|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-03-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Europe must invest in its human capital, PM Samaras says after EU Social SummitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)
Greece has taken great steps toward reforming its economy in the last 20 months, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (above) said here on Thursday, during a press conference after the Euro-pean Union's Tripartite Social Summit. He also stressed the need to tackle runaway unemployment, which was especially acute in Greece but a problem throughout the EU, saying that Europe must invest in its human "capital" since this was the factor giving the Union its competitive edge.
"I think that the most important economic resource that Europe has is its human capital. This is our greatest competitive advantage. We have to invest in it, not let it depreciate through a chronic unemployment problem, he underlined.
Samaras was speaking during a joint press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and representatives of the social partners that attended the summit. In their comments, Barroso and Rompuy praised the Greek EU presidency's success and its results with respect to the banking union.
The premier expressed his belief that the worst of the crisis was over, even though this was not yet visible in the labour market and in social cohesion indicators, adding that Europe must now address and reverse a distrust toward the European construction among European citizens. Describing the deliberations during Thursday's summit as "fruitful", Samaras said that all sides were now "looking ahead to more and better Europe" and emphasised that the only way advance such an ambitious goal was through sustainable growth, "leaving no one behind, creating opportunities for everyone".
"In the short run, this means supporting recovery and fighting unemployment, especially youth unemployment, which is currently at record highs all across Europe," he added, noting that this was even more acute in Greece. "We cannot move ahead while our youth is excluded or left on the side lines. We have to reverse this trend immediately and we can only do this when we are together," he emphasised.
In this context, Samaras hailed the decisions made on advancing the banking union, especially the Singe Resolution Mechanism (SRM) that he described as a "milestone" that "serves as one of the key building blocks" of the common currency.
The Greek premier emphasised the need to boost access to liquidity for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), saying this was a "primary, immediate priority", especially in efforts to fight joblessness. "I believe the SMES are providing the largest part of the solution to our problem, which is employment and growth, and we cannot achieve any of our targets without providing our SMEs all over Europe with easier access to bank credit and without our banks being able to provide such a credit," he said.
Referring to Greece's experiences and the crisis, Samaras emphasised the need to demonstrate that "Europe works" and also that "Europe cares", stressing the need for strong European solidarity.
"The overall message, I think, and that of the Greek EU Presidency also, is to deepen the social dimension of the European family, together with the 2020 European strategy.
Commenting on the conclusion of negotiations with the troika representing Greece's lenders, the Greek premier stressed that the final result "underlines the great improvement that Greece has gone through in the last 20 months, in terms of achieving its basic fiscal targets and in terms of implementing sweeping reforms, which enhance competitiveness in our economy."
After seven months of continuous and often difficult negotiations, the country was now running primary surpluses after many decades, was ahead of programme targets and had "accomplished, I think, the largest fiscal correction ever in the shortest possible time," Samaras pointed out. The country was now stabilising, he added, and the primary goal was now to address the social cohesion problem of the country, correcting past mistakes and grievances by returning a part of the primary surplus achieved, 525 million euros, to those worst hit by the crisis and the most poor.
 PM Samaras stands by the European welfare state, in address to European CouncilBRUSSELS (ANA-MPE /M. Aroni)
Speaking at the European Council on Thursday, Greek Premier Antonis Samaras stressed that it is vital to safeguard the European welfare state, in parallel with efforts for the reinforcement of competitiveness of the European industrial sector.
Samaras emphasized that there's a price to research and professional excellence, adding that human resources of a higher standard require high-quality education, a public health (system), social security and environmental protection. According to the premier, in many critical sectors reciprocity of the cost is only attainable at European level.
While admitting it is necessary to maintain a lower cost per work unit, he also noted that concurrently increasing tax rates and "out-of-control" energy costs would eliminate any benefits, opting instead for an improved result via the combination of small improvements.
After all, dealing with high-energy costs and the lack of a uniform energy markets are two of the basic industrial competitiveness targets of the Greek EU Presidency, which also aims to reduce the high cost of bureacracy, simplify the tax system, improve access to financing and ameliorate liquidity issues of SMEs.
Industrial policy on a European level will be the main theme of the informal Competitiveness Council to be held in Athens in May.
 PM Samaras meets with ECB President and former Luxembourg PM in BrusselsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday met successively with the President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Mario Draghi and former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, and discussed issues in connection with the Greek economy's progress.
Draghi congratulated Samaras not only for completion of the evaluation by the troika of Greece's creditors and the performance of the economy, but also for Greek EU presidency's effectiveness, highlighted by the European bank union agreement.
Beside the Greek economy, Juncker and Samaras also discussed issues related to the European Parliament elections, in which Juncker is running as European People's Party (EPP) candidate for the European Commission presidency.
 SEV president at EU Social Summit: 'We must include people in the economic equations'Speaking at the European Union's Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels on Thursday, Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos stressed that the "people factor" had to be incorporated into economic policy.
"We must stop planning and implementing economic prescriptions as if in a laboratory and include the factor people in the economic equations," he underlined.
Daskalopoulos said that there was still a long way to go before a sustainable exit from the political and economic crisis, while he warned of the risk of a "systemic vacuum, which may take on explosive dimensions unless it is reversed," since people had turned their back on the political establishment.
"Greece was an extreme symptom of the European crisis. We became the guinea-pig for a rescue recipe from Brussels that had many flaws and gaps, which was implemented reluctantly and selectively by a political system that was not ready," he added.
Noting the need for real and radical changes, he also emphasised that these must be embraced by society as something that was in its own interests, not imposed from outside. On this count, all the agencies responsible had failed, he added.
According to SEV's president, the crisis had highlighted the increasing alienation between the political and economic elite, on the one hand, and the peoples of Europe, on the other hand. "With austerity as the dominant 'answer' and competitiveness as the exclusive goal, Europe cannot get very far," he said.
 EU stands united before the Ukrainian crisis, Prime Minister Samaras saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M.Aroni)
The EU stands united before the Ukrainian crisis, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras underlined here on Thursday, upon his arrival to attend the European Council meeting.
"Europe is called to give a response to the Ukrainian crisis. We sail on troubled seas but we stand united," he said, adding that "we are moving toward more and better Europe".
He added that the European Council will discuss other thorny issues as well, like European industry competitiveness and EU energy security.
 Stournaras: Agreement on banks' Single Resolution Mechanism achievedBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The Greek EU presidency achieved an agreement in principle with the representatives of the European Parliament on the banks' Single Resolution Mechanism, according to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
Stournaras said he is satisfied with the agreement in this very important pylon of the banks' unification and called on all EU members-states to support it. "I really hope that it will open the way to get European Parliament and the Council's approval within the timetable we have set, taking under consideration the upcoming Europarliament elections," he noted.
The creation of a single resolution board with major responsibilities in bank resolution cases as well as the creation of a Single Resolution Fund becomes possible after today's agreement. The approval of the agreed context by the members-states will allow the completion of the intergovernmental agreement for the operation of the Fund.
The agreed text on the Single Resolution Mechanism must be approved by the permanent representatives of EU members-states in order to be ratified at the last session of the standing Europarliament in midst April.
