently at a very crucial point. Addressing a Greek-Chinese Business Conference, organized by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Relations and the Confucius Institute of the Athens University of Economics, the Greek minister stressed that negotiations with the troika were hard and the package of measures were difficult. "We work day and night hoping to reach the necessary decision in October which will allow us to look at the future with optimism, leaving back past mistakes," Stournaras said adding that finally there was light at the end of tunnel.
The Greek minister said that this year's budget will be within limits accepted by the troika, despite two general elections in the country. Stournaras underlined the need to accelerate privatizations, a fight against tax evasion and promoting reforms where necessary. He said that an economic recession hitting the country was unprecedented, reaching 20 pct since the crisis erupted, and projected to reach 25 pct by the end of 2014. Stournaras said the country has covered two-thirds of a distance to achieve its fiscal consolidation targets, adding that following the implementation of an 11.5-billion-euro package of austerity measures, Greece will be one of the countries with the lowest spending rate as a percentage of GDP. He estimated that this year's primary budget deficit will reach 1.5 pct of GDP, up from an initial estimate of 1.0 pct, because of a deeper-than-expected economic recession in the country.
 Further cuts of 4 bln euros in state spending being soughtA four billion euro shortfall in the imminent package of measures to reduce state spending by 11.9 billion euros in the next two years, despite progress noted in Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras' meeting on Monday evening with the heads of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika mission in Athens, according to representatives of the three parties participating in the coalition government after a briefing by Stournaras following his meeting with the troika.
Stournaras met with representatives of the three parties in Greece's coalition government on Monday night to brief them on the progress of negotiations with Greece' creditors in order to finalize the measures that will make up a spending cuts package amounting to 11.9 billion euro.
The party representatives said that 750 million euro cuts in state operational expenditures and a large chunk of the cutbacks in health and defence spending are that 'thorns' that remain in the finalization of the package.
One of the party representatives, who attended the meeting with the troika, said later that "the measures are not enough, the troika wants even more blood", while another representative said that "things are very tough".
The parties' representatives said they 'have the impression' that the package of measures must be finalized by Sunday, and consider inevitable an increase in the retirement age to 67 from the current 65, as well as deep cuts in pensions and benefits, and public sector layoffs.
According to a senior foreign ministry official, the meeting has resulted in further progress but no firm decisions and talks were still ongoing. Meetings with representatives of Greece's creditors will continue on a daily basis until the negotiations are completed, the same source added.
In addition to Stournaras, members of the troika will also be having meetings with other ministers involved in the proposed spending cuts package in the next few days.
 Troika holds talks on labour-related measuresThe heads of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika mission in Greece on Tuesday had a meeting focusing on labour issues at the finance ministry, as well as a brief meeting with Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
The meeting on labour issues was with the finance ministry general secretary George Mergos and also joined by Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis.
A senior labour ministry official said that the talks had focused mainly on legislation regarding the minimum wage and the reduction of non-wage related labour costs, which are among Greece's obligations under the terms of bailout loans. The same source said that the labour ministry's contribution to the 11.9 billion euro in measures demanded by Greece's creditors was in the region of 4.8-5.0 billion euro and he denied all knowledge of further planned cuts to wages and pensions.
The meeting with Stournaras was held just after the minister returned from a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras while the scheduled meeting between the troika and the finance minister is to take place on Wednesday afternoon.
Also on Wednesday is a planned meeting between Vroutsis and the head of the European Commission's Task Force for Greece Horst Reichenbach, which will be held at the labour ministry at 9:00 a.m. According to sources, Reichenbach held talks at the labour ministry on Tuesday with a team of troika technical experts that wrapped up his contacts with the heads of ministry departments to discuss labour relations and social insurance matters.
 Law to abolish 'extra' pension for trade unionistsDraft legislation soon to be tabled in Parliament by Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis will from November 1, 2012 abolish a special supplementary pension previously paid to high-ranking trade union officials, in addition to their normal pensions.
The special pension was first established in 1937 under the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas and was received by the presidents and general secretaries of primary and secondary trade union organisations, as well as the management of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) trade union confederation with a 12-year term up to 1999, including those elected in 1998 that completed their 12-year term in subsequent years.
According to the labour ministry, the change affects a few hundred pensions ranging from 200 euro to 600 euro that are paid by the IKA supplementary pension fund and financed with a percentage of the contributions paid to IKA.
