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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-08-01

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 1 August 2013 Issue No: 4422

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece has made 'significant progress', IMF report
  • [02] EFSF releases 4.0-bln-euro tranche to Greece
  • [03] SYRIZA: IMF and EU reports to extend 'suffering of the Greek people'
  • [04] SYRIZA 'against progress', gov't spokesman says
  • [05] KKE warns that more labour rights attacks are coming after IMF, EU reports
  • [06] Greek defence minister meets U.S. Secretary of Defense in Washington
  • [07] Avramopoulos and Hagel agree on a 'U.S.-Greece Defense Cooperation Roadmap'
  • [08] Turkish soldiers interrupt anti-flood works on Greek side of Evros River
  • [09] Turkish fighter jets fly over Greek islands
  • [10] Primary home auctions from start of 2014, Deputy Development minister says
  • [11] Tourism ministry draft law, amendment on EYDAP passed by parliament
  • [12] Interior Minister presents Pakistani national with honorary residence permit for heroism
  • [13] Culture ministry staff strike over mobility scheme
  • [14] Charges against seven at ERT transmitter site 'groundless', former employees' union says
  • [15] SYRIZA leader calls for struggle to overthrow 'memorandum gov't'
  • [16] DIM.AR leader Fotis Kouvelis proposes creation of new alliance
  • [17] Cousin lays the sole blame on former minister Tsohatzopoulos in court testimony
  • [18] New circular issued on details of VAT reduction in restaurants/catering
  • [19] Gen. Sec for revenues denies VAT 'confusion' reports
  • [20] Overdue debts of 4 billion euros paid by the state to private sector
  • [21] Interest rate spread up 12 bps in June
  • [22] Environment minister meets with Danish ambassador
  • [23] Large-scale construction projects, better bus services top Transport Ministry's agenda
  • [24] Greek retail sales down 2.2 pct in May
  • [25] Passenger traffic down, cargo traffic up in Greek ports
  • [26] Road accidents up 0.7 pct on annual basis in May, ELSTAT reports
  • [27] Siemens announces launch of scholarship programme agreed with Greek state
  • [28] Greek stocks end 2.04 pct higher
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [32] Eight arrests in connection with Chios arms case
  • [33] Four dead in fight at Rom camp in Gastouni, Ilia
  • [34] Roger Waters 'The Wall Live' at Athens' OAKA stadium on Wednesday
  • [35] Explosion at Kolonaki fast-food souvlaki shop
  • [36] British tourists injured, one fatally, in separate incidents on Zakynthos
  • [37] Samothrace ferry delayed two hours due to worker dispute
  • [38] Armed robbers get away with 40,000 from Ioannina post office
  • [39] Pharmaceutical company heist solved
  • [40] Cooler on Thursday
  • [41] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

  • [01] Greece has made 'significant progress', IMF report

    Greece has made "significant progress" in correcting imbalances (existing) before the crisis, the International Monetary Fund said in a report.

    The report drawn up by the IMF's delegation to Greece underlined, however, that "there were significant delays and deviations" and that a reform effort is "way back from schedule".

    Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF's delegation to Greece, said that Greece, with the help of unprecedented European and international support and a stable fiscal adjustment by Greek authorities, was now on the threshold of achieving primary balances - a remarkable achievement - while "external imbalances have also fallen significantly".

    The report said that Greece was now in the sixth year of recession, with GDP down by almost 25 pct, unemployment at around 27 pct and youth unemployment at 57 pct.

    It underlined, however, that "the high cost of adjustment in a significant part reflected the delayed, hesitant and fractional implementation of structural reforms," which had clashed, via "repeated political crises," with "vested interests" that affected the investment climate in the country. The report said that reforms needed to move forward rapidly "to unlock growth and create new jobs".

    The IMF report said that recent macro-economic developments are generally in line with the programme's estimates and that fiscal results so far are generally consistent with the programme's targets. The report said that delays in setting property taxes, overshooting in health budget spending and weaknesses in the tax collecting mechanisms were possible risks to the programme. The IMF said that there has been some progress in tax administration, in strengthening the independence of tax revenue, although debt collection is lagging behing targets despite recent legislative changes.

    The report also noted that Greek authorities closed down the former public broadcaster ERT in June and were planning to launch a new, smaller and more effective station.

    [02] EFSF releases 4.0-bln-euro tranche to Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)

    The European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) on Wednesday announced the release of a 4.0 billion euros tranche to Greece. In a statement, EFSF said the tranche included 2.5 billion euros from the Fund and 1.5 billion euros from profits made by European central banks through a Greek bond swap programe.

    Claus Regling, president of ESM and EFSF, in a statement said that "the transfer of 1.5 billion euros from European central banks' profits to Greece is proof of additional solidarity shown by Eurozone states to the Greek people which makes significant efforts to exit the crisis".

