|Wednesday, 22 May 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-05-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 14 May 2014 Issue No: 4656
 PM Samaras visits Mytilini island borders patrol staff, meets with farmersPrime Minister Antonis Samaras promised tax-free oil for farmers for produ-ction within the following year, and cuts in costs related to migrant labour - specifically, he said steps were being taken for radical reductions in wages paid, visa processing fees and social insurance contributions.
During his tour of the northeast Aegean island of Mytilini (Lesvos), Samaras said during his meeting with farmers on the island that "what did not happen for primary stage production in Greece over the past decades, what took place everywhere else in Europe and the world, will also take place in our country now. And all the distance we lost we shall cover running.
And if we remained desperately behind all these years, soon we shall not be behind anybody".
The prime minister visited the headquarters of EU's border service Frontex at the port of Mytilini, talked to the men of the Port service and their Romanian colleagues who are serving in the EU agency and briefed by technicians handling the special search and rescue equipment and by the interpreters working there.
He stressed the need for a common European Policy to handle illegal immigration, return undocumented immigrants back to their countries and punish human traffickers and thanked Frontex staff individually on board a Coast Guard's vessel, commenting on the service they rendered last year and a half, when they saved a total of 4,000 people.
The prime minister is being accompanied on his tour by Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou.
 Greece reports 1.048 bln euros primary surplus in Jan-AprilGreece on Tuesday repor-ted a primary budget sur-plus of 1.048 billion euros in the first four months of 2014, surpassing a budget target for a surplus of 742 million euros.
Presenting a report on budget execution, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras (photo) said that the state budget balance showed a deficit of 1.144 billion euros in the January-April period, from a deficit of 2.426 billion euros in the same period last year and a budget target for a shortfall of 1.459 billion euros.
Staikouras said the data confirmed that the government's economic policy programme was achieving its fiscal goals. Net state budget revenue totaled 13.844 billion euros in the four-month period, down 1.051 billion euros, or 7.1 pct compared with budget targets, of which 500 million euros are the delayed return of capital gains from European central banks' Greek bond holdings.Tax revenues totaled 12.784 billion euros, 1.6 pct lower than targets, while the General Accounting Office said that the four-month figure was significantly lower than a three-month figure. Tax returns totaled 906 million euros, up 431 million euros from targets.
Public Investment Programme revenues totaled 2.295 billion euros, up 788 million euros from targets, while state budget spending totaled 17.282 billion euros, down 578 million euros from targets. Regular budget spending totaled 15.884 billion euros in the January-April period, down 976 million euros from targets reflecting a 809-million-euro reduction in primary spending. Regular budget spending was down 8.4 pct compared with the same period last year. Public Investment Programme spending rose by 398 million euros to 1.398 billion, compared with budget targets and was up 562 million euros compared with the same period last year.
 Venizelos meets European Commission VP Kallas, discusses Greek debtBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
Ensuring the sustainability of Greece's debt was the main focus of a meeting here on Tuesday between Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and European Commission Vice President for Transport issues Siim Kallas, on the sidelines of the EU foreign ministers' council held in Brussels.
"As we have repeatedly said and as the head of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) Klaus Regling has stressed, Greece's debt is sustainable for the reasons we have outlined technically," Venizelos said after the meeting. This was denied only "by those not wishing to admit that Greece has created, thanks to the sacrifices of its citizens, the conditions for a final exit from the crisis and final return to conditions of European normality," he added.
Asked to comment on a Financial Times article concerning events at the 2011 European summit in Cannes, Venizelos commented only that these types of articles tended to be "recycled and had no interest". He said he would be willing to talk about these issues "at the right time and when conditions allowed".
"We have a historic obligation to explain to the Greek people...regardless of the party preferences, how the country stood on its feet, how it was saved and how it is an aligned member-state of the EU and the euro," he added. He emphasised that the priority at present was for Greece to complete its exit from the crisis undisturbed and not cast this into doubt.
Commenting on a European Court of Human Rights ruling condemning Turkey and awarding compensation to Cyprus for the 1974 Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of northern part of the island, he called this "an exceptionally important decision" that meant a great deal for the Cyprus problem.
"Cyprus is fighting to find a solution in accordance with international law and the European acquis; Turkey bears responsibility, the ECHR has held it responsible for years now, and it would be extremely auspicious and productive for (Turkey) to take the ECHR rulings into account in order to contribute to drawing up an feasible, just and viable solution, in line with Security Council resolutions and European rules," he said.
 FM Venizelos' doorstep statement on arrival at EU General Affairs Council, in BrusselsGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos made the following statement on his arrival at the EU General Affairs Council, in Brussels:
"The General Affairs Council has to prepare, during this session, the upcoming European Council of June. We have the two main pillars of European policy: Freedom and Justice, and also Growth, Competitiveness and Job Creation. Ten days before the European elections, it is our duty to present the new European narrative - to give an attractive answer for the new European generation. This is the main political and social problem for us now."
