|Saturday, 17 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-10-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 3 October 2013 Issue No: 4476
 PM Samaras satisfied with meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe BidenWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/S. Goutzanis)
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appeared satisfied with the outcome of his meeting here with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon (local time) at the White House, during which he briefed Biden on the country's entire economic situation.
The Greek premier highlighted the Greek people's sacrifices as well as achievements, such as the projected primary surplus and the structural reforms and the restructuring of the banking system.
In the context of strengthening Greece's effort towards economic growth, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce is expected to pay a forthcoming visit to the country along with a mission of businessmen wishing to make investments in Greece.
Samaras' discussion with Biden also touched upon wider regional affairs, noting that Greece is now a stability factor in an unstable environment. "Greece is a bastion of stability in the region," a government source noted, adding that "this is what we drew from contacts with businessmen and politicians and this is what we wish to reinforce."
The two men also talked about illegal immigration, as the U.S. government has invited a group of high-ranking Greek officers involved with border control and illegal immigration to provide them with training and equipment. Samaras pointed out that the specific problem has taken major dimensions as illegal immigration numbers almost equal the number of the country's unemployed. An equivalent in the U.S. would be as if the county had 40 million illegal immigrants more than those already in the country. He stressed that the EU does have a single position on this matter. Samaras even handed Biden a file prepared on the issue by Greece's Public Order minister Nikos Dendias.
As far as energy issues are concerned, the Greek premier expounded on the potential for exploitation of natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean. The two men also discussed next week's visit to Athens by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as trade issues and the U.S. government's wish to promote the Transatlantic trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union, especially as Greece will hold the EU presidency in the first half of next year.
Samaras and Biden also referred to the Cyprus problem and the initiative undertaken by Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades aimed at lifting the deadlock in negotiations.
 'The extremists of GD are accountable and awaiting trial,' PM Samaras saysWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/S. Goutzanis)
"The extremists of the Golden Dawn (ultra-right Chryssi Avghi party) are accountable and awaiting trial, and some of them are already in custody. This is something that has never happened in the past," Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras commented here on Wednesday afternoon after the end of a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
"The country's image is completely different to what it was two weeks ago. We are a Democratic state and democracy is effectively operating. Justice is doing its job. Those who undermine democracy face the consequences. Those who violate the law face justice. Everything is done according to the law. Justice has the first word. This is what democratic legitimacy is about," Samaras concluded.
 PM promises to 'crush extremism' at Washington eventWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA / S. Goutzanis)
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stressed that his government was determined to root out extremism, while addressing an event organised here on Tuesday night by the Peterson Institute for International Economics in collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
"Extremism seemed on the rise until very recently, but- as you might have read in the papers- we are now crushing it in a way fully within our constitutional framework and the rule of law. And I am talking about the Golden Dawn, a neo-fascist, neo-nazi party whose leader is currently in jail," Samaras said, referring to the recent arrests of the five foremost members of the far-right GD (Chryssi Avgi) party for forming a criminal organisation.
"In the last six years we have lost 25 percent of our GDP, 40 percent of our living standards, we have 27 percent unemployment and over 60 percent among young people. I don't think any other country has experienced a similar crisis, which is comparable only to the crisis in 1930 in America. Greeks lived through a nightmare. They said that a democracy cannot survive under such conditions. We have proved them wrong," Samaras underlined.
Addressing business people, politicians and some of the most important policy makers in Washington, the Greek premier outlined the steps Greece was taking for an exit from the crisis and its future prospects. Referring to his meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, he said this had been "very good" and he was optimistic that a turnaround for Greece's economy was imminent.
Noting that the buzzword 'grexit' had now been replaced by 'grecovery', he said the country was now emerging as an island of stability in the volatile Eastern Mediterranean region.
The prime minister pointed to hopeful signs that were beginning to emerge, such as a slowdown in the unemployment rate for the first time, the recapitalisation of banks and the elimination of the deficit from 15 percent in 2009.
"The figures show that Greece is near an exit from the crisis," he said, while also highlighting the prospects for cooperation between Greece, Israel and Cyprus in exploiting the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean and the role that Greece can play as the upcoming EU presidency in 2014.
 US State Department salutes Greek government's position on Golden DawnNEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Wednesday welcomed the Greek government's 'strong' position on confronting extremism, in reply to a press query regarding the arrests of Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) deputies in Athens.
She also said that such incidents were 'deeply worrying" and added that "we condemn statements and actions attributed to the Golden Dawn party that instigate xenophobia and hostility towards minorities and antisemitism.
