|Sunday, 26 May 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-05-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 16 May 2014 Issue No: 4658
 'We are not turning back', PM Samaras says in ThessalonikiExpressing optimism for Greece's future, following the country's regaining of access to markets and the achievement of a primary surplus, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (photo) said on Thursday from Thessaloniki, northern Greece, that Greece was witnessing "the end of memorandums, sacrifices and unemployment."
Speaking at a New Democracy party rally at Pavilion 13 on the Thessaloniki Interna-tional Fair premises, Samaras referred among other things to the interest rate of the country's loan, which he said "will be completely settled by autumn. Already, the interest we pay has been halved from what we were paying before the crisis even, and will drop further."
Samaras took a strong stance against main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, saying "I want to publicly denounce him as an underminer of the national effort. While all European citizens are going to vote for their representatives in the European Parliament, Tsipras is calling on Greek citizens to vote so the government falls and national elections ensue."
 Prime Minister Samaras visits the Platamonas bypass tunnels project"Greece has rebooted its potential and we are ready for the next day, looking into the future and taking steady steps forward," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday underlined on the sidelines of his visit to a worksite for the bypass tunnels at Panteleimonas in Pieria, northern Greece, designed to avoid the bends on the road to Platamonas.
"The Platamonas bypass, the Stylida bypass and the Tempi tunnels will improve the national motorway network and contribute to the reduction of road accidents by 70 pct," Samaras said, adding that this much-needed motorway project will be ready in a few months.
The prime minister was briefed on the progress of the project by Secretary General for Public Works Stratos Simopoulos, who pointed out that its built based on European specifications by Greek and foreign contractors.
Aegean Motorway S.A. CEO Dimitris Gatsonis told reporters that all worksites are in full operation, employing a total of 1,500 people, noting that roughly 200 Greek companies, most of them locally-based, participated in the construction work.
According to the project's timetable, it will be completed by the end of 2015 but certain of its sections will be open to traffic by the end of summer.
The 25-km-long project (14 km of motorway section and three twin tunnels) will reduce travel time between Athens and Thessaloniki by up to 45 minutes. One of the three tunnels will be six kilometres long, making it the longest in the Balkans.
The prime minister was accompanied by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou, Deputy Education Minister Kostas Gioulekas, ND MPs, candidate for Central Macedonia regional governor Yiannis Ioannidis and Pieria Deputy Governor candidate Dimitris Christogiannis.
 FinMin Stournaras: Greece soon to return to growthGreece will soon be returning to growth, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday while addressing the Greek-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce on "Challenges and prospects for the Greek economy: The day after". Commenting on recent articles in the foreign press concerning scenarios of a Greek exit from the euro in the summer of 2012, Stournaras said they indicated both how crucial that period had been and the distance travelled by the country since that day.
Stournaras emphasised that the economic adjustment achieved corresponded to an unprecedented 19.4 pct of GDP, stres-sing that there was no other example of a country that achieved something similar in such a short space of time. He also pointed to figures given by Greece's statistical authority ELSTAT on GDP growth in the first quarter of 2014, say-ing that Greece is expected to return to positive growth rates after six years of recession.
With the 0.8 pct of GDP primary surplus achieved in 2013 - as opposed to a target of a zero surplus - more than 85 pct of the required improvement in the general govern-ment primary balance had already been achieved, so as to reduce debt to sustainable levels by 2020, he added. The finance minister noted that, following the confir-mation of the primary surplus by Eurostat, he had raised the issue of lightening Greece's debt burden that a recent Eurogroup, based on the decisions of November 2012, adding that any moves in this direction will be made after European bank stress tests are carried out in October.
 PM expresses support for Ioannidis candidacy in Central MacedoniaPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday warmly endorsed the candidacy of Yiannis Ioannidis for Central Macedonia regional governor, speaking on the sidelines of his visit to a worksite for a bypass at Panteleimonas in Pieria, designed to avoid the bends on the road to Platamonas.
"I call on you to support Yiannis Ioannidis for Central Macedonia regional governor," the prime minister said, calling Ioannidis "a symbol of northern Greece".
"I want you to know that this is the position of the party and that this is our position because we truly believe that Yiannis can do it, as he has proved in the past, above and beyond parties, above and beyond individuals, he will do what he always does successfully. With the right tactics, for the work to succeed, with the right heart in order to unite all Greeks," Samaras said.
Ioannidis accompanied the prime minister in his car from Thessaloniki to Platamonas and on the way back, giving them an opportunity to discuss the upcoming local elections battle and issues concerning Central Macedonia.
 PM Samaras wraps up Thessaloniki v isit with optimistic message about the economyExpressing optimism for Greece's future, following the country's regaining of access to markets and the achievement of a primary surplus, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday from Thessaloniki, northern Greece, that Greece was witnessing "the end of memorandums, sacrifices and unemployment."
