|Thursday, 19 July 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-10-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 10 October 2013 Issue No: 4482
 Greek Finance ministry on IMF reportGreece's Finance Ministry on Wednesday evening issued an indirect response to a report given to publicity by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the afternoon, quoting Greece's agreement with the EC/ECB/IMF troika of lenders, which runs contrary to the contents of the IMF's report.
The ministry said that even though talks with European partners on updating the programme are continuing, any likely fiscal gaps up to 2017 will not be covered by new fiscal measures but by controlling spending, improving tax compliance and the already visible improvement in the macroeconomic climate.
The finance ministry further said that "the Greek government does not comment on reports by international organisations such as the IMF. And it did not do so even when the Fund was admitting erroneous assumptions and incorrect estimates in drafting the initial Economic Policy Programme for Greece.
The Greek government expresses its opinion with responsibility and respect for the enormous sacrifices of the Greek society only on the Economic Policy Programme agreed with the troika.
Accoridng to an ANA-MPA dispact from New York, the IMF wants new austerity measures worth 6.7 billion euro from Greece to be taken by 2016. The IMF sees no primary surplus to be achieved for 2013 and furthermore that additional debt restructuring (haircut) will be required.
According to IMF's "Fiscal Monitor" report published on Wednesday:
Greece is expected to achieve a zero primary balance in 2013, despite the fact that the draft budget for 2014 predicts a surplus of 344 million euros;
additional adjustment by 2016 will require additional measures, including gains from the tax administration, equal to 3.5 pct of GDP;
projections for public debt require an additional haircut (OSI) to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio to 124% by 2020;
measures of 2.9 billion euro should be adopted in 2014.
 Ministers report keen interest from Israeli firms at Greek-Israeli business forumIsraeli investors had shown a keen interest in the prospects of doing business in Greece, turning up in large numbers for a Greek-Israeli business forum held on the occasion of a visit by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to Israel, according to ministers accompanying the government mission.
Speaking on the sidelines of Tuesday's forum, Development and Competitiveness Costis Hatzidakis stressed that the presence of so many business people from both countries proved the "practical interests uniting the Greek and Israeli business communities".
"There are already signs that cooperation is improving. Exports from Greece to Israel rose by an impressive 312 percent in 2012. Israel is the 13th largest importer of Greek products.
Nevertheless, the present state of bilateral economic cooperation, for example in direct investments, does not reflect the true potential of our countries," he said.
The heightened Israeli investment interest, especially in the areas of technology, infrastructure and tourism, was also confirmed during meetings held by Deputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis at the forum.
Among others, Hatzidakis signed a memorandum of cooperation with the company Yozma, known as the Israeli 'fund of funds' and one of the biggest firms of its kind worldwide, for the transfer of knowhow promoting growth and for the implementation of policies that will speed up the establishment of new and innovative businesses. This also provides for setting up a joint action team that will outline the basic framework of a "strategy for developing an innovation ecosystem" and do the ground work on an international level for efforts to attract and develop joint Greek and Israeli venture capital funds that will invest in innovative Greek businesses.
Hatzidakis and Notarakis had meetings with the heads of a number of Israeli firms and business associations, operating in sectors ranging from energy and finance to tourism, while there were more than 400 scheduled meetings between Greek business people accompanying the delegation and some 150 of their Israeli counterparts.
The sectors that attracted the greatest interest were those of technology and pharmaceuticals, followed by tourism and real estate.
Also on the sidelines of the forum, the head of Invest in Greece Stefanos Isaias signed a memorandum of intent (MOI) with the head of the Invest in Israel to promote investments and boost mutual cooperation, focusing on an exchange of knowhow and information and on encouraging, facilitating and supporting investment-related activities, such as meeting, events and seminars.
 Greece-Israel tourism cooperation statementA joint statement promoting cooperation in the tourism sector between Greece and Israel was signed by Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and her counterpart Uzi Landau in Jerusalem. The two ministers met on Tuesday in the context of the Joint Ministerial Council of Greece-Israel Cooperation held during Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' official visit to Israel.
They confirmed the excellent level of bilateral cooperation in the sector of tourism with an emphasis on the promotion of joint travel packages to Greece and Israel from countries like the United States, Canada and China and underlined the important role that can be played by the Jewish and Greek diaspora.
They also decided to further strengthen bilateral cooperation to promote alternative forms of tourism such as religious tourism and city break destination packages.
Kefalogianni invited her counterpart to visit Athens and suggested holding a meeting of tourism sector entrepreneurs from both countries.
 Greece-Israel bilateral cooperation to combat organized crime, terrorismPublic Order & Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias and his Israeli counterpart Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aaronovitch signed an agreement on public security and combating organized crime.
The agreement was signed on Tuesday in the context of bilateral agreements signed in Jerusalem in the presence of prime ministers of Greece and Israel, Antonis Samaras and Benjamin Netanyahu respectively.
It concerns cooperation against serious and organized crime, human trafficking, illegal migration and electronic crime and also against terrorism and its financing, illegal trade of works of art, precious stones and metals and other valuable objects.
Issues such as firefighting and assistance in case of major fires, as well as, management of major crises in the event of natural and technological disasters are also covered by the agreement.
