|Tuesday, 5 December 2023|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-02-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 11 February 2014 Issue No: 4583
 PM Samaras: Greece does not need a third bailoutGreece does not need a third bailout, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) told German newspaper Bild on Monday.
"We do not need help, we do not need a third package," Samaras stressed. "There is also an agreement with the EU that in case we achieve our goals, as the primary surplus, we could count on a debt relief, in the form of an extension in the repayment of loans or lower interest rates," he said.
The Greek prime minister also dismissed reports based on an European Central Bank (ECB) survey that the Greeks are on average wealthier than the Germans, saying that the ECB survey does not reflect the actual living conditions of the Greeks.
As for the progress of reforms, Samaras noted: "In 2013 alone, we implemented most of the structural reforms, which correspond to 76 percent of the target."
He added that large multinational companies have already invested in Greece or have announced specific investment plans while tourists arrivals rose last year and are expected to reach a new record this year.
Asked on the Greek EU presidency, he said: "Greece is at the end of an unprecedented crisis. The EU presidency gives us extra strength to achieve the Greek comeback. Together with our partners, we strive for more Europe and a better Europe." He also stressed the need to strengthen economic growth and to further stabilize the monetary union in order to avoid future crises, adding that the fight against illegal immigration at the borders of all member states in the south is also rather important.
Regarding the Greek bonds, Samaras said that they are one of the best investment options right now. "Nobody in Europe is talking about a 'grexit'. Everyone is talking about a 'greekovery' forecasting growth after six painful years of recession. For the first time in decades we will achieve a significant primary surplus, which is impressive. At the same time we have eliminated the deficit in our trade balance. Not only because of reduced imports due to the recession, but also as a result of an increase in exports thanks to improved competitiveness," he noted.
Responding to a question regarding a demand by German central bank Bundesbank to impose a wealth tax on rich Greeks, Samaras said wealthy Greeks were already being taxed and this would continue in the future. "We would not have achieved our goals without tax revenues from wealthy Greeks. Taxes have increased significantly for them," he noted adding that the government is still in negotiations with Switzerland and expressed his optimism that an agreement on taxation will soon be signed.
On relations with Turkey, he said that provided that Turkey meets the EU membership criteria, Greece is positive to such a prospect.
FinMin Stournaras to meet with Jean-Claude Trichet on Tuesday
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, will meet on Tuesday with former president of the European Central Bank (ECB) Jean-Claude Trichet who is paying an official visit to Greece.
The meeting is scheduled for 10.30 a.m at the Finance Ministry in Athens.
Former European Central Bank president Trichet speaks at Athens Concert Hall
Greece has managed a tremendous fiscal adjustment, which was unavoidable, and from a budget deficit of 15 percent is now found to have a slight primary surplus, former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet told an Athens audience late on Monday.
Speaking on "Lessons from the crisis: Improving the economic and fiscal governance of the eurozone" at the Athens Concert Hall, Trichet said that when the data is finalized and verified, talk will turn to the interest rates and the maturity of bailout loans, and Greece's efforts will prove worth it.
Commenting on how long it took for the EU to react to the Greek crisis, he said there were no ready-made mechanisms in the eurozone and time was needed for national Parliaments to vote.
In remarks related to the difference in loan interest rates among lender countries and loans they made to Greece, he said that it was a way of spreading risk against the uncertainty of repayment. He said that unemployment is an issue in all developed economies, especially wherever there isn't any bad long-term management. He stressed that if the burden of fiscal adjustment had been assumed by all Greek citizens, unemployment rates would have been lower.
Trichet was president of the ECB from 2003 to 2011 and his speech focused on the causes of the global crisis, which he called the greatest financial crisis to hit the world since World War II, starting with the United States and moving to the most vulnerable countries of the EU.
Deputy Development Minister Mitarakis visits China
Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis on Monday departed for China where he will hold meetings with Chinese government officials, representatives of Chinese business executives and Greek companies operating in China, according to a development ministry announcement.
During his stay in Beijing, Mitarakis will meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Chao, Deputy Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Vice-President of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Zhang Xiaogiang, general secretary of Greek Centre of Entrepreneurship Michael XI and will talk about the prospects of the Greek economy and investment opportunities in a Business Forum organized by the Greek embassy.
He will also have meetings with representatives of real estate companies to promote the programme issuing residence permits to property buyers in Greece.
On Wednesday, February 12 , Mitarakis will travel to Guangdong province to meet with the governor of the province, Zhu Xiaodan. He will also visit the Guangdong Association of Investment Abroad and will meet with Greek businessmen operating in the region.
EU Foreign Affairs ministers meet in Brussels to discuss Ukraine, relations with Russia
The situation in Ukraine and relations with Russia were the focus of Monday's session of EU Foreign ministers in Brussels, where Greece was represented by Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas.
Speaking to reporters, Venizelos said that the EU's messages must be very clear, they must guarantee Ukraine's territorial integrity and not contain sanction threats but constructive proposals, stressing that Ukraine must receive a long-term European perspective, not just serving the present.
Lastly, the Foreign minister held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Lithuania and Holland, and with his Kosovo counterpart in order to prepare his official visit to the region.
In statements related to Cyprus, Venizelos stressed the need for conditions of real and continuous national unity on the divided island and noted that whatever the outcome of the Cyprus issue, it is up to the Cyprus people to decide through referendums.
"If there is no such consensus, this rallying together and this universal acceptance, the fundamental prerequisite of acceptance and approval through a referendum cannot be fulfilled," Venizelos said.
The minister underlined that the UN will only accept a decision reached through a referendum regarding the future of Cyprus, in the framework of a sustainable, fair and functional bizonal and bicommunal federation that will be based on UN Security Council decisions and the European Community acquis, as well as on a single international image, citizenship and sovereignty. The joint announcement must always be interpreted through that lens, he noted.
Venizelos meets with FM of Kosovo
Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Monday in Brussels with the Foreign Minister of Kosovo Enver Hoxhaj.
The meeting was held ahead of Venizelos' tour to the West Balkan countries capitals in his capacity as President of the European Council.
Economist conference on energy, transport and digital technology on Feb. 17-18
With energy, transport and digital technology as main topics, The Economist' conference for the Greek EU Presidency entitled "Sea of Europe: Routing the Map for Economic Growth" will be held on February 17-18 in Thessaloniki. The conference is under the auspices of the Greek Presidency of the EU Council and has the support of the European Commission office in Greece.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will speak at the conference dinner and Vice-President and Commissioner for Transport of the European Commission Siim Kallas will deliver a speech during the official launch.
The conference will be concluded with a speech by the leader of the opposition and president of SYRIZA Alexis Tsipras followed by Economist editor John Andrews regarding the course of European development.
Statements will focus on opportunities for growth through marine and maritime policy, port management and the trans-European transport networks as well as the opportunities and obstacles to the emergence of Greece in an international trade center.
Labour minister signs for new system to calculate retirement lump sums
Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Monday signed an order for a new method to calculate the lump sums given on retirement by all Greek public and private-sectore welfare funds, which he said would eliminate the funds' deficits. The new system will go into effect as soon as it is published in the government gazette.
The cuts to the amounts received will mostly affect the lump sums received by civil servants but will not exceed 15 pct in each case. The changes not affect 25,472 civil servants that applied for their pensions up to the end of August 2013.
Vroutsis explained that the method employed avoided "dramatic and plunging adjustments" to the lump sums, which might have been as high as 80 to 90 pct, with the adjustment being as gentle as possible since the unpaid obligations of the civil servants' welfare fund were spread over 15 years.
