|Monday, 2 October 2023|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-02-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 12 February 2014 Issue No: 4584
 Greek budget primary surplus doubled in JanuaryThe Greek state budget recorded an almost double primary surplus in January this year, compared with the same period last year, Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras said on Tuesday.
Presenting the provisional results of state budget execution in January, Staikouras said that the country, after everal years and earlier than estimated, achieved a primary surplus.
According to the provisional data, the primary surplus was 811 million euros, or 0.5 pct of GDP in January, from 415 million euros or 0.2 pct of GDP in January last year. The primary surplus could be 50 pct higher if tax returns and Public Investment Program's spending had met budget targets.
The fiscal result was also positive in January, with teh state budget surplustotaling 595 million euros, or 0.3 pct of GDP, from 177 million euros or 0.1 pct of GDP in January 2013.
Net budget revenue was around last year's levels, but fell short of budget targets.
Net state and regular budget revenue was around 4.4 billion euros in January, almost unchanged from January 2013.
Pret-tax return revenues totaled 4.7 billion euros, up by 270 million euros from January last year, reflecting higher tax proceeds. Tax returns surpassed budget targets to 294 million euros, from 43 million euros in January last year and a budget target of 99 million euros.
Primary budget spending totaled 2.9 billion euros, around 1.0 billion euros less than January 2013 and around 400 million euros less from budget targets. The state's overdue debt fell to 4.7 billion euros in December 2013, from 9.2 billion euros a year earlier, a decline of 50 pct. Public Investment Programe spending rose significantly to 308 million euros, from 67 million euros in January 2013. Public Investment Program spending totaled 6.65 billion euros in 2013, up by 540 million euros compared with 2012.
Commenting on the data, Staikouras said that fiscal poliy targets continued to be achieved both in terms of the program and in terms of the European Account System.
He noted that general government data were based on the European Account System used by Eurostat, while the country's assessment was made using agreed parameters with the troika in the framework of an Economic Policy Program.
The primary result of the genergal government does not include a retrospective reduction of interest for loans received from the European Union, the transfer of Greek bond returns from European central banks and the impact from supporting domestic financial institutions.
Staikouras said that according to an Economic Policy Program, assessed by the troika, the primary surplus of 2013 could be higher than 812 million euros, or 0.4 pct of GDP. He noted that Greece was surpassing its fiscal targets for the second consecutive year and predicted that a primary surplus will reach 3.9 billion euros, or 2.1 pct of GDP. Including the impact of supporting financial institutions the primary deficit of the budget will reach 8.3 pct of GDP.
 Greece and troika have in effect agreed on 2013 primary surplus, FinMin official saysThe Greek government has in effect come to an agreement with the troika over the 2013 primary surplus, according to a senior Finance ministry official on Tuesday.
"We are meeting revenue targets and have faired better on the expenses side. We have made a full assessment for 2013 and there is an agreement on the figures. However, there are some marginal differences for January and February. The troika's technical staff is evaluating the fiscal data. I think we are heading towards an agreement over the 2013 primary surplus," he said.
"Our data confirm that there is no fiscal gap for 2014," the official said, adding that the main issue is now the 2013 positive results that will be rollovered to 2014. He admitted he was not aware when troika's top officials would return to Athens but he made clear that their delay was not due to fiscal issues. The government has sent a plethora of figures to its lenders' representatives and is still waiting for their answers.
Another Finance Ministry official noted that 10 million euros from the budget reserves and 60 million euros from the Public Investment Program have been used for the relief of earthquake stricken Cephalonia.
 SYRIZA on the size of the government's primary surplus predictionMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Tuesday spoke about a "communication storm," commenting on the government predictions as regards the size of the primary surplus achieved by the country.
According to SYRIZA, the government's economic staff, in statements made on a daily basis in the country and abroad, are constantly adding to the size of the primary surplus.
The "communication tricks and the fictitious optimism" expressed by the government cannot fool anyone because its "devastating defeat in the European elections and the local administration elections will pave the way for a government of the Left which, together with the people, will put an end to the memorandums of disaster," SYRIZA underlined.
The party also noted that it will have to become clear to the Greek people that the government's goal, in consultation with the troika of the country's lenders, is to avoid at any cost the announcement of new fiscal measures in this crucial period ahead of the European elections.
 DIMAR on government's primary surplus increaseThe opposition Democratic Left (DIMAR) party, in an announcement on the primary surplus on Tuesday, said that "the government's daily bulletins on the rapid increase of the amount of the primary surplus merely remind the Greek citizens of the painful measures that have been imposed on them and in no way do they allay their concerns over the measures that will follow, in order to achieve asurplus of 3 billion and 6 billion in 2014 and 2015, respectively".
 KKE on the government's expectation of a larger primary surplusOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday commented that the primary surplus announced by the government is the result of looting caused by taxation, pension and wage cuts, as well as cuts in the sectors of health and education and thousands of layoffs.
According to KKE, "those who present the primary surplus as the strong card in the debt negotiations with the lenders, hide from the people the fact that the adoption of new anti-popular measures is unavoidable".
 FinMin Stournaras' meeting with Jean-Claude Trichet completedFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras' meeting on Tuesday with visiting former president of the European Central Bank (ECB) Jean-Claude Trichet was concluded.
According to a finance ministry top official "Mr. Trichet has still a great influence. He supports our positions".
According to information, Stournaras briefed Trichet on the course of the Greek economy and on the Greek government's next moves to reduce the public debt.
On Monday, Trichet appeared optimistic that Greece's efforts will be vindicated stating that "the country has succeeded a spectacular fiscal adjustment and now it has a small primary surplus from a deficit of 15 percent of GDP.
 Foreign minister outlines positions on Ukraine, Cyprus after EU Foreign Affairs CouncilUkraine, the EU-Russia summit, the latest developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Eastern neighbourhood issues dominated Monday's EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters. The EU foreign ministers had then drawn up a joint communique concerning Ukraine, reflecting the positions of the Council, he said in a press conference.
Outlining the positions on this issue expressed by Greece, Venizelos said that he had emphasised five key points, among them a need to send strong and clear messages, not just with regard to democracy and human rights but also concerning Ukraine's unity and territorial integrity. He also opposed sanctions or threats of sanctions "given that our stance derives from solidarity with and respect for the Ukrainian people", saying the EU must strengthen its diplomatic credibility and effectiveness in order to overcome the crisis and really help the citizens and society.
Venizelos supported giving a comprehensive EU aid package for Ukraine rather than urging recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and, with respect to Ukraine's European perspective, he stressed that this was part of a broader geopolitical approach for the entire Eastern Neighbourhood that must not be treated as a short-term tool.
Lastly, he noted that the EU must not allow Ukraine to become "the theatre for a strange new type of 'cold war' between the East and West."
The foreign minister said the Council also carried out an in-depth discussion of all Southern Neighbourhood issues, concerning Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, and that the conclusions "more or less follow the course set by the EU so far".
"We especially praise the developments in Tunisia. We express our concern regarding the situation in Iraq and the threat that exists to stability in the country," he added.
The foreign minister announced that he would have an opportunity to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of a dinner for the foreign ministers of EU member-states and candidate countries on Tuesday evening, in light of the latest developments on the Cyprus issue.
He also referred to three bilateral meetings he had on Tuesday, one with the previous Lithuanian EU presidency, one with the Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans focusing on issues relating to the principle of conditionality, and one with the Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj to prepare a visit by Venizelos to five capitals in the region, planned for next week.
