|Sunday, 21 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-06-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 20 June 2014 Issue No: 4687
 PM Samaras says Greece can become China's gateway to EuropeEurope realises that Greece is a natural link with China, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (L) said on Thursday in joint statements to the press made following a meeting with visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang (R) at Maximos Mansion, government headquarters.
The Chinese premier is on a three-day visit to Greece, during which a total of 19 cooperation agreements with China worth 6.5 billion US dollars will be signed in the sectors of tourism, shipping, infrastructure, transportation and agriculture. Samaras further stressed that what creates the strategic relation between the two countries is that "Greece can become China's entry gateway to Europe, which can also serve as a starting point of an entire investments corridor for China, like the railway networks, linking the ports of Greece with the ports of Europe."
The fact that a systematic dialogue has begun between the two most ancient cultures that determined the development of the world means that there can be a greater understanding between Europe and China, Samaras also said, adding that the cooperation between the two "is related to the alliances that can be shaped, despite the difference in size between the two countries, which must also develop at speedier rates."
The Greek prime minister thanked his Chinese counterpart because, as he said, "he kept his word and a year later he is in Athens". Moreover, "because today we are securing a relation of friendship, stability and mutual respect, something that I consider very important and that the rest must realise very well", Samaras said.
On his part, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, "It is my first visit to the southern regions, as prime minister of China. I feel comfortable in Greece, at at my home. Greece and China are ancient countries with a great culture - one shines in the East and the other in the West, with a great contribution to the development of mankind. There are many similar mentalities between Greece and China."
The Chinese premier thanked the Greek government for helping repatriate thousands of Chinese citizens during the unrest in Libya. "When Greece faced the crisis, China had confidence in the country's ability to overcome it," he said, adding, "Moreover, China is willing to help, and relations can be mutually beneficial. We are old friends with Mr. Samaras. We had a long and sincere discussion in his visit last year. We want to implement the agreements with the ministers now which we have reached. Mr. Samaras' address is also mine because we have many points in common."
Replying to questions, Li Keqiang said "global economic recovery is facing challenges and obstacles. I agree with Mr. Samaras that we can promote the port of Piraeus to a hub that will be important for economic development. The Chinese economy has pressure this year, but it is continuing to develop with steady rates. In the first three months it had a growth of 7.4 percent compared to a target of 7.5 percent. The common target is for us to coordinate the economic development rate around 7.5 percent and create 10 million new jobs. We place importance on structural reforms, in order to grow the Chinese economy with steady rates".
The visiting premier expressed his congratulations to his Greek counterpart publicly for Greece's return to the international markets with the issuing of bonds, in May, with a low interest rate and expressed satisfaction over reforms in the country.
"The successful issuing of the bonds declares that the Greek people can overcome the public debt crisis. The Chinese government supports the Greek government and wishes that the Greek government will continue the reforms", he said and added that "when Greece will issue new bonds China will participate, encouraging, in parallel, Chinese consumers to buy Greek products".
 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Athens, met by PM SamarasPrime Minister Antonis Samaras met visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as he stepped off his plane at Athens International Airport on Thursday, accompanied by his spouse. China's prime minister is carrying out a three-day official visit to Greece, which started with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Greek Parliament.
 Greece, China to sign three shipping agreements during Keqiang's visit to AthensChina's Prime Minister Li Keqiang arrived in Athens on Thursday for a three-day visit during which the two countries are expected to reaffirm their commitment to boosting bilateral trade ties with several agreements expected to be signed.
Three cooperation agreements regarding the financing of small and medium sized enterprises operating in China by the China Development Bank, maritime protection and the offer of services by the China Classification Society to Greek-flagged ships will be signed by Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and members of the Chinese delegation headed by Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
The Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation between the State Oceanic Administration of China (SOA ) and the Greek government that will be materialised via the cooperation of scientific institutes, seminars and exchange of information and visits, refers to the cooperation of the two sides in the sectors of maritime environmental protection, development of the sea resources, sea observation, forecast and warning of natural disasters as well as in the research, development and training on marine scientific issues.
Moreover, the China Classification Society's authorisation agreement on the offering of services to Greek-flagged vessels will further boost the current, stable and multilateral institutional framework of the bilateral cooperation as well as the service of the Greek vessels that are built in China or dock at Chinese ports.
The third agreement refers to the strengthening of cooperation with the China Development Bank which will offer a substantial financial assistance to small and medium sized enterprises active in China.
According to Clarkson Research Services data, the overall strategy of domestic and international investments, exports and high industrial production that China follows increases the demand for shipping services.
Shipping Ministry's sources say that Greece has a special interest in maintaining the close shipping relations with China that will allow the free and unobstructed access of the Greek ships to cargo traffic to and from China.
Clarkson Research Services say that the Chinese policy in the shipping sector aims to gain a higher share of the market something that is also supported by the large number of vessels constructed in Chinese shipyards as well as the general policy in shipping as an additional 'vehicle' towards the preservation and increase of the country's development rates.
Moreover, the shipping sector is one of the most important channels of foreign capital inflow to the country and one of the sectors that support the employment.
In 2013, China held the first place in the world production with the Greek ship owners being second in the Chinese shipyards clientele (after the Chinese). The Greek shipping companies placed orders for 141 vessels with Chinese shipyards, with 6,869,373 gt total capacity and 5.02 mln tonnes compensated gross tonnes (CGT) which indicates China's interest to keep and increase its privileged relation with the Greek shipping.
On Friday at 09.00, the Chinese premier accompanied by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will visit Piraeus port containers terminal (Cosco's subsidiary) at Neo Ikonio.
 Gov't VP and Foreign minister receives Chinese counterpartGreece deeply appreciates China's role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said during his meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the Foreign ministry on Thursday.
"We believe that China's role in the settlement of all the pending international issues is decisive," Venizelos said and thanked Wang for China's stance on the Cyprus issue and other critical national issues, while referring to the Greek EU presidency he stressed that "we fully perceive China's sensitivities on issues of foreign policy."
On his part Wang thanked Venizelos for his warm reception and expressed his satisfaction regarding the meeting in the framework of the Chinese prime minister's three-day visit to Greece, beginning Thursday. The Chinese minister referred to Venizelos' contribution to bilateral relations while he stressed the overall strategic partnership between China and Greece.
"We consider Greece to be our most trusted friend and partner in the European Union," Wang said and underlined that "the visit of our new Premier, Li Keqiang, will play a guiding, decisive role in our future cooperation."
Wang invited Venizelos to visit China, an invitation that was immediatelly accepted by the Greek Foreign minister.
 Chinese premier visits Greek ParliamentChina will encourage Chinese companies to invest in Greece, as an investment in this country constitutes an investment in the future, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during a visit to the Greek Parliament on Thursday.
Welcoming the premier, who is on a three-day visit to Athens beginning Thursday, Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis said that Greece contains highly skilled and trained individuals who can be productive and useful in investments. Meimarakis presented the visiting premier with the gold medal of the Greek Parliament to mark the friendship between the two countries.
 Shipping minister receives Chinese delegations from ocean state admin., development bankShipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Thursday received delegations of China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) and China's Development Bank Corporation, led by their respective heads Liu Cigui and Zheng Zhijie, in the framework of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's three-day visit in Greece that began on Thursday.
In both the successive meetings, talks focused on the agreements that Varvitsiotis will sign later in the day in Zappeion Megaron and specifically the Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation between the SOA and the Greek government and the cooperation enhancement with the Chinese Development Bank.