Speaking at a New Democracy party rally at Pavilion 13 on the Thessaloniki International Fair premises, Samaras referred among other things to the interest rate of the country's loan, which he said "will be completely settled by autumn. Already, the interest we pay has been halved from what we were paying before the crisis even, and will drop further."
Samaras took a strong stance against main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, saying "I want to publicly denounce him as an underminer of the national effort. While all European citizens are going to vote for their representatives in the European Parliament, Tsipras is calling on Greek citizens to vote so the government falls and national elections ensue."
The premier added, "He invests in catastrophe in order to save himself and his cadres, but the Greek people are mature" and will provide the answer. There was a plan to push Greece out of the euro that was averted, he said, and said he would not allow SYRIZA to return Greece to the past.
The premier also referred to his push for a revision of the Constitution, with "all those revolutionary changes" requested years now, including the direct election of the President of the Republic by the people, in order to stabilise the democratic system; the conflict of interest between the role of deputy and minister; the independence of the judicial system; a protection of deputies legally but not above the law; and a limit on the terms of office for prime ministers and local government.
In specific references to Thessaloniki and Central Macedonia, the premier mentioneda series of actions especially aimed at boosting tourism that are already under way, including roadworks and the city's metro construction.
Following the meeting, Samaras had dinner with New Democracy party candidates, ministers, deputies and other officials in the city.
 National council for radio and TV issues directive on Euroelections coverageThe Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV) on Thursday issued clarifications regarding the coverage of the Europarliament elections.
According to the Directive, which aims at the implementation of regulations effective between Friday, April 25 and Sunday, May 25, 2014, broadcasters during all kinds of news shows which directly or indirectly refer to May 25 Europarliament elections must abide by the principles of objectivity, impartiality and proportional equality while presenting the parties' positions.
The Council has referred to the regulation on the allocation of advertising time according to the quota specified for each party and the news shows time given the parties so as to present their campaign.
No advertising messages, rallies and other events organized by parties, pre-elections debates or results estimates can be broadcast from midnight of Friday, May 23, 2014 until 19.00 on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The only exception is the statements by political leaders during the electoral procedure.
The same time ban applies to opinion and exit polls.
 SingularLogic predicts later 'safe estimate' of election results in 2014 pollsSingularLogic - the IT firm charged with collecting and processing the results of Greece's elections - on Thursday warned that the announcement of a 'safe estimate' for the outcome of this year's local and European polls is likely to be delayed in comparison with the same elections held in 2010.
SingularLogic CEO Mihalis Kariotoglou, at a presentation of the system for collecting and transmitting the results, said this was partly due to the very large number of independent candidates in comparison with other elections, as well as a smaller number of polling stations, saying this would result in a safe estimate of the final result emerging about 45 minutes later on the two election Sundays, at around 23:00 p.m. instead of at 22:15 p.m.
The company said this was because some 10 percent more party tickets in comparison with 2010 and a 10 pct reduction in polling stations, meaning a larger number of votes to count at each, and, finally a doubling of the number of candidates in comparison with 2010.
The company said it will once again be use the Secure Results Transmission (SRT) system for faster results, based on estimates from 20 pct of polling stations - or 4,900 polling stations from the 13 regions of Greece and the five largest cities (Athens, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Patras, Iraklio).
The number of voters registered to vote in 2014 was listed as 9,871,733, of which 4,779,471 are men, 5,092,262 are women and 108,691 are voting for the first time.
Polling stations will open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 19:00
 The Euroelections result cannot change the "declared (confidence)" in Parliament, Administrative Reform min saysThe government's stability can be sustained even if New Democracy and (centre-left grouping) Elia do not get high rates in the Europarliament elections, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Skai TV.
"It is a Greek peculiarity," he said and added that the result of the Euroelections could not alter the fact that there was "declared (confidence)" in the Parliament.
"The discussion undermines the stability we all want to secure," Mitsotakis stressed and added that the government has managed and needs to live through and after the elections.
 SYRIZA leads over ND in euroelections, says opinion pollMain opposition SYRIZA leads over New Democracy (ND) with 2 percent in the euroelections, according to an opinion poll conducted by Pulse RC for PONTIKI weekly newspaper and website.
According to the poll results, SYRIZA leads among those questioned with 23.5 percent, followed by New Democracy (ND) with 21.5 percent, Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 8.5 percent, the newly founded party To Potami with 7.5 percent, ELIA with 7.5, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 6.5 percent, Independent Greeks with 4 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 2 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 32 percent of the respondents, followed by SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras with 25 percent, while 41 percent said "none of above".
The geographic coverage of the opinion poll was nationwide and was conducted between May 9 and May 14 2014.
