|Friday, 1 December 2023|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-02-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 28 February 2014 Issue No: 4598
 BoG's Provopoulos: 2013 last year of recessionIt is reasonable to forecast that 2013 was the last year of recession based on all the available data, Bank of Greece (BoG) George Provopoulos said on Thursday while presenting the central bank' s annual report.
However, if this forecast is to become a reality, not only must the conditions contributing to the improved outlook remain unchanged, but they also have to be taken further, he said during the general meeting of the bank's shareholders. The prerequisites for this to happen are resolve and consistency in implementing the stabilisation programme and elimination or at least minimisation of the risks and uncertainties that might be triggered by a deterioration in the social and political climate, as a result of growing confrontation in the run-up to the European and local government elections, Provopoulos added.
New credit must be offered to dynamic enterprises
Commenting on developments in the banking sector, the central banker stressed that the landscape has changed, adding that cash reserves of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund -around 8.0 billion euros- were enough to cover any future capital needs of Greek banks.?
He estimated, however, that the possibilities of credit expansion will remain limited for a series of reasons, such as the fact that net deposit inflows remained low, a loan/deposit ratio must be kept at a conservative level, rising non-performing loans discouraged new credit and dependence of Greek banks from the European Central Bank's liquidity mechanisms remained high.
Provopoulos, however, urged banks to re-orientate their policy and to avoid trends followed in the previous decade, when a large part of credit was channeled to investments in houses and consumption.
New credit must be directed to dynamic enterprises with a high grade of export orientation and growth prospects. This limited liquidity must be directed to the real economy in a way to maximize its growth potential. It would be useless and dangerous to let weak and non-viable enterprises or sectors to be kept alive based on the terms of the past, the central banker said.
 The positive change in Greek economy is impressive, gov't spokesman saysThe positive change in Greek economy has been impressive and this is confirmed by several independent sources such as the markets, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told private TV station ANT1.
Kedikoglou referred to the lower spreads of the Greek bonds and in particular the 10-year bond spread which has fallen to April 2010 levels.
"The picture has changed significantly; we are moving towards development," Kedikoglou noted. However, he stressed that the economic programme and the exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits are two different issues.
 KKE's Koutsoumbas on the BoG reportOpposition Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Thursday commented on the Bank of Greece (BoG) report made public earlier in the day, noting that it confirms the party's position that "any capitalist recovery that may follow will be based on the ruins of worker and popular rights and on worn out small business owners".
"Ruins will remain ruins because this is demanded by the capitalists and the EU policy served by the government and the main opposition party," the KKE general secretary underlined.
 PM Samaras to recommend Jean-Claude Juncker as EPP candidate for European Commission presidentFormer Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker called on Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to support him as a candidate of the European People's Party ( EPP ) for European Commission president.
Juncker, who had a phone conversation with the Greek premier on Wednesday, said he needed two recommendations to be appointed as candidate and that one of them should come from Greece. Samaras has agreed to that and the former Luxembourg prime minsiter will probably announce his candidancy within the day.
The decision will be taken at the European People's Party summit, which takes place on March 6-7 in Dublin.
Government sources noted that Greece managed in two years to spare itself the disgrace and reach a point of being one of those countries that co-decided on the appointment of Mario Monti as chief of high level group on European Union own resources and recommended one of the candidates for European Commission presidency.
 SYRIZA responds to the prime minister's statement on estimated hydrocarbon revenuesMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Thursday spoke about "intense petty partisanship and disorientating populism," lashing out at Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in response to his statement on Wednesday according to which revenues from the exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits are estimated at 150 billion euros.
"The ND-PASOK memorandum government, trapped in the claws of the memorandum and foolish political decisions, is trying to set up a new dead-end success story," SYRIZA said.
SYRIZA underlined that it is too early for such statements, noting that no one can say with certainty what the revenues will be until detailed geological and geochemical research is conducted and drilling is launched.
SYRIZA also accused the government that it will hand over research and drilling rights to multinational corporations.
 Health minister unveils details of draft omnibus bill on healthHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday unveiled planned measures to be included in draft omnibus bill on the National Health System being prepared by the ministry, which he said would include evening surgical operations, along the lines of the afternoon doctors' visits established in recent years.
The omnibus bill also provides for a redistribution of hospital beds based on needs and public-private sector partnerships that will start with cleaning and catering services in hospitals.
Speaking about the institution of evening surgeries on the sidelines of his meeting with the governors of the Regional Health Authorities and the governors of the hospitals, Georgiadis said that this measure will contribute to a better functioning of hospitals, as it will relieve a backlog in morning surgeries.
While speaking to the governors, the minister stressed that their main concern must be to reduce waiting times for patients and providing the best possible service, monitoring the flow of overdue debts and ensuring the transparency of procurement tenders. He also praised a measure for assessments as a tool for the continuous improvement of health services.
 Difficult access to health care is unthinkable, Greek President Papoulias saysIt is unthinkable for citizens in a mature European democracy to face difficulties in having their illness diagnosed and accessing health care, Greek President Karolos Papoulias said on Thursday ahead of the International Day for Rare Diseases.
"Our fellow citizens who struggle against some rare condition often fight for the obvious, to have their illness recognized and get the help they are entitled to, " Papoulias said in his message.
The President expressed his support to those affected by rare diseases, particularly the children, and noted that "rare diseases are one of the biggest challenges for science but also for the welfare state."
"Treatments are often expensive and are perennial, but there is no argument to justify any violation of the right to health care," Papoulias emphasized, referring to shocking testimonies from parents who put up their own fight so that their child can be granted support from the welfare state.
"The science is continuously making progress and that is a reason for optimism. An even greater reason is the national commitment to a classless, rational and strong health system that will not leave anyone in the lurch," he concluded.
 Health Minister criticises regional doctors who never signed up with EOPYYHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday sent a strict warning to regional doctors who did not want to sign contracts with the Greek National Organisation for Provision of Health Care Services (EOPYY), after all four cardiologists on the island of Samos rejected contracts with the organization.
"When on an island or in a region none of the doctors accepts contracts with EOPYY, this is obviously the result of collusion among them," Georgiadis said and underlined that "we can see that - we are not blind, and we will protect the insured people's interests while the doctors that made this agreement will soon regret it."
Georgiadis also linked the protests of the residents on the island of Paros to the upcoming local elections and noted that as the elections are approaching, protests will increase. All incidents will stop after the elections, he asserted.