 Venizelos offers Palestinian leadership support to peace processThe Greek Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2014 will contribute to supporting the peace process in the Middle East, government vice president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki during a meeting the two men had in Ramallah on Wednesday.
Al-Malki expressed his hope that the Greek EU Presidency will be "a catalyst in creating a better climate."
Venizelos traveled to Ramallah after the end of an official visit to Israel, as part of a large government mission headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abass and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Following the end of his meeting with al-Malki, Venizelos told reporters that a Greece-Israel bilateral agreement was not counter to the historically close and amicable relations with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.
"Besides, for us, such bilateral ties (with Israel) also envisage participation of the Palestinian Authority, even during this sensitive period of negotiations."
On a bilateral level, there was agreement on the immediate setting up of a joint ministerial committee "to examine on practical level issues pertaining to tourism, culture, sports, investments and development". It was also agreed to establish a joint Greek-Palestinian Business Council to enable the presence of Greece's business activity in the region, at a time when growth is expected to be high.
 Venizelos meets with Israeli Justice MinisterGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Tuesday with Israeli Justice Minister and responsible for Israel's negotiation team in the Middle East peace process Tzipi Livni.
The two ministers exchange views on the latest developments in the Middle East as well as in the wider region and continued the discussion they had opened at the working dinner organised by the International Peace Institute on September 22 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Ministers Week in New York.
Livni briefed Venizelos on the course of the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians while they made a special reference to the Greek-Israeli cooperation prospects ahead of Greece's presidency in the EU in the first six months of 2014.
 PM to meet Cyprus President on Friday, company CEOs on ThursdayPrime Minister Antonis Samaras is scheduled to meet visiting Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. and subsequently with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at 11:00 a.m. the same day.
During meetings on Thursday, meanwhile, Samaras will receive the head of the Chinese telecoms firm ZTE Corporation Hou Weigui at 1:30 p.m. and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at 3:00 p.m.
The premier is scheduled to chair a meeting of the New Democracy party's Political Committee on Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. This will follow a meeting of the ND Executive Secretariat at the party's headquarters on Synggrou Avenue.
 Parliament report on sustainability of Greek public debtGreece will face the risk of a fiscal gap in the second half of 2014 and of an inability to service its public debt (funding gap), the Parliament's Budget Office said in a report released on Wednesday.
The report noted that the current lending contract with the troika ends in 2014 when the last loan will be disbursed and underlined that in the second half of 2014 the funds available by the country will not be enough to cover its obligations on interest payments.
The report said that a primary surplus will not be enough to cover interest payment. The International Monetary Fund estimates this fiscal gap at around 4.4 billion euros by the end of 2014 and an additional 6.5 billion euros in 2015, for a total of 11 billion euros, while the Greek government expects a smaller gap, hoping to achieve a primary suprlus of 2.83 billion euros in 2014. This gap will have to be covered either with new loans, lower interest rates and new measures, or a combination of all these. The Greek government has categorically dismissed the introduction of additional measures. The Budget Office said that if spending on overdue debt payments was added then this fiscal gap would become a funding gap. The report noted that it will not be easy for Greece to borrow on reasonal terms from capital markets to cover this funding gap and stressed that "an agreement on new support loans and other facilitations (lower interest rates) would be the most possible solution given current facts. Such an option is included in a November's Eurogroup council decisions. The Budget Office estimates that "a new loan agreement to cover the country's fiscal gap will offer only a temporary solution for a period of one or two years and postpone dealing with the major problem, the country's big public debt. The report is based on the assumption that the country's debt will not be sustainable by 2020 or 2022 exclusive through national saving efforts (primary surpluses, privatizations) with any other restructuring (new haircut) or readjustment (extending maturity periods) and other facilitations.
The report offered alternative scenarios over the reduction of the country's debt, including lowering interest rates, extending maturity of the debt, issuing Eurobonds and a partial write off of debt.
 "We'll show people what GD is really all about," government spokesman Kedikoglou saidGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday underlined that "when we talk about conversation monitoring practices we should be very careful," underlining that "we cannot talk nonsense just to say something like (main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis) Tsipras did".
Speaking on Skai television, Kedikoglou underlined that the procedures followed by the counter-terrorism squad as regards the surveillance focusing on the ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) case are "absolutely legal", noting that this is a criminal and not a political prosecution.
"It is a fact that the Greek society was caught by surprise when a criminal organization was elected to parliament after showing an anti-systemic face. Before we had a different kind of violent incidents, targeting politicians...I am just saying that violence had infiltrated society to a very alarming degree. People were saying 'we will send them to parliament just to beat the rest up'. It was decided to deal with them through the justice system and thus remove the political cover of the criminal organization and show people what DG is really all about," Kedikoglou said.
Responding to criticism for delayed reaction to GD's violent actions, he said that all pending cases against it had to be combined "because we were being faced with an attempt to overthrow the existing system of government and this couldn't be documented based on a single action. The investigation was underway and Fyssas' murder was the catalyst that accelerated procedures".
As regards the interruption of the GD state funding, he expressed the view that political parties will come to an agreement, adding that SYRIZA's negative stance is incomprehensible.
