|Friday, 23 February 2024
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-03-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 5 March 2014 Issue No: 4601
 Greek gov't expects progress statement by the troika, finance ministry official saysThe Greek government is expecting from the troika "at a minimum a statement of adequate progress", a top finance ministry official told ANA-MPA on Tuesday.
Commenting on ongoing negotiations between Greek authorities and the troika, the finance ministry official stressed that "time is short" ahead of a Eurogroup meeting next Monday and noted that if the government has not secured such a statement or the negotiations have not been completed by Sunday, then the government will seek approval for the disbursement of the loan through a teleconference (extraordinary Eurogroup).
The positive scenario for the government is to have "a technical agreement in principle, which gives the "green light" to Monday's Eurogroup to reach a political decision on approving the disbursement of the loan, which will be disbursed in tranches, based on the implementation of the program. The finance ministry reiterates that there was no fiscal gap for 2014 and stressed that negotiations with the troika will focus on drafting a new medium-term framework program. High-ranking officials of the ministry said the negotiations' biggest problems were the implementation of a package of recommendations made by OECD aimed to boost competitiveness and reforms in labor relations, although pending issues related with a reform in the public sector (mobility scheme-dismissals) were equally important.
Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras is scheduled to travel to Brussels on Saturday night, or early Sunday, to prepare the Ecofin meeting on banking union.
 Interministerial meeting to discuss ongoing troika negotiations concludedAn interministerial meeting to discuss issues that remain unresolved in the government's talks with Greece's international lenders was wrapped up early on Tuesday afternoon. Several cabinet ministers attended the meeting, which was held at the development ministry and focused on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 'toolkit' and the extent to which its recommendations must be adopted.
Adoption of the OECD recommendations to Greece are considered 'prior actions' by the EU-IMF troika representing Greece's lenders but there are differing opinions between ministries and between the Greek government and the troika on the extent to which they must be adopted. Sticking points are regulations for fresh milk, abolition of uniform pricing on books and sales of non-prescription medication outside pharmacies.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis, Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis. The environment ministry was represented by Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou, while a representative of the tourism ministry was also at the meeting. Hatzidakis and Chrysohoidis stayed on after the other ministers departed.
A government source said issues relating to the environment ministry concerned shaping and updating the national, regional and special-purpose spatial plan, with specific land use policies and a modernisation of mining and quarrying laws to adopt international best practices for the issue of permits.
The issue of non-prescription drugs is expected to dominate a meeting with the troika at the health ministry due to begin on Tuesday afternoon, which is to be followed by a troika meeting with the development ministry's leadership.
 BoG governor Provopoulos meets with troika on banks' capital needsBank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos on Tuesday is meeting with the troika of Greece's international lenders in an effort to bridge differences on the additional funds that Greek banks may need over the next three years.
BoG's estimates are based on Black Rock's report as well as the follow-up estimates from Ernst & Young and Rohthchild companies. According to the so-called baseline scenario, banks will need an additional 6 billion euros. This assumption includes a 6 billion euro capital surplus for Greek banks, as they are required to maintain a capital adequacy ratio of 9 percent instead of 8 percent which applies to the rest of the EU and around 1 billion euros resulting from synergies and mergers of subsidiaries abroad.
On the other hand, the troika is divided. According to reports, the ECB estimates that the banks' capital needs amount to 8 billion euros, according to the baseline scenario, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates the total capital needs at 22 billion euros, according to Financial Times.
BoG is expected to have published Black Rock's stress tests by the end of the week so that Eurobank will proceed with a share capital increase.
 Labour Minister's meeting with troika concludedLabour Minister Yannis Vroutsis' meeting with the troika at the Finance Ministry was concluded.
"An open and lively discussion took place," a Labour Ministry top official said after the meeting adding that the issues discussed have not been settled yet and "our goal is to meet on a common path".
The same source expressed optimism on the course of negotiations and said that another meeting with the troika will be held in the following days.
The meeting focused on the sharing of the 3.9 percent reduction of the contributions to social security funds and the mass layoffs.
According to information regarding the contributions to social security funds, the two sides have agreed that the one-off measure will be implemented next summer, however, differences still exist on the exact sharing and on the way the financial gap that will occur in the social security organisations will be covered.
Regarding mass layoffs, the representatives of Greece's lenders asked for the abolition of Labour minister's veto while the ministry's political leadership believes that after the social partners' agreement at the High Council for Labour, the issue can be solved without any legislative intervention.
 Health ministry reaches agreement with troika on pharmacy opening hours but not on non-prescription drugsA two-hour meeting between the health ministry's leadership and the troika representing Greece's international lenders on Tuesday evening ended without reaching an agreement on the controversial issue of the sale of non-prescription medication outside pharmacies.
However, agreement between the two sides was reached on extending the opening hours of private pharmacies across the country, to be applied for Monday and Wednesday afternoons and on Saturdays.
Substantial disagreements remained on issues such as pharmacy networks and the prices of non-prescription drugs (MYSYFA), and on the radical overhaul of the ownership status of private pharmacies.
However, the troika representatives consented on giving six-months' time to look at further reducing pharmacy profit rates.
