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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-03-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 17 March 2014 Issue No: 4611
 'There is convergence but no section has been closed', top ministry officials say on troika talksAny specific pending issues in the ministries will be discussed as part of the wider negotiation with the troika, according to top officials from Finance, Administrative Reform and Develop-ment Ministries.
"There is convergence, but no section has been closed," the officials said adding that "Today we will work for several hours and we may continue tomorrow."
The heads of the troika (photo - R) earlier on Sunday sent the Greek side an updated version of their positions, which is being discussed at a meeting at the Finance Ministry with the troika repre-sentatives and with Labour, Development and Administrative Reform Ministers partici-pating periodically in the talks.
According to the negotiations so far:
Regarding the Administrative Reform Ministry, the issue of public sector layoffs in 2015 is still pending. There are no across-the-board wage cuts, but additional salaries need to be rationalized.
Regarding the Development Ministry, the pending issues are the milk, the non-prescription drugs, pharmacies and interventions in transport. An agreement on commercial leases was reached on Sunday, as troika accepted the framework that the Greek side recently voted for.
Regarding the Finance Ministry, the issues on the table are among others the distribution of the social dividend, the repayment schedule of public entities' debts to Public Power Corp, the parafiscal charges and the economy's adjustment after the bail-out deal has expired.
 Government's negotiations with troika at the final stretchGovernment's negotiations with the troika of Greece's lenders entered into the final stretch on Sunday morning. A Finance Ministry top official sent a message of cautious optimism for an agreement by Sunday night after the end of Saturday's 11-hour negotiations.
The same source said that "the negotiations went well, we are close and I can't say we are dissatisfied, but I can't say for certain that we will reach an agreement by Sunday" He also clarified that are still open issues (labour relations, energy package, OECD toolbox) that may block the agreement or it may close with asterisks.
The heads of the troika will probably depart on Monday from Athens and will return in a few days or the negotiations may continue via e-mails.
"The agreement in technical level will exist, if not on Sunday, in a few days. That is something we will know on Sunday night" said the same official.
On Monday, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will go to the European Parliament where there might be an agreement on the banking union.
According to the same source the banks recapitalisation draft law will be tabled in parliament within the next days with troika's assent.
On Saturday, European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia sent to Stournaras a letter in which he asks the State Aid rules to be followed in the banks' recapitalisation. The European Commission requests the highest possible participation of privates in the banks' share capital increase but "the government will set the just price" said Finance Ministry's top official
Finally, asked on the time he specifies that Greece will enter into the new stage after the agreement with the troika, he replied that it will start with Eurostat's certification (in April) on the primary surplus and by the Eurogroup in May the debate on the public debt will possibly open.
 Government's negotiations with troika continue; hopes for agreement by MondayThe banks' draft law will be tabled immediately in parliament and after nine days Eurobank's board will be able to convene for the capital increase and the privatisation, said early Saturday a Finance Ministry top official after the conclusion of the six-hour negotiation with the heads of the troika.
The same source also said that "we want a Eurobank's percentage to remain to the State but the largest part will pass to the private sector".
The head of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund Anastasia Sakellariou was also present in the meeting during which was also discussed the fiscal part. "A huge progress has been made and on Saturday evening we will be able to know if we will reach an agreement on Sunday or on Monday the latest" said the same source.
However, a large number of 'fronts' remain open and ministers will have successive meetings with the heads of the troika on Saturday.
Administration Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a meeting with the heads of the troika at 11.00 followed by Labour Minister at 11.30.
Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis' meeting with the troika is scheduled for 14.00 and at 15.00 the representatives of Greece's lenders will meet with Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis.
The time of Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou's meeting with the troika has not been announced yet.
Greece has been urged by the Eurogroup to reach agreement with the troika by Sunday, leading to the process of getting the approval for the release of the next loan tranche.
 Mitsotakis joins meeting between government's ministers and the troikaAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Sunday joined the meeting between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis and the troika representatives.
A top Administrative Reform Ministry official, when asked whether troika has insisted on public sector layoffs in 2015, said that "they insist on the same things, but so do we."
 No agreement in Administration Reform Minister's meeting with the troikaAdministration Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Deputy Minister Evi Christofilopoulou's meeting with the head of the troika on Saturday at the Finance Ministry was completed without an agreement.