"Initially to the five capitals, and we will see what the situation is in Sarajevo, so that we can decide if there is any point in my going there in the midst of the crisis, or we can leave it for a little later, and I can go to the capitals where there is a political environment that allows for a substantial discussion with the governments, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council," he said.
Fielding questions regarding the latest developments in the Cyprus issue and the meeting planned on Wednesday between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, Venizelos stressed that a broader consensus and "conditions for a real and lasting national unity" were fundamental.
"If this consensus does not exist, if this broad support does not exist, if this universal acceptance does not exist, we can see that the fundamental condition will not be met, which is approval through a referendum," he underlined.
The minister said that the Cyprus president had presented a "comprehensive proposal" for the Cyprus issue, which hinged on the implementation of substantial confidence-building measures.
"The confidence-building measures concern in reality the implementation of the Addition Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, the return of the fenced off city of Famagusta, the opening of the Port of Famagusta, the potential for Cypriot ships and aircraft to dock and land at Turkish ports and airports. This is a very important and substantial proposal," Venizelos said.
The minister also noted a "substantial change" in recent years concerning discussions on the Cyprus issue:
The international community, the UN, accepts that only through a negotiator can the final decision be taken on the future of Cyprus and the co-existence of two communities, within the framework of a federal, bizonal, bicommunal solution that is viable, that is just, that is functional, that is based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council, the European acquis, and a single international legal personality, a single citizenship, and a single sovereignty."
 Venizelos on Swiss referendum, GM maize issue after EU General Affairs CouncilBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday said that the European Union expects Switzerland to respect its legal commitments, starting with respect for the core principles of the EU, which are the freedom of movement of people, capital, goods and services. Speaking after the EU General Affairs Council, the first to be chaired by a Greek presidency of the EU Council, Venizelos stressed that all four were equally respected and indivisible.
Commenting on the result of the Swiss referendum, Venizelos said that referendum results were respected by the EU but noted that bilateral relations were determined by respect for the legal framework and international agreements governing relations between the two sides.
On the issue of cultivating genetically modified maize in the EU, the ministers failed to approve a European Commission proposal for allowing its cultivation and no decision was taken, so each member-state will have a right to decide whether or not it will permit the cultivation of GM maize within its territory. On this issue, Venizelos expressed Greece's opposition to permitting cultivation of GMOs in Greece.
Venizelos said that the Greek EU presidency must now organise the next steps in the discussion on permitting GM maize cultivation at EU councils for the environment and agriculture. He reported that 20 member-states are opposed to the European Commission's proposal, four are in favour and three abstained.
 FM Venizelos on Cyprus developmentsGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said "this day (Tuesday) has special significance for Cyprus, since the leaders of the two communities on the island and the entire international community has accepts the fact that the Cypriot people themselves are holding in their hands the crucial decisions on their future, decisions that they will take expressing themselves directly with a referendum, without any kind of mediation".
Venizelos was responding to a joint agreement Tuesday between the Cyprus Republic President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, which gives the signal for talks to restart on resolving the issue of the divided island.
Venizelos added that "the acceptance of the proposals of President Anastasiades on the speediest possible implementation of substantrive confidence-building measures can contribute decisively to the establishment of a different climate on the island of Cyprus", stressing that "historical memory, distant and more recent, on the Cyprus issue can and must function as a guide".
Lastly, Venizelos said that "Greece will stand, as always, with a feeling of national responsibility and absolute respect on international legality, supporting the procedure that is moving within the above framework".
 FM Venizelos' statement prior the General Affairs Council on TuesdayGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, upon arrival at the General Affairs Council in Brussels, said:
"This is the first General Affairs Council under the Greek Presidency. It is a great opportunity for us to present not only the priorities of the Greek Presidency but also our first efforts and steps towards the implementation of the priorities.
The second item is a first approach of deliberation on the next European Council, the Spring European Council, on economy, growth, job creation, industrial competitiveness.
Another point is the preparation of the EU-Africa Summit. This is a very challenging priority for the European Union.
And the most critical point of this session is the discussion on the genetically modified maize. This is a very critical item not only for environmental issues but also for institutional issues because we must implement the treaty and also clarify the field of responsibilities in the Council and the European Commission."
 FM Venizelos on EU solidarity towards earthquake-stricken CephaloniaGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction ovre the solidarity shown by the EU Council of Ministers and the European Commission towards the earthquake-stricken island of Cephalonia, which is experiencing continuous aftershocks.
Venizelos stressed the need to trigger all EU apparatuses, especially the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) to respond to the disaster in Cephalonia and the continuing seismic activity on the island.
He also noted that similar attention should be paid by the EU to the very serious natural disaster in Slovenia, including at the Slovenian-Croatian border.
 Deputy Development minister's visit in BejingDeputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis met on Tuesday in Beijing with Vice President of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Zhang Xiaogiang and signed a memorandum on the establishment of a permanent mechanism to strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the field of investments, according to a ministry announcement on Tuesday.
They also discussed issues relating to privatizations, private investments and the direct air link between the two countries as well as their participation in the Greek investment fund.
"By setting up this mechanism, we aim at translating the significant investment interest of Chinese enterprises in our country into specific actions. I believe that the new era in bilateral relations between the two countries, which began with the visit of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in China, will bring tangible and measurable results. The opportunities created for both Chinese enterprises which perceive Greece as a key gateway to Europe and the Greek enterprises that want to do business in this huge market are truly unique," Mitarakis noted.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos met with his Moldovian counterpartDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos who is paying a two-day official visit to Moldova, ahead of PM Antonis Samaras' visit to the country met on Monday with his Moldovan counterpart Vitalie Marinuta.
Avramopoulos reiterated Greece's support to Moldova's European prospect and discussed issues regarding the further development of the existing bilateral relations, including military cooperation.
In his statement, Marinuta noted that since 1995 members of the armed forces of his country have been trained in Greece adding that "military staff is preparing to depart for the KFOR mission in Kosovo under the command of a Moldovan Colonel who graduated from the Greek military academy "Evelpidon".
On his part, Avramopoulos recalled among others that in February of 1821, Alexandros Ypsilantis, while passing from Russia to Moldovia, declared the beginning of the Greek War of Independence.
Finally, Avamopoulos invited his Moldovian counterpart to visit Greece as soon as possible.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos completes official visit to MoldovaDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos completed his two-day official visit to Moldova on Tuesday, according to a defence ministry press.
During his visit, Avramopoulos was received by the Modovan President Nikolae Timofti.
The Greek minister also met with Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and the Moldovan Parliament President Igor Corman.
 Administrative Reform Minister Mitsotakis briefs Parliamentary committee on public sector disciplinary issuesPublic-sector contract workers who kept their jobs through temporary court orders and injunctions that were later overturned by definitive court rulings will apparently be among the 15,000 public-sector employees that will be removed by the end of the year, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday.
Addressing the Parliamentary Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency concerning disciplinary procedure issues in the public sector, Mitsotakis also noted that institutional and administrative measures are helping speed up administration of disciplinary action.
Referring to the crosschecks of the qualifications of public-sector employees, Mitsotakis said that attention should focus on employees who have no place in the public sector.
As regards the 3,905 employees remaining in the public sector through temporary court orders and injunctions, 1,646 have already been removed based on court rulings issued against their case. The administrative reform ministry expects that this number will increase further and, according to Mitsotakis, they are to count toward a goal of 15,000 employees that must be laid off from the public sector by the end of the year.
