|Sunday, 25 February 2024
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-02-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Issue No: 4596
 PM Samaras at Strasbourg launch of EU group on own resourcesSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) arrived here for a snap visit on Tuesday, in order to attend the launch of the EU's high-level group on own resources.
In a joint press conference with European Parliament President Martin Schulz (R), European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the group's chairman Prof. Mario Monti - the former Italian premier - Samaras stressed that it would be "a great leap forward for the EU if we arrived at a new system for [managing] own resources."
Schulz announced the decision to form the group, stressing that it was taken by the heads of all three EU institutions, and noted that the decision to appoint Monti, who formally accepted on Tuesday, was unanimous. The task ahead would not be an easy one, the EU Parliament president added, since opinions diverged between the member-states and it was not easy to hit upon compro-mise solutions. He also thanked Samaras for his assi-stance as chair of the EU Council in accelerating work on the issue, as well as the European Commission for its support and advice.
Samaras underlined the need to restructure the current own resources system, noting that all governments and EU institutions considered it too complex and unable to address real needs.
"The high level group is not a typical bureaucratic body. Its members will work fully independently and their only goal will be to serve the interests of the EU," he said.
The Greek premier said the group's members will be very high-level officials in all three EU institutions (European Commission, European Parliament and the European Council), who will review the hallmarks of a future own resources system. The group's proposals will then be assessed as part of a comprehensive review of the Multiannual Financial Framework to take place in 2016, he added.
The Council was convinced that the proposals will secure the funding of the EU's political priorities in the most efficient and consistent way, he said.
Samaras also suggested, however, that the three members that will initially form the group may not be sufficient to preserve geographical and political balances between the member-states. "If it is judged necessary, the three institutions will re-examine the issue," the Greek premier said.
 Labour ministry talks with troika 'on good road', senior official saysA meeting between the labour ministry's leadership and the EU-IMF troika representing Greece's creditors ended on Tuesday afternoon, with a senior official stating that things were "on a good road". According to this source, talks focused on just two issues: the legal framework for mass lay-offs and a reduction in non-wage labour costs by 3.9 pct, which is one of the country's commitments under bailout agreements.
A number of proposals have been put forward concerning the method for imposing the 3.9 pct reduction and the resulting cost for social insurance fund revenues, the source said. Among them is the possibility of introducing the reduction gradually in two or three stages, either split into two installments of 2.6 pct and 1.3 pct or in three equal installments of 1.3 pct.
The ministry's leadership prefers that the reduction be imposed in one go, believing that this will have beneficial repercussions for business profits and lead to a reduction of unemployment that will help offset the 700-million-euro 'slump' in insurance fund revenues and taxes that is expected result. If there is some gap in funding, this is to be covered with the assistance of the finance ministry.
Concerning mass dismissals, the same source said that recent changes in the framework that met with the approval of the social partners on this issue open the way for specific measures without necessarily meaning a change in the legislative framework.
 Environment minister discusses reduction of industrial energy costs with troikaEnvironment Energy and Climate Change Minister Yannis Maniatis on Tuesday attended a meeting alongside other ministry and government's officials with representatives of Greece's troika of creditors to discuss issues related to reducing industrial energy costs.
"Our proposals are compatible with European laws and national economy," Maniatis said after the end of the meeting and stressed that "we will promptly send (to the troika) all documentation based on objective data, in order to take the necessary measures to support employment and jobs positions in the Greek industry without burdening the national budget."
The new measures reducing industrial energy costs include electricity and natural gas and require a final approval by the troika before adoption.
The meeting was also attended by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Deputy Environment Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou.
 Troika, HFSF discuss developments in Greek banksThe troika on Tuesday began a round of talks with the management of Hellenic Financial Stability Fund to discuss pending issues related to the results of a stress test report conducted by BlackRock and any possible capital needs for the country's four systemic banks.
The troika heads met with the Fund's management on Tuesday and will have a new meeting on Wednesday. The troika will also meet with Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos on Wednesday. The Bank of Greece, in a meeting with four systemic banks' managements last week, said that capital needs of Greek banks were estimated at 5.5 billion euros, based on the stress tests results by BlackRock.
 Die Welt: A third package for Greece would offer more freedom on reformsA possible third support package to Greece would offer more freedom in the implemention of reforms, Die Welt newspaper said citing a German government plan.
"Instead of setting 100 targets to the last detail, the Greeks can be given 20 major targets. And they could to decide on their own how they would be implemented," the article said. "We want to disengage from the practice that comes primarily from the experience of the IMF in developing countries," a German government source told the newspaper.
By the end of last week, the Europeans did not have any positive results, since Athens had not implemented most of the reforms, the newspaper added. "This is by no means enough so as to disburse the next tranche," a government source told the newspaper.
"There is the impression that the Greeks do not support the agreed reforms even if the prime minister is determined to impose the measures," an unnamed official was quoted as saying.
Referring to the opportunities of Europeans putting pressure on Greeks, the newspaper said those possibilities were rather limited ahead of the European elections which would likely strengthen the radical left SYRIZA and the far right Golden Dawn.
 FM addresses Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence CommitteeGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, addressing Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on Tuesday, expressed his satisfaction over the State Legal Council's work group for submitting its report, following systematic and months-long work, on German reparations to Greece from World War II.
After examining the report, however, the Legal Council must state its position formally, not with a work group report but with an opinion by its plenum on the course to be followed, the minster said.
Venizelos also told the deputies that he had "implored" the Council to work again in a practical way with the Bank of Greece and the Finance ministry to define possible demands in detail, through the rapporteurs that it will appoint to the plenum.