"We have provided a final solution to a problem that reflected the chronic ailments of the social insurance system, especially the funds for lumps sums," he added, noting that the new system of calculating lump sums would provide a guarantee of the system's viability without deficits and of the unobstructed payment of a lump sum to all Greeks, especially the younger generations.
He also predicted that the new Atlas system would help bring the waiting period for receiving a pension and lump sum down to zero.
The new system will use a mathematical formula calculated with the collaboration of several ministry services and agencies where the payment of lump sums will be financed only by social insurance contributions and not loans or funding from the state budget. It ends the practice of giving lump sums amounting to as much as 50-70 pct of the total contributions.
Interior minister comments on planned electoral law changes
The European Parliament will have a say in citizens' everyday life, Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis said on Monday defending the planned changes in the electoral law.
"Up until now we had this procedure, this party list, which I believe has alienated a significant institution. Now this institution under its new structure will have a say in the daily lives of European citizens and Greeks," he said.
"We didn't know the people that represented us. We have to admit, this has been the case until today. Do you know if society had a view of what was happening in Brussels? With the exception of few people that were in contact with society, there was a dominant elitism," he added.
Michelakis said he was in favour of cutting down the number of deputies, pointing out "we should go forward with this. It is part of our intentions."
"There are issues like that we should address and other issues regarding the constitutional reform," he said.
Regarding the far-right Golden Dawn party, Michelakis pointed out "the response should be a political one and will be given by society. Society will judge if those people should participate and to what extent. My personal view is that Golden Dawn should be placed under the law so that it can be held legally accountable for the things it has been accused of."
SMEs ask for changes in EU, IMF approach to Greek economy
"HELLENIC SMEs REQUEST CHANGES IN EU & IMF
APPROACH TO GREEK ECONOMY"
The root-cause of the financial and economic crisis that has crippled Europe as well as Greece is a complicated matter and is still not answered whether Greece brought the crisis to Europe or the opposite. The truth is that Greece faced a mixture of financial problems. The twin deficits, of current account balance and public budget balance, created a huge public debt, worsening competitiveness and caused the banking crisis. Generally the non sustainable growth model that was being followed all those years led to the economic crisis. The development for the Greek economy was triggered by the arrival of the global economic recession in October 2008 and the downgrading of the Greek government debt to junk bond status. This means that there was none willing to lend money to the Greek government and the up to then way of living, without any credibility, couldn't continue. On the other hand, Europe dealt with the same type of problems but Greece was among the PIIGS countries which faced from all of them, to such great extend, the most dangerous financial problems. The smaller size of the Greek economy gave to Troika the European authority for non well targeted austerity experiments.
The lack of a joint economic policy among the EU members and the unbalance among commercial, financial, and manufacturing sectors, has been one of the reasons behind the deepening of the economic crisis across the continent. The measures of the EU implemented to resolve this issue towards the joint economic policy among EU members were not adequate. There is of course a lot of discussion and meetings going on right now concerning issues such as the "eurobond", the "Banking Union" (Single Supervisory Mechanism-SSM) or even the harmonization of the legislation. However, these processes require the consensus of all the EU members and of course a lot of time. So far, in Greece very few things have been done in financial support through various Eurofunds, which have either been activated too late or have a very limited effect, if any. I think the most successful measures in Europe were the ones supporting the SMEs and the results of "think small first" were obvious, during 2013, when 620.000 new jobs were created by the 24.000.000 SMEs in EU of 28 member states.
Despite the fact that the economic downturn in Greece stems, to a great extend, from its budget deficit, many Greeks blame Europe as an undeniable factor for our financial mess. If anyone compares the roles of the EU and USA in respect to this issue, we can see interesting interventions. The first to blame should be ourselves for not realizing earlier that over borrowing and overspending were the main factors for our financial mess. Nevertheless, it is true that the global economic, or better said financial, crisis started from the bursting of the US housing bubble during the summer of 2007 which led to the decline of the values tied to US real estate pricing. Large financial institutions were seriously threatened with collapse, stock market entered a downturn, housing market suffered and unemployment went very high. The crisis was soon expanded to the rest of the world and contributed to the European sovereign debt crisis. It was the US economy that actually triggered the crisis and the fact that the first reactions were delayed and timid. During the crisis, the US government seemed too busy to cure its own problems and threats. Despite these circumstances, the US officials tried to press their EU colleagues to support Greece, when things seemed totally uncontrolled (Grexit). And, to be completely honest, the Greek basic economic fundamental figures reveled that the structural problems have hurt the Greek economy long before the summer of 2007.
The EU financial crisis is well demonstrative of the fact that the European Central Bank cannot determine the continent's economic, financial, and monetary policies without reflecting on the status quo of each EU countries, and that the EU countries' different political, cultural, and economic policies are of significant importance. The European Central Bank (ECB) has a very difficult role to handle indeed. Since the economies of the Eurozone member states are so different with each other in terms of size, growth, structure, prospects and culture, it is almost impossible to design and actual implement an economic policy which fits all. However, the efforts of Mario Draghi to sustain the cohesion of the EU and to support the euro by reducing the interest rates, among others, met with the central European countries refusal and disappointment. This cannot be overcome unless there are three conditions met:
1. Real integration of EU to a federal style union, USE such as the USA,
2. Actual independence of the ECB and
3. Provide the authority to ECB to implement growth policies, when necessary, besides price stability.
The European Union's prescriptive style of policy-making for Greece for implementing austerity to solve the economic turmoil, proved to be a bad idea, since such strict austerity can no longer be implemented. Greece has lost more than 25% of its GDP (income -32%, consumption -27% etc) in real terms, since 2009, unemployment has gone sky high (27,8%) and all the quality of life indicators have been dramatically worsened. The developments for the twin deficits or the primary deficit seem encouraging. However, the social cost has overcome every prediction. Three things seem to be more puzzling for the Greeks, leading to second thoughts concerning the results of their great sacrifices:
1. The competitiveness of the Greek economy has not been improved substantially (from 96th place in 2012 to 91st in 2013-World Economic Forum),
. Growth rates seem to be far away, even today and
3. The public deficit has exceeded every limit (171,8% of GDP, Q3 2013), despite the "haircut" and all the austerity programs and reforms.
Back in 2009 and when the financial crisis had not erupted across the EU, many experts from the International Monetary Fund had predicted that the financial crisis in Greece would come to an end by 2011. The International Monetary Fund's mistaken prediction was not the only one, since there is always the answer concerning the "multipliers" and the huge issue that emerged. The IMF experts fell out by at least two years, if not more. Of course, if you ask them, they will probably blame the Greek officials for their decisions, the mixture of the implemented policies, the postponements etc. This estimation caused a lot of side effects, besides the fact that even IMF experts can make mistakes. The first is that a lot of Greeks lost their trust to the government and to the efforts to exit the crisis and the second is that foreign governments officials blamed the Greek people in order to justify themselves to their electoral bodies. However, I think that almost everybody would agree with the fact that the social effects and the risks of implementing such a harsh austerity programs were at least underestimated. Despite its experience, IMF could not realize that Greece was a developed country with a currency that could not been devaluated.
EU's financial institutions and the International Monetary Fund certainly can play a role in resolving the financial turmoil to Greece and across the South EU region, if they allow to the Greek government to make the best, out of the efforts made so far.
