|Tuesday, 5 December 2023|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-02-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Issue No: 4595
 Six pending issues in negotiations with the troika, Finance ministryThe Greek government began a new round of talks with the troika on Monday, with six pending issues needed to be resolved as the first round of talks has to be completed by Thursday.
At the same time, Finance ministry officials stressed that the better than expected fiscal performance in 2013 essentially covered a fiscal gap for the current year and conse-quently there was no need for additional measures in 2014, while it added that "there was extreme self-confidence over the result of 2013 (and the creation of a primary surplus)".
A high-ranking official of the Finance ministry, speaking to ANA-MPA after a meeting with the troika, said that the six pending issues were:
Fiscal data, legislative interventions, implementing a package of OECD measures to boost competition in dome-stic markets, labour issues, civil administration reform and a recapitalisation of the four systemic banks.
The official sounded cautious over the size of the primary surplus for 2013 and the part to be distributed as a social dividend. He said that the troika did not question the 812 million euros of primary surplus recorded in the budget, but added that agreement on the distribution of the social dividend could begin only after reaching an agreement with the troika over the 2013 figures and a projection for 2014.
 Troika, Dev't minister meeting concludes, negotiations to continueThe representatives of Greece's troika of creditors and Greece will continue negotiations over the adoption of proposals on competitiveness by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a high-level source said following a meeting with Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis that concluded late on Monday.
According to the source, the troika wants all the relevant OECD proposals (329) adopted, while Greece has agreed to 240 of them. In about 30 additional ones there are disagreements on implementation regulations proposed and the rest, about 50, Greece rejects outright.
The troika "did not reject anything, but did not accept anything, either," the official said, adding that negotiations would continue in the following days.
Disagreements were also found in contested regulations over milk expiration dates, over-the-counter medication and the operation of pharmacies, and a single price for books.
Most of the changes agreed upon will be introduced through a bill in Parliament, while certain measures will be included in other existing draft bills.
Among the issues raised by the troika were public transportation, business leasing and energy cost for industry.
 Gov't spokesman: We are very close to agreement with troikaGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Monday that the government is very close to an agreement with the troika of Greece lenders in most issues speaking to private TV MEGA and expressed his certainty that whatever agreed with the troika will pass in parliament.
At a query whether the Euroelections and the local administration elections, both to be held in May, will be considered as a referendum, Kedikoglou said that they are very important but do not change the government.
"It is not a referendum, whatever the result is, our target is to complete our four-year tenure. We will not jeopardize the country's course, particularly now that we are very close to the exit from the crisis," noted Kedikoglou.
 Greece records second highest deflation rate in the EU in JanuaryGreece recorded the second highest deflation rate in the European Union with an -1.4 pct rate in January, after Cyprus (-1.6 pct), Eurostat said on Monday.
In a report, released here, the EU executive's statistics arm said that the inflation rate in the Eurozone was unchanged at 0.8 pct in January, compared with December, but significantly down compared with a 2.0 pct figure recorded in January 2013. The inflation rate in the EU eased to 0.9 pct in January, from 1.0 pct in December 2013 and 2.1 pct in January 2013.
Bulgaria also recorded a deflation in January (-1.3 pct) in January, while the UK and Finland (1.9 pct) recorded the highest inflation rates in the EU. Compared with December, the inflation rate fell in 17 member-states; it was unchanged in seven and rose in four member-states.
 FinMin Stournaras concludes meeting with troika representativesFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras has concluded his meeting with representatives of the troika of Greece's creditors on Monday evening.
The troika's meeting with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis is now under way at the Finance ministry.
 Labour Minister Vroutsis to meet with the troika on Tuesday morningLabour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis will meet with representatives of the country's troika of lenders at 10:00 on Tuesday morning in the ministry of Finance, Labour ministry sources said on Monday.
The meeting will focus on the fiscal gap the social insurance funds are likely to face as a result of a further reduction of contributions pledged by the Greek side, as well as on the reform of the institutional framework for mass layoffs.
 Venizelos in Hungary to participate in Visegrad group meetingGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos who is paying an official visit to Budapest met on Monday with his Hungarian counterpart Janos Martonyi.
The two officials discussed the Greek-Hungarian relations mostly on energy, transport and tourism sector and issues regarding Hungary's relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They also discussed the Greek EU Presidency's priorities in relation to issues of Hungarian interest such as the Single Resolution Banks mechanism and the administration of the migrants flow and pressure on the European Union's borders.
Venizelos is visiting Budapest in order to participate in the Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic) meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. The meeting will focus on the Aegean-Baltic energy corridor in which the Trans-Adriatic (TAP) natural gas pipeline plays an important role as well as the liquefied natural gas storage infrastructures of Revythoussa in Greece.
However, due to the composition of the multilateral meeting, the main political issue will be the condition in Ukraine since four countries bordering with the Ukraine participate in the meeting.
Venizelos is in open contact with EU High Representative and president of the Council of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton who will visit Kiev on Monday to have a first personal view on the prevailing condition in Ukraine.
 Two priorities in Ukraine, Venizelos says after Visegrad +3 meetingGreek government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos replied to reporters' questions regarding developments in Ukraine on Monday, noting that the international community was facing "two priorities".
Speaking in Budapest, where he attended the Visegrad +3 ministerial meeting, Venizelos reported on the discussion held by the ministers on Ukraine and said there were two priorities in order to stabilise the political situation and preserve the country's cohesion.
