|Thursday, 28 May 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-03-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 7 March 2014 Issue No: 4603 Politics
 President Papoulias gives strong message on reparations issue to visiting German presidentPresident Karolos Papoulias called for the restru-cturing of the Greek public debt at an official dinner he hosted for his German counterpart Joachim Gauck at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday evening.
The Greek president conceded that the crisis that Greece is experiencing is due to considerable mista-kes of its own, underlining however the shortages in the euro's structure and the deadlock of the punitive, as he said, policies that the countries of the North are imposing.
He also raised the issues of the occupation loan to Germany and of the World War II reparations, saying: "You are aware of the personal bonds I have with Germany. These special bonds make it even more difficult for me to understand the refusal of the German government to discuss the issue of the occupation loan and of the war reparations. It is not only a pending issue that is casting a negative shadow on our relations. It is a crucial issue of political ethics."
"It is contradictory that the Greek people are called on to implement, without discussion, painful prerequisites and commitments and Germany to refuse to discuss commitments that are pending from World War II. To refuse negotiating. To refuse international arbitration. Meaning, to refuse international legality on resolving differences. Your position that 'there is no question' is an allegation. It cannot be promoted unilaterally as a final conclusion", President Papoulias said.
In his reponse, the German president reiterated Germany's unwavering position that there can be no concrete assumption of responsibility over war reparations and the WWII debt except at an ethical and political level.
Germany has recognised its responsibility for WWII and the atrocities carried out, but added that the crimes of Nazis in Greece are mostly unknown and unredeemed in Germany.
Speaking of the Greek crisis, he expressed the wish that Greeks have the strength to continue their reforms. "Greek men and women needed to shoulder a lot during the last few years and to make personal sacrifices in order to create a future for their country and themselves," Gauck said. "I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that Germany is aware of this and has acknowledged its importance," he added, wrapping up with references to the long-standing friendship between the two countries.
 German president affirms his country's solidarity to Greece, in speech at Acropolis MuseumVisiting German President Joachim Gauck affirmed Germany's solidarity to Greece and said that Europe was learning from its mistakes and reforming, in a speech at the Acropolis Museum on Thursday that was organised by the German Embassy and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).
"The purpose of my visit to Greece is to show Germany's solidarity," he said, speaking about relations between the two countries. Gauck noted that Greece extended a hand to Germany following World War II even though it suffered greatly under the Nazi occupation, and was forced to give a loan and became an object of financial exploitation. The German president also spoke of the murders of tens of thousands of people, and made special reference to Jews.
He also expressed his support of Greeks suffering under the crisis, and from unemployment, and said "I can hardly imagine German reality coming under similar circumstances," adding that Europe must not condemn a whole generation to passivity.
Calling on Greeks to show strength, patience and decisiveness, he expressed certainty the crisis would be overcome, and he noted that Europe is learning from its mistakes. At the same time, common institutions and policies were necessary between member-states to deal with the challenge of globalisation, and said that it would be hard to imagine what would have happened in Greece without European help.
Earlier, when ELIAMEP president Loukas Tsoukalis introduced Gauck, he said the German president had lived in East Germany, had been a Lutheran pastor, was active in human rights and in the opening of the Stazi archives, and became president in 2012. He has often said he wants a European Germany, not a German Europe.
 President Papoulias raises issue of war reparations in meeting with German counterpart GauckGreece and Germany share a common future as part of their European course, Greek President Karolos Papoulias (L) on Thursday told visiting German Presi-dent Joachim Gauck (R), after an official welcome ceremony at the Presidential Mansion.
During talks between the two presidents and the delegations of the two sides, however, Papoulias also returned to the issue of German war reparations and repayment of a forced WWII loan extracted from Greece by the Nazi regime.
"Greece has never waived its claims and a solution of the problems is demanded with the fastest possible launch of talks," Papoulias stressed in joint statements with his German counterpart.
Replying, Gauck noted that he was "unable to adopt any position other than the legal position of the German government. What I can do, when we go together to Ioannina, is to find the words and acknowledge Germany's guilt to the victims of the region. Guilt has not only a material but also a moral dimension," he said.
According to the German president, there had been a mistaken development in Germany in that "many things have passed into oblivion" that should not have been forgotten. "There is guilt of a moral order. I will show the way. The atrocities of Nazism must remain in our memory," he noted.
Papoulias said that he briefed Gauck on the economic crisis and its effects in Greece: "the reduction of the public deficit proceeded violently and had a severe economic and social cost.
The economy was plunged into a vicious cycle of recession and unemployment, which especially among young people has reached unacceptable levels."
Expressing his "respect" for Greek citizens forced to cope with the reforms, as well as those who continue to carry them out, Gauck admitted that it was hard for him to imagine Germany if so many people from the public sector were left jobless. He noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel often referred to the reforms taking place in Greece, adding that they were something more than a "light at the end of the tunnel".
The German president also expressed satisfaction that the majority of Greeks support the reforms, noting that Germany "is on your side".
Referring to his trip to Ioannina in northwestern Greece with Papoulias on Friday, where he intends to pay homage to the victims of a Nazi mass execution in the village of Ligiades, he described the Greek president as a "fighter" that had "struggled against those barbaric people" and said he was happy to represent "a completely different Germany from that you experienced then."
Gauck also mentioned the founding of a Greek-German Foundation for young people, modeled along the lines of similar institutions created by Germany with France and Poland, stressing the importance of exchange programmes for young people between the two countries.
In earlier statements while receiving his German counterpart, Papoulias noted Gauck's recent statements during a meeting on Security in Munich, highlighting the new responsibilities of all parties for international security.
"Germany can play an important role in that direction, so can Greece in its own region. We stand side-by-side on the path of peace," he pointed out.
Gauck said his visit aimed to demonstrate solidarity with Greece as a "historic place" and "confirm the long-standing friendship between the two countries," which remained strong despite recent incidents and discussions.
 Papoulias: German tourist arrivals indicate of the sincere understanding between the two peopleDuring talks that also included delegations of the two sides, Papoulias pointed out that 2.5 million German tourists visited Greece in 2013, while their number is expected to rise by 10 to 12 percent this year, indicating the Germans' love for Greece and its civilization.
Papoulias said he was citing this "as an example of the warm-hearted understanding between the two countries' peoples," before announcing a break so that Gauck might reply "and to give Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras time to prepare and talk about the hardship he has been going through with the troika negotiations."
On his part, Gauck said that "German tourists came to Greece, undismayed by press reports on the situation in the country". He pointed out that he was accompanied by two persons without a political background, one of which is dealing with 'Distomo issue'. Distomo is south-central Greek village where in 1994 Nazis killed 214 civilians.
 Parliament president hosts luncheon in honour of visiting German President GauckThe visit of German President Joachim Gauck to Athens is proof of the very good, timeless, bilateral relations and a gesture of confidence toward Greece, Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis said Thursday, when he hosted a formal luncheon in honour of the visiting president.
"Greece in its capacity as the EU Council president sees as a priority the issues of concern for both countries that are related with economic growth, employment in Europe and migration," the parliament president said.