 SYRIZA's Tsipras meets Russian First Deputy FM Titov in Moscow, discusses UkraineMOSCOW (ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)
Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras met Russia's First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Vladimir Titov, in charge of relations with European countries, at the Russian foreign ministry on Tuesday. In statements as he was leaving the ministry, Tsipras said he had an "in-depth briefing meeting" with Titov that was exceptionally "substantive".
Tsipras, who is currently in Moscow on a two-day visit at the head of a SYRIZA delegation, noted that Titov was in charge of Russian diplomacy for European issues, including Greek-Russian cooperation, and said they exchanged views on EU-Russian and German-Russian relations, as well as bilateral cooperation issues.
SYRIZA's leader underlined that the necessary political will had been missing in the past to develop bilateral cooperation and that the Russian side had noted the many unexploited possibilities in this direction. Shortly before meeting Tsipras, in the framework of a joint initiative by the Left in Greece and Germany on the problem in Ukraine, Titov had also met the head of Germany's Leftist Die Linke party Gregor Gysi.
Tsipras said his talks with Titov offered an opportunity "to obtain a complete picture about current developments in the Ukraine issue. We underlined our concerns, where we coincide and where we disagree with the Russian side but, chiefly, we underlined the need for a peaceful resolution to this crisis. And the need, on the part of the EU, to highlight dialogue, negotiations and the diplomatic route, and not sanctions or an escalation of tension."
"In the last days, also, we had the opportunity to submit the view that Ukraine must be a bridge of cooperation and not division in the heart of Europe and that the Ukrainian people are the only ones empowered to decide their future, through constitutionally foreseen democratic processes, whether these are elections or referendums."
Commenting on Monday's article in the Financial Times concerning what occurred behind the scenes at the Cannes European summit in 2011, when then prime minister George Papandreou had tried to suggest a Greek referendum, Tsipras noted that "Europe's great deficit today is a deficit in democracy."
"This is revealed by yesterday's revelations in the Financial Times. The European leadership, unfortunately, wants governments in Ukraine and in Greece that are subjugated. Governments that don't represent the interests of their people but the short-sighted aims of the European leadership," he added.
According to Tsipras, there was no other way to comment "on the fact that [Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras] had been proved since 2011 to be nothing more than [European Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso's] puppet, in order for memorandums to continue in Greece, even when to Greek people he had adopted an anti-memorandum rhetoric."
SYRIZA believes that people should have the last word and take their fate into their own hands, so that "Europe can return to its founding values. To democracy, above all, to social cohesion, solidarity and prosperity. Because prosperity without without peace cannot exist," Tsipras added, noting that his party's message was one of people's power and democracy.
The SYRIZA delegation will end its visit will meet the leadership of the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, later on Tuesday, before departing for Athens.
 Athens meeting issues Declaration to depollute and protect Mediterranean SeaMinisters attending the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) meeting in Athens on Tuesday issued a Declaration of their commitment to tackle the growing climate and environmental challenges facing the region. It is the first time climate change has been discussed at ministerial level within the UfM, a partnership promoting multilateral cooperation between 43 countries (28 EU member-states and 15 Mediterranean countries).
"We have renewed our political commitment to de-pollute the Mediterranean Sea and taken important steps to increase our cooperation on climate change and sustainable consumption," EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnic said, adding, "Now the real work will start. We need to translate the political commitments in the Declaration we have adopted into action, both at national and regional level."
Commenting on the declaration from Brussels, EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said, ''I'm very glad that on both sides of the Mediterranean, we have decided to step up our common efforts in the fight against climate change. We are committed to an ambitious, legally binding deal in Paris next year as agreed in Durban, and are determined to work more closely together to make it happen."She added that "the Mediterranean region is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but is also rich in opportunities for low-carbon development, including significant potential for renewable energy and energy and resource efficiency. In recognition of these challenges and opportunities, we have also established a regional climate change expert group for cooperation across the Mediterranean.''
Greece's primary target is to an effective and two-way collaboration with all Mediterranean countries within a framework that favours the growth of synergies, leading to an effective promotion of the three pillars of viable growth," Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis commented earlier.
Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "We have renewed our political commitment to de-pollute the Mediterranean Sea and taken important steps to increase our cooperation on climate change and sustainable consumption. Now the real work will start. We need to translate the political commitments in the Declaration we have adopted into action, both at national and regional level."
According to the EU, the expert group established by this Declaration will encourage the exchange of information and best practice across the region and promote the development of projects and initiatives related to low emission and climate-resilient development. The expert group will bring together academia, civil society, the private sector, international financial institutions, investors and local and national administrations.