The minister admitted that the situation on the islands is difficult and underlined that on many occasions there were job openings for subsidiary doctors but no doctors showed interest in them. He expressed the belief that the newly-introduced incentives will attract doctors to fill vacancies.
 Foreign ministry lashes out at opposition parties for their statements on the Greeks in UkraineThe foreign ministry on Thursday strongly criticized statements made by opposition party cadres regarding the situation of Greek expatriates in Ukraine, noting that foreign policy issues and the situation of the Greeks in Ukraine should not be exploited to serve petty partisan interests.
"If all those who made the statements had asked to be briefed before speaking about the issue in public they would have been aware of the announcement issued earlier today by the Federation of Greek Community Associations of Ukraine," the foreign ministry underlined, referring to the statements made by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Independent Greeks (AN.EL) and Golden Dawn (GD).
The foreign ministry noted that the announcement by the Federation of Greek Community Associations of Ukraine refers to the close and continuous cooperation with the Greek embassy in Kiev and the general consulates in Odessa and Mariupol.
 FM Venizelos to visit Rome on FridayGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Friday will travel to Rome to meet with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, according to a ministry announcement.
The meeting, which is scheduled for 17.00, will focus on bilateral relations, energy cooperation, the priorities of Greece's current and Italy's upcoming EU presidency, emphasizing on the European policy to crack down on illegal immigration as well as international and regional developments.
 Deputy Foreign Minister presents EU policy on IraqDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Wednesday presented the main targets of the EU policy on Iraq and the use of drones during his intervention in the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg.
Kourkoulas said that the situation in Iraq remains difficult and this has to do with both internal and external factors, such as the tension between Shiites and Sunnis. He condemned the use of violence and extremist positions, adding that there are currently more than 240,000 internally displaced persons in Iraq. The EU is present with significant programmes of humanitarian assistance in Iraq, Kourkoulas underlined.
According to Kourkoulas, the main targets of the EU policy on Iraq are strengthening and respecting the human rights, respecting the laws and promoting education.
He also stressed that the ultimate goal is to normalize the situation and help Iraq develop into a stable state with strong democratic institutions.
 Deputy FM Kourkoulas to meet with new German AmbassadorDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will meet on Friday with the new German Ambassador to Athens, Peter Schoof, it was announced on Thursday.
The meeting will take place at 10:00 a.m. at the foreign ministry.
 Deputy Foreign Minister Gerontopoulos on the NGO crosschecksA total of 118, of the 198 ongoing programmes of various foreign ministry non-governmental organisations (NGOs), are under the microscope of certified public accountants and the investigation underway will have to be completed by October, it was announced on Thursday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Akis Gerontopoulos briefed Parliament on the issue in response to a current question by opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) MP Nikos Tsoukalis on the course of crosschecks conducted on NGOs and in particular, on the Church of Greece NGO "Solidarity".
According to Gerontopoulos, crosschecks in 80 of the 198 ongoing programmes were completed in March 2013.
As regards NGO "Solidarity", the deputy minister said that it undertook a total of 32 programmes in the period 2002-2006 funded with 23,126,000 euros by the foreign ministry's Hellenic Aid agency, ten of which have been completed and crosschecked.
He sad that Hellenic Aid has terminated the contracts in four of the remaining 22 programmes and since 2008 the two parties are in court over the amount of 6,190,000 euros, which is claimed back by Hellenic Aid. The contracts for another six "Solidarity" programmes have been terminated and the cross-checks in the remaining 12 programmes are still underway.
DIM.AR's Tsoukalis underlined that his party had called for answers as regards the funding of NGO "Solidarity" since 2011.
 Former member of NGO arrested for debts to the stateA former member and legal representative of a non-governmental organization (NGO) was arrested for debts to the state amounting at 1,047,697.70 euros.
The 50 year-old man was brought to the public prosecutor.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos on the NATO meeting in BrusselsThe new strategic challenges are the centre of NATO's attention, while new forms of cooperation, new policies and new solutions are being sought to reinforce the Alliance's defence capabilities, Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday said after the two-day Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels.
He said that Greece is participating and intervening in these procedures with specific proposals and positions aimed at strengthening the alliance and "our country's role as a stabilizing factor in the greater region".
Despite the crisis, Greece remains the most stable, strong and stabilizing factor in a region of instability from Ukraine to Tunisia, he noted.
Avramopoulos said that the meeting focused on the security challenges at sea, on Greece's assistance to the Maritime Immediate Reaction Forces and also on the situation in Afghanistan, in the context of the withdrawal of the international force.
As regards Ukraine, he said that an emphasis was given to democratic legality, respect for democratic values and the state of law, noting that "we support a sovereign, independent and democratic Ukraine, as a precondition for EuroAtlantic security".
 Admin. Reform ministry officials to meet troika representatives Friday morningAdministrative Reform ministry on Thursday announced a meeting with representatives of Greece's troika of creditors on Friday at 10:00 a.m.
Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will update the troika repre-sentatives on the layoffs and the mobility scheme, which are among conditions set out for Greece under the current loan memorandum.
The meeting will take place at the Finance ministry. The largest union of the public sector, ADEDY, has scheduled a protest on Friday at the Administrative Reform ministry.
 Development Deputy Minister meets Dutch Foreign Trade Minister on ThursdayDeputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis met on Thursday at the ministry with the Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister Lilianne Ploumen.
The two officials discussed issues of bilateral interest and ways to strengthen cooperation between the two countries within and outside EU.
 Deputy FinMin says 1,902 bankruptcies filed since 2009Some 1,902 bankruptcies have been filed from authorities to the Finance ministry's online tax registry Taxis since 2009, according to data submitted to the Parliament by Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis.
Mavraganis also referred to the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code giving citizens the possibility of a leniency settlement of debts.
 Deputy Labour Minister Kegeroglou to attend ILO conference on Thursday and FridayLabor, Social Security and Welfare Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou on Thursday and Friday will attend the conference on "The European Social Model in times of economic crisis and austerity policies".
The conference held in Brussels is organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the European Commission.
Kegeroglou on Friday will also attend a Round Table discussion of Labor Ministers on "The future of the European Social Model: What should be changed, kept, brought back?"
The Round Table meeting will be chaired by the Director General of ILO Guy Ryder.
