|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-03-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Politics
 PM Samaras: 'MPs have proved they have a sense of responsibility'In a message to multiple recipients sent on Thursday, a day before the omnibus bill with the measures agreed with the troika of Greece's lenders is tabled in Parliament, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said that the agreement reached will lead the country out of the crisis and the memorandums.
He also underlined that the MPs are aware of it, adding that they have proved that they have a sense of responsibility.
The prime minister's statement underlined that "after seven months of negotiations we have reached an agreement that is a major step forward. First of all, everything achieved by the country has been recognized and no new austerity measures will be implemented; this is over. But above all, none of the 'red lines' we had drawn were crossed."
"The country will return to the international markets followed by a discussion on the debt. This is the only way toward definitively exiting the crisis and the memorandums. This is what matters today and nobody can dispute this. Our MPs know it. They have a sense of responsibility and have proved it," the prime minister's statement concluded.
 Government Administrative Reform Council concludes meetingThe government Administrative Reform Council chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and with the participation of Goverment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has concluded its meeting.
The Council approved the reform initiatives and actions of the Administrative Reform Ministry. The ministry's actions, to be presented in the coming week, include the public sector's permanent mobility mechanism which will not be related to layoffs.
The council also decided to continue and conclude the existing mobility programme, as 4,000 employees still need to be placed under this specific scheme in order for the government to achieve the target of 25,000 workers set by the troika.
According to government sources, about 3,000 employees will come from municipalities and 1,000 from social insurance funds.
The council also approved the time schedules and the staffing plans for most of the government's ministries, which will be included in Presidential Decrees and will be submitted for approval to the Council of State.
 Draft omnibus bill on troika agreement distributed to political parties in ParliamentA draft of the omnibus bill containing the full details of the agreement reached between the Greek government and the troika of the country's lenders was distributed on Thursday to all the political parties represented in the Parliament. The bill will be tabled in Parliament on Friday, where it is expected to be approved by majority vote on Sunday night.
The draft comprises three separate sections, which include controversial articles on removing obstacles to competition in the food sector, on a scheme suspending civil servants' from work pending either their transfer or dismissal after eight months ('availability scheme'), on liberalisation of the retail pharmaceutical market, on bank recapitalisation, tourism, tax, "social dividend" issues and many more.
Of tax interest is the introduction of VAT offsetting in the wider public sector, for financial transactions with the State. There is a multitude of changes to existing value limits related to the seizure of bank funds from tax debtors. The omnibus bill requires that any change in the ownership of real estate properties be updated in the tax authorities' records of property, by responsibility of the people/entities involved, within a binding 30-day period after the transaction takes place.
The bill also caters for the transfer of more than 1.5 million sq. m. of land properties to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).
 Omnibus bill to introduce unemployment benefit, compensation for laid off civil servantsThe draft omnibus bill distributed to the political parties on Thursday will include articles introducing unemployment benefits for civil servants laid off after spending eight months suspended from work under the 'availability scheme' and the abolition of the job positions.
The unemployment benefit will be given to civil servants and permanent public-sector workers previously protected from dismissal, as well as employees of entities governed by private-sector law and local government organisations.
The laid-off employees will also receive compensation calculated using their basic salary, without bonuses and benefits, at the time of their dismissal and up to the sum of 15,000 euros.
The inclusion of the measure followed an administrative reform ministry initiative announced on March 25 in order to cover a gap in the legislation, since the situation where public-sector workers had to be laid off had not arisen until now.
 SYRIZA on the omnibus bill, overdue debts to the stateMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Thursday lashed out at the government referring to the omnibus draft bill to be tabled in Parliament on Friday.
According to SYRIZA, the government was trying to hide the exact content of the new memorandum regulations, which were founded on internal devaluation, a return to the "Middle Ages" for labour rights, a dismantling of social insurance funds, a recapitalization of the banks and favourable treatment of multinationals and, at the same time, the preamble of the new memorandum to be introduced after the European elections.
SYRIZA charged the government of using the troika of the country's international creditors as an excuse to promote measures that serve big financial interests, while being indifferent to the destruction of the production web and private businesses.
Referring to the finance ministry figures on overdue debts to the state by private individuals and enterprises, SYRIZA underlined that "they constitute the best response to the government propaganda as regards the much-vaunted primary surplus".
 Kouvelis says DIMAR will vote against agreement with troikaDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, addressing a rally of the Democratic Left-Progressive Cooperation at the "I. Vellidis" convention centre (DETH), stressed that DIMAR will vote against the agreement with the troika in Parliament and accused the government of backing down and not negotiating.
"The Democratic Left will vote against the omnibus bill, because it is filled with by concessions and measures that have to do neither with the democratic and necessary reforms nor with all that the country needs", Kouvelis said on arriving at the rally.
"The government backed down, the government did not negotiate and the result is that the country is continuing to be in the whirlpool of the economic crisis, recession and austerity. To be bound in a programme of fiscal adjustment with suffocation. All this must change."
Referring to the elections, he said that "the vote of the Greek citizen must send a message for a change in policy in both Europe and Greece."
Asked whether political developments are to be expected in the country after the Euroelections, he said "this will depend on the election results."
 KKE party says omnibus bill escalates attack against working classesThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday, stressed that "the government's omnibus bill escalates the attack against the working classes, social insurance funds and small business owners to support the recovery and profitability of capital." According to the party, "the provisions of the omnibus bill incorporate the policy of the EU that will be continued, with or without memorandums."
KKE further said that "the coalition government is implementing this anti-popular policy and it is not questioned by SYRIZA, as is apparent from stream of 'credentials' it is gives to the euro-oneway system".
It concluded that "a mass condemnation of the parties of the EU is necessary now, a popular alliance to rid ourselves of the bonds of the EU and monopolies."
KKE also pointed out in another announcement that "the compromise concerning milk took place on the basis of European directives, where the monopolies selling foodstuffs are responsible for deciding their expiration date".
 MPs oppose emergency 'fast-track' procedures in omnibus bill voteOpposition to the adoption of emergency procedures in the vote for the draft omnibus bill on the agreement with the country's troika of international lenders was expressed to the Parliament's Conference of Presidents by the representatives of the political parties.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MP Yiannis Dragasakis spoke about parliamentary degeneration and suggested the Conference of Presidents authorize Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis to protest to the government and prevent the adoption of emergency procedures in the vote on the controversial draft bill.
PASOK MP Dimitris Kremastinos said that the MPs need more time, while Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Thanassis Pafilis and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) MP Dimitris Anagnostakis were also against the adoption of emergency procedures.
 PASOK MP Kassis says he will not vote the omnibus billPASOK MP Mihalis Kassis speaking on Thursday to private TV MEGA clarified that he will not vote the omnibus bill to be tabled on Friday in parliament.
