|Friday, 1 March 2024
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-04-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 25 April 2014 Issue No: 4641
 Euro Working Group OKs release of 8.3-bln-euro loan tranches to GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The Euro Working Group on Thursday formally formally approved the disbursement of next three loan tranches to Greece, amounting to 8.3 billion euros. The first of three tranches is the largest at 6.3 billion euros, while the remaining two amount to 1.0 billion euros each.
At the same time, a similar discussion will take place at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the fund's own contribution to the Greek bailout effort, amounting to 3.6 billion euros.
According to sources, the climate at Thursday's meeting was very positive toward Greece. The Greek side pre-sented the main directions for boosting the Greek economy, focusing attention on both the financing aspect and the technical assistance aspect.
Greek finance ministry sources said that Greece's European partners approached the issue with great interest and a clear readiness to help.
The Greek side also stated that, following the confirmation of the primary surplus figures by Eurostat, it was awaiting decisions on further measures concerning Greece's debt.
This is a discussion that will be held over the next months and is likely to be the object of the EU-IMF troika's next visit to Athens.
 IMF to start discussing Greek debt relief measures in second half of 2014NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)
The IMF Executive Board will convene in mid-May in the framework of the fifth review of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement for Greece - the IMF's programme through which it participated in the Greek bailout, along with the European Commission and European Central Bank - according to the Fund's chief press officer Gerry Rice.
Speaking at his daily press briefing, Rice added that the discussion for the future of Greek debt will take place in the latter half of 2014, thus confirming a similar statement offered by a European Commission spokesman on Wednesday.
Rice welcomed Greece's progress, especially after Wednesday's validation of its 2013 primary budget surplus by Eurostat, the EU statistical agency. He also had a good word to add about Greece's recent re-emergence in the bond markets, noting that there are still "significant challenges" ahead facing Greece.
When asked whether Greek debt is sustainable - as European Commission spokesman Simon O'Connor claimed on Wednesday - Rice replied that the debt is at "high levels" and that data has not changed on the subject.
He suggested that the future sixth review of the EFF arrangement for Greece will be the one to determine any "added funding", by the beginning of 2016.
 Dev't minister, EU commissioner discuss regional cohesion policy programmesNew funds from the EU's regional cohesion policy programmes for the 2014-2020 period to Greece will focus on extroversion, innovation, education, employment, quality tourism and SME programmes, instead of on infrastructure, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn stressed after their meeting on Thursday afternoon.
Hatzidakis said, and the commissioner confirmed, that the Greek government has already submitted its proposals, while both sides expressed optimism that the discussion on the sectors to be funded will be concluded soon. It is reminded that the amount the EU will invest in Greece over the 2014-2020 period is 15.52 billion euros.
The commissioner stressed that the good course that the country has in the sector of fund absorption must be continued in the future as well and emphasis must be placed on new sectors such as quality tourism, paying in parallel special attention to environmental protection issues.
The minister said that Greece has submitted its proposals, which concern a qualitatively different National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) programme turning away from infrastructure funding.
 Greece's new growth model to be presented at Eurogroup on May 5A new growth model for Greece, named "Greece 20121: The new national development model" was presented in draft form at the Euro Working Group meeting in Brussels on Thursday by Panos Tsakloglou, the Greek Finance ministry's chairman of experts council.
According to sources, the text was received positively by Brussels officials. It is based on nine pylons and calls for a radical change in the country's production structure.
The model is based on nine sectors: tourism; primary production and processing of agricultural products; energy; transit trade and combined transports; research, technology and innovation; pharmaceuticals industry; metals and construction materials industry; shipping and related activities; and tradeable services.
According to the text, "the Greek government has already planned and is implementing structural changes and horizontal policies" with an emphasis on 13 actions, listed as follows: improvement of fiscal indicators; creating a climate favourable to investing and facilitating commercial activity; limiting unethical competition and supporting competitiveness; utilising public property and privatisations; facilitating international trade and extroversion; taxation policy; flexibility and security in the labour market; emphasis on innovation; restructuring public administration and improving citizens' services; investing in human capital; fighting corruption and strengthening trustworthiness and transparency; accelerating and improving the meting out of justice; and strengthening social cohesion.
The text notes that investment funding requires the existence of significant savings and emphasises the attraction of private funding mostly from abroad, whether direct or indirect.
In terms of greater effectiveness, the text says the main actions needed are as follows: activation and absorption of capital available to SMEs, by the end of 2015; front-loaded and targeted planning of funding tools for the new funding programme period; and maximising the involvement of the European Investment Bank.
Among other things, the plan foresaw "the difficulty of reducting tax rates" under present circumstances, but said "as the economy improves and tax evasion measures continue to provide results, the gradual reduction of tax rate will be implemented."
The priority, it said, was to gradually reduce taxes on business profits, then examine the margins for further reducing social security contributions. It also called for "the reduction of taxes on indirect factors of production (e.g. energy) in the framework of deregulation and streamlining in relevant markets."
The plan would encourage "targeted actions promoted in order to 'relieve' the tax burden in specific economic activities such as research and development, including the gradual reduction of tax rates for individuals."
In conclusion, the document expressed the hope that "in one decade Greece's production structure will have changed radically. Significant funds will be directed towards investments rather than consumption, jobs will have increased significantly and a great portion of the manufactured product will be exported, while there will be convergence with eurozone member-states that will be based on healthy economic bases."
The model has been based on studies carried out by the Centre for Programming and Economic Research (KEPE), the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) and McKinsey consultants. It was finalised in outline on Tuesday by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, advisor to the prime minister Chryssanthos Lazaridis and officials of PASOK.