 Greece's partners have accepted that no more measures can be taken, FM Venizelos saysGreece is at the final stage from exiting the crisis and return to normality, Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in his opening speech at the European Economic and Social Committee conference entitled "From austerity to growth and recovery: overcoming the socio-economic consequences of Greece's crisis."
"Our partners have accepted that Greece does not need and cannot tolerate any more austerity measures," Venizelos noted.
"This is a very important message to the Greek people and to the European societies," Venizelos said adding that due to the large primary surplus, Greece can gradually begin restoring the injustices and to strengthen the protection measures and the social cohesion to help vulnerable social groups, families without income, with many children, uninsured elderly, long-term unemployed without state support, homeless, as well as combatting extreme poverty.
He added that the Greek banking system is fully recapitalised and powerful and "now has the obligation to help entrepreneurship, employment, and the real economy." He also stressed the importance of completing the structural changes, particularly in relation with public administration and market deregulation in order to become fully competitive.
The government vice-president clarified that this was the only solution as there was a risk of a disorderly default and underlined that the government's main priority is to combat unemployment and to protect the social cohesion. However, he noted that unless the climate changes there will be no results, because only through improved entrepreneurship and investments, can Greece achieve high growth rates and job positions.
He also underlined that after four years Greece has started showing impressive results thanks to the sacrifices of the Greek people. He pointed out that Greece has achieved a primary surplus that exceeds 1.5 percent of GDP and that the fiscal adjustment in nominal terms has reached about 28 billion euros or 13.5 points of GDP.
"But in order to achieve that, the country has taken measures of more than 80 billion euros," Venizelos said adding that the country's fiscal gap, including debt servicing costs, is clearly below 3 percent at 2.1 percent and despite criticism or doubts "the structural changes in major sectors are obvious."
Regarding the country's efforts and the tough negotiations, Venizelos criticized the way the support programme was planned. He said that during the first four years, the European solidarity to southern countries was expressed at a high economic level and pointed out that this was accompanied by a political perception of high social, development and political cost for the countries under those programmes.
"There have been very serious problems with the support programmes from the very start. Especially in the case of Greece, this has been acknowledged by the IMF itself in the most official way. There have been decisions taken with delay and in a incomplete way, there have been unfair stereotypes for Greece and for other southern countries, it is unfair international debate fuelled by our own European inability to respond in an organized, definitive, effective way," he said.
He pointed out that many times the country had to deal with troika's demands that were against EU legislation and acquis.
He referred to the difficulties to implement an extremely ambitious fiscal adjustment programme as well as an equally ambitious structural adjustment plan.
Ahead of the euroelections, he said that the big question was whether we could have a new narrative for Europe, a response to societies that equate Europe with austerity policies.
He noted that the versions of euroscepticism have increased, mentioning that there is "a supposedly radical leftist euroscepticism, which turns out to be statist and nationalist."
"We want a different Europe, a Europe of values, a competitive, sensitive and pluralistic one, a Europe that will be the best place in the world," he added.
 Gov't, troika agreement measures to be introduced under single billA senior Finance ministry official said on Thursday evening that the measures agreed upon with the troika will be introduced in Parliament under a single bill.
According to the same official "the decision of whether to keep the solidarity contribution past 2016 will be decided in the autumn, and in tandem with the decisions on the fiscal gap".
As regards discussions on the alleviation of the public debt, the same official said that they will begin in May, after the ratification of the primary surplus of 2013 by Eurostat, while the final decisions will be taken after the new review of the economy by the troika in June.
 'Main lesson of the crisis is there will be fiscal discipline forever and for all' EC representation chief in Greece commentsTroika inspectors left and will not return until after the euroelections, Panos Carvounis, head of the European Commission Representation in Greece, told private radio station 'Athina 9,84' on Thursday.
"That moment will be very crucial for Greece, because issues that concern our future will be raised. That is, what will happen regarding the financing of Greece in the coming years. Do we need any more money and if so, how much and how will we get them? The issue of debt relief will also be raised. I believe the debate on debt relief will start after the elections," Carvounis noted.
He also said that "we need money, but the question is where we will find it. The government keeps saying that there is no need for a new memorandum, and I respect that. Money can be found from the markets. There is already talk of Greece returning to markets in a sort of a test to see how low interest rates it can get...What is very important for Greece is, having dealt with its fiscal issues and its spending does not exceed its revenues, its borrowing needs have been significantly reduced..."
Carvounis underlined that "the main lesson of the crisis is that there will be fiscal discipline forever and for all. Not only for Greece. Therefore, with or without memorandum, there will be fiscal discipline."
He also stressed that "the good news is that Greece now will not only make cuts, but it will get on a growth course. Liquidity will increase and will come from the development so taxes such as the solidarity tax will be abolished...Greece changes rota ... What we are being told, and we are also aware of it, is that we should not stop the recovery effort ..."
 Meeting on 'social dividend' at the ministry of financeThe government has started deliberations to determine the income and property criteria that will be used to distribute the so-called "social dividend" agreed with the troika representing Greece's lenders - about 500 million euros from the roughly 3.0-billion-euro primary surplus that will be given to vulnerable social groups worst hit by the economic crisis.
A meeting on this issue was held at the finance ministry on Thursday, attended by the prime minister's advisor Stavros Papastavrou, finance ministry Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) president Panos Tsakloglou, Deputy Labour Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou and PASOK MPs Christos Protopapas and Giorgos Koutroumanis.
"The benefits under distribution will have to be well-aimed to help the most vulnerable. We are gathering information from various organizations, in order to be accurate as to who is eligible," a government source underlined.
A new meeting will take place later in the afternoon.
 Private-sector criteria key in Israeli decisions on natgas transport, Liberman says after meeting VenizelosIsrael will discuss the transporting natural gas reserves via Cyprus and Greece "with transparency and sincerity" but only after an evaluation based on criteria set by the private sector was completed, visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Thursday, after meeting with Government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Replying to questions about the transportation of natural gas, Liberman noted that it was a hugely expensive investment and that the extraction and exploration of the natural gas reserves was now in the hands of the private sector, which must decide whether and which pipeline will be constructed.
"We are waiting for the conclusions of the firm carrying out the feasibility study and then we will conduct the talks for promoting the project with sincerity and transparency," he said.
Venizelos, on his part, noted that the private sector's role was one parameter but that there was also an "institutional, political and intergovernmental parameter". He underlined that Greece follows the basic principles of the EU in terms of its energy policy, "which call for a diversification of hydrocarbon sources and a diversification of transit routes."
Replying to questions concerning developments in Crimea in relation to Israeli interests, given that some European media were comparing this to the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and by extension calling for greater sanctions against Israel, Liberman refused to admit any correlation.
"We will never agree to this kind of connection of the issue of Crimea and the challenges we face in the Middle East. Our position is very clear and we will not be involved in the internal issues of other countries, nor in EU-Russia-US relations. We will not allow any attempt to link our issues with that of Crimea, nor similar handling," he stressed.