 Gov't spokesman on Golden Dawn developmentsGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Monday referring to the latest developments on Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) and the investigating magistrates and prosecutors decision to remand in custody only Yannis Lagos of the accused party's MPs and to release the other three, Elias Kassidiaris, Elias Panagiotaros and Chistos Michos, stated "the criminal prejudgment is in its beginning and no statement is needed to be made".
Kedikoglou also noted that "the social and political front against nazism and those who express it is given and united".
 Released GD MPs are still defendants in the case, judicial sources sayJudicial sources on Wednesday suggested moderation to all directions in response to statements alleging that the ultra-right Golden Dawn MPs were vindicated following their release with conditions pending their trial on charges of forming a criminal organization.
The three released MPs, Ilias Kassidiaris, Ilias Panagiotaros, and Nikos Mihos are still defendants in the criminal organization case and investigation continues, reliable judicial sources underlined.
Commenting on the decision, they noted that the imposition of conditions for their release has a specific legal interpretation namely, that the incriminating evidence on which the charges were based are still present. They noted that the evidence against them is concrete but they are not regarded as a flight risk or are suspects of committing more crimes considering that faces and facts and the way they are linked together, are already known, the sources said.
The decision to place GD MP Yiannis Lagos in custody was made because existing evidence links him directly to the murder case of Pavlos Fyssas.
 Golden Dawn MP Lagos remanded in custody, Kassidiaris released on bailGolden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) MP Yannis Lagos is the only one of the four Golden Dawn MPs who will be remanded in custody pending trial according to investigating magistrates and prosecutors decision. Lagos is facing charges of participating in a criminal organisation.
Deputy Elias Kassidiaris was released on 50,000 euros bail and the prohibition of leaving the country.
The other two MPs, Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos, were also released only with the prohibition of leaving the country.
All MPs are facing the same charges, however evidence on Lagos' involvement in Pavlos Fyssas murder on September 17 in Keratsini are alleged to be strong.
 Golden Dawn MP Lagos to be jailed in Korydallos, sources sayGolden Dawn MP Yannis Lagos, who was remanded in custody earlier on Wednesday with the agreement of a public prosecutor and examining magistrate, will probably be held at Korydallos prison in Athens, sources said.
The MP was arrested on charges of participating in a criminal organisation and the decision to send him to Korydallos was taken because he is likely to be called on again to provide additional details to the magistrates in charge of the case, the source said.
 Golden Dawn MPs testimonies concluded Wed. morningGolden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) MPs (Elias Kassidiaris, Ilias Panagiotaros, Yannis Lagos and Nikos Michos) testimonies before the investigating magistrates were concluded on Wednesday morning.
Kassidiaris in his six-hour testimony claimed that Golden Dawn is not a nazi organisation and does not use nazi symbols "We are not nazis we are Greek nationalists" he said according to information.
He also claimed that one of the protected witnesses is a former member of Independent Greeks party that went to Golden Dawn but he was sent away because he asked for money from the members of the party adding that he was paid by a private TV station reporter to give an interview.
Ilias Panagiotaros in his three-hour testimony is alleged to have said that the whole indictment is silly and based on random events that have nothing to do with the party adding that he is proud to be a member of Golden Dawn.
The third MP Yannis Lagos who testified for three hours said that he has no involvement in Pavlos Fyssas murder while Nikos Michos said that Golden Dawn's headquarters knew nothing about the incident in Keratsini (Pavlos Fyssas' murder).
The two investigating magistrates are currently in a meeting with two prosecutors to decide on whether Golden Dawn deputies will be detained or released.
 More Golden Dawn defendants testify; two GD members receive suspended sentencesAnother group of defendants in the Golden Dawn criminal organization case were led before the examining magistrates to testify on Wednesday.
Among them is the head of Golden Dawn's local branch in Piraeus' Nikea district, who according to phone records had repeatedly called and spoken with Giorgos Roupakias, the man accused of stabbing rapper Pavlos Fyssas, before the incident took place and with GD MP Yiannis Lagos after the killing occurred.
Soon after Fyssas' stabbing death, there is evidence that Lagos spoke repeatedly on the phone with GD leader Nikos Mihaloliakos.
Meanwhile, two Golden Dawn party members in Iraklio, Crete, aged 27 and 34 years old, respectively, were handed down 12 and eight-month sentences suspended for three years after they were found guilty for the possession of two knives, brass knuckles and a stun gun.
They were arrested during police raids on Golden Dawn offices and in houses belonging to its members.
 Former police station chief arrested for series of offences; evidence points to links with Golden DawnA former chief of Agios Panteleimon police station in downtown Athens has been arrested after an internal affairs investigation revealed evidence of his involvement in a series of illegal activities - including gun trafficking, money laundering, trading in counterfeit goods, drug dealing and abuse of authority. The investigation has also revealed links between the officer and the far-right Golden Dawn party, as well as indications of a possible active involvement by local party members in the illegal operations under investigation.