Meimarakis underlined the consequences of the economic crisis and the ordeal of the Greek people, particularly of the weak social groups.
"The Greek people have made big sacrifices and this is acknowledged by everybody. A lot has happened in a very short period of time. We continue with the necessary adjustments and reforms anticipating the support and solidarity of our partners," Meimarakis said.
The visiting German president spoke warmly of Greece, noting that "the constantly repeated question on whether there is a real cohesion risk, namely if Europe could lose its cohesion, now seems very distant. The response to this question is nothing more than my visit here today".
Citing the words of Theodor Heuss, another German president, that Europe was built on three hills - the Acropolis in Athens, the Capitol in Rome and Calgary - Gauck said that he had the opportunity to visit one of those hills today.
 FM Venizelos to meet with German President Gauck on ThursdayGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet on Thursday with the German President Joachim Gauck.
The meeting will be held at 19:30 at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in central Athens, according to a ministry announcement.
 SYRIZA leader holds meeting with German presidentMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras met with German President Joachim Gauck at a downtown Athens hotel on Thursday afternoon, raising the issue of the deadlock of the "ineffective and barbaric austerity measures" that have been imposed on Greece and the countries of the European south, as well as the issue of German World War II reparations and the occupation loan.
Tsipras was accompanied by deputies Manolis Glezos and Nadia Valavani.
"It is unacceptable for unemployment among young people to amount to 60 percent and have Germany strangely refuse a solution such as the one that benefitted it after World War II, the 1953 Conference", Tsipras said, adding that such a solution will lead to prosperity.
Glezos said that they provided supportive arguments to Gauck as to why Germany must fulfill what the International Conference in Paris in 1946 determined, just as it fulfilled it for everyone. "How did it pay off Poland and Yugoslavia for the compulsory loan it received and did not do it for Greece?" Glezos asked.
 KKE on German President's visit to GreeceCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday issued an announcement on the German President Joachim Gauck's visit to Greece saying that "the German President's visits to martyrdome sites and the homage to the victims of the nazis atrocities cannot hide either the real aim of the visit to Greece, which is to support the antipopular policy and the promotion of the German monopolies' interests or Germany's stance on the German war reparations and the occupation loan."
Moreover, KKE condemns the Greek government's decision to ban demonstrations in downtown Athens.
 Emergency EU Summit on Ukraine is underway; Samaras, YatseniukBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addressed the emergency summit of EU leaders held here on Thursday to discuss the issue of Ukraine. According to diplomatic sources, he underlined the need to avoid moves that could cause an armed conflict and called for substantive dialogue between all sides to ease tension in the region.
He also referred to the historic ties between Greece and Ukraine and to the Greek community in Mariupol.
The European leaders agreed on an 11-billion-euro economic aid package for Ukraine, while the country's interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk stated that he is ready to sign the EU-Ukraine association agreement as soon as possible.
The Ukrainian prime minister, who attended the summit's morning session at the invitation of the EU28, underlined in a press conference he gave afterward, that the decision by the Parliament of Crimea to secede and join Russia is "unlawful". He also called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory and expressed the will to enter a constructive dialogue with the Russian side.
 PM Samaras: Europe must prove its mediating role in Ukrainian crisisBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday underlined the need for Europe to certify its meditating role in the Ukranian crisis.
"We have a crisis to deal with and Europe must prove its meditating role," Samaras said before entering the extraordinary EU Summit on Ukraine held in Brussels.
 Venizelos reports 'cautious optimism' from Ukraine guarantor powersROME (ANA-MPA / Th. Andreadis)
Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, chair of the EU foreign ministers' council, on Thursday said he was receiving "messages of cautious optimism" concerning developments in Ukraine from the foreign ministers representing the guarantor powers for the country, based on a 1994 memorandum.
Replying to questions from the ANA-MPA in Rome, where he participated in an international ministerial conference on the future of Libya, Venizelos said that there had also been a lengthy discussion on the events in Ukraine.
"The ministers of the guarantor powers, with whom I met, conveyed to me a message that a contact process has begun that may lead to a result. If not to a defusion than at least to control over developments," he added.
Regarding Libya, which was the main item on the agenda, the minister stressed that its future was important for all countries in the Mediterranean and surrounding regions.
"We have helped Libya with all the difficulties it is facing, which are unfortunately continuing. We want a stable situation, a democratic Libya, with a constitution and a country that is in control of its territory and not at risk of losing its territorial integrity. Our country's participation in this conference gives us an opportunity to have a more intensive and practical contact on a bilateral level as well. This is something that naturally interests us, because there is always the issue of maritime zones in the eastern Mediterranean and because there is always the possibility of a Greek business presence in the region," he said.
On the sidelines of the Rome conference, Venizelos had a brief meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, which he said focused chiefly on events in Ukraine. He reported that Turkey was concerned about the Tatars, a Turkish ethnic group in Ukraine, in the same way that Greece had concerns for the Greek diaspora in the region.
Venizelos also had bilateral meetings with his German, French and U.S. counterparts, noting the need to always make use of such meetings and to avoid an escalation of the crisis so that the decision of the Crimea Parliament might be more properly evaluated, in the context of international law and with the aim of preserving peace, stability and security in the region.
 Venizelos meets with Turkish FM Davutoglu in RomeGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of the International Ministerial Conference on support for Libya held in Rome.
The two officials exchanged views on the prevailing condition in Ukraine after Davutoglu's visit on Saturday, March 1 and Venizelos' visit to Ukraine on Sunday, March 2.
The conference focuses 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.
 Deputy FM Kourkoulas to meet with Greek businesses active in UkraineDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will meet at the foreign ministry on Friday with representatives of Greek businesses active in Ukraine, to identify the problems they face as a result of the crisis and to find solutions.
The executives attending the meeting represent the sectors of business, export and transport. Also present will be representatives from the ministries of Infrastructure, Transport & Networks and Rural Development & Food.
 Gov't and IMF in standoff over banks' capital needsThe meeting between the government's economic staff and the troika of Greece's international lenders was concluded at 2 a.m. after six hours of deliberations but without the two parties coming to an agreement on the capital needs of the country's banks and the time scale lenders will have to find the necessary funds.
"We want equal terms for Greek banks and other European lenders," a senior Finance ministry official said. He pointed out it was mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative that disagreed on the time for the conclusion of the recapitalisation, as he considers that only a few months (less than six) are needed for the process to be completed.
According to the official, Greece has submitted a compromising proposal to the troika. That provides among others the announcement of the Bank of Greece's stress tests on Thursday, the assessment of the banks' capital needs and giving banks the possibility to proceed with a share capital increase. The proposal also provides that in case banks do not raise the necessary funds, they can take refuge to the Financial Stability Fund. According to the proposal, Greek banks should be given the same time scale as the European banks in order to complete their recapitalisation.
