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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-02-21

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Friday, 21 February 2014 Issue No: 4592

CONTENTS

  • [01] Eurozone to take decisions on Greek debt in 2nd half of 2014, Eurogroup's head Dijsselbloem says
  • [02] EU Defernce ministers meeting concludes first-day proceedings
  • [03] FM Venizelos meets with FYROM premier Nikola Gruevski in Skopje
  • [04] Foreign Minister Venizelos meets his fYRoM counterpart
  • [05] Venizelos received by fYRoM president
  • [06] FM Venizelos calls for immediate stop to violence in Ukraine
  • [07] FM Venizelos on condition in Ukraine
  • [08] EU considering sanctions after most recent violence in Ukraine
  • [09] PM Samaras attends luncheon with G20 ambassadors, speaks with EU VP by phone
  • [10] Prime minister meets representatives of the court staff federation
  • [11] Gov't spokesman attacks main opposition leader over positions on economy
  • [12] State Legal Council's report on German war reparations
  • [13] Foreign ministry replies to MP Glezos on German reparations
  • [14] Energy minister asks EU Commission to continue 'Save at Home' energy conservation programme
  • [15] Examining magistrates request the lifting of parliamentary immunity of nine GD MPs
  • [16] Prosecutors' association reacts to Golden Dawn spokesman's statements
  • [17] Greece became the 12th member of eCommerce Europe
  • [18] Farmers delegation meet with Macedonia-Thrace Minister
  • [19] Deputy Rural Development Minister Harakopoulos on the farmers' demands
  • [20] SYRIZA's Glezos on Venizelos' stance as regards the German debt to Greece
  • [21] PASOK accuses Tsipras of discrediting the country
  • [22] DIMAR leader on memorandum and alternatives
  • [23] Gov't determined to combat all forms of fuel smuggling, Kedikoglou says
  • [24] Greeks should decide whether they need a new memorandum, SYRIZA leader
  • [25] Germany appoints new ambassador to Greece
  • [26] Admin. Reform draft law on public sector approved in principle by committee
  • [27] Supreme Court upholds sentence handed down to former minister Mantelis
  • [28] Deputy Dev't minister receives visiting Saudi Arabian parliamentary delegation
  • [29] Greece, Albania fire brigade chiefs discuss action against fires along shared borders
  • [30] Nursing staff on mobility reappointed to hospitals nationwide
  • [31] Energy minister presents 150-mln-euro package to reduce industry energy costs
  • [32] Return to economic growth needs to be sustainable, Eurobank CEO says
  • [33] Intralot extends contract with New Mexico lottery
  • [34] Peloponnese hoteliers on toll rates hike
  • [35] Seamen's union, ferry boat owners fail to agree in collective agreement talks
  • [36] Yachting, travel agencies associations join efforts to promote Greek tourism
  • [37] Greek stocks continue moving lower
  • [38] Greek bond market closing report
  • [39] ADEX closing report
  • [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [41] Environment minister addresses first meeting of 'FYSI 2000' committee
  • [42] Businessman requests reduction of 5 mln euro bail in TT case
  • [43] Earthquake jolts Cephalonia again
  • [44] Four more people died in the last 24hours from influenza outbreak
  • [45] Music composer Mikis Theodorakis in hospital with pneumonia
  • [46] Integration of 'Henry Dunant' hospital in NHS impossible for financial reasons, minister says
  • [47] Arsonists set fire to six cars early on Thursday
  • [48] TRAINOSE to launch freight train service to the Czech Republic in March
  • [49] Greek verses in the London Underground
  • [50] Greek NBA player sends prime minister a Milwaukee Bucks jersey
  • [51] Former TT chief Papadopoulos released on conditions
  • [52] Misdemeanors Council indicts 42 PAOK supporters in Thessaloniki
  • [53] Flu death toll reaches 51 in 2014
  • [54] Eighty-two buildings to be demolished on Cephalonia island in wake of earthquakes
  • [55] Fire in a yacht with five passengers on Thursday
  • [56] Gov't opens the way to construction of new AEK football stadium
  • [57] Overcast on Friday
  • [58] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies Politics

  • [01] Eurozone to take decisions on Greek debt in 2nd half of 2014, Eurogroup's head Dijsselbloem says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The euro area will take any decisions on Greece's debt in the second half of 2014, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijssel-bloem (R) said on Thursday during a hearing of the Europarlia-ment's Economic Affairs Committee.

    "There may still be way ahead but there is also results," he said referring to Greece. He did not elaborate though on the type and the amount of a possible new support package to Greece. He said "some optimistic voices" in Athens expect that Greece would not need a new programme and that this would be desirable.

    He acknowledged Greece had apparently achieved a significant primary surplus which would officially be rubber-stamped by Brussels at the end of April.

    Regarding the sustainability of the Greek debt, he said that eurozone member states and the IMF in December of 2012 agreed that under the current programme and regardless of any short-term variations it would be possible to reduce it to around 120 percent of GDP in 2022.

    He mentioned that any decisions on whether the situation had changed would be taken in the second half of 2014. He noted that Greece's partners had pledged they would consider measures for the further reduction of the Greek debt in case the achievement of the primary balance was ratified in April.

    Regarding the troika's arrival in Athens next Sunday, he expressed the hope that an agreement would be reached as soon as possible so that the Eurogroup meeting in March could approve the disbursal of the next tranche.

    He underlined the issue of putting forward structural changes that would facilitate Greek economic growth and noted that in Greece and other North European countries markets did not seem to operate normally as wages were falling but prices remained at the same levels. Those rigidities hinder growth and the fight against unemployment, he said.

    Asked by MEPs, citing Ireland as an example, if the retrospective support of the banks and their recapitalization without burdening the state budgets was under discussion, Dijsselbloem was affirmative. Regarding Greek banks he said their assessment was being properly concluded and that there was still a 10 billion euro cushion to cover for any emergencies.

    Asked on the privatization of state water utilities he said that Europe was in general against such a poliby but in Greece's case the country's authorities agreed to include the privatization in its bail-out programme.

    Asked whether the IMF plans to withdraw and if troika under its current form would be torn apart, he said member-states did not a unified stance on the issue, noting though that IMF's action has been so far positive for the eurozone.

    [02] EU Defernce ministers meeting concludes first-day proceedings

    An informal meeting of European Union Defence ministers, chaired by National Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, concluded its first day of proceedings at Zappeion Hall in central Athens on Thursday.

    The proceedings were followed by a visit to the Acropolis Museum and a dinner held by Avramopoulos.

    On Friday, Avramopoulos will hold a business lunch with Defence ministers who are also members of the European People's Party (EPP), before he the proceeding with the second day of the informal meeting, which is focused on EU peace operations. The meeting will be concluded with a press conference.