 PASOK leader comments on elections' 'dilemma', events at Cannes in interview with private TV channelGovernment Vice-President, Foreign Minister and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos explained his views on what he called the "dilemma" raised by the upcoming local and European elections, as well as the events at Cannes summit in 2011 referred to in a Financial Times article, during an interview with the LiveU news programme aired on Thursday by the private television channel 'Star'.
Venizelos said that he expected a good election result "because citizens have understood that we are one step before exiting the crisis and that the other choice was absolute disaster". Regarding his warning to voters to support PASOK in order to protect the government's stability, he repeated that "on the night of the elections everyone will be lying in wait, everyone will offer an intepretation of the result and this will be to question whether the government is standing or whether there is crisis, doubt, overthrow."
Therefore, he added, "why shouldn't we tell the people what will happen? [Why not warn them] to take it into account, that their vote will be interpreted politically?"
He stressed that it would be a shame for Greece to give up and turn back when it was "just about to turn the corner" with respect to the crisis, in order to start from scratch. He also insisted that the issue was not the numbers but a general impression of whether there was popular support for the government's policies or not, whether there was a sense that the government possessed the required legitimacy to carry out reforms.
Pressed on whether that meant he would pull out of the coalition government if the 'Elia' party failed to receive a 'satisfactory' level of voter support, Venizelos replied "of course not, there is no government without PASOK" and that the government was a cooperation government in all things.
Commenting on a recent Financial Times article about the events that occurred at Cannes in 2011, after former Greek premier George Papandreou announced his intention to hold a referendum on bailout memorandums in Greece, referring to his own part in these and the article's claims. He noted that the article "was one version written by one journalist" and said he had not been informed about Papandreou's proposal for a referendum in advance and that he had disagreed with it.
"Subsequently, I adopted a careful position in order to help the premier, the government, the country, the economy, the banking system, the deposits of Greece and the prospect of a reliable negotiation," he said. He also underlined that he could not have supported holding the only referendum that European leaders had been prepared to accept, which was whether Greece would stay or exit the euro.
"The country would have fallen apart; we would have exited not just the markets but all of western civilisation," he said.
Venizelos dismissed the article's claims about the role of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the events that took place, calling them "absurdities", or that the cooperation government succeeding that of Papandreou had Barroso's 'seal of approval'. According to PASOK's leader, Barroso as head of the European Commission "had very restricted powers of political intervention" and it was neither his job nor his desire to play such a role.
 SYRIZA on the Cannes Summit events; bank recapitalisationMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Thursday referred to the recent press reports on the possibility of Greece's exit from the eurozone back in 2012 and at the Cannes summit events in 2011, underlining that "the people's judgment will be delivered."
"All the things released to publicity and everything that is being directly or indirectly admitted by Greek and foreign officials confirms SYRIZA's position in the most categorical way; namely, that Greece's exit from the eurozone would have set in motion a domino of economic repercussions for the rest of the countries that would have torn down the eurozone, as was flatly admitted by (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel".
SYRIZA noted that events expose Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition government partner Evangelos Venizelos "not only because of their behind-the-scenes moves with (European Commission President Jose Manuel) Barroso in Cannes to set up a pro-memorandum government but also because they agreed not to negotiate, even though they were aware of the fact that no one would dare to take the risk to expel us from the eurozone".
In response to a statement issued by the ministry of finance on Wednesday rejecting SYRIZA's criticism that the recapitalisation benefited the banks to the detriment of the state, the main opposition party posed 13 questions to back its criticism.
"SYRIZA's arguments are well-grounded and our intention is to regain what the overwhelming majority of the people are entitled to," according to an announcement by SYRIZA's economic policy sector.
 Schaueble never asked for 'Grexit', German finance ministry source tells Deutsche Welle Greek programmeBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
A source at Germany's finance ministry on Thursday denied that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had asked for Greece's exit from the euro, according to a report run by Deutsche Welle's Greek programme.
Responding to an article appearing in the Financial Times, the same source stressed that the "German finance ministry categorically denies that Wolfgang Schaeuble had asked for Greece's exit from the Eurozone in the past. The goal of his efforts has always been to preserve the Eurozone's cohesion and the stability of the euro." The source noted that the German finance minister's position has always been in favour of the country remaining in the euro and that it was up to Athens whether it wanted to remain or not, DW reported.
The source confirmed that various EU agencies and institutions, including the German finance ministry, had analysed the possible repercussions of a 'Grexit' and examined ways in which this might be dealt with at various times but denied that this had been planned or "coordinated" in the way that the FT article appeared to suggest.
On the claims made by former U.S. treasury secretary Timothy Geithner in his recently released book regarding Schaeuble's stance, the finance ministry source urged a more careful reading of the passage, denying that Schaeuble had been talking about his own opinion.