"Better rebel than puppet," he said adding that they are bringing the omnibus bill on Friday and we must vote it by Sunday. If there are no changes in the omnibus bill, I will not vote it. Kassis reiterated that PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos would do him a favour if he expelled him from the party.
Responding to comments that they (MPs) will overthrow the government for the milk issue when they (MPs) have voted harsher measures, Kassis said "If the government falls, I will be responsible and not the prime minister and his ministers that do not see that they should discuss the issue in order a solution to be found."
 Public Order Minister's comments on reactions against the omnibus billThe country can only choose between the painful road of reforms and the way of destruction, Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias on Thursday said referring to reactions against the government's omnibus bill, which includes points of the recent agreement between the government and the troika.
"If small interests survive, that would be against us," Dendias told private radio station Skai. "This would put everything we have achieved into question and the country would find itself in a swirling," he noted.
"Let's stop thinking about our own petty interests and adopt the approach of a developed society," Dendias added.
 PM Samaras contacts Justice minister on the murder of prison police sergeantPrime Minister Antonis Samaras had a phone conversation with Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou on the case of the Malandrinou prison police sergeant who was stabbed to death by an Albanian inmate serving a life sentence.
The premier and the minister decided that all possible assistance would be provided to the family of the 46-year-old police sergeant, Giorgos Tsironis, who was a father of two.
Samaras also asked Athanassiou to consider the legislative framework and increase favourable arrangements for the families of those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
 Greece will receive larger tranche of aid from IMF, spokesman saysNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)
The managing board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will meet in May to approve the disbursement of the next tranche of an aid to Greece, IMF spokesman William Murray said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters during a daily briefing, Murray said that no specific date for the meeting has been set so far. He, added, however, that Greece could get more aid than usual. "Because some of the review has been delayed, there's going to be a rephrasing of disbursements to Greece. I assume it will be higher because there were gaps between reviews," Murray said.
The spokesman said that a joint statement issued by the troika stressed that Greece's fiscal performance was moving towards implementing the programme's targets and that first estimates proved that a primary surplus was achieved with a significant margin in 2013. Murray said that the IMF encouraged ongoing efforts in Europe over the next round of stress tests in the European banking system.
 No extension to milk shelf life possible, agriculture ministry meeting toldA meeting held at the rural development and foods ministry on Thursday to discuss proposed reforms for milk has ruled out an extension of shelf life beyond the current five days, at least for now. The meeting was held between Rural Development and Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris, Alternate Minister Maximos Charakopoulos and scientists at the Hellenic Milk and Meat Organisation (ELOGAK) and the Hellenic Agriculture Organisation (ELGO Dimitra) to discuss the shelf life for low-temperature pasteurised milk, previously labelled 'fresh'.
Expert scientists at the meeting said that production and distribution conditions in Greece did not permit the shelf life for milk to be extended beyond the current five-day limit for the present. They said an increase by one day might be marginally possible but only after the necessary scientific data was first collected.
 'There seems to be a will to revise the text of the agreement on milk' Alternate Food Minister Charakopoulos saysThe impasse on the issue of milk is likely to be overcome as the troika seems to have accepted some changes, according to the latest information.
Asked on the issue, Alternate Rural Development and Food Minister Maximos Charakopoulos told ANA-MPA that there seemed to be a will to revise the text of the agreement on milk and that was a positive development.
However, he highlighted some key observations that cannot be ignored:
"The term 'milk of the day' makes sense if it has a shelf-life up to 5 days and can thus be distributed to large urban centres. Moreover, the milk with the mildest heat treatment has a de facto five day life. Therefore, why is there a need to limit its shelf-life?
Regarding the removal of the term 'fresh', that also exists in other EU countries. In any case, pasteurized milk does not have an unlimited shelf-life. In Greece is set at 5 days, with the possibility of 1 day extension provided the 'cold chain' is preserved, as milk is collected from different parts of the country until it reaches the corner store.
Furthermore, it is useful to put an end to the misleading term 'UHT pasteurization' that creates the illusion of higher quality to many consumers, while it is known that the higher heat treatment the milk undergoes, the less nutritional values it has. The current 'high pasteurized milk' could be called milk of higher heat treatment."
 A middle ground on the issue of milk has been reached, Dev't ministry sources sayThe Development and Competitiveness ministry and the Rural Development ministry have reached a middle ground on the issue of milk, according to Development ministry sources.
According to the same sources, it has been agreed and approved by the troika that the market will offer two categories of milk. The pasteurized with the subcategory "milk of the day" and the "high temperature treatment" milk with longer shelf-life.
The packaging of the second type of milk will have a special label as to its consumption depending on the date of pasteurization.
 AKEL party leader holds press conference on his meetings in AthensCyprus' Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) General Secretary Andros Kyprianos on Thursday held a press conference for the Greek media on the results of his visit to Athens and the meetings he held, describing them as interesting. He underlined that he had the chance to brief the Greek government regarding recent events in connection with the Cyprus issue and AKEL's position.
"A correct solution will offer a perspective and a future to Cyprus," Kyprianos said and noted that AKEL supported the Joint Declaration in spite of its disagreement with aspects of how it was handled, noting that the Joint Declaration falls short of the Christofias-Talat agreement in some respects.
Kyprianos referred to factors that will play a role in the event of an agreement, noting that the USA had taken a more active role, in pursuit of a solution that will serve their own interests in the area, especially those connected with oil.
He also stressed that Turkey exercised influence over the Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, pressing him to accept the Joint Declaration, adding that the Cypriot political parties should move constructively in relation with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, he said.
"Our partners were using us as lab animals regarding the issue of the banking union," Kyprianos said, stressing that many different practices were tested on a small country in order not to affect the eurozone. He said that the lack of liquidity and trust for the banking system make the situation very difficult for businesses.
 Rural Development and Food Minister Tsaftaris unveils changes in milk regulationThe troika has accepted changes in milk regulation, Rural Development and Food Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris said on Thursday.
According to the minister, the term "fresh" will be removed from the packaging of milk, which will be offered in two categories depending on the treatment it has undergone. The pasteurized milk (now called fresh) and high and ultra high temperature treatment milk. In the pasteurized type, there will be a subcategory of "milk of one day".
A scientific committee will meet on Thursday to consider the possibility of expanding the shelf-life of pasteurized milk to more than five days.
They will also elaborate on the terms for the "milk of the day".
 ND aims to become leading party in the euroelections, the head of the party's campaign saysNew Democracy's aim is to get the most votes in May's europarliament elections and become a leader in the big reforms and changes that need to be done in Europe, deputy Manolis Kefalogiannis who is responsible for the party's campaign ahead of the Euroelections said.
"We want to put the issue of Europe on the agenda of discussions regarding major problems. Europe can not be detached from the solution of the Greek problem," he said.
