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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-05-02

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 2 May 2014 Issue No: 4646


  • [01] PM Samaras: 2014 will be another record year for tourism
  • [02] May Day events wrap up as Syntagma Sq. area gradually reopens; transportation changes in effect
  • [03] ND party says this year's May Labour Day finds country on path of recovery
  • [04] Venizelos' message for International Workers' Day
  • [05] DIMAR leader Kouvelis delivers May 1 message
  • [06] Greek primary surplus to reach 2.3 pct of GDP this year, 5.3 pct of GDP in 2018
  • [07] New medium-term plan does not include new fiscal measures, Staikouras says
  • [08] KKE party says medium-term framework reflects continuation of same antipopular path
  • [09] EU Commission provides 7.1 mln euro funds for Greek environment programmes
  • [10] Greek consumer confidence index up significantly in Q1, Nielsen report
  • [11] PM Samaras: 2014 will be another record year for tourism
  • [12] Deputy Dev't minister meets with US entrepreneurs
  • [13] EIB planning to give 50 million euros for Greek SMEs, Germany's 'Focus' reports
  • [14] Tourism Minister presents ministry's actions
  • [15] SYRIZA leader meets with German Deputy Labour Minister
  • [16] SYRIZA leader meets with street markets federation president
  • [17] PASOK condemns the attack against SYRIZA members
  • [18] ANEL leader concludes his tour of Crete
  • [19] Parliament strips immunity of four Golden Dawn MPs
  • [20] Health ministry to forward case file on mental health clinic 'irregularities' to prosecutor
  • [21] U.S. State Department 2013 report on terrorism notes strong cooperation with Greece
  • [22] Parliament passes bill for tighter bank supervision
  • [23] Proposed improvements to laws for crematoriums presented in Athens
  • [24] KKE leader commemorates WWII execution at Kessariani
  • [25] Cyprus names new ambassador to Greece
  • [26] No new cuts in wages and pensions, Labour minister says
  • [27] Grecovery underway, Provopoulos says
  • [28] Bank loans to private sector increasing, Development minister says
  • [29] All ICT4Growth investment proposals will be financed, Hatzidakis says
  • [30] Construction of coastal road, part of larger project, begins in eastern Peloponnese
  • [31] Mid-season sales open Friday, with Sunday store opening coinciding with race in Athens
  • [32] Luxury yachts start converging on Nafplio for boat show, May 3-7
  • [33] Alpha Bank says HFSF has 69.90 pct of its equity capital
  • [34] REDS signs 10.4-mln-euro bond loan
  • [35] Rural Development Minister Tsaftaris meets with Phillip Morris representatives
  • [36] Armed forces sign contract with Hellenic Defence Systems (EAS)
  • [37] PPC successfully completes sale of 700-mln-euro bond issue
  • [38] British Airways launches direct flights between London and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini
  • [39] Greek stocks end sharply up
  • [40] Greek bond market closing report
  • [41] ADEX closing report
  • [42] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [43] Elliniko-Argyroupoli mayor gives press conference on fun fair tragedy
  • [44] Composer Mikis Thedorakis to be honoured by Professionals Chamber of Athens
  • [45] Stavros Niarchos Foundation exclusive sponsor of AHEPA 'Travel to Greece' programme
  • [46] Street market producers and professionals continuing mobilisation
  • [47] Police arrest alleged ring-members operating illegal circuses and funfairs
  • [48] Canadian national wanted on international warrant for fraud arrested in Athens
  • [49] Producers and sellers to distribute free fruit and vegetables in Attica
  • [50] Union to hold strike on Sunday shopping day
  • [51] Ships to remain docked on Thursday, seamen participate in May Day strike
  • [52] Another 35 OSY employees to be sacked over false qualifications
  • [53] Pan-European 'e-Skills for Jobs 2014' campaign to be presented in Athens on May 6
  • [54] 'Athens Science Festival' to be held in Technopolis
  • [55] Frigate 'Kountouriotis' open to public as of Friday
  • [56] Light quake north of Andros island
  • [57] Olympic Flame lit in Athens for Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Aug. 16-28
  • [58] Scattered rain on Friday Politics

  • [01] PM Samaras: 2014 will be another record year for tourism

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras forecast that 2014 will be another bumper year for tourism, while addressing the 22nd open general assembly of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) on Wednesday evening. Outlining the government's plans for boosting tourism, he stressed that "the sick residues of the past are over, we are proceeding finally towards a Greece of growth." Samaras said that 2013 was a record year and that this record will be broken in 2014. Appealing to the people of tourism, he urged them to "prepare to receive more than 20 million tourists".

    [02] May Day events wrap up as Syntagma Sq. area gradually reopens; transportation changes in effect

    A workers' rally that was organised at Klafthmonos Square in Athens for Labour Day (May 1) by the country's largest labour unions ended peacefully at Syntagma Square on Thursday afternoon, while streets that were closed off are gradually being turned over to traffic.

    Similar rallies were held in other cities in Greece, like northern Greece's Thessaloniki and central Greece's Patras, which held two rallies and marches.

    Public and private sector unions ADEDY and GSEE as well as the Athens Labour Centre have called a 24hour strike for the day. In a resolution for the strike rally, organisers said that this year's May Day brings a message of resistance to austerity measures applied by the government, to the dismantling of labour relations and to the policies of the European Union.

    It also serves to honour those who founded unions and initiated the commemoration of May 1 as a day dedicated to workers.

    Streets around Syntagma Square had closed for the rally, while the Athens Metro was shut down at Syntagma Square stop. Although the stop will open, the Athens Metro will not run past Doukissis Plakentias stop to the airport, as that part is managed by the urban railway (proastiakos), which is on a 24-hour strike. Hellenic Railways (OSE) will also strike all day Thursday. Ships will also be docked, as seamen at all ports and Piraeus Port Authority staff have called for a strike, to protest the largest Greek port's privatisation, among other things.

    City buses and trolleys will run on Sunday schedules and only until 9:00 p.m., while the tram, electric train (ISAP) and Athens Metro will run normally from 9:00 a.m. to the end of their schedule.

    GSEE officials said the rallies in Greece were massive and dynamic, and warned that actions will continue as long as there are policies harming workers' interests.

    [03] ND party says this year's May Labour Day finds country on path of recovery

    The New Democracy party, in a message for the International Labour Day holiday on May 1, stressed that this year's Labour Day, following the great sacrifices of the Greek people, finds the country on the path of recovery.

    "Two years ago, Labour Day found our country on the threshold of economic collapse and society before the danger of total paralysis," the message said.

    "The economy is beginning to stand on its feet and hope is being born again. All our efforts are on growth and the creation of new jobs now. All our concern is with the unemployed and the financially weaker. The countdown has, already, begun. United and determined we can succeed," it concluded.

    [04] Venizelos' message for International Workers' Day

    This year's May Day is a new starting point for workers and the unemployed, government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday underlined in his message for the International Workers' Day celebrated on May 1.