The lack of liquidity seems to be the No 1 problem of the Greek enterprises. Despite the recent recapitalization of the financial institutions in Greece, the credit is extremely weak and the majority of Greek enterprises suffocate. On the other hand, the uncertainty conditions, the high unemployment, the non performing loans (almost 35% of the total), the deposits withdrawal and the prospects of the economy put pressure on the Greek financial institutions fundamentals. Without the help and the support of the EU's financial institutions to the Greek financial system, the challenges cannot be dealt. The IMF contribution could be towards the direction of not including the recapitalization cost as part of the Greek public debt and to encouraging foreign financial institutions to support Greek banking system.
ECB and other central banks hold 56 billion Greek bonds excluded from PSI, which bought them between 35-70% of their value with high interest rate and paid on maturity the 100% of their value. Up to now, in that way they have collected almost the purchase price. The best they can do is to extend for 50 years the maturity of the rest of the bonds and specially those expiring within the next two years.
The International Monetary Fund had earlier announced that it would keep aiding Greece financially only if Athens achieved the monetary targets set by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF approach is to try to set the rules of the game and to show to all the parties concerned a reliable strategy. The most important thing is to see at which level these monetary targets are set and whether the social conditions such as exhaustion of tax capability and sky high unemployment, have been taken into consideration. If it is a matter of just drawing a line, no matter the cost, as it has been proven so far, then this kind of approach is condemned to total failure. I think, Greek people achieved to stay alive during the 6 years crisis period and 4 years without banking system. This is not only an achievement, but is a case study, how to obtain an ISO in business survival.
The future of those European states who wish to join the European Union, despite recent years' financial experiences of member states is not crystal clear. From a first glance, joining the EU despite the recent financial experiences doesn't seem a wise choice. It is of vital importance to understand that deciding to enter the EU or not, includes mainly 1. Political (political stability and modernization of the institutions) and 2. Security (Defense) criteria, besides 3. Economic ones. Latvia is an example. The future of those countries can not been foreseen. If they manage to retain their comparative advantages, continue the reforms, adjust to the new conditions and take advantage of all the opportunities provided by the EU, then their future looks promising. In any other case they will face problems. Put differently, the inclusion to the EU is not entering a permanent safe mode. Its rather new challenges that have to be faced in a new European and competitive environment. As far as Greece is concerned, we entered the Eurozone in 2001 unprepared, but as the 10th older member of the EU we were expecting a total different supporting approach from the other member states. Germany and France seems to panicked most in 2010 from the Greek situation and were preparing our sacrifice.
The Greek market resisted bankruptcy by trying hard, to recover after a heavy recession and go back to stability situation, but the first signs of recovery for Greek SMEs are without effects of unemployment. The volume of retail trade is still going down by -10%, but in much slower tempo than before. The climate in trade and tourism is improving, but the turnover is not following. Industry, constructions and services sector are also effected by the weak internal demand. The four legacies of the crisis such us low growth, high unemployment, great inequalities and lack of confidence, are still ruling the Greek market through memorandum. The future of Greece depends on its ability to establish sustainable growth and jobs creation. The behavior of the economy will change with more trade, more investments and more credit for the Greek SMEs. Overtaxation is not attracting neither internal or overseas investments and a flat tax of 15% to max 20% has to be implied, since the twin deficits changed to twin surpluses and the recession to marginal growth.
The primary surplus of 2,3 billions let's hope that will give to the Greek government a major advantage to negotiate with troika on different basis, reconsidering the front loaded reform program well before the Euro-elections in May of 2014.
It's about time for EU and IMF to give us a chance, to trust Hellenic people and rethink their approach, since Greece not only belongs to Europe, but it is Europe.
President of National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce &
Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry
 Tsipras: Europe can't have landlords and tenantsSYRIZA leader and candidate for the European Commission presidency Alexis Tsipras met on Sunday with the president of the Italian party 'Left, Ecology and Freedom' and president of the region of Apulia Nichi Vendola.
"Europe can't have landlords and tenants. We want no other country, no other people to be forced to be in the the Greek people's place and go through the same hardship," Tsipras said after the meeting.
Vendola noted that "Europe's salvation rests on its Mediterrenean roots, in Alexis' (Tsipras) Europeanism that fights nationalism, on the recognition of the individual freedoms as is the adoption of the free co-habitation agreement for all the citizens which will be a strong response to the extreme-Right's populism".
Vendola also said that his party supports the candidancy of Tsipras in the European elections.
Tsipras who paid a three day visit to Italy also met with the president of the region of Lazio Nicola Zingaretti.
 SYRIZA parl' spokesman requests the convention of 'state of wealth' parliament committeeMain opposition SYRIZA parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Papadimoulis asked on Monday the parliament's committee on source of wealth to convene.
In a letter to the president of the Committee Giorgos Kalantzis said that the committee should convene after press articles claims that three New Democracy MPs sent 3.5 million euros abroad in the period 2009-2012.
 EU Commissioner Fule expresses hope for resumption of Cyprus talks soonBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule on Monday expressed hope that talks on the Cyprus issue can soon be resumed. The Commissioner made the statement in a written announcement issued after his meeting here on Monday with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Turkish Minister for European Affairs and Chief Negotiator Mevlut Cavusoglu.
"We agreed on how important it is for all sides that there be a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus issue. I expressed the opinion that we recognise that Turkey has in recent weeks contributed to assist a resumption of talks, which we hope will begin very soon," he said.
Fule said the EU has emphasised that the Turkish side must proceed to negotiate with Brussels on all the laws relating to the accession process and political criteria.
 SYRIZA on the migrant vote in the municipal electionsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Monday underlined that the government's decision to take away the right to elect and to be elected from repatriated Greeks and migrants living and working in Greece legally constitutes adoption of extreme right agenda.
According to SYRIZA, the decision is a blow to a democracy of equality and social cohesion where migrants are not being excluded from the political and social life and their integration is being encouraged.
Referring to PASOK, one of the two political parties in the coalition government, SYRIZA underlined that it should explain why it decided to abolish a regulation it had backed in the past.
 DIMAR on changes in electoral lawThe government's intention to table a legislation providing for crosses against preferred candidates in the upcoming European elections ballot tickets can encourage the participation of citizens and work towards the democratization of political parties and public life, Democratic Left (DIMAR) said in a statement on Monday.
However, the way it was attempted to be introduced a few weeks before the elections points to unacceptable political expediency.
"The political use of the electoral law and the incidental legislating rules, a few weeks before the elections, shows personal interests and attempts to serve party priorities. The electoral law is not -and can not be a tool for the configuration of political correlations," it said.
DIMAR has proposed a comprehensive plan to reform the political system, including a change of the electoral law and the legislation for "political money".
 DIMAR comments on amendment over migrants right to voteThe Democratic Left (DIMAR) party on Monday called all parties to vote against the amendment depriving migrants of the right to vote and be elected.
"The fortification of PASOK behind the decisions of the Council of State cannot conceal the fact it's being drifted to conservative policies.
The support it shows to the amendment that deprives immigrants of the right to vote and be elected constitutes a democratic retreat.
DIMAR reiterates that all parties, which do not wish for the far right agenda to dominate public life, should vote against this amendment," DIMAR said in a statement.
 Social problems are top priority, SYRIZA's Athens candidate mayor saysThe role of local government is to address the problems of the residents, SYRIZA's candidate for the Athens municipality GavriilSakellaridis told private radio station Vima FM on Monday.
Eight years after main opposition Alexis Tsipras' candidacy "my candidacy symbolizes that there are people, mainly young, who feel plagued by the crisis. We want to make the voices of those people, of their families heard as well as of all those who want to express themselves on developments affecting their own lives," Sakellaridis said.