The Foreign minister said that "the report needs evident supplementation, in relation to its technical and mathematical data, because these are not considered adequate". On its judicial dimension, he said that the issue be presented to the Council's plenum "because, if indeed the recommendation is to follow the judicial path proposed by the work group's report, then my prognosis, politically and legally, is not a prognosis that I would recommend the Hellenic Republic to follow".
 FM Venizelos briefs parliament on Cyprus issue developments; political parties reactThe Greek government supports the efforts of Cyprus Republic President Nicos Anastasiades, government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday, addressing the parliamentary Standing Committee on National Defense and Foreign Affairs on developments relating to the Cyprus issue.
Venizelos also briefed the MPs on developments in Ukraine, the contacts and meetings he had in western Balkan states during a recent tour and the destruction of the chemical arsenal of Syria.
The briefing focused mainly on the Cyprus issue, with the Foreign minister noting that the joint declaration between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot community leader Dervis Eroglu is a high-level declaration that puts an emphasis on the constitutional aspect. "Our decision is to back the decisions of the Cyprus Republic and its president," the foreign minister said, noting that Greece and the Cypriot Republic should not be accused of non-participation in a UN-promoted process.
"The agreement should be mature in order to be accepted by the people through a referendum, otherwise consequences will be negative," he pointed out, adding that a very important element is that "President Anastasiades' efforts, which are supported by the Greek government, are based on a brave and insightful approach, that of confidence-building measures".
Opposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos, one of the party representatives attending the briefing, said that a confederation solution is hidden behind the joint declaration which is not in compliance with the firm national policy on Cyprus and the UN policy. He also expressed concern because the Cypriot president has not briefed the political parties. "We fear that developments will be bad," he stated.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, New Democracy (ND) MP Dora Bakoyianni underlined that "history has taught us that each solution that is being presented is worse than the previous one" and did not hide her concern over the hastiness displayed by the foreign factor and the rumored timetables.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Papadimoulis commented that his party wants the solution of the Cyprus issue "but this does not mean any solution," noting that the joint declaration includes gray spots, unclear phrasing and risks. He also criticised the fact that President Anastasiades did not brief the main opposition party during his visit to Athens.
Opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) MP Maria Giannakaki underlined that "the solution will be the one that will be approved by the Cypriot people," adding that her party's position is that "Nicosia decides and Athens supports".
Referring to the developments in the Cyprus issue, opposition Communist Party (KKE) MP Thanassis Pafilis expressed deep concern, noting that his party does not agree with everything said. "The Annan Plan went out the door and was reintroduced through the window," he said, adding that the reference to "constituent states" leads to a partition solution, to a confederation and to the legalization of the Turkish invasion.
The joint declaration was also rejected by ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) MP Michalis Arvanitis.
 Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas attends European Parliament plenaryDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Tuesday visits Strasbourg to attend the European Parliament plenary session.
Kourkoulas earlier participated in the Plenary's Key Debate on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: annual growth survey 2014, employment and social aspects, and single market governance.
On the sidelines of the plenary session, Kourkoulas will represent the Council of the EU at the proceedings of the unofficial Trilogue on the Regulation concerning the charters for and funding of European political parties and European political foundations.On Wednesday, Kourkoulas will participate in the plenary debate on the Youth Guarantee Implementation and the EU-Switzerland relations. Then, he will attend a luncheon hosted by the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, in honour of the President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman, and in the afternoon he will sign along with Schulz approved legislative acts of the European Union.
The Greek Deputy Foreign Minister will also participate in the plenary session on the situation in Iraq and the use of armed drones.
 Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas addresses European Parliament plenary on the "European Semester"Combating unemployment, creating incentives for new jobs and adopting measures to boost participation in the labour market were among the issues underlined by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas in his Tuesday address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the "European Semester".
He noted that the unemployed will have to be assisted in finding a job and employment will have to be boosted.
The deputy foreign minister said that EU labour ministers will look at these priorities again when they meet on March 10, examining various important issues, such as reforms in social policy and pensions and participation in the labour market.
A key element is the need to combat youth unemployment, he added, noting that the implementation of the Youth Guarantee and the Initiative for Youth Employment are among the "European Semester" priorities but are not enough.
The deputy foreign minister also said that the ministers of education agreed in their meeting on Monday on the importance of investing in skills, adding that greater cooperation between labour and training sectors should be encouraged.
Kourkoulas cited last week's ECOFIN decisions that focused on the macroeconomic and fiscal aspects of the "European Semester", underlining that sustainable development will have to be achieved and serious efforts will have to be made toward the EU banking union.
 German President to visit site of Nazi massacre in Epirus, 'Sueddeutsche Zeitung' reportsGerman President Joachim Gauck will visit Ligkiades village in Epirus, northwestern Greece, the site of Nazi atrocities in World War II, during his official visit to Greece on March 5-7, according to the German newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung".
"The words 'sorry' and 'forgiveness' for what happened during the German occupation were never spoken regarding Greece," the newspaper said, adding that "the intention of the President Gauck is to signal a move in this direction - for this reason, initiatives such as Greek-German cooperation on youth issues, with scholarships have been undertaken."
According to the author, events such as the massacre at Ligkiades also occurred in other parts of Greece. However, these events were not mentioned in German history textbooks and this was one factor explaining the surprise provoked in Germany by Athens' recent claim for war reparations, she said.
 German ambassador meets with regional officials on CreteNew German ambassador to Greece Peter Schoof on Tuesday met with local officials in Iraklion, Crete in the framework of the inauguration of a career training centre on the island by the German Deputy Education and Research Minister Thomas Rachel.
