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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-03-06

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

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

Thursday, 6 March 2014 Issue No: 4602

CONTENTS

  • [01] German President Gauck arrives in Greece; round of meetings to begin Thursday
  • [02] MEP Chatzimarkakis addresses letters to the presidents of Greece and Germany
  • [03] Police bans rallies and protest marches over German president's visit
  • [04] Samaras-Venizelos meeting at Maximos Mansion is completed
  • [05] FinMin Yannis Stournaras in meeting with troika Wed. evening
  • [06] Eurogroup awaiting outcome of talks between Greek gov't and troika, Brussels source
  • [07] Samaras, Barroso to attend Regions committee session in Athens on Sat.
  • [08] EU energy ministers discuss possible natural gas supply crisis due to Ukraine
  • [09] Greek Parliament votes on four bills
  • [10] Pharmacists on strike March 10-11 over troika demands on sector
  • [11] Venizelos meeting with Cyprus's Lillikas
  • [12] Main opposition leader Tsipras meets visiting Cypriot politician Giorgos Lillikas
  • [13] Tranche disbursement depends on the voting of the bill for the implementation of the OECD recommendations
  • [14] Greek authorities launch international tender for the sale of Piraeus port
  • [15] Greek minister sees growing investor confidence on the economy
  • [16] Culture minister meets with American Jewish Committee board
  • [17] Venizelos, Avramopoulos meet with AJC's David Harris
  • [18] Venizelos in Rome on Thursday
  • [19] Greece has a national strategy against corruption, OLAF head Giovanni Kessler tells ANA-MPA web television
  • [20] A meeting between EU experts and third counties to be held at Zappeion on Thursday
  • [21] Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas on Greek EU presidency goals
  • [22] DIMAR delegation participates in Progressive Economy Forum in Brussels
  • [23] Ukrainian students hold protest outside the Russian Consulate in Thessaloniki
  • [24] Tourism minister says Greece is a safe and friendly destination
  • [25] Gov't Vice President briefs SYRIZA deputy Glezos on German war reparations
  • [26] Amendment on local elections shortens campaign advertising, media appearances period
  • [27] Public Order ministry's police restructuring bill ratified in principle
  • [28] Danish Parliament delegation visits the Greek Asylum Service
  • [29] Case against foreign minister sent to Parliament
  • [30] Tourism minister visits Berlin's trade fair ITB, sees "enthusiastic" climate over Greece
  • [31] More tourists expected from Germany in 2014, per data released at Berlin fair
  • [32] Greece ranked third most popular destination for Russians in 2013
  • [33] Greek banks' interest rate spread up in January
  • [34] Northern Greek exporters' express fears over impact of Ukraine crisis on tourism, trade
  • [35] No agreement between dairy farmers, Dep. minister Skordas over fresh milk
  • [36] Lidl Hellas to invest 130 mln euros this year
  • [37] Greek cotton, carpets popular imports in Japan, new honorary consul says
  • [38] Sidenor in 10-mln-euro energy-saving investment programme
  • [39] Entersoft reports improved 2013 results
  • [40] Greek stocks end slightly lower
  • [41] Greek bond market closing report
  • [42] ADEX closing report
  • [43] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [44] Greek kingdoms of Bactria and India through their coins, show opening March 11
  • [45] Five more people died in the last 24hours from influenza outbreak
  • [46] Free testing for uninsured women at Theagenio Cancer Hospital
  • [47] EasyTrip mobile application for motorists travelling to and from Greece and Bulgaria
  • [48] WWF presents 'Better Life' programme, sponsored by Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • [49] Faliro earth yields rare find of fully preserved coffin dating to Archaic era
  • [50] Greek police dismantle extortion and fraud ring on Crete
  • [51] Programme 'Good morning - One day in your town - Greece and you' presented at education ministry
  • [52] 'The Smile of the Child' supported more than 63,000 children in 2013
  • [53] Ombudsman to visit Patra on March 18
  • [54] KKE event on March 8 for Women's Day
  • [55] Lawsuit over unpaid OAED contributions to corruption prosecutor
  • [56] Cattle breeders to hold protest on Wednesday over fresh milk
  • [57] New 4.7-Richter earthquake shakes Cephalonia on Wednesday
  • [58] North Korea prevails over Greece in pre-World Cup friendly match
  • [59] Overcast on Thursday
  • [60] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies Politics

  • [01] German President Gauck arrives in Greece; round of meetings to begin Thursday

    German President Joachim Gauck arrived at Athens' International Airport on Wednesday afternoon and was received on behalf of the government by Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos. Prior to beginning his official meetings on Thursday, Gauck visited the Acropolis Museum and the archaeological site and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His schedule includes meetings with government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras.

    The German president is visiting Greece at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias. On Friday, they will visit the city of Ioannina, northwest Greece, and the village of Ligiades - the site of a mass execution of 81 people by the Nazi regime, including members of the Jewish community, in October 1943.

    In Ioannina, the German president will visit the local synagogue and meet with members of the local Jewish community. He will depart for Berlin on Friday evening.

    [02] MEP Chatzimarkakis addresses letters to the presidents of Greece and Germany

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)

    European Parliament deputy Jorgo Chatzimarkakis addressed letters to Greek President Karolos Papoulias and German President Joachim Gauck ahead of the latter's visit to Greece, it was announced on Wednesday.

    In his letter to President Papoulias, Chatzimarkakis referred to the findings of a German Parliament committee that were recently made public, which estimated that Germany's debt to Greece for a forced occupation loan extracted from Greece by the Nazi regime during WWII is roughly 6.0 billion euros.

    Chatzimarkakis underlined that it is "a sad and unpleasant fact" that "until now the Greek state hasn't made an official claim" and expressed hope that the meeting with the visiting German president "will signal the start of a substantive and effective dialogue that will settle this serious issue and become a catalyst for the improvement of bilateral relations".

    In his letter to the German president, he said that his visit to Ligiades in the province of Epirus, in northwest Greece, and the plan for Greek-German cooperation is a hopeful message, adding that such gestures come as a response to widespread sentiment in Greece that Germany has not met the obligations stemming from WWII.

    "Germany should seize the opportunity and help Greece, beyond these important symbolic gestures," Chatzimarkakis said, adding that Greece has for years been in a deep recession resulting from the austerity policies imposed by the troika representing its international lenders. He pointed out that the infant mortality rate has increased 43 pct since the beginning of the crisis. "This cannot and should not be acceptable in a responsible European policy," he said.

    Chatzimarkakis also pointed out that Germany has gained 114 billion euros from interest rates since the beginning of the crisis and that the Federal Bank of Germany has recorded considerable profits, noting that the debt crisis has made the south poorer and the north richer.

    He underlined that now is the right time for a new chapter in the Greek-German relations, through the settlement of the forced occupation loan issue, and repeated his proposal to set up a fund that will finance small and medium sized businesses.