    "Our country is exiting the crisis and the memorandums with the sacrifices of the Greek people and they are given the opportunity and the right not only to fight for a better future but also to hope and anticipate a change in circumstances," he noted.

    Venizelos said that "the country's turnaround, while stepping on solid ground, and the utilisation of the new prospects for growth, will safeguard existing jobs, create new ones and restore collective autonomy and collective work contracts, while gradually correcting injustices".

    [05] DIMAR leader Kouvelis delivers May 1 message

    This year's May Day finds workers and younger generations facing policies that harm social cohesion and bring unemployment explosion, Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis said on Thursday in a message on the occasion of the annual workers' day.

    "All negativities announced about labour rights, such as the introduction of lock-out or of mass layoffs, must be deflected," Kouvelis said. "These developments, if they are not reversed, will demolish permanently the already rotted-out state of labour," he added.

    The DIMAR leader met with presidents of producers and sellers at open-air markets, supporting their demand for the revocation of a new bill in Parliament - that brings changes among other things to the placement of vendors and brings markets under the jurisdiction of local towns - and for talks between both sides.

    [06] Greek primary surplus to reach 2.3 pct of GDP this year, 5.3 pct of GDP in 2018

    The Medium-term program envisages a primary surplus of 2.3 pct of GDP this year (4.190 billion euros) up from a memorandum target for a primary surplus of 2.733 billion euros or 1.5 pct of GDP. The primary surplus is projected to reach 2.5 pct of GDP (4.737 billion euros) in 2015 (from a target of 5.648 bln or 3.0 pct of GDP), 3.5 pct of GDP (6.955 billion euros) in 2016 from a target of 8.882 billion euros or 4.5 pct of GDP, 4.6 pct of GDP (9.423 bln euros) from a target of 9.312 bln or 4.5 pct of GDP in 2017 and a primary surplus of 5.3 pct of GDP (11.585 bln euros) from a target of 9.108 bln or 4.2 pct of GDP in 2018.

    The program also envisages a fiscal gap of 911 million euros in 2011 (from a 2.0 billion euros estimate by the European Commission) and 1.927 billion euros in 2016. The fiscal gap of 2015 will be re-examined in cooperation with the troika in September along with the draft budget plan and if it was to remain, then additional interventions could be discussed to cover this gap (extending an extraordinary solidarity contribution).

    The country's GDP is projected to rise by 0.6 pct this year and by an annual growth rate of 3.3 pct on average until 2018. The unemployment rate is projected to gradually fall from 24.5 pct in 2014 to 15.9 pct in 2018. The public debt is expected to fall from 175.1 pct of GDP in 2013 to 173.9 pct of GDP in 2014, 168.3 pct in 2015, 158.9 pct in 2016, 149.1 pct in 2017 and 139.1 pct in 2018.

    Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras underlined that the fact that Greece achieved its fiscal targets forced its partners and creditors to undertake specific initiatives towards a final settlement of the long-term sustainability of the the country's public debt.

    Primary spending is projected to reach 42.6 bln euros in 2014 and fall to 41.4 bln in 2015, 41.2 bln in 2016, 41.2 bln in 2017 and 40.9 billion euros in 2018. The programe also envisages that 73,500 workers will leave the public sector, while another 51,500 workers will be hired in the period 2015-2018.

    Revenues are projected to fall from 55.9 billion euros in 2014, to 53.2 bln in 2015, and rise again to 53.3 bln in 2016, 55.9 billion euros in 2017 and to 57.4 bln euros in 2018.

    Staikouras left the door open to possible tax cuts if the government surpassed its revenue goals, making special mention to a special consumption tax on heating oil and a VAT on restaurants. "Policies that have been proved to be inefficient and socially unfair will be re-examined," he noted. The alternate Finance minister said the government aimed to repay outstanding debt to the private sector worth 2.5 billion euros this year.

    Privatization revenues are projected to reach 11.315 billion euros in the period 2015-208 or 12.828 billion euros in 2014-2018. The Medium-term program also envisages savings totaling 464 million euros in the period 2014-2018 mainly from interventions in supplementary pensions.

    Staikouras stressed that the country's funding needs were fully covered for the next 12 months, from the repurchase of preference shares from banks (5.0 billion euros), a recent state bond issue (3.0 billion euros), and plans to issue repos contracts between the Finance ministry and general government agencies (up to 4.5 billion euros). He did not exclude, however, the possibility of another Greek bond issue in international markets in the next 12 months, worth 3-6 billion euros.

    [07] New medium-term plan does not include new fiscal measures, Staikouras says

    The Greek government on Wednesday tabled in Parliament the Medium-term Framework of Fiscal Strategy 2015-2018, which envisaged ambitious targets for high primary surpluses in the coming years (reaching up to 5.3 pct of GDP in 2018) and annual growth rates of 3.3 pct on average.

    The Medium-term program envisages a fiscal gap of 911 million euros in 2015 and 1.927 billion euros in 2016, which will be re-examined in cooperation with the troika in September, along with the draft plan of the new budget. If the fiscal gap still remains at this time, a discussion will then begin on additional interventions to cover it.

    Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, offered assurances, however, that the current Medium-term program does not include new fiscal measures (such as higher taxes or further cuts in wages and pensions) but only measures worth 4.5 billion euros which have begun being implemented this year.

    "The medium-term [plan's provisions] have the full knowledge of the troika. Obviously, our estimates do not coincide with the troika's estimates (they are more negative than the Greek side's estimates)," Staikouras said. He did not exclude the possibility that the country could resort to international markets again in the next 12 months with a bond issue worth 3-6 billion euros (although a funding gap for the next 12 months is fully covered). He also said that the government will discuss with the troika the issue of lower taxes.

    The draft legislation is to be discussed in Parliament in two sessions next week, on Thursday and Friday, while the discussion of the bill before the appropriate Parliamentary committee will begin next Monday.

    [08] KKE party says medium-term framework reflects continuation of same antipopular path

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Wednesday, said that "the medium-term framework reflects the continuation of the same antipopular path, in the framework of the EU, with the aim of boosting the competitiveness and profit-making of monopolies and fiscal stabilisation".

    KKE added that "the medium-term framework anticipates the speeding up of capitalist restructurings, meaning measures securing the competitiveness of monopolies with the main priority being a policy of cheaper labour, the speeding up of privatisations, a policy of supporting 'active employment', meaning the unpaid work of the unemployed for capital".

    KKE concluded by saying "at the same time, the medium-term framework outlines the need for new additional antipopular measures with the invocation of the fiscal gap of the 2015-2016 two-year period that nears three billion euros".

    [09] EU Commission provides 7.1 mln euro funds for Greek environment programmes

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    The European Commission on Wednesday decided the allocation of 282.6 million euros for 225 new environment and climate programmes in the 28 member states of the EU under LIFE + programme.

    As for Greece, five environmental programmes will be funded with 7.1 million euros in total. More specifically, two programmes will be financed with 4.1 million euros under the LIFE + Environment Policy and Governance project, one programme will be financed with 1.2 million euros under the LIFE + Nature project and another two will be financed with 1.8 million euros under the LIFE + Information and Communication project.