Schoof was received by the head of the region of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis and Iraklion Mayor Yiannis Kourakis and discussed issues related to Crete's extraversion and the expansion of the tourism season on the island. They also talked about alternative types of tourism and the further promotion of Crete's products, history and culture in Germany.
 Tourism minister meets Arab countries ambassadorsTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Tuesday met with ambassadors of Arab countries to Greece to discuss visa issues.
During the meeting, which took place at the house of Saudi Arabia ambassador to Greece Rayed Krimly, Kefalogianni highlighted the government's initiatives to facilitate visa issue regarding "good will visitors" and urged Arabs to visit Greece. They also discussed the possibilities of a direct airline connection between Athens and Arab countries, which would help boost their tourist relations.
Moreover, the minister and the ambassadors discussed a possible meeting of EU and Arab countries' Tourism ministers in Athens, as part of Greece's EU presidency.
Krimly, on his part, mentioned the excellent relations between Greece and the Arab world and thanked the Greek minister on her visit to Saudi Arabia.
 Fortnight ban on opinion polls ahead of elections will be liftedThe ministry of interior intends to table legislation within the next few days that changes the law on the election of MEPs and introduces a regulation lifting the two-week gag on opinion polls before Election Day, Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis said on Tuesday.
Speaking on Real FM private radio, he said that "opinion polls will be allowed until Friday night and the same will apply in the second round of the elections. When the ban was decided the internet did not have the power it has today. On the eve of the elections, anyone can say anything to confuse public opinion. This will have to change."
 One-off reduction in social insurance contributions this summer, FinMin source saysThere will be a one-off 3.9 pct reduction in social insurance contributions this summer, a senior finance ministry source said on Tuesday after meetings with the EU-IMF troika representing Greece's creditors at the labour and finance ministries.
The two sides have yet to clarify whether the reduction will only concern the contributions paid by employers or whether workers will also participate, with the former getting a 2.9 pct reduction and the latter 1 pct. The source said the troika still objects to the prospect of lowered contributions for the workforce, however.
The finance ministry estimates that the net 'gap' in social insurance fund finances from the lowered contributions, initially estimated at 700 million euros, will be lower as a result of beneficial results on employment rates and business profitability. The ministry has pledged to cover any gap in financing that arises through various measures, with a source saying that "various ways are being examined".
The issue was among two discussed at a meeting between the labour ministry's leadership and the troika on Tuesday, with a senior labour ministry official later stating that things were "on a good road". The second issue discussed was the legal framework for mass lay-offs.
The source said a number of proposals have been put forward concerning a 3.9 pct social insurance reduction, including that of splitting the reduction into several installments, but that the ministry's leadership prefers that the reduction be imposed in one go so that the beneficial repercussions for profits and employment can help offset the 'slump' in insurance fund revenues and taxes.
Concerning mass dismissals, the same source said that recent changes in the framework that met with the approval of the social partners on this issue open the way for specific measures without necessarily meaning a change in the legislative framework.
 Energy Minister Maniatis presents 900 mln euro programs for energy cost savingThe achievement of European energy saving targets can reduce costs by 240 billion euros annually at a European level and create 2,000,000 new jobs in the next 10 years, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis said during a symposium on "Sustainable Communities in SE Europe" organized by the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources.
Maniatis also presented programs of over 200 million euros for the support of saving energy initiatives. On top of that, approximately 700 million euro resources have been provided for the energy upgrade of over 65,000 low and middle income Greek households.
"These programs aim at improving the municipalities' energy efficiency, reducing the budgetary cost of energy and protecting the natural environment through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improvement of the quality of citizens' life, and the creation of new jobs," Maniatis noted.
 SYRIZA criticises moves to deregulate gambling promotion on radio and televisionMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Tuesday lashed out at the government over moves to deregulate promotion of gambling and gaming on radio and television, especially clauses exempting media owners from the obligation to pay to the state 30 pct of the gross profit, whihc it said "constituted a political, economic and moral scandal."
SYRIZA noted that the decision also raised a major issue when the social implications were factored in, noting that the invasion of peoples' homes by gambling will have multifaceted consequences, psychological and financial, on already burdened households.
 KKE on negotiations with the troikaOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday underlined that "the troika's proposals for mass layoffs, employer contribution reductions, implementation of the OECD recommendations (on the deregulation of milk, bread, medicines, books, etc) are demands made by domestic and foreign business groups that intensify the exploitation of workers and target small business owners and producers, having as their goal a capitalist recovery and profitability".
"The current government and any future government that accepts this anti-popular framework will follow the same policy," the party statement concluded.
 Defence minister to participate in NATO Defence ministers' Brussels conferenceDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos will leave for Brussels on Wednesday to participate in NATO's two-day Defence ministers' conference.
The Defence ministers will be discussing at the conference the Alliance's defence potential interim report, whose text will be presented by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to NATO's summit in Wales in September for adoption.
Issues to be discussed, among others, in the framework of the conference will be developments in the sector of the Alliance's restructuring and NATO's sea strategy.
Developments in the Ukraine will constitute a separate issue for discussion on the conference's second day.
Avramopoulos will leave Brussels for Boston to participate as a main speaker at a conference organised by Harvard University and the Fletcher School at Tufts University on the issue of Europe's future.
The conference will be addressed, among others, by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission Vice President and Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia and Croatia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic.
