|Wednesday, 11 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-06-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 13 June 2014 Issue No: 4681
 Greece reports 711-mln-euro primary surplus in Jan-MayGreek budget recorded a primary surplus of 711 million euros in the January-May period, the Finance ministry said on Thursday.
In a report, the ministry said that that state budget balance showed a deficit of 1.985 billion euros in the five-month period, down from a deficit of 3.843 billion euros in the corresponding period last year and down from a revised target for a shortfall of 2.559 million euros this year. The primary result showed a surplus of 711 million euros in the January-Ma period, form a primary deficit of 970 million euros last year and a budget target for a surplus of 208 million euros in the five-month period this year. Net state budget revenues totalled 19.605 billion euros, up 0.2 pct from revised targets, while net regular budget revenues totaled 17.305 billion euros, up 0.4 pct over the same period.
Tax revenues totalled 16.174 billion euros, or 1.6 pct more than a revised target and tax returns totalled 1.269 billion euros, up from a budget target of 1.184 billion euros. Public Investment Program revenues totaled 2.300 billion euros, slightly down from budget targets.
State budget spending totalled 21.591 billion euros, down from a revised budget target of 22.119 billion. Regular budget spending totaled 19.810 billion euros, down by 641 million euros from a revised target. Regular budget spending fell by 9.4 pct in the January-May period, while Public Investment Program spending rose by 113 million euros to 1.780 billion euros.
Christos Staikouras, Alternate Finance Minister, commenting on the figures said that: "fiscal targets are achieved for the third successive year and this achievement shows that public finances are stabilizing on a good level, creating the necessary basis for the recovery of the real economy and promoting employment, distributing a "social dividend", reducing social insurance contributions and gradually lowering tax burdens on enterprises and households".
 PM Samaras meets with Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign MinisterPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday met with Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister at Maximos Mansion. The head of Kuwait's investment fund was also present at the meeting.
According to sources, Kuwait is interested in Greece's privatization programme as well as in private investments in the country. Government sources say that Kuwait has never made any major investment in Greece and this is something it would like to change as it sees Greece as a friendly European country that has made economic progress.
 President Papoulias receives visiting Kuwaiti foreign ministerThe need to reinforce bilateral relations, particularly on trade and economic issues, was underlined on Thursday by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias in a meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah at the Presidential Mansion in Athens, noting that every effort will be made to boost relations in these sectors.
The visiting foreign minister conveyed the greetings of the Emir of Kuwait and agreed that efforts will be made to reinforce bilateral relations.
The Kuwaiti foreign minister said that the visit to Greece is made in the context of the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations and to be able to contribute in every possible way to the promotion of bilateral relations. He also underlined that the meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras brought excellent results.
 Greece-Kuwait boost bilateral cooperation with the signing of two agreementsThe 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Greece and Kuwait was celebrated with the signing on Thursday of two agreements on the promotion of mutual protection of investments and tourism sector cooperation.
The agreements were signed by government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, who was received earlier by the Greek president and prime minister. The two foreign ministers also inaugurated the new Kuwaiti embassy offices in Athens.
A meeting of the Greek and Kuwaiti delegations, held ahead of the signing of the agreements, focused on bilateral, international and regional issues and, according to Venizelos, it was underlined that "the investment environment in Greece is improving and the country is becoming an attractive destination for investments and cooperation in the sector of privatisations".
Venizelos expressed hope for "tangible results and for closer bilateral economic cooperation" referring to the sectors of energy and environment.
Considering that Kuwait chairs the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Gulf Cooperation Council and Greece holds the rotating EU Presidency, both countries reaffirmed their common approach to international issues and discussed the adoption of "joint initiatives". Kuwait also reiterated its request for a Schengen visa waiver for its citizens.
On his part, the Kuwaiti foreign minister referred to the "great potential" for economic cooperation and expressed optimism that bilateral relations will develop successfully.
As regards the latest developments in Iraq, he noted that the region's countries watch those developments with great concern and had also warned that developments in Syria would spill over into other countries.
Referring to the hostage situation in Iraq, Venizelos said that the seizure of the Turkish Consulate in Mosul and the abduction of the Turkish consul general is condemned by Greece and called for the immediate release of the diplomatic staff held hostage.
 US official confirms his country's support to GreeceNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/ P. Panagiotou)
Barack Obama's government will continue supporting Greece so that the country can move to growth, the US Department of Commerce's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe Matthew Murray noted during a Greek Investment Forum in New York.
The Forum was organized by the Athens Stock Exchange and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce for the third year.
The US official referred to the recent talks between the US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who discussed several issues of "trade cooperation" and "investment interest", pointing out that "they put emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises and technology."
Murray spoke of "trade diplomacy" and that they agreed on an "action plan", noting that "the economic and investment climate in Greece has improved."
He also referred to the "significant steps" taken in reforms and the need to continue being implemented so that the growth prospect is reinforced and added "My country is here to help clear any obstacles."
Murray expressed the view that Greece is a "modernization model" of the economy and referred to the progress already achieved regarding the improvement of the investment climate, such as the new investment law.
The head of the Hellenic Bank Association Giorgos Zanias also addressed participants and described the current situation of the Greek economy, showcasing the "new standards" that support development and promoting the view that "the more the economic climate is improved, the more liquidity will be boosted."
Zanias pointed out that "Greece has made impressive progress and this progress is expected to continue in 2014-2020. During this six-year period, the results of the efforts made will be visible."
The heads of the Athens Stock Exchange Sokratis Lazaridis and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Simos Anastasopoulos gave a press conference on the sidelines of the Forum.
"Today, we are happy to talk about the second and hopefully last step. It has to do with development and Greece's exit from the crisis," Anastasopoulos pointed out, noting that "we are here to show investment groups and major enterprises' officials the investment opportunities that our country offers today."
Lazaridis mentioned that "this year, the conditions have improved interest-wise compared to last year. We can see that in the increased profits recorded by the Athens Stock Exchange and the higher participation of foreign investors."
 PM Samaras meets with new Development ministry leadershipPrime Minister Antonis Samaras met on Thursday at Maximos Mansion, government headquarters, with newly appointed Development Minister Nikos Dendias and the ministry's political leadership.
 PM Samaras holds meeting with new Interior ministerPrime Minister Antonis Samaras held a meeting with the Interior ministry's leadership, as part of a series of meetings he is holding following a cabinet reshuffle on Monday.
"It is an initial briefing with the prime minister. The orders were for work", said new Interior Minister Argyris Dinopoulos.
 Adonis Georgiadis appointed new ND parliamentary spokesmanPrime Minister Antonis Samaras stated on Thursday that New Democracy (ND) MP and former Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis is appointed ND's parliamentary spokesman.
Samaras praised Georgiadis' work in the Health Ministry's reforms field.
After his meeting with Samaras, Georgiadis noted that he supports the premier's work stressing that the success in reforms constitutes the people's future.
 FinMin appoints Alternate General Secretary for Public RevenuesFinance Minister's decision to appoint the ministry's General Director of Human Resources Giorgos Hatzakis as Alternate General Secretary for Public Revenues, until the secretary's position is properly covered after the resignation of Haris Theoharis, on Thursday was published on the Government Gazette.