    [10] Greek consumer confidence index up significantly in Q1, Nielsen report

    Greek consumer confidence index rose significantly in the first quarter of 2014 to 53 points, following a similar trend in the global consumer confidence index, a report by Nielsen said on Wednesday.

    The report, compiled in the period of February 17-March 7 in 60 different countries with a sample of more than 30,000 consumers in Europe, Asia, Oceania, America and the Middle East, reflects consumers' views over the current economic situation, along with concerns and their intention for the future.

    Greece and France were among the countries which recorded the biggest increases in the first quarter, among European countries, with the European consumer confidence index rising by two points to 75.

    The Greek index rose eight points to 53, although concern over labor security remained the biggest worry for 52 pct of respondent Greeks, while 8 out of 10 respondents continued doubting whether Greece could recover soon from an economic recession and a 79 pct said that the economic situation will remain unchanged in the next 12 months.

    A 27 pct of Greek consumers said the money saved after covering their basic needs were spent to repay loans, credit cards and other debt, although this rate is down 8 points compared with the first quarter of 2013. Three out of 10 Greeks said they have no available income, alhtough more and more Greeks claimed that the save more or spend more money for their personal satisfaction (vacations, consumer purchases, etc).

    Greek consumers have changed their purchasing habits, becoming more cautious over their spending, ranking third among EU member-states. A 74 pct of Greeks have turned to cheaper consumer products, while a 71 pct said they have limited their entertainment spending.

    [11] PM Samaras: 2014 will be another record year for tourism

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras forecast that 2014 will be another bumper year for tourism, while addressing the 22nd open general assembly of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) on Wednesday evening. Outlining the government's plans for boosting tourism, he stressed that "the sick residues of the past are over, we are proceeding finally towards a Greece of growth."

    Samaras said that 2013 was a record year and that this record will be broken in 2014. Appealing to the people of tourism, he urged them to "prepare to receive more than 20 million tourists".

    The prime minister said that tourism constitutes 15 pct of the Greek economy, of which 7 pct was its direct and 8 pct its indirect contribution to GDP. He added that the positive repercussion of national strategy on tourism can increase annual demand by 10 billion euros over the next five years and 25 billion euros in the next 10 years, while it will create 220,000 jobs. These do not concern the far future, they have started and they are becoming practice, he said.

    Samaras underlined preconditions foir the unimpeded further development of tourism and aimed barbs against the main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, without naming him directly.

    The prime minister noted that, while 2013 had seen record arrivals, the government was proceeding with a plan to restructure and upgrade the sector in order to extend the tourism season and increase per capita tourist spending by attracting higher-income tourists.

    He stressed the need to penetrate markets such as Russia and China, where Greece's share was currently low, and develop organised tourist products such as theme tourism, religious tourism, medical tourism and marine tourism.

    Listing measures planned by the government to achieve this goal, Samaras referred to spatial planning issues for Greek beaches and forests, facilitating the issue of licences and privatisation for marinas, lowering currently high tourism-related taxes and improving links with Greek destinations, both from within the country and abroad. He also emphasised plans to upgrade the centre and sea front of popular cities and towns for tourism, starting with Athens.

    Stressing that work on achieving these goals had already begun, the prime minister said that the government will be investing half a billion euros on infrastructure for the next six years, while the private sector was expected to invest three billion euros.

    "We have a comprehensive plan for what must be done and what it must achieve for the next years. There are 13 actions we are promoting, including a change in the direction of commercial strategy, developing quality infrastructure and increasing investments, boosting cruises and marinas, facilitating visa issue and reduce airport fees," he said.

    [12] Deputy Dev't minister meets with US entrepreneurs

    Deputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarachi on Wednesday met with a delegation of US entrepreneurs who participate in the U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Programme and who made clear they intented to support Greek startup businesses.

    "Today I met with a group of US investors - set up by the US government - which is looking for opportunities in Greece and specifically in startups. They have been impressed by the Greeks' potential, the quality, the young people's studies and their willingness to develop entrepreneurship. They are looking for new ideas and are willing to support them with the necessary funds. We generally see that the climate for the country is still changing. Our country is getting on the investment map," Mitarachi said after the meeting, adding that investors were coming to the country and new projects were underway.

    Mitarachi also met with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline manager for Greece Rikard Skoufias and discussed the progress of the licensing procedure, which is within the time schedule as well as maximizing the prospects of Greek companies participating in the project. The deputy minister recalled that the construction of the pipeline would create 12,000 jobs in the country and would cost 1.5 billion euros.

    [13] EIB planning to give 50 million euros for Greek SMEs, Germany's 'Focus' reports

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)

    The European Investment Bank plans to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greece to the tune of around 50 million euros, the online edition of Germany's "Focus" magazine reported on Wednesday.

    The report, quoting EIB President Werner Hoyer, said money will be distributed via the newly-established Greek fund Institution for Growth by the end of the year.

    "This agreement demonstrates our determination to help Greece," Hoyer said.

    [14] Tourism Minister presents ministry's actions

    Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Wednesday presented her ministry's actions in the current period during a closed meeting of the Greek Tourist Enterprises Association (SETE).

    Kefalogianni referred to the tabling of a bill on the upgrading and more efficient operation of the special forms of tourism, adding that 11 investment projects have been submitted to the ministry regarding several Greek regions among them the islands of Milos, Ios and Kea.

    On the course of the current tourism season, Kefalogianni expressed her optimism for the development of the tourism figures underlining that the wager is for Greece to remain on an upward trajectory as the one has been recorded in 2013. The tourist arrivals in Q1 2014, as she said, posted a 23 percent increase.

    On his part, the president of SETE Andreas Andreadis said that the association has set a target of 18,5 million of international arrivals and 13 billion euros of revenues, which, as he pointed out, will most probably be exceeded.

    The General Assembly meeting of the Association will be held on Wednesday afternoon at the Athens Megaron Concert Hall. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will address the meeting.

    [15] SYRIZA leader meets with German Deputy Labour Minister

    Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday expressed his confidence that his party would win the Euroelections.

    Tsipras met with the German Deputy Labour Minister Joerg Asmussen and according to sources, the two officials discussed the issues of Euroelections and the labour market. Tsipras noted the high rate of youth unemployment as well as the failure of austerity programmes in Greece.

    According to the same sources, SYRIZA leader reiterated his position on a Greek debt relief.

    [16] SYRIZA leader meets with street markets federation president

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday met with street markets federation president Antonis Triantafyllopoulos and asked for the immediate withdrawal of bill introducing new regulations for street markets.

    Tsipras said that SYRIZA is in favour of all Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki street markets organisations retaining their powers and responsibilities, as well as to assigning responsibilities for street markets to regional authorities.

    SYRIZA leader also asked for consultations with all institutions involved in open-air street market commerce so that the sector can be included in a plan for national reconstruction.

