|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-06-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 4 June 2014 Issue No: 4674
 Significant property assets transfered to Hellenic Republic Asset Development FundA large number of seaside land property assets in Attica were transfered to Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, following a decision by the Interministerial Privatisation Commission.
These assets are 176 stremmata (one stremma=1,000 sq.m.) of land stretching from Aghios Kosmas sports center to "Asteria" in Glyfada, another 20 stremmata in Glyfada and the Aspro Lithari Sounio area (where the Cape Sounio hotel of Grecotel in located) covering an area of 383 stremmata owned by Greek Tourism Organization.
Under the Interministerial decision, a number of state-owned property assets were also transfered to Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, such as the Zea harbor, the Parnassos ski center, various Xenia hotels (in Nafplio and Palaeokastritsa Corfu) and the Kassandra prison area covering an area of around 920 stremmata (excluding the prison building facilities).
Other property assets transfered to Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund are a 1,000-sq.m. property in the second floor of "The 3 Dag Condominium" complex, located in 305 East 47th Street in Manhattan New York, property assets in Pieria, Ioannina, Corfu, Elefsis, Lehena (Ilia), Chania, Santorini, Nafpaktos, Limniona (Evia), Veria, Messinia, Chalkidki and Patras.
 Gov't to raise maximum-income barrier for 'social dividend' recipientsThe government has decided to raise the maximum annual income barrier for recipients of the one-off social dividend from 6,000 euros to 7,050 euros, sources revealed on Tuesday. The decision was taken during a meeting at the state General Accounting Office between Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Deputy Labour Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou, Finance ministry general secretary for public revenues Haris Theocharis and PASOK party cadres.
The change is expected to increase the number of eligible recipients by 300,000, as well as adding another 40,000 young people made jobless in 2013.
According to the same sources, applications denied so far will be reexamined on the basis of income earned in 2013 (that declared in 2014 tax returns), as well as those submitted before the end of the month, based on the new income criteria.
This maximum income in order to be eligible for the benefit will be raised by one third for a spouse and one sixth for each child, meaning that a couple has an annual income limit of 9,400 euros, while for a family with two children this is 11,750 euros.
Using the previous lower income barrier, there were 204,000 eligible households by May 10 and an additional 115,000 households by June 10. The ministry expects that the new criteria will allow the full sum to be distributed.
 ND executive committee sees promising future, in meeting reviewing elections resultsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) reached its ceiling and will start dropping in numbers, and Independent Greeks (ANEL) is losing ground, New Democracy's (ND) executive committee concluded on Tuesday, adding that the votes it lost itself would be regained as the economy picked up.
The committee found the results of the three elections were positive in the local government elections (rounds one and two on May 18 and 25, respectively), while it was not negative for the European Parliament elections (also on May 25), since SYRIZA did not succeed in its plea to people to vote for it so the ND-PASOK government could be overturned.
"The ND-supported candidate mayors won 165 municipalities, or 50.1% overall. In 2010, the ND-supported candidates had won 92 municipalities," the committee said, adding that "SYRIZA had 6 municipalities as a coalition in 2010 and this year it won 19 municipalities, or 5.9% of the whole. In the 2010 local government elections, PASOK had won 130 municipalities, while it now has 78, or 24% of the total." In the regional districts, ND-supported directors won, for the first time, 7 regions, not including an independent runner who is a member of ND, it said.
In further analysing the results, the committee said that SYRIZA got 150,000 fewer votes than it did in 2012, while ND could regain the votes it lost because it happened to rule under very difficult conditions.
It also assessed the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) had reached its peak, because although it had acquired 95,000 more votes than in 2012, they did not get the 16% they proclaimed they would, nor did they get the double-digit number most opinion polls gave them a few months ago.
ND had good prospects, it said, as voters "did not support us this time, but will be won back if we do our job right from now on...SYRIZA has reached its peak and is starting to recede; ANEL have become deflated, despite the populist onslaught they carried out; Democratic Left (DIMAR) was 'punished' despite the fact it played the 'antimemorandum' game; and Golden Dawn saw its momentum lose force and also reached its peak."
 Venizelos: Focus on Ukraine must not eclipse Western Balkans, Southern Neighbourhood issuesVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evan-gelos Venizelos, (far right) who attended the Conference on the Western Balkans orga-nised by the Austrian foreign ministry in Vienna, on Tues-day underlined Greece's endu-ring interest in the Western Balkans and the Southern Neighbourhood, as well as presenting Greece's goals with respect to the region's European perspective.
"We have to keep the issue of enlargement for the Western Balkans open, this is something especially crucial for stability and growth in the region, something that interests us directly, but every country has its own agenda, its own framework of reference and is judged on the basis of its own performance," he said in statements to the ANA-MPA.
In a press conference, meanwhile, he also referred to the disastrous floods that swept countries of the region in May, noting that Europe must coordinate its efforts under the EU Commission to show "effective solidarity with the flood victims, as there can be no more decisive proof of our interest in the region than the provision of assistance and relief to the peoples of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia."
He also referred to the EU-Western Balkans ministerial conference organised by Greece's EU presidency a month earlier, saying it had given an opportunity to reiterate and revitalize Europe's interest in enlargement and to reaffirm the EU's commitment to the region's European perspective.
