|Saturday, 23 June 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-09-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 26 September 2013 Issue No: 4470
 Greek economy gradually transforming, competititeveness improving, Commission reportBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Greece has begun a transformation process, from an economy based in consumption, to an economy focusing more on investments and exports, a report by the European Commission said on Wednesday.
The report on the competitiveness of Greek manufacturing sector and enterprises said that an economic adjustment has sought to adjust the imbalances in the economy. Greece has started the process of transformation, from a consumption-based economy to an investment and exports one, with exports already increased over recent years but investments still disappointing, following the recession and a credit crunch.
The regulatory environment has constrained businesses and entrepreneurship, and these, combined with the lack of competition, have led to lacklustre productivity and competitiveness. However, steps are being taken to tackle many of the structural barriers and regulatory failings. Encouragingly, many efforts are starting to show results, and the ranking of Greece in the World Bank's "Doing Business" indicators has improved.
Further significant measures have been taken to ease the creation of companies, and to simplify licensing procedures and investment authorisations. With the technical assistance of the Task Force for Greece, cumbersome export procedures are being simplified.
The difficult economic conditions, continuing uncertainty, and in particular the credit crunch continue to make conducting business difficult, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Economic growth is one of the top priorities of the government, and in this context, reforming the public administration remains central in terms of securing the capacity and competence to implement newly adopted legislation and to improve the business environment. Reforming the economy must remain a priority in order for the required changes to take place.
A dynamic corporate sector is crucial to re-starting the economy and achieving growth. By tapping the entrepreneurial potential of citizens and creating the right business environment, Greece can overcome its difficulties and achieve sustainable economic and employment growth, the European Commission said in the report.
The Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece was approved in March 2012, financed by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The programme foresees financial assistance of EUR 164.5 billion by the end of 2014, the Commission said.
The economy saw a drastic decline in competitiveness following an increase in labour costs of more than 50% in 1999-2009. In 2012, GDP decreased by 6.4%, and the forecast for 2013 is a decrease of over 4%. However, competitiveness is currently being restored through increased wage flexibility and low inflation. According to the figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), labour costs have been reduced by 20% over the past three years.
The services are the biggest sector in the Greek economy, and tourism is a major part of that in terms of both importance to the economy and employment. Manufacturing contributes close to 10% of the total value added (the EU average is just over 15%). Greece specialises in food processing (manufacture of vegetable oils; processing and preserving of fruit and vegetables). Other important sectors are metals, chemicals, cement and textiles.
There are challenges ahead for the innovation system, as the country needs to transform itself into a stable environment for entrepreneurship and create conditions for growth. According to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013, Greece is one of the moderate innovators, with a below-average performance.
In the past decade R&D expenditure has stagnated, at 0.58% of GDP. In 2011 Greece set an R&D intensity target of 2%, to be achieved by 2020, but the National Reform Programme for 2013 revised this target downwards to 0.67% of GDP, which is considered as more consistent with current trends and with the economic outlook.
The objective of Greece's innovation strategy is to promote innovation in all sectors as a key driver for restructuring the Greek economy and for the transition to a knowledge-based economy.
Although policy is emphasising the use of new financial instruments, including funds dedicated to supporting innovation, there are substantial difficulties as almost no national co-finance and no private investment is available. Consequently, subsidies continue to be the main type of support for R&D, though tax incentives are also used. In an effort to boost development through R&D, the government has recently adopted new legislation5 that further enhances tax incentives for enterprises engaged in R&D.
Greece faces many challenges to improve its skills base through improvements in education and training aiming to better adapt to labour market needs. This includes in particular teacher training and the quality and relevance of vocational education and training as well as lifelong learning. Reforms in tertiary education are only partially implemented. Among other issues, these reforms would include better use of universities to provide lifelong learning opportunities to local and regional populations and better monitoring of inputs and outputs.
An action plan to support youth employment and entrepreneurship was adopted by the Greek government in January 2013. It has been allocated a budget of 600 million euros, 517 million euros of which is provided through the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund. The plan comprises a set of programmes that should benefit 350,000 young people in the age group 15 to 35. The objective is to target employment and entrepreneurship for young people in the two age groups of 15-24 and 25-35. The plan stresses apprenticeship, traineeship and the transition from education to employment.
Although the economy as a whole remains oriented towards the domestic market, export performance continues to improve, albeit from a low base. The national export strategy has set ambitious goals for boosting exports of goods to 16% of GDP by 2015.
The national export strategy seeks to improve the international competitiveness of Greek companies through export promotion and export facilitation. It is based on three pillars:
1. Enlarging the export base by formulating industry-specific policies to encourage companies to produce and offer internationally competitive goods and services.
2. Trade and promotion of foreign direct investment by integrating economic diplomacy efforts, building a national brand and overall support for companies to engage in international trade networks and find trading partners abroad.
3. Trade facilitation. The national trade facilitation strategy was announced in November 2012. It features 25 measures aimed at reducing the time needed for export by 50% and costs by 20% by 2015.
In an effort to strengthen entrepreneurship and the internationalisation of SMEs, a programme was launched, co-funded by the EU structural funds under the action 'Internationalisation and competitiveness of SMEs'. In total 746 projects have been selected with a total budget of EUR 143 million.
The difficult economic conditions and continuing uncertainty have taken a heavy toll on Greek businesses and the government is grappling with the challenge of balancing budget cuts with structural reforms to spur growth, as economic reforms are fundamental for sustainable growth. The high level of regulation and bureaucracy, as well as corruption, have been a constraint on businesses and hampered entrepreneurship. In addition, the lack of competition has held back productivity and competitiveness.
In the context of the Economic Adjustment Programme, steps are being taken to tackle many of the structural barriers and regulatory failings that have traditionally restricted business. Efforts undertaken in a number of areas are starting to show results, which were reflected in Greece's improved ranking in the World Bank's 'Doing Business' indicators. Greece was up from 100th place in 2012 to 78th, which is proof that the efforts made to improve the business environment are starting to bear fruit. In particular, there was progress in reducing the time required to get construction permits; more transparency for and protection of investors; and an improved process for resolving insolvent firms. The government has also adopted ten measures in the areas of starting a business, registering property, dealing with construction permits and protecting investors.