    In earlier in statements, before entering the meeting, Avramopoulos expressed his concern regarding the incidents in Ukraine. Responding to a quesion on whether Greece plans to send soldiers to the Central African Republic, he said that Greece is providing only technical support through the EU command center in Larissa, Thessaly.

    The two-day informal EU defence ministers' council kicked off on Thursday at the Zappion building, the headquarters of the Greek EU presidency in Athens. According to an announcement, the EU member-state defence ministers will discuss issues relating to EU operations currently underway in the Horn of Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mali and Somalia, as well as the planned operation in the Central Africa Republic and the next steps in implementing decisions taken at the EU summit in December 2013.

    On the sidelines of the council, National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had meetings with the European External Action Service Deputy Secretary Genreal Maciej Popowski and the UN Under Secretary General for peacekeeping operations Herve Ladsous. The latter meeting was also attended by the head of the Greek armed forces general staff.

    Prior to the council meeting, Avramopoulos had a meeting with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

    [03] FM Venizelos meets with FYROM premier Nikola Gruevski in Skopje

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)

    Greek Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski expressed their intention to accelerate negotiations over the latter country's name, under the auspices of the United Nations, and to strengthen bilateral cooperation, during their meeting in Skopje on Thursday.

    Venizelos, who is touring the western Balkans in his capacity as chairman of the European Union's Council of Ministers during Greece's EU Presidency, said that this role "obliges me to speak within the framework of the decisions made by the European Council in December for the European perspective of FYROM. I therefore have made it clear to my hosts that they are obliged to accept this framework and the Council's common stance, which focuses on good neighbourhood relations."

    These relations "are linked to both the open issue of (FYROM's) name and to the country's bilateral relations with other countries, such as Bulgaria. They are also linked to international law, international legality, and the resolutions of the UN Security Council in terms of the name," he added.

    He stressed the crucial importance of applying the Ohrid Summit decisions on the relations between FYROM's two large ethnic communities, especially in the case of the Albanian community, and to apply the agreement reached on March 1, 2013 among the country's parties. The problem of democracy, of a state of law and of human rights is open and remains crucial, he noted.

    Venizelos said Gruevski had realzied that both Greece and FYROM should utilise intensely the existing procedure with the help of UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz, within the UN Security Council framework.

    He added that Gruevski assured him FYROM did not have territorial claims or express any irredentism. "This is significant," the Greek FM said, but it must be turned into a creative stance in terms of (FYROM's) name."

    In terms of Greece's relations with it, he said that he discussed possibilities of collaboration in the sectors of energy, investments and trade, especially in inter-border collaboration that could also utilise EU funding.

    "The two economies are interlinked to a great degree. We are very interested in the country's domestic stability and Western orientation because this affects stability in the greater western Balkan area," he added. The Greek EU Presidency planned to hold, at end-April, a conference of EU Foreign ministers in Thessaloniki on supporting the area's EU prospects, he said.

    In an announcement from his office, FYROM Prime Minister Gruevski stressed the importance of continuing negotiations on the country's name under the auspices of the UN, and to continue talks on bilateral political level in order to take the edge off differences.

    He said that his country was prepared to continue to work towards strengthening good neighbourhood relations with Greece, and expanding economic cooperation.

    Later in the day, Venizelos returned to Pristina, from where he was expected to fly to Tirana for meetings before returning to Greece.

    [04] Foreign Minister Venizelos meets his fYRoM counterpart

    Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday met with former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (fYRoM) Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Poposki to discuss the enlargement policy of the European Union (EU) under the Greek presidency and the status of fYRoM.

    Venizelos is paying a visit to Skopje as part of a tour to the capitals of the Western Balkans, in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers of the EU.

    Regarding the issue of the name, Poposki stated that "the political climate in Greece ahead of the European parliament elections and the municipal elections does not favour the intensification of negotiations for a solution" and called on Greece to respect the verdict of the Hague tribunal in 2011 and and allow the integration of fYRoM into NATO and the EU.

    Venizelos also met with fYRoM's President Gjorge Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Fatmir Besimi, the leader of the largest opposition party Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) Zoran Zaev, the leader of the coalition Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party Ali Ahmeti. In the afternoon he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

    Venizelos will also meet with the ambassadors of the EU member states in Skopje. A press conference will follow.

    He will return to Pristina and then travel by plane to Tirana in the last stop of his tour.

    [05] Venizelos received by fYRoM president

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Fragopoulos)

    Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, currently on a visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) was received by fYRoM President Georgi Ivanov on Thursday.

    According to an announcement released by Ivanov's office, the fYRoM president expressed hope that Greece's EU presidency will remain dedicate to a policy of EU enlargement, noting his country's steady progress in accession negotiation and noting that the main obstacle to the country's accession was now the name dispute with Greece.

    He referred to the need to boost mutual trust between the two countries, which can be achieved through frequent contact and meetings on all levels and repeated his "open invitation" to the Greek president to visit fYRoM.

    [06] FM Venizelos calls for immediate stop to violence in Ukraine

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)

    Government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday expressed concern about the escalation of violence in the Ukraine, in statements from Skopje. He underlined that the violence must stop immediately, with the help of the international community.

    "Unfortunately, a ray of hope created earlier this morning with the ceasfire in the Ukraine has dissipated. The violence has escalated and the dead are increasing. It is an obligation of all factors in the Ukraine to stop the violence. To reach an understanding and ensure the democratic function of their country, its internal stability and integrity. In this way, they will find their place in the European continent, in which they - in any case - belong historically and geographically, but must also belong institutionally and culturally. The role of the EU is crucial, as is the role of the United States and Russia. The international community has an obligation to mobilise and help the country by exercising every legal and permissible pressure so that it stands on its feet, remains stable and does not descend into civil war," Venizelos said

    [07] FM Venizelos on condition in Ukraine

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)

    Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos is in direct contact with his counterparts on the crisis in Ukraine.

    "Let us hope that yesterday's (Wednesday) ceasefire in Ukraine is the first step towards calming the situation and the de-escalation of the violence. The condemnation of the violence is absolute and all the political and social forces of Ukraine should contribute in order to overcome the crisis and form a government of consensus that will lead the country to unity and to the restoration of the order, the safeguarding of the territorial integrity that will finally lead the Ukrainian people to their major aim which is to become a great nation and a major factor of the European continent, as they are and deserve to be," said Venizelos who is currently paying an official visit to Skopje.

    Venizelos also stressed that "the Greek EU presidency's thoughts are with the victims, their families and the injured and sternly condemns whoever offers an incentive or incites violence or escalates violence".