The text updating the memorandum also dominated the marathon meeting, which concluded that:
- there is no final agreement yet on the 2014 fiscal gap, but the troika seems to have accepted "to a great extend the fact that there is no fiscal gap in 2014. We are very much close to an agreement on that issue; much closer than any other issue," the senior official said. He also added that Greece claims "there is no gap or there is a very small fiscal gap in 2015."
- there are signs of convergence on the reforms included in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) toolbox
- the Greek side aims to table the 2015-2018 mid-term plan to parliament by May 15.
In any case, the possibility for a "technical agreement in principle" by the Eurogroup meeting on Monday seems to be fading away, as it is considered "very ambitious" according to Finance ministry sources.
 Government in marathon of talks with troikaThe government has launched a marathon of talks with troika representatives since Thursday morning in an effort to have "at least a statement of sufficient progress" prepared by Monday's Eurogroup and thus secure approval for the next tranche of economic aid through a teleconference.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis opened the round of meetings, meeting with the troika in the morning to discuss the Organisation for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) toolkit for Greece. According to sources, the government has accepted 87 percent of the recommendations of the international organization. Nevertheless, there are still quite a few pending issues, such as troika's demands on tighter time frames over legislative amendments.
The troika also had meetings with Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Deputy Environment Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou, as well as the general secretary for public health Christina Papanikolaou.
A senior environment ministry official said that the troika "has still not responded on whether it accepts the package to lower energy costs for big industries, amounting to 150 million euros." On the other hand, the troika seems to be accepting the draft bills on the privatisation of the grid administrator Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE) and the so-called "mini Public Power Corporation (DEH)".
A merchant marine ministry official mentioned that all those issues were discussed with the troika but there was no agreement on any of them. The official added that the troika has been asking for the abolition of the mandatory crew composition in passenger shipping and mandatory connections, saying that "we cannot separate routes to low and high cost ones."
Representatives of the Financial Stability Fund and the Bank of Greece are expected to meet with troika at the Finance Ministry after 15.00. According to the schedule so far, troika representatives will meet with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at 18.00 and Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou at 18.30. A meeting with Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on the issue of mass layoffs is expected after 19.00.
 Admin. Reform minister meeting with troika ends without agreementA meeting between Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the heads of the troika of Greece's lenders concluded at the Finance ministry on Thursday evening without a substantive agreement, either for the completion of the second wave of gradual civil servant layoffs for 2013, which had an extension to the end of March this year, or for 2014.
A senior ministry official said that the ministry's leadership does not wish to set quantitative targets (on suspension) for 2014, stressing that "we want mobility, but not layoffs. They (the troika) are hearing it, (but) they have not agreed on it".
A new meeting will be held between the Administrative Reform ministry and the troika in the near future.
Currently, Thursday evening, the troika representatives are meeting with Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis.
 Labour Minister Vroutsis' meeting with the troika postponed to midday FridayLabour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis' meeting with the representatives of the troika was postponed for midday Friday at the ministry of Finance.
Vroutsis met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, at the Finance ministry, in a meeting that lasted until 10:30 p.m. According to Labour ministry sources, they examined the two issues under negotiation - mass layoffs in the public sector and the process of applying the reduction of the non-wage-related cost by 3.9 percentage points starting this coming summer.
The source expressed optimism that negotiations between the troika and Labour ministry will be concluded shortly and that they will reach agreement on outstanding issues.
 Damanaki announces joint proposal for European Maritime Security Strategy; to host 'fishing capacity' conference in ThessalonikiBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Spinthourakis) -
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs & Fisheries Maria Damanaki announced here on Thursday the adoption by the European Commission of a Joint Proposal for a European Maritime Security Strategy.
Damanaki underlined that it is a very important step in the effort to "ensure the security of our seas and oceans," noting that it is "a prime objective of the EU".
She said that the world has become complicated and threats like armed conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy and international crime have to be addressed.
Referring to the Lampedusa tragedy, she underlined that such incidents will have to be prevented.
Damanaki said that the proposal is a first step toward a coordinated action by the EU, noting that discussion will focus on 23 actions aimed at boosting cooperation. She underlined that existing resources will be better utilized, while effective and reliable partnership relations will be promoted with the EU's neighbours, as well as, solidarity among member-states.
Meanwhile, it was announced that Commissioner Damanaki will host an International Conference on Sustainable Fishing Capacity Management in Thessaloniki on March 13-14, organized under the auspices of the Greek EU Presidency.
The conference will be formally opened by government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on March 13.
The two-day conference will be addressed by Damanaki, Rural Development & Food Minister Athanasios Tsaftaris, British businessman Sir Richard Branson and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Goodwill Ambassador Pierre Yves Cousteau.
 DIMAR's Kouvelis meets with Schulz, Swoboda in BrusselsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Opposition Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis met here on Thursday with European Parliament President and Party of European Socialists (PES) candidate for European Commission President Martin Schulz and with the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group President Hannes Swoboda.
The meetings took place in the context of Kouvelis' participation in the Progressive Economy Forum, hosted by the S&D group.
The meeting with Schulz focused on the European elections and the Greek problems.
In statements made afterwards, Kouvelis noted that they discussed all major problems faced by Greece, and the need to change the EU policies. They also discussed the need to reorient the European policy in the South and in Greece and focused on the major issue of social cohesion.
 Dep. FM Gerontopoulos on war reparationsWe Greeks do not renounce anything of those we own and we are entitled to own, said Deputy Foreign Minister Akis Gerontopoulos on Thursday in Parliament.
"With history as our guide and by any means available we demand them," he said responding to a current question on the German war reparations.
Independent Greeks deputy Notis Marias asked Gerontopoulos to clarify whether the government would raise the issue of war reparations ahead of the visit of the German President Joachim Gauck to Greece.
"Greece has always raised the issue in all bilateral meetings with the German government and will continue to do so," he said.
"The issue is still pending and we always have the right and the potential to deal with it and to close it in a satisfactory way."
"We truly want to win this issue and get those they owe us. Greece has never renounced its claims," he said.
 European centre-right leaders to elect candidate for president of the European CommissionEuropean centre-right leaders (EPP) are gathering in Dublin on Thursday and Friday (6-7 March) to select their top candidate for the post of the European Commission (EC) President.
The EPP candidate for President of the EC will spearhead the EPP's EU-wide campaign leading up to the elections for the European Parliament in May 2014 and will appear in all debates with the candidates of the other political parties.
According to the Lisbon Treaty ( in 2009), the European Council (government leaders) must "take into account" the result of the EU elections when deciding on the Commission President.
The EPP had received two candidatures : ex-Eurogroup chief and former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and internal market Commissioner Michel Barnier (France). The former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis withdrew his candidacy on Wednesday evening.
The EPP Political Assembly -- over 800 delegates with voting rights at the Congress -- will vote to elect the candidate on Friday, March 7.
The EPP is the largest political party of the centre-right, which currently includes 73 member-parties from 39 countries, the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, 12 EU and 6 non-EU heads of state and government, 13 members of the European Commission and the largest Group in the European Parliament.
The European People's Party will hold a statutory Summit of EPP heads of state and government and party leaders on Thursday evening.
