|Monday, 18 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-08-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 9 August 2013 Issue No: 4429
 U.S. President Obama stresses need for growth and new jobs in meeting with PM SamarasWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/N. Armenis)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was on Thursday warmly welcomed by U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House for a meeting which lasted for one hour. In statements made by the two men afterwards, the U.S. President expressed the view that Greece's efforts to exit the crisis cannot be focused only on austerity but require growth and creation of new jobs. Obama spoke of the deep friendship existing between the two countries, making special reference to the Greek-American community.
"We are all watching the challenge facing Greece in proceeding with structural reforms to reduce its debt. The Prime Minister told me that he is committed to go ahead, but this cannot be done solely through austerity measures. Apart from budget consolidation, there has to be growth and job creation," Obama stressed.
He also noted that the U.S. will stand by Greece by providing assistance, saying that there is a strong relationship between the two countries, as Greece is a partner of the U.S. in NATO and cooperate in the military sector and security issues.
Obama added that Greece is located an area facing challenges and difficulties and can play an important stabilising role and provide solutions to problems including that of Cyprus. He summed up by referring to the excellent discussion he had with the Greek premier.
Samaras said Greece and the U.S. are more than allies and share the same values. "The enormous sacrifices by the Greek people should not be in vain," he said, further referring to the problem of unemployment in Greece and particularly youth unemployment.
The Greek premier added "the Greek success story will also be a European success story? and that Greece is trying to achieve stability in a very destabilised environment.
Speaking on Cyprus, Samaras said there was a window of opportunity and that Greece will work on it. He further underlined Greece's massive energy reserves, in the Greece-Cyprus-Israel triangle. "We are trying to align synergies by contributing to Europe's energy security," he said. Finally, Samaras referred to Greece's Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2014.
 Kerry expresses solidarity with Greek people in meeting with PM SamarasWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/N.Armenis)
In a meeting with visiting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday here, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed solidarity with the efforts made by the Greek people. The one-hour meeting was held in an excellent atmosphere, with Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki saying that it was a "productive" meeting that "reaffirmed Greek-American relations."
Speaking after the end of the meeting, Psaki said Kerry "recognized the tough but necessary reforms implemented by Greece, in order to restore market confidence and instigate economic growth. He also expressed his solidarity with the Greek people for making these important changes."
The U.S. Secretary of State, Psaki added, "discussed ways to promote defense cooperation with Greece, recognising the importance (for the U.S.) of having a strong NATO ally in the region."
Discussion during the Samaras-Kerry meeting focused on issues of mutual interest, including developments in the wider region, Psaki said.
 PM Samaras meets with global investment firms in New York CityPrime Minister Antonis Samaras met with twenty high-level officials from the largest global investment funds, in New York City, on Wednesday.
Samaras is on a three-day official visit to the United States that includes a meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
The companies represented manage investment portfolios totalling among them 850 billion euros. Discussion focused on new investment opportunities in basic economy sectors and on the economic prospects of Greece.
A number of the companies represented are already active in Greece, while others exprssed interest in future involvement.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis and advisors to the prime minister, as well as Invest in Greece managing director Stefanos Isaias.
 PM Samaras' visit "highlights strength of bilateral relations", U.S. State Dept spokesperson saysThe visit of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to the United States highlighted "the strength of bilateral U.S.-Greek relations," U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.
Speaking in a daily press briefing, Psaki said that "the Washington visit of Prime Minister Samaras highlights the strength of the U.S.-Greek relationship. Secretary Kerry will reaffirm U.S. support for Greece as it implements key structural reforms to create a more prosperous future for its people. The two leaders will also discuss a broad range of issues of common concern, including defense cooperation, global efforts to combat terrorism, and regional cooperation."
 U.S. has 'a stake' in Greece's success, U.S. vice-president tells 'Kathimerini'The United States wants Greece to remain a "strong and vital part of the Eurozone", U.S. Vice President Joe Biden underlined in an interview with journalist Alexis Papachelas appearing in the Greek newspaper "Kathimerini" on Thursday, just hours ahead of a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
"The administration has always taken the view that it's overwhelmingly in our interest to have Greece remain a strong and vital part of the eurozone as it undertakes difficult reforms to modernize its economy. We've made that view clear to Europe, to the world, and to Greece," he said.
Concerning the meeting between Obama and Samaras, the vice president said foreign policy issues would probably figure prominently in the agenda, including the Greek government's plans for the EU rotating presidency that it takes over in January.
Biden underlined that the U.S.-Greece relationship "matters a great deal to both of our countries," highlighting Greece's help and support in addressing "global security challenges", such as operations in Libya or stabilising efforts in Kosovo, and the country's role as an "essential voice" in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Referring to the economic crisis, he acknowledged that "the Greek people are living through an incredibly difficult period as they cope with the economic crisis that has lasted four years," but noted that the reforms Greece is making "are essential to creating a more prosperous future for its people".
"I will say that while there continue to be challenges, we are encouraged that the Greek government is making progress under Prime Minister Samaras. We have a stake in Greece's success and I want to reassure you...that the United States will continue to stand in solidarity with our Greek friends as we look for ways to support your reforms and accelerate a return to growth," Biden added.