Well-known deficiencies in the business environment have been addressed over recent years. Important measures have been taken to ease the creation of companies and to simplify licence procedures and investment authorisations. The time needed to set up a business is now below the EU average (11 days in Greece against the EU average of 14). Starting up a company and registering property remain expensive, and the cost and time for exports and imports need to be further reduced. It is still four times more expensive to start a business in Greece (% of income/capita) than the EU average, and it is more costly to register property.
The full entry into force of the law on simplifying and accelerating the licencing of manufacturing activities and its implementing acts provide an integrated institutional framework for the modernisation and simplification of licencing procedures, covering technical professions, manufacturing and business parks. On technical professions, the right to provide certain services was expanded, while the total number of licences was reduced. As regards manufacturing, there has been a reduction of up to 75% in the time and cost needed to obtain an operating licence for low-nuisance activities.
With support of the OECD, the authorities are reviewing laws and regulations for harmful effects on competition in tourism, retail, building materials and food processing; as well as for administrative burden on businesses in 13 sectors. The government has also presented a strategic vision to streamline and unify investment licenses and strengthen self-compliance with standards and controls. The strategy will be implemented in 2013 and 2014.
SMEs have been hit hard by the crisis, and there are fewer enterprises in 2013 than there were in 2005. The size distribution of firms deviates from the EU average, with the number of large enterprises only half the EU average. Also, SMEs are heavily weighted towards the small end, with microenterprises accounting for 96.6 % of all enterprises. In total, SMEs employ 85.2% of the labour force in private employment, whereas the EU average is 67.4%. This reflects the fact that Greeks are more likely than the EU average to be self-employed. The SMEs are more oriented towards trade than elsewhere in the EU, and the share of SMEs specialising in high-tech manufacturing or knowledge-intensive services is only 18%, whereas the EU average is one-third.
Greece does not always 'think small first', as the authorities perform less well than their EU peers in terms of communication and simplification of rules and procedures, and impose a higher burden on companies. However, steps are being taken, including simplified provisions on entrepreneurship and a new private company status with a capital of one euro, seeking to facilitate the life of SMEs.
The contribution of services to GDP was 71.7% in 2011,15 which makes them the most important sector of the economy. Tourism alone contributes 18.2% of GDP and over 7% of total employment (over 18% if indirectly supported jobs are counted). The shipping industry is another important sector for the economy, as Greek firms have 16.2% of the world's shipping capacity measured in deadweight tonnage.
Greece's overall public administration performance, as measured by the World Bank's government effectiveness indicator, is well below the EU average. The perceived quality of public services, including quality of the civil service and policy implementation, is low (a score of 0.52 compared to 1.18 in the EU).
Public services are also less likely to be available online. E-government use by small enterprises in 2012 was slightly above the EU average (86% and 85% respectively) while e-government use by citizens in 2013 was below the EU average (43.8% and 52.5% respectively). The duration of payments by the public authorities is above the EU average (174 days compared to the EU average of 66 days).
With the support of the EU Task Force for Greece, technical assistance is provided for reforming the public administration. A high-level transformation steering group under the prime minister has been set up to supervise the reform of the central administration.
The Greek judicial system is inadequate and, in particular, the length of judicial procedures is long in all areas, including in civil and commercial justice.
In the framework of the Economic Adjustment Programme, Greece has committed to reforming the judicial system. These include reviewing the civil code, introducing an administrative review of cases, improving the organisation of the magistrates' courts, developing e-justice applications, bringing the insolvency legislation and practice in line with best practice and promoting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Bank credit to the corporate sector is contracting, making it increasingly difficult to finance production and investments. The main factors contributing to this are the difficulties of the bank sector, state arrears to suppliers (standing at around 4.4% of GDP at the end of 2012), the drop in the market value of collateral assets (real estate), and the country risk, that makes any financing of large businesses by foreign banks almost impossible. In the ECB survey on SME access to finance (March-September 2012), only 36% of Greek SMEs said they had received the loan requested (eurozone 61%).
To facilitate the financing of the Greek economy, the government with the support of the task Force for Greece has analysed the extent of credit financing gaps in view of setting up an "Institution for Growth".
The second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece contains detailed provisions regarding the recapitalisation of Greek banks, which should be completed by the end of June 2013. Net capital inflows were 2.3 billion euros in 2012 (vs. 1.3 billion in 2011). The total inflows of foreign direct investment in Greece fell in 2010-12 and are today at the same level as in 2003-05. Between 2003 and 2012, fully 69% of all foreign direct investments were made in the services sector.
A new law on the creation of a development-friendly environment for strategic and private investments aims to accelerate and simplify procedures. It includes provisions on developing the seaside front of Attica and improving the institutional framework for the founding and operation of seaplane ports. For strategic investments, there are proposals for simplified licencing procedures through the General Directorate for Licencing, which will handle all strategic investment requests. The time restrictions for the submission of investment plans (previously every April and October), have been removed, and such plans can now be accepted throughout the year.
 FM Venizelos holds talks with Cyprus President AnastasiadesNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greek Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed that the negotiating of Athens and Ankara with the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot interlocutor, respectively, will be held at community representative level. He was speaking during joint statements with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, following their meeting in New York on Wednesday evening on the sidelines of the UN's 68th General Assembly.
On his part, President Anastasiades underlined that "the crucial multipartite consultations that are taking place will help so that what we are pursuing, a well-prepared dialogue, will become a reality."
He added that "I must express my absolute satisfaction for the support we have on the Greek government's part and the help I had personally in particular, and Cyprus in general, by the minister's talks with the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mr. (Ahmed) Davutoglu".
"I believe that the crucial multipartite consultations that are taking place will help so that what we are pursuing, a well-prepared dialogue, will become a reality. Meaning, that we all realise that its starting is not an issue, but rather how it begins and how well-prepared this dialogue is, for there to be a ray of light and hope that we shall not repeat the same thing, that is a dialogue of the past that led nowhere," Anastasiades added.
Venizelos said on his part that "our position, as it has been shaped precisely through our consultations, is very clear. We are ready, at the level that will be determined, to meet with the negotiator of the Turkish Cypriot community. Just like the Turkish government declared that it is ready to discuss with the negotiator of the Greek Cypriot community. I repeat, as I said yesterday as well, that the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community are anticipated by the existing constitution of the Republic of Cyprus of 1960. And negotiations had been set in other times in the past as well. What matters for us, is the safeguarding of the international legal identity and standing and of the unity of the Republic of Cyprus, which is a sovereign member-state of the UN and a member of the EU and is expressed by its President, Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, who is taking all these new initiatives for which you are fully aware".