 French MEP supports debt restructuring for Greece in televised interview with ANA-MPAIn a televised interview with the ANA-MPA, available on the agency's website, the French socialist Eurodeputy Liem Hoang-Ngoc called for a restructuring of Greece's debt so that austerity policies can be relaxed and allow a return to growth. The interview was posted on the Internet late on Wednesday night.
Hoang-Ngoc, one of the authors of a European Parliament report on the role of the EU-IMF troika in Europe's bailed-out economies, said the European Parliament wants future bailout memorandums to be democratically discussed on a European scale and for the EuroParliament to express an opinion on decisions taken.
During the interview, the MEP referred to an initial disagreement within the troika's members over the best policy to adopt in Greece, noting that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been in favour of a debt restructuring from the start but had been opposed by the European Central Bank and European Commission, in favour of a faster fiscal adjustment.
While welcoming the achievement of a primary surplus, Hoang-Ngoc also emphasised that a relaxation of austerity policies was needed to achieve a return to growth and lowering of unemployment, thus generating the higher growth and tax revenues needed to pay down debt.
"For such a relaxation, no other solution exists at present other than a restructuring of a part of Greece's debt," he said.
During the interview, he also referred to a meeting with Greece's main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, head of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party, saying that SYRIZA's leader had presented "worthwhile proposals" and referring to him as a "supporter of the euro" and someone seeking ways to boost growth in Greece while staying in the euro.
The interview with the French MEP, in French with Greek subtitles, can be accessed from the WebDOCS link on the ANA-MPA English website.
 EU sets up training agency for anti-piracy personnelThe European Inspection and Certification Company (Eurocert) on Thursday announced the establishment of Armed Maritime Security Operators (AMSO) to prevent pirates' attacks in ships sailing in international waters.
AMSO is the first institution established in Greece that will train and award certification to those working or are willing to work as armed guards to protect ships from pirates.
The participants that pass the two-stages examination will be awarded a professional AMSO certificate as well as the Europass certificate, certifying their capability to guard ships and prevent piracy incidents.
The announcement was made during an event at the Piraeus Marine Club where the first graduates received their certificates.
 EU Special Representative on Human Rights addresses need for human rights protectionNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis, in an address at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, where he arrived for contacts and talks, stressed on Thursday the need for the protection of human rights at all levels of political and social life, at global level.
Lambrinidis delivered his address on the theme of "Why the EU's human rights diplomacy is important" and, among other things, he emphasised the protection of the rights of all citizens without exception, regardless of gender, nationality, religion, skin colour or sexual preference, underlining in particular the commitment of the EU's countries to promote and support in every way the equality and equality before the law of all citizens at international level.
"Diplomacy for the protection of human rights underlies every social and political act, while the European countries' target is their widespread safeguarding, regardless of individual historical or cultural excuses, in close cooperation and dialogue with the various countries", he said.
 Culture Minister meets with museum and archaeological sites managers ahead of the new tourist seasonThere is evidence that tourism will increase this year, Culture and Sports Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said in a meeting with managers from the Prehistoric, Classical and Byzantine Antiquities Directorate.
"We want the participation of culture in the touristic boom of the country to become increasingly important. The extension of working hours and the upgrading of 33 monuments and archaeological sites that attract 95 percent of visitors is a national project," Panayiotopoulos noted.
"If we want to support society and boost the national economy, if we want to further improve the image of the country abroad, then we must emphasize on Greece's comparative advantages, which is its cultural heritage," he added.
 KKE's Koutsoubas meets with Vietnamese Ambassador to AthensOpposition Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Dimitris Koutsoubas on Thursday met with the Vietnamese Ambassador to Athens Vu Binh at the party offices in the Athens district of Perissos.
According to an announcement, the Vietnamese ambassador expressed his country's solidarity to KKE and referred to the priorities of his country's government, while the KKE general secretary expressed his party's support to the people of Vietnam and briefed him on developments in Greece and the party's positions.
They also discussed international issues and voiced concern about developments in Ukraine.
 DIMAR's executive committee meets ahead of municipal electionsThe executive committee of Democratic Left (DIMAR) discussed and approved on Thursday the declaration on the establishment of a progressive pole.
The Executive Committee also discussed the timeframe of the party's actions for the upcoming municipal and European elections and appointed a seven-member committee to participate in the coordinating committee of the progressive pole.
 Special parliamentary committee on war reparations to submit report by year-endThe Special Intergroup Parliamentary Committee on war reparations will have to submit its report by the end of the current year, according to a unanimous decision by the Parliament plenary on Thursday.
The Special Committee will comprise 19 members, in accordance with the parties' seats.The proposal was first submitted by main opposition SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras and recently resubmitted by the party's deputy Manolis Glezos.
The decision was unanimously approved last week by the Conference of the Presidents and was ratified on Thursday by the plenum.
 Lamda Development submits offer for HellinikonLamda Development submitted the only binding offer in a tender for the exploitation of Hellinikon, Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) said on Thursday.
In an announcement, the Fund said that a board meeting will decide on the validity of the technical offer and the accompanying documents, based on a recommendation by its advisors, in order to proceed with unsealing the envelope of economic offer. This process is expected to last around two weeks.
Lamda Development, in an announcement said that its investment plan for Hellinikon area, if implemented, will surpass 7.0 billion euros and will lead to a fundamental environmental upgrading of Attica with the creation of a sustainable park covering an area of 2.0 mln sq.m. The company belongs to the Latsis Group.
 Tsipras slams proposal for Elliniko, pledges to review all state concessionsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras stressed his party's opposition to plans to hand over the former Athens airport site at Elliniko to private interests, pledging to review the legality of all concession contracts for public assets when his party comes to power.
"Let everyone keep this firmly in mind," he said at a SYRIZA event, "wherever the new Parliament finds that the public interest is not protected, we will not hesitate to cancel or review contracts and decisions taken. And one more thing: Nothing and no one will be forgotten. All those whose actions or omissions have harmed the public interest will face justice's verdict for their actions and omissions."
Tsipras also criticised the role of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), Greece's privatisation agency, accusing it of being "a clique deciding on the future of public wealth without transparency, without Parliamentary supervision and control, as if it were property they inherited from their grandfathers."
He said that SYRIZA viewed Elliniko - which successive Greek governments had for years promised and failed to transform into a metropolitan park and greenspace - as "a landmark of the struggles of city movements to defend public spaces" and pointed to a plan drawn up by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) as a "well-supported and budgeted proposal" that would avert the destruction of the Attic landscape.