The 54-year-old deputy police director was arrested on Tuesday and charged with abuse of authority, gun possession and trafficking, forgery, providing a false statement of wealth and assets in 2012, repeated falsification, trading in counterfeit goods, sale and possession of drugs and money laundering, among others.
A 52-year-old woman was arrested as his accomplice, along with a 50-year-old woman known to be an echelon of Golden Dawn, while a retired police officer and husband of the first woman is being sought. The four suspects are believed to have formed a gang involved in various offences, while police are also examining whether a second GD echelon may have collaborated in their illegal activities.
A police raid on the suspects' houses in Athens and his hometown of Ioannina, northwest Greece, revealed a number of guns, cash and other evidence, including roughly 718 grams of hashish. Of particular interest to police was a list of names, addresses and plans for the houses of foreign nationals found in the second woman's house, while the reasons why she had this are still under investigation.
Among other evidence, police found more than 160,000 euros that had not been declared and could not be justified from the suspect's salary in the police force, of which roughly 20,000 euros were found in cash in the suspect's houses and 140,000 euros were deposited in a bank account in his name.
In addition to the above, police found numerous photocopies or original internal police documents, photocopies of passports, residence permits and ID applications with notes referring to significant sums, and pirate goods such as bags, purses and CDs.
The drugs were found in his parents' home in Ioannina and two 25-year-olds who were in the house have been arrested. According to information, one was a relative of the former Agios Panteleimon police station chief and a friend, who were living there temporarily. Both will appear before a prosecutor.
Further evidence of illegal guns, ammunition, mobile phones and notes referring to names and sums during the search for the fourth suspect, the retired police officer.
The arrested police officer served at the Agios Panteleimon Police Station until 2011, when he was transferred to the central police offices in Athens, serving in the deputy police chief's office. Detectives said that he continued to control his illegal interests in the Agios Panteleimonas district via 36 mobile phones found in his possession.
The internal affairs investigation was prompted by complaints that the specific officer was taking kickbacks from illegal gambling dens and yielded a wealth of evidence against him. Bank books containing large sums and more counterfeit goods were also found in the home of the GD member.
According to information, the arrested police officer was also collaborating with GD while stationed in Agios Panteleimonas, abusing his authority by referring citizens who made complaints against foreign nationals to the party and also ignoring reports of foreign nationals targeted by racist behaviour.
The former station chief and current deputy police director was suspended from his duties and an internal inquiry has been ordered into the case. He appeared before an Athens public prosecutor who brought criminal charges against him on Tuesday.
According to police announcement, the guns found will undergo forensics testing to check whether they have been used in any illegal activities.
 More Golden Dawn case defendants released with conditionsAnother four defendants in the Golden Dawn criminal organization case were released on Wednesday after testifying before the examining magistrates.
All are banned from leaving the country and will have to appear at their local police station on a regular basis until their trial.
Among them is the individual whose mobile phone was found in Giorgos Roupakias' car when he was arrested for murdering Pavlos Fyssas.
 Four more defendants in Golden Dawn case releasedFour more defendants in the case of the Golden Dawn party, accused of participation in a criminal organisation, were released after testifying before the investigator responsible for the case.
Restrictive terms were imposed on three of them, while the companion of the deputy Yiannis Lagos, who was remanded in custody, was released without any restrictive term being imposed.
Earlier, the remanding in custody was ordered of the policewoman involved in the case who served in Piraeus.
Golden Dawn secretary general Nikos Mihaloliakos was testifying on Wednesday evening, while the testimonies of another five defendants in the case will follow.
 Perama trade unionists testify that Golden Dawn was used to drive down wagesIn testimony concerning an attack against them in Perama, four trade unionists on Wednesday claimed in statements to a Piraeus public prosecutor that contractors in the Perama shipyards had brought in far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) in an attempt to drive down workers' wages and break up their unions.
According to their testimony, they had received threats before the September 12 attack when 50 GD supporters assailed a group of trade unionists and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) members putting up posters for the party's youth festival, in which several people were injured.
GD has officially announced its intention to create a 'rival' nationalist body representing Greek workers in the Perama shipyard zone.
 Case against released GD MPs still stands, political parties stressRepresentatives of the government and the political parties on Wednesday stressed that the case against the three far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) MPs released from custody earlier in the day still stands and the charges have not been dropped.
"The judicial investigation is continuing," Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis said in statements on SKAI television on Wednesday, stressing that the release of the three MPs "does not mean that they have not committed criminal actions".
Similarly, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) spokesman Panos Skourletis underlined that their release did not signify their innocence.