 How a secret strategy was developed to contain the firestorm from a Greek exit-FTAt no time in the crisis was Europe's single currency more at risk of blowing apart than the weeks either side of the Greek parliamentary election in June (2012), according to Financial Times (FT).
EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials had been working clandestinely for months preparing for a collapse of Greece's banks, the newspaper said. Their secret blueprint, known as "Plan Z", was a detailed script of how to reconstruct Greece's economic and financial infrastructure if it were to leave the euro.
Officials who worked on the previously undisclosed plan insisted it was not a road map to force Greece out of the euro - quite the opposite. "Grexit", they feared, would wreak havoc in European financial markets, causing bank runs in other teetering eurozone economies and raising questions of which country would be forced out next, the newspaper reported.
Officials also said the detailed IMF blueprint included such drastic action as turning off all ATMs and reinstating border controls to prevent massive capital flight, it added.
According to one participant, no single Plan Z document was ever compiled and no emails were exchanged between participants about their work. "It was totally fire-walled even within [the institutions]," said the official.
The article also referred to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. "Several people who spoke with him said he viewed a Greek exit almost idealistically, as something necessary to save a European project that he had worked for his entire political career," it said.
Talk of Grexit within the eurozone receded with (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel's highly symbolic trip to Athens in October 2012, the FT noted.
Merkel seemed to have taken her decision after she returned from summer holidays. Officials said she had begun to sense "the weight of history on her shoulders."
The deal to release Greece's 34.3 billion euro aid payment was struck just hours before an EU summit in November 2012 giving an end to speculations about the country's exit from the eurozone.
 SYRIZA leader refers to repercussions of austerity programmes in GreeceMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, speaking in his opening address at the debate of candidates for the European Commission presidency, referred to the repercussions of the austerity programmes in Greece and stressed that the results of this policy must not be experienced by anyone else in Europe.
Tsipras called on the other candidates, and the candidates supported by the parties supporting this policy in particular, to respond whether what is taking place in Greece is a story of success or tragedy.
The SYRIZA leader called on the European citizens to support the left, for austerity to come to an end and for us to find democratic values again.
Replying to the first question on unemployment, Tsipras said that if these policies being implemented today are continued, the problem will not be tackled.
He added that while banks have received 1 trillion euros for banks, fighting unemployment has only received 6 billion euros. He stressed that the solution is to go ahead with bold decisions and a new agreement for growth. Only in this way will unemployment be handled, mainly of young people that is taking on explosive dimensions in the EU, Tsipras said.
 DIM.AR leader Kouvelis on the European electionsOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) president Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday announced that soon after the European elections he will launch initiatives aimed at forming a progressive centre-left political grouping.
Speaking in a press conference in Thessaloniki, he underlined that the centre-left should be progressive in its political expression or should not exist at all, noting that it should not be an extension of the neo-liberal conservative policy.
Referring to PASOK, a partner in the two-party coalition government, Kouvelis said that the differences with PASOK are political in nature and not personal.
He said that the dilemma raised by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos is "divisive" and a "blackmail" to intimidate voters. Referring to the statement made by Venizelos that he will go to the President of the Republic depending on the outcome of the European elections, he commented that "anyone could go to the president but the question is what they will say to him".
Kouvelis categorically ruled out the likelihood of supporting the government in case Venizelos withdraws his support.
He criticized main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) noting that "its political pendulum should stop moving to let the Greek people know what its positions are". Referring to the future, he did not rule out anything, noting that reality can create political conditions that can lead to cooperation governments.
Kouvelis also said that he is not aware of what went on in the Cannes Summit, noting that apparently everything happened in the absence of the Greek people. He also underlined that there was a preordained decision on Greece's exit from the Eurozone.
 Kammenos visits Kavala, calls for declaration of EEZVisiting the northern Greek city of Kavala on Thursday, Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos stressed that Greece must immediately declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) so that it can start exploiting its mineral resources at sea.
"Kavala is the energy centre of Greece and the proof that Greeks can exploit the energy and mineral wealth on our own," Kammenos said, accompanied by the party's candidate for regional governor Terens Kouik.
"The example of Kavala oil and its workers, who keep the company open and continue to extract oil, ever since the Prinos field was discovered, proves that we don't need anyone, not the patronage of Germany and the EU," he said, adding that the EEZ was Greek and that the prime minister should do what he promised the Grek people before the elections of 2012.
 KKE leader addresses Athens rally ahead of municipal, regional electionsThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) can provide a response to "the real, the substantive dilemma that is: submission or emancipation of our people from the policy of the European Union, of the monopolies," Secretary General Dimitris Koutsoumbas said on Thursday at Athens' Pedion tou Areos park during the party's main rally on the municipal and regional elections.