Tsipras' statements came in the wake of an HRADF announcement that a single binding offer had been submitted for the Elliniko site, by the Greek firm Lamda Development, whose validity will be assessed in an evaluation process over the next two weeks, at which time the offer will be unsealed.
 Gov't spokesman replies to SYRIZA leader on Elliniko issueGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, commenting on statements made by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on the auctioning of the Elliniko site, on the west coast of Attica, said:
"Once again, Tsipras is attempting to undermine the country's exit from the crisis, threatening investors and showing no interest in the creation of thousands of jobs. We shall not allow Elliniko to become his party's landfill."
 Dev't minister: 16,000 indebted owners have filed petitions requesting protection of first residenceSo far, 16,000 applications have been filed so far under the law protecting home owners from having their first homes seized over overdue debts, Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday after his meeting with Hellenic Bank Association president Giorgos Zannias.
"This proves that those who had terminated their relationships with the banking system, understood that this law allows for the restarting of their relations with the banks, without any large burden for the family budgets and naturally without the dangers that would have existed if we didn't have these regulations," Hatzidakis said.
The deadline for application submission to the banks ends Friday (Feb. 28), but for any foreclosure documents issued after March 1, the law allows a two-month window for owners to apply under the protection law.
During the meeting talks also focused on the disbursement of business loans by banks, utilising funding tools of the Development ministry. According to January data, 1.26 billion euros have been disbursed (over a target of 2 billion euros up to April). However, in January the growth rate dropped to 8 pct from 28 pct the previous two months, as a result of uncertainty that showed up in a drop in deposits, banking sources explained, adding that loans to the private sector have dropped by 2 pct in Europe overall.
Hatzidakis also announced that the Hellenic Bank Association agreed to carry out a study in collaboration with the Foundation for Economics and Industrial Research (IOBE) on designing funding tools necessary for today's Greek reality, which will be submitted to the European Commission in view of the new funding period of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
Earlier in the day, the Government Council had a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras regarding the management of private debt. They also discussed the organisation of an informatioon campaign for debtors, the development of a database on financial behaviour and the introduction of an extra-judicial institution acting as a mediator in the process of managing payment of large debts incurred by individuals.
 Greek banks' NPLs show signs of stabilization, BoG reportNon-performing loans showed signs of stabilization in the January-September period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
In its report on the outlook of the Greek economy, the central bank said that a recession and a tax burden led to a deterioration of the financial situation of both households and enterprises, raising credit risk and with the ratio of non-performing loans/total loan rising by six times in the last five years (December 2008: 5.1 pct, September 2013: 31.2 pct). The report noted that the growth rate of NPLs was contained until 2010, but grew significantly in 2011 and 2012 as a result of a deepening of economic recession and a widespread uncertainty prevailing in the country. Consumer loans (45.8 pct) recorded the highest rate among NPLs, followed by corporate loans (31.2 pct) and mortgage loans (25.8 pct). Greek banks, reluctantly at first, but more actively later, proceeded with a renegotiation of loans with the aim of facilitating borrowers' efforts to repay their loans, the report noted.
 House prices to continue falling but at slower rate, in coming quarters, BoG reportsA declining trend in house prices is likely to continue in the coming quarters, but at a slower rate, as the market shows signs of consolidation, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
In a report, the central bank said that house prices fell significantly from 2011 onwards, with apartment prices falling by an accumulated 33.4 pct in the period from 2008 to 2013, based on data collected by credit institutions, although the rate of decline was even larger based on data collected by real estate brokers. The central bank said that apartment prices fell by 35.8 pct in Athens and 37.1 pct in Thessaloniki. During the crisis, households turned their investment interest towards older, smaller and cheaper houses, in medium cost areas. The report also noted a rise in cash transactions as bank credit became less accessible. Only 17 pct of all transactions was made with the participation of bank credit, from 82 pct in early 2009, while the average loan rate was 35 pct of the property's value, from 70 pct in early 2009.
The commercial real estate property market shrank significantly in the last few years, with leasing and purchase values falling by an average annual rate of 16.3 pct and 16.9 pct, respectively, in 2013. The retail property market showed small signs of stabilisation, after suffering the largest pressures since the crisis erupted, while tourism real estate property offers positive expectations. The central bank noted that the prospect of recovery in the Greek real estate market depended, among others, on a further improvement in business and household expectations, improving bank credit and limiting uncertainties over the outlook of the Greek economy. The report stressed that a heavy tax burden has helped deepen a crisis in the real estate market.
 Bank of Greece to announce stress tests results next weekThe Bank of Greece will release the results of the stress tests on Greek banks' capital adequacy next week, the bank's governor George Provopoulos said on Thursday.
Addressing a general shareholders' meeting, the central banker said that BlackRock -which conducted the stress tests- assessed with greater analysis all domestic loan portfolios and offered a first estimate over the loans of Greek banks' subsidiaries abroad.
The Bank of Greece hired Ernst & Young and Rothschild as external advisors and said it will announce next week the results of the tests, along with analytical details over the methodology and scenarios used.
In the meantime, Bank of Greece's officials will have meetings with European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund officials to discuss technical details related with the methodology and the results of the stress tests.
 Bank credit to private sector -4.0 pct in JanuaryThe annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector, in January 2014, stood at -4.0 pct, from -3.9 pct in the previous month, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that the net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, amounting to 576 million euros (January 2013: negative net flow of 296 million). The net flow of credit to corporations, in January 2014, was negative, amounting to 268 million euros (January 2013: positive net flow of 96 million), and the annual growth rate of credit stood at -5.2 pct, compared with -4.9 pct in the previous month.
In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations stood at -5.3 pct, compared with -5.0 pct in the previous month, while the net flow of credit to non-financial corporations was negative and equal to 153 million euros (January 2013: positive net flow of 164 million). The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at -4.1 pct in January 2014, compared with -3.3 pct in December 2013. The net flow of credit to sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships was negative, amounting to 2 million euros in January 2014 (January 2013: zero net flow) and its annual growth rate stood at 0.9 pct, unchanged from the previous month. In January 2014, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 306 million euros, (January 2013: negative net flow of 392 million) and its annual growth rate stood at -3.4 pct, compared with -3.5 pct in the previous month.
 Deposits in Greek banks down 1.3 pct in JanuaryDeposits by households and enterprises in Greek banks fell by 1.3 pct in January to 161 billion euros, from 163.2 billion euros in December 2013, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
In a report, the central bank said that the January data offered signs of stabilization compared with January 2013, when deposits were 160.9 billion euros, and attributed the capital outflow in January this year to higher tax obligations facing Greek households and enterprises in the first month of the year.