 Venizelos calls for national unity, at embassy event with US GreeksNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greece is now entering "the final phase, before exiting the crisis," government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said early on Wednesday morning (Greek time) at the Greek Consulate General in New York City, where he is as head of the Greek mission to the UN General Assembly meeting.
"What we need, most of all, is national unity," Venizelos said, "and our first aim is to safeguard social cohesion, and support the weakest strata."
At an event including presidents and officers of Greek-American agencies, Foreign Ministry officials and Greek respresentatives to the UN and the US, Venizelos underlined that Greece was "trying to keep intact our foreign policy and our policy of security and defence, throughout this period of crisis."
"Nobody has pressured us under the threat of the economic crisis on issues of our concern, which is the well-known list of our great national issues. This is of great significance. We, on our side, have also not allowed and never will allow the linking of issues of economic policy and economis assistance with issues of foreign policy and political secruity," he asserted.
The Foreign minister also called on Greeks abroad not to reproduce any of Greece's domestic political disagreements: "I want to beg you and ask of you...to avoid reproducing any of Greece's political disagreements. Preserve national unity as the apple of your eye, for unity is something we unfortunately do not understand within Greece as we ought to. Support the homeland strongly and with love, as you always have done, and be proud of your Greek identity."
Venizelos said that Greek-Americans could contribute through their current homeland to the network Greece has abroad "in politics, academics, economy, research, the mass media and everywhere."
Among other things, the Foreign minister referred to the Cyprus issue and the political insecurity of the greater area and said that "Greece is a secure reference point, and this is understood by all, enemies and friends both." Greece was doing its best through the developments in the area to protect its national interests, he added.
 FM Venizelos holds meeting with American Jewish organisation representativesNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Government vice president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos referred to the strong, historical bonds of friendship and cooperation between Greeks and Jews in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as between the Greek and Jewish Diaspora all over the world during his meeting held on the sidelines of the UN's 68th General Assembly with representatives of the American Jewish organisations (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, American Jewish Committee, World Jewish Congress, B'nai B'rith, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, World Jewish Congress and Antidefamation League).
He also provided an extensive briefing on Greece's stance on all important issues preoccupying the international community and in particular issues of the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa.
After making an analytical briefing on political and economic developments in Greece, praising the successes that have been achieved in the economic sector and not only, thanks to the sacrifices of the Greek people, as he said, he underlined the importance that Greece attributes to the "undeviating implementation of the existing anti-racist legislation and the absolute condemnation of racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism and the incitement of racial or religious violence, as being criminal actions."
He then stressed that the Nazi elements offending democracy and the state of law will be handled through the strict implementation of the laws and will be marginalised from Greek society which, in its overwhelming majority, decries intolerance and violence.
Lastly, Venizelos referred to the impending intergovernmental meeting between Greece and Israel, that will be held in Israel on October 8, as an opportunity for the further promotion and deepening of bilateral contacts in all sectors and for strengthening the strategic relation between the two countries.
 Venizelos in touch with Justice minister on draft lawThe draft bill the government plans to table on racism, xenophobia and social violence "must contain all necessary regulations to protect effectively the democratic system of government and strengthening citizens' safety," government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said to Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou on Wednesday from New York, where he is attending the newest session of the UN General Assembly.
The telephone call was announced by PASOK, which Venizelos leads. The party also said that it had "taken the initiative for the voting of such a law many months ago" and added that a party delegation will meet with Athanassiou on Friday on the issue.
All acts perpetrated so far are dealt with under the existing penal legislation anyway, it clarified.
 PASOK talks to SPD's Gabriel on German electionsPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday had a telephone conversation with Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the German Social Democratic Party, regarding the results of last Sunday's German elections.
According to a party press release issued in Athens, Venizelos, who is in New York in his capacity as government vice president and foreign minister for the UN's 68th General Assembly, was briefed by Gabriel on SPD's views and the new political landscape in his country after the elections.
The Greek official also congratulated the SPD leader on his party's election campaign.
 Greece, troika to seek agreement on 2013 primary budget surplusA convergence in estimates over this year's economic recession reached between the Finance ministry and the troika of Greece's lenders paves the way for an agreement over the sum of a primary budget surplus in 2013, ministry officials say.
The officials said that a primary budget surplus is expected to be slightly less than 500 million euros, if there are no adverse developments in the coming months, while negotiations are expected to be concluded by the end of the week, before talks over the 2014 budget begin.
A top Finance ministry official said that achieving a "small, realistic and sustainable primary surplus" will help so that a negotiation to cover any funding or fiscal gap in the next two years is made under better terms, along with talks over the sustainability of the country's debt.
The country's Gross Domestic Product is expected to shrink by 4.0 pct this year, down from a troika's initial forecast for a decline of 4.2 pct.
The two sides have not yet reached a final agreement on the estimate for next year's economic growth, although ministry officials said it was possible to agree on an economic recovery scenario with a 0.6 pct growth of the country's GDP.
 Troika to examine Dev't ministry proposal on commercial leasingsThe troika will examine the Development ministry's proposal to protect old commercial property leases from eviction processes and introduce a three-year protection of new commercial leases and will reply by the end of the week, sources said after a three-hour meeting between Greece's lenders' representatives and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Wednesday.
The representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank support the immediate and full liberalisation of all commercial leases - as a way of reviving the market and overcoming owners' reluctance to rent under the current legal restrictions - and the ministry's proposal constitutes a possible compromise, in what it says is a situation created by market recession.
The issue must be resolved by the end of the month, as the memorandum stipulates, while an official source said that if there is an impasse the issue will be passed on to ND and PASOK, in the ruling government, to decide.
The two sides also discussed an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report being prepared for the Development ministry on the obstacles to competitiveness in the Greek market, which unofficially are estimated to exceed 300.
By the end of the year, decisions must have been made on public contracts jointly with the Environmental ministry, in order to obliterate bureaucracy in licensing. The issue of auctions of forfeited property was not discussed, sources said.
Also mentioned in the meeting was Greece's low ranking on a global scale of competitiveness, which the country could have improved had ministries taken quicker decisions.
 Merchant Marine minister meeting with troika headsIssues including the privatisation of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and measures for coastal shipping were on the centre of discussion between Merchant Marine minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis and the heads of Greece's troika of international creditors during a meeting held at the ministry on Wednesday.