He noted that social problems are his top priority and added: "In the neighborhoods of Athens, one can see the problems of the crisis under a magnifying glass. We see the contradictions of the crisis. The world has been condemned to a form of humanitarian crisis, an increasing number of companies is closing down and therefore our priority is to focus on the social infrastructure of the municipality, strengthen the regional health centres and municipal kindergartens and try to engulf some efforts by social networks in the neighborhoods of Athens."
 PASOK secretary Karydis on the election of MEPs, migrant voting rightsPASOK communication secretary Dimitris Karydis on Monday referred to the decision to change the way MEPs are being elected, characterizing it as "a surprise decision, but positive", while as regards the amendment depriving migrants of their right to vote or be elected in local administration elections, he said that his party responded to a Council of State (CoS) ruling on the issue that is unappealable.
Speaking in "Vima FM" private radio, he said that "wanting the people to vote directly for those who believe are the most fit to represent the country in the European Parliament through their political parties, is a very positive move".
Referring to the amendment on the migrants' right to vote or be elected in municipal elections, he said that PASOK is opposed to a relevant CoS decision which "we regard as conservative", noting however, that "the reality we are faced with is the fact that the CoS ruling is unappealable".
 KKE leader: Farmers' struggle is a struggle for survivalCommunist Party (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Monday expressed his support to the farmers' battle during his meeting with the Panhellenic Coordination Committee of the farmers' roadblocks.
"It is a fair struggle, a struggle of survival. The roadblocks are massive and must intensify," said Koutsoumbas and stressed the need for a huge social and popular alliance of support to the Greek farmers in combination with other requests.
 KKE leader attacks gov't on its intention to change electoral lawCommunist KKE party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas lashed out at government on its intention to change the electoral law in the upcoming European elections.
"Either with a cross next to preferred candidates or preset party tickets, the Greek people should literally crucify parties which view the EU as an one-way road and strengthen the Communist Party, which is the only party against the EU and the monopolies and constantly stands by the interests of the Greek people," Koutsoubas said in a statement.
 Sworn administrative inquiry on source of rumors alleging MPs made illegal wire transfers abroadThe General Secretary of Public Revenue Haris Theocharis on Monday ordered for a sworn administrative inquiry into media allegations claiming that MPs wired money abroad illegally.
Theocharis asked the General Secretariat for Public Works to investigate who spread the false information about three deputies.
"People should know why New Democracy is being attacked right now," ND spokesperson Anna Asimakopoulou said, stressing that the party's deputies allegedly named in the case are now limited to only one person. The remaining deputy has fully accounted for his deposits and earnings since April 2013 and he doesn't possess bank deposits abroad, she said.
Democratic Left (DIMAR) deputy Maria Repoussi said that most of the wire transfers abroad involved spendings on studies and health issues of her family and are fully reported in her tax returns. In addition she underlined that the largest proportion of the money transferred abroad has been returned to Greece.
 Minister calls for 'commando-style' action to restore quake-stricken CephaloniaInfrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, in charge of coordinating disaster relief efforts on earthquake-stricken Cephalonia, on Monday stressed that all processes to help the island must be like a "commando operation".
"All procedures must have the nature of a commando operation. And a commando operation is none other than one which is carried out in a well-programmed, calculated and studied way but instantly, very rapidly and, above all, effectively," he said.
"We are in a state of emergency," the minister stressed, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. He said that the management of the disaster would be based on the immediate needs and the fact that the tourism season was around the corner, so that the island's image and daily functioning must be restored.
Chrysohoidis underlined that there could be no room for slapdash work and half-measures, stressing the need for careful, methodical and very rapid work.
The minister arrived on the island on Monday morning, accompanied by ministry officials, in order to assess the situation and help in the further coordination and planning of action over the coming period. He attended a meeting of all state services involved in managing the crisis at an operations centre set up at the Ionian Islands Technical Educational Institute, where he asked to be briefed firstly on civil protection issues and measures taken to house earthquake victims.
He then asked for a briefing on the progress of work to restore island services, such as schools, water, sewage and public health, as well as work to repair infrastructure, such as roads, harbours and the island's airport.
The meeting chiefly centred on efforts to repair damages on the island, where he emphasised that effort must be made to rapidly implement the relief measures announced for the island's inhabitants, avoiding red tape.
 Fines for building code violations from quake victims to municipalities, minister saysAlternate Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Stavros Kalafatis on Monday announced that all fines collected for various building code violations from victims of the earthquakes on the islands of Cephalonia and nearby Ithaki will be directed to local municipality coffers and used to restore damage to public infrastructure and buildings and improve the environment.
Based on legislation that Kalafatis intends to bring to Parliament, the fines will be paid into a 'green' fund and all details can be decided through joint decisions of the finance and environment ministers.
 Disciplinary action taken against magistrate over handling of ELSTAT 'inflated deficit' caseDisciplinary proceedings were initiated on Monday against special examining magistrate Eleni Pediaditi, who had investigated allegations that the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) had deliberately inflated Greece's deficit when producing revised deficit figures for 2009.
The discplinary proceedings against Pediaditi were initiated by Supreme Court Vice President and head of the justices' review council Antonis Athinaios, based on an inquiry carried out by Supreme Court judge Andreas Xenos.
The inquiry was launched after the president of the Athens Bar Association Ioannis Adamopoulos relayed reports concerning the magistrate's actions made by former ELSTAT board member Zoi Georganta, the ELSTAT member who had originally broken ranks to assert that the deficit was artificially inflated. Adamopoulos pointed to Georganta's assertion that Pediaditi had sought a private meeting with her outside the magistrate's office, calling for an inquiry.
The request made by Adamopoulos, along with press reports about Pediaditi's handling of the ELSTAT case, were sent to an Athens Appeals Court public prosecutor and the head of the courts' review council by the Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Georgios Koliokostas.
In 2011, Georganta had hit the headlines with controversial claims that ELSTAT president Andreas Georgiou, possibly bowing to pressure from Eurostat and the finance ministry, had sanctioned the use of "new and unorthodox" methods that resulted in a higher revised estimate of the 2009 public deficit and thus forced the country to accept harsher austerity measures in return for bailout loans from the EU and IMF.
Greece's 2009 deficit was revised upward in November 2010, from 13.6 percent of GDP to 15.4 percent of GDP, making it the worst fiscal deficit in Europe. Georganta told Greek media that this was achieved using unorthodox methods that included the spending of several utilities under general government data.
Georganta went public with her allegations after ELSTAT's entire board, with the exception of Georgiou, were summarily dismissed by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos in September 2011.
The case file had been sent to Parliament in 2012 to examine the possibility that either the former finance minister George Papaconstantinou or then prime minister George Papandreou might be held accountable. Parliament found nothing to justify action against politicians and returned the file to the appeals court.
 Admin. Reform minister stresses the need for better civil sector staff evaluationsAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday in an interview with Peloponnissos newspaper said that the government's reform agenda is not limited to layoffs and mobility schemes.
"The country needs a clear interventions plan on public administration," Mitsotakis said and commented on the existing public servants' evaluations framework, stressing that "most of the public servants receive grades such as 9 or 10. Are they excellent? Obviously not."
Mitsotakis described the evaluation mechanism as "purposeless" and stressed the need for civil sector evaluations that will motivate staff to maximize their performance.
"I believe that there are two basic pillars on which we can build a different development model. The first is the introduction of a
competitive economy and the second is the creation of an effective state. We are looking at the structures, processes and human resources to build a public sector that offers high-quality services to citizens and businesses," Mitsotakis said.