Immediately after his address in Boston, the Defence minister will return to Brussels where, in the capacity of EU Defence ministers' chairman, he will be a main speaker at a conference on the European defence industry, organised by the European Commission.
 Greek, Serb defence ministers meet in Athens, discuss bilateral cooperationIssues concerning a deepening, widening and strengthening of bilateral cooperation between Greece and Serbia were discussed on Tuesday at a meeting between Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and his Serb counterpart Nebojsa Rodic.
The two ministers gave particular emphasis to cooperation in the defence industry, both as a means for supporting peace and stability in South-East Europe and to create jobs in this sector.
Avramopoulos reiterated Greece's support for Serbia's European perspective, pointing out that accession negotiations with the EU began on January 12 under the Greek EU Presidency. Regarding Kosovo, the minister reiterated Greece's position and its desire to play a constructive and positive role in the Western Balkans through good neighbour relations and cooperation in order to develop an 'oasis' of security for all the citizens of South-East Europe.
The Greek defence minister invited Rodic to participate in SE Europe defence ministers' meeting to be held in Athens within the next two months, while Rodic invited him to visit Serbia.
 National Defence General Staff on "Open Skies" obervation flightRussian military inspectors conducted an observation flight over Greece under the "Open Skies" Treaty, according to an announcement by the Hellenic National Defence General Staff. The "Open Skies" Treaty was signed in Helsinki on March 24, 1992 as part of a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe meeting. Some 27 countries originally participated in it, while it now comprises 34 members.The treaty, entered into force on January 1, 2002, is considered a confidence building measure and aims at the transparency of military activities (transatlantic) from Vancouver to Vladivostok via "aerial inspections".
 Citizen service centres (KEP) to offer online services as of this week, Adm.Reform minister saysCitizen service centres (KEP) this week will start offering a number of services "online", Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told ANA-MPA in an interview on Tuesday.
"KEP centres are a tried and tested as well as renowned institution in the Greek society. They serve millions of citizens and they have a high acceptance and satisfaction rate compared to other state departments. Therefore, we think it is our duty to reinforce this successful institution even further so as to facilitate citizens and companies that nowadays use KEP centres," Mitsotakis said.
The minister pointed out that "in the coming months we will be able to link KEP's basic registry with Public Power Corp. (PPC) and the companies included in (the finance ministry's) TAXIS registry...and also with the the Army's Recruitment Department so that basic recruitment documents can be easily issued."
The provision of those new services, Mitsotakis noted, is related to the new law that annuls the citizens' obligation to submit original and ratified copies of documents.
"We are enacting the full annulment of the ratification of all public documents' copies as part of a wider effort to cut down on bureaucracy that besets citizens," Mitsotakis said.
"We trust citizens; we don't take them through a bureaucratic procedure. We give them the opportunity to submit a clear copy of a document to a state department without KEP's ratification seal. That state service is then obliged to conduct limited random checks to find any false documents."
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 NERIT to launch a pilot program in March, public broadcasting minister Kapsis saysThe new public broadcaster (NERIT S.A.) will launch a pilot program in March, Deputy Minister for Public Radio and Television Pantelis Kapsis told Vima radio station on Tuesday.
Kapsis also noted that "April 27 is the last date based on the agreement with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) that NERIT should broadcast".
Referring to the compensations of former state broadcaster (ERT) employees, Kapsis said "30 million euros have already been given, which is more than half of the amount of the compensations to be granted, but we are still waiting for the decision of the Finance Ministry on the Single Payroll for the exact calculation. This is a matter of the Finance Ministry."
 Supreme Court requests lifting of Golden Dawn deputy's immunity to ParliamentThe Supreme Court's Prosecution Authority conveyed a request to Parliament to lift the immunity of Golden Dawn party deputy Efstathios Boukouras, who is being held in custody.
Corinth Prosecution Authority conveyed to the Supreme court's Prosecution Authority a request for the lifting of Boukouras's immunity so that he can be tried for violation of the Traffic Code and obstruction of traffic.
The Supreme Court's Prosecution Authority subsequently conveyed the request to Parliament.
According to the file of proceedings, on November 18, 2012, Boukouras together with another 10 Golden Dawn members occupied the section of the Athens-Patra motorway at the location of the Zevgolatio tollgate. The deputy together with the other Golden Dawn members opened the tollgate's bars and encouraged drivers to pass through without paying tolls.
 Independent Greeks leader to visit Canada, USThe opposition Independent Greeks party Parliamentary group met on Tuesday, in a meeting chaired by party leader Panos Kammenos to discuss the party's strategy in the local and EU elections in May and its work in Parliament. Kammenos briefed his MPs on his recent visit to Cyprus and also informed them about a planned visit to Canada and the United States on March 22-26 to organise local party branches.
 Greek economy to grow by 0.6 pct in 2014, EU Commission reportsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris-M. Aroni)
Greece is expected to post a 0.6 percent economic growth rate in 2014, the European Commission said in its interim report on EU member states released on Tuesday.
In its report titled "First signs of recovery", the European Commission underlined that Greece would return to growth in 2014 as confidence indicators continue to improve and structural reforms in labour and product markets improve economic competitiveness by creating expectations for boosting exports and investment.
According to the Commission, fiscal consolidation and strengthening of competitiveness in Greece have improved the climate of confidence and boosted economic recovery.
The European Commission reported that recession slowed down to -2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 from -5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013. The strong rebound in tourism, since last spring, had a positive impact on the economy, it added.
Overall, recession in 2013 is expected to slow down to -3.7 percent against a -4.0 percent Commission forecast.