    Regling said that the release of 2.5 billion euros from the EFSF was made possible after Greece satisfied all 22 prior actions necessary. The 2.5 billion euros will be used for the funding of Greek budget and servicing the country's public debt obligations. Greece has received 133.04 billion euros so far from the EFSF, from a sum of 144.6 billion euros envisaged by the programe.

    [03] SYRIZA: IMF and EU reports to extend 'suffering of the Greek people'

    The recent reports by the IMF and the European Commission "came to confirm in the most obvious way the stalemate of the applied policy and the extension of the martyrdom and trials most Greek citizens have suffered the last few years," the main opposition, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party, said on Wednesday.

    SYRIZA's economic policy division said that some of the evidence that the plan will not work include a funding gap of 10.9 billion euros and a fiscal gap of 4.3 billion euros, which "disprove the storybook tale of the government's success story, opening the way to new measures and extending those in existence."

    The party announcement listed measures in the public realm already, involving the extension of an "emergency fee" to 2016 and of the real estate tax collected through Public Power Corporation bills into 2014.

    The reports, it said, have "an obsessive fixation on increasing the burden of the known beasts of burden - salaried personnel, pensioners, professionals and small business owners - by lifting the burden of large capital," and it called for the overturn of the policies and the biparty government through elections.

    [04] SYRIZA 'against progress', gov't spokesman says

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) "denies any change, any progress, and insists on yesterday's mistakes," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Wednesday. "The only way for the government is to guarantee a better tomorrow," he said.

    [05] KKE warns that more labour rights attacks are coming after IMF, EU reports

    When the IMF, the European Commission and the government "talk about progress, they mean the breakdown of the labour rights of the population"to "strengthen and revive capital's profiteering," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) charged on Wednesday.

    Responding to the recent IMF and EC reports on the Greek economy, the KKE warned that "when they speak of delays and the need to accelerate reforms, the people should expect a new round of attacks on labour rights, insurance, health, and education," and called on the labour class and low-income classes to "lose no more time, expecting things to improve" but fight for their own interests.

    [06] Greek defence minister meets U.S. Secretary of Defense in Washington

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)

    The United States recognise Greece's "strategic role" as an important factor for "security, cooperation, understanding and stability," Greek National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon. The meeting was held late on Tuesday night (Greek time).

    "We had a very warm and friendly meeting and discussion on issues of broader bilateral and international interest. He asked me my opinion on developments in the broader eastern Mediterranean region, about Syria, Egypt and Libya," Avramopoulos said after the meeting.

    The minister noted that he had an opportunity to present the views of the Greek side, while stressing its proximity to the region and its desire to lead things in a direction that will promote peace, security and cooperation in the area.

    The Greek minister stressed that Greece, in spite of the current economic crisis that it was tackling with courage and determination, had not ceased to be a stable and stabilising factor in the region.

    "Our region is going through an exceptionally difficult time and it is important in this corner of the planet for countries such as Greece to be able to play a role. Our country has been in open dialogue with all the people and nations of the region for thousands of years. It can therefore help in the collective efforts being made recently in order to establish peace and lead the countries in the region to democratisation, progress and growth," he added.

    Avramopoulos said the meeting had also helped prepare for an upcoming visit by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Washington on August 8, when Samaras will meet U.S. President Barack Obama.

    "We had the opportunity to refer to the issues that the prime minister will discuss during his visit here that are linked to the defence sector. The Greek armed forces, in spite of the fact that they have also suffered as a result of the economic crisis, are keeping their combat readiness high. Our country can be proud that it has one of the most reliable defence systems in the world," he stressed.

    It was the duty of the government to maintain this high level, as well as ensuring a high morale among the Greek armed forces, Avramopoulos added.

    The minister expressed satisfaction with the results of the meeting, saying it had reaffirmed that Greece's special position in the EU and NATO was recognised in both the U.S. and the entire western world, making it a reliable and powerful ally. We will continue to serve these values and principles of world peace, security and cooperation, in addition to the main mission of the Greek Armed Forces, which is to preserve the integrity, independence and security of our country," he added.

    After meeting Hagel, Avramopoulos laid a wreath at the Pentagon Monument to the victims of 9/11 and attended a ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

    On Wednesday, Avramopoulos is due to attend a ceremony at the Holocaust Memorail Museum and sign an memorandum of understanding between the museum and the Army General Staff on cooperation in searching archives from World War II.

    [07] Avramopoulos and Hagel agree on a 'U.S.-Greece Defense Cooperation Roadmap'

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)

    U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos to the Pentagon on Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in Washington on Wednesday.

    "Secretary Hagel thanked Minister Avramopoulos for Greece's continued hosting of U.S. forces at Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay," Little said in a statement summarizing the meeting. "Souda Bay is a key enabler of U.S. strategic objectives in the region, the importance of which became apparent during Operation Unified Protector in Libya."