"We have to discuss with citizens more issues than just the changes that should be made in our country. Reforms and changes have taken place, bearing positive results such as the primary surplus, the stabilization of the economy, Greece's opening to the markets and the prospect of the country standing on its own feet. This is one issue. On other hand, Europe should implement major reforms and changes. There is a large institutional deficit in Europe and this is something we need to discuss with all the countries of the South," he added.
Asked whether government deputies, opposed to certain regulations, such as the one on milk, can cause a cohesion issue during the vote of the bill to be tabled by the government to Parliament, Kefalogiannis said: "No one claimed there were no problems. We need to have a dialogue on specific issues, such as milk, the pharmacists and the photovoltaic; we should find the balances that are needed in order for Greece to have the greatest benefit at the lowest cost and that greatest benefit would be to get out of the crisis once and for all."
 President Papoulias meets Italian Parliament president in RomeROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Syngelakis)
President Karolos Papoulias met Italian Parliament Speaker Laura Boldrini in Rome on Thursday afternoon.
President Papoulias, who is in the Italian capital for the inauguration of the exhibition titled "Classicism and Europe. The destiny of Greece and Italy", to run from March 29 until July 15. The Greek president was accompanied on his visit to Italy by Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and Education Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos.
"After the last meeting with the Italian Parliament speaker in Athens last November, many things happened. Starting with the election of the new Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who wants to change many things and we wish for him to succeed. There are also successes in the Greek economy, as well, thanks to the great sacrifices of the Greek people. Something is looming on the horizon and we hope that better days are on the way," Papoulias said after he was received by Boldrini.
President Papoulias also stressed that "all this is fragile and we must be careful, staying on the line we have drawn".
During his talks with the head of the Italian Parliament, President Papoulias also referred to a considerable primary surplus achieved by Greece.
Earlier, the President of the Republic toured the Italian capital's "Borghese" art gallery where, apart from the permanent exhibits, he was also able to visit an exhibition dedicated to well-known sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
On Friday morning, President Papoulias will be holding a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, while in the afternoon he will be meeting Italian President Georgio Napolitano. The two presidents will then jointly inaugurate the exhibition "Classicism and Europe. The destiny of Greece and Italy" at the Quirinale presidential mansion.
 Deputy Foreign Minister's visit to Australia completedDeputy Foreign Minister Akis Gerontopoulos completed a four-day tour to Australia after having meetings at the State Parliament in Sydney with the Minister for Tourism George Souris, Senator Sophie Cotsis as well as expatriates and local government officials at the Sydney Town Hall, according to a foreign ministry announcement.
Gerontopoulos met with prominent expatriate entrepreneurs, while on Wednesday evening he addressed a Hellenic Initiative event, an initiative of leading expat entrepreneurs from around the world aimed at attracting investments to Greece.
"I always have strong feelings when I meet Greeks abroad. Today, my feelings are even stronger because I have the honour to address Hellenism in Australia and the United States and, at the same time, I have the pleasure to welcome the Greek Initiative," Gerontopoulos said.
"Greece was among the first European countries affected by the debt crisis five years ago. But today I am pleased to confirm that Greece is leaving the crisis behind. For the first time we have achieved a significant primary surplus and, for 2014, we expect a significantly positive economic growth rate. The structural reforms implemented by the Greek government have resulted in the creation of a favourable investment and business environment," he added.
The Greek minister also said he was glad to see the Diaspora united. "We must combine the support and expertise of the Greek Diaspora and philhellenic community. Above all we must believe in the potential of our country. The Greeks in Australia, as in the United States, are known for their patriotism and I firmly believe that all of you decisively and in every possible way will help and support the recovery efforts of our Nation," he underlined.
 Anyone who doesn't vote the for bill will be responsible for the country's exit from the euro, Health minister saysThe vote is a historic moment, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis told private TV station MEGA.
"The question is who wants this place to go forward and who wants to return to the nightmare," Georgiadis wondered. He added that "anyone who does not vote, takes the responsibility of the country exiting the euro. We are not children, we are deputies," he said adding that the country was exiting the memorandum and that everyone should take their own responsibilities.
The Health minister also expressed his discontent over the attitude of striking pharmacists saying: "My colleagues in the government suggested I should accept all the demands of the troika because Greek pharmacists are so spoiled that they would strike regardless of what was voted for." He stressed that with his personal intervention the government has not adopted all the measures requested by the troika for the pharmacies.
 PEDY Attica units start operating on ThursdayThe newly introduced Primary National Health Network (PEDY) on Thursday launched the operation of its Attica units. The insured will at first be able to have their medication prescribed and have physical examination until the units are reinforced and staffed with more medical personnel.
The system is gradually getting into operation, Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Mega TV on Thursday morning. He added that any problems that may come up will be dealt with in time and pointed out that the new call centers for appointments with doctors will be announced in a few days.
 Health Minister Georgiadis expresses satisfaction with the operation of PEDY clinicsHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday, the first day in the operation of the Primary National Health Network (PEDY) clinics in the greater Athens region, expressed satisfaction stating that "we have kept our rendezvous, despite the negative predictions of trade union leaders," who had said that none of the clinics would open.
"The clinics are open, prescriptions are written and people are examined," Georgiadis said, adding that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to have a new primary healthcare system that will meet the country's needs.
Hospital Doctors Union Federation (OENGE) president Dimitris Varnavas, on his part, said that PEDY clinics are in a state of paralysis and are unable to provide even basic healthcare services to the people, while the Athens Medical Association (ISA) underlined that PEDY health units have organisational problems and are understaffed.
 Macedonia-Thrace Minister meets with Metropolitan of Proussa ElpidophorosMacedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou received on Thursday the metropolitan of Proussa and abbot of Aghia Triada monastery on Halki Elpidophoros.
The minister discussed with the metropolitan issues regarding the Orthodoxy and the Hellenism and Elpidophoros referred to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's effort for the reopening of the Theological School of Halki and to other issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the Greek community in Istanbul.
"As hierarch of Ecumenical Patriarchat and also as professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, I am very pleased to visit you and I invite you to the Theological School of Halki" said Elpidophoros referring also to the programme, sponsored by OPAP, for the digitisation of the historic archive of the Theological School of Halki.
 Parliament lifts Golden Dawn MP Germenis' immunityParliament's Ethics Committee decided on Thursday to lift Golden Dawn MP Giorgos Germenis' parliamentary immunity.
Moreover, the Committee decided to postpone for one week the examination of the Golden Dawn's deputies, who are not detained, Constantinos Barbaroussis, Polyvios Zissimopoulos as well as Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos who recently left from Golden Dawn and became independent, following their requests.
Germenis remains in custody pending trial charged with participation in a criminal organisation.
