|Friday, 19 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-09-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 6 September 2013 Issue No: 4453
 FM Venizelos holds talks with Egyptian counterpart on sea zonesCAIRO (ANA-MPA/Chr. Poulidou)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, speaking on Thursday after a meeting with his visiting Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos, underlined Egypt's "commitment" for "talks to resume in regular contacts and a joint committee to be held soon" on determining sea zones of the two countries in the Mediterranean.
The Egyptian official also left open the possibility for a tripartite cooperation between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus, while supporting his country's right to defend its interests, regardless of the impact that may appear in third countries.
Venizelos, invited here by his Egyptian counterpart, had a series of contacts in Cairo on Thursday in adverse conditions due to the attempted assassination of the country's Interior minister and the dozens of injuries caused by the explosion.
The Greek government's vice president expressed his "abhorrence" over this development, condemning terrorism and stressing "clearly and solemnly" that Greece "stands by Egypt's side", not only as a continuation of historic and traditional relations, but also in the framework of a "strategic plan".
As far as sea zones are concerned, Venizelos said the two countries' positions "are identical" and "a wider initiative between Greece-Egypt-Cyprus" is being promoted on the issue.
He added that the Experts Groups are being planned to convene as soon as possible to determine the common criteria in the relevant discussion, which will be based on the principles of international law and the international maritime law in particular.
"The Mediterranean must become a region of peace and growth for the benefit of Egypt and Greece," Venizelos said.
He added that serving the "joint interest of the two countries in the framework of international law does not generate a hostile disposition towards another country."
Speaking on the issue of Syria, Venizelos said that recent developments will be discussed at the European Union Foreign Ministers' informal meeting (in Vilnius, Lithuania on Friday), possibly in the presence of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Greek Foreign minister reiterated his "unequivocal condemnation of the use of chemical weapons" in Syria and the need to map out a reply on the part of the international community "that will safeguard and promote a political solution process."
The Egyptian official underlined his will for further development of Greece-Egypt bilateral relations, while Venizelos pointed out that bilateral relations "have a wider horizon - in the commercial and economic field, in foreign policy, defence and security." He added that the implementation of a joint initiative with the participation of all Foreign ministers of Arab countries was also discussed.
Venizelos also met with the Egypt's President Adli Mansur, Prime Minister Hazem?el Beblawi?, Arab League?secretary-general Nabil?Elaraby, while he was scheduled to be decorated by Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros II.
 FM Venizelos visiting Vilnius on September 6Government vice president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will be arriving in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday to participate in the two-day informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting (GYMNICH).
The agenda of the meeting's first day includes the preparation of December's European Council that will focus mainly on the upgrading of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy. The Eastern Partnership Relation will then be discussed, as well as Southern Neighbourliness, meaning European policy towards the EU's eastern and southern partners respectively.
On Saturday September 7, the agenda of the meeting - which US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to attend - includes the situation in Syria, the course of the peace process in the Middle East and latest developments in Egypt.
In the framework of the above discussion, Venizelos will be providing an analytical briefing on the contacts he will be having on his one-day visit to Cairo on Thursday with the Egyptian state and political leadership, with the Egyptian Foreign minister and the Arab League's secretary general, as well as with political party representatives.
 Too early to talk about new programe for Greece, FinMin says"It is still too early to talk about a new support programe for the country," Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday, commenting on a statement made by Eurogroup's president Jeroen Dijsselbloem earlier in the day that "Greece will not be able to return to the markets after the end of the programe in 2014 therefore it is almost self-evident that there will be a new programe".
"We still have one year ahead of us. The issue will be raised in July 2014," Stournaras said. Responding to a remark that Dijsselbloem's comment was a pessimistic estimate when Greece talks about exiting to markets in spring 2014, the Greek Finance minister said: "We will see to that. There's one more solid year. It is enough time". Commenting on the issue of the defense industry, Stournaras said the Greek government will offer its response next week.
 Greece will need more aid after 2014, Eurogroup head tells BrusselsBRUSSELS (ANA-M. Aroni)
Greece will need further aid after 2014, according to Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, addressing the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in Brussels on Thursday.
Eurozone countries are ready to assist Greece further if need be, he said, terming as realistic the assessment that Greece will not have full access to the markets after 2014, leading therefore to the need for further financial assistance. "We must not expect that Greece's problems will be resolved after 2014," he told the Parliament.
