|Saturday, 18 August 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-10-31
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 31 October 2013 Issue No: 4499
 Premier Samaras to Russian FM: Athens, Moscow relations 'of strategic importance'Prime Minister Antonis Samaras highlighted the very close relations between Athens and Moscow while receiving visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Athens on Wednesday.
The premier referred to the countries' strategic relationship, which he said was very important to both sides.
"I think we have the political will to activate our bilateral relations and raise them to the necessary level," Samaras noted, making reference to statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Samaras thanked Russia for its support and particularly for promoting the flow of tourists from Russia to
Greece, underlining that currency brought by Russian tourists to Greece "parched" economy was like rain after a drought.
On his part, Lavrov said he was honoured by the warm welcome and sympathised with the Greek government's efforts to overcome the economic difficulties. "We take note of the progress achieved and we will support your efforts both morally and in practical ways, and by promoting trade and economic cooperation between us," he added.
Finally, Lavrov asserted that cooperation between the two countries would be strengthened, particularly in tourism.
According to sources on the Greek side, one of the issues again raised by Samaras during the meeting was that of lowering the price that Russia's Gazprom charges Greece for natural gas. The prime minister stressed the need to lower energy prices in order to help the Greek economy return to growth, pointing out that many of Greece's neighbours already pay less for natgas from Russia.
Lavrov appeared sympathetic toward the Greek request but said that a final decision must be taken by Gazprom itself.
 Foreign minister meets Lavrov, stresses 'excellent level' of bilateral tiesIn statements after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Athens on Wednesday, Greek government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that Greek-Russian ties were at a "historically excellent" level and referred to a new momentum in bilateral relations. The two ministers made joint statements after talks between Greek and Russian delegations at the foreign ministry in Athens.
Venizelos stressed the importance that Greece attaches to what he called a "strategic partnership relationship" with Russia, noting that the talks held on Wednesday confirmed the close historic, cultural, political, economic and defence links between the two countries.
The Greek minister said that Athens desired a strong Russian presence in Greece via investments and the privatisations process, while referring to currently close cooperation in economic affairs, energy and tourism.
On the signature of a joint declaration proclaiming 2016 as 'Greek Year' in Russia and 'Russian Year' in Greece, Venizelos said that the two sides are "working on a framework of cultural cooperation for the coming years," that would be an excellent opportunity to further develop bilateral relations.
"The joint statements that we signed today are more than just formal documents but an additional legal basis for the impetus we want to give to our relations," he added.
Referring to Greece's upcoming stint in the EU presidency in the first half of 2014, Venizelos stressed that an emphasis on EU-Russia relations was among the Greek presidency's goals, which would seek to draw up a new "comprehensive agreement" between the EU and Russia. According to Venizelos, a joint statement Greece had signed with Russia on mobility issues also "aimed" at the full implementation on a European level of a programme to waive visa requirements for Russians.
"For us this is exceptionally important, because the Russian market is of vital importance for the Greek tourism industry," he said.
On his part, Lavrov noted Russia's desire to further develop bilateral relations and referred to cooperation on a regional and international level, saying his contacts in Athens had confirmed the high level of Greek-Russian relations.
He referred to a record rise in trade transactions between Greece and Russia in 2012, saying these had risen to 6.5 billion dollars and were continuing to increase in 2013. He also confirmed strong interest among Russian firms in prospective privatisations in Greece, while referring to a sharp rise in the number of Russians visiting Greece as tourists.
Lavrov also welcomed Greece's expressed intent to promote EU-Russian relations when it took over the rotating EU presidency, including the aim of abolishing visa requirements for Russians wanting to visit the EU, and hailed the signature of a joint statement with Venizelos for a mobility programme, noting the sincere desire of the Greek and Russian sides to deepen bilateral relations.
Replying to questions concerning bilateral ties and Russian investments, Lavrov pointed out that "contact with Greece has never been lacking" and that both sides had expressed their intention for "effective cooperation" with regards to privatisations.
He called for mutually beneficial agreements that will express the interests of the Greek side and ensure the security of Russian investments in Greece.
Venizelos, on his part, pointed to the opportunities for investment in Greece and said that "we want Greek enterprises to be present in the Russian market and especially in the construction and agricultural products sector".
According to diplomatic sources, negotiations between the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and Russia's Gazprom over the price of natural gas are heading toward a conclusion, with the Greek side expecting a substantial reduction in the sale price to Greece to be announced soon. Russian firms have also expressed an interest in acquiring the Greek trains operator TRAINOSE, the Thessaloniki Port Organisation and other projects, especially those linked to the energy sector. The same sources also referred to a revival of interest on the Russian side in the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and said that problems concerning the hydroelectric plants at Sykia and Pefkofyto were "heading toward a solution".
The two men said their talks had touched on the situation in Syria and the Middle East, developments in Iran, the Cyprus issue and Greece's role in preserving the stability of the Balkans, including the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Regarding Syria, both Lavrov and Venizelos called for a political solution, with Lavrov saying that the U.S.-Russian initiative was the only realistic proposal for an exit from the crisis and stressing Russia's "sincere efforts to resolve the crisis through dialogue and agreements".