 Social dividend to go to those earning less than 6,000 euro a year, sources sayThe government's current plans envisage that the so-called 'social dividend', or section of Greece's primary surplus returned to the more vulnerable groups in society as a one-off benefit, will go to those with a per capita real income of less than 6,000 euros a year. According to sources, this was the conclusion reached during Thursday's meeting between a finance ministry team and members of the PASOK party, the junior partner in Greece's coalition government.
The meeting said that the income criteria will be decided with an 'equivalency scale' used for family welfare benefits, with a coefficient of one for each head of household, one third for a spouse and one sixth for each child. Effectively, this means an annual income of 10,000 euros annually for a couple with two children.
Concerns were expressed about how those genuinely in need can be identified in large sections of the population that do not earn a fixed salary, such as freelance workers and farmers.
The size of the one-off benefit, which is due to be given in May, is expected to range between 500 and 1,000 euros. Those receiving the highest amounts will include families with four or more children or three-child families where the mother is not working. For the average family of four, the benefit is expected to be around 800 euros.
In terms of property ownership criteria, sources said the limit will likely be set at 50,000 euros for a single person, 100,000 euros for a couple and 250,000 euros for a family.
The draft omnibus bill to be tabled on Friday will reference the beneficiaries, specifying that the final criteria will be decided by Joint Ministerial Decree to be issued when the income and other criteria are finalised.
In the previous meeting held on Monday, decisions were made for 20 million euros to help the homeless and roughly 35 million euros to be given to uniformed forces, with between 68,000-70,000 set to receive a 500-euro benefit. A further 20 million euros is to be spent on healthcare for those lacking health insurance (350,000-400,000 individuals).
 US armoured personnel carriers to arrive in Greece in the fallA total of 460 M-113 armoured personnel carriers no longer used by the US Pentagon will arrive in Greece by early fall, it was announced on Thursday.
The selection of the specific M-113s was made by a committee of Greek military officers who traveled to the United States for this purpose. The personnel carriers will undergo an inspection at the military plant in Velestino, central Greece, before they are forwarded to military units.
Similar procedures have been launched for 320 general purpose trucks from the US reserves.
 Draft bill on euro-elections tabled in parliamentA draft bill prepared by the Interior Ministry on the election of European Parliament members and other provisions was tabled in Parliament Thursday evening.
The bill brings regulations and restrictions applying for euro-elections runners into line with those applying for MPs, while it defines free information to citizens through public opinion polls and allocation of election funding.
In addition, the bill arranges issues pertaining to the time, setting up and composition of the Interparty Electoral Committee.
 Greek Counter-Terrorism Unit key in averting a grave terrorist attack in Cote d'AzurA grave terrorist attack in France was averted with the substantial help of Greek authorities, it was announced on Thursday. Critical information was passed on to French authorities by the Greek Counter-Terrorism Police Unit, which led to the arrest in Cote d'Azur of a 23-year-old French national of Algerian descent, alleged to be a member of an Islamic terrorist organization. The man in custody has been identified as Ibrahim B., who had been interrogated by the Greek Counter-Terrorist Unit in the past while passing through Greece.
According to the Greek Police, the 23-year-old entered Greece through Syria at the end of December 2013 and he was interrogated by the Greek Counter-Terrorism Unit on January 3 on suspicion of having participated in terrorist acts. During a search of his room, Greek authorities found a usb-stick containing encrypted data about terrorist acts. Nevertheless, as the man could not be linked to any terrorist act in Greece and there was no pending international warrant against him, he was set free.
The Greek Counter-Terrorism Unit continued its investigation, however, and passed all information to the French Police on several occasions during January 2014, in the framework of international police cooperation. The Greek information was crucial in mobilizing a secret operation by the French, which led to his apprehension. During a search of the house of Ibrahim B., explosives and other evidence of his actions were found. According to the French authorities, a grave terrorist attack in Cote d'Azur has now been averted.
 Turkish corvette enters into Greek territorial watersThe Turkish corvette "Bandirma" entered into the Greek territorial waters in the southeastern and central Aegean Sea on March 26, at 9:45, according to an announcement by the Hellenic National Defence General Staff.
The Turkish corvette exited the Greek territorial waters at 4:30 on March 27.
Greek Navy vessels are monitoring the course of the Turkish vessel throughout its trip.
 Hydrocarbon exploration a top priority for the government, Energy Minister Maniatis saysNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis confirmed here on Thursday that hydrocarbon exploration issues are a top priority for the Greek government.
In a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, he referred to the talks he had earlier with Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis focusing on energy and "blue growth" issues, among the major initiatives of the European Union and the Greek EU presidency.
He briefed the Cypriot president on the timetable of Greece's moves, as regards hydrocarbons, focusing on the contracts to be signed in the summer of 2014 and referred to the country's upgrading in relation to the Southern Corridor pipeline network.
He also underlined that a decision was reached in the meeting with the Cypriot minister to set up a joint working group on issues of energy, environment and maritime policies.
Maniatis had meetings with the Cypriot Parliament President and the ministers of foreign affairs and agriculture.
 Energy minister, Cypriot counterpart discuss Eastmed pipeline projectGreece's Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Cypriot Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis held talks on Thursday on a feasibility study launched by the Greek government for an Eastmed natural gas pipeline linking the Eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus, Crete, Greece and Europe.
Lakkotrypis said that Nicosia's strategy remains that of creating a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) land terminal at Vassilikos and that Cyprus will participate in the Eastmed pipeline, since it is a project of mutual interest and one of three projects approved last summer by the European Commission that concern Cyprus.
The two ministers also briefed each other on hydrocarbon and domestic energy market issues, as well as the priorities of the Greek EU presidency in the environment and energy sectors, agreeing to set up a committee to examine these, in addition to issues relating to tourism.
Lakkotrypis briefed Maniatis on the progress made in hydrocarbon exploration and the island republic's plans for energy infrastructure. He said Nicosia was currently in negotiations with the firm Noble on the agreement for the LNG terminal at Vassilikos.
Maniatis said that they also discussed the initiatives taken by the two sides to jointly promote the Eastmed feasibility study "so that we have all the alternative solutions for the transport of hydrocarbons to the markets of Europe" and the imminent initiatives planned by the Greek government within 2014 for hydrocarbon exploration in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete.
According to the minister, cooperation between Greece and Cyprus was now at "an excellent stage" and the two countries could under present conditions take on the role of a new energy supply source for Europe, upgrading their geopolitical position and security greater prosperity and wealth.
 Greece records biggest decline in hourly labour costs in the EUBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)
Greece recorded the biggest decline (-18.6 pct) in average hourly labour costs in the EU in the period 2008-2013, Eurostat said on Thursday.
The average hourly labour cost in Greece was 16.7 euros in 2008, it grew to 17 euros in 2009 and fell to 13.6 euros in 2013, Eurostat said, adding that the share of the non-payroll cost in Greece was 19.1 pct.