Dijsselbloem refrained from estimating the extent of the aid Greece will need at that time, saying it is too early to make such assessments.
Referring to rumours about further reduction of the Greek debt, he reiterated the Eurogroup's statement in November 2012 according to which eurozone countries committed to supporting Greece further - through infrastructural funds, for example - on condition that the fiscal adjustment programme would be kept in full and that the Greek economy presents a primary surplus by the end of this year.
He also reiterated the assessment by the troika of lenders in July that the Greek fiscal programme was on track, the economic situation was improving and the Greek economy would return to development in the beginning of 2014.
The next assessment of the troika will be in September, he said, and will assess the funding needs of the programme. In terms of the current fiscal programme's funding, Dijsselbloem said a detailed assessment would take place in October, to be completed by November. The evaluation of the Greek debt's viability will take place by April the latest, he added.
He also expressed his concern over the obstacles to infrastructural reforms in Greece and other eurozone countries.
 SYRIZA responds to Dijsselbloem comments, issues call for TIF rallyYet another statement on a new memorandum confirms the failure of the first two and proves wrong those who said the second one will be the last one for Greece, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said on Thursday.
The party was responding to statements by Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who told the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in Brussels on Monday that it is very likely Greece will need further aid after 2014.
SYRIZA charged the government with remaining "voiceless" and continuing "its strategy of subservience to its creditors" while "trying to convince, on the basis of creative accounting, the existence of a primary surplus - which however does not seem to reduce the creditors' demands for new measures."
"The failed government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras does not have the political legality to sign a new memorandum of understanding to continue the policy of social dismantling and financial bankruptcy," it said, calling for the cancellation of the current memorandum and its renegotiation towards a cancellation of the largest part of it.
In a separate announcement, SYRIZA criticised the government on several issues, charging it again with "being obedient to the orders of the troika of lenders and especially the German government, to help evern more their only supporters abroad: the offshore people, bankers, television magnates, industrialists and shipowners."
In this effort, it said, the government has "openly doubted rights and have attacked democracy itself", accusing it of using violence against the weaker strata of Greek society, using "parliamentary coups d'etat" and taking down public television, among other things, and called on people to join it a rally organised at the opening of the Thessaloniki Trade Fair on September 7, at 6:00 pm, by the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE).
 ANEL, DIMAR respond to Dijsselbloem statementsTwo more opposition parties issued announcements on Thursday condemning the statements by Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who told the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee in Brussels on Monday that it is very likely Greece will need further aid after 2014.
Independent Greeks party (ANEL) reiterated that "the government has already agreed to memorandum number 3, suspending its announcement because of the German national elections." These memorandums, it added, "don't bind either Greeks or Greece, they just bind those who are sharing ruling power. They have brought enough grief to the Greek people, now it's time they leave."
Democratic Left, on the other hand, said that fiscal adjustment programmes "do not lead to an exit from the crisis as long as they are not disengaged from the logic of austerity," and it called for a new agreement that would include "support instead of new odious terms" and substantial changes to the fiscal adjustment programme so that it may be linked to growth, social protection, a reduction of the debt and a strong programme of development.
 Turkish aircraft interceptedA formation of six Turkish aircraft and a helicopter entered the Athens FIR on Thursday and carried out two infringements of Air Traffic Rules and eight violations of national air space in the regions of the central and southeastern Aegean, according to an announcement by the National Defence General Staff.
Two F-16s of the above formation carried out an overflight over Agathonissi at an altitude of 14,000 feet.
All the aircraft were intercepted and identified in accordance with international rules, and according to standard practice, the announcement added.
 SYRIZA on defence industry; PASOK's anniversary event; mayoral electionsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Thursday commented on the government moves as regards the fate of the country's defence industry, saying that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' government has managed to "ridicule" itself.
SYRIZA underlined that "the revelations according to which, the controversial (troika) email had not suggested the sudden death of the defence industry, contrary to what the government said, has uncovered the publicity stunt set up by the government to deceive the Greek people."
Referring to the "defence industry's planned shrinking and virtual disappearance," SYRIZA said that it is a major scandal with many dimensions and suggested the industry's reorganization under the umbrella of a public-run organization.