 DIMAR on troika negotiations, demandsReferring to the attitude of the troika in its negotiations with the Greek government, main opposition party DIMAR stressed in a statement on Tuesday that the ''Greek government must emphasize to its creditors-partners that 'European solidarity' must have content and substance."
DIMAR added that ''the troika's demand to determine the way that the social dividend from the 2013 surplus is spent, for the adoption of all OECD proposals without exception and the deregulation of mass layoffs and additional public-sector layoffs are beyond the bounds of its authority to review the adjustment programme.''
 Finmin rejects SYRIZA accusations, says gov't is negotiating hard with troikaFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday rejected criticism that the government was violating the Constitution, as suggested in a question tabled in Parliament by 11 MPs of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).
"The government, with a sense of responsibility toward Greek citizens, is carrying out the governmental work in accordance with the dictates of Community, domestic Constitutional and the existing legislative and regulatory law," he said in a written response.
The MPs had accused the government of "violating the Constitution through the cooperation and joint decision-making of state organs with representatives of the lenders".
Stournaras stressed that the government is negotiating hard and on a permanent basis with Greece's creditors since the first day it took over power concerning issues relating to the economic policy programme being carried out. The country's negotiating position was gradually becoming stronger as a result of the sacrifices made by the Greek people, he added, which were starting to yield the first tangible results.
 Troika demands are those of big business, KKE commentsThe demands for lay-offs in the public and private sector, reduced employer contributions and the recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are not just Greece's obligations under the terms of the memorandum but also the demands of big business to boost their competitiveness and profits, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a statement on Tuesday.
Commenting on the ongoing negotiations between the government and the troika representing Greece's international lenders, KKE noted that this was "EU policy" and stressed that "the current government and any other government that accepts the above goals will implement measures that intensify the exploitation of workers and push out small businesses and manufacturers to support capitalist recovery and profitability."
 Communist KKE party on negotiations between the government and troikaLayoffs in the public sector and private sector, the reduction of employers' contribution and the proposals of the Organisation for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are not just obligations under the country's bail-out deal (memorandum) but they are requirements of the big businessmen in order to strengthen their competitiveness and profitability, the Greek communist party KKE said in a statement.
"Therefore, the current government and any other government that accepts the aforementioned objectives will implement measures that intensify the exploitation of workers and put aside small entrepreneurs and producers in order to support the capitalist recovery and profitability," KKE said.
 Venizelos on Ukraine, Cyprus, terrorist attacks in ChinaGovernment vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday referred to the results of his visit to Ukraine, the EU Foreign Ministers' Council on the issue of Ukraine, the Cyprus issue and the terrorist attacks in China.
In a press conference, Venizelos referred to the meeting he had with representatives of the Federation of Greek Community Associations of Ukraine and to the support of the Greek state and people he conveyed.
He said that it was clarified that a recent law restricting the use of minority languages has not yet been ratified and does not apply to the Greek language, which is used chiefly in education and not in administration. A letter was presented to Venizelos, as the chair of the Council of Ministers, by the interim government of Ukraine, requesting a resumption of the process for the signing of the EU-Ukraine association agreement.
He also referred to the high-level of bilateral relations between Greece and Ukraine, underlining the need to respect international principles, territorial integrity and existing borders. He said that Athens has open channels of communication with Russia, referring to his phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday, and added that dialogue is necessary.
Venizelos said that Greece and other countries are in favour of setting up a special OSCE committee on the events in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as, a crisis "contact group", underlining that everything possible should be done to prevent the "cold war" from being repeated.
An extraordinary EU Summit meeting will be held on Thursday that will be attended by new Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.
Venizelos said that the Ukrainian government was selected by the country's Parliament and has been recognized by the EU, UN and most of the governments, noting that Yatseniuk would have been the prime minister either way, even if the agreement of the three foreign ministers was implemented, adding that the only difference would be that it would have taken more time.
"We want a visa-waiver or easy visa issuance for Russians," and continuation of dialogue, he said when asked on the likelihood of such sanctions being imposed on Russia, which could affect Greek interests, noting that if imposed these would be double-edged.
Venizelos lashed out at the opposition parties in Greece, referring to comments made on the fate of the Greek community in Ukraine and accused them of irresponsibility and populism that hurts Greek interests.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, he said that the contacts of the Greek government with the Turkish Cypriot negotiator do not constitute recognition of the occupation and the pseudostate, noting that they serve the initiatives of the Greek Cypriot side. "We will never participate in a quadripartite negotiation," he underlined.
Venizelos also condemned the terrorist attacks in China.
"The Hellenic Presidency expresses its abhorrence and condemns in the fullest and most categorical manner the terrorist attack in the city of Kunming, China," he underlined, adding "we express our profound grief for the dead and wounded, our condolences to the families of the dead, and our sympathy for the wounded, with wishes for a speedy recovery".
"The Hellenic Presidency stands fully by the Chinese government," the statement concluded.
 Ukrainian crisis may affect natural gas price but not agreement with Gazprom, Deputy Energy Minister saysThe crisis in Ukraine will likely have an impact on natural gas but it will not affect the agreement to be signed with Gazprom in the following days, Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou told private radio station Vima FM.