In 2013, average hourly labour costs in the whole economy (excluding agriculture and public administration) were estimated to be 23.7 euros in the EU28 and 28.4 euros in the euro area. However, this average masks significant differences between EU member-states, with the lowest hourly labour costs recorded in Bulgaria (3.7), Romania (4.6), Lithuania (6.2) and Latvia (6.3), and the highest in Sweden (40.1), Denmark (38.4), Belgium (38.0), Luxembourg (35.7) and France (34.3).
Within the business economy, labour costs per hour were highest in industry (24.6 euros in the EU28 and 31.0 in the euro area), followed by services (23.9 and 28.0 respectively) and construction (21.0 and 24.5). In the mainly non-business economy (excluding public administration), labour costs per hour were 23.2 euros in the EU28 and 27.7 in the euro area. Labour costs are made up of wages & salaries and non-wage costs such as employers' social contributions. The share of non-wage costs in the whole economy was 23.7% in the EU-28 and 25.9% in the euro area, varying between 8.0% in Malta and 33.3% in Sweden.
These preliminary estimates for 2013, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, cover enterprises with 10 or more employees and are based on the 2008 Labour Cost Survey and the Labour Cost Index.
 The Greek health system becomes the "patient" in FT conferenceThe economic crisis in Greece and its consequences to the Greek health system, was this year's main theme of the conference "Shaping a healthier Nation, Shaping a healthier Europe", organized by the Financial Times in Athens for the fourth consecutive year.
According to the findings of the conference, the Greek crisis had direct and indirect effects to the health of the citizens of Greece, leading to greater inequalities and a dramatic reduction in the offering of health services, while also making access to the Public Health system more difficult. The chronic and casual patients who lose their social security coverage, also seem to lose their access to the Public Health system, which negatively affects their health, as well as the long-term cost of the system. Many of these people often pay themselves for health services in a system that is not better than the one before the crisis began.
About 8% of chronically-ill patients or people with a severe ailment in Greece, are left with no medical therapy due to having become unemployed during 2013, while there are many who decide to modify their medical treatment on economic grounds, negatively affecting their health.
Addressing the conference, the Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis defended health reforms, which he described as unavoidable for a country willing to remain in the euro-zone and the European Union. Georgiadis conceded, that despite considerable progress in the public health system, there are still many things remaining to be done.
Deputy Health Minister Antonis Bezas said, that creating a sustainable health system and reducing inequalities is crucial for Greece in its efforts to beat the crisis. Bezas emphasized, that the health system being built excludes no one, while respecting taxpayers' money.
Speaking at the conference, Oxford University researcher Aaron Reeves mentioned, that under pressure from the troika, the Greek health budget was diminished by 60%, which led to greater social inequality. Reeves, a member of a research team who examine the consequences of the crisis in Greece, said that increased HIV infection was due to less syringes being distributed and to a health system less accessible to vulnerable social groups, who also face subsistence issues.
According to George Tsakos, a Public Health expert at the University College London, health inequalities are a "bomb" in the foundations of every nation, undermining its future. Tsakos argued, that this is not only an issue for the less privileged groups, as it seems to involve all social classes.
Tina Tripsa, country manager of IPSOS market research group, presented a survey according to which, 71 pct of participating doctors said patients losing access to social security have to pay out of their own pockets for continuing their medical treatment. According to the doctors, 17 pct of their patients following long-term medical treatment, lost their social security coverage during 2013, of which 44 pct had to actually stop the treatment for financial reasons. One in three patients modified their treatment, which led to a deterioration of their illness.
According to senior OECD Economist Gaetan Lafortune, Greece still ranks high among EU nations in antibiotics consumption and diagnostic examinations. Reducing what seems to be an exaggeration, would allow for a greater health coverage of the Greek population.
Speaking at the the Financial Times conference, Konstantinos Frouzis, the president of SFEE (the Association of Greek Pharmaceutical Companies) called for a "smart prescription" to address the problems of healthcare in Greece. Frouzis said that, reducing the pharmaceutical budget in Greece to less than 2 billion euros for 2014 is tantamount to a tacit "ban" on new and medicinal products. He called for the full computerization of the public hospital systems, while also calling for funding to innovative R&D pharmaceutical projects.
 Piraeus Port says profits up 30 pct in 2013Piraeus Port Organization on Thursday reported a significant 30 pct increase in its pre-tax profits last year and said it remained on a profitable course for the fourth successive year in 2013.
Pre-tax profits totaled 11.8 million euros in 2013, from 9.098 million in 2012, after tax earnings totaled 8.045 million euros, an increase of 12.1 pct from 2012, while gross earnings rose 11.5 pct to 22.2 million euros. Turnover edged 2.0 pct higher to 106.6 million euros in 2013, from 108.6 million euros in 2012.
Average labour costs/turnover fell to 46.4 pct in 2013, from 71 pct in 2009 and 52 pct in 2012, while cash reserves totaled 40.6 million euros, sharply up from 14.6 million euros in 2012, an increase of 177 pct. Earnings per share rose by 12.1 pct to 0.3218 euros from 0.2871 euros in 2012.
 Overdue tax debt up 962 mln euros in JanOverdue tax debt to the state grew by 962 million euros in January to a total of 63.26 billion euros, from 62.3 billion in December, official data showed.
Collection of overdue debt (older and new debt) totaled 266 million euros in the first month of 2015, of which 61 million euros were new overdue debt.
Under the provisions of a new tax legislation, introduced from January 1, 2014, all new overdue debt will be burdened with a monthly interest of 0.73 pct, while a 10 pct fine on the initial debt will be imposed.
 Bank credit to private sector remained negative in FebThe annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector remained negative at -4.0% in February, unchanged from the previous month, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, amounting to 773 million euros (February 2013: negative net flow of 949 million).
The net flow of credit to corporations, in February 2014, was negative, amounting to 439 million euros (February 2013: negative net flow of 457 million), and the annual growth rate of credit stood at -5.2%, unchanged from the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations stood at -5.1%, compared with -5.3% in the previous month, while the net flow of credit to non-financial corporations was negative and equal to 353 million euros (February 2013: negative net flow of 579 million). The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at -7.1%, in February 2014, compared with -4.1% in January 2014.
The net flow of credit to sole proprietors and unincorporated partnerships was negative, amounting to 19 million euros in February 2014 (February 2013: negative net flow of 29 million) and its annual growth rate stood at 0.9%, unchanged from the previous month.
In February 2014, the net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, amounting to 314 million euros, (February 2013: negative net flow of 462 million) and its annual growth rate stood at -3.3%, compared with -3.4% in the previous month.
 Space Hellas reports lower 2013 resultsSpace Hellas on Thursday said its consolidated pre-tax profits totaled 689,000 euros in 2013, from 456,000 in the previous year.