Regarding Europe's current focus on austerity as a means to address the crisis, he said that the U.S. will continue to encourage Europe to adopt policies "strengthen the global economy and bring down unemployment."
 'Obama to show support for Greece during Samaras visit,' Bloomberg saysWith Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday (22:00 Greek time), a Bloomberg report on Thursday said that Obama "will show U.S. support for Greece... as Greece prepares for more talks with creditors on additional debt relief amid record-high unemployment."
"The visit may provide Samaras an opportunity to send a message to Merkel to ease off on austerity," Bloomberg said, pointing out that "the White House meeting precedes the Sept. 22 elections in?Germany, where?Chancellor Angela Merkel?is seeking a third term with a promise that Germany won't ease pressure on Greece to make needed reforms to continue getting the aid it has received since the debt crisis almost four years ago."
In addition, it says that Thursday's meeting "also follows the July 31 release of a report by the?International Monetary Fund?that said Greece, now its sixth year of recession, probably will need more?money?from?Europe?to meet its bailout objectives, while 4.4 billion?euros in financing as part of a rescue package next year has yet to be identified".
Bloomberg also referred to Greece's unemployment rate, which rose to a seasonally adjusted record of 27.6 percent in May.
 KKE party on PM's visit to United StatesThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday about Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' visit to the U.S., said that "the prime minister is advertising the tough measures in the U.S. to attract investors, together with the delivery of the country's energy wealth to business groups".
It added that "concerning the management of the crisis in the Eurozone, everyone is demanding a continuation of tough measures against the Greek people and other peoples".
Lastly, KKE stressed in its announcement that "the Greek people must be vigilant for new negative developments against them," adding that "since it is confirmed that the Greek government's discussions in the US are dominated by Greece's further involvement in competition over energy in the region and the country's more active participation in imperialist plans and operations against other countries".
 Interior Minister Michelakis criticises early elections talkThe government should complete the programme it has committed to, and there is no question that early elections would take the country back, Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis told Skai private television on Thursday.
Michelakis noted that "the sacrifices made by the Greek people should not go to waste," adding that "the first results of this effort are beginning to show".
"At this moment, elections will create a major problem and negate much of the progress made," Mihelakis said.
 Minister seeking to improve coast guard's migrant detention facilitiesShipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis is planning an initiative to improve conditions for the temporary detainment of migrants caught by the coast guard near the islands of the Aegean and other areas under the ministry's purview, as well as to improve coast guard procedures for their processing, sources at the ministry revealed on Thursday.
They said the minister has asked local coast guard authorities to seek outdoor areas to set up encampments in which to house migrants for a maximum of three days, until they are picked up by police. The camps are to be segregated, with different areas for men and women, and will be equipped with chemical toilets. The minister will also allocate funds from the ministry budget to feed the migrants, cooperating with Amnesty International to organise further financial assistance for food, as well as seeking medical support and legal aid from bar and medical associations.
Coast guard unions had recently sent a letter to the minister highlighting the unacceptable and unsanitary conditions in which migrants caught by the coast guard were being detained, citing chronic overcrowding, lack of facilities and even lack of funds to provide food. They also pointed out that detention centres operated by the Greek police did not accept migrants caught by the coast guard.
 Defence, health ministers sign protocol of cooperation between their ministriesNational Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday signed a protocol of cooperation between their two ministries that aims to improve the level of health services provided to remote islands and to assist the smooth functioning of the National Health System during the period when a mobility scheme starts to be implemented in Athens and Thessaloniki hospitals in early September.
Under the agreement, health and medical teams set up by the defence ministry in collaboration with the National Centre for Health Operations will step up services to residents of small islands in the eastern Aegean, such as Agios Efstratios, Psarra and many others.
In the first 15 days of September, meanwhile, the country's military hospitals will provide assistance to state hospitals to help smooth over the transitional period and avoid gaps in emergency duty rosters.
 Tsipras placing SYRIZA in state of election readinessMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras is expected to place the party in an election readiness state, immediately after August 15, it was decided during a meeting he held with close associates at the party's offices on Thursday.
According to reports, the latest political developments were discussed in detail during the meeting and the situation created in Greek society by the repercussions of the continuing austerity programme, while special reference was made to developments in the mass media sector, with emphasis on the sale of television channel 902 (owned by the Communist Party of Greece - KKE).
Tsipras was briefed by his associates on the party's preparations in light of a visit by a SYRIZA delegation, headed by himself, to the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on September 14 and 15.
He also expressed satisfaction over the positive messages that he and party cadres are receiving regarding SYRIZA's image in the wake of the party's recent congress.
The political evaluation made during the meeting is that the government is exhausting its endurance and that SYRIZA must be in full readiness as of September since it considers an early election very likely.
 SYRIZA leader slams government policy for health sectorMain opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday called for a "peoples resistance front" against government policy that will seek to overturn the current situation, during a meeting with health sector trade unionists.
He called for emergency measures to support and strengthen rather than reduce hospital structures, promising that one of his party's priorities will be to ensure that all citizens have equal access to the health system. This presupposed retaining or increasing staff levels, he added.
Tsipras accused the government of continuing "barbaric memorandum policies at the expense of society" during the summer, through an unprecedented attack on health, education and local government.
"This period does not pass through the tail but the heart of the memorandum," Tsipras underlined and urged people to join together to reverse the situation politically.