    Hagel praised Greece's contributions to regional security in the Balkans and expressed appreciation for Greece's support and cooperation in NATO, Little said. The secretary and Avramopoulos discussed issues of mutual strategic importance in the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt and Syria, he added.

    Avramopoulos highlighted the partnership between the United States and Greece and pledged to maintain the strong relationship between the two allies, the press secretary said.

    "Secretary Hagel and Minister Avramopoulos agreed to continue joint military training, exchanges, and high level defense consultations, and committed to recognizing these activities through development of a U.S.-Greece Defense Cooperation Roadmap," Little said.

    KKE rejects public sector layoffs, mobility scheme; comments on the defence minister's visit to the United States

    Opposition Communist Party (KKE) on Wednesday said that the presentation of the list with the names of thousands of public sector employees affected by the "mobility scheme" is "another dark page of the coalition government", noting that by 2014 layoffs in the public sector will reach 15,000.

    KKE underlined that all measures implemented are part of the government and EU strategy aimed at safeguarding the profits and competitiveness of the monopolies and called on the public and private sector employees to form a common front against the anti-popular policy.

    Commenting on Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos' visit to the United States, KKE noted that the appreciation expressed by the US government to the government of Greece is a proof of the role played by the Greek government, charging it of involving the country in the US and NATO strategic plans concerning the greater SE Mediterranean region.

    [08] Turkish soldiers interrupt anti-flood works on Greek side of Evros River

    A diplomatic incident was prevented at the last minute on Monday at the land borders between Greece and Turkey along Evros River, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Turkish soldiers, patrolling along the Turkish bank of Evros River at noon on Monday, demanded the immediate interruption of anti-flooding works conducted on the Greek side of the river.

    According to testimonies by working crews, the Turkish soldiers pointed their weapons at workers, who were repairing levees in the riverside region of Pithio, near an Evros River sand islet, demanding them to leave the area immediately.

    The sudden interruption of the works and the way in which it happened, is expected to be discussed in the joint Greece-Turkey committee meeting to allow for mutual clarifications.

    [09] Turkish fighter jets fly over Greek islands

    Six Turkish fighter planes, four F-4s and two F-16s, at 11:19 on Wednesday flew over the Greek islets of Makronissi and Anthropofagi in the Fourni island complex, eastern Aegean, at an altitude of 3,000 and 5,000 feet respectively, the Greek National Defence General Staff announced.

    The formation of the Turkish fighter planes entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) between the Aegean islands of Samos and Chios at 11:02 and exited the Athens FIR at 11:23. The Turkish aircraft were intercepted and identified by Greek fighter jets.

    It is the second time this year that Turkish aircraft fly over the Fourni island complex after a hiatus of 14 months.

    On April 16, two F-4 and two F-16 Turkish fighter jets flew over the islets of Makronissi and Anthropofagi at an altitude of 1,000 and 3,000 feet respectively.

    [10] Primary home auctions from start of 2014, Deputy Development minister says

    Auctions of primary homes for unpaid debts will start gradually taking place from the start of 2014, Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas said on Wednesday, speaking on a morning television show broadcast by the private television channel Mega.

    Skordas said that the government was striving for a partial suspension of the ban on auctions from 2014 based on social criteria, such as the value of the property or whether the owner was unemployed or head of a large family.

    The ministry's position was that the necessary dialogue on the criteria must take place promptly, he added.

    Commenting on the news that the ban on auctions is to be lifted, Independent Greeks party Panos Kammenos said:

    "At the same time that the unelected finance minister offends elected MPs, talking of fatigue, the coalition government at the orders of the troika [of Greece's creditors] is lifting the protection of primary homes."

    [11] Tourism ministry draft law, amendment on EYDAP passed by parliament

    The parliament's 1st Summer Session on Wednesday approved the tourism ministry-sponsored draft law that included clauses aimed at boosting tourism sector entrepreneurship.

    An amendment on the payment of debts owed to the Athens Water Supply and Sewage Company (EYDAP) by the state, was also approved following a roll call vote as requested by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA). A clause, suggesting that the company deficit resulting from the payment of lump sum retirement benefits will not be covered by the state anymore, was also passed.

    The amendment was voted down by the opposition which regarded it as a prelude to EYDAP's privatization. It was also rejected by the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) and independent MPs Markos Bolaris and Yiannis Kourakos. PASOK MP Theodora Tzakri voted "present".

    [12] Interior Minister presents Pakistani national with honorary residence permit for heroism

    A Pakistani national who survived a crash that killed two compatriots when all three tried to help an elderly couple over a year ago was presented on Thursday with an honorary residence permit by Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis for heroism.

    Masood Ahmed, 41, was hospitalized with injuries after trying to pull the couple out of the car when their car got stuck on the tracks of an oncoming Intercity train in the area of Kryoneri, eastern Attica prefecture, April 2012.

