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

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

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

Friday, 14 March 2014 Issue No: 4609

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't VP Venizelos: Realistic to expect agreement with troika by Sunday
  • [02] FinMin Stournaras hopeful about reaching agreement with troika by Sunday
  • [03] Troika, gov't moving towards agreement, official tells ANA-MPA
  • [04] Gov't spokesman estimates negotiations with troika will have been completed by Sunday
  • [05] Authorities still looking for 42-year-old Greek after N.York building collapse
  • [06] Shipping minister and EU Task Force chief Reichenbach discuss regulatory authority for ports
  • [07] IMF hopes negotiations in Athens will be completed soon
  • [08] Deputy FM Kourkoulas addresses European Parliament Plenary
  • [09] FM Venizelos to visit Iran on Friday
  • [10] Parliament President Meimarakis visits Italy
  • [11] MEPs approve funds for asylum, migration and EU internal security
  • [12] SYRIZA says Greek GDP figures were 'cooked' to support austerity policy
  • [13] Parliamentary committee lifts immunity for three Golden Dawn MPs
  • [14] KKE party says government promises on primary surplus distribution 'misleading'
  • [15] KKE on the unemployment rate announced by ELSTAT
  • [16] ANEL party president meets with Russian ambassador to Athens
  • [17] The World Council of Hellenes Abroad must operate on new foundation, Deputy FM says
  • [18] Amendments to draft bill abolishing 23 public-sector organisations approved by Parliament
  • [19] Deputy sports minister on halving of grants for sports federations in 2014
  • [20] Venizelos opens Athens Energy Forum 2014, outlines Greek priorities in energy
  • [21] Bulgaria fully supports IGB pipeline, Bulgarian minister informs Athens Energy Forum--pk
  • [22] Greek unemployment rose to new record high in Q4 2013
  • [23] Development ministry presents proposals for 'Greek product' label
  • [24] New EU policy to benefit small-scale fishermen, Commissioner Damanaki
  • [25] DIM.AR leader Kouvelis denies that he was nominated for President of the Republic
  • [26] Minister withdraws article abolishing National Institute for Labour and Human Resources
  • [27] Government will not legislate mixing olive oil with other types of oil, Deputy Dev't min says
  • [28] CNG, biofuels, hydrogen and electric energy to be sold in gas stations
  • [29] Founder Institute programme to be launched in Athens
  • [30] Greek, Kosovar business enterprises sign cooperation protocol
  • [31] Austrian bank to pay damages to client who invested in Greek bonds
  • [32] Consumer group INKA files class action suit against OAEE social insurance fund, EOPYY and hospitals
  • [33] Coco-Mat sells 50 pct equity stake to Libra Group, The Cycladic Group
  • [34] Detrop Boutique Show to be held at Helexpo on March 14-16
  • [35] Greek authorities approve Lamda Development's offer for Hellinikon site
  • [36] GSEE labour confederation and employer unions to hold first meeting on Friday
  • [37] Greek stocks end moderately lower
  • [38] Greek bond market closing report
  • [39] ADEX closing report
  • [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday
  • [41] Culture Minister warns Turkey against turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque
  • [42] Thessaloniki Hyatt, Regency casino employees protest
  • [43] Greek killed in New York explosion expected to be buried in Greece
  • [44] Greeks invited to name new public TV, radio stations and web page
  • [45] Medical staff at the Children's Hospital in Penteli warn with strike action
  • [46] Businessman arrested for selling overpriced supplies to state hospitals
  • [47] Two of the 29 suspects in the Halkidiki goldmine case will not give DNA samples
  • [48] Overcast on Thursday
  • [49] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies Politics

  • [01] Gov't VP Venizelos: Realistic to expect agreement with troika by Sunday

    It is realistic to expect an agreement between the government and the troika of lenders by Sunday, government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Thursday, after a meeting at Maximos Mansion with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

    Larger issues are easier to resolve than smaller ones, which might not be so small, Venizelos said, while he stressed that the primary surplus for 2013 is a given and its distribution must serve both development and social targets. When you help poor people, you help the economy as well, he added.

    Referring to the negotiations, he said that the fact they have been going on for so long (since September) shows the magnitude of the difficulties, unlike those who believe that they will use local political power, bravado or charm to resolve issues that are requiring long-term efforts to be resolved.

    Venizelos also said, among other things, that structural issues would go through Parliament, and added that in terms of labour issues, the troika was not insisting on something outside common sense, or provocative or harmful to the unemployed and to working people.

    [02] FinMin Stournaras hopeful about reaching agreement with troika by Sunday

    Things are difficult but there is optimism an agreement will be reached between Greece and the troika, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said following a meeting late on Thursday at Maximos Mansion with government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    Stournaras said that the government and the troika had begun to review the revised text of the agreement in order to conclude an agreement the soonest possible.

    "Things are difficult but we are not pessimistic," Stournaras said.

    Greece is trying to complete negotiations by Sunday and get a positive review in order to speed up the release of the next loan tranche.

    [03] Troika, gov't moving towards agreement, official tells ANA-MPA

    "We are moving towards an agreement and not a break-up," a top Finance ministry official told ANA-MPA on Thursday, after a meeting between the government's economic team and the troika.

    The official reiterated that "the goal is the reach an agreement by Sunday. We will work day and night because time is pressing. We are not the only ones who will lose (if we don't reach agreement), they will also".

    The troika came to Athens with a revised agreement text and all issues were put on the negotiating table anew, the official said, adding that negotiations focused on structural issues and not on the fiscal leg, as the troika seemed to accept that there was not fiscal gap for 2014.

    Commenting on the banks issue, the official said talks focused on a new legislation for recapitalisation (expected to be tabled to Parliament next week), as the issue of the stress tests has been overcome. Particularly on the issue of Eurobank, he said that it was the responsibility of Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, "the basic shareholder".

    The Greek government stands firm against the troika's demands for dismissals in the public sector in 2015 and changes in the regime of group dismissals, the official said. He also left the door open for an unilateral move by the government on a new tax legislation.

    He said that final decision in the distribution from a primary budget surplus would be taken after Eurostat finalized the Greek fiscal data in April 23 and ahead of the Euro-elections.

    [04] Gov't spokesman estimates negotiations with troika will have been completed by Sunday

    The government will have completed its negotiations with the troika by Sunday, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou estimated on Thursday speaking to private TV station SKAI.