The main opposition leader also noted that government policy was acquiring "cynical" elements and that its choices did not resolve long-standing problems but only created new ones.
 KKE party on unemploymentThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday on new data concerning unemployment, said that "KKE's proposal on the radically different organising of society and the economy, based on the socialisation of big businesses and central planning is timely and the only one that can secure permanent and stable employment with modern rights and free time for all."
The announcement added that "all other proposals, on managing the capitalist system, cannot tackle the problem of unemployment; they merely recycle it, leading to a labour hostage situation and to unemployment being used as a bugbear for wages to drop and for labour rights to be demolished."
 Greek-Albanian relations entering new and positive phase, Albania's premier Edi Rama saysTIRANA (ANA-MPA/I. Patsos)
Difficulties in Greek-Albanian relations will be resolved with goodwill and mutual trust, new Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told private Top Channel in Tirana on Thursday.
Speaking on his recent unofficial visit to Greece, and his separate meetings with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Vice President Evangelos Venizelos, Rama said talks included the issue of delineation of sea borders. "It is an issue on which our stance is well-known, and an issue which we fully intend to resolve," he said, adding that "Greece also expresses the same interest to resolve it. I am sure that there is no problem that cannot be resolved with goodwill and mutual trust."
Rama acknowledged that "there was a difficult moment with Greece that must be overcome, following a difficult period in the relations between the two countries" and expressed the certainty ties would improve. "We are ready to leave that time behind and open a new chapter, after a period that brought the relations between Albania and Greece to a very low point - for reasons that are known and have nothing to do with the new government," he said.
The Albanian premier, who is concluding a tour of Greece, Italy, and Turkey, said, "We are also ready, in the same manner, to promote our relations with Turkey, whom we consider a strategic partner, as those with Italy, who remains an old strategic partner of ours."
 Gov't appoints 455 new academics to universities, technical collegesAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday signed an order appointing 402 new lecturers in Greek universities and 53 faculty members in technical colleges and the teacher training schools.
The decision was made at the request of Education and Religions Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos.
In a statement, Mitsotakis noted that administrative reform was not only about downsizing the public sector but also contained a central policy for necessary hirings under the supervision of the administrative reform ministry.
"There are and will be hirings, based on criteria of merit, to cover the real needs and improve the quality of the public sector," he said. The minister said the hiring of academics also aimed to slow the 'brain drain' of highly-qualified and educated Greeks leaving Greece in search of jobs.
Arvanitopoulos stressed that the people in education were a top priority "since they are the only ones that can give flesh and bones to the universal demand to improve our educational system."
He said the hiring of 455 new staff at universities and technical colleges aimed to send the message that Greece wants to keep its scientists and academics and invest in them "since the country's recovery passes through a rebirth of our educational system".
 World Congress of Philosophy feted by Parliament in AthensWorld-renowned philosophy professors participating in the 23rd World Congress of Philosophy in Athens, the first ever to be held in Greece, on Wednesday evening attended a formal dinner given in their honour by the Greek Parliament at a restaurant with a view of the Acropolis.
Earlier, they had participated in a special session on philosophy as practical wisdom. The session had a highly symbolic meaning, as it was held at the archaeological site of Pnyx, a hill in central Athens which was the official meeting place of the Athenian democratic assembly. The audience was addressed by professors Chen Lai from China, Juliana Gonzalez from Mexico and Alexandros Nehamas from Greece.
The session focused on the comparison between Confucianism and ancient Greek philosophy, particularly on the perception of virtue and the meaning of philosophy for the two civilizations representing the East and West.
Another special session is scheduled to take place at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday at the site of ancient Callirhoe, at the banks of the former Ilissos River, by the church of Saint Fotini. The site is associated with Plato's "Phaedrus", a dialogue with Eros as its central theme.
 Greece, Cyprus and Israel sign energy, water memorandumNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a memorandum of mutual understanding to cooperate in energy and water resources, in Nicosia on Thursday afternoon.
Cyprus Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis described the memorandum as being of decisive significance while Greek Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yiannis Maniatis said the three countries were entering a significant and creative stage and Cyprus and Greece were consolidating their positions in the area as factors of stability. Israeli Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom said the cooperation would result in lower electricity cost for Cyprus in this and other, consecutive projects.
All three expressed support for the EuroAsia Interconnector plan to link energies among the three countries by an underwater cable with a capacity to convey 2,000 MW of electric power. The project is expected to finish in 2016, is partly funded by the EU, and is expected to cost around 1.5 billion euros.
 Cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, Israel enters significant phase, Environment Minister saysNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
Cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel has entered a significant and creative phase, Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis stated here on Thursday, after the three countries signed a memorandum of understanding on energy and water resources.
Maniatis noted that developments in the energy sector and the exploitation of hydrocarbons, as well as the construction of a natural gas pipeline and the underwater power cable that will link Asia with Europe, constitute important factors for stability in eastern Mediterranean and for the prosperity of the three countries.
He noted that such initiatives contribute decisively to the improvement of Europe's energy security, a fact that undoubtedly strengthens the geopolitical position of Greece and Cyprus as EU member-states and, at the same time, promotes and consolidates, in the most practical and well-targeted way, trilateral cooperation on regional and international level.