    Two of his countrymen, Hamayun Anwar and Wakar Ahmed, both 32, lost their lives when they got into the car to help out. They were given posthumous awards of recognition for heroic action by the Academy of Athens.

    "Self-sacrifice has no colour, nor nationality," Michelakis said during the presentation. "Masood Ahmed and his two compatriots who lost their lives to save two Greeks gave with their act of braveness a reply to all those who put borders and signs on humanitarianism and on solidarity."

    The residence permit, "granted on exceptional grounds by the political leadership of the ministry", is valid for a year and will allow him to work in Greece. When it expires he will be eligible to apply for a residence permit as legally employed in Greece.

    The event was also attended by Alternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos and Athens Mayor George Kaminis.

    [13] Culture ministry staff strike over mobility scheme

    Staff at Greece's culture and sports ministry organised a protest rally outside the ministry and a work stoppage until the end of their shifts on Wednesday, objecting to news that 500 ministry employees will be suspended as part of the government's "mobility scheme" to reform public administration.

    The president of the Greek Archaeologists' Association Despina Koutsoumba told the ANA-MPA that staff will continue labour action with another work stoppage on Thursday and a 24-hour strike on Friday.

    In an announcement on Tuesday, the Panhellenic Federation of Culture Ministry Employees stressed its surprise at the news that an additional 500 colleagues will be suspended and very likely laid off, given that the ministry was already under-staffed.

    [14] Charges against seven at ERT transmitter site 'groundless', former employees' union says

    The POSPERT union representing employees of the former public broadcaster ERT on Wednesday asserted that charges of damaging public property brought against seven individuals caught near the former ERT transmitter on Mount Hymettus were "without basis".

    "The arbitrary and barbaric actions of the government and forces of repression do not frighten or dismay us; on the contrary, they strengthen our struggle and steel our resolve for our Constitutional right to work, to public television, to institutions and the demand for democracy and freedom," POSPERT said in an announcement.

    Police arrested eight individuals, including a lawyer, that were spotted in the vicinity of the transmitter compound on the top of Mount Hymettus on Monday night.

    The union also accused police of brutality against the "supporting citizens and the journalist Eva Mavrogeni," saying they had suffered injuries and were kept chained for 20 hours "for a peaceful demonstration against the government's non-compliance with the rulings of the Council of State".

    [15] SYRIZA leader calls for struggle to overthrow 'memorandum gov't'

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday evening that his party was continuing "the struggle to overthrow the 'memorandum government'," at an event organised by the party's youth section in Igoumenitsa, northwestern Greece.

    "The annulment of the memorandum and the renegotiation of Greece's loan agreement is a one-way road for the country's prospects and the people's endurance," Tsipras said, calling for a continuous struggle "to rid the country and the citizens of the memorandums and the murderous measures."

    [16] DIM.AR leader Fotis Kouvelis proposes creation of new alliance

    Opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday said that his proposal for a new democratic socialist alliance is not addressed to PASOK, noting that it has made its choices.

    Speaking in a private radio in Iraklio on the island of Crete, he said that the alliance he proposes will not be trapped in populism, demagogy and rejection of reforms, noting that it is addressed to the political parties of ecologists and social-democrats that reject policies and practices that led to the crisis.

    Kouvelis also rejected cooperation with main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), noting that the country shouldn't risk its presence in the eurozone and the EU.

    Responding to a relevant question, Kouvelis did not rule out the likelihood of early elections.

    [17] Cousin lays the sole blame on former minister Tsohatzopoulos in court testimony

    Former defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, on trial for money-laundering and taking kickbacks for armaments' procurements programmes while in office, was named by his first cousin Nikos Zigras as the main beneficiary of all kickbacks, during his testimony on Wednesday.

    Zigras claimed he had asked Tsohatzopoulos several times to "come clean on everyone and everything" but he was rebuffed angrily, which led to his decision to speak instead.

    He said he acted as executor of the former minister, and his closest aide, receiving money "in black garbage bags" at night and then turning them in to the then defence minister.

    Tsohatzopoulos was present in the court during part of the testimony, after the presiding judge invited him back to the court room to hear the accusations.

    Also testifying was the former minister's accountant, Efrosyni Lambropoulou, who said she knew as early as 2004 that the controversial house on exclusive Areopagitou Street, across from the Acropolis in Athens, belonged to the minister, and who blamed herself for not speaking at the time out of fear for "the omnipotent Tsohatzopoulos".

    On Monday, the court rejected a request by Tsohatzopoulos to postpone his testimony from July 29 to September 2, on the grounds that the testimonies of the defence witnesses were to be completed on July 25 and the former minister had enough time to prepare his own testimony.

    Financial News

    [18] New circular issued on details of VAT reduction in restaurants/catering

    In a new circular on the VAT reduction for restaurants and catering services effective from Thursday, the General Secretary for Public Revenues on Wednesday provided further clarifications on the measures, while stressing that the circulars issued so far had been clear.