The central bank said that total deposits were down by around 77 billion euros, compared with the peak of April 2009 (237 billion euros).
The agreement for retroactive natural gas reduction is positive for companies and households, ICC says
The agreement for the retroactive reduction in the price of natural gas between DEPA and Gazprom corrects a major injustice to the detriment of the country, as Greece had to pay prices much higher than the average of European markets, the president of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC Greece) national committee NikosVernikos said.
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. Large industrial consumers and energy producers will have a 10.5 pct discount on rates and households will have a 10 pct to 12 pct discount.
Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry officials have said that the new contract between DEPA and Gazprom was expected to be signed by mid-March.
Vernikos noted that "as a member of the board of directors of Public Power Corporation (PPC), I estimate that the company will save a large amount that could reach annually 40-50 million euros."
 Greece's ESI records biggest increase since September 2008BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
Greece's economic sentiment index rose to 94.8 points in February from 92.6 points in January, the biggest increase since September 2008, according to the monthly report by the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN) made public on Thursday.
The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) in the eurozone and the EU remained broadly unchanged, marking a marginal increase of 0.2 points in both the euro area from 101.0 to 101.2 and the EU from 104.8 to 105.0 points.
In Greece, business expectations improved in the sectors of industry (+4.1), services (+2), retail commerce (+3.2) and constructions (+0.2), while consumer confidence dropped 0.7 points.
 Unemployment rate to fall in 2014, BoG reportThe unemployment rate in Greece is expected to fall this year, the Bank of Greece said in its annual report.
The central bank said it expected a slight increase in the number of salary earners in the private sector and in the number of self-employed people this year, helped by the implementation of a series of employment and training programs by OAED, the Manpower Employment Organisation, necessary during the current period in order to help unemployment people keep their skills.
The report said that the cost of an economic recession on job positions was huge. In the period from the third quarter of 2009 until the third quarter of 2013, a total of 904,200 jobs were lost, with the employment rate of the age group 20-64 falling to 53.3 pct in September 2013, from 64.4 pct in September 2010 and from a 70 pct target set by Greek authorities to reach by 2020.
The report said that a decline in the number of employed people was the result of a big number of business closures (around 75,600 enterprises, or 30 pct of total enterprises in the country) and from payroll cutbacks by operating enterprises.
The number of enterprises fell mostly in the commerce, manufacturing, construction, hotels, restaurants and education sectors, while the professions mostly hit by the crisis were unskilled workers, sales personnel, machinery operators and office clerks.
The Bank of Greece said that part time employment significantly expanded in the private sector, from 7.7 pct in September 2010 to 12.9 pct in September 2013.
The number of unemployed people rose by 880,300 in the period from September 2009 to September 2013 and the unemployment rate jumped from 9.3 pct to 27 pct over the same periods, respectively. From total unemployed people in 2013, one-fifth were unemployed since 2009, particularly among older people and among people with no labour experience. The report stressed this trend created uncertainty that when a recovery begun there will be lack of skilled workers, which in turn could press wages upwards.
 Gov't asks Ktimatologio national cadastre agency board to resignThe government has requested the resignation of the president and board of directors of Ktimatologio SA, responsible for drawing up the national cadastre, the Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry said on Thursday.
According to the ministry, the resignations will speed up the process towards the cadastre's completion, which the Greek government has committed to fulfil by 2020.
The current board's replacement will be announced at an emergency general assembly meeting on March 4.
Current Ktimatologio president and CEO Dimitris Kaloudiotis stated earlier he did not intend to tender his resignation and accused the environment ministry leadership of downgrading Ktimatologio and undermining its work.
 Nine Greek regions show per capita GDP 75 pct below EU average, Eurostat reportBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Nine Greek regions were below the 75 pct average per capita GDP in the European Union in 2011, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union said on Thursday.
In a announcement here, Eurostat said that the nine Greek regions were Epirus (55 pct of average community GDP), Thessaly (56 pct), Eastern Macedonia/Thrace (57 pct), Western Greece (59 pct), Central Macedonia (62 pct), Northern Aegean (63 pct), the Peloponese (65 pct), Crete (69 pct) and Central Greece (72 pct), while the Ionian Islands' per capita GDP was 75 pct of the EU average.
The highest per capita GDP in Greece was recorded in Attica (107 pct), Southern Aegean (89 pct) and Western Macedonia (80 pct).
In the EU-28, the poorest regions were located in Romania (six), Bulgaria and Poland (five each) and Hungary (four). The region of Severozapaden in Bulgaria recorded the lowest per capita GDP in the EU (29 pct).
On the other hand, Inner London (321 pct), the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (266 pct), Brussels (222 pct), Hamburg (202 pct), Bratislava (186 pct) and the Ile de France (182 pct) recorded the highest per capita GDP figures in 2011.
 Mutualisation of debt 'politically difficult', Alt. FinMin tells ParliamentSpeaking in Parliament on Thursday, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras stressed that a "mutualisation" of Greece's debt along the lines suggested by a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) was unlikely to be adopted.
"The aim of mutualising public debt, is being extensively discussed by European agencies but achieving it remains politically difficult without the necessary legislative foundation," he said in a comment on the report, which was positive about the prospect of a mutualisation of Greece's public debt or the recapitalisation of Greece's banks by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
According to the PBO report presented in Parliament, Greece's debt and debt to GDP ratio was unlikely to start falling and become sustainable by 2020 or 2022 exclusively through national efforts at saving, such as through primary surpluses and privatisations, without some sort of restructuring since this would require lasting surpluses of about 5 pct.
"International experience has proved that these are not feasible," a PBO representative Panos Kazakos said.
The report was also pessimistic about the country's ability to return to borrowing from the markets at reasonable rates within 2014, warning that the debt would "hang over" the Greek economy and prevent a return to the markets.
Proposing a debt haircut within the Eurozone as a possible solution, the PBO report acknowledged that this would be a politically sensitive issue for the other EU member-states and warned against an "aggressively presented demand on the Greek side that overlooked the concerns of the partners," stressing that this would be deleterious for the country's interstate relations "with incalculable economic repercussions".
According to the authors, the outcome of a negotiation to restructure Greece's debt would greatly depend on the country's credibility, which in turn would be measures by developments in fiscal policy, the progress of reforms and the exploitation of natural resources.