It is expected to be presented in greater detail by Stournaras to the Eurogroup on May 5.
 Deputy FM Kourkoulas participates in MEDEF conferencePARIS (ANA-MPA /O. Tsipira)
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Thursday addressed the French Business Confederation (MEDEF) conference on "The Europe Businesses Want" held in Paris and referred to the European institutions' shortcomings in dealing with the economic crisis, the new EU orientation for improved eurozone government and the role the European industry is called to play in economic growth.
The deputy minister underlined that the European institutions were not prepared to handle the crisis and did not have the right tools in that matter, noting that when the crisis erupted in the United States back in 2008 the risk of its spread was underestimated. "We were late in developing a reliable response," he noted, while "the crisis revealed the shortcomings in the institutional framework for macroeconomic coordination in the eurozone, as well as the problems in its implementation," he said, adding that "Greece is a vivid example".
The deputy minister underlined that the dramatic developments in Greece and other European countries and the risk of the eurozone's dissolution led to important decisions on its economic governance.
He also referred to the March 20-21 European Council decisions, underlining that the heads of states and governments agreed to have the issue of competitiveness incorporated into all EU actions.
As regards the business sector, he said that with the exception of raw materials and energy, the European industry is still competitive and underlined the important role the industry sector will have to play in economic growth.
 European Court of Human Rights rules against Greece over illegal custody and degrading detention conditions of two foreign nationalsSTRASBOURG (ANA/MPA-N.Roussis)
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled against Greece in the case of Indonesian Aisayah Erliana Herman and Georgian Bardi Serazadishvili.
The court accepted the applicants' complaints and ruled against Greece over the illegality of their custody and the violation of the provisions of the Convention on Human Rights that prohibit inhuman and degrading treatment.
The two applicants were arrested on August 9 and 26, 2010, for being in Greece without a valid residence permit. They were held in custody for six months, while their requests for asylum were rejected.
Aisayah Erliana Herman was released after having been detained for six months, while Bardi Serazadishvili was released after repeated requests. They claimed in court that their custody was illegal and prolonged and cited the fact that the cells they were held in were overcrowded, cramped and unhealthy.
The court accepted their complaints and ruled against Greece for the violation of the Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits inhuman or degrading treatment, and the Article 5 regarding the right to liberty and security and the right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention.
Under the same ruling, the Court ordered Greece to pay 8,000 euros to each applicant for non-pecuniary damage and be burdened with 2,000 euros for the judicial costs and expenses.
 Greece's EU presidency needs to fully respect human rights, Amnesty International saysAmnesty International's mid-term review of Greece's presidency of the European Union that was published on Thursday reveals promising work in addressing violence against women (VAW) as a priority and tackling discrimination against Roma. However, the organisation pointed out the "presidency has failed to take concrete steps to protect the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at Europe's borders".
Regarding combatting violence against women, Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International's European Institutions Office said: "These developments are very encouraging. Now, Greece should take swift action to ratify the Istanbul convention and encourage other member states and the EU to follow suit."
Regarding respect for Roma rights, the Amnesty International noted that the "presidency's call on member states to be vigilant and react immediately to hate-based crime, ensuring effective and prompt investigation, prosecution, and identification of discriminatory motives was of particular importance."
On protecting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, it said "The presidency should have taken a stronger stance on leading EU action to address the serious issues, which remain regarding the protection of the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees."
On the "Post-Stockholm" process, Amnesty International welcomed the Greek presidency's decision to prioritise the development of plans on the Justice and Home Affairs area ('post-Stockholm guidelines').
"It is crucial that the presidency secure a commitment to develop an overarching internal human rights strategy. This is a unique opportunity to place human rights at the core of the EU's internal legal and political machinery and ensure coherence across EU internal and external policy," it pointed out.
 Social dividend will reach 525 mln euros, gov't spokesman saysAsked on the so called "social dividend" that will come from the primary surplus, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou made clear that "it will reach 525 million euros and will be allocated as originally planned."
 PASOK leader says European Socialist Party must win electionsPASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos, addressing an event for young people on Thursday that was jointly organised by Elia and the European Socialist Party (ESP), with young candidates attending, stressed that at these Europarliament elections it is not enough for the ESP to win impressions, it must also win the elections.
Venizelos said that at the coming elections an overall response must be given to the European model's crisis. In parallel, he referred to the dangerous appearance of conservative, far-right and Euro-sceptic forces that, many times, appear with the fleece of leftist radicalism.
He also said that the wager of the elections is stability, adding "government stability" for which the crucial factor is the strengthening of "Elia", meaning the progressive pole.
For all the important issues concerning Europe and Greece, small bipolarism between New Democracy and main opposition SYRIZA (the Radical Left Coalition) has very small significance, it is of no importance who will be first, said Venizelos, who is also government vice president and Foreign minister.
Venizelos also pointed out that PASOK is not hiding under Elia as a party but is struggling through it, for the reversal of opinion poll predictions, for a new perspective to be given in Europe and the country we live in.
 New changes in SYRIZA's European election ballot; Manolis Glezos among the party's candidate MEPsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) state deputy Manolis Glezos, a veteran leftist politician and a leader of a campaign to claim WWII war reparations from Germany, will be a candidate MEP in the forthcoming European elections, party leader Alexis Tsipras, who is currently on a tour of the island of Crete, announced on Thursday.
Glezos will have to give up his seat in the national parliament and is to be replaced by Mania Papadimitriou, the candidate MEP that he will be replacing on SYRIZA's ticket.
Tsipras had a telephone communication with the members of the party's Political Secretariat to brief them on the changes made.