    It clarified that soft drinks would be subject to the normal 23 pct VAT rate for their entire chain of distribution from import to wholesale to retail sale, except in the case where the drink was served and consumed on the premises of an establishment and was then eligible for the lower 13 pct VAT rate for restaurant and catering services.

    The circular clarified that the law considers "on-premises" consumption to be that including the provision of other services, such as seating, utensils, serving, cleaning etc. Where there are no other services, it is considered delivery of goods subject to ordinary VAT.

    The same announcement denies that the VAT rate for take-away foods is different when these are eaten on the premises or outside, such as when delivered at home, specifying that the lower 13 pct VAT rate will apply in these cases.

    [19] Gen. Sec for revenues denies VAT 'confusion' reports

    In a post on Twitter early on Wednesday, the finance ministry's general secretary for revenues Haris Theoharis denied press reports claiming 'confusion' surrounding the application of a lower 13 pct VAT rate for restaurants and catering services.

    "VAT in restaurants/catering is 13 pct independent of where [the product] is consumed," the tweet said, adding that the only exception is for soft drinks, depending on whether they are consumed on the premises or not.

    The general secretary was responding to press reports claiming that a ministry circular had cast the sector into confusion about how to apply the lower VAT rate, demanding different rates for foods consumed on the premises and different rates for foods consumed 'standing' or for take-away items. The lower VAT rate is due to go into effect from Thursday.

    [20] Overdue debts of 4 billion euros paid by the state to private sector

    The state has paid overdue debts to the private sector amounting to 4 billion euros, while additional requests amounting to 5.4 billion euros have been approved, according to figures made public by the State General Accounting Office on Wednesday.

    Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras underlined that 68 pct of the amount earmarked has already been forwarded to public organizations to proceed with the payment of overdue debts, adding that efforts are being made to avoid any delays.

    The state debts already paid off include payment of lump sum retirement benefits for a total of 16,342 public sector retirees, 89 pct of funding directed to the Hellenic Army Pension Fund and military hospitals, as well as, 77 pct of the debts owed to the suppliers of public hospitals, namely, 890 million euros of the 1.1 billion euros owed.

    [21] Interest rate spread up 12 bps in June

    The overall weighted average interest rate on new deposits decreased in June, while the corresponding interest rate on new loans remained almost unchanged, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.

    In a report, the central bank said that the interest rate spread between loan and deposit rates increased by 12 basis points to stand at 3.14 percentage points in the month. In the case of deposits, the average interest rate on overnight deposits from households decreased by 8 basis points and stood at 0.41% in June 2013, while the corresponding rate on deposits from non-financial corporations increased by 5 basis points and stood at 0.49%. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to one year decreased further by 17 basis points to stand at 3.89%. The overall weighted average interest rate on all new deposits decreased by 11 basis points to stand at 2.40% in June 2013. In the case of loans, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity decreased by 10 basis points and stood at 14.63% in June 2013. The average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year decreased further by 107 basis points and stood at 6.63%. The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity remained almost unchanged at 7.43%. The corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors decreased by 36 basis points and stood at 9.60% but this reduction was entirely due to reclassification of loans and not to interest rate changes. The average interest rate on corporate loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased by 18 basis points to 7.26% for loans up to 250,000 euros, increased by 9 basis points to 6.22% for loans above 250,000 euros and up to 1 million euros, and increased by 64 basis points to 6.01% for loans above 1 million. Finally, the average interest rate on housing loans at a floating rate or with an initial fixation period of up to one year slightly decreased by 4 basis points and stood at 2.80%. The overall weighted average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations remained almost unchanged at 5.54% in June 2013.

    In June 2013, the overall weighted average interest rate on outstanding amounts of all deposits decreased, while the corresponding rate of all loans remained almost unchanged. The spread between loan and deposit rates increased by 13 basis points to 3.08 percentage points).

    [22] Environment minister meets with Danish ambassador

    Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis met with Danish Ambassador to Greece Mette Knudsen on Wednesday and discussed energy policy issues.

    Maniatis briefed the ambassador on the progress of hydrocarbon research in Greece, the country's collaboration with Cyprus and Israel and renewable sources of energy.

    Both sides agreed to continue exchanging information on the energy sector, especially as relates to examples of best practices used in Denmark.

    [23] Large-scale construction projects, better bus services top Transport Ministry's agenda

    Restarting large construction projects and improving bus services, including fighting fare evasion, are the top priorities of the Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry under minister Michalis Chryssochoidis, sources said on Wednesday.

    The ministry hopes to restart projects and move along those like the Olympia Road in the Peloponnese and the Tempe pass leading from central to northern Greece by September, after amendments to existing contracts are approved by Parliament.

    Large-scale projects, ministry sources said, stalled around 2.5-3 years ago and need to restart.