"So long as reforms and other decisions delay, the economic situation will deteriorate and the negotiating capacity will be minimised," it added.
Staikouras, on his part, asserted that Greece's return to borrowing from international financial markets was based on a framework of principles, such as drawing up and implementing a national strategic plan for the production restructuring of the state and the economy, preserving relations of mutuality and solidarity with Greece's EU partners, maintaining primary surpluses to ensure the return of investments and further boosting the country's credibility.
 Greek, Albanian environment ministers meet over collaboration in waste managementThe prospect of collaboration in the field of solid waste management and recycling was discussed at a meeting between the Greek Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yiannis Maniatis and Albania's Deputy Minister of the Environment Oljana Prifti, in Athens on Thursday.
The two ministers also discussed the transfer of know-how from Greek to Albanian organisations and businesses.
The meeting was held in the presence of the Environment ministry's Secretary General Nadia Giannakopoulou and special Secretary of Water Constantinos Triantis.
 Greek Parliament ratifies agreement with San Marino against double taxationParliament on Thursday ratified an agreement between the Greek state and San Marino aimed at avoiding double taxation, with a majority vote.
The move was described as necessary by Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis, who noted that such agreements facilitate transactions.
He underlined that San Marino has not ratified the convention signed by the Council of Europe (CoE) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and, therefore, there is no other way for information to be exchanged. He noted that the countries that have signed the agreement cannot deny access to information found in the possession of banks or other financial organisations.
Mavraganis also said that the ratified agreement is a step against tax-evasion and tax avoidance.
 Joint ministerial decision on water airports feesThe amount to be charged for the Greek state in water airports fees has been set at 5 percent of the net fare per passenger, according to a Joint Ministerial Decision, signed by Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras and Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Deputy Minister Michalis Papadopoulos.
Children up to five (5) years of age, patients and their attendants as well as passengers of seaplanes that make emergency landing are exempt from the charge, according to a Shipping ministry announcement.
According to the announcement, the three ministries were speeding up the development of water airports throughout the country in their effort to improve the climate and attract investments. Water airports are expected to improve connectivity of remote islands, create opportunities for growth in the country's main ports and remote areas and upgrade tourism.
 Intralot wins extension of contract with Croatia's state lotteryIntralot on Thursday announced it has reached an agreement with Croatia's state lottery Hrvatska Lutrija d.o.o for an one-year extension of a contract for the supply and maintenance services of internet instant lottery in the country.
Under the contract, Intralot will have the option for successive one-year extensions. Intralot, through its subsidiary Intralot Interactive and its partner NeoGames, will supply to Croatia's state lottery new games adding to a range of 50 internet lottery games currently offered by the state lottery.
 Titan reports improved revenues, bigger losses in 2013Titan Group on Thursday reported biggest losses but improved revenues in 2013, with operating results showing an improvement for the first time in seven years.
Net after minorities results showed a loss of 36 million euros last year, after losses of 24.5 million euros in 2012, burdened mostly by negative foreign exchange differences and higher taxation. In 2013, consolidated turnover grew 4.0 pct to 1.176 billion euros, while EBITDA rose slightly to 196 million euros. In the fourth quarter of 2013, turnover rose 1.0 pct, EBITDA jumped 27 pct and net after tax and minorities results showed a loss of 21.5 million euros down from a loss of 26.5 million euros in the same period in 2012.
In Greece, domestic demand fell for the seventh consecutive year, although at a gradually slower rate. Titan continued investing with the aim to improve its competitiveness, to reduce energy costs and its environmental print. On the other hand, however, a high electricity energy cost was a threat to the competitiveness of Greek industries, as Titan said it paid the highest electricity rates in Greece from all the nine countries with established activities. Turnover in Greece and Western Europe rose 4.0 pct to 250 million euros, while operating earnings fell by 57 pct to 14 million euros.
In North America, operating profitability improved helped by a recovery in the housing sector in the US. Titan said the US market accounted for more than one-third of its turnover which grew 11 pct to 411 million euros, while operating earnings totaled 32 million euros in 2013, from 6.0 million euros in 2012.
In Southeastern Europe, turnover fell by 4.0 pct to 215.5 million euros, while operating earnings fell by 2.0 pct to 63 million euros. In Egypt, sales showed resilience despite serious political turmoil in the country. In Turkey, exports and sales grew but results were burdened from a devaluation of the Turkish lira.
Parent turnover rose 6.0 pct to 235 million euros, EBITDA fell by 71 pct to 11 million euros and net losses grew to 43 million euros in 2013 from 16 million euros in 2012.
 Hellenic Petroleum reports negative results in 2013Hellenic Petroleum Group on Thursday reported losses totaling 117 million euros in 2013 - after deducting the impact of international oil prices - with official results showing a loss of 269 million euros in the year.
Annual results were hit by historically-low refining margins, higher crude oil supply cost and upgrading costs. Hellenic Petroleum stressed that strong operating performance by refinery units and distribution operations, higher exports (historic highs) and increase profitability by petrochemicals, only partly counterbalanced the impact of negative factors. The Group said that demand recovered in the fourth quarter of 2013 after 18 consecutive quarters of decline, with demand for diesel and heating oil rising by 8.0 pct compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.
Yiannis Costopoulos, chief executive of the group, commenting on the results, said: "In 2013 we witnessed the most adverse environment for the European refinery industry in the last decade, adding to significant challenges faced because of domestic problems with high funding costs and high taxation. Despite these, the Greek fuel market showed signs of recovery in the fourth quarter of 2013, while medium-term prospects for demand of oil products in the region were positive".
Meanwhile, Hellenic Petroleum announced that Yiannis Papathanasiou, former Economy and Finance minister, was elected chairman of the board. He replaces H. Komninos, who resigned citing personal reasons. Hellenic Petroleum's board accepted a recommendation made by the Finance ministry.
 Livestock farmers considering protests against government's policyLivestock farmers are considering protests against the government's tax policy and accuse the Rural Development and Food Ministry for an "unreliable and bad policy on livestock".
The National Livestock Farmers Association (PEK) has asked the ministry's leadership not to give in on the issue of milk as well as to proceed immediately to the payments of organic livestock farming programs and the pending compensations. It also expressed its concern on the new Common Agricultural Policy.
PEK in its announcement asked the political party leaders to highlight the problems of livestock farming and schedule a date for a meeting with its representatives.