Varvitsiotis, during his first meeting, proposed that the Cooperation Committee foreseen in the agreement with SOA convenes in Piraeus in September, which Cigui agreed with, while the minister also invited the SOA to participate in the European Maritime Day 2015 at the main port. Cigui invited Greece to participate in China's National Maritime Day, celebrated every year on June 8.
In the meeting with China's Development Bank, both sides agreed to expand their cooperation and the Chinese institution's presence in Greece, with the opening of a branch in Piraeus, while Zheng briefed Varvitsiotis on a special fund set up by the bank to finance Greek shipping.
 China supports Greece, the head of Hellenic-Chinese Chamber saysThe signing of agreements by the Greek and the Chinese premiers proves China's true feelings of friendship towards Greece and demonstrates the potential for cooperation aimed at the recovery of the Greek economy, the head of Hellenic-Chinese Chamber Constantine Yannidis said on Thursday.
The Chamber welcomed the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang to Athens and expressed content over the signing of strategic agreements between Greek and Chinese companies.
According to a Chamber announcement, China stands by the side of Greece with COSCO having made the first major investment, which constitutes the best promotion of the country. It also attracts more foreign investments to Greece, which was not investment-friendly before the crisis.
The Chamber, being the responsible institution for the cooperation between the two countries, wishes that their cooperation as well as Chinese investments in the country are further expanded.
 Eurogroup: Greek debt relief, if any, must meet three conditionsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Discussion on lowering the Greek debt may begin only if three conditions are met first, Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after the group's meeting ended in Brussels on Thursday.
The three conditions include completing the prior actions, achieving a primary surplus, and assessing that debt relief is necessary. The last issue is not clear yet, he added, while European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro Olli Rehn noted that the decisive factor in assessing the Greek debt's viability is the country's growth index.
Dijsselbloem said that new Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis informed the Eurogroup that the Greek authorities would meet the first six prior actions by the end of June, in order to secure the disbursement of the next loan tranche, worth 1 billion euros. He added that he was reassured by Hardouvelis that the new secretary general of public revenues would be chosen with transparency.
European Stability Mechanism managing director Klaus Regling reiterated that the 2 billion euros would be disbursed to Greece after the prior actions were completed, adding they had not yet been so. The European Financial Stability Facility has disbursed 139.9 billion euros to Greece so far, he said, which left 3.8 billion euros outstanding.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde said it was necessary to establish the amount the Greek banks would need for their recapitalisation. The IMF needs to know which percentage of the 10 billion euros available for the recapitalisation would be needed, in order for the Fund "to complete Greece's financing needs."
The Eurogroup president said on the same issue that the amount should be determined during the troika of Greece's lenders current (fourth) review of Greece's fiscal adjustment programme, in order to allow the fifth review to begin after the end of the summer. "We still have work to do," he commented.
 EU Social Affairs Ministers Council focuses on employment, social policyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis) - Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, concluding the sessions of the EU's Council of Social Affairs Ministers on Thursday, thanked the EU's bodies and member-states for their wonderful cooperation and their support for the Greek Presidency's success in achieving progress and completing its work on important files for the course of the EU's integration.
"We achieved the development of those implements and policies that help us respond to the anxieties and needs, expectations of the European citizens. To the needs for dignified living, for qualitative jobs for all, for opportunities of advancement during life for all of us", he added.
Employment and social policy issues dominated the last EU Council of Social Affairs Ministers during the Greek Presidency that convened in Luxembourg under Vroutsis' chairmanship.
The ministers approved recommendations for each country concerning employment and social cohesion, signalling the successful conclusion of the European Six-Month period in 2014.
 Economic commissioner expresses concern over slowness of Greek reformsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro Olli Rehn expressed his concern over the slow implementation of economic reforms in Greece, in comments made before going into a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
Rehn, who is also vice president of the European Commission, said the issue is on this session's agenda, as the reforms' implementation is the only way the Greek economy will become stable. The economy is currently moving in the right direction, he said, expressing his optimist that Greece would meet its commitments, even if with delays.
Meanwhile, the Greek Finance ministry said in a statement that new Finance Minister Gikas Chardouvelis would attend the Eurogroup meeting.
 IMF welcomes Greece's intention to return to the financial marketsNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) welcomed the Greek government's intention to another return to the financial markets through the issuing of a seven-year-bond, said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice on Thursday, stressing that the "second exit" to the markets is one of the Greek fiscal programme's targets.
"We welcomed Greece's previous return to the markets and we welcome the new plan for a new issue," Rice said during a daily briefing, adding that more time is required "for a full and permanent return." He also underlined that new measures will not be necessary for the current year, while the IMF expects fiscal targets of 2014 will be met.
The mission of the IMF, part of Greece's troika of lenders along with the European Commission and European Central Bank, will visit Greece after the summer in order to review the Greek finacial programme, but the IMF technical staff will visit Athens sooner, Rice said.
 German Finance Minister Schaeuble on Greece's effortsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble expressed his respect and support of Greece's efforts to exit the crisis, in statements he made on Thursday before entering the Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg.
He underlined the significant progress made by Greece in recent years, noting that "we should show respect for the fact that Greece continues to make tough domestic decisions". He also expressed certainty that Greece will move forward if it continues on the path of recent years without wavering.
The German finance minister said that Greece has improved performance in the fiscal sector and in economic growth compared with predictions two years ago when the second programme was launched.
"Greece is getting ready to exit the crisis, the unemployment is dropping and, for the first time, employment is on the rise. Greece is not yet out of the woods but it has achieved a lot and deserves our respect and support in this successful path," he underlined.
 Greek-German Assembly coordinator says the two countries' cooperation is starting to show resultsThe proposal for the Greek-German Assembly "came" from the German side; it was in 2010 when Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed a particular interest in Greek-German cooperation, aiming at setting up a network of regions, municipalities and citizens.
Four Greek-German Assemblies have taken place since then, along with dozens of visits by local administration officials to the two countries as well as several thematic conferences across Greece.
"Nowadays, the conditions need to be reversed so as Greek municipalities and regions can submit proposal for synergies that will cover real needs. The Greek side has to become more activated and more involved in the process and communicate with experts where needs arise," the Greek-German Assembly coordinator for All Greece Christos Lazaridis told ANA-MPA in an interview.
On the cooperation between the two countries, he said "this is not something huge; there are several small things and this has been our target."
"The Greek-German Assembly's priority is to offer services wherever needed. We started off with conferences, we continued with delegations and workshops. Now we are getting even more involved and practical results are starting to show. We established mayors' offices in Greece and in Germany. We are on an open line with mayors in northern and southern Greece," he pointed out.
Commenting on those who have taken a negative stance on the Assembly, Lazaridis said: "We call on them to focus on communicating with us and see what we can jointly accomplish. The Greek-German Assembly is not here to receive but to offer; and it does not offer any money, just services."
Lazaridis cited several examples of the cooperation projects underway, such as the funding request of a sustainability report on the use of liquefied natural gas in passenger shipping filed to the European Union by the Region of Southern Aegean and Assembly experts from Berlin.
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Greece's ambassador to Washington briefs US Congress membersNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/ P. Panagiotou)
Greece's ambassador to Washington Christos Panagopoulos on Wednesday addressed US Congress members at an event organized by the embassy.
Panagopoulos referred to the "progress of the Greek economy" and the "encouraging prospects" as well as Greece's positions on NATO, Eastern Mediterranean, energy security and the results of the Greek EU presidency just before its completion.
On the economic developments, he pointed out that "the economic adjustment programme has already born fruit, putting back the country to the course of a sustainable and balanced growth."
He also referred to the Greek EU presidency's priorities regarding the Union's economic integration and the need to create conditions of economic growth and employment support.
He also underlined Greece's geostrategic role for the transatlantic community and generally the particular alliance relation with the United States in the economic, political and defence sector.