Kedikoglou said that what is being discussed is to suspend the GD funding until the court investigation is completed.
 Interior Minister: People will outlaw Golden Dawn"I believe that Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) should be within the law because if it is within the law it will have to face the law. I believe that the people will outlaw them" said Interior Minister Yannis Mihelakis in an interview with private TV Mega on Wednesday.
Referring to Golden Dawn's financing and describing a government's legislation tabled in parliament, Mihelakis noted "A party in state of sub justice can't be financed from the state, meaning that the financing must be interrupted until we have the court's final decision on whether it is or it is not a criminal organisation'.
 Suspect for involvement in Fyssas' murder gives testimonyA 32 year-old suspect in the Pavlos Fyssas' murder case who had been arrested for a second time on Tuesday was led before Piraeus investigating magistrate on Wednesday.
The suspect was arrested for the first time with the 32 individuals on the Supreme Court prosecutor's list, who have been charged in the ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) criminal organization case, but he was released with conditions because his arrest was not related with the Keratsini murder.
Based on the available evidence, he was in the same car with Giorgos Roupakias, the man charged with stabbing Fyssas, but had managed to flee soon after the murder. His presence in the car was verified by his identity card and a mobile phone he left behind.
 Suspect involved in Fyssas' murder to testify on MondayA 32 year-old man alleged to be involved in Pavlos Fyssas' murder who was arrested on Tuesday asked and received extension until Monday from Piraeus investigating magistrate to prepare his testimony.
The suspect, Ioannis Kazantzoglou, was led on Wednesday before the magistrate and asked for an extension.
 Another suspect involved in GD case arrestedAnother suspect included in the Supreme Court prosecutor's list on Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) appeared on Wednesday at the court buildings in Athens and was arrested by the Counter terror squad.
The 36 year-old suspect was transferred to Attica Police headquarters and afterwards he will be sent before the investigating magistrate.
 Health minister on future structure of EOPYYHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Wednesday said that a debate, with the participation of all entities and parties, on the new model of operation for the national health service provider (EOPYY) that begins next week will be completed in November.
Tabling two expert reports on EOPYY carried out by scientific committees with the relevant Parliamentary committee, Georgiadis said that the ministry's goal at the conclusion of dialogue is to decide whether EOPYY will be exclusively a buyer of healthcare services or whether it will also be a supplier. He also added that if a single structure for primary healthcare is selected, then a decision on how to implement the reform will be made before the end of the year.
Georgiadis referred to a 'national target' that should supersede party differences and called on all the political parties to cooperate.
 PASOK MPs oppose 25-euro fee for admission to hospitalParliamentary deputies of the ruling coalition's junior partner PASOK on Wednesday expressed their disagreement with a proposal to impose a 25-euro fee on patients admitted to hospital.
The chairman of Parliament's Social Affairs Committee, PASOK MP Dimitris Kremastinos, and the party rapporteur Yiannis Koutsoukos both opposed the measure during a discussion on the future of the Greek state insurance health service provider EOPYY tabled and a briefing by Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis.
Both MPs stressed that the public health system must provide universal services and the amount must be offset by other sources of revenue, noting that some people might be unable to pay the fee and this would result in social problems.
 Interior Minister Mihelakis on SYRIZA's stance as regards political party state financingInterior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis on Wednesday referred to main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) wondering why it refuses to support a clause that will suspend state financing of political parties accused of being criminal organizations.
According to Mihelakis, "the government proposal is simple, clear and effective; suspension of financing will be imposed on political parties under court investigation into whether they constitute criminal organizations. And I am asking, why is SYRIZA disturbed? What are they afraid of and refuse to support this clause?"
SYRIZA MPs have characterized the proposed rider as "fragmentary", "institutionally provocative" and "problematic in various ways", stating that they will not support it unless its content is changed.
The rider will be discussed in a parliamentary plenary session.
 SYRIZA's spokesman Skourletis on the legislation for ERT closureMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) spokesman Panos Skourletis on Wednesday said that the government partners trivialize parliament, referring to the decision according to which, the legislative act that allowed the shutdown of state broadcaster ERT will not be discussed in parliament.
He accused PASOK of hypocrisy and unreliability and referring to New Democracy (ND), he said that the decision was its gift to PASOK.
Skourletis said that a relevant Council of State decision will have to be implemented, while the legislative act that allowed the ERT closure will have to be discussed in parliament, as well as the draft bills tabled aimed at canceling out the legislative act's consequences.
 DIM.AR on the cancellation of the ERT legislative act discussionOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) on Wednesday referred to the cancellation of the discussion of the Legislative Act that allowed the closure of state broadcaster ERT, noting that no matter how many legislative maneuvers will be made by the government partners as regards the Legislative Act the issue will remain open and will haunt the political parties and each one of the MPs.
The parliament has to ratify or reject the Legislative Act considering that the October 18 deadline is mandatory, DIM.AR said, suggesting an immediate vote on the joint draft bill sponsored by PASOK and DIM.AR MPs that rejects the ratification of the Legislative Act and calls for the retroactive cancellation of the ministerial decision for the abolition of ERT.
 KKE says ERT legislative act should be abolishedOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday underlined that a Legislative Act that allowed the closure of the state broadcaster ERT, as well as a subsequent law that sealed the fate of ERT, will have to be abolished.