 Admin. Reform ministry extends deadline for university staff on mobility schemeThe Administrative Reform ministry on Thursday gave a few days' extension to administrative staff of Greek universities before their suspension from duty period expires on Sunday.
The staff, totalling 341, were placed on the suspension as part of the mobility scheme in the public sector that includes a gradual layoff plan with reduced pay and a transfer to other ministries and agencies to fill staffing positions.
Late on Thursday evening, it was announced that the ministry would table an amendment on Friday to grant the 341 a brief extension that would allow the new minister of Education to be briefed and assess facts, as well as to give the staff enough time to submit applications for new positions.
The university staff called a strike on Wednesday that will run to Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, the Administrative Reform ministry leadership met at government headquarters with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the new Finance minister, on the issue, while government Vice President Evangelos Venizelos was also briefed by phone.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos meets with Romanian counterpartDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and his Romanian counterpart Mircea Dusa on Thursday reiterated their governments' basic principle and position for stable borders throughout the region.
The two ministers, who met in Bucharest, announced initiatives -if necessary- as Avramopoulos said, to set up a "stability axis from the northern to the southern part of the Balkans, aiming at creating an oasis of safety and security for the entire region."
The officials gave special emphasis on the NATO summit to be held next September in Wales, with Dusa urging the EU and the Alliance to have common goals so as to ensure stability and peace in southern and eastern Europe.
Avramopoulos noted that Greece and Romania will present common positions on issues related to Ukraine, the crisis in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, as well as issues related generally to the wider region.
Both countries said they were in favour of Moldova's European perspective.
Finally, they agreed on a bilateral level to extend and upgrade the existing defense cooperation between the two countries with a series of memoranda of understanding to be signed during the visit of the Romanian Defence Minister in Athens.
Avramopoulos also met with Romania's Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean.
 SYRIZA wants people to keep voting until they 'get it right', gov't spokeswoman Voultepsi saysResponding to a speech given by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras to his MPs earlier on Thursday, government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi accused the main opposition leader of not respecting the people's vote, saying that Tsipras wanted the people to keep voting until they "get it right".
Voultepsi said that SYRIZA began the process of assessing the election results on May 29 with its Political Secretariat, continued on Thursday before the parliamentary group and, based on the information at her disposal, would be completed with the SYRIZA Central Committee meeting next weekend.
"We hope that by then they will explain why, after so many promises and insulting attacks, they were unable to convert the popular will into a 'storm' but instead lost 150,000 votes," she added.
Commenting on Tsipras' speech, Voultepsi said it showed his chief concern to be for his party rather than the future of the country, as well as revealing the dilemmas troubling SYRIZA's component factions.
"Let me give him some friendly advice: he shouldn't deprive the comrades of their summer swimming. Such 'existential dilemmas' are more easily dealt with at the beach," she added.
Earlier, Voultepsi had again attacked the newspaper 'Avgi' for its story on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the letter sent to the IMF by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on April 15, saying that the paper had presented non-news as if it were a scoop.
"I am sorry, because after the major revelations made by this paper concerning the Lambrakis affair, it has descended to presenting as a scoop the date when a text is posted on the IMF website. I have nothing to say except that this is laughable," she said.
Voultepsi described the letter as a "formality" and pointed out that a part of Greece's primary surplus was subsequently redistributed to poorer families in the form of a one-off 'social dividend' welfare payment, to which Greece's partners had initially been opposed, repeating that there would no new new austerity measures.
 Meeting on university administration staff concludedThe issue of the 1,136 university administration staff that are set in reserve labour is expected to be solved until Thursday afternoon, according to Administration Reform Ministry sources.
A meeting was held earlier at the Maximos Mansion with the participation of Government Vice President Evangelos Venizelos, Administration Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the newly appointed Education Minister Andreas Loverdos and the Minister of State Dimitris Stamatis.
According to information, Mitsotakis said that the advertisement of approximately 500 positions is a memorandum obligation while Loverdos raised the number to 800.
 SYRIZA leader Tsipras addresses his party's parliamentary groupMain opposition SYRIZA party has won a battle but not the war, its leader Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday referring to the euroelections.
"(The war) ahead of us will be hard," Tsipras said addressing his party parliamentary group, adding that the main priority will be the maintenance of leadership and political initiative.
Tsipras also forecast critical developments for the country this summer; either new tough measures will be implemented in autumn and those appointed by Germany will undertake the debt negotiations or there will be a new government with a fresh mandate from the people, which will be responsible to negotiate with lenders.
Tsipras noted that his party is open to the society, to the different, to the differentiated, and to people who still treat them with suspicion as well as alliances and allies that promote even marginally the overturning, the change and the liberation of the country from the memoranda entrapment.
He also sent out a message to those who see SYRIZA as a key opponent in their plans, saying that the party does not intend to step back.
He also harshly criticised the choice of Yannis Stournaras as the next Bank of Greece governor and noted that "we will not be watching them destroy the country, playing with people, institutions and democracy without doing anything."
Moreover, he forecast that the government is preparing a new memorandum based on various excuses, such as the funding gap or the new haircut of debt.
Finally, he accused Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of escalating the tension and increasing political instability instead of reinforcing the smooth functioning of democracy.
 SYRIZA deputy Stratoulis comments on Hellenic Halyvourgia layoffsThe Supreme Labour Council's decision on the Hellenic Halyvourgia employees' layoffs is extremely anti-worker and inhuman and constitutes a political and social crime, main opposition SYRIZA deputy Dimitris Stratoulis told ANA-MPA in an interview.
"If the Hellenic Halyvourgia mass layoffs go through, then there will be nothing left, no obstacles to layoffs," Stratoulis said adding that SYRIZA asks for the revocation of the decision.
"It is effectively the backdoor that enables other enterprises to appeal to the Supreme Labour Council and be allowed to proceed with mass layoffs. This de facto leads to the full deregulation of layoffs, even if this measure has not been legislated," Stratoulis estimated.
SYRIZA's parliamentary group, Stratoulis added, "has tabled a draft law in Parliament, which has been signed by all of its 71 deputies but has not been yet discussed. With this draft law, we propose the annulment of all memorandum regulations that have facilitated and made layoffs for employers less costly. With this draft law that will turn into a bill of the government, we are trying to put an end to layoffs in the private sector."
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 PASOK slams main opposition leader's speech to SYRIZA MPsIn strong criticism of a speech given by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras to his party's MPs on Thursday, the PASOK party press office accused the main opposition leader of "continuing down the path of polarisation, division, insults" and saying different things at home and abroad.
The junior partner in Greece's coalition government, PASOK called on Tsipras to make clear if he intends to respond to the open invitation extended by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos for a united front of the political forces in the country ahead of the major negotiations on the sustainability of Greece's debt and an exit from bailout agreements and memoranda.
It said Tsipras was clearly disappointed that the electorate had failed to deliver the "overturning" SYRIZA had asked for in the European elections but appeared unable to learn from his mistakes.
"In Greece he is populist, threatens, promises everything and anything. In international meetings he acts as the 'mouse that no longer even roars'. It is time, however, for him to realise that there will be no new measures and that Greece has exited the crisis."
Parliament President expresses 'reservations' about bill suspending privileges of MPs facing criminal proceedings
Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis on Thursday expressed reservations about a clause included in a justice ministry-sponsored draft bill, which calls for the immediate suspension of perks and privileges enjoyed by MPs who are facing trial on criminal charges or for specific categories of misdemeanours.