Varvitsiotis told the troika officials that the government desired an immediate privatisation of OLP, intended to be completed in six months. This, to be made either by an informal sale arrangement to China's COSCO or by selling the company's shares, should be first approved by the EU, the minister noted.
Discussion also touched upon a Merchant Marine ministry draft bill on recreational vessels, market deregulation and the reorganisation of the Coast Guard.
 Gov't optimistic over its proposals to troika, spokesman tells radioThe Greek government believes the amendments it has requested of troika plans will be accepted, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told private radio station RealFM on Wednesday.
Kedikoglou said the weekend meeting of Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras with the troika will reveal the lender representatives' intentions.
Asked whether he thought Germany would change its stance following its recent elections that confirmed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said, "In this framework, it's important that we are convincing in terms of the primary surplus, and that reforms are progressing at a satisfactory pace. Beyond that, it's an issue of wider European developments."
He added that 2014 would be decisive for the European Union, especially in terms of the issue of banking integration and the deeper integration of member-states. "We have a series of issues where Berlin's strategy will unlikely be affected by intraparty balances," he observed.
The spokesman reiterated the government's priority in fighting unemployment through development, and said that in these terms the acceleration of privatisations would "change the climate in the economy."
Asked to comment on whether the government would reconsider its decision to charge working and insured people 25 euros for a hospitalisation ticket, he said the ticket was for hospitalisation only, not for outpatient services, and "relates only to those who are employed and have an income above a certain point. You can see it as a form of solidarity, because we have a very high number of uninsured people, and a very high number of unemployed people," Kedikoglou said.
 Protected witness testifies in Golden Dawn investigationSupreme Court deputy prosecutor Charalambos Vourliotis continued taking testimony regarding the activities of the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party on Wednesday, including that of an individual in a witness protection programme. Also present was Supreme Court Prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani.
Earlier, the deputy prosecutor received a succession of politicians and party representatives summoned to give depositions concerning Golden Dawn. Vourliotis has been placed in charge of an investigation of 32 pending court cases that involve the party and its members.
On Tuesday morning, Vourliotis heard journalists who had interviewed former members of Golden Dawn or published features about the party.
Koutzamani, responsible for overseeing all Golden Dawn case files, has ordered all magistrate courts nationally to hand over all pending cases that involve Golden Dawn members.
The prosecutors are comparing case files to see whether specific individuals are appearing as perpetrators in multiple events in Greece.
The investigation was launched at the orders of Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias, following the stabbing death of a young man by a self-professed follower of Golden Dawn in the Piraeus district of Keratsini the previous week. The investigation will also looking into an attack on the offices of the Perama branch of the Communist Party of Athens (KKE) on September 12 and a list by date of attacks by members or supporters of Golden Dawn, presented to the minister in person by main opposition SYRIZA State Deputy Manolis Glezos.
 'Neo-Nazi threats do not intimidate any journalist', press federation says"Threats and attempts by neo-Nazis to frighten do not intimidate any journalist - on the contrary, they infuriate them and rally everyone against them," the Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) announced on Wednesday, on the occasion of threats by extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) members against two journalists.
POESY said that Maria Psarra and Lefteris Bindelas, both writing at Ethnos daily, had received threats "for revelatory features on the actions of the criminal neo-Nazis" and said the threats constituted "a threat against the whole press world."
In an announcement Wednesday, POESY also referred to other incidents in the year, the murder of journalist Christos Lambrakis in the 60s and the role of journalists during the years of the junta. It called on journalists to "isolate the criminal neo-Nazi organisation," referring to the party, and invited people to attend the rally this evening at Syntagma against fascism.
In a separate announcement, the federation also expressed its "undivided support of staff at news distribution agencies" who have called a 24-hour strike today, Wednesday, to protest against "poverty and degradation."
 Antifascism rally in Athens marred by violent incidentsViolent incidents erupted Wednesday evening during an antifascism rally in central Athens Syntagma square and a march to the ultra-right Golden Dawn party offices on Mesogion Ave.
Protestors threw stones and firebombs against police blocking the way to the Golden Dawn offices, with police responding with tear gas and stun grenades.
The rally against fascism was organised by Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisations - the civil servants' union confederation ADEDY and the General Confederation of Employees of Greece, GSEE.
Addressing the gathering, trade unionists condemned fascism and its penetration into society, and spoke about the significance of worker solidarity. A concert followed with performances by a variety of artists.
 Former Golden Dawn candidate arrested after slapping three at Ioannina police stationAn owner of a military goods store that was attacked by hooded individuals with stones and wooden pieces in the northwestern city of Ioannina was arrested on unprovoked bodily harm last on Tuesday.
The man, a former candidate for the extreme-right party of Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi), was summoned by the Ioannina police to their office to see if he could identify the perpetrators, who had damaged his store the same afternoon.
Police sources said the man walked into the office of the investigating policeman and suddenly slapped the three young women that had been brought to the office for identification purposes. The man was arrested and the young women filed a suit against him.
 Agrinio police officer arrested in connection to GD released, pending trialA 45-year-old police officer arrested on Tuesday in Agrinio, western Greece following a police search in the local offices of the Golden Dawn (GD) opposition party was released on Wednesday. Earlier, he was brought before a prosecutor on charges of illegal possession of ammunition. He will appear in court on Friday.
Police found a magazine and 17 shotgun cartridges in the GD offices which were in the man's possession.
The policeman was a bodyguard of Golden Dawn MP Ilias Barmbarousis, but has been suspended from the police force since September 2012 after he was caught participating in violent incidents provoked by the GD in a Messolongi street market.
Meanwhile, an Agrinio reporter with Internet site "agriniopress.gr" was arrested on Wednesday afternoon after a lawsuit was filed against him by the 45-year-old police officer for breach of privacy, after he posted a photograph of the policeman on the site. The reporter was released on verbal instruction by a public prosecutor.
 Press reports 'nothing to do with armed forces' mission', defence minister saysThe various things recently preoccupying the media, all of which are being investigated, have absolutely nothing to do with the real purpose and mission of the country's Armed Forces, National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday during his visit to the Greek Navy's Underwater Demolition Command. The minister underlined that all Greeks should feel proud of the country's armed forces and the state should "stand before them with respect and recognition for their important mission," a ministry announcement said.