    [17] PASOK condemns the attack against SYRIZA members

    The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Wednesday condemned the attack against main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) members distributing leaflets in a street market in Kolonos.

    "Golden Dawn has already advertised in its website the attack of 'indignant citizens-vendors' against SYRIZA members," PASOK said in an announcement and stressed that this affirms how the extreme-right-wing party deals with the democratic right of the rest of the parties to organise election campaigns.

    PASOK also underlined that SYRIZA was right when it called for the country's democratic forces to struggle against supporters of Nazism.

    [18] ANEL leader concludes his tour of Crete

    Independent Greeks (ANEL) party leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday concluded his tour of the island of Crete ahead of the European Parliament election, visiting Sitia in the island's Lasithi prefecture.

    "Greece must regain its national sovereignty and dignity, it must regain the right to live freely," Kammenos said and added that more cuts to pensions, more memorandums and more austerity measures are on the way, while the suffering of the Greek people will grow.

    Kammenos urged voters to topple the government of the troika and the bankers with its vote in the elections of May 18 and May 25.

    [19] Parliament strips immunity of four Golden Dawn MPs

    Parliament on Wednesday held a roll-call vote and stripped four MPs of ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) of their immunity from prosecution. The MPs whose immunity was suspended following a prosecutor's request were Antonis Gregos, Polivios Zissimopoulos, Artemis Mattheopoulos and Konstantinos Barbaroussis. A total of 213 MPs voted in favour, 16 against and 8 voted "present".

    The four are the last GD MPs facing charges for participating in a criminal organization.

    Addressing the Parliament ahead of the vote, they denied the charges against them and stressed that they were being persecuted for their ideology, alleging there was a scheme against their party.

    GD parliamentary spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris lashed out at the minister of justice, saying that he is a liar and repeated his allegations that the minister has intervened in the GD case.

    Earlier, Antonis Gregos had said that he was being persecuted for his ideas and spoke about a political prosecution, underlining that he is not mentioned in the GD case file as a culprit in any criminal act.

    Polyvios Zissimopoulos and Artemis Mattheopoulos underlined that the prosecution is based on the absurd reasoning of collective responsibility.

    On his part, Konstantinos Barbaroussis said that all political parties are responsible for the stance they adopted as regards the GD prosecution.

    [20] Health ministry to forward case file on mental health clinic 'irregularities' to prosecutor

    The ministry of health on Wednesday said it was asking prosecuting authorities to investigate suspected irregularities in the operation of non-profit mental health clinics, after random checks revealed discrepancies and suspicious patient patterns in reported visits.

    Based on these, a total of 500,000 individuals appear to have used mental health services in a period of six months. According to the investigation conducted, patients are being treated at a number of clinics at any given time, appear to visit Mental Health Clinics in Athens and in provincial towns on the same day, and others are being treated in Daycare Centers while, at the same time, they are inpatients in Psycho-social Rehabilitation Centers.

    Deputy Health Minister Zeta Makri said that the results of the investigation are "annoying and unpleasant" noting that the case will be forwarded to the prosecutor and that the investigation will go beyond the second half of 2013.

    Of the 65 Mental Health Centers investigated, a total of 38 need to be investigated further, corresponding to 58 pct.

    [21] U.S. State Department 2013 report on terrorism notes strong cooperation with Greece

    The U.S. State Department on Wednesday issued its annual report for 2013 on terrorism, stressing that the Greek government's cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism remained strong.

    "Greece continued to experience intermittent small-scale attacks like targeted package bombs or improvised explosive device detonation by domestic anarchist groups," the State Department reported, while it underlined that "these attacks did not appear to aim to inflict bodily harm but rather sought to make a political statement."

    The report also referred to relatively small-scale anarchist attacks in Athens and Thessaloniki, which used inexpensive and unsophisticated incendiary devices against the properties of political figures, party offices, private bank ATMs, ministries and tax offices, and privately-owned vehicles, while it reported one incident against U.S. interests that took place on January 14, when unidentified perpetrators used flammable liquid to attack a Citibank branch office in the Athens suburb of Neo Heraklion. Minor property damage was sustained while no one claimed responsibility for the attack, the report said.

    The State Department report also presented Greek legislation in connection with terrorism with reference to specific articles of the Greek Penal Code, which subject Greek citizens to applicable international laws, to include terrorism.

    "The Police Directorate for Countering Special Violent Crimes (DAEEV) is responsible for counterterrorism in Greece. DAEEV is extremely proactive and attracts highly motivated and educated young police officers," stressed the report and added that "this unit has demonstrated a high capacity to collect information, but it lacks capacity to utilize the volume of data it collects and to share with other services within the Greek police and Coast Guard."

    As far as the Greek border document system for passports is concerned, the report underlined that Greece has a weak system for its passports. The national ID card is extremely vulnerable to alteration and photo substitution, and it has not incorporated any new security features such as digitized photo and biometrics," it said.

    The State Department also reported the convictions of Revolutionary Struggle members and the trial of the alleged members of Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei.

    "The porous nature of Greece's borders is of concern," stressed the report and underlined that "while Greek border authorities have had success in the past year stemming the flow of illegal migration at the land border with Turkey, their ability to control large-scale illegal migration via sea borders is limited. Recent regional upheavals have intensified illegal migration to and through Greece via the Greek Aegean islands."

    The full report is available at the State Department website

    [22] Parliament passes bill for tighter bank supervision

    A finance ministry bill on tighter prudential supervision for Greek banks was passed by Parliament on Wednesday, with roll-call votes on four articles and one amendment requested by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA). These were passed by 144 votes in favour and 99 votes against.

    The articles on which a roll-call vote was held concerned powers given to the Bank of Greece to decide on the procedure for the transfer of property assets from one financial institution to another, the backdated relief of Piraeus Bank from taxes and tariffs arising from its takeover of Cyprus Bank branches in Greece, a measure allowing hotels and camping sites to pay to use beaches and the backdated dismissal of former employees of EOMMEX subsidiaries, as well as measures for the new state broadcaster NERIT.

    During discussion of the bill, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras agreed to two amendments proposed by MPs relating to the entry criteria for military academies and salary issues for civil servants recruited in 2008 but not appointed until after the uniform civil service pay scale was enforced.

    He refused to accept an amendment proposed by all parties relating to the registration of businesses in chambers of commerce and industry, saying that this clashed with prior actions demanded under memorandum agreements.

    [23] Proposed improvements to laws for crematoriums presented in Athens

    A proposed amendment to current legislation on the cremation of the dead was presented in Athens on Wednesday, in a press conference attended by Athens Mayor George Kaminis and the head of the Committee for the Right to the Cremation of the Dead in Greece Antonis Alakiotis.

    Presenting their proposed improvements to the current laws, lawyers Nikos Alivizatos and Lousi Kiousopoulou noted that the weaknesses in the current legislation had prevented any crematoriums from being established in Greece, fully eight years after the relevant laws were passed by Parliament in 2006.