    Referring to the allocation of 2013 primary surplus, he stated that the plan is to be allocated to categories with high diffusion index and brought the example of the low pensioners who will spend the money in the market.

    "Negotiations are tough, but we have proven we are effective. Greece will carry out its commitments and then the implementation of what was agreed in November 2012 Eurogroup is expected to take place," he said.

    [05] Authorities still looking for 42-year-old Greek after N.York building collapse

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou) - The name of Greek Andreas Panagopoulos is not included in the lists of New York hospitals where the injured of the blast in East Harlem were being treated.

    The information given after midnight (local time) from friends that the 42-year-old missing had been found in a city hospital have not been confirmed.

    His wife Lisbeth Perez went to a hospital and after a while she was informed that there was no injured person under that name.

    Andreas Panagopoulos lived on the second floor of the building that collapsed. According to police authorities, at least nine persons remain unaccounted for since the time of the blast.

    According to the latest information by authorities, 6 people died and more than 70 were injured in the blast. Police authorities estimate the explosion was caused by a gas leak.

    [06] Shipping minister and EU Task Force chief Reichenbach discuss regulatory authority for ports

    The head of the European Commission Task Force for Greece Horst Reichenbach and Shipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis held a meeting on Thursday in an effort to improve coordination with respect to staffing issues for a new Regulatory Authority for Ports the ministry intends to found. The new authority's main task will be to monitor the implementation of the national strategy for ports and harbours and to supervise the country's public and private ports.

    The ministry is seeking to overcome any obstacles relating to the funding of the new organisation and the staff that will be employed there, considering the formation of the new authority an immediate priority, since it will be necessary for the privatisation of the largest port in the country, the Piraeus Port Organisation.

    [07] IMF hopes negotiations in Athens will be completed soon

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)

    "We hope that negotiations will be completed the soonest possible," Gerry Rice, a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said here on Thursday. Speaking to reporters, during a daily briefing, the IMF spokesman declined to make any comment on the content and the prospect of negotiations between Greek authorities and the troika of lenders, currently under way.

    Rice told reporters that the Fund's board will convene soon after a troika's assessment report was ready to approve the disbursement of a loan to Greece. He stressed that talks in Athens were continuing in the framework of a fifth assessment of Greece's economic programme, which began in September.

    Commenting on the capital needs of Greek banks, the IMF spokesman repeated it was an issue currently discussed in the framework of the assessment and declined to comment on whether there was a "disagreement" between Greek authorities and the troika on how to distribute a primary budget surplus.

    [08] Deputy FM Kourkoulas addresses European Parliament Plenary

    The crisis in Ukraine is one of the most serious ones in Europe during the past few years, deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas said on Wednesday in his capacity as representative of the Presidency of the EU Council to the European Parliament Plenary.

    "The situation in Ukraine is one of the worst crises in Europe in recent years. It is obvious that the events happening in our neighborhood are significant and have specific impact on all European states," Kourkoulas told the European Parliament Plenary, according to a ministry announcement.

    "The Government' Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos visited Kiev and Mariupol, on March 2, 2014, to assess the situation and deliver the message of the EU to local authorities. He then briefed the Council on Foreign Affairs, at the extraordinary meeting of March 3, 2014, which prepared the summit that followed on the Ukrainian crisis.

    Solving the crisis must be based on respect for the territorial integrity, the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine in accordance with international law. In particular, European leaders agreed that the decision of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for a referendum on the future status of the region is not compatible with the Ukrainian Constitution and therefore illegal," he added.

    "It is extremely important that the two sides, the Ukrainian and Russian, contact and talk directly with each other without any delay and, where appropriate, through multilateral mechanisms.

    In addition, European leaders decided that the EU must participate in multilateral contacts and coordination teams formed to defuse the crisis.

    These actions should be aimed, among other things, at building confidence between the two sides, ensuring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, protecting all citizens from intimidatory actions, respecting the rights of all minorities, including linguistic, helping to hold free and fair elections, and monitoring the implementation of what has been agreed," Kourkoulas said.

    FM Venizelos' meeting with chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

    "We will not stop until the Parthenon marbles return to Greece where they belong", the chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles David Hill said on Thursday after a meeting with government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    "David Hill is a true pillar of the effort we are making to return the Parthenon Sculptures, the Marbles, now that we have the great endeavor of the new Museum, now that awareness has again been raised in international public opinion on this pending issue," Venizelos said.

    "This is an ongoing struggle. We have been doing this for years with Hill - for more than 20 years now - and I really want to thank him, on behalf of the Greek state, for his dedication to such an important global cause," he added.

    On his part, Hill said he was grateful to meet up again with Venizelos, who has been a "champion" of the cause for the return of the Parthenon sculptures. "And on behalf of all the international association, Greece is not alone - there are now 16 countries with organizations that are supporting Greece for the return of the marmara and we will not stop; we will not stop until the marbles are back in Greece where they belong," he noted.

    [09] FM Venizelos to visit Iran on Friday

    Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Friday will visist Iran, according to a Foreign ministry announcement.

    Venizelos on Saturday will meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. A joint press conference will follow. He will also be received by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and will meet with the president of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani.

    On Sunday March 16, he will meet with the former Iranian President and current head of the Assembly of Experts Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as well as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Shamkhani.

    [10] Parliament President Meimarakis visits Italy

    ROME (ANA-MPA / Th. Andreadis-Syggelakis)

    Parliament President Vangelis Meimarakis met here on Thursday with Italy's Chamber of Deputies President Laura Boldrini and Senate President Pietro Grasso.

    Meimarakis is visiting the Italian capital accompanied by Parliament Vice-President Yiannis Dragassakis to attend a two-day conference on the Value of Europe jointly hosted by the Parliaments of Greece and Italy.

    Speaking to ANA-MPA, Meimarakis underlined that "Europe is not a necessary evil and should not be distant from the citizens' problems," adding that "red tape and the European institutions should adjust to a new framework demanded by the European people".

    "This can be achieved through the national Parliaments' intense participation in such procedures," he said.

    On her part, Boldrini noted that "there is no alternative solution in Europe," adding that "we should be able to stay united in a viable way, socially and environmentally".

    She also said that unemployment is very high and Europe should show that it understands the people's problems.

    Commenting on the forthcoming European elections, Meimarakis said that "people should vote with political criteria for a better future for Europe and not cast a protest or punitive vote," adding that in the imminent European elections national governments and policies are not the ones being judged.