    Measures to fight fare evasion will include more frequent checks; hiring officially registered unemployed young people to check tickets; collaborating with the private sector to put a stop to counterfeit tickets and switching to indelible ink on ticket-stamping machines.

    Also, starting on Monday, the ministry will be issuing information on bus schedules for August, when runs are more infrequent.

    [24] Greek retail sales down 2.2 pct in May

    Retail sales volume fell 2.2 pct in May this year, although turnover in some shop categories (clothing-footwear-bookstore) recovered after several months in decline.

    Hellenic Statistical Authority, in a report said that the volume of sales in bookstore, clothing/footwear, food/tobacco/beverage and fuel/lubricants grew by 13.2 pct, 11.4 pct, 10.1 pct and 6.0 pct, respectively, while turnover fell in pharmaceutical/cosmetics (13.1 pct), furniture/home appliances (6.5 pct), department stores (6.4 pct) and supermarkets (5.6 pct).

    The statistics service said that the volume of sales (turnover in fixed prices), including fuel, fell 2.2 pct in May after falling by 10 pct in May 2012.

    The turnover index (current prices), including fuel, fell 2.6 pct in May, after falling by 9.0 pct in May 2012.

    [25] Passenger traffic down, cargo traffic up in Greek ports

    Passenger traffic in Greek ports fell 2.2 pct in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with the same period in 2011, after a 12.2 pct decline recorded in the fourth quarter of 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said cargo traffic in Greek ports jumped 15.1 pct in fourth quarter of 2012, after a 5.3 pct increase in the fourth quarter of 2011.

    [26] Road accidents up 0.7 pct on annual basis in May, ELSTAT reports

    There were 1,052 traffic accidents that resulted in deaths or injuries throughout Greece in May 2013, up 0.7 pct compared with May 2012, Greece's independent statistical agency ELSTAT reported on Wednesday. These accidents resulted in 57 deaths (26.9 pct down since 2012), 127 seriously injured (22.1 pct up since 2012) and 1,197 pct lightly injured (0.1 pct down since 2012).

    [27] Siemens announces launch of scholarship programme agreed with Greek state

    Siemens on Wednesday announced the start of a postgraduate and post-doctoral studies scholarship programme that was part of the settlement reached with the Greek state as compensation for a high-profile kickbacks scandal involving the company. Under the deal, the company had agreed to create incentives for young Greek scientists to remain in Greece by funding their further education and allowing them to become involved in research.

    In the framework of the programme, 100 young scientists each year will be given scholarships for studies in energy, industry, health, infrastructure and urban development for the space of five years. These will cover their living expenses, housing and other necessary spending.

    Details of the first 200 'Fellowships for Excellence' for four-year post-graduate courses based in Greece leading to 100 Masters and 50 PhD degrees, as well as 50 post-doctoral research positions were posted on the State Scholarships Foundation website (www.iky.gr) on Wednesday.

    [28] Greek stocks end 2.04 pct higher

    Greek stocks ended significantly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 880-point level, to its highest closing since June 20 2013. Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks such as OTE, PPC and OPAP. The composite index rose 2.04 pct to end at 884.60 points, while turnover rose to 37.73 million euros.

    The Large Cap index rose 1.94 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.48 pct higher. PPC (6.86 pct), OPAP (4.98 pct), Intralot (4.22 pct), OTE (3.98 pct) and Frigoglass (3.02 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank Properties (1.14 pct), National Bank 0.75 pct) and Piraeus Bank (0.10 pct) were top losers.

    All sector indices ended higher with the exception of the Technology sector which fell 0.28 pct. Utilities (5.15 pct), Travel (4.83 pct) and Telecoms (3.98 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 76 to 48 with another 25 issues unchanged. Akritas (30 pct), Sidma (19.87 pct) and Altec (18.75 pct) were top gainers, while Teletypos (19.77 pct), Forthnet (16.92 pct) and Elgeka (16.67 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: +1.50%

    Commercial: +0.27%

    Construction: +2.07%

    Oil & Gas: +1.36%

    Personal & Household: +1.48%

    Raw Materials: +2.57%

    Travel & Leisure: +4.83%

    Technology: -0.28%

    Telecoms: +3.98%

    Banks: +0.44%

    Food & Beverages: +0.88%

    Health: +0.50%

    Utilities: +5.15%

    Financial Services: +1.04%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, PPC, OPAP, National Bank and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.45

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.79

    HBC Coca Cola: 19.81

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.40

    National Bank of Greece: 2.63

    Eurobank Properties : 6.91

    OPAP: 6.75

    OTE: 6.80

    Piraeus Bank: 0.965

    Titan: 13.70

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 8.40 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.08 pct and the German Bund 1.68 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, one buy order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates remained almost unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate was 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.226 pct and the one-month rate was 0.13 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The August contract on the FTSE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.44 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 10.923 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,761 contracts worth 8.555 million euros, with 50,195 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 5,609 contracts worth 2.368 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (1,194), followed by National Bank (775), Alpha Bank (1,051), Piraeus Bank (258), Eurobank (244), PPC (1,127), Mytilineos (196), Intralot (161), Hellenic Petroleum (66) and OPAP (57).