Meimarakis pointed out that this measure can be put into effect only if the Parliament's Rules of Procedure are amended and expressed concern on whether the clause was constitutional. Meimarakis also referred to the operational problems that can emerge until the justice system delivers a final ruling in a case, a process that can take up to two-and-a-half years.
Meimarakis noted that the clause included in the justice ministry draft bill is government-sponsored, adding that the issue remains open because a relevant debate in Parliament, that will make the final decision, is still pending.
The parliament president said that, in his opinion, such a measure cannot be implemented during the course of criminal proceedings and before a definitive court ruling is issued and noted that this is an "interna corporis" issue that should be settled by the Parliament itself, adding that it is an issue that emerges for the first time.
 Justice Min.: Proposal on suspending privileges of MPs facing criminal proceedings not finalised yetA clause in a Justice ministry-sponsored draft bill, which calls for the immediate suspension of perks and privileges enjoyed by MPs who are facing trial on criminal or misdemeanour charges, has not been finalized yet, Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou said on Thursday.
Commenting on the clause, Athanassiou said it has not assumed its final form yet, considering that it will undergo processing in the competent parliamentary committee and in the Parliament's summer session.
The positions, views and proposals of MPs in the discussions to follow will be taken under consideration before a final draft is drawn up with the broadest possible consensus, Athanassiou underlined.
 Golden Dawn MP Zaroulia receives extension to testifyGolden Dawn MP Eleni Zaroulia, who was summoned to testify on Thursday to the examining magistrates investigating the Golden Dawn (GD)case, asked and received a five-day extension.
Zaroulia, the wife of the party's secretary general Nikos Mihaloliakos who is held in custody, is facing charges of participating and leading a criminal organisation. She will appear again before magistrates on Tuesday.
Golden Dawn deputy Mihalis Arvanitis has been called to testify on Friday.
 Deregulating labour relations in market with 1.5 million jobless an 'insanity', DIM.AR party saysThe opposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party on Thursday strongly criticised the deregulation of labour relations, in an announcement prompted by news of mass layoffs by Greece's second-largest steelworks, Hellenic Halyvourgia.
"A complete deregulation of labour relations cannot be the solution in a labour market with 1.5 million unemployed. It is insanity," a party announcement said.
 KKE: Popular mobilisation to save the social structuresCommunist Party (KKE) said on Thursday that social structures in municipalities should not be closed down and the government must immediately secure their state financing.
"Popular mobilisations are needed for all the social structures in municipalities throughout the country that are threatened with closure, mostly due to the suspension of the State funding and because a large number of the staff that retires or whose contracts expire is not replaced" noted KKE.
 Protest against layoffs in Greece's second largest steelworks plant; KKE MP statementRepresentatives of the four steelworkers unions and opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Christos Katsiotis met on Thursday with Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis to express their opposition to go-ahead for mass layoffs granted to Greece's second largest steelworks Hellenic Halyvourgia and ask it be revoked.
The meeting was also attended by Deputy Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou and ministry general secretary Anna Stratinaki, while dozens of workers gathered outside the Labour ministry building and traffic on Stadiou Street in downtown Athens, interrupting traffic.
The go-ahead by the Supreme Labour Council followed after a petition by the company, which announced earlier on Thursday that it would be laying off more than half its remaining workforce.
Afterward, MP Katsiotis commented that "the Supreme Labour Council decision that clears the way for mass layoffs in Hellenic Halyvourgia plant in Aspropyrgos leads to uncontrolled mass layoffs which was and still is a key demand of the monopolies".
The company posted losses of 33.6 million euros in 2013, about 4.4 million euros less than in 2012, and on Wednesday received permission from the Supreme Labour Council to proceed with mass layoffs. It blamed its dire financial situation on the collapse of the domestic construction sector due to high taxes and high energy costs that acted as an obstacle to exports, saying it was forced to fire 45 of the 74 workers that still remained in its employ, from a workforce of 450 before the crisis in Greece began.
 KKE's Koutsoumbas meets with the general secretary of the Confederation of Cuban WorkersOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Central Committee General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Thursday met with Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee member and Confederation of Cuban Workers General Secretary Ulises Guilarte De Nacimiento.
Koutsoumbas briefed him on political developments in Greece, the KKE's actions and the tens of initiatives and interventions undertaken by KKE MEPs in the European Parliament in support of Cuba.
On his part, Nacimiento referred to the policy implemented by the Cuban government and to the "imperialist aggressiveness" against his country. He also thanked KKE for its leading role in boosting international solidarity with Cuba.
Hellenic Halyvourgia layoffs 'unavoidable', labour ministry sources claim; steel workers 'sacrificed', replies GSEE
The repercussion on Hellenic Halyvourgia workers as a whole would have been much worse, if the Supreme Labour Council had not approved the mass layoffs requested by the steel manufacturer, senior sources at the labour ministry said in a statement to the ANA-MPA on Thursday.
Commenting on the firing of 45 of the 74 workers currently employed by the steelworks, the same sources stressed that any other decision would have resulted "either in the factory's closure, in which case all the workers would have lost their jobs without compensation or, in the best case, the workers would have been trapped in a 'grey-area' working regime, with job rotations and marginal salaries of about 150 euros a month."
The ministry stressed that seven meetings were held at the labour ministry since the company first applied to lay off staff in February, dealing with both the compensation package for each employee and laying down strict terms for rehiring workers as soon as the company's financial and production situation allowed.
The Supreme Labour Council's decision marks the first implementation of a new procedure for mass layoffs that was recently introduced, which transferred the powers to approve mass dismissals from the labour minister to the appropriate labour ministry general secretary, who also chairs the Supreme Labour Council.
According to labour ministry sources, this new system was established through the "unanimous decision of all the social partners, putting an end to a skewed framework of the last 31 years, which was unique in Europe." They noted that this had acted as a "boomerang" against the interests of the workers it was nominally trying to protect, leading companies to fold and leaving their workforce without compensation or protection.
 GSEE: Government sacrificed steel workers to prove itself to troikaThis position was refuted by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation representing private-sector workers. In an announcement, GSEE said the government "was sacrificing the steel workers in order to prove to the troika that it is following their instructions to the letter."
It said the labour ministry, with the "support of employers using the mass layoffs to press for a reduction in energy costs, confirms in the most painful way that it has neither the intention nor the courage to refuse the lenders' odious measures."
 POTAMI party founding congress to be held in Lavrio on June 27-29The new political party "TO POTAMI" will hold its founding congress at the technological park of the southeastern Attica port city of Lavrio on June 27-29 instead of Alexandroupolis which was the initial plan.
A one-day conference on the environment will take place at the extreme northeastern Greek city of Alexandroupolis in the autumn.
The conference's aim is to promote the unique ecosystems of the region of Thrace as well as to examine the problems of the region and the development potential via European development programmes.
 Former FinMin released on bail after testimony on 'Lagarde list' caseFormer Finance minister George Papaconstantinou was released on bail on Thursday following his testimony before Supreme Court special examining magistrate Iossif Tsalaganidis.
Papaconstantinou was testifying in connection with the so-called Lagarde list of Greek owners of large bank accounts at Switzerland's HSBC bank who are being audited for income tax liabilities.