Ministers renewed their support for the Horizon 2020 Initiative and the waste water, solid waste and industrial emissions sectors that it targets, and agreed to strengthen its pollution prevention dimension. They also stressed the importance of fully integrating action on climate change into national strategies, which will lead to greater mobilisation of financial resources from a variety of sources.
The Mediterranean region has been identified as a major climate change hotspot by experts. Future changes are expected to include temperature increases above the world average, lower rainfall patterns, and more extreme weather events, while the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most important, but threatened, environmental assets of the European Union and a global biodiversity hotspot.
 Environment Minister Maniatis addresses Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting on the environmentEnvironment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Tuesday urged the ministers attending the Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting on Environment and Climate Change to adopt the "Athens Declaration" and boost cooperation ahead of a new legally binding UN agreement on climate change standards in 2015.
Addressing the meeting held in the context of the Greek EU Presidency, Maniatis underlined the urgent need to face new challenges for the benefit of present and future generations, noting that close and constructive cooperation and partnership between all countries is necessary to meet the goals set.
He also said that the implementation of the "Horizon 2020" initiative, approved in the ministerial meeting in Cairo in 2006 to tackle top sources of Mediterranean pollution, is underway.
Maniatis underlined that cooperation is pursuant to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit principles and is based on the conclusions of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).
 Greece to seek changes in agenda of negotiations with the troikaGreek authorities on Tuesday left open the door for discussing the issue of easing fiscal policy during the next round of negotiations with the troika in autumn.
A high-ranking official from the finance ministry told ANA-MPA that the ministry's aim was to include in the agenda of negotiations with the troika the targets set for achieving primary surpluses in the coming years - targets which have been characterized as particularly ambitious by the Parliament's Budget Office.
"Achieving fiscal targets offers the possibility to discuss tax reductions," the official said, adding that the next round of negotiations with the troika will include all new data and more specifically the benefits from Greece's return to international markets, surpassing fiscal goals in the 2013-2014 period and decisions reached by the country's partners towards a restructuring of Greece's public debt.
Finance ministry officials stressed that a recent five-year bond issue and much more a second issue - likely to be launched by the end of the year - did not change the planning of a basic scenario for the sustainability of the debt. They underlined that all four Treasury bill issues auctioned after the successful sale of the five-year bond saw their interest rates falling significantly. Most international organisations, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), stressed that automatic stabilisers should be left to operate in the country to avoid "struggling" economic growth prospects. The finance ministry's plans is supported, for the time being, by the good course of budget execution, which showed a primary surplus of around 1.05 billion euros in the first four months of 2014.
 Infrastructure minister briefs President Papoulias on the course of motorway projectsConstruction work in major motorway projects is progressing and 70 pct of them are underway, directly employing roughly 7,500 people, Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis said on Tuesday during his meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Mansion.
Briefing the president, Chryssochoidis referred to E-65 expressway, noting that the Lamia-Xiniada section in central Greece will soon be under construction.
He also commented on the motorway bypass constructed near the northwest city of Ioannina and the two, 3 km-long, tunnels designed to be built in the region of Klokova ensuring easy access to Ioannina. The minister underlined that the projects will stick to the timetable agreed and will be ready by the end of 2015.
Responding to a relevant question by President Papoulias, he said that the major construction companies that have undertaken the project use Greek know-how in the construction work.
Chryssochoidis noted that a railway line is under construction in parallel with Olympia Road motorway, between Corinth and Patras in southern Greece, underlining that the construction of the Corinth-Patras-Ioannina motorway section and the railway line is a 3.5-billion-euro project funded by the EU, including the European Investment Bank, commercial banks and private resources on behalf of the concessionaire companies.
In response, the president noted that "on top of it all, much-needed jobs in the country's regions are also being created".
 PM wants a thorough consultation on seashore bill, State minister saysThe bill on the seashore and the beaches is the stage of public consultation, State Minister Dimitris Stamatis said on Tuesday.
"The prime minister wants a thorough and essential consultation so that all aspects of the issue be explored. He also asked that after the Euroelections the government is briefed on the results and conclusions of the consultation in order to form its final position," he said.
 Greece to appoint tourism attach? in Melbourne, Tourism minister saysMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/ S. Hatzimanolis)
Greece will appoint a tourism attach? in Melbourne, Australia, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said on Tuesday, on the first day of her visit to the country.
Kefalogianni first visited Melbourne and had meetings with Australian politicians, tourist officials and expatriates representatives.
Her first meeting took place at Melbourne Olympic stadium MCG, at an event organized by the Hellenic-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI).
Kefalogianni stressed that her target is for Greece to attract tourists all year round and referred to thematic tourism. She also said that the signing of an interstate agreement between Greece and Australian to avoid double taxation rests with the Australian side.
Moreover, she referred to the investment opportunities for Australians and Greek-Australians in Greece, which she described as a "recovering country that has settled many bureaucracy issues".