The changes in disciplinary action appear to be very effective considering that in 2013 a total of 248 employees were removed for breach of faith whereas in the past six months there was an increase of 132 pct in the number of disciplinary council decisions. Specifically, they issued a total of 495 decisions in the first half of 2013, compared with 1,150 decisions in the second half of the year.
Also, by order of the administrative reform minister, the financial crimes squad SDOE will crosscheck remittances sent abroad by public sector employees since 2009.
 Economic Committee of Ionian Islands approves expenses for quake-stricken CephaloniaThe Economic Committee of the Ionian Islands convened on Tuesday to approve one-off expenses for the earthquake stricken island of Cephalonia.
The approved amounts include payments for contractors who assisted in the road network restoration, especially in the area of Kourouklata, Filakes, Lixouri, Myrtos, on the road from Argostoli to the airport, in Drapano and on the road to Sami.
They also approved expenses for bottled water since the island's water supply system has been damaged and around 36,000 euros for meals to the affected residents of Lixouri.
 New Democracy to back Aris Spiliotopoulos for Athens mayorNew Democracy MP Aris Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday announced that he intends to stand for election as Athens mayor, with the support of ND and the prime minister.
In statements, Spiliotopoulos said he would be rising to "the invitation/challenge for a more beautiful Athens, an Athens whose residents and visitors will feel safety, an Athens capable of fuelling the creative forces of us all. For an Athens that we love and want to earn the place that it deserves."
Sources said that the prime minister's office has already commissioned an opinion poll measuring Spiliotopoulos' popularity with those of the other candidates that have announced their intention to run so far. These include Gavriil Sakellaridis for main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Nikos Sofianos from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Ilias Kassidiaris of the far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party.
A surprise candidate that may mar Spiliotopoulos' chances for election is the city's former mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who announced his intention to run at the same time. The former mayor, also an ND MP that had run on the party's ticket and won in 2007 but lost the 2012 election to current mayor George Kaminis, said he would lead an independent local authority political formation and present its programme at an open meeting in the near future.
"My love for Athens was not opportunist. For me it was, is and will always be Athens First," he said.
 Finance Ministry on checks over money sent abroadThe Finance Ministry in an announcement on Tuesday gave explanations on checks regarding money sent abroad.
Referring to Democratic Left MP Maria Repoussi, the announcement clarified that "MP Maria Repoussi submitted a capital justification statement on 14 February, 2013, as it was requested. Repoussi's case has been classified as of low importance".
 Meeting at National Intelligence Service (EYP) on foreign, domestic terrorism threatThe Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) on Tuesday convened the Intelligence Council for the first time since 2008 when it was set up anew to discuss the foreign and domestic terrorism threat.
Officials at the public order ministry said the meeting examined the security situation in the country and matters relating to the future functioning and standardization of the Council's work. They clarified that the meeting was not triggered by any specific threat but a need to discuss all security issues.
According to sources, however, the decision to convene the Council is a sign that the country's security forces are in a state of alert.
All participants stressed the need for constant vigilance and prompt sharing of information between the various state services involved for the optimal protection of the country's security.
The Intelligence Council is an agency chaired by the EYP commander and includes senior officials of the foreign and interior ministries, as well as the armed forces, Greek police and coast guard. The Council exercises its powers in the framework of the decisions made by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence and instructions given by the public order minister.
 State of Wealth parliament committee to convene on TuesdayState of Wealth Parliament's Committee will convene at 18.00 on Tuesday to check New Democracy (ND) MP Vassilis Kikilias, Independent Greeks MP Vassilis Kapernaros and Democratic Left (DIMAR) MP Maria Repoussi state of wealth.
The three of them are already examined by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE).
According to information, the Committee will ask from the Finance Ministry to send them additional data before the deputies are called to give further explanations.
 Environment Min. optimistic tha National Cadastre will be completed by 2020Environment and Climate Change Minister Yannis Maniatis and National Cadastre and Mapping Agency SA president Dimitris Kaloudiotis expressed optimism before the Parliament's Production and Commerce Committee that the national cadastre will be completed by 2020.
Maniatis said that today's cadastre includes only 20.1 pct of the country's rights of ownership while another 20.3 pct is under procedures to be delegated and mapped. The rest 60 pct involves 22.5 millions of rights and is still remains to be surveyed.
"We are all demanding from the Cadastre agency to practically increase its previous years' effectiveness and productivity ten-fold," Maniatis said and underlined that "it is mandatory for this to be done because Greece has committed to completing the National Cadastre by 2020."
"By the end of 2014, 90 to 100 percent of the country will have been registered," Kaloudiotis said and stressed that regarding forestal lands the same procedures will be followed.
The statements met with strong criticism from most parties' deputies, including New Democracy's Costas Moussouroulis, who noted that persuasive answers are required to explain why after 19 years only 20 pct of the land has been mapped.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy Evangelos Apostolou described the National Cadastre as "the shipwreck of modern political history" and underlined that "especially in relation with forest mapping, not even the basic procedures have been completed."
"There are questions that demand research and full clarification: which land is public, and which is private? Which land is a forest, and which is forested land?" queried Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Spyros Halvadzis.
 Deputy Rural Dev't minister expresses support for farmers, in ParliamentFarmers are justified in demanding lower cost, especially in production, energy, fuel and electricity, Deputy Rural
Development Minister Maximos Harakopoulos said in Parliament on Tuesday night.
Responding to questions by deputies, Harakopoulos said, "Even though we put a break on raises in electricity called for May and July 2013, the cost of power is still too high. But Greece is going through a tough economic situation, and we are trying to resolve the issues within very tight margins, in collaboration with the farmers, as we did with the issue of bad loans at the old Agricultural Bank."
 FinMin to meet farmers delegation on Thursday, farmers sayA delegation of farmers, who are continuing mobilisations, will be meeting Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras at 12:45 on Thursday.
The farmers from the Larissa district had requested the meeting with the minister last week, as part of a series of meetings they are holding with political leaders. In their meeting with the Finance minister they intend to raise all the issues preoccupying the sector, from the issue of taxation and production cost to the settlement of debts.
As regards farmers from the Nikea, Piraeus district, they will rally at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. and they called on citizens to join them.
 ESEE calls on for rationalisation of tax penaltiesThe National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) in a letter to the Finance ministry on Tuesday asked for the rationalisation of tax penalties.
"The Finance ministry should reconsider tax penalties along with the final decisions about the use of receipts," it said.
According to ESEE, the new tax penalties cannot be corrected even with discounts of 50 percent as they are not proportional, they do not separate small from large breaches, they do not recognize human errors and possible omissions, and the ceiling of 30,000 euros will not prevent the small and medium size enterprises' (SMEs) cessation of payments.
"What must change is the streamlining with lower fines and stricter collection methods, particularly on those who are systematically inconsistent," ESEE said adding that based on data from the General Secretariat of Public Revenues, only 5 percent of tax penalties is collected.
 Opinion poll shows SYRIZA lead over ND; Samaras most suitable for PMMain opposition SYRIZA leads over New Democracy (ND) in both national and European elections, according to an opinion poll conducted by GPO for private TV MEGA.
According to the poll results for national elections, SYRIZA leads among those questioned with 21.4 percent, followed by ND with 20.2 percent, ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 7.2 percent, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 6.1 percent, PASOK with 5.6 percent, Independent Greeks with 4.4 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 3.8 percent.
SYRIZA was preferred by 20.8 percent of the respondents for the euro elections, followed by ND with 19 percent, Golden Dawn and KKE with 7 percent, PASOK with 5.3 percent, Independent Greeks with 4.5 percent and DIMAR with 3.5 percent.