Papaconstantinou faces felony and misdemeanor charges of dereliction of duty while a minister (2009-2011), doctoring a document as well as breach of faith over his handling of the Lagarde list, as he is charged with removing from the list the names of relatives.
The prosecutors levied a 30,000-euro bail and the obligation to appear before his local police station once a month.
 Summer sessions of Parliament to begin next TuesdayThe start of the summer sessions of Parliament, where legislation is discussed and voted for by a smaller number of MPs, will begin next Tuesday, it was announced on Thursday.
A justice ministry bill for the ratification by Greece of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance will then be tabled next Wednesday.
The parties have announced the MPs that will make up the first summer session of Parliament (June 17 - July 10). The second session will be from July 22-August 7 and then August 26-August 28, while the third will be from September 2-October 3.
 Supreme Court rules in favour of finance ministry on ministry cleaners' reinstatementGreece's Supreme Court, Areios Pagos, on Thursday ruled in favour of the finance ministry's petition to temporarily suspend a lower court ruling, which had ordered the ministry to reinstate cleaners laid off as part of a public-sector downsizing plan.
 Prosecutors concerned about government's legislative activityThe Association of Prosecutors of Greece expressed its concern on Thursday over the government's legislative activity, calling it "unregulated, inconsistent and fragmented, with continual amendments even of basic penal laws (incorporated in Codes)."
The content and pace of the legislation is being introduced in ways that "occasionally justifiably entertains the suspicion that they serve purposes lying beyond the protection of public interest," it said.
Commenting on the dissemination in the media of public agency reactions against certain court rulings, the Association also "reminds of the constitutional obligation everyone has to respect the decisions of courts," adding that when this respect is shown by state officials, it also serves to school citizens (in democracy).
 BoG report: Signs are positive, but economy must stay the course with no backtrackingDevelopments in the past few months are strengthening confidence and improving the climate, the Bank of Greece (BoG) said in its Report on Monetary Policy 2013-2014 released Thursday, but it also warned of not backtracking or reversing policies.
The BoG report, submitted formally to the speaker of the Greek Parliament and the cabinet, said that "to avert risks, the restructuring of the economy and the reforms must continue with even greater resolve across all areas," pushing on to the ultimate goal, the creation of a dynamic and extrovert economy.
"The slightest backtracking or reversal in policy could result in Greece being cut off once again from the markets and sliding back into another period of economic instability. This risk should not be underestimated," it said, adding, "Greece's return to global markets reflects mainly the fact that markets discount that the adjustment and reform effort will continue."
BoG said that developments followed its own assessment of its annual report in February, that the twin deficits would be eliminated and competitiveness recouped, gradually restoring confidence and leading to further improvements in the financing of the Greek economy.
Among the achievements in the economy it mentioned the recapitalisation of systemic banks, which raised a combined total of 8.3 billion euros, with strong participation from foreign investors; the government's return to the markets, with 3 billion euros raised through a five-year bond issue, and the issuance of corporate bonds (between December 2012 and May 2014, large Greek corporations raised a total of 4.8 billion euros on foreign corporate bond markets).
All of the above support the view that confidence in the prospects of the Greek economy is being restored and markets anticipate a gradual exit from the crisis. If this momentum can be maintained and enhanced, the economy is very likely to return to positive growth. However, it warned, the forecast of positive growth is subject to downside risks, relating to developments in global markets, currently characterised by ample liquidity, as well as to possible reform fatigue and a relaxation of the reform effort on the domestic front.
The turnaround in sentiment was the result of the consistent implementation of the adjustment programme. A decisive role was also played by the achievement of a primary surplus of 0.8% of GDP in 2013, above the initial forecast.
Among encouraging signs from the real economy it cited the considerable easing of the recession since 2013, with a forecast of GDP growth by about 0.5% if this trend continued to the end of 2014; signs that consumption, the most important component of GDP, is bottoming out; the expectation that there will be a positive contribution to growth from the external balance, driven by buoyant tourism receipts and upward trending shipping receipts; signs of a tentative recovery by industrial production, along with optimistic outlooks for the months ahead; and encouraging indications in employment, which is showing signs of recovery - which, it said, remains exceptionally high and is expected to fall only gradually.
Recent developments in the Greek economy support the forecast of a gradual return to positive growth in 2014, BoG said, but warned that recovery hinges upon a reversal of the decline in investment and a faster growth of exports.
BoG said however that there was no elimination of uncertainties and risk which could delay or reverse the course toward discovery. It recommended, among other things, an overhaul of the public sector; continued fiscal adjustment over the coming years; and reorienting the production model to ensure rapid and sustainable growth in the long term.
(The full text of the report is available in English from the BoG site.)
 Reform effort must continue, Bank of Greece reportOutgoing governor of the Bank of Greece on Thursday sent a clear warning over continuing reform efforts as there are still risks to the economic recovery.
In its last report on monetary policy, submitted to Parliament, George Provopoulos said an improving course of the Greek economy, which allowed the country to return to international capital markets, was not self-evident. For 2015, the Bank of Greece expects that the country's GDP would rise by around 0.5 pct, however, it warned that any change in policy could lead to a new exclusion from markets and return of the country to a period of economic instability. "This danger should not be underestimated, as the return of the country to international markets reflected mainly the fact that markets discounted the continuation of fiscal and reform effort," Provopoulos said in the report.
The central bank noted that a restructuring of the economy and reforms should continue with greater determination in all sectors, while economic policy must now convince that there was no complacency or backtracking, but it was ready to go all the way, creating a dynamic and outgoing economy.
Commenting on the country's banking system, Provopoulos noted it was necessary to have a more efficient management of non-performing loans and that the system has an obligation to contribute to the restructuring of the economy.
 Greece a top tourist destination in 2014, Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises head tells ANA-MPAGreece is among the top tourist destinations, the head of Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) Andreas Andreadis told ANA-MPA, in relation to SETE's recent positive statements on the tourism sector's performance and the press releases over the prime minister's interventions for hotel prices.
Andreadis pointed out that based on SETE data, during the first five months of the year "there has been an impressive 20 percent increase in airport arrivals in Greece, that is 500,000 more visitors while arrivals in Athens increased by 30 percent."
That confirms, Andreadis said, that SETE's target for 19 million arrivals in Greece - excluding cruise ships - and specifically for 750,000 additional arrivals in Athens can be achieved.
He said it was a positive thing that revenues showed the same upward trend, that is 13 billion euros of direct revenues from tourism, while 50,000 more jobs correspond to each additional one million arrivals.
Regarding the premier's intervention on the need to keep prices competitive and deter incidents of exploitation of tourists, Andreadis refrained from any comment.
He acknowledged that there were individual instances of profiteering, partly due to high demand, which were a cause for concern for SETE and the government.
"We need to safeguard the Greek tourist product from the cases of malpractices. According to the average rates, the official data and the average picture, no significant price changes have been recorded, while their development is normal," he said.
Andreadis pointed out that "tourism is an open and the most democratic sector. We are talking about tens of thousands of businesses, of accomodation that can also be booked online, which leaves no room for special treatment. Therefore we cannot speak of special treatment today, that was the case 20 years ago. It is obvious that supply and demand change prices and under no circumstances can we intervene in this. This is a principle of the economy and this is the case even for air carriers."