SYRIZA is now two candidates short of completing its European election ballot and the gaps will most likely be covered during a Political Secretariat meeting on Friday to be attended by the SYRIZA leader. A meeting held on Thursday focused on the local government elections.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras says a leftist government will claim WWII reparationsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday wrapped up his tour of the southern Aegean island of Crete after laying a wreath at the monument of the WWII victims in Vianno where he announced that state deputy Manolis Glezos, a veteran leftist politician and a leader of a campaign to claim WWII war reparations from Germany, will be a candidate MEP in the forthcoming European elections.
"It is our duty to pay homage and not forget that the European peoples live free and have defeated the spectre of intolerance, the dark ideology of fascism, because others sacrificed their lives and there were thousands of those who sacrificed their lives in our country," he underlined.
Tsipras noted that more than 70 years since the end of WWII, Greece's demands for war reparations and the return of the forced occupation loan extracted from the country by the Nazi regime have yet to be met, and underlining that a government of the Left will claim this debt, he announced Glezos' candidacy in the European elections.
 SYRIZA leader visits Heraklion as part of tour on CreteMain opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday visited the city of Heraklion as part of his tour on the island of Crete and attended the presentation of party's municipal ballot ticket led by Heraklion candidate mayor Ilias Ligeros.
He reiterated the slogan "Three ballots, one victory" and said the municipality of Heraklion needs to turn the page.
"The slap to the status quo will be heard throughout Europe," he said. "We have stated that the choice is to get it over and done with the landlords of the vested interests," Tsipras said and added "the forces of the memorandum status quo should be defeated everywhere."
He said the government was preparing even harder measures after May and that the motto "Enough is enough" should be reinforced in the elections so that it causes major political developments after May 26.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras to visit Portugal, Spain and the Czech RepublicMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, a candidate for European Commission president, will visit Portugal, Spain and the Czech Republic on April 26, 27 and 28 respectively, it was announced on Thursday.
The visits will take place in the context of his tour of Europe as a candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.
 ND press office issues statement on SYRIZANew Democracy on Thursday issued a statement, responding to an announcement by main opposition SYRIZA party that criticised the ruling parties on their handling of issues relating to Muslim minorities in Thrace.
"SYRIZA's poisonous games over national issues must finally end. SYRIZA's nonsense about the prime minister's alleged statements in 1989 to the magazine "Epoptia" was debunked decades ago by the very magazine that published them, which admitted it had been in error.
Panic gives poor counsel and often leads to self-humiliation. Mr. Tsipras should be mindful of this," New Democracy's press office said in a statement.
SYRIZA said in a statement that "Mr. Samaras must realize he is not the president of Political Spring (PolAn) party so that he can continue playing ruthless nationalist games, but is still the prime minister of the country. He must also explain his view that 'there is a Turkish minority in Thrace' as he had said in the past in an extensive interview with the magazine 'Epoptia' (Issue 141, January 1989)".
 PASOK's statement on May's local gov't, Europarliament electionsThe Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Thursday publicised the political framework under which it will participate in elections in May, which includes references to Greece's exit from the memorandum, running in the European Parliament elections under the aegis of the Party of European Socialists and in local government elections under the Elia (Olive Tree)-Democratic Alignment.
In its statement, PASOK stressed that Greece's economic crisis was the result of a global coincidence and blamed the Karamanlis government for skyrocketing and multiplying the debt, based on long-term weaknesses of the past.
"The people's sacrifices were effective, but our movement was held responsible for the loss of an important part of its distributed prosperity," it said. "Unfortunately, nobody examined how we reached the impasse of 2009, and what each party's position was after the crisis broke out and the realisation of the impasse set in."
Greece, it said, stood up again in the framework of a sustainable debt, which exists thanks to the memorandum of 2012 and the haircut that followed.
The party also attacked main opposition SYRIZA for not rising to the occasion and being opportunistic, as "it retains an accusatory attitude during a time of a national understanding necessarty to completing such an important step in order to exit the crisis," PASOK said.
PASOK stressed that the country is turning the page and returning to European developments as an equal partner, with a strong negotiating tool, and now can be devoted without distractions to the terms and conditions of a fast recovery.
It added that the elections in May "will confirm the new dividing lines between progress and conservatism both at European level and at the level of democracy's institutional composition."
Referring to extreme-right movements, PASOK stressed that they take advantage of the crisis to become popular. "The danger is apparent and should trigger the democratic reflections of the European citizens," it said.
In the European Parliament elections, the party said, "the present and the future of the European Union and the eurozone's growth in particular are on the line."
Referring to its running under the banner of Elia in local government elections, it said the step would introduce a large and strong center-Left of progress and responsibility. "In these elections the effort of a general alliance of the progressive powers between the Right and the communist-Left, is tested," PASOK said, while it underlined that Elia's programme reflects European-friendly and progressive political powers which are nationally responsible.
"We have to look forward in the basis of our progressive and patriotic debt," PASOK underlined and stressed that "after the elections we will proceed with the reformation of center-Left," which includes, among other actions, "keeping the door open in every direction."
 'KEELPNO will not shut down,' Health minister reassuresHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday dismissed rumours that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) would shut down due to lack of funds.
Asked to comment on relevant reports, he said: "The Health ministry, in coordination with the Finance ministry, has immediately proceeded with the solution of all the problems that had arisen regarding the financing of the Center."
Given that KEELPNO's financial issues are resolved, Georgiadis added, "the operation of the center is in no danger."