In response to who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (who is also ND party leader) was chosen by 42.8 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 30 percent, while 26.3 percent said "none of above".
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted on 6, 7 and 10 February.
 Deputy labour minister in ANA-MPA interview: pensions issued within days from 2015Pensions will be issued in a matter of "hours and days" from 2015, even for those insured by a succession of state insurance funds, Deputy Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Tuesday.
"Digitisation will untie our hands, it will be a final solution to the issue," he said and stressed that the current delays in the issue of pensions to those retiring, which could sometimes runn into years, will no longer exist once the digitisation of the social insurance record of each employee was completed.
He said the ministry estimated that the digitisation of all social insurance fund records up to 1994 will be completed by November, while the entire insurance record of all employees will have been digitised by mid 2015.
Regarding retirement lump sums and the new method for calculating these, Kegeroglou said that this avoided the drastic cuts and reductions originally envisaged, while the reduction might possibly be less than 10 pct on average.
"The new system leads to an adjustment, which may even be a single-digit number, somewhere near 10 pct, even though there cannot be a uniform calculation," he said.
 Independent Greeks party expresses grave concern over Cyprus issue developmentsThe Independent Greeks (ANEL) party on Tuesday expressed grave concern over developments in the Cyprus issue, through its spokesman Terence Quick.
Quick referred in a statement to Tuesday's issuing of the joint statement between the Cyprus president and the Turkish Cypriot leader and said that it "confirmed our fears" of a "continuous sliding" of the Cyprus issue on a "dangerous and submissive course".
Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos will come "in the coming hours" into contact with the leaders of the Cypriot forces "that are not committed with the 'Anan 2' plan that has been set," he said, referring to the proposal by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Lastly, "the Republic of Cyprus is being swamped and the new formation is now recognising and accepting the occupation forces as an equal interlocutor. Hopes are now turning to the people of Cyprus themselves and to the referendum, following the patriotic legacy of unforgettable Tassos Papadopoulos," he said, referring to Cyprus Republic's late president.
 Prosecutor orders financial crimes squad to speed up 'Lagarde list' investigationFinancial crimes' prosecutor Panagiotis Athanassiou on Tuesday ordered the finance ministry's financial crimes squad SDOE to speed up its investigation into the so-called 'Lagarde list' - a list of Greek depositors with large accounts at a Swiss branch of HSBC, originally sent to Greece by French authorities.
Athanassiou ordered an urgent investigation into possible tax evasion and money-laundering that may be revealed by the list of names, demanding that SDOE staff take necessary action so that the management at the Inspection Centre for Tax-payers of Great Wealth (KEFOMEP) appoint staff to take over the cases and complete at least provisional audits within two months.
The provisional audits must be then be followed up by complete audits of the individuals included in the list.
Similarly, the public prosecutors against corruption have started a series of checks to fight major tax evasion at tax offices throughout Attica, to check the progress of investigations assigned to them by justice and giving instructions to complete investigation of possible tax violations as a top priority.
Sources within the prosecutors' office said tax offices were being enlisted to cover gaps created by a staff shortage at SDOE, where 20 employees were working on the Lagarde list case and had so far completed inspection on only 100 of the 2,000 names on the list since work began in 2012. They also stressed that the actions of the prosecutors for corruption are solely directed at checking the progress of inspections they have asked the tax offices to conduct and did not constitute any intervention in the work of tax authorities.
 Prosecutor charges four Turks arrested in Athens with felonies for terrorist actsThe prosecutor investigating the case of the four Turks of Kurdish origin, arrested on Monday in an apartment in Athens' Gyzi district, charged them with perpetrating terrorist acts, it was announced on Tuesday.
Police said that heavy weapons and material used in building bombs were found in the apartment where the suspects were arrested, noting that all four are Turkish nationals and members of a Kurdish terrorist group.
They are accused of forming a terrorist organization, building explosive devices and supplying explosive materials for terrorism purposes. Also, they are facing charges for terrorist acts involving explosive materials and weapon possession, forgery and being in the country illegally. The case file will be forwarded to an examining magistrate.
The four have being questioned for a murder in Turkey, while one of them is wanted in Greece in connection with the explosion in an apartment in Thessaloniki's Triandria district in October 2011 in which a Kurd was killed.
Based on new evidence, the group is directly linked with the case of the inflatable speedboat that was intercepted a few months ago near the northeastern Aegean island of Chios carrying heavy weapons.
Greek Police (EL.AS) spokesman Christos Parthenis said that the suspects - aged 25, 33, 41 and 49 - had fake identity cards and are believed to be members of the armed section of the militant Kurdish group "Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front" (DHKP-C) that has claimed responsibility for assassinations and other attacks in Turkey.
The 49-year-old has been identified as Tekin Huseyin, who is wanted for participation in the militant group and the Turkish authorities had already asked for his extradition. An arrest warrant is pending against him in Greece, as well as an international arrest warrant for the explosion in Thessaloniki's Triandria district.
He had been brought in for questioning after the explosion in Triandria presenting a fake identity and he was released soon after. A month later, the Greek authorities were informed of his real identity by the Turkish authorities but in the meantime he had disappeared. The Greek authorities issued an arrest warrant and he was wanted until his arrest yesterday.
His genetic traces were found on an antitank rocket part and on a miniature DHKP-C flag, as well as on a mobile phone found and seized on the inflatable speedboat intercepted near Chios and in an apartment on Miaouli Street associated with the Triandria explosion.
The 41-year-old had presented to police fake documents under the name Bagir Cekin. Police have strong indications, waiting to be confirmed by Turkey, that he had participated in the assassination of the Toyota owner in Turkey back in 1996 and since then has disappeared. The DHKP-C had claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to police, the explosion in Triandria was caused by the explosive TNT.
The four suspects had rented a small apartment on Gennadiou Street in Gyzi using a fake identity card and posed as refugees from Syria. According to a senior officer in the counterterrorism squad, the hideout was located following a telephone call by an unidentified individual who reported that hidden in the apartment were guns and explosives.
The findings in the Gennadiou Street apartment include a Kalashnikov rifle and three clips, three hand guns, a silencer, two submachine guns (a Scorpion and a Mini Uzi 9mm Para), 6.350 kilos of gelignite, two hand grenades and quantities of ammunition that have been sent to the police forensics laboratory for further examination.
According to counterterrorism squad sources, the guns most likely were destined for Turkey and an investigation is underway to find out what they had been planning, the routes they would allegedly follow (maps of Athens, Alexandroupolis and Turkish cities were also found), as well as possible collaborators.
As regards the origin of the guns and the explosives, authorities say that they have some clues that could lead them to the sources.
 Group claims responsibility for attack on German envoy's residence in Athens, claims attack on VarybobiAn organisation identifying itself as the 'People's Fighters Group' on Tuesday claimed responsibility for an attack on the German ambassador's residence in Athens, which took place on December 30, 2013, as well as a previously undisclosed attack with a rocket launcher against the building occupied by the German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz in Attica's Varybobi region. The claims were made in a proclamation sent to the Greek newspaper "To Pontiki".
"As part of the campaign against the German capitalist machine, we chose to attack the buildings of Mercedes-Benz in Varybobi with a rocket launcher. On Sunday, January 12 and at around 23:00 we succeeded in approaching the target without being discovered and this time we attempted not to have a repetition of last year's failure at the offices of New Democracy, though we came near to this possibility."