KKE underlined that the Legislative Act will must go before Parliament immediately and each political party will have to state its position clearly, adding that it has repeatedly tabled riders aimed at canceling the Legislative Act and settling relevant issues.
 SYRIZA demands 'clear answer' on whether party's phones are being tappedMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday demanded that the government give a clear answer on whether the phones of political parties and their members are being monitored by Greece's intelligence service EYP and "not hide behind wisecracks and evasions".
Responding, the press office of Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias stressed that "there is no issue of surveillance of political parties by EYP".
SYRIZA pointed to statements made by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis about EYP 'bugs' and attempts to involve a SYRIZA MP, as well as a question posed by New Democracy MP Aris Spiliotopoulos about EYP's activities, noting that this was a "major issue for democracy".
The main opposition also cited statements made on Wednesday by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou concerning the affair, stressing that the government must give an answer on whether calls by SYRIZA and other political parties were being tapped "today" and in an "absolute and categoric manner."
 KKE party calls for immediate abolition of Special Consumption Tax and of VAT for heating oilThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a statement on Wednesday that "the government's measures for the heating bonus, as well as the half-measures being proposed by other parties on the reduction of the Special Consumption Tax rate and the 'notorious' negotiation, deceive the working people and the poor working classes who can see visible the danger of passing the winter without electric power and heating".
KKE called on the government at the same time to reject the Commission's directives which now "speak of a new increase in heating oil tax and in VAT for electric power and natural gas".
"The solution is to be found in KKE's proposal for the immediate abolition of the Special Consumption Tax, as well as of VAT that burdens heating oil and natural gas for household use, the abolition of all taxes", the announcement said.
KKE called for the immediate taking of measures for the protection of the unemployed, low-income earners and their families and a "popular alliance and organising of the struggle and of solidarity so that no working class home will remain without electric power and heating and the overall reversing of the antipopular policy".
 Parliament lifts immunity of four MPs following the request of prosecutorsThe Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of lifting the immunity of four MPs, three from the party of New Democracy (ND) and one from SYRIZA, and rejected a request to lift the immunity of a PASOK MP.
The Parliamentary immunity of PASOK MP Mihalis Kassis was not lifted after 167 MPs voted against the request, 33 in favour, 10 voted "present" and 3 cast blank ballots.
The prosecutor had requested the lifting of his Parliamentary immunity in relation to mobilizations against the privatization of Dodoni dairy industry, in response to allegations by its new owners that he had instigated incidents. Speaking in his defence, Kassis said that on the day of the incidents he was not in the area.
The Parliament lifted the immunity of ND MP Menelaos Vlahveis (161 in favour, 42 against, 7 present and 3 blank votes) accused of breach faith resulting to damages that exceed the amount of 30,000 euros.
For ND MP Mihalis Tamilos, 159 MPs voted in favour of lifting his Parliamentary immunity, 42 against, 9 voted present and one cast a blank vote. Tamilos is accused of breach of duty.
ND MP Dimitris Christogiannis lost his Parliamentary immunity (151 in favour, 55 against, 6 present and one blank vote) accused of causing physical harm due to negligence.
The Parliamentary immunity of SYRIZA MP Ioannis Mihelogiannakis was also lifted (203 in favour, 5 against, 2 present, 3 blank votes). He is accused of breach of faith that resulted to damages estimated at tens of thousands of euros.
 Greece-Bulgaria memorandum of understanding for the exchange of diplomatic services is ratifiedA memorandum of understanding between the foreign ministries of Greece and Bulgaria as regards the guidelines for the exchange of members of their diplomatic services was ratified by a Parliamentary committee on Wednesday with a majority vote.
Those voting in favour included New Democracy (ND), Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), PASOK, Independent Greeks (AN.EL) and Democratic Left (DIM.AR), while the Communist Party (KKE) MPs cast a blank vote and ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) voted against.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas pointed out that the memorandum of understanding broadens the area of cooperation between the two countries and lays the foundations to further upgrade their relations.
 Statute of limitations for Lagarde-list type cases extended two yearsThe statute of limitations for prosecuting tax offences that authorities are investigating based on data supplied to Greece from abroad is to be extended for two years, it was announced on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has undertaken an initiative to this effect in order to allow adequate time for the necessary audits to be conducted and will table legislation on the issue in Parliament. If passed, it will also be applicable to high-profile cases, such as those linked to the so-called "Lagarde list" sent by French authorities.
 FinMin: Economic recovery plan to be ready by the end of the yearA report on the future course of the Greek economy will be ready by the end of the year, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said in a report submitted to parliament on Wednesday.
In his report, the Finance minister said that the Greek government has commissioned the Center of Planning and Economic Research (KEPE) and the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) to draft a package of recom-mendations over the medium- and long-term course of the Greek economy and the state's contribution to this. The Greek FinMin said that the first results of this survey have been already sent to government's authorities, while final recommendations are expected to be delivered by the end of the year, in time to facilitate the national economy's return to a sustainable growth course.