The Summit will address the decisions of the extraordinary European Council, held earlier in the day to discuss the situation in Ukraine. The Summit will be chaired by EPP President Joseph Daul and will begin at 20:00 GMT.
The list of participants includes (in alphabetical order by surname): Nicos ANASTASIADES (Cyprus), Lars BARFOED (Denmark), Jose Manuel BARROSO (President of the European Commission), Traian BASESCU (Romania), Boyko BORISSOV (Bulgaria), Simon BUSUTTIL (Malta), Jean-Francois COPE' (France), Jan FIGEL (Slovakia), Janez JANSA (Slovenia), Jean-Claude JUNCKER (Luxembourg), Tomislav KARAMARKO (Croatia), Jyrki KATAINEN (Finland), Enda KENNY (Ireland), Andrius KUBILIUS (Lithuania), Angela MERKEL (Germany), Viktor ORBAN (Hungary), Pedro PASSOS COELHO (Portugal), Mariano RAJOY (Spain), Urmas REINSALU (Estonia), Antonis SAMARAS (Greece), Michael SPINDELEGGER (Austria), Laimdota STRAUJUMA (Latvia), Donald TUSK (Poland), Sybrand VAN HAERSMA BUMA (Netherlands), and Herman VAN ROMPUY (President of the European Council).
 Defence minister opens international conference on cybersecurity in AthensDefense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday opened the international conference on cybersecurity "Safety and Security in Cyberspace: Building up Trust in the EU" held at the headquarters of the Greek EU presidency at the Zappeion building in Athens.
In hiso opening speech, Avramopoulos stressed the importance of cyber defence in the framework of a common European security and defence policy, for national defence, the economy and on a personal level.
The deefence minister, after remarking that the initiative for the conference was taken during the Greek EU Presidency, stated that cybersecurity has become a key parameter in actions to promote and implement a common European security and defence policy, in accordance with the conclusions of European Council of December 2013.
"The actions for protecting cyberspace ensure that the internet and new technologies can and should be an ally in our quest for better quality of social life and actions in all aspects, but also fully protect those particularly sensitive aspects relating to the functioning of society and the economy," Avramopoulos said.
Referring to the actions of the defense ministry on this issue Avramopoulos said "based on the recommendations of the relevant committees, thematic actions have been identified for the effective protection of highly sensitive systems and structures of the defence and security services that targets for attacks, irrespective of their motives," he said, adding that the ministry was now examining the possibility of funding these actions through the EU's National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
"Cybersecurity doesn't only protect national secrets and the economy, it also protects humanity's achievements through the new technologies, so that these are its allies and not its uncontrollable enemies at some point" Avramopoulos added.
The conference is being jointly organized by the ministries of defence, administrative reform and infrastructure, transport and network.
Greece in the process of forming national strategy on cybersecurity, Administration Reform Dep. Minister Christophilopoulou says
Administration Reform Deputy Minister Evi Christophilopoulou participated on Thursday in the International Conference on Cybersecurity "Safety and Security in Cyber Space: Building up Trust in the EU" held at Zappeio in Athens.
Christophilopoulou, in her speech stressed the need for Europe to move the issue of cybersecurity under a common umbrella and turn it into a competitive advantage to attract investment and support entrepreneurship.
"The issue of cybersecurity, should not only be approached as prediction of cybercrime, but also as protection of online data and as a tool to enhance enterpreneurship," Christophilopoulou said.
Deputy Minister also stated "Greece is in the process of constructing national strategy on cybersecurity", and added that "important elements of the strategy are already available in Greece, the institutional framework exists, while the legislative framework is modern and relatively complete."
Christophilopulou said that the Ministry is currently dealing with the issue on transparency through digital technology with important actions such as "Diavgia", noting more than 10 million government decisions are available online.
"Our goal is to provide more and more open data in order to be used by citizens and businesses, thus promoting entrepreneurship and creating conditions for economic development." Deputy Minister said.
 Supreme Court prosecutor presents evidence of wide-ranging banking crimesDeputy Supreme Court Prosecutor Panagiotis Nikoloudis, president of the Greek Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), on Thursday presented before the Parliament's Committee on Institutions and Transparency two reports including data in connection with money laundering.
Nikoloudis stressed that in 2013, 200 million euros from criminal activities such as tax-evasion, drug trafficking and electronic crimes were tracked down, while 412 cases have been investigated in relation with source of wealth declarations. However he underlined that the legalised funds laundered are difficult to estimate. The FIU is examining around 10,000 pieces of evidence and data that seem to involve the country's financial elite and the media but not politicians, he says.
The deputy Supreme Court prosecutor also referred to corruption incidents in banks such as Proton Bank, First Business Bank and Evia Bank whose administrations issued loans to the detriment of their own banks, in order to personally benefit.
"I am sure that all this criminal activity was organised," Nikoloudis said and underlined that the members of the banks' administrations "made sure they owned some media outlet. They pretended they issued a loan for an off-shore company in Cyprus while each of them owned at least five off-shore companies, and a bank owner was discovered to own 152 off-shores."
He also said that there is evidence against Hellenic Postbank and the Bank of Peloponnese administrations, but there is no solid evidence connecting their executives with the illegal money.
Nikoloudis proposes that bank directors be forbidden from owning off-shore companies, as happens with politicians; to personalise Greek Organisation of Football Prognostics (OPAP) prognostication billets; and to institute a "special amnesty" for those charged with bribery or embezzlement on condition that they return the money they have received.
Referring to an impending agreement with Lebanon, Nikoloudis called all those involved with public money embezzlement to return the money by taking advantage of the Justice ministry's initiative. "For those that do not plan to take advantage of this opportunity, I say that I will do my job very well. I am very close to finalising a deal of cooperation with Lebanon. They should bear that in mind," he said.
 Public sector employee mobility rider removed from draft bill tabled in ParliamentAn administrative reform ministry rider that included, among others, regulations on the public sector employee-mobility programme and the National Intelligence Service (NIS) was removed on Thursday from a public order ministry-sponsored draft bill tabled in Parliament.
The rider, which was incorporated in a draft bill on the reorganization of the Greek Police, Fire Brigade and the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, had provoked strong reactions from opposition parties and will be reintroduced in another draft bill.
 Public Order minister opposes amendment on 'source of wealth' processPublic Order Minister Nikos Dendias told the Parliament plenum on Thursday that he is rejecting an amendment tabled by deputies calling for changes in the retroactive law on "source of wealth" reviews for people in the public sphere, from 1974 to the present.
The retroactive review of the so-called pothen esches income statements from 1974 to the present will be carried out normally, under the current law in effect, he said.
The amendment had been signed by deputies Yiannis Kefalogiannis (New Democracy) and Christos Gokas (PASOK), and appended to the draft law on restructuring the police, which was passed in principle on Wednesday night. The amendment had incited strong reactions by main opposition SYRIZA deputies and former Parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis, of PASOK.
Kaklamanis had been the rapporteur for PASOK when the current law was voted in March 2012. "Parliament had unanimously passed the 'pothen esches' law. Those of us who do not want to shame our past ask you to withdraw this amendment which is irrelevant to the draft law," Kaklamanis said earlier, calling for the withdrawal of the amendment.