Venizelos expressed satisfaction that the start of the intergovernmental conference for Serbia's accession had begun during Greece's EU presidency, also noting Greece's position in favour of granting candidate status to Albania, hopefully at the upcoming General Affairs Council.
Regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), he said that Greece wanted to see its problems overcome, in accordance with the criteria set by the European Council on December 19, which called for specific and tangible steps to implement the Ohrid Agreement, or the March 2013 agreements between FYROM political parties.
While the issue of Ukraine dominated at present, he added, the Western Balkans, the Southern Neighbourhood and the problems throughout the Middle East and North Africa should not be overlooked.
"Ukraine is always the first topic at every international meeting, but our duty is to keep our attention on the Western Balkans issues as well, and also on our Southern Neighbourhood. The Eastern Neighbourhood, including Ukraine, is the hottest issue on the international agenda, and also on the European agenda, but we must preserve the internal equilibrium of our enlargement policy, and also of our Neighbourhood Policy, as the European Union," he said.
Venizelos stressed the importance of the southern and Mediterranean aspects for Greece, especially in terms of managing immigration flows, and stressed that the Greek presidency wanted to end its term with the adoption of conclusions on this issue at the upcoming European Council.
"Our very concrete and practical ambition is now to elaborate the conclusions of the upcoming European Council meeting, later this month, in order to promote the idea of the so-called post-Stockholm package. This is our Mediterranean duty, our European duty, because we need the practical implementation of the principle of burden sharing," he said in Vienna.
On Tuesday evening, Venizelos is expected in Warsaw, where he has been invited by Polish Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski to represent Greece at the 25th anniversary of Polish Freedom Day and the Solidarity Prize award ceremony, which is to be attended by many heads of state and government, including U.S. President Barack Obama.
 FM Venizelos in Warsaw to attend Polish anniversary and award eventsGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos arrived in Warsaw on Tuesday evening following an invitation by Polish Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski to represent Greece at the 25th anniversary of Polish Freedom Day and the Solidarity Prize award ceremony.
The prize was established by the Polish Foreign ministry to recognise the efforts of internationally acclaimed individuals who promote democracy and civil liberties.
Earlier in the day, Venizelos was in Vienna to to attend the Conference on the Western Balkans organised by the Austrian Foreign ministry.
 Greek, Turkish defence ministers meet in Brussels, agree to enhance 'environment of security and stability'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)
Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday had a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz, on the sidelines of NATO defence ministers' meeting held in Brussels.
In statements, Avramopoulos stressed the meeting's significance and said it offered an opportunity to "put an end to a small period of tension recently observed, which might possibly have driven us off course based on the directions given by our governments and agreed during the last meeting held in Istanbul about a year ago."
The minister also expressed his conviction that the two sides had the will to work in order to establish an environment of security and stability: "The two country must cooperate so that, in this arc of instability stretching from Tunisia to Ukraine, we act together as factors of stability in the surrounding region."
Avramopoulos said the meeting with Yilmaz had also examined bilateral issues relating to the Aegean Sea and the continental shelf, while stressing that "we are not here to solve them".
"These will take their time and at some point, I am certain they will be settled on the basis of the principles of international law and international legality," he added.
For the time being, the two sides could maintain a policy of peaceful and good relations, he said, noting that the countries' defence systems could contribute to this effort by avoiding situations that might lead to irregularity or even escalation.
Referring to economic, investment and trade ties with Turkey, including the 1.5 million Turks that visited Greece as tourists in 2013 and the roughly 2.5 million tourists expected to travel between the two countries in 2014, Avramopoulos said this good climate must be preserved and further improved for the sake of security and stability.
On the Cyprus issue, the Greek defence minister noted that a solution would "release a tremendous energy benefiting our bilateral relations in all areas."
Yilmaz similarly noted that Turkey and Greece had coexisted "peacefully and fraternally" for many years, despite the problems between them, adding that the "existing atmosphere" was that these should now be resolved. He similarly pointed to hotspots of crisis and instability surrounding both countries, adding that Greece and Turkey must become an "island of stability and peace" and the Aegean Sea must no longer be a source of problems but one that ensured peace for both countries, contributing to their economic growth and prosperity.
Regarding the Cyprus problem, he said the Turkish side wanted a solution to be achieved soon and would offer its support, while the problems in the Aegean might be resolved in accordance with international law and taking into account the interests of both countries.
Yilmaz also announced that he had extended an invitation to Avramopoulos to visit Turkey, which the Greek minister had accepted.
 Tsipras says Juncker should be given exploratory mandate for the EU Commission presidencyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, the European Left's candidate for European Commission president, on Tuesday adopted the same position as his fellow candidates concerning the European Commission presidency, calling for respect of the European election results and protection of the democratic process. Earlier, Tsipras had met at the European Parliament with Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt and Ska Keller, the candidates fielded by the Socialists, Liberals and Green groups, respectively.
In comments he made to reporters soon after the meetings, Tsipras said that "the European election result has to be respected" - even though he absolutely disagrees with the positions expressed by the European People's Party candidate Jean-Claude Juncker, who won the election, on a number of important issues, like austerity and economic policy.
Tsipras said that "respect for the democratic process" dictates that Juncker has the right to receive an exploratory mandate and ask for the majority support to become the next European Commission president. He also said that he had asked Schulz, Verhofstadt and Keller to vote down any candidacy suggested by the European Council.