Maniatis also said that a natural gas pipeline linking Cyprus with Crete and the Greek mainland, as well as, the power cable that will link Israel with Cyprus and Greece, have been included in the EU Projects of Common Interest.
He said that this means that a priority will be given to relevant research which will cut the time needed to complete the project by up to 40 pct and create better opportunities for financing by international banks.
Maniatis also said that energy issues are a major priority for the Greek EU Presidency.
 First funds from NSRF action for SMEs to be paid in October, development minister saysRoughly 10,000 businesses will receive EU funding under a current action to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) operational programme, Greece's Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday, adding that the government expected some 4,000 new jobs to be created as a result.
The minister made the statement while visiting ELANET, a Piraeus-based company that has undertaken to process and evaluate applications for the programme for the regions of Attica and the north and south Aegean.
Hatzidakis said the evaluation was progressing rapidly and the process was expected to be complete by the end of the September, so that the first advances on financial support can begin in October.
Referring to the problem of market liquidity in general, the minister said that the NSRF could not be a "panacea" because the problem was too severe. At the same time, he stressed that Greece had jumped to 4th place in rankings for the rate of absoprtion of EU funds, from a lowly 18th the previous year, and "we are really doing everything we can, every day".
"Now, as the country treads on firmer grounds, has completed a recapitalisation of the banks, when NSRF funds are doing better, we obviously have an improved situation. But we are still going uphill," he said.
Based on figures presented on Thursday, the processing of applications throughout the country is on schedule so that the first sums will be disbursed to businesses in early October. Of the 23,000 applications submitted, evaluation for 15,000 is already complete and a report on them sent to the committees that will make the final recommendation on the order of priority to the development ministry. The remaining 8,000 are still at the evaluation stage.
 Labour ministry to crosscheck unjustifiably increased layoffs in tourist areasAn unexpectedly negative balance of hirings to layoffs in major tourist regions has been recorded by "Ergani" - an electronic system offering real time data over labour flows in the country - even though the country is now at the height of the tourism season, the labour ministry announced on Thursday.
Vroutsis said that the "Ergani" data for the first days of August shows that layoffs in the catering and accommodations sectors of certain tourism regions outnumbered hirings - a counterintuitive finding at the height of summer tourism season when the tourism industry should be working at peak levels.
Specifically, the system recorded a rise in layoffs versus hirings in tourism sector enterprises in southern Attica (food catering-accommodations), east Attica (accommodations), Thassos island (accommodations), Zakynthos island (accommodations), Halkidiki (accommodations), Messinia (accommodations) and Ilia (accommodations).
On the southeast Aegean island of Kalymnos, in particular, all enterprises showed zero change in the hirings-layoffs balance between July 1 - August 8, which is incompatible with the noticeably increased tourist flow and comparative employment data collected on other Aegean islands.
Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis ordered inspections by the Hellenic Labour Inspection Corps (SEPE), the Social Insurance Fund inspection service EYPEA and the financial crimes squad to determine if undeclared and uninsured labour violations were being committed.
 Finance ministry to shut 26 businesses for a month for tax evasion, obstructing inspectionsThe finance ministry general secretariat for public revenues on Thursday announced stricter penalties for private businesses guilty of serious tax violations, or of obstructing tax inspections through the use of force or threats, noting that authorities can now order them to be shut down for up to a month. Twenty six businesses nationwide will be affected by the measure immediately since a total of 12 such decisions have already been issued, to be followed shortly by another 14.
The decision was made in response to recent incidents when force and threats were used by private business owners who objected to inspections by financial crimes squad SDOE officers.
 OTE posts strong results for second quarter of 2013An increase of the Group EBITDA margin to 35.1 percent, the smallest revenue drop since Q2 2010, and a decrease of total operating expenses by 10.2 percent were among the results announced by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday for the quarter and six months ending June 30, 2013.
Commenting on OTE's performance in the second quarter, Michael Tsamaz, Chairman & CEO, noted: "With the sale of Globul and incremental refinancing, we are in the best financial shape we have been in years, and have the resources we need to focus on our business and invest in the solutions our clients want and deserve."
The Group's total revenues were down by 8.6% in Q2'13, the smallest rate of revenue decline of the past four quarters. OTE Group top-line performance remained under pressure due to the severe impact on both fixed and mobile segments of mobile termination rate (MTR) cuts. In mobile operations, nearly two-thirds of the revenue shortfall compared to Q2'12 is due to MTR cuts. Excluding the impact of MTR cuts and the contribution of Hellas Sat in Q2'12 (deconsolidated as of March 26, 2013), Group revenues were down approximately 4% in the quarter.
The strong performance in Greek fixed-line is underlined by the increase of the EBITDA by 10.6%, boosting the margin to 34.2% (up 570bps compared to the same period last year).
In Greek mobile, the drop in Cosmote service revenues during the quarter reflects the steep MTR reductions, the difficult economic climate and heightened competition.
In international mobile telephony operations, both Cosmote Romania and AMC achieved significantly lower rates of revenue decline in the quarter.
Total Operating Expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization, impairments and charges related to voluntary retirement programs, amounted to ? 651.6mn in Q2' 13, down 10.2% from ? 725.9mn in Q2' 12. This sharp improvement is a direct result of OTE Group' s active cost-reduction measures over the past years. Compared to Q2' 12, Personnel Expenses were down 10.2% at Group level and 17.8% in Greek fixed-line operations.