The report noted that economic recession continued slowing in the second half of 2013, with the economy shrinking by 2.6 pct in the fourth quarter after shrinking by 5.5 pct in the first quarter of 2013, as a strong recovery in tourism had a positive impact on the economy. The Greek economy is expected to shrink by 3.7 pct in 2013, down from the Commission's previous estimate for a -4.0 pct decline. The report said that the economic confidence index continued growing in January, supported by a strong performance in services and retail commerce, while the purchasing power index surpassed the 50-point level for the first time since August 2009. A bank recapitalization process and fiscal consolidation will also have a supportive role in achieving a 0.6 pct economic growth rate this year.
The European Commission, however, noted that private consumption will continue falling, along with available incomes in the country. The report said it expected the Greek economy to gain more ground in 2015 thanks to investments and structural reforms, while a recovery in Eurozone economy was expected to boost Greek exports, shipping and tourism. Greek unemployment is expected to reach 27.3 pct in 2013, with the unemployment rate expected to fall to 26 pct this year and 24 pct in 2015. The consumer price index fell by 0.9 pct in 2013 and was projected to fall by 0.6 pct in 2014, reflecting weak domestic demand, a decline in the unique labor cost and reforms in product markets. The Commission forecasts a slight increase in consumer prices, by 0.2 pct in 2015.
Greece's fiscal deficit is projected to fall to 2.3 pct of GDP in 2013, to 1.8 pct in 2014 and to 1.6 pct in 2015, helped by a boost in exports and a recovery in imports. However, the Commission noted there were still risks associated with deviating from agreed policies, undermining confidence, investments and exports. The Commission noted that these risks needed to be reassessed. The report noted that the country's fiscal situation is improving, while the country's public debt is estimated to rise to 177.3 pct of GDP in 2013, falling to 177 pct in 2014 and to 171.9 pct in 2015.
"The Commission's latest estimates confirmed the government's forecasts in executing the 2013 budget," a finance ministry report said on Tuesday. The report noted that "Greece achieved a significant - igher than expected primary surplus in 2013).
 DEPA reaches agreement with Gazprom for 15-pct reduction in natural gas pricesGreece's natural gas corporation DEPA has reached an agreement with Russia's Gazprom for a 15 pct retrospective reduction in natural gas prices and a 10-year extension of a supply contract until 2026, the Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry said on Tuesday.
In an announcement, the ministry said that the deal envisages a 15 pct retrospective reduction of natural gas prices, starting from July 1, 2013, which will be rolled over to both industrial and household consumers.
The ministry said that a personal intervention by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to the Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin ensured the successful outcome of negotiations between DEPA and Gazprom and noted that the new supply price placed Greece at the average natural gas price level in the European Union. The ministry noted that the new price was one of the lowest compared with Greece's neighbors and markedly lower from prevailing prices in spot LNG.
The new price is set at around 393 US dollars per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, equal to the average price for long-term contracts in Europe.
DEPA officials told ANA-MPA that large industrial consumers and energy producers will have a 10.5 pct discount on rates, while additional discounts will apply by the end of the year in order to cover the retrospective duration of the deal, which is estimated at 90-100 million euros.
Ministry officials said that the new contract between DEPA and Gazprom was expected to be signed by mid-March.
 Piraeus could become one of the top five container-shipping hubs in Europe, Hatzidakis saidThe port of Piraeus could become one of the top five container-shipping hubs as the government spurs logistics activities in a bid to kick-start economic growth, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said in an interview with Bloomberg news agency in Brussels on Tuesday.
"Piraeus could become one of the five biggest ports in Europe very soon. The geostrategic position of Greece is such that we can have development in the area of logistics," Hatzidakis said, adding that "what the state can do is to give incentives".
Hatzidakis said taking full advantage of Piraeus' potential to become a bigger trade gateway will require further development of the Greek railway network and greater exploitation of port and rail links in the country. He also cited the need to improve highways and regional airports.
In that context, he said legislation is in the works to encourage investment in the logistics industry. "It will make life easier for investors in logistics," Hatzidakis said. "It will modernize the institutional framework, mainly by simplifying the licensing framework."
Sotiris Trichas, president of the Athens-based Greek Logistics Association, a non-profit organization that promotes the industry's development, told Bloomberg that the logistics industry, including transportation, contributes around 10 pct to 12 pct to Greek gross domestic product and can help revive economic growth.
"Because Greece is a small market, we must take advantage of the shipments that can come here not as a final destination," Trichas said, noting that "we have a big opportunity with the port of Piraeus".
Bloomberg noted that Piraeus is the 11th-biggest container port in the EU based on rankings for 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, according to European statistics agency Eurostat. Bloomberg also underlined that in 2011, Piraeus had a growth of 98 pct, the largest increase of any port in the top 20, according to Eurostat.
 Greece to raise up to 3.0 bln euros through reposGreece's Public Debt Organization Agency (PDMA) will raise up to 3 billion euros through repos from general government entities, following a decision by Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras.
"By decision of the Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, the Public Debt Organisation Agency (PDMA) is granted the jurisdiction, as assignee of the Greek State, to conclude acts of sale of securities managed by the Greek State through repos with general government entities," the finance ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Organization, in cooperation with the General Accounting Office is monitoring on a daily basis over the Greek state's cash reserves with a horizon covering one, two, three and more months. Following detail examination of the general government's cash reserves it has been concluded that a sum of more than 3.0 billion euros could be immediately exploited by the Greek state and the most favorable solution was considered to be borrowing through repos as they offer very low interest costs (raging from 1.70 pct to 1.75 pct for a two-week period), while they do not burden both the fiscal deficit and the general government's debt as they were considered to be intra-government debt.