Moreover, he stressed the fact that Greece shares the United States' vision for achieving energy security in Europe.
Panagopoulos also presented the latest developments in Greece's relations with neighbouring countries (Turkey, FYROM) and referred to the "recent activity" in the Cyprus issue, expressing his appreciation for the role and the contribution of the Greek-American community.
 Administrative Reform minister outlines public sector reform agendaAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday referred to the ministry's reform agenda during a conference held as part of the Greek EU presidency with the participation of general managers responsible for public administration in EU member states.
Mitsotakis focused mainly on three key reforms made lately in Greek public administration: The ministries' structural reorganization, with an approximately 40 percent downsizing, new organization charts submitted for approval to the State Council, the simplification of administrative procedures through the cutting down on red tape and enhancement of the role of the Citizens' Service Centres, and the proper use of human resources, citing as an example the bill possibly to be tabled in Parliament on Friday regarding the new hiring method of managers in the public sector.
He also referred to the significant reduction of the wage costs in the public sector since 2010, which is estimated at 35 percent or 8 billion euros. At the same time, public sector employees have been reduced by 250,000 persons.
 Dev.Minister meets with CDB delegationDevelopment Minister Nikos Dendias on Thursday met with a China Development Bank (CDB) delegation.
According to information, the Chinese side expressed its interest to invest in Greek banks.
Furthermore, the CDB delegation discussed with the ministry's leadership the existing prospects for the creation of common investments funds, investments in logistics as well as olive oil and other food exports to China.
 Greece committed to reforms, Dev.Minister saysThe government remains fully committed to the path of reforms, Development and Competitiveness Minister Nikos Dendias said on Thursday after a meeting with EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn.
Dendias underlined that the continuity of reforms is the only way for Greece to exit the crisis.
On his part, Hahn noted: "We need to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), to fund and create a climate for setting up new ones even through clusters," adding that "we can measure the level of Greece's success through the opening of new job positions."
"We should all together try to ensure better absorption of the structural funds in order to achieve better prospects for Greece," the Commissioner said.
The minister also noted that during the first meeting with the Commissioner they discussed the absorption rates of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) that will be completed shortly and the new programming period. The aim is to have results especially for small and medium enterprises as soon as possible.
"The tools of the NSRF must be used in the best possible way," said Dendias.
 Mineral reserves in Greece estimated to 30 billion euros, Environment Minister Maniatis saysThe current value of mineral reserves in Greece is estimated at 30 billion euros by the Greek Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME), without counting hydrocarbon deposits, Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis said on Thursday in an event on mineral raw materials and job opportunities in the sector.
"We belong to a privileged group of countries in terms of mineral raw material reserves. We have a great variety of minerals that are found in considerable quantities and a great tradition in the mining sector," the minister underlined.
He said that Greece is the chief producer of perlite in Europe and second in the world, with 32 pct of the world production. It is also the chief producer of bentonite in Europe and third in the world with 7.5 pct of the world production; the fourth marble producer in Europe and 8th in the world and the chief nickel producer in Europe and 13th in the world with 49 pct of the European production. Greece is also the 10th aluminium producer in Europe and is among the 10 countries with the largest bauxite reserves in the world.
In the context of the event, MEP Niki Tzavella told ANA-MPA that the member-states should map out their mineral deposits in their territories and utilize them in order to increase sustainable production, thus giving a boost to economic growth in Europe. She underlined that the two sectors of the future are the digital and "green" economy and noted that both are based on mineral raw materials.
 Supreme Court prosecutor seeks 'explanations' from corruption prosecutors over case sent to ParliamentSupreme Court Prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani on Thursday summoned the prosecutors for crimes of corruption Popi Papandreou and Antonis Eleftherianos to provide explanations concerning the content of a document referring the submarines and shipyards case file to Parliament.
Sources said that the meeting concerned the wording of the accompanying letter, which was sent to Parliament via the Supreme Court prosecution office and the justice ministry, in which Papandroeu and Eleftherianos kept the phrasing foreseen under the law on ministerial responsibility (law 3126/2003). This contains the phrase "from the preliminary investigation carried out" though, according to the same sources, the two prosecutors did not carry out nor had power to carry out a preliminary inquiry into the affair.
The case file contained mainly the transcripts of a discussion held in Parliament on the affair, supplied by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA)
The Supreme Court, on its part, described the phrasing in the accompanying document as "poor" since in this case the expression foreseen under the law on ministerial responsibility concerning the conducting of a preliminary inquiry could have been omitted, especially as it had not taken place.
 Five-year bond issue beneficial to Greek state, reportThe issuance of a five-year Greek state bond under the UK law which took place last April, after four years of the country's exclusion from international capital markets, was beneficial for the Greek state, Public Debt Management Organization said on Thursday.
In a report submitted to Parliament, in response to a question by SYRIZA deputies Panagiotis Lafazanis and Efklides Tsakalotos over the use of UK law in the five-year Greek bond issue, the Organization said that "the homogenity of bond market is a decisive factor for bond trading, liquidity and help in falling yields" adding that the decision to issue the five-year bond under UK law was taken in order to carry the same clauses included in the new Greek state bonds issued after a debt buy back program in December 2012. The Organization noted that "adopting the same characteristics for the new five-year bonds, combined with high demand and a relatively low offer was a key factor in turning excessive demand towards older Greek bonds, raising their prices in the secondary market and helping to further lower their yields. "Additionally, holders of existing bonds, who also participated in the latest issue, saw their assets continue rising, helping the issuer to make a new beginning for more affordable borrowing costs," the report said. The Organization noted that "there are no additional preferential terms of guarantee for the investors in the five-year bond issue".
It also added that the issue should be judged on the terms of an isolated effort to drain capital from international markets at a low interest rate, but basically as a form of intervening in the yield curve towards creating a functional bond market.
The Organization said that the aim of the five-year bond issue was to begin a new dialogue with capital markets, putting the country back into the map of interest for international investors, to facilitate the supply of liquidity in the Greek economy, to facilitate the reduction of Greek state debt through safeguarding safety capital of the support mechanism and finally achieving an essential relocation of investor base from hedge funds towards long term real money investors.
Another aim of the issue was also to lower the average borrowing cost of the Greek state through the creation of a new intermediate point in the yield curve and boosting liquidity in the secondary bond market.
 Infrastructure minister visits western Greek Ionia Highway worksiteThe Ionia Highway project will be completed within a year and a half, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said on Thursday while visiting a worksite in Perdika in Ioannina region, northwestern Greece.
"It is obvious there can be no postponements, delays or inconsistencies with concessionary contracts - the new way the project is constructed, which is co-financing. The project will be delivered next year, in December," he said.
The minister called on all parties to cooperate and pointed out "we should all work together, the local administration, the Region, the state departments, the private sector, so that highway constructions can progress on a daily basis. Otherwise, if we obstruct construction, it will be to our detriment."
He also announced that a new exit will be constructed on Egnatia Highway, in the area of Driskos, so as to facilitate travellers to Albania as well as locals. Moreover, he said, a study on the road connecting Trikala, central Greece to Egnatia Highway is being carried out.
The 200 klm Ionia Highway runs from Antirrio to Ioannina and has an over 1 billion euro budget. According to the minister, it is a contemporary project that "employees 1,700 people as well as 300 companies with thousands of employees and offers a significant income to the country's GDP."
Chrysohoidis said that in a few days the government would announce the extension of Central Greece E65 highway construction from Lamia to Trikala. The minister, who will continue his tour around worksites, also underlined that road works connect people but at the same time offer employment and support growth and prosperity.