 Health Minister inaugurates PET/CT scanner unit in Thessaloniki hospitalHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Thursday inaugurated the building at Papageorgiou hospital in Thessaloniki, where a PET/CT scanner, which is considered very important in early diagnosis of cancer, will be installed.
Georgiadis told ANA-MPA that another hospital in Thessaloniki, the Theagenio hospital, will also be equipped with a PET/CT scanner. So far, this kind of tests were carried out only in Athens.
"Today we inaugurated the building where the PET/CT will be installed. It was a process that had been stalled for three years. When we were informed by the Papageorgiou hospital administration that the process had been initiated but they had not been able to proceed with the plans for three years, we decided to help them, we immediately got motivated, disengaged the whole process within a month and today with great pleasure we inaugurate it; we believe that in September something essential for the people of Thessaloniki and Northern Greece in general will operate. We will also install a second one in Theagenio hospital," Georgiadis said.
The project was part of the "Macedonia-Thrace 2007-2013" Operational Programme.
Regarding the installation of PET/CT in Theagenio, the hospital director Evangelia Kourteli-Xouri told ANA-MPA that this is a project integrated in the National Strategic Reference Fund (NSRF) of total cost around 3,200,000 euros, which has entered its final stage.
 Transport Ministry plans hirings at its organisations in 2014Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry plans to hire a total of 720 permanent employees at its organizations in 2014. More specifically, after the Europarliament elections and by the end of year, 450 persons are expected to be hired at the public transport (buses and trolley buses), 200 persons at the metro and another 70 at the Civil Aviation Authority.
 Labour reforms contribute in stabilization of unemployment rate, minister saysUnemployment has begun falling after almost five years, following a stabilization recorded in 2013, Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said on Thursday.
Addressing the annual HR Forum 2014, Vroutsis said that the unemployment rate fell to 26.7 pct in January this year, from 27.7 pct in September, remaining on a declining trend for four successive months and underlined that according to official figures the labor balance showed a significant surplus of new hirings in April, while uninsured labor fell to 21.86 pct in February from 40.5 pct in the corresponding month last year.
The Greek minister attributed the improvement in the unemployment rate to reforms made in the labour market and noted that if these reforms had been done earlier and impact of the crisis on the labour market would have been milder and more manageable.
Vroutsis said that a reduction in the non-payroll cost by five percentage points could create 30,000 new job positions immediately.
He also underlined measures taken to restructure the social insurance system through a series of actions enhancing the collection ability of pension funds.
Vroutsis said that a successful return of the country to international markets -for the first time in four years- was evidence that markets acknowledged these positive developments. He noted that combating unemployment was the basic target of a national effort to bring the economy back to a new dynamic growth course.
 Prudential supervision bill gets approved by Economic Committee in ParliamentA bill on the prudential supervision of financial institutions discussed at the Permanent Economic Affairs Committee of Parliament was approved on Thursday, having passed its first reading.
It was passed by government coalition partners New Democracy and PASOK parties, as well as by Democratic Left (DIMAR). The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Independent Greeks (Anexartiti Ellines) party voted against it, while far-Right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party abstained altogether from voting.
The main opposition party Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) reserved the right to express its view on the bill when it comes to the parliament plenum, claiming that the time available to examine it thoroughly was limited so far. SYRIZA also believes that the European directive on prudential supervision and the bill incorporating it into Greek law are not sufficient to avert speculation, which the main opposition party sees as the main cause of the recent banking crisis.
It is noted that in November 2014 the European Central Bank (ECB) will take over from the Bank of Greece the supervision of the four systemic Greek banks.
According to the general secretary of the Hellenic Bank Association Christos Gortsos, the bill, "to the degree that incorporates the European directive, constitutes part of [BIS banking supervision accord] Basel III, which contains provisions most of which are already in force for Greek banks", as well as an added article which sets limits to the remuneration packages of bankers.
 Applications deadline for public administration centre EKDAA president expires on April 30The applications deadline for the post of the National Centre for Public Administration and Local Government (EKDAA) president expires on Wednesday, April 30.
The Administrative Reform Ministry on April 10 called candidates to express their interest on www.opengov.gr.
According to the ministry's leadership, this decision promotes a more objective options system for filling management posts in the public, in contrast to the prior process of political appointments by the ministries' political leaders.
"With this decision, we move from the subjective and arbitrary selection to the objective and merit-based one of political personnel in key public administration positions," Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
"This process can be a model for selecting other officials hitherto appointed by political decisions... With our choice, we are taking an important step towards the degradation of the patronage system that has battered public administration for years and has largely contributed to the bankruptcy of our country," he said.
 Deputy FM Kourkoulas to participate in a MEDEF conferencePARIS (ANA-MPA / O.Tsipira) -- Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Thursday will be Paris to participate in a conference organized by the French Business Confederation MEDEF, in view of "Europe Day", which will be celebrated on May 9, a few days before the euroelections.
Kourkoulas will give the keynote speech on "The Europe Businesses Want", at 16:00. During his stay in Paris, Kourkoulas will meet with French and Greek entrepreneurs.
 Leader of Golden Dawn party to remain in custody for another six monthsThe Board of Appeals decided on Thursday to extend the custody of far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, who is accused of being the leader and mastermind of a criminal organisation.
By ordinance of the board, which convened on the occasion of the expiration of the first six-month period of custody of Michaloliakos since last October, it was ordered that his custody term be extended by another six-month period, as the rationale behind it has not ceased to apply.
In its decision, the board took under consideration all evidence of the case and the extended indictment facing Michaloliakos, who is charged with full knowledge and coordination of the allegedly unlawful activities of Golden Dawn.