 Spending cuts package cannot be delayed, Venizelos tells PASOK meetingDecisions on the final package of measures to reduce Greece's deficit by at least 11.5 billion euro cannot be delayed and will necessarily be the result of a double compromise, PASOK party president Evangelos Venizelos told a meeting of PASOK MPs and officials on Tuesday. He noted that the measures must be negotiated within the government itself, between the three parties making up the coalition, and also between the government and the EU-IMF troika.
While the final decisions could not be 'rushed', they had to be made quickly so that the next 'mega-tranche' of loans to Greece amounting to 31 billion euro might be disbursed, provide the Greek market with the necessary liquidity and allow an extension of the loan period, he said.
PASOK's leader also emphasised that there must be government stability that extended further than the current four-year term and predicted that, at the next elections, the balance of the vote will swing in favour of the parties that were now behaving responsibly.
Questioned about the size of the spending cuts demanded by Greece's creditors, Venizelos noted that this had been agreed under the second loan agreement and that this amount was necessary in order for the country to achieve a primary surplus of 4.5 percent, which combined with a 2.5 percent annual growth rate will allow Greece to exit the debt crisis.
He went on to repeat PASOK's position against further 'horizontal' cuts to pay and pensions and reductions to disability benefits while opposing the dismissal of civil servants, calling for evaluation instead.
PASOK's leader then outlined the party's main strategies over the next period, saying that PASOK was and will remain a factor of stability for the country and noting that cooperation with the Democratic Left (DIMAR) was a strategic choice. He called for a 'clear front' with the main opposition party, Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), and a similarly clear front with far-right nationalists Golden Dawn. Finally, he said that PASOK believed elections must be held at the end of the present government's term.
 Samaras in Rome on Thurs.Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will be in Rome on Thursday, a before he will meet with his Italian counterpart Mario Monti, within the framework of ongoing contacts with European leaders and officials, ahead of the EU Summit in October.
In the afternoon Samaras will participate at the CDI congress.
Pope Benedict XVI will receive Samaras on Saturday.
 New meeting on Thursday between leaders of the three parties supporting the governmentThe new meeting between Prime Minister and New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras with the leaders of the other two parties supporting the government, namely PASOK's Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left's Fotis Kouvelis, will be taking place on Thursday afternoon, it was announced on Tuesday.
 Tsipras accuses PM of pre-elections deception of citizensMain opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday tabled a timely question to prime minister Antonis Samaras accusing the three-party coalition government of pre-election deception and of advancing to parliament a new package of disastrous measures of extreme austerity and recession.
"The pre-elections deception of the citizens with pledges on a 'renegotiation' and 'disengagement' (from the Memorandum) gave its place to a mockery-agreement and afterwards to a new wave of harsh and disastrous measures," charged Tsipras.
Tsipras also asks the prime minister about the cutbacks in salaries, pensions, benefits and the investments programme, moreover, he criticizes him for the privatisation of the Agriculture Bank and the imminent privatisation of the Hellenic Postbank (TT).
 KKE party on Juncker statements on improvement of competitivenessThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), referring to statements by eurozone president Jean-Claude Juncker, said on Tuesday that "the 'bravos' by the president of the eurozone on the improvement of competitiveness and the drop in the so-called salary cost reveal what the real target of the memorandums is, and shows the big lies of the parties of the coalition government and the great hypocrisy of the parties pretending to be anti-memorandum, while they support the competitiveness of capital and the country's stay in the EU".
 Turkish foreign minister to soon visit Greece, Avramopoulos tells Parl't CommitteeTurkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will be visiting Athens in the near future, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos informed Parliament's foreign affairs committee during a briefing on Tuesday. He also announced a visit by Albanian Foreign Minister Edmond Panariti the week after next and said that the Foreign Policy Council will be convened for the first time in 18 months on October 8.
In comments on Greek-Turkish relations, Avramopoulos underlined that Turkey must finally lift its threat of war in the case that Greece decides to extend its territorial waters and that Greece does not recognise any 'grey' zones in the Aegean.
"For us there are no 'grey' zones. These things are absolutely clear. They are not open to either discussion or misinterpretation. We make this clear in every direction," he said.
Regarding the Muslim minority living in Thrace, Avramopoulos said that Athens is conscientiously fulfilling its commitments in line with international rules and in the framework of a policy of equality before the law and state.