According to the proclamation, the group carried out two attempts on the building, the first of which failed, while the second rocket had "followed the prescribed course".
"The fact that, even as we write this text, our attack has not in any way become known to prosecuting authorities and the mass media leads us to the following conclusions: either there was a sordid attempt to cover up the action (which will become apparent in the days following the publication of this proclamation) or else due to our own mistaken choice of firing point (possibly too far from the target), the rocket did not cover the desired distance and is now located somewhere outside the perimeter of the Mercedes-Benz facility."
The same group had claimed responsibility for an attack on the New Democracy party headquarters on Synggrou Avenue in January 2013.
In response to the announcement, the counter-terrorism service and the bomb squad has launched a search in Varybobi around the premises of Mercedes-Benz to find the missile but nothing has been found so far.
 EL.AS express concern over flight of accused terrorist Costas SakkasA high-ranking source in Greek Police (EL.AS) on Tuesday expressed fears that 30-year-old accused terrorist Costas Sakkas, who has violated one of the conditions for his release by failing to show up at a police station, could become active again and participate in terrorist acts.
The EL.AS source expressed strong discontent saying characteristically "we catch them and they set them free".
A counter-terrorism squad member commented that Sakkas decided to go underground because the deadline for posting a 15,000-euro bail - one of the conditions set for his release following his latest arrest - expired today. According to the same source, Sakkas was arrested in the Athens district of Nea Smyrni on December 4, 2011 in the context of a major counter-terrorism squad operation in Athens and Agrinio, during which hideouts and ammunition were discovered, as well as evidence implicating suspected terrorists. None of the people arrested has admitted to participating in the "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" terror group.
Sakkas was released after going on a hunger strike, the officer said, adding that he violated the conditions for his release and was recaptured on January 7, 2014. He was briefly released before being recaptured on January 16, 2014 when his fingerprints were identified in a "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" hideout in Halandri. He was arrested once again to be released on the same conditions.
 19 correctional officers face disciplinary action over convicted terrorist XirosNineteen correctional officers in Korydallos prison will face disciplinary action following a decision by Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou for allowing fugitive convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros to visit another prison wing several times and to attend a party there as well, sources said on Tuesday.
The chief warden, in charge of the Korydallos security, four correctional officers who have served as chief wardens over a period of two years and the assistant police sergeant, who was responsible of security on the New Year's Eve, were suspended from their duties, by decision by the minister of justice.
The ten correctional officers involved in moving Xiros from the Korydallos Prison E Wing to A Wing on New Year's Eve and the seven chief wardens and prison guards, who were responsible for the illegitimate visits by Xiros to the A Wing in the period between February 5, 2011 and December 31, 2013 will also appear before the relevant disciplinary council.
Two more chief wardens were also found to be responsible in the case but they cannot face disciplinary action because they have retired.
According to the case file, between the named period from 2011 to 2013, Xiros visited Wing A of the prison every month, in some cases two or three times a day. He spent several hours there each time with the "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" terror group members held at the wing. The chief wardens and guards allowed him to visit in violation of a clear order issued by the prison council according to which Xiros would serve his term in the prison's Wing E without being allowed to visit other prison wards.
It is also noted that Xiros had to meet specific terms during his incarceration. He had to remain in cell No 9 on the second floor of Wing E, where he would be alone and not be allowed to contact inmates in other wings aside from those held in the same wing with him.
Korydallos prison director Maria Stefi has already been replaced by Eleonas Women's Prison Director Hara Koutsomihali.
In addition, according to other information, Athanassiou plans to table in Parliament an amendement that will allow prison directorships to be filled by former judges and retired Greek Police officers with the rank of brigadier and above.
 Eurostat satisfied at cooperation with ELSTAT, its spokesman saysThe European Union statistics authority Eurostat is satisfied with its cooperation with the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT), its spokesman Tim Allen said on Tuesday.
Responding to an ANA-MPA question, Allen said: "Today's situation regarding Eurostat's relation with ELSTAT has nothing to do with the past. ELSTAT has done significant improvements on gathering fiscal data."
He added that since October 2010 Eurostat has released seven times data on Greece's deficit and debt without any reservations.
Asked to comment on whether Greece is close to achieving the 2013 primary surplus target, based on the data of the first three quarters of 2013, Allen said Eurostat is in no position to answer such a question.
He said that all member-states would send their 2013 deficit and debt figures at the end of March, while Eurostat will release them on April 23.
"It is a matter of principle for Eurostat not to comment on 2013 data until we have received the full data on this year," he said.
Asked on the way Eurostat contributes to troika's quarterly reviews of the Greek adjustment programme, Allen said that troika uses Eurostat's data and that beyond this point Eurostat has no intervention in the troika's review.
 Retabled provision bars foreign residents, Greeks abroad from voting in local gov't electionsInterior Minister Yiannis Michelakis retabled in Parliament on Tuesday a provision which deprives foreign nationals legally residing in Greece of the right to vote in local elections.
The provision was originally tabled with a Justice ministry bill. Michelakis withdrew it to retable it the same day, without changes, in the Interior ministry bill that regulates the process of European Parliament elections and local government elections this spring.
The provision also bars Greek nationals residing abroad from voting in Greek local government elections.
 Primary national health system bill passes on Tuesday nightParliament's plenum passed the Health ministry's bill on the primary national health system on Tuesday night, in its totality.
Of 267 deputies present, 152 voted yea and 115 nay.
An earlier vote passed articles 16 and 17, concerning mobility in the health sector; main opposition SYRIZA had requested a roll call vote for both.
 Turkish Navy corvette enters Greek watersA Turkish Navy corvette has charted a course through Greek territorial waters and between Greek islands in order to pass from the port of Izmir to the Eastern Mediterranean, a National Defence General Staff announcement said on Tuesday.
The corvette "TCG Bandirma" entered Greek territorial waters in the Kafirea Strait between the islands of Evia and Andros at 6:25 on Tuesday morning. It then set a course south southwest and passed between the islands of Kea and Kythnos before exiting Greek waters at 9:50, south of Kea. The Turkish military ship is now sailing in international waters south of the island of Milos.
Greek Navy ships and Greek Air Force aircraft have monitored its progress throughout its journey.
 Gov't meeting on Private Debt Management Council on bad loansAn informal government meeting on the setting up of a Private Debt Management Council was held on Tuesday at the Development Ministry in an effort for the country to be better aligned to the European standards on "bad loans."
The official meeting on the same issue, one of the prerequisites of troika, has been scheduled for Friday.
The full management of the problem of "bad mortgage loans" and home foreclosures will start in 2015 and according to estimates, the Council will be operational at the end of 2014. The Council's proposals must also ensure the consent of the other parties and the troika.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas met on Tuesday with the other ministers involved in order to coordinate the quadripartite working group which will form the new Council.
 Greece raises 1.3 billion euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bills issue raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at a lower interest cost.
The country's Pubic Debt Management Organization said that the interest rate of the issue was set at 3.60 pct, from 3.75 pct in the previous auction of same maturity in January 14. Bids submitted totaled 2.383 billion euros, 2.38 times more than the asked sum. The organization accepted also non-competitive bids worth 300 million eurs and said it will also accept additional non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 13 February.
 Tourism minister meets with Chamber of Commerce members in RiyadhTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Tuesday finalized a deal with the Saudi Arabian Chamber of Commerce to organize an investment forum in Athens with the participation of Greek and Arab entrepreneurs.
Kefalogianni, who is on an official visit in Saudi Arabia, called on Arab investors to invest in tourism and other sectors of the Greek economy as there is great investment margin.