    "Whenever the municipalities, such as Athens or Thessaloniki, attempted to set aside a site for a crematorium, however, the plans were frozen due to the inherent weaknesses in the bill that essentially make the construction and operation of a crematorium impossible. Or else they ended up in court, as was the case with the Markopoulos municipality, where after being unanimously approved by the municipal council the decision was challenged by the Metropolitan of Mesogaia and the work again stalled," Kiousopoulou explained.

    She said the problems with the current legislation as "chiefly technical" and outlined four articles that would resolve the issues that had arisen so far, such as making regions responsible for issuing licences, allowing crematoriums to be built within and outside the town plan and within or outside the limits of municipalities.

    Kaminis pledged to proceed with plans to build a crematorium in Athens as quickly as possible, saying this would cover a need for thousands of families of foreign nationals living in the city.

    [24] KKE leader commemorates WWII execution at Kessariani

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Thursday laid a wreath at Skopeftirio in Kessariani, a district of Athens where Nazis executed 200 communists on May 1, 1944.

    "We honour the 200 executed heroic communists in Kessariani, we honour the thousands of fighters who gave their life 70 years ago and set by their stance and their acts the unfolding process of a harsh conflict, a tough battle against barbarity, to which capitalism leads," Koutsoumbas said at the site.

    He added that "their sacrifice serves as a guide and a beacon, and inspires us in our struggles now and in the future, until the final abolition of man's taking advantage of man."

    [25] Cyprus names new ambassador to Greece

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos)

    The Cyprus government on Wednesday appointed a new Cyprus Ambassador to Greece, the former education minister Kyriakos Kenevezos, who is to take over from the current ambassador in Athens on July 1 this year.

    Financial News

    [26] No new cuts in wages and pensions, Labour minister says

    Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Wednesday said that there would be no new cuts in wages and pensions.

    The minister, who gave a press conference at Zappeio where the EU Health Ministers' Informal Meeting was underway, referred to the 3863/2010 insurance law, to be put in effect as of 2015, and stressed there would be no "abrupt adjustments or shocks in the relations of pensioners with the insurance system."

    Regarding supplementary pensions and lump sum payments, he said the readjustments that have been made were necessary and fair. He added that due to those changes, pensions and lump sum payments have been secured for future generations while insurance funds will no longer record deficits.

    On unemployment, Vroutsis said there have been "clear indications of de-escalation" especially during the last four months. He appeared confident that unemployment would fall to 15.9 percent by 2018 from 25 percent in 2014, based on the provisions of the new Medium-term Framework of Fiscal Strategy 2015-2018.

    According to Vroutsis, Greece was gradually drawing away from the crisis and was now a "model-country in Europe" as a result of the policies adopted by the "political leaderships that took up the burden" and kept the country from falling over the brink.

    "We now have a primary surplus and soon we will have a public surplus," he stressed, adding that the repercussions of the crisis would have been milder if the reforms had been carried out earlier.

    He repeated Greece's commitment to fighting undeclared or 'black' employment and said that the government's central goal remained a successful re-integration of the jobless in the labour market.

    Vroutsis predicted that unemployment figures will start to go down in 2014, noting that unemployment rates had fallen by one percentage point in the last four months and that data supplied by the Ergani system on the hirings/dismissals balance were particularly positive in April.

    The EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor, also at the press conference, referred to early retirement and said the Commission urged member-states to abolish any exceptions and increase age limits where necessary. He acknowledged, though, this process has taken more time than originally expected.

    Andor said the European Commission's position was that salary increases must reflect increases in productivity, while adding that countries with systems protecting minimum wages were more competitive. Asked whether this position clashed with those of the EU-IMF troika for the European south, he said the Commission had a uniform position on overcoming the problems caused by financial system dysfunctions and problems in the economic union.

    [27] Grecovery underway, Provopoulos says

    Confidence in Greece's prospects is returning, Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos told institutional investors in London on Wednesday, in the framework of a "Bank Speaker Series" Forum organised by Goldman Sachs.

    Referring to Greek banks, the central banker stressed they are among the best capitalised banks in Europe and added that a very large degree of consolidation has been achieved. The number of banks has been reduced drastically, their costs cut significantly in the last four years and as a result we have a more compact, efficient and competitive banking system, he noted.

    Provopoulos, whose term at the helm of the Bank of Greece ends in June, referred also to the significant progress made by the Greek economy towards fiscal adjustment, regaining its competitiveness, dealing with a current account deficit and promoting reforms. The central banker said that "a return to growth - Grecovery - was underway".

    Top executives from international investment firms and institutional portfolios, such as JP Morgan, Fidelity, Citadel, Aviva, Eton Park, etc, attended the presentation.

    [28] Bank loans to private sector increasing, Development minister says

    Bank loans to the private sector totaled 1.5 billion euros (approved) and around 1.0 billion euros have been disbursed, Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting with the president of Hellenic Bank Association George Zanias.

    Hatzidakis expressed his satisfaction over this positive development saying: "a year earlier loans approved totaled 100-150 million euros, so signifiant progress has been made."

    "We agreed with Hellenic Bank Association that emphasis will be given to two issues: a programme to cover letters of guarantee for export and import enterprises, supported by the European Investment Bank and more support to SMEs using also money from community funds," the Greek minister said.

    Zanias said that the economic climate was improving and noted that as long as banks were freed from internal procedures, this dynamism would accelerate. "Don't forget that this year banks have to face not only one but three stress tests to see how good their loan portfolios are. As long as this process eases and the economic climate improves, liquidity in the market will be enhanced basically through ministry programmes and bank credit," Zanias said.

    [29] All ICT4Growth investment proposals will be financed, Hatzidakis says

    Development & Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis confirmed in his meeting with the Federation of Hellenic ICT Enterprises (SEPE) board members on Wednesday that there is no reason for concern as regards the financing of all investment proposals put forth by the ICT4Growth action and approved by the Information Society.

    Among the proposals are the ones already approved pending their implementation, as well as proposals that have been approved to be included in the Regional Operational Programme (PEP Attiki) but whose budget could not cover their financing.

    The meeting also focused on the course of the implementation of the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) programmes in the sectors of Information Technology and Communications and on preparations ahead of the new Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020.

    [30] Construction of coastal road, part of larger project, begins in eastern Peloponnese

    Work started on Wednesday to build a road linking Fokianos and Kyparissi on the eastern coast of the Peloponnese, in a project that has been delayed for decades.

    "It is our responsibility to link all of southeastern Peloponnese, and today this is a decisive step in that direction," Peloponnese region chief Petros Tatoulis said during the formal installation of the construction company. The project, he said, is difficult and has been a dream for decades. It is part of the region's plans to connect by road the peninsula's coastal road with Gythio, Areopolis and Kalamata further west.

    The deputy mayor of Monemvasia, a historical town under cultural protection further south, said that this was a much longed-for project, while the South Kyrnouria mayor added that the project "is a dream coming true" that will help the tourism development of the area.