The first of these, according to Venizelos, was to appoint a "new, cohesive government that will be truly capable of protecting stability and public order." The second, which he said was his "personal" proposal that he would also discuss in the framework of the European Union, was to organise an international conference with the participation of the EU, Russia, the United States, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international organisations that wish to take part, in order to discuss the economic and fiscal problems of Ukraine.
The foreign minister stressed the need to avoid an uncontrolled default by the country, saying that this would lead Ukraine to a real disaster. He said the problem in Ukraine was not only geopolitical and regional but also economic and financial, and "created global challenges" for which the international community must come up with "a serious, ingenious, flexible and applicable answer".
Venizelos was in Budapest to participate in a meeting of the four Visegrad Group countries (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) with the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. The Ministerial Meeting focused on the plan for the Aegean-Baltic energy corridor but was also dominated by developments in Ukraine.
 Gov't to present new electoral law in the next days, Interior Minister saysThe government is expected to present its proposals for the new electoral system with crosses next to preferred candidates within the next days, Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis told radio station Vima FM on Monday.
"The aim is for citizens to be able to choose among the candidates and have many options," he said.
Asked about the possibility of reducing the number of MPs and the setting up of the Senate, Michelakis noted: "I remind you that most of those points are included in the proposals filed by New Democracy before the elections...but a lot of issues arose. I believe that the crisis is not only economic but also institutional. Firstly institutional, because if it was not for the crisis, we would not have come to that situation. The fiscal crisis is not only a matter of mishandling. It is imperative at this time to proceed with constitutional, institutional changes, such as the creation of a Constitutional Court which is present in many countries, but not in ours," Michelakis said.
 EU Commission praises Administrative Reform ministry on public sector initiativesThe European Commission on Monday praised the Administrative Reform Ministry on its initiatives to promote reforms in the public sector, during an event organized by the ministry as part of the Greek presidency.
The one-day conference focused on the priorities of the ministry under Greece's EU presidency, while ministry officials presented the initiatives for an effective public administration, the role of human resources and the way public administration responds to the citizens' needs.
The ministry has focused on the redesigning of public administration, the shrinking of the ministries' organizational structures by 40 percent as well as the reduction of workforce by 200,000 employees as of 2009.
The event took place at Zappeion Megaron and was attended by European Commission and European Public Administration Network (EUPAN) officials.
 New health system to go into operation on March 20Dispensaries of the newly introduced Primary National Health Network (PEDY) will start operating on March 20 with as many of doctors of the former health care system (5,500 in total) decide to work exclusively for the state, shutting down their private practice, while any staffing gaps will be covered by supplementary staff, the political leadership of the Ministry of Health stressed on Monday.
Doctors have until this Thursday to apply for membership in the new health system. According to the ministry, 1,389 applications have been filed so far. Once the deadline ends "the system locks" and doctors who have not applied will have their contracts reviewed.
The minister Adonis Georgiadis made it clear that doctors who apply and do not shut down their own offices, will be excluded from the system, losing the right to have a contract with EOPYY. Their exclusion will create a huge problem in the new organization and to insured citizens as it is difficult to open new doctors' positions in the the intermediate process.
''Anyone who files the application will be part of PEDY,'' stressed the minister explaining however that "those who purposely cause trouble to the operation of PEDY have no place in the system".
"Trade unionist games are not approved, they only cause damage to doctors," concluded the minister.
 Labour ministry on health coverage for OGA uninsured and elderlyThe Labour ministry will go ahead with the revision of income and other criteria for the granting of pensions that includes health coverage to elderly uninsured members of the Farmers Pension Fund (OGA), in order to remedy injustices and handle problems caused by the existing arrangement.
Deputy Labour Minister Vassilis Kengeroglou indicated in Parliament that "in the immediate future" there shall be a new legislative arrangement on the issue since he conceded that the specific criteria led to the unfair exclusion of a very large number of people from receiving health benefits along with their pensions.
However, the deputy minister clarified that the change in criteria does not mean that health benefits will be reintroduced to all past beneficiaries; those who no longer live in Greece or who have a high income will continue to be excluded, he said.
 Greek Parliament President Meimerakis to visit ArmeniaThe President of the Greek Parliament Evangelos Meimerakis will pay an official two-day visit to Armenia, according to an announcement on Monday.
On Tuesday, February 25, Meimerakis will meet with the president of the National Assembly Hovik Abrahamyan and will visit the Genocide Victims Memorial where he will lay a wreath.
On Wednesday, February 26, the President of the Greek Parliament will hold talks with President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan. He will also meet with Patriarch Karekin II and the Board of the Federation of Greek Communities.
 FM Venizelos to brief Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee on TuesdayGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will brief on Tuesday the Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Special Permanent Committee on Environmental Protection on the results of his tour in the Western Balkans. Venizelos will also present the government's positions over the Cyprus issue, the situation in Ukraine and the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal.
The briefing will be held at the Greek Parliament, at 14:00, according to the announcement.
 Deputy Dev't minister on non-prescription drugs pricesThe prices of non-prescription drugs sold in pharmacies will be deregulated and if this measure does not result in lower prices then the government will reconsider the possibility of those products being sold outside pharmacies; Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas told Vima radio station on Monday.
"This restriction does not apply on vitamins and food supplements, they have already been deregulated since November," he said. Regarding milk, Skordas said:"We are stuck on a term that has been used for marketing reasons... That is why we suggest this term should be removed from marketing communication and each producer --under the agreement he has-- be committed on the life of the milk he produces and then the state will check whether the product abides to safety standards."