"The fact that they are released does not mean they are innocent, they have been charged. Justice must operate based on the rule of law," he said.
Opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, meanwhile, highlighted that their release did not mean that a judgement had been passed:
"We are in a climate of political polarisation. The fact that the GD MPs were not remanded in custody does not mean we have a complete ruling of justice," he said, noting that imprisonment on remand was simply a precautionary measure for averting further crimes, not a 'prejudgement' of a sentence.
"The fact that someone is not remanded does not mean in advance that he is either innocent or guilty," Kouvelis stressed during a meeting with the police officers' union.
He stressed that legality must provide the answer to acts of violence and criminal actions and that an independent public prosecutor and investigating magistrate had decided against imprisonment on remand.
According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), meanwhile, the decision to release the three MPs of the "criminal nazi Golden Dawn" raised questions and the party will be closely following developments. It repeated calls for an investigation of all cases linked to criminal activity, murders, beatings and attacks on Greeks and migrants by the 'nazi grouping'.
 Venizelos on Golden Dawn related developmentsNo one should rush to draw conclusions concerning the case against far-right Golden Dawn, as the courts have not yet ruled on the case, PASOK leader, Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday.
Addressing the party's Political Council meeting, Venizelos stressed that it was a criminal case and the investigation was still in its early stages, while highlighting its significance in terms of institutions, principles, democracy and law and order.
Venizelos underlined that all institutions must rise to the occasion, including the Parliament and political parties but chiefly justice itself.
He lashed out at the political powers that still link the rise of Golden Dawn to the memorandum and austerity, saying that worse things should be prevented from happening in the country and that no one should hide behind Golden Dawn.
Venizelos repeated his party's proposals for stricter observation of the existing legislation, saying that this was more than adequate, but noted that the anti-racist bill should be completed based on European standards and that state financing of political parties committing serious crimes should be suspended.
He said that PASOK had raised the issue of the Golden Dawn criminal activity early on, adding that now society and the political powers of the so-called "constitutional arc" share this position. "Better late than never," he concluded.
 Tsipras on the memorandum failure in Greece, Golden Dawn arrestsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)\
Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras expressed concern about economic and social developments in Greece, as well as, the future of Europe, while speaking from the European Parliament on Wednesday. He noted that the mistakes of the memorandums and austerity policies must be corrected for Europe to return to a path of economic growth and cohesion.
Referring to the failure of the memorandum in Greece, he underlined that the country faces dual risks; a humanitarian crisis with unemployment rate over 27 pct while a third of the Greek population lives in poverty, as well as a sense of injustice and rage. Greece is also faced with the risk of rising fascism, he said.
He repeated SYRIZA's proposal for a European conference on the Greek debt focusing, among others, on the likelihood of having it partially written off, the adoption a moratorium on its repayment, an economic growth clause and developmental financing by the European Investment Bank (EIB). "Greece needs a European sustainable solution with the prospect of entering the markets again," he added.
Commenting on the release from custody with conditions of certain Golden Dawn MPs, Tsipras said that he has complete confidence in the institutions and Greek Justice.
"The effort to dismantle the Nazi formation is an ideological, political and moral battle we will have to fight," he said, adding that Golden Dawn is a criminal organization that has been active since 1987 and not just a fascist political party. He said that the Golden Dawn arrests were a positive development, noting that the emergence of fascism is, among others, the result of the extreme neo-liberal and cruel policies implemented in Greece.
Asked to comment on whether GUE/NGL (Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left) Parliamentary Group is considering nominating Tsipras as a candidate for the European Commission presidency, GUE/NGL Group president Gabriele Zimmer responded that for her Tsipras would have been an "excellent choice" and added that a decision will be made in the GUE/NGL congress to take place in Madrid in December.
Commenting on the forthcoming Greek EU Presidency, Tsipras noted that his party is ready for the likelihood of Greece having a leftist government during its EU Presidency considering that "elections can be held at any time".
Tsipras is scheduled to meet with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group Hannes Swoboda and Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor. The meeting with Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn was not held due to previous engagements they both had, Tsipras said.
 SYRIZA leader holds talks with European Socialist Group presidentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
European Parliament's European Socialist Group ( S&D) President Hannes Swoboda, in statements after meeting Greek main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras in Brussels on Wednesday, expressed concern over "soaring neo-Nazi extremism and violence in Greece that led to the killing of Pavlos Fyssas by Golden Dawn members".
Swoboda expressed satisfaction over the "suitable and strong response" by the Greek government on the issue of Golden Dawn, stressing that "it must be secured that the same level of control will be maintained in the future". He also underlined the need for the implementation of "radical" structural reforms in Greece.
On his part, Tsipras pointed out to Swoboda "the failure of the Greek adjustment programme", stressing that Greece is not a special case and that the problem is a European one. Therefore, the solution for Europe is the solution for Greece, as he said.