The troika wants from the Greek government to specify the number of layoffs in the public sector in 2015, something that the government rules out.
An Administration Reform Ministry top official said that "we presented all the figures focusing on the law for the inter-municipal mobility with which the number of 25,000 civil servants that will be set in reserve labour until the end of March closes. We are at a point where we ask for quality changes and not for quantitative targets any more".
Another top official said regarding troika's demands for more layoffs in 2015 that the issue will be referred to a higher level ?Our ministry has agreed at 80 percent with the troika" he added.
Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis' meeting with the troika is currently underway. The negotiation focuses on the mass layoffs in the private sector and a 3.9 reduction of the contributions to social security funds. The heads of the troika also demand the abolition of the three years increase in salaries and the employers' right for lock out as well as on the right to strike only if the absolute majority of the workers agree.
 FM Venizelos meets with Iranian PresidentGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos had a series of meetings in Tehran on Sunday, the last day of his official visit to Iran.
Venizelos was received by the President of the Islamic Democracy of Iran Hassan Rouhani with who he discussed bilateral, political,economic and trade issue within the context of the international law and the relevant UN resolution as EU decisions as well as issues regarding Iran-EU's relations.
President Rouhani had the opportunity to reiterate the stable political volition for a complete and final agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme and underlined Greece's role and the importance of the Greek-Iranian bilateral relations in the political and economic sector.
Moreover, Venizelos met with former President of Iran and Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani with whom he discussed bilateral issues while the two officials referred to the close cultural and historic ties between the two countries.
Finally, Venizelos had a meeting with the general secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Shamkahani
 FM Venizelos in Iran; meeting with his Iranian counterpartGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos who is paying an official visit to Iran met on Saturday with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The two officials in their meeting covered all the bilateral and international issues and afterwards they gave a joint press conference. Later, the delegations of the two countries had lunch during which the continued their discussions.
The meeting focused on the political relations of the two countries as well as their trade and economic cooperation within the context of the international law and within the UN resolutions and EU decisions.
Venizelos and Zarif examined the possibilities of a cooperation particularly in energy, transport, shipping, agricultural products and food industry as well as in the pharmaceutical sector.
Due to EU's important role and in continuation of the discussions towards a final and complete agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, Venizelos in his capacity as president of the EU Ministers Council, discussed with Zarif the relations between Iran and Eu. In this context, Venizelos expressed his satisfaction on the interim agreement and called one of the international politics top priority the final and total agreement via the EE 3+3 procedure.
The Greek minister briefed his counterpart on the course of Greek issues, particularly on the Cyprus issue and the Greek - Turkish relations.
On international politics, the two ministers had the opportunity to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, the condition in Syria, in Egypt, in the Middle East and Northern Africa as well as in Afghanistan.
Finally, they also touched issues referring to the Exclusive Economic Zones, the human trafficking and the international drug dealing.
 Venizelos' statements after his meeting with Iranian FMGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos referred to the strong cultural an historical ties between Greece and Iran speaking to a press conference after his meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran.
Venizelos who is paying an official visit to Iran stressed "we have many potentials to boost the already existing bilateral relations with Iran" and reminded that "this official visit to Tehran is an opportunity to underline, on behalf of the Greek government and Greece EU presidency, our close historical ties. We both represent two historic civilisations and this common historic past is an excellent and common base not only for the past but also for the present and for the future".
Referring to the major international issue of the nuclear programme, Venizelos noted that "for us the interim agreement is very important" adding that "now our commitment, our vision and our determination is to complete the negotiations in order to reach a total agreement towards the final solution of the problem and the lifting of the sanctions" adding that "during this transition period we will have the opportunity to prepare some common initiatives in different sectors in which we will cooperate".
On Greece's duty as presiding country of the EU, Venizelos said that it is to facilitate the smooth implementation of the existing temporary agreement on Iran's nuclear programme.
Regarding Greece and Iran's bilateral relations, the Greek top official said that "we aim to boost our economic cooperation in several issues" adding that this meeting is the political prerequisite for some new initiatives in business-to-business- B2B level within the international law and the UN resolutions.