Consolidated turnover fell to 41 million euros last year from 48.5 million euros in 2012, with gross earnings falling to 13.3 million euros and EBITDA easing to 4.0 million euros, from 14.5 million and 4.6 million euros, respectively. After tax profits dropped to 31,000 euros in 2013 from 318,000 in 2012.
Space Hellas said it continued reducing its short-term bank debt to 11.3 million euros in 2013 from 14.5 million in 2012.
Parent turnover fell to 38.7 million euros, EBITDA eased to 3.5 million euros and after tax results showed a loss of 359,000 euros in 2013 from profits of 207,000 in 2012.
 Extra charges hit PPC's results in 2013Public Power Corporation on Thursday reported after tax losses totaling 225.3 million euros in 2013 and said its results were burdened by a 105.5 million euros extra charge from a decision by regulatory authorities to change electricity supply prices to Aluminium SA and higher tax burdens (228.3 million euros).
PPC said demand for electricity energy fell by 5.5 pct in the first nine months of the year, but grew by 1.4 pct and 0.4 pct in the fourth quarter of 2013 (household and commercial use respectively), for an annual decline of 4.0 pct.
Revenue from electricity energy sales rose 0.9 pct to 5.76 billion euros. Pre-tax profits totaled 34.9 million euros, from 106.7 million in 2012.
Arthuros Zervos, PPC's chairman and chief executive, commenting on the results said that the 2013 results did not include the positive impact from a retrospective introduction of a discount in natural gas prices agreed between PPC and Gazprom, which is expected to be reflected in the results of the first quarter of 2014.
Zervos said that PPC's investments totaled 718 million euros last year and made significant progress in the management of its debt portfolio. The electricity utility also signed a five-year bond loan worth 2.2 billion euros with a consortium of Greek banks to refinance an existing loan worth 1.2 billion euros.
 Prospects for the Greek enterpeneurship in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe Foreign Ministry has included the Sub-Saharan Africa in the top priority zones and is planning a series of actions to promote the extrovert enterprises as the potentials for the Greek companies are very important.
In this context the Panhellenic Exporters Association and the Greek-African Chamber of Commerce and Development are organising an one-day event on the issue "Prospects for the Greek enterpreneurship in the Sub-Saharan Africa" at the Foreign ministry on April 9.
The event is held within the framework of the Greek EU presidency priorities for the development of the economic and political relations between EU and Africa.
The Sub-Saharan Africa is developing rapidly with an average 5 pct annual GDP growth in the last decade. It is estimated that by 2015 the growth rate will have increased and reached 6 pct as a result of the recovery of the world economy, the high rates of raw materials and investments in the region aiming at increasing production capacity. The economy in most countries of the region is growing rapidly with positive results for the other countries of the area.
 Lamda Development ready to begin works in Hellenikon site, CEO saysThe Hellinikon site - fully upgraded based on a development plan submitted to Greek authorities - will be gradually and freely made accessible to the public two years after a "green light"to begin works in the former airport site, Odysseas Athanasiou, chief executive of Lamda Development said on Thursday.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Athanasiou said that if Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund should declare Lamda Development as preferential investor for Hellinikon, the company will begin building a metropolitan park (covering an area of 2.0 million sq.m. - one of the biggest in the world), sport facilities, a new beachfront and tourist infrastructure projects in a period of seven years. Athanasiou said the project will create a destination that could attract an additional one million tourists in Athens, creating around 15,000 jobs during the investment period and 50,000 jobs - direct and indirect - with the completion of the project. The Greek state will enjoy tax revenues surpassing 2.0 billion euros only from VAT receipts.
Athanasiou said that if Lamda Development was declared preferential investor, it will launch an information campaign over job positions and a promotion campaign in big cities worldwide to attract visitors. The project will be completed in around 15 years as a housing development plan was largely related with the course of the Greek economy.
 Aegean Airlines adds new destinations to its flight scheduleAegean Airlines plans to boost its presence at home and abroad, linking Greece with a total of 87 destinations in 32 countries.
Presenting Aegean Airlines' strategy for 2014 ahead of the beginning of the summer season, Aegean's Vice-President Eftychios Vassilakis said that Aegean will offer 13 million seats this year, up 1,150,000 compared with last year.
Aegean Airlines is also strengthening its fleet with five Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, to reach a total of 50 aircraft and creates a new base in Chania (for a total of eight bases around Greece).
More analytically, Aegean Airlines is raising its domestic and international flight schedule to 256 flights (205 international and 51 domestic) and announced that from a total of 13 million seats available this year, 6.6 million seats were for domestic flights in 33 destinations and 6.5 million seats for international flights to 87 destinations.
Aegean will begin five new flights to Denmark, Sweden, UAE, Jordan and Lebanon along with 14 new destinations from Athens to: Birmingham, Marseille, Nantes, Zurich, Hamburg, Hannover, Nuremberg, Copenhagen, Catania, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Stockholm, Izmir and Amman.
 Greek banks' deposits down in FebruaryDeposits in Greek banks fell further in February, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday. The central bank, in a monthly report, said that households' and enterprises' deposits in Greek banks fell to 160.5 billion euros in February, from 161.02 billion euros the previous month, for an accumulated decline of 2.7 billion euros in the first two months of 2014.
Bank deposits are down around 77 billion euros since April 2009, when they had reached their peak with 237 billion euros.
 Dias Aquaculture files for bankruptcyDias Aquaculture on Thursday filed for bankruptcy, asking for immediate protection measures from its creditors and citing inability to cover its overdue debt.
The company resorted to this action following a decision by an Athens primary court to dismiss its application for opening a restructuring procedure under article 99 of the bankruptcy code.
"Given its faith to the future of the company, the board continues to wish for a restructuring agreement with banks and other creditors, as this prospect seems to be the only sustainable and long-term solution to the company's current financial dead-end," the company said in an announcement. Meanwhile, three members of the board resigned from their posts and will be replaced during the next general shareholders' meeting.
 Frigoglass reports losses in 2013Frigoglass on Thursday reported losses of 30.766 million euros in 2013, from losses of 14.964 million euros in the previous year.
The company reported higher losses in the fourth quarter of 2013 (32.417 million euros from 21.003 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2012).
Operating earnings totaled 29.952 million euros in 2013, down 12 pct from the previous year, although they were up 10 pct in the fourth quarter.
EBITDA totaled 63.901 million euros in 2013, down 5.8 pct from the previous year. EBITDA fell 3.0 pct in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 11.082 million euros.
Frigoglass said sales totaled 522.508 million euros last year, down 10.1 pct from 2012.
 Greek stocks end significantly lowerGreek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market below crucial technical support levels. The index ended 1.27 pct lower at 1,314.99 points, after falling as much as 1.80 pct earlier in the day. Turnover remained a strong 122.07 million euros.