 Mitsotakis to brief parliamentary committee on public sector disciplinary justice issuesAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday will brief the parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency on disciplinary justice issues in the public sector, it was announced on Monday.
Mitsotakis will refer to the progress made in the administration of disciplinary justice in the public sector, the acceleration of procedures and the extensive crosschecks on civil servants' qualifications that are being conducted.
The committee will meet following a relevant request by the administrative reform minister.
 Electronic governance strategy goes to public consultationThe Administrative Reform ministry's electronic governance strategy was offered for public consultation on Monday, until Thursday February 20, it was announced.
The main targets of the electronic governance strategy, the Administrative Reform ministry said, is regaining the trust of citizens and enterprises in public administration, encouraging support for the administrative reform being carried out in the country and "achieving an internationally acceptable level" of electronic governance services" by the state.
The full text of the strategy is posted for consultation on opengov.gr.
 Applications to be filed online for 259 openings in new public broadcaster NERITThe application process for the hiring of 259 employees to the new public broadcaster NERIT S.A. through the state hiring agency ASEP has started. The openings involve positions of private contract and of indefinite duration.
According to a NERIT announcement, the deadline for the electronic applications filed on www.asep.gr ends on Monday, February 26, at 21:00.
 Counter-terrorism squad questioning four Turks over weapons found in their apartmentsGreece's counter-terrorism service on Monday announced that four Turkish nationals of Kurdish background have been taken in for questioning, after weapons were found in their apartment in Athens' Gyzi district.
According to a police announcement on Monday evening, the four are believed to be members of the armed guerrilla group DHKP-C (Revolutionary People's Liberation Front-Party) operating in Turkey.
In an operation that began on Monday morning, the counter-terrorism squad found a Kalashnikov rifle and three clips, three hand guns, a silencer, two submachine guns (A Scorpion and a Mini Uzi 9mm Para), 6.35 kilos of gelignite, two hand grenades and quantities of ammunition that have now been sent to the police forensics laboratory for further examination.
Other evidence confiscated by authorities included three computers, maps of Athens, the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis and of Turkey, berets with the DHKP-C emblem and photographs.
Police sources said the case is probably linked with the arms intercepted some months ago near the Greek island of Chios, while they were being transported in an inflatable speedboat. Also arrested at the time were another two members of the Turkish organisation.
They also linked Monday's arrest with that of a 44-year-old Turkish woman wanted in Turkey, who was taken into custody in Iraklio, Crete on Sunday.
The same sources revealed that Turkish authorities have issued a Red Notice for one of the individuals arrested in Athens on Monday.
 More than 300 companies will implement investments as part of 2007-2013 EU fundsSome 343 western Macedonian companies will implement investment plans of total budget of 41.8 million euros as part of the 2007-2013 National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) as their proposals were positively evaluated by the programme to support small and medium-sized (SMSs) companies.
According to the Western Macedonia prefect Yorgos Dakis and the general manager of development agency KEP-ANEM Spyros Skotidas, 46.94 percent of those companies are manufacturers, 42.85 percent come from the commerce and services sector and 10.21 percent from tourism.
Most applications come from existing companies while half of the applicants are from the region of Kozani.
Projects should be completed by June 30, 2015.
 Entrepreneurship nonprofit announces 'Startup Europe Roadshow' event in 10 European citiesThe Academy of Entrepreneurship, a Greek nonprofit collaborating with the European Union on youth projects, announced the official opening on Monday of the "Startup Europe Roadshow" in 10 European cities.
The "Startup Europe" initiative is taking place in the framework of the EU's digital agenda and is being financed by the European Commission's Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (known as DG Connect).
During the "Roadshow", the participating young and hopeful business owners will meet and talk with successful business leaders and experts of the informatics and communications technologies sector and will receive information on available European funds geared to business startups.
The events and seminars will be held in each of the 10 countries in cooperation with the European Young Innovators Forum's (EYIF) innovation hubs.
In Greece, the Academy of Entrepreneurship is the EYIF's official "innovation hub" will be holding an event on April 30 titled "Young Businesspeople from Informatics and Communications Technologies: The focal supporters of innovation".
 Millions of euros earmarked for young entrepreneurs in the City of AthensOver 27 million euros have been earmarked to improve competitiveness and assist young entrepreneurs in the City of Athens, focusing on sectors promoting innovation and competitiveness while combating youth unemployment.
The Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE), other business sector partners, as well as the Athens University of Economics and Business and the Agricultural University of Athens, are participans in the multifaceted "Ergo Athina" development plan for the City of Athens, financed by NSRF funds with 120 million euros.
The project will be unveiled on Wednesday in the City Hall.
 SMEs are on the verge of suffocation, GSEVEE head saysOne third of the new poor come from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and 1,000,000 people are without medical and pharmaceutical care, according to initial estimates of the Institute for Small Business of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE).
"SMEs are on the verge of suffocation," GSEVEE head George Kavathas said during an event held in Serres, under the auspices of the Serres Federation of Professional Craftsmen. According to the federation, the number of companies has been reduced from 840,000 in 2008 to 700,000 in 2011 and turnover has decreased by 35 percent.
Kavathas called the new government tax policy "irrational" and requested the withdrawal of the excessive fines provided for by the tax legislation.
 Government unveils plan for network of water airports serving seaplanesThe government on Monday unveiled plans for a network of water airports designed to improve transport links to Greece's remote islands and regions. Shipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, with Deputy Transport, Infrastructure and Networks Minister Mihalis Papadopoulos, presented the plan in a joint press conference.
"The implementation of water airports and the arrival of seaplanes creates a new market for tourism, transport and the islands policy," Varvitsiotis said. He pointed to the seaplanes' potential to boost islands' growth and create new jobs, as well as the development of Greek ports and harbours, while facilitating access to the mainland destinations that were hard to reach for both locals and tourists.
Papadopoulos noted in statements to the ANA-MPA that the water airport network, implemented in collaboration with the ministries' involved, was a good solution for transport links to Greece's many coastal and island regions and a lever for growth for Greek islands, bringing multiple benefits.
The first attempt to establish a seaplane network in Greece started in 2005, 15 licences for water airports throughout the country were issued under new laws and a pilot programme had begun in the Ionian Sea. Seaplane companies pulled out by 2008, however, citing problems with the legislative framework and the lack of a seaplane link to Attica and Athens.
The legislative framework was updated in a bill passed by Parliament last April, under which a licence to operate a water airport can be issued within 65 days of submitting a technical dossier to the transport and networks ministry and the shipping and Aegean ministry.
Applications have now been submitted on behalf of several ports and harbour funds, including those of Corfu, Patras, Lavrio, Iraklio, Volos, Skyros, Rethymno and Zakynthos. Once permits are given, the port and harbour authorities can then lease the right to operate the water airport to seaplane companies, via a process of tender.
 New waste management units to be fully operational in 2016, Development minister saysThe government aims that waste management units be fully operational in 2016, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Monday at a conference on "National Strategic Waste Prevention Programme and Revision of the National Waste Management Plan" organized by the Environment, Energy and Climate Change Ministry.
According to the minister, 12 private-public partnership (PPP) projects are currently being developed across Greece, which would correspond to over 40 percent of the country and 55 percent of the population and added: "It is important to turn Greece from being Europe's laggard to an international positive example. Not only because it is unacceptable for Greece to be threatened with condemnations and the Greek taxpayer with fines for breaches of the EU legislation, but because waste management is crucial in all aspects."