    [31] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.347

    Pound sterling 0.886

    Danish kroner 7.566

    Swedish kroner 8.843

    Japanese yen 131.95

    Swiss franc 1.250

    Norwegian kroner 7.983

    Canadian dollar 1.387

    Australian dollar 1.494

    General News

    [32] Eight arrests in connection with Chios arms case

    A total of eight suspects, 5 Kurds and 3 Greeks, were arrested, while 14 others were brought in for questioning, in connection with the illegal arms and ammunition intercepted by the Greek coastguard on board an inflatable dinghy sailing in the early morning hours on Tuesday in the sea region between the islands of Chios and Oinousses, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Those arrested are, two Greeks and two Kurds who were on board the dinghy, while another Greek and a Kurd were arrested shortly afterward on Chios. Other two Kurds were arrested in Athens.

    The six individuals arrested on Chios will be led before a prosecutor on Wednesday facing felony charges for terrorist activity, namely, building, supplying, possessing and transporting explosives and bombs. They are also accused of possessing and transporting military materials, among other charges.

    The two Kurds arrested in Athens during the investigation conducted by the counter-terrorism squad are accused of possessing fake passports and refusing to reveal their identity.

    The counter-terrorism squad searched residences and other spaces in Athens, Thessaloniki and Corinth on Tuesday and confiscated a large number of mobile phones, SIM cards, personal computers, USB flash drives, hard disc drives, digital CDs and numerous books and handwritten notes.

    Of the 14 individuals that were brought in for questioning (11 in Athens and 3 in Thessaloniki) two foreign nationals, already mentioned, were arrested and the rest were released.

    The counter-terrorism squad searched 10 residences, the majority in the Athens district of Exarhia and in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where they confiscated electronic and printed material that is now being examined. Among the premises searched were the offices of a Turkish organisation on Tzavela Street in Exarhia, which one of the two Kurds had given as his address.

    Also searched was a home belonging to one of the Greek suspects in Corinth.

    Police sources said that one of the Kurds arrested had asked to be given asylum in Greece but his application had been turned down.

    There has been no official confirmation of whether the two Turkish nationals caught on Chios might be wanted in Turkey but counter-terrorism squad investigators believe that they are members of armed Kurdish action. Police also believe the case may be linked to the hand-grenade explosion in a Thessaloniki apartment in October 2011, in which a 32-year-old Kurd was killed. During a search of the apartment where the explosion took place, police found anti-tank mortar rounds similar to those confiscated on Chios.

    Police had then attributed the explosion to a handling error in a hideout used by the militant Kurdish group DHKP-C and the evidence found during the Chios arrests also points in this direction. The incident has also confirmed the existence of cooperation between Kurds and Greeks, so police are following up all known links and activities of the four suspects, in order to determine whether there has been joint action in Greece.

    Authorities have not yet determined the precise origin of the arms confiscated on Chios but a full-scale investigation is underway, with announcements expected once this is completed.

    The four on the boat were arrested after a routine check in the eastern Aegean revealed ammunition on the boat, including an anti-tank mortar rounds, hand grenades, guns, bullets and explosive devices. The boat was heading to Turkey and confiscated by Chios authorities.

    According to sources, one of the two Greeks on the boat is a 22-year-old student at the Aspropyrgos Maritime Academy, who said he was paid 500 euros to take the boat to Turkey, and claimed he had no idea what the cargo was.

    [33] Four dead in fight at Rom camp in Gastouni, Ilia

    Four Rom died and one was injured in a clash that broke out at a Rom camp in Gastouni, part of the northwestern Peloponnesian prefecture of Ilia, on Wednesday night.

    Police arrested three Roma allegedly responsible for the clash; two of them and the injured party above are being hospitalised.

    According to sources, the clash broke out between two feuding families. Police in Pyrgos, the main city of Ilia, are taking depositions to determine the cause, while a number of police are at the Gastouni health centre to avert any further incidents.

    [34] Roger Waters 'The Wall Live' at Athens' OAKA stadium on Wednesday

    Roger Waters' historic megashow 'The Wall Live' returns to Athens on Wednesday for a single night at the city's OAKA stadium in the Maroussi Olympic complex, complete with fireworks, quadraphonic sound, giant flying pigs and the full range of special effects.

    For the 2013 tour, 69-year-old rock legend and Pink Floyd founding member Waters has redesigned the show specially for larger venues, describing the result as "really very good. Even more impressive, touching and dramatic than ever."