    Chatzimarkakis also called on the German president to discuss the issue with his Greek counterpart, noting that "this would give additional importance to his already important visit to Athens".

    [03] Police bans rallies and protest marches over German president's visit

    The police on Wednesday announced a ban on rallies and protest marches in downtown Athens for Thursday, over German President Joachim Gauck's visit to Greece.

    By decision of the General Attica Police Director, all rallies and protest marches are banned between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. in downtown Athens, from Syntagma Square as far as Kolonaki Square.

    [04] Samaras-Venizelos meeting at Maximos Mansion is completed

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos wrapped up a meeting they had at Maximos Mansion, government headquarters, on Wednesday afternoon.

    Leaving Maximos Mansion, Venizelos told reporters that "the objective facts of the Greek economy are such that we are allowed to say that the discussions with the troika will have to have a positive conclusion as soon as possible".

    Referring to pending issues, Venizelos said that "they are of a lesser importance compared to what has already been done," adding that "we will find a solution for them as well. Nobody can say that the fate of the Greek economy depends on the uniform price for books or on whether non prescription drugs will be sold in pharmacies or supermarkets".

    Venizelos also said that "we do not want political favours, we want a responsible political approach that will understand facts".

    On the issue of the banks, he noted that "there is no distance with the troika on the issue because there are institutions, procedures and guarantees," adding that there is also the jurisdiction of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Greece (BoG).

    He also noted that "the banks are fully shielded and a solution will be found".

    [05] FinMin Yannis Stournaras in meeting with troika Wed. evening

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is currently, Wednesday evening, in a meeting with the representatives of the troika, according to sources.

    The Greek government is in negotiations to reach a tentative agreement in time for a Eurogroup meeting on March 10 to approve the release of the next loan tranche. In earlier statements on Wednesday, Stournaras said he hoped for a basic agreement to be reached by Saturday.

    [06] Eurogroup awaiting outcome of talks between Greek gov't and troika, Brussels source

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The Eurogroup is waiting for the outcome of the talks between the Greek authorities and the representatives of the country's troika of lenders, a senior European official said here on Wednesday.

    "We are waiting to see if an agreement will be reached on technical level before Monday. We'll see," the European official said. He also clarified that as soon as an agreement is reached the evaluation report will be forwarded to the eurozone working group, a discussion on the report will follow and afterward the ministers of Finance will be briefed.

    The European official declined to say which negotiation issues are still pending and avoided naming the amount of the next tranche. He also declined comment on whether the tranche will be disbursed in smaller sub-tranche amounts. However, he confirmed that it is a considerable amount taking under consideration Greece's loan obligations concerning the repayment of state bonds in mid May.

    He also ruled out the likelihood of a new troika mission in Athens before the European Parliament elections.

    As regards the primary surplus for 2013, he said that the ratification by Eurostat is expected on April 23, noting that the Eurogroup cannot be based on interim forecasts. "To make big decisions we want absolute certainty," he said.

    [07] Samaras, Barroso to attend Regions committee session in Athens on Sat.

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will attend the second day of the 6th biennial European Summit of Regions and Cities to take place in Athens on March 7 and 8.

    The summit of the European Union Committee of the Regions (CoR) will be held at Athens' Megaron Music Hall with the participation of 800 delegates, among them, 300 CoR members and local and regional officials.

    Three high-level sessions will be held on Friday, March 7, first day of the summit, focusing on Europe's strategy for growth and jobs from a local and regional perspective. The CoR will also present the Athens Declaration with proposals on the future of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

    On Saturday, Samaras, Barroso, CoR President Ramon Luis Valcarcel Siso and Attica Regional Governor Yiannis Sgouros will outline their views on the future of Europe.

    The session will be broadcast live on Public Television (DT).

    [08] EU energy ministers discuss possible natural gas supply crisis due to Ukraine

    Tackling a potential natural gas supply crisis in Europe as a result of developments in Ukraine dominated a meeting of European Union energy ministers held in Brussels, a senior Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry official said on Wednesday.

    At the EU Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council attended by energy ministers on Tuesday, EU Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger presented data showing that Russia supplied the EU with 160 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2013, 82 billion of which were transported via pipelines passing through Ukraine. He said that a possible pause in deliveries in March would create a 6.5 billion cubic meters shortfall in the European market, 6.0 billion of which can be covered from other sources, such as the Nord Stream and Blue Stream pipelines, Norway, from existing stores of natural gas in the EU and by Europe's liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations.

    In this case, the shortfall would effectively come to 0.4 billion cubic metres on a European-wide level but the impact would not be the same for all countries, with the Balkans expected to be hardest hit.

    Regarding Greece, the senior official said there would be no supply problem, noting that LNG deposits in Revythousa were 80 percent full and the next boat load was expected on March 14. If needed, Greece will seek to secure another LNG load, he said. Apart from Revythousa, natural gas is supplied to Greece through pipelines passing through Bulgaria and Turkey.

    The council also discussed a recent report by the European Commission on energy prices, with ministers supporting a reduction of taxes on energy products.

    According to the Greek environment ministry, the government's proposals for cutting energy costs for domestic industry, such as offering lower rates in exchange for reduced demand during peak hours, offsetting the cost of emissions and changes in the regime for supporting renewable energy resources have been submitted to the troika representing Greece's international lenders, whose response is expected in the coming days.

    [09] Greek Parliament votes on four bills

    The Greek Parliament on Tuesday voted for a bill regarding the opening of a new highway and a toll station between Greece and Bulgaria in the area of Xanthi.

    Deputies also voted for a bill on a cooperation memorandum between Greece and Armenia regarding EU issues and for a legislation that writes off 12.85 million US dollars of debt of the Palestinian authority to Greece.

    The Parliament voted also for a fourth bill ratifying the "Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the Southeast European Law Enforcement Center".

    Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis also announced in Parliament the withdrawal of an amendment that exempted local government officials from any criminal responsibility regarding contracts signed by them that were concluded without strictly conforming to their contractual conditions. The amendment would be restated and tabled under new legislation.

    [10] Pharmacists on strike March 10-11 over troika demands on sector

    Pharmacists in Greece called a a 48-hour nationwide strike on March 10 and 11 in response to demands by representatives of the troika to end restrictions on sales of non-prescription medicines, to introduce changes in the ownership of private pharmacies and to the extend their hours of operation.

    The decision was taken on Wednesday at a special meeting of the board of the Panhellenic Pharmacists Association (PFS) following a relevant proposal of the President of the Association Kyriakos Theodosiades.

    [11] Venizelos meeting with Cyprus's Lillikas

    Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos reassured Cyprus' Citizens Alliance representatives that there was no possibility to 'unfreeze' accession capital for Turkey, party leader Giorgos Lillikas said on Wednesday.

    Lillikas presented certain proposals of the Citizens' Alliance which could avert possible negative developments on the Cyprus issue. The two officials also discussed developments in Ukraine.