Pro forma EBITDA was down 7.3% to ? 352.3mn. Excluding the impact of MTR cuts and the contribution of Hellas Sat in Q2' 12, pro forma EBITDA would have been down just 1.3%.
The Group achieved a pro forma EBITDA margin of 35.1% in Q2' 13, compared to 34.7% in the comparable quarter of last year.
Interest expense in Q2' 13 was ? 69.4mn, up 36.1% compared to the same period last year. However, in Q2' 12, gains relative to bond buybacks below par reduced interest expense by approximately ? 14mn.
Capital Expenditures amounted to ? 252.0mn in Q2' 13 compared to ? 94.4mn in the same quarter last year, reflecting the ? 130mn spectrum-related payment in Cosmote Romania. Capital expenditures in Greek fixed-line, Romanian fixed-line, and mobile operations amounted to ? 32.1mn, ? 17.5mn and ? 201.5mn, respectively.
In Q2' 13, the OTE Group generated Net Operating Cash Flow (ex-VRS payments) of ? 249.9mn, up 13.2% compared to Q2' 12. The strong cash flow generation during the period reflects a ? 63.3mn improvement in working capital. Continued Free Cash Flow excluding mobile spectrum licenses and VRS-related payments amounted to ? 128.4mn in Q2' 13, up 1.6% compared to Q2' 12.
The Group' s Underlying Net Debt amounted to less than ? 2.5bn at June 30, 2013, down ? 740.6mn or 23.1% compared to June 30, 2012. The Group' s ratio of Underlying Net Debt to 12-month trailing Pro forma EBITDA stood at 1.7x. Following receipt of the proceeds from the Globul disposal (received after the reporting date), the current pro forma Net Debt/EBITDA ratio should drop to about 1.2x. As of June 30, 2013, the Group held ? 93.3mn in short-dated highly liquid financial assets, included under Other Financial Assets.
In Q2' 13, OTE achieved net additions of 24k retail broadband customers, or 37% of total net additions in the Greek market, bringing the total number of OTE broadband subscribers to 1,234k. The drop in OTE's share of net additions in the quarter primarily reflects the company's policy of accelerating disconnections of overdue accounts, as well as reduced competitiveness due to the regulator's delays in approving offers taking into account OTE's 2012 cost base.
Total Greek fixed-line Revenues declined by 8.1% in the quarter, the lowest rate of revenue reduction since Q2'10, reflecting OTE's advanced technological solutions, increasingly competitive offers and strong customer relationships.
Total Greek fixed-line Operating Expenses, excluding depreciation, amortization and charges related to voluntary retirement programs, amounted to ? 252.9mn in Q2' 13, a drop of 16.6% compared to ? 303.4mn in Q2' 12. Total Personnel Expenses were cut by 17.8% compared to the comparable quarter last year, amounting to 29.8% of total revenues in Q2' 13, down from 33.3% in Q2' 12, mainly reflecting the Voluntary Exit Scheme implemented at the end of 2012. The decline in Operating Expenses also benefited from partial capitalization of certain TV content costs. As a result, EBITDA margin improved substantially, to 34.2%, a 5.7 percentage point increase compared to Q2'12.
At June 30, 2013, the mobile operations of the OTE Group counted approximately 15.6mn customers (excluding Globul's 4.6mn customers), down slightly from the prior-year level. Despite depressed conditions and intense competition in Greece, Romania and Albania, the Cosmote Group defended its market positions during the quarter.
OTE expects its revenue base to remain under pressure in the coming quarters from difficult economic conditions, shrinking disposable income due to higher taxation, and intense competition across its activities. In addition, comparison with prior year performances will continue to be affected by the successive rounds of MTR cuts implemented through 2012 and early 2013.
 Unemployment rises to 27.6 pct in MayGreek unemployment rose to 27.6 pct in May this year, from 23.8 pct in the same month in 2012 and up from 27.0 pct in April, with the number of unemployed people totalling 1,381,088 in the country, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.
The number of unemployed rose by 193,668 people compared to May 2012 (up 16.3 pct) and by 30,558 compared to April this year (up 2.3 pct).
In its monthly report, the statistics service said that the number of employed in May totalled 3,621,153, down by 171,356 people compared to May 2012 (a drop of 4.5 pct), and down by 22,815 people compared to April this year (a drop of 0.6 pct).
Those classified as economically non-active (neither working nor looking for work) came to 3,318,671 people, a drop by 33,535 people compared to May 2012 (down 1.0 pct) but a rise by 20,508 people compared to April this year (up 0.6 pct). This percentage reflects the ELSTAT decision as of January 2012 to include seasonal adjustments in its unemployment index figures, in order to align with the way Eurostat, the EU's statistical service, presents its data. It takes into account people aged 15 to 74. ELSTAT publishes its non-adjusted figures on its site.
 PPC board approves partnership with Damco Energy to set up PPC Solar SolutionsGreece's electricity company Public Power Corporation (PPC) board on Thursday approved plans to collaborate with Damco Energy SA in jointly establishing a new society anonyme company under the tradename PPC Solar Solutions SA.