    So far, the new tour has played in 25 stadiums in Europe, including Wembley, Stade de France in Paris, the Olympic Stadium in Rome, the Amsterdam Arena and the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

    Last Thursday, Waters announced his decision to offer cheaper 18-euro tickets for the show in Athens, due to the economic crisis.

    "I know things are very difficult in Greece now. To make it easier for people we are offering cheaper tickets for 18 euros," he said. The tickets were sold on July 25.

    The doors at OAKA will open at 17:00 and the concert is due to start at 21:30.

    [35] Explosion at Kolonaki fast-food souvlaki shop

    A powerful explosion took place at 5:28 a.m. on Wednesday at a fast-food souvlaki shop in the upmarket district of Kolonaki, on the corner of Ploutarchou and Patriarchou Ioakeim streets. The blast also caused damage to surrounding buildings.

    According to initial information concerning the incident, an explosive device was left at the spot by a passing motorbike. Police forces are now on the scene to investigate the precise cause of the explosion.

    [36] British tourists injured, one fatally, in separate incidents on Zakynthos

    A young British national was slightly injured when he fell off a hotel balcony at the popular resort town of Laganas on the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante) on Wednesday.

    The young man, 20, was sitting on the ledge and was resting his legs against a chair when he lost his balance and fell three floors onto a parapet.

    Another young man of undisclosed age died this past Monday from complications of a fall at a hotel in Laganas. On July 24 he tried to walk on a decorative abutment four metres off the ground, lost his balance and fell, injuring himself seriously. He was transported to the hospital in Rio on the mainland, where he died.

    His body was returned to his country after an autopsy was conducted; results are pending. The police is investigating the case.

    [37] Samothrace ferry delayed two hours due to worker dispute

    The departure of the passenger-car ferry SAOS from the port of Alexandroupolis for the island of Samothrace was delayed two hours on Wednesday, due to a dispute between the shipping line management and the workers that filed a suit for the seizure of the company's assets in order to claim unpaid wages.

    Tempers flared at the port among passengers waiting to travel to the island and the problem was resolved after the two sides came to an agreement to temporarily suspend the confiscation order.

    The ship finally departed at 11:00 a.m. with 264 passengers and 65 vehicles on board. The delay is expected to have an knock-on effect on other ferry journeys on Wednesday.

    [38] Armed robbers get away with 40,000 from Ioannina post office

    Two armed men robbed a Greek post office branch at Zitsa in Ioannina prefecture on Wednesday and got away with 40,000 euros in cash. The culprits had concealed their faces and threatened staff at gunpoint, while witnesses reported that their Greek was very good. The car they used to make their getaway was found about 10 km outside Zitsa, police said.

    [39] Pharmaceutical company heist solved

    A 39-year-old woman was arrested by Athens police in connection to a major robbery a year ago when over one million euros were stolen from the offices of a pharmaceutical company in the district of Koropi, it was announced on Wednesday.

    After a long investigation, police arrested the woman, the company's chief accountant, while a 43-year-old Pakistani national is wanted. The second suspect continued to work for the company until last March when he returned to his country.

    According to police, in the night hours of March 3, 2012, the two suspects removed the cash from the company safe as well as the company's CCTV surveillance equipment to avoid being identified.

    Weather Forecast

    [40] Cooler on Thursday

    Generally fair, with brief spells of rain or thunderstorms in northern Greece and the western part of the country, including the Peloponnese. Variable winds mostly 4 to 5 Beaufort, climbing to 7 in Evia and the Aegean Sea. Temperatures dropping, from 19C to 35C overall, lower in the Aegean Sea and in Crete. In Athens, fair with temporary clouding. North-northeasterly winds 4 to 5 Beaufort, rising to 7 in the east. Temperatures from 24C to 33C, lower on the east and north. In Thessaloniki, generally fair with some rain possible at higher elevations in the east. Temperatures from 22C to 32C.

    [41] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: Karambelas' lay-offs. (claims gov't plan to usher in mass layoffs and new wage cuts)

    DIMOKRATIA: The keys to health to Merkel

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: First homes to go under auctioneer's hammer.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Standing 23 pct, sitting down 13 pct. (article on rules for restaurant VAT)

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Which properties at risk of being auctioned.

    ELLADA AVRIO: Fears of collapse - Exercises in keeping calm

    ESTIA: Voters sadly deluded.

    ETHNOS: The criteria for suspension (mobility scheme).

    IMERISSIA: [Finance Minister Yannis] Stournaras fears political fatigue.

    KATHIMERINI: Speeding up misconduct proceedings for public-sector employees.

    LOGOS: Record undeclared employment

    NAFTEMPORIKI: The alternative plans for reducing the debt.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Asset seizure threats for poor merchants, self-employed.

    TA NEA: The 'bizarre' ways of VAT - One rate in the hand, another on the table.

    VRADYNI: The traps in the E-9 form and how to avoid them.

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