    "We are working closely with the High Representative of EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and we are constantly in contact with many of our colleagues. A mobilisation is obviously necessary, not just by the European Union but also by the international community. The role of the United States and the Russia Federation is very important. The messages are very clear and (Ukrainian) President (Viktor) Yanukovych as well as all the parties playing a role in Ukraine will take them into consideration" said Venizelos.

    According to information, Venizelos on Thursday is expected to have a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

    [08] EU considering sanctions after most recent violence in Ukraine

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Thursday participated in a meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers Council (FAC) called urgently in Brussels to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions on those responsible for violent incidents in Ukraine as well as to impose an embargo on the country regarding supplies that authorities can use for violent crackdowns.

    The possible sanctions being considered by the EU include visa travel bans and the freezing of bank accounts, says the draft document issued after the minister's meeting.

    The draft document underlines the EU foreign ministers unease regarding the situation in Ukraine, notting that "nothing justifies the crackdown."

    The ministers are calling for an immediate termination of violence and respect for human rights and are calling on Ukraine's government to display the utmost restraint in its actions, and opposition leaders to keep their distance from those engaging in radical and violent acts.

    [09] PM Samaras attends luncheon with G20 ambassadors, speaks with EU VP by phone

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attended a luncheon at noon on Thursday with ambassadors of G20 countries to Athens hosted at the Australian embassy.

    Later in the afternoon, Samaras, in his capacity as the EU Council President, had a telephone communication with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, also Vice President of the European Commission, and focusing on the situation in Ukraine following the latest events in Kiev.

    [10] Prime minister meets representatives of the court staff federation

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with representatives of the court staff federation on Thursday at Maximos Mansion.

    Operational issues of justice and more particularly issues related to a faster and more efficient use of it were discussed during the meeting, as were issues related to the sector.

    The meeting was attended by Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou and Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. According to representatives of court officials, it was the first time that the Prime Minister received representatives of their federation.

    [11] Gov't spokesman attacks main opposition leader over positions on economy

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Thursday attacked main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras over his positions on the economy, accusing him of "base slander of his country" by saying that he would cancel all the agreements made, even those dealing with a reduction of Greece's debt.

    Kedikoglou stressed that the sacrifices of the Greek people were starting to bring results and Greece, for the first time since 1948, had a twin surplus and was on the road to recovery. At the same time, he added, SYRIZA's economic affairs head Yiannis Milios had termed the surplus a 'crime' for the Greek economy, while the more 'moderate' Yiannis Dragassakis had talked of preparations for "Greece's exit from the eurozone".

    "We thought that SYRIZA's folly had limits. But this goes beyond them, it becomes dangerous for the country's stability and undermines the huge sacrifices made by the Greek people," he stressed.

    [12] State Legal Council's report on German war reparations

    The report by State Legal Council's (NSK) working group on the German war reparations and the occupation loan has been handed over to Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    According to a document tabled to parliament by the Foreign Minister, the report was submitted to the Ministry as "confidential" on February 11.

    Venizelos on February 12 sent a letter to the president of the NSK. He asked the NSK's proposal on the handling of the case to be submitted as a plenum opinion under the article 100A of the Constitution and the legislation on the State's Legal Council.

    The article 100A of the Greek Constitution defines among others that "the judicial support and representation of the State falls within the State Legal Counci's jurisdiction."

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Bank of Greece (BoG) governor Giorgos Provopoulos have been informed on the developments.

    The Greek parliament will establish a special interparty committee on the German war reparations issue.

    [13] Foreign ministry replies to MP Glezos on German reparations

    The Foreign ministry, in an announcement replying to a statement by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy Manolis Glezos on the issue of German World War II reparations, stressed the following:

    "When (Mr.) Glezos reads the report by the State Legal Council's work group, he will realise that the initiative by Government Vice President and Foreign Minister (Evangelos Venizelos) to invite the opinion of the Legal Council of State's plenum on the overall handling of the issue and the further cooperation of officials of the Bank of Greece and the State General Accounting Office was the only path for the practical and effective protection of Greek national interests".

    [14] Energy minister asks EU Commission to continue 'Save at Home' energy conservation programme

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Thursday sent a letter to European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger, asking that he approve a continuation of Greece's EU-subsidised 'Save at Home' programme for improving energy conservation and efficiency in Greek buildings, as well as the addition of further incentives.

    A ministry press release said that the minister also raised the issue with European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn during a recent event held in Brussels, obtaining a positive initial response to the proposal. The commissioner's reply is expected soon, enabling the programme to continue without interruption.

    In statements to reporters, Maniatis noted that energy conservation was one of the key supports of an alternative growth model for the country, generating wealth and jobs and benefiting low and middle-income Greek households.

    He noted that the programme had now proved, after 25,000 interventions, that it helps boost the national economy and creates new jobs, assisting local industries that produce raw materials, since over 70 pct of the materials used are produced in Greece. At the same time, the country would be reducing its carbon footprint, along with other actions taken to improve energy efficiency and conservation.

    [15] Examining magistrates request the lifting of parliamentary immunity of nine GD MPs

    The examining magistrates handling the ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) criminal organization case referred to actions "aimed at forcibly imposing the organization's principles and positions" in documents they addressed to Parliament, in which they request the lifting of Parliamentary immunity of another nine members of the GD Parliamentary group, it was announced on Thursday.

    The request filed by the two magistrates, Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou, concerns GD MPs Eleni Zaroulia, Nikos Kouzilos, Mihalis Arvanitis-Avramis, Antonis Gregos, Polyvios Zissimopoulos, Artemis Mattheopoulos, Konstantinos Barbaroussis, Dimitris Koukoutsis and Chryssovalantis Alexopoulos, in order to face charges in the criminal organization case.

    The magistrates, citing evidence included in the case file, want the specific GD MPs to be stripped of their Parliamentary immunity to face criminal charges for participating and directing a criminal organization.

    They also requested the lifting of Parliamentary immunity for the defendants Nikos Mihaloliakos, Giorgos Germenis, Stathis Boukouras, Ioanns Lagos, Nikos Mihos and Ilias Kassidiaris in order to press additional charges against them for possession of guns and explosives. Mihos and Kassidiaris have been released on conditions after testifying in the criminal organization case.

    Furthermore, a request has been filed to lift the Parliamentary immunity of Nikos Mihaloliakos, Christos Pappas and Nikos Mihos to face additional misdemeanour charges. Mihaloliakos is accused of gun possession, Pappas is facing charges for illicit trade in antiquities, after two ecclesiastical books dated back to 1830 were found in his possession, and Mihos is facing drug-related charges for 2.4 grams of cannabis found in his possession.