    [31] Mid-season sales open Friday, with Sunday store opening coinciding with race in Athens

    The first mid-season sales, including an optional opening on Sunday May 4, for owners will open Friday and run to May 10 (Saturday), i

    Mid-season sales will open on Friday and run until Saturday, May 10, with the option for store owners to stay open on Sunday, May 4 as well. According to a new law, stores during the two main sales and two mid-season sales annually may stay open the first Sunday of each sales period.

    Those who choose to open on May 4, can do so for a maximum period of 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. However, the Athens Merchants Assocation proposed that store owners in the capital operate their stores from 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m., as the "3rd Half-Marathon of Athens" will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The success of the event will contribute to promoting the image of the city and its market, it said, in its announcement.

    [32] Luxury yachts start converging on Nafplio for boat show, May 3-7

    The 2014 Mediterranean Yacht Show of chartered superyachts is taking place at the port of Nafplio, eastern Peloponnese, from May 3 to 7, the Greek Yachting Association announced.

    The show is organised under the auspices of the Merchant Marine Ministry and the Worldwide Yachting Association (MYBA).

    Yachts started arriving at the historic and picturesque city of Nafplio on Thursday. Qualifications include a maximum length of 60 metres and a maximum capacity of 12 passengers. About 60 are expected to attend.

    Some of them have been rented in the past by Hollywood actors and actresses, princesses and businessmen on cruises in the Aegean, the organisers said. The show is for mostly foreign professionals, and expected to attract the largest global rental companies to the area.

    [33] Alpha Bank says HFSF has 69.90 pct of its equity capital

    Alpha Bank on Wednesday announced that the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund owned 8,925,267,781 common, nominal, voting shares of the bank, or 69.90 pct of the bank's equity capital.

    In an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange, Alpha Bank said that a total of 3,843,792,077 common shares of the bank were traded in the market.

    [34] REDS signs 10.4-mln-euro bond loan

    REDS SA, a real estate developer, on Wednesday announced the signing of a common bond loan worth 10.4 million euros with Alpha Bank and Eurobank Ergasias. The money from the four-year bond loan will be used to refinance existing short-term loans worth 9.4 million euros.

    [35] Rural Development Minister Tsaftaris meets with Phillip Morris representatives

    Rural Development & Foods Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris on Wednesday met with Papastratos tobacco company president & CEO Nikitas Theofilopoulos and tobacco division representative of its parent company Phillip Morris International (PMI) Adnan Ondogan. The meeting marked the first anniversary of the cooperation agreement reached between the Greek government and PMI on the cultivation and purchase of Greek-produced Eastern-type tobacco.

    The contract signed last year in the presence of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras provided for a 20 pct increase in the quantity of Eastern-type tobacco purchased by the company during the three-year period 2013-2015, compared with the previous three-year period, as well as for the implementation of good farming practices aimed at improving the quality of tobacco produced in Greece and improving its competitiveness.

    Theofilopoulos and Ondogan briefed the minister on the course of the contract and discussed the moves made by PMI in 2013.

    The rural development minister underlined the very positive results the contract had on the country's tobacco production sector, noting that a farm business model is being developed that gives predictability to tobacco cultivation and distribution while boosting quality and competitiveness.

    On his part, Theofilopoulos said that the implementation of the contract ensures a stable economic environment for roughly 25,000 tobacco growers and labourers, while Ondogan underlined that Greece produces high-quality Eastern-type tobacco ranked among the best in the world.

    [36] Armed forces sign contract with Hellenic Defence Systems (EAS)

    The armed forces and Hellenic Defence Systems (EAS) signed an 18.5-million-euro agreement late on Wednesday for the purchase of 265,000 40mm NATO-certified ammunition, for the army.

    The contract, the first for EAS in four years, was signed on behalf of the company by CEO Sotiris Christogiannis and on behalf of the National Defence ministry by Dimitris Georgiopoulos, head of the directorate for defence armaments and investments (GDAEE). National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Alternate Minister Fofi Gennimata attended the ceremony.

    Avramopoulos said the agreement "is a significant step towards the restructure and viability of the Hellenic Defence Systems and an additionally strong message of recovery, development and progress of the Greek economy," adding that "we only have a few months ahead of us to prove and reaffirm in Parliament our public commitment that EAS can and must be saved."

    Gennimata said that "after four years of the agreement's stalling, the coordinated efforts of the new EAS management, the general staffs, the relevant directorate and the ministry's political leadership are bearing fruit."

    [37] PPC successfully completes sale of 700-mln-euro bond issue

    Public Power Corporation on Wednesday announced the successful sale of a senior note bond worth 700 million euros in international markets.

    PPC offered a combination of bonds worth 200 million euros with maturity in 2017 and bonds worth 500 million euros with maturity in 2019 with fixed interest rates of 4.75 pct and 5.5 pct annually, respectively.

    Demand totaled around 3.0 billion euros, six times more than the asked sum. The proceeds from the bond issue will be used to finance the company's investment program and to partly repay existing debt.

    The volume of offers and a very competitive interest rate which surpassed initial expectations - significantly lower than the borrowing cost from commercial banks - led to a decision to raise an additional 200 million euros from the issue. PPC said that with the repayment of interest worth 450 million euros, in the framework of a recent refinancing agreement of loans worth 2.2 billion euros with a consortium of Greek banks, the corporation managed to cut the interest rate on its outstanding debt by 50 basis points.

    In a statement, PPC said that this development confirmed and improved significantly PPC's positive outlook following a triple upgrade of its credit rating by an international credit rating agency a few days ago.

    [38] British Airways launches direct flights between London and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini

    Direct flights between London's Heathrow Airport and the Aegean islands of Mykonos and Santorini will be launched on Saturday, May 3 by British Airways, it was announced on Wednesday.

    A320 passenger planes will carry out the flights to Mykonos on Tuesdays and Saturdays and to Santorini on Wednesdays and Sundays.

    The airline will also carry out four weekly flights between Thessaloniki and Gatwick Airport.

    [39] Greek stocks end sharply up

    Greek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 1,200-point level. Analysts attributed the sharp rise to investors' efforts to improve their portfolio's performance ahead of the end of the month.

    The composite index of the market jumped 3.09 pct to end at 1,232.12 points, after rising as much as 3.31 pct early in the session. The index ended April with losses totaling 7.76 pct.

    Turnover was a huge 269.49 million euros, of which 86 million euros were block trades in Athens Water. The Large Cap index rose 2.65 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.36 pct higher.

    OTE (8.40 pct), Motor Oil (7.20 pct), Metka (5.74 pct) and Mytilineos (3.88 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (2.44 pct) and Eurobank Properties (0.48 pct) were the only blue chips to end lower.