 Tension and scuffles at protest in Athens on ThursdayTension flared on Thursday during a rally in central Athens, when police scuffled with protesters participating in a communist affiliated group PAME rally.
Protesters attempted to break through the police blockade at Stadiou street and continue their march towards the Finance Ministry, with riot police forces making use of tear gas to disperse them.
A number of Attica labour unions earlier on Thursday held a rally at Omonia square protesting against unemployment.
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.
 Council of State approves continuation of Skouries gold mine platform constructionThe Council of State on Thursday approved a petition by the Halkidiki Labour Centre and the Hellas Gold company to resume construction work at the Skouries gold mine in the northern Greek peninsula.
Section Five of the Council ruled that the area's town planning office had improperly interrupted the building of platforms for electrical and mechanical equipment on the worksite, without justifying its decision legally or citing a reason for revoking the permits. According to the justices, the authority used a vague argument of "there being doubts as to the legality" of the permits.
 DIMAR party returns unused state funding for research purposesThe Democratic Left party (DIMAR) has already returned to the state the full amount, or 145,000 euros, granted for research purposes from the regular state funding for the year 2013.
As regards data conveyed to Parliament by the Interior Minister on the funding of parties for research purposes, the Democratic Left stresses that as of December 2013 it had decided the return of the 145,000 euros and notified Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis by letter of the return of the specific amount.
It then deposited the corresponding amount in an account indicated to it by the Interior Ministry.
 New board and chairman at National Cadastre and Mapping Agency SAGreece's National Cadastre and Mapping Agency SA acquired a new board and board chairman on Thursday, with Ilias Liakopoulos taking over as the new head of the board and CEO. Civil engineer Nikos Zygouris and land survey specialist Aliki Fatourou were elected as vice-chairpersons to the board.
Liakopoulos had been general secretary for the decentralised Attica administarion from 2009-2012 and had previously served as general secretary for various regions of Greece from 1999 until 2002, as well as Larisa regional director from 1995-1996 and Thesprotia Prefect from 1993-1995. He previously had businesses offering private tuition, vocational training, trading in electronic goods and had also taught at the Larisa Technological Education Institute and Karditsa 'second-chance' school.
The agency is in charge of completing the national cadastre, which is considered among the most important national projects in Greece and a "major land planning and environmental protection reform". The project is scheduled to be completed by 2020, based on commitments made by Greece, creating a unified and constantly updated system of information and a complete record of real estate property throughout the country.
 Environment ministry posts water licencing draft law for public consultationA new joint ministerial decision posted for public consultation by the Environment Ministry on Thursday simplifies and gives prototypes for the licensing of water development projects, and aims to record all water sources through a National Water Source Location Register (EMSY).
The public consultation, whose start was announced by Alternate Environment Minister Stavros Kalafatis, comes under a joint ministerial decision titled "Categories of licences for use and execution of water development projects: ,Procedure and terms of issuing or amending of licences, content and duration of their validity", and will be completed on Friday, March 14.
The draft also notes that licensing will also be required for usae of waters in irrigation, farming, industry, the energy sector and leisure.
"We put special emphasis on simplifying all procedures, serving citizens, and using extensively new tehnologies," Kalafatis said, and called on citizens and agencies to contribute opinions.
The text has been put up on the following government site: http://www.opengov.gr/home/category/users/minenv
 Environment ministry to sell 66 pct of power transmission operatorDeputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou on Thursday in the Parliament issued a call for expressions of interest in the sale of 66 pct of the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE),a Public Power Corporation (PPC) subsidiary that control electricity transmission networks.
The call for expressions of interest sets the financial and technical parameters for all applicant investors. In cases where the investor has no relevant experience in managing electricity networks, the public sector can undertake the company's management for five years.
According to the ministry's timetable, ADMIE's privatisation will be completed by the end of June 2014.
 Finance ministry investigation clears ND deputy over suspicion of tax evasionThe Finance ministry on Thursday announced that its relevant services completed an investigation on money wired abroad by New Democracy (ND) deputy Vassilis Kikilias, finding no evidence connecting him with tax-evasion.
Kikilias was included on a list containing 54,000 individuals, each of whom wired over 100,000 euros abroad between 2009 and 2011. The MP was called to present evidence proving that his income could justify the wired amounts. The investigation showed that Kikilias was normally taxed for the money he had wired abroad.
 Greece's return to capital markets in 2014 feasible, debt management organization saysGreece's return to international capital markets in 2014 was feasible, Stylianos Papadopoulos, head of the Public Debt Management Organization said on Thursday.Papadopoulos predicted that international credit rating agencies will raise the country's rating, reflecting a restructuring of its fiscal data and contributing to the country's exit in international markets.
This positive outlook is also reflected in the domestic electronic secondary bond market where the yield of the 10-year benchmark bond fell to 6.6 pct, from 6.86 pct on Wednesday, with the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds shrinking further to 5.0 pct, from 5.25 pct the previous day.
Papadopoulos, in a report to Parliament, said that Greece has significant reduced spending for its cooperation with credit rating agencies and said that these reductions ranged from 48 to 82 pct compared with 2010.
 Greece's payments to credit rating agencies were:2013
MOODY'S: 50,500 USD
FITCH RATINGS: 41,000 GBP
STANDARD AND POOR'S: 137,700 EUR
R&I RATINGS: 2,000,000 JPY
MOODY'S: 50,500 USD
FITCH RATINGS: 41,000 GBP
STANDARD AND POOR'S: 135,000 EUR
R& I RATINGS: 2,000,000 JPY
FICH RATINGS: 84,201.74 GBP
MOODY'S: 2,900 USD
MOODY'S: 280,650 USD
R& I RATINGS: 2,000,000 JPY
FITCH RATINGS: 79,500 GBP
STANDARD AND POOR'S: 270,000 EUR
STANDARD AND POOR'S: 540,000 EUR
R& I RATINGS: 2,000,000 JPY
MOODY'S: 16,500 USD
FITCH RATINGS: 79,340.63 GBP
Total payments per currency in the period 2009-2013 were: 1,082,700 EUR, 8,000,000 JPY, 401,050 USD, 325,042.37 GBP.
 Friedmann Pacific Asset Management interested in Athens airport privatisationA consortium set up by the Hong Kong-based firm Friedmann Pacific Asset Management Limited (FPAM) and Schenzen Airport (Group) Co. on Thursday expressed strong interest in acquiring a majority share, as well as the management, of Athens International Airport.
In a press conference, FPAM CEO Eric Cheng said that the consortium has been considering its participation in a privatisation of Athens airport for the last three years, holding several meetings with the government to indicate its interest in participating in a relevant tender.
He clarified that FPAM is interested in acquiring a majority share in the airport for the longest period possible, which he said would allow it to make the significant investments demanded. FPAM plans to attact the growing number of passengers visiting Europe from Asia, he added, while its aims are to increase passenger traffic through AIA from 12 million at present to 50 million through significant investments and with the addition of new activities.