    The magistrates based their request on 115 witness testimonies and evidence seized in the homes of the GD MPs already facing charges, as well as testimonies given by GD MPs.

    They also referred to videos, electronic evidence and photographs seized that show the leader of the party and MPs giving the Nazi salute and mentioned actions by members of the organization including the Pavlos Fyssas murder in Keratsini, the murder of Pakistani national Lukman Shahzat in Petralona and the attacks in Perama targeting Communist Party (KKE) members and Egyptian fishermen.

    The document signed by the two examining magistrates includes a detailed account of the weapons seized in the homes of GD MPs and the content of speeches by GD MPs that allegedly can be used against them in court, while it is underlined that since its founding in 1980 the organization indoctrinated its members with national-socialism views by making clear references to the Third Reich, Adolph Hitler and the Nazi SS.

    [16] Prosecutors' association reacts to Golden Dawn spokesman's statements

    The prosecutors' association on Thursday reacted strongly to statements by ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, who had called them names over their proposal to lift immunity of more Golden Dawn deputies in order to face criminal charges.

    The MPs in question are not defendants in the ongoing case examining the criminal liabilities of the party leader and deputies who are already being detained.

    Referring to the statements made by Kassidiaris, the association underlined that they constitute "pitiful proof of an unprecedented perception by active MPs on how state institutions operate, justice included," adding that "the people can reach their own conclusions."

    Soon after he was informed of the moves made by the examining magistrates earlier in the day, Kassidiaris lashed out at the government and the judges who "prey on the judiciary".

    Referring to the PM and vice president, Kassidiaris underlined that "the Venizelos-Samaras junta, after realizing that Golden Dawn will be the winner in European, municipal and regional authority elections, has ordered certain punks who prey on the judiciary to put all of our MPs in jail."

    He said that "these developments will lead to Golden Dawn's sweeping victory in May's (double) elections. The traitors, politicians and members of the judiciary, who are committing high treason against the Greek people, the form of government and the homeland will receive a harsh punishment".

    [17] Greece became the 12th member of eCommerce Europe

    Greece became a member of the European Electronic Commerce commonly known as "eCommerce Europe". The official accession ceremony of Greece to the organization as the 12th member will be held on March 13 in Brussels in the presence of the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy.

    GRECA (Greek eCommerce Association)-(ESHE) and eCommerce Europe had begun discussions since the beginning of 2013 and on Thursday the two parties announced their agreement in Brussels.

    Greece with its accession to the eCommerce Europe through GRECA will be at the center of the European developments in the sector of electronic commerce which exceeded 3 billion euros in turnover in Greece for 2013. The 11 other European countries of the organization are: Austria, Belgium, France, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, and Finland.

    Board President of GRECA Nikos Goulis said in a statement "We are very happy to be part of eCommerce Europe, since we need openness in our industry. From now on we will be able to discuss and decide with our European colleagues on issues that will strengthen our national strategy on electronic commerce with emphasis on exports".

    Chairman of the Board of eCommerce Europe Francois Momboisse added on his part "With enthusiasm we welcomed Greece within eCommerce Europe. When we saw that the industry of e-commerce in Greece was rising with one of the fastest rates in Europe, defying the crisis in your economy, we understood the dynamic you have as a country. It is impressive how much you've grown in the last 3 years and we hope that you will continue with similar rates and greater extroversion in the following years."

    GRECA-ESHE aims to safeguard and promote the common interests of its members and of e-commerce in general. Members to GRECA can become online shops and companies that provide services to them. 115 companies have already become members of GRECA with sales volume of over 1.2 billion euros in 2013.

    [18] Farmers delegation meet with Macedonia-Thrace Minister

    A 20-member Northern Greek farmers delegation met on Thursday with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou.

    The farmers had gathered outside the ministry in Thessaloniki, part of their mobilizations against their new taxation.

    The farmers stated their requests to the minister and handed over a relevant petition.

    [19] Deputy Rural Development Minister Harakopoulos on the farmers' demands

    The General Secretariat for Public Revenue will speed up the procedures for the issuance of a circular that will include the necessary clarifications on the changes introduced in the taxation of farmers, Deputy Rural Development Minister Maximos Harakopoulos said on Thursday in an interview with ANA-MPA, noting that this was confirmed by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

    The deputy rural development minister underlined that the farmers keeping books of accounts will continue to be insured by the Agricultural Insurance Organization (OGA), noting that they will have to visit their accountant only once a year when they file their tax return.

    Referring to the ongoing farmers' mobilizations launched 20 days ago, he underlined that the farmers and Greek society as a whole are faced with difficulties because of the economic crisis, noting that the channels of communication with the farmers are open and efforts are focused on finding solutions to lasting dysfunctions.

    As regards the high energy cost that leads to high production cost, he said that electricity rates will not be raised until next year, underlining that "prices will not be reduced and there will be no economic growth if primary production becomes the target".

    [20] SYRIZA's Glezos on Venizelos' stance as regards the German debt to Greece

    Veteran leftist politician Manolis Glezos, a state deputy for main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), on Thursday strongly criticized the stance of government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on the German war reparations issue and spoke about indefinite postponement of relevant claims.

    Glezos noted that Venizelos, referring to the German debts to Greece, had told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs on July 30, 2013 that the issue had been referred to a committee chaired by the president of the Legal Council of the State for a consultatory response.

    Glezos also underlined that in response to a question he tabled on February 11, 2014, Venizelos referred to the consultatory response of the aforementioned committee as a "proposal" and requested a second opinion by the Legal Council of the State.

    "Wasting time is part of the mockery as far as the handling of this national issue is concerned," Glezos said.

    "Is Venizelos afraid to admit that he is not willing to exert pressure on the German government as far as the German debt issue is concerned? Is he afraid to admit that he defers the German debt issue to the Greek calends?" Glezos underlined.

    [21] PASOK accuses Tsipras of discrediting the country

    PASOK, one of the two partners in the coalition government, commented on the speech delivered on Thursday by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, noting that his references to a "Greece which is 'destroyed and worn to a shadow', discredit the country and devalue the sacrifices of the Greek people".

    PASOK underlined that "Tsipras would have wanted our country to be destroyed but thankfully he has failed" and called on SYRIZA to "come up with a new communication strategy" because "the anti-memorandum and destruction narrative is obsolete, meaningless and tiresome".

    [22] DIMAR leader on memorandum and alternatives

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) president Fotis Kouvelis, speaking during his visit to the Thessaloniki Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises on Thursday, said that "I did not vote for any memorandum, or medium-term measures, nor any laws implementing them, but if some believe that tomorrow they will be tearing up the memorandum, it will be better for them to choose Plan B - the return to the drachma".