He noted, however, that "if the crisis creates turmoil in international markets - as the price of oil is one of the algorithms that sets the world price - and results in oil price increases, we will also be affected."
"It is still a small increase, but I hope the forecasts of international rating agencies for a fall in 2014 will come true," he said.
"The crisis has not yet affected the flow of natural gas to Europe, but the gas distribution node to Ukraine from Russia is in the western and central part which is controlled by the Ukrainian government, and there has been no problem there for the time being," he added.
He underlined that Greece like other countries has taken measures. "In our case, the solution is liquefied natural gas, which is supplied from Algeria and the free market. A boat-load is coming from Algeria this week and we are also looking for alternative sources in the international market," he said.
Asked whether electricity tariffs would increase, he said: "There has been no increase in electricity tariffs since January 2013, and this is the plan for 2014...provided there are no dramatic developments as a result of the crisis such as an increase in the price of oil."
 PM Samaras meets with Cyprus Citizens Alliance party leader LillikasPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday met with the leader of the Citizens' Alliance party of Cyprus Giorgos Lillikas.
After the meeting Lillikas made the following statement "We have exchanged views with the Greek prime minister on issues regarding the economy as well as national issues particularly the developments on the Cyprus issue. We expressed our worries over the negotiations framework of the Cyprus issue and mainly the circumstances under which the negotiations will begin". Lillikas opined that "Hellenism as a whole, Cyprus and Greece, are in a very difficult position. Both countries are financially dependent and weak before pressures and coercions. These are not the best conditions to negotiate for our national sovereignty rights".
"We told the Greek prime minister we believe the time has come for a nationwide strategy, a common strategy to fight for our national sovereignty rights, a strategy which will achieve the Hellenism's rallying and unity in these critical times. Cyprus needs a powerful Greece and Greece needs a free Cyprus," Lillikas added.
 President Papoulias receives Cyprus' Citizens Alliance leaderPresident of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received Cyprus' Citizens Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas. Talks focused on the financial situation in Greece and Cyprus.
"Hellenism is resisting. We are here, and together we can overcome any difficulty," Papoulias said as he met the visiting Cypriot party leader.
Lillikas underlined that talks on the Cyprus issue were beginning at a time when both Greece and Cyprus were vulnerable to pressures. "Financially speaking, Cyprus is in the same situation as Greece, in deep recession with large human and social cost. We believe that talks regarding the Cyprus issue begin with an joint declaration that does not protect us, and in conditions that we judge not to be favourable," he said.
 DM Avramopoulos stresses key role of SMEs in European defence industryBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was a main speaker at a high-level conference on the future of the European defence sector organised by the European Commission in Brussels on Tuesday, stressed the key role played by small and medium-sized enterprises in the effectiveness and competitiveness of the European defence industry.
Speaking at the close of the conference, Avramopoulos said that "a very important meeting was held here today, in Brussels, which has to do with the European defence industry that is, as you are aware, one of the European Union's main priorities."
The defence minister added that "the role of the small and medium enterprises is a basic parameter for the action as well as the competitiveness of the European defence industry. It is the theme that Greek enterprises also come under and to which we attribute, as is self-evident, special importance. This is confirmed by our successful moves to save Hellenic Defence Systems (EAS) and our institutional interventions for the role that we want to be consoldated for small and medium-sized enterprises, mainly in the sub-assembly sector. With the utilisation, as we pointed out, of the potential and know-how of the European Defence Organisation".
Avramopoulos also said that "in these crucial historic conjunctures, Greece is exercising and must exercise its stabilising role in the wider region and not only that. Both in the framework of the Greek EU presidency's requirements and on the basis of relations of trust with the countries desiring to join the European Union".
Lastly, he said that "throughout the past seven days and with a series of substantive interventions, proposals and recommendations, we highlighted the focal role that our country is playing in our wider region, since it is known now that both Europe and our neighbourhood are faced with what could evolve to be very dangerous situations. An arc of instability is extending from Ukraine to North Africa. On this line Greece can, wants, has the capability and the strength to undertake initiatives, so as to contribute to the collective efforts for shaping a climate of stability, peace and cooperation".
Apart from Avramopoulos, speakers at the conference included European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission Vice-President for industry and entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani, European Commissioner for internal markets and services Michel Barnier and French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian.
 EU Environment ministers meet on energy, climate change and genetically modified organismsThe issues of energy, climate change and genetically modified organisms were the focus of Monday's meeting of EU Environment ministers held in Brussels chaired by Greek Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis.
Maniatis said that Europe should continue to have a leading role in tackling the effects of climate change. He also stressed that Europe should send a clear message to international investors on the value of environmental investments and the need to reduce energy dependency on external resources.
Regarding genetically modified organisms, the Council of Ministers ordered the Greek presidency to reopen the file in a way that will give to member states the right to refuse to cultivate them in their in their territory. Maniatis forecast that during the Greek presidency, a compromising solution will be reached.
 Macedonia-Thrace Minister to meet with Bulgarian Culture Minister on TuesdayMacedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou will meet on Tuesday at 15.00 with Bulgarian Culture Minister Petar Stoyanovic at Macedonia-Thrace Ministry in Thessaloniki.