Koutsoumbas called for the unified and overall condemnation of the New Democracy-PASOK government and of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).
"The parties that bow to the EU, conceal the fact that the NSRF funds which are directed to the regions and the municipalities are financing actions that promote the strategy of the EU; they are concealing the fact that the largest part of these funds returns directly to the monopolistic groups of the powerful capitalist countries of the EU," Koutsoumbas said.
The KKE leader further said that "the main opposition SYRIZA is also not telling the truth when it claims that the problem is the time and the amount of loaning, hiding all the rest. It is deceiving shamelessly when it claims that its own government will secure an exit to markets with 'social justice', as if the markets are humanitarian funds".
Lastly, Koutsoumbas said that no change of European Commission president can change the reactionary and antipopular character of the EU, because he said it was founded to shield the interests of the monopolies against labour and working class rights.
 Administrative reform ministry, OECD present report on reducing bureaucracyA report drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in collaboration with the administrative reform ministry aimed at reducing the administrative burden due to red tape in 13 sectors of the economy, was presented in Athens on Thursday by OECD senior officials.
The main goal of the report, unveiled in the presence of Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is to reduce the administrative burden by 25 pct, improve the administration's managerial, operational and institutional capability and also to reduce and combat red tape with a direct positive impact on the economy and economic growth, leading to a 2.4 pct increase in GDP (3-6 billion euro) by 2025.
According to OECD, Greece's competitiveness will improve by cutting company costs, reducing unemployment, creating opportunities for new businesses and improving the business environment (particularly for SMEs) and investment climate.
Commenting on the report and the work that needs to be done to reduce the administrative burden, Mitsotakis underlined that public administration will be based on simplified procedures from now on and administrative burden reduction. He also noted that the report was completed at a very crucial time for the Greek economy, adding that it has been realized that the country should leave behind the state-funded economic growth that had led it to bankruptcy.
Mitsotakis underlined that some of the OECD proposals have already been enacted into laws since last November.
 Decision on 20 former state broadcast staff in Crete not final, gov't spokesman saysThe State Legal Council "will appeal" against a decision annulling the dismissal of 20 employees of the Iraklio, Crete, branch of now-defunct Greek Radio (ERA), which main opposition party SYRIZA had hailed, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Thursday.
The Council's action, which Kedikoglou said is expected, will push the annulling decision to a higher court, which will then give a final ruling.
"The first-degree court's decision obviously did not take into account the ruling of the Council of State plenary session, which found that the shutdown of (state) Greek Radio and Television ERT SA was legal," Kedikoglou said.
 Phoenix Express 2014 navy exercise starts in Souda BayPhoenix Express 2014, a multinational exercise between Southern European, North African and U.S. naval forces, officially kicked off at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (KENAP) in Souda Bay, northwestern Crete, in May 12.
The exercise, whose purpose is to train jointly US Sixth Fleet units and the rest of the NATO forces in exchanging information, will be completed in June 4 in Augusta navy base, Italy and includes theoretical and practical training.
Greece participates with "Navarinon" frigate alongside Underwater Demolition Command units and Hellenic Navy's Fleet Headquarters officials.
 Public Order Minister Dendias visits the islands of Skyros, Skopelos and SkiathosPublic Order & Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias visited Fire Brigade facilities on the Aegean islands of Skyros, Skopelos and Skiathos (the Sporades Islands, northern Aegean) on Thursday accompanied by other officials.
Meetings held with local Fire Brigade and Greek Police chiefs and local administration representatives focused on firefighting and security issues.
 Letter by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to the Leaders of the countries receiving Russian gasRussian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sent a letter to European leaders calling on them to do more to help Ukraine deal with the economic crisis the country is facing and end the crisis over the issue of natural gas.
The full text of the letter obtained by ANA-MPA follows:
In early April we suggested immediate consultations in order to work out a coordinated approach to stabilize the Ukrainian economy and ensure stable deliveries and transit of Russian natural gas in accordance with contractual terms.
Over a month has passed. Consultations with the representatives of a number of non-EU countries have taken place in Moscow, in which our partners told us they completely shared our concerns over the situation with Ukrainian payments for gas deliveries from the Russian Federation and the risks due to insufficient amounts of gas being stored in Ukrainian underground storages.
As regards EU countries, we have only had one meeting in Warsaw with a delegation led by European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger, attended also by Ukrainian representative Yuri Prodan. Unfortunately, we have to say that we have not received any specific proposals from our partners as to how to stabilize the situation with the Ukrainian buying company so that it can meet its contractual obligations and ensure reliable transit.
Moreover, the situation with payments for Russian gas only got worse over this period of time. Gazprom has not received a single payment for the gas supplied to Ukraine, and the total debt has grown from $2.237 billion to $3.508 billion.