Venizelos praised the U.S.-Russia initiative on Syria and said that a solution must arise via a political route, adding that all sides in Syria must work together and contribute in good faith to an exit from the crisis.
Asked to comment on the phone-tapping issue and the recent revelations that U.S. secret services had been eavesdropping on even the leaders of their European allies, Lavrov expressed his conviction that "everyone knew everything" and that it was hypocritical to say "we aren't doing anything that others aren't doing".
According to Venizelos, the issue had been raised with the U.S. government and he referred to "relations in good faith between friends and allies" and "following simple diplomatic rules that apply worldwide".
 President of the Republic Papoulias meets with visiting Russian FMThe visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Greece will give a boost to trade and economic relations between the two countries, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said on Wednesday after meeting with the visiting official at the presidential mansion at noon.
"Trade and economic relations are good," between the two countries, Papoulias said, "but I would call them meagre compared to the geniality of the political relations. I think your arrival will give a boost to these relations and the opportunities, as you will see during the meetings you will hold, are very good and will, I believe, benefit both of our peoples."
Among his comments, the president commended the stance Russia and Lavrov particularly held towards avoiding an international conflict related to Syria. "As a former foreign minister of Greece, I must commend you for your effort to avert, if you like, a clash because of Syria," Papoulias said.
He added, "I believe it was a great and significant achievement of Russia's foreign policy, because we were all agonising over what would happen,and Russia's intervention was very positive, with very good results. It also showed the special influence Russia's foreign policy exerts."
Papoulias thanked Lavrov for the one million Russian tourists who visited Greece this year, expressing the hope the number would double next year. Noting the historical ties between Greece and Russia, he noted, "We fought together many times. You helped us in 1821 in our great liberating revolution, we fought together against Nazism, and now we have a cordial relationship that we must develop further."
Lavrov thanked Greece for the organisation of the handover of the Olympic Flame for the Winter Games in Sochi in January this year, and said there was a spiritual closeness between the two countries. "There is a symbolism in the fact that this year we are honoring the 175th anniversary of the assumption by Ioannis Kapodistrias, a symbolic personality, of the governorship of Greece, and we participated in the opening of a symposium on this event," the visiting foreign minister said, referring to a two-day symposium and other events taking place in Nafplio and Athens that were held jointly by Greek and Russian organisations.
"Both Russia and Greece are Christian countries and today, ethical principles - the exact sort of principles that Kapodistrias tried to establish in international politics - have acquired special importance and relevance," Lavrov added.
In reference to Papoulias' comments on Syria the Russian minister said, "The problems are extremely complicated and no country, whatever its forces, can manage them by itself. It is necessary to make collective efforts, special alliances of the similarly-minded, I would say, to deal with problems like that of Syria."
 Visiting FM Lavrov: Greece and Russia 'steady partners and friends'Greece and Russia are "steady partners and friends and support the respect of the principles of law and the resolution of problems through dialogue in this multicentred world we live in," visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Athens on Wednesday.
Speaking at a two-day event in a central hotel honoring modern Greece's first governor Ioannis Kapodistrias (1776-1831), who had also served as a diplomat of the Russian Empire prior, Lavrov said that "Russia always wanted a strong and prosperous Greece." The deep historical roots of friendship between the two countries form the base on which political relations are being built today, and extend to economic and trade relations, which can be further expanded, he added.
Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who opened the symposium "Ioannis Kapodistrias and the modern-day relations between Greece-Russia," said the completion of Kapodistrias' work is "an unfufilled obligation" for Greece, involving a modern state of law that must present a hopeful narrative to the international community during these times of crisis. Kapodistrias was a cosmopolitan and strongly patriotic and devoted to defending Greek interests. His assassination, Venizelos said, showed that "great initiatives give rise to great clashes."
Vladimir Yakunin, president of two Russian foundations who are co-organisers of the Kapodistrias events in Greece and of Russian Railways SA, emphasised the spiritual and religious ties of the two peoples and said there are myths and negative stereotypes that must be dissolved, like the myth of Russian aggression.
During his stay, Foreign Minister Lavrov is scheduled to meet separately with Venizelos, President Karolos Papoulias, and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. The two foreign ministers will be signing bilateral agreements and making statements to the press following their private meeting later in the day.
Prior to the symposium, Lavrov also met briefly with National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who spoke extensively at the event on Kapodistrias' contribution to the formulation of European diplomacy in the early 19th century and on his pioneering viewpoint of combining realism and moderation in facing his era's despotism.
Further events to commemorate the 185th anniversary since Kapodistrias took office as Greece's first governor wrapped up on Tuesday night at the port town of Nafplio, eastern Peloponnese, modern Greece's first capital. The events were organised by the Centre of European Studies and Humanities
"Ioannis Capodistrias," the interregional public foundation Centre of Russian National Glory (CRNG) and the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called (AFF), in collaboration with the Municipality of Nafplio.