"Breeders and farmers are furious at the current policy and it will not be long before those implementing it are doomed," PEK's president Dimitris Kambouris told ANA-MPA.
 Chania airport employees protest against its planned privatizationChania airport employees and local municipal authorities workers on Thursday protested against the privatization of the city's airport, through a concession agreement as planned by the country's privatisation agency TAIPED.
Unionists from the Federation of Associations of Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (OSYPA) and employees gathered outside the arrivals terminal, holding banners and protesting against the sale of the airport.
Their protest coincided with a visit by representatives from one of the companies interested in investing in "Ioannis Daskalogiannis" airport.
OSYPA president Vassilis Alevizopoulos told the representatives of the potential investors to board a plane and return to Athens, noting "we will not allow anyone to inspect airport facilities."
According to Alevizopoulos, the federation is opposed to any attempt of selling Greek airports which contribute to tourism and the national economy. Alevizopoulos, referring to the actions against the privatization of airports, said "OSYPA will resort to all legal means in Greek and European courts."
Representatives of potential investors have also scheduled visits to Chania airport on March 6 and 7.
 Three-hour work stoppage on Feb. 28 to disrupt Athens airport serviceA three-hour work stoppage from noon until 3 pm on February 28 was decided by the National Federation of Rail (POS).
The work stoppage, which was decided unanimously by POS, will not involve the personnel on the Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens route.
The stoppage will lead to cancellations of metro trains serving the Doukissis Plakentias-Athens Airport part of the route.
POS is asking for the cancellation of plans to privatize the state railway company TRAINOSE and the Greek rolling stock company (EESSTY); it is also calling for a collective labour agreement.
 Serres Region environment services highlight problems with planned TAP pipeline routeReports by environmental services within the Serres Regional Authority have raised objections to the planned route of the TransAdriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea fields to Europe via Greece, it was announced on Thursday. The Serres Region's Spatial Planning and Environment Committee, as well as its Hydroeconomy and Environment Service, point out that the pipeline's planned route will pass through highly productive agricultural land in the Serres basin and also raised problems due to the proximity of a natgas compression unit to urban areas.
The problems were highlighted in reports sent to central government and the authority set up a committee of land surveyors, engineers and agricultural scientists to propose three alternative locations for the compressor unit to the TAP consortium, whose answer is expected in mid March.
According to Serres Regional Authority Deputy Governor Yiannis Moysidis, who briefed the Central Macedonia Regional Council, the regional authority would wait for the consortium's reply in March and, if this was not satisfactory, "act in the way that we consider most effective."
 Greek stocks end moderately lowerGreek stocks ended moderately lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as investors took profits after a two-day rally which pushed the composite index of the market 6.88 pct higher. The index ended 0.72 pct lower at 1,293.97 points, after rising to a new 32-month high of 1,306.84 points during the session. Turnover remained a strong 105.10 million euros.
The Large Cap index fell 0.70 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.24 pct higher. OPAP (5.56 pct), Hellenic Exchanges (3.14 pct), Mytilineos (1.32 pct), Athens Water (1.20 pct) and Korinth Pipeworks (1.0 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (3.81 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.03 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (2.54 pct) and Folli Follie (2.53 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Travel (4.95 pct), Financial Services (1.79 pct) and Health (1.08 pct) sectors scored big gains, while Construction (2.79 pct), Insurance (2.70 pct) and Commerce (2.52 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 77 to 63, with another 21 issues unchanged. Douros (19.90 pct), Kepenos Mills (9.63 pct) and AEGEK (8.05 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (20 pct), Naftemporiki (19.61 pct) and Boutaris (17.19 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Industrial Products: -1.39%
Oil & Gas: -1.91%
Personal & Household: +0.26%
Raw Materials: +0.99%
Travel & Leisure: +4.95%
Food & Beverages: -2.09%
Financial Services: +1.79%
Real Estate: -0.74%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OPAP, OTE and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.72
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.66
Coca Cola HBC: 18.29
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.92
National Bank of Greece: 3.59
Eurobank Properties : 8.04
Piraeus Bank: 1.92
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.386
Pound sterling 0.832
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 9.052
Japanese yen 141.24
Swiss franc 1.234
Norwegian kroner 8.397
Canadian dollar 1.542
Australian dollar 1.551
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a small premium of 0.12 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover at 20.701 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,883 contracts worth 12.293 million euros, with 50,492 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 14,749 contracts worth 8.408 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (4,030), followed by Alpha Bank (667), National Bank (1,702), MIG (1,621), OTE (1,529), PPC (994), OPAP (1,520), Hellenic Exchanges (311), Mytilineos (803), Hellenic Petroleum (263), GEK (240), Titan (135) and Jumbo (85).
 Culture ministry to put up temporary staircase at the Acropolis south slope to facilitate visitorsA temporary stairway that will be placed at the west part of the south slope of the Acropolis will solve a problem caused by falling rocks: it will reunite the visitors walk from the south slope to the archaeological site of Acropolis.
The secretary general of the Culture Minister Lina Mendoni told the Central Archaeological Council, which gave the "green light" for the scale, that it was not the first time that small rocks were detached from the Acropolis.
The metal construction, which will be placed next to the Herodion fencing and will help visitors walk through, is considered the most appropriate and safe solution ahead of the new tourist season. It is a temporary lightweight metal staircase which will be used for a few months. Nevertheless, the stabilization of the rocks, as it was mentioned during the meeting of the Central Archaeological Council, will last 12-18 months.
 Two new stations added to Proastiakos suburban railwayTwo new Proastiakos suburban railway line stations went into operation on Thursday, in Lykotripa (Kato Aharnes) and Pyrgos Vasilissis, on the central Athens and Ano Liossia line.
Trains leaving Larissis Station for Ano Liossia will now stop at the stations Agioi Anargyroi, Pyrgos Vasilissis and Kato Aharnes. The two stations are expected to significantly contribute to traffic on the Proastiakos since both areas are not served by fixed-rail transport.
 Swiss and Greek graffiti artists in 'Athens Street Art Festival 2014'Greek and other European Graffiti artists (street art) are trying to answer creatively the eloquent question "Crisis? What Crisis?" by painting walls and buildings in Athens.
This is the main theme of the "Athens Street Art Festival 2014" which started last month in Spata at Smart Park and is now entering its second phase with the arrival of Swiss artists who will paint buildings and schools in Athens.