Nevertheless, he stressed that "what we do not like and we should be careful of profiteering and exorbitant increases, which do not correspond with the quality of services."
The full interview is available for subscribers on the ANA-MPA website.
 Hoteliers association: Athens still offers cheapest hotel rates among European capitalsAthens was and remains the cheapest capital in Europe, based on benchmarking data, the Athens-Attica and Argosaronic Hotel Association said on Thursday.
It stressed that "the factual increase in tourists coming to Athens, as compared to the corresponding five-month period of 2013, which clearly gives rise to optimism, is due mainly to the fact that our prices are the lowest in Europe, and extremely competitive."
Specifically, the Association said, the first five-month period of 2014 "closed" for Athens with an increase of 25.4 percent in full capacity and a 2.7 percent rise in the average room price compared to 2013, something it said that "signals a rise for the year in its entirety as well, given that we have the peak months ahead of us," referring to the summer season.
The prices of Athens hotels are a great deal lower - by 24.9 percent - than the prices of 2008, which was the most recent good year for Athens hotels, it said.
 3rd Greek Investment Forum concludes in New York CityThe 3rd Greek Investment Forum (GRforGRowth) was held in New York by the Athens Stock Exchange (ATHEX) in cooperation with the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) on Thursday, with conferences and presentations regarding Greek economy, reforms concerning the improvement of entrepreneurial conditions and investment opportunities in Greece.
Both the GRforGRowth on June 11 and the ATHEX Roadshow on June 11 and 12 were held at the Harmonie Club in Manhattan.
Hellenic Bank Association chairman George Zanias in his presentation referred to Greek economy's positive trajectory and outlooks while he stressed that after the Greek banks' recapitalisation the banking system is enhanced, stabilised and more capitalised compared to other European credit institutions.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at the U.S. Department of Commerce underlined the close cooperation between the USA and Greece on the investments framework and the creation of an entrepreneurial climate which will attract major American investments in Greece.
This year, there are approximately 600 meetings organised between U.S. funds representatives and the heads of Greek companies, with 120 investment houses analysts representing 75 of the most important firms.
ATHEX CEO Socrates Lazaridis and AmCham president Simos Anastasopoulos were among the key speakers at the Forum.
Greek companies which participated in the 3rd Greek Investment Forum include Aegean Airlines, Alpha Bank, Attica Bank, the National Bank of Greece, Ellaktor, Eurobank, Eurobank Properties, Folli Follie, GEK, Terna, Hellenic Exchange, Hellenic Petroleum, Intralot, MIG, METKA, Motor Oil, Mytilinaios, OPAP, Piraeus Bank, Thrace Plastics, Plaisio, Sarantis, Terna Energeiaki, Titan, Corinth Pipeworks and Lamda Development.
 EC and EIB launch in Athens instruments and services to facilitate access to financeThe European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group (EIB and EIF) launched on Thursday a new generation of EU financial instruments and advisory services which facilitate access to finance by innovative firms.
The launch took place at the two-day conference "Growth Enhancing Access to Finance for Research and Innovation" organised in Athens by the current Greek Presidency of the EU, which brought together organisations offering or improving access to finance.
Showing their commitment to help Greece recover from the financial and economic crisis, representatives of the European Commission, the EIB Group, the World Bank, UNEP, the OECD and private and public financial institutions discussed how to use debt and equity finance to encourage more investment in research and innovation and hence stimulate growth, create jobs and improve competitiveness. An awareness-raising session organised by the EIB and the EIF informed Greek banks about the opportunities that will be offered by this new generation of EU financial instruments with the aim of closing the financing gap for innovative enterprises in Greece and throughout the EU.
Commenting on the launch event, Greek Secretary for Research, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Christos Vassilakos, representing the Greek EU Presidency, said: "Research, innovation, science and education will be the cornerstones of our new growth policies, and it is important that both our financial institutions and our innovative entrepreneurs are made aware of the great opportunities that the EU offers in the domain of access to risk finance.".
Over the next seven years, it is expected that the "InnovFin - EU Finance for Innovators" products will make available more than 24 billion euros of financing for research and innovation (R&I) by small, medium and large companies and the promoters of research infrastructures. This finance is expected to support up to 48 billion euros worth of final R&I investments.
"InnovFin - EU Finance for Innovators" will consist of a range of tailored products - from guarantees for financial intermediaries to direct loans to enterprises as well as advisory services - to support the smallest to the largest R&I projects in the EU and countries associated to Horizon 2020, the new EU research programme for 2014-20. InnovFin builds on the success of the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility developed under the seventh EU framework programme for research and technological development (FP7), which financed 114 R&I projects to the tune of 11.3 billion euros and in addition provided loan guarantees worth over 1.4 billion euros.
Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President responsible inter alia for innovation, stated: "Europe today needs sustainable economic growth to maintain living standards, secure welfare and jobs. Investment in innovation is key to this end.". On behalf of the Greek government and the people, I would like to pay tribute to the experts on innovation finance that were here over the past two days and showed that their commitment to get Greece back on its feet is real and tangible, and offers genuine prospects on a better future for Greece and the EU.".
 Greek unemployment rate at 27.8 pct in Q1Greek unemployment rate rose to 27.8 pct of the workforce in the first quarter of 2014, from 27.6 pct in the same period last year and unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2013, with the number of unemployed people totalling 1,342,299, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that 71.4 pct of unemployed people (958,401) were long-term unemployed. The statistics service noted that the first quarter unemployment figures were based on the 2011 census and were not fully comparable with previous quarters.
The number of unemployed people was up 0.4 pct compared with the previous quarter and by 0.5 pct compared with the same period in 2013. The number of employed people totalled 3,483,716, up 0.1 pct compared with the previous quarter and down 0.6 pct compared with the first quarter in 2013.
The unemployment rate among women was 31.4 pct (31.1 pct in 2013), while among men the unemployment rate was 25 pct (24.9 pct in 2013). The 15-24 age group recorded the highest unemployment rate (56.7 pct from 60 pct last year), followed by the 25-29 age group (42.4 pct from 41.1 pct), the 30-34 age group (26.7 pct from 26.1 pct), the 45-64 age group (20.3 pct from 19.6 pct) and the above 65 age group (12.6 pct from 7.4 pct).
South Aegean (30 pct this year from 24.9 pct in 2013) recorded the highest unemployment rate among the country's regions, followed by Central Macedonia (29 pct), Western Greece (29.7 pct), Epirus (28.5 pct), Western Macedonia (28.4 pct), Attica (28 pct), Ionian Islands (27.4 pct), Central Greece (27.6 pct), Crete (26.9 pct), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (25.4 pct), Thessaly (25.2 pct), North Aegean (24.4 pct) and the Peloponese (23.4 pct).
Part-time labor accounted for 9.2 pct of total employment, while 63.3 pct of workers were wage earners.
 TrainOSE announces financial results for 2013TrainOSE S.A. showed after-tax earnings of 1.95 million euros, a significant increase compared to 2012 (272.8 thousand euros), in its annual results for 2013 released on Thursday.
Specifically, the Hellenic Railways (OSE) operational branch's turnover reached 75.7 million euros, down 8.8 pct compared to 2012 (82.9 million), while EBITDA reached 3.7 million euros, down 19.8 pct compared to 2012 (4.6 million euros).