The SYRIZA leader underlined the "unacceptable" level of unemployment in Greece, noting that there is a humanitarian crisis in the country now.
Tsipras also said that reforms are essential in Greece but require consensus, while saying that "an end must be put to collapse".
 Independent Greeks leader: I have confidence in justice'Independent Greeks' party leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday met representatives of police unions (Hellenic Federation of Police Staff and the Hellenic Federation of Police officers) at his office in parliament.
Kammenos expressed his confidence in the independence of Greek justice and, referring to developments with far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi), he said he did not have official information on the issue, adding that his party will not get involved in justice's work.
He called on the government and other 'entities' to stay away from justice's work, noting that 'we will respect justice and its decisions but we will also respect the Constitution'.
Referring to the latest developments he expressed his support and solidarity with the members of the police force and its staff, adding that the volition of his party and the police union for a clean-up in the police went without saying.
 Cyprus President Anastasiades to visit Athens in coming daysNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades announced his intention to visit Athens in the coming days to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Addressing a press conference on the Cyprus issue here on Wednesday evening, Anastasiades said that a review of results of his visits to New York and Washington will be taking place at the meeting, as well as of Samaras's visit to the U.S. and of joint coordination and determining the next steps by Athens and Nicosia.
The Cyprus president hailed Turkey's decision to respond positively to his proposal for meetings with the negotiator of the Greek Cypriot community. He said this proposal "took place in full coordination with the Greek government" and expressed his full satisfaction over the fact that the strengthened way of cooperation with Greece is producing results.
 Turkey's FM Davutoglu to visit Athens is the coming daysANKARA (ANA-MPA / A. Ambatzis)
Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu is to pay a visit to Athens in the next few days in preparation of the next meeting of the Supreme Council of the Greek-Turkish Cooperation, it was announced here on Wednesday.
Announcing the visit, Foreign ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu, also referred to the negotiation process on the Cyprus issue.
During a weekly press briefing, Gumrukcu, who was asked whether Turkey had a roadmap on the new negotiation process on Cyprus, replied that during a recent discussion between the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in new York "an issue was raised concerning visits by special envoys of the Turkish-Cypriots and the Greek-Cypriots in Athens and Ankara, respectively, which is an aspect that did not exist until today."
The spokesman said "we believe this is a way of discussion which can contribute towards a solution." He noted, however, that the dates for such visits have not yet been set.
"There is no reason not to complete the process by the end of the year, if after the start of the talks, there is the necessary political will," he added.
According to Gumrukcu, this latest development "does not alter Turkey's long-standing position that the Turkish-Cypriot side's main interlocutor is the Greek-Cypriots".
 Venizelos addresses conf' on digital democracyGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday addressed a conference on Digital Democracy.
In his address, Venizelos underlined that the digital democracy is where the traditional institution of democracy and technology meet, that influence the structure of the public space via the operation of the society of information.
Venizelos noted that inequalities exist in the traditional public and the same exists for the digital public space, because, as he stressed, there are citizens that not familiar with the use of digital democracy tools.
 Greece-Israel cooperation is a priority for Israeli prime minister, Labour MK Nachman Shai saysThe progress made in recent years and the future of bilateral cooperation will be discussed in the Greek-Israeli High Level Cooperation Council that will convene on October 8 in Jerusalem under the chairmanship of the prime ministers of Greece and Israel, Antonis Samaras and Benjamin Netanyahu respectively.
Boosting bilateral cooperation is a priority for the Israeli prime minister, opposition Israeli Labour Party Knesset member Nachman Shai underlined in his recent visit to Athens.
In a press conference, he also said that a peace agreement should be reached in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He referred to the new Iranian president's position on the issue of nuclear weapons, as well as, to the situation in Syria, domestic problems in Israel and antisemitism.
 Justice minister says rumours of resignation 'nonsense'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou termed here on Wednesday rumours that he will resign as "nonsense".
Referring to Wednesday's developments concerning the Golden Dawn party, the minister said that provisional detention was ordered for a Golden Dawn deputy, while adequate indications on the perpetration of offences existed for the rest and for this reason restrictive conditions were ordered.
"The investigation will be continued and we shall see what Justice will decide," Athanasiou said, adding that "Greek justice is independent institutionally and it has an enviable independence that other countries do not have".
 Draft bill on forests should be withdrawn, SYRIZA saysMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday said that an environment ministry draft bill on the protection of forest ecosystems should be immediately withdrawn "as fully undermining the public interest," and the protection of the country's forests.