The survey will underline the sectors which could play a leading role in the retun of the economy to a sustainable growth path, highlighting public policies contributing towards this direction and maximizing the use of growth tools, such as community funds, development law, support fund for SMEs, etc. The survey will also pinpoint any administrative hurdles raising problems to investments and business activity.
The report was submitted to Parliament in response to a question by DIMAR's deputies, Nikos Tsoukalis, Asimina Xyrotiri and Dimitris Anagnostakis.
 Finance Ministry to introduce property registryThe Finance ministry is expected to abolish all living standard criteria for salary earners and pensioners from 2014 and to replace them with a tax agency property registry, currently under construction by the Information Systems General Secretariat of the ministry.
This registry will include all property assets and basic spending of taxpayers which will allow tax services to assess taxpayers' incomes. The ministry's aim is to put an end to the living standard mechanism which contributed in raising tax revenues but failed to combat tax evasion. This mechanism will be used as a back-up control system for self-employed people.
 Greek inflation decline slowed to -1.1 pct in SeptThe rate of decline of Greece's annual inflation slowed to -1.1 pct in September this year after an -1.3 pct reading in August, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, noted that the inflation rate rose 2.6 pct in September from August and stressed that despite a negative consumer price inflation rate, prices of goods and services affecting the living standard of Greek households grew further in September, such as fresh potatoes (20.7 pct), fresh fruit (4.5 pct), dairy-eggs (0.7 pct), meat (0.5 pct), electricity rates (18.7 pct) and heating oil (25.1 pct). On the other hand, a decline in international oil prices helped in a decline in petrol prices (5.2 pct), while fresh vegetable prices dropped 8.6 pct in the month.
The statistics service attributed the -1.1 pct inflation rate in September to a 0.7 pct decline in food/beverage prices, a 3.1 pct fall in durable goods/household products and services prices, a 3.3 pct fall in healthcare prices, a 3.8 pct fall in transport, a 4.2 pct decline in communication prices, a 4.1 pct fall in eduation, a 3.3 pct decline in entertainment, a 3.1 pct fall in hotel/coffee/restaurants and a 4.8 pct fall in other goods and services.
On the other hand, alcohol/tobacco prices grew 3.5 pct in September, while clothing/footwear prices rose 0.1 pct and housing prices jumped 7.5 pct.
The country's harmonized inflation rate was -1 pct in September, unchanged from August. On a monthly basis, the inflation rate was 2.5 pct in September from August.
 Aegean Airlines says acquisition of Olympic Air to be completed by October 18Aegean Airlines - a Greek-listed airline company - on Wednesday said the European Commission's approval for the acquisition of Olympic Air created the preconditions for a sustainable, dynamic Greek airline company.
In a statement, Aegean Airlines said the new company will be competitive in the wider region, capable of creating a stable growth dynamism and with the necessary size to contribute substantially to the development of tourism and the Greek economy in general. The company said the acquisition of Olympic Air's shares and management control was expected to be completed by October 18, 2013, while the transaction will cost 72 million euros, of which 20 million euros have been already paid. Following completion of the acquisition, Olympic Air will become a subsidiary of Aegean and the unification of administration services will be immediate. The two companies will retain their brand name and logo along with their separate flight programe and fleet.
Theodoros Vassilakis, chairman of Aegean Airlines said: "From today our responsibilities towards the country and passengers are growing. We have become bigger and we have to become even better, supporting regional areas and safeguarding quality access to even the most remote island in Greece. Scale economies will allow us to offer lower fares on domestic flights, particularly to smaller islands, while we will have the ability to expand our international activities, both from Athens and regional Greece".
The combined airline group will have a fleet of 45 aircraft, a personnel of 2,090, a passenger capacity of 8.4 million (2013 estimate) and a combined turnover of 800 million euros (2013 estimate).
 Commission approves acquisition of Greek airline Olympic Air by Aegean AirlinesThe European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of Olympic Air by Aegean Airlines, both Greek air carriers, under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission's in-depth investigation has shown that Olympic Air would be forced to exit the market in the near future due to financial difficulties if not acquired by Aegean. Once Olympic would be out of business, Aegean would become the only significant domestic service provider and would capture Olympic's current market shares. Therefore, with or without the merger, Olympic would soon disappear as a competitor to Aegean. Thus the merger causes no harm to competition that would not have occurred anyway.
The Commission's Vice-President in charge of competition policy, Joaqu?n Almunia, stated: "It is clear that, due to the on-going Greek crisis and given Olympic's own very difficult financial situation, Olympic would be forced to leave the market soon in any event. Therefore we approved the merger because it has no additional negative effect on competition."
The Commission has examined the effects of the proposed acquisition on competition in the affected markets for the domestic air transport of passengers. Aegean is Olympic's closest competitor for these markets in Greece. The Greek crisis has seen a drop of 26% in demand for domestic air passenger transport from Athens: from 6.1 million passengers in 2009 to 4.5 million passengers in 2012. This decline has continued during the first half of 2013 (6.3% decrease compared to the preceding year).
Furthermore, the number of routes served by both Aegean and Olympic has decreased substantially over recent years. When the Commission blocked Aegean's previous attempt to merge with Olympic in 2011, the parties provided competing services on 17 routes, nine of which raised competition. Currently, Aegean and Olympic have overlaps on seven routes of which the following five domestic routes are served only by them: Athens-Chania; Athens-Mytilene; Athens-Santorini; Athens-Corfu (Aegean only operates in the summer); Athens-Kos (Aegean only operates in the summer).