TrainOSE also announced that the 12 pct decrease in operating costs reflects the rationalisation of its operational cost.
The company's liabilities increased to 882,5 million euros while the respective amount in 2012 was 861 million euros, relating to vendors and related obligations.
As far as the current year is concerned TrainOSE stressed that its target is to increase its profitability, and further improve its financial results and earnings by adopting policies which will increase its market share in the transportation sector, both in passenger and cargo terms.
 Greek banks drastically cut borrowing from ELAGreek banks almost but zeroed their dependence from the Bank of Greece' s Emergency Lending Assistance mechanism in May, with their borrowing from the mechanism falling to 3.6 million euros, from 3.1 billion euros in April, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a report, said that Greek banks also cut their borrowing from European Central Bank's liquidity mechanisms to 50.6 billion euros in May from 58.83 billion in April. This cut in dependence of Greek credit institutions from ELA leads to a significant reduction in the cost of raising capital, as ELA's liquidity interest rates were very high. This development will help banks to lower their lending interest rates to enterprises and households.
 Hellenic Petroleum blacks out after power failure at central PPC stationOperation was temporarily suspended at the Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) refinery in Aspropyrgos, on Thursday, following a power failure at the central station of the Public Power Corporation.
The power blackout took place shortly after 14:00, an ELPE announcement said, and occurred under conditions of absolute safety, except for a brief hydrocarbon combustion at the refinery's chimneys, which is part of the operation processes ensuring safety.
ELPE apologised to residents of the area, a suburb west of Athens, for the noise and anxiety the shutdown created, and said the refinery was gradually being brought into operation again.
 Labour Minister Vroutsis announces inspections against undeclared labour in tourism regionsLabour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Thursday chaired a meeting attended by representatives of social insurance funds that focused on the coordination of the ministry's inspection mechanisms, in the context of efforts aimed at combating uninsured and undeclared labour during the summer season.
Addressing the meeting, attended by deputy minister Vassilis Kegeroglou, ministry general secretary Anna Stratinaki, labour inspection body SEPE special secretary Kostas Pantazis and IKA-ETAM social insurance fund special inspections agency EYPEA director Stavroula Vrahioti, the labour minister called on them to join forces to combat labour market violations, including employment of undocumented foreigners.
Targeted inspections will be carried out in the period from June 13 until October 10, 2014. Vroutsis underlined that as of Friday inspections will be conducted in tourism regions nationwide, noting that no violation will be tolerated.
Referring to the steady reduction of undeclared labour being recorded, Vroutsis said that it is the result of a balanced mix of incentives and counter-incentives by the labour ministry.
He also said that the sweeping inspections carried out in 12,792 businesses from mid September 2013 until April 30, 2014 revealed 1,507 undeclared labour violations and that the fines imposed amounted to roughly 15.6 million euros.
 HFSF posts a 3.70 bln euros revaluation loss from its shareholdings in the 4 systemic banksThe Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) announced on Thursday that its loss from financial instruments at fair value - through profit or loss - amounted to 5.98 bln euros, due to a 3.70 bln euros revaluation loss from the Fund's shareholdings in the four systemic banks and a 2.28 bln euros revaluation loss from its warrants.
According to the Fund's annual financial report for 2013 which was published on Thursday, the four systemic banks completed their share capital increases during May and June 2013, with the Fund's contribution being smaller than forecast, due to a larger participation of the private sector in new stock issuance.
HFSF's interest income for 2013 decreased to 167.60 mln euros - from 232.30 mln euros for 2012 - due to the decrease of the amount of EFSF FRNs held by the Fund and the decrease in the EFSF FRN's base rate (6M Euribor). The Fund's commission income came down to 110.70 mln euros, as opposed to 665.80 mln euros for 2012, "mainly due to the one-off presubscription fee of 555.60 mln euros paid by the banks in December 2012 for their capital advance".
As of end-2013, the Fund's portfolio consisted of shares in the four systemic banks, whose fair value stood at 22.58 bln euros.
 Greek steelworks Hellenic Halyvourgia posts 33.6-mln-euro losses, sheds staffGreece's second-largest steelworks, Hellenic Halyvourgia, on Thursday announced that it was shedding more than half its remaining workforce, with management saying it was a "day of grief and rage" over the unsuccessful outcome of efforts to keep its Aspropyrgos plant up and running.
"Grief because we are losing excellent and well-loved colleagues of many years and rage because we were led to this state, which could have been avoided by taking measures whose equivalents are implemented in all European countries," a company announcement said.
The company posted losses of 33.6 million euros in 2013, about 4.4 million euros less than in 2012, and on Wednesday received permission from the Supreme Labour Council to proceed with mass dismissals of staff. It blamed its dire financial straits on the collapse of the domestic construction sector due to high taxes and high energy costs that acted as an obstacle to exports, saying it was forced to fire 45 of the 74 workers that still remained in its employ, from a workforce of 450 before the crisis in Greece began.
"For the last two years, 10 million euros were spent on staff salaries for the shut-down Aspropyrgos plant waiting for the much-touted measures to improve energy cost (interruptibility, offsetting of pollution costs, reduction of special taxes etc) to the levels of competitor countries in the European Union," the company added, saying its goal remained to put the plant back into operation and hire staff once again.
Workers from the steelworkers union on Thursday gathered outside the labour ministry to protest over the mass lay offs at Hellenic Halyvourgia and a delegation met with Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis.
 Supreme Labour Council approves layoffs in Hellenic HalyvourgiaThe Supreme Labour Council approved by majority the firing of 45 of the 74 employees of Hellenic Halyvourgia.
According to ANA-MPA sources, the company cited the increased cost of energy claiming that if the firings were not approved, the plant in Volos would shut down. It is the first time a decision about mass layoffs is taken after the transfer of the relevant jurisdiction of the Labour Minister to the Secretary General of the ministry and the Supreme Labour Council.
Several units of Hellenic Halyvourgia Aspropyrgos have already shut down.
 Record number of visitors at 'Posidonia' maritime exhibitionThis year's "Posidonia" international maritime exhibition held at the Metropolitan Expo centre at the "Eleftherios Venizelos" airport, from June 2 to 6, had a record number of visitors.
According to the exhibition's organisers, 19,421 visitors toured the exhibition centre's four halls during the week of the "Posidonia", a 10 percent increase compared to the event held in 2012.
Visitors from 96 countries came to meet and conclude trade agreements with the members of the Greek maritime community, as well as with representatives of 1,843 exhibitors from a total of 93 countries.
The organisers said they expected that the next "Posidonia", scheduled to take place June 6-10, 2016 at the same exhibition centre, would be equally successful and productive.
 Natural gas consumption decreased partly due to electric energy market reforms, RAE vice chairman saysNatural gas consumption in Greece has fallen by 30 percent partly due to the recent (2014) reforms in electric energy market, the vice chairman of the Regulatory Authority for Energy Michael Thomadakis said during the 8th Energy Dialogue, which is organized by the Institute of Energy for South-East Europe (IENE) in Thessaloniki.
He also presented the exact timetable of the changes planned in the retail natural gas market. It is estimated that as of October 2014 regional Natural Gas Supply Companies will no longer operate in their current form, while until the end of 2015 the virtual trading point is expected to have been launched.