Asked about a letter from the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) querying the consortium's announcement of interest when the government had not announced that the airport is for sale, Cheng said that his contacts with the government in the last three years indicated an interest on the Greek side.
"We do not consider that it is too soon to express interest," he said, adding that the troika's programme shows that the airport must be privatised very soon.
He said the consortium had made its choice after considering various alternatives in Europe and had a "clear vision" for converting the airport into an international transport hub with multiple and interdependent activities, adding new high-value activities and jobs for the Greek economy:
"We believe that we can add value to the enterprise, we are not here to simply manage AIA better. We are here to create a bridge via air between Greece and China, the largest, fastest-growing and soon richest economy in the world."
 Prices downward trend should continue in coming months, Dep. Dev't minister Skordas saysPrices have been on a downward trend and this should continue in the following months thanks to structural changes in the market, Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Thursday.
"It is obvious that prices in Greece have been following a downward course in the past few months. This is what data from the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) and Eurostat confirm," he said.
"In any case, we sympathise with households and share the distress they have been experiencing from the austerity policy followed in incomes or tax obligations. However, disposable income and the feeling that prices are high is one thing and the course of the prices is quite another," he said.
Skordas criticized consumer organizations for keeping silent over planned changes such as with milk.
"I pointed out that in issues, such as the government's proposed changes on milk or on the unified books and drugs prices, which aim at lowering prices to the benefit of consumers, those consumer organizations, which usually speak up, have not expressed any stance," he said.
Asked whether a new troika mission will come to Athens before May's Euroelections, Skordas said: "This week that troika is here, all the discussions that are necessary to answer questions that may have been raised by each side are taking place. As you can see, there a fiscal gap issue no longer exists and a number of issues that recently appeared as 'thorns' between the two sides have been closed. The country, as far as its own obligations are concerned, has implemented the interventions it should. I think the lenders' side should do its part of obligations and provided that all those proceed smoothly in the coming days, Eurogroup will confirm the progress on these issues."
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Greek unemployment eased slightly at 27.5 pct in DecGreek unemployment rate eased slightly to 27.5 pct in December, from 27.6 pct in November, but remained significantly up compared with 26.3 pct in December 2012, with the number of unemployed people totaling 1,349,495 in the country.
The Hellenic Statistical Authority, in a monthly report, said the small decline in the unemployment rate in December, compared with November was attributed to a decline in the unemployment rate among young people aged 15-24 to 55.5 pct in December, from 57.1 pct in November thanks to a five-month employment program and seasonal employment because of the Christmas holiday period.
The number of unemployed people grew 3.7 pct in December, compared with the same month in 2012, but fell by 0.8 pct compared with November. The number of employed people totaled 3,555,034, down 2.7 pct compared with December 2012 and down 0.2 pct from November. The unemployment rate among women was 31.6 pct in December, from 29.8 pct in 2012, while among men the rate was 24.5 pct from 23.6 pct over the same periods, respectively.
The unemployment rate in the more productive age group 35-44 was 37.4 pct in December, from 33.6 pct last year, followed by the 45-54 age group (20.6 pct from 19.8 pct), the 55-64 age group (16.6 pct from 16.2 pct) and the 65-74 age group (10.4 pct from 7.0 pct).
Epirus/Western Macedonia (30.4 pct), Macedonia-Thrace (28.8 pct) and Attica (27.9 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates among the country's regions, followed by the Peloponese/Western Greece/Ionian Islands (26.8 pct), Thessaly-Central Greece (26.9 pct), Crete (24.9 pct) and Aegean (22.7 pct).
 Hellenic Financial Stability Fund ready to provide assistance to banks, if requestedThe Hellenic Financial Stability Fund has been informed of the Greek banking system's capital needs as these were determined by the Bank of Greece and will provide capital backing, if requested, to secure the financial system's stability, as is anticipated in its founding law, it announced Thursday.
Managing Director Anastasia Sakellariou stated that the Fund will support the four systemic banks in their effort to strengthen their capital position, including among other things through their access to capital markets.
 Labour minister addresses EESC Working group meeting in AthensLabour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Thursday stressed the need to "invest in human capital and social Europe" in order for the EU to overcome the crisis, while addressing a meeting of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Working Group held in Athens on the occasion of the Greek Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
"Social cohesion, stability, insistence on European values, security and consensus are emerging as crucial requirements in order to isolate extremist voices cultivating intolerance and jeopardising our common European course," he added, noting that the priorities of the Greek EU presidency are aimed in this direction.
Among these he highlighted the effort to fight unemployment and create jobs, boost the social aspects of Economic and Monetary Union and promote social dialogue on all levels. He also emphasised the Greek government's efforts to combat undeclared or 'black' labour, saying this was crucial for the Greek presidency and both a European and a national priority.
 SEV announces initiative to support new and innovative entrepreneurship in AthensThe Hellenic Federation Of Enterprises (SEV) presented on Thursday an initiative to support the new and innovative entrepreneurship in Athens.
It involves the action 'Sustainable Entrepreneurship in Athens,' which is aimed at young people who wish to turn their ideas into business operations with emphasis on innovation, openness, technological expertise and use of Greek products with unique features.
In this context, SEV will provide support to participants in specially designed and equipped rooms in the centre of Athens, offering a structured methodology for developing business ventures, personalised and constant guidance from experienced coaches, development and networking strategies from senior executives-mentors, market research and business plans and access to the SEV business network.
The full text of the invitation to participate, with detailed terms and conditions, will be announced in March.
SEV vice president Haris Kyriazis noted in a statement that "we want to contribute actively to the creation of a new business generation, using the city of Athens as a springboard, with valuable experience, knowledge, networking and ongoing support".
The action is part of 'Project Athens', an Athens municipality initiative implemented in collaboration with key entrepreneurship organizations and groups.
 Greek tourism is recovering, international industry players sayThe prospects for Greek tourism in 2014 appear to be particularly encouraging, industry experts concluded on Thursday during the ITB, Berlin's international trade fair for tourism.
A senior official from TUI, the largest tour operator worldwide, met with Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and talked of a "recovery" for Greek tourism following last year's positive performance and amid expectations of an even better year in 2014.
Kefalogianni, in statements to ANA-MPA, referred to the interest shown by tourism organisations in the lengthening of the tourist season, as well as in further exploiting a wave of cancellations to Egypt for the benefit Greek destinations.
The head of Greek Tourism Entreprises Association (SETE) Andreas Andreadis estimated that arrivals from Germany would reach 2.5-2.7 million from 2.3 million in 2013.
In the mean time, air carrier Lufthansa revealed that it is considering expanding its range of flights to Greece.
"At first we are considering launching direct flights from Germany to Thessaloniki and secondarily to some islands, not on a seasonal basis as other airlines but on a permanent 12-month basis," Lufthansa's vice president for Southeast Europe Carsten Schaeffer told ANA-MPA.