    The Real Estate index was the only one to end lower (-0.53 pct), while Telecoms (8.40 pct), Oil (4.28 pct) and Utilities (3.61 pct) recorded the highest gains.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 93 to 37 with another 13 issues unchanged. Kyriakoulis (28.97 pct), Lanakam (26.33 pct) and Sato (19.83 pct) were top gainers, while CPI (27.44 pct), Medicon (19.88 pct) and AXON Holdings (18.42 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: +2.04%

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Financial Services: +3.36%

    Industrial Products: +3.36%

    Commercial: +1.72%

    Real Estate: -0.53%

    Personal & Household: +3.18%

    Food & Beverages: +0.33%

    Raw Materials: +3.48%

    Construction: +3.29%

    Oil: +4.28%

    Chemicals: +1.06%

    Media: Unchanged

    Travel & Leisure: +0.10%

    Technology: +2.15%

    Telecoms: +8.40%

    Utilities: +3.61%

    Health: +2.76%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were EYDAP, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and OTE.

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

    Alpha Bank: 0.69

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.89

    Coca Cola HBC: 18.15

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.17

    National Bank of Greece: 2.80

    Eurobank Properties : 8.34

    OPAP: 11.50

    OTE: 11.49

    Piraeus Bank: 1.70

    Titan: 22.70

    [40] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 4.74 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 4.77 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.22 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.48 pct. Turnover was a strong 32 million euros, of which 25 million were buy orders and the remaining 7.0 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.619 pct from 0.621 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.522 pct from 0.529 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.438 pct from 0.444 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.339 pct from 0.347 and the one-month rate fell to 0.261 pct from 0.269 pct.

    [41] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a small premium of 0.10 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover at 28.602 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,631 contracts worth 21.011 million euros, with 50,208 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,851 contracts worth 7.591 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (10,492), followed by Alpha Bank (1,224), Piraeus Bank (3,814), National Bank (955), MIG (872), OTE (1,618), PPC (1,857), OPAP (1,126), Mytilineos (290), Hellenic Exchanges (248), Hellenic Petroleum (245), GEK (252), Sidenor (129), Intralot (136) and Motor Oil (131).

    [42] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.405

    Pound sterling 0.835

    Danish kroner 7.575

    Swedish kroner 9.208

    Japanese yen 144.20

    Swiss franc 1.238

    Norwegian kroner 8.396

    Canadian dollar 1.541

    Australian dollar 1.517

    General News

    [43] Elliniko-Argyroupoli mayor gives press conference on fun fair tragedy

    Elliniko-Argyroupoli Mayor Christos Kortzidis, in a Wednesday press conference held three days after the death of a 13-year-old boy and the serious injury of his nine-year-old sister in a fun fair operating within the municipality's limits, stressed that sides all bear responsibility for preventing a similar event in the future.

    Replying to questions by the press, Kortzidis said that there was a "vague and complex legal framework" governing temporary facilities of this kind and that the same strict standards applied to permanent amusement park facilities were not required for them.

    He pointed out that the specific facility was operated as a temporary one with the granting of the premises' leasing, which the municipality had done.

    Kortzidis declared that he does not intend to resign from his post and added that "the strong attack on the part of certain media, as well as politicians, serves other purposes and interests".

    He concluded by saying that "they want to get us out of the way" because "we are struggling to change many things. We shall continue our struggle with trust in the judgement of the people".

    [44] Composer Mikis Thedorakis to be honoured by Professionals Chamber of Athens

    Composer Mikis Theodorakis will be honoured by the Professionals Chamber of Athens as an outstanding personality of recent Greek history, the Chamber said Thursday, and be presented with a plaque at a date to be determined shortly.

    Chamber president Yiannis Chadzitheodosiou said that "generations and generations have grown up with Mikis Theodorakis' music, and his life stance has become an example to follow. The least we can do is to honour this outstanding human being and artist, and we consider it truly lucky for Greece that he remains an active citizen."

    He added that the recognition was meant to act as a reminder that "in these difficult times it is useful for all of us to draw strength and inspiration from personalities of such prestige."

    [45] Stavros Niarchos Foundation exclusive sponsor of AHEPA 'Travel to Greece' programme

    WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA) - The Stavros Niarchos Foundation has become the exclusive sponsor of the programme of the Greek American AHEPA organisation "Travel to Greece", making a donation of 50,000 U.S. dollars.

    AHEPA's "Travel to Greece" programme began in 1968 and was the first of its kind. It provides students with the possibility of gaining educational units at their universities and obtaining an invaluable life experience, since they are linked or relinked with their national identity and heritage.

    A total of 390 students from the U.S. and Canada have participated in the programme. The time limit for the submission of applications for this year's "Travel" expires on May 15.

    [46] Street market producers and professionals continuing mobilisation

    Producers and professional street market vendors are continuing their mobilisations, according to a decision taken by their Federations' boards on Wednesday.

    A relevant announcement by the Federations of Street Markets Producers and Professional Vendors said that: "the 'we decide and we order' practices for the dissolution of the street markets, without taking into consideration at all the demands of producers and professional salesmen, show the government's deadlock and panic. The government's undemocratic intransigence will find all of us united like a fist".

    In addition to participating in rallies on Thursday, they will also demonstrate at Kaningos Square in central Athens on Friday morning, when the draft bill is to be tabled and will distribute more free produce on Saturday, in Athens' Perissos district.

    [47] Police arrest alleged ring-members operating illegal circuses and funfairs

    Thessaloniki police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a criminal ring allegedly involved with illegal circuses and funfairs operation

    The alleged ring-members, three Greeks and two foreign nationals, face felony charges for forgery, fraud and embezzlement as their illegal operation and tax-evasion caused damages amounting to 888,761.68 euros. The alleged ringleader was 57-year-old who had established 'dummy' companies in the past, alongside his three accomplices.

    The five suspects were arrested after a ten-month police operation, while they will be led before a Thessaloniki misdemeanour court public prosecutor.

    [48] Canadian national wanted on international warrant for fraud arrested in Athens

    A Canadian national wanted on an international arrest warrant issued by the US authorities was arrested on Monday by Financial Crimes police at the Athens' coastal district of Paleo Faliro.

    The 58-year-old Canadian is being charged of setting up a criminal organisation and of committing stock market and electronic fraud.

    Police said that the suspect is alleged to be the mastermind of a criminal organisation which acted from March to October 2008 in Pennsylvania and in other US states.

    According to US police the organisation raised over 8 million US dollars.

    The Canadian, being president and director of a company and shareholder in two other firms, used those enterprises as 'vehicle' to carry out fraud via a "pump and dump" scheme.

    The accused was sent to an Athens prosecutor and afterwards to prison.

    [49] Producers and sellers to distribute free fruit and vegetables in Attica

    Open-air markets fruit and vegetable producers and sellers who are holding a long-term strike in protest of a new draft bill promoted by the Development and Competitiveness ministry, will distribute on Wednesday free products in several areas of Attica.

    Among the contested articles in the bill, the federation of open-market producers and sellers mentioned the decision to allocate stalls by annual lottery, the right of municipalities to decide on the ceiling in the number of sellers at markets, the separation between producers and other sellers at the market, and the fines (ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 euros) and sanctions for transgressions, which they said in their majority also carry jail terms of three months to a year.