"At this moment, we are in a conflict of strategies; one that wants small steps to be made toward the democratisation of Europe and another suggesting the total dissolution of the European process," Tsipras said.
The second strategy is the option backed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the SYRIZA leader said, adding that it should be blocked and underlining that a wide front of forces will have to be formed to confront the austerity policy "demolishing" Europe.
 Golden Dawn MPs receive extension to testify before magistratesGolden Dawn deputies Giorgos Germenis, Artemis Mattheopoulos, Polyvios Zissimopoulos, Antonis Gregos and Costas Barbarousis, who were summoned to testify on Tuesday before the examining magistrates for the Golden Dawn case, asked and received a few days extension to read the case file and prepare their testimonies.
Besides Giorgos Germenis, who is already held in custody and was summoned to give a supplementary deposition for illegal gun possession, the other four Golden Dawn deputies were called to testify before the two examining magistrates for charges regarding participation and leading a criminal organisation after the stripping of their parliamentary immunity.
 The upcoming cabinet reshuffle is a 'patchy move', SYRIZA spokesman saysThe upcoming cabinet reshuffle is a "patchy move", main opposition SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis told ANA-MPA in an interview.
"It is a reshuffle for internal use... They are 'patcy' moves that can't conceal the true political isolation of the government and the fact that it stands defeated before the impasses," Skourletis said.
Skourletis believes that the reshuffle "according to all indications will upgrade the incumbent Finance Minister to the post of the Bank of Greece governor and will leave the implemented policy untouched. The government ought to appoint someone to this crucial post, who is not so closely bound to a policy that was considered and voted against during the euroelections. It ought to try and submit a proposal on a person that would secure a wider concession. I don't think it is willing to do something like that for the time being. Consequently, we have to harshly criticize these intentions."
According to Skourletis, "SYRIZA's dynamic in the Euroelections - if we consider it in a national election context- will result in an even greater gap between SYRIZA and New Democracy and a lead which will be in any case victorious."
Asked on the conditions for a cooperation with PASOK, Skourletis said it would be immensely interesting if PASOK in its current form could radically change its policy. He added that such a move rests on PASOK itself and requires that the party rejects the strategic choices it has so far defended and implemented.
Regarding developments in the Democratic Left (DIMAR), Skourletis claimed that the negative election result "is related to the fact that DIMAR could not clarify its relation with SYRIZA and did not have a clear orientation of dialogue and communication with SYRIZA."
He also rejected arguments that SYRIZA is gradually turning to the centre. "I do not share this view," he said and added: "SYRIZA in a stable way is shaping the modern Left, the Left of our times, a Left that succeeds in presenting an alternative plan against the crisis, for Greece and for Europe."
SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras, he added, have been chosen to be the worthy oppponent of the dominant neoliberal strategies and the ones that formulate the alternative plan against extreme liberalism.
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 ANEL deputy Mika Iatridi leaves party to become independentIndependent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Mika Iatriki resigned from the party to become independent, according to a letter she addressed to ANEL's parliamentary group secretary Elena Kountoura on Tuesday.
Sources say that the party's parliamentary group will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
 KKE's Koutsoumbas meets with Education Minister ArvanitopoulosOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Tuesday met with Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos.
After the meeting, Koutsoumbas told reporters that he expressed concern about the newly-introduced exam topics pool, adding that the party objects to school mergers and shutdowns, underlining the problems caused as a result of such a decision.
Koutsoumbas also said that the vacancies expected to be created this year, as a result of the large number of teachers going into retirement, will have to be covered as soon as possible.
 KKE Eurodeputies will not participate in any European Parliament groupThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) announced on Tuesday that its Eurodeputies will not join any of the European Parliament's political groups.
In a detailed announcement, the KKE's central committee said it decision was based on a review of "the European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) history and facts related to the European Parliament's composition after the elections," which in Greece were held on May 25.
It also argued that the partnerships sought by GUE/NGL did not find it in agreement, and that it did not wish to join in plans further oppressing the Greek working classes. Its commitment to the Greek people, it said, was to reveal European Union measures harming the working classes while contributing to the people's struggle against EU imperialism, so that peoples would acquire their own power.
The KKE also charged that its stances were being silenced and distorted in the Europarliament group, one of seven groups in the Europarliament, while its so-called joint positions regarding serious issues related to EU policies and international developments were being promoted, even though KKE's Europarliamentary group had expressed strong objections.
The party's MEPs will continue the struggle for the interests and rights of the working class, KKE said, and underlined that it will "fight against capitalist barbarism, defending KKE's independent and more effective ideological and political activity."
 Public sector employee mobility measure not associated with labour reserve, Christofilopoulou saysThe public sector employee mobility measure, from now on, will not be associated with the labour reserve measure, Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Evi Christofilopoulou said on Tuesday, noting that "the negotiation with the troika resulted in a 'victory' for the ministry by putting an end to quantitative goals for employee layoffs and labour reserves as of 2015".
Speaking on "Alpha" private radio, she referred to the finance ministry cleaning staff issue, underlining that "in a law-abiding state, court decisions should be respected and implemented," adding that on the specific issue "we have only a First-Instance Court decision and we should wait for the definitive ruling of the Council of State (the country's supreme administrative court) to redesign overall government policy".