 FM Venizelos to meet BoG outgoing governor Provopoulos on FridayGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Friday will meet with outgoing Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos, according to a Foreign ministry announcement.
The meeting will take place at the Foreign Ministry, at 10.00
 Deputy FM Kourkoulas to participate in SEECPDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Friday will participate in the ministerial meeting of The South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Bucharest, according to a Foreign ministry announcement.
The meeting will focus on the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of the countries of Southeast Europe, and the promotion of regional cooperation and good neighbour relations in the region.
 SYRIZA raises the submarine case to disorientate, gov't spokesperson saysMain opposition SYRIZA has raised the navy submarines case for reasons of disorientation, government spokesperson Sofia Voultepsi told Ant1 TV on Thursday.
"The reason why SYRIZA is doing that is the current visit of the Chinese Prime Minister, which paves the way for investments in the country," she said.
Voultepsi spoke of a non-existent issue noting that "the files were submitted to Parliament after the decision for its closure." She also claimed that the only offense with a time limit that may expire is that of "infidelity" as the rest have a 20-year time limit.
 SYRIZA leader holds meeting with Venezuela's ambassadorMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras held a meeting on Thursday with Venezuelan Ambassador to Greece Frederic Farid Stephan Fernandez and political affairs Attache Ernest Marcel Bordier.
The meeting was also attended by deputy Nadia Valavani, responsible for the party's committee on monitoring the government's foreign policy, and Costas Isichos, a Political Office member responsible for the sectors of foreign policy and defence.
According to an announcement by SYRIZA, the ambassador of Venezuela congratulated Tsipras for the main opposition party's historic success at the May elections, as well as the victory of the European Left Party in Greece and Europe, while both sides agreed to continue and intensify their contacts and promote forms of solidarity between the two peoples in the near future.
 Task Force will remain in Greece to support SMEs, Reichenbach saysThe Task Force for Greece will continue its cooperation with the Greek government and especially the development ministry, in order to facilitate investments in the country and support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the head of the Task Force Horst Reichenbach said after a meeting with Development Minister Nikos Dendias.
Dendias underlined that his predecessor in the ministry had carried out a significant body of work, adding that the government will firmly adhere to reform targets.
 Former minister Karhimakis' bail condition is lifted in state secret caseThe examining magistrate assigned on the case of former minister and PASOK deputy Michalis Karchimakis, standing charges of morally instigating violation of confidentiality in state secrets, lifted the 1-million-euro bail imposed on the defendant citing his present financial and family situation, it was announced on Thursday.
According to the prosecutor's recommendation, the defendant is still banned from leaving the country but the bail can be reduced from 1 million to 10,000 euros.
After testifying in March this year, Karchimakis was released on condition that he would post a 1-million-euro bail and will not leave the country.
The case is based on allegations made by a National Intelligence Service (NIS) employee that the former minister received copies of classified documents.
 Golden Dawn MP Gregos receives extension to testify on June 27Golden Dawn MP Antonis Gregos who was summoned on Thursday to testify to the examining magistrates for the Golden Dawn case asked and received and extension for 27 June.
Gregos is facing charges of participating and leading a criminal organisation.
The examining magistrates gave the extension to Gregos following a motion for the recusal of the examining magistrates and the prosecutor handling the Golden Dawn case.
The motion filed by Golden Dawn secretary general Nikos Mihaloliakos, who is remanded in custody, against magistrates Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou as well as against prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos has essentially "frozen" the investigation until the ruling of the judicial council.
According to sources, Mihaloliakos' motion relates to the indictment by the lawyer of independent deputy Stathis Boukouras, Alexis Kougias, who claimed his client was under pressure from the magistrates to testify against his co-defendants so as to be treated in a more favourable way.
 Christian-Democrat Party of Greece votes for cooperation with Independent GreeksThe Christian-Democrat Party of Greece on Thursday voted in favour of cooperation with the Independent Greeks party, one of the right-wing opposition parties in Parliament. The proposal made by party leader Nikos Nikolopoulos was adopted by 54 votes in favour, eight opposed and two blank votes in a meeting of the party's governing committee.
In statements presenting his proposal, Nikolopoulos said the move aimed to reverse the fragmentation of conservative anti-memorandum political forces and to create a "centre-right SYRIZA". He also suggested that the next Greek president of the republic must be a centre-right figure and must be "elected by a new Parliament".
 Athens University admin staff in availability scheme to stop 'informal' work at uniThe 360 University of Athens administrative staff entered into the "availability scheme" pending potential dismissal on Thursday announced that that they will stop offering their services to the university on an "informal basis" - as they have been doing in past months. This will effectively leave the university with an administrative staff of 732 employees.
The decision was made during a general assembly of the university's administrative employees in order to highlight that the additional staff are necessary and their absence will create problems in the functioning of the institution. The employees also plan a protest in central Athens on Friday and accused the government of "leading them on" with promises that they would all return to their jobs or enter the mobility scheme between universities.
 Moody's offers credit positive assessment for Greek economy, banksMoody's credit rating on Thursday offered a positive view of Greece's economic course, both over its better-than-expected fiscal performance and its recovery, while it also offered a positive assessment on the course of Greek banks.
The credit rating agency revised upwards its forecast for the Greek economy to 0.4 pct this year, from 0.0 pct, and noted it was credit positive that the budget recorded a primary surplus of 711 million euros in the January-May period, surpassing a budget target for a primary surplus of 208 million euros. It also said it was credit positive that Greek banks' borrowing from the European Central Bank and the Bank of Greece dropped to 50.7 billion euros in May, down 18.2 pct from April and down 40.6 pct compared with the same month last year.
Moody's noted that although Greece has made significant progress in fiscal consolidation in the last two year, the result of the first five months of 2014 was considered credit positive because this outperformance has occurred despite a challenging political environment amid both local and European elections.
The outperformance is the result of better tax administration and expenditure control. Greece has a long track record of tax evasion and tax receipts have not reflected the economy's consumption-driven growth. Although nominal GDP increased annually by an average of 7.3 pct in 2001-07, tax revenues only grew by 5.7 pct. Moreover, in the months leading up to the June 2012 parliamentary elections, as well as the 2009 parliamentary elections, value-added tax collection suffered from severe slippages. In contrast, tax revenues in the first five months of this year outperformed the target by 1.6 pct, proving that local and European parliament elections in May this year did not produce the same tax slippages. In addition, the IMF reported that key performance indicators for tax administration reforms clearly improved in 2013 versus 2012, but noted that Greece still needs to make more progress. The government also kept expenditures under control, with spending during the period 642 million euros lower than the government originally planned and interest expenditures coming in 2.5 pct lower than originally budgeted. As a result, the fiscal deficit was 1.99 billion euros, well below the target of 2.56 billion euros. Beyond stronger tax-collection and expenditure control, a recovering economy after six years of severe economic contraction also supported the improvement over the 2.3 pct year-over-year contraction in fourth-quarter 2013. Driving the improvement in economic performance was 5.4 pct year-over-year export growth and a rebound in private consumption of 0.7 pct from a year earlier and in public consumption of 1.2 pct from a year earlier.
"We expect net exports, especially service exports, to continue contributing positively to growth, led mainly by tourism receipts. In addition, for the first time in six years, we expect gross capital formation to contribute positively to growth this year, driven mainly by Greece's increased absorption of European Union structural funds and by the re-launching of major projects such as motorway construction. This continued upside pressure on growth has led us to revise upward our growth forecast to 0.4 pct from 0 pct for this year," Moody's said in a report.