Furthermore, she had meetings with the Victorian Parliamentary Speaker Christine Fyffe, the President of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of Victoria Bruce Atkinson and politicians of the Diaspora.
Kefalogianni then met with tourist agencies and referred to new products and investments that can help Greek regions to develop tourism-wise and expand the tourism season.
She also attended a luncheon hosted by the Greek Community in Melbourne.
Greece and Australia on Wednesday will sign an agreement on granting tourist visas to individuals aged 18-30 years old in Canberra, while Kefalogianni will then travel to Sydney.
 Tax compliance revenues are 10 times higher from checks revenues, Public Revenues secretary general saysThe revenues the state has raised from the taxpayers' compliance are 10 times higher compared to revenues from checks, secretary general of Public Revenues Haris Theoharis told ANA-MPA in an interview.
"Revenue collection from checks is far lower compared to revenues from compliance. According to a recent survey by Bank of Greece on the checks carried out, the increase we have accomplished during the last 24 months leads to a total revenue increase of 250 million euros. Revenues from checks may be around 15 to 20 million but revenues from compliance are higher. That is because businesses see that inspections are effective, so they automatically comply and submit more sincere reports," he noted.
He said about 300,000 different kind of checks will be conducted and added "there are checks which are simple, precautionary; that is we get into a shop and we check whether they issue receipts. There are also regular inspections, where we check a company's books dating back many years." The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 SYRIZA leads in euroelections; ND in national elections, shows opinion pollMain opposition SYRIZA leads over New Democracy (ND) in the euroelections, according to an opinion poll conducted by GPO for private TV MEGA.
According to the poll results, SYRIZA leads among those questioned with 21.5 percent, followed by New Democracy (ND) with 21 percent, the newly founded party To Potami with 8.5 percent, Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 7.5 percent, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 7 percent; ELIA with 6, Independent Greeks with 3.7 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 3 percent.
New Democracy leads with 24.5 percent in national elections followed by SYRIZA with 23.1 percent; KKE with 7.2 percent; To Potami with 7 percent; Golden Dawn with 6.9 percent, ELIA with 5.9 percent; Independent Greeks with 4 percent and DIMAR with 2.8 percent
In response to who is most suitable for prime minister, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (who is also ND party leader) was chosen by 44.6 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 29 percent, while 24.7 percent said "none of above".
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between 8-10 May and May 12 2014.
 Independent Greeks leader sees a government of national unity without Samaras, VenizelosA government of national unity that will dispute the "despicable debt" is the sole solution for the next day of the Euroelections, the Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos said in an interview to ANA-MPA WebTV.
Referring to the conditions under which he could cooperate with other parties, he noted that the red line is the national issues, while he explicitly rejected the possibility of collaborating with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos.
Kammenos underlined that citizens are "bombarded with cruel propaganda that aims to hide the truth about the economy."
"The Independent Greeks only got 52,000 euros out of the seven million euros for the parties' funding; not even enough to pay for the ballot tickets. We do not have money to pay for opinion polls," he said.
Kammenos accused the government of following a policy "in favour of the few and at the expense of the many", citing the "special arrangements for banks", and "the confiscation of wages and pensions for 500 euro debts."
He also noted that "the system has favoured the Golden Dawn".
Kammenos also forecast that Samaras and Venizelos would be ousted from their parties after the Euroelections and did not rule out the possibility of future cooperation with sections of these parties.
 KKE on the political confrontation ahead of the forthcoming electionsOpposition Communist Party (KKE) on Tuesday pointed out that the government coalition parties are"blackmailing" people with the threat that if they do not receive enough votes the country will be in trouble, saying that they want to trap the people on a path that leads to further bankruptcy.
"The conclusion is that the 'New Greece' of the government coalition partners of ND and PASOK and the one promised by main opposition SYRIZA are starting to look alike more and more. Enough with the blackmail and the mockery," KKE underlined.
 Parliament President Meimarakis opens the 43rd PABSEC General Assembly proceedingsA mutually acceptable and feasible solution exclusively through the diplomatic route and dialogue and without the use of force is necessary in Ukraine, Parliament President and chair of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Parliamentary Assembly (PABSEC) Evangelos Meimarakis on Tuesday underlined, referring to recent events in the country.
Opening the 43rd PABSEC General Assembly meeting, Meimarakis suggested self-control and calm, underlining that all parties should rise to the occasion and assume their share of responsibility, pointing out that Europe respects international law and the principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He spoke about a very unpleasant development referring to recent events in Ukraine, noting that tension should de-escalate, while the use of force or the threat to use force should be avoided.
"Conflicts and hatred do not solve problems. Peace and democracy are preconditions for the prosperity of our peoples. Our common goal is for our part of the world to evolve into a region of peace, democracy, prosperity and stability," he said.