    Boldrini said that European citizens should not be afraid because no steps forward can be made based on fear, adding that "it is to our benefit to believe in Europe and its future".

    In the meeting between Meimarakis and Grasso it was underlined that events like the one underway can help make bilateral relations closer and give convincing answers to the people ahead of the European elections.

    [11] MEPs approve funds for asylum, migration and EU internal security

    The European Parliament Plenary on Thursday approved the rules for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund as well as the EU Internal Security Fund.

    MEP Georgios Papanikolaou, rapporteur of the European People's Party (EPP), said this was a crucial funding tool and a significant historical event as the rules conclude the negotiations over the new "asylum package" on a European level.

    The integration of funds in asylum and migration offer greater flexibility, while they improve and simplify the funding procedure to member-states for the new programming period (2014-2020) so as to achieve their strategic targets in the fields of justice and home affairs.

    The two funds will have a total budget of 6.9 billion euros for the 2014-2020 programming period.

    "In the near future, emergency situations will be dealt with in a better way and I believe all that, along with other provisions, set up a proper framework so we can achieve our main objectives, that is an integrated immigration policy with directly applicable tools," Papanikolaou told the Plenary.

    "The Greek presidency has set this as a priority. We have to acknowledge this is particularly positive, while to the best of my knowledge the Italian presidency will continue this effort," he added.

    [12] SYRIZA says Greek GDP figures were 'cooked' to support austerity policy

    In a lengthy but "unofficial" economic analysis released on Thursday, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) asserted that Greece's economic figures had been "cooked" in an attempt to support claims that the austerity programmes imposed on Greece were yielding results.

    Essentially, SYRIZA accused the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority of artificially "transferring" a part of the recession to 2012 by revising the GDP figure for 2012 downward and thus present GDP decline in 2013 as less severe.

    According to SYRIZA, this was used to back claims by the coalition government, the European Commission and others that austerity policies and the economic adjustment programmes were leading Greece to a recovery and exit from the crisis.

    Specifically, SYRIZA said that ELSTAT revision of the 2012 GDP figure increased the recession in that year from 6.4 pct to 7 pct. As a result, the recession in 2013 was presented as less than expected, based on memorandum forecasts, even though rates of poverty, unemployment, high taxation, excessive borrowing and a shrinking social state were painful realities for the vast majority of Greeks, effectively disproving the government's claims of a 'success story'.

    The party was also scathing about the government's attempts to celebrate achieving a primary surplus, noting that this had been achieved at the cost of making the country's debt unsustainable, increasing it from 130 pct of GDP when Greece entered the crisis to 180 pct of GDP after four years of harsh austerity.

    Attempts to reform the financial sector reform were also described as failed in the party's analysis, which pointed out that banks would need further recapitalisation with another 6.5 billion euros this year, after a 40-billion-euro and more recapitalisation carried out the previous year - even based on figures presented by the Bank of Greece that were disputed as too optimistic by the IMF and others. SYRIZA pointed out that the country's financial system had been destabilised by the haircut for Greek bonds and now by the effects of austerity and rising numbers of non-performing loans, so that even healthy businesses were being denied access to credit and faced a high money cost.

    Finally, SYRIZA asserted, attempts to boost competitiveness and growth exclusively through slashing wages and abolishing labour rights were also acting to undermine the growth prospects and competitiveness of Greek companies, as reflected in the very low rise in Greek exports, and their essentially stagnant share of the global export pie.

    [13] Parliamentary committee lifts immunity for three Golden Dawn MPs

    Parliament's Ethics Committee voted on Thursday to lift immunity for three extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) deputies to face charges of partnership in a criminal organisation, a charge faced by other party MPs as well.

    The Committee is discussing the lifting of Parliamentary immunity - on the charge of creating and managing a criminal organisation - for nine Golden Dawn MPs: Eleni Zaroulia (Michaloliakos' spouse), Nikolaos Kouzilos, Antonios Gregos, Polyvios Zisimopoulos, Constantine Barbaroussis, Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos, Dimitrios Koukoutsis, Artemis Mattheopoulos and Michael Arvanitis.

    On Thursday, immunity was lifted for Golden Dawn MPs Ilias Kasidiaris, Zaroulia and Arvanitis.

    Kasidiaris had been arrested and released at an earlier time. He is facing charging of illegal arms possession as well.

    Voting to lift immunity for the three were representatives from New Democracy (ND), the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Democratic Left (DIMAR) and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), while Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Maria Kollia Tsarouha voted "present" and Golden Dawn deputy Ilias Panagiotaros voted against it.

    According to sources, Zaroulia, who did not presented herself in the Committee's hearing as she visited her husband, the party's leader Nikos Michaloliakos, in the Korydallos prison, denied all charges which she said that are related with "political motivation."

    Kasidiaris called the prosecution against him "forged, groundless and clearly political," and said before before giving his testimony at the committee hearing that he had proper licences for the two guns he had. The proceedings, he said, aimed "exclusively at (my) illegal imprisonment before the local elections for the municipality of Athens in order to deprive (me) of the right of public speaking."

    Before the end of the meeting, the Committee decided to propose the lifting of immunity for party MP Nikos Kouzilos as well.

    The Committee will resume its proceedings on Tuesday with the hearing of the detained Golden Dawn deputies Nikos Michaloliakos, Christos Pappas, Giannis Lagos, Panagiotis Iliopoulos, Giorgos Germenis and Stathis Boukouras.

    [14] KKE party says government promises on primary surplus distribution 'misleading'

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday on developments with the troika, stressed that "the government's promises on the distribution of the primary surplus and on an exit from the memorandum are misleading, since the escalation of the antipopular policy is already being planned and implemented with privatisations, layoffs, new privileges for capital based on the OECD's directives".

    KKE further said "SYRIZA's dilemma 'memorandums or Europe of peoples' is equally misleading, particularly when it comes from forces supporting the EU", adding that "the government and SYRIZA are concealing that the EU means prolonged memorandums, even if the new antipopular measures do not take the form of a new memorandum, but are implemented through the supervision apparatuses set up by the EU".

    [15] KKE on the unemployment rate announced by ELSTAT

    The unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2013 proves that the announced or already implemented measures that recycle unemployment are a mockery for the 1.5 million unemployed and their families, opposition Communist Party (KKE) on Thursday said in response to the unemployment rate announced by Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

    KKE underlined that workers and the unemployment should not accept that they will live permanently in poverty, with extremely low wages, and be looking for jobs with an expiration date to support the capitalist recovery heralded by the government and rest of the political parties that support the system.