Commenting on the symposium organized by PASOK to mark its 39th anniversary, SYRIZA noted that "what is left of PASOK has confirmed that it is the most loyal faction of Samaras' New Democracy party".
On the plans to change the local government election law, SYRIZA said that they reveal that the government is panicking before a popular outcry and a broad-based support to radical and alternative ballots in the forthcoming local administration elections.
 Private sector created 102,580 new jobs in Jan-AugGreek Labour, Social Security and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Thursday expressed his satisfaction over the figures released by the IT system Ergani, which measures employment trends in the country, and said the August figures confirmed the ministry's estimate that rising trends in unemployment were contained and that the country's labour market was entering a stabilisation phase.
In a statement, Vroutsis said the balance between hirings and dismissals in the private sector remained positive for the sixth consecutive month, while the hiring/dismissal balance in the January-August period showed a surplus with 102,580 new job positions - the best eight-month period since 2008. The Greek minister said the private sector created 10,969 new job positions in August, the best results in the last 10 years, helped by an increased tourist trend in the country.
 KKE party on unemploymentThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday on the data of the "Ergani" informatics system and statements by Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, said "the statements by the Labour minister that hirings are more than layoffs, constitute a mockery for the unemployed, at a time when their figure nears 1.5 million the government is preparing to make new layoffs, while whatever new jobs are seasonal to a great extent, badly-paid and of part-time work to a considerable degree".
KKE added that "working people, the unemployed and the working classes must organise their struggle, rally the lines of popular alliance and demand measures for the protection of the unemployed, repel the new antipopular storm that is being unleashed in the name of competitiveness and the path to open for radical changes with the people in power".
 Finance ministry says surplus funds will be used for growth and social cohesionUp to 70 percent of the general government's primary surplus may be allocated -as of next year- to fund on a non-permanent basis the government's policies on enhancing economic growth and social cohesion, the Finance ministry announced on Thursday evening. It added that at least 30 percent of the surplus would be used to pay off public debt.
The ministry's announcement was in reply to charges by General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos earlier in the day, in which he termed "mockery" the commitment by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that 70 percent of the primary surplus will be used to support pensioners.
 GSEE president criticises PM, issues call for TIF rallyGeneral Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Yiannis Panagopoulos on Thursday termed "mockery" the commitmernt by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that 70 percent of the primary surplus that will result will be provided to support pensioners and accused him of an effort to "deceive" pensioners, employees and the unemployed.
Speaking at a GSEE press conference in light of the unions' rally in Thessaloniki on Saturday, the day on which the 78th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) will be inaugurated by the prime minister, Panagopoulos said the biggest part of the primary stage surplus will go to interest and instalments.
He also denounced as "far-right" policy the separation being attempted between employees in the public and private sectors and stressed that "layoffs are concealed" behind mobility in the public sector.
GSEE, the country's umbrella union of private sector employees, will join its counterpart in the public sector, ADEDY, and other unions at a large rally to be held on Saturday afternoon, the day the TIF opens.
The rally will bring together several unions including the Communist Party-affiliated PAME, the Thessaloniki Labour Centre, the Union of Workers of Thessaloniki, and representatives of the armed and security forces including members of the Port Authority, the Fire Brigade, and the Greek Police.
 GSEVEE protest rally in Thessaloniki on SaturdayThe Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE) announced that it will stage a protest rally at 6 pm on Saturday, September 7 in Thessaloniki, the opening day of the 78th International Trade Fair (TIF).
Dialogue and understanding between the government and representatives of the production and social sectors is a basic precondition for the solution of problems, a GSEVEE announcement underlined, noting that the prime minister has not invited production sector representatives in the customary meeting traditionally held every year in the context of the Thessaloniki international fair.
 ND: SYRIZA's Tsipras follows 'old-party mentality'Majority New Democracy (ND) party on Thursday responded to statements by the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) that it is planning to rally in Thessaloniki on Saturday, the opening day of the Trade Fair, criticising the party and its leader Alexis Tsipras of "old-party mentality".
Referring to SYRIZA's call for protesting against the government's policies under the rallying cry of "Either them or us", ND responded: "Tsipras is monotonously yelping every day 'us or them'...a classic case of an old-party opposition mentality that doesn't care about anything, doesn't understand anything, the only thing it cares about is ruling power."
And, making reference to a classic Greek black and white film about an elitist politician whose accidental contact with his constituents opens his eyes, ND added, "Even Mavrogialouros understood, at the end."