Commenting on Israel's relations with Turkey, Liberman said that his country continued to have diplomatic and trade ties with Turkey, and that especially the latter had recently increased. "At this stage, the ball is in Turkey's court," he added.
Venizelos noted the high level of cooperation between Israel and Greece, both following the high-level bilateral meetings in Jerusalem in the autumn and through trilateral cooperation initiatives between Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
As a representative of Greece's EU presidency, Venizelos also informed his Israeli counterpart on the outcome of his talks in Ukraine and Iran, underlining Greece's consistent reaction to racist and anti-semitic behaviours, starting with the stance of the far-right party Golden Dawn.
 President Papoulias receives visiting Israeli foreign ministerPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Presidential Mansion in Athens.
Papoulias underlined that "hopefully, the natural gas to Europe will pass through Greece," noting that "those interested make a long list, but this is the most advantageous path for everybody."
He added that the high-level ministerial council decisions are very important and their implementation should be monitored. He also expressed optimism as regards bilateral relations, noting that "we both want to serve the interests of our peoples".
On his part, Liberman said that he is visiting Greece as a follow up to the agreements made six months ago, in a meeting chaired by the prime ministers of Greece and Israel, and also to witness the implementation of these decisions, noting that cooperation in the sectors of defence and energy will continue.
 Integrated Maritime Policy meeting in Athens on FridayShipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis will formally open the 10th High Level Focal Points Meeting of EU member-states on Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) taking place at Athens' Zappeion Hall on Friday, in the context of the Greek EU Presidency.
The high-level network on IMP constitutes a valuable forum for the exchange of experience and good practices between EU member-states.
Their meeting will focus on drawing up common policy priorities, with an emphasis on the Blue Growth European policy and the further development and promotion of IMP in the EU.
Among the topics in the meeting's agenda are, "Maritime Surveillance and Security" through the Development of Common Information Sharing Environment and the Maritime Security Strategy; the EU Support for Maritime Innovation and Knowledge through Horizon 2020: Future Steps for Marine Knowledge 2020 (in the context of which a detailed map of the EU seabed will be drawn up by 2020) and Funding for Blue Growth between 2014-2020.
The meeting is hosted by the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DGMARE).
 Admin. reform ministry circular intensifies crosschecks on civil servants' qualificationsCrosschecks of civil servants' qualifications (certificates, diplomas, etc) will intensify to ensure that any forged or fraudulent supporting documents are quickly and effectively traced, according to a circular addressed on Thursday to public-sector organizations and agencies by Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
These are instructed to complete crosschecks within a month of receiving the circular, which includes clarifications on the procedure to be followed in cases of fake or inaccurate documents submitted by public-sector employees in order to be hired or to improve their work contract.
All public-sector agencies will have to electronically brief the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration (SEEDD) on the action taken so far to crosscheck the validity of the certificates submitted and the effectiveness of their efforts.
Mitsotakis underlined that "crosschecks are starting to bring results" and cited the example of the municipal police, noting that "personnel found to have submitted forged documents in order to be hired, have already been removed."
"We are making an effort to fix long-lasting injustices and to boost public administration credibility. We are putting an end to a regime of impunity while, at the same time, introducing the necessary procedures and structures that will prevent such unacceptable phenomena from re-emerging in the future," the minister underlined.
 Health Minister satisfied with newly introduced PEDY multiclinicsHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis in his statements to ANA-MPA expressed his satisfaction regarding the newly introduced Primary National Health Network (PEDY) officially launched on Thursday.
"Everything ran exceptionally smoothly," Georgiadis said and stressed that "all units were received by the new directors, while the inventorying of materials proceeded normally without losses, even though the units had remained closed for a significant time period."
Georgiadis underlined that "beside the expected negative response, a new reformation that was anticipated for 30 years was introduced today."
"The complete reform will last two years while it is estimated that the merger of those units open 24 hours in the framework of PEDY will be completed within six months," Georgiadis said and added that the clinics will be in position to receive the first patients next week.
According to the schedule, the health units will initially operate Mondays through Fridays from 07:00 to 19:00. In the meantime, the health units will be gradually reinforced and staffed with qualified personnel, depending on their needs.
 President Papoulias and Legal Council of State chief on war reparationsThe Legal Council of State's actions on the issue of German war reparations dominated the discussion between the President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the President of the Legal Council of State Yiannis Sakellariou on Thursday.
Sakellariou explained that the conclusions of the Legal Council of State on the issue are not final, but a way to classify the existing material and use it as a base in Legal Council's plenary, which will issue its own findings. As for the time frame, he said that a committee should first determine the amounts and then the issue would be taken to the plenary.
"This is a major issue. Non only of economic importance, but national," Papoulias noted.
 Peace treaty will oblige Germany to pay WWII debts to Greece, SYRIZA's Glezos says"We have a single request, to sign a Peace Treaty with Germany - which the lawful Germans avoid doing - because only then they will have to pay their debts to Greece," veteran leftist politician Manolis Glezos, a state deputy for main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) and president of the National Council for the Claim of German Debts, on Thursday underlined.
Glezos addressed a press conference at the Athens' Journalists Union (ESIEA) offices given in response to German President Joachim Gauck's gesture to formally apologize to the families of the victims of Nazi atrocities in WWII during his visit to the village of Ligiades, in Epirus, northwest Greece, earlier this month.
The press conference was attended by representatives of WWII resistance fighters' organisations, national council members and MPs.
"It is easy for someone to apologize if they do not want to face the consequences and make decisions," Christoph Schminck-Gustavus, a History of Law Professor at the University of Bremene who documented and brought to light the Ligiades Holocaust, underlined in his message, noting that the situation will never change on the issue of the German debt claims unless Greece decides to exert pressures.
An announcement by the National Council for the Claim of German Debts underlined that "70 years after the end of the Nazi occupation, the time has finally come for the vindication of the Greek people's sacrifice. A sacrifice that contributed greatly to Europe's and Germany's liberation from the Nazi yoke; a fact that Germany has an obligation not to forget. The compensation to the victims of Nazi atrocities and the reparations for the destruction of infrastructures and the stealing of our people's wealth, as well as the return of the forced occupation loan and the stolen cultural treasures are a precondition before opening a new period of peace and substantive cooperation between the two peoples founded on honesty, equality and reciprocity".
 Article tabled in Parliament on false reports of racist violence withdrawn againAlternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos on Thursday announced the withdrawal of a controversial article tabled in Parliament that would have allowed authorities to deport migrants that made false allegations of racist violence against law enforcement officers.
This was the second time the specific article was withdrawn, after Grigorakos returned the article he had earlier withdrawn to Parliament on Wednesday.
Article 19 was withdrawn again on Thursday, following unsuccessful efforts between Grigorakos and PASOK cadres, as well as between Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis, Parliament Vice-president Yiannis Tragakis and ND cadres, aimed at reaching a compromise formula.
Strenuous objections to the specific article were raised by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), who said it was "terrorising and racist", as well as by the PASOK party, one of the two partners in the coalition government.
An initiative by Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis to table it anew had prompted strong reactions from both PASOK and SYRIZA.