 Parliamentary committee on WWII reparations holds first sessionThe Parliament's Interparty Committee on World War II reparations by Germany held its first session on Tuesday behind closed doors, with a briefing by Stelios Perrakis, professor of International and European Institutions at the Panteion University in Athens.
The committee, chaired by New Democracy MP Costas Tzavaras, said the issue was "a goal of national importance" and spoke highly of the election to Europarliament of SYRIZA deputy Manolis Glezos, "a person with great contributions to society and culture." Glezos has been a strong advocate of Greece's restitution by Germany on a loan and damages incurred during the war.
Tzavaras also called for collaboration among committee members, especially as they are in agreement on the national issue. Before the briefing by Perrakis, the committee elected main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy Panagiotis Kouroublis as vice president.
 Jail unionists to Parliament committee: 'Detention conditions border on beastly'Conditions in most jails in the country "border on beastly," representatives of the Federation of Jail Staff told a committee in Parliament on Tuesday during a briefing on the issues they face.
"Violence among detainees, the conditions in jail, the different religious beliefs and the nonexistent security make an explosive mix that will lead to a 'Black October'," chief guard at the Korydallos Prison psychiatric ward Antonis Aravantinos said, warning that "jails will go up in flames in October, wait and see."
He said that in Korydallos in particular, religious tension between Sunnis and Shiites was building up and would lead to battles, and he said the staff were "completely abandoned." He cited as example Albania, which had 4,000 detainees but 2,000 staff, while in Greece "we had, in the recent past, 110 serious beatings of staff by detainees, resulting in the death of one colleague and the crippling of two more."
Other union members also gave evidence on conditions, saying that although the Justice ministry cites a total of 9,800 individuals can be accomodated in jails throughout Greece, the actual number exceeds 12,500. In the jails of Alikarnassos (on Crete) and Korydallos (in Piraeus), in particular, overcapacity reaches 200%, they said. "In Korydallos, there is one staff member for 400 detainees, who often reach 500 in number," they noted.
The union members also expressed their objection to the government's decision to turn over to TAIPED, the state privatisation agency, 73,000 hectares (730,000 stremmas) of the Kassandra Rural Jails property, in northern Greece. The land had been donated by the Mt. Athos monastic community and belongs to the Justice ministry, they stressed.
 ADEDY schedules rally on Tuesday to protest evaluations, suspensions, layoffsADEDY, the civil service sector's umbrella union, on Tuesday announced it will hold a rally at 18:30 on Thursday at Kaningos Square in Athens to protest the introduction of staff evaluations, suspensions and layoffs in the public sector.
The protesters will march to the Finance ministry to support the ministry's laid off cleaning ladies who are asking for their rehiring, and will end up at the main Syntagma Square, where there will be a concert at 20:00.
ADEDY executive committee members in a press conferenece stressed that protests against the above-mentioned measures will be continued, while they plan to go on strike during the last days of June. In addition they announced that they had appealed to the Council of State asking for the cancellation of all ministerial decisions in cnnection with the measures implementation.
The union members underlined that the targets set by the memorandum related to public sector's personnel downsizing have been achieved and there in no reason to continue with new measures. They also the described Finance ministry's behaviour towards the cleaning ladies as cruel, as there is a court decision in their favour.
 Shipping Minister meets with Cyprus minister and Union of Shipowners, Korea's K-Sure presidentGreece and Cyprus retain a common stance on shipping issues, Shipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and the board members of the Cyprus Union of Shipowners verified during a meeting on Tuesday in the context of 2014 Posidonia International Shipping Exhibition in Athens.
The meeting was attended by Cypriot Communications & Works Minister Marios Demetriades.
"Our common position on shipping issues is the result of contacts and initiatives undertaken during the past months," Varvitsiotis said, adding that Greece, Cyprus and Malta have built close cooperation on shipping policy issues.
Cooperation with the Korean financial organization Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-Sure) in the form of export credit insurance for the financing of Greek shipbuilding projects, dominated in a meeting between Varvitsiotis and organization president Young-Hak Kim.
During the meeting, that took place in the context of Posidonia, Varvitsiotis put an emphasis on the shipping ministry's goal to promote exports of Greek shipbuilding material and machinery to Korean shipyards. "The Greek shipowners have put their confidence in the Korean shipyards," Varvitsiotis said, adding that "the next step is a more effective cooperation between Greek shipbuilding equipment companies and the Korean shipbuilding industry to meet the goal set for the Greek exports".
 Shipping Minister meets with Secretary for Transport of Hong KongShipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Tuesday met with the Secretary for Transport Minister of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Prof. Anthony Cheung on the sidelines of the international Shipping Exhibition Posidonia 2014.
The two officials discussed issues of bilateral interest on the shipping sector and according to an announcement, they agreed on the need to settle shipping issues via the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) that safeguards the international implementation of the measures and the safeguarding of the healthy competitiveness as well as the efficient operation of shipping internationally.
Varvitsiotis briefed Cheung on the Greek EU presidency priorities and achievements in the maritime transport sector, underlining the importance of the unanimous adoption of the "Athens' Declaration" during the informal Ministerial meeting of EU state members on Shipping issues that was held at Zappion in Athens.
The meeting was very important for Greece's interests given that Hong Kong is among the leading shipping powers of the world.