And this despite the fact that Ukraine has received the first tranche of the IMF loan to the amount of $3.2 billion.
Given the circumstances, the Russian company has issued an advance invoice for gas deliveries to Ukraine, which is completely in accordance with the contract, and after June 1 gas deliveries will be limited to the amount prepaid by the Ukrainian company.
I would like to emphasize once again that we were forced to make this decision. The Russian Federation is still open to continue consultations and work together with European countries in order to normalise the situation. We also hope that the European Commission will more actively engage in the dialogue in order to work out specific and fair solutions that will help stabilize the Ukrainian economy.
President of the Russian Federation
 List of social dividend recipients to be finalised at end May, finance ministry meeting decidesThe final criteria for handing out the social dividend and the list of its recipients will be reviewed and decided at the end of May, sources at the finance ministry said after a meeting on Thursday. The decision will be based on the total number of applications submitted and approved during a first round, with the aim that the one-off welfare payments will be paid by the end of June and any remainder left after the criteria are reviewed will be distributed among a larger number of recipients.
The meeting included Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Deputy Labour, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou, finance ministry general secretary for public revenues Haris Theoharis and George Koutroumanis and Christos Protopapas.
According to data given at the meeting, the social dividend has so far been paid to 206,000 households and 67,500 applications submitted in the first 10 days of May have been accepted. A further 60,000 applications submitted before the end of April are being evaluated but the sums have not been given so that cross-checks might be carried out.
 Greek economy shrank 1.1 pct in Q1The Greek economy contracted by 1.1 pct in the first quarter of 2014, a development paving the way for the end of an economic recession that lasted 23 successive quarters, Finance ministry officials said.
The officials noted that a slowdown in the recession rate by around five percentage points within 12 months (the country's GDP shrank by 6.0 pct in the first quarter of 2013) confirmed an estimate for an economic growth of at least 0.6 pct this year. This estimate is based on expectations of higher economic activity in the second and third quarters of the year, helped by a boost in tourist arrivals in the country. Hotel bookings were up 30.1 pct in the first four months of the year.
According to figures released by Hellenic Statistical Authority, the rate of decline in the country's GDP slowed steadily since the first quarter of 2013 (-6.0 pct in Q1, -4.0 pct in Q2, -3.2 pct in Q3 and -2.3 pct in Q4). The last two quarters with positive growth rate were in the first quarter of 2008 (+0.3 pct) and the second quarter of 2008 (+0.4 pct).
Earlier, Eurostat said that the Greek GDP shrank by 1.1 pct in the January-March period, compared with the same period in 2013, although it did not release quarterly figures. Eurozone's GDP grew 0.9 pct in the first quarter, while the EU's GDP rose by 1.4 pct.
The Greek GDP shrank to 41.009 billion euros in the first quarter -the lowest level since the first quarter of 2005- after losing around 1.5 billion euros compared with the same period in 2013. The Greek economy has lost almost 25 pct of its national product in the last six years.
 Greek inflation at -1.6 pct in AprilBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Greek inflation remained in negative territory in April, with an inflation rate of -1.6 pct, the lowest in the European Union, followed by Bulgaria with -1.3 pct and Cyprus with -0.4 pct, Eurostat said on Thursday.
In a report, the EU executive's statistics service said that the inflation rate in the Eurozone rose to 0.7 pct in April, from 0.5 pct in March, but was down compared with an 1.2 pct figure in April last year. In the EU, the inflation rate rose to 0.8 pct from 0.6 pct, up from a 0.1 pct figure in April 2013. Austria and Romania (1.6 pct) recorded the highest inflation rates in the EU, followed by Finland (1.3 pct) and Germany (1.1 pct).
The inflation rate fell in seven EU member-states, it was unchanged in four and rose in 16 member states. There were no figures for the UK.
 Intralot says turnover up 25.3 pct in Q1Intralot Group on Thursday said its turnover rose 25.3 pct in the first quarter of 2014 to 445.7 million euros, from 355.8 million euros in the corresponding period last year.
In an announcement, Intralot said EBITDA fell 6.3 pct to 51.6 million euros, while excluding the impact of foreign exchange rates worth 4.7 million euros, EBITDA would total 56.3 million euros, up 2.2 pct.
Operating pre-tax and interest earnings rose 8.2 pct to 31.1 million euros, while pre-tax earnings fell 21.5 pct to 16.6 million euros.
 Greece to invest in its apiculture programmeGreece's apiculture programme will be supported in 2014 as it will receive 1,180,215 euros that will be 50 pct funded by EU funds while the other half of the amount will come from the Rural Development and Food ministry budget.
The funding will support production and distribution of apiculture products.
Rural Development and Food Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris stressed that Greece ranks second after Spain in beehives (1.6 million), controling approximatelly 11.8 pct of the EU's total. He also underlined that 2014-2016 Greece's National Apiculture Programme is worth 17 million euros.