EU Justice and Home Affairs Council holds meeting on migration
Illegal and legal immigration amid the tragic events of the past months in the Mediterranean was the main topic of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU meeting in Brussels on Monday, chaired by Justice Minister Nikos Dendias.
In statements to the press, Dendias underlined that based on the decisions taken by the European Council in 2013, the Greek presidency will focus on finding appropriate methods for effective monitoring of migration flows and also closer cooperation among EU member states in this field.
 Council of Europe asks for improved conditions at Korydallos prison hospitalSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/N. Roussis)
Liliane Maury Pasquier, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on health and sustainable development, has asked Greek authorities to improve conditions at the Korydallos prison hospital.
The fact that about 200 prisoners are being treated at Korydallos hospital -- originally planned to cover the needs of 60 inmates -- and most of them were suffering from contagious diseases, and some even from AIDS, has created extreme health and hygiene conditions, Pasquier said.
Under those conditions, she said, it was impossible to ensure prisoners were being properly treated and there was no risk for the expansion of diseases.
She also referred to a recent statement by the Greek Justice minister that the release of certain ill prisoners was under consideration, saying that such a possibility would be meaningful only if the Greek government could ensure they would receive the right treatment after their release.
 Dimar leader Kouvelis to visit BrusselsDemocratic Left (Dimar) leader Fotis Kouvelis and a party delegation on Wednesday are visiting Brussels to participate in a two-day forum organized by the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament on "progressive economy," according to a party announcement.
The forum on progressive economy begins at 14.30. Kouvelis will meet with EU Commissioner on Employment and Social Affairs Lazlo Andor at 17.30 and the EU Commissioner on Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki at 18.15.
On Thursday, at 18.00, Kouvelis will hold a press conferece at the European parliament.
 SYRIZA MP Glezos raises German debts issue ahead of German president's visitVeteran leftist politician Manolis Glezos, a state deputy for main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), on Tuesday addressed letters to government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis that once again raised the issue of German war debts to Greece, this time in the context of the forthcoming visit to Athens by the German president.
In a letter addressed to Venizelos, he asked that MPs be briefed on the findings of the Legal Council of the State as regards the German debts before the German president's arrival in Athens, reminding a relevant pledge made by the government vice-president to the members of the responsible parliamentary committees in a recent briefing.
In the letter to the Parliament president, Glezos underlined that a political party committee on the German debts will have to be formed immediately, as unanimously decided by the Parliament's plenum, to request a meeting with the German president who will be visiting Greece on March 5-7.
 KKE's Koutsoumbas meets visiting Cypriot party leader; statement on UkraineOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Tuesday met with Cyprus' Citizens' Alliance president Giorgos Lillikas, who is on a visit to Athens, and expressed concern about developments on the island.
Koutsoumbas said that "a new Annan Plan is in the works, even worse than the previous one," noting that "in essence, we are talking about two constituent states. KKE once again has expressed its opposition to such designs."
He said that "we will fight with all our powers for a united and independent Cyprus with a single nationality and international identity, with a single sovereignty, with no foreign bases and troops, with no protectors and guarantors and with the Cypriot people in power."
On his part, Lillikas said that they share the same concerns, noting that the new solution framework for the Cyprus issue is "nothing more than the Annan plan in a new version, which is much worse for the Greek side".
He said that "the solution under negotiation which, as the president has admitted, will deprive the Greek Cypriots who choose to return to the so-called Turkish Cypriot constituent state, of their right to vote and be elected, is unacceptable and is a solution based on apartheid-like reasoning. We say that it is unthinkable to be requested of a people to decide to deprive themselves of democracy and freedom."
Commenting on developments in Ukraine, Koutsoumbas said that its people are going through an ordeal as a result of the US and EU intervention in the country's domestic affairs because of their rivalry with Russia. He also warned that the deeper Greece's involvement "in this dirty game of powerful imperialist centers" the bigger the risks it will be facing.
 Journalist Stavros Theodorakis presents newly established 'Potami' partyGreek journalist Stavros Theodorakis on Tuesday presented the political party "Potami" (The River) that he recently established, in a press conference introducing the new party's political orientation and policies. During this he stressed that he didn't want to label the new political formation as either 'right' or 'left' wing, but would instead "steal" ideas from both the Left and the liberal right.
"The problems now demand solutions on a different level," he said, referring to the traditional political divisions.
He also made it clear that his party was firmly pro-Europe: "I am not a euroskeptic, we defend Europe's enhancement, this is our family. The battle must be given within Europe for a different Europe," he said.
The party's leader stressed that people needed a solution beyond political stereotypes and parties, as well as the need for new political powers that will refresh the political scene of the country. At the same time, he noted that his own 'Potami' party would need alliances and could not bring about changes alone. "There many politicians that can be useful and we hope to work with them, in order to set new rules in politics," he said.