The Large Cap index fell 1.31 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.44 pct lower. MIG (2.04 pct) and OTE (0.41 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while Athens Water (3.90 pct), Frigoglass (3.56 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.16 pct) and Jumbo (3.08 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The Insurance (2.04 pct), Media (1.62 pct) and Telecoms (0.41 pct) sectors scored gains, while Commerce (2.75 pct), Technology (2.54 pct) and Real Estate (2.30 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 89 to 48 with another 22 issues unchanged. Fieratex (29.79 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (17.65 pct) and Nakas (10 pct) were top gainers, while Pasal (19.39 pct), Medicon (19.38 pct) and Kyriakoulis (18.50 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +0.08%
Industrial Products: -1.17%
Real Estate: -2.30%
Personal & Household: -2.25%
Food & Beverages: Unchanged
Raw Materials: -2.28%
Travel & Leisure: -1.70%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, PPC and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.73
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.54
Coca Cola HBC: 18.04
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.20
National Bank of Greece: 3.84
Eurobank Properties : 8.60
Piraeus Bank: 1.84
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 5.39 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 5.33 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.91 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.52 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, equally distributed between buy and sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued falling. The 12-month rate eased to 0.587 pct from 0.591 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.501 pct from 0.506 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.416 pct from 0.419 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.313 pct from 0.315 pct and the one-month rate was unchanged at 0.237 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.19 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 31.257 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 11,466 contracts worth 24.331 million euros, with 57,908 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,321 contracts worth 6.926 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (12,490), followed by Alpha Bank (1,174), National Bank (592), MIG (1,150), OTE (527), PPC (920), Mytilineos (377), GEK (450), Intralot (498), Eurobank (208), OPAP (317), Hellenic Petroleum (293), Motor Oil (191), Ellaktor (168) and Titan (236).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.396
Pound sterling 0.840
Danish kroner 7.577
Swedish kroner 9.052
Japanese yen 142.86
Swiss franc 1.237
Norwegian kroner 8.389
Canadian dollar 1.549
Australian dollar 1.512
 Crisis resulted in record number of complaints in 2013, Greek Ombudsman's annual report showsA record number of complaints was received by the Greek Ombudsman in 2013, based on the authority's annual report unveiled on Thursday. According to Greek Ombudsman Kalliopi Spanou, the economic crisis and the need to boost state revenues effectively 'trumped' all other rights and considerations in the state's dealings with citizens over the last year.
She said the authority received 14,738 reports and complaints, up 26 pct from 2012 and 38 pct in relation to 2011, while the majority of complaints and interventions did not concern instances where legality had been violated but where a modicum of proper management and flexibility had to be found in implementing laws in order to avoid placing an excessive burden and privation on citizens.
"The basic issue raised is to what degree the rights of citizens can be compressing and at the same time the state's commitment to protecting them for the sake of fiscal policy," Spanou said, stressing that the "proper functioning of the law was not a luxury, even in times of economic crisis."
The majority of complaints received by the ombudsman's office concerned the inability of citizens to meet financial obligations, especially concerning problems with social insurance and pensions, as well as taxes and the restructuring of state services.
The report highlighted the risk of a decline in the protection of human rights, especially of the most vulnerable groups such as the poor, unemployed, disabled and migrants, and a deterioration in issues such as protecting children, gender equality, and the environment.
More than one quarter (28 pct) of the complaints concerned issues of mismanagement involved social insurance funds and organisations supervised by the labour ministry. Another 17.4 pct, showing a rising trend, involved the finance ministry and its associated organisations. There was also an increase in complaints concerning local government, where the percentage rose to nearly 16 pct of the total.
 Two-day events in Athens on electromagnetic fields and possible health effectsThe electromagnetic fields and potential health effects, as well as the scientific, social and political dimensions of the issue, will be examined in a two-day event that opened in Athens on Thursday, in the context of the Greek EU Presidency.
Organizers are the Directorate General for Health & Consumers of the European Commission (DG SANCO), the General Secretariat for Research and Technology and the Greek Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), the national competent authority in the fields of radiation protection and radiological and nuclear safety, including protection from electromagnetic fields.
A public hearing was held on Thursday on the preliminary opinion of the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) on EMF and potential health effects, aimed at complementing the public consultation that will continue until April 16. SCENIHR's task is to provide a scientific perspective on emerging health risks that may arise from new applications, such as nanotechnology, electromagnetic radiation, chemicals etc.
A workshop on "electromagnetic fields and health effects: from science to policy and public awareness - Conciliating scientific findings and uncertainties in policy making" will be held on Friday. Discussion will focus on the latest scientific developments, the regulatory framework and the communication of the issue to the public.
The workshop will be attended by experts and stakeholders from scientific bodies, competent authorities, international organisations, relevant fora and associations, as well as by EU member states representatives.
 Wife and daughter of Pavlos Psomiadis to remain in custodyA Supreme Court prosecutor on Thursday decided that the wife and daughter of Pavlos Psomiadis, the former head of the ASPIS insurance group, will not be released from prison.
He did not accept the arguments made by Maria (wife) and Olga (daughter) Psomiadi against a decision ordering that they be remanded in custody, considering their allegations groundless and deciding that there is no reason to revoke a decision for their imprisonment on remand.
The wife, daughter and son of Pavlos Psomiadis face criminal charges for legalising income from illegal activities and forming a criminal organisation, in the framework of which they allegedly perpetrated offences, such as fraud, embezzlement and breach of faith.
It is noteworthy that the son of Pavlos Psomiadis, Daniel, is also being held in custody but did not submit an appeal to the Supreme Court for his release pending trial.
 Two largest Greek cities to acquire regulatory 'master plans' for urban environmentAthens and Thessaloniki, the two largest Greek cities with a combined population of about 6 million people, are to each get a complete regulatory urban-area "master plan", Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis announced on Thursday. These will act as an integrated urban planning, spatial, developmental and environmental 'road-map' for the coming 20 years and both were unveiled for a process of open public consultation, ending April 3.
The two plans' fundamental goal is "the upgrading of the international role of Athens and Thessaloniki," according to Maniatis. Both plans aim to achieve balanced economic growth, to improve competitiveness and increase production and employment in all feasible sectors, in a framework of sustainable spatial development, effective protection of the environment and cultural heritage and of adaptation to climate change.
As Maniatis put it, the focus of the two plans is "on improving the quality of life for the inhabitants [of the two cities], on saving resources and a balanced distribution of the benefits of growth." The regulatory master plans aim for sustainable development in Athens and Thessaloniki, through economic progress, social cohesion and the protection of the environment, he added.
The final drafts of the two regulatory plans, including as two sections of the same draft bill, incorporate the observations and proposals made during the first round of public consultation, which ended in August 2011 for Athens-Attica and in June 2011 for Thessaloniki.