    [16] ANEL party president meets with Russian ambassador to Athens

    Opposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) President Panos Kammenos on Thursday met with Russian Ambassador to Athens Vladimir Chkhikvishvili and was briefed on Russia's position as regards the crisis in Ukraine.

    They also exchanged views on developments in the greater region and discussed bilateral issues.

    [17] The World Council of Hellenes Abroad must operate on new foundation, Deputy FM says

    Deputy Foreign Minister Akis Gerontopoulos on Thursday pointed out the need for the modernization of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) so that it complies to new standards.

    Gerontopoulos was addressing the meeting of the organization committee responsible for the processing of a draft bill on the Council which was held at the Foreign Ministry. Savvas Anastasiadis, head of the parliamentary committee on Greeks Abroad, chaired the meeting, which was attended by members of the parliament's committee, SAE board, the general secretariat of Greeks Abroad and parties.

    The meeting was crucial for the processing and the completion of the draft bill, as the procedure had been stalled during the last six months, since the committee lacked a new chairman.

    Gerontopoulos said he was open to suggestions from all parties for changes in the text of the draft bill.

    "SAE must operate again on new foundation," the deputy minister said. The submitted proposals will now be evaluated and processed by the organisation committee, while a second meeting in June, according to Anastasiadis, will give the opportunity for the draft bill to be concluded and be tabled to Parliament within the summer.

    [18] Amendments to draft bill abolishing 23 public-sector organisations approved by Parliament

    The Parliament plenum on Thursday voted in favour of abolishing 23 public-sector organisations, the re-examination of the hiring of former short-term contractors and the introduction of a public servants evaluation system with pre-set point ratios, riders in a draft bill on public administration.

    Earlier in the day Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed to a number of proposed riders to a draft bill on the abolition of 23 public-sector organisations currently under discussion in Parliament, it was announced on Thursday.

    Specifically, pregnant women or women with young children under 18 months, who are employed in the 23 public sector organisations that will be abolished, will not be laid off and will be transferred to the organisations taking over the tasks of scrapped public-sector agencies. The proposal was tabled by New Democracy MP Katerina Papakosta, one of the MPs supporting the ruling coalition.

    Also, based on a rider tabled by ND deputy Athanassios Davlouros and three other party deputies, employees appointed or transferred to a border or problematic region are obligated to serve there for at least five years instead of 10.

    Another rider proposed by ND deputy Spyros Taliadouros concerned the Organization of Children's and Teens' Books.

    According to a rider sponsored by ND MPs headed by Giorgos Karasmanis, employees who have served half of the mandatory time in the agency they were appointed can be transferred to a border or problematic region to be with their spouse.

    The bill still needs to go through a final vote before becoming law.

    [19] Deputy sports minister on halving of grants for sports federations in 2014

    Sports federations had known that their grants would be cut by 50 pct in 2014 from the previous year, Deputy Sports Minister Yiannis Andrianos told the Greek radio station 'Sentra' on Thursday.

    "I don't think there is anyone who would not like there to be more money for sports, culture, health and education. The facts, however, are given and due to the economic crisis we must act accordingly. The 12 million euros to be given to the federations are a law of the state, which has been known since the end of 2013 when the budget was passed in Parliament," he pointed out.

    Andrianos also noted that he had personally warned the Hellenic Olympic Committee several months beforehand that the 2014 budget would reduce grants by half relative to 2013, so that they could take the necessary steps and he cited "special circumstances" due to the crisis.

    "I will continue to press for additional money but that depends on the course of the national economy. If there is an improvement, there will be more money next year," he said.

    Andrianos noted that sports federations must find ways to streamline costs, including by cutting wages and adopting the uniform public-sector wage scale that also applies to staff in other state-financed organisations and agencies. On the plans to once again set up an auditing council for sports, he said this was an obligation of the state and that Greek tax payers had a right to know what sports federations were spending the money they were given.

    Financial News

    [20] Venizelos opens Athens Energy Forum 2014, outlines Greek priorities in energy

    Government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday outlined the goals of Greece's EU presidency on energy issues, as well as Greece's goals in the European and global energy map, during his address opening the Athens Energy Forum 2014 taking place on Thursday and Friday.

    To politicians, diplomats and business players involved in the energy sector, Venizelos underlined that the Greek presidency places particular emphasis on energy issues, which he said have a direct effect on EU foreign policy and are at the crux of all industrial policy.

    Referring to the situation in Ukraine and the impact of the crisis on EU-Russian relations, and thus to issues affecting energy pipelines and policy, Venizelos said that EU foreign ministers will be briefed on the issue in detail next Monday, at the EU foreign ministers' council in Brussels, by European Commissioner for energy Gunther Oettinger. He stressed that the Ukraine crisis must be dealt with using a cool-headed strategy, creating a framework that will allow the EU to protect its interests and adhere to its principles.

    With respect to Greece's goals in this area, Venizelos said Greece wanted a single negotiation on a European level with respect to the price of natural gas, so that there is a uniform price that did not fluctuate as at present.

    On exploiting Greece's mineral wealth, the foreign minister said the country was exercising "self-restraint" and acting on substantiated research and scientific data. "We do not want to cultivate expectations but make firm steps, exercising our national sovereignty and our sovereign rights". He stressed that Greece wanted to avoid generating tension and act in the framework of international law, noting that exploiting energy resources was linked to energy diplomacy, the routes of pipelines and a "diversification of our sources for energy supply, which are imported."

    "Greece has truly great potential, it is well anchored in the regional and international energy map; it is a medium-sized European country, we do not suffer from illusions of grandeur but neither do we underestimate any of the capabilities we have, especially when these are linked with the core of our national sovereignty and national issues of the highest importance, such as the Cyprus issue," he said.

    [21] Bulgaria fully supports IGB pipeline, Bulgarian minister informs Athens Energy Forum--pk

    The Bulgarian government fully supports the construction of the IGB Gas Interconnector, a Greek-Bulgarian natural gas pipeline linking the two countries' natgas networks, Bulgaria's Economy and Energy Minister Krasin Dimitrov told the Athens Energy Forum 2014 taking place on Thursday.

    Dimitrov described the project for the pipeline as a "mature and extremely important project" that will contribute to energy supply diversification and security, as well as improving economic competitiveness.