According to government sources, Grigorakos tabled and withdrew the amendment without having the signature of the government general secretary, alleging miscommunication between the minister of the interior and the deputy minister.
 Submission of antiracism bill to parliamentary committee a matter of days, Justice minister saysThe submission of the anti-racism bill to the relevant parliament committee for a second reading and then to the Plenary is a matter of days, Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou said on Thursday in Parliament.
The minister was responding to a current question by DIMAR deputy Maria Giannakaki, regarding delays in the debate and vote of the bill.
Athanassiou said the delay was due to the Justice Ministry's work load and his own obligations at the Justice Ministers' council as part of the Greek presidency.
He mentioned, however, that "the prime minister as well as the government vice-president and Foreign minister have expressed strong interest in this bill, as we do get questions from the EU on the issue."
Athanassiou also left the door open for certain technical improvements. "They will be strictly technical. We will not take out any provisions nor will we make any substantial changes," he pointed out.
 Bills on migration and crosschecks on assets of politicians passed in ParliamentAll new regulations included in the draft bill on migration were passed in Parliament on Thursday, backed by the government coalition parties of New Democracy (ND) and PASOK and with the support of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) that voted in favour of many of its articles and "present" on the remaining ones.
Also, the amendment, providing a six-month extension to crosschecks on the assets of politicians dating back to 1974 was also passed in Parliament with a roll-call vote, as requested by SYRIZA. A total of 142 MPs voted in favour, 93 against and 10 cast "present" votes.
In favour of the new regulation were all the MPs of ND and PASOK, except for Apostolos Kaklamanis who voted against with all the opposition MPs, while Golden Dawn (GD) MPs voted "present".
 EU's cyber security director thanks Greek gov't for its supportThe European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) executive director, Professor Udo Helmbrecht, met on Wednesday, March 19, with Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Michalis Papadopoulos and Secretary General Menelaos Daskalakis in Athens to follow up on the recent Cyber Security Conference of the Greek EU Presidency.
The two sides examined the possibility of future cooperation between ENISA and the Greek government.
The Agency, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is looking at future challenges, as cyber security is becoming even more crucial for the economy and has been placed high on the EU's political agenda.
In a statement released Thursday, Professor Helmbrecht thanked Greek authorities at central and local level for their support during the Agency's first ten years, adding, "Greece has been a very generous and helping partner, making its utmost to facilitate our life for the Agency and its staff, and to resolve any challenges. We now look forward to our further collaboration."
 Pharmacists will be given three month deadline to offer discounts on non-prescription drugsThe troika of Greece's international lenders will monitor prices of non-prescription drugs for the next three months so that it can be decided whether those products will be sold exclusively at drug stores or at other retailers as well.
Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, responding to a current question by Independent Greeks deputy Vassilis Kapernaros, on Thursday said that the Health ministry had "tough negotiations with the troika", while it claimed that selling non-prescription drugs outside pharmacies is not a recommended policy for Greece, as the country has the highest rate of pharmacies per resident in the world.
The government's proposal was to give a three-month period so that pharmacists can prove that competition rules are not violated and that no monopoly practices are used to determine non-prescription drugs prices.
"If we are proved right and a free market actually operates within pharmacists during those three months, then the debate on non-prescription drugs and super markets will be finally ended," Georgiadis said. He added that "if some sort of cartel is set up and we find than no discounts have been made in any pharmacy during these three months, but all prices have been set at their highest level, then a big debate will start, as having a cartel is illegal and morally reprehensible."
"Oligopolies, monopolies and businesses set up cartels, not small shops around the corner," Kapernaros mentioned. He said if the sale of non-prescription drugs is allowed outside pharmacies, then drug stores would close down. He concluded that the state arrears to pharmacists amount to 280 million euros.
 New Democracy MP Avgerinopoulou elected president of UN's IPU Standing CommitteeNew Democracy deputy Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou on Thursday in Geneva was elected president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's (IPU) Standing Committee for United Nations with the consent of all representatives of the 164 countries participating in the IPU.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union, where MPs from all parties can participate, is one of the oldest international institutions. The IPU aims to work closely with the UN and the national parliaments of all countries, so that the voice of the elected representatives of the people can be heard and taken into account in the negotiations carried out by the United Nations with the governments of its member states.
The newly formed United Nations' IPU Standing Committee in the following months will actively participate in IPU negotiations with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon and the countries participating in the organization to adopt and after 2015 implement targets which will enhance gender equality and achieve global sustainable development, social cohesion and environmental protection, thus introducing more democracy and transparency in global governance.
"We will all work together dynamically to achieve the objective of sustainable development for all countries and to strengthen the voice of parliamentarianism in the United Nations. As I explained to my fellow members of foreign delegations, who I invited to meetings in Olympia, our world should draw more power and inspiration from Greece and my hometown, Ancient Olympia, the home of democracy and the peace", Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou said in a statement.
 SYRIZA : the agreement with lenders is a collusion between the government and the troikaMain opposition SYRIZA party in an announcement on Thursday accused the government of a 'communication bubble' and a collusion with the troika against the Greek people commenting on the agreement with the country's lenders.
In troika's statement on Wednesday, said SYRIZA's announcement, the memorandum's commitments that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attempts to hide ahead the euroelections are being enumerated. "The extension of the solidarity contribution to 2015, the deregulation of the labour law and the liberalisation of mass layoffs, the increase in PPC rates and the OECD reforms...compose a suffocating memorandum framework that devastates every attempt of fabricated optimism" said SYRIZA.
Moreover, the main opposition party underlined that "the allocation of the 17 percent of the primary surplus (and not of 70 percent that the government claimed) cannot hide either the people's sacrifices on which it was build or the memorandum measures that will come after the euroelections".
"What all the above indicate is that this is not the 'end of the memorandum' but a collusion between the troika and the government against the Greek people aiming to avoid a collapse in the upcoming europarliament elections," the statement concluded.
 European arrest warrants issued against two non-shows in arms procurement kickbacks caseExamining magistrates in the arms procurement kickbacks case issued European arrest warrants against Greek-Swiss bank employee Fanis Liginos and Olaf Essler, ex vice-president of German weapons manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann on Thursday, after the two failed to show up to testify before them.
Liginos and Essler had been summoned to testify regarding their involvement in illegal funds movements.
The two examining magistrates issued the warrants after providing the two defendants informally with a 48-hour deadline in order to appear at the examining magistrates' office and defend themselves against the charges they face in the case of "beneficial payments" that were given to public dignitaries for the arms procurement programmes.
The two came under the spotlight of the examining magistrates following the testimony of Antonis Kantas, former deputy director of arms procurement in the National Defence Ministry, who implicated them in the case. The former ministry official confessed having been bribed for the procurement of self-propelled howitzers from Wegmann while Olaf Essler was serving as its vice-president. Kantas also held that the second defendant, Liginos, as well as his colleague Jean-Claude Oswald - both former employees of Dresden Bank in Geneva from 2000 through to 2005 - played a central role in money laundering.
The alleged involvement in the case of the two bank employees also caught the attention of the members of a delegation from the Swiss Federal Prosecutor, who visited the Greek examining magistrates in February.