A few days ago, similar ordinances had ordered the extension of custody for Golden Dawn MPs Giannis Lagos and Christos Pappas. Today, there are six Golden Dawn MPs in total who are being held in prisons in the framework of the crackdown under way of the party's activities.
 KKE condemns recent incidents in UkraineThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday in an announcement criticised the new military attack in Ukraine.
"KKE condemns the new unacceptable military attack against the cities of Donetsk, Mariupol and Slaviansk released by the nationalist and fascist Ukraine forces, having the provocative support of the EU and the USA, which led to a new massacre in Ukraine," KKE said in its announcement.
 Environment minister signs order for mandatory electronic record of land cadastre documentsEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Thursday signed an order for a mandatory electronic archive of all documents submitted with applications to register property at land cadastre offices in Greece.
"For the first time in the country, there will be a mandatory record in digital form of the sum of documents and maps for all legal transactions, wherever land cadastre offices operate," the minister said.
He noted that Greece was moving on from the days of hand-written files of property rights, into a fully digital, complete and constantly updated data base on all real estate property in Greece.
"In the 103 areas in which land cadastre offices exist, the window is opened to create a fully automated National Cadastre Information System, a basic tool for planning the country's growth," he added.
An environment ministry announcement said that scanned digital versions of all original documents will be stored in a central national cadastre data base, which the National Cadastre and Mapping Agency will be responsible for maintaining. The agency's 103 branches will be responsible for obtaining the necessary technological equipment, such as scanners etc, within four months from the publication of the ministerial order.
 Street market vendors threaten strikes in protest against ministry draft billOpen-air street market farmer-vendors on Thursday warned of plans to boycott all markets after April 28, in protest against measures envisaged in a draft bill tabled on April 17. The farmer-vendors national federation said the measures, if passed, would deal a vital blow to 50,000 families.
A delegation met with Deputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Athanassios Skordas and voiced their objections to plans to allot stalls through a ballot held every year, with each municipality deciding on the maximum number of stalls, as well as plans to segregate merchants from farmers selling their own produce within markets.
They also objected to high fines ranging from 1,000-5,000 euros for transgressions, often accompanied by jail sentences for offenders of up to one year, as well as what they said was increased red tape for the issue and renewal of their licences as producers.
 Municipal employees to launch mobilisations against the evaluation processThe municipal employees' union POE-OTA will hold protests as of Friday against a decision by the ministries of interior and administrative reform to proceed immediately with the evaluation of sector employees, alleging that thousands of their colleagues "will be brought a step closer to being laid off", it was announced on Thursday.
On Friday morning, POE-OTA will hold protests outside the two government ministry buildings in Athens, while sit-ins will be staged in city halls nationwide on Monday, April 28.
 National Bank to issue 750-mln-euro bondNational Bank plans to return to international markets with a five-year bond worth 750 million euros.
In an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange, National Bank said that the bond issue will be made through its subsidiary NBG Finance plc and will have a fixed interest rate. The bond will be offered to international markets (Reg S) through a book building process. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Morgan Stanley will act as coordinators of the issue.
 Draft bill on simplifying business licensing procedures tabled in ParliamentDevelopment and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday tabled a draft bill in Parliament that will ultimately lead to a simpler framework for issuing business licences by the end of the current year. The draft legislation tabled on Thursday sets binding deadlines for enacting all joint ministerial decisions and presidential decrees implementing measures that will give the development ministry powers to regulate the framework for carrying out all economic activity.
Presenting the law, Hatzidakis noted that the environment, energy and climate change ministry was simultaneously working on a related draft bill regulating spatial planning matters. He said the aim was to issue business licenses based on a system of self-regulation, with objective standards and specifications, and with inspection transferred from the stage prior to starting a business to one after the business is created.
It will also allow certification by private bodies and will set up a central electronic system for all licenses, to which applications will be submitted and which will act as a register of all licenses issued.
The minister said that the new system will cover 12 areas of economic activity but exclude categories requiring special licensing regimes, such as renewable energy sources or telecoms infrastructure.
There will also be a streamlining of fines and penalties with respect to the initial draft bill based on demands of the market, he said, but without altering the spirit of the law so that fines remained a deterrent.
 Working conditions in Greece deteriorated over last 5 years, Eurobarometer showsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Working conditions in Greece have deteriorated over the last five years, according to responses given by 88 percent of Greeks replying to a Eurobarometer survey released on Thursday. The survey was carried out to investigate the impact of the economic crisis on the quality of working conditions in the European Union.
Based on their responses, 82 pct of Greeks consider that working conditions in the country are "poor" (compared with 43 pct in the EU) and only 16 pct consider them "good" (53 pct in the EU). Next in line in terms of dissatisfaction with working conditions in their country are Hungarians (79 pct), Spanish (76 pct) and Italians (73 pct).
An overwhelming majority of Greeks (88 pct) agreed with the statement 'Have working conditions in your country deteriorated in the last five years?' as opposed to 57 pct of EU citizens, while only 8 pct consider that working conditions have not changed (27 pct in the EU). After Greeks, the Spanish (86 pct), Italians (85 pct), Slovenians (84 pct) and Portuguese (78 pct) had the highest rates of agreement for this question.
Greece is also the only EU country where less than half of the workforce are satisfied with prevailing working conditions, with 62 pct saying they are dissatisfied with conditions in their country, compared with 23 pct in the EU as a whole, and 38 pct saying they are satisfied, compared with 77 pct in the EU. After Greeks, the lowest rate of satisfaction with working conditions is among the Spanish (53 pct).