    The IGB is to transport three billion cubic metres of gas a year, with the potential to increase capacity to five billion. The final decision for the investment will be taken in 2014 and the pipeline may start operating in 2016, a foreign ministry official said, while talks were underway for its supply via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and an LNG facility planned by the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) in Kavala.

    [22] Greek unemployment rose to new record high in Q4 2013

    Greek unemployment rose to 27.5 pct in the fourth quarter of 2013, setting a new all-time record, for an average rate of 27.2 pct in the year, up from 24.2 pct in 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday. The total number of unemployed people reached 1,363,137 in the year.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that young people aged 15-24 were the biggest "victims" with an unemployment rate of 57 pct, followed by the most productive age group (24-35) with an unemployment rate of 44.7 pct. The report said that 72 pct of unemployed people (around 981,500) were long-term unemployed.

    The statistics service, in its quarterly report, said that the number of unemployed people grew 1.3 pct compared with the third quarter of 2013 and by 5.2 pct compared with the fourth quarter of 2012. The number of employed people totaled 3,589,657, down 1.3 pct from the previous quarter and down 2.5 pct compared with the fourth quarter of 2012.

    The percentage of young unemployed people totaled 23.3 pct of total unemployed in the country, while long-term unemployed accounted for 72 pct. The unemployment rate in the 15-24 age group was 57 pct, in the 25-29 age group 44.7 pct, in the 30-44 age group 26.3 pct, in the 45-64 age group 19.5 pct and in the 65+ age group 9.9 pct. Unemployment among women was 31.7 pct, up from 24.4 pct for men.

    Central Macedonia (30.3 pct), Western Macedonia (29.7 pct), Western Greece (28.9 pct), Central Greece (28.9 pct), recorded the biggest unemployment rates among the country's regions, followed by Epirus (28.4 pct), Attica (28.2 pct), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (25.6 pct), Crete (25.2 pct), Thessaly (25.2 pct), the Peloponnese (23.7 pct), South Aegean (22.7 pct), Ionian Islands (20.6 pct) and North Aegean (20.1 pct).

    A 28.7 pct of unemployed people were seeking full time jobs exclusively, while a 66.5 pct were willing to work part-time as well. Unemployment among foreign citizens was 36.2 pct, whereas unemployment among Greek citizens was 26.8 pct. A total of 143,391 people found a job in the fourth quarter of 2013 the report said. Part-time work accounted for 8.5 pct of total employment in the country. The percentage of salary earners in Greece was 63.1 pct, significantly down from an 80 pct average rate in the European Union.

    [23] Development ministry presents proposals for 'Greek product' label

    Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas on Thursday presented the three alternative proposals for a 'Greek label' to be used on products and services produced in Greece: a ship, a heart and an ancient column.

    The plans were unveiled for a 15-day period of public consultation on the special website of the development ministry's general secretariat for commerce. The ministry also aims to have finalised the wording of the label within the month, so that companies can start applying for certification as of May. Firms awarded certification to carry the label may be required to pay a fee, depending on the category of product involved and the cost of the certification process.

    The ministry said that the rules for certification have so far been drawn up for alcoholic beverages and dairy products, with rules for olive oil, honey, wine, pulses, pasta and other goods to follow.

    According to Skordas, the label was seen as a tool for encouraging local production and from weaning Greek industry away from producing bulk and non-brand products.

    Replying to questions about the ongoing negotiations with the troika, the ministers advised patience until the weekend, noting that the government was in contact with all the parties supporting the government during the talks and that "everything is done in collaboration, with the prime minister expressing the government's positions".

    The three proposals presented by the ministry have been added as an attachment.

    [24] New EU policy to benefit small-scale fishermen, Commissioner Damanaki

    Thousands of small coastal fishermen, active in Greece, who fish with traditional tools, will benefit from the EU's new fishery policy, since Brussels is "freezing" the funding of big fishing vessels and placing the small ones at the focus in an effort to convey the weight centre to the viability of seas.

    The above appears from statements made on Thursday by European Maritime Policy and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, during a press conference held in Thessaloniki in the framework of the High Level Conference on Fishing Capacity, under the auspices of the Greek Presidency of the EU's council.

    "Greece has approximately 10,000 owners of small vessels, who fish with traditional means. They are at the focus of our care", Damanaki said and clarified that the Commission contributes 75-85 percent to the funding programmes of small fishermen, while to those of big vessels plying the oceans only 50 percent.

    A joint "key" statement on the viability of seas will be signed in Thessaloniki on Friday, she said.

    As was revealed by Agricultural Development Minister Athanasios Tsaftaris, president of the EU's Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Council, "The purpose of the meeting in Thessaloniki is for us to activate the international community towards the specific target. Our aim is for tomorrow's proclamation to be signed by not only the countries of the EU, but also by the attending representatives of the United States, Japan and smaller countries such as Morocco".

    Called on to comment on mobilisations by fishermen against the restriction of fishing capacity, Tsaftaris said, "We can do things (such as) for example with the restriction of fishing activity at a specific period or region, when and where fish come to reproduce. We did not say the fisherman must not fish for cod, but to limit it, for example to 20 percent".

    On her part, Damanaki said that the proclamation will be signed on Friday by all of the EU's member-states, since there is a relevant order by the European Council.

    [25] DIM.AR leader Kouvelis denies that he was nominated for President of the Republic

    Opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) President Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday categorically denied a front page newspaper report, which claimed that the government is considering nominating him for President of the Republic.

    Speaking on the private television station Skai, Kouvelis said that the report in the newspaper Dimokratia alleging that he had a secret meeting with ND MP Dimitris Stamatis, who conveyed to him the prime minister's intentions, "is untrue". He noted that no such proposal was made and no such meeting took place, adding that discussions like this can be disorientating.

    Referring to the primary surplus, he suggested that this should be distributed to social groups worst hit by the crisis and as regards the settlement of the debt, he disagreed with SYRIZA's position that it should be written off, underlining that the country has international obligations and a unilateral move could lead to bankruptcy.

    [26] Minister withdraws article abolishing National Institute for Labour and Human Resources

    Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday withdrew an article abolishing the National Institute of Labour and Human Resources, one of 23 public-sector organisations due to be scrapped under a draft bill currently being debated in Parliament.

    Mitsotakis said he withdrew the specific article due to objections raised by the PASOK party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition government, since it did not have the necessary support to be passed in Parliament.