Schaeffer said a precondition for the launch of new flights to the islands year-round was for local authorities to maintain strong economic activity in the 'off-season', keeping shops and other services open throughout the year, while emphasising the potential for year-round tourism in Greece targeting nature lovers and 'gastro' holidays.
 Piraeus Bank announces 1.75 bln euro share capital increase planPiraeus Bank on Thursday announced a share capital increase plan, worth 1.75 billion euros, hours after an announcement that it was proceeding with an international bond loan.
A bank's board meeting called for an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting to approve a share capital increase plan in cash, through the issuing of new common nominal shares. The shareholders' meeting will be held March 28. Under the plan, the share capital increase plan will be achieved through a book-building process in Greece, while the bank will examine offering a preferential allocation of the new shares to the owners of the bank's warrants.
Under the results of a stress test survey conducted by BlackRock, Piraeus Bank's capital needs total 425 million euros.
Piraeus Bank seeks to take advantage of a Greek economic recovery - currently at its early stages - to make a significant step towards its return to the private sector. The capital boosting scheme will help the bank to cover its capital needs (425 million euros under the baseline scenario and 757 million euros under the bad scenario), to fully repay all preferential shares to the Greek state (750 million euros), to strengthen its capital base ahead of the introduction of the Basel III framework, facilitate its access to international capital markets, boost the participation of private investors in its equity capital and continue its dynamic course from a stronger position in the market, contributing to a faster recovery of the Greek economy.
Mihalis Sallas, the bank's chairman, commenting on the news said "today's announcement was a landmark, not only for Piraeus Bank, but for the Greek banking system in general. Piraeus Bank will make a significant step towards repaying capital to the Greek state and the privatisation of the bank. A forthcoming share capital increase plan will fortify the bank's already strong capital basis and further establish its leading position in the domestic market."
Anthimos Thomopoulos, the bank's chief executive officer, said that the bank's capital boosting plan was expected to offer a significant confirmation of an improved investment climate towards the Greek banking sector and Piraeus Bank in particular.
Piraeus Bank also announced that net organic revenue grew in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with the third quarter, reflecting lower costs in time deposits and higher revenues from commissions. Net interest revenue grew 5.0 pct in the October-December period, net commission revenues jumped 24 pct, while a voluntary retirement program was expected to have annual benefits up to 96 million euros from 2014 onwards. Profits, pre-provisions, rose by 12 pct to 271 million euros, while provisions for bad debt jumped 38 pct in the fourth quarter.
 Eurobank Properties buys warehouse asset for 5.88 mln eurosEurobank Properties on Thursday announced the purchase of a logistics warehouse in Aspropyrgos for 5.88 million euros.
The property is fully leased, it is built based on the latest standards and covers a space of around 13,000 sq.m. Its leasing return reaches 12 pct.
The purchase was made using reserve capital resulting from a share capital increase plan completed in 2007 by Eurobank Properties. The company plans to purchase another two warehouse properties in Aspropyrgos.
 Piraeus Bank returns to markets with 500-mln-euro bond issuePiraeus Bank will return to international markets after five years of absence with a bond issue, the bank said in a statement on Thursday.
According to sources, the bond issue will be around 500 million euros.
Piraeus Bank announced a round of roadshows in selected European cities next week to meet with fixed income investors. The roadshow will be followed by a decision to issue a bond loan, through a public offer in international markets, depending on prevailing conditions in international capital markets.
A constant improvement of economic environment in Greece and Piraeus Bank's strong position allows plans to return to bond markets, confirming the dynamism of the Greek banking sector and of Piraeus Bank in particular, the statement said.
BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and HSBC have been appointed as advisors to the bond issue.
 OTE reports slight increase in Q4 turnoverHellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) on Thursday reported the first increase in its quarterly turnover in the last five years and said that annual turnover fell but at a slower rate compared with the previous year.
Consolidated turnover, excluding the impact from a reduction in end-call charges and the contribution of Hellas Sat, grew by almost 2.0 pct in the fourth quarter of 2013. Turnover in the October-December period rose 0.1 pct to 1.045 billion euros, for a decline of 6.4 pct in 2013 to a total of 4.054 billion euros. Net profit totalled 287.88 million euros, down 34.6 pct from 2012. OTE reported a loss of 188.7 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2013 hit by the cost of a voluntary retirement program. OTE said cash flows totaled 734 million euros in 2013, while net borrowing fell by half to 1.5 billion euros. Investments grew 5.0 pct in 2013.
Commenting on the results, OTE's chairman and chief executive Mihalis Tsamaz said that 2012 was a year of significant achievements for OTE. "Thanks to our performance we can be optimistic over the future despite adverse economic conditions prevailing in most of our markets."
OTE's chairman said that a total of 8,000 workers left the group as part of voluntary retirement programs since 2009 contributing significantly to the reduction of costs and boosting cash flows. "In 2014 we will continue to work hard to safeguard our success, to continue innovating in all our markets and to boost the group's profitability".
 Greek stocks end flatGreek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday as investors remained on the sidelines awaiting the report on the results of BlackRock' s stress tests on Greek banks. Bank shares came under pressure, but buying interest focused on other blue chip stocks such as OPAP, PPC, OTE, Intralot and Folli Follie.
The composite index of the market ended at 1,319.03 points, off 0.04 pct, after rising as much as 1.25 pct and falling by 0.46 pct during the session. Turnover was a strong 117.14 million euros.
The Large Cap index rose 0.03 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.53 pct lower. Frigoglass (3.96 pct), OPAP (2.74 pct), Intralot (2.22 pct) and PPC (2.18 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (4.78 pct), MIG (4.02 pct), National Bank (3.15 pct) and Alpha Bank (1.66 pct) suffered losses.
The Travel (2.67 pct), Utilities (1.91 pct) and Real Estate (1.78 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (3.89 pct), Media (1.63 pct) and Health (1.05 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 70 to 69, with another 21 issues unchanged. Perseus (19.23 pct), Boutaris (19.51 pct) and Medicon (17.78 pct) were top gainers, while Ilyda (28.28 pct), Attica Bank (20.48 pct) and Geniki Bank (15.17 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Industrial Products: +0.94%
Oil & Gas: Unchanged
Personal & Household: +0.74%
Raw Materials: -0.84%
Travel & Leisure: +2.67%
Food & Beverages: -0.18%
Financial Services: -0.49%
Real Estate: +1.78%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OPAP, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.71
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.74
Coca Cola HBC: 18.38
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.30
National Bank of Greece: 3.38
Eurobank Properties : 8.40
Piraeus Bank: 1.99
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 5.0 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 5.25 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.64 pct and the German Bund 6.86 pct. Turnover was a strong 35 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.551 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.468 pct, the six-month rate was 0.384 pct, the three-month rate was 0.287 pct, up from 0.286 pct the previous day, and the one-month rate was 0.216 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a small premium of 0.10 pct, with turnover rising to 26.762 million euros in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 7,871 contracts worth 16.849 million euros, with 51,413 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 24,729 contracts worth 9.913 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (8,940), followed by National Bank (871), Piraeus Bank (3,752), Eurobank (569), MIG (1,809), OTE (1,440), PPC (2,547), OPAP (727), Mytilineos (465), Hellenic Petroleum (314), GEK (652), Frigoglass (276), Athens Water (199) and Hellenic Exchanges (315).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.395
Pound sterling 0.835
Danish kroner 7.574
Swedish kroner 8.962
Japanese yen 143.34
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 8.349
Canadian dollar 1.538
Australian dollar 1.539
 Orthodox Church hierarchs meet at Ecumenical Patriarchate in IstanbulISTANBUL (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas)
A three-day meeting of the heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches was launched at the Ecumenical Patriarchate here on Thursday, chaired by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The meeting will focus on the Holy Synod of Orthodoxy which is being prepared for decades.