Meimarakis underlined that "PABSEC is an important channel of communication between the region's governments and peoples and its further reinforcement will boost regional multilateral cooperation for practical results and the solution of timeless problems".
 Health ministry and private health contractors meeting ends without breakthroughA meeting between Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis with the Greek Medical Association (PIS) board members and representatives of private medical laboratories and diagnostic centres contracted with the National Organisation for Provision of Health Services (EOPYY) ended on Tuesday without a breakthrough, despite a convergence of views on secondary issues.
The negotiations are aimed at averting a suspension of services threatened by the private health contractors, who demand that the EOPYY financing problem be resolved and object to a medical examinations cap per contractor.
Any hope for a solution is postponed until tomorrow at noon when a new meeting is scheduled to take place.
PIS representatives will present the health ministry proposals in a meeting of lab doctors and EOPYY health contractors later in the evening or on Wednesday morning before returning to the negotiating table.
 Government to re-examine all public-sector jobs made permanent under Pavlopoulos lawAdministrative Reform and e-Governance Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday ordered a re-examination of all public-sector work contracts converted from temporary or project-based positions to permanent posts, using an 'objective system' under the supervision of the Supreme Council for Public-sector Staff Selection (ASEP). The ministerial order executes legislation passed in 2014, in article 42 of law 4250.
Ministry sources said the review will chiefly concern some 32,000 such contracts converted from temporary to permanent under the 'Pavlopoulos' law.
Mitsotakis said the review was necessary in order to dispel any suspicion that these conversions had not been fully compliant with the law. He said the reviews will be carried out by inspection teams of at least two members, one of which will be an inspector or assistant inspector of a public-sector monitoring body.
 Admin. Reform ministry again extends deadline for public-sector staff evaluationsThe administrative reform ministry on Tuesday announced yet another extension of deadlines for completing public-sector staff evaluations in the civil service, in local authorities and in broader public-sector legal entities, due to the local government and European elections this month.
The new deadlines give public-sector managements until June 30 to issue the quotas for each score bracket, until July 15 for the self-assessment of employees, until July 31 for the recommendations on employee evaluations and until August 29 for employee evalution reports to be drawn up by assessors.
By September 30, ministries are asked to collect statistical data for all bodies under their supervision on the actions taken to implement the staff evaluation legislation.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos wraps up tour of military units at EvrosDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday wrapped up his tour of the area under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Army Corps at the border area of Evros, northeast Greece.
Avramopoulos visited the HQ of the 50th Mechanised Infantry Brigade in Soufli, local military border posts and the "Kipi" border bridge. He underlined Evros' special place in the country's national defence system, noting that "this is where our army's strength and the guarantee of the country's security, independence and integrity lie".
He was accompanied by the Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff Lieutenant General Christos Manolas.
 Appeals Council rejects Golden Dawn MP's request that magistrates be recused from party caseThe Appeals Council on Tuesday rejected an application by jailed Golden (Chryssi Avgi) deputy Ioannis Lagos who asked that special examining magistrates Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou, leading the overall case related to the party, be recused.
Deputy Lagos charged both officials with partiality and breach of trust based on what he said was "their tendency to be partial against him and against Golden Dawn publicly and in the Greek Parliament". The magistrates recently concluded in a report on the case that the party had operated as a criminal organisation.
Lagos - one of several deputies held pending trial who include the party's leader - said that the magistrates "proceeded to illegal and blackmailing actions" in order to collect, as he claimed, false evidence to support inexistent charges against him.
 Former finance minister to testify in June over the Lagarde list caseFormer Finance minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou was on Tuesday summoned to testify before Supreme Court special examining magistrate Iosif Tsalaganidis in connection with the "Lagarde list" case, of Greek owners of large bank accounts at Switzerland's HSBC bank who are being audited for income tax liabilities.
Papaconstantinou faces felony and misdemeanor charges of dereliction of duty, doctoring a document as well as breach of faith over his handling of the Lagarde list, as is charged with removing from the list names of relatives who were also allegedly involved in the act as accomplices.
The former minister's relatives Eleni Papaconstantinou, Symeon Sikiaridis and Andreas Rossonis will also be testifying at the same time. All were granted an extension to testify in Juen.
Following the appearance before the magistrate, Papaconstantinou was granted an extension to testify in June, as were his relatives.
 Greece's new ambassador to Vienna presents credentials to Austrian presidentVIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austrian President Heinz Fischer on Tuesday received Greece's new Ambassador Chryssoula Aliferi at the Presidential Mansion here, and wished progress to the Greek people and success in the efforts made to overcome the crisis, as well as success in the current Greek EU Presidency.
President Fischer asked Ambassador Aliferi, who presented her credentials, to convey his heartfelt greetings to Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias, with whom they share a long friendship, and reaffirmed Austria's unreserved support during her term in office.