    Kouvelis termed as a "mistake" the view that Greece would not be driven out of the eurozone on the grounds that the eurozone would fall apart if this happened and stressed that DIMAR participated in the coalition government to assume its patriotic responsibility because Greece had defaulted in essence and there was the danger of its defaulting formally as well.

    As regards the debt, he said that if there is no restructuring, our country will never be able to serve it. For this reason he said that tough negotiating is necessary to extend its repayment, to transfer part of the debt to the European Central Bank through the eurobonds and to cut a portion of the debt.

    Municipal police staff transfer to public services an exemplary case of mobility scheme, Adm.Reform Minister says

    The absorption of the vast majority of the 2,900 municipal police officers by the police, prisons, regional immigration services and the finance ministry, expected to be completed next month, is an exemplary case of the mobility scheme, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Mega TV on Thursday.

    Mitsotakis reiterated the government has been committed to 11,000 layoffs in 2014 in addition to the 3,600 employees already made redundant in 2013. The number of layoffs will include National Organization for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) doctors who will choose to keep their private practices and not continue working in public health care system, he added.

    Meanwhile, the mobility scheme for municipality employees begins on Thursday and any requests for staff shall be sent to the Interior Ministry until March 6.

    [23] Gov't determined to combat all forms of fuel smuggling, Kedikoglou says

    The government has the will to crack down on all forms of fuel smuggling, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Thursday after the recent dismantling of a fuel smuggling ring.

    "We need to put an end to all forms of smuggling," Kedikoglou told ANT1 TV station. He underlined that the dismantling of a fuel smuggling ring on Wednesday proved the government's will to combat smuggling in marine fuels.

    [24] Greeks should decide whether they need a new memorandum, SYRIZA leader

    Greece, which is already in a pre-election period, is ready not only to turn a page but change completely and play a key role in Europe, main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday.

    Tsipras noted that the government does not have the mandate to commit the country to a new memorandum, adding that it is the Greek people who will have to decide whether they need it.

    Speaking at an event in Athens on "Financial crisis and challenges of democracy", organized by the GUE/NGL European Parliamentary Group and co-organized by SYRIZA, Tsipras expressed his optimism that his party would win in the upcoming European Parliament elections, noting that Greece, which has suffered from an unprecedented harsh policy, has changed over the last four years.

    "The outgoing government gives the last desperate rearguard battle to hold on to power," SYRIZA leader said.

    Tsipras underlined that the memoranda have completely failed, destroying the productive base of the country, increasing unemployment to unprecedented levels and having created a humanitarian crisis, adding that Greece is a country that is dying a slow death because it was used as a guinea pig for the crisis by European leaders.

    He also stressed the need to alter this situation in Greece and the EU in general and estimated that "if this policy continues, Greece's debt will spike to 205 percent of GDP in 2015."

    [25] Germany appoints new ambassador to Greece

    The Federal Republic of Germany on Thursday appointed Dr. Peter Schoof as the new German ambassador to Greece.

    Schoof was head of the European department of Germany's Foreign ministry responsible for bilateral relations with the rest of EU member-states. He is also a former ambassador to Damascus and former rapporteur for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    Ambassador Schoof was born in 1955 and has studied political science and history at Freiburg University. He is married, with two children.

    [26] Admin. Reform draft law on public sector approved in principle by committee

    Parliament's Public Administration Committee approved in principle on Thursday night a draft law by the Administrative Reform ministry calling for the shutdown of public agencies, a new staff evaluation system and a review of all short-term contracts that became permanent.

    The draft law was largely approved by the co-governing parties of New Democracy and PASOK, with objections raised on specific articles and with a commitment by Administration Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for changes in legal procedure that take into account MPs' comments. Responding to an Independent Greeks deputy's comment, he also said that he would table in the plenum one of several feasibility studies on mergers that his ministry had compiled in the past and which had never been used.

    Objections were raised by deputies in particular about article 43, which calls for the review of short-term contracts turned long-term, and on certain agencies that would be shut down, such as the National Roadwork Construction Fund, the National Institute of Labour and Human Resources, and the Organisation of Lake Kopais.

    Concerning the latter, Mitsotakis said, "We are open to counter-proposals, but not to requests to revoke the article, as the present Organisation is in the red, and during the last few years the former Environment ministry had paid 2.5 million euros to cover outstanding debts to the Athens-Piraeus Water Company (EYDAP). Our proposal is to transfer jurisdiction to the region, and we are giving (the agency) eight months to get ready."

    Examining magistrates request lifting of immunity of non-accused Golden Dawn MPs

    Examining magistrates for Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) case requested on Thursday from the Greek parliament to lift the immunity of the Golden Dawn MPs not pending trial.

    The two magistrates, Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitrokali, ask the lifting of the deputies' immunity in order to testify on the charges of participating and running a criminal organization. Moreover, they estimated that additional charges should be pressed against the already accused MPs Giorgos Germenis, Ilias Kassidiaris, Stathis Boukouras, Nikos Michos, Yiannis Lagos and Golden Dawn's leader Nikos Mihaloliakos for possession of fire guns and munitions with aim to supply the criminal organization.

    [27] Supreme Court upholds sentence handed down to former minister Mantelis

    The criminal cases section of the Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) on Thursday upheld the three-year suspended sentence handed down to former PASOK transport minister Tassos Mantelis by the Athens Appellate Court of Appeals for filing an inaccurate source of wealth statement.

    The Supreme Court rejected a request filed by Mantelis' attorneys to overturn the Athens Appellate Court ruling on charges of filing an inaccurate source of wealth statement in the period during which he had received the amount of 450,000 DM from the Siemens parent company.

    Speaking before a parliamentary investigation committee in May 2010, Mantelis had testified that he had received two remittances of 200,000 DM and 250,000 DM each, deposited in Swiss bank accounts under the code name "A. Rocos", the beneficiary of which was the former PASOK minister's best man Giorgos Tsougranis.

    Mantelis insisted that the amount in question was an election campaign donation by Siemens.

    [28] Deputy Dev't minister receives visiting Saudi Arabian parliamentary delegation

    Deputy Development & Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis on Thursday met with a visiting Saudi Arabian parliamentary delegation participating in the Saudi Arabia-Greece Parliamentary Friendship Group.

    They discussed bilateral relations, the prospects for their further development on trade, financial and business level, as well as developments in the greater Middle East region.

    [29] Greece, Albania fire brigade chiefs discuss action against fires along shared borders

    The heads of the Greek and Albanian fire brigade had a meeting on Thursday to discuss cooperation in tackling fires 'imported' across their shared borders during the summer months, in Epirus and Western Macedonia. The meeting was attended by the head of the Greek fire brigade Lieut. Gen. Vassilis Papageorgiou.