 Greek-Israeli cooperation brings sharp rise in tourism, exports, Hatzidakis tells ChamberGreece was visited by 400,000 Israeli tourists last year, a tenfold increase since 2009, when they totalled 30,000 Israelis in 2009, while exportes to Israel increased by 159 percent from the same year, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Tuesday.
Hatzidakis addressed the general assembly of the Greek-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and Technology, speaking of a flourishing in relations between the two countries that, as he said, is not accidental but followed initiatives undertaken by both sides.
"For the Greeks, Israel is a partner of great value, a natural ally," the minister said, adding that Israel was at the same time a par excellence example of a country that manages to "transform necessity into opportunity, utilising its human potential to the maximum and introducing new best practices."
 Athens bourse, finance ministry to hold conference on SME funding on June 20The Athens bourse and the Greek finance ministry will jointly organise the conference "GR for Growth: Funding SMEs" at the Astir Palace Resort in Vouliagmeni, Attica on June 20. The conference is taking place under the auspices of the Greek presidency of the European Union and the EU Task Force for Greece.
The Conference will focus mainly on the initiatives undertaken at an EU level to facilitate SMEs' access to funding, as well as the instruments offered by the Athens Exchange (ATHEX) to provide solutions to the issue, such as the development of listed funds, or promoting the ATHEX Bond Market and the Alternative Market for SMEs.
It will also look at financing products offered by the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Investment Fund (EIF), setting up venture capital funds, the new EU programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) and the European Long Term Investment Funds (ELTIFs).
The conference speakers will include representatives of the government and European Commission, the Capital Market Commission, the EIF, EIB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as bodies representing Greek and international investors, while the conference is expected to be attended by 200-300 representatives of the local and international investment community.
Participants and policy makers will have the opportunity to discuss and agree on a joint strategy and an action plan aiming to optimise results in SME funding.
 BSTDB President stresses bank's continued commitment to its mission in Greece after 15 yearsThe Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) remains fully committed to its developmental mission in Greece, BSTDB President Andrey Kondakov stressed in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Tuesday, while speaking at an event marking the 15th anniversary since the bank's foundation.
He stressed that the bank's management is working with the Greek government "in order to determine new strategic and operational targets, in order to ensure the bank's significant contribution to the efforts of the Greek people and the country to overcome this difficult period of stabilisation, focusing on growth".
Kondakov noted that this cooperation would undoubtedly be mutually beneficial and said that a recent agreement signed with the Greek government, which makes it easier for the bank to acquire privately-owned facilities in Thessaloniki, was "an anniversary present that opens new horizons for the bank's progress."
Greece, one of the founding member-states of the BSTDB, signed a Contribution Agreement in March that established a special fund, to which the government will provide 10 million euros in eight annual installments, for the acquisition by BSTDB of permanent premises in Thessaloniki.
The Contribution Agreement will allow BSTDB to acquire permanent premises in Thessaloniki and to redirect to the Bank's development financing activities the substantial funds thus far spent for rental office space.
 'Greek tourism is staging a dynamic comeback' Tourism minister saysThe Greek tourism is staging a dynamic comeback so as to stay in the international tourism map said, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Tuesday to SKAI TV commenting the increased tourist flow to Greece.
"2014 has set off with very good conditions... it is a new record year," she said. "We had a 15 percent rise in 2013 compared to 2012 both on arrivals and revenues."
Kefalogianni also underlined that Athens with its cultural heritage has huge potentials along with conference tourism opportunities.
 Third Greek Investment Forum to take place in NYC on June 11-12NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The third annual Greek Investment Forum will be held in New York City on June 11 and 12, jointly organised by the Athens Stock Exchange and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.
According to the programme, a videotaped message by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will be presented at the forum, while the main speakers will include Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Deputy Development & Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarachi and Panagiotis Mihalos, secretary general for International Economic Relations at the Foreign ministry.
The Investment forum events will highlight the important structural changes taking place in Greece and the ensuing investment opportunities.
Speakers will include Hellenic Exchanges Group (Athens Stock Exchange) CEO Socrates Lazaridis, American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce president Simos Anastasopoulos, Hellenic Bank Association chairman George Zanias, the managing director of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) CEO Yiannis Emiris, Enterprise Greece CEO Stephanos Issaias and others.
The 3rd Greek Investment Forum will be held at Manhattan's Harmonie Club, and be attended by business and bank representatives as well as by well-known investment firms, while several meetings and sessions have been scheduled for the second day of the forum.
 National Commerce Observatory completed, ESEE head saysThe head of the Greek Commerce Confederation (ESEE) Vassilis Korkidis on Tuesday announced the completion of the National Commerce Observatory after his meeting with Deputy Development Minister Athanassios Skordas.
The Observatory includes a data base for all Greek commercial businesses, a geographical mapping of retail trade in the country's major cities and a number of surveys for the industry.
Korkidis thanked the deputy minister for rubberstamping the setting up of the Observatory and pointed out that all involved parties want the Observatory to be used in the best possible way for the benefit of the Greek commerce and entrepreneurship.
The Observatory, which cost 1.4 million euros, was co-financed by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds.
 'Greece will not follow Spain's coastal development model' Environment Minister saysGreece should not and will not follow the model of coastal development in Spain, Portugal and some regions of Italy and France that has "led to the irreparable aesthetic and environmental downgrading of the countries' coastlines, with obvious negative effects on their tourism product," Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis said on Tuesday.