 Gov't and opposition united in resolving the Navy submarines issueA rare unity of views among the government and the opposition parties characterized Thursday morning's common session of the Parliamentary Committees of External Affairs and National Defence & Armament Programmes, held at the National Defence Ministry.
Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos briefed the members of the Committes on the latest developments regarding the agreement between the government and ENAE (Greek Shipyards S.A.) on the Greek Navy's taking receipt of the four submarines, an issue which was unresolved for years.
During the common session, representatives from all parties agreed with the way the submarines issue has been handled by the ministry, converging in their desire to safeguard national interests in the best way possible. Despite the harmony, some reservations were expressed regarding the fate of ENAE and its workers, due to disputes between the Greek government and the shareholders of the company.
Avramopoulos referred to the initiatives undertaken so as to achieve the separation of the issue of the reception of the submarines from the operation of ENAE as a going business concern. The four submarines, named "Pipinos", "Matrozos", "Katsonis" and "Okeanos", will be taken over by the Navy, which hereby undertakes the responsibility and coordination of all necessary remaining works, so as for them to become operationally integrated in the fleet the soonest possible, under a project budget of 75.5 million euros.
The Greek state has already paid 2.5 billion euros for the construction of the four submarines. According to Avramopoulos, the Greek state is claiming back amounts disbursed to ENAE and other companies appearing as investors between 2010 and mid-2011, now considering them to be "undue disbursements".
The National Defence Ministry has also filed an injunction with the First Instance Court, as a measure of ensuring the maintenance of the submarines, while the Legal Council of State has been request to assist in pursuing the interests of the Greek state in its dispute with the owners of ENAE. Premier Antonis Samaras substantially contributed to the beneficial resolution of the issue of the four submarines, according to Avramopoulos.
The minister is scheduled to meet the head of German shipbuilder Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), Dr. Hannes Kristof Adjopondien, next Wednesday (26/3), in the sidelines of his official visit to Doha, Qatar.
 Greek judges association issues letter of concern to Turkish President GulThe Hellenic Association of Judges and Public Prosecutors (ENDE/EDE) on Thursday sent a letter to Turkish President of the Republic Abdullah Gul expressing its concern regarding a recent legislation determining the selection of Turkish judges.
"The decisions taken by executive and legislative power, if they are put into effect, will jeopardise the independence of the judicial body," said the letter and stressed that "bringing High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and the rest of the judicial body under the Justice minister's direction is a violation of the principle of separation of powers and a violation of international standards."
EDE called Gul to take every possible and constitutional measure to stop the legislation from being put into effect, while it was underlined that EDE will closely observe the situation in Turkey and take action in international forums and especially before European organisations.
EDE also sent a supportive letter to the Association of Judges and Prosecutors President Murat Arslan expressing their full support regarding the issue, to which Arslan responded thanking them.
 KKE party criticises Europe 2020 summitThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Thursday that "the EU's summit on competitiveness, based on the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy, confirms that the recent agreement between the government and the troika and the new antipopular measures that this is ushering in do not only constitute specific memorandum obligations, but fine-hone a policy in favour of the European monopolies that crushes peoples and will be continued with or without memorandums".
KKE added that "this policy exposes all the forces that bow to the EU and all the targets of competitiveness, deceiving (people) with promises that they shall succeed in turning this insincere alliance in favour of peoples".
 DIMAR leader: Primary surplus could have been achieved with another policyDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday addressed his party's parliamentary group and reiterated his opposition to the government's choice to allocate 70 percent of the primary surplus to those in the uniformed forces and the low pensioners.
Kouvelis asked that this amount be distributed, in priority, to those who live below the poverty line, to those without income, to the young unemployed and to safeguard healthcare.
He criticised the government policy saying that the "primary surplus could have been succeeded with another policy. Not with over-taxation or the enormous decrease in salaries and with cutbacks to necessary social expenses." He added that without a change of policy and turn to growth, the achievement of a primary surplus will not be possible in the future.
Kouvelis stressed that the political stability is not identified with conservatism and this policy is not the only choice. "For DIMAR-Progressive Cooperation, the safeguarding of the European unification of a Europe of democracy, of labour, growth and solidarity consists the hard core of the political and ideological plan for a better Europe."
 Greece, FYROM negotiators to meet at UN on March 26NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/ P. Panagiotou)
Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have arranged a new round of meetings on the name dispute, according to a United Nations announcement on Thursday.
This said that the UN Secretary-General's special envoy for the issue Matthew Nimetz has invited the negotiators of the two sides, Greece's Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis and FYROM Ambassador Zoran Jolevski, to meet at the UN on March 26 and that the invitation was accepted by both sides.
Nimetz is to hold talks separately with the two negotiators first, and then meet with both together, in the framework of UN mediation to find a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute.
 Deputy Dev't Minister: Offer for Hellinikon 'must correspond to the value of the concession'The development of the former Athens airport at Hellinikon (Elliniko) real estate is a significant investment that will create thousands of jobs and one of the largest urban parks in the world, Deputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis said on Thursday in response to a press question.
In a statement, Mitarakis said, "After nearly 15 years of inaction, it is crucial that there's a remarkable technical bid for Hellinikon. A bid which leads to a very important investment creating thousands of new jobs, as well as one of the largest metropolitan parks in the world."
Nevertheless, the minister said, "in order to be absolutely clear, from the very beginning we noted that the binding offer must correspond to the value of the concession." He stressed that "the public interest is the basis on which any decisions will be made."
Referring to statements by the opposition and criticising "its hasty assessments," Mitarakis said, "it is well known that it stands against any investment and any effort in public property development, irrespective of the magnitude of offers and the benefits involved."
 Tourism Minister Kefalogianni expresses optimism at ESC meetingMinister of Tourism Olga Kefalogianni expresed her optimism that Greece will exit from recession with safe steps, in her address on Thursday at the European Economic and Social Committee (ESC) meeting in Athens.
In view of the new tourism season Kefalogianni noted that "the goal for 2014 is to increase the tourist flow, the revenue of the country and to continue the modernisation of tourism products. At the same time our goal is to reduce as much as possible the degree of influence on each tourist season of current political or other events. Our strategy which aimed at the total restoration of Greece in major traditional markets has achieved the best results," she said.
Referring to tourism in the capital, the minister stressed that Athens is at the forefront of the priorities of the ministry, to restore it immediately and dynamically on the map of tourist destinations globally. She said there was a lot of systematic and quiet work behind the scenes for this purpose. "The signs of revival are visible," she noted.
 Startup business booming in Greece, survey saysThe number of startups in Greece has increased almost 10-fold in the period from 2010 to 2013, a survey by Endeavor Greece showed on Thursday.
The survey said that a total of 16 new enterprises (startups) were set up in 2010, while the value of invested capital in startups soared from 500,000 euros in 2010 to 42 million euros last year, with a total of 30 startup businesses receiving investment capital.
Endeavor Greece said capital from a Jeremie iniative - channeled through four funds (Elikonos, Odyssey, Open Fund and PJ Tech Catalyst) helped in the spectacular increase of startup businesses in the country.