On regional developments, Venizelos said that he briefed his Iranian counterpart on the Greek position on several international issues. He briefed him on the developments in Cyprus and they exchanged views on the Ukranian crisis and the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Venizelos expressed his support for a political and diplomatic solution in Syria within Geneva I and II decisions. "This is very important not only for political and diplomatic reasons but beyond all for humanitarian reasons because the crisis in Syria remains and open international problem. It is an international duty to confront this unacceptable humanitarian crisis in Syria" concluded Venizelos.
 Dep. FM Kourkoulas: The crisis could have been avoided if eurozone's architecture was different"In order to win the heart and the mind of the European citizens we should not forget that beyond everything people want security and safety for the themselves and for their families" said Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Saturday in his address to the German think tank Koerber-Stiftung event "The impact of the crisis in EU: hit and wounded?" held at the national library in Athens.
"We are changing and reforming EU and the eurozone we want to keep the good of the past and to preserve them for the next generations. When the European citizens understand this message then we can count on their support for further changes" said Kourkoulas.
German Foreign Minister responsible for European Affairs Michael Roth participated in the event which was also attended by the Eurodeputies Elmar Brok and Danuta Hubner, former Foreign Minister of Austria Ursula Plassnik and Greek former Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
Referring to the crisis, Kourkoulas noted that it could have been avoided "if the architecture of the eurozone was different from the beginning...because now this architecture partly contributed to the competitiveness gap that led the deficits of the European South to become surpluses for the North".
The Greek official said that three subject fields must be examined: the divergence among the members of the eurozone, the confrontation of the doomsayers euroscepticists and the building of a credible arc of stability.
Concluding, Kourkoulas said that the countries of the south showed a remarkable commitment to remain members of the eurozone and praised their determination to reconstruct their economies "They showed a remarkable volition to undertake short term sacrifices for long term benefits" he noted adding that "in the course of changes that we are called to implement we must maintain the positive elements of the past and we must reject the negative ones".
 ND Political Committee's secretary: Samaras will get the country out of the memorandumNew Democracy (ND) Political Committee's secretary Andreas Papamimikos referring to main opposition SYRIZA said that "it is not time for pseudodilemmas" in an interview with the Sunday edition of Eleftheros Typos newspaper.
Papamimikos also said that "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, today's government, the MPs and the people that support them will get the country out of the Memorandum".
 Tsipras: SYRIZA will claim compensation from the troikaSYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras on Sunday claimed the government had a 'surplus of audacity' and said the exit to the markets was a mockery.
"It will be a set-up theatrical exit with an already agreed deal with a specific agency, which will gain high profits," Tsipras said in an interview to weekly Realnews.
According to Tsipras, a plan approved by Berlin has been drawn up so that before the Euroelections and after Eurostat's announcement of a small surplus "they can give crumbs to their traditional voters...and in early May to proceed with a set-up exit to the markets. A small amount with about 5 percent interest".
He also said that he expected interventions by the country's lenders in the pre-election period against SYRIZA, noting that ?their interventions in May and June 2012 are a black page in the history of Europe".
On the debt, the main opposition leader said that SYRIZA's position is "a haircut on the largest part of the debt, suspension of interest payments and amortisations and growth clause".
He also said that "layoffs in violation of the Greek Constitution are not valid for SYRIZA" adding that as a government SYRIZA will seek compensation from the troika for its choices and the repercussions they had on the Greek economy".
On ultra-right Golden Dawn party (Chryssi Avghi) he said that it should be sent before the law and not out of the law.
 SYRIZA leads over ND in euroelections, says opinion pollMain opposition SYRIZA leads over New Democracy (ND) in European elections, according to an opinion poll conducted by ALCO for Sunday newspaper Proto Thema.
According to the poll results , SYRIZA leads among those questioned with 19.1 percent, followed by ND with 18 percent, the newly founded party To Potami 8.8 percent, Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 6.9 percent, PASOK with 5.15, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 5 percent, Independent Greeks with 4.5 percent, Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 2.2 percent and ANTARSYA with 1.4 percent.
In response to who would be most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (who is also ND party leader) was chosen by 35 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 28 percent, while 32 percent said "none of above".
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted on 6, 7 and 10 February.