    The specific article had been surrounded by controversy, with strong objections voiced by employer and worker organisations during its processing before the relevant Parliamentary committee. It had also been condemned by all the opposition parties with the exception of far-right Golden Dawn, while main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) had included it among articles for which it demanded a roll-call vote.

    Objections to the institute's abolition were also expressed before the plenum by PASOK rapporteurs, who also asked for a roll-call vote on the specific article.

    Withdrawing the article on Thursday, Mitsotakis promised to bring new legislation as soon as possible, in the framework of an assessment of the labour ministry and "carry out more assessment work on an institute whose role could easily be covered by existing labour ministry services and the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED)."

    [27] Government will not legislate mixing olive oil with other types of oil, Deputy Dev't min says

    The government has no plans to legislate mixing olive oil with other types of oil, Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas on Thursday told the Parliament, responding to current questions from New Democracy deputies Lefteris Avgenakis and Manoussos Voloudakis.

    "I would like to make clear in the most explicit and absolute way that the government does not intend to legislate under no circumstances the mixing of olive oil with other types of oil. We are clear on this and this message should get all parties so that this discussion is terminated," he said.

    Skordas said that under the Law 4177/2013, the illegal mixing and trade of oils of different quality is being prosecuted.

    "This provision is in effect and will remain in effect. Therefore, those who think they can get away with mixing different types of oil, they may as well forget about it," he said.

    Regarding the selling of olive oil in larger than 5-litre packages for foodservice, Skordas said this was a possibility that the ministry was indeed considering and the issue has been raised by food and olive oil industry professionals.

    "We are in final stage and we are moving towards the adoption of this proposal," Skordas said.

    Regarding the use of non refillable olive oil bottles at restaurants, he said this was not illegal and that many restaurants were already using them.

    He also made clear the ministry would not accept the use of powdered milk for making of yoghurt and rice pudding.

    [28] CNG, biofuels, hydrogen and electric energy to be sold in gas stations

    Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Papadopoulos on Thursday signed an agreement regarding the introduction of "green" gas stations, which beside conventional fuel will also be able to offer for sale compressed natural gas (CNG), biofuels, hydrogen and electric energy.

    "The regulation will support the use of cars running on natural gas, a fuel that on the one hand ensures economy for consumers and on the other hand is friendly to the environment," underlined the ministry's announcement regarding the agreement, which sets the terms and conditions of operation for gas stations with related facilities.

    Last December the Parliament voted in favour of a regulation introducing the installation of charging devices for electric car batteries in existing gas station and parking stations.

    To refit car engines to run on duel fuel (gasoline or diesel) or become CNG motors, the only thing that will be required will be the use of approved engine parts.

    Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) currently operates two natural gas stations - one in Liossia, NW of Athens, and another in Anthoussa, NE of Athens, which are used to refuel 600 buses of Road Transport S.A. (OSY), 102 municipal garbage tracks, taxis and a few private vehicles.

    [29] Founder Institute programme to be launched in Athens

    The Founder Institute programme, the largest technology entrepreneur-training programme in world, will be launched this spring in Athens, the Industry Disruptors-Game Changers (ID-GC) announced on Thursday, an initiative aimed at creating an ecosystem that will reinforce and promote innovative entrepreneurship in the greater region of the Mediterranean and the Balkans focusing on startups and extroversion.

    The Founder Institute goal is to build over 20 sustainable technological enterprises a year. Those interested can sign up at http://fi.co/apply/athens until April 25, 2014.

    The Founder Institute helps aspiring business founders across the globe build enduring technology companies.

    [30] Greek, Kosovar business enterprises sign cooperation protocol

    The Federation of S.A. and Ltd. companies (SAE-EPE) and the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce signed a cooperation protocol in Athens, it was announced Thursday.

    SAE-EPE was represented by Haralambos Tsardanidis and the visiting mission from Kosovo by Safet Gerxhaliu, president of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce.

    The two sides agreed to the organising of a Greek business mission to Kosovo in the immediate future. The meeting took place in the framework of an initiative of the British Council Pristina and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

    Tsardanidis said that trade relations between the two countries are improving and there is an increase in exports, despite the unfavourable economic and political difficulties.

    Gerxhaliu expressed the conviction that relations between Greek and Kosovar businessmen will be strengthened, proposing the carrying out of a corresponding business mission from Greece to Kosovo soon.

    [31] Austrian bank to pay damages to client who invested in Greek bonds

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Vienna's Court for Commercial Affairs on Thursday decided that a private Austrian bank is obliged to pay damages of 88,000 euros to former CEO of Austria's largest public power corporation, Hans Haider, who was falsely advised to invest in Greek bonds.

    According to the court's decision, published in newspapers on Thursday, the bank's estimation of the risk at the time the bonds were bought by the investor and his spouse was not correct, as the investment was of greater risk than the bank's client had stipulated. The bank had assessed the bonds as being of "increased risk" rather than "high risk", and Haider habitually invested mostly in low-risk stocks and bonds.

    Haider testified that he was aware at the time of Greece's financial issues but did not believe that an EU member-state would be unable to pay back its debts.

    [32] Consumer group INKA files class action suit against OAEE social insurance fund, EOPYY and hospitals

    The consumer group federation INKA and its constituent member unions on Thursday filed a class action suit against the country's social insurance fund for the self-employed OAEE, its healthcare branch EOPYY and five hospitals. INKA is asking courts to order all those named in the suit to offer healthcare services to those insured by OAEE. It also demands that OAEE permit those insured with it to pay or reach settlements only for the part of their social insurance contributions that concerns health care.

    Another demand in the suit is that OAEE write off and not demand healthcare contributions for the period when these are not provided.

    A date for a hearing on the case has been set for June 18.

    [33] Coco-Mat sells 50 pct equity stake to Libra Group, The Cycladic Group

    Coco-Mat, a Greek white products and furniture manufacturer, on Thursday announced that Libra Group, owned by Logothetis family, and The Cycladic Group, owned by Dimitris Goulandris and his family, purchased 50 pct of the company, with Michalis Efmorfidis - co-founder and chief executive of the company - having the remaining 50 pct.

    Speaking to ANA-MPA, Efmorfidis said that his brother Pavlos Efmorfidis and Nikitas Markopoulos sold their equity stake in the company but remained active members. (The two brothers held 90 pct of the company and Markopoulos the remaining 10 pct.) Efmorfidis said that Coco-Mat had been approached by various businesses in the past few years and noted that the decision to sell its 50 pct was taken with the aim to take advantage of Libra's widespread network around the globe.