 Voters must send anti-memorandum in May polls, SYRIZA spokesman saysThe voters must send a clear anti-memorandum message throught all three ballot boxes in the May elections - both those for municipalities and regional authorities and those for the European Parliament - main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) spokesman Panos Skourletis said on Monday.
"Our own people, who may be elected, must align themselves with this national effort to get rid of the memorandums," he added, though he admitted that the message through the Euro-elections will have a different "political intensity" to that arising through local elections.
Speaking to the private broadcaster SKAI, Skourletis repeated that SYRIZA did not intend to proceed with unilateral actions in negotiations with its creditors but that the country had to understand its strengths and that it was an equal participant in the Eurozone.
"We aren't renting, we are part-owners, a small part, but part-owners nonetheless," he said. According to Skourletis, Greece's European partners could not "kick it out" and "Europe cannot exist without equal participation of Greece, which is its southeastern extremity."
 SYRIZA warns gov't not to change banks' recapitalisation termsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Monday in an announcement warned the government not to change the terms for banks' recapitalisation, while it also criticised the government for preferentially treating banker Spyros Latsis.
"SYRIZA expresses its strong opposition regarding this kind of bill and reminds its position that banks been recapitalised with public funds belong to the public sector and they should be under public control," SYRIZA said and warned that "all actions and decisions will be closely investigated in order to check for liability of those involved in these scandalous actions over public assets' depreciation and the sellout to private capital."
SYRIZA also said that Eurobank was 100 pct recapitalised with public funds while the Finance minister and the Bank of Greece Governor, in a series of decisions, allowed Latsis to "escape" from Eurobank and become a National Bank of Greece shareholder without paying the damages he inflicted in Eurobank. "It's not just accidental that the amount given away equals the required new capital (2-2.5 billion euros)," SYRIZA said.
"The government's target is to turn over banks to the private capital before SYRIZA assumes command of the government and blocks the shares' giveaway owned by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund," SYRIZA stressed and underlined that "it is another gift to special interests that will assume control of the banking system through which they will control the whole economy at the expense of the public sector and the Greek tax-payers."
 EU's Education and training reform programme needs to be accelerated, Education minister saysEU Education Ministers Council, which is being held on Monday in Brussels chaired by Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos, has discussed developing skills and enhancing employability in the light of recent surveys (PIAAC and PISA) by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Arvanitopoulos ahead of the meeting said that the council would have to deal with the challenge of skills inadequacy, pointing out that member-states should continue to invest in high quality education and that the EU should assume a leading role in innovative education and training.
He said that the crisis has mainly hit young people --where the highest unemployment rates are being recorded-- saying that unemployment has also hit those with lower-level skills.
"One out of five employees in EU today has low-level skills. In order to deal with this challenge we need to speed up the education and training reform programme in the EU," Arvanitopoulos said.
The council is expected to adopt conclusions on an effective and innovative education and training to invest in skills. The Greek presidency is also expected to propose to the European Commission to take action for implementing the proposal of the European Parliament to establish a European Day against bullying and violence at schools.
 Administrative Reform ministry, OECD to present report on bureaucracy reductionA report on reducing the state administrative burden due to red tape in 13 sectors of the economy will be completed within the next two weeks, the Administrative Reform ministry announced on Monday.
The report will be a collaboration between the ministry, within the framework of its initiatives to reduce bureaucracy, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
It will list the most obstructive and "annoying" bureaucratic demands, indicate which of these create the largest administrative delays and cost and will suggest their abolition, in order to reduce bureaucracy and increase competitiveness and entrepreneurship in Greece.
The announcement for the report was made on Monday by Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, following the presentation to him and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis of a report by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) of its first annual report on the state of business in Greece.
 Deputy FM Kourkoulas to participate in the European Parliament plenary Feb. 25-27Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will be in Strasbourg on February 25-27 to participate in the European Parliament plenary, it was announced on Monday.
On the margins of the plenary proceedings, he will represent the Council of the EU at the proceedings of the unofficial Trilogue on the Regulation concerning the charters and funding of European political parties and European political foundations.
On Wednesday, February 26, he will attend a luncheon hosted by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in honor of the President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman.
Later on the same day, the deputy foreign minister and the European Parliament president will sign approved European Union legislation.
 Justice minister presents bill on stricter combatting of corruptionJustice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou on Monday released for consultation a bill on combatting corruption and protecting "public interest" witnesses.
The controversial bill will impose stricter regulations combatting corruption and introduces amendments to a series of Penal Code provisions regarding the acceptance of gifts by state and political officials of all levels, from the President of the Republic to the prime minister, Cabinet members and mayors, among others.
It also introduces stricter provisions on the acceptance of gifts by judicial functionaries and employees, while it also affects those employed in any capacity by the private sector.
Protection is also provided for witnesses who help reveal criminally liable actions, and terms them "public interest witnesses".
Lastly, the bill anticipates sentences exceeding five years (of imprisonment) and fines ranging between 5,000 and 150,000 euros.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos attends HAGS handover ceremonyDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Monday announced that a draft law on the general staff members' term in office will soon be tabled, speaking after the handover ceremony in which the new Hellenic Army General Staff (HAGS) Chief, Lieutenant General Christos Manolas, replaced outgoing general Athanassios Tselios.
Avramopoulos noted that the leadership of the Armed Forces is drawing up a complete plan to ensure that all weapons systems will be available without extravagant spending, referring to their maintenance, logistics and modernization.