Aliferi's diplomatic career began in 1982. She has served in various capacities in the foreign ministry and at Greek embassies in Damascus, Syria, Vienna, and Johannesburg.
She will also head the Greek permanent missions in Vienna-based international organizations (United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency).
 Fitch Ratings affirms B- rating with stable outlook for Greek systemic banksFitch Ratings on Tuesday affirmed National Bank of Greece S.A. (NBG), Piraeus Bank, S.A. (Piraeus), Alpha Bank AE (Alpha) and Eurobank Ergasias S.A.'s long-term issuer default ratings (IDRs) at 'B-' with Stable Outlooks, Short-term IDRs at 'B', and Viability Ratings (VRs) at 'b-'.
It also upgraded the senior debt ratings of the banks and their issuing vehicles to 'B-'/'RR4' from 'CCC'/'RR5' and subordinated debt rating to 'CC'/'RR6' from 'C'/'RR6', primarily reflecting lower balance-sheet encumbrance following restructuring including capital increases.
The banks' long-term IDRs, Fitch said, are driven by their intrinsic credit profiles, reflected in their VRs of 'b-'. The VRs are influenced by the challenging (albeit stabilising) operating environment in Greece (B-/Stable), which among other factors is characterised by high unemployment and weak domestic demand, in turn affecting negatively the banks' credit risk profiles.
After six years of recession, Fitch found the banks' asset quality as weak. At end-2013, Fitch calculates that the problem loan ratios, which include all impaired loans and 90 days past due but not impaired loans, had reached a high 45.6% for Alpha, 41.3% for Piraeus, 31.7% for Eurobank and 29.7% for NBG, while reserves held against problem loans were below 50%, a proportion that Fitch views as low in a stress scenario.
NBG's better asset quality ratios are in part due to its majority-stake in Turkey's Finansbank A.S. (BBB-/Stable), which has shown better asset quality performance. While diversification at NBG is rating positive, it is counterbalanced by potential constraints on capital and liquidity fungibility. Eurobank's NPL ratios benefit from a relatively more resilient mortgage portfolio. In addition to NPLs, Fitch notes that Piraeus has a portion of forborn loans that are not classified as NPLs, which could pose add-on risks.
Fitch expects asset quality deterioration to continue for the remainder of 2014 (at a slower pace), mainly reflecting the lag between NPL recognition and economic recovery. Fitch forecasts 0.5% real GDP growth in 2014. Greek banks have strengthened their internal arrears and restructuring units, complying with the Bank of Greece's guidelines, which face the challenging task of restraining further credit deterioration and managing down their existing large NPL portfolios.
Following the identification of capital shortfalls by the Bank of Greece in its March 2014 stress test, all four banks completed capital increases by private means, most recently NBG in May 2014 with a EUR2.5bn equity issue. Piraeus and Alpha plan to fully repay state preference shares.
The rating agency calculated pro-forma Fitch core capital ratios of 11% for Alpha, 10.9% for Piraeus, 9.3% for NBG and 8.2% for Eurobank as of end-2013, following capital increases. Including state preference shares still held at NBG and Eurobank, the respective Fitch eligible capital ratios improve to 11.8% and 10.7%. However, Fitch still views these capital levels as vulnerable to shocks, notably in view of large stocks of unreserved NPLs.
It said it expects Greek banks' pre-impairment profitability to improve in 2014 largely because of lower funding costs and synergies; the latter being more relevant for Piraeus and Alpha given their larger size post-integrations. These factors will provide further flexibility to make impairments, which will remain elevated, constraining internal capital generation at least for 2014, it added.
 Greece, Cyprus, Israel trilateral agreement on marine environment protectionThe environment ministers of Greece, Cyprus and Israel on Tuesday decided to promote a trilateral cooperation agreement as soon as possible, with the aim that it will be signed by June, focusing on sea hydrocarbon exploration and oil-caused pollution.
Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis and his counterparts from Cyprus and Israel, Nikos Kougialis and Amir Peretz respectively, met on the margins of the Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting on Environment and Climate Change in Athens attended by forty Mediterranean state ministers and representatives.
The actions promoted in the trilateral agreement also focus on environmental protection, sustainable development and green economy, as well as, on sustainable consumption and production.
The agreement will reinforce cooperation between the public and private sectors, promote financing opportunities through international organisations and European programmes, combat desertification and climate change and protect biodiversity and nature.
The ministers also discussed a number of issues including, Mediterranean pollution by household and industrial waste, the climate change impact on the Mediterranean, and the promotion of blue and green economy.
 Greece sells three-month T-bills at significantly lower interest rateGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at a significantly lower interest rate. The Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said that the return of the issue was set at 2.13 pct from 2.45 pct in the previous auction of same issue in April 15. Bids submitted totaled 2.802 billion euros, 2.8 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers and settlement date will be Friday, 16 May. The organisation accepted non-competitive bids worth 300 million euros and will also accept additional non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 15 May.