In an announcement, SYRIZA accused the government of finding the "problem" that forests exist in the country too big to cope with and of seeking to overcome this by lifting obstacles to their "development" via the destruction of natural wealth, tabling a draft bill "that not only contrary to the Constitution but also to common sense".
Among others, it points to a series of articles in the draft bill that it claims "abolish" forests in the country and are a powerful blow to the public interest, undermining one of the country's main comparative advantages in order to pave the way for various groups 'eyeing' public lands and forests.
"In a completely unscientific and unconstitutional way, with a series of articles referring to the definition of forests, reforestation, the kind of activity and intervention permitted and the legalisation of a countless illegal interventions, there is a full unravelling of protective legislation and a demolition of all prospect of exercising a policy for the protection and management of forests and forest land," SYRIZA stressed.
Among others, the party highlights the fact that much land classed as forest will be converted into a newly created category of "public lands" for which there is no protection framework. It also interprets the new legislation as opening the way for a host of new activities within forests, including industrial activity, mining, major infrastructure and even "treasure-hunting".
 Son of former Cyprus minister Michailides detained in connection to Tsochatzopoulos caseMichalis Michailides, son of former Cyprus Interior minister?Dinos Michailides, has been remanded in custody following his testimony on Wednesday in connection to the?money laundering and armaments kickbacks trial of former Greek Defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos.
Both father and son are facing charges of money laundering of around 10 million dollars they allegedly handled on behalf of Tsochatzopoulos.
The case files allege that the amount meant for Tsochatzopoulos consisted of kickbacks over the purchase the Tor-M1 defence system by Greece's Defence Ministry.
 Development minister says Greek funds attracted foreign institutional investors over past year and a halfDevelopment Minister Costis Hatzidakis said at the annual General Assembly of the Hellenic Venture Capital Association that "it is not by chance that despite the recession Greek funds attracted foreign institutional investors over the past year and a half".
The minister stressed that the Venture Capital and the Private Equity Funds support the entrepreneurship which Greece needs today more than ever, and noted that the ministry has already agreed with the sector to cooperate closely with the representatives of businesses to enable sector discussions to take place in accordance with the priorities of the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) so that the relevant new programmes will be shaped correspondingly and in parallel the institution's participation in the fundings of business efforts will be strengthened even more.
 Greek state repaid 5.8 bln euros of overdue debt to private sectorThe Greek state has repaid 4.9 billion euros of its overdue debt to the private sector, while funds approved for debt repayment total 5.8 billion euros so far this year, Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Staikouras attributed this delay to a significant slowdown in full repayment of overdue debt from 2011. He noted that the Finance ministry has already transferred 73 pct of total funds earmarked for the repayment of overdue debt (totaling 8.0 billion euros). He said that the ministry approved repayments of 571 million euros in September, 61 pct of total overdue debt to the private sector and reiterated that a shortfall between approvals and final payments was attributed to technical reasons.
 Greek banks' interest rate spread up in AugustThe interest rate spread between loan and deposit rates increased by 15 basis points to 3.44 pct in August, as the overall weighted average interest rate on new deposits decreased, while the corresponding interest rate on new loans remained almost unchanged in the month, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that in the case of deposits the average interest rates on overnight deposits from households and non-financial corporations remained almost unchanged at 0.47% in August 2013. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to one year decreased further by 19 basis points and stood at 3.29%. The overall weighted average interest rate on all new deposits decreased by 16 basis points and stood at 2.10%, in August 2013.
In the case of loans, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity stood at 14.68% in August 2013, compared with 14.64% in the previous month. The average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased by 91 basis points and stood at 8.41%.
The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity decreased by 6 basis points and stood at 7.36%. The corresponding rate on loans to sole proprietors remained basically unchanged at 9.54%. The average interest rate on corporate loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year remained almost unchanged at 7.12% for loans up to EUR 250,000, increased by 5 basis points to 6.13% for loans above 250,000 euros and up to 1 million euros, and decreased by 23 basis points to 5.49% for loans above EUR 1 million. Finally, the average interest rate on housing loans at a floating rate or with an initial fixation period of up to one year increased by 4 basis points and stood at 2.89%. The overall weighted average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations remained almost unchanged at 5.54% in August 2013.
In particular, in August 2013, the average interest rate on outstanding amounts of deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to two years decreased by 20 basis points to 3.85% while the corresponding rate on deposits from non-financial corporations decreased by 22 basis points to 3.44%. The average interest rates on outstanding amounts of housing loans and loans to sole proprietors with over five years' maturity remained almost unchanged at 3.13% and 5.97% respectively, while the corresponding rate on corporate loans increased by 21 basis points and stood at 4.86%.
In August 2013, the overall weighted average interest rate on the outstanding amount of all deposits (including overnight deposits) decreased by 13 basis points and stood at 2.45% while the corresponding rate on loans increased by 3 basis points to 5.77%.