 Parliamentary committee approves new lyceum draft billThe education ministry-sponsored draft bill on the new lyceum (secondary education) was approved by the relevant parliamentary committee on Thursday in its second reading following the incorporation of certain improvements.
In favour of the draft bill, which is expected to be brought to parliament for approval on Tuesday, voted the MPs of the governing parties of New Democracy and PASOK while all opposition MPs voted against.
A heated debate on the draft bill had sparked intense confrontations between the education ministry, which defended the new regulations saying that reform is necessary to upgrade the education system, and the opposition charging that public education is being abolished.
Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos has stated that further improvements can be made until the draft bill is tabled in parliament for approval.
 Culture minister calls on Turkish counterpart to save church near IzmirCulture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos asked Turkey's Culture Minister Omer Celik to intervene and save the historic Orthodox church of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elijah) near Izmir from the opening of a new road in the area that will destroy it.
According to a relevant announcement, Panagiotopoulos said, among other things, in the letter he addressed to his Turkish counterpart, that "although progress in infrastructure and construction projects must be encouraged in these difficult times, we, being Culture ministers, must do what is practically possible to protect monuments, so that economic growth is combined with respect for culture."
The church "is respected by both Muslims and Christians, and represents a common ground for our cultural heritage," he said, adding, "I believe that you will do all that you can, in the framework of your possibilities, for the protection of the specific monument".
The church was built in 1846, with diamensions roughly around 10 by 19 metres. It is about 2 km southeast of Izmir, in the Agia Anna valley wehre the Roman aqueducts are, near the Melis river. It has been looted, and its western wall is damaged. The church has been studied by geologist and Izmir historical topography expert Achilleas Hatzikonstantinou, while architecture graduate student Dogai Korkmaz had published a study on the monument.
 DIM.AR's proposal on the center-leftOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) on Thursday outlined its position in response to recent talk about the absence of a center-left political formation in the country.
A meeting of the party's executive committee and parliamentary group concluded that all progressive forces that disagree with the government policy and the main opposition party's populism, should unite "to formulate a political proposal that will inspire society and show that a new course can be followed in the EU based on democracy and social cohesion".
In the meeting it was also decided that DIM.AR's 2nd party congress will take place on December 13-15.
 DIMAR leader Kouvelis meets with Larco worker repsOpposition Democratic Left (DIMAR) President Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday met with the leaders of trade unions representing workers in the metallurgical company Larco, who outlined the state the company is in and called for support to ensure that it will remain open.
Kouvelis pledged his support, noting that a party delegation will visit the mines and the workers soon to brief them on DIMAR's initiatives and their outcome.
 Australian MPs to visit Thessaloniki Fair and meet with ministers, parl. PresidentAUSTRALIA (ANA/MPA-S. Hatzimanolis)
A delegation of MPs from the state of Victoria, Australia will pay an official visit to Greece following an invitation by parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis and Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou.
The MPs who are departing today (Thursday) for Greece will visit Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Australian businesses are participating in this year's TIF by initiative of the Hellenic-Australian Chamber of Commerce (HACCI).
 Hungarian embassy event in Chania, CreteThe Embassy of Hungary in Athens announced on Thursday that, in cooperation with the Municipality of Chania, Crete, it organized a ceremony on Wednesday in Chania to pay tribute to the memory of Gyula (Julius) Pint?r, the Austro-Hungarian general consul of Hungarian origin in Chania between 1893-1908.
"Gyula Pint?r played a major role at the time when the military intervention of six European powers (namely the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Germany, Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy) aimed to stop the armed conflict on the Mediterranean island in 1897-98. Pint?r, a well-respected and popular personality on Crete at that time, intervened many times to prevent bloodshed to the detriment of civilians," the announcement noted.
Honoring the memory and the achievements of Julius Pinter, the city of Chania named a street after the general consul. At the inauguration ceremony, with the participation of high level civil officials and high ranking representatives of the Greek Army, Ambassador Eszter S?ndorfi, Acting Mayor Nikos Xinidis and Deputy Mayor for Culture Dimitris Lipsakis as well as Historian Dimitris Nikolakakis delivered a speech, the embassy press release said.