    Lillikas underlined that Cyprus and Greece should not be affected by the EU and proceed with sanctions against Russia as this "would hurt our national interests and our relationship with Russia." According to Lillikas, Venizelos assured the Cypriot delegation that this option seems to be fading out.

    [12] Main opposition leader Tsipras meets visiting Cypriot politician Giorgos Lillikas

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday met visiting Cypriot politician Giorgos Lillikas, the head of the Citizen's Alliance movement on the island republic. According to an announcement, their meeting focused on the current political and social situation on Cyprus, the repercussions of austerity policies and the resumption of a negotiating process aiming at a solution to the Cyprus issue and an end to the occupation of the island.

    Tsipras outlined SYRIZA's position on the negotiating process and repeated its support for a bizonal, bicommunal federation on a united Cyprus, with a solution based on UN resolutions and the international character that must be incorporated in the desired solution.

    [13] Tranche disbursement depends on the voting of the bill for the implementation of the OECD recommendations

    Fiscal negotiations with the troika have been concluded and there will be no measures for 2014, a senior Finance ministry official said on Tuesday after a meeting with the troika and the Development ministry regarding the implementation of a package of recommendations made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to boost competitiveness.

    According to the same official, the issue of the banks' capital needs remains open as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission have expressed different views.

    The disbursement of the next tranche depends on the voting of the bill regarding implementation of recommendations made by the OECD, a senior Development ministry official said adding that Greece has agreed to implement 87 percent of the OECD recommendations compared to 80 percent it had previously agreed and accept a further 15 reforms from a total of 55 which had not been included in the government's list.

    Regarding the capital needs of the banks, Greece is aligned with European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi that the central bank of each country shall be responsible to ascertain the capital adequacy of the banks.

    "It is an institutional gap that the IMF, the European Commission and the ECB must solve between themselves," the senior Finance ministry official noted.

    [14] Greek authorities launch international tender for the sale of Piraeus port

    A Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) board meeting on Wednesday approved the terms of an international tender procedure for the sale of a 67 pct equity stake in Piraeus Port Organization (OLP), after taking in view comments expressed during a debate in the Parliament's Economic Affairs Commission.

    The tendering procedure will begin immediately and is expected to be completed this year.

    [15] Greek minister sees growing investor confidence on the economy

    Investors believe that a declining uncertainty over the Greek stock market and the Greek economy in general is taking a permanent nature, Development and Competitiveness Deputy Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Wednesday.

    Commenting on the latest figures of the Volatility Index for Greece (KEPE GRIV) which showed a decline in uncertainty and a restoring of investors' confidence to the Greek economy, Mitarakis noted that evidence was rising that the Greek economy was exiting a recession cycle and that the country was looking forward for better times. "We have already seen a series of advanced indexes, such as the European Commission's economic sentiment index, the 10-year Greek bond spread and the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange supporting this positive conclusion," Mitarakis said, adding that the fear index compiled by KEPE fell to the lowest levels since September 2008, reflecting a positive sentiment among investors as they discounted positive developments and prospects for the Greek economy.

    Mitarakis mentioned a series of new investments in the country, such as the TAP natural gas pipeline and the exploitation of Hellinikon area, which could contribute in a battle against unemployment "the biggest social problem in the country".

    The Greek minister said that the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange was currently 175.09 pct up compared with its lows in June 5 2012, while the spread of the 10-year benchmark bond fell to 510 basis points, to levels seen before the first memorandum (March 2010), with the Greek bond yielding 6.88 pct.

    [16] Culture minister meets with American Jewish Committee board

    Culture Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos met on Wednesday with the board of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

    During the meeting "a review of relations between Greece, the US and Israel took place, as well as of developments in the wider region of the Southeastern Mediterranean", according to a relevant announcement issued by the ministry.

    Panayiotopoulos welcomed AJC Executive Director David Harris and the members of the Committee's leadership, stressing that "the peoples of Greece and Israel are not only linked with longstanding friendship, but with the parallel course of two cultures as well that have deep roots and continue to produce fresh results".

    He pointed out that "culture is always a bridge of communication and stability".

    An agency with a steadfast interest in relations among Greece, the US and Israel, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) visits Greece regularly for contacts with the political leadership, the Culture ministry's announcement concluded.

    The delegation has also met with government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday, while it is scheduled to meet with Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday.

    [17] Venizelos, Avramopoulos meet with AJC's David Harris

    Government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos met on Wednesday with American Jewish Committee (AJC) delegation headed by Executive Director David Harris. The meeting took place at the foreign ministry.

    The visiting AJC delegation will be received by Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday.

    [18] Venizelos in Rome on Thursday

    Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will be on Thursday in Rome to participate in the International Ministerial Conference on support for Libya.

    The conference will focus on the political reforms and Libya's gradual transition to democracy. The participants will have the opportunity to seek ways to support the country in the sectors of administration, rule of law, proliferation of conventional weapons and borders control.

    [19] Greece has a national strategy against corruption, OLAF head Giovanni Kessler tells ANA-MPA web television

    Combating fraud and corruption calls for unity on national level and for European and international cooperation, because the most dangerous cases are not limited to national borders, European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) Director-General Giovanni Kessler on Wednesday underlined in an interview with ANA-MPA WebTV.

    Kessler noted that a national coordinating body will have to be set up soon in Greece, while a European prosecutor's office is necessary to be introduced.

    "As requested, the Greek government is implementing a national strategy against fraud," he said, adding that he is convinced that "the Greek government has the will to combat the problem, as proven by the serious investigation launched into various cases".

    He also said that a central authority that will undertake to coordinate national services should be established in Greece for better cooperation with the European agencies, thus meeting a European legislation obligation.

    Kessler praised the "commitment" and "good job" done by the Greek EU Presidency in promoting the establishment of a European prosecutor's office to handle economic crimes.

    [20] A meeting between EU experts and third counties to be held at Zappeion on Thursday

    The EUROMED Migration III project will be held on March 6-7 at Zappeion Megaron under the auspices of the Greek EU presidency.

    It will build on the ideas and issues discussed in the Paris meeting in February 2014 while looking at latest developments and progress in the context of labour migration cooperation in the wider region.

    The overall objective of the project is to foster cooperation on migratory issues between EU member states and ENPI South partner countries - People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the State of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Lebanon, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Palestinian Territories and the Republic of Tunisia.

    The EC funded EUROMED Migration III is a three year project which began its activities on January 1, 2012.

    [21] Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas on Greek EU presidency goals

    Greece has managed to reverse the climate of mistrust that existed in the European Union with respect to the country's ability to take the helm of the EU Council, Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas said on Wednesday, during a press conference on matters relating to the Greek presidency of the EU Council.

    Kourkoulas said that Greece has used the experience of the past four presidencies, adding that the aim is to have a successful presidency and improve the country's image abroad.