The minister also discussed also the possibility of direct flight connections between Athens and Riyadh through a private airline company, because it will increase the tourist flow from Saudi Arabia to Greece.
The Saudi Chamber members were interested in medical and health tourism and asked for Greece's assistance and for technical know-how in these sectors.
Kefalogianni was also received by Riyadh governor and discussed bilateral issues while on Monday she met with her Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
 Macedonia-Thrace Ministry to participate in "Holiday&Spa Expo" in Sofia on ThursdayThe Macedonia-Thrace Ministry will participate in the international tourism exhibition "Holiday & Spa Expo" in Sofia on February 13-15.
The ministry hopes to expand its tourist cooperation with Bulgaria which started in 2013 and resulted in a substantial increase in tourist arrivals from the neighboring country.
"Last year the ministry opened a new chapter in tourist relations between Greece and Bulgaria and has been vindivated," Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou said.
Tourist arrivals from Bulgaria reached 500,000 last year, significantly strengthening leisure tourism, while Halkidiki, Pieria, and the shores of Strymonikos Coast and Thrace became the second most preferable destinations of Bulgarian tourists, he added.
"This year we hope to expand even further the bridges of tourism alliance that we built in 2013 and to develop a strong international cooperation, through which we will achieve equitable and balanced development of tourism in Macedonia and Thrace. Because tourism in Northern Greece is not just sun and sea, but much more such as culture, tradition and history," according to Karaoglou, who will attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition on Thursday and have meetings with tour operators.
The ministry will also participate in the international tourism exhibition TTR which will be held in Bucharest on March 13-16, under the collaboration of Thessaloniki Intenational Fair (TIF)-HELEXPO S.A., the regions of Central Macedonia, Eastern Macedonia, Western Macedonia and the office of the deputy Secretary-General on International Economic Relations of the Foreign Ministry.
 Development goes through exports, Piraeus Bank study saysThe country's new growth model should be exports-oriented, Ilias Lekkos, chief economist at Piraeus Bank, said in a report on Tuesday.
The success of efforts to set up an extrovert growth model is not only related to the labour force cost.
On the contrary, countries with higher workforce costs and insurance fees have managed to secure a comparative advantage, focusing on exports of products of high added value.
Greece's exports reportedly focus on goods such as tobacco, food and agricultural products, unprocessed fur and textile fibers as well as minerals and ores.
Their main characteristic is their low added value, as they are goods which are exported without having been processed in Greece, which would increase benefits for the country's economy and contribute to the promotion of Greek branded products.
Looking forward, the challenge cannot be to increase market share through the further compression of labour cost. On the contrary, focus should be given on the further domestic procession of products, minerals and agricultural produce, in which Greece has a comparative advantage, while showcasing Greek branded products, which can incorporate higher profit margins, sparing the Greek export companies from constant competition from low labour and production cost countries, the study said.
 'Endeavor' looking for future entrepreneurs from Greece"Endeavor", a nonprofit organization, is looking for future entrepreneurs from Greece who will join its network in order to further grow their businesses, create jobs and access to markets and investors worldwide. The application process will close on February 28.
As noted in the announcement, the organization is looking for future business leaders from all sectors who can be role models for the younger generations and make a difference in Greece and abroad. Their businesses must show an economic activity with a turnover of more than 200,000 euros based on a solid business model with a significant growth potential.
In Greece eleven entrepreneurs from seven companies with a significant presence in their industry and a strong growth potential, have already joined the network.
Entrepreneurs who are interested can complete the application form on the website of "Endeavor Greece" until February 28 (www.endeavor.org.gr).
 Marketing Greece launches news site promoting Greek tourismMarketing Greece is boosting the promotion of the Greek tourist product, in light of the new tourist season, with the global presentation of the discovergreece.com website.
The visitor of this website can become acquainted with Greek holiday destinations and access many pictures and information on more than 120 tourist spots and over 30 theme-based locales.
The site allows access to 60 videos, over 3,000 photographs and extensive information in five languages, starting with Greek and English at the present time and soon, French, German and Russian.
Marketing Greece is a company founded by business leaders in the tourism industry of Greece, and cooperates with the ministry of Tourism and the Greek National Tourism Organisation to develop a national strategy and promote Greek tourism.
 Astir Palace Vouliagmeni preferred investor on plans for hotel complexJermyn Street Real Estate Fund INV LP - declared a preferred investor for the sale of Astir Palace Vouliagmeni Hotel by the National Bank and the state privatization agency HRADF on Monday - said on Tuesday it planned to "respect the needs of the local community and create new jobs while adhering to the basic principles of soft development."
In a statement, Jermyn Street said the acquisition of Astir "will be funded solely by foreign capital inflows" and planned to "elevate the Arion and Nafsika hotels to a deluxe 7-star resort," including the "development of 13-15 residences in the area of the Aphrodite hotel and the upgrade of the marina."
Among other things, Jermyn Street said the project "will be carefully managed, taking into account the history of the property and the local environment" and said it hoped "to improve the services of the resort while maintaining the natural beauty of the area." After the completion of the acquisition, the operation of all assets and services will continue as normal and all reservations made by clients will be honoured, it added.
Investors of Jermyn Street "comprise two sovereign state funds from Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, other Arab investors and the Turkish Dogus Group."
 The first Greek aerospace business mission to Israel successfully completedThe first Greek aerospace business mission to Israel which was jointly organized by the Hellenic Space Technologies and Applications Cluster (si-Cluster) and the Union of Greek Industries Space Technology and Applications (EVIDITE) was successfully completed, it was annnounced Tuesday.
The mission was attended by the General Secretariat for Research and Technology, a representative of the Greek embassy in Israel and nine Greek aerospace companies: AerospaceVentures, European Sensor Systems, Geosystems Hellas, Inasco, Irida Labs, Planetek Hellas, Prisma Electronics, Teletel and TerraSpatium.
The Greek delegation participated in the conference aerospace ?Ilan Ramon? and met, among others, with the three largest aerospace companies in Israel: Rafael, Elbit and IAI. Israeli companies have already planned visits to Greece in the near future.
During a meeting with the Israeli aerospace Rafael in Haifa the possibility of cooperation in four areas was discussed: propulsion systems, composite materials, sophisticated sensors and electronic systems.
Stelios Bollanos of PlanetekHellas said, "The great and powerful space industry in Israel has to offer significant opportunities for Greek companies. We hope that innovative industrial group in Greece focused geographically in the region of Attica and Western Greece; it has more than 20 members.
 Korres announces strategic partnership agreement with AVON ProductsKorres on Tuesday announced a strategic partnership agreement with AVON Products Inc for the production and distribution of Korres Natural Products in Latin America.
The partnership agreement begins in February 2014 and it is projected to last up to 14 years. Under the terms of the agreement, AVON has the option to buy all Korres products copyrights for Latin America.
The Greek company said the agreement will ensure revenues up to 11.5 million US dollars (around 8.5 million euros) for the first 12 months of the partnership, while AVON will pay rights for the use of Korres' copyrights based on sales trends and extra charges for support services.
AVON is a multinational company with a leading position in the beauty market, with annual revenues of 11 billion US dollars. Latin America is the largest market, accounting for almost 50 pct of its revenue.
Korres has already set up a subsidiary Korres USA Ltd, for North America and Canada. Operations began in January 2014 with the aim to distribute the company's products directly in the US and Canada markets.