On Wednesday, in the city of Rethymno, Ambassador Eszter S?ndorfi, Mayor of Rethymno Giorgis Ch. Marinakis and Historian Dimitris Nikolakakis opened the exhibition "1897- 1898, Hungarian Soldiers on Crete: The Austro-Hungarian participation in the Cretan question", the announcement also added.
 Trial of former minister Tsohatzopoulos wraps up evidence partThe chief judge at the trial of former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos for money-laundering and armaments kickbacks declared on Thursday that the part of the trial dealing with presentation of evidence for crimes allegedly committed is over.
The trial will continue on Wednesday with prosecutors orating on whether the defendants are guilty or not.
Shortly before the decision that no more evidence would be admissible, Tsochatzopoulos told the court emphatically that for the 40 years he was in politics he "served and never harmed public interest". Addressing himself to the Greek people and to the PASOK party, he apologised for his responsibility in what the country's economy is going through.
The trial had continued on Thursday with supplementary statements lodged by the defendants in the case.
One of his co-defendants, his accountant Efrosini Lambropoulou, told the judges that she is pressured to change parts of her initial testimony.
Lambropoulou said that she was pressured by Nikos Zigras (a first cousin of Tsochatzopoulos and main beneficiary of all kickbacks) and Talita-Maria Tsekoura (a lawyer involved in the Nobilis offshore company), who are also defendants in the case, alleging that Tsekoura pressured her to change the part of her testimony that referred to the establishment of Nobilis. In her testimony, Lambropoulou had told the court that she had heard that the company was founded by former armaments secretary general Yiannis Sbokos, also a defendant.
She also told the court that she introduced an acquaintance of her to represent the company "and help Tsochatzopoulos to hide".
In his supplementary statement, Tsochatzopoulos repeated that his wife Vicky Stamati is innocent and that he was handling the family finances, noting that she remains in prison even though she has hasn't done anything wrong.
Zigras maintained that his role "was to handle payments thus allowing the minister to remain obscure" and suggested to Tsochatzopoulos to "confess and apologize...like grown men do".
Zigras said that "the trial began with one guilty and 17 innocent co-defendants and ends with a major con man (meaning himself) and 17 others who did not know anything". He repeated that he gave 400,000 US dollars in cash to Tsochatzopoulos' ex-wife.
Sbokos repeated that he never handled any money on anybody's behalf, while Tsochatzopoulos' wife Stamati said that she is innocent, adding that her husband was handling their finances and that she never asked where the money came from.
Earlier in the day, Nikos Karatzas, the owner of Ianos bookstore, had completed his testimony by naming Tsochatzopoulos, as the real owner of Noris (a company that had bought Ianos publishing house stocks) and noting that only on paper it belonged to Zigras with whom he had never met. He also underlined that it had never crossed his mind that he was participating in a suspicious transaction, money laundering in particular.
 Industrial unions welcome government plan to simplify licensing proceduresIndustrial unions on Thursday welcomed plans presented by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Wednesday promoting drastic changes in licensing of new business.
Dimitris Mathios, president of the Federation of Industries in Attica-Piraeus (SVAP), speaking to ANA-MPA said the Federation "supported without any reservations the intervention of the ministry because they are moving in the right direction and composing the positions and proposals made by the Federation towards the same goal. Industrial investments, as any other investment in the country, are now not only an element of growth, but a mechanism of resolving financial and social problems of the country, such as unemployment".
Under the plan, presented by Development minister on Wednesday, an industrial company will need 82 days to receive its environmental approval license, compared with 368 days currently needed. A food industry investment, worth 2.5 million euros, will be burdened with a cost of 37,500 euros instead of a cost of around 63,500 euros currently because of bureaucratic delays.
The plan covers any type of license (installation, operation, set-up, environmental, special license, etc) covering a wide range of activities such as manufacturing, mining, port, environmental infrastructure system, business parks and aquaculture.
The new strategy introduces four new changes:
- A system of compliance statement
- Controls during operation
- Controls to be made by certified agencies and
- A central electronic management system for information and part of licensing procedures.
Hatzidakis said that the plan will be put into consultation with all interested parties and noted that the state has issued a total of 60 different presidential or ministerial decrees without managing to simplify the licensing system so far. "It is like saying to investors that we don't want you," Hatzidakis said.
He added that the ministry, in cooperation with the World Bank, commissioned a study to analyze the problem. The report, on the licensing procedures to be merged or banned, is expected to be released in October.