Last Thursday, the Bank of Greece published its balance sheet figures as of the end of May, including the banking system's funding through the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA). The data show that bank funding from the ECB and the Bank of Greece declined to 50.7 billion euros, a decrease of 18.2 pct from April and 40.6 pct from May 2013. The continued decline in central bank funding, which is mainly the result of recently recapitalised Greek banks regaining access to international capital markets after five years, eases their funding and liquidity pressures and is credit positive.
Greek banks over the past four years have had to rely heavily on central bank funding owing to waning private-sector confidence and shrinking deposits amid Greece's deep recession. However, the banks have been able to access the international capital markets since last April and use the European Financial Stability Facility (Aa1 stable) bonds as collateral1 in the interbank repo market since June 2013, thereby reducing the banks' reliance on central bank funding.
The 18.2 pct decrease in central bank funding between April and May was mainly driven by the recent senior bond issues from two of Greece's largest banks, Piraeus Bank S.A. (Caa1 stable, E/caa2 stable National Bank of Greece S.A. (Caa1 stable, E/caa2 stable) for 750 million euros, and recapitalisations by all four large banks in March and April from private investors. In addition, Alpha Bank AE (Caa1 stable, E/caa2 stable) announced last Thursday that it had successfully issued a 500-million-euro three-year senior bond, while Eurobank Ergasias S.A. (Caa2 positive, E/caa3 stable) on Friday announced that it would issue a senior bond. Although the cost of the senior debt is higher than that of ECB and ELA funding, it provides the banks with a longer-term source of funding, a credit positive.
We estimate that over the past three months, Greece's four largest banks raised around 10.1 billion euros in new capital and senior debt, predominantly from foreign investors and excluding an upcoming debt issue from Eurobank. This has helped the banks fully eliminate any ELA funding, which is much costlier than ECB funding, and as a result will gradually improve the banks' net interest margins and revenues. This funding has improved Greek banks' funding profile, as we estimate that central bank funding comprised around 14 pct of total assets in May 2014, versus approximately 40 pct in November 2012. The Directorate of General Competition of the European Commission, which monitors the banks because of the state support they received, has mandated that Greek banks achieve a target of no more than 15 pct by 2017.
Although we expect Greek banks' funding profiles to gradually improve over the next two years, private-sector deposit growth has been lacking as banks continue to deleverage and because the economy is likely to post only modest growth of 0.4 pct in 2014 after a six-year recession. As a result, Greek banks will continue to face funding and liquidity challenges in order to achieve a sustainable deposit growth and reach pre-crisis levels. We also continue to expect the banking system overall to remain loss-making this year because of still-high loan-loss provisions.
 EU Commissioner Hahn reveals plan to let EIB use EU structural funds to help finance Greek SMEsGreece can use European Community funds, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB), in order to finance small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are currently facing massive liquidity problems, European Commissioner for regional policy Johannes Hahn said in an Athens press conference on Thursday.
"This is an EU initiative that seeks to combine the possibilities of the 2014-2020 structural funds with EIB actions," said Georgios Petroulakis, a Greek ministry official in charge of regional policy present at the press conference.
They explained that the EIB will henceforth be able to use the structural fund budget to provide guarantees - the level of which will be decided by Greece - and use the bank's AAA credit-rating to approach international financing mechanisms in order to secure further funding for SME projects.
Hahn stressed the need to boost the entrepreneurial spirit throughout Europe and noted that the general impression and image of Greece at present was that it had changed for the better.
"I have visited companies in Crete, Patras, Epirus, Thrace - as well as universities, which have a very high level internationally - and see that there is an excellent level of new business initiatives and innovative products, both in terms of goods and of services," he underlined. Hahn also noted the excellent research facilities that existed but said these had to be more closely linked to business needs, adding that this was not only a Greek but also a European phenomenon.
The Commissioner expressed reservations, however, about the continuing administrative deficits that deterred potential business investment and the long duration of court cases, as well as a lack of stability in the tax system.
Questioned about the 181 "priority" projects, Hahn said that 51 projects with a budget of about one billion euros have been completed, 23 are due to be delivered during the current year and the rest by the end of 2015, while adding that some might be added to the new programme period.
The general evaluation was that setting these priorities and monitoring these projects had been "a good idea", he added.
 Settlement of non-performing business loans key to kickstarting the economy, according to development ministryAchieving settlements of non-performing business loans in order to kickstart the economy is a top priority for new Development Minister Nikos Dendias, a developments ministry source said on Thursday. The minister, in cooperation with the banks, will seek to draw up a specific plan for channeling funds to the real economy, SMEs in particular, the source said.
"Roughly 30 billion euros are sitting in the banks as a result of the recapitalisation when thousands of private businesses cannot repay their loans. Government and bankers, we must work together having as a common goal to let the real economy breathe and change the market image," a leading development ministry stated.
Responding to a question on whether the bankruptcy law will be changed, the same official noted that a lot should be changed in the market for private businesses to again become active elements in the economy.
 Greece unveils strategy for sustainable growth beyond 2014Greek Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras on Thursday presented the government' s strategy to lead the country to sustainable growth beyond 2014.
Addressing a forum organized by KPMG, Staikouras said that this strategy will focus on:
On including the informal section of the economy in the formal economy, by achieving its taxation
Safeguarding the implementation of rules and practices of proper fiscal management and discipline
Creating a fair, efficient and modern state through accelerating administration reform
Combating corruption and fraud
Strengthening the efficiency of social spending to limit poverty and expanding social imbalances
Boosting investments - particularly of foreign direct investments - and strengthening exports, along with maintaining consumption at high levels although at a smaller rate of GDP than in the past
Further enhancing long-term sustainability of public debt
"What we seek here is to transform the stabilisation of the economy into dynamic and sustainable growth, with social cohesion, the soonest possible. It is a process that needs time. We have already made the first significant steps of this transition. With hard work and creating consensus we will make it," he said.
Greek environment minister among seven seeking binding EU energy-efficiency plan
Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis was among the seven EU member-state energy and environment ministers that have asked for the adoption of specific and ambitious EU targets on energy efficiency, in a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The letter sent earlier in the week was also signed by ministers in Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal, Ireland and Belgium. It noted Europe's dependence on energy imports, highlighting the situation in Ukraine, and called for binding targets on lowering energy consumption and improving energy efficiency by 2030, noting that this will simultaneously improve energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In January this year, the European Commission suggested binding targets of 40 pct for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a 27 pct share for Renewable Energy Sources in the EU energy mix for 2030 but did not set binding targets for energy efficiency.
In a statement, Maniatis stressed that EU member-states currently spend more than one billion euros a day on fossil fuel imports, while further increase in LNG imports will "act additively".
"Therefore, if we want to talk about energy sufficiency in Europe and minimising the risk for its energy security, we must put first one of the key means that the European states themselves possess: energy saving and increasing energy efficiency," he stressed.
 ECB mulling 'quantitative easing' to avert deflation risk, ECB vice-president says in AthensThe European Central Bank is ready for even stronger intervention in order to avert the risk of deflation, ECB Vice-President Vitor Constancio said in Athens on Thursday, at a seminar in the Athens Concert Hall organised by another central banker and Greece's former premier Lucas Papademos.
The seminar on "Banking Union, Monetary Policy and Economic Growth" was organised by Papademos in the framework of Greece's presidency of the EU and in collaboration with the Centre for Financial Studies at Goethe University in Frankfurt.
Constancio said that the ECB's next step if inflation prospects continue to deteriorate - such as confirmation that current low rates of inflation will persist for an extended period of time - are mass purchases of bonds on the secondary market, along the lines of the U.S. Federal Bank, in a policy known as "quantitative easing".