He also referred to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and recalled that the gas transport agreements are expected to be signed by the end of the summer, while market tests results will be available within the third quarter of the year.
He added that people tend to overlook the fact that apart from transferring gas to Europe, TAP can work both ways and allow Turkey to directly import gas from Italy, which will probably lead to new balances and correlations as far as the TANAP (Trans-Anatolian) pipeline operation is concerned.
Regarding the Greece-Bulgaria interconnector pipeline (IGB), he underlined its importance as it is the first time in decades that such a pipeline is constructed in the Balkans.
The head of the technical division of natural gas company DEPA Georgios Kostopoulos said that the final investment decision on IGB is estimated to have been issued before the end of 2014, so that gas can start flowing in 2016.
 Greece records second biggest decline in real estate prices in Q4Greece recorded the second biggest decline in real estate prices in the world in the fourth quarter of 2013, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.
The IMF, in a report, said that the biggest decline in the world was recorded in India (-9.1 pct), followed by Greece (-7.02 pct), Italy (-6.54 pct), Cyprus (-6.48 pct) and Croatia (-6.35 pct).
On the other hand, the Philippines (10.56 pct), Hong Kong (10.25 pct), New Zealand (9.1 pct), China (9.1 pct) and Colombia (8.1 pct) recorded the biggest price increases in the fourth quarter of 2013.
The report said that house prices diverged by 16.3 pct compared with rental prices in Greece and compared with the historic average rate.
 Alpha Bank successfully issues 500 mln euros bond, oversubscribed at 2 bln eurosAlpha Bank successfully issued on Thursday a 500 million euros senior unsecured bond, with a three-year maturity and 3.5% yield to maturity. Within a few hours, the book-building process oversubscribed the issue by four times, with robust demand totaling 2 billion euros.
According to an Alpha Bank announcement, the great appeal of the bond offering to the international investors' community was confirmed by "the high participation by institutional investors coming from 15 countries", whose heightened interest was already evident in a roadshow the bank conducted in London, Paris and Milan prior to Thursday's transaction.
Citi, HSBC, JP Morgan and Mediobanca acted as joint Book runners of the transaction.
 Greek companies' loan cost more than double compared to the EU average, ACCI head saysThe cost for loans up to 250,000 euros is two percentage points higher than the EU average, for amounts up to 1 million euros the cost is almost double and for loans over 1 million euros it is more than double compared to the EU average, Konstantinos Michalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said on Thursday.
Michalos pointed out that liquidity has relatively stabilised, but the situation remains negative. "Bold measures are needed, both on a country level - to strengthen the existing financing instruments - and on a eurozone one," he stressed.
He also said that forecast for positive growth in 2014 seem quite optimistic under the current circumstances. "However, having already achieved stabilization, we expect the critical step for the exit from recession to be taken," he said adding that 2014 should finally be the year that the Greek economy will stop shrinking.
 Visitors, revenues in museums and archaeological sites up in Jan-Feb 2014Visitors to Greek museums in February 2014 increased by 13.1 percent, and revenues from entrance tickets rose by 11.9 pct compared to the same month last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.
It also said that for January-February 2014, there were 12.5 pct more visitors to museums and revenues rose by 11.2 pct, compared to the same period last year.
In terms of archaeological sites, ELSTAT said, the number of visitors rose by 32.1 pct in February while revenues increased by 30.4 pct in comparison with the same month last year.
In the period January-February 2014, the number of visitors in archaeological sites rose by 30.7 pct and revenues increased by 24.3 pct.
 High hotel room rates do not reflect reality, Cephalonia Hoteliers Association head saysHigh prices at some hotels, which are posted on online search engines, constitute a virtual reality, the head of Cephalonia Hoteliers Association and member of Greece's Chamber of Hotels Spyros Galiatsatos told ANA-MPA.
Galiatsatos pointed out those prices do not reflect the reality that the sector is experiencing. He said that hotel prices are not increasing, although they should consider the deep cuts that were implemented in the previous years as well as their high taxation rates.
While explaining why some websites offer exorbitant prices, Galiatsatos pointed out this was a distortion of reality and no bookings were made at such prices. He said this practice prevented customers from booking their accomodation, as the specific room has already been sold by the hotel owner. There are cases, he added, where a hotel offers a double room at the price of 80 euros, while a website gives a three or even four-fold rate.
Dimitris Pollalis, head of the Lakonia hotel association and member of the Panhellenic Hoteliers Federation, told ANA-MPA that it was unacceptable for the country's top tourist destination to determine hotel prices across the country. Pollalis noted that prices had not gone up in other tourist destinations of the country; on the contrary prices have gone down as these destinations count on Greek tourists.
The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) pointed out that excluding specific cases, the increase of the average room rate remains marginal despite the impressive demand, which is evident in the Hellenic Statistics Authority official data.
Giorgos Telonis, former head of Hellenic Association of Travel & Tourist Agencies (HATTA), told ANA-MPA that there have been cases of increases in hotel room rates and spoke of a development which could have consequences the following year, as big tour operators may look for lower prices and less expensive destinations.
 Draft merger agreement of ELVAL and ETEM officially registeredIn the context of the merger underway between "ELVAL S.A.- Hellenic Aluminium Industry" and "ETEM S.A.- Light Metals Company" through absorption of the latter by the former, the Draft Merger Agreement dated 22nd of May, 2014 was entered on Thursday in the Companies' Register of the Ministry of Development.
Following the share capital increase of ELVAL, the shareholders of ETEM (with the exception of ELVAL) will receive one ELVAL share for each six shares they have. The new share capital will amount to 40,179,923.84 euros divided into 125,562,262 shares with a nominal value of 0.32 euros per share.
 PNO trade union strongly objects to individual work contracts for seamenA document addressed on Thursday to the Union of Greek Shipowners by Shipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis prompted the strong reaction of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO).
The document, which PNO said it came to its attention accidentally when a shipping company asked for clarifications as regards individual work contracts, notes that since the collective work agreement for crew members of cargo ships weighing over 4,500 dtw has expired, the terms of their employment can be renegotiated on an individual basis and individual work contracts can be signed.
PNO accused Varvitsiotis of adopting a stance openly in favour of the shipowners and called for the immediate retraction of the relevant document, warning that such behaviors will not remain unanswered by the Greek seamen.
 Greek stocks end flat on ThursdayGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, after moving in tight ranges during the session. The composite index of the market eased 0.01 pct to end at 1,307.08 points, off the day's lows of 1,295.42 points. Turnover fell significantly to 137.02 million euros.