Theodorakis noted that there are more serious questions to be answered than whether Greece needs a memorandum or not. The memorandums end in May, he pointed out, and any discussion relating to them had to do with mistakes made in the past. "The country must start producing. We should not wait, beg or threaten for loans," he said, stressing the need for a national plan to exit the crisis. He specifically underlined the importance of innovation, with emphasis on young people and the promotion of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) products.
 EU Commissioner Andor attends conference on youth unemployment in KavalaThere is need to help young people in the EU find a job so that youth unemployment rates can decrease, participants in a conference on youth unemployment held in the northern Greek city of Kavala and attended by EU Commissioner for Employment Laszlo Andor said on Tuesday.
The conference was organized by the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions of Europe (CRPM) and the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture under the auspices of the Greek presidency. Participants said the young people of Europe have been facing challenges accessing the labour market as youth unemployment rates keep going upwards amid the crisis.
Andor pointed out that enacting measures that would contribute to the decrease of youth unemployment was a priority of the EU. He noted that local societies and in particular the prefectures of the EU need to play an important role so that they implement programmes and targeted actions which would contribute to the creation of jobs.
2014 is a crucial year as the 2014-2020 programming period starts and new programmes and policies will be implemented, with measures on youth employment being a priority.
The opposition of the prefectural board of the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace region did not take part in the conference. Its head Giorgos Pavlidis sent an open letter to Andor, pointing out that "Our prefecture, along with poverty, low GDP per capita and the inability-inaction of its managers, has the highest unemployment rate. Being unemployed means having no income, being depressed, gradually becoming poor, moving around without any occupation. For young people, it means their dreams have been destroyed." In the mean time, the communist-affiliated group PAME had gathered outside the conference venue protesting against the arrival of Commissioner Andor in Kavala as well as against unemployment and poverty.
 Thessaloniki court returns 20 school guards to their jobs with temporary injunctionA Thessaloniki first-instance court on Tuesday returned 20 laid-off school guards to their jobs in the Thessaloniki area through a temporary court ruling.
The school guards had asked for temporary injunction returning them to their jobs until the hearing on their case at the end of the month. Following Tuesday's court ruling, they will continue to work and be paid as normal in the interim.
Among the witnesses supporting their case was Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who said the removal of various categories of employees was "dismantling the municipality".
The 20 school guards involved had been among 90 refused a temporary injunction by a Thessaloniki court last December, on the grounds that they might be given other jobs under a public-sector mobility scheme. They filed for an injunction once again when no mobility-scheme transfer was forthcoming.
 Justice minister briefs Parliament on the course of Daimler case investigationJustice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou on Tuesday forwarded a document to Parliament on the course of a judicial investigation into the Daimler bribery case.
Responding to a question tabled by independent MP Nikos Nikolopoulos, the justice minister underlined that the case had come to the attention of the justice ministry as "one of the bribery cases involving foreign public officials in international business transactions, in which our country is allegedly implicated and which are under investigation by the OECD Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions in the ongoing Phase Three of our country's monitoring".
The justice minister noted that an official request for judicial assistance was sent to US authorities on July 15, 2010 concerning the Daimler AG Benz case, in the context of an investigation into the case carried out by Greek authorities. US authorities responded by forwarding relevant documents and two CDs that reached the Financial Crime Prosecutor's Office on February 23, 2013.
On October 2012, the verdict of US courts in the case were forwarded to Financial Crimes Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis, following an initiative by the General Secretary for Transparency & Human Rights Giorgos Sourlas. The prosecutor was asked to outline what action Greek judicial authorities intend to take for the return of misappropriated sums to the Greek state, as well as the criminal and administrative sanctions that would be imposed on public officials responsible.
Athanassiou also told Parliament that a preliminary investigation is underway and that relevant correspondence was forwarded to the Supreme Court Prosecutor on February 2014 regarding the specific case.
Independent MP Nikos Nikolopoulos had asked the justice minister to brief Parliament on the action taken, focusing on the judicial investigation into the case and the estimates of the damage incurred by the state.
 Health minister on the five-euro fee for hospitalsA five-euro admission fee charged by state hospitals and health centres for those visiting outpatient clinics will continue to be charged, as dictated by law, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis stressed in an announcement on Tuesday.
''There is no issue with the five-euro fee right now,'' he said, adding that there "had never been such an issue for March 20. We provide for a transitional period until December 31 for the functional union of the two systems through the law for [the new state insurance health provider] PEDY."
Asked whether the fee might be waived for patients simply wanting to have medication prescribed, Georgiadis pointed out that the new system provides for family doctors, who will undertake these functions. ''The logic of the new system is that prescriptions can be obtained free of charge outside the clinics and not inside them. The urban health centres that will be arise after six months following the merger of older units are intended to provide more services. The fee will obviously be valid there," he said.
The minister concluded by saying that "we can afford to look at how the new system will adjust until the end of the year and any other discussion is premature.''
 Public broadcaster NERIT posts interim list of candidatesAn interim list of candidates to fill 132 journalist positions and another 224 positions in various artistic specialties with the new public broadcaster NERIT S.A., to be hired under an indefinite duration private labour contract in Athens and Thessaloniki, was posted on Tuesday evening on the webpage http://nerit.icap.gr/main.html.