 Hellenic Exchanges approves listing of Viohalco SA in ASEHellenic Exchanges on Tuesday approved the listing of 219,611,308 common anonymous shares of Viohalco SA/NV in the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) and said that trading of the shares will begin on February 14, 2014.
Hellenic Exchanges also approved a capital reform plan by Voyatzoglou Systems SA and said that Alpha Finance will act as primary dealer in the shares of Viohalco SA, while NBG Securities will act as primary dealer in the shares of Motor Oil Hellas, Titan Cement and Folli Follie.
 Hundreds of participants in twoThessaloniki's HELEXPO exhibitionsHundreds of exhibitors are participating in the exhibitions "Infacoma" and "EnergyTech" held by the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF)-HELEXPO S.A., which according to the host company displays "great resistance against the crisis, which has severely affected the construction-energy sector."
The two exhibitions, which will be inaugurated on Thursday by Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kalafatis, will be held from Thursday to Sunday in 5 kiosks of Thessaloniki's International Exhibition Center.
Those two exhibitions stand as the most important events of the two sectors at a national level.
The 31st international exhibition for construction and insulation materials, door and window frames, sanitary ware, prefabricated constructions and technology "Infacoma" this year gathered 231 exhibitors from 20 countries.
The 6th International Exhibition for Renewable and Conventional Energy Sources, Energy Saving, Technology and Environment "EnergyTech" hosts 165 exhibitors from 21 countries, with more than 25% of them participating in the exhibition for the first time.
The 6th EnergyTech event focuses on alternative resources of energy and the utilization of new energy saving resources and technologies in industries, buildings and transport.
 Large number of Greek export companies present at series of fruit and beverages international exhibitionsOver 30 Greek export companies participated in the International Exhibition Fruitlogistica that was held for 22th consecutive year in Berlin. 13 of the companies participated in the Hellenic Foreign Trade Organization's (HEPO) pavilion.
Meanwhile, HEPO invites all businesses visit its site and be briefed on its operational program www.hepo.gr on the next food and beverages exhibition Gulfood 2014 to be held in Dubai from February 23 to February 27. 50 enterprises of the sector will exhibit their products at the Greek pavilion.
 Greek stocks end lower after an eight-day rallyGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, reversing an eight-day rally which pushed the composite index of the market 11.88 pct higher in the Athens Stock Exchange. The index fell 1.12 pct to end at 1,246.03 points, after rising as much as 1.11 pct and falling as much as 1.56 pct during the session. Turnover was an improved 84.11 million euros.
The Large Cap index eased 1.13 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.66 pct lower. Titan (2.33 pct), Alpha Bank (2.16 pct), OTE (1.76 pct) and Eurobank Properties (1.30 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Folli Follie (4.28 pct), Terna Energy (4.13 pct), Piraeus Port (4.03 pct) and Jumbo (3.78 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Telecoms (1.76 pct), Real Estate (1.17 pct) and Construction (0.33 pct) sectors ended higher while Media (11.17 pct), Commerce (4.26 pct) and Industrial Products (2.70 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 89 to 48 with another 24 issues unchanged. Nakas (25.19 pct), Sfakianakis (19.93 pct) and Douros (18.80 pct) were top gainers, while Sato (19.69 pct), Medicon (19.43 pct) and Pegasus (16.17 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Industrial Products: -2.70%
Oil & Gas: -2.51%
Personal & Household: -2.64%
Raw Materials: -1.59%
Travel & Leisure: -0.82%
Food & Beverages: -2.25%
Financial Services: -2.24%
Real Estate: +1.17%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and PPC.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.70
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.78
Coca Cola HBC: 18.96
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.00
National Bank of Greece: 3.65
Eurobank Properties : 7.80
Piraeus Bank: 1.92
 Greek bond market closing reportStrong buying interest for Greek state bonds pushed the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchnmark bonds below the 6.0 pct level (5.91 pct) in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 6.15 pct on Monday. The Greek bond yielded 7.60 pct and the German Bund yielded 1.69 pct. Turnover was a strong 54 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate rose to 0.554 pct from 0.551 pct, the nine-month rate edged up to 0.475 pct from 0.474 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.391 pct from 0.390 pct, the three-month rate was 0.291 pct and the one-month rate was 0.23 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.39 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover at 26.627 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,857 contracts worth 18.188 million euros, with 50,461 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 15,709 contracts worth 8.439 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (4,403), followed by those of Alpha Bank (1,586), National Bank (1,140), MIG (1,383), OTE (1,788), PPC (1,674), OPAP (681), Hellenic Exchanges (204), Mytilineos (893), Hellenic Petroleum (495), Motor Oil (257), GEK (225), Ellaktor (146), Intralot (140) and Frigoglass (118).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.388
Pound sterling 0.843
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 8.952
Japanese yen 142.10
Swiss franc 1.241
Norwegian kroner 8.493
Canadian dollar 1.531
Australian dollar 1.537
 Farmers esclate protests, set up new road blockages in northern GreeceNorthern Greek farmers are escalating protests by setting up or reinforcing road blockages while they are having a new round of negotiations with government officials.
Farmers' representatives are heading to Athens to meet with Agriculture ministry top officials. They have also asked to meet with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday, the vice-president of Imathia farmers' movement Costas Lioliopoulos told ANA-MPA.
Farmers at the Kouloura junction on the Egnatia highway have been in a wait-and-see stance and may hold a symbolic protest later in the day. Their collegues in Kavala, northeastern Greece, have set up two blockages in the area.
Farmers in Thessaly, central Greece, have called a rally for Thursday afternoon, hoping that workers from other sectors will join their protest.
Farmers oppose a measure requiring those with turnover below 40,000 euros to keep accounts on spending and income. They demand, among others, a tax-free family income of 20,000 euros, increased by 5,000 euros for each child; that farmers unable to pay debts to the state be not prosecuted; that there is no seizure of property (fields or houses) valued up to 300,000 euros; and a 30 percent haircut in loans up to 200,000 euros. They also hope to reduce production costs (by getting tax-free oil and low electricity rates) and boost livestock breeding.
 Patras-Pyrgos national highway open again after farmers' blockThe national highway of Patras-Pyrgos, which was blocked by protesting farmers at the Kato Achaia junction on Tuesday night, was reopened later in the night.
Farmers have planned new protests for Tuesday, this time at the toll section of Rio, at 12:00 noon. The action is part of several protests held throughout Greece by farmers demanding a change in the new tax measures for them, among other issues.
 Home owners in Oropos excluded from toll fees increases, Infrastructure Minister saysProperty owners in Oropos and the surrounding areas of the northeastern Attica will be excluded from increases in toll fees provided that local authorities and the Public Power Corporation (PPC) have certified their ownership, Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis told private TV station Skai on Tuesday.
Chryssochoidis stated that toll fees hikes are those provided in the original concession of 2007. He admitted, however, that motorways were indeed expensive but this was the only to conclude their construction.
According to Chryssochoides, the construction cost per kilometer is 25 percent cheaper in Greece compared to the rest of Europe, while the cost of tolls per kilometer has been set by the European Commission at 4 cents plus VAT.
 Nine charged for incident at Malakasa toll stationProsecutor on Tuesday pressed misdemeanor charges against nine persons, including the mayor and the deputy mayor of Oropos, for last Sunday's incident at Malakasa toll station on the Athens-Thessaloniki national road. The accused face charges of disturbing peace and traffic safety and provocation. The trial will he held on April 3.
A separate case file was formed against unknown individuals for the arson of a toll canopy.