"Our aim is not to move from bureaucracy to dismantling, but to simplify things; that's why we want to present a legislation on the new framework by the end of the year," Hatzidakis said, adding that system will be operational by the end of 2014.
 Greece's tourism boom confirmed by country hotelier associationsPanhellenic Hoteliers' Federation Yiannis Retsos on Thursday confirmed that this summer season was very successful for Greek tourism.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, he underlined that "with the right strategy and proper planning the Greek tourism product can become even more competitive".
He noted that "despite the recession in the Greek economy the country's tourism industry has showed the way to economic growth," predicting that this year's revenues "can reach 11.5 billion euros, considerably increased compared with what was initially anticipated by sector representatives".
A record number of Russian tourist arrivals was recorded in the prefecture of Iraklion on the island of Crete, according to local hoteliers' association president Nikos Halkiadakis who told ANA-MPA that this is the first time a single prefecture in Greece has accommodated more than 100,000 Russian tourists in one tourism season.
He also underlined that hotels on Crete will be fully booked in September, while a 10 pct increase in arrivals will be recorded in October compared with the same month last year.
 National Bank does not plan to sell FinansbankNational Bank does not plan to sell Finansbank, but only a minority stake of its 95 pct majority stake in the Turkish bank, as Finansbank has become the main supporter of National Bank's profitability, the Greek bank's senior executives told ANA-MPA.
The executives said that National Bank will focus initially on the sale of non-banking activities, such as the sale of Astir Vouliagmeni Hotel, currently at the final stage of a tender process (a short-list of candidates are expected to submit their binding offers by October 21).
National Bank also plans to proceed, the soonest possible, with a voluntary exit programe covering around 2,000-2,200 workers.
These moves are made as all commercial banks which have received financial support from the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund must return these capital to the Fund in the next four year, to repay their debts from funding operations of the European Central Bank and the Emergerncy Lending Assistance (ELA) and at the same time maintain adequate capital and cash flow to finance the real economy.
Finansbank reported profits totaling 332 million euros in the first half of 2013, from a total profits of 344 million euros presented by National Bank Group. Finansbank said its net profits grew 32 pct compared with the same period last year and based on a fixed currency rate.
National Bank Group's activities in Southeastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Albania and FYROM) recorded profits of 6.0 million euros, while profits from domestic activities totaled 5.0 million euros in the January-June period.
Finansbank's positive results reflecte a 19 pct improvement of organic revenue, a 26 pct increase in net interest revenue and a 12 pct rise in revenues from commission and fees. Finansbank's loan portfolio totaled 17.9 billion euros, up 17 pct from the same period in 2012, with the retail banking loan portfolio rising by 18 pct and the corporate loan portfolio rising by 14 pct. The delayed loans index was 5.2 pct in June 2012, unchanged from 5.1 pct in June 2012, falling from a 5.8 pct rate in the first quarter of 2013 after the bank sold part of its loan portfolio to a third party. Bad loan provisions totaled 360 million Turkish lira (+35 pct).
Deposits grew 21 pct to 35.1 billion lira, while the loan/deposit rate was 109 pct, down from 119 pct a year earlier.
Finansbank has by far the lowest exposure to Turkish state bonds compared with other Turkish banks.
 Socar intends to expand activities of DESFA in Eastern EuropeSocar is interested in expanding the activities of DESFA - Greece's Natural Gas Transmission System Operator - to Eastern Europe through exporting know-how on natural gas management system and the development of non-regulated services.
The Azeri company's plans were confirmed during a series of meetings in Athens with the management of DESFA in the last two days.
DESFA, in a statement issued on Thursday, said that its management briefed Azeri officials over the course of DESFA's financial condition, its rise as the seventh most profitable Greek enterprise in 2012, progress in an investment plan worth 1.6 billion euros, the operation of the domestic natural gas market, interventions to expand revenues from non-regulated services and preparations to cooperation with system operators in other East European countries.
The meetings were held at DESFA's main offices in Halandri and its facilities in Patima and Revithousa. DESFA is expected to sign its first international cooperation agreement with Georgia's natural gas system operator this month.
The meetings also focused on preparations for the arrival of a top management delegation by Socar to Athens. Socar has agreed to buy 66 pct of DESFA for around 400 million euros. The deal is expected to be completed in a period of six months.