The seminar was also addressed by Papademos, who noted that the Eurozone still had major challenges to face in order to exit the crisis and suggested that a restructuring of debt might help accelerate growth rates.
Other speakers scheduled to address the seminar included Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Hiroshi Nakaso, Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco, former Bank of England Deputy Governor Paul Tucker and new Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, who is to take over his new duties on Friday.
 Banking union will lead to lower bank charges, Stournaras saysThe end of the fragmentation of financial markets will ease strict credit criteria currently prevailing in European region member-states, allowing banks to finance new investments, Yannis Stournaras, Greece's former finance minister and, as of Friday, the new governor of the Bank of Greece, told an Athens seminar on Thursday.
Addressing the seminar on "Banking Union, Monetary Policy and Economic Growth" at the Athens Concert Hall, Stournaras - who is expected to be officially sworn in as governor on Friday- noted that funding investments is a crucial issue for economic growth, both in the Eurozone and in other countries which have been hit severely by a deep and prolonged recession. Private investments in the Eurozone fell from 20 pct of GDP in 2008 to 16 pct of GDP in 2013, with the drop being more severe in periphery countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, where private investments fell by 6-9 percentage points of GDP.
Stournaras said a banking union in the European Union will lead to a restructuring of the European system, while an intensifying cross-border competition will result in a reduction in charges imposed by banks on consumers.
 Agriculture minister receives Hanns-Seidel Foundation delegation, outlines policy for exportsGreece's Rural Development and Foods Minister George Karasmanis on Thursday received a 10-member delegation from the Hanns-Seidel Foundation based in Germany, during which he outlined the ministry's policy for boosting exports of agricultural produce, especially to Germany.
Karasmanis referred to the position held by Greek farm products in European and international markets, noting that agriculture, culture and tourism were the foundation of the national strategy for exports and a dynamic presence in European and global markets.
The minister said the German market was among the most important for Greek farming exports and the aim was to expand the share of Greek food exports even more.
"It is for us a traditional market that we want not just to maintain but to make an even larger receiver of our farming-dietary production, knowing that it is a market that respects both quality and consumers," he said.
A representative of the foundation, Otmar Bernhard, stressed the need for cooperation between the Hanns-Seidel Foundation and the Greek tourism and agriculture ministries in order to set up centres for promoting farm and dairy products, increase the number of exhibitions held in Greece and Germany and to create farmer networks between the two countries.
Among the Hanns-Seidel Foundation's activities are the fundng of special workshops and conference for the transfer of knowhow and exchange of experience for improving the quality and promoting Greek agricultural products, such as olive oil, wine, and growing organic produce in greenhouses using renewable energy sources.
 More than 40 pct of Greek enterprises plan to hire new workers in next six months, surveyMore than 40 pct of Greek companies expect to hire new workers in the next six months, a survey on labor market trends by ALBA Graduate Business School said on Thursday.
The survey, conducted in the period from February to May 2014, showed that only a 14 pct of surveyed enterprises intented to cut their workforce in the next six months, significantly down compared with a 28 pct rate in the previous six months, while a 41.5 pct enterprises said it would hire new workers and a 44.4 pct said it would take no action.
The survey also showed that a 36.6 pct of enterprises intended to pay wage rises up to 3.0 pct this year.
The services sector recorded a 60 pct increase in attracting and hiring new personnel, while the construction, pharmaceutical and tourism sectors also recorded high rates. Enterprises continued seeking young executives/graduates (49.6 pct), with focus on sales, customer service, IT and marketing.
Internet sites remained the most popular method for attracting and seeking personnel for enterprises, followed by intro-corporate actions, corporate websites and workers' social environment. A 63 pct of enterprises uses interviews as their basic tool to select new personnel, while a 26.7 pct uses other tools such as skill tests and psycometric tests.
A 57.8 pct of surveyed enterprises said they had been badly hit by the economic crisis, with only 2.2 pct saying they were felt no impact at all. One in two enterprises cut wages by up to 5 pct in the last five years, a 38.3 pct said they cut wages by 5-20 pct and a 14.1 pct said they cut wages by more than 20 pct since 2009. Wage cuts were more often and bigger among medium-sized and high-rankign executives.
A 28.9 pct of surveyed enterprises said they made dismissals in the last six months, while a 28.1 pct said they cut wages, both figures lower compared with the same period last year.
A 25 of enterprises said it was probable to reduce training of their workers, while a 4.7 pct said they planned to relocate part of all of their businesses abroad.
A 55.3 pct of enterprises said they intended to bring wages back to levels before the crisis, but were the vast majority said they did not when this action could take place. A 62.8 pct of the sample said they did not hire workers with the minimum wage, while a 30.5 pct said they have used an "entry check" program for unemployed young people up to 29 years old.
Enterprises have managed to reduce their operating spending and to improve their profitabiity, but faced a decline in personnel's loyalty and performance, particularly in the services sector.
 Greece is below the European average regarding women's employment, institute says saysGreece is below the European average and way off the target set by the European Union for 2020 regarding the employment of women, the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) said on Thursday at a press conference held at the European Commission offices in Athens.
EIGE presented 2012 data indicating that among the 28 EU member states the percentage of full-time women employees between 20 and 64 years of age is 54 pct, way below the target of 75 pct set for women in 2020 (for men, it is 72 pct). In Greece in particular, the percentage for women of that age group currently employed full time is 43 pct (men, 64 pct).
According to the data, women dominate the part-time job market, with 76 pct of them between 15 and 64 years of age being employed (the corresponding data for men is 24 pct). The basic reason that most (55 pct) of the women in the 25 to 49 age range cannot find a full-time job is lack of family care support (the same reason for men ranks at 12 pct). A total of 37 pct of women between 50 and 64 are unable to find work (men, 19 pct), the survey stressed.
According to the composite equality index concerning 6 sectors, Greece scores 40 pct while the EU average percentage was 54 pct.
"All countries can improve their economies if they give equal opportunities to both men and women in the job market," said EIGE Senior Comminications Officer Jesper Schou Hansen and stressed that day-care infrastructure is necessary so that "women can participate in the job market."
"There is margin for more efforts to bridge the gap and achieve greater gender equality," Head of the Press and Media Service at the European Commission Representation in Greece Carlos Martin Ruiz se Gordejuela said, and stressed the need for immediate actions by the European Commission.
EIGE underlined that women financial independence is a great opportunity for economic development, while it stressed the dangers behind self-employment, which sometimes allow (employers) to get away without formal employment contracts.
 Strategic cooperation between National Bank, TIF-Helexpo SAThe Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF-Helexpo SA) organisation signed a two-year strategic cooperation agreement, with possibilities of extension, with the National Bank on Thursday.
The aim is to support TIF's activities and on the other the participation and presence of the financial foundation in the national exhibition agency's exhibition programme, as well as in all events it organises.
According to an announcement by TIF-Helexpo, the agreement is an important move that is being implemented in the framework of the company's new strategy for "alliances" with important economic agencies in the country in an effort to enlarge the national trade fair agency and create alliances for the benefit of the Greek economy.
 Eurobank successfully completes 500-mln-euro bond saleEurobank on Thursday announced the successful completion of a 500-million-euro bond loan. The four-year issue carries a annual coupon of 4.25 pct and was more than two times oversubscribed, attracting bids worth 1.1 billion euros.
Eurobank had previously completed an international roadshow, organised by the coordinators of the issue, in London, Paris and Milan with around 50 institutional investors. The meetings verified a significant interest from long-term investment funds, a sign of a gradual investor return to all categories in the Greek market.
The bond issue also confirmed the international investment community's interest in Eurobank, as it initially recorded during the recent successful share capital increase a plan worth 2.9 billion euros, which signalled the return of the bank to the private sector.