Noting that the Armed Forces were the guardians and defendants of the country's independence and always on the front line for the defence of democracy, Avramopoulos said the demonstration carried out by the Underwater Demolition Teams "really proved the level of the country's Armed Forces as a whole, always prepared to meet the demands of their supreme duty".
Newspaper articles appearing in the past few days referred to anonymous allegations that members of the ultra-right Golden Dawn party had received training from special forces personnel in the Greek military.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras addresses open gathering on future of Piraeus portAddressing an open meeting in the Piraeus district of Perama on Wednesday evening, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras called on workers at the ship-repair zone to join the struggle against the bailout memorandum and fascism.
The meeting addressed the topic: "The port of Piraeus is not for sale - For a publicly restructured Piraeus Port Authority - A nucleus of life for development, jobs and the environment.
Tsipras made special reference to the recent murder of anti-fascist, hip-hop singer Pavlos Fyssas in the nearby Keratsini district, as well as to the bloody attacks against members of the Piraeus Metal Workers Union. He said some circles wanted to use the ultra-right Golden Dawn party as a reservoir for disappointed voters in order to shrink the left and SYRIZA.
In his critique of the bailout memorandum, the opposition leader stressed that the policies implemented by the Samaras government were disastrous for workers, and called on the people to overturn the "barbarism of the memorandum and fight against fascism".
 DIMAR leader launches Crete tour, calls for united front against Golden DawnBeginning his tour of Crete with a press conference in the city of Hania on Wednesday, Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis appealed to all the democratic forces in the country to form a united front against ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi).
"These days the country is faced with the Nazi, criminal phenomenon of Golden Dawn. The snake is no longer hatching, the snake has hatched and come out of its egg and is threatening to turn Greek society fascist. Our democracy has potential and endurance, provided it uses them to face this criminal phenomenon..." Kouvelis stressed.
He called on all democratic forces, regardless of their political differences and disagreements, to overcome these and form a united front with the forces of society against Golden Dawn.
DIMAR's leader was critical of a decision made by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras against convening a council of the party leaders chaired by President Karolos Papoulias, saying this was "not democratically beneficial". He stressed that he had asked for a party leaders' council during his meeting with Papoulias, both for its symbolic value and on a practical level, to deal with the actions and choices that must be made in order to tackle the phenomenon.
According to Kouvelis, the off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on this issue was not without importance but did not match that of a party leaders' council.
In his press conference, DIMAR's leader was critical of the government's handling of key issues, especially administrative reform and negotiations with the troika, while slamming main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) as "populist".
 Ombudsman's report raises alarm over rise in racist violenceGreek Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou has asked for immediate and drastic measures to fight a sharp rise in racist violence, noting that this has taken on alarming dimensions during the past 18 months. In addition, she reports a seeming "reluctance" on the part of Greek authorities, especially the police, to do something about it.
"There is an apparent inertia or even reluctance of the state, and especially the police force, to tackle the racist attacks in a decisive way and to investigate reports against police officers quickly and with transparency," the independent authority said.
In a special report submitted to the political parties in Parliament on Tuesday, Spanou also reported negligence on the part of state authorities in prosecuting and punishing such crimes, so that perpetrators acted with impunity, while she described the attitude of the Greek Police (ELAS) as "disappointing".
"The exceptional rise in racist violence, the impunity of perpetrators and the general negligence of the state authorities responsible undermine social cohesion and the foundations of the rule of law," she said.
The report lists 281 incidents of racist violence over the 18-month period, leading to four homicides and 400 injuries, of which 71 are linked to the action of far-right Golden Dawn and 47 appear to involve members of Greek security forces abusing their position. It also referred to the existence of an organised militia and made a series of proposals on how the phenomena might be tackled.
The report noted with concern the witness reports claiming that police often failed to intervene to stop racist attacks except to arrest the foreign nationals that were the victims, and refused to file or investigate complaints made by victims of attacks. The authority pointed a large discrepancy between the 83 attacks in the official police record and the 253 reports received by the ombudsman.
In an announcement concerning the ombudsman's report, the Democratic Left (DIMAR) party said that police inertia and negligence recorded in the report were "a blow to democracy and strengthened the voices that link the action of Golden Dawn with dark, para-state circles". It called on the public order minister to continue investigation to uncover those behind the shelving of cases and of 'burying' reports of police misconduct, arresting the victims instead of the perpetrators.
 SYRIZA leaderTsipras expresses support for teachersThe huge shortages in public schools are the result of "a barbaric policy that creates huge social shortages in order to serve primary surpluses in accounting," main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said Wednesday, after meeting with the Teachers' Federation of Greece (DOE).
Tsipras committed to supporting the secondary teachers' demands and expressed his concern over the conditions prevailing at schools, with this year being the worst academic year in the past 40 years.
He said that educators of all levels had fair demands that were not restricted to their sacred right to work, but concerned Greece's ability to offer schools of learning.
DOE president Charalambos Kokkinos said that if the ministry of Education cannot resolve the problems, then the prime minister should provide solutions.
 Civil sector enters second half of 48-hour strikeCivil servants continued their 48-hour strike on Wednesday to protest staff transfer and layoffs in the wider public sector as part of a mobility scheme by the government aiming to trim the sector.
The strike is affecting public administration services including tax offices and secondary public school teachers. High school teachers are also continuing their longer strike, while they plan an education-wide rally at the Propylea in central Athens at 1:00 pm today, Wednesday.
Rolling 48-hour strikes have also been called by employees at the health and pension funds and tertiary education staff.
Health centres, prevention units, emergency ambulance services (EKAV), and navigation services at most ports in Greece are working on skeleton staff shifts.
The civil sector employees umbrella union, ADEDY, will hold a meeting on Thursday to decide further action. The private sector employees union, GSEE, has said it will wait for the decisions of labour centres and its member federations before deciding. It also plans to hold a plenary session by the end of the month to set final guidelines.
 Five-hour work stoppage in the media on ThursdayThe Athens journalists' and media staff unions ESIEA and EPIEA have announced a five-hour work stoppage in all mass media on Thursday, between noon and 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon, so that their members can attend the annual general meeting of the sector's pension and insurance fund EDOEAP.
The work stoppage is for all journalists and administrative staff in all media, internet news sites, the public sector, organisations, local authorities, the ANA-MPA and the General Secretariat for Information and Communication.