A PPC announcement said that PPC and Damco will sign the Shareholders Agreement and the Articles of Incorporation of PPC Solar Solutions S.A, whose share capital will amount to 2.0 million euros, and PPC S.A. will participate with a percentage of 49 pct.
The company's objective will be the promotion, via a national network of shops using the franchising method, of integrated solutions for household photovoltaic systems, the provision of energy services and products of energy saving, as well as the provision of customer services for the clients of PPC S.A.
 Anomeritis tells ASE of OLP's investment project, valued at 600 million eurosPiraeus Port Authority S.A. (OLP) is implementing an investment project valued at 600 million euros, OLP president and managing director George Anomeritis told an event at the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) on Thursday on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of OLP's public listing.
Anomeritis said that OLP is a port of large sizes, revealing that it serves on an annual basis 40,000 ship arrivals and departures, 19,000,000 passengers, 2,000,000 cruise tourists, 650,000 containers, 460,000 cars-merchandise and 4,000,000 vehicles through coastal shipping.
Being profitable for the 4th consecutive year in spite the economic crisis and by modernising installations and infrastructures, OLP is constantly upgrading its position in the port industry and is becoming a dominant Mediterranean port for many of its activities, and a gateway of tourism and culture for the capital, Piraeus and Greece, Anomeritis said.
ASE president Socratis Lazaridis said in a brief address during the event that the presence of the company's administration is a great honour for the stock exchange community, because OLP's listing was a successful privatisation and because the company has a decisive role in the Greek economy's growth in the sector of transportation and international cooperation that utilise the country's geopolitical position, as well as the sector of tourism.
 State to disburse another 32 million to settle medical debts to doctors, clinicsNearly 32 million euros' worth of debts to medical doctors and health sector providers carried by state health services provider EOPYY will be repaid as of Monday, August 12, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis announced Thursday.
The payment follows an initial disbursement of 163.7 million euros on August 1 to OPAD, the civil servants' healthcare fund, to pay for debts due before December 31, 2011 to doctors and health service providers.
The repayment is part of pressure applied on Greece to settle outstanding state debts, an issue that led to an unannounced visit by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to EOPYY headquarters on August 5 to ask for immediate settlement.
As of the beginning of August, a total 1.9 billion euro in outstanding debts were owed by EOPYY to health service providers, with only 500 million euro disbursed so far. The remaining 1.4 billion euro remain to be settled even though their disbursement has been approved.
 Farming could help women's employment, Agriculture minister saysThe need for actions for women's equal access to the labour market and full intervention in favour of the women's population, to enable their employment in the agricultural sector, as well as in fishery, was stressed during a meeting between Agricultural Development and Food Minister Athanasios Tsaftaris, Alternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos and Equality Secretary General Vasso Kollia.
Tsaftaris briefed Grigorakos and Kollia on his ministry's development programmes in both the sector of agriculture and fishery, through, which can help promote women's entrepreneurship as a factor of equality of opportunities in the labour market and an increase in the economy's competitiveness.
He also referred to support for women's entrepreneurship in the new programming period (new Common Agricultural Policy) and to the increase in funds to support new farmers and newcomers to agriculture.
 Domestic mattress sales down 21 pct in 2012, ICAP reportsDomestic consumption of mattresses declined 21 pct in 2012, after a 16 pct decline in 2011, according to an ICAP Group sectoral survey unveiled on Thursday.
The report attributed the lower sales to a decline in household available income and predicted that it will continue in 2013. Imports account for approximately 10-13 pct of domestic consumption.
The total value of units sold in 2012 declined by 22 pct in comparison with 2011, the report said.
The survey also focused on domestic mattress manufacturers that publish yearly reports, with an analysis of the combined reports for 2010-2011 of 14 manufacturers. This found that their sales fell by 12.4 pct in 2011 compared with 2010, while net pre-tax profits virtually collapsed, declining 97 pct in the same period and EBITDA fell by 38.8 pct.
The quantity of mattresses produced fell by 20 pct in 2012 compared with 2011 while the sector showed restricted export activity, covering just 7 pct of production, in 2012.
 Greek stocks surge 2.46 pct higherGreek stocks surged higher in bullish trade on the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the composite index of the market flirting with the 950-point mark and closing at the highest level since June 7, 2013 after gains in seven consecutive sessions. Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks such as National Bank of Greece, MIG, Coca Cola HBC, Motor Oil and Alpha Bank. The composite index rose 2.46 pct to end at 948.72 points, with turnover a moderate 48.63 million euros.
The Large Cap index rose 3.10 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.90 pct higher. NBG (7.06 pct), MIG (7.05 pct), Coca Cola HBC (5.40 pct), and Motor Oil (4.55 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Terna Energy (-0.64 pct), Jumbo (-0.56 pct) and Piraeus Port (-0.29 pct) suffered losses.