 Liquidation of Hellenic Vehicles Industry (ELVO) set out in Interior ministry billProvisions regarding the Hellenic Vehicles Industry's (ELVO) liquidation process have been submitted in an amendment to the Interior ministry's bill setting out how EU citizens living in Greece shall vote in the European Parliament elections.
The amendment states that ELVO, part of the Greek defence industry, will be subsidised by the Greek state during the entire liquidation period to enable production - mostly concerning completion of the Greek Armed Forces' orders - to continue. The subsidy expenditure, according to the State General Accounting office's report, is assessed at 14 million euros and is expected to be offset fully by ELVO's auction value.
The subsidy will cover the following obligations: to contractors of the company; the state; social insurance agencies; energy providers; the special liquidator; and to cover the rest of the liquidation's expenditures and expenditures that are necessary for the completion of orders. The subsidy will be provided directly by the liquidator for the coverage of the debts and expenditures; it will not be included in the amount to be distributed to the creditors.
In terms of the Interior ministry bill, the real population of municipal districts in municipalities of over 100,000 inhabitants each will be based on the ratification of the 2011 census figures. Population that cannot be assigned to districts will be distributed among them proportionately.
 Amnesty International Greece sounds alarm on degrading all NGOsAmnesty International Greece in a statement on Monday sounded the alarm on the risk of degrading all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) through a generalizing rhetoric for Greek NGOs.
"In a society where fundamental human rights are threatened, state and racist violence is taking serious dimensions, discriminations against vulnerable groups are on the rise and protests are suppressed, it is necessary and vital to defend collective action and solidarity," the statement said.
Amnesty International Greece, according to the statement, does not receive money from governments or intergovernmental organizations and its economic support comes from subscriptions and donations.
 Police officer under investigation for taking part in Golden Dawn party eventThe Hellenic Police (ELAS) on Monday announced the launch of an official internal inquiry into a police officer stationed in Iraklio, Crete after news reports that he took part in a political event organised by ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi).
The inquiry concerns statements made by the officer in Iraklio while being presented as the party's candidate for the Crete Regional Authority chief, as recorded in a video that was later posted and spread over the internet.
Authorities said the video will also be submitted to a public prosecutor for evaluation.
 SEV presents ministers with plan to improve Greek business, reduce red tapeThe annual cost of red tape in the country surpassed 10 billion US dollars, based on 2005 figures, a report by the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) said on Monday.
The report, presented to Administrative Reform and Develop-ment Ministers Costas Mitsotakis and Costis Hatzidakis, respectively, by SEV president Dimitris Daskalopoulos, said that Greece ranked at the bottom of the (then) 17 EU member-states, with the regulatory burden totaling 4.4 pct of GDP, or 10.6 billion US dollars.
The report stressed that the biggest bureaucratic hurdles were located in the fields of installation/licensing of enterprises, financial services, taxation, justice, development incentives and public contracts. On the other hand, the fields with the less bureaucratic hurdles were located in import/export, publicity obligations, certification, corporate law, labor relations, supervision and innovation/research.
SEV's report suggested, among others, the outsourcing of public sector operations to external specialists in order to improve the quality of services offered to enterprises.
According to its plan, the state needs to focus on five sectors - listed licensing, spatial planning, taxation, speed of administration of justice and systems of state control and supervision.
The plan also introduces reforms to eight areas: channelling public administration funds (EU and national) to the reform of the five above-mentioned sectors, evaluating and reassessing (when necessary) the jurisdiction and relations between the levels of government and the five sectors, outsourcing public sector services for enterprises to external specialists, and reorganising the public debate system between public administration and business community.
It also suggested the adoption of a new system and procedures for a prompt analysis of the impact that measures taken through legislation and administrative acts have on competitiveness and competition, investment in the public administration's human resources, operation of an independent mechanism offering technical support to the Government Council for Reform with the participation of the business community, and the introduction of a broad communication programme to ensure a business-friendly environment based on international benchmarking.
According to the SEV proposal, the project can be financed by the new NSRF, to ensure the horizontal coordination for its implementation.
Many of the proposals suggested in the report, the first annual one on the state of Greek business, "will find their place in the Administrative Reform ministry's new business programme (2014-2020)", Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during the presentation by Daskalopoulos.
Mitsotakis announced that a report on reducing the state administrative burden due to red tape in 13 sectors of the economy will be completed within the next two weeks.
The report will be a collaboration between the ministry, within the framework of its initiatives to reduce bureaucracy, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
It will list the most obstructive and "annoying" bureaucratic demands, indicate which of these create the largest administrative delays and cost and will suggest their abolition, in order to reduce bureaucracy and increase competitiveness and entrepreneurship in Greece.
Hatzidakis said on his part that "the effort for our exit from the labyrinth of bureaucracy is not easy, but we have only one choice: to succeed", adding that "we have recently adopted a series of reformist initiatives that lean towards less intervention by the state, to a deregulation of markets. The latest characteristic example is the initiative that the prime minister himself presented, the draft-law on the simplification of licensings. A wide-ranging intervention covering every type of licensing and every type of business".
 Greece reports 835-mln-euro primary surplus in JanuaryThe Greek state budget recorded a primary surplus of 835 million euros in January, from a primary surplus of 415 million euros in January last year, slightly down from a budget provision for a surplus of 955 million euros, the Finance ministry said in a report on Monday.
The report noted that the general government recorded a surplus of 619 million euros in January, after a surplus of 177 million euros in the same month last year and a budget provision for a surplus of 719 milion euros. Net state budget revenues totaled 4.450 billion euros in January, down 7.3 pct from budget targets.