The market investigation has revealed that entry in the immediate future by other airlines is unlikely on any of those routes. This is due to a variety of reasons: potential entrants see more profitable opportunities elsewhere, they consider the costs of entry too high or they stay away from the Greek domestic market due to Greece's current dire economic situation.
However, the Commission's in-depth investigation has also clearly demonstrated that, in any event, Olympic is a failing firm and would go out of business soon. Olympic has never been profitable since its privatisation in 2009 and has received considerable financial support from its sole shareholder, Marfin Investment Group ("MIG"), ever since. A thorough analysis of Olympic's business prospects has confirmed that the company is highly unlikely to become profitable in the foreseeable future under any business plan. MIG had therefore decided to discontinue its support of Olympic, should it not be sold to Aegean. This would lead to Olympic's permanent shutdown in the short term.
Furthermore, the market investigation has confirmed that there is no other credible purchaser other than Aegean interested in acquiring Olympic. There has also been no expression of any credible interest in the acquisition of Olympic's assets including its brand. Consequently, the most likely scenario is that, absent the transaction, Olympic's assets would leave the market completely.
The Commission has therefore concluded that any competitive harm caused by Olympic's disappearance as an independent competitor is not caused by the merger. As a consequence, the merger is compatible with the internal market and must be authorised.
 Tourism minister hails developments in air transport sectorTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said on Wednesday that "today's announcement by the European Commission on the approval of Olympic Air's acquisition by Aegean Airlines constitutes a positive development for the air transport sector and the country's tourism. It creates the preconditions for the operation of a strong Greek air carrier, something extremely important for Greek tourism." The minister was replying to press questions on the merger of the two airline companies and the effect on Greek tourism.
"Greece's distance from crucial markets where visitors originate, as well as the country's particular geography, with a large number of big and small islands, make air transport crucial for Greek tourism. The tourism ministry has set as a target the improvement of the competitiveness of our tourist product. This target can be served through such outward-looking actions," the minister said.
 Polish business, tourist and journalistic mission to CreteGreece's embassy in Poland, in cooperation with the Crete regional authority, the island's four Chambers and the Federation of Exporters of Crete, will jointly organise a Polish business, tourist and journalist mission to Crete from October 19-24, 2013.
The mission is comprised of representatives of eight Polish food, fruit and vegetables import companies, representatives of four big tourist agencies from Poland and three journalists from Poland's highest-circulation tourist magazines.
Poland ranks 13th among Greece's main European export markets and 380-420,000 Polish tourists are expected to visit Greece this year (as against 255,000 in 2012), making Greece the first tourist destination for Polish travellers.
 TAP country manager urges Par't to ratify agrrementRikard Scoufias, Trans Adriatic Pipeline project (TAP) Country Manager for Greece, urged on Wednesday evening the Greek Parliament to ratify, until mid-November, the Host Government Agreement for the construction of the pipeline.
Addressing a press conference, Scoufias said the pipeline's joint venture will take the final investment decision for implementing the project at the end of November and the Greek Parliament's ratification is a basic precondition for taking the decision. He added, however, that there was enough time for the ratification of the Host Government Agreement and that the Greek government has moved rapidly and effectively during consultations and the final signing of the agreement.
The agrrement was signed last June and covers financial and technical aspects of the project. The corresponding agreement with neighbouring Albania, through which the TAP will also pass through to reach Italy, has been concluded.
Scoufias also said that the joint venture, although it can proceed to expropriations, it prefers to negotiate with the parties involved for a mutual agreement regarding compensations.
 TAIPED on Larco press reportsThe Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (TAIPED) on Wednesday rejected press reports alleging that fund officials are behind an "organized plan" aimed at depreciating the metallurgical company Larco.
According to a TAIPED announcement, the fund "never had secret meetings and negotiations with representatives of a specific company and never made repeated trips to Skopje or Switzerland for this purpose as conveniently some choose to imagine," adding that unfortunately, certain mass media do not hesitate to reproduce information or statements that are not being confirmed.
"TAIPED prepared a proposal months ago aimed at restructuring Larco, safeguarding job positions and ensuring its operation. In this context and keeping public interest in mind TAIPED assists the government in finding a definitive solution," the announcement concluded.
 National Bank confirms talks to sell real estate subsidiaryNational Bank on Wednesday said talks on reaching an agreement for the sale of its subsidiary real estate company National Pangaea to an international investor was currently underway, but negotiations have not been concluded yet. In a statement to the Athens Stock Exchange, National Bank said conclusion of an agreement would need all necessary approvals from the bank and state supervisory authorities.
 Folli Follie opens first shop in TurkeyFolli Follie on Wednesday announced the opening of its first shop in Turkey, in Istanbul. The company opened its flagship shop in Istinye Park, one of the most modern and successful shopping centers in the country, which was awarded the title of the best shopping center in Turkey by ICSC in 2009.