He pointed out that the first positive results for a modern waste management system have become visible, citing among others the appointment of contractors at the projects in Peloponnese, western Macedonia and Serres.
 The largest program of technical training for entrepreneurs available in Greece for the first timeThe Founder Institute, one of the largest training programs that helps aspiring entrepreneurs and startup companies around the world to establish sustainable businesses in technology, is to be available in Greece for the first time.
The first presentation of the Founder Institute in Athens will be held on Wednesday, February 12 in the frame of the ?4th Infocom Mobiles & Apps 2014? conference.
As stated in the announcement, the Founder Institute, based in Silicon Valley with local partners in 55 cities and 34 countries, has contributed to the creation of more than 1,017 companies with a success rate of 89.5 pct, which in turn have created over 10,000 new jobs. The aim of the Institute is to help create one million new jobs worldwide.
The announcement states that Greece may be a particularly promising market for the Founder Institute as the community of startups is growing rapidly and more young people are trying to create new businesses. What is needed, however, is the provision of appropriate tools and incentives for education and supporting young entrepreneurs in order to sustain the development of their ideas and encourage them to become more export oriented.
An opportunity is given - through the four-month part-time program - to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses, to educate and to receive feedback from experienced mentors and CEOs without having to interrupt their professional activities. The mission of the Founder Institute is to "globalize the Silicon Valley? and create viable startup ecosystems that will create new jobs worldwide.
 Industrial production down by an average 3.6 pct in 2013Industrial production fell by an average 3.6 pct in 2013 despite a 0.5 pct increase in December, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.
The statistics service in a report said that manufacturing production fell by an average 2.0 pct in 2013, and by 1.6 pct in December.
The industrial production composite index rose 0.5 pct in December compared with the same month in 2012, after an 1.5 pct decline recorded in the December 2012/2011 period.
The average production index in the January-December period fell 3.6 pct after a 3.4 pct decline recorded in the 2012 period. The statistics service attributed the 0.5 pct rise in the industrial production index in December to: a 0.5 pct decline in mining production, an 1.6 pct fall in manufacturing produciton (textiles -28.4 pct, oil products -9.3 pct, metalp products -21.5 pct, electrical equipment -17.8 pct, while tobaccom production rose 22.3 pct). Electricity production rose 7.1 pct and water production fell by 2.8 pct.
 Greek, Saudi Arabia tourism officials sign memorandum of understanding in RiyadhA memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Greece and Saudi Arabia in the sector of tourism was signed today in Riyadh between prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabian minister of tourism, and Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, who is on an official visit..
During the meeting Olga Kefalogianni presented the action plan for the development of the tourism industry in Greece and the major reforms made in the tourism sector and the Greek economy.
She focused on the modernization of tourism infrastructure and tourist services of high quality and presented the possibilities and opportunities available for tourism investments in Greece as the government took lately several legislative initiatives that facilitate the development of entrepreneurship.
The strengthening of bilateral relations in the tourism sector was also discussed and more particularly the cooperation in the field of expertise, training and event organization for the promotion of Greek and Arab culture.
During the meeting a common cultural exhibit in Athens and Riyadh was agreed upon.
The Saudi Arabian official presented the achievements of his country 's cultural sector (museums, archaeological sites) and the modern infrastructure that is available today in Saudi Arabia.
 Voyatzoglou Systems sells property to Jumbo for 11.3 mln eurosVoyatzoglou Systems sold a property to Jumbo for 11.3 million euros, according to an announcement to the Athens stock exchange on Monday.
More specifically, it sold the commercial warehouse building with all its facilities in Inofyta, Viotia, to Jumbo for 11,300,000 euros paid in cash.
 Foreign investors net buyers for 15h month in a row in ASEGreek investors were net buyers in the Athens Stock Exchange for the 15th consecutive month in January, official data showed on Monday.
Market data showed that foreign investors raised the participation in the Greek market capitalization to 49.9 pct in
January, from 49.6 pc tin December. However, if the participation of Hellenic Financial Stabiity Fund was taken into account, then foreign investors' participation was 31.7 pct, up 2.3 pct from December.
Foreign investors were net buyers in the first month of 2014 with capital inflows totaling 142.11 million euros.
On the other hand, Greek investors were net sellers, with capital outflows totaling 136.16 million euros, accountin for 48.1 pct of the market's capitalization (30.5 pct including HFSF's participation).
The value of transactions totaled 2.155 billion euros in January, down 0.3 pct from December, but up 38.1 pct compared with January 2013.
Average daily turnover was 102.65 million euros, down from 113.79 million euros in December, but up from 70.95 million euros in January last year. The number of active investor codes fell to 34.350 in January from 39,268 in December.
The market's capitalization totaled 60.85 billion euros at the end of January, up 1.3 pct from December and 63.3 pct compared with January 2013.
 National Bank approves sale of Astir Palace Hotel to Jermyn Street Real Estate FundNational Bank on Monday announced that a board meeting declared Jermyn Street Real Estate Fund INV LP the investor of preference for the sale of Astir Palace Vouliagmeni Hotel, after Hellenic Financial Stability Fund offered its written consensus to the transaction.
AGC Jermyn Street had submitted the highest bid, worth 400 million euros. The bid covered 90 pct of Astir Palace Vouliagmeni Hotel. The Fund is owned by AGC Equity Partners - of Arab interests - managing capital worth 2.0 billion euros, with an established presence in the Middle East and London.
 Car sales up 18 pct in JanuaryCar sales grew 18 pct in January, totaling 9,232 vehicles (new or used ones), up from 7,727 in January 2013 (passenger car sales were up 16.9 pct in the same period), Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.
The statistics services, in a reporet, said that car sales were down 32.2 pct in January 2013 (passenger car sales were down 35.9 pct).
Motorcycle sales rose 8.2 pct to 2,068 units in January, from 1,912 units in the same month last year.
 Greek stocks rally for eighth consecutive sessionGreek stocks extended their rally for the eighth consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday. The composite index of the market rose 0.43 pct to end at 1,260.17 points, for a net gain of 11.88 pct in the last eight sessions. Turnover was a moderate 68.28 million euros. The Large Cap index rose 0.29 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.0 pct up.
Frigoglass (7.27 pct), Ellaktor (4.29 pct), GEK Terna (2.87 pct) and Jumbo (1.89 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Petroleum (2.16 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (2.03 pct) and Titan (1.33 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Industrial Products (2.37 pct), Personal Products (1.65 pct) and Real Estate (1.58 pct) sectors were top gainers, while Oil (1.17 pct), Utilities (0.94 pct) and Food (0.70 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 68 to 62 with another 29 issues unchanged. Parnassos (11.67 pct), Naftemporiki (11.11 pct) and Voyatzoglou (10.19 pct) were top gainers, while Boutaris (14.67 pct), Atti-kat (13.33 pct) and Medicon (12.20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +0.76%
Industrial Products: +2.37%
Real Estate: +1.58%
Personal & Household: +1.65%
Food & Beverages: -0.70%
Raw Materials: +0.21%
Travel & Leisure: +0.17%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Piraeus Bank, National Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.69
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.65
Coca Cola HBC: 19.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.24
National Bank of Greece: 3.78
Eurobank Properties : 7.70
Piraeus Bank: 1.95
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 6.15 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 6.31 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.82 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.67 pct. Turnover was a moderate 11 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate fell to 0.551 pct from 0.552 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.474 pct, the six-month rate was 0.390 pct, the three-month rate was 0.291 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.230 pct from 0.229 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.12 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover at 20.225 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,572 contracts worth 15.644 million euros, with 48,756 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,831 contracts worth 4.581 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,727), followed by Alpha Bank (877), National Bank (962), MIG (1,252), OTE (755), PPC (854), OPAP (397), Mytilineos (533), Hellenic Petroleum (224), GEK (314), Ellaktor (120), Intralot (177), Hellenic Exchanges (197) and Terna Energy (67).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.384
Pound sterling 0.844
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 8.978
Japanese yen 141.35
Swiss franc 1.241
Norwegian kroner 8.483
Canadian dollar 1.528
Australian dollar 1.548
 Waste can be converted into source of wealth, ministers tell environment ministry seminarThe national plan for managing waste must focus on investments that convert refuse into a new source of wealth, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis said on Monday at a seminar organised by his ministry on national planning for the prevention, processing and managment of waste.