 Greek budget spending on pensions moves within targets, reportGreek budget spending on pension payment moved within targets in the first five months of 2014, the Labour ministry said on Tuesday.
In a report, the ministry said that spending on pension payment totaled 11,510,743,370 euros, or 41.3 pct of total pension payment for 2014, slightly down from a budget target of 41.7 pct.
Monthly spending on pensions totaled 2,313,163,855 euros in May. The report said that the number of pensioners totalled 2,658,320 while average monthly income from pensions was 944.46 euros. The state pays a total of 4,469,871 pensions of which 11,218 to other countries' citizens.
The state also pays 169,862 extra benefits to 161,171 pensioners, with a monthly spending of 54,214,352 in May, or a total of 273,355,319 euros in the January-May period.
The biggest number of pensions is paid in Attica (1,720,591) and central Macedonia (732,716), followed by Thessaly (309,826) and Western Greece (262,106).
 Eurobank Properties completes sale & lease back dealEurobank Properties on Tuesday announced the formal completion of a sale and lease back deal for 14 real estate properties belonging to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund.
Under the contract, Eurobank Properties will purchase these 14 property assets and will lease them to the Greek state for 20 years. These property assets cover a space of 189,000 sq.m. and house government services such as the Education ministry in Marousi, the Health ministry also in Marousi, the Justice ministry in Goudi and the Police headquarters in Athens.
The value of the transaction totals 145.81 million euros, while annual leasing revenues will be 14.05 million euros.
 EBRD's strategic priorities to be examined at Warsaw conferenceThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's (EBRD) strategic priorities in relation to recipient countries, strengthening their ties with the European economy and the handling of regional challenges will be issues of the two-day conference of its Council of Governors in Warsaw on Wednesday and Thursday.
Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis left for Warsaw on Tuesday to represent Greece at the two-day conference.
Cyprus' application to become a recipient country will also be examined at the council's conference, while organisational issues will also be discussed, such as the improvement of the Bank's internal operation and the budget for 2014.
 Greek stocks remain under pressureGreek stocks remained under pressure for the fourth successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market lower, erasing its gains for 2014. The index ended at 1,160.81 points, down 0.32 pct, after rising as much as 0.83 pct during the session. In the last four sessions the index has lost 5.72 pct.
Turnover was a strong 143.27 million euros. The Large Cap index eased 0.07 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.36 pct lower. Folli Follie (2.45 pct), Frigoglass (2.07 pct) and Alpha Bank (1.73 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (4.94 pct), Motor Oil (2.80 pct) and MIG (2.22 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Commerce (2.44 pct), Media (1.59 pct) and Real Estate (0.94 pct) sectors scored gains, while Chemicals (1.92 pct), Constructions (1.68 pct) and Raw Materials (1.65 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 79 to 43 with another 25 issues unchanged. Ilyda (30 pct), Perseus (19.75 pct) and Compucon (18.92 pct) were top gainers, while Mathios (26.02 pct), NEL (19.30 pct) and Yalco (18.56 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -1.14%
Industrial Products: -0.43%
Real Estate: +0.94%
Personal & Household: -1.06%
Food & Beverages: +0.62%
Raw Materials: -1.65%
Travel & Leisure: Unchanged
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, OTE and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.64
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.49
Coca Cola HBC: 17.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.93
National Bank of Greece: 2.50
Eurobank Properties : 8.29
Piraeus Bank: 1.68
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened significantly to 5.02 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 4.76 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.47 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.42 pct. Turnover was a huge 138 million euros, of which 76 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 62 million were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate eased to 0.605 pct from 0.606 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.514 pct from 0.516 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.429 pct from 0.431 pct, the three-month rate was 0.336 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.269 pct from 0.266 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.94 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover soaring to 122.968 million euros.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 61,015 contracts worth 113.558 million euros, with 62,226 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 25,326 contracts worth 9.410 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (10,968), followed by Alpha Bank (3,908), Eurobank (2,552), MIG (1,455), OTE (2,880), PPC (794), OPAP (528), Mytilineos (244), Piraeus (215), Hellenic Petroleum (146), Motor Oil (147), Athens Water (132), Hellenic Exchanges (323) and Titan (116).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.370
Pound sterling 0.813
Danish kroner 7.463
Swedish kroner 8.991
Japanese yen 140.25
Swiss franc 1.220
Norwegian kroner 8.130
Canadian dollar 1.493
Australian dollar 1.462
 'Cirque du Soleil' returns to Greece with new production in SeptemberThe Cirque du Soleil is returning to Greece with a new production in September, following the "Alegria" and "Dralion" performances here, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary from the founding of the famous spectacle.
Called "Quidam", the Cirque's new production is coming to Greece in September for 19 performances in Athens and, for the first time, in Thessaloniki.