The minister went on to announce plans to set up a special expert committee including academics, scientists and diplomats in order to work on a new foreign policy doctrine in line with the new economic situation and state of affairs.
With respect to the Cyprus issue, he underlined that Cyprus remains a supreme priority for the Greek government and that the economic crisis will not affect Greece's stance on this issue. He said that Ankara had committed a 'strategic error' when it failed to exploit Cyprus' declaration of an Exclusive Economic Zone in order to improve relations.
The minister also briefed the committee on foreign ministry spending, noting that the ministry's budget was just 0.18 percent of the state's budget, with spending down to 290 million euro in 2012 from 485 million euro in 2008.
 Foreign Affairs Council to convene on Oct. 8The Foreign Affairs Council will convene for the first time in 19 months on October 8, after completion of the UN assembly, foreign minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced on Tuesday.
Avramopoulos, briefing the relevant parliamentary standing committee on the targets and priorities of his ministry, said the goal is a national and efficient foreign policy that will positive impact the country's economic growth.
He also said that a special committe of experts comprising scientists, diplomats and academics would soon be set up to prepare a proposal for Greece's new foreign policy dogma given the new international economic and foreign status quo.
The committee will submit its proposal in early 2013, the minister said, and promised that the ministry will be in constant contact with the political parties, parliament, diplomats and entities inside and outside Greece, noting however that the final say lies with the prime minister and parliament.
Avramopoulos further announced that Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu would visit Athens in the near future, while Albanian foreign minister Edmond Panariti was due in Athens the week after next.
 KKE party on situation in SyriaThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), commenting Tuesday on the situation prevailing in Syria, referred to the "strengthening of contradictions and of imperialist aggression as a result of the capitalist crisis and the difficulties of managing it in the EU and the US," adding that there will be "consequences even in capitalist economies that have high growth rates for the time being".
It added that these "antagonisms signal very dangerous developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the wider region, while the situation is combined with the channeling of capital to war conflicts as a means of controlling the capitalist crisis."
KKE stressed that the "main target of every imperialist power is the control and exploitation of natural resources, energy channels and transport 'arteries', it lies behind the imperialist wars launched by the US, NATO, the EU with Great Britain and France being the main protagonists, in Afghanistan in 2001, in Iraq in 2003 and recently in Libya", that were launched with the pretext of "cracking down on terrorism" and the "granting of humanitarian aid" which "are also being used for the preparation of a new imperialist war against Syria and Iran."
On the question of Syria, KKE points out that "new evidence is being presented continuously and which is linked to the foreign intervention in the country's affairs and the conflict of regional and global imperialist forces in conditions of global capitalist crisis."
KKE concludes by saying "the struggle must get stronger now to prevent every involvement, every participation by our country in the imperialist wars", adding that "the clouds of the imperialist war are getting darker".
 Draft law on expatriate vote to be tabled by Ind'p Greeks partyThe opposition Independent Greeks party will table a draft law allowing expatriates to vote in Greece's general elections from their country of residence, with a provision envisioned to allow them the opportunity to be represented in parliament, it was announced on Tuesday.
Party president Panos Kammenos emphasised that "Hellenism, and Greek expatriates, in particular, should participate in democratic procedures at a time when the nation is under attack."
 Democratic Left MP says he won't vote for measuresDemocratic Left party deputy Odysseus Voudouris, speaking to a local radio station, replied "no" when asked whether he will vote for the new austerity measures.
Voudouris said that "it is clear that this has nothing to do with the commitments of the Democratic Left, it has nothing to do with the policy of the Democratic Left, with its values and principles. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with the programme agreement".
 Judge appointed to Greek permanent representation in BrusselsThe supreme judicial council for civil and criminal Justice has appointed first instance court of Piraeus judge Alkiviadis Feresidis as the representative of the judiciary at Greece's permanent mission in Brussels, it was announced on Tuesday. He will serve a term of two years.
 Task Force chief says 'impressed' with progress after meeting with development ministerEuropean Commission (EC) Task Force chief for Greece Horst Reichenbach said Tuesday that he is impressed with the progress achieved by the ministry of development, competitiveness, infrastructures, transport and networks, after a meeting in Athens with minister Costis Hatzidakis and his staff.
Hatzidakis, in turn, stressed the need for a developmental dimension in Greece's agreement with its partners.