 Pharmaceutical spending to fall by 50 pct in 2011-2014Pharmaceutical spending in Greece must be gradually reduced to 1.0 pct of GDP by the end of 2014, equalling the EU average rate, Antonis Bezas, Health Deputy Minister said on Wednesday.
In a report, tabled to Parliament, in response to a question of independent deputy Nikos Nikolopoulos, the Greek deputy minister said pharmaceutical spending fell by 1.076 billion euros in 2012 and noted that the claw back sum imposed to pharmaceutical companies totaled 78.9 million euros.
The report noted that the target for pharmaceutical spending -not including hospitals- was 2.88 billion euros in 2012 and 2.371 billion euros in 2013. In case spending overshoots budgets, the excessive sum is returned by pharmaceutical companies through the claw back mechanism. Bezas said that the reduction of pharmaceutical spending in the period of 2011-2014 will be around 50 pct.
 Procter and Gamble Hellas reports lower profitsProcter & Gamble Hellas on Wednesday reported a significant decline in sales and pre-tax profits for the third consecutive year, in the period July 2012-June 2013.
The company -fully owned by the US consumer products giant- said its sales fell to 289.86 million euros, from 350.35 million euros in the previous year, for a decline of 17.3 pct. Gross profit margin dropped to 37.4 pct from 44.9 pct, with gross earnings totaling 108.51 million euros, down 31 pct from the previous year.
EBITDA fell to 8.98 million euros, from 11.83 million euros the previous year, while pre-tax and interest earnings dropped 28.2 pct to 7.57 million euros.
Procter & Gamble Hellas reported a 26.9 pct decline in pre-tax profits to 7.63 million euros, while its net after tax profits totaled 5.34 million euros, down 26.8 pct.
The company will distribute a dividend payment of 5.52 million euros to its parent company, based in Ohio, US.
 GlaxoSmithKline expands activities in GreeceGlaxoSmithKline offered a "vote of confidence" in Greece and its domestic pharmaceutical market by announcing its decision to extend its cooperation with Famar with the addition of new products and investing 2.2 million euros.
Speaking during a special event, GSK Consumer Healthcare Managing Director for Greece, Cyprus and Malta Constantinos Limnidis said the company has made a four-year agreement with Famar, worth 2.2 million euros, for the packaging of four non-subscription medicines (NiQuitin Lozenge, NiQuitin Patch, Breathe Right and Alvedon). The deal will raise GSK Consumer Healthcare's annual production in Greece to 12,500,000 million units, of which 98 pct are exported to 32 countries worldwide. The deal will establish Greece as a production hub in international markets and will create 30 new job positions. The two companies have a long-lasting successful cooperation which extends over 41 years.
Roger Scarlet Smith, GSK Consumer Healthcare president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the company's aim was to become the first and best company in the sector, dedicated to science and its values. "Greece is a very significant market for us in the region of South Europe and this investment is a confirmation of our faith to the market's capabilities and the dynamism of the pharmaceutical industry in general," he noted.
Roberto Greco, chairman and chief executive of GSK Greece said he believed that the country will emerge from the crisis with the adoption of the right policies by its political leadership. "We see progress in reforming the health sector in the right direction, something that will lead to a stable, fair and transparent environment and to restoration of the system's viability to the benefit of Greek patients," he said.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who attended the event said the agreement was another piece of positive news, a sign that step-by-step, day-by-day, things change.
The UK's ambassador to Greece John Kitmer expressed his satisfaction over the fact that a large UK company such as GSK decided to expand its activities in Greece.
 Attica Region signs 14 projects budgeted at 37,500,000 eurosThe Attica Region signed 14 projects on Wednesday budgeted at 37,500,000 euros, in cooperation with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, as well as the mayors of municipalities where the projects will be carried out. Ten new contracts for the construction of projects were signed and four programme contracts.
The two biggest projects are the construction of the indoors stadium in the municipality of Paleo Faliro and the renovation and reshaping projects at the Benakio Phytopathological Institute in Kifisia.
 Greek fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP in 2013 and 2014Greece's general government's deficit will fall below 3.0 pct of GDP in 2013 and 2014, Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Staikouras said that the draft budget for 2014 will be tabled to Parliament next week. The draft budget also envisages a primary budget surplus for 2013.
 Greek stocks under pressure, end lowerGreek stocks came under pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, once again changing direction after Tuesday's advance. The composite index of the market fell
0.99 pct to end at 1,011.67 points, after falling as much as 1.41 pct during the day. Turnover was a low 42.27 million euros.
