|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-12-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 23 December 2014 Issue No: 4843
 PM Samaras addresses event initiating first loan agreements to SMEs by IfG fundAn event in Athens on Monday saw the first loan agreements signed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of the first subsidiary fund of the Institution for Growth in Greece (IfG), the country's investment fund, to open.
Eurobank and Piraeus Banks, which have contracted with IfG-Greek SME Finance S.A., agreed to the funding in the presence of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Greek ministers, the German ambassador to Athens and officials of the German state development bank Kreditanstalt f?r Wiederaufbau (KfW), among others.
A recent series of agreements between Greek and German banks and institutions set the terms for loans to be disbursed by IfG to a total of 200 million euros. Of these, 100 million will be provided by the Greek state (through the National Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development, ETEAN) and the rest from KfW.
The recipients of the loans include the companies Realize (technology); Delphi (dairy); ELANKO (chemicals, esp. pesticides); Ambelones Valambous (agrotourism). According to information, the agreements come to 300,000-500,000 each, with an interest rate of under 2 pct. Three loan agreements relate to working capital and one to refinancing of a loan. According to an IfG official, the first subsidiary fund's 200 million euros will have been disbursed by the end of February 2015.
Piraeus Bank and Eurobank will receive long-term loan capital for the SMEs' funding with recyclable credits (the loans paid back by SMEs to the banks will be disbursed to other SMEs). This will allow a total of 700 million euros to be disbursed within & years, according to estimates.
Under the same subsidiary fund, SMEs with no more than 250 staff and turnover up to 50 million euros will be eligible for a loan of up to 1 million euros, earmarked for new investments, working capital and loan refinancing. So far, the three subsidiary funds of IfG for SMEs have collected at least 500 million euros, either through capital support or through funding. The second subsidiary fund (for capital sharing in viable SMEs) will start operating in the first quarter of 2015, and the third one (for regional infrastructural projects) later the same year.
PM Antonis Samaras, addressing the meeting, said that Greece is taking a big step forward to turn a new page and acquire the right to sustainable development.
"We are promoting economic growth with deeds, not words or theories; we are clearing the way for Greek entrepreneurship," Samaras underlined, adding that the economic growth mechanism is being reinforced by tangibly supporting the most dynamic units of the Greek economy new ways.
"The fund is a valuable breather for economic growth and a decisive support to liquidity and the development of the small and medium-sized company," the prime minister underlined.
Also speaking at the event were Development Minister Costas Skrekas, KfW Senior Vice-President Lutz-Christian Funke, German Ambassador to Greece Peter Schoof, managing director of Piraeus Bank Stavros Lekkakos and managing director of Eurobank Group Christos Megalou. Attending were Ministers Gikas Hardouvelis (Finance) and Nikos Dendias (National Defence), Deputy Minister Notis Mitarachi (Development), former minister and ND Deputy Costis Hadzidakis and others.
 PM's initiative was positive, independent MP Kourakos saysIndependent deputy Yiannis Kourakos on Monday in an interview with ANA-MPA made clear he has decided to vote for candidate President Stavros Dimas at the second voting on Tuesday.
"The Prime Minister's statement was in line with what I submitted a long time ago proposing a triplet: a special purpose government, constitutional reform and elections within 2015 so that a President of the Republic is elected with broad consensus. I believe the prime minister's intervention was delayed; he should have done it much earlier," he said.
"There may be a consensus on the self-evident things. It is rather crazy for the prime minister and the main opposition leader not being able to talk to each other...There should be some kind of understanding."
Asked whether the current Parliament can elect a President of the Republic after the latest developments, he said: "I wouldn't know that. I believe the prime minister's initiative was positive. From that point onwards, I cannot tell what will happen. The 180 deputies is certainly a big number and unfortunately right now there are no political 'ears' willing to listen."
The full audio interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Finance Minister Hardouvelis in Parliament: 'Greece will regain access to markets in 2015'The negotiations with the technical team of Greece's troika of lenders "are on a good path and the government has managed to have a positive approach to most of the issues that were open," Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said in Parliament on Monday, speaking on an amendment that will ratify a two-month extension to the Greece's fiscal programme granted by the European Commission earlier this month.
The amendment was attached as a rider to a ministry of health bill in Parliament and pushes the end of the programme from December 31, 2014 to the end of February 2015.
Hardouvelis said the extension will open the way to Greece's getting the last tranche (1.8 billion euros) of the loan from Europe and the double tranche (3.6 billion euros) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The release of the tranches are tied to Greece's getting a positive final review of the fiscal programme by the troika of lenders, which includes the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.
Hardouvelis emphasised the country's fiscal needs for 2015, underlining that Greece