 Motor Oil raises 350 milion euros from the sale of five-year bond issueMotor Oil on Thursday said it has raised 350 million euros from the sale of a five-year Senior Note issue with the interest rate set at 5.125 pct. The company said the sum raised was 50 million euros more than the asked sum. The new bonds will carry a Motor Oil (Hellas) guarantee and will be listed for trading in the Euro MTF market of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. HSBC Bank plc acted as global coordinator of the issue, while Alpha Bank, Citigroup Global Markets Ltd, Credit Suisse Securities (Europe) Ltd, HSBC Bank plc, National Securities and Piraeus Bank acted as joint book-runners. Bids submitted during the book building process totaled 2.3 billion euros. Motor Oil will use the new money to refinance its existing debt and to cover other company purposes.
 Delta Airlines announces summer flights schedule between Athens, JFKDelta Ailrines announced on Thursday the summer period seasonal flights schedule, connecting Athens International Airport with JFK airport in New York.
The daily flight is scheduled to depart from Athens at 11:35 am and arrive in New York at 3:14 pm (local time), while the departure from New York will be at 4:20 am (local time) to arrive in Athens at 9:14 am (the following day).
The two daily flights will run during the whole summer period in co-operation with Delta's partners, Air France, KLM and Alitalia.
 Sky Express to operate flights from Thessaloniki to Sporades islands from June 1The airline company Sky Express on Thursday announced that it will begin operating three flights a week between the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and the Sporades islands, specifically Skiathos, starting on June 1. The flights will be on every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and form part of cooperation between the airline and the Thessaloniki municipality for the city's promotion as a tourism destination.
 Premium production down 2.4 pct in in Q1Premium production by insurance companies fell 2.4 pct in the first quarter of 2014, although premium production in the life insurance sector grew 0.8 pct and production of other life related investment contracts rose 7.6 pct in the January-March period, official data showed on Thursday.
A report by the Association of Greek Insurance Companies, based on figures released by 59 insurance companies accounting for 94.6 pct of total premium production in 2012, showed that 21 companies had activities in Life insurances (with a market share of 98.7 pct), and 49 in general insurance (with a market share of 91.3 pct). The data for the 59 life insurance companies in the first quarter of 2014 showed a 2.5 pct increase in life insurance, a 5.7 pct decline in damage insurance and an 8.0 pct fall in vehicle insurance contracts, compared with the same period last year.
 Greek stocks plunge 4.63 pct on ThursdayGreek stocks plunged in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market to its lowest closing this year. The index dropped 4.63 pct to end at 1,123.62 points, off the day' s lows of 1,121.70 points. The index is 3.36 pct lower so far this year, after recording gains of up to 17 pct a few weeks ago. Turnover was a huge 459.92 million euros.
Traders said National Bank's shares were at the focus of selling activity, with its share price falling to 2.16 euros -below the 2.20 euros of the offer price in a share capital increase scheme - for a decline of 10.74 pct in heavy volume worth 176.545 million euros.
The Large Cap index dropped 4.53 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.68 pct lower. All blue chip stocks ended lower, with National Bank (10.74 pct), MIG (9.59 pct), Jumbo (8.44 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (8.40 pct), Alpha Bank (7.66 pct) and Frigoglass (6.43 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
All sectors moved down, with the Personal Products (7.36 pct), Financial Services (6.17 pct), Banks (5.79 pct) and Oil (5.21 pct) suffering losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 101 to 26 with another 22 issues unchanged. Spider (20 pct), Yalco (19.28 pct) and Compucon (19.23 pct) were top gainers, while Mathios (16.90 pct), HOL (13.58 pct) and National Bank (10.74 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -6.17%
Industrial Products: -2.97%
Real Estate: -2.98%
Personal & Household: -7.36%
Food & Beverages: -0.77%
Raw Materials: -4.36%
Travel & Leisure: -4.08%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.61
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.08
Coca Cola HBC: 17.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.34
National Bank of Greece: 2.16
Eurobank Properties : 8.00
Piraeus Bank: 1.63
 Greek bond market closing reportThe Greek electronic secondary bond market was hit by a wave of selling orders on Thursday, pushing the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds up to 510 basis points from 495 bps the previous day, the Greek bond yielding 6.40 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.30 pct.