    It focused on issues relating to fire-fighting along the 400-km Greek-Albanian border, on briefing the Albanian side and enriching a cooperation memorandum on fire protection signed a few years ago.

    After the meeting, Papageorgiou said that there were many problems with fires on the border and that the meeting had sought to deal with some of those. He noted that the Albanian fire brigade had just 741 firemen and was "still in its infancy" in terms of effectiveness.

    He said the Greek side had offered to provide training and help in legal issues, asking the Albanian side to put its requests in writing and identify the specific area on which bilateral cooperation must focus. Among shortcomings arising during the talks at the meeting, he noted that the Albanian side had no legal framework for fire prevention nor funds to recruit fire wardens, adding that they would need support in this area.

    A follow-up meeting between the two sides is to be arranged by the Greek and Albanian consuls in Gjirokastr and Ioannina, respectively, before the main season for fires and with the participation of local authority personnel that must also be involved in the effort to prevent forest fires.

    [30] Nursing staff on mobility reappointed to hospitals nationwide

    Two hundred nurses and nurse's aides who had been included in the Education ministry's mobility programme are being reappointed to hospitals throughout the country, filling vacancies in nursing staff.

    The relevant decision, also in cooperation with the Administrative Reform minister, was signed by Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday.

    Financial News

    [31] Energy minister presents 150-mln-euro package to reduce industry energy costs

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Thursday presented a 150-million-euro package of measures designed to reduce energy costs for industry. In a meeting with reporters, Maniatis said this would include measures reducing the cost of electricity and natural gas, with the government in the final stages of a negotiation with Russia's Gazprom for lower gas prices.

    The minister said the measures will be discuss on Friday by the Interministerial Committee on Industry and be put into motion by next Tuesday, adding that the government was exhausting all the capacity of the economy to support the sustainability of Greece's industry.

    During Friday's meeting on industry, the political leadership of the environment ministry will propose the adoption of tax incentives to boost the 'Save at Home' programme for improving building energy efficiency, which the government is striving to continue uninterrupted until 2020.

    Deputy Environment Minister Assimakis Papageorgiou presented actions taken to reduce energy costs, which included:

    Making the fee for renewable energy sources the same for high-voltage and medium-voltage industry, launching an 'interruptibility' system for high-voltage industrial uses, natural gas discounts by distributing Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) profits among its customers, preserving natgas discounts for large customers up to 2015 even if they do not meet the high consumption rates in their contracts, and passing on the price reduction arising from the negotiations with Gazprom.

    [32] Return to economic growth needs to be sustainable, Eurobank CEO says

    A return to growth must have a sustainable nature, Christos Megalou, Eurobank's chief executive said on Thursday.

    Addressing an event during a visit to the prefectures of Achaia and Korinthia, the Greek banker added that sustainable growth should be based on healthy enterprises, with export-orientation, strong production base, innovative products, competitive in globalized markets. "That in turn, needed investments and enterprises needed liquidity and support from the banking system," he noted, adding that "that's how we see our role, Eurobank's role in a new phase that will signal the country's exit from the crisis".

    "The money we seek to raise service this goal. To be able to contribute in the funding of the economy," he noted.

    "Relation with clients was at the center of our new strategy," Megalou said, adding "we want to be and we are, steadily and in the long-term, your bank".

    Dr. Platon Monokrousos, deputy managing director and head of analysis and research of international markets, said that "without any doubt the most recent figures signal a stabilization of the Greek economy after an unprecedented recession which shrank the country's real GDP by around 25.8 points and the loss of hundreds of thousands of job positions in the period 2008-2013".

    [33] Intralot extends contract with New Mexico lottery

    Intralot USA on Thursday announced a three-year extension of its contract with New Mexico lottery in the United States, until 2018.

    In an announcement, Intralot USA said it will continue offering the LOTOS O/S central system, terminals and a satellite network connecting the system throughout the state of New Mexico.

    Constantinos Antonopoulos, chief executive of Intralot Group, commenting on the agreement said that "Intralot's well established presence in the US market validated the relation of trust we have developed with American lotteries".

    [34] Peloponnese hoteliers on toll rates hike

    The hoteliers of Laconia region in an announcement on Thursday expressed their concern over the impact of higher toll rates on tourism in the Peloponnese.

    According to the Hoteliers Association of Laconia, the cost of toll rates exceed in some cases the cost of travelling by plane.

    The Tourist Organization of Peloponnese expressed its concern and discontent over the tolls rate hike given that the promotion of tourism in the Peloponnese is mainly based on the road accessibility as well as on the attraction of tourists from the domestic market.

    [35] Seamen's union, ferry boat owners fail to agree in collective agreement talks

    Talks between the seamen's union PNO and ferry boat owners broke down on Thursday, during a meeting held to discuss the signature of a new collective agreement to replace those that expired at the end of 2013. Ferry boat owners stressed the need to reduce labour costs on ships, calling for individual contracts, lower wages for hotel staff by 15 pct, and half-pay for those on leave and those filling in for colleages on ships.

    The ship-owners' proposals were rejected by PNO, with trade unionists describing them as "provocative" and blamed a "collapse" of coastal shipping on deregulation, calling it an "absolute failure of private initiative in the sensitive area of coastal transport" and warning of the formation of monopolies.

    [36] Yachting, travel agencies associations join efforts to promote Greek tourism

    The Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association (HPYOA) and Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies (HATTA) have joined forces to promote Greek tourism and yachting, they announced in a press conference on Thursday.

    In the context of their cooperation, they said they will co-host the 13th East Med Yacht Show on May 2-7 at Poros island, attended by tour operators and travel agents as hosted buyers, while they will also undertake to promote yachting in the domestic market through Greek tour operators and create an electronic platform to present the Greek yachts' technical specifications.

    [37] Greek stocks continue moving lower

    Greek stocks continued moving lower for the fourth consecutive session this week in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market fell 0.50 pct to end at 1,250.25 points, after rising as much as 1,258.88 points and falling to 1,242.67 points during the session. Turnover fell to a low 42.84 million euros.