The Food (5.33 pct), Banks (4.45 pct) and Oil (4.21 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Personal Products (-0.30 pct) was the only sector that suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 80 to 53 with another 19 issues unchanged. Perseus (19.51 pct), Boutaris (16.28 pct) and Altec (15.79 pct) were top gainers, while Pasal (-20.00 pct), Kathimerini (-18.06 pct) and Audiovisual (-10.85 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +4.21%
Personal & Household: -0.30%
Raw Materials: +3.87%
Travel & Leisure: +0.22%
Food & Beverages: +5.33%
Financial Services: +2.33%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, National Bank, OTE and Folli Follie.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.48
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.80
HBC Coca Cola: 22.24
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.90
National Bank of Greece: 2.73
Eurobank Properties : 7.25
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.356
Pound sterling 0.874
Danish kroner 7.569
Swedish kroner 8.813
Japanese yen 130.61
Swiss franc 1.249
Norwegian kroner 8.002
Canadian dollar 1.411
Australian dollar 1.494
 Five countries present their version of the world crisis on the stage of ancient Epidaurus' Little TheatreThe EU cultural programme "World Crisis Theatre" and the Panteion University centre for classical drama and entertainment will host a three-day drama festival at the Little Theatre of ancient Epidaurus from August 23 to 25.
Drama troupes from five EU countries - Greece, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal - will perform plays whose main theme is the global economic crisis. The programme promotes ways of formulating a European identity through the arts.
The programme opens on Friday, August 23, with Bruno Freyssinet (France) presenting an excerpt from "The Power of Yes" play (by Sir David Hare). Greece will perform "Cyclops-Survival", written by Panteion professor Yiangos Andreadis, based on Euripides' satire "Cyclops".
On Saturday, Italy's Tomaso Thellung and Francesco Giuffre will stage "Espoti a tuto". Portugal's entry, "Response" is based on a play by Hugo Miguel Coelho, who also directs it.
The festival will wrap up on August 25 with Germany's entry, "The Satyr Play", written and directed by Katerina Kokkinos and Andreas Wrosch and based on a satirical version of plays by Aeschylus (Eumenides in the Oresteia cycle).
Entrance is free, and performances start at 8:00 p.m.
 Cretan concert at Hania to accept food donations instead of charging for ticketsA concert of Cretan singer Ilias Palioudakis on Saturday night in Hania, Crete, will accept food donations as entrance fee instead of tickets, the city council announced on Thursday.
The 9:00 p.m. concert at the theatre of Anatoliki Tafros ("Eastern trench") will benefit around 800 people on the city programme "Help at home" for low-income people.
Speaking about the initiative, cultural representative Nancy Angelaki said the people who will benefit from the food contributions include the aged, individuals with handicaps, and the mentally ill. The programme "provides structured and consistent care to sensitive groups, and its success lies in that it provides them with the ability to live independently, with decent living standards, and allows them to upgrade their quality of life."
Singer Ilias Palioudakis has offered to perform gratis to help the food drive.
 Football club chairman gets jail sentence for selling untaxed concert ticketsThe chairman of an Alexandroupolis football club was on Thursday given a jail sentence of 18 months, suspended for three years, for evading taxes due on the sale of tickets to a concert organised by the club at its 'Fotis Kosmas' stadium.
He was arrested on Wednesday night after financial crimes squad (SDOE) officers conducted an inspection, shortly before the concert given by a well-known popular singer was due to begin, and found that hundreds of the tickets on sale had not been registered with the tax office.
Specifically, SDOE officers found 916 tickets with a nominal price of 15 euros that were not registered with the tax officer and a further 1,500 tickets that appear to be registered but are now being examined.
The concert went ahead as planned and drew a very large audience.
 Varybobi arson suspect released on bailA 60-year-old man arrested and charged with trying to set fire to forest in Varybobi, west Attica was released after paying a bail of 20,000 euros on Thursday. The suspect, who faces criminal charges of attempted arson, was also been forbidden to leave the country and required to report to a local police station twice a month after testifying before the 3rd special magistrate.
A former taxi driver and resident of Kapandriti in Attica, the suspect was arrested by police officers on an Athens-Lamia national highway access road as he was trying to set alight a pile of kindling he had gathered by the roadside. At the time of his arrest he was driving a private vehicle with no number plates, in which police officers also found canisters of petrol and a large number of lighters.
The suspect denied the charges and insisted that he had been out on an evening stroll in order to collect stones for a building that he is erecting.
 Wildfires break out in Fokida and Ilia prefecturesTwo new wildfires were underway on Thursday afternoon in forests within the Gravia municipality in Fokida and at Geraki in the prefecture of Ilia.
The fire in Fokida was burning through a forest of oak and scrub oak in a region known as Kastelia near Polydroso. A force of 36 firemen with 12 fire engines and a six-man team on foot was sent to put out the flames and later joined by four fire-fighting aircraft dropping water from above.
The Geraki fire started a short while later, with 18 firemen, nine vehicles and 10 fire-fighters on foot deployed against the flames, assisted by two fire-fighting aircraft from the air.
 Wildfire breaks out in Avlaki, AtticaA wildfire broke out shortly after 7 p.m. on Thursday evening in an area with low vegetation in the region of Avlaki, Attica prefecture. Firemen went into action immediately as the blaze is located close to houses and strong winds are blowing in the area. Firemen are being assisted in their efforts by 15 vehicles and a water-bombing helicopter.
 Forest fire in Roupakia, southern GreeceA forest fire that broke out on Thursday morning in the region of Roupakia in Achaia prefecture, southern Greece, does not threaten residential areas, the Fire brigade announced on Thursday.