The statement noted that borrowing through T-bill auctions of three-month duration currently has a 3.6 pct interest rate and could have a real benefit for the Greek state worth 900,000 euros, while a 3.0-billion-euro borrowing through repos could have a real benefit to the Greek state worth 27 million euros.
 Chamber of Commerce and Industry asks for PM's intervention on taxation systemConstantine Michalos, president of the Hellenic Union of Chambers and head of Greece's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sent a letter to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras asking for his intervention so that a "new, simpler, more effective and fair tax system" can be established.
Michalos referred to decisions made by the government's economic staff "without detailed studies, strictly oriented to revenues collection and without a developmental dimension or carelessly." The Chamber's proposals on the new taxation regime include among others the settlement of all pending tax cases in a way that serve the state's interest and give motives to citizens, the amendment of regulation on tax residency, the rationalization of objectively assessed cost of living and radical amendments in the Taxation Process Code regarding penalties and audits.
 Deputy Dev't Minister says Ellinikon property bidding is near completionDeputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis on Tuesday underlined that the exploitation of Athens' former international airport facilities in Ellinikon is a great opportunity for Greece.
"An unexploited place, full of abandoned facilities will be transformed into a new city with one of the largest metropolitan parks in Europe," Mitarakis said and stressed that the investment "will exceed 5 billion euros and create thousands of new jobs."
Mitarakis said that the tendering of the property is in its final stage and will be completed soon.
 Greek trade deficit down 11 pct in 2013In a report on the country's merchandise trade, the statistics service said that the value of import-arrivals totalled 3.498 billion euros in December, down 9.6 pct compared with the same month in 2012, while excluding oil products the value of imports fell by 11.8 pct in December.
The value of export-deliveries totalled 2.099 billion euros in December, down 14 pct from the same month in 2012, while excluding oil products the value of exports fell by 3.5 pct.
The country's trade deficit fell to 1.398 billion euros in December, from 1.428 billion euros in December 2012, a decline of 2.1 pct, while excluding oil products the trade deficit shrank by 21.5 pct.
The value of import-arrivals in the January-December 2013 period totalled 46.883 billion euros, from 49.314 billion euros in 2012, for a decline of 4.9 pct, while excluding oil products the value of imports fell by 4.8 pct.
The value of export-deliveries in 2013 totalled 27.541 billion euros, down 0.2 pct from 2012, while excluding oil products the value of exports fell by 2.1 pct.
The country's trade deficit dropped 11 pct to 19.341 billion euros in 2013, from 21.729 billion in 2012, while excluding oil products the trade deficit shrank by 8.1 pct.
 Greece's debt agency PDMA to raise up to 3 bln euros through repos from general government entitiesThe Public Debt Organization Agency (PDMA) will rise up to 3 billion euros through repos from general government entities, following a decision by the Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras.
"By decision of the Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, the Public Debt Organization Agency (PDMA) is granted the jurisdiction, as assignee of the Greek State, to conclude acts of sale of securities managed by the Greek State through repos with general government entities," the Finance Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
 ETAD announces the opening of online auction platform for state propertiesPublic Property Company (ETAD) on Tuesday announced the inauguration of an online auction platform to help in the developing of state property.
The electronic platform offers an innovative and simple, reliable, transparent and fast procedure that can contribute to the effective exploitation of a large number of real estate assets with important developmental benefits for the Greek economy.
Following the successful completion of a series of electronic auctions, ETAD and the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED), Greece's privatisation agency, will go ahead with the selling of four more public real estate assets in Thessaloniki, Volos, Rio and Kalamata.
According to its site, ETAD is a Greek state company whose objective is to manage and develop the state-owned tourism property in line with national tourism policy goals and priorities. Its focus is on sustainable tourism.
The platform's web address is www.e-publicrealestate.gr
 Fourlis Group reports lower 2013 lossesFourlis Group on Tuesday reported after-tax and minorities losses of 8.3 million euros in 2013, after losses of 11.3 million euros in 2012, with sales falling to 403.3 million euros from 420.3 million euros over the same periods, respectively.
Consolidated EBITDA rose to 25.4 million euros, from 20.1 million euros in 2012, while pre-tax losses fell to 5.8 million euros in 2013, from losses of 11.7 million euros in the previous year. The Group said its results have been burdened by tax provision on tax-exempt inventories (1.3 million euros) and by negative currency exchange rates from its activities in Turkey (2.0 million euros).
IKEA reported a 7.0 pct decline in sales to 266.4 million euros, while EBITDA rose to 21.3 million euros, up 17.8 pct. IKEA reported pre-tax profits of 1.1 million euros after a loss of 2.0 million euros in 2012.
Intersport reported a 4.0 pct increase in sales to 111 million euros and a pre-tax loss of 1.8 million euros in 2013, from a loss of 951,000 euros in 2012.
The electrical appliance wholesale business reported lower sales to 22.3 million euros and pre-tax losses of 2.2 million euros.
 ELGA to pay 12 million euros as compensation to 5,747 producersThe Hellenic Agricultural Insurance Organization (ELGA) will be paying out 12 million euros in compensation to 5,747 producers on Thursday.
The compensation concerns damage to crop production and mainly to fruit trees, vineyards, cotton, vegetables, grain and hay-producing plants as well as to livestock by various harmful causes.