Net regular budget revenues totaled 4.418 billion euros, down 5.3 pct from budget targets.
Tax revenues totaled 4.314 billion euros in January, down 4.5 pct from budget targets. More analytically, income tax proceeds surpassed targets by 5.6 pct, other direct tax proceeds surpassed targets by 138.6 pct, boosted by the introduction of a luxury living tax, VAT proceed exceeded budget provisions by 7.2 pct, while other tax revenues were up 78.4 pct from targets. On the other hand, corporate tax proceeds fell short of budget targets by 78.4 pct, VAT on oil and energy products were down 38.4 pct and 5.7 pct, respectively, compared with targets, while tax returns totaled 295 million euros, up by 196 million euros compared with budget targets.
State budget spending totaled 3.831 billion euros, down 253 million euros compared with budget targets, with regular budget spending falling by 460 million euros to 3.523 billion euros. Regular budget spending were down by 15.9 pct compared with the same month in 2013. The Public Investment Programme's spending surpassed targets by 241 million euros to 308 million euros in January.
The Finance ministry, in its report, stressed that "budget execution confirmed that fiscal targets will be achieved this year". The ministry noted that the primary surplus - excluding the support of financial institutions - was 3.918 billion euros in January, or 2.1 pct of the country's GDP. Based on the methodology of an Economic Policy Programme, the general government's primary surplus is expected to reach 812 million euros, or 0.4 pct of GDP.
 EU report: Job opportunities hugely different between northern, southern European countriesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Big divergence in job opportunities between the northern and the southern European countries is recorded in a European Commission report on job vacancies in the EU in the second quarter of 2013 made public on Monday.
Recording the labour market conditions in four southern European countries (Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal), the European Commission report confirms that hiring of young people in those countries is greatly skewed towards lower-skilled occupations in the service sector with significant seasonal demand and high turnover. In addition, medium-skilled workers are hired increasingly for lower skilled position, underscoring the overqualification of the labour force.
Furthermore, the crisis has led to more frequent use of temporary employment contracts in the southern European countries. In the last quarter of 2012, a total of 23 pct of the workers in Greece and Spain and 20.4 pct in Portugal had temporary contracts. This high incidence of temporary contracts contributed to lower levels of training and skills acquisition, which in turn translates into lower productivity and poorer economic performance according to the European Commission report. In southern Europe, the share of lower educated employees is 33 pct, more than twice the EU average (16 pct).
According to Commissioner Laszlo Andor for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, "diverging job prospects in northern and southern Europe underline mismatches in the European labour market, linked also to Eurozone asymmetries. Labour mobility might help to reduce those imbalances."
The report notes that the overall weak economic performance has continuously worsened labour market conditions in the southern European countries worst hit by the crisis. In the second quarter of 2013, employment fell in Greece (-4.3 pct), Italy (-1.8 pct), Portugal (-4.1 pct) and Spain (-3.6 pct) in year-to-year figures. In the EU 28, employment fell by -0.4 pct.
This situation has largely worsened youth unemployment in these countries. In the second quarter of 2013, youth unemployment rate reached 59.6 pct in Greece, 55.7 pct in Spain, 39.4 pct in Portugal and 38.9 pct in Italy compared to 24 pct in the EU.
Decline in hiring for services and professionals in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain has come to a halt, whilst some increases are reported for agricultural, forestry and fishery workers. Employment opportunities in southern Europe are concentrated in a few fields, such as health care, sales and administration.
According to the European Vacancy Monitor (EVM), the jobs with growing demand in Greece are waiters, bartenders, nursing personnel and midwives, unskilled workers, financial sector professionals, software developers, truck and bus drivers, legal professions, office clerks and food machinery operators.
In the EU countries, overall recruitment fell by 4 pct in the second quarter of 2013, a larger decline than in the previous quarter.
 Labour minister on Ilios system, smaller-than-expected pensions spendTotal state funding for pensions was smaller than initially expected in the first two months of 2014, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said on Monday after the release of February figures for the Ilios IT system for pensions and welfare payments.
"This development shows that we are on a good path," the minister added, noting that the state had expected to fund 16.7 pct of pensions spending in the period but only 16.5 pct was actually absorbed. He said this was the result of "prudent" management of social transfers with terms of transparency, justice and efficiency, in accordance with the instructions of the prime minister.
Vroutsis noted that the Ilios system now ran pensions and welfare benefits through a "fine-tooth comb" and, combined with electronic cross-checking via the "Ariadne" system and the social security AMKA number, helped reveal changes almost as soon as they occurred. For example, he noted that benefits were paid to 932 recipients that were deceased in February and these would be immediately stopped.
He said the system's monthly report will henceforth also included accumulated spending on pensions and benefits in order to ensure the smooth payment to providers and control the rate of absorption of state spending.
Based on the report, the number of main and supplementary pensions in Greece is 4,437,245 and total spending on pensions in February came to just under 2.295 billion euros, or 4.586 billion euros for the first two months of the year. The system also counted 162,552 recipients of welfare benefits, for which the total spending in February amounted to 54.87 million euros. The average amount of an old-age pension came to 939.74 euros, while about 30 pct exceeded 1,000 euros.
 Revenue sec'y signs exemptions to tax reporting by farmersFarmers who had gross earnings of over 15,000 euros or received subsidies of over 5,000 euros last year will have to keep tax records as of January 1 this year, according to a decision signed by Secretary General for Revenue Haris Theocharis.
According to the decision, farmers with the above criteria will not be obliged to keep incoming-outgoing accounting books, but will have to report their income annually. The abolition of book-keeping was one of the demands of farmers, who have been protesting new tax measures with road blocks and rallies this month.