 Greek-German cooperation in photovoltaicsThe Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry is initiating Greek-German joint actions in photovoltaics through the eleventh business meeting it is organising in cooperation with Germany's Federal Economy and Technology ministry.
The agenda of the meeting, due to be held in Athens between October 7-10 2013, will focus on latest developments in the photovoltaics market and the implementation of related technologies in parks and roofs, and briefings of both sides on the state of the sector in Greece and Germany, as well as the pursuit of business cooperation between Greek and German companies.
German companies will also analyse their technologies during a conference to be held at the N.J.V. Athens Plaza hotel on Tuesday, October 8.
Those interested in more information can communicate with the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at tel. 2310 327733.
 Greek authorities intensify battle against tax evasionA rapid increase in overdue tax debt, particularly VAT by businessmen and the self-employed, has sounded the alarm at the Finance Ministry, which is drafting a new package of measures at combatting this phenomenon.
The overdue VAT debt to the state totalled 13.463 billion euros at the end July, rising by 144 million euros in the month, accounting for 22.4 pct of total overduel tax debt (around 60.2 billion euros).
Ministry sources said the measures to be promoted included the release to the public of the professional data of those enterprises or self-employed people wo have not submitted their periodic VAT statements, or have not acknowleded invoices issued or received for VAT discount, on the Internet.
Under the plan, enterprises and self-employed people will be notified initially to submit their VAT statements, before the Public Revenues General Secretariat publicly releases the professional data of those who fail to meet their obligations. These catalogues will be daily updated with data sent by tax agencies. The catalogues will be accessible to all taxpayers.
 Investigation into bogus accountants accessing Taxisnet recordsDeputy Development & Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis on Thursday announced that the names of 1,326 individuals who claimed as accountants access to the finance ministry's TAXIS net site - where income tax returns are being filed electronically - have been forwarded to the Athens First Instance Court chief prosecutor because none of them were professionally licensed.
The Public Administration Inspector General is also aware of the case and will proceed with an investigation into possible criminal and administrative liability by all those involved.
After meeting with Public Revenue Secretary General Theoharis Theoharis and Economic Chamber President Georgios Kydonakis, the deputy minister said that the evidence came up after a crosscheck at the Economic Chamber's initiative, and underlined that the goal is to protect individual taxpayers and companies as well as the public interest from activities of individuals who do not meet the necessary legal prerequisites.
 Greek pharmaceuticals market shrinking, reportThe domestic pharmaceuticals market has been shrinking in the last three years, hit by a general economic recession but mostly due to cutbacks in pharmaceutical spending and a series of new measures, a report by Direction Business Reports showed on Thursday.
The report, based on balance sheets published by July 10, 2013, showed that a decline in sales by pharmaceutical companies in the Greek market continued in 2012.
Accumulated turnover by the 40 largest enterprises in the sector fell by around 7.0 pct in 2012, compared with 2011, totalling 4.373 billion euros, from 4.699 billion euros in 2011. Gross earnings fell to 1.407 billion euros from 1.508 billion the previous year, while pre-tax profits totalled 300 million euros, after pre-tax losses of 137 million euros in 2011.
The report said that the state's overdue debt to pharmaceutical companies totalled 1.4 billion euros for invoices issued in the period from January 2012 to May 2013. Official figures said that sales totalled 3.134 billion euros in the same period.
Direction Business Reports said that the state's ovedue debt to pharmaceutical enterprises threatened the viability of several companies which are unable to meet their debt obligations to banks and suppliers.
 Northern Greece Business Index significantly down in AugustThe Northern Greece Business Index 500 (NGBI 500), recording business trends in Northern Greece, deteriorated significantly in August, falling to levels seen early in 2013.
The index fell to -32 points in August, from -22 in July, -49 in December 2012 and -36 in August last year. This decline is attributed by the analysts of the Interview polling and research company to a series of factors, such as the end of this year's tourist season; worries over the sustainability of the Greek debt and over the need of a new support package in 2014; and a protracted economic recession.
Only 16 pct of Northern Greece enterprises said their situation was good in August, down from 20 pct in July, while a 35 pct said their situation was satisfactory and a 49 pct said their situation was bad. Another 14 pct of enterprises said they expected their situation to improve in the next six months, down from 18 pct in July. Another 41 pct predicted things will remain the same and a 45 pct predicted a deterioration of conditions, up from 45 pct and 37 pct in July, respectively.