 SYRIZA marginally leads over ND, says opinion pollMain opposition SYRIZA leads over New Democracy (ND) in both national, according to an opinion poll conducted by Public Issue.
According to the poll results for national elections, SYRIZA leads among those questioned with 28.5 percent, followed by ND with 28 percent, ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 10 percent, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 7.5 percent, to POTAMI with 7 percent, PASOK with 5.5 percent, Independent Greeks with 5 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 3.5 percent while 5 percent expressed preference to other parties.
 KKE secretary general Koutsoumbas speaks at pre-election rallyIn May's Europarliament and municipal elections, the people will have to choose between submitting to the chains of the EU and the monopolies or opening the way to exit the EU's and the anti-popular governments' barbaric policy, communist KKE party secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas said on Sunday in a rally in Athens.
Koutsoumbas said that people are now experienced enough to be able to see who benefited from Greece's membership in the EU, adding that amid the crisis the EU shows its aggressive and repulsive face.
He termed the government's pledges for an exit from the bail-out deal "fake" and added that SYRIZA's dilemma regarding the the stake of the Euroelections "Memoranda or a Europe of the people" was misleading.
According to Koutsoumbas, the EU shows its most repulsive face in the case of Ukraine. He said the stance of the United States, of the EU and the NATO regarding the developments in Ukraine and the referendum in Crimea is a hypocritical one and recalled their role in Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
"The integration of Crimea into Russia... will not solve any of the real problems of the people of Crimea, nor will it mean that the situation will normalize or a solution of peace and cooperation for the people of the region for prosperity and progress will be found," he said.
Koutsoumbas pointed out there was a real risk that "the floodgates" in other areas, especially in the Balkans, would open and lead to the integration of other areas, such as of Kosovo into the so-called "Greater Albania."
"The vote to the Communist Party is the only one that does not alter, the only one...that supports the people's struggle, the movement, that is not given as dowry in alliances and bargaining for the setting up of governments," Koutsoumbas said.
 Defence Minister: End to submarines issueDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced on Saturday that the four submarines of the Greek Navy "Pipinos, Matrozos, Katsonis and Oceanos" constructed at Skaramangas Shipyards are transferred to the Greek Navy. "A long lasting adventure comes to an end and the Greek State's money that is in our Ministry's budget for the completion of the works in the submarines is now totally secured" said Avramopoulos.
The minister also clarified that "after an agreement with Skaramangas Shipyards workers union, the Greek Navy undertakes, with the contractors and the workers, the completion of the remaining work in order the submarines to be included in our fleet"
Avramopoulos also said that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been informed on this development adding that next week the parliament's council for Defence will be briefed.
"The issue now will be handled by the Development Ministry that will continue the efforts to totally solve Skaramangas Shipyards problem" concluded Avramopoulos.
 Main opposition SYRIZA raises questions over submarines issueMain opposition SYRIZA party on Sunday raised questions over the submarines issue claiming the announcement by Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos was vague and unclear.
Avramopoulos on Saturday announced that the four submarines of the Greek Navy "Pipinos, Matrozos, Katsonis and Oceanos" constructed at Skaramangas Shipyards are transferred to the Greek Navy.
According to SYRIZA, the announcement could be considered a positive development, provided it ensured the completion of the works without any additional costs, the delivery of the submarines in a specific period of time as well as the sustainable operation and the total reconstruction of the Shipyards.
The Defence Ministry issued a statement, pointing out that the funds paid for the acquisition of the submarines have been secured. It also said that apart from the amount already allocated in the ministry's bugdet for the completion of the submarines, the state would not be burdened with any additional costs.
SYRIZA responded with a new announcement and expressed more concerns over the issue. The main opposition party pointed out "in any case we expect to be given the text of the 'agreement' and have clear, specific, documented and thorough answers on Thursday, during the scheduled meeting of the Defence and Armaments Committees."
 Supreme Court's Penal Department expected to issue ruling on Vatopedi land swaps caseThe Supreme Court's Penal Department discussed behind closed doors a motion to annul the ruling indicting 14 individuals to stand trial on misdemeanors and felonies charges in the case of Vatopedi Monastery land swaps.