    [50] Union to hold strike on Sunday shopping day

    The Federation of Private Employees (OIYE) has called a 24-hour strike on May 4 for commerce sector employees, protesting against the law which provides for the opening of the shops on the first Sunday of the mid-season sales period. They have also planned a protest outside The Mall Athens shopping centre, at 11 pm.

    In its announcement, the federation says that thousands of employees were forced to work on the last Sunday before the start of Holy Week and were still waiting to be paid while the majority of shops had a rather low turnover.

    "Consumers did not shop, they just went for a walk. Small businesses, having been exhausted, try to catch up with the competition of powerful, leading foreign chains, large shopping centres and discount villages, by opening on Sundays with unsustainable operating costs," according to the announcement.

    The newly-established mid-season sales, including one optional Sunday on May 4, will be held from May 1-10 based on new laws passed in 2013. Given that May 1 is a mandatory bank holiday, this effectively means that the sales period will start next Friday, May 2.

    Shops can also choose to stay open on May 4, the first Sunday within the sales period, for a maximum period of 11:00-20:00.

    [51] Ships to remain docked on Thursday, seamen participate in May Day strike

    Ships on Thursday will remain docked at Greek ports due to the participation of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation in private sector union GSEE's 24hour strike on May Day.

    Seamen's Federation claimed that unemployment rates in their sector have rocketed and stressed that some employees still remain unpaid. Port employees will also participate in Thursday's strike. The Greek Port Workers Federation has asked the government "to put an end to the ports' sell-off" and called on all workers to participate in the labour action.

    Dockworkers Association and the Piraeus Port's (OLP) supervisors and chief workmen association said that dockworkers will defend the state ownership of Greece's largest port.

    Public and private sector unions ADEDY and GSEE as well as the Athens Labour Centre on Thursday will hold a protest at Klafthmonos square at 11.00 to mark the May Day celebrations, while private and public sector unions have called a 24hour strike.

    Communist-affiliated group PAME will start its rally at 10.00 at Syntagma square.

    Port employees will participate in the unions' rally at Klafthmonos square at 11.00, while dockworkers will hold a protest at Pasalimani, Piraeus, at 10.30.

    Meanwhile, main opposition SYRIZA party as well as Piraeus mayor Vassilis Michaloliakos have expressed their opposition to the sale of the port.

    "The expressions of interest by six monopoly groups for the acquisition of Piraeus port did not take us by surprise. The sale ensures a guaranteed return for the companies and has no benefits for the society and the economy since even the price offered will be directed to foreign creditors, " SYRIZA's shipping section said in a statement.

    Piraeus mayor Vassilis Michaloliakos on Tuesday met with OLP's employees and expressed his opposition to the sale of the port and asked that the shares of the Piraeus Port Authority be given to the municipality under the condition that they will not be sold.

    [52] Another 35 OSY employees to be sacked over false qualifications

    OSY, the company that manages Attica's buses and trolley buses, will sack 35 employees mostly bus drivers, after an investigation revealed they had been hired on false or forged certificates of studies.

    The Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in mid-December sent instructions to all public entities, asking for the first time that the validity of certificates submitted by civil servants be checked.

    A total number of 112 OSY employees - including the latest cases- have been sacked since April 1 while another 12 have resigned for the same reason.

    OSY did not rule out the possibility of locating more similar cases.

    [53] Pan-European 'e-Skills for Jobs 2014' campaign to be presented in Athens on May 6

    The new pan-European campaign "e-Skills for Jobs 2014" will be presented on Tuesday, May 6, at a special event to be held at the National Insurance headquarters.

    The conference is part of Greece's EU presidency and aims at showcasing the increasing demand for professionals with digital expertise as well as at fighting unemployment and developing the economy.

    Speeches and discussions will focus on highlighting the importance of Information and Communication Technologies in dealing with the recession and the exit from the current economic crisis, stressing the key role of the development of digital skills in today's labour market.

    European Commissioners, government officials, university teachers, students and young people as well as entrepreneurs and market players will participate in the conference. Participants will speak during thematic sessions directly related to the targets of the "Digital Agenda 2020".

    The campaign is under the auspices of the European Commission's "Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs" action, a pan-European cooperation of several interested parties that help deal with the lack of European citizens with professional digital capacities and the exploitation of the possibility to create new jobs in Information and Communication Technologies.

    [54] 'Athens Science Festival' to be held in Technopolis

    The "1st Athens Science Festival" will be held in Technopolis, Athens, from April 30 to May 4.

    The science festival is organized by the educational organization "Science Communication - SciCo" and the British Council, in collaboration with Onassis Scholars' Association, the Ministry of Education, Panteion University, the National Observatory of Athens and many other educational and research institutes.

    The festival seeks to highlight the role of science in our every day lives as well as to present the research work carried out in Greece by inspiring and creating new standards in the science arena.

    [55] Frigate 'Kountouriotis' open to public as of Friday

    Greek Navy's frigate "Kountouriotis" will be docked in Piraeus port from Friday until Sunday and will be open to public.

    The visiting hours on Friday will be 15:00-21:00, on Saturday 10:00-21:00 and on Sunday 10:00-21:00.

    [56] Light quake north of Andros island

    A light earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale was recorded on Wednesday at 7.03 am.

    The quake's epicentre was located at the sea region 43 km north of Andros island and 125km north of Athens.

    Olympic Games

    [57] Olympic Flame lit in Athens for Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, Aug. 16-28

    A ceremony to light the Olympic Flame for the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games was held at the Panathenaic Stadium in central Athens on Wednesday, in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and honorary International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogg.

    During the ceremony, actress Katerina Lehou, in the role of high priestess, lit the flame from the sun's rays to start the torch relay that will end up at Nanjing, eastern China, for the Games (running August 16-28). The relay was kicked off at the stadium by two Chinese and two Greek athletes. Rogge and Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Kapralos addressed the event briefly, before the torch was handed to Chinese Olympic Committee Chairman Liu Peng and Vice President and Vice President and Secretary General of the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee (NYOGOC) and Mayor of Nanjing, Miao Ruilin.

    More than 3,500 athletes aged 15-18 will be taking part in the Youth Games, competing in 28 events that include the newly introduced 3x3 basketball. So far, seven Greek youths have qualified.

    It is the third time the flame has been lit for a Youth Olympic Games, following the Summer Singapore Games in 2010 and the Youth Winter Games in Innsbruck in 2012. The Games were inspired by Rogge to inspire athletes aged 15 to 18 years of age to embrace Olympic ideals, including friendship and respect of other cultures.

    Weather forecast

    [58] Scattered rain on Friday

    Overcast throughout Greece, with scattered rain likely in all areas except Crete. Passing thundershowers expected in northeastern Greece and the eastern Aegean. Southerly winds from 3 to 6 Beaufort. Temperatures from 7C to 25C. In Athens, scattered clouds with rain possible, south-southeasterly winds 3-5 Beaufort. Temperatures from 12C to 25C. In Thessaloniki, the same, with winds up to 4 Beaufort. Temperatures from 12C to 22C.

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