    "What matters is to manage to get back to the centre of politics in Europe, not as a problem but as a country that can help address the problems," Kourkoulas noted. He also hailed the fact that the priorities raised at the outset by the Greek presidency have been accepted by all, saying this was "very positive", and placed particular emphasis on issues of migration, unemployment and creating jobs.

    He stressed that it is important to include a comprehensive policy on maritime safety in the June summit conclusions and added that Greece's goal is to adopt new policies for the future of migration policy in the European Union, "policies that are closer to the views of the European South on illegal migration."

    Regarding the cost of the Greek presidency, Kourkoulas reiterated that the desired goal is to spend less than 50 million euros, which is the initial budget of the presidency, and which is much lower than the corresponding previous presidencies.

    Asked to comment on the situation in Ukraine and the current developments in the region, Kourkoulas said that "instability in Ukraine does not benefit anyone right now." He added that "the solution should be found through dialogue with all involving parties."

    [22] DIMAR delegation participates in Progressive Economy Forum in Brussels

    A Democratic Left (DIMAR) delegation on Wednesday headed by the party's President Fotis Kouvelis will participate in the two-day Progressive Economy Annual Forum, organized by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament in Brussels on March 5.

    Kouvelis will also have meetings with European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor and European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki.

    [23] Ukrainian students hold protest outside the Russian Consulate in Thessaloniki

    Ukrainian students and citizens from former Soviet Union countries on Wednesday held a protest outside the Russian Consulate in Thessaloniki.

    The protesters held Ukrainian flags and placards against what is happening in Crimea and demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Crimea as well as a peaceful solution to the crisis. The protest ended peacefully at 13.00.

    [24] Tourism minister says Greece is a safe and friendly destination

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA - F. Karaviti)

    Greece has made a comprehensive effort to convince markets and potential visitors that the country has remained a safe and friendly destination, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni told in an interview with Deutsche Welle's Greek service.

    "On one hand those positive signs make us optimistic but on the other hand we have a greater responsibility regarding the quality we are offering our guests," she said during the interview on the sidelines of Berlin's international tourism trade fair ITB.

    "We should continue the effort to remain competitive, to enrich and improve our tourist product so that Greece can reach the top of tourist destinations worldwide in the coming years," she said.

    She added Greece's main priority was the lengthening of the tourist season, which can be accomplished only with the cooperation of local communities.

    During her stay in Berlin, Kefalogianni met with 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.

    [25] Gov't Vice President briefs SYRIZA deputy Glezos on German war reparations

    Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday met with main opposition SYRIZA Deputy of State Manolis Glezos, according to a ministry statement, and briefed him on the context of the Legal Council of State working group report on the German war reparations and discussed further steps on the issue.

    [26] Amendment on local elections shortens campaign advertising, media appearances period

    The campaign period for local elections, originally set at two months from election day, will be reduced to one month, restricting advertising campaigns and candidates' appearances in mass media by one full month.

    According to an amendment by Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis, included in the Public Order ministry's bill on the restructuring of the police, "the campaign period is defined as the 30 days that precedes voting in the first round of the local administration elections".

    [27] Public Order ministry's police restructuring bill ratified in principle

    The Public Order ministry's bill on the restructuring of the police, the Fire Brigade and the Civil Protection General Secretariat was ratified in principle and by majority vote on Wednesday.

    The New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR) parties expressed their support, while the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) reserved the right to vote for some of the bill's provisions.

    The Independent Greeks (ANEL), Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the representative of the Independent Democratic deputies declared that they were voting against the bill.

    Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias stressed the need for the restructuring of the Greek Police (ELAS) to enable it to become more workable and more effective.

    "Greece possesses the biggest police network per population unit in Europe. The police-citizens ratio is 1 to 290. The Greek taxpayer cannot sustain a huge police force. Its effectiveness is not related to whether it is large or not", Dendias said.

    The minister emphasised the creation of a specialised foreign nationals sector, stressing that illegal immigration is the number two issue, after the economy, threatening the country and affecting society's way of functioning.

    "You might not like it, but that is how it is. Otherwise, illegal immigration would not be a penal offence," Dendias said. "If this were not so, we would not have borders and we would let whoever wants to enter the country. Police needs specialisation, therefore, to handle the issue of immigration by itself with a specialised apparatus", he pointed out, responding to the opposition's reactions.

    [28] Danish Parliament delegation visits the Greek Asylum Service

    The Danish Parliament's Immigration and Integration Committee, headed by its president Troels Ravn, on Wednesday visited the Public Order and Citizen Protection ministry's Asylum Service.

    The Danish Parliament commitee, consisting of six different parties' deputies, met with Asylum Service Director Maria Stavropoulou, who made a short presentation on the units activities while also referring to the new procedures, legislation and personnel training regarding asylum and the further need for European funds.

    "Our visit revealed the great challenges Greece is facing in connection with asylum management," Ravn said and underlined that "we are impressed with progress in creating a new asylum system, carried out with devotion and professionalism. Today's conversation will be extremely useful during relevant discussions in Denmark related to this complicated issue."

    The meeting was also attended by an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative.

    [29] Case against foreign minister sent to Parliament

    Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou on Wednesday sent the file on a case against government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos to Parliament, so a decision can be made on whether to remove his Parliamentary immunity so he can be charged. The case concerns a lawsuit filed against the minister for "espionage and violating state secrets".

    The suit against Venizelos was filed by Dimitrios Antoniou, in response to the minister's statements that he had a digital photocopy of the country's defence plans at home from his time at the defence ministry. The Supreme Court public prosecutor's document, accompanied by the case file and a first-instance court public prosecutors' document, was sent to Parliament under the dictates of the law on ministerial responsibility.

    Financial News

    [30] Tourism minister visits Berlin's trade fair ITB, sees "enthusiastic" climate over Greece

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA - F. Karaviti)

    There have been positive signs for this year's tourist season, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said from Berlin where she is visiting the international tourism trade fair ITB. According to the minister, the climate regarding Greece was "enthusiastic", with Kefalogianni pointing out that 2013 success "makes us feel responsible" to improve the offered tourist product in a competitive market.

    Regarding the ministry's priorities, she said efforts were focused on the lengthening of the tourist season especially after summer. Nevertheless, she appeared rather reserved on the country's abilities for a large scale promotion programme as resources are limited. She also referred to the new cooperation between the Tourism Ministry and industry's online companies (Trip Advisor, Expedia, Travelzoo etc) on the promotion of the Greek tourist product.

    During her stay in Berlin, Kefalogianni met with 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. The two officials discussed ways to strengthen the cooperation between Germany and Greece, especially in regards to the lengthening of the tourist season.

    Greece's representation to ITB has been upgraded this year, Kefalogianni said adding that emphasis would be put on Cephalonia, which withstood the recent earthquake and is ready to welcome its visitors.

    The minister also referred to Greece's achievements, focusing on 2013 primary surplus, while she appeared confident that 2014 would mark Greece's return to growth. She referred to exceptional cases of successful Greek entrepreneurship abroad and called on Germany companies to invest in Greek products.