The persons indicted to stand trial include abbot Ephraim, monk Arsenios, notary Aikaterini Peleki (the wife of a former New Democracy minister) and two relatives of hers, lawyers Dionysis and Dimitris Pelekis.
The motion had been filed by the Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Georgios Borodimos, who claimed there were contradictions and omissions in the ruling of the Appeals Court.
According to Borodimos, the indicting of the accused and their criminal responsibilities had not been properly substantiated. As the Deputy Prosecutor mentioned, the controversial ruling lacked specific and detailed reasoning and the legal framework applicable in such cases has not been properly implemented.
The court is expected to issue a ruling on the case.
 Golden Dawn MP becomes independentGolden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) MP Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos on Saturday announced that he leaves the party and becomes independent in a letter to parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis.
In his letter he denies all charges and his involvement in a criminal organisation.
 Stop looking at the past, Piraeus Bank chairman urgesReforms aimed at creating institutional conditions that are conducive to entrepreneurship and improve the competitiveness of the economy should continue, Piraeus Bank chairman Michalis Sallas told Sunday's To Vima in an interview.
"We must learn to produce for the international market regardless of where our produce is intended to," he said.
According to the paper, the Chairman of Piraeus Bank, which plans a large capital increase and a bond loan issue, has noted that the sentiment in international markets has improved as the political risk has subsided. He also considered that the restoration of international investors' confidence in the Greek economy is crucial to recovery.
Asked whether the political risk has eliminated, he said: "I am under the impression that no such danger exists". However, he emphasized that "there is no longer a political way to disengage from the memorandum without serious consequences. The only way is an economical one and it requires that we continue producing surpluses and we create conditions for a high-rate sustainable growth. We must stop looking at the past."
On the euro, he said: "Of course we can make it with the euro. A strong currency is not an obstacle; it is a privilege that offers safety."
 Police arrests six, seizes 204 kilos of hashish in ThesprotiaPolice arrested six persons and confiscated 204 kilos of hashish during an operation in Thesprotia, western Greece and the Greek-Albanian borders.
Authorities arrested 2 Greeks, aged 35 and 45, near the village of Rayo and seized 40 kilos of hashish found in their car. Four Albania drug traffickers, carring 164 kilos of hashish, were also arrested in the area of Filiates on the Greek-Albanian border.
 Super League resultsOlympiakos beat Panthrakikos by 2-0 in a match played over the weekend for the 29th round of the Greek soccer Super League.
In other action:
OFI-Apollon Smyrnis 2-0
PAS Yiannena-Panathinaikos 0-1
Asteras Tripoli-Ergotelis 2-3
Panetolikos-Xanthi 17/03 (19:30)
Standings after 29 weeks of play:
1. Olympiakos 77 - CHAMPION
2. Atromitos 59
3. PAOK 59
4. Panathinaikos Athens 56
5. Asteras Tripoli 51
6. OFI Crete 38
7. Panthrakikos 37
8. PAS Yiannena 36
9. Ergotelis 35
10. Panetolikos 34 - 28 weeks
11. Panionios 34
12. Kalloni Mytilini 33
13. Levadiakos 33
14. Xanthi 32 - 28 weeks
15. Apollon Smyrnis 29
16. Veria 28
17. Platanias Chania 28
18. Aris Thessaloniki 20
 Fair on MondayFair weather and northwesterly winds are forecast for Monday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 6C-20C. Sunny in the central parts and in the south, 6C-21C. Cloudy with possibility of rain over the islands, 10C-18C.Fair in Athens, 9c-20C; the same for Thessaloniki, 6C-19C.
 The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Government collapses and sinks the country into social devastation.
EPOCHI: They were caught by troika's radar.
ETHNOS: Ballots-dizziness for the political system.
KATHIMERINI: Battle for half billion euros dividend.
KYRIAKATIKI ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Transfers within 15 days.
KYRIAKATIKOS RIZOSPASTIS: Reorganisation of the grassroots movement and clash with EU and monopolies.
LOGOS: Common front against the troika.
REAL NEWS: Government prepares rigged exit to the markets!
TO PARON: Government offers Piraeus Port Organisation (OLP) to the Chinese.
TO VIMA: Between troika, parliament and ballot
VRADYNI: Pension before 2015 to save incomes and supplementary pension.
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