Reichenbach said that the progress "is impressive", despite the fact that the coalition government has been in office for "fewer than 100 days", adding that he is also impressed by the manner in which the work is being carried out and the priorities placed by the ministry, which he described as the "driving force of the structural changes".
"We must do in a few months everything that wasn't done over many years," Hatzidakis said, adding: "We want to be the ministry of the structural changes. We are working along target-tables and timetables. The target is that any agreement with the troika will not have only a dimension of fiscal adjustment measures but also the dimension of a development package. Our partners and the EU want the programme to succeed because this would be their success too, but it will be a much greater success for us and our families."
During the meeting, Hatzidakis presented to the Task Force -- which has a consultative role to the government -- the progress achieved in the recent period. According to sources, the two sides discussed the placement of coordinators for the specific actions of the ministry, the signing of an accord with the OECD for utilization of its 'toolbox' for competition, and finalization of the decisions related to the licensing of professions.
They also discussed the negotiations with the concession holders on restarting the motorways, aimed at an initial agreement by the end of the month; simplification and modernization of market police legislation, which was put to public deliberation as of Monday; revision of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), on which the government will submit its proposals by the end of the month; the drafting of a National Plan to facilitate exports, in collaboration with the Dutch experts; changes to the developmental law that are tentatively scheduled to be announced next week; and elimination of the obstacles to competition, on which the ministry has asked for specific proposals from the market entities and consumer organizations by the end of the month.
Hatzidakis reiterated to Reichenbach the need for setting up a Greek Development Fund, which is tied with the next NSRF (2014-2020), which is at risk of having fewer funds earmarked for Greece if the Commission does not amend its proposals for taking into consideration the pre-crisis growth level of the country. For this purpose, Hatzidakis is due to travel on October 4 to the European Parliament, where he will have negotiations on the new NSRF, while on the following day he will represent prime minister Antonis Samaras at the EU Cohesion Countries conference in Bratislava.
 FinMin Stournaras holds meeting with Task Force head ReichenbachThe monitoring of the budget's implementation and tax policy issues, as well as the Road Map for combatting corruption were the focus of the meeting Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held at the Finance ministry on Tuesday afternoon with the head of the European Commission's Task Force for Greece Horst Reichenbach and with the participation of Deputy Finance Minister George Mavraganis.
According to the Finance ministry, the Task Force acknowledged that the ministry is now doing the best and most reliable monthly monitoring of a budget's implementation in all of Europe.
 SYRIZA delegation holds talks with ReichenbachA delegation of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party, headed by Yiannis Dragasakis, outlined the basic principles of its economic programme as well as its positions on the economic policy being implemented in Greece over the past years, to European Commission (EC) Task Force chief for Greece Horst Reichenbach, during their meeting in Parliament on Tuesday.
The meeting took place following a request by the EC's office in Athens.
According to an announcement by SYRIZA, the party's delegation stressed that "the crisis is taking on dangerous social dimensions, since it plagues wide sections of the population", while the delegation also called on Reichenbach to include in his report a special chapter concerning the social repercussions of the unprecedented economic crisis harming the country.
 Environment ministry leadership holds 'constructive meeting' with Task Force headAlternate Environment and Energy Minister Stavros Kalafatis termed as "constructive" the meeting held on Tuesday between Environment and Energy Minister Evangelos Livieratos with the head of the European Commission's Task Force for Greece Horst Reichenbach.
The meeting focused on the issues of refuse management and the completion of the National Land Register, as well as the sensitisation of citizens on environmental issues.
Kalafatis said after the meeting that "it was ascertained that there is ground for cooperation between the Environment ministry and the Task Force, particularly with regard to the issues of the management of refuse and the Land Register", saying characteristically that "these are two sectors in which we are determined to work hard".