Ecumenical Patriarchate sources told ANA-MPA that Bartholomew is working hard to make sure that the synod will take place next year.
In his opening address, the Ecumenical Patriarch underlined that the meeting takes place at a turbulent time for the Church, noting that its ability to exercise its mission is being challenged.
The hierarchs will also discuss issues concerning the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, developments in Ukraine and the European society's growing alienation from Christian principles. The meeting was attended by the heads of 13 Autocephalous Churches.
 Ombudsman warns of rising discrimination, in International Women's Day messageThe Greek Ombudsman in its capacity as discrimination watchdog expressed concern about the rising gender-based discrimination at the workplace and the employment sector in a message issued on Thursday, for International Women's Day on March 8.
The Ombudsman underlined that the crisis and its consequences are clearly reflected in the high unemployment rate among women and the lack of alternatives in childcare for working mothers.
 Bulgarian culture minister visits Prespa LakesBulgarian Culture Minister Petar Stoyanovich, who is on a visit to Greece, on Thursday toured the archaeological site on the small island of Aghios Achillios, in the middle of the Lesser Prespa Lake in the northwest part of the country.
He was given a guided tour of the ruins of the Aghios Achillios' Basilica where a Byzantine-era monument was discovered, with remains and relics attributed to Czar Samuel of the first Bulgarian Empire (997-1014). The 1,000-year anniversary of his death is marked with special events across Bulgaria this year.
Earlier, he visited the Church of Aghios Germanos of Prespa Lakes.
The Bulgarian minister made brief stops in the cities of Florina and Edessa before returning to his country.
 Three migrants injured in exchange of fire during Greek coast guard pursuitThree migrants were injured in an exchange of gunfire between a Greek coast guard vessel and a Turkish migrant trafficker on Thursday. They were taken to a hospital on the island of Chios for treatment, where doctors said they were 'out of danger'.
The incident occurred when the migrant trafficker made repeated attempts to ram a Greek coast guard vessel in pursuit, while it was to approach for an inspection in waters off the island of Oinousses, prompting the coast guard vessel to initially fire warning shots and then fire against the bow of the trafficking vessel in order to immobilise it.
Once the vessel was immobilised, coast guard officers boarded, arrested a Turkish migrant trafficker and discovered 13 non-legal migrants in the hold, including two men and a woman that had been injured. A patrol boat picked up the three injured migrants and the arrested trafficker to take them to Chios, where the three migrants were transferred to hospital for treatment.
The rest of the migrants were picked up by a coast guard rescue vessel and taken to the Chios harbour authority for processing. The local coast guard is conducting an investigation on the orders of a public prosecutor and the head of the coast guard, Vice Admiral Athanasios Athanasopoulos has been fully briefed on the incident by the naval court prosecutor.
The inspector for the Northern Aegean Rear Admiral Athanasios Hondronasios and the head of the Coast Guard Operations Sector Rear Admiral Vasilios Siettos are also making their way to the island.
 Nationality and ethnic minority are two of the main causes of school bullyingNationality and ethnic minority are two of the main causes of school violence according to a survey by the Observatory of Violence of the ministry of Education which was presented on Thursday.
According to the findings of the survey, three out of ten students have been victims of violence or have practiced violence.
Responses of 61,000 students who participated in the nationwide survey show that violent actions were perpetrated by 33 pct based on the place of origin of the victims, 19 pct because of belonging to another peer group, 11 pct because of minority origin, 4 pct due to gender and 33 pct for none of the above reasons.
At the same time 32 pct of them evaluate the relationships between classmates as good and 34.69 pct answered that they have been bullied. When students were asked if they have been 'bullies' themselves 34,01 pct answered positively.
The results were presented at an event held at the ministry of Education on the occasion of the National Day against School Violence and Bullying.
In a brief speech, the Deputy Minister of Education Simeon Kedikoglou spoke about the measures taken by the state to limit the issue. Among these is the definition of a responsible teacher at each school unit in order to facilitate communicaton with children and parents.
A more active role has been given to the Centre for the Prevention of School Violence and Bullying through thirteen moderators of actions and constant organized events and workshops to raise awareness in local communities and activities with students and also teacher training and updates from parents groups.
At the same time a cooperation with institutions with valuable expertise in the prevention and treatment of the issue such as the non-profit organisation 'The Smile of the Child' has been reinforced.
 Protests in centre of Athens come to an endProtesters who participated in rallies and marches against the government policy in central Athens on Thursday morning departed and returned to Klafthmonos square by the afternoon, allowing a resumption of traffic through the city centre.
Members of the Communist-affiliated group PAME, the high school teachers union federation OLME and the municipality staff union federation POE-OTA had met at about 14:00 in Stadiou street, near the Old Parliament building, where police had closed off the road.
After some tension and scuffles with police, during which police used tear gas and one Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP was slightly injured, protesters headed toward Acadimias Street where they met more police blocking their access to Parliament. They remained on the scene for some time, shouting slogans and occasionally attempting to break through the police cordon to reach Parliament, before dispersing and returning to Klafthmonos square.
Police have also ordered that the central metro station at Syntagma remain closed from 13:30 as a security precaution during a visit to Athens by German President Joachim Gauck. Trains will pass through the station without stopping. They have also banned rallies and protests in a zone around the city centre and Parliament between 8:00-19:00 on Thursday.
 Overcast on FridayRainy weather and winds from variable directions are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 6C-16C. Rain in the central parts and in the south, 4C-16C.Clouds and rain over the islands, 10C-18C.Showers in Athens, 7C-15C; the same for Thessaloniki, 5C-15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Time for Germany to pay its debt to Greece (refers to war reparations).
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Stress test. Banks' recapitalisation divides government and troika.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Foreclosures for debts to IKA (major social security fund).
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Sweeping changes in 2014 tax statement.
ESTIA: The newspaper celebrates its 120 anniversary!
ETHNOS: The pensions not affected by the cutbacks.
IMERISSIA: Government irritated from troika's demands.
KATHIMERINI: European Commission shows yellow card to Italy and France.
KERDOS: 'Banks issue' a major thorn in government's negotiations with the troika.
LOGOS: Tough poker for Ukraine.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Banks' 'riddle' delays the agreement.
RIZOSPASTIS: Unions demand protection measures for the unemployed .
TA NEA: Mass layoffs by law.
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