The results also showed that Greece-based investors accounted for 72 pct of new investments in 2013, while IT enterprises accounted for 50 pct of total investments in 2013, followed by financial-sector startups (basically reflecting investments received by Hellas Direct), the media, agricultural products and food, tourism, education and entertainment. The survey showed a shortfall of investments in sectors with higher activity, such as e-commerce, health and energy. Endeavor Greece said that 50 pct of startups in Greece, founded in the period from 2010 today were mobile apps, with 25 pct of enterprises showing signs of significant growth creating job positions and added value.
The survey said progress made was very significant but more systematic effort was necessary to expand to use of clever funding tools in sectors where Greece has a competitive advantage.
 Foreign ministry's secretary general Mihalos gives speech at Greek Food Industry Association meetingThe Greek Food Industry is one of the most dynamic and basic pillars of the country's economy, Foreign Ministry's secretary general of International Economic Relations Panagiotis Mihalos said during a speech at the annual meeting of the Greek Food Industry Association.
"The food sector has not only endured the crisis but contributed in the reduction of the trade deficit and the achievement of a surplus in the current account balance," he said.
He pointed out that "while the Greek Food Industry is the country's exports pioneer and has 27 percent of turnover, it has even bigger potentials thanks to the Mediterranean diet."
Regarding the role of the State, he underlined that it should open up new markets, help the country's industry and promote its products in a targeted way. He added that one of the ministry's top priorities was to increase exports to Turkey.
"In 2013, Greek exports to Bulgaria, an EU member-state, with which we have free movement of goods, reached 340 million euros. In 2013 our exports to Turkey amounted to just 55 million euros, the same as to Serbia, a country that has only 5 percent of Turkey's GDP and 10 percent of Turkey's population. This is due to the EU-Turkey Customs Union Agreement, in effect since 1996, which prevents free movement of goods in the Turkish market. Based on a study we conducted, we estimate that without excessive restrictions, the exports of our agricultural products as well as of food and beverages to Turkey would be higher by at least 140 million euros. Losses in exports have exceeded 1 billion euros in the last decade and this should change," he concluded.
 National Bank returned to profitability in 2013National Bank Group on Thursday said its net profits totalled 809 million euros in 2013, after losses of 2.1 billion euros in the previous year, helped by an improvement in the domestic economic climate which allowed a reduction in the creation of new non-performing loans, lower write-downs and elimination of trading losses of the previous year.
Finansbank contributed positively to National Bank Group's results, with profits of 439 million euros despite adverse conditions prevailing in the Turkish market in the second half of 2013, while subsidiaries in Southeastern Europe contributed with profits of 32 million euros in 2013, after losses of 65 million euros in 2012. National Bank Group said its net profits totaled 547 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Higher deposits improved the loan/deposit rate to 97 pct in 2013, from 108 pct in the previous year (90 pct in Greece) putting National Bank (NB) at a better position from the liquidity point of view in the domestic market. The bank's Core Tier I rate was 10.3 pct, rising to 11.2 pct if Finansbank's asset valuation model and the benefit from the sale of Astir Vouliagmeni was taken into account. NB also had a positive impact in its profitability from a small capital boosting schemes by FBB and Probank and also benefited from the sale of National Pangaea.
NB said the results of a stress test conducted by BlackRock showed that the bank has by far the lowest possible losses compared with the other systemic banks of the country.
The bank said its domestic results showed that signs of stabilisation in the Greek economy reversed high losses recorded in 2012, with net earnings from domestic activities totalling 341 million euros, after losses of 2.724 billion euros in 2012.
Alexandros Tourkolias, the bank's chief executive, commenting on the results said that an economic recovery trend after a six-year recession, was clearly boosted by the strong improvement of economic activity indexes. NB is supporting creativity, innovation and export activity, by funding enterprises and households to further boost efforts of economic recovery.
Tourkolias said "National Bank Group will continue moves to strengthen its capital reserves with a series of actions aimed to covering capital needs resulting from a Bank of Greece test. At the same time, National Bank will continue its role as a the basic leverage of economic growth and business activity in the country".
 HRADF sells another property through electronic auctioning platformYet another one public property was successfully auctioned through e-publicrealestate.gr, the internet auctioning platform of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF). The latest auction involved a 5,088.66 sq.m. property in the northern Athens suburb of Maroussi, sold for 1.8 million euros.
There are about 70 more properties scheduled to be auctioned via e-publicrealestate.gr by end-2014.
 Online platform opens for 2013 tax filing by individuals, pensionersThe Taxis electronic platform for the submission of tax return statements by employees and pensioners was activated today, for all incomes earned during 2013. A deadline on the 30th of June has been set for filing, which is carried out exclusively over the internet.
 New spatial planning rules for mining in the wings, minister saysEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis announced the ministry's intention to draw up a new special spatial plan for mining, worked out in collaboration with the Association of Mining Enterprises (SME), in an address read out to the 4th International Conference on Greece's Natural Resources on Thursday.
The address, read out by the minister's office director, noted that Greece's mining sector was strongly export oriented, with exports accounting for 65 pct of sales, which generated an estimated 100,000 jobs, while the country's total known exploitable reserves were estimated at 30 billion euros.
The ministry's policy for exploiting the country's natural mineral resources included action to record and discover them, with concessions for their exploitation using transparency procedures that maximised profits for the public sector, sustainable exploitation that respected the environment and social needs, as well as serious trade-off benefits for local communities and a fair social distribution of national revenue, the minister added.
 Greek, Arab businessmen meet in Athens to promote tradeGreek businesses are greatly interested in increasing trade transactions with Iraq, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, according to the results of B2B meetings organised by the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Trade and Development at a central Athens hotel on Thursday.
Business delegations from Iraq (Baghdad and Erbil), Jordan and the Palestinian territories met with Greek businessmen to promote cooperation. In total, there were 175 Greek and 63 Arab businessmen participating, representing enterprises from several sectors.
 OAEE announces new IT system, says it will speed up approval of pensionsThe social insurance fund for the self-employed OAEE on Thursday announced that an IT application creating a complete digital social insurance record of all OAEE insured is ready to go into operation. The new system allows the storing and monitoring of all decisions and administrative acts relating to the economic situation and insurance record of each individual.
According to OAEE's management, this will allow immediate access to each individual's electronic file and thus make possible a faster service, better use of the branch network and speed up the issue of pensions. The application has already been tested and will soon be given to all OAEE branches to use.
 Intralot wins IT supplier contract with Premier Lotteries IrelandIntralot on Thursday said it was selected by Premier Lotteries Ireland Ltd as IT supplier for the supply, installation, maintenance and support of new systems and terminals of Ireland's lottery.
Premier Lotteries Ireland has won a 20-year license for the management and operation of Ireland's state lottery, a market with revenues totalling 735 million euros in 2012. Intralot will supply its pioneer LOTOS O/S central system for the management and operation of lotto and instant lottery games, also through the internet and mobile telephony. Intralot will also supply more than 4,000 Photon terminals.
Intralot has set up a subsidiary company in Ireland, Intralot Ireland.