 Greek current account balance shows first surplus since May 2010 in JulyGreece's current account balance showed a surplus in July 2012 -for the first time since since May 2010- totaling 642 million euros, from a deficit of 880 million euros in July 2011, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that the country's trade deficit fell by 836 million euros, as a result of a 389 million decrease in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships, as well as declines of 305 and 142 million in net payments for purchases of ships and the net oil bill, respectively. The trade deficit excluding oil and ships shrank due mainly to the considerably reduced import bill (down by 346 million euros or 15.8%), as export receipts rose by only 43 million or 3.9%. The surplus of the services balance increased by 56 million as a result of a rise in net transport receipts and an improvement in the "other" services balance, which more than offset a decline in net travel receipts. In more detail, compared with July 2011, travel spending in Greece by non-residents declined by 2.8% and travel spending abroad by residents fell by 11.9%; as a result, net receipts decreased by 35 million euros. In the same month, non-residents' arrivals decreased by 4.1%, according to data from the Bank of Greece's border survey. Gross transport receipts (chiefly from merchant shipping) fell by 2.9% and the corresponding payments declined by 14.8%, resulting in higher net receipts by 56 million. The income account deficit fell by 749 million, almost exclusively on account of lower net payments for interest, dividends and profits, which, in turn, mainly reflect a 573 million decline in net interest payments on Greek government bonds held by non-residents following the PSI. Finally, the current transfers balance showed a deficit of 89 million, compared with a surplus of 31 million in July 2011, chiefly as a result of net general government transfer payments (mainly to the EU), compared with net transfer receipts in July 2011.
In the January-July 2012 period, the current account deficit contracted by 7.4 billion euros or 53.3% year-on-year, to 6.5 billion. This development mainly reflects a substantial decline of 3.9 billion euros in the non-oil trade deficit and a 2.8 billion euros decrease in the income account deficit, as well as increases of 486 million and 88 million in the surpluses of the services balance and the current transfers balance. In more detail, the trade deficit decreased by 4.0 billion, as a result of a 2.4 billion (or 30.4%) decline in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships and a 1.5 billion drop in net payments for purchases of ships, whereas the net oil bill recorded a very small decrease (of 71 million or 1.1%). Receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships rose by 5.9%, while the corresponding import bill fell at a much faster (double) pace (by 12.8%).
The increase observed in the surplus of the services balance in the first seven months of 2012 is primarily due to higher net transport receipts and, secondarily, lower net payments for "other" services, while net travel receipts declined. In more detail, travel spending in Greece by non-residents fell markedly. At the same time however, travel spending abroad by residents fell by 15.6%, thus limiting the decline in net receipts to 170 million. Over the same period, gross transport receipts remained almost unchanged (-0.9%), but the corresponding payments dropped by 13.5%; as a result, net receipts rose by 514 million. The income account deficit fell by 2.8 billion euros year-on-year, mainly owing to a sharp decline in net interest payments on Greek government bonds held by non-residents following the PSI, as well as deferred interest payments on loans provided under the support mechanism through the ECB, owing to an interest rate adjustment. Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of ? 1.1 billion, up by ? 88 million year-on-year. This development is due to a ? 129 million decline in the net transfer payments of sectors other than general government (mainly emigrants' remittances), while net transfer receipts of general government (mainly from the EU) fell by ? 42 million.
In July 2012, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 151 million euros, compared with 254 million in July 2011, reflecting a decline in net EU capital transfers to general government. In the January-July 2012 period, the capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 1.2 billion euros, compared with 564 million in the corresponding period of 2011. This stems exclusively from a rise in net EU capital transfers to general government. The combined current account and capital transfers balance (corresponding to the economy's external financing requirements) showed -- for the first time since August 2011 -- a surplus, which came to 793 million in July 2012, compared with a 625 million deficit in July 2011. In the January-July 2012 period, this balance showed a deficit of 5.2 billion, compared with ? 13.3 billion in the corresponding period of 2011 (down by 60.5%), i.e. it fell at a faster pace than the current account deficit.
In July 2012, non-residents' direct investment in Greece showed a net inflow of 2.2 billion euros. The most significant transaction concerns an inflow of 2.320 billion for the participation of Cr?dit Agricole (France) in the share capital increase of Emporiki Bank. Residents' direct investment abroad recorded a net outflow (increase) of 3 million, without any remarkable transaction. As regards portfolio investment, a net outflow of 517 million was recorded. Under "other" investment, a net inflow of 2.6 billion was recorded, which is mainly attributable to a net decline of 3.2 billion in non-residents' deposit and repo holdings in Greece (outflow), as well as a net decline of 254 million in the outstanding debt of the public and the private sector to non-residents (outflow). These developments were offset by a 920 million decrease in resident credit institutions' and institutional investors' deposit and repo holdings abroad (inflow).