 Health minister reveals that 87 doctors are under investigationHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis, speaking in a press conference with reporters on Wednesday, referred to an ongoing "party" in the health sector that had to be stopped and stressed that such phenomena concerned only some doctors and not all. He revealed that 87 doctors all over the coucntry are currently under investigation.
According to data published by the Health ministry on Wednesday, there were cases of doctors writing prescriptions for patients up to three months after their deaths. One doctor wrote prescriptions for 29 dead people, up to 17 days after their deaths.
It is indicative that doctors have written prescriptions in 2013 for patients who had died between 2001 and 2008, while three different doctors wrote prescriptions that were filled in 2013 for the same person, who had been deceased since 2001. In addition, it was ascertained that one doctor wrote prescriptions for three different deceased persons, who had passed away in 2005, 2006 and 2011, respectively.
The doctors under investigation have written out excessive numbers of prescriptions for medicines, clinical and paraclinical tests. The enquiry shows that in the first half of the year excesses were recorded that exceeded 53 million euros. According to the ministry, unjustifiable high prescription rates in Attica occur in Nea Smyrni, while Larissa prefecture shows the highest health expenditures due to prescriptions.
The highest expenditure per 1,000 inhabitants is in the municipality of Nea Smyrni (19,948.10 euros), 3.2 times higher than the average expenditure in Attica. The municipality of Alimos is second place with 13,223.50 euros, or double the average rate.
The 10 prefectures with the highest expenditure per 1,000 inhabitants are the prefectures of Larissa, Magnisia, Trikala, Achaia, Thesprotia, Attica, Drama, Kerkyra, Hania and Ioannina.
 Cutting red tape the focus of ministry-OECD cooperation, Admin. Reform minister saysThe administrative reform ministry's will collaborate with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on removing administrative burdens in 13 sectors of the economy, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday.
"The simplification of procedures and the reduction of the administrative burden on businesses and citizens are the first priority of our ministry," he underlined.
The minister repeated that the reform agenda was not restricted to meeting the terms of Greece's creditors, stressing that a decrease in red tape will greatly contribute to restricting corruption in the medium and long-term.
According to the ministry, some 150 public officials, national experts and senior civil servants, along with dozens of bodies and organisations representing Greek businesses, are currently working on "mapping" of existing legislation and identifying the problem areas. Their ultimate aim is a 25 percent reduction of the administrative burden that acts as an obstacle to business, competitiveness and growth and encourages corruption.
This effort has led to the identification of 4,600 administrative burdens and, within September, the teams will finalise the effort to locate the 20 percent of such obligations that have the greatest administrative cost and cause the greatest inconvenience.
Addressing the Business Advisory Council, Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Evi Christofilopoulou said that reducing bureaucracy was a national priority.
 Transparency International Greece unveils new 'anti-corruption' hotlineThe Greek branch of Transparency International on Wednesday unveiled a special phone line where members of the public can report instances of corruption that they come across, both in the private sector and the public sector.
The non-governmental organisation, in an effort to shorten the long delays often seen between incidents of corruption being reported and the action taken in response, said it was setting up the independent phone line 10190 to receive complaints, in hopes of mobilising the public against such phenomena and to provide support to those reporting such incidents.
"Our aim is [the public's] mobilisation through targeted actions but also by providing protection for individuals able to make revelations about corruption," said the head of Transparency International Greece Costas Bakouris during a press conference.
The 'Transparency Now' phone line will be supported by a team of legal experts and staffed by volunteers, who will advise members of the public reporting corruption on how to receive further help and provide guidance on how they should proceed in order for their report to be effectively dealt with.
It will also chase up cases where reports are ignored, writing to the services involved, while pressing the government to create an effective legal framework to protect witnesses reporting instances of corruption.
The phone line will operate on Monday and Friday between the hours of 3:00-7:00 p.m. and on Wednesday from 10:00a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Complaints can also be filed online at the website http://www.transparency.gr/diafaneiatora.
 Cohn-Bendit: There is 'a dialogue of the deaf' between Greece and EuropeDaniel Cohn-Bendit, the co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, who is currently on a tour of Greece as part of the "For a different Europe - A different Greece," said on Wednesday that talks between Greece and Europe was "a dialogue of the deaf."
Cohn-Bendit, who was in Iraklio, on the island of Crete, said in a press conference that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Commission's tough austerity policy were to blame for the current crisis facing Greece.
"Most Greeks with whom I talk with, tell me that it is Europe's fault that things today in Greece are not going we well," he said, stressing that it was wrong for Greece to exit the euro zone.
He further said that is should be realised and agreed by all in Europe that southern counties including not only Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal but also France could not survive the crisis outside Europe. He added if the current austerity policy could only push these counties in deeper crisis.
Cohn-Bendit was welcomed on Crete by regional head Stavros Arnaoutakis.
 Shipping minister holds meeting with Turkish ambassadorTurkish ambassador to Greece Kerim Uras, speaking on Wednesday after his meeting with Shipping Minister Miltiades Varvitsiotis, said that the struggle against illegal immigration is a common one and it has already produced results from the two countries' coastguards' cooperation.
The meeting between the two officials focused on ways of closer cooperation between Greece and Turkey on handling illegal immigration flows from the sea borders.
Varvitsiotis and Uras also agreed to upgrading business cooperation between the two countries in the sector of tourist vessels developing activity on the coasts of the Aegean's sides.
"The number of tourists visiting the coasts of the two countries is huge and this market can provide mutual benefits. What we must do is to correct distortions in competition, so that it can become equal and profitable for all of us," Varvitsiotis said on his part.
 Serb PM arriving on Corfu on WednesdaySerb Prime Minister Ivica Dacic is expected to arrive in Greece on Wednesday evening, landing at the airport on the Ionian island of Corfu at 8:00 p.m. with a delegation of Serb cabinet ministers and military officers.
The aim of the visit to Corfu is to pay homage to Serb soldiers that took refuge in the nearby island Vido after losing a battle against the Austrian army. The ceremony will take place on Thursday morning at the Serb mausoleum on the island.
 PM Samaras briefed by OTE's CEOPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday received Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) CEO Michalis Tsamaz and was briefed on the organisation's course and transformation, as well as developments in the telecoms sector in Greece.
Special reference was made to OTE's future investment plans amounting to 1.2 billion euros and its contribution to the development of the country's telecoms infrastructure.
The prime minister termed new telecom networks and structures a "legacy for the future and a guarantee for the country's entry into the new digital era, as they support the renovation of Greek enterprises, the increase in productivity and extroversion and the creation of jobs."