 'It is still sunny,' British residents of Cephalonia say, as they pledge to stay despite the earthquakesThe 1,000 or so British residents of the earthquake-stricken Cephalonia said they had no intention of leaving the island because of the tremors.
"The earthquake happened and we move on. It is still sunny," representative of the British community in Cephalonia Donna O' Leary told ANA-MPA, asked what her compatriots felt about living on the island after the earthquakes and the continuing aftershocks.
The British citizens got to know the island many years ago during their holidays there, loved the place and bought or rented a house on the island. "We knew that the island has earthquakes. It had, has and will continue to have them - we knew it, it doesn't bother us. It's nice to wake up in the morning and see the sea, the mountains, the nature," added O'Leary.
O'Leary also stressed that they are not afraid because houses are built to withstand earthquakes and this was proved by the fact that there were no earthquake victims.
Barry Hayton has been living in Livadi over the last decade, in his own house that was found temporarily uninhabitable after the second earthquake. However, Barry did not let that affect his spirit, as he found a shelter in the village coffee shop - along with his dog. At the coffee shop he finds warmth, food and sleeping quarters every day. He said that residents of Cephalonia are hospitable, he feels their love and does not plan on leaving the island, ever.
"In 1953's big earthquake, British naval ships came to Cephalonia with soldiers to provide help. Today, Cephalonia residents are helping us," says O'Leary.
Janet and Julian bought their house eight years ago in the village of Agios Dimitrios. The house held up through the earthquakes and the couple, both retirees, is not thinking of abandoning the island that they have fallen in love with.
O'Leary is a tourism social events organizer with a specialization in British nationals' weddings on the island. She is now working on 32 weddings being planned by young British couples for the summer and there have been no changes, despite the latest events on the island. In fact, two days ago, another young couple asked Donna to plan their wedding in July.
 Rhodes prosecution presses criminal charges on failed PPC unit constructionProsecution authorities on Rhodes Island pressed criminal charges against Public Power Corp (PPC) officials regarding the failed construction of the company's new unit in the south of the island.
Rhode's deputy misdemeanors prosecutor Sofia-Maria Vaitsi pressed criminal charges for breach of trust resulting in losses of 74 million euros, according to the case file.
The charges have been pressed against PPC's current and former chairmen and chief executive officers Takis Athanassopoulos and Arthur Zervos, as well as four members of the company's board.
The charges followed the conclusion of the preliminary investigation ordered by the head of the Rhodes prosecution on December 17, 2012.
Authorities ordered a preliminary investigation over local press reports and a question by 13 SYRIZA deputies tabled in the Parliament referring to a "scandal" and criticizing the role of the state's privatization agency TAIPED.
According to the findings of the investigation, PPC decided to construct a new factory in south Rhodes and started all the relevant procedures, including submitting the necessary documentation for issuing a building permit and approving the environmental study.
PPC, without having secured the permits, signed a concession agreement with the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) for a property leased for one year and three months. PPC allegedly paid 115,000 euros for the 15 month period.
Town planning authorities rejected PPC's application, claiming the company had leased and not bought the property. As a result, PPC bought the property from KED for 3.3 million euros and then signed an agreement with Greek company GEK-Terna.
GEK-Terna installed the necessary machinery and brought in personnel to start works on the site. PPC paid GEK-Terna 66.7 million euros for the works that lasted two years. Nevertheless, the construction was not concluded, as authorities never issued the relevant permits, while a ruling by the Council of State also blocked the project.
After the "freezing" of the works, GEK-Terna took legal measures and asked PPC for a 10 million euro compensation for breach of agreement.
The case was settled out of court, with PPC paying 4.25 million euros.
 Education minister intervenes on denial of university admission to blind studentThe Education ministry will review the existing institutional framework concerning vulnerable groups' access to universities, following a admissions rejection of honors student Argyris Koumtzis by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (UoT) Physics department on the basis of blindness.
"It is the state's duty to safeguard for all the Greeks the right to free education, at all levels of our educational system", said Education Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos.
He added that "for this reason we are reconsidering the provisions that cause injustices often and render it difficult for persons of vulnerable groups of the population to access knowledge, while we are working for the provision of necessary supportive infrastructures and modern technological equipment so that all will have the same opportunities in our educational system".
Earlier in the day, Justice Ministry's Secretary General for Transparency and Human Rights Georgios Sourlas asked the Physics department to approve the petition for enrollment of Koumtzis.
The secretary general underlined that that the university's attitude towards the blind student constitutes a discrimination, especially as the corresponding departments in the Athens and Ioannina universities accept students who are blind or physically handicapped.
"It is directly opposed to human rights and violates the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Constitution," Sourlas said, commenting on the university's decision to reject the student's application. Current legislation demands "equal treatment for everyone, regardless of disability, and provides special care for people with disablility," Sourlas added.
The secretary general had also called on the Education minister to intervene and "re-evaluate the institutional framework regarding the admission of students with disabilities at universities, in order to eliminate any discrimination, and to ensure the right of equal access to all levels of education."
According to existing legislation, the responsibility for the decision on admitting a special needs student to university lies with the department itself. As a result, the decision is arbitrary, depending on the school.
UoT rector Yiannis Mylopoulos issued an announcement later in the day, stating that in Koumtzis' case, the department implemented a provision of its internal regulation, which he said "certainly requires renewal and adjustment to present factors".
Argyris Koumtzis has an oustanding performance in high school and at the Hellenic Mathematical Society.
 Body on Santorini identified as that of of sunken ship's captain, missing since Nov.A body found in November 2013 in Santorini was identified through DNA as that of the 41-year-old captain of the motorship "Stella", which had sunk the same month 19 nautical miles west of Karpathos island, it was announced on Tuesday.
The captain was the only casualty of the accident, which occurred after the unloaded Sierra Leone-flagged ship left Aliaga port in Turkey and apparently hit a reef off Cyprus. The rest of the crew, five foreigner nationals, had managed to board a lifeboat and were taken by a Super Puma to Rhodes.
The captain's body was found on November 30 in the maritime area "Apothikes" on the south coast of Santorini.
 Embassy of Venezuela and Korydallos honor Hugo Chavez with open eventIn an event that includes traditional music and dishes, the Embassy of Venezuela will honor the late country leader Hugo Chavez on the first anniversary of his death, in collaboration with the municipality and clubs of Korydallos, it announced Tuesday.
The event is part of a series of activities organized around the world entitled "Chavez was here," in tribute to the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution.
The event is open to all and will take place at 7:00 p.m. on February 17 at the Cultural Center of Korydallos, a district of Piraeus.
 Overcast on WednesdayClouds, rain and southerly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Overcast in the northern parts of country with temperatures ranging from 9C-16C. Rain in the central parts and in the south, 10C-18C. Clouds over the islands, 12C-19C. Rain in Athens, 11C-18C; the same for Thessaloniki, 14C-16C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Government exorcises the defeat with a cross...
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: 44 percent of the citizens want coalition governments.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Corruption 'smoke' and over the tobacco.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 6,200 job positions in public sector to open by the end of May.
ESTIA: Cross of preference a political mistake.
ETHNOS: The final solution for successive insurance.
IMERISSIA: Foreign investors own 50 percent of the Athens Stock Market capitalisation.
KATHIMERINI: Turkish terrorists' safe house.
LOGOS: Golden medal to expensiveness.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Full speed backwards in fines and capital gains.
RIZOSPASTIS: The working classes problems in Healthcare is a deeply political and class issue.
TA NEA: Turmoil over electoral lists and cross preference.
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