Maniatis, who addressed the conference "Could Blue Growth turn into Green?" pointed out that "the country should not aim to mass tourism but to the consistent quality upgrading and to the promotion of a unique tourism product."
According to Maniatis, the most promising sectors of blue economy that could boost the employment are the marine energy, the tourism, the biotechnology, fisheries and aquaculture as well as seabed mining; sectors that complement maritime transport and shipbuilding activities. The main legislative tool available to the EU for the protection of the seas is the Framework Directive on Marine Environment, whose goal is to achieve or maintain the "good environmental status" of marine waters by 2020. The upgrading of know-how on the seabed is also one of the actions of the strategy for the "Blue Growth".
Through the programme "Horizon 2020", the funds allocated by 2020 for this purpose reach 80 billion euros, while the programme aims the total mapping of the European seabed by 2020. On European level, the blue economy offers jobs to over 5 million people and contributes 500 billion euros to the European economy. The goal is to offer 7 million jobs and contribute 600 billion euros to the economy by 2020.
 Greek unemployment rate eased to 26.5 pct in Feb - EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)
Greek unemployment rate eased to 26.5 pct of the workforce in February, from 27.6 pct in January, Eurostat said on Tuesday.
The EU executive's statistics agency said that the unemployment rate eased slightly in the Eurozone to 11.7 pct in April from 11.8 pct in March and 12 pct in April 2013, and fell to 10.4 pct in the EU-28 in April from 10.5 pct in March and 10.9 pct in April last year.
Eurostat said the number of unemployed people totalled 25.47 million in the EU and 18.75 million in the Eurozone in April, down by 151,000 and 76,000 compared with March, respectively.
Greece recorded the highest unemployment rate (26.5 pct in February), followed by Spain (25.1 pct), while Austria (4.9 pct), Germany (5.2 pct) and Luxembourg (6.1 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates.
The number of unemployed people in Greece totalled 1.3 million in February, with the unemployment rate among men at 23.8 pct and among women at 30 pct.
The unemployment rate among young people (aged below 25 years old) rose slightly to 56.9 pct in February from 56.7 pct in January in Greece, with the country maintaining the highest rate in the EU, followed by Spain (53.5 pct) and Croatia (49 pct). Germany (7.9 pct), Austria (9.5 pct) and Holland (11 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates among young people.
Cyprus (16.4 pct from 15.6 pct) and Holland (7.2 pct from 6.5 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increase in unemployment rates in 12 months.
 Energy efficiency improvements programme for households to continueThe budget for the new "Energy Efficiency at Household Buildings" programme, supporting the energy upgrade of low and middle income Greek households, is set at 700 million euros and will be included in the EU's National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) for the new programming period (2014-2020), Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis said in a meeting he had in Parliament on Tuesday with representatives of real estate owners' associations.
The ongoing project will be funded through the 2014 Public Investments Programme. Consultations have taken place with the European Commission, allowing the state to collect the 2014-2020 NSRF subsidies after it has contributed its share of funding.
According to the minister, roughly 450 million euros in public and private funds will be used to expand the programme to state-owned and municipal buildings, as well as to commercial buildings.
 Mytilineos Group to absorb Thoriki subsidiaryMytilineos Group on Tuesday announced a board decision to absorb its 100 pct subsidiary company "Thoriki-Production and Trade of Metals SA".
In an announcement, Mytilineos said Thoriki had significantly cut back on its activities since the first half of 2012 to the point that the continuation of its operations was non-beneficiary to the Group. The merger transformation, it said, will offer scale economies both for the group and its shareholders.
The merger is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
 Conference on innovation in Xanthi on June 6More than 30 experts and executives from innovative companies, banks and businesses will take part in a "Innovation and Growth Conference" taking place in the northern Greek city of Xanthi on Friday. The conference is organised by the business website Ka-business.gr under the auspices of the rural development and food ministry, the Macedonia-Thrace ministry and the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace region.
Speakers will include Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou, while the aim is to showcase the region's business potential through successful examples of entrepreneurial activity, as well as to present financing instruments to assist an export orientation.
There will be an award ceremony presenting prizes to innovative companies and the event will also raise funds for the Domna Vizvizi Ark orphanage.
 Tourist arrivals at Rhodes airport up 11.8 pct in MayTourist arriving on the islands Rhodes from abroad were up 11.38 pct in May compared with the same month last year, according to figures released by the the island's 'Diagoras' airport on Tuesday, confirming predictions that 2014 will be a bumper year for tourism at one of Greece's top destinations.
The figures showed a notable increase in arrivals from Germany, Finland and Switzerland, as well as a 56 pct rise in arrivals from Israel. The crisis in the Ukraine was not without its impact, however, leading 10 pct fewer arrivals from Russia and 50 pct fewer Ukrainians. There was also a drop in arrivals from Italy.
Domestic arrivals were down 9.12 pct compared with May last year, by contrast.
 Greek stocks end lowerGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, reversing a two-day rally which pushed the composite index of the market 3.23 pct higher. The index ended 0.85 pct lower at 1,234.62 points, off the day' s lows of 1,233.70 points. Turnover fell to 158.43 million euros.