In terms of working hours, 63 pct of Greeks are satisfied on general lines (80 pct in the EU), and 36 pct are dissatisfied (19 pct in the EU). Rates of satisfaction with the balance of home and work life are also low, with 52 pct of Greeks dissatisfied (25 pct in the EU) and 48 pct satisfied (74 pct in the EU).
In reply to questions on whether they were consulted on changes in the organisation of their work or their conditions of work, 45 pct of Greeks replied affirmatively (54 pct in the EU) and 55 pct negatively (45 pct in the EU).
Just over half (51 pct) of Greeks said they had been informed about the financial state of their company or organisation and its future, including any possible restructuring (63 pct of EU citizens), while 48 pct said no (36 pct in the EU).
In terms of work-related hazards, 56 pct of Greeks said that the main danger to health and safety to which their work exposed them was anxiety (51 pct in the EU), 27 pct reported repetitive movements or bad body posture (28 pct in the EU) and 17 pct to accidents and serious injury (17 pct in the EU).
In addition, 53 pct of Greeks taking the survey said that staff in their workplace was not informed about health and safety measures (22 pct in the EU), 51 pct reported that measures to prevent health problems and workplace accidents had not been taken (37 pct in the EU) and 76 pct said that work places had not been adapted to older age groups (62 pct in the EU).
 Greek agricultural exports could reach 30 bln euros, farm minister predictsGreece's agricultural exports could reach as high as 30 billion euros in 2014, Rural Development and Food Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris told a conference on farming exports held on Thursday. He said that farm and food product exports were the "flagship" of the Greek export sector and referred to measures taken to boost these further.
Among these he listed registers of approved merchants and approved agricultural product merchants, export promotion programmes and adoption of EU directives on farm exports to third countries.
The conference was also addressed by the held of the Greek exporters association (PSE) Christina Sakellaridi and the Coordinator of the Operational Coordinating Committee for facilitating foreign trade Georgios Filiopoulos.
 Tobacco firms step up campaign against illegal tobacco productsThe four largest tobacco companies in Greece on Thursday announced plans to step up their campaign against the illegal cigarette and tobacco trade, saying they would launch a new drive to inform and sensitise public opinion on the issues.
Papastratos, British American Tobacco Hellas, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco Hellas said their central slogan will be "No to illegal cigarettes and illegal loose tobacco". It will include advertisements in the press and media, the issue of pamphlets and fliers and the construction of the website www.oxistaparanomatsigara.gr providing information on the economic and social repercussions of the illegal tobacco trade.
According to a survey conducted by AC Nielsen in September 2013, illegal trade in tobacco products jumped to 19.5 pct, up from 13.4 pct the previous year, with 4.4 billion illegal cigarettes consumed. This was a more than fourfold jump relative to 2009, when an estimated one billion illegal cigarettes were consumed, depriving the public purse of 650 million euros in taxes and leading to thousands of lost jobs in the sector.
Senior management of the four tobacco companies had a meeting with the Greek finance ministry leadership to present a five-point proposal for dealing with the phenomenon. This included a stable tax system and lower taxes on tobacco, stricter enforcement of laws on the illegal tobacco trade, cooperating with prosecuting authorities to inform consumers on the negative consequences of the illegal trade and seeking EU funds to finance actions against it.
They also called for the adoption of digital Codentify labelling of packets to improve traceability of products.
 Eurobank sets price range of 0.30-0.33 euros for share capital increase planEurobank on Thursday said its board set a price range between 0.30 and 0.33 euros for its share capital increase plan. The Greek bank, in an announcement said that its board set a price range of 0.30-0.33 euros for setting the offer price of its new common nominal shares to be offered to Greek and foreign investors.
Eurobank has announced a share capital increase plan worth 2.864 million euros through a public offer of 954,666,667 new common nominal shares to Greek investors and a private placement of at least 8,592,000,000 new common nominal shares to foreign investors.
 METKA completes power station project in TurkeyMETKA on Thursday announced the signing of a provisional acceptance certificate (PAC) with the consortium RWE/TURCAS Guney Elektrik Uretim AS for a combined-cycle electricity production power station in Denizli, Turkey, following the successful start of commercial operation of the power station.
The project was implemented by METKA SA and its subsidiary in Turkey, Power Projects Limited. The power station in Denizli is the second station using natural gas technology built by METKA in Turkey, after the one in Samsun. Both stations combine high performance and operating flexibility. The Denizli power station has a power of 800 MW.
 Informal European ports meeting in Piraeus in JuneThe EU's Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) will organise the annual informal general meeting of the European ports in Piraeus in June titled: "Ports: An Engine for Growth".
"The meeting in Piraeus of top EU executives and managers of the largest ports is the biggest event in the field of the port industry," Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) CEO Giorgos Anomeritis said on Thursday.
The meeting will be held from June 16 to June 17 at the OLP conference room.
 Exhibition organisation representatives to participate in CEFA seminar, in ThessalonikiExhibition organisation representatives from nine countries will visit Thessaloniki on April 28-30 to participate in the annual seminar of the Central European Fair Alliance (CEFA).
The seminar on "the course of B2B meetings in the exhibition industry until 2020-How to increase the added value for our customers" will be attended by 40 people from the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Britain, Slovenia, Austria, FYROM, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.
During the seminar, participants will discuss the impact of B2B meetings of the exhibition and conference industry on local communities and the local economy, while innovative software solutions will be presented.
 School building projects in Attica to be financed by JESSICAThe construction and technical management of 14 school units in Attica will be financed in the context of the European community's JESSICA programme (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) that supports sustainable urban development and regeneration through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), according to a contract signed on Thursday.