In the January-July 2012 period, direct investment showed a net inflow of 2.6 billion euros (compared with a net outflow of ? 1.3 billion in the corresponding period of 2011). A net outflow of 72.5 billion was observed under portfolio investment (against a net inflow of 9.4 billion in the corresponding period of 2011). Under "other" investment, a net inflow of 76.1 billion was recorded (compared with a net inflow of 24.4 billion in the corresponding period of 2011).
At end-July 2012, Greece's reserve assets stood at 5.5 billion euros.
 Private investments will help towards economic recovery, IOBE saysA moderate increase in private investments in the country, beginning from 2013, could lead to the recovery of huge losses suffered by a deep economic recession, Raphael Moysis, the vice-president of the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Tuesday.
Addressing a Greek-Chinese business conference in Athens, Moysis said such a development could also help to bring the public debt below 120 pct of GDP by 2020, while he added that according to IOBE surveys - due to be released - the economic sentiment and consumer confidence indexes have improved markedly in the aftermath of the June general elections.
 Greece raises 1.3 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at a lower cost. The Public Debt Management Organization in a statement said that the average interest rate of the issue was set at 4.31 pct, down from 4.43 pct in the previous auction of same T-bills. The issue was 1.98 times oversubscribed, up from 1.36 times in the previous auction.
 Chinese envoy: Prospects for developing bilateral trade, economic ties considerableThe ambassador of the People's Republic of China, Du Qiwen, referred to the considerable prospects for further strengthening trade and economic relations between Greece and China, addressing a Greek-Chinese business conference, organised by the Athens Confucius Institute of the Athens Economic University and IOBE.
The high-ranking Chinese diplomat referred to Greece in positive terms, and underlined that the long friendship between China and Greece constitutes a stable basis for the development of business cooperation between the two countries.
He acknowledged the country's major efforts at present amid the ongoing economic crisis, stressing that "our Greek friends must know that we are fully aware of the painful efforts they are making and we want them to know that in this effort they are not alone".
The ambassador also referred to the possibility of further strengthening relations between the two countries in the sectors of tourism, renewable energy sources and shipping while, lastly, he expressed his best wishes to the Greek government for its success in implementing necessary reforms.
 SETE: Higher tourist influx from China a condition for greater Chinese investmentsA greater influx of tourists from the People's Republic China (PRC) is a necessary condition for greater Chinese investments in Greece, Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) President Andreas Andreadis said on Tuesday.
Addressing the second annual Greece-China business conference in Athens, he pointed out that Chinese tourists selecting Greece should reach half a million annually, up from the roughly 100,000 that visited Greece, mainly via other Schengen countries, and not directly, stressing that this is a condition for Greece to attract Chinese investors.
The SETE president said this is an attainable target provided that a specialised marketing plan is implemented and that a privatisations' programme is finally jumpstarted. He used Russia as an example, saying that country has managed to attract one million Chinese tourists annually, over the last decade.
Referring to the overall tourist flow in Greece, he pointed out that the 16-million-tourists target will be met creating the basis for very good results in 2012.
 Shipping and Aegean minister holds meeting with US ambassadorShipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Mousouroulis met on Tuesday with US ambassador Daniel Bennett Smith.
The meeting focused on the issue of the increased migratory flows from the east, due to the developments in Syria, while emphasis was placed on the plan for the development of sea tourism, with emphasis on the double target of both increasing the number of cruise ships that Greek ports attract and the increase in home porting.
Lastly, the ministry's initiatives were discussed on developing and utilising port infrastructures and the attraction of investments.
 Crackdown on black market trade launched; police seize millions of knock-off brand itemsDevelopment, Competitiveness & Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Tuesday announced the launch of an extensive and continuous, as he termed it, crackdown on the sale and peddling of "black market" goods throughout the country, as well as revision of the institutional framework for street vendors in order to guarantee greater transparency.
Hatzidakis chaired the first session of a coordinating centre against illegal trade, comprised of representatives of the business sector and relevent government ministries. Reports on "black market" violations will be received via the 1520 hotline.
The minister underlined that "we are moving on from theory to action," adding that immediate destruction of confiscated goods on the spot is not enough, and that "we need to tackle the problem at its roots."
In a related development, roughly two million items, all knock-off brands, mainly sunglasses, athletic shoes, perfumes and clothing, were found in four containers and were confiscated in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens proper, by motorcycle police during a routine patrol four days ago, it was announced on Tuesday.
Two foreign nationals arrested at the scene were also charged with attempted bribery when they allegedly offered 5,000 euros to arresting officers.