    Fuchtel congratulated the Greek minister on 2013 record tourist arrivals and wished for an even better performance so that Greece could recover through the tourist sector.

    [31] More tourists expected from Germany in 2014, per data released at Berlin fair

    A total of 2,5 million German tourists are expected to visit Greece in 2014, according to data from bookings and messages from the International Tourism Fair in Berlin ITB, which was launched on Wednesday, showing an increase of over 10 pct for this year's tourist season.

    In Crete, last year's surge by 18 pct (3.34 million arrivals) is expected to continue in 2014, with an increase of 10 pct in the arrivals of German tourists that are expected to exceed 500,000. The deputy region governor, Maria Lionis, told ANA-MPA that ''the goal now is to extend the tourist season to the months of autumn and spring. The region of Crete has blocked for this year's tourist season 10 million euros for the maintenance of the infrastructure of the island".

    The German market is expected to improve over last year in Rhodes as well, according to general manager of the Rhodes Tourism Organization Charalambos Palogiannidis, who notes that the significant increase in bookings has to do with the efforts of big tourist agencies to fill hotels with discounted bookings made during the winter. But he also expressed concern for the impact on tourism of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and of the sharp devaluation of the ruble, which would make Greek holidays expensive.

    Santorini is at the same level, with an increase of 20 pct in bookings from Great Britain (because of two new flights per week by British Airways) and 40 pct from Austria.

    More Scandinavian, French and Austrian tourists are also expected on Naxos island.

    Greek cuisine will be promoted at the international tourism fair ITB (which will end on March 9) by a team of chefs from the Aldemar chain, under the initiative of the group "Greece on a Dish" and the Greek National Tourism Organisation.

    [32] Greece ranked third most popular destination for Russians in 2013

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    Greece was ranked third most popular destination in the preference of Russian tourists for 2013, according to the Russian Statistics Service (Rosstat) and last year's official data.

    Russian tourists visiting Greece increased by 70 percent last year exceeding one million, the announcement said. Turkey and Egypt are first and second respectively with Spain in the fourth place.

    According to the Russian Union of Tourism Industry, 54 million Russians travelled abroad in 2013, up 13 percent compared to 2012.

    [33] Greek banks' interest rate spread up in January

    The spread in the interest rates between deposits and loans increased by 58 basis points to 3.89 bps in January, as the overall weighted average interest rate on new deposits decreased, while the corresponding rate on loans increased, the bank of Greece said on Wednesday.

    The central bank, in a report, said that the overall weighted average interest rate on all new deposits decreased by 4 basis points to stand at 1.77 pct, in January 2014. In particular, in January 2014, the average interest rates on overnight deposits from households and from non-financial corporations decreased by 4 and 8 basis points to stand at 0.33 pct and 0.37 pct respectively. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to one year remained basically unchanged at 2.80 pct.

    The overall weighted average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations increased by 54 basis points to stand at 5.66 pct in January 2014. In particular, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity increased by 10 basis points to stand at 14.72 pct in January 2014. The average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased by 82 basis points to stand at 7.98 pct.

    The average interest rates on corporate loans and loans to sole proprietors without a defined maturity decreased by five and 14 basis points to stand at 7.24 pct and 9.20 pct respectively in January 2014. The average interest rates on corporate loans with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year increased by 36 basis points to stand at 6.97 pct for loans up to 250,000 euros, increased by 20 basis points to stand at 5.99 pct for loans above 250,000 euros and up to one million euros, and increased by 127 basis points to stand at 6.00 pct for loans above EUR 1.0 million. Finally, the average interest rate on housing loans at a floating rate or with an initial fixation period of up to one year decreased by 11 basis points to stand at 2.70 pct.

    In January 2014, the overall weighted average interest rate on outstanding amounts of all deposits decreased, while the corresponding average rate of all loans remained basically unchanged. The spread* between loan and deposit rates increased by 8 basis points to stand at 3.63 percentage points.

    [34] Northern Greek exporters' express fears over impact of Ukraine crisis on tourism, trade

    The president of the Exporters' Association of Northern Greece (SBBE) Dimitris Lakasas on Wednesday voiced the association's concerns that the situation in Ukraine may sufficiently disrupt the geostrategic and political scene, as well as relations with Russia, as to have a negative impact on Greek exports and tourism coming from those areas.

    Lakasas was speaking during a press conference on the performance of Greek exports in 2013 and to present the results of a survey on the problems faced by exporters. He particularly emphasised the risk that the crisis would affect not just the 150 million euros in exports to Ukraine, tripled in recent years, but also the flow of tourism from Russia, Ukraine and possibly even Poland.

    [35] No agreement between dairy farmers, Dep. minister Skordas over fresh milk

    A meeting between dairy farmers and Deputy Development Minister Athanasios Skordas ended without agreement earlier on Wednesday, with farmers insisting that an extension of the shelf life for fresh milk endangered their livelihood. The measures is among those proposed in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 'toolkit' for Greece.

    In a press conference after the meeting, dairy farmers expressed fears for the future of cattle breeding if the measure is implemented by the government. Dairy farmers asked Skordas to put the issue "on hold" and set up a working group to consider whether changes in the milk market are needed and in what areas.

    "We had an initial result with regard to powdered milk and allowing its use in yoghurts and cheeses. Mr. Skordas told us that this is not the case," Greek Livestock Breeders Association (SEK) President Panagiotis Peveretos said.

    "From the meeting we got the impression that it is not the troika that is attempting to extend the shelf life of fresh milk, but the ministry," said the president of the Holstein Breed Association of Greece Athanasios Vasilekas.

    According to a joint letter sent by the two dairy farmer associations (SEK and Holstein) to all deputies, dairy farming has declined significantly in the last five years, with the population of dairy cows falling from 120,000 to just 85-90.000 and a concomitant decline in milk production.

    Support for the dairy farmers' demands was expressed by Alternate Rural Development and Foods Minister Maximos Harakopoulos in a meeting held later on Wednesday, however. In statements afterward, Harakopoulos said that the ministry had from the first "presented sound arguments concerning the repercussions of adopting the OECD proposals for primary production, without substantial benefits for consumers."

    According to the alternate minister, "we have, unfortunately, not heard convincing replies to date," and he expressed hope that "common sense will prevail".

    [36] Lidl Hellas to invest 130 mln euros this year

    Lidl Hellas is scheduling investments worth 130 million euros in 2014, which includes a new logistics centre in Thessaloniki, the opening of four new stores in Attica and the launching of bake-off points in all of its network in Greece.

    Stratos Demetriadis, a member of Lidl Hellas management, speaking to reporters, said that company has already launched bake-off points in 36 out of its 222 units and plans to expand this activity to cover all of its network, selling bread at competitive prices.

    The company recently inaugurated a new logistics center in Kalyvia, Attica, an investment worth 55 million euros, raising its logistics centre in the country to five. Demetriadis said that a new logistics centre in Thessaloniki will begin operations in June and will be Lidl's largest such facility in Europe.