    The new business plan in the retail sector envisages the opening of new stores - owned by Coco-Mat - and the launch of new franchise stores. The company will also launch e-shop services, while in the wholesale sector the company will seek growth through strategic agreements with architects and interior decorators, international hotel groups, airlines and sea cruise companies.

    Efmorfidis said the company managed to maintain its turnover in the last three years, raised its job positions by 60 and has no debt. He noted that its production unit and base will remain in Xanthi, northern Greece, and stressed that there were thoughts of relocating its production base outside the country.

    Emmanouel Androulakis, executive vice-president of Libra Group, told ANA-MPA that the group has confidence in Coco-Mat and hoped for a successful and long-term partnership. He said the deal was the group's first investment in the production and retail commerce sectors in Greece.

    The Cycladic Group, based in London, sets up and invests on enterprises. It was founded in 2002 by Dimitris Goulandris and has invested in more than 30 enterprises. It has set up five new enterprises in the US, Europe, India, Africa and Latin America.

    Coco-Mat was founded in 1989 and operates a retail network of 70 units, including 29 abroad. It has established activities in 12 countries and seeks to further enhance its global presence in the next five years.

    [34] Detrop Boutique Show to be held at Helexpo on March 14-16

    TIF Helexpo organises the International Exhibition of Food and Beverages "Detrop Boutique Show Athens" on March 14-16 at Helexpo Maroussi in Athens.

    The Detrop Boutique Show aims to offer visitors an exclusive tour to 200 Greek enterpises with the most characteristic Greek products and authentic labels, which will become "ambassadors" of the country to dozens of foreign buyers from Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary, France, Russia, Cyprus and FYROM.

    The Detrop Boutique Show Athens will also present a novelty. It is the application "Greek Nutrition Heritage", which will be available in the App Store and Google Play and implemented in collaboration with Google Developers Group Thessaloniki, for the promotion of exhibitors and their products.

    [35] Greek authorities approve Lamda Development's offer for Hellinikon site

    Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) on Thursday said it had approved Lamda Development's technical offer for the development of Hellinikon, the old Athens international airport area.

    In a statement, the Fund said that Lamda Development's offer was in line with the demands of the tender and compatible with a relative legal exploitation framework.

    The Fund, in a next board meeting, will open up Lamda Development's financial offer and said it retained the right to ask for an improved financial offer. The Fund's financial advisers (Citigroup, Piraeus Bank), in cooperation with Happold Consulting, will evaluate the financial offer based on internationally accepted procedures and evaluation models (fairness opinion). The process of evaluating the financial offer is expected to be completed in March.

    [36] GSEE labour confederation and employer unions to hold first meeting on Friday

    The first meeting between the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and employer unions on the signing of the new national general collective labour agreement has been set for 11:00 a.m. on Friday.

    GSEE is calling for the reinstatement of the minimum salary to pre-memorandum levels, as well as the reinstatement of benefits and collective labour agreements.

    The Confederation is claiming, among other things, a minimum wage limit for a skilled labourer, without previous service, of 33.57 euros and a minimum salary limit for an employee, without previous service, of 751.29 euros.

    [37] Greek stocks end moderately lower

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 1,350-point level. The index fell 0.99 pct to end at 1,346.35 points, after falling as much as 1.36 pct during the session. Turnover remained a strong 113.61 million euros.

    The Large Cap index fell 0.82 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.53 pct lower. Piraeus Bank (6.01 pct), Eurobank Properties (4.55 pct), Alpha Bank (2.68 pct) and Motor Oil (0.10 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Jumbo (4.10 pct), PPC (3.60 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (2.78 pct) and Mytilineos (2.76 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Real Estate (4.31 pct), Media (3.32 pct) and Banks (2.04 pct) sectors scored the biggest gains, while Personal Products (3.36 pct), Utilities (2.80 pct) and Raw Materials (2.57 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 92 to 55 with another 20 issues unchanged. Fieratex (28.33 pct), Douros (17.42 pct) and Naftemporiki (16.82 pct) were top gainers, while Varvaresos (20 pct), Boutaris (16.67 pct) and AXON Holdings (16.25 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: +2.04%

    Insurance: -0.66%

    Financial Services: -0.12%

    Industrial Products: -0.84%

    Commercial: -1.10%

    Real Estate: +4.31%

    Personal & Household: -3.36%

    Food & Beverages: -1.01%

    Raw Materials: -2.57%

    Construction: -1.40%

    Oil: -0.34%

    Chemicals: -1.30%

    Media: +3.32%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.17%

    Technology: +1.05%

    Telecoms: -2.35%

    Utilities: -2.80%

    Health: -1.13%

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

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.72

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.77

    Coca Cola HBC: 17.68

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.70

    National Bank of Greece: 3.77

    Eurobank Properties : 8.73

    OPAP: 12.20

    OTE: 12.87

    Piraeus Bank: 1.94

    Titan: 23.00

    [38] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 5.66 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 5.52 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.22 pct and the German Bund 1.56 pct.

    Market sentiment was undermined by a Bloomberg report citing comments made by Talib Sheikh, an executive in JP Morgan, that the US investment bank intended to limit its exposure in regional markets as it sought to liquidate profits from a recent rally in European regional bonds. Turnover was a thin 5.0 million euros, all sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.573 pct from 0.574 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.49 pct, the six-month rate was 0.405 pct, the three-month rate was 0.304 pct and the one-month rate eased to 0.23 pct from 0.233 pct.

    [39] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.07 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 28.856 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,439 contracts worth 13.977 million euros, with 53,738 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 30,728 contracts worth 14.879 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK Terna's contracts (6,241), followed by Alpha Bank (5,220), National Bank (2,640), Piraeus Bank (3,860), MIG (2,328), OTE (980), PPC (3,456), OPAP (615), Hellenic Exchanges (701), Mytilineos (1,208), Hellenic Petroleum (751), Intralot (1,111) and Frigoglass (225).

    [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Friday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.415

    Pound sterling 0.847

    Danish kroner 7.575

    Swedish kroner 8.982

    Japanese yen 145.45

    Swiss franc 1.234

    Norwegian kroner 8.381

    Canadian dollar 1.565

    Australian dollar 1.560

    General News

    [41] Culture Minister warns Turkey against turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque

    "Any attempt to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque will constitute a dangerous misstep on behalf of the Turkish government and will expose Turkey internationally," Culture & Sports Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos said on Thursday, commenting on relevant information concerning Istanbul's Ayasofya Museum, formerly the Greek Orthodox Patriarchal basilica.