An announcement by NERIT said the list is not a list of successful candidates, and interested parties may file an appeal between March 5 - 10, at the aforementioned webpage.
 New electronic voting system promoted for open ballot procedures in the ParliamentThe Parliament announced on Tuesday the adoption of a new electronic voting system according to which all deputies will use a personal electronic card in all Parliament plenum ballots.
According to the new system, deputies will be able to vote from their seat where special electronic mechanisms will be installed. The system will initially enable deputies to vote "yes", "no", or "present" during the voting processes.
The new system which, currently at its final stage of development, is estimated to be introduced before the Easter holidays. is in the final stage of its development, is estimated to be introduced before Easter holidays.
 Bank of Greece to release stress tests results by the end of the weekBank of Greece governor George Provopoulos and the troika completed a second round of talks over the additional capital needs of Greek banks on Tuesday, without reaching an agreement.
The two sides were not scheduled to meet again as the Greek central banker leaves on Wednesday for Frankfurt, ahead of ? European Central Bank' s board meeting on Thursday. Government sources told ANA-MPA that the two sides insisted on different estimates over the capital needs of the country's four systemic banks, with the Bank of Greece estimating these needs at around 6.0 billion euros, and the IMF insisting on higher estimates.
The Bank of Greece will proceed, unilaterally, with the release by the end of the week of the results of a stress test report conducted by BlackRock.
 Tourism minister to attend ITB tourism trade fair in BerlinBERLIN (ANA-MPA - F. Karaviti)
Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni will be in Berlin to inaugurate the Greek tourism board (GNTO) pavilion at the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) Berlin 2014 starting here on Wednesday.
During her stay in Berlin, Kefalogianni will be meeting Hans Joachim Fuchtel, Germany's Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development and the envoy of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Greece, as well as Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy Iris Gleicke, in charge of SMEs and tourism. Also on the Greek minister's agenda for the trip are meetings with senior executives of major tourist operators and travel agencies operating in Greece.
For this year's exhibition, the Greek pavilion will especially promote the island of Cephalonia and the northern Aegean region, as well as presenting the 'Via Egnatia' programme to showcase the destinations linked to the Egnatia Highway that spans northern Greece from east to west. GNTO will also organise an event on Greek cuisine.
Greece's chances of an economic "comeback" via tourism were also the focus of a report in the German newspaper "Handelsblatt", noting a sharp rise in bookings.
 Greek PMI rose to 51.3 points in FebGreece's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) showed a slightly improvement in February to 51.3 points, from 51.2 points in January.
Production and new orders trends had a positive impact on the PMI index in February, with production levels rising for the fourth consecutive month at the fastest rate since August 2008. New orders grew for the third consecutive month recording the biggest increase since May 2008.
The PMI index -compiled by Markit- measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 Greek economic sentiment index up further in FebGreece's economic sentiment index grew further to 94.8 points in February, from 92.6 in January, to the highest level in the last five-and-a-half-years, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Tuesday.
IOBE, in a monthly report, however, said that consumer confidence deteriorated slightly in February, falling for the second consecutive month.
The report said that business expectations improved in all economic sectors, particularly in manufacturing, retail, services and constructions. IOBE said that stabilization conditions were gradually gaining ground in the economy, raising consumers' and enterprises' expectations.
More analytically, business expectations in the manufacturing sector gained ground over the short-term development in production and current orders' levels, inventories remained unchanged.
In the services sector, business expectations improved slightly over current activities and short-term demand.
In the retail commerce, pessimistic expectations over current sales showed signs of stabilization, while the inventory index grew further.
In the construction sector, negative forecasts over current works program remained unchanged, while the employment index gained further ground.
Greek households' expectations over their finances, the country's financial situation and unemployment developments in the next 12 months remained almost unchanged, while consumers' intention for savings deteriorated in February.
 Greek T-bill auction sees interest rates fall significantlyGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue at a significantly lower cost.
The country's Public Debt Management Organization, in a statement, said that the auction raised 1.137 billion euros with the interest rate of the issue set at 3.60 pct, down from 4.0 pct in the previous auction of same issue in February 4, 2014. Bids submitted totaled 2.019 billion euros, 2.31 times more than the asked sum. The organization accepted non-competitive bids worth 262.5 million euros. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers, while settlement date was set for Friday, 7 March.
The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 6 March.
 Occupations of the future are 'green' and 'white', EU Commissioner Andor saysEuropean Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor on Tuesday stressed during his visit to Central Macedonia that 'green' occupations relating to energy conservation and renewable energy sources, as well as the 'white' professions related to the health sector and those linked to information and communication technologies, are expected to have a bright future and will boost demand in the labour market in coming years.
In the context of European Commission initiatives to combat youth unemployment, there will be an attempt to help young people enter those occupations that will be in the highest demand, the Commissioner said. According to Andor, the European institution for employment and training Cedefop could be very helpful for these initiatives.
Andor, who will meet with representatives of Cedefop in Thessaloniki , stated that the Commission is trying to take forward a plan through which young people could find work within four months or join a training program enabling them to find work.