 BoG Gov. says his salary to be cut by another 30%Bank of Greece (BoG) Governor George Provopoulos on Tuesday announced that he will recommend that his salary be cut by 30 pct, according to a letter he addressed to European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi.
The letter underlined that the BoG will continue its efforts aimed at reducing its operating costs and that within this framework, the BoG governor has decided to cut his salary by an additional 30 pct, after a decrease of 20 pct in 2009, bringing the cumulative decline to 50 pct.
The two BoG deputy governors have also agreed to cut their salaries by the same percentage.
The operating costs of the BoG have been reduced by 21 pct in the period 2010-2011 by cutting overtime pay and travel expenses and after downsizing its branch network by 40 pct.
The BoG wage and pension bill was reduced by 14 pct over the past two years, while a new three-year wage agreement effective since May 2012 has reduced the salaries paid by 17 pct.
 Greek merchant marine fleet down in JulyThe Greek merchant marine fleet fell by 3.6 pct in July this year, after falling by 3.7 pct in the same month in 2011, totaling 1,968 vessels, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said total capacity of the Greek merchant marine fleet was 44,086,726 gross tons in July 2012, up 2.2 pct from the corresponding month last year.
 Demonstration outside Finance MinistryFinance ministry and Tax Bureau employees and customs officials early Tuesday staged a demonstration outside the finance ministry headquarters in downtown Athens, protesting against planned additional salary cuts.
The demonstrators symbolically blocked the entrance to the ministry.
 Stocks jump 2.86 pctStocks resumed their upward trend, following Monday's correction, at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 750-point level.
The finance minister's comment that an agreement on a new package of austerity measures would be reached by Sunday and expectations that the country will receive a two-year extension of its economic program, encouraged sentiment in the market. Buying activity focused on bank shares. The composite index rose 2.86 pct to end at 755.98 points, after falling as much as 2.37 pct during the session.
Turnover was an improved 76.12 million euros. The Big Cap index jumped 3.96 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 4.24 pct higher. The Food sector was the only one to end lower (2.82 pct), while Utilities (8.53 pct), Banks (8.34 pct) and Financial Services (8.09 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Coca Cola 3E (2.84 pct) and Titan (0.07 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end lower, while Cyprus Bank (13.75 pct), Eurobank (13.48 pct), MIG (11.24 pct) and PPC (9.83 pct) were top gainers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 93 to 48 with another 18 issues unchanged.
Parnassos (22.97 pct), Cyprus Bank (13.75 pct) and Eurobank (13.48 pct) were top gainers, while Spider (20 pct), Varvaresos (19.62 pct) and Vioter (18.52 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +3.85%
Personal & Household: +0.31%
Raw Materials: +6.49%
Travel & Leisure: +2.09%
Food & Beverages: -2.82%
Financial Services: +8.09%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Bank of Piraeus and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.68
Public Power Corp (PPC): 3.80
HBC Coca Cola: 14.38
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.04
National Bank of Greece: 2.05
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 1.12
Bank of Piraeus: 0.39
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank slightly to 18.5 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 18.57 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 20.65 pct and the German Bund 1.62 pct. Turnover totaled 2.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.73 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.47 pct, the three-month rate was 0.24 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.10 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 1.34 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising again to 41.115 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 19,328 contracts worth 26.568 million euros, with 30,529 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 110,757 contracts worth 14.547 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (31,388), followed by Alpha Bank (14,185), Cyprus Bank (17,746), MIG (3,294), OTE (9,263), PPC (4,456), OPAP (3,732), Piraeus Bank (13,192), Cyprus Popular Bank (2,965), Mytilineos (1,109), Eurobank (3,063) and GEK (3,913).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.325
Pound sterling 0.815
Danish kroner 7.565
Swedish kroner 8.697
Japanese yen 104.18
Swiss franc 1.229
Norwegian kroner 7.577
Canadian dollar 1.292
Australian dollar 1.271
 Greek, Chinese geoparks sign cooperation agreementA cooperation agreement signed on Tuesday between China's Mount Sanqingshan Geopark and the Lesvos Petrified Forest Geopark highlighted a visit to the northern eastern Aegean island by a high-ranking Chinese delegation headed by the secretary-general of the Chinese government, Sheng Maolin.