 Finance ministry to suspend licences of 50 petrol stations without inflow-outflow systemThe finance ministry on Thursday announced that it was suspending the operating licence of 50 petrol stations in Athens and Thessaloniki for failing to install a inflow-outflow digital monitoring system required by law to control contraband fuel sales.
The petrol stations involved were discovered in the course of cross-checks with of data from the inflow-outflow register conducted by the transport ministry.
 Greek industrial turnover index down 9.8 pct in AprilGreece's turnover composite index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) dropped by 9.8 pct in April this year, compared with the same month in 2013, after a 4.6 pct decline recorded in April 2013, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to an 11.5 pct rise in the mining turnover index and a 10 pct drop in the manufacturing sector index.
The domestic market turnover index fell by 7.9 pct in April, while the external market turnover index dropped 12.9 pct in the month.
 Lamda Development sells 7.88 pct of its equity to TPG-Axon Management LPLamda Development on Thursday announced the sale of 3,497,599 shares, representing 7.88 pct of its equity capital and voting rights) to TPG-Axon Management LP for 16,963,355 euros, or 4.85 euros per share.
TPG-Axon Management LP is international investment company focusing on long- and short-term investments around the globe, based on fundamental analysis and particularly in stocks. The company is based in New York and has offices in Hong Kong and Tokyo. The entry of TPG-Axon Management in the equity capital of Lamda Development is of great importance, as it is expected to offer multiple benefits to the company and its shareholders on strategy and know-how, while it will also facilitate access to international markets.
Odysseas Athanasiou, Lamda Development CEO, commenting on the transaction said that the strategic participation of an investment company to Lamda opened new horizons to the company. "It is another proof of international capital's confidence to Greek economic growth," he said.
 Athens international airport receives ACI 'Best Airports' award for 2014The Athens International Airport 'Eleftherios Venizelos' has received a second much-coveted Airports Council International "Best Airports Award" for 2014, specifically for the best European airport in the 10-25 million passenger category, the airport's management announced on Thursday.
The award was presented at the 10th "Best Airport Awards" held during the 2014 ACI Annual Congress and Exhibition taking place in Frankfurt on June 16-18.
It was given in recognition of the airport's performance in a very challenging environment and for its work to support the recovery of traffic to the Athens market, as well as its commitment to maintaining the quality of its services.
The airport's CEO Yiannis Paraschis stressed that this recognition was a Greek success that proved not only the high level of the airport's services but also reflected to the international environment its dedication and contribution to the recovery and overall promotion of Athens and of Greece.
In 2013, the Athens airport was also awarded the ACI Best Airports Eco-Innovation award.
 Greek stocks continue moving higherGreek stocks ended higher for the second successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with market sentiment encouraged by a positive report released by Moody' s over the Greek economy and Greek banks. The composite index of the market rose 1.31 pct to end at 1,286.99 points, off the day's highs of 1,291.37 points. Turnover was a strong 149.46 million euros.
The Large Cap index rose 1.13 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.02 pct higher. GEK Terna (3.94 pct), Mytilineos (3.86 pct), Viohalco (3.37 pct), National Bank (3.25 pct) and Ellaktor (2.99 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OTE (0.83 pct) and OPAP (0.46 pct) were top losers.
The Media (6.98 pct), Raw Materials (3.01 pct) and Oil (2.83 pct) sectors scored big gains, while Telecoms (0.83 pct), Travel (0.30 pct) and Technology (0.22 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 81 to 56 with another 21 issues unchanged. Sato (19.51 pct), AXON Holdings (19.44 pct) and Spider (18.37 pct) were top gainers, while Boutaris (17.39 pct), Maillis (16.03 pct) and Varagis (11.76 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +1.58%
Industrial Products: +1.40%
Real Estate: +1.24%
Personal & Household: +2.11%
Food & Beverages: +0.03%
Raw Materials: +3.01%
Travel & Leisure: -0.30%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Lamda Development, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.71
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.80
Coca Cola HBC: 17.45
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.17
National Bank of Greece: 2.86
Eurobank Properties : 9.20
Piraeus Bank: 1.80
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising sharply to 124.159 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 41,745 contracts worth 86.981 million euros, with 65,346 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 88,803 contracts, worth 37.178 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (14,430), followed by Alpha Bank (12,555), National Bank (12,295), Piraeus Bank (4,280), Eurobank (14,333), OTE (6,406), PPC (3,524), OPAP (948), Coca-Cola HBC (159), Hellenic Exchanges (754), Viohalco (305), Mytilineos (5,763), Hellenic Petroleum (5,556), Sidenor (500), Metka (224), GEK (2,632), Ellaktor (838), Intralot (1,544), Frigoglass (410), Korinth Pipeworks (212) and Terna Energy (451).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.362
Pound sterling 0.799
Danish kroner 7.456
Swedish kroner 9.088
Japanese yen 138.82
Swiss franc 1.217
Norwegian kroner 8.314
Canadian dollar 1.474
Australian dollar 1.447
 Tourism minister holds meeting on promoting Greece via film industryTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Thursday held a meeting with the leadership of the Greek Film Centre, Petros Markaris and Grigoris Karadinakis, the head of the Hellenic Film Academy Vassilis Katsoufis and the president of the Producers Union Andreas Tsilifonis in order to discuss promoting Greece abroad by attracting foreign film producers.
Kefalogianni stressed the need to make Greece more attractive for productions in the global film industry and the many benefits that such a development would bring for the country.
"It is hugely important for our country to bring major producers, who will shoot films on themes from ancient and modern Greece," she said, adding that cinema could be converted into a tool for exporting culture and promoting the country's tourism product.
"A good film attracts tourists that wish to see at first hand the scenery where the film was shot," she pointed out.
The meeting also covered the problems in Greece's film industry and the two sides agreed to coordinate action and set up a working group to resolve specific issues.
 Authorities uncover fraud with forged letters of guaranteeThe financial prosecutor on Thursday dismantled a ring submitting forged letters of guarantee to the Development ministry following a complaint by Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis.
The Development ministry found out that forged letters of guarantee were submitted to the ministry on behalf of financial institutions abroad, mainly in the UK, in order to participate in investment programmes.
The forged letters of guarantee concerned investments of about 70 million euros, but according to information, these investments did not exceed 18 million euros. However, the information is still unclear as a certain institution that is reportedly involved in the case, has issued letters of guarantee of 30 million euros.
Greek police is expected to brief on the issue later in the day, according to the Development ministry.
Mitarakis said that the ministry has contributed to the dismantling of the ring whilst no employee of the ministry is involved in the case.
Mitarakis also underlined that all letters of guarantee to the Development ministry will come under scrutiny, adding that no investor involved in the case has received funds from the Development Law, according to the latest information.
 Antiquities kept in German museums since WWII to be repatriated to GreeceAntiquities that were unearthed in Greece and ended up in Germany during WWII will soon be repatriated, the culture ministry announced on Thursday. Among them are 10,600 fragments of clay vessels, stone artifacts, and osteological material that were unearthed during excavations carried out between June and December 1941 by the Nazi occupation forces.
The formal ceremony for the return of the antiquities was held at Pfahlibau Museum in the German city of Unteruhldingen on Wednesday, the culture ministry said.
Culture & Sports Minister Konstantinos Tassoulas referred to the symbolism of the gesture and to incidents of antiquity smuggling and destruction recorded across Greece during the Nazi occupation. He also referred to the recent repatriation of archaeological material unearthed at the site of Magoula Visviki and neolithic sites in Thessaly, central Greece, noting that such moves contribute decisively to the strengthening of bilateral ties.