The school buildings will be located in seven Attica municipalities, namely, Athineon, Iliou, Kropia, Pallini-Gerakas, Keratsini-Drapetsona, Peristeri and Penteli) with a total population of 1.1 million people.
The schools under construction will have a capacity of 3,500 students.
The National Bank of Greece manages a total of 83 million euros in JESSICA funds and will co-finance the projects with roughly 36 million euros.
 PPC to issue 500-mln-euro bondPublic Power Corporation Finance plc, a subsidiary of PPC SA, will sell a bond issue (senior notes) worth 500 million euros in international markets. The bond issue will have the full and unreserved guarantee of PPC SA and will be traded in the Global Exchange Market of Ireland.
The proceeds from the sale of these bonds will be used partly to prepay existing loans, to finance capital and other corporate spending and to pay for expenses related with the bond issue.
PPC, in an announcement, said it expected its first quarter revenues to be slightly lower compared with the same period in 2013, reflecting lower demand for electricity and a recent reduction in industrial customers' electricity rates. EBITDA were also expected to fall in the January-March period.
 Ellaktor signs metro rail construction contract in DohaAktor, a subsidiary of Greek-listed construction group Ellaktor, on Thursday announced the signing of a contract to build a "Gold Line Underground" metro rail line in Doha, Qatar, as leader of an ALYSJ JV consortium, in which the Greek company has a 32 pct stake.
The project is part of a railroad network system in Qatar and Gold Line is the largest autonomous construction part of Doha's metro system. The project is budgeted at 3.2 billion euros. Gold Line, 32 km long, will cross Doha east to west and have 13 underground stations. The project is expected to be ready by August 2018.
 OAED meets with social partners to discuss solutions to unemploymentManpower Employment Organisation (OAED) and its social partners - including unions and business associations - on Thursday discussed joint proposals and action programmes in order to cope with unemployment.
The programmes will be developed in the framework of the directions set by the Labour ministry and the positions of the social partners as they are described in the last National General Collective Labour Agreement, while they will be funded by 2014-2020 National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
During the meeting, OAED and its social partners agreed on the constitution of a technical labour work group with the participation of experts from all institutions.
 Greek stocks end flatGreek stocks were flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, reversing an early sharp decline of the composite index to the 1,210-point level. The index rose 0.03 pct to end at 1,230.55 points, after falling as much as 1.30 pct during the day. Turnover was a strong 98.11 million euros.
The Large Cap index edged 0.14 pct higher and the Mid Cap index ended 0.58 pct up. Eurobank Properties (3.85 pct), Piraeus Port (3.30 pct), Intralot (2.38 pct) and Titan (2.15 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Frigoglass (3.87 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (2.59 pct), Ellaktor (2.32 pct) and Metka (2.08 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Real Estate (3.76 pct), Insurance (1.35 pct) and Travel (0.92 pct) sectors scored big gains, while Telecoms (1.78 pct), Health (1.74 pct) and Industrial Products (1.24 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners narrowly led advancers by 61 to 59, with another 16 issues unchanged. Motodynamic (20.43 pct), Geniki (19.98 pct) and Perseus (19.53 pct) were top gainers, while Mouzakis (29.10 pct), G.E.Demetriou (12 pct) and Kyriakoulis (10.96 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +0.89%
Industrial Products: -1.24%
Real Estate: +3.76%
Personal & Household: +0.38%
Food & Beverages: -0.63%
Raw Materials: -0.79%
Travel & Leisure: +0.92%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Piraeus Bank, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.68
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.16
Coca Cola HBC: 17.82
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.48
National Bank of Greece: 3.10
Eurobank Properties : 8.64
Piraeus Bank: 1.72
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 4.62 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 4.5 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.14 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.52 pct. Turnover was an improved 22 million euros, of which 20 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 2.0 million were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.611 pct from 0.606 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.521 pct from 0.516 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.437 pct from 0.432 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.337 pct from 0.332 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.261 pct from 0.253 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.55 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday with turnover rising slightly to 24.612 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 9,431 contracts worth 18.579 million euros, with 49,728 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 9,500 contracts worth 6.033 million euros, with investment interest focusing on PPC's contracts (1,551), followed by Alpha Bank (570), National Bank (590), Piraeus Bank (1,025), Eurobank (1,403), MIG (532), OTE (1,325), OPAP (1,057), Mytilineos (187), GEK (193), Jumbo (113) and Hellenic Exchanges (171).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.402
Pound sterling 0.835
Danish kroner 7.578
Swedish kroner 9.205
Japanese yen 143.75
Swiss franc 1.238
Norwegian kroner 8.402
Canadian dollar 1.546
Australian dollar 1.514
 Cargo ship goes down off Crete, three missingThree members of the Togo-flagged Ag-Marina cargo ship went missing on Thursday after it went down 30 nautical miles off the western coast of Crete.
A total of seven crew members were aboard, probably Russians, four of which were rescued by another cargo ship. Another four cargo ships, a helicopter and a coast guard vessel participate in the search for the three missing people.
No details regarding the ship's cargo or the circumstances that led to its sinking have been made known so far.
 U.S. tourist injured in firecracker incident on Santorini is recovering, hospital reportsAn American tourist admitted to an intensive care ward at Venizelio Hospital in Iraklio, Crete for serious injuries caused by a firecracker explosion has been taken off life support, the hospital announced on Thursday. The American woman had been airlifted to Crete from the island of Santorini, where she and several others were injured by a homemade firework thrown in a church yard during Easter celebrations last Saturday night.
The 51-year-old woman was conscious and her condition was improving, sources said.