The Chinese officials arrived on Lesvos last Thursday and had meetings with local and regional authorities, as well as with representatives of the Aegean University on the island.
 Police arrest gang linked to 49 armed robberiesThe Attica Security Police Crimes Against Life and Property department on Tuesday announced the arrest of five suspected members of the notorious 'Kalashnikov gang', which is held responsible for 49 armed robberies. The gang was notable for the ruthlessness of its members, who did not hesitate to fire upon either civilians or police in order to carry out their aims or get away.
The five suspects, one Greek and four Albanians, were tracked down and arrested through an investigation and coordinated police operation carried out by Attica security police. Among the gang's targets were jewellery shops, supermarkets, security vans, ordinary homes and even individuals held up on the street.
During the gang's career, its members had fired shots a total of seven times and in two cases had injured their victims. On another two occasions they had fired against police in pursuit and on other occasions, shots were fired in the air as a warning.
In addition to the five suspects in custody, another suspected member of the gang is an Albanian man that has been incarcerated in Korydallos prison since October 2011, after his arrest during a police pursuit along the Athens-Lamia national highway. During that incident, members of the gang fired several times against a DIAS police patrol that was in pursuit.
The suspects are to face charges for at least nine jewellery shop heists, 14 supermarket robberies, one robbery targeting a cleaning company, a security van heist, and 24 robberies and burglaries in homes where the owners' cars were also taken.
According to a police spokesman, the gang would frequently alter the composition of the members used in each robbery, as well as its methods and chosen targets, in order to avoid leaving a trail for police to follow. In cases where one of its members was arrested, or trapped or pursued by police, the rest would remain inactive for some time in order to throw police off their scent and make it hard to connect different robberies.
In house searches conducted during the police operation leading to the suspects' arrest, police found four Kalashnikov rifles with 14 clips, two revolvers, three handguns, four clips for various calibres of handgun, roughly 1,000 shells of various calibres, six hand-grenades, eight pieces of explosives, a slow-burning fuse, two packages of cannabis weighing 582 grammes, 3,500 euro, jewellery, bullet-proof vests, gloves, hats, full-face hoods and bags of the type used by the robbers.
They also confiscated a battering ram, three cars, two motorbikes, three laptops, four hard disks, five SIM card packages and 25 mobile phones.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the suspects' possible connection to other illegal activities.
 Agathonissi migrants led to jail on SamosA group of 58 migrants from Syria, Algeria and Palestine arrived safely on the island of Samos on board the ship "Kalymnos" at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, where they were taken directly to the island's police jail. The group had been held on the island of Agathonissi for six days, where they had been involved in confrontations with local law enforcement when some of their number attempted to board a ferry boat leaving the island.
Of the 58 migrants, among them 22 women and children, 32 women and families with children will leave Samos under police escort at 6:00 p.m. on board the ferry boat "Ierapetra" and be taken to the Attica Court Transfers Department.
The rest will be held in the Samos police jails, along with another 12 migrants that arrived from the Turkish coast on Tuesday and 95 migrants already detained there.
 24-hour strike rail strike in Athens on ThursdayFixed rail public transport workers in Athens will hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest what they called government austerity measures targeting wage-earners and pensioners, a union announcement stated on Tuesday.
According to the announcement, the wider public sector's employees have suffered significant wage cuts over the past three years and any new reduction will ruin them financially.
They also expressed opposition to anticipated ticket price hikes and called on the government to return ticket prices to 2009 levels.
 Police on track of robbery ringAttica Police launched a huge operation on Monday noon to locate and arrest members of a multimember robbery ring.
Thirteen suspects have been already detained, four of them were arrested
 Rainy on WednesdayRainy weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-5 beauforte. Temperatures between 18C and 28C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens with temperatures between 18C and 28C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 19C and 26C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe ongoing negotiations for the 11.9 billion euros austerity measures mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The package of measures, the retirement age at 67 and the cutbacks in lump sum retirement superannuities".
AVGHI: "Tax storm after the cutbacks".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The hirings in public sector until the end of 2012".
ETHNOS: "The burning package in the leaders' hands".
IMERISSIA: "Close to agreement".
KATHIMERINI: "Harsh line from troika".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The package is not closing but the time is ending".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Struggle front for free health based on the current needs".
TA NEA: "The CD with the 54,000 Greeks that sent 22 bln euros abroad".
VRADYNI: "The new retirement age as of January 2013".
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