 Greek stocks jump 3.48 pct on TuesdayGreek stocks rebounded strongly in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, recovering most of the ground lost during the previous six sessions, during which the composite index of the market fell by 4.77 pct. The index jumped 3.48 pct to end at 1,261.92 points, accompanied by a rebound in turnover to 84.14 million euros. The Large Cap index rose 3.51 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.91 pct higher.
Titan (6.93 pct), OTE (6.64 pct), PPC (5.71 pct), Folli Follie (5.34 pct), Mytilineos (4.01 pct) and MIG (3.98 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks. All sector indices moved higher with Health (8.14 pct), Telecoms (6.64 pct), Commerce (5.33 pct) and Constructions (5.19 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 100 to 35 with another 28 issues unchanged. Athina (20 pct), Parnassos (19.80 pct) and Karamolegkos (18.18 pct) were top gainers, while Nakas (29.63 pct), Pairis (24.14 pct) and Kathimerini (9.89 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Industrial Products: +2.55%
Oil & Gas: +2.26%
Personal & Household: +2.79%
Raw Materials: +2.79%
Travel & Leisure: +1.61%
Food & Beverages: +2.22%
Financial Services: +3.39%
Real Estate: +1.09%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, Jumbo, OPAP and EXAE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.71
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.11
Coca Cola HBC: 18.64
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.78
National Bank of Greece: 3.42
Eurobank Properties : 7.80
Piraeus Bank: 1.95
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 5.84 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 5.93 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.49 pct and the German Bund 1.65 pct. Turnover was an improved 17 million euros, of which 16 million euros were buy orders and the remaining one million was a sell order.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.553 pct from 0.549 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.47 pct from 0.466 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.387 pct from 0.384 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.289 pct from 0.288 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.222 pct from 0.221 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.29 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 24.484 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,755 contracts worth 17.707 million euros, with 48,986 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,737 contracts worth 6.777 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (2,096), followed by National Bank (1,356), Piraeus Bank (1,421), MIG (430), OTE (1,681), PPC (836), OPAP (886), Hellenic Exchanges (288), Titan (113), Mytilineos (1,094), Hellenic Petroleum (232), Sidenor (239), Metka (118), GEK (264), Ellaktor (112), Intralot (254) and Jumbo (122).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.396
Pound sterling 0.836
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 9.065
Japanese yen 142.76
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 8.412
Canadian dollar 1.546
Australian dollar 1.546
 Environmental approval for new biogas power plant using manureA new power plant using biogas produced from manure is to be built in Halkidona, Thessaloniki in order to exploit waste produced by livestock farming units to generate energy.
The Metropolitan Commission of Thessaloniki on Tuesday approved an environmental impact study on the proposed investment, which is expected to absorb about 30,000 tonnes of manure per year. Environmental permits have already been given for two similar units in the Thessaloniki Region but none have gone into operation yet, as the remaining procedures for final authorization have not been completed.
Through a new process using lactose and yeasts, the farm waste is broken down into biogas comprised chiefly of methane and carbon dioxide. After sulphur and water are removed, this is then burned to produce about 0.499 MW electricity that will be used to supply the medium voltage network of Public Power Corporation (PPC).
"This is an investment that is implemented in the frame of renewable energy and will use manure from the many farms in the district," stressed Halkidona Mayor Yiannis Bikos in statements to the ANA-MPA.
 Construction of Aegaleo building with zero energy consumption in final phaseThe study of a building in Aegaleo, west of Athens, which will be remodelled in order to have zero energy consumption was presented at a conference of the Centre for Renewable Energy Sources and Saving state agency (KAPE) which was attended by the mayor of Aegaleo Christos Kardaras and representatives from municipalities of Budapest and Zagreb, which are developing similar energy saving programmes in their cities.
Today, the building is being used as a daycare centre (340 sqm), with annual operating costs of 6,000 euros (3,500 euros for heating oil and 2,500 for electricity) while after the remodelling the cost will be closer to zero.
According to the study, the first step will reduce energy use in the building by up to 50-60 pct, with some changes in construction (window and door casing, thermal insulation, green roof). In the second phase the building will produce energy that is consumed (and will be covered with photovoltaic and solar thermal units). Overall the cost of the interventions was estimated at around 100,000 euros and will be covered by European funds.
The reconstruction is done in the frame of the trans-European programme "RE-SEEties", which supports municipalities in Southeastern Europe in order to develop integrated solutions for energy efficiency and waste management, thus creating sustainable urban communities. The project brings together municipalities and energy centres from eight states of Southeastern Europe. Its budget amounts to 2.2 million euros and it will run for two years (2013-2014).
Regarding other countries, the extensive use of renewable energy in public and municipal buildings of Budapest and the use of biomass for energy production in Zagreb were presented by delegates from the two cities.
 Peloponnese farmers to remain at roadblocks until FridayPeloponnese farmers, still at roadblocks in Messinia and Lakonia and near the cities of Argos and Aigio, are expected to decide on further action on Friday.
Farmers, who will remain at roadblocks until Friday, expect the government's response to their demands, which are mainly related to taxation issues.
 Athens Medical School to launch nationwide health survey on March 15The Athens University Medical School on Tuesday announced its intention to conduct a National Study of Morbidity and Risk Factors (EMENO) in Greece, via a door-to-door survey starting on March 15. It is organized in collaboration with all medical schools in Greece, as well as Panteion University, and will focus chiefly on respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
The organisers stressed that in Greece, unlike other countries of the European Union, there are no representative epidemiological studies of the population providing reliable data on the population's state of health, a gap that the EMENO survey hopes to fill by contributing to a national strategy for health.