Central Macedonia Region governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas, who met Andor during his visit, said that he had asked the European Commission to explore possible ways of exploiting more programs to tackle unemployment in northern Greece, which has an unemployment rate of 30 pct in the general population and a youth unemployment rate of 60 pct.
 Aegean Airlines returned to profitability in 2013Aegean Airlines on Tuesday said its revenue jumped 21 pct last year to 682.7 million euros, with net after-tax profits totaling 66.3 million euros in 2013 from a loss of 10.5 million euros in 2012.
The Greek carrier said its passenger traffic totaled 6.8 million last year, up 12 pct from 2012, with seat occupancy rates rising to 79 pct from 74 pct. International flights recorded a 14 pct increase in passenger traffic.
EBITDA totaled 94 million euros, boosting the company's cash reserves to 239 million euros in 2013 from 156 million a year earlier. Aegean said that Olympic Air's results were integrated only for the the last two months of 2013, presenting a consolidated turnover of 699 million euros last year and net after tax profits of 57.8 million euros.
Dimitris Gerogiannis, chief executive of the carrier said: "2013 was a landmark year for our company. We continued successfully to invest in export-oriented activities, contributed significantly to the growth of Greek tourism and successfully returned to profitability. A merger with Olympic Air laid the foundations for larger scale economies, but more effort was necessary to achieve sustainable growth of figures and greater competitiveness".
 OPAP selects GTECH as online betting supplierOPAP SA on Tuesday announced it has selected GTECH S.p.A. as the supplier in the Greek lottery's expansion into online betting services.
In an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange, OPAP said that the selection of GTECH was made after a spec procedure which attracted a total of five international suppliers. OPAP said its partnership with GTECH will focus, initially, in the sector of online sports betting services.
 Cloud Hellas completes share capital increase planCloud Hellas, a 100 pct subsidiary of Eurobank Properties, on Tuesday announced the completion of a share capital increase plan worth 50 million euros. The company said the money from the share capital increase plan was used to fully repay an existing bond loan, making the company debt-free. The share capital increase plan was covered by Eurobank Properties' reserve capital.
 Greek stocks stage strong recovery on TuesdayGreek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market to its highest levels since May 2011. The index rose 0.99 pct to end at 1,323.36 points, after falling as much as 2.33 pct early in the day -a delayed reaction to the Ukrainian crisis which hit international markets on Monday.
Turnover was a strong 99.08 million euros. The Large Cap index rose 1.15 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.04 pct lower. The Real Estate (7.17 pct), Health (3.72 pct) and Travel (3.43 pct) sectors were top gainers, while Chemicals (1.83 pct) and Insurance (1.32 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. Eurobank Properties (7.5 pct), Piraeus Bank (4.50 pct), GEK Terna (4.29 pct) and OPAP (3.60 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (2.81 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (0.98 pct) and Piraeus Port (0.97 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 80 to 59 with another 20 issues unchanged. Teletypos (20 pct), Medicon (19.46 pct) and Maillis (18.07 pct) were top gainers, while Kreka (19.02 pct), Sfakianakis (16 pct) and Varvaresos (14.98 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -0.31%
Industrial Products: +0.82%
Real Estate: +7.17%
Personal & Household: +0.96%
Food & Beverages: +0.91%
Raw Materials: +0.47%
Travel & Leisure: +3.43%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.73
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.52
Coca Cola HBC: 18.31
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.10
National Bank of Greece: 3.46
Eurobank Properties : 8.60
Piraeus Bank: 2.09
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose to 5.41 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 5.26 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.99 pct and the German Bund 1.68 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were slightly higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.552 pct from 0.549 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.469 pct from 0.467 pct, the six-month rate increased to 0.386 pct from 0.384 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.287 pct from 0.286 pct and the one-month rate was unchanged at 0.218 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a small discount of 0.06 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover falling to 18.905 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,621 contracts worth 11.871 million euros, with 51,141 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,395 contracts worth 7.034 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (6,467), followed by Alpha Bank (1,820), National Bank (727), Eurobank (1,222), MIG (1,777), OTE (805), PPC (988), OPAP (697), Hellenic Exchanges (261), Mytilineos (777), Hellenic Petroleum (377), Motor Oil (126), GEK (1,117), Ellaktor (180) and Athens Water (86).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.397
Pound sterling 0.836
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 8.993
Japanese yen 142.30
Swiss franc 1.235
Norwegian kroner 8.372
Canadian dollar 1.547
Australian dollar 1.562
 Greek-German scientists to collaborate on organic solar cell researchTwo research groups from the German institute Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Nanotechnology Lab LTFN of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki will collaborate on research into photovoltaics using graphene as a base material.
The research is carried out under the "GRElect" program financed by the "Bilateral Cooperation Greece-Germany in Research and Technology 2013-2015" of Greece's General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT).
The aim of the project is to use graphene as a transparent electrode in the production of advanced organic electronic devices, such as organic solar cells and organic transistors.
"A promising material with unusual properties, such as high electrical conductivity, high optical transparency, thermal stability and high elasticity, [graphene] has important application in photovoltaics, since it is economical and energy efficient. Moreover, the aim of research worldwide is to produce cheap energy with more applications," said researcher Dr. Constantinos Fostiropoulos from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin Institute on Heterogeneous Materials and Systems.