The Large Cap index rose 0.01 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.56 pct higher. MIG (5.64 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (4.74 pct), OPAP (2.49 pct), Intralot (2.44 pct) and OTE (1.75 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks while Titan (3.75 pct), Eurobank (2.73 pct), Alpha Bank (1.76 pct) and Eurobank Properties (1.18 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Travel (2.27 pct), Oil (2.08 pct) and Chemicals (1.78 pct) sectors were top gainers while Construction (2.08 pct), Banks (1.06 pct) and Utilities (0.30 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 72 to 53, with another 24 issues unchanged. Motodynamic (20.06 pct), Varvaresos (20 pct) and Perseus (19.92 pct) were top gainers, while Euroconsultants (11.36 pct), G.E.Demetriou (9.52 pct) and Galaxidi (8.23 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +1.64%
Industrial Products: +0.39%
Real Estate: -0.26%
Personal & Household: +0.56%
Food & Beverages: +1.41%
Raw Materials: +0.17%
Travel & Leisure: +2.27%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.72
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.94
Coca Cola HBC: 17.50
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.19
National Bank of Greece: 2.80
Eurobank Properties : 9.24
Piraeus Bank: 1.78
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose to 4.35 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 4.19 pct on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 5.73 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.38 pct. Turnover was a modest 33 million euros, of which 12 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 21 million euros were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.511 pct from 0.525 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.419 pct from 0.433 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.33 pct from 0.348 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.242 pct from 0.258 pct and the one-month rate eased to 0.156 pct from 0.179 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.41 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover falling to 39.38 million euros. Volume on the Large Cap index totaled 11,311 contracts worth 23.824 million euros, with 63,929 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 39,348 contracts worth 15.563 million euros, with investment interest focusing on GEK Terna's contracts (16,349), followed by Alpha Bank (3,561), National Bank (3,109), Piraeus Bank (1,931), Eurobank (1,726), MIG (3,921), OTE (1,369), PPC (936), OPAP (446), Coca Cola HBC (316), Hellenic Exchanges (112), Titan (178), Mytilineos (535), Hellenic Petroleum (1,512), Sidenor (239), Ellaktor (212), Intralot (227), Frigoglass (212), Piraeus Port Authority (127), Korinth Pipeworks (153) and Terna Energy (1,819).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.352
Pound sterling 0.803
Danish kroner 7.460
Swedish kroner 9.063
Japanese yen 138.12
Swiss franc 1.217
Norwegian kroner 8.108
Canadian dollar 1.469
Australian dollar 1.438
 Clashes between laid-off cleaners and police outside Finance ministryThe Supreme Court's verdict suspending a Council of State decision regarding the rehiring of cleaners fired by the Finance ministry triggered clashes on Thursday between protesters and the police outside the Finance ministry, in downtown Athens, where the laid-off cleaners had gathered to protest the ministry's refusal to rehire them.
During the incidents two cleaning ladies were injured, one of whom was hospitalised, along with one photographer covering the story.
Earlier in the day a delegation of five main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputies was received by Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis to discuss the issue. SYRIZA deputies said after the meeting that the minister stressed that he has not been briefed regarding the case and asked for a few days in order to meet with a cleaners' delegation.
The SYRIZA deputies told Hardouvelis that the issue demanded a political decision rather than an appeal to justice, while they stressed that the riot police "used more violence than necessary" and requested that they be withdrawn. Main opposition deputy Thanasis Petrakos reported that he was hit by policemen despite the fact that he showed them his parliamentary identification.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in an announcement criticised the Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) decision for suspending the original verdict in their favour and called on the employees to fight in order to "overturn the government's and the EU's anti-working class policies and guarantee the right to permanent and dignified work for all unemployed and laid-off persons."
 Shipping minister congratulates tanker crew for rescuing 163 shipwrecked migrants off MaltaShipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Thursday congratulated the officers and crew of the Greek-owned tanker "Arion" - operated by the company Capital Ship Management Corp - on their rescue 163 migrants that were in danger. The migrants were sailing in two small inflatable craft in Mediterranean waters south of Malta.
"Your actions in mobilising immediately and rushing to the scene to save 163 human lives from the sea is an exceptional act of solidarity and a high sense of duty. It proves in practice the ideals that permeate Greek seamanship and reaffirm the reasons why it is at the top of world shipping," Varvitsiotis said in a letter.
 Coast guard officers arrest 39 migrants on HiosThe coast guard on the Aegean island of Hios on Thursday announced the arrest of 39 migrants that entered Greece without legal permission, in the Kardamyla area on the island.
The migrants were transported to the island's main town on a Hellenic Police bus and taken to the general hospital for precautionary medical examinations.
 Two individuals arrested for owing nearly 3.8 mln euros to the stateTwo unrelated people were arrested in the Thessaloniki prefecture, northern Greece, on Thursday for owing a total of nearly 3.8 million euros to the state.
They are a 44-year-old former company representative, active in sports associations services, who owes 2,065,715 euros (for the period 2009-2013) and a 48-year-old former company managing director, in technology equipment maintenance and repair, who owes 1,718,694 euros (for 2012-2014).
They will be led before a prosecutor.
 Gov't allocates 5 mln euros for tackling catarrhal fever in PeloponneseThe government has allocated five million euros to tackle catarrhal fever (or bluetongue disease) in sheep flocks in Laconia, Arcadia and Messinia prefectures of southern Greece, regional governor Petros Tatoulis announced during a wide-level meeting at the Peloponnese Region headquarters in Tripoli on Thursday.
Tatoulis chaired the meeting that was attended by local officials and representatives of veterinary and public health services, as well as cattle breeders and meat processors from all of the region's prefectures.
The viral disease is insect-borne and non-contagious, and it mostly affects sheep, a staple of the local economy.
 Trial of shooting of immigrant strawberry pickers in Manolada to reconvene TuesdayThe trial of four alleged perpetrators of an infamous armed assault in April 2013 against strawberry-picking immigrants at Nea Manolada, northwestern Peloponnese, will reconvene next Tuesday in a Patras court.
An immigrant land laborer was the first witness to take the stand on Thursday, testifying inter alia that during a protest of immigrant workers demanding their accumulated wages, two of the supervisors fired shots in the air, while a third one shot "a straight shot". The same witness also made a reference to the dire work and living conditions of his fellow immigrant land laborers.
During Thursday's hearing, dozens of people staged a demonstration outside the court bulding, in support of immigrant land laborers.
 Large quantity of contraband cigarettes seized off PeloponneseThe Coast Guard seized a large quantity of contraband cigarettes found on a boat sailing 5 nautical miles off the coasts of Peloponnese, southern Greece, it was announced on Thursday.
Acting on information provided by an aircraft of the Icelandic Coast Guard participating in the "Poseidon-Sea Borders 2014" exercise, the Greek Coast Guard located the suspicious six-crew boat and found roughly 543,400 packs of contraband cigarettes stashed in its holds.
The contraband cigarettes corresponded to roughly 1.7 million euros in unpaid tariffs and taxes.
The boat was confiscated and its crew will appear before a prosecutor on the Ionian Sea island of Zakynthos.
 Overcast on FridayFair weather and northeasterly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 17C-32C. Mostly fair in the central parts and in the south, 16C-33C. Sunny over the islands, 19C-30C. Fair in Athens, 19C-32C. Scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 19C-31C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Signing became a habit (for the government)!
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Bullying and obeisance.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: They (Justice Ministry) 'exonerate the embezzlers of state money.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Government to cut in half the solidarity contribution.
ESTIA: Tsipras national faux pas.
ETHNOS: Three burning files on labour reserve and evaluation in public sector.
IMERISSIA: Long 'lines' and delays at the TAXIS (Finance Ministry's online tax report submission system)
KATHIMERINI: Disagreement over the new wave of university administration staff layoffs.
LOGOS: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras: And now growth at full speed.
NAFTEMPORIKI: 'Investments diplomacy' aimed at foreign capitals.
RIZOSPASTIS: Government must now finance social structures.
TA NEA: The huge breakout - How much money have been taken away and how much money came back to the country.
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