Folli Follie said that through a strategic partnership agreement with StardART Magaza, one of the top groups in Turkey with activities in the retail and fashion businesses, the company aimed at establishing a dynamic activity in Turkey. Folli Follie has established activities in 26 countries around the world.
 Sunlight signs agreement with Nacco Materials Handling GroupSunlight Systems on Wednesday announced the signing of a partnership agreement with Nacco Materials Handling Group, a US-based company.
Under the agreement, Sunlight will supply batteries for Nacco Materials Handling Group's industrial vehicles (Hyster and Yale brands) for the American and European markets. The agreement also envisages service department.
 Building activity down 4.0 pct in JulyBuilding activity in the private sector fell 4.0 pct in July this year, while a 24.2 pct drop in building permits issued in the month offers a bleak outlook for the industry in the coming months, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the size of building activity in the country totaled 1,615 permits, down 24.2 pct from the same month last year, down 4.0 pct in volume. In the seven-month period, from January to July, building activity dropped 37.8 pct in permits and by 32.1 pct in volume compared with the corresponding period in 2012.
 Greek stocks end slightly higherGreek stocks ended slightly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as the market refused to succumb to a wave of profit taking selling which prevailed during most of the session, pushing the composite index of the market up for the fifth consecutive session. The index rose 0.11 pct to end at 1,111.71 points, for a net gain of 9.76 pct in the last five sessions. The index was down 2.40 pct early in the session. Buying activity focused on selected blue chips such as OTE, PPC and Hellenic Petroleum, while National Bank, Piraeus Bank and OPAP came under pressure. Turnover remained above 100 million euros (105.36 million).
The Large Cap index fell 0.20 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.19 pct higher. The Personal Products (4.56 pct), Telecoms (3.94 pct), Oil (2.33 pct) and Utilities (2.20 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (3.45 pct), Food (1.59 pct) and Travel (1.20 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Jumbo (5.10 pct), OTE (3.94 pct), PPC (3.03 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.82 pct) were top gainers, while National Bank (6.84 pct), Piraeus Bank (2.07 pct) and OPAP (1.61 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 66 to 61 with another 32 issues unchanged. Douros (18.45 pct), Varvaresos (13.11 pct) and Logismos (10 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (13.79 pct), Nafpaktos Spin Mills (9.77 pct) and Q&R (9.43 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.33%
Personal & Household: +4.56%
Raw Materials: +0.19%
Travel & Leisure: -1.20%
Food & Beverages: -1.57%
Financial Services: +1.19%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.64
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.52
Coca Cola HBC: 20.44
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.10
National Bank of Greece: 3.68
Eurobank Properties : 7.70
Piraeus Bank: 1.42
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 7.50 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 7.41 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.31 pct and the German Bund 1.81 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were remained almost unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.53 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.44 pct, the six-month rate was 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.225 pct and the one-month rate was 0.129 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe October contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.13 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 17.703 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,575 contracts worth 8.406 million euros, with 52,444 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 30,859 contracts worth 9.297 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (9,623), followed by National Bank (7,838), Piraeus Bank (5,003), MIG (1,900), OTE (1,041), PPC (1,858), Mytilineos (387), Sidenor (137), GEK (287), Ellaktor (210), Motor Oil (601), Hellenic Petroleum (295), Eurobank (171) and Viohalco (166).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.371
Pound sterling 0.859
Danish kroner 7.571
Swedish kroner 8.875
Japanese yen 133.52
Swiss franc 1.249
Norwegian kroner 8.231
Canadian dollar 1.423
Australian dollar 1.451
 Arson attack on Varvitsiotis' central Athens officeAn arson attack was reported shortly before 8 p.m. on Wednesday evening on the political office of the Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, on central Athens Gennadiou street.
According to information so far, a group of masked men threw flammable liquid on the ground floor of the building where the office of the Minister is and fired it. The fire caused only material damage.
Reportedly, the perpetrators sent away the people who at the time were in the office before setting fire. The blaze was extinguished by the fire brigade.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou made a statement in which it strongly condemned the attack.
"The entire society is against the supporters of terror and violence. Democracy is neither intimidated nor terrorized," Kedikoglou said.
The New Democracy party in a similar announcement also condemned the attack. "We condemn this evening's arson attack by masked men in the most explicit way... All terrorizing attempts will be in vain."
The main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) also condemned the attack, saying in an announcement that "today's arson attack on Mr Varvitsiotis' office is an absolutely reprehensible act. Such acts objectively contribute to reinforcing the vicious cycle of violence, authoritarianism and repression."
In addition, the Democratic Left (DIMAR) party condemned the attack on the minister's office "and the violence against his associates. Such attacks only succeed in triggering tensions and fueling the cycle of violence."
 Athens University rector gathers first-year students to explain university shutdownMore than 1,500 first-year students responded to an invitation issued by Athens University Rector Theodosis Pellegrinis on Wednesday, who gathered them in the university's courtyard to explain the reasons for a shutdown of university services in protest against a government-ordered suspension of administrative staff.
Welcoming the new students, he assured them that the first term was not "lost" but noted that the key question was "whether you will be here in the next term" and assuring them that the mobilisations were for their own good.
The government has demanded that universities shed a significant number of administrative staff on their payroll, asking their personnel departments to send lists of likely candidates for suspension with Wednesday as the final deadline.