"There must be reciprocity for the citizens, joint public and private-sector funding to create new units, investments to create new jobs and a reduction in the volume of waste, so that the waste itself is a new source of wealth," the minister said.
Referring to the waste management situation in Greece and the reactions to various plans, he emphasised that the country must not put up with those "who do not allow the self-evident and obvious" to go ahead and expose the country to fines and penalties from European courts when there are plans whose funding, spatial planning and environmental permission have all been secured.
The seminar was also addressed by Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who said Greece must be transformed from Europe's laggard to a positive example of how attitudes can change. The minister also highlighted the significant EU funds available, which must be exploited.
Hatzidakis said that 12 PPP (Private, Public-sector Partnerships) were now underway in the waste management sector, covering more than 40 percent of Greek territory and 55 pct of the population. He listed contractors that were already at work in the Peloponnese, Serres and Western Macedonia and that the selection process for a contractor was now in its final stages in the Attica Region, while another PPP was due to begin operating in Eastern Macedonia-Thrace by 2016.
Union of Greek Regions President Yiannis Sgouros referred to talks underway for waste management projects in Attica, saying that the ultimate aim was to bury 35 pct of the waste and exploit the remainder. He warned, however, that the current main landfill at Fylis was near capacity and would run out of space by the end of the year, with 213 million euros needed to expropriate land and begin works to expand. He also warned of the grave dangers posed by hazardous hospital waste.
 Farmers in southern Greece escalate their protests with sit-ins, roadblocksFarmers in the region of Peloponnese in southern Greece on Monday escalated their protests against the government's taxation measures with sit-in demonstrations in public buildings in the prefectures of Argolida and Messinia.
In Argos, a group of farmers protested outside the courthouse where fellow farmers were being tried for obstruction of traffic violations committed during mobilizations in 2010. The trial was postponed for November 10, 2014.
Soon after, farmers with their tractors demonstrated in the center of the city and delivered a petition to the local tax office.
Their next stop was the Bank of Piraeus branch in downtown Argos, where the Agricultural Bank branch used to be. The protesters blocked its main entrance with crates of oranges for roughly an hour, then emptied the crates on the sidewalk and proceeded to distribute oranges to the bank staff.
In Messini, farmers with their tractors blocked the City Hall's main entrance and held a brief sit-in demonstration before driving their tractors to the local railway station where they set up a roadblock.
 Farmers in central Greece to hold protest rally on ThursdayFarmers in Thessaly, central Greece, will hold a protest rally at the Nikea junction on the old Athens-Thessaloniki national motorway on Thursday, their coordinating committee announced on Monday.
The decision was made following the mass participation in a rally held on Sunday against the taxation measures announced.
 Former Hellenic Postbank chairman released on bail after testimonyFormer Hellenic Postbank (TT) chairman and CEO Angelos Filippidis was released after his prolonged testimony on Monday with the payment of 2,000,000 euros as bail and on conditions.
He has been forbidden from leaving the country and is obliged to appear at regular intervals at a police station.
The defendant for breach of faith and fraud began his testimony at about 10:00 in the morning, having delivered to the investigating magistrate in the case a 300-page-long memorandum with which he denies charges and claims that the bank had guarantees and safeguards for the granting of the controversial loans.
 Former TT chairman and CEO Filippidis testifies on bad loan caseFormer Hellenic Postbank (TT) chairman and CEO Angelos Filippidis on Monday presented economic facts and detailed analyses in his long testimony before an examining magistrate investigating the bank's bad loan case.
During questioning, he handed over a 300-page-long memo in an attempt to convince the examining magistrate and the prosecutor that no damage was done to the bank as a result of the loans approved that led him before justice to face charges of breach of faith and fraud against the state under incriminating circumstances.
"I will fight to prove what is self-evident so that banks will be able to do their job," he stated before entering the examining magistrate's office earlier in the day. According to Filippidis, TT had enough guarantees to approve the loans and he said that similar moves were made at that time by all banks engaging in business financing.
"If I lose, then prosecutors will have to approve the loans," he stated characteristically.
Sources say that the defendant, who is expected to complete his testimony later in the evening, has responded to questions that concern each of the unsecured loans approved.
He allegedly told the examining magistrate that the business loan to the Griveas couple, to be tried in a British court for their involvement in the bad loans case, was approved because their company had a good record and a long presence in conferences.
The loan to Alapis Group, owned by businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who is in custody in connection with the Proton Bank case, was approved based on all legal preconditions and after the company had already proceeded with a share capital increase of 460 million euros despite the fact that it had received another loan of 600 million euros. He also said that at the time of the loan approval, the company's share price was 24-26 euros.
Referring to the loans received by the group of insurance companies owned by Dimitris Kontominas, he said that they had guarantees. He also said that TT benefited from the contract it signed with Kontominas for cooperation in the credit card sector through the company Best Line, alleging that when he was the TT chairman the bank had high yielding dividends.
As regards the loans approved for the companies owned by Panagiotis Efthimiou, on which another warrant for his arrest has been issued, Filippidis allegedly questioned his prosecution maintaining that the loans are being repaid by another businessman who has purchased the companies in question.
Filippidis also appears determined to refer to the issue of his return to Greece from Turkey. He will present crucial documents as regards the conditions of his return to Greece to prove that he was not deported or escorted by police officers while boarding the plane in Istanbul.
Filippidis insists that he returned to Greece voluntarily before the second demand for his extradition was activated and while the first one had already been rejected by Turkish justice.
 Oropos mayor and eight more arrested over Malakasa road tolls incidentThe mayor of Oropos, along with eight other members of the town's municipal council and local residents, were arrested in relation with incidents and damage inflicted on the Malakasa road toll station on the Athens-Thessaloniki national road during protests on Sunday evening.
Tensions flared shortly before 8:00 p.m. on Sunday at the new toll station when about 500 people, local residents and members of the movement 'Den plirono' (I won't pay), gathered to protest against a rise in toll fees.
According to the police, the protesters set a car tire alight and caused one of the toll booths to catch fire.
Oropos residents object to what they call the injustice and complain about the additional drain on the local economy that a toll fees' hike on eight checkpoints will bring, Oropos mayor Yiannis Oikonomakos told ANA-MPA.
He said he had been detained and taken to the Maroussi police headquarters along with four deputy mayors for investigation.
He pointed out that "people have been reacting since the implementation of the first hikes. There has already been an injustice, since we pay huge amounts that people cannot afford for short distances. We have eight toll posts within one municipality."
The central association of Greece's local governments KEDE on Monday said it supported locals in their struggle against the road toll hikes and has asked that the Oropos mayor and deputy mayors be released.
Those arrested will appear before a public prosecutor later in the day, according to the police.