Four distinguished graffiti artists are expected in March in the Greek capital. They are Bane, Robi The Dog, Safu and Chromeo and will paint in Smart Park, (March 6-8) in public places and schools in the municipality of Nikaia Redi (March 9-11) and the Athens School of Fine Arts (March 12-13).
Moreover, ten distinguished Greek artists of street art along with Fine Arts students will transform during March 2,000 sq.m. surfaces of schools in the municipality of Nikea-Rentis, giving a different note in the city with the vitality of their art and interactive audience participation.
The festival will end in June. Until then, 30 European artists are expected who will work with 30 Greek colleagues. The aim is to carry out more than 300 graffiti projects and stencil art, paintings, installations and new media exploring themes of urban style.
 Greek Film Archive pays tribute to Melina Mercouri twenty years after her deathThe Greek Film Archive (Tainiothiki tis Ellados) pays tribute to Melina Mercouri twenty years after her death with ten movies by the late actress and two-time minister of culture.
The tribute will begin on Thursday, March 6 with the film "Los pianos Mecanicos" (1965) by Juan Antonio Bardem and until March 12 the audience will be able to watch the film "He Who Must Die" (1957) by Jules Dassin and landmark films from the filmography of Melina during the 60s: "Never on Sunday", "Phaedra", "The Victors", "10:30 p.m. summer" and the lesser-known "Gaily Gaily".
The film shows will conclude with a screening of "Lilly's Story" (2002) by Roviros Manthoulis with tragic and comic tales of Greek exiled intellectuals in Paris the years of the dictatorship in the 70s.
The Archive will also hold round-table discussions about Mercouri on March 6 and 8.
 Renewed prosecution launched in armaments programmes caseRenewed prosecution was launched by the corruption prosecutors in the armaments programmes case, due to illegal fees detected in the case of a contract for the procurement of radars from the Brazilian Embraer company, a project in which the Swedish Ericsson company was the sponsor.
Prosecution launched concerns the Defence ministry's former alternate armaments director Antonis Kantas, who is already in custody, and the representative of the Brazilian company in Greece Christos Toumbas, while the file of proceedings prepared in the case was assigned to corruption investigator Vasiliki Brati.
According to reliable reports, due to Ericsson's involvement in the contract under investigation, Swedish prosecutors have already contacted the Greek corruption investigators for a briefing in relation to the new case of the transfer of illegal money. It is expected that a request for judicial assistance to Greece will be sent formally to enable an investigation to be carried out by Swedish justice for liabilities in that country.
The new file of proceedings concerns a contract for the Greek state's procurement of four Airborne Control Supervision Systems (ASEPE) that was signed in 2001. The price for the procurement was approximately 400 million euros and the equipment in question was for Embraer 145 type aircraft.
Kantas had given evidence on the alleged bribery in his testimony on the armaments kickback case. He appears to have confessed that his co-defendant now in the case Christos Toumbas, a retired Air Force officer who represented the Brazilian company, had told him to act so that the programme for the four radars could go ahead.
Kantas reportedly claims that a total of 250,000 euros were ultimately remitted to accounts of his as a gift for the purchase of the radars from Embraer.
 Port authorities confiscate petroleum on decommissioned tanker in PiraeusSecurity officials of the port authorities discovered 6,000 litres of petroleum on a decommissioned tanker in Piraeus without accompanying documentation and arrested a 60-yer-old man in the nearby district of Keratsini.
The man was released following a verbal order by a prosecutor.
Authorities also found and confiscated in the same tanker 1,000 litres of petroleum products in the central and right tank that lacked legal supporting documents and another 2,000 litres of petroleum products in another fuel tank which, according to the ship's book, should have been delivered and taken through customs following the ship's decommissioning.
Samples of the confiscated petroleum products were sent to the State General Chemistry Laboratory by the security unit of the Piraeus Central Port Authority.
 Initiative for Prisoners' Rights to hold protest outside Korydallos prisonThe "Initiative for Prisoners' Rights" on Thursday organizes a rally in solidarity to hospitalized inmates outside the Aghios Pavlos hospital of the Korydallos prison.
The rally is scheduled for 18.00.
The Initiative calls on the Justice ministry to announce measures that will help decongest prisons.
"Overcrowding has turned the hospital - as it is euphemistically called- into a storage room for people, as beds have been replaced with bunk beds and patients even sleep on mattresses in the corridors," the"Initiative for Prisoners' Rights" said in a statement.
 'Arcturos' bears are up and ready for spring visitorsThe awakening of bears heralds the arrival of spring at the 'Arcturos' bear sanctuary at Nymphaio. This year spring has arrived early on account of the mild weather over the winter, which meant that the bears took a relatively short nap ...! According to an announcement on Thursday from the centre, the bears are now up and ready for visitors.
As every other year at the sanctuary, the two younger bears Manolis and Kyriakos awoke first, slowly followed by Vesna, Mitsos, Katerina, Tasoula and Barbara.
Giorgakis and Irene once again shared their den and woke up together but still prefer to spend most of their time 'indoors'. George and Tasoula slept in natural dens within the refuge while Barbara rebuilt her den, in which she spent the winter.
With the awakening of bears, Arcturos is now up and running once again and will be ready to receive visitors from this Saturday, opening on a daily basis (except Wednesdays) and at weekends from 10.00-16.30.
 Cloudy and wet on FridayRain is forecast throughout the country on Friday, especially in the Ionian and the west, while conditions also favour the transfer of dust clouds from the south. Winds mostly southerly, from 3-6 Beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 17C. Cloudy, showery weather in Attica, with temperatures from 8C to 16C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 8C to 14C. Rain and storms on Cephalonia, with temperatures from 9C to 15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Proposal-breath of life for small and medium-sized companies
DIMOKRATIA: Manpower Employment Organization OAED cuts family benefits
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Hydrocarbons treasure
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Party of millions at NGOs during New Democracy's governing
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The list with 4,344 EOPYY affiliated doctors
ESTIA: Cutting the number of deputies will shrink the cost for coffees in the parliament
ETHNOS: Supplementary pensions with zero taxation
IMERISSIA: Euphoria in the market
KATHIMERINI: First signings on hydrocarbon deposits
LOGOS: Hydrocarbons, a life saver
NAFTEMPORIKI: Spreads speed up the return to markets
RIZOSPASTIS: Stop availability and layoffs, stable jobs for all workers!
TA NEA: Erdogan, go home!
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