    Lidl Hellas has been active in Greece for the last 15 years and has completed investments worth 1.0 billion euros. It operates a retail network of 222 units and plans to open another four units in Attica this year.

    Its workforce totals 4,002 and plans to raise this number of around 4,280 by the end of the year. Two-thirds of its workers have part-time contracts. Its turnover totaled 1.3 billion euros (excluding VAT) in 2013, down 1.0 pct from 2012.

    Lidl Hellas plans to offer greater penetration of Greek products in its store and will launch a campaign to boost the presence of Greek products abroad.

    [37] Greek cotton, carpets popular imports in Japan, new honorary consul says

    The Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) and the Greek embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday announced that Greek cotton is the most important imported good in Japan while Greek carpets imports to the Asian country increased by 786 pct in 2012 in comparison with 2011.

    Japan's new honorary consul in Thessaloniki, Charis Alexopoulos, in an event held to introduce him at one of the northern city's hotels, said that the exports value of Greek cotton in Japan in 2012 reached 14.4 million euros, an increase of 117 pct compared to the previous year. In addition, total Greek exports to Japan, excluding oil products, increased by 43.8 pct while Japanese imports to Greece decreased by 59.7 pct. Among other Greek goods imported by Japan, Greek olive oil imports increased by 36.9 pct.

    Alexopoulos said the 127 million people of Japan are high-income-level consumers and offer great entrepreneural opportunities to Greek businesses.

    "Besides our financial relations we also have something else in common with the Japanese: our ability to overcome problems and face challenges and hard times," Alexopoulos said and called the Japanese consulate in Thessaloniki "an islet of understanding and exploration of new development opportunities."

    The event was also attended by Japanese Ambassador to Greece and Cyprus Masuo Nishibayashi and representatives of agencies and local authorities.

    [38] Sidenor in 10-mln-euro energy-saving investment programme

    Sidenor SA on Wednesday announced the launch of an investment programme worth 10 million euros, for an energy upgrading project in its Thessaloniki production unit.

    The investment aims to significantly save energy and reduce energy costs in the factory. Sidenor also said it was examining raising the number of shifts for workers, to include weekends as well.

    [39] Entersoft reports improved 2013 results

    Entersoft Group on Wednesday said its net revenue grew by 18.28 pct in 2013 to 8.04 million euros, boosted by investments on mobile telephone device products and growing activities abroad. The group said pre-tax profits totaled 1.0 million euros.

    Parent company net revenue totaled 6.22 million euros, up 10.44 pct compared with 2012, while pre-tax earnings totaled 1.04 million euros.

    Revenues from international activities accounted for 13 pct of total group revenue.

    [40] Greek stocks end slightly lower

    Greek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as investors took profits after the market reached new 33-month highs on Tuesday. The composite index fell 0.28 pct to end at 1,319.59 points, after dropping as much as 1.27 pct during the day. Turnover eased to 87.79 million euros.

    The Large Cap index fell 0.48 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.58 pct higher. Korinth Pipeworks (5.91 pct), Frigoglass (4.35 pct), MIG (3.53 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.82 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank Properties (3.95 pct), Terna Energy (2.37 pct) and OTE (2.34 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Chemicals (3.64 pct), Financial Services (2.19 pct) and Oil (1.79 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (4.38 pct), Telecoms (2.34 pct) and Personal Products (1.46 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 82 to 59, with another 23 issues unchanged. AXON Holdings (20 pct), Maillis (19.39 pct) and Atti-kat (19.05 pct) were top gainers, while Pasal (19.38 pct), Boutaris (17.54 pct) and NEL (12.33 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.67%

    Industrial Products: +0.09%

    Commercial: +0.25%

    Construction: -1.32%

    Oil & Gas: -1.46%

    Media: -4.38%

    Personal & Household: -1.46%

    Raw Materials: +1.23%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.78%

    Technology: +0.38%

    Telecoms: -2.34%

    Banks: -0.10%

    Food & Beverages: +0.53%

    Health: +0.12%

    Utilities: -0.36%

    Financial Services: +2.19%

    Chemicals: +3.84%

    Real Estate: -3.79%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.72

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.49

    Coca Cola HBC: 18.41

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.30

    National Bank of Greece: 3.49

    Eurobank Properties : 8.26

    OPAP: 11.68

    OTE: 12.50

    Piraeus Bank: 2.09

    Titan: 23.00

    [41] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 5.25 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 5.41 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.86 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.61 pct. Turnover was a strong 22 million euros, of which 21 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.0 million euros was one sell order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.551 pct from 0.552 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.468 pct from 0.469 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.384 pct from 0.386 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.286 pct from 0.287 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.216 pct from 0.218 pct.

    [42] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.11 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 25.237 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,564 contracts worth 18.258 million euros, with 51,170 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 17,172 contracts worth 6.979 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (4,459), followed by Alpha Bank (1,821), National Bank (683), Eurobank (492), MIG (3,369), OTE (1,009), PPC (866), OPAP (576), Hellenic Exchanges (218), Mytilineos (900), Hellenic Petroleum (568), Sidenor (411), GEK (271), Intralot (588) and Korinth Pipeworks (143).

    [43] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.393

    Pound sterling 0.834

    Danish kroner 7.574

    Swedish kroner 8.984 8.354

    Japanese yen 142.82

    Swiss franc 1.236

    Norwegian kroner n.a.

    Canadian dollar 1.541

    Australian dollar 1.552

    General News

    [44] Greek kingdoms of Bactria and India through their coins, show opening March 11

    The Numismatic Museum and Alpha Bank presenting "The Greek Kingdoms of Bactria and India" through their coin collections in an exhibition that opens on March 11 at the Ilion Melathron, the Numismatic Museum's premises on Panepistimiou Street in downtown Athens.

    The most important coin issues by leaders of the Kingdoms of Bactria and India will be included in the exhibition. The kindoms flourished in the Hellenistic period, approximately a century after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, covering parts of current-day India and Afghanistan.

    Coins have preserved Greek writing, symbols and images that survived in the depths of Asia along with elements from local communities.

    Prior to the exhibition's inauguration there will be a lecture by Dr. Osmund Bopearachchi, professor at Sorbonne and Berkeley, and director of the Archaeology Department-Hellenism and Eastern Cultures, at the French National Research Foundation (CNRS-ENS).

    [45] Five more people died in the last 24hours from influenza outbreak

    The death toll of flu virus reached 79 after the death of 5 more people within the last 24hours from complications due to the flu virus.

    Since last October, a total of 217 people have been hospitalized in intensive care units (ICUs), while 49 are still being treated in serious conditions in hospitals.

    The Centre for the Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO) calls those with flu like symptoms to receive preventive treatment.