The Large Cap index dropped 1.09 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.05 pct higher. Folli Follie (2.07 pct), Piraeus Bank (1.10 pct) and Titan (0.42 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OTE (3.48 pct), Viohalco (3.08 pct), Coca Cola HBC (2.74 pct) and Motor Oil (2.35 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Insurance (4.41 pct), Commerce (2.08 pct) and Health (0.51 pct) sectors scored big gains, while Telecoms (3.48 pct), Chemicals (3.47 pct) and Food (2.71 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 86 to 50 with another 18 issues unchanged. Medicon (20 pct), Boutaris (18.75 pct) and Attica Bank (14.18 pct) were top gainers, while Perseus (20 pct), Compucon (18.75 pct) and Varvaresos (17.5 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -0.40%
Industrial Products: -1.40%
Real Estate: +0.48%
Personal & Household: -1.63%
Food & Beverages: -2.71%
Raw Materials: -0.44%
Travel & Leisure: -1.23%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.70
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.50
Coca Cola HBC: 17.07
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.96
National Bank of Greece: 2.55
Eurobank Properties : 8.20
Piraeus Bank: 1.84
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 4.8 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 4.84 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.20 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.40 pct. Turnover was a strong 62 million euros, of which 55 million were sell orders and the remaining 7.0 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.567 pct from 0.569 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.476 pct from 0.477 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.391 pct from 0.394 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.307 pct from 0.309 pct and the one-month rate eased to 0.248 pct from 0.250 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.33 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover at 20.542 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 6,648 contracts worth 13.346 million euros, with 61,160 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 16,617 contracts worth 7.196 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,792), followed by Alpha Bank (2,170), Piraeus Bank (1,929), Eurobank (1,434), MIG (492), OTE (1,981), PPC (927), OPAP (488), Titan (323), Mytilineos (208), Hellenic Petroleum (1,206), GEK (83), Ellaktor (61), Folli Follie (74), Frigoglass (63) and Piraeus Port (54).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.364
Pound sterling 0.814
Danish kroner 7.463
Swedish kroner 9.104
Japanese yen 139.64
Swiss franc 1.221
Norwegian kroner 8.181
Canadian dollar 1.488
Australian dollar 1.473
 Ecumenical Patriarch invited by Pope to Rome to attend prayer day for peace in the Middle EastROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Syngelakis)
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was invited to take part in the prayer for peace in the Middle East on Sunday, Vatican sources confirmed speaking to ANA-MPA on Tuesday.
Pope Francis, whose initiative this is, has also invited in Rome Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The invitation was formalised during the recent meeting of the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch in Jerusalem a week ago. "The Pontiff wishes the Ecumenical Patriarch to be with him. The excellent, brotherly relation they share is known to everybody," Vatican sources said.
The details of the prayer meeting will become public in the next few days, while the Vatican has underlined that "the initiative will have absolutely no political character."
 International conference on copyrights, digital agenda in Europe (NB: change in venue)The Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Hellenic Copyright Organisation (OPI), which is supervised by the ministry, will be holding an international conference titled "Copyright and the Digital Agenda for Europe: Current Regulations and Challenges for the Future" at the Athens Concert Hall on Friday, from 09:00 till 17:30.
The conference, on the occasion of the Greek EU Presidency, will present actions that have taken place in the legal and other sectors, of particular interest in the cultural industry and the media.
Representatives from the European Union's 28 member-states, of the academic sector, collective management, the media and the cultural industry of Europe will be participating in the conference, with the keynote address to be delivered by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) general director Francis Gurry.
The event has been rescheduled from the Acropolis Museum to the Athens Concert Hall for reasons of capacity.
The public can seek more details at the website "http://www.opi.gr"
 Sea water quality at the port of Piraeus to be monitored by robot fishThe quality of the sea water at the port of Piraeus will be monitored in a groundbreaking way with the use of a pollution hunting robot fish, the Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (PPA S.A.) announced on Tuesday on the occasion of the World Environment Day celebrated on June 5.
The 50-kilo, 110-centimeters-long robot fish, to be used by the port of Piraeus in the context of the European programme SUPPORT, detects and measures pollutants through its sensors. It moves automatically or manually, using sound waves and GPS, and transmits information and images to four screens at the PPA S.A. Environmental Centre.
Control units have also been installed to monitor air pollution, recycling, the quality of the sea water, on shore-generated and ship-generated waste management, as well as photovoltaic parks.
PPA S.A. has announced a tender for the project focusing on upgrading the port's lighting systems, its buildings and archaeological sites, as well as its 20 medium-voltage distribution substations. The port authority spends roughly 2.2 million euros on environmental protection programmes, has ISO 14001 certification and features a highly specialised environmental protection unit.
 National Theatre of Greece announces new season's programmeThe National Theatre of Greece will host 15 new productions, including last season's most succesful plays, and host an open platform for new creators, its artistic director Sotiris Chatzakis said during a press conference on Tuesday.
"We respond to the crisis with growth," said Chatzakis and stressed that "growth presupposes participation and it creates new jobs."
Chatzakis announced that the National Theatre will add the Chora Theatre to its existing four stages, in order to host dynamic and innovative productions during the following season.
"During our first year we employed 234 actors and this is something that gives us great satisfaction," Chatzakis said and added that last season's revenues made the expansion possible while next season's budget will reach the amount of 8 million euros, including state funding.