If farmers have not been able to carry out their farmwork or have not qualified for subsidies the following fiscal year, they do not have to file a detailed report, the decision states.
 Bank of Greece says Greek banks' capital needs total 5.5 bln eurosThe Bank of Greece remains steadfast in an estimate that capital needs of Greece's four systemic banks, following a round of stress tests conducted by BlackRock, totaled 5.5 billion euros. This estimate was presented to Greek banks' managements during a meeting with the Bank of Greece last week.
However, an FT report on Monday sharply raised an estimate over the future capital needs by Greek banks to 20 billion euros, citing estimates made by the International Monetary Fund. These different estimates were expected to be discussed during a meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, between Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos and the troika.
Bank of Greece officials and bankers said the report was clearly a means to exert political pressure ahead of the beginning of negotiations with the troika and stressed that all banks have been informed of the results of the stress tests. They also noted that much of the data offered by BlackRock to Greek authorities have been validated by Ernst & Young and Rothschild.
 Dev't minister to chair Innovation Council with Israel's YOZMA organisationDevelopment and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis will preside at the meeting of the Innovation Council, to be held at noon on Tuesday. The meeting will be attended by a delegation from the Israeli organization YOZMA, under the cooperation agreement signed for the creation of strategic innovation and funding of entrepreneurship.
 Greek stocks end sharply lowerGreek stocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, hit by an FT report alleging differences between the Bank of Greece and the IMF over the capital needs of the country's four systemic banks. The composite index of the market fell 2.44 pct to end at 1,219.43 points, for a net loss of 4.77 pct in the last six sessions of decline. Turnover was a moderate 58.16 million euros. The Large Cap index fell 2.90 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.19 pct lower.
Athens Water (1.28 pct) and Motor Oil (0.11 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while Eurobank Properties (5.98 pct), Folli Follie (5.95 pct), National Bank (5.71 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (4.21 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (4.05 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
All sectors ended lower with the Commerce (5.92 pct), Real Estate (5.76 pct), Media (4.67 pct) and Food (4.02 pct) suffering heavily.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 35 with another 22 issues unchanged. Nakas (29.60 pct), NEL (18.75 pct) and Boutaris (16.67 pct) were top gainers, while Sidma (20 pct), Spider (19.05 pct) and Pegasus (15.38 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Industrial Products: -1.40%
Oil & Gas: -2.06%
Personal & Household: -0.73%
Raw Materials: -0.64%
Travel & Leisure: -1.59%
Food & Beverages: -4.02%
Financial Services: -1.98%
Real Estate: -5.76%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OTE, National Bank and EXAE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.69
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.51
Coca Cola HBC: 18.23
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.60
National Bank of Greece: 3.30
Eurobank Properties : 7.71
Piraeus Bank: 1.90
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 5.93 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 5.98 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.59 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.66 pct. Turnover was a thin 5.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to 0.549 pct from 0.547 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.466 pct from 0.464 pct, the six-month rate was unchanged at 0.384 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.288 pct from 0.286 pct and the one-month rate eased to 0.221 pct from 0.222 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.26 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover rising to 21.554 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,041 contracts worth 16.048 million euros, with 48,121 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,272 contracts worth 5.506 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (1,898), followed by Alpha Bank (367), Piraeus Bank (1,422), MIG (1,845), OTE (1,536), PPC (642), OPAP (300), Titan (246), Mytilineos (511), Hellenic Petroleum (306), Intralot (273), GEK (228) and Eurobank (104).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.394
Pound sterling 0.837
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 9.071
Japanese yen 142.80
Swiss franc 1.239
Norwegian kroner 8.402
Canadian dollar 1.547
Australian dollar 1.550
 International meeting of 'Doctors of the World' from 14 countries in AthensThe health risks that European citizens face during the economic crisis were revealed during a press conference in Athens on Friday by the presidents of 'Doctors of the World' (Medecins du Monde) from four European countries: Greece, Spain, France and Germany. The press conference was organized in the framework of an international meeting taking place on Friday and Saturday in Athens under the auspices of the Greek EU Presidency, with the presidents, directors and managers of the organisation from 14 countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Greece, USA, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Japan and Argentina) taking part.
Doctors of the World reported a significant increase in the number of Greek citizens lacking state health insurance, rising to 28 pct of the country's population at the end of 2013. In Spain, it was estimated that 16 pct of the population had no access to medicines. In France, approximately 200,000 people have no right to medical care due to the complexity of the health system, and even in prosperous Germany, the health of uninsured pregnant women and children is at risk because their access to the health system is limited.
The representatives of the organisation called for open health systems for everyone, adding that "health is not a commodity" and expressed their solidarity with the citizens of Greece, where the health system is facing the most serious problems due to the economic crisis.
As stated by the head of the Greek branch Liana Mailli: "Greece is in a very extreme situation due to cuts in health. In our country there is no longer such thing as a health system.'' Mailli also stressed that about three million Greek citizens are uninsured and added as an example that an uninsured pregnant woman needs 650 euros for a normal birth and 1,200 euros for a ceasarean, while a basic vaccination scheme for a child costs 1,400 euros.
 Greece-Azores boat trip to promote Mediterranean unity this summerThree experienced sailors will sail from Thessaloniki to the Azores this summer in a 10-metre boat equipped with a pair of outboard motors, in order to highlight the message "The Mediterranean unites us".
The project is supported by the Thessaloniki European Youth Capital 2014 is being attempted for the first time.