    [46] Free testing for uninsured women at Theagenio Cancer Hospital

    Women with no healthcare insurance can get free medical examinations at Thessaloniki's Theagenio Cancer Hospital on March 6 and 13 in the context of a campaign aimed at raising public awareness about breast cancer, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The initiative was undertaken by the hospital and the City of Thessaloniki to mark International Women's Day on March 8.

    For appointments those interested can dial the telephone number 2310 509020.

    [47] EasyTrip mobile application for motorists travelling to and from Greece and Bulgaria

    The EasyTrip online services and mobile application for pre-trip and en route planning and information available to motorists travelling between Greece and Bulgaria will be presented to the public in a special event to take place on Sunday in Thessaloniki's downtown Aristotelous Square, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The services will be available in Greek, Bulgarian and English, enabling smooth and convenient flow of information for travellers and including advanced traveller information and detailed information on final destinations, such as traffic and parking information. Tourist related information and points of interest (POI), public transport and taxi information, road safety information, environment and weather information, as well as on-demand transport services will also be available.

    Easy Trip services will cover the regional authorities of Central Macedonia and Eastern Macedonia-Thrace in northern Greece and the Bulgarian provinces of Blagoevgrad (Bansko) and Kardzhali (Krumovgrad).

    The EasyTrip crossborder project has a budget of roughly one million euros and is financed by the European Territorial Cooperation Programme "Greece-Bulgaria 2007-2013".

    Cross-border traffic between Greece and Bulgaria is estimated at around 50,000 vehicles a month, with their number increasing considerably during holidays and weekends, mainly due to leisure trips to and from major tourist destinations in both countries.

    [48] WWF presents 'Better Life' programme, sponsored by Stavros Niarchos Foundation

    The Greek branch of the World Wildlife Fund 'WWF Hellas' on Wednesday presented its 'Kalyteri Zoi' (Better Life) programme 'Kalyteri Zoi' - sponsored by the Foundation 'Stavros Niarchos' - which is designed to raise public awareness and provide information on healthy eating, saving energy, proper consumer behavior and enhancing urban greenspaces.

    The programme, launched five months ago and expected to run until July 2015, was designed by 'WWF Hellas' and seeks to protect the environment through the direct involvement of citizens and school communities. The actions involve four themes: energy, nutrition, consumption and life in the city.

    "We want the programme to become a hub for information and interaction on everyday issues," the head of the programme Achilleas Plitharas explained at a press conference.

    The program consists of two axes. The first axis is the involvement of school communities and their mobilization in order to undertake actions around the four themes, improve their lifestyles and change their attitudes towards the environment. The programme has already included 85 schools from all over Greece. The second axis involves the citizens and actions have already been held to inform the public on the best choice for heating and food waste (a festival against food waste was organised last January in this context).

    Finally the programme will implement actions for better nutrition, urban greenspaces, exchange services, transport in the city and urban vegetable gardens. More information can be found on the relevant website www.kalyterizoi.gr poviding advice from specialists through the distribution of leaflets and through the organization of participatory actions and experiential workshops.

    [49] Faliro earth yields rare find of fully preserved coffin dating to Archaic era

    A rare wooden coffin dating to the Archaic period (610-490/480 BC) was found during excavations to build the new Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre in the Delta Falirou area south of Athens, the Central Archaeological Council said on Wednesday.

    The coffin was found during works in September 2013 and measures 1.61 metres in length by 0.77 m in width, with sides between 3 and 9 cm thick. What makes it an extraordinary find is that it is almost intact, made of a single piece of wood (tree trunk), and preserves all parts of the wood, including the tree's bark and rings.

    Archaeologists said the wood was preserved because of the humidity and the lack of oxygen where it was found, including the presence of clay around it. The find belongs in an area where an Archaic-era cemetery has been found, and is currently in conservation to remove the earth around it.

    Besides its state of preservation, what they said was unusual was the fact it was carved out of a single piece of wood instead of the usual combination of pieces of wood. According to preliminary assessments, it is possible the coffin was reused, being carved first as a boat, for example.

    [50] Greek police dismantle extortion and fraud ring on Crete

    The Hellenic Police (ELAS) on Wednesday reported the arrest of six individuals and the dismantling of an extortion and fraud ring operating in Crete and other areas throughout the country, in which a total of 17 people are implicated. The arrests were carried out during a massive police operation in the prefectures of Iraklio and Lasithi, carried out with the assistance of the Financial Police and the Electronic Crime squad.

    The six suspects arrested were aged between 44 and 49 years old and are considered part of a group that includes another 11 individuals.

    In a press conference on Wednesday by police on the island, the regional police chief Manolis Paravolidakis said the arrests followed a lengthy and systematic police investigation, adding that the gang was chiefly involved in criminal acts of fraud against the state and private businesses.

    The charges against the suspects include participation in a criminal organisation, extortion, fraud and money laundering. According to police, the group had internal organisation and a hierarchical structure, as well as specific modes of action that were employed by different combinations of the group's members at any given time.

    Their activities largely involved tax evasion scams, in addition to other criminal acts of fraud. They chiefly operated by locating individuals and companies in dire financial straits, often on the verge of bankruptcy, that they then used as 'straw men' - often through the use of threats and blackmail - as the head of companies that they set or as fronts in order to evade taxes and other financial obligations to third parties, while siphoning off any income made from behind the scenes.

    Another scam used by the group was to approach companies involved in tourism, mainly, and undertake to cover their costs and debts through private agreements and, through this 'fake' assumption of their debt to participate in the company's profits without actually paying the debts, harming the interests of both the state and private individuals with which the companies had transactions.

    According to police, the group's leader was a 44-year-old that was chiefly involved in intimidating the ring's victims and planning its actions, which spread beyond Crete, with fraud at the expense of hotels and other tourism enterprises in Rhodes, Corfu, Thessaloniki and other areas of Greece. The ring had also set up offices in Brussels and was o planning to expand abroad, have take action to start up a tourism enterprise in Bulgaria.

    The total estimated damage to the state as a result of the group's activities exceeds three million euros, while the damage to private businesses is close to 14 million euros.

    The group's profits were laundered using the 'smurfing' method, with large numbers of small transactions below the 15,000-euro limit where they must be reported. They also used complicated methods to transfer the funds to their personal accounts, making them harder to trace, as well as concealing the quantities of money being moved.

    During raids of houses and companies linked to the gang's activities, authorities found and confiscated a large number of checks and bills amounting to 50,500 euros, five luxury cars, three computers, a gun, 59 bullets, 14 rifle bullets and other evidence that they say confirms the group's illegal activities.

    The six arrested will be led before an Iraklio public prosecutor, while the investigation into the group's activities is continuing.

    [51] Programme 'Good morning - One day in your town - Greece and you' presented at education ministry

    A 'bridge' of contact and communication with expat students and foreigners who learn Greek has been created by the Greek state with the student competition for a video clip entitled 'Good morning - One day in your town - Greece and you' which was presented during an event on Wednesday at the education ministry.