Chatzakis criticised the fact that the National Theatre is operated as a government-owned corporation (DEKO), as it forces it to become solely competitive and not educational as well, a role provided in its founding charter. He said that the National Theatre, the National Theatre of Northern Greece and the Greek National Opera have filed a request to the Finance ministry to be removed from the delisting as a DEKO.
 Urban redevelopment work in Nafplion uncovers old Venetian wallsUrban renewal work on the road surface and pavements along Amalias Street in Nafplion have uncovered the foundations of the old Venetian walls that once surrounded the city, it was announced on Tuesday.
The city was surrounded by walls under the Turks and Venetians, and in the first years after its liberation until 1867, when they were knocked down to expand the city.
The remains of the old walls will now be uncovered and showcased for visitors to the city, with glass cases and special lighting set up in cooperation with the archaeological service.
 Niarchos Fdn makes one-time donation to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina flood relief effortsThe Stavros Niarchos Foundation board of trustees on Tuesday approved an emergency donation of 300,000 euros towards the relief and recovery efforts in the flood-stricken areas of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The donation will be allocated both to international non-profit organisations focusing on humanitarian actions in the above areas, and to a local foundation which has assessed the immediate needs and can focus on coping with floods' consequences in the long-run.
 Parliamentary committee passes Athens, Thessaloniki Urban Plans; plans to rebuild AEK stadiumThe parliamentary committee on Production and Commerce passed in principle and per article the draft bill on the Athens and Thessaloniki Urban Plans late on Tuesday night.
The plans passed on the government coalition partners' votes - New Democracy and PASOK - while Democratic Left (DIMAR) and Independent Greeks (ANEL) passed with reservations, and the rest of the parties including main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) voted against. The exception was Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), which abstained from the meeting.
Voting followed three days of deliberations by the parties on the plan, which was promoted by the Administrative Reform ministry. They also objected to the abolition of the Urban Planning Agencies the ministry promoted, passing the supervision for city planning to two new departments in the Environment ministry.
The rebuilding of the AEK football stadium in the Nea Filadelphia suburb north of Athens was a contentious issue, with SYRIZA committing to tabling amendments that will provide environmental equivalent measures, before agreeing to vote for the relevant articles. Constructing a new field will develop the area, the bill's ND rapporteur countered.
 Turkish political refugee given 7-year jail sentence in ThessalonikiA court in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, sentenced a 53-year-old Turkish political refugee to seven years in jail, over his involvement in an explosion in October 2011 at an apartment in the city's Triandria district which killed a bomber of Kurdish descent.
The defendant, who was arrested in February with three fellow countrymen in the Athens district of Gyzi, was found guilty of possessing explosive materials and army weaponry but was acquitted of participating in a criminal organisation.
According to witnesses, the man seen going in and out of the basement apartment in Triandria where the explosion - believed to have been an accident - took place, while a fingerprint of his found in another apartment was matched with one found on weaponry confiscated in Triandria.
In his testimony, the man denied any involvement and refuted the witness reports but admitted that he knew the victim from their common struggles, which he termed legal and democratic. He also denied any relation with the "Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front" (DHKP-C), a party that Turkish authorities have classified as a terrorist group.
The man had been arrested in early February on a 2013 arrest warrant. Later that month, a Thessaloniki court had decided not to extradite the 53-year-old to Turkey, which sought to try him for terrorist actions. At his testimony at the time, the man had said he was active in the Solidarity Committee for Political Prisoners in Turkey and Kurdistan, and that he had been living in Greece for many years under political asylum. The magistrate hearing the case had ordered his detention after the testimony.
 PAME pensioners' organisations to hold rally in Athens on June 19Pensioners' organisations of PAME, the Communist Party-affiliated labour union, will be holding a national protest rally in the Athens Academy area in downtown Athens location on June 19, at 18:00.
In an announcement criticising the government over its insurance policies, PAME said, "The attack on social security does not concern the pensioners alone. It concerns all working people and the labour unions. It is up to the labour-popular movement to take the situation in its hands, to intercept the attack and to propose and impose immediate measures."
 Free access to internet in seven metro and electric train stationsPublic transport passengers as of Tuesday can have free access to the internet in seven metro and electric train stations.
There are also plans for the gradual extension of Wi-Fi access in mid July to all Athens metro (lines 2 and 3), electric train and tramway stations.
Wi-Fi access is currently available at Syntagma, Panepistimio, Acropolis, Omonia, Piraeus, Neratziotissa and Doukissis Plakentias stations.
 Overcast on WednesdayHeavy rain and storms in the eastern parts of country and northerly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts with temperatures ranging from 11C-23C. Clouds and rain in the central parts of the country and in the south, 12C-27C. Same weather over the islands, 17C-24C. Rainy in Athens, 18C-23C; the same for Thessaloniki, 15C-22C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: The vise closes around Samaras (Antonis, Prime Minister).
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Hard landing".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Europe's greatest 'gift'.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 2,195 hirings in public sector in June.
ESTIA: Destabilisation the continuous aim.
ETHNOS: Prescription for cheaper medicines.
IMERISSIA: Signs of recovery.
KATHIMERINI: Real economy on recovery course.
NAFTEMPORIKI: European Commission expects positive surprises from Greece.
RIZOSPASTIS: Social security again on capital's target.
TA NEA: Awaiting the zero interest rate.
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