    The Large Cap index ended 0.62 pct lower and the Mid Cap index rose 0.54 pct. Piraeus Port (1.73 pct), Athens Water (1.40 pct) and Motor Oil (1.14 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (2.78 pct), Jumbo (2.67 pct), Titan (2.24 pct) and Ellaktor (1.94 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Technology (2.21 pct), Food (0.87 pct) and Oil (0.27 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Insurance (2.05 pct), Construction (2.0 pct) and Personal Products (2.0 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 75 to 60 with another 26 issues unchanged. Kyriakoulis (23.89 pct), Nakas (20.69 pct) and Spider (20 pct) were top gainers while Xylemporia (25 pct), Athina (19.5 pct) and Atti-kat (17.86 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: -0.80%

    Insurance: -2.05%

    Financial Services: -0.20%

    Industrial Products: -0.11%

    Commercial: -0.83%

    Real Estate: -0.06%

    Personal & Household: -2.00%

    Food & Beverages: +0.87%

    Raw Materials: -0.91%

    Construction: -2.00%

    Oil: +0.27%

    Chemicals: +0.26%

    Media: -0.93%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.57%

    Technology: +2.21%

    Telecoms: -0.25%

    Utilities: -0.06%

    Health: +0.11%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, OPAP, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.69

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.76

    Coca Cola HBC: 19.35

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.02

    National Bank of Greece: 3.50

    Eurobank Properties : 7.96

    OPAP: 10.15

    OTE: 12.07

    Piraeus Bank: 1.92

    Titan: 22.24

    [38] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was almost unchanged at 5.92 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 5.93 pct the previous day. The Greek bond yielded 7.61 pct and the German Bund 1.69 pct. Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, one buy order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.545 pct from 0.547 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.464 pct from 0.466 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.384 pct from 0.386 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.286 pct from 0.287 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.221 pct from 0.224 pct.

    [39] ADEX closing report

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a small discount of 0.22 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising sharply to 80.722 million euros.

    Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 37,109 contracts worth 75.729 million euros, with 59,136 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 8,468 contracts worth 4.993 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (1,456), followed by Alpha Bank (1,012), National Bank (1,298), Piraeus Bank (1,238), MIG (572), PPC (772), OPAP (257), Mytilineos (619), Hellenic Petroleum (294), Intralot (304), Jumbo (154), Titan (90), Ellaktor (77) and Metka (23).

    [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.391

    Pound sterling 0.834

    Danish kroner 7.574

    Swedish kroner 9.095

    Japanese yen 142.01

    Swiss franc 1.238

    Norwegian kroner 8.487

    Canadian dollar 1.541

    Australian dollar 1.549

    General News

    [41] Environment minister addresses first meeting of 'FYSI 2000' committee

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Thursday emphasised the ministry's desire to actively support the 'FYSI 2000' Committee in its role as a central scientific advisory body for the state in matters dealing with protecting Greece's biodiversity.

    Addressing the first meeting of the committee, Maniatis noted that this coincided with the launch and implementation of the national strategy on biodiversity, a five-year plan for its implementation and the start of dialogue to organise a national system for the administration and management of protected regions.

    He urged the committee chairman, Prof. Constantinos Thanos and the committee to contribute to organising the dialogue for a national system for protected areas, due to be completed by the autumn.

    [42] Businessman requests reduction of 5 mln euro bail in TT case

    A prosecutor in the case of Hellenic Postbank (TT) and the unsecured loans the bank issued called on the investigating magistrate on Thursday to approve a reduction in the five-million-euro bail set for businessman Dimitris Kontominas, one of the defendants in the case.

    Prosecutor Popi Papandreou supported a request by Kontominas, who is charged with receiving loans on behalf of companies in his group, that his bail be reduced by a million euros.

    Kontominas testified on January 14 from a hospital bed and denied charges of not providing securities for the loans. He also expressed the intent to provide further guarantees to TT.

    The question of his status became contentious when the investigating magistrate had proposed his release on a five-million-euro bail and conditions, while Papandreou proposed that he be detained. A misdemeanours court had decided to follow the magistrate's proposal with the bail, including an obligatory appearance at the local police department thrice a month and a ban on leaving the country.

    The TT case has involved several top-level company officials, including former chairman and CEO Angelos Filippidis (free on a two-million bail and conditions) and his successor, former chairman Cleon Papadopoulos, who was released following his testimony and is also facing criminal charges.

    [43] Earthquake jolts Cephalonia again

    An earthquake jolted again the island of Cephalonia at 1.08 am on Thursday.

    According to the Geodynamics Institute of Athens the quake was measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale and its depth was 5km.

    However, the Euromediterrenean Seismological Center said that the tremor was measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale and its depth was 2km with epicenter 18 km northwest of Argostoli.

    [44] Four more people died in the last 24hours from influenza outbreak

    The death toll of flu virus reached 49 after the death of four more people within the last 24hours from complications due to the flu virus. Moreover five new flu-like incidents were transferred to intensive care units (ICUs) on Thursday.

    According to figures released by the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO), a total of 160 people have been treated in serious condition in intensive care units since the start of the influenza outbreak, while 56 are still being treated in hospitals.

    KEELPNO calls those belonging to high risk groups with flu-like symptoms to get vaccinated and receive preventive treatment.

    [45] Music composer Mikis Theodorakis in hospital with pneumonia

    World renowned music composer Mikis Theodorakis was admitted into an Athens hospital on Thursday with pneumonia and high fever. His personal doctors suggested he should follow "conservative medication".

    [46] Integration of 'Henry Dunant' hospital in NHS impossible for financial reasons, minister says

    "The integration of the 'Henry Dunant' hospital in the National Health System (ESY) is impossible for financial reasons,'' Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis stressed on Thursday, speaking to Parliament's Social Affairs Committee."If the court decision prohibiting the government from intervening in the Red Cross and the 'Henry Dunant' Foundation taken two days ago is not overturned, the bankruptcy of the hospital and the expulsion of the Greek Red Cross from the international Red Cross are guaranteed," he added.

    When informing the Commission of developments regarding the Greek Red Cross and 'Henry Dunant' Foundation, members of KKE and SYRIZA but also ND deputy Gerassimos Giakoumatos proposed the inclusion of the hospital in ESY as a solution to the issue.

    [47] Arsonists set fire to six cars early on Thursday

    A series of car arsons took place early on Thursday in the Attica region.

    Specifically, unidentified people set fire at 3.45 a.m. to six cars of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) parked in a garage, causing severe damages.

    The Fire Department is carrying out a preliminary investigation on the case in collaboration with the police.

    Earlier in the morning, at 2.25 a.m., arsonists set fire to a car in Egaleo, while another car, in Agia Varvara, went up in flames at 4 a.m.

    [48] TRAINOSE to launch freight train service to the Czech Republic in March

    TRAINOSE rail operator in the coming weeks is expected to launch a freight train service, transporting Hewlett-Packard products from Cosco's terminal at Piraeus port to the Czech Republic.

    According to TRAINOSE's chairman and CEO Athanassios Ziliaskopoulos during an event organized by the Development ministry on Shift2Rail research programme, these routes will run twice a week and on a provisional base for about a three-month period.

    Trains, transferring 80 containers, will reach HP assembly factory in the Czech Republic after crossing six countries, with their transport taking 10 days less compared to the existing shipping routes.