The Nafplio events were attended by a number of officials from both Greece and Russia, including Greece's Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Giannis Adrianos and Yakunin, who chairs both CRNG and AFF.
 SYRIZA leader holds meeting with Russian Federation FM LavrovVisiting Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined to main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras the huge possibilities of a cooperation between the two peoples and the two countries during their meeting, at the headquarters of the Russian Federation's Cultural Mansion in Athens on Wednesday.
According to an announcement by SYRIZA, Tsipras "had the opportunity of making an integrated description of the dramatic social crisis the Greek people are experiencing, expressing its positions on the deep and structural problems of the crisis at European level and presenting the alternative proposals of SYRIZA and the European left on the exit from the crisis." He also referred to the considerable contribution of Russia and of Foreign Minister Lavrov himself to "the prevalence of logic and diplomacy in the Syria crisis.
 Meeting between PM Samaras- FM Venizelos concludedPrime Minister Antonis Samaras held a meeting with government vice president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday evening, in light of the government's consultations with the representatives of the EC/ECB/IMF troika of lenders.
"There will be rational improvements where possible, but at the same time there should be an expansion of the taxation base," a high-ranking government source told reports after the meeting as regards property taxation.
Replying to a question regarding the tough negotiations with the troika of lenders, the same official said that some times "we exaggerate."
"There have been many times in the past that we had problems (in negotiations with the troika), but in the end they were resolved," the source added, stressing that what was important was to achieve a primary surplus.
"When you have a real primary surplus, things are different, and then you tackle the issue of the debt, on which a Eurogroup decision last November is important," he added.
The meeting was split into two parts, Venizelos told reporters, adding that the first one focused on Wednesday's visit to Athens by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The second part of the meeting centered on the government's preparation for the upcoming negotiations with the EC/ECB/IMF troika of lenders, as well as on work to finalise a number of pending issues.
Asked about the property tax, Venizelos said that there will be "continued improvements" in the bill, not only because of pressure from MPs, but as the government is fully aware of the society's predicament.
Venizelos also stressed that the government's attitude towards the troika is already mapped out, noting that "objecting" to new fiscal measures was also reflected in the government policy platform.
 Prime Minister Samaras receives Serbian Deputy Prime Minister VucicPrime Minister Antonis Samaras met with visiting Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic at the Maximos Mansion, government headquarters, on Wednesday.
The Serbian deputy prime minister praised the efforts made by the Greek government and the people to lead the country out of the economic crisis, noting that "I have heard amazing things about you and I can see the very good job done".
Samaras pointed out that everything possible is being done to overcome the crisis, underlining the sacrifices made. "Now everybody is awaiting tangible results," he said, and also referred to the very good level of bilateral relations between the two countries.
 PM meets Council of the European Union Secretary-General Corsepius UwePrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday met with visiting Council of the European Union Secretary-General Corsepius Uwe at the government headquarters in Athens.
Addressing the prime minister, the secretary-general of the Council of the European Union underlined that he wants "to show that the Greek EU Presidency can be productive," with the prime minister responding that "it has to, both for Greece and for Europe".
Corsepius also said that all went well in the meetings he had with the ministers of finance, development and public order and expressed certainty that they will play a key role in the European Presidency, noting that preparations are already underway.
 Government spokesman Kedikoglou comments on SYRIZA MP Glezos' statementsGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday described main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) as "the party indiscriminately opposed to everything".
Referring to comments made to VIMA private radio by SYRIZA MP Manolis Glezos, who said that his party cannot give a convincing answer to the financing question posed by the people, Kedikoglou underlined that SYRIZA "is still in search of political positions," noting that "because (SYRIZA leader) Mr. Tsipras cannot give an answer to Mr. Glezos' questions we will do it for him".
According to Kedikoglou, the SYRIZA leader will give pensions to 45-year-old retirees, no taxes will be imposed, privatized formerly public-owned companies such as, OTE, OPAP or seaports will be renationalised, foreign investors will be led before justice, the civil servants' wages and pensions will be restored to 2009 levels, irrational public sector benefits will be reintroduced, there will be no layoffs in the public sector and those who were removed from their positions will be rehired, loss-making public companies will not be closed or merged and Greek nationality will be given to all illegal migrants who cross the country's borders.
"And all these will be done in a single stroke by voting a single article law. And because all these will be very costly, he says (Mr. Tsipras) that he will not accept the debt which will be unilaterally written off before he enters a renegotiation for a new loan. And of course he believes that everybody will rush to keep us in the Eurozone," Kedikoglou underlined.
Kedikoglou added that because Tsipras "believes that this wonderful plan of his will create conditions of utter social peace, he also intends to disarm the police and abolish the unnecessary special forces in the army, considering that he will also take the country out of NATO".
"Mr. Glezos, here are the answers to your agonizing questions," the government spokesman concluded.
 SYRIZA says new measures are comingThe main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), in an announcement on Wednesday, stressed that "the supposed bravado from the duo of Messrs (Prime Minister Antonis) Samaras-(Government Vice President Evangelos) Venizelos has gone, the new measures are coming" and accused the prime minister of "blind submission" which, however, had no result "apart from the downgrading attitude towards him by the German chancellor."
SYRIZA speaks of new measures that, among other things, "are leading now to the confiscation of citizens' property since it is overtaxing real estate and land, hoping for huge revenues based on objective values prices that have nothing to do with reality".
SYRIZA added that this "is becoming even more irritating and unfair while the government is showing in practice that it does not wish to catch the rich tax evaders, to check the offshore companies and the various lists".
Lastly, the announcemnt stresses that "for all the above, we are expecting the prime minister to honour Parliament with his presence and give whatever answers to the main opposition party leader and the Greek people".
 SYRIZA MPs table question on phone tapping issueThirty-one main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MPs headed by Dimitris Tsoukalas on Wednesday tabled a question on reports of phone tapping in Greece by the US National Security Agency (NSA), addressed to the ministers of public order, interior and foreign affairs.
The MPs refer to a "Der Spiegel" news report claiming that the NSA Special Collection Services (SCS) have operations in Athens and other 79 places on the planet.
The Greek government is one of the few European governments that has not demanded explanations regarding the reports of US secret service surveillance targeting foreign governments, the SYRIZA MPs noted.
They underlined that the protection of Greek politicians' telephone communication privacy is a major national security issue and that responsibility for national security issues belongs to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) which should not remain idle.
The three government ministers were asked to reveal what action has been taken by the government, its ministers and state services as regards the phone surveillance practices in question, before and after the scandal was unveiled and what actions they intend to take to protect communication privacy and state secrets.
The SYRIZA MPs also asked if the government intends to make a representation to the government of the United States and what measures it intends to take as a response to such unacceptable actions.
 Global phonetapping revelations 'no surprise', Communist Party of Greece saysThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is "not surprised by the revelations over phone tapping and email monitoring that the secret services of mostly powerful countries in NATO and the EU are carrying out," the party said in an announcement on Wednesday, adding that the fact these relevations are coming to light now "confirm the great competition and clashes between capitalist countries and imperialist centres, heightened against the background of the economic crisis."
Referring to recent revelations that the United States' National Security Agency was monitoring phone calls and messages globally, the party said, "The Greek people have one more piece of proof in their hands that they do not have anything to gain from Greece's participation in such sham alliances."
 Parliament president receives Chinese AmbassadorParliament president Evangelos Meimarakis received People's Republic of China Ambassador to Greece Du Qiwen on an official visit, Parliament said on Wednesday.
According to an announcement, both affirmed the excellent relations between the two countries and their expanding cooperation in today's global environment.
Meimarakis expressed the Greek people's friendship and the country's strong interest in developing bilateral relations further, especially in investments and tourism, and mentioned the large and active membership of Greek-Chinese friendship group at the Greek Parliament.
Greece is one of China's best friends in the European Union, the ambassador said, and thanked the Parliament president for Greece's contribution in evacuating 13,000 Chinese workers from Libya to Crete in 2011. He also conveyed a formal invitation to Meimarakis by the president of the National People's Congress of China to visit Beijing.
 Defence minister meets Russian Navy chiefNational Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos received visiting Russian Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov on Wednesday.
Admiral Chirkov is in Greece to participate in events celebrating the 185th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Greece and Russia.
Greek Navy General Staff Chief Vice-Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis was also present at the meeting.
 Minister's meeting with former public broadcaster ERT staff postponed to FridayA meeting scheduled today between Deputy Minister for Public Radio and Television Pantelis Kapsis and employees of former public broadcaster ERT was rescheduled for Friday, the employees' union POSPERT announced on Wednesday.
The meeting will be the first between the two sides since end-July, following a POSPERT initiative to try and resolve the issue of the occupation of ERT's premises by the employees after the broadcaster was shut down in June this year ahead of Greece's assuming the revolving EU presidency on January 1.
Members of the union said there is no specific agenda for the meeting. "The only thing we will not accept is that we have been laid off. Anything else is negotiable," POSPERT's president said.
"Whatever we had to discuss, we've already discussed," Kapsis told ANA-MPA. "If the ERT premises are not vacated, the Greek presidency will not be covered," he added. "Public television is not obligated to cover the presidency, but our intention is to cover it," he said, clarifying that the premises at the northern suburb of Aghia Paraskevi are under the jurisdiction of the Finance Ministry and the government, not his ministry.
 EU Commissioner to speak on Corfu on Monday on NSRF fundsEuropean Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn will be in Corfu on Monday on a working visit.
The meeting at the Ionian Academy will be attended by representatives of all Ionian islands and other local officials, and will focus on how to improve the absorption of infrastructural funds (National Strategic Reference Framework), which constitute the main source of public investments in Greece.
According to the schedule, European Commission office head in Athens Panos Carvounis will open the meeting at 10:00 am on Monday, November 4. He will be followed by regional director Spyros Spyrou. Hahn will speak at 10:30 am on "Challenges of the new programme period, 2014-2020," and will be followed by the Commission's head of the General Directorate of the Environment, Paul Speight.
Hahn's speech will include the issue of measures to protect the environment, particulary in terms of managing liquid and solid waste.
 Democratic Left to propose abolition of 50-seat election 'bonus' for front-runnerOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party leader Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday announced the party's intention to table draft legislation abolishing a 'bonus' of 50 seats in Parliament for the party with the highest percentage of the votes in general elections. The draft law will also seek to introduce a minimum quota for the election of women.
In a press conference, Kouvelis said that the twin proposal was agreed on by DIM.AR's leadership after extensive discussion with experts in Constitutional and electoral law.
Commenting on claims made by former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos that Greek secret services had successfully tapped the phones of U.S. diplomats in Athens and Ankara while he was in office, a DIM.AR announcement called the statements "unfortunate and provocative". According to the party, they intensified a climate of decadence in political debate and at the same time raised questions concerning a majority national security issue for the country.
"The political life of the country cannot totter between conspiracy theories and selective leaks," the announcement noted, stressing the need for democratic reform of institutions for protecting citizens and the democratic state.
 FinMin Stournaras open to 'fiscally neutral' proposals on property tax amendmentsFinance minister Yannis Stournaras called on a number of New Democracy party MPs he met on Wednesday evening to put forth what he called any "fiscally neutral" proposals they had on changes to the single property tax.
The meeting with Stournaras was attended by some 80 ND deputies who have been asking for amendments to a draft bill they regard as overtaxing farm parcels and urban real estate.
The Finance minister called on the MPs to submit their proposals by Sunday evening, to allow for the respective draft bill to be tabled in parliament on Monday.
The bill's primary aim is to collect some 2.9 billion euros from property taxes in 2014, replacing the current levy known as "charatsi" collected via electricity bills and the Real Estate Tax.
 Finance Minister Stournaras meets with SME representativesFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras expressed support for the institution of cooperative banks in a meeting on Wednesday with the presidents of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE), the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) and the Association of Cooperative Banks of Greece (ESTE).
ESTE president Nikos Mirtakis briefed the finance minister on the capital increase underway in the six cooperative banks and the participation of local communities in the process, while the issue of liquidity and the financing of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) was raised by the presidents of ESEE and GSEVEE, Vassilis Korkidis and Giorgos Kavathas respe-ctively.
The proposals presented focused on channeling European funds and financing tools to the real economy in cooperation with the co-operative banks and the rest of the banking system. Other proposals included changing the law on the participation of local administration organizations OTA and public sector organizations in the cooperative banks' capital.
 Finance ministry rejects ombudsman's intervention over high assessed property valuesFinance ministry services on Wednesday rejected an attempted intervention by the independent Greek Ombudsman over high tax-office assessed property values in the specific areas of Greece. The authority's intervention was prompted by complaints made by citizens in the 1st and 2nd zones of Paleo Psychiko - a plush upmarket suburb of Athens - over a hike in tax-assessed property values that made their area the most expensive in Greece.
Owners complained of discriminatory treatment against them, given that tax-assessed property values have remained unchanged in all other areas since the crisis began.
The ombudsman intervened on the grounds that wage-earners and pensioners faced a hugely increased financial burden as a result of constantly increasing taxes on property, which they were no longer able to meet. It also pointed out that the decisions changing taxation rates were ad hoc and did not follow a specific methodology or adopt specific criteria, calling for the adoption of a system that was truly objective and did not disproportionately burden certain categories that happened to own property in an expensive area that could neither be leased nor sold due to the crisis in the property market.
The independent authority also upheld the view that the sharp hikes in taxes for Paleo Psychiko alone constituted discriminatory treatment.
 Greece offers business and investment opportunities, Endeavor Greece surveyGreece offers business and investment opportunities to enterprises, a survey by Endeavor Greece said on Wednesday.
Haris Makryniotis, chief executive of Endeavor Greece, presenting the survey said that although most new enterprises insisted on focusing on non-productive sectors, the number of enterprises exploiting the country's comparative advantages grew by 40 pct annually. From these enterprises, around 40 annually are able to reform their sectors and to absorb a large part of the workforce over the coming years. More analytically, 90 pct of new enterprises set up in Greece during the crisis continue reproducing the inward and non-productive business model of the past, focusing on the restaurant business and the retail commerce of clothing and footwear.
The good news is that the number of companies focusing on more dynamic growth sectors, such as tourism, food or technology, although a minority, grew by 40 pct over the last few years. It is clear that such opportunities and advantages were abundant in Greece and remained largely unexploited although Greece has the necessary "raw material" and extremely high quality human resources, the survey said. The survey added that there was a "window of opportunity" of 12-24 months for businessmen to act timely.
Endeavor Greece said that more systematic and collective efforts were necessary to support the companies which meet the preconditions to grow significantly.
 Tourism minister to visit World Travel Market trade fair in LondonTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni is due to depart for London on Wednesday in order to attend the international trade fair World Travel Market. During the visit, she will meet members of the UK government and representatives of major travel agencies.
They will include meetings with high-ranking executives of the travel agencies Thomas Cook and TUI and a meeting with Sports and Equalities Minister Helen Grant and Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Mark Simmonds.
She intends to outline the main thrust and goals of Greece's strategy for developing its tourism and the great importance placed on the UK tourism market. Among others she will refer to the new legal framework for Greek tourism and the emphasis on boosting enterprise and facilitating investments, as well as plans to develop new tourism areas and targeted actions to promote Greece's tourism product and attract British tourists to Greece.
The minister is also expected to grant a series of interviews to the British and international media, including CNBC, CNN, Sky News, Bloomberg and Financial Times.
 Energy Minister Maniatis meets with Israeli Ambassador to AthensThe establishment of joint action groups by Greece and Israel to promote cooperation in the sector of energy was discussed in a meeting on Wednesday between Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Israel's Ambassador to Athens Arye Mekel.
The meeting focused on the results of the recently held Greece-Israel High Level Cooperation Council in Jerusalem, during which Maniatis had consultations with his Israeli counterpart Vice Prime Minister and Energy & Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom.
The Israeli ambassador briefed Maniatis on the recent decision by Israel's Supreme Court allowing the export of natural gas and foreign investments in the sector.
They also discussed the EuroAsia Interconnector project designed to link the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli power grids via a submarine power cable based on a relevant agreement signed by the three sides in Nicosia in August.
Maniatis underlined Greece's great interest in the implementation of the specific project and extended a formal invitation to Israel's Vice Prime Minister and Energy & Water Resources Minister Sivan Shalom to visit Greece.
 BoG governor meets Danish Parliament president and membersBank of Greece governor George Provopoulos met on Wednesday with the president and members of the Danish Parliament, who are on an official visit to Greece, and outlined current developments in the banking sector that, having been recapitalised , is in a phase of restructuring and strengthening.
Danish Parliament president Mogens Lykketoft recognised the important role being played by the Bank of Greece in safeguarding fiscal stability.
 Greek consumer confidence index up in Q3Consumer sentiment in Greece improved slightly in the third quarter of 2013, a survey by Nielsen said on Wednesday.
The country's consumer confidence index rose by one point compared with the second quarter to 48 points, but remained low compared with the international average index (94 points).
The survey was conducted in the period August 14-September 6 among 30,000 consumers from 60 countries who are making their purchases through the internet. Lagging behind Greece were Hungary (45 points), and Italy and Slovenia (47 points each).
Portugal recorded the biggest increase among Eurozone regional countries (+22 points).
 Overdue tax debt up by 809 mln euros in SeptOverdue tax debt to the state grew by 809 million euros in September, to a total of 6.188 billion euros, the Finance Ministry said in a report.
The report said that total overdue tax debt to the state (old debt up to December 31, 2012 and new debt) totalled 59.66 billion euros. In the January-September period, the state collected a total of 985 million euros from overdue tax debt, while debt worth 91 million euros was written off.
The report said that VAT statements totalled 3,018,332 in the nine-month period from January to September, down from a budget target of 3,850,018, while tax inspection agencies carried out a total of 204 regular controls in large enterprises (down from a target of 596), while tax controls on self-employed and wealthy taxpayers lagged far below targets set for the year.
 Vivartia unveils strategy to expand activities abroadVivartia Group aims to further enhance its activities in the Greek market and to expand its branch network abroad, the group's management told reporters on Wednesday.
Vivartia, expressing confidence in the outlook of the domestic business activity and the prospects of the Greek economy, strengthens its domestic activities by implementing a "Free Entry" programme in the restaurant/coffee sector which includes the brands Goody's, Flocafe, Everest and La Pasteria. Starting from November 1, Vivartia launches a programme of offering special privileges to professionals or new businessmen around Greece interested in acquiring their own shop with an entry free right and preferential royalties (2.0 pct in the first year and 4.0 pct in the second).
Thanasis Papanikolaou, chief executive of the restaurant/coffee sector, said the new programme was expected to strengthen the group's course offering new job positions. "We aim to create 300 to 500 new jobs around Greece in 2014," Papanikolaou said.
Vivartia's restaurant business reported sales of 275 million euros in 2012 and 245 million euros so far in 2013. It has a workforce of 5,000, four production units in Greece and a retail network of 550 restaurants and coffee shops, servicing 500,000 consumers on a daily basis. Vivartia holds a 22 pct market share in the restaurant business and a 23 pct market share in the coffee business.
Its investment program totaled 25 million euros in the last three years.
Vivartia Group was also investing in expanding its activities abroad. By the end of 2013 it will operate a network of 22 branches abroad, in Cyprus, Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Belorussia and FYROM, while it plans to expand to new markets, such as Montenegro, Kosovo, Libya, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Vivartia has signed an agreement with Exeed Industries offering access to the Persian Gulf region, the Middle East and North Africa, a market with more than 330 million consumers. Its board said it was in advanced talks in the markets of Russia, China and Africa.
 Energean Oil & Gas announces joint venture with Ocean RigEnergean Oil & Gas on Wednesday announced it will cooperate with Ocean Rig to participate in hydrocarbon exploration tenders in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete (expected to be launched in mid-2014).
Energean Oil & Gas -the company operating the Prinos oil fields- said the two companies will form a joint venture (with a 50-50 share), OceanEnergean, which will claim oil exploration contracts in Greece, in the wider Mediterranean region, in the Black Sea and Africa.
Ocean Rig has experience in deep oil drillings and has the necessary equipment. The joint venture could begin research and production works in depths of more than 1,000 metres.
 Sarantis Group reports higher nine-month resultsSarantis Group on Wednesday said its after tax and minorities earnings jumped 59.41 pct in the January-September period to 10.81 million euros, from 6.78 million euros in the corresponding period last year, while after tax and minorities' margin jumped to 6.29 pct from 3.91 pct, respectively.
Pre-tax and interest earnings grew 33.72 pct in the nine-month period, while EBIT margin rose to 7.37 pct. Pre-tax earnings jumped 61.82 pct to 13.63 million euros, while pre-tax earnings margin jumped to 7.93 pct.
Earnings per share soared 76 pct to 0.31 euros per share from 0.18 euros last year, while consolidated sales totaled 171.83 million euros, almost unchanged from 2012 levels. Exports accounted for 62 pct of total sales, counterbalancing for a 3.8 pct decline in sales in the domestic market. Bank borrowing fell by 15 million euros.
 BCP sells equity stake in Piraeus Bank for 494 mln eurosBCP on Wednesday successfully completed the sale of its equity stake in Piraeus Bank, raising 494 million euros from the sale.
Piraeus Bank, in a statement, said that BCP sold through an accelerated placement process the total of shares and warrants it owned in Piraeus Bank, following the participation in a share capital increase plan completed by the Greek bank in June 2013.
Piraeus Bank said the transaction will expand its shareholding base and boost its free float in the market. Piraeus Securities offered trading services in the transaction while Barclays Bank Plc acted as financial adviser to Piraeus Bank.
BPC said the price of transaction was 1.5 euros for each share and 0.6 euros for each warrant. The Portuguese bank raised 494 million euros from the transaction.
 City of Thessaloniki objects to CAA decision rejecting a Turkish Airlines request for more weekly flightsThe City of Thessaloniki on Wednesday expressed strong discontent over a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decision which raises obstacles to a Turkish Airlines request for a second daily flight to and from Thessaloniki which, in essence, will double the weekly Istanbul-Thessaloniki-Istanbul flights from 7 to 14.
"The City of Thessaloniki administration expresses its strong discontent over the decision and the overall policy that cuts off northern Greece from the dynamically developing tourism markets," a relevant announcement underlined, adding that this decision deprives Thessaloniki of millions of euros in tourism revenues at a crucial period for the country.
The negative response in combination with the interruption of the Thessaloniki-Istanbul railway route deprives Thessaloniki of tourists coming from the East, the municipality noted.
The local business community is considering launching a signature collection initiative in an effort to overturn the decision.
 Greek stocks resume upward trendGreek stocks resumed their upward trend in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, after Tuesday's sharp correction, with composite index of the market rising 0.63 pct to end at 1,173.30 points -its day highs. The index was down 1.12 pct during the session. Piraeus Bank's shares dropped 9.76 pct to 1.48 euros, while its warrants' price fell 15.35 pct to 0.6 euros in the aftermath of the sale of a 4.64 pct of its equity capital by BCP Group. Foreign investors showed great interest in the placement, but the transaction was made at a price of 1.5 euros, a discount compared with Tuesday's closing price.
Turnover soared to 483.07 million euros, boosted by the transaction of Piraeus Bank's shares.
The Large Cap index rose 0.65 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.30 pct higher. The Telecoms (2.79 pct), Travel (2.27 pct) and Financial Services (2.21 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (2.03 pct) and Health (1.01 pct) suffered losses. PPC (5.12 pct), National Bank (4.56 pct) and Motor Oil (3.36 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (9.76 pct), Athens Water (2.59 pct) and Piraeus Port (1.64 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 80 to 60 with another 19 issues unchanged. Geniki Bank (19.80 pct), Quest Holdings (15.94 pct) and Kathimerini (11.52 pct) were top gainers, while Dias Aquaculture (19.72 pct), Hellenic Textiles (19.65 pct) and Spider (17.65 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.32%
Personal & Household: -0.30%
Raw Materials: +0.79%
Travel & Leisure: +2.27%
Food & Beverages: +0.13%
Financial Services: +2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, National Bank, OTE and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.650
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.67
Coca Cola HBC: 21.27
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.50
National Bank of Greece: 4.13
Eurobank Properties : 9.15
Piraeus Bank: 1.48
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 6.73 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 6.82 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.42 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.69 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates remained 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 0.224 pct and the one-month rate was 0.129 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe November 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 remaining at 19.996 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,994 contracts worth 9.671 million euros, with 49,109 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 31,835 contracts worth 10.325 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (20,706), followed by National Bank (2,172), Alpha Bank (1,032), MIG (521), OTE (1,367), PPC (1,267), Hellenic Exchanges (1,098), Motor Oil (1,219), Mytilineos (601), OPAP (304), Eurobank (187), Viohalco (123), GEK (106), Ellaktor (111) and Intralot (110).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.396
Pound sterling 0.868
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 8.913
Japanese yen 137.14
Swiss franc 1.253
Norwegian kroner 8.201
Canadian dollar 1.457
Australian dollar 1.468
 Environment ministry to move to Church property on MitropoleosThe environment, energy and climate change ministry on Wednesday announced plans to lease premises owned by the Greek Church on Mitropoleos Street in central Athens, formerly occupied by the education ministry.
Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Wednesday sent a letter to Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, informing him that the ministry will take up an offer to lease the property in response to an invitation from the Church of Greece Holy Synod to express interest.
In order for the ministry to carry out the relocation a number of technical details remain to be finalised, such as approving the funds for the rent from the finance ministry, approval from the Committee for Housing Public Areas and approval of the terms by the Church of Greece and Attica Decentralised Authority, as well as the signature of the final lease between Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation for Athens and the Church of Greece.
According to ministry sources, if the planned move goes ahead it is expected to generate savings of five million euros a year, since the rent on the Mitropoleos building will come to one million euros per year, whereas the combined rents on the 22 separate buildings previously leased by the environment ministry came to six million euros a year.
The Church of Greece has undertaken to cover all renovation costs and the relocation of ministry services, except for the bodies under its supervision, is due to be completed by the end of 2014.
The proposed arrangement will also be cheaper than the plans to relocate the ministry to the former department store Minion, which finally fell through, that would have reduced the cost to 1.8 million euros.
 Tailbacks expected on Athens-Lamia highway due to road worksTraffic police on Wednesday warned of a high likelihood of tailbacks and delays for motorists travelling between Athens and Thessaloniki until Thursday night, due to road works on the national highway near Lamia in central Greece.
Traffic will be diverted onto the old national road at the Thermopylae junction until Thursday night, passing via Damasta, Iraklia and through the centre of Lamia before rejoining the national highway after four kilometres, at the BIPE and Agia Paraskevi junctions.
Police said the diversion may be stopped earlier, provided the work on the road is completed.
Cars on the Athens-bound lanes from the north are moving normally, even though the width of the lanes has been reduced.
 Fog in Thessaloniki forces flight diversionHeavy fog in Thessaloniki forced two commercial airplanes flying to the city to land at the Kavala airport in the northeast on Wednesday.
The fog, starting early in the day, has reduced visibility in the city and environs, leading to traffic congestion and flight delays.
The head of Macedonia airport said the two diverted flights, from Pafos (Cyprus) and Athens, will fly to their original destination once circumstances allow.
 Free medical exams for those lacking health insurance in ThessalonikiPeople on low incomes that lack health insurance will be offered free medical examinations by forty medical doctors on November 1-10, courtesy of the Rotary Club Thessaloniki Anatolia in cooperation with the youth Rotaract section and the women's club Inner Wheel.
Physicians specialising in 16 areas of medicine will offer their services between 09:00-13:00 and 17:00-21:00 on weekdays and 09:00-14:00 on weekends. Those interested can call for an appointment at 2315-555000 (12:00-17:00).
A total of 5,000 people are expected to take advantage of the initiative, which will be formally launched by Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis.
A Social Pharmacy has also been established by the Rotary Club, in cooperation with the local Pharmacists' Association, to supply those examined with the medicines prescribed to them by the volunteer physicians.
The initiative is under the auspices of the ministry of Macedonia-Thrace and is sponsored by companies and private individuals.
 Publisher arrested for state debts exceeding 8.0 million eurosAn unidentified publisher was arrested at his home in the plush Athens suburb of Psychiko on Wednesday morning, for debts to the state amounting to 8,320,852.89 euros. Also pending against him as a Athens Appeals Court ruling imposing a five-year sentence for embezzlement.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 2-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 7C and 25C. Fair in Athens with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 25C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 11C and 23C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Turmoil over the permanent surtax in real estate.
DIMOKRATIA: New 'bugs' story
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Military law Mitsotakis' style (Kyriakos, Administration Reform Minister)
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 150,000 students without heating oil benefit.
ESTIA: Larger state after the crisis.
ETHNOS: Sweeping law for contributions and pensions.
IMERISSIA: 'Fight' with the troika (EC, ECB, IMF).
KATHIMERINI: Shockwaves to government sends new taxation in real estate.
NAFTEMPORIKI: In search of 500 million euros to cover the social security funds' gaps.
RIZOSPASTIS: Red alert over the Social Security System.
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