    Speaking on Mega private television station, he expressed the hope that the information is untrue, noting that such a move would be unacceptable.

    "The world heritage monuments have a cultural and historical identity. Since 1935, when Kemal Ataturk signed a decree turning Hagia Sophia into a museum no one dared to consider changing its use," he said, adding that "Hagia Sophia could become again a place of religious worship only as a Christian church. This was the reason it was built. This is the monument's identity."

    He also underlined that the ministry of culture gives a lot of money to preserve, restore and highlight historical Muslim monuments across Greece, noting that "we believe that Turkey will not consider introducing such issues in its domestic political problems".

    Panagiotopoulos noted that the neighbouring country's government should display prudence and handle such issues with a measure of seriousness, adding that the international community and the international law have a specific position on relevant issues that cannot be violated by anyone.

    Referring to the opening hours of the 33 most visited Greek museums and archaeological sites, he said that as of April 1 they will be open from 08:00 to 20:00.

    He also referred to the exhibition on the Greco-Roman Civilization at the Presidential Building in Rome, noting that it was the foundation of the European culture.

    [42] Thessaloniki Hyatt, Regency casino employees protest

    Employees of Thessaloniki's Hyatt hotel and of Regency casino held a protest with banners outside the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, where an event is taking place that Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos was to attend.

    The employees expressed their concern over the course of the enterprise and the 1100 jobs, due to "uneven" competition that they are facing from the operation of the casinos in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRoM) and Bulgaria, due to lower taxation and wages, stressing that in 2013 alone they were visited by one million Greeks.

    On the other hand, they said, their employers, who are taxed 34 percent on gross revenues, contributed to the state over 57 million euros in 2013 - meaning almost 65 percent of the turnover - while revenues have been reduced by up to 60 percent due to the crisis.

    They further said that in Thessaloniki alone "120 shops are operating with 3,150 illegal slot machines and that the situation will worsen for the casino, as plans are ahead for issuing 35,000 licences for electronic gaming machines (video lottery terminals, VLTs) for the state betting organisation, OPAP.

    The employees are calling among other things for a stop in the implementation of "an increase in the maximum number of VLTs per shop from 25 to 50", the fighting of illegal gambling and for a decrease in Thessaloniki casino employee-related taxes.

    [43] Greek killed in New York explosion expected to be buried in Greece

    A Greek national whose body was found after a blast in East Harlem levelled two buildings is expected to be buried in Greece, Greek general consul to New York George Iliopoulos said late on Thursday.

    His death was confirmed by his wife, Venezuelan journalist Liseth Perez Almeida.

    The 42-year-old musician, a New York resident for over 20 years, lived on the second floor in one of the two buildings that collapsed after Wednesday's explosion in East Harlem in Manhattan, with a gas leak being the most likely cause.

    At the time of the explosion, his wife, who works at the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario in New York, was not in their apartment; they had spoken by phone 40 minutes before the explosion.

    Andreas and Liseth, who had met in New York, planned to travel to Greece this summer.

    [44] Greeks invited to name new public TV, radio stations and web page

    The new public television (NERIT) on Thursday invited the Greek public to submit online suggestions on names for its the radio, television and internet stations.

    Proposed names are needed for three TV channels (news; culture/entertainment; satellite), six radio stations (news/sports; Greek music; classical music/culture; world music; overseas Greeks; foreign nationals living in or visiting Greece) and its web page.

    Interested parties may submit their suggestions online at www.nerit.gr/proskliseis/p04/.

    [45] Medical staff at the Children's Hospital in Penteli warn with strike action

    Medical services at the Children's Hospital in Penteli, north of Athens, will be suspended as of Monday, March 17 at noon if the medical staff does not receive outstanding pay for overtime work performed while the hospital was on duty in the past 22 months, the Athens Medical Doctors' Association (ISA) announced on Thursday.

    The doctors also call for guarantees that the necessary funds will be found to meet the hospital's needs.

    [46] Businessman arrested for selling overpriced supplies to state hospitals

    Financial police arrested a businessman for selling overpriced medical equipment to state hospitals, costing the state over 20 million euros, according to information Thursday.

    The man, 51 years old, supplied state hospitals with medical tools through his own company. He bought them from another company, also belonging to him and headquartered in Cyprus, before reselling them to almost all of the country's state hospitals.

    An investigation is taking place to ascertain the extent of losses caused with a detailed briefing by the Greek Police Headquarters following when the investigation concludes.

    [47] Two of the 29 suspects in the Halkidiki goldmine case will not give DNA samples

    Two of the 29 people invited to provide DNA samples on suspicion of being involved in an arson at the Hellas Gold worksite in Skouries, Halkidiki, in February 2013, announced their decision to respond negatively, in a press conference on Thursday.

    The 29 were arrested over clashes with the police at the Lakkos Karatza location between May and August 2013. Both incidents - clashes at Lakkos Karatza and arson at the worksite - relate to protests against the gold mine's operation in the Skouries area of northern Greece.

    Christos Milidis and Panagiotis Bochiotis told reporters during the press conference that DNA samples were already provided by 6 of the 29, while more than half of the rest will give DNA samples without their consent, as they will underline in a relevant document they intend to sign.

    Bochiotis spoke about "an insult to his dignity" and "fabricated absurd prosecutions without serious incriminating evidence against the alleged suspects".

    Weather forecast

    [48] Overcast on Thursday

    Fair weather and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale.

    Sunny in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 2C-18C. Same weather in the central parts and in the south, 2C-19C. Fair over the islands, 8C-16C. Sunny in Athens, 5C-17C; the same for Thessaloniki, 3C-16C.

    [49] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies

    AVGHI: Montage machine for the recession.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: 3,500 enterprises to return 1 billion euros to the State.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: The noose tightens around former Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Ways to avoid paying taxes for the 'objective costs'.

    ESTIA: (SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras) Europe's 'reformer'!

    ETHNOS: Higher pension in four moves.

    IMERISSIA: Five suitors for three insurance companies.

    KATHIMERINI: Rage explosion in Turkey.

    LOGOS: Battle for the primary surplus.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Sudden institutional riddle on banks' heads.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Radical opposition to layoffs in public sector.

    TA NEA: Tax control every three months.

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