 Three more defendants in Fyssas' murder case remanded in custodyAnother three ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) members were remanded in custody on Thursday pending their trial for their involvement in the murder of Pavlos Fyssas last September in Keratsini, following a unanimous decision by the two examining magistrates and the prosecutor assigned with the case. A total of eleven people are now held on remand in connection with the case.
The three defendants, who are charged with being members of a criminal organization and of being accessories to Fyssas' murder, testified before the special examining magistrates Ioanna Klappa and Maria Dimitropoulou and denied all charges against them.
They told the examining magistrates that the reasons for which they were in the region at the time of the murder concerned preparations for a speech the GD leader was scheduled to give.
By Monday, the examining magistrates will have the testimonies of another four defendants charged with arson and being members of a criminal organisation in connection with an attack by GD members in Ierapetra in February 2013 that targeted foreign nationals.
The examining magistrates will also take the depositions of the GD MPs whose parliamentary immunity has been lifted before wrapping up the questioning procedures in the GD criminal organisation case.
Among the incriminating evidence, on which the examining magistrates based their request for the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of the GD MPs is video footage of a GD night event, possibly an initiation ritual, in which speakers praised Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Salazar.
 Shopping hours in Athens during Easter periodAthens Traders Association on Thursday announced the recommended shopping hours for the Easter period.
According to the association, shops in Athens will be open from Thursday, April 10 to Thursday, April 17 (Good Thursday) from 9:00 until 21:00.
On Saturday, April 12 shops will operate between 09:00 and 18:00 and on Sunday, 13 April from 11 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon.
On Friday, April 18 (Good Friday) the shops in Athens will remain open from 13:00 until 19:00 and on Saturday, 19 April (Good Saturday) from 9:00 until 15:00.
On Monday, April 21 the shops will remain closed and will reopen on Tuesday, April 22 at usual shopping hours.
 Greek Seamen's Federation inspects ships whose owner companies owe back pay to crewsRepresentatives of the Greek Seamen's Federation (PNO) on Thursday launched inspections on ships whose owner companies owe back pay to their crews. So far no problems have been reported in ship traffic.
Unionists inspected ships sailing on the Saronic Gulf routes, without finding any indications of payements being owed to crews. Those ships departed on time.
PNO representatives will continue checks in the afternoon on ships sailing on the Aegean islands routes.
PNO had set a deadline of Thursday, March 20, for NEL Lines, ANEK, Hellenic Seaways, Ventouris Sea Lines, ANMEZ and LANE Lines shipping companies to pay the crews' salaries.According to sources, several companies have already paid part of the payments owed and have asked PNO for extra time.
NEL, PNO officials said, has made a written commitment to pay the amount of 1,200,000 euros that it is entitled to receive from Millennium Bank and Piraeus Bank.
 The 10 most popular Greek islands for SwedesCrete was the most popular island among Swedes in 2013, according to a vote on kalimera.se website, Swedish daily Expressen wrote in its online version.
More specifically, according to a briefing paper from the Greek Embassy in Stockholm, the report presents the 10 most popular Greek islands based on the results of the online vote.
These are: Crete, Naxos, Amorgos, Karpathos, Samos, Rhodes, Tilos, Skiathos, Skopelos and Santorini. According to the report, Crete is the largest Greek island while Naxos has beautiful beaches, some of which are perfect for wind surfing.
There is also a reference to Amorgos, where parts of the film "The Big Blue" were shot as well as the natural beauties of Karpathos and the historical sites of Samos. Rhodes, the fourth largest island in Greece, is famous for its night life and its cultural heritage, the report says. Skiathos is promoted as the "representative" of the North Sporades, followed by Skopelos where "Mamma Mia" movie scenes were shot, highlighting its natural beauties. The list is concluded with Santorini and its volcano that erupted 3,500 years ago.
 Thessaloniki Port remains profitable for 3rd successive yearThessaloniki Port Organization on Thursday said it remained profitable for the third successive year in 2013, with cargo terminal sales rising 2.5 pct, passenger terminal growing by 18.9 pct and other sales rising 12.5 pct in the year.
On the other hand, sales fell by 9.6 pct in compatible port operations.
Turnover totaled 51.5 million euros, down 2.5 pct from 2012, while EBITDA grew 9.9 pct to 23.5 million euros and gross earnings rose 1.5 pct to 22.9 million euros.
Net pre-tax profits grew 5.7 pct to 24.3 million euros while net after tax earnings totaled 18.18 million euros down 1.4 pct from 2012, hit by higher tax burdens.
Stelios Aggeloudis, chairman and chief executive of Thessaloniki Port, commenting on the results said that the company managed to remain profitable for the last three years despite a crisis and a deep economic recession in the country and noted that the company had zero debt and cash reserves totaling 100 million euros.
 Public sector union ADEDY to hold 24hour general strike on April 9Public sector union ADEDY decided to participate in the 24hour general strike to be held on April 9.
ADEDY's executive board also decided to hold a protest outside the Parliament on the day of the vote of measures included in the government's agreement with the troika. Moreover, it will hold a rally jointly with the Athens Labour Centre and other social bodies against the EU policies on the day of the ECOFIN meeting, on April 1 at 18.00 at Propylaia in central Athens.
Private sector union GSEE's executive committee has decided by majority to call a 24hour general strike on Wednesday, April 9. GSEE also plans a rally at 11.00 at Klafthmonos square.
 Summer time coming into effect at dawn on SundayPower-saving summer time will go into effect this coming Sunday, March 30. At 3 am on Sunday morning, clocks will be set forward an hour and to 4 am. Summer time will be in effect until October 26, 2014.
 Overcast on FridayRain in the western and in the northern parts of the country and southerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. The temperatures in the north will range between 7C-18C and in the west between 8C-18C. Clouds in the eastern parts of the country 6C-19C. Scattered clouds over the islands with possibility of rain over the eastern Aegean islands, 12C-20C. Sunny in Athens, 8C-19C. Rain in Thessaloniki, 7C-16C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Loss of support to Samaras, Venizelos' government.
DIMOKRATIA: Independent Greeks party on fire.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: New Democracy and PASOK deputies before the top moment of their responsibility.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Government turns to benefits policy ahead of euroelections.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Council of State blocks seizure of salary, pension and rent.
ESTIA: Two objections to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras: Cyclical unemployment and real estate taxation.
ETHNOS: Education Ministry to announce the number of students that will enter into universities.
IMERISSIA: Lamda Development suprise-offer for Hellinikon (Elliniko).
KATHIMERINI: Bargaining and behind the scenes before the tabling of the omnibus bill in parliament.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Overdue debts a threat for fiscal instability.
RIZOSPASTIS: Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) and GSEE's (private sector labour union) majority agreed for wages of starvation.
TA NEA: The golden wager (refers to the development of former airport at Helliniko).