It will be carried out simultaneously with the 'Hprolipsis' survey, the first national epidemiological study of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) will also take place. The non-governmental organizations 'Doctors of the World' and 'PRAKSIS' will be involved in the second study.
Yiota Touloumi, Associate Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology of the Athens University Medical School presented the key points of the two studies which will be conducted on a random sample of 6,000 people over 18 years. "The most important thing is for people to open their doors and to trust us. Information and results are protected by medical confidentiality and are strictly personal," she stressed. The process, she explained, follows three simple steps: interview and questionnaire response, a record of somatometrics parameters, blood sampling and testing of blood samples.
''The people participating will only benefit,'' Touloumi stressed, noting that they would be given a complete health screening completely free of charge, while the results of any tests will sent by post.
The main goals of the EMENO survey are to map the state of public health in Greece, assess risk factors and prevention measures and to record barriers to health access, the socioeconomic factors that impact on health and the effect of the crisis. It will also attempt to investigate the levels of air pollution and its effects on public health.
Regarding the Hprolipsis study, Touloumi noted that the main problem with HBV, HCV and HIV infections is that they are symptom-less for a long time and a large percentage of patients is unaware of the infection. In Greece, patients with chronic hepatitis B are estimated to be about 300,000 and those with chronic hepatitis C about 200,000, while in recent years there has been a steady increase of HIV infections.
 Archbishop Dimitrios of America presents communities gift to Cephalonia, CyprusNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Archbishop Dimitrios of America sent the Metropolitan Church of Cephalonia 25,000 US dollars to help cover needs of the earthquake-stricken residents in this western Greek island, it was announced on Tuesday.
In a letter to the Metropolitan Spyridon of Cephalonia, the archbishop mentioned among other things that "the amount is a product of the love of communities and individuals".
A gift of the same amount from the Relief Fund for Cypriots was made by the archbishop to the volunteers council at the partly occupied town of Agios Dometios on Cyprus, to support the a nursing centre.
 Industrial Gas Museum in Athens celebrates first anniversaryThe Industrial Gas Museum on Sunday celebrated its one year anniversary in an event held at the Athens Technopolis. The museum opened in Athens on 27 January 2013, nearly 30 years after the gas industry shut down.
The gas industry was founded in 1857 to provide light in public spaces in Athens. It was the first energy plant in Greece; by the end of the 19th century the network gas had been expanded to provide gas to industries and households.
The plant's administration came under the jurisdiction of the city of Athens in 1938, with the Athens Municipality Gas Company officially founded in 1952. The plant provided the Athenians with energy for 130 years before going out of operation permanently in 1984.
A few years after the premises shut down they were designated a historical monument by the Culture Ministry, with the prospect of becoming a museum and recreation area. The gas plant provides characteristic examples of technological and industrial architecture of the 19th century, given that most of the buildings and the facilities, including much of the machinery, remain intact.
The repair and restoration of the buildings and the design of the open areas were completed in 2004. By 1999, the Athens Municipality had opened the premises under the name "Technopolis" (art city) for the hosting of cultural and other events.
The institution, the first industrial museum in Athens is open to the public daily, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
 Drug trafficking ring bustedAthens police busted a criminal organization engaging in importing and trafficking large quantities of the drug MDMA (ecstasy), it was announced on Tuesday.
Six people were arrested in raids carried out in the greater Attiki region, while 8,606 grams of MDMA, 730 grams of amphetamine and 2,160 grams of unprocessed cannabis were seized.
Police also found the apartment used by the ring members to hide the drugs, in the Athens district of Nea Smyrni.
 Child pornography arrest in ThessalonikiA 50-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki having in his possession child pornography material, it was announced on Tuesday.
The Greek police launched an investigation into the case after receiving relevant information by the Russian authorities that had traced online dissemination of hardcore child pornography material in Greece.
Police searched the suspect's house and seized hard drives and a USB stick with child pornography material.
 Drug dealing arrests on ZakynthosFifteen people of Greek, Albanian and Ukrainian nationality aged 20 to 48 were arrested for drug trafficking on the island of Zakythos after several months of police investigation.
A police raid in the suspects' residences, a search in their cars as well as in warehouses in remote areas revealed 2 kilos of cannabis, 433 grams of heroin, and 3 grams of cocaine.
Police confiscated the drugs along with three cars, 800 euros cash, 18 mobile phones, two brass knuckles and two air guns.
According to the case file, the 15 individuals are facing charges of forming a criminal organisation as well as of drug dealing, illegal gun possession and illegal stay in the country.
The suspects will be sent to Zakynthos prosecutor on Tuesday night.
 Overcast on ThursdayClouds and light rain, especially in the west and south, are forecast on Wednesday, with light to moderate winds reaching up to 5 Beaufort at sea. Temperatures to drop, with frost and possibly mist in the early morning, ranging from 4C to 16C. Scattered cloud in Attica, with temperatures between 6C and 15C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 5C to 12C. Cloud and showers in Cephalonia, with temperatures between 7C and 15C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Government's new gift to private TV channels
DIMOKRATIA: 1,186 hirings in Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), Metro and PPC.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Pay again for the banks.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: 27 million euros lost due to government's inability to absorb them.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 1,618 hirings in public sector
ESTIA: Where will early elections lead to?
ETHNOS: Stop dirty games!
IMERISSIA: Suspicious games with the banks.
KATHIMERINI: Government bargaining with the troika over the primary surplus.
LOGOS: Pensions through the sieve again.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Expectations over allocation of primary surplus fading.
RIZOSPASTIS: No privatisation at Attica's coastal front.
TA NEA: Dirty games with banks and primary surplus.
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