The trip is scheduled to begin on July 23, 2014 from Thessaloniki and is estimated to be completed by August 20 to 25 in Ponta Delgada, the largest port and capital in the Azores islands, after stops in Naples, Marseilles, Barcelona and Lisbon.
"We want to convey a message of peace and friendship to all Mediterranean people," stressed Thomas Panagiotopoulos, a dentist who has a passion for the sea, in statements to ANA-MPA.
When asked how they came up with the idea, he answered in a disarming way: "we decided to raise the Greek flag high, so that all of Europe can see it, since it has been injured in recent years and we want to see it flying proudly again".
He also explained that the difficulty in the trip is in the last part, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Portugal to the Azores. The participants of the trip estimate that it will take two days and two nights to cover this section of the journey (more than 800 nautical miles) without even being able to refuel along the way.
This combination of factors of difficulty stands to make the Greece-Azores trip one of the highlights of the year's marine events in Europe, the team said.
The media sponsor of the project is the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
 Ecumenical Patriarch conducts service for victims of Ukraine's violent clashesISTANBUL (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas)
A large Ukrainian congregation gathered for a Trisagion service to commemmorate the victims of the violent clashes in Ukraine, conducted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Fanar on Monday.
The service included readings in ecclesiastical Slavonic and the Patriarch later welcomed the Ukrainian General Consul in Istanbul and Orthodox Ukrainians that attended.
"It is very natural for us to accept you, our Ukrainian brothers, because Istanbul is your Mother church, who gave you the light of the true faith 1025 years ago," he said, stressing that the "doors of the Church and the doors of our heart are always open [to you]".
Members of the Ukrainian community living in Istanbul had expressed a desire to pray with the Ecumenical Patriarch for peace in their troubled country, in a letter sent to the Patriarchate.
Those attending the service said that the current crisis was the most difficult moment for the country since the nuclear accident in Chernobyl that had marked the lives of Ukraine's younger generation and stressed the comfort they had drawn from the Ecumenical Patriarch's support.
In the courtyard of the Patriarchate and St. George Church, Ukrainians had placed pictures of those killed in the violent clashes of the last few days, lighting candles and leaving flowers. The Patriarch also lit a candle in memory of the victims and prayed for their souls and the protection of the Ukrainian nation.
 Four people arrested in illicit fuel trade case released on conditionsThe four people arrested in relation to the case of illicit fuel trade --two fuel truck drivers, a petrol station owner and a workman-- who testified before the Piraeus court investigating magistrate earlier on Monday were released on conditions.
The petrol station owner was released on a 30,000 euro bail, a ban on his leaving the country and under the obligation to regularly report to police station.
One truck driver and the workman were released on a 7,000 euro bail, a ban on leaving the country and under the obligation to regularly report to police station. The second truck driver was released on condition not to leave the country.
 Two NATO helicopters make emergency landing on ZakynthosTwo NATO Chinook helicopters on Sunday made an emergency landing at Zakynthos airport, after one of them reported mechanical failure. The helicopters were on flight from Italy to Souda in Crete and carried 19 British soldiers. Passengers and crew, who spent the night at Zakynthos, are safe.
 Death toll from flu virus reaches 60The flu virus death toll reached 60, while according to experts the majority of the victims suffered from underlying diseases and were not vaccinated.
Since last October a total of 183 people have been hospitalized in intensive care units (ICUs), while 54 are still being treated in hospitals, according to figures released by the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO).
Experts note that the timely use of antiviral drugs reduces the complications of the flu virus.
 Griveas couple's trial date in British court set for July 22LONDON (ANA-MPA / I. Karipidis)
A Westminster court is to consider the Greek authorities' request for the extradition of the Griveas couple in a trial held on July 22-24, it was announced on Monday. Kyriakos Griveas and his wife Anastasia Vatsika were arrested last month in connection with the unsecured loans approved by Hellenic Postbank (TT).
The couple's defence attorney filed a number of requests-preconditions for the trial to take place in the summer that were accepted by the Westminster court.
The requests concern additional information-clarifications to be supplied by Greek authorities on the crimes the two are being accused of, with the defence attorney maintaining that the charges against them are not crimes under British law.
Another precondition is to have an expert appointed to examine the detention conditions at Korydallos Prison in both the men's and women's wing. Another two experts should decide if a fair trial is guaranteed. One of them should be a law professor, who will examine the Greek legal system as a whole, and the other will be a Greek lawyer who will examine the legal framework of the specific case.
The impact of the couple's extradition on their underage children who live in Britain will also be examined.
In the period until July 22, the defence attorney will meet several times with the public prosecutor to jointly examine the course of the case. All procedures will have to be completed by July 2.
This was the third time the Griveas couple appeared before the British court. Authorities postponed their trial two times to grant more time to their defence lawyers on the grounds that the defence needed more time to present its arguments against the two defendants' extradition to Greece.
According to their lawyer, Griveas and Vatsika turned themselves in to the British authorities on January 22 after a scheduled appointment was set with the police. They were arrested and released after posting a 50,000-pound bail on condition that they will hand over their passports and report regularly to a local police station. Also, they were obliged to be available to answer phone calls from British authorities 24 hours a day.
 Jewish Community of Thessaloniki takes Germany to Court of Human Rights over WWII ransomThe Jewish Community of Thessaloniki appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Germany on February 19 claiming moral vindication and the return of a ransom paid to the Nazi occupation forces until 1943 to free Jewish community members from forced labour across Greece, it was announced on Monday.