At a press conference by the Quebec-based company, Canadian Ambassador Robert Peck, who has supported the last three appearances of the Cirque du Soleil in Greece, said that like all of the group's performances, "Quidam" is full of humour, surprises and unforeseen events. It is, however, a commentary on our present society as well. Despite the difficult moments that Greece is facing, it is very important for us to support culture and the arts and we must show that things are continuing to take place in the country even during a crisis. This is the message for performances such as these".
In Athens, the performances will be taking place at the indoor Olympic Stadium (OAKA) on September 20-28 and in Thessaloniki at the PAOK Sports Arena on September 30-October 5.
Sales start on Thursday, May 15, at the Germanos electronics stores and at the website of Lavris cultural agency, for 28-35 euros. Special prices will be provided for groups also.
 Environment ministry announces measures to protect Caretta caretta beaches in west PeloponneseThe environment ministry on Tuesday announced immediate measures approved by the European Commission to protect the 'Thines' region near Kyparissia, on the west coast of the Peloponnese, which is used by Caretta caretta sea turtles to lay their eggs. Among these is a suspension of construction permits, as well as work on existing buildings under construction in the region, and concessions for the use of the coastline and sandy beaches for a complete and integrated protection of the west Peloponnese coast.
The decision was signed by Alternate Environment Minister Nikos Tagaras after a meeting chaired by Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis with various agencies, local government bodies and local community representatives.
The meeting also approved the result of a tender to choose a contractor that will complete the already approved special environmental study on Thines and the Zacharo Forest, Lake Kaiafa, Strofylia and Kakovatos and the Kyparissia Bay area, adding regions currently missing from the study. The same contractor will also prepare a draft presidential decree on the protection and management measures in the area's three special conservation zones.
 "Job Fair Athens" to be held on May 14-15University students organise the ?Job Fair Athens? on Wednesday and Thursday aiming to bridge the gap between universities and the labour market.
"Universities do not prepare students sufficiently enough to enter into the labour market," public relations manager Seraphim Zorbas told ANA-MPA. "Our goal is to motivate students so as to start pondering over their options and getting informed on the labour market," he added.
The event is organised for the fourth consecutive year. The previous three years the ?Job Fair Athens? attracted 4,500 visitors and 63 companies, while 2,500 interviews took place last year.
"We believe that it is up to everyone to find a job as long as he is properly prepared," Zorbas noted.
The "Job Fair Athens" will be held at the Exhibition Centre of Peristeri.
 Work stoppage in social security funds and OAED on WednesdaySocial security funds and Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) employees will hold a work stoppage on Wednesday from 12.30 until the end of the shift and a rally outside the Labour ministry at 13.00 following their federation's (POPOKP) decision.
The federation in its announcement asks for the return of the 558 employees in social security funds and OAED, who have been set in labour reserve status over the last eight months, to their positions.
 Registrations for MariMatch 2014 B2B event until May 23Businessmen interested in participating in meetings to be held during the International Shipping Exhibition Posidonia 2014, MariMatch2014 B2B Networking Event, in Athens on June 4-5 can register until May 23.
The Athens Chamber of Small and Medium Industries, member of the Enterprise Europe Network-Hellas, invites companies operating in the Shipping Industry and Sea Technology to participate in the event in order to present their products and services and find partners for international cooperation.
 Greece 20th in Eurovision song contestGreece came 20th in the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Denmark of Saturday evening, with the song "Rise Up", sung by the Freaky Fortune group and Risky Kidd.
Greece's song received a total of 35 votes from the following countries: Azerbaijan 4, Albania 2, Russia 4, Malta 1, United Kingdom 2, Armenia 7, Belarus 6, Israel 2, Italy 3 and Georgia 4.
The Eurovision Song Contest was won by Austria.
 Overcast on WednesdayClouds and rain in the western and the northern parts of the country, mostly fair weather in the other parts of the country and northwesterly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Temperatures will range in the north between 15C-27C and 15C-30C in the central and the southern parts. Scattered clouds over the islands, 17C-28C. Mostly fair in Athens, 18-29C. Cloudy with possibility of rain in Thessaloniki, 17C-26C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: The secret agreement between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Government Vice President and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Setting up governments.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Government admits two major infrastructure works fiasco.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Tax Bureau's electronic 'net' over incomes and expenditures.
ESTIA: The generation of irresponsibility.
ETHNOS: Golden Dawn's (Chryssi Avghi, extreme right party) unknown pogrom in Athens.
IMERISSIA: In Tax Bureau's net.
KATHIMERINI: Tax Bureau's access to expenditures and bank deposits.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Burning plan to increase the tax revenues.
RIZOSPASTIS: Point at EU and monopolies who are the guilty by voting KKE.
TA NEA: The Tax Bureau warns...Automatic seizure of bank accounts for overdue debts.
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