With administrative staff on strike, most universities have shut down all operations, including teaching and academic work.
 Two arrested for attempted illegal sale of neolithic artifactTwo individuals have been arrested in Athens' upmarket Kolonaki district when they were caught attempting to sell a neolithic idol of immense archaeological value for the sum of 3.5 million euros. The two suspected illegal antiquities traders were taken into custody on Tuesday, during an operation carried out by the Attica Security Police Cultural Heritage and Antiquities Department.
Acting on information that the two men, aged 47 and 57 years old, respectively, were looking for a buyer, police posed as prospective buyers and carried out the arrests. The 30cm idol was found in their possession and according to expert archaeologists is of priceless value since it dates to the middle neolithic period and is rare, while its estimated financial value exceeds 10 million euros.
During the police investigation, it was discovered that the 57-year-old suspect also had nine convictions for tax evasion, carrying a combined sentence of 36 years and seven months.
The two suspects will be taken before an Athens Misdemeanours Court prosecutor on Wednesday.
 Two arrests in two separate child porn casesTwo people have been arrested in two different cases of child porn trafficking.
In the first case, a 35-year-old man was arrested by the Electronic Crime Squad police in the seaside region of Alimos on Tuesday morning for trafficking hardcore child porn through the Internet.
An investigation by police revealed evidence that over a period of about five months, the man possessed at least 152 child porn files that he was trafficking through special programmes on the internet.
In the second case a 34-year-old man was arrested in the region of Pylea in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Electronic Crime Squad police searching the internet detected the perpetrator's digital traces and ascertained that, over the past 3.5 months he was using special programmes for the trafficking of at least 166 files containing child porn.
 Vicky Stamati taken to psychiatric facilityVicky Stamati, wife of Akis Tsohatzopoulos, has been admitted to a psychiatric facility, according to an announcement by her lawyer Alexis Kouyias.
Stamati was sentenced to 12 years in jail for her part in the illegal kickbacks accepted by her husband in exchange for approving armaments programmes as a defence minister and her petition for her sentence to suspended pending appeal was denied.
The announcement by Mr. Kouyias's office reads as follows: "We were informed by the relatives of our client Vasiliki Tsohatzopoulou that she was taken to a psychiatric facility with loss of consciousness. Our legal firm tried, in the presence of a lawyer, to find out which psychiatric facility from the secretariat of the Korydallos Women's Prison the psychiatric facility which our client is to be found, but were told by the secretariat that this is confidential".
 Internal inquiry into drugs found at Omonia police stationThe leadership of the Greek Police (ELAS) on Wednesday ordered an urgent official internal inquiry into the drugs found during a surprise raid on Omonia Security Police station on Tuesday by the police Internal Affairs department.
In a shared desk within the station, IA officers found a quantity of cannabis, a single dose of heroin and 29 narcotic pills that had not been recorded in the station logs. An investigation is underway to discover where the origins of the drugs and who might have been in possession of the confiscated substances. The drugs are considered to have been confiscated from individuals that had been taken into custody but failed to be properly recorded, for reasons as yet unknown.
ELAS announced that the raid on the police station was carried out in the framework of targeted actions by the IA department to check the possible involvement of officers in illegal activity. They are usually conducted based on reports and indications of possible corruption.
 Thursday's Athens Metro, electric railway work stoppage declared illegal, abusiveThursday's work stoppage from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. in the Athens Metro and the electric railway has been declared illegal and abusive through a court decision on Wednesday. Employees in both the metro and railway decided on strike action to push for an immediate lifting of the civil mobilisation measure that has been in force for about a year.
 Man missing on Gavdos islandA 31 year-old from Ithaki island was declared missing on the Gavdos island late Tuesday. The man who was on holidays was last seen at the location of Trypiti.
A huge rescue operation is underway to locate the missing man.
 President Papoulias congratulates Olympiacos Piraeus basketball team on winning Intercontinental CupPresident Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday congratulated the Olympiacos Piraeus basketball team for winning the Intercontinental Cup.
President Papoulias said in his message of congratulations "the winning of the Intercontinental Cup constitutes another confirmation of your club's very great potential. For this splendid success of yours, that gave Greek sport yet another title at international level and made us all very proud, I express my warmest congratulations".
 Cloudy on ThursdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 10C and 26C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 15C and 25C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 14C and 22C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Political impostors.
DIMOKRATIA: They executed Greece in cold blood.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON "They (investigating magistrates) exhausted the penal code in Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) case.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Finance Ministry buried the so-called 'Lagarde list'.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Haircut to credit cards, mortgage loans interests.
ESTIA: The fatal day for Greece (4 October 2009 when PASOK with leader George Papandreou won the general elections and became government).
IMERISSIA: New capitals in Athens Stock Exchange.
KATHIMERINI: Investigating magistrates in Golden Dawn case asked the lifting of parliamentary immunity for three GD deputies.
LOGOS: Rapid developments in Golden Dawn case.
NAFTEMPORIKI: State revenues and overdue debts still uncontrolled
RIZOSPASTIS: Agreements for capital's profits.
TA NEA: End to 'presumption of living' for salary earners and pensioners.
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