Referring to OTE's planned investments over the next four years, Samaras said they were a vote of confidence in the Greek economy and confirmed that growth will be achieved through investments.
"OTE's successful course confirms the soundness of the strategy of privatisations, being at the same time a chief example of a former state monopoly which in a few years has been fully transformed into a sound, competitive company, for the benefit of all citizens of our country," Samaras noted.
 Delineating EEZs a priority, Maniatis tells conference on hydrocarbonsNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos)
Attending a conference on the role hydrocarbons in ensuring sustainable development on Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis stressed the importance of delineating Exclusive Economic Zones, saying these were matters of the highest national priority.
The conference was organised in Nicosia by 'The German Marshall Fund of the United States', Nicosia University and the Centre for European Studies.
Replying to an ANA-MPA question on whether discussion was underway with Ankara on these issues, Maniatis noted that this issue was being handled by the foreign minister and prime minister of Greece, as well as specialists at the foreign ministry.
"I think we should rest - and we do - on the fact that maritime law is on our side. In this direction there is a need for careful steps, calm decision, an exploration of all alternative solutions, always bearing in mind that international law is on our side," he added.
Maniatis also noted that the country's of the European South, which had been hardest hit by the crisis, had a great need to exploit their mineral wealth and hydrocarbons in order to restore prosperity. He predicted that recent discoveries in Cypriot blocks, in Israel before that and those expected in Greece will be a "good basis" for looking confidently into the future and will upgrade the role of Greece and Cyprus as EU member-states, converting them from troubled economies needing help to sources of energy security and supply.
He expressed hope that Greece's European partners will realise that the discovery being made in the eastern Mediterranean were equally important to those made in the previous 15 years in the Caspian Sea.
 Greece offers fast-track status to two new tourism investments worth 1.2 bln eurosGreek authorities offered fast-track status to two new tourism investments, budgeted at 1.2 billion euros, which are expected to create more than 1,900 year-round (non-seasonal) job positions.
The two investments are two hotel units in the northern peninsula of Chalkidiki and in the northeast Peloponnese prefecture of Argolis and are waiting for a "green light" by the interministerial Commission of Strategic Investments to begin works, after Invest in Greece - the official investment promotion agency of Greece - approved their inclusion in the fast-track programe.
Development and Competitiveness Deputy Minister Notis Mitarakis, commenting on the decision, said: "The Greek economy needs these investments now more than ever and we are optimistic that more investment plans will be included in a fast-track procedure by the end of the year".
Mitarakis reiterated that the Development ministry will complete a big institutional change, with the operation of a Central Licensing Authority, by the end of November. "We are certain that its operation will fully change today's image of fast-track and will become a strong tool in efforts to creating a friendly and competitive investment environment. The procedures for a meeting of the interministerial Commission of Strategic Investments - which will approve the inclusion of the two projects under fast-track procedures - will start immediately. Following the voting of an investment law in Parliament, there is tangible evidence that the investment climate is improving," Mitarakis noted.
Stephanos Issaias, chief executive of Invest in Greece, said that "the portfolio of strategic projects is enriched constantly, while we are in mature-stage discussions with investment groups for more project of strategic importance and we hope that some of these could be added in the fast-track portfolio by the end of the year".
The two investment projects are "Pravita Estate" and "Kilada Hills". The first project is located in Chalkidiki, covering an area of 1267.3 hectares and will include four golf courses; three five-star hotel complexes; holiday homes; conference, health & spa centre and training & sports centres; and alternative tourism facilities. The Pravita Estate will create at least 1,343 new jobs when the project becomes fully operational. The project is budgeted at 726.4 million euros and is expected to be completed in five years.
The "Kilada Hills" project is located in Ermionida, Argolis, covering an area of 200 hectares. The project will operate on an annual basis creating at least 600 direct job positions during operation. It will include a hotel, holiday homes, a golf course and a beach club. Its budget will total 418 million euros.
 Finmin urges ship owners to contribute to Greek economyFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday stressed the important contribution made by Greece's shipping industry to the Greek economy's new, export-oriented outlook, appealing to Greek ship owners to help the Greek economy.
He noted that the government, on its part, was doing its utmost to create the necessary infrastructure and create new jobs, as well as to promote combined shipping-rail transport, starting at Piraeus port.
Stournaras was addressing a working dinner given at the Piraeus Shipping Club that was also attended by Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.
 Justice minister withdraws controversial article on declaring shipping sharesJustice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou on Wednesday withdrew a controversial article added as an amendment to the draft bill on the intercity bus transport market, which had come under fire from all parties in Parliament, including MPs supporting the coalition government. The article would have exempted those obliged to submit origin of wealth statements from declaring shipping company shares.
"The sole reasoning behind the amendment was to enable increases in capital to be carried more easily and with greater speed. There was no underground route or favouritism concealed in its tabling. In order to avoid any sort of shadow, it is being withdrawn," the minister said in Parliament, announcing his decision.
He clarified that it may possible be tabled again following a consultation with the parties as a main article of a draft bill for encouraging investments.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Tuesday announced its intention to demand a roll-call vote on the specific amendment, which had been strongly criticised during discussion in Parliament's Production and Trade Committee.
The measure would have abolished current requirements to declare shipping stock in origin of wealth statements that individuals in positions of influence are required by law to submit, such as politicians, the police and judiciary, civil servants, media owners and journalists.
SYRIZA had criticised the measure as one facilitating tax evasion, money-laundering and graft and being the result of pressures from 'vested interests,' saying it opened the way for direct investment by shipping tycoons in media enterprises without them being subject to any scrutiny of their activities in the shipping sector and enjoying a "privilege of untransparency" that would be supplied by the law.
 Delegations from Shanghai, Tianjin ports visit Piraeus portA large delegation from Tianjin Port, the third-largest in China, paid a visit to the Piraeus Port Organisation on Wednesday and held talks on the operation of the new cruise port. The delegation then toured the two cruise ports in Piraeus, including the new facility inaugurated last May.
The Chinese side appeared satisfied with the facilities and the professionalism of staff dealing with the large numbers of passengers from the eight cruise ships that were docked in the port at that time.
The visit and tour by the Tianjin delegation had been preceded by a visit, a short while earlier, by a large delegation from the port of Shanghai.