The Large Cap index dropped 1.51 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.78 pct higher. Intralot (2.42 pct), Hellenic Exchanges (1.75 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (1.43 pct) and OPAP (0.72 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Coca Cola HBC (3.96 pct), Ellaktor (3.63 pct), Frigoglass (2.78 pct) and Alpha Bank (2.63 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Technology (1.40 pct), Oil (1.09 pct) and Travel (0.86 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Food (3.93 pct), Commerce (1.84 pct) and Telecoms (1.53 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 61 to 52 with another 27 issues unchanged. Douros (18.33 pct), Alsinco (18.18 pct) and Pasal (12.50 pct) were top gainers, while Sidma (19.86 pct), HOL (17.21 pct) and Nakas (9.92 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.09%
Personal & Household: +0.21%
Raw Materials: -0.89%
Travel & Leisure: +0.86%
Food & Beverages: -3.93%
Financial Services: +0.78%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, OPAP, Jumbo, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.555
Public Power Corp (PPC): 8.25
Coca Cola HBC: 21.10
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.79
National Bank of Greece: 3.01
Eurobank Properties : 7.55
Piraeus Bank: 1.24
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 7.40 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 7.36 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 9.20 pct and the German Bund 1.80 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 0.39 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 21.738 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,002 contracts worth 17.189 million euros, with 51,722 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,134 contracts worth 4.549 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (2,245), followed by National Bank (1,407), Piraeus Bank (956), MIG (579), OTE (1,301), PPC (1,114), OPAP (852), Mytilineos (124), Hellenic Petroleum (259), GEK (206), Ellaktor (148), Intralot (149) and Jumbo (101).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.371
Pound sterling 0.846
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 8.784
Japanese yen 133.74
Swiss franc 1.242
Norwegian kroner 8.254
Canadian dollar 1.419
Australian dollar 1.467
 Athens University reports sharp rise in rates of clinical depression in GreeceThe incidence of clinical depression in Greece has risen by more than 50 percent since 2011, according to the findings of a survey conducted by the Athens University research institute for mental health (EPIPSY) that were released on Wednesday.
The survey was conducted last May using a random representative sample of the population and showed that the monthly incidence of major clinical depression, which requires immediate treatment and medical intervention, has reached 12.3 percent of the population in 2013 from 8.2 percent in 2011.
Hardest-hit are women, those aged 35 to 44 years old and 55 to 64 years old, those with lower educational qualifications, those on incomes less than 400 euros a month, the unemployed and the under-employed.
Rates of clinical depression have risen steadily in the Greek population since the start of the crisis, from 3.3 percent in 2008 to 6.8 percent in 2009 and 8.2 percent in 2011.
Incidents of depression were much higher in low-income groups, with one in two Greeks having a family income less than 400 euros meeting all the criteria for clinical depression, while the rate among the unemployed (19.8 percent) was double that of the working population at (9.8 percent).
 Main Athens landfill shut down after scavengers sneak inThe landfill in Fylis, the main rubbish depository for the Greek capital, was shut down once again on Wednesday after dozens of landfill scavengers illegally gained entry into the facility in order to pick through the rubbish. This was the second time the landfill has been forced to close for the same reason in less than a week.
EDSNA President Yiannis Sgouros once again stressed the safety risk for both personnel at the landfill and for the health and safety of the individuals sneaking in, stressing that it was only a matter of time before there were victims as a result and that the landfill's operation and legality must be protected.
 Foreign prison fugitive arrested on international warrant in PatrasA 39-year-old Serbian national, a Swiss prison fugitive, was arrested at the seaport of Patras, southern Greece, during passport control while attempting to travel to Italy, it was announced on Wednesday.
According to police, he had escaped from a prison facility in Switzerland in June 2011 and was captured on an international arrest warrant.
The Serbian national is accused of robbery, rape and forgery.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 8C and 24C. Possible local showers in Athens with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 14C and 20C. Local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 11C and 18C.
The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
AVGHI: Three businesses had shut down in the last three days - Over 2,500 people jobless.
DIMOKRATIA: Fear for new cutbacks in pensions.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Long night for the gang (Golden Dawn).
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: 'Sudden death' for 800,000 Americans.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: High-ranked police officer Golden Dawn's (Chryssi Avghi) partner.
ESTIA: Golden Dawn insults our culture.
ETHNOS: Sabotage against US President Barack Obama.
IMERISSIA: All Greece in the cadastre.
KATHIMERINI: Second wave of investigations and prosecutions.
LOGOS: Greece the champion of unemployment.
NAFTEMPORIKI: The noose is tightening in 2014 for real estate property owners.
RIZOSPASTIS: PAME (labour organisation affiliated to Communist Party of Greece) rallies on October 5.
TA NEA: These six (persons) killed Pavlos Fyssas.
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