The National Archaeological Museum will be the first stop of the repatriated antiquities before they are transferred to local museums.
 Suspect in Satanic-rite killing sent to Korydallos prison psychiatric wardA 22-year-old arrested as a suspect in the killing of a homeless woman in order to "appease Satan" was on Thursday incarcerated in the Korydallos prison psychiatric ward after testifying before an examining magistrate, with the agreement of the public prosecutor in the case.
The suspect will be held on remand until his condition is evaluated by experts, who will be asked to determine whether he suffers from mental illness and also whether he has a drug dependency.
In his testimony, the suspect claimed that he saw and heard a demon who demanded that he kill the victim in order to save his own life and expressed remorse, while denying that he intended to commit a second murder and claimed that he said this to police in order to "appear tough".
His counsel Failos Kranidiotis expressed the opinion that his client was seriously mentally ill, though this was up to the experts to decide, but had refused to see a doctor or take medication. Kranidiotis said that there had been two attempts to commit him to a psychiatric hospital but he had not been accepted because he was a minor.
 Large number of undocumented migrants arrested in three separate incidents on ThursdayAt least 112 undocumented migrants were located and arrested early Thursday near the islands of Lesvos and Rhodes.
Thirty two migrants that were on board a sinking dinghy were rescued by a Coast Guard patrol vessel northeast of Lesvos island. Another patrol vessel spotted southeast of Lesvos another boat with 28 undocumented migrants.
All the arrested migrants were transfered to Mytilene.
In a separate incident, two traffickers and 52 undocumented migrants that were on a yacht off Mandraki marina, Rhodes island were arrested early Thursday by the island's port authorities. The two traffickers claimed they were Turkish nationals. One of them managed to escape and fell in the waters but he was later located and arrested.
The yacht as well as two cellphones was confiscated.
 UNHCR press conference on World Refugee Day at ESHEAIssues relating to the protection of refugees were highlighted in a press conference held at the offices of the Athens Journalism Union (ESHEA) on Thursday, given by the Greek branch of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to mark World Refugee Day on Friday.
The head of the Greek UNHCR office Georgios Tsambropoulos referred to recent asylum and refugee protection issues in Greece, noting the positive steps taken recently, such as the new Asylum Service and its improved procedures but stressing the need for greater support from the state.
 Greek, French universities sign cooperation agreement in ParisRepresentatives of Greek universities and French higher education institutions met in Paris on Thursday and signed a cooperation agreement calling for an exchange of information, best practices and joint positions on developing their institutions, especially in terms of their autonomy, European character and globalisation. They also pledged to strengthen cooperation in the Common European Area of Higher Education and Research.
They also signed a joint statement on the importance of investing in research and higher education and raised the alarm over what they called "drastic, to the point of being unacceptable" cuts to which European universities have been subjected in recent years.
In the context of the agreement, the two sides have already starting planning joint activities such as exchange visits to campuses, establishing joint study courses and holding 'summer schools' that will also involve other European universities.
 Small bondholders disrupt Athens Concert Hall event, protesting against PSIThe normally staid and solemn Athens Concert Hall was the scene of tension and controversy on Thursday, when small bondholders who lost their savings as a result of a nominally voluntary Private Sector Involvement (PSI) debt 'haircut' turned out to protest against a speech by former premier Lucas Papademos, the technocrat who had presided over the process as Greek prime minister.
Papademos, a banker, was scheduled to speak at a seminar that he personally organised on "Banking Union, Monetary Policy and Economic Growth," taking place in the framework of the Greek presidency of the EU Council and organised in collaboration with the Financial Studies Centre at Goethe University in Frankfurt. During his speech and also after this had ended, retail investors in Greek state bonds disrupted the proceedings with shouts and protests, forcing an interruption.
Papademos declined to reply to their protests and complaints, noting that the subject of the seminar was the challenges facing monetary policy during the present crisis and whether it could help alleviate the social problems that the crisis had caused.
In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the event continued with a speech by European Central Bank Vice-President Vitor Constancio.
 Call of tender for free Wi-Fi published on 'Diavgeia' websiteThe government on Thursday published the call of tender for the "National Network of of Wireless Internet Access WiFi Hotspots" on the "Diavgeia" website.
The budget of the programme, which is 25 million euros compared to 15 million euros originally planned, will be financed by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).
Upon the implementation of the project, all citizens will have free access to the internet at 4,000 oudoor and indoor public sites throughout the country, such as squares, walkways, playgrounds, public libraries, museums etc.
Citizens will be able to connect for a period of 30 minutes, provided they are within 20 and 100 metres from the indoor and outdoor access points respectively. Each point will be able to serve about 40 to 50 users simultaneously.
 Police uncovers fraud with forged letters of guaranteeGreece's Financial Crime Squad in cooperation with the Development Ministry on Thursday uncovered a network of companies submitting forged letters of guarantee to the ministry in order to receive subsidies.
The police and the ministry are expected to brief on the case later in the day.
 EBU delegation meets with NERIT's boardThe head of EBU Jean-Paul Philippot, the director general Ingrid Deltenre and the director of the legal affairs Jane Visard on Thursday met with the board of NERIT (new public broadcaster).
EBU's delegation was briefed on the progress of procedures on the full operation of the new broadcaster.
According to NERIT's announcement, the talks focused on issues regarding the staffing procedure, the operational programming, the budget and the organisation chart, the broadcasting and network content, the offer of a comprehensive service to the Greek citizens as well as the necessary actions for its accession as full member of EBU.
Deltenre referred to the gradual development of NERIT's services and on the progress achieved over the last period and expressed her optimism that very soon will become full member of the Union "when its total development is completed."
On his part, the head of NERIT's board and managing director of NERIT Antonis Markrydimitris noted that the company is fully operational and offers a complete and quality programme and expressed the board's wish for making a sincere and fruitful dialogue so as to stengthen its relations with EBU.
 Schools opening on September 11, per decision signed ThursdaySchools will be opening on September 11, according to a relevant Education ministry circular signed on Thursday by Deputy Minister Alexandros Dermentzopoulos.
"We are making the greatest effort possible so that we can start with the fewest vacant educational posts possible and to furnish every pupil with their books from the very first day," Dermentzopoulos stressed.
 350 kilos of hashish found in truck with watermelonsPatras Port Authorities on Thursday located a large quantity of hashish in a refrigerated-truck loaded with watermelons.
The truck was on a ship with destination an Italian port. The officers, assisted by a sniffer dog, found 311 plastic packages containing approximately 350 kilos of hashish hidden in the truck.
The 50 years-old truck driver was arrested while authorities are conducting an investigation.
 Overcast on FridayClouds and rain throughout the country and northwesterly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and rain in the afternoon in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 15C-27C. Same weather in the central parts and in the south, 18C-31C. Possibility of rain over the islands, 21C-30C. Mostly fair in the morning in Athens and rain in the afternoon, 18C-31C; the same for Thessaloniki, 18C-26C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: The 'submarine' issue is now statute-barred.
DIMOKRATIA: They closed the parliament to save Venizelos (Evangelos, government vice president and foreign minister as well as PASOK leader).
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The Lords of the statute-barred offenses.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: The statute-barred 'submarines scandal'.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Who are entitled to cheaper electricity.
ESTIA: Wise words on the Economy.
ETHNOS: End to transfers and secondments in public sector.
IMERISSIA: Plan for 20 percent reduction in heating oil tax.
KATHIMERINI: Government at crucial crossroads.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Greece and China to sign 19 agreement totalling 6.5 bln dollars.
RIZOSPASTIS: Communist Party (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas: Free public special education needed.
TA NEA: Private colleges fish for distinguished students.
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