 Hellenic Exchanges says profits sharply up in 2013Hellenic Exchanges Group on Thursday reported a significant increase in its after-tax profits to 32.3 million euros in 2013, from 11.9 million euros in the previous year, boosted mainly by higher revenues from a recapitalization of the country's systemic banks.
The company's board will seek shareholders' approval on a plan for a capital return worth 0.20 euros per share, up from 0.12 euros in the previous year. Hellenic Exchanges said it will skip dividend payment.
Net earnings per share totaled 0.49 euros, sharply up from 0.18 euros in 2012. Consolidated turnover totalled 81.5 million euros in 2013, from 33 million euros in 2012, boosted by transactions in a bank recapitalisation plan and a tender offer for Coca-Cola HBC. Trading, clearing and settlement of warrants - introduced in the second quarter of the year - also boosted turnover in the market.
 Greek stocks end flat on ThursdayGreek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with the market showing signs of consolidation after a recent rally to new 34-month highs. The composite index of the market eased 0.08 pct to end at 1,363.30 points, off the day's lows of 1,349.90 points, while turnover shrank significantly to 81.61 million euros. Bank shares, however, remained at the focus of buying interest.
The Large Cap index fell 0.25 pct and the Mid Cap index rose 0.23 pct. Piraeus Bank (1.99 pct), National Bank (1.71 pct), Intralot (1.69 pct) and Alpha Bank (1.49 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Petroleum (2.50 pct), Eurobank Properties (2.01 pct), Coca-Cola HBC (1.97 pct) and Athens Water (1.62 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Chemicals (1.79 pct) and Bank (1.68 pct) sectors scored big gains, while Food (1.94 pct), Real Estate (1.89p ct) and Oil (1.57 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 87 to 56, with another 16 issues unchanged. Ilyda (25.50 pct), Naftemporiki (24.34 pct) and Teletypos (19.77 pct) were top gainers, while PC Systems (19.72 pct), Compucon (19.05 pct) and Fieratex (12.23 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +0.71%
Industrial Products: +0.44%
Real Estate: -1.89%
Personal & Household: -0.93%
Food & Beverages: -1.94%
Raw Materials: +0.70%
Travel & Leisure: -0.54%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.75
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.83
Coca Cola HBC: 17.96
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.42
National Bank of Greece: 4.17
Eurobank Properties : 9.26
Piraeus Bank: 2.05
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 5.35 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 5.18 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.9 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.64 pct. Turnover was a moderate 14 million euros, of which 10 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 4.0 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.59 pct from 0.585 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.504 pct from 0.500 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.416 pct from 0.414 pct, the three-month rate edged up to 0.313 pct from 0.312 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.238 pct from 0.237 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.11 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a strong 93.278 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 27,176 contracts worth 59.622 million euros, with 67,462 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 69,259 contracts worth 33.656 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK's contracts (19,658), followed by Alpha Bank (4,411), National Bank (4,789), Piraeus Bank (4,530), MIG (10,899), OTE (3,534), PPC (4,616), Mytilineos (4,056), Hellenic Petroleum (2,301), Ellaktor (1,090), Intralot (2,273), Sidenor (640), Frigoglass (379), Titan (490) and Eurobank (784).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.396
Pound sterling 0.847
Danish kroner 7.576
Swedish kroner 8.990
Japanese yen 142.96
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 8.496
Canadian dollar 1.574
Australian dollar 1.548
 Greek laser conservation technique for Acropolis monuments to be presented at major US universitiesGreece's innovative technique of using lasers to clean the surface of antique marble will be presented at six US universities from March 24 to April 4 by the scientific teams using them on the restoration of the Acropolis monuments.
The presentations will be made by the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser at the Foundation for Research and Technology (IESL-FORTH) and the Acropolis Monuments Restoration Service (YSMA) and funded by the Onassis Foundation's University Seminars Programme.
A cycle of six lectures entitled ?The Acropolis Restoration Project and the Laser Application? will be presented at the relevant departments of the universities of Columbia, Yale, Pennsylvania, Boston, Delaware and Stony Brook.
The lectures will be delivered by YSMA head Vassiliki Eleftheriou and IESL-FORTH scientist Dimitrio Agglo, also University of Crete associate professor in chemistry. The aim of the seminars is to present the long restoration project of the Acropolis and the emergence of laser cleaning technique which has been applied daily over the last 12 years to its monument and sculptures.
According to a statement, the innovative laser system was developed by the IESL-FORTH research team in Heraklion, Crete, specifically for the cleaning of the marbles. The novelty lies in the simultaneous use of two laser beams, allowing the conservator to accurately remove deposits of contaminants from the surface of the sculpture and ensure that the original substrate will not become discolored or suffer some other damage, as the work entails working only on the marble surface.
The application of laser conservation started in 2001 by YSMA in collaboration with the Archaeological Service's First Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities department. Since 2009 it operates out of the Acropolis Museum. The application includes cleaning of the West frieze of the Parthenon and the ceiling of the porches of the Caryatids, and of the Caryatids themselves.
The long and systematic research by the IESL-FORTH has produced pioneering research and technological achievements in the field of culture at a national and international level. The Institute has, for example, participated in the European research infrastructure CHARISMA (exploring innovative technologies for the diagnosis and conservation of archaeological and historical artefacts, monuments and works of art) and in the European programmes PROMET, ATHENA, CLIMATE FOR CULTURE and SYDDARTA.
This context, in cooperation with the Acropolis Museum, also includes the notion of an ''open public conservation laboratory using laser techniques" for the in-place laser conservation of the Caryatids in the museum. In the Museum's controlled environment, visitor have the opportunity to see the actual cleaning of the sculptures by laser, an initiative recognised in 2012 by the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) with the Keck prize.
 Archival material on the Jews of Ioannina to contribute to U.S. Holocaust Museum researchThe Historical Archive of the Municipality of Ioannina will allocate key documents on its Jewish community to assist a research programme carried out by the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
More specifically, digitized copies of the records of the municipality will be made available tp the Archive of the U.S. Holocaust Museum in order to inform the international research community about the Jewish community of Ioannina.
In the early 20th century, there were 4,000 Jews living in Ioannina and the community still numbered more than 2,000 members until the start of the Nazi persecution in March 1944, representing a major factor in the local economy and history until the Holocaust.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos inaugurates conference on poet George SeferisISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
The life and poetry of Nobel-prize winner George Seferis is the focus of a student congress inaugurated by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in Istanbul on Thursday which is attended by pupils, university professors, writers, actors and journalists.
The "G. Seferis:. From Izmir to Istanbul" congress is taking place at the Zografio Lyceum, with 15 schools (public and private) in attendance as well as over 150 pupils and teachers from Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Hania, Volos, Nicosia, Istanbul. It is the first time that American expatriate community members will be attending.
It is the third year the high schools Zografio and Mantoulidis private school are organising the congress; last year's was devoted to C.P. Cavafy and in 2012 to Alexandros Papadiamantis.
Anna Lontou, Seferis' step-daughter, spoke on Seferis and lent the conference the poet's favourite personal items.