Three US citizens and a Greek national were airlifted to Venizelio Hospital soon after the incident, while another Greeks and two Cypriots were slightly injured. Five individuals were arrested in connection with the case.
 Second cruise ship of the season docks at Thessaloniki portThe cruise ship Louis Cristal on Thursday morning docked at Thessaloniki port, with its 500 passengers (mainly Greeks) enjoying their day at Greece's second largest city before the ship departs for Lavrio, Attica, in the afternoon.
It is the second cruise ship of the season for the Thessaloniki port, while more vessels are expected as of May. This year 25 cruise ships are expected to dock at Thessaloniki port compared to 18 in 2013 and 11 in 2012. Last year, the number of cruise ships passengers increased to 14,700 from 8,014 in 2012.
 Athens Medical Association presents new Emergency Action Medical TeamThe Athens Medical Association (ISA) on Thursday presented a new Emergency Action Medical Team that will collaborate with the National Centre for Health Operations to provide urgent, fast and effective medical care during emergencies such as earthquakes, floods, fire, natural and man-made disasters, or large-scale threats to human life and health during protests and mass demonstrations.
Making up the team are specialist doctors of various kinds that have received special operation training from the NCHO.
ISA President George Patoulis said the doctors on the team were highly specialised in life support and had volunteered to offer their services to rescue lives at risk.
 Evros river remains above emergency water levelsThe Evros river remains above emergency water levels, but the phenomenon is monitored by authorities and does not cause any concern, the head of the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Civil Protection Directorate Constantinos Chouvardas told ANA-MPA.
He noted that even though water levels seemed to be receding, the authorities were not complacent, as the melting of snow in the mountains of Bulgaria and possible rainfall could cause an increased inflow of waters.
According to the latest measurements on Thursday morning, the level at Kipi was at 4.30 metres, exceeding the alert (3.60 metres) and alarm levels (4.00 meters).
 Foreign national arrested in Thessaloniki for migrant smugglingA 34-year-old man, a Syrian national, was arrested at the Thessaloniki intercity terminal while attempting to put 17 undocumented migrants, 15 Syrians and 2 Afghans, on an intercity bus destined for the region of the northern city of Kilkis, it was announced on Thursday.
The migrants told authorities that each of them had to pay the smuggler 1,000 euros.
 Thessaloniki police arrest 13-year-old for drug traffickingThessaloniki police arrested four people, including a 13-year-old, for trafficking of addictive substances.
The arrested, police said, had turned their houses into a stash of drugs. Authorities arrested a 25-year-old woman, who possessed 854 grams of cannabis, two foreign nationals, aged 22 and 45, and the 13-year-old for the possession among others of 121 grams of heroin.
 Police announces security measures for Greek Football Cup FinalGreek police has decided to ban protests in the centre of Athens on Saturday as part of security measures for the PAOK-Panathinaikos Greek Cup Final.
The football match is scheduled for 20.00 and will take place at the Athens Olympic Stadium (OAKA).
According to sources, police has planned unprecedented measures across Athens to avoid heated incidents and clashes between fans. More specifically, the Attica Police announced that protests would be banned in the centre of Athens between 06.00 and 20.00 on Saturday.
 Greek-Russian tourist conference in Rethymno rescheduled for fallThe crisis in Ukraine has led to the cancellation of a Greek-Russian tourist conference that was scheduled to take place in the city of Rethymno, on the island of Crete, on April 24 and 25, hosted by the local municipality, it was announced on Thursday.
The conference will be held in the fall without changes in the memberships of the participating delegations.
According to the organisers, the decision to reschedule the conference was made when Russian Federal Agency for Tourism head and deputy head, Alexander Radkov and Evgeny Pisarevsky, respectively, cancelled their participation at the last moment.
 Seamen to stage 24-hour strike on May DayThe Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) will participate in the mobilizations staged by private-sector umbrella trade union GSEE, to mark the May 1, International Workers' Day, with a 24-hour nationwide strike that will affect all ships, it was announced on Thursday.
The federation noted that unemployment has skyrocketed and is still rising, underlining that "the plague of unpaid work in the coastal shipping sector continues for more than six months".
 Piraeus Flower Show starts on FridayThe 4th Piraeus Flower Show will open its doors to the public on Friday and run until Sunday, May 11. The theme of this year's show is "We decorate our balconies and make our city beautiful" and it is organised by the Piraeus municipality and the Agricultural Flower Cooperative of Garden Centres of Acharnes, Attica.
The opening ceremony will take place on Friday at 19:00 at the Tinanio Garden. Visitors will be able to view more than 2,000 varieties of ornamental plants and flowers, learn about their care and how they can be used to improve balconies and verandahs.
 Overcast on FridayClouds and rain are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 12C-20C. Cloudy with possibility of rain in central parts and in the south, 13C-22C. Scattered clouds over the islands, 17C-23C. Clouds with possibility of rain in Athens, 12C-23C. Rain in Thessaloniki, 11C-19C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: ND-PASOK's inappropriate relations with extremists of the minority
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: A costly surplus
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: A 15.8 bln euro deficit by Eurostat, a 3.4 (bln euro) surplus by troika
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The way the 500 euro benefit will be distributed to 74,000 uniformed staff
ESTIA: A landmark for the economy
ETHNOS: Now let them do their part of the duty
IMERISSIA: Solution for the debt, now
KATHIMERINI: Debt relief certificate
LOGOS: Primary surplus sealed by Eurostat
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Rubberstamped" surplus and a discussion over the debt
RIZOSPASTIS: Release from long-term memoranda and debt equals to breaking the EU-monopolies' shackles
TA NEA: The Odyssey of Greeks to the primary surplus
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