During WWII, the Jewish community entered an agreement with Max Merten, the supreme military commander of the Nazis in northern Greece and the Aegean, to pay a ransom of 2.5 billion drachmas for their release.
The move to the ECHR comes after a 17-year-long battle in Greek courts that ended in December 2013 when the Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) rejected the Jewish Community's claim on the grounds of jurisdiction.
A statement issued by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki on Monday underlined that "the recognition of historical truth and vindication constitutes major moral issue".
 Two-day EU conference in Athens on nutrition and physical activityDistinguished World Health Organization (WHO) scientists, EU health ministers and high-ranking officials will participate in the two-day conference on "Nutrition and Physical Activity, from Childhood to Old Age: Challenges and Opportunities," to take place on February 25-26 in Athens in the context of the Greek EU Presidency.
Participants will suggest solutions to the problem of obesity applicable at EU member-states' level, University of Athens (UoA) professor and vice-president of the Hellenic Health Foundation Antonia Trichopoulou said in a press conference.
Referring to the problem of obesity, she said that one in three people in Greece over the age of 40 are overweight, with women leading in the statistics.
 Greek tourism organization promotes tourism in Italy through Greek cuisineThe office of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) in Italy is using Greek cuisine as a means of promoting Greek tourism.
In cooperation with the tour operator Eden Viaggi the GNTO of Italy decided to present in Rome, Naples, Bari, Milan, Pesaro and Turin the ?Sympossio?, an initiative of the Aldemar Hotel chair which aims to promote Greek cuisine and Greek tourism.
Representatives of tourist agencies and journalists who are involved in the international culinary world cooked and tasted Greek food under the guidance of experienced chefs.
"In this way we attract the interest of the press, relations with tour operators become tighter and the image of our country as a whole is promoted," Kyriaki Boulasidou, director of the Office of the GNTO in Italy, told ANA-MPA.
Of the recipes that many Italian tour operators and journalists had the opportunity to cook in the event, with the theme "ouzo specialities", those that stood out were risotto with cuttlefish, pasta with shrimp, fava, taramosalata, fried cheese and Cretan smoked pork.
 Four people testify before investigating magistrate on fuel smuggling caseFour people on Monday were led before the Piraeus court investigating magistrate to testify on the case of fuel smuggling.
ETEKA oil company president and Atromitos FC president Giorgos Spanos, an ETEKA facility supervisor, a customs official, an environment ministry official and a one more person are expected to be taken to Korydallos prison on Monday.
Four fuel truck drivers, a workman, a petrol station owner and a female co-owner of a fuel station have been released on conditions, out of the 15 arrested so far in total.
 Protesters arrested at Megara toll station to be send to courtProsecutor on Monday pressed misdemeanour charges for traffic obstruction against eight people who were detained by police on Sunday during a protest against road toll hikes held at the Pachi toll booths near Megara.
One of them is also facing charges of causing serious injury or limb. The accused, with the exception of one who is a lawyer and will be tried separately, will appear before a First Instance Court.
About 200 people took part in the protest, raising the toll bars and allowing vehicles to go through free of charge for roughly two hours, while traffic on the national highway was interrupted for roughly 15 minutes. Among the arrested was Megara mayor, a Megara vice mayor and two municipal counsellors.
 Port employees and dockworkers hold work stoppage on MondayGreek port employees and dock workers on Monday are holding a work stoppage from the start of the morning working hours until 11.00. They have also planned protests at the ports' administration offices and a rally outside the Piraeus port organization (OLP) headquarters.
The government should "terminate all efforts to sell off ports", Greek port workers federation OMYLE, Dockworkers' Association and OLP supervisors and chief workmen association said in a statement on Friday.
Unionists warn with protests ahead of the presentation of the invitation for the express of interest regarding the majority stake of OLP by the country's privatisation agency TAIPED at the parliament's Production and Trade Committee on Wednesday.
 Port strike throughout Greece on WednesdayThe Port Employees Federation of Greece (OMYLE) has announced a 24-hour strike in all ports and harbours throughout the country on Wednesday, when the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) is to present an invitation for bids in a tender for the Piraeus Port Organisation (OLP) in Parliament.
On the same day, port workers are planning a rally in Klafthmonos Square at 10:00 a.m. followed by a march to Parliament.
The port employees also held a work stoppage on Monday morning until 11:00 a.m. to show their opposition to the Piraeus port privatisation.
 New Coast Guard chief to assume responsibilities on TuesdayVice-admiral Athanassios Athanassopoulos has been appointed head of the Coast Guard, replacing outgoing retired admiral Dimitrios Bandias. The handing over ceremony, attended by Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, will take place at the Coast Guard headquarters on Tuesday at 11.00.
The replacement decision was taken as Athanassopoulos successfully implemented organizational changes in the coast guard and in order to give the new chief time to prepare ahead of the second round of lower-level staff assessments in March.
 Overcast on TuesdayRain and northerly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 3C to 13C. Clouds and rain in the central parts and in the south, 5C-16C. Rain over the islands, 9C-15C. Cloudy in Athens, 6C-14C; rain in Thessaloniki, 7C-11C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailiesDIMOKRATIA: At troika's mercy.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Debts hidden under the carpet.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Non-Governmental Organisations, wolves in sheep's' clothing.
ESTIA: Major reversal to the political system.
ETHNOS: Smugglers' profits a... extra surtax for citizens.
NAFTEMPORIKI: The inspections and the instalments according to the new schedule of payments.
TA NEA: The mayors' movement.
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