 Pavlos Kiortsis new Nestle Hellas CEO as of Oct. 1Pavlos Kiortsis will be the new CEO of Nestle Hellas as of October 1, the company announced Wednesday; he will succeed Laurent Dereux, who is assuming the reins of Nestle in Spain after five years in Greece.
Kiortsis will also be responsible for the wider Southeast Europe market, the announcement said.
He has been working for Nestle since 1999. From January 2008 to the present he was vice president of Nestle for the European belt, overseeing activities in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and the general Adriatic area. He was also responsible for coordinating the strategy for pet food and ice cream company sectors in Europe.
 Bill on intercities communications market deregulation ratified in principleThe bill on the deregulation of the intercities communications market, that also includes arrangements promoting the privatisation of TrainOSE and the widening of the taxi market, was ratified in principle at the Parliamentary Plenum.
The bill was voted for in principle by New Democracy, PASOK and the Democratic Left (DIMAR), while the opposition parties voted against it, with the exception of Golden Dawn that abstained from Parliamentary procedures on Wednesday as well.
 Greek trade deficit down 17.4 pct in Jan-JulyGreece's trade deficit fell by 3.4 pct in July, with the trade deficit falling by 17.4 pct in the January-July period this year, compared with the corresponding period in 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the value of import-arrivals totalled 3.918 billion euros in July, from 3.817 billion euros in July last year, for an increase of 2.6 pct (excluding oil products the value of imports fell 4.8 pct). The value of export-deliveries totalled 2.376 billion euros in July, from 2.222 billion in July last year, for an increase of 7.0 pct (excluding oil products the value of exports fell 5.8 pct).
The trade deficit totalled 1.541 billion euros in July, from 1.596 billion euros in July 2012, for a decline of 3.4 pct.
In the seven-month period, the value of imports fell 4.9 pct to 27.291 billion euros, while the value of exports rose 6.2 pct to 16.105 billion euros. The trade deficit in the January-July period dropped 17.4 pct to 11.187 billion euros (excluding oil products the trade deficit fell 10.2 pct).
 Greek stocks continue moving higherGreek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, with buying activity focusing on blue chip stocks such as OPAP and MIG, while banks came under selling pressure. The composite index of the market rose 0.39 pct to end at 1,020.04 points, off the day's highs of 1,031.37. Turnover rose to 64.23 million euros. The Large Cap index ended 0.35 pct higher and the Mid Cap index rose 0.36 pct. MIG (3.39 pct), OPAP (2.96 pct), Frigoglass (2.61 pct) and Terna Energy (1.61 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Viohalco (2.27 pct), Alpha Bank (1.55 pct) and Korinth Pipeworks (1.45 pct) suffered losses.
The Travel (2.65 pct), Financial Services (1.42 pct) and Oil (0.75 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (1.04 pct), Commerce (0.58 pct) and Health (0.19 pct) ended lower. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 73 to 53 with another 25 issues unchanged. Sfakianakis (19.89 pct), Pegasus (19.74 pct) and Sidma (15.79 pct) were top gainers, while Fieratex (10 pct), Flexopack (9.97 pct) and Ideal (9.71 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.75%
Personal & Household: +0.93%
Raw Materials: +0.12%
Travel & Leisure: +2.65%
Food & Beverages: +0.50%
Financial Services: +1.42%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, OTE, Titan Piraeus Bank and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.570
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.30
Coca Cola HBC: 22.19
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.88
National Bank of Greece: 3.01
Eurobank Properties : 7.50
Piraeus Bank: 1.28
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 7.36 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 7.97 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.78 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.82 pct. Turnover totaled 15 million euros, of which 14 million were sell orders and the remaining 1.0 million euros were buy orders.
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 around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 11.553 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,392 contracts worth 7.642 million euros, with 49,964 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,690 contracts worth 3.911 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,996), followed by National Bank (2,234), Alpha Bank (1,956), MIG (566), OTE (1,144), PPC (716), OPAP (240), Mytilineos (502), Hellenic Petroleum (116), GEK (212) and Intralot (147).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.370
Pound sterling 0.854
Danish kroner 7.569
Swedish kroner 8.818
Japanese yen 135.14
Swiss franc 1.248
Norwegian kroner 8.255
Canadian dollar 1.413
Australian dollar 1.464
 Raid at Nikaia police station turns up evidence of contraband cigarettesAn internal affairs department raid on Nikaia police station has turned up evidence supporting the allegations that officers in Nikaia were involved in the sale of contraband cigarettes by foreign migrants, Greek Police reported on Wednesday.
During a search of the Nikaia station, five unopened boxes of cigarettes that did not bear a consumption tax tape and 21 packets of contraband cigarettes of various brands were found in two equipment and staff lockers in the building.
The evidence supports the first part of an official complaint that officers in Nikaia were allowing foreigners to sell illegal cigarettes and taking a percentage of their profits, though not the second claim that this was done in collaboration with members of the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party.
Internal Affairs officers are now building a case file and are also investigating the origins and owners of the contraband cigarettes found.
 Four arrested in Patras for carrying wooden shafts during protestFour individuals were arrested by police in the port city of Patras on Wednesday for carrying 10 wooden shafts during a protest march against the public-sector mobility scheme and suspensions. A police report said the four men, aged between 24 and 34 years old, will be charged with violations of weapons law.
The suspects were led before a Patras Misdemeanours Court prosecutor.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 13C and 30C. Fair in Athens with variable 2-4 beaufort winds and temperatures between 15C and 30C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13C and 28C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance:AVGHI: (Extreme-right Chryssi Avghi) "Golden Dawn party brings outburst of violence"
DIMOKRATIA: "Pressure without limits" by troika of creditors on the Labour Ministry
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "The 20-year-old bloody cycle of Golden Dawn"
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "6 pm today: No to fascism" (through rally)
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Golden Dawn policeman handcuffed"
ESTIA: "Greek constitution an unwieldy mammoth"
ETHNOS: "Golden Dawn member circulating free with gun"
IMERISSIA: "Triple push under Athens Stock Exchange" by FTSE, growth and banks
KATHIMERINI: "Cell phones incriminate Golden Dawn"
LOGOS: "Recession locks" at 4%, per troika and government assessments
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Emergency slashing of expenditures by 10% to get a (primary) surplus"
RIZOSPASTIS: "Rallies and concerts today against Golden Dawn's activities"
TA NEA: "Vox populi!" (at the rally planned for today against fascism)
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ANTONIS SKYLLAKOS