Northern Greece enterprises said their plans for workers' dismissals fell to 20 pct in August from 24 pct in July, while plans for new hirings fell to 5.0 pct from 8.0 pct, over the same months, respectively.
A 50 pct of enterprises said their turnover fell in August, with only a 9.0 pct saying their turnover grew in the month.
 Greek stocks end higherGreek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, supported by buying interest in selective blue chip stocks such as MIG, Viohalco, Alpha Bank and Motor Oil. The composite index of the market rose 0.91 pct to end at 929.78 points, off the day's highs of 931.73 points. Turnover was a thin 28.21 million euros.
The Large Cap index ended 0.91 pct higher and the Mid Cap index ended 0.19 pct up. MIG (3.79 pct), Viohalco (2.48 pct), Alpha Bank (2.35 pct) and Motor Oil (2.25 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Folli Follie (1.18 pct), OPAP (1.07 pct), Piraeus Port (0.61 pct) and Korinth Pipeworks (0.50 pct) were top losers.
The Financial Services (2.20 pct), Oil (1.85 pct) and Constructions (1.67 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Commerce (1.11 pct), Travel (0.84 pct) and Health (0.31 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 74 to 39 with another 20 issues unchanged. Druckfarben (30 pct), AXON Holdings (20 pct) and Pegasus (19.3 pct) were top gainers, while Levenderis (10 pct), Biokarpet (9.96 pct) and Pairis (9.72 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.85%
Personal & Household: +0.51%
Raw Materials: +0.53%
Travel & Leisure: -0.84%
Food & Beverages: +0.72%
Financial Services: +2.20%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank, National Bank and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.522
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.52
Coca Cola HBC: 22.01
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.22
National Bank of Greece: 2.97
Eurobank Properties : 6.80
Piraeus Bank: 1.16
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was almost unchanged at 8.53 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.54 pct and the German Bund surpassing the 2.0 percent barrier for the first time in 17 months (2.01 pct). There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.45 pct, the six-month rate was 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.225 pct and the one-month rate was 0.129 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.97 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover shrinking to 5.994 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,418 contracts worth 3.890 million euros, with 47,575 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 5,656 contracts worth 2.104 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (1,101), followed by National Bank (597), Alpha Bank (1,095), Eurobank (200), MIG (168), OTE (869), PPC (365), GEK (200), OPAP (124), Mytilineos (171) and Intralot (99).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.34
Pound sterling 0.855
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 8.906
Japanese yen 133.61
Swiss franc 1.257
Norwegian kroner 8.168
Canadian dollar 1.404
Australian dollar 1.466
 EU central banks employees coming to Crete for chess championshipThe championship of European Union Central Banks in chess "Eurochess 2013" will be taking place in Gerani, western Crete,a from September 5 to 8.
Participating in the championship that is taking place for the 8th time and for the first time in Greece are 70 employees from the central banks of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Greece.
The event is under the auspices of the Employee Federation at European Central Banks, while the organising will be done by the employee union at the Bank of Greece (BoG).
The participants will shoulder all travel and housing costs, according to the bursar of the BoG employees union.
Participants in the chess championship, through parallel events offered, will be visiting memorial locations and places of natural beauty and will have the opportunity to become acquainted with Cretan food.
The Hania Chess Academy provided the equipment for the chess championship.
 Fair on FridayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 12C and 32C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures between 18C and 31C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 17C and 29C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Elections scenery with lies and bravados.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: A nice atmosphere! PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos 'sees' his party united.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Crime: Ministries and entities keep 1.4 billion euros in their drawers.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The secrets of the E9 (real estate statement)
ESTIA: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to ND deputies: We can take off!
ETHNOS: PASOK seeks new identity.
KATHIMERINI: Heating benefit to more households.
IMERISSIA: Fitch foresees bank profits.
NAFTEMPORIKI: New framework for business licences from 2015.
RIZOSPASTIS: Government, troika (EC, ECB, IMF) sacrifice EAS (Hellenic Defence Systems, ELVO(Hellenic Vehicle Industry), LARCO ( General Mining and Metallurgical Company) to monopolies.
TA NEA: New page for PASOK.
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