Traders said the largest part of selling orders came from a large US investment bank. Turnover was a huge 197 million euros, of which 188 million were sell orders and the remaining 9.0 million euros were buy orders. Market sentiment was hit by reports - later dismissed by the Finance ministry - alleging that Greek authorities were poised to tax retrospectively all capital gains from bond transactions.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.587 pct from 0.596 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.498 pct from 0.507 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.413 pct from 0.421 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.321 pct from 0.328 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.259 pct from 0.263 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 2.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange with turnover jumping to 89.94 million euros on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 41,369 contracts worth 75.478 million euros, with 64,024 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 54,197 contracts worth 14.462 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (30,538), followed by Alpha Bank (5,509), Piraeus Bank (2,948), Eurobank (5,509), MIG (1,716), OTE (1,168), PPC (1,245), OPAP (747), Coca-Cola HBC (343), Hellenic Exchanges (674), Titan (210), Mytilineos (566), Hellenic Petroleum (616), GEK (698), Intralot (520), Ellaktor (292) and Frigoglass (132).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.365
Pound sterling 0.815
Danish kroner 7.464
Swedish kroner 8.974
Japanese yen 139.17
Swiss franc 1.222
Norwegian kroner 8.105
Canadian dollar 1.484
Australian dollar 1.458
 Art-Athina 2014 opens Thursday at the Tae Kwon Do Stadium in Paleo FaliroArt Athena, the International Contemporary Art Fair of Athens, will be inaugurated on Thursday at the Tae Kwon Do Stadium in Paleo Faliro until May 18.
The exhibition includes works of art from 43 Greek and foreign galleries, while for the first time this year there will be a work from the Dimitris Daskalopoulos' private collection of modern art. Daskalopoulos also funded Neon, a foundation bringing art to the public that will be presented for the first time at the show.
The art galleries will outline a picture of contemporary art trends, while the exhibition will also include free tours, open forums and educational programmes by Greek and foreign curators.
Launched in 1993 by the Hellenic Art Galleries Association, Art-Athina is one of the longest lasting contemporary art fairs in Europe, the largest annual visual arts event in Greece and a meeting point for international artistic creation.
A detailed programme is available at http://www.art-athina.gr/
 Massive online international pedophile ring bustedA seven-month-long investigation into an online network of pedophiles - in which a 47-year-old pediatrician from Bulgaria, who was arrested in April in Ioannina, northwest Greece, had a key-role - has led to a total of 78 suspects in 32 countries, it was announced on Thursday.
According to the investigation, code-named "Hydra", the suspects traded child porn material between them and in most of the cases the images exchanged were posted for the first time on the internet.
The Electronic Crimes Squad through Interpol has forwarded a total of 78 case files with detailed information to the suspects' countries of origin.
The Greek Police (ELAS), that conducted the international investigation on its initiative, announced that electronic traces led to pedophiles in the following countries: Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Holland, Iran, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lank, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ukraine, the United States and Venezuela.
Three of the ring members were arrested in Greece: a 34-year-old in western Attiki, a 47-year-old pediatrician in Ioannina and a 25-year-old student in Athens' Glyfada district.
 Panamanian freighter runs aground in northern Greek port; no injuries, leaksPanama-flagged freighter "Suat Bey" ran aground at the entrance of the port of Nea Moudania, Halkidiki peninsula, in northern Greece on Thursday. No injuries or taking in of water were reported.
The ship had started off from Egypt with 2,000 tonnes of fertiliser and a crew of 15 Turkish nationals.
The Coast Guard said efforts were under way to dislodge the ship from the area, which is located on the westernmost leg of the peninsula.
 Blast causes heavy damage to Northern Athens restaurantAn explosion in the northern Athens suburb of Nea Erythrea and the fire it set off caused heavy damage to a restaurant and to six parked cars and to a motorcycle in the early hours of Thursday.
The explosion was reported at 03.40 at the restaurant "La Scala".
The Fire Brigade is conducting an investigation and according to initial information the explosion is attributed to propane leakage.
 Large quantity of cocaine found in truck in port of PatrasPatras port officials searching a truck on Thursday found six plastic bags placed in a backpack in the driver's cabin that contained approximately five kilos of cocaine.
The truck's 49-year-old driver was arrested, while an investigation is under way to ascertain the truck's itinerary and what other people are involved in the cocaine's transfer.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 9C and 22C. Local showers in Athens with westerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 12C and 22C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13C and 20C.
The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies
AVGHI: Samaras' (Antonis, prime minister) admission of secret agreement.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Mourning and rage (refers to mine explosion tragedy in Turkey).
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Pre-electoral gift to enterprises.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Lost in the translation (refers to SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras) over the Grexit and the debate.
ESTIA: Repetition of the fatal 2009.
ETHNOS: Draghi (Mario, president of European Central Bank) gets his...gun!
IMERISSIA: Fight for bank deposits.
KATHIMERINI: The way opens for oil extraction.
LOGOS: Drilling-rigs start work.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Standard and Poor's upgrades the Greek banks.
RIZOSPASTIS: All to Communist Party's (KKE) campaign main rally.
TA NEA: The new map for schools.
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