    Referring to HP-COSCO-TRAINOSE agreement, Ziliaskopoulos said that this has put the company "on the map on the international supply chain". He underlined though the difficulties of the project as the railway networks of the countries involved in it (Greece, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Czech Republic) had to harmonize to HP standards.

    Development ministry secretary general Nikos Stathopoulos referred to the privatization of TRAINOSE and Hellenic Company for Rolling Stock Maintenance (EESSTY) and said candidate investors showed "significant and serious" interest, commenting on the contacts he had on the sidelines of the event.

    The European rail research and innovation programme Shift2Rail has a 920 million euro budget which will be covered from the private sector and the European Commission. The programme is expected to be approved in March under the Greek presidency. Its aim is to contribute through research to a unified European rail market, which will be based on interoperability and connectivity, in line with the aviation market standards.

    Deputy Transport Minister Michalis Papadopoulos said this programme, a public and private sector partnership, was "a major breakthrough" that would boost innovation by cutting rail transport costs and help offer more credible and regular train services.

    "It is an ambitious public and private sector partnership, which will manage a 7-year programme of targeted research and innovation for the development of better rail services in Europe and contribute significantly to the integration of a single European railway area, making Europe a hub of growth and extroversion of new innovative technologies," he added.

    British MEP Brian Simpson, chairman of the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Commission, expressed the hope that the Europarliament would not cut the earmarked budget and added that the Shift2Rail programme was necessary in order to "complete our work in other areas of the EU railway legislation, so that railways can compete successfully with other means of transport."

    [49] Greek verses in the London Underground

    Verses of Sappho will be heard on Thursday night at the Keats House museum during the inauguration of the event "Greek Poems on the Underground".

    Between now and early April, six posters with verses from seven poems will be put up in London's subway system, while the poems will also be posted on hundreds of trains, with millions of passengers able to read them in English.

    The event is part of the activities for the Greek EU Presidency, in cooperation with the Greek Embassy in London and the Hellenic Foundation for Culture.

    The Keats House was the home of the great British Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821). During the event, the poem of John Keats dedicated to Homer but also the composition of his great friend Lord Byron devoted to the islands of Greece along with verses by Nikos Gatsos, Constantin Cavafy and lyric poet Anyte (3rd century BC) will also be heard.

    [50] Greek NBA player sends prime minister a Milwaukee Bucks jersey

    Milwaukee Bucks NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo - a Greek of Nigerian descent and the youngest player on NBA - on Thursday sent a jersey with his name to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, to thank him for all the support he has provided him with.

    Samaras gave the jersey to his son, who also plays basketball.

    [51] Former TT chief Papadopoulos released on conditions

    Former Hellenic Postbank (TT) chairman Cleon Papadopoulos on Thursday was released on the condition not to leave the country following his testimony on TT's unsecured loans.

    Papadopoulos, who succeeded Angelos Filippidis in TT's presidency, is facing criminal charges for breach of trust regarding the approval of a loan and two loan restructurings to a businessman already charged in the case.

    According to the indictment, Papadopoulos with his actions incurred losses for TT since the loans were granted without any guarantees.

    In his testimony to examining magistrate Giorgos Andreadis, the defendant claimed that the loan and the restructurings were totally secured as multiple guarantees had been offered.

    [52] Misdemeanors Council indicts 42 PAOK supporters in Thessaloniki

    The Misdemeanors Judicial Council of Thessaloniki on Thursday indicted 42 PAOK fans on various charges each, including attempted murder, robbery, drug trafficking, violating sports laws and possession of illegal weapons.

    The case is connected with a police sweep conducted in June 2012, during which many PAOK fans were arrested after a series of violent incidents that peaked during an assault on rival supporters of Aris in Derveni, a Thessaloniki suburb, after the end of the U17 final between PAOK and Aris.

    During the operation the police confiscated weapons and drugs from fan clubs and individual houses.

    All charges against another 111 PAOK supporters were dropped, while the court dismissed all cases in connection with charges regarding the formation of a criminal organization.

    [53] Flu death toll reaches 51 in 2014

    The number of people who have died of the flu in Greece this year comes to 51, including 19 people who died this past week, it was announced Thursday.

    On Thursday alone, 9 people were placed in Intensive Care Units (ICU) with serious complications, joining another 56 in ICUs so far.

    A total of 168 people have been hospitalised in ICUs this year with the flu.

    No further demographic data is available.

    [54] Eighty-two buildings to be demolished on Cephalonia island in wake of earthquakes

    Eighty-two buildings on the island of Cephalonia must be demolished following secondary checks carried out in the wake of the recent earthquakes.

    Out of 2,059 buildings checked by secondary committees and ranked in order of dangerousness (with red being uninhabitable), 1,176 were ranked as yellow, 137 will be rechecked and another 801 were ranked as green.

    Moreover, 55 applications have been submitted for rent subsidies by the state.

    [55] Fire in a yacht with five passengers on Thursday

    A yacht carrying five passengers caught fire on Thursday for unknown reasons in the maritime area of Ambelakia, Salamina. According to the Coast Guard, the five passengers on board were not at risk.

    The Coast Guard said that two coast guard vessels and a fire brigade vessel were rushing to the scene.

    Soccer

    [56] Gov't opens the way to construction of new AEK football stadium

    The Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry on Thursday released for public consultation the legislative regulation concerning the urban redesigning of the area which the new AEK football stadium is to be built in the Athens district of Nea Philadelphia.

    The old stadium has been demolished and the new one will be built in the same location.

    "This intervention will include an overall remodelling of the area - not just the construction of a new stadium, that concerns Nea Philadelphia and the neighbouring municipalities - but it aims to help in the revival and growth of the wider region as well", said Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, who added that "the project will respect the natural and urban environment".

    Weather forecast

    [57] Overcast on Friday

    Rain and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 5C-16C. Showers in central parts and in the south, 6C-17C. Clouds and rain in the evening over the islands, 10C-19C. Rainy in Athens, 6C-16C. Clouds in Thessaloniki, 5C-15C.

    [58] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies

    AVGHI: Corruption party.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Bottomless barrel!

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: 80,000 municipal workers hostages of the ballot.

    ESTIA: Main opposition SYRIZA's psychiatrist.

    ETHNOS: Ukraine's tragedy.

    IMERISSIA: Berlin's plan for the debt and the loan.

    KATHIMERINI: International alarm over Ukraine.

    KERDOS: Controlled exit to the markets in spring on the agenda.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: German yes to haircut with reforms as exchange.

    RIZOSPASTIS: EU and the capital's course the reason for the developments in Halyvourgiki (steel company).

    TA NEA: Fuel smuggling an ongoing crime.

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