Three water-bombing aircraft and a helicopter are fighting the fire, with 40 firemen with 13 fire engines on the ground.
 End of Ramadan prayers held at Yeni Mosque in ThessalonikiA young imam from Xanthi in northeastern Greece opened the prayers for the end of the Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, before dawn on Thursday at the Yeni Mosque of Thessaloniki.
Locals and Turkish tourists joined the prayers at the historical monument, which was built in 1902 on the design of Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli as a devotional space for Jewish converts to Islam. The site has been used to accommodate refugees following the Greece-Turkey population exchange of 1922, converted to an archaeological museum between 1925 and 1963, and is still being used as an exhibition venue.
It is the second year in a row that the city of Thessaloniki has turned the building over for the holiday.
"Keeping our promise, we allowed use of Yeni Mosque for prayers at the end of the Ramadan fast," Mayor Yiannis Boutaris said. "Our purpose is to assist Muslim residents of the city and Muslim visitors who decided to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fast in Thessaloniki and the greater area, thus honouring the great religious feast of Islam."
 Serbian President Nikolic on private visit to Mount AthosSerbian President Tomislav Nikolic is on a private visit to the monastic community of Mount Athos, where he arrived on Thursday morning.
He travelled to the Mount Athos, Halkidiki Peninsula, in northern Greece, by speedboat and continued by car to the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of Hilandar, where he will spend the night.
President Nikolic is scheduled to leave Mount Athos on Friday.
 Thessaloniki tax office robberyA tax office in Thessaloniki became the target of an armed robbery early on Thursday afternoon, police announced.
A man brandishing a small handgun, possibly a revolver, who had not concealed his face, made off with roughly 5,000 euros after threatening the cashier.
An investigation is underway for his arrest.
 Historic buildings in downtown Athens to undergo aesthetic faceliftA major clean up and rehabilitation campaign for an aesthetic facelift of historic buildings in downtown Athens will be formally launched by the City of Athens on August 21, it was announced on Thursday.
The City of Athens through a new website, www.synathina.gr, has issued an invitation to active citizen groups to be dynamically involved in the three-month initiative that will initially focus on Athina Street buildings before gradually expanding to Stadiou, Panepistimiou and Ermou streets.
 Arrests for theft of 250 kg of cast iron from Patras worksiteTwo men, aged 19 and 49, were arrested in the region of Glafkos in Patras, southern Greece, for stealing over 250 kilos of cast iron from a local worksite which they subsequently sold to a nearby junkyard, police announced on Thursday.
Police were quickly notified of the theft, raided the junkyard and arrested the two suspects, the junkyard owner and a female employee.
 Amazon Basin fish found in Lake KastoriaA fish from the Amazon Basin was found in the northern lake of Kastoria by a fisherman, who notified authorities.
The fish, belonging to the Ancistrus species, was 26.5 cm long and weighed 144 grams; it is found only in the fresh waters of South America and the Amazon Basin specifically.
As Kastoria regional director of the fisheries department Pavlos Filos told ANA-MPA, "It is not right, either legally or environmentally, to free such fish in the waters because they can alter the marine ecosystem."
The species, also known as bushynose or bristlenose, feeds on algae, and is aggressive and hardy.
 Man arrested in Pieria for seducing minorA 63-year-old Polish holidaymaker has been arrested at a camping site in the northern prefecture of Pieria for seducing a minor. The arrest was preceded by reports by customers of the camping that the man made indecent gestures to a 6-year-old girl who, as it was revealed, is a granddaughter of his wife, who is of the same nationality, from another marriage.
The girl was delivered to its parents, with the care of police authorities, while the arrested man was brought before a prosecutor in the city of Katerini.
 Woman run over by train identifiedGreek authorities on Thursday announced that the identity of a young woman run over by a passenger train in Thessaloniki the night before has been discovered.
The woman was hit by a train beneath the Monastiriou Road overpass in Thessaloniki's Mytilinakia district, shortly after midnight. The 29-year-old woman had been on foot and was hit by a train on the Edessa-Thessaloniki route under conditions that are now being investigated.
 Fair on FridayGenerally fair, with mostly north-northeasterly winds 3 to 5 Beaufort, rising to 7 in the Aegean Sea and Crete. Temperatures from 19C to 36C, lower in western Macedonia, the Cycladic Islands and Crete. In Athens, fair with north-northeasterly winds 4 to 5 Beaufort, temporarily rising to 7. Temperatures from 26C to 34C. In Thessaloniki, fair with variable winds 2 to 4 Beaufort. Temperatures from 22C to 34C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "12,500 'on death row' in civil sector"
DIMOKRATIA: "In 50 days, asset seizure over insurance fund debts"
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Nightmare of matured bills"
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The plan for 80,000 municipality employees"
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tax trap for 250,000 pensioners"
ESTIA: "Fewer employers, more unemployed"
ETHNOS: "New system for national exams" (for university entry)
IMERISSIA: "Emergency signal by IKA and OAEE to debtors" (two major insurance funds)
KATHIMERINI: "US VP Joe Biden: Your success is in our interest"
LOGOS: "Impounding over the weekend"
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Impounding of companies 24/7, including holidays"
RIZOSPASTIS: "Factories shut down from the race for profit"
TA NEA: Russian salad.
VRADYNI: German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent away the Russians.
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