 Benaki Museum honours Melina Mercouri 20 years after her deathA series of events with the title 'Odos Melina Mercouri' (Melina Mercouri Street) are to begin at the Benaki Museum on Pireos Avenue on Tuesday, honouring Melina Mercouri on the 20th anniversary since the death of the actress and politician. These will include the presentation of a photo album featuring the famous actress but also a ceremony for the presentation of the theatrical Melina Mercouri Prize 2013.
Two collections of stamps issued by the Greek Post Office (ELTA), each containing 10 stamps depicting Melina as an actress and politician near the Parthenon, will be available from Tuesday.
The museum will also organise an exhibition of the black and white photos reproduced in the accompanying album, showing moments from Mercouri's personal, artistic and political life. The exhibition, the special stamp editions and other events will seek to bring the public closer to the woman who fought passionately for culture and Greece and influenced the world with her vision for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
The showroom of the museum will also include interviews and documentaries on her artistic and political career, revealing known and unknown aspects of her life.
 KIS responce to the antisemitic sign outside a doctor's office in ThessalonikiThe Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) on Tuesday expressed abhorrence on behalf of the Jewish community in the country, referring to an antisemitic sign posted outside a doctor's office in Thessaloniki.
A statement issued by KIS noted that the immediate reaction by citizens and police authorities constitutes a proof of the strong decision made by the overwhelming majority of Greek society not to tolerate the creation of an antisemitic climate similar to that in the period between the two World Wars.
KIS expressed satisfaction because citizens and police authorities gave their own response, protecting the equality of the country's citizens regardless of skin colour, race or religion.
 Energa, Hellas Power executives to face felony charges for fraud against the stateNineteen executives of the private power companies Energa and Hellas Power will be tried in court and charged with fraud against the state, according to a ruling by the Council of the Court of Appeals Judges issued on Tuesday.
The defendants face felony charges and could be sentenced to life in prison for embezzlement, fraud against the state and money-laundering. The two companies provided power to Greek households and collected the special property surtax paid through electricity bills without turning it over to the Greek state. The damage caused to the state amounts to 270 million euros.
Charges were filed a year ago after an investigation launched by a prosecutor based on the findings of the authority against money-laundering that traced the amounts, the two companies owed to DESMIE, to Swiss banks.
Another six defendants, officials of Hellenic Transmission System Operator S.A. (DESMIE SA), who were initially charged with breach of faith, will not face trial.
 WWII hand grenade found in backyard near the city of Serres, northern GreeceA live WWII hand grenade found by a woman working in her backyard in the village of Neo Souli, near the northern city of Serres, was neutralized by bomb disposal experts called to the scene, it was announced on Tuesday. Another hand grenade had been found in the same yard a year ago and was also destroyed by a bomb squad.
The woman was doing yard work on Monday and had picked up the hand grenade, thinking it was a stone or the shell of a turtle. She quickly realized her mistake, however, and placed it carefully back on the ground before calling the police.
Greek Army bomb disposal experts were called in, who removed the hand grenade and neutralized it in a controlled explosion in a remote area, away from the village.
 Two American warships at Pireaus portThe American aircraft carrier warships USS George H.W. Bush and USS Philippine Sea have anchored on Tuesday at Piraeus port in the framework of a scheduled customary visit.
The two warships are expected to sail from Piraeus on Friday 7 March.
 Flu virus death toll reaches 70The death toll as a result of complications due to the flu virus reached 70.
According to figures released by the Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO), a total of 208 people, most of which people with chronic diseases who had not been vaccinated against the flu, have been hospitalized in intensive care units, while 53 are still being treated in hospitals.
Scientists estimate that the seasonal influenza is subsiding.
 International Conference on people with disabilities and mass media on March 13-14The Secretariat General of Mass Media will hold the fifth International Conference on "People with Disabilities and Mass Media-Integration and Crisis in The Digital Era"on March 13-14.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Mass Media Secretary General Ioannis Panagiotopoulos will address the conference.
The aim of the conference is to increase awareness of the public and mass media representatives in order to overcome prejudices and stereotypes faced by people with disabilities and also to increase their accessibility to communication and information.
 Albanian national alleged to be involved in Ayia Napa murders arrestedA 34 year-old Albanian national against whom was pending a European arrest warrant for his involvement in the murder of five men killed on June 23 2012 in Ayia Napa on Cyprus was arrested on Tuesday in Athens.
The suspect appeared on Tuesday morning to the Counter Terror Squad and was arrested.
 Overcast on WednesdayRain and northerly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the north and in the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 5C-14C. Cloudy in the central parts, 7C-16C; rain over the islands, 10C-17C. Clouds in Athens, 8C-16C; the same for Thessaloniki, 8C-13C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailiesDIMOKRATIA: 1,361 job positions in public and private sector.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Playing with fire.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Pension at the age of 58 in wider public sector.
ESTIA: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' major achievement.
ETHNOS: Show of power in Crimea.
NAFTEMPORIKI: The Ukrainian crisis upsets the markets.
TA NEA: New Cold War.
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