Poems by George Seferis will be recited by representatives of letters and arts in six languages - Greek, Turkish, English, French, Russian and Armenian.
 Flu virus death toll reaches 104The death toll as a result of complications due to the flu virus reached 104, according to figures released by the Centre for Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO) on Thursday.
Since the start of the influenza outbreak, a total of 277 people have been hospitalized in intensive care units (ICUs), while 45 are still being treated in hospitals, KEELPNO said.
 Aegean Airlines to offer free flights to 500 students in GreeceAn Aegean Airlines programme offering free flights to students, called "Close to Young People" and organised under the auspices of the education ministry, was presented on Thursday during an event at the Museum of Cycladic Art. This was attended by Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis and mayors on the islands of Milos, Karpathos, Skyros, Naxos and Astypalaia.
The programme involves 500 students who got into university in 2013 and also students that will start their studies in 2014, attending university far from their families. The 500 beneficiaries will be offered eight tickets for each year of their studies. Applications are open to all university students but the final selection will be based on socio-economic criteria. Of the 500 students, 200 will be from islands on low-traffic routes and the remainder from other parts of Greece. Apart from socio-economic status, university entrance scores will also be taken into account.
"We estimate that the benefit per family will be 2,500 euros," said Aegean's vice-president Eftychios Vassilakis. He said that the applications can be submitted between April 1-15, while the names of the recipients will be announced on May 2.
The airline's initiative was welcomed by Arvanitopoulos, who stressed that this was an example of the private sector demonstrating social awareness and social responsibility. The minister also spoke about current initiatives and measures promoted by the education ministry, such as rights given to students from large families to transfer to universities closer to home or programmes providing food to students and access to studies for the blind.
Chryssohoidis said that Aegean Airlines was setting an example and was a model for businesses. "It is our duty to improve infrastructure, especially to our outlying islands, in order to increase the added value of the country as a whole," he stressed.
 Submarine Amphitriti invites public onboard during national holiday weekendThe submarine Amfitriti will dock at Piraeus' Port Authority (OLP) pier from March 24-26, in the framework of the national holiday celebration, to enable the public to visit it.
According to an announcement by the Navy General Staff the public can visit the submarine on the following schedule:
- On Monday March 24, from 13:00 p.m. to 18:00 p.m.
- On Tuesday March 25, from 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m.
- On Wednesday March 26, from 10:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m.
 Centre for unaccompanied minors and vulnerable groups launched in PatraThe operation of the centre for unaccompanied minors and vulnerable groups in need of asylum was launched on Thursday in Patras, northern Peloponnese. The centre will support single parents, large families , people with chronic health problems, the elderly and victims of torture among others.
The services will be housed in a two-story building in central Patras and will operate with the support of the NGO ?Praksis? and the Greek Red Cross. It will be able to host 30 unaccompanied minors and 40 persons belonging to vulnerable groups.
The services to be provided will meet the basic living needs such as housing, food, health care , education and security. It will also provide psychosocial support, legal assistance, translation services and mediation.
Programmes that include Greek language, training, creative activities, supportive teaching and intercultural activities will also be available. Regarding minors there will be a goal for interconnection with the labour market.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Ambassador of Norway in Greece Sjur Larsen on the occasion of the fact that Norway along with Iceland and Liechtenstein have established the European Economic Area to implement the programme SOAM.
SOAM - standing for "Supporting organisations that help migrant populations seeking asylum in Greece" - is based on a memorandum of cooperation in the field of asylum and migration which was signed in 2011 between the donor countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Greece. The project is funded by the European Economic Area through the International Organization for Migration.
 Second day of ADEDY's strike; concert outside the parliamentPublic sector union (ADEDY) mobilisations continue on Thursday, second day of the 48h strike against reserve labour and possible layoffs in public sector. A rally will be held at Klathmonos square, cental Athens, followed by a concert outside the parliament under the slogan "We support the public social needs - no to layoffs".
Greek Federation Secondary Education State School Teachers (OLME) participates in the strike with further mobilisations on Friday given that the mobility scheme period for teachers ends on Saturday.
Moreover, the Federation of Public Hospitals employees also take part in the strike. The hospitals operate on Thursday with skeleton staff.
 Teachers continue protest outside Administrative Reform minister's officeTeachers blocking the political office of Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Athens district of Pangrati since midday Thursday, in a symbolic takeover, were still there by evening.
The teachers are facing the prospect of layoffs when the eight-month suspension scheme they have been placed under expires on Saturday. They are requesting a meeting with the Administrative Reform minister.
On his part, Mitsotakis has stated that he has no problem in meeting them, on condition that the takeover at his political office ends.
Police is outside the building housing the minister's political office, while tension had also been created early in the afternoon with assembled members of the OLME teachers secondary education union and of the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) who wanted to approach the office.
 Culture ministry employees protest outside the Acropolis Museum against imminent layoffsCulture ministry employees on Thursday held a demonstration outside the Acropolis Museum in Athens, protesting against announced layoffs. Riot police prevented the protesters from carrying out a planned march to the Acropolis through Dionyssiou Areopagitou Street.
Taking part in the demonstration were school guards and finance ministry cleaning ladies affected by the labour reserve measure in the public sector.
The demonstration was held in the context of a two-day strike called by the public-sector umbrella trade union ADEDY on March 19 and 20, protesting against the implementation of the labour reserve measure in the public sector, the layoffs of civil servants and the privatisation of public property.
 New national health network PEDY polyclinics officially open on ThursdayThe 120 polyclinics of the newly introduced Primary National Health Network (PEDY) officially opened on Thursday, while they will be ready to serve the public in approximately 10 days.
According to schedule, the health units will initially operate on working days from 07:00 to 19:00. In the meantime, the health units will be gradually reinforced and staffed with qualified personnel depending on their needs.
Flu virus death toll reaches 104
The death toll as a result of complications due to the flu virus reached 104, according to figures released by the Centre for Control and Prevention of Diseases (KEELPNO) on Thursday.
Since the start of the influenza outbreak, a total of 277 people have been hospitalized in intensive care units (ICUs), while 45 are still being treated in hospitals, KEELPNO said.
 Overcast on FridayFair weather and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 5C-20C. Mostly fair in the central parts and in the south, 5C-22C. Sunny over the islands, 11C-21C. Fair in Athens, 5C-20C; the same for Thessaloniki, 4C-20C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Blackmails behind the scenes.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Former MP and politicians of the co-governing parties (ND and PASOK) appointed in state mechanism's key positions.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Memoranda have ravaged Greeks' living standards.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Final arrangement to 181,519 former Social Housing Organisation (OEK) loans
ESTIA: Restart of the economy.
ETHNOS: 500-1,000 euros dividend depending on income and number of children
IMERISSIA: The 'fair price' for Eurobank is a riddle.
KATHIMERINI: After the troika, the battle in parliament.
LOGOS: Return to the markets or new memorandum?
NAFTEMPORIKI: Exit test to the markets for 2 billion euros loan.
RIZOSPASTIS: Strike on April 9. All together in the battle without delay.
TA NEA: The first part of the social dividend will be paid on May 9.
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