    "The competition aims to strengthen ties between Greek children who are abroad, young Greeks of the Diaspora and expatriates in general with the metropolitan centre but also with students of any nationality who are learning the language, history and culture of Greece," said Deputy Education Minister Constantinos Gioulekas during the event.

    "The success of this program, added Gioulekas, will be a success for our country."

    Expatriates and foreign students are invited to create their own short films, in which they will show their city, school, family and how they experience their relationship with Greece.

    The programme is open to all primary and secondary school students studying in Greek schools abroad, in private schools which operate under the auspices of the Church and in charter schools in which classes of Greek education are funded by the private sector. The programme is also available for students in bilingual expatriate schools operating under international treaties and students of the schools of southern Italy who speak the dialect Griko.

    Entry forms for posting videos will start from March 10 to May 30 on the website of educational broadcasting, www.i-create.gr.

    The videos will be judged by a committee composed of teachers and personalities of the arts while voting will also be possible for those who visit the site.

    [52] 'The Smile of the Child' supported more than 63,000 children in 2013

    More than 63,000 children and their families were supported in 2013 by 'The Smile of the Child', based on figures presented in a press conference on Wednesday by the president of the non-profit organisation Constantinos Giannopoulos. Presenting the charity's Social and Support Actions over the last year, he said that "The Smile of the Child" had entered its 18th year of action in 2013, during which year its SOS 1056 hotline had received 272,605 calls (747 calls per day).

    The organisation intervened to help 264 children who were in immediate danger in 2013, while 1,296 children reported serious cases of abuse. In the same year, the European hotline 116000 for Missing Children received 7,138 calls and handled 124 missing children cases.

    'The Smile of the Child' provided shelter and home care for 356 children, while the 'Daily care' programme supported 10,547 children living with families facing serious problems.

    It provided assistance in 1,852 requests relating to children facing serious health problems and supported 9,816 children at hospitals in Greece, as well as arranging 2,459 patient transfers of newborns and children nationwide. It also carried out preventative medical examinations of 17,955 children in nine regions of Greece and provided counselling to 3,503 children and adults, in addition to running programmes targeting schools and the international airport play area for children.

    The charity's president also urged the public to visit the site www.antibullying.eu on the occasion of the National Day against Bullying (March 6) and to sign for the establishment of a European Day against Bullying. Finally, he stressed that the ambassadors of all actions of the Agency against bullying are none other than the children, who have a voice through the website www.YouSmile.gr.

    [53] Ombudsman to visit Patra on March 18

    Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou will visit the city of Patra on Tuesday, March 18 to brief officials of the region's public services and citizens on the mission and work of the independent authority.

    Spanou will meet with representatives of the public and wider public sector and will speak on the Ombudsman's duties; she will then give a press conference. Citizens will also have the opportunity to ask for information and submit reports to officials of the authority.

    In parallel, an event will be held on helping residents become aware of the services offered by "Progress", an EU programme promoting equality of opportunities, providing social includion and social protection and fighting discrimination, in cooperation with the municipality of Patra.

    [54] KKE event on March 8 for Women's Day

    The Central Committee of the Communist Party and of the party's youth group are organising a tribute to Women on March 8, International Women's Day, at the KKE headquarters north of Athens (145 Irakleiou Avenue 145, Perissos electric train stop), with free entry to the public.

    The event will feature two rare movies, "The Mother" and "Mother Courage and her children". These are film adaptations of Brecht's theatre company "Berliner Ensemble" with Helene Weigel in the role of the mother.

    It will be the first time the films, shot in 1958 and 1961, will be presented in Greece.

    The first film will be screened at 3:00 p.m., and the second one at 8:00 p.m., bringing the event to a close.

    [55] Lawsuit over unpaid OAED contributions to corruption prosecutor

    Supreme Court Public Prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani on Wednesday referred to Corruption Prosecutor Eleni Raikou a lawsuit filed against the freelance workers' social insurance fund OAEE for failing to pay Greece's unemployment agency - the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) - money levied from the self-employed along with social insurance contributions.

    The lawsuit was filed by General Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) President Georgios Kavvathas against "all parties responsible" and concerned the withholding by OAEE of 100 million euros collected for a special OAED account to support freelance and self-employed workers that became unemployed.

    According to Kavvathas, a monthly contribution of 10 euros was established on August 1, 2011 and was levied along with social insurance contributions on behalf of OAED for this special account for the self-employed that were out of work. In spite of having collected 110,991,100 euros in this manner by March 2013, the OAEE state insurance fund had only given OAED the sum of 12,739,703.20 euros, GSEVEE's president asserted, demanding an inquiry by justice.

    [56] Cattle breeders to hold protest on Wednesday over fresh milk

    Cattle breeders from all over Greece, who are currently in Athens, on Wednesday will hold a protest against the attempted lengthening of fresh milk's life span by the Development Ministry.

    The protest will be held at 11:00 at Kanigos square in Athens.

    A cattle breeders' delegation will seek a meeting with Deputy Development Minister Athanasios Skordas, while later in the day they will have a meeting with Deputy Rural Development Minister Maximos Charakopoulos.

    Cattle breeders will hold a press conference at 13:00.

    [57] New 4.7-Richter earthquake shakes Cephalonia on Wednesday

    Yet another tremor measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale shook the island of Cephalonia at 14:48 on Wednesday, just weeks after the island was devastated by a series of powerful tremors that hammered homes and infrastructure. The epicentre of the quake was located 19 kilometres southwest of Argostoli, the island's main town.

    Soccer

    [58] North Korea prevails over Greece in pre-World Cup friendly match

    Park Chu-Young and Son Heung-Min scored two goals on Wednesday as North Korea beat Greece in an international pre-World Cup friendly match in Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens.

    Korea scored two goals, one in each half, with Park Chu-Young scoring in the 19th minute and Son Heung-Min in the 55th.

    Weather forecast

    [59] Overcast on Thursday

    Clouds, rain and northerly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 6C-16C.Clouds and rain in the central parts and in the south, 5C-16C. Same weather over the islands, 10C-18C. Cloudy in Athens with possibility of rain in the afternoon, 7C-15C; rain in Thessaloniki, 7C-16C.

    [60] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies

    AVGHI: USA-Russia's 'no war' (refers to the Ukranian crisis).

    DIMOKRATIA: Pressure for more layoffs in public sector.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Tug-of-war between the powerful for Ukraine.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Orgy of favours on the way to the ballots.

    ESTIA: SYRIZA's (main opposition) demagogic twaddle.

    ETHNOS: 180,000 'eternal students' to be expelled from university.

    KATHIMERINI: War of nerves between USA and Russia.

    KERDOS" Thriller again with the troika! In search of a political solution.

    LOGOS: Thorns in government's negotiations with the troika.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Pre-contract with troika for the disbursement of the tranche.

    RIZOSPASTIS: No Greek involvement in the imperialistic games in Ukraine.

    TA NEA: Russian roulette.

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