 Defendant in kickbacks for armaments case is released on conditionsThe son of the representative of German defence industry Wegmann was released on conditions and after posting a 50,000-euro bail following his testimony before the examining magistrates for corruption who are investigating the kickbacks-for-armament-contracts case, it was announced on Monday.
Spyros Papachristos was summonsed to testify as the representative of offshore companies through which allegedly suspicious remittances were transferred.
Sources say that during his testimony he denied the charges of bribery and money laundering filed against him and told the examining magistrate that he had no real involvement in the case.
His father, Dimitris Papachristos, one of the defendants in the armament contracts case, is currently in custody pending his trial.
 Acropolis Museum launches a new weekly thematic programmeThe Acropolis Museum is launching a new weekly programme with multiple thematic sessions on Greek antiquity.
Specifically, the thematic sessions will be held every Saturday at 13:00 and visitors will have the chance to participate along with archaeologists and museum staff to a series of debates. Visitors can also contribute in shaping future presentations by stating to the museum the topic that interests them. These discussions can also be made in the English language if requested.
According to information by the Acropolis Museum, the programme is divided into 26 daily sessions, each one having a different topic and is scheduled to last at least until August.
 Over 110 undocumented migrants attempted to leave from Patras port in 2014Police has arrested over 110 undocumented migrants, mostly Pakistanis, Syrians and Afghans, who attempted to get on board a ferry, either hidden in a truck or by using fake travel documents since the beginning of the year at Patra.
Moreover, over 15 persons, mostly of foreign nationality, have been charged with human trafficking.
According to police and port authorities figures, at least 15 of the arrested undocumented migrants were minors.
 Fishermen protest against cod fishing prohibitonCoastal fishermen from Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Monday gathered at the city's coast to protest against the prohibition of cod fishing in February.
The protesting fishermen sailed their boats towards the city's old pier and docked them close to the Aristotelous square.
"Under the new law we are not allowed to fish cod for one month... We are 35,000 fishermen throughout Greece and so many families living on coastal fishing," said fishermen's spokesman Panagiotis Pagonis.
The mobilization was organized by the Greek federation of coastal fishing boat owners and was implemented by the local associations.
The fishermen gathered on the pedestrians' zone of the old pier and have started a march towards the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry.
 PPC's film and photographic archive exhibition in AthensThe photographic and film archive of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) will become accessible to the public through an exhibition at a listed building in Athens.
PPC' s archive runs through the overall history of the industrialisation in Greece and includes documents dating back to 1890. PPC's aim is to create a space where the archive can be exhibited and studied.
Studies regarding the restoration of the building and the maintenance of the painting and plastic decorations were discussed at the last meeting of the Central Council of Modern Monuments.
The building was declared a work of art by the Culture Ministry in 1985 because it consists a very important neoclassical building of the early 20th century.
The members of the Council voted unanimously in favour of implementing the two studies for the restoration, change of use and landscaping of the building, as well as for the maintenance and restoration of the existing painting and plastic decorations.
 New Bulgarian road bodes well for Northern Greece tourism boostThe opening of a new highway in Bulgaria has raised hopes that tourism from Bulgarian will strengthen and will benefit eastern Macedonia and Thrace markets.
The 26 klm highway between Bulgaria's Kirtzali and the town of Pondova is linked to the road leading from the Greek town of Komotini to the Greek-Bulgarian borders.
According to Constantinos Katsimigas, executive secretary of the eastern Macedonia-Thrace prefecture, the highway will reduce travel distances and secure safe driving conditions. A large number of cars enter Greece from the Nymfaia-Makaza
checkpoint on a daily basis, while trucks weighing over 3.5 tones and buses are not allowed to cross that specific border station.
There is an increasing interest from Bulgarian tourists for the region. The 2013 summer season was extended to the end of October as more Bulgarians prefer tourist destinations in eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
"The summer season at the coast of Thrace was extended almost to October 20. Most of the tourists visiting the area in September and half of October were Bulgarians," Katsimigas said.
Constantinos Hatziconstantinou, head of the Thrace Hoteliers Association highlighted Bulgarians' interest for Thrace. He estimated that the impact from the operation of the new highway will become visible after Easter.
Many visitors from Bulgarian also choose northern Greek cities for a short break.
"Tourists from Bulgaria and Turkey that visit the area for a weekend, as part of the so-called city break tourism, make up for a large part of the losses in the domestic market," Hatzikonstantinou said.
Nevertheless, authorities should allow tourist buses to cross the border station at Nymfaia-Makaza so that weekend tourism can be strengthened, the head of the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace association of tourist agencies Dimitris Dolianitis said.
 'Poker is a game of mental skill, not chance', says first Greek winner of European Poker ChampionshipSotiris Koutoupas, 30, from Nea Vrasna in Thessaloniki, became the first Greek to have won the European poker championship, which wrapped up in France on February 1.
Koutoupas won the European Poker Tour in Deauville and collected a total of 614,000 euros, which, in combination with the 510,000 euros earned from coming in second at last year's tournament in Prague, make him the Greek player with the most wins in poker ever.
"Poker is a game of mental skill," Koutoupas tells ANA-MPA. "You need to fool smart people and be one step ahead of them."
Koutoupa's consistently good poker tournament performance from 2010 until today - which has brought him total earnings of almost 1.2 million euros so far - proves that apart from a good fortune you need to have the skills in order to reach the top.
"Poker is a misunderstood game in Greece," the Greek player explains. "Things are more organized abroad and there are many professionals who play poker as their livelihood. Poker is not a game of chance," notes the young winner of Thessaloniki.
Sotiris Koutoupas, whose family owns a drink distributing company in the Nea Vrasna, has studied economics and started playing poker just for fun in 2002. In 2010, he started playing professionally.
Koutoupas intends to invest a portion of the money earned and to use another part to participate in future tournaments, which, as in France's case, require a 5,300-euro buy-in.
He said that he will stop playing when "it stops being fun."
 Culture minister invites George Clooney to Acropolis MuseumMinister of Culture and Sports Panos Panagiotopoulos on Monday responded to comments made by US actor George Clooney urging the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece by thanking him for his comments and extending an invitation to him to visit Greece.
Referring to Clooney's comments during a press conference at the Berlin Festival, the minister said that the marbles "belong to the history of Greek culture and to the Parthenon" and invited Clooney to come visit the new Acropolis Museum, "where vacant spots are waiting for the (involuntarily) exiled Parthenon Marbles."
 Fishermen protest in IraklioFishermen demonstrated at the Port of Iraklio on the south Aegean island of Crete on Monday against a government decision according to which, they will have to instal satellite systems on their trawlers to record and transmit data.
The protesters, who briefly blocked the port's northern pier with their trawlers, clarified that they are not against the measure, noting that they cannot afford the purchase and maintenance cost.
 Overcast on TuesdayFair weather, high temperatures and southerly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Cloudy in the north with temperatures ranging from 8C-17C. Scattered clouds in the central parts and in the south, 9C-20C. Fair over the islands, 12C-20C. Mostly fair in Athens, 10C-19C; the same for Thessaloniki, 7C-16C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailiesEFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Chemical bomb in the Mediterranean.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Arrangement 'bomb' for housing associations.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Pension at the age of 55 for those insured in IKA (social security fund) and OAEE (social security fund of the self-employed).
ESTIA: SYRIZA (main opposition) will bring a worse memorandum.
ETHNOS: Twenty two changes with traps in 2014 tax statement.
NAFTEMPORIKI: New support package with clauses and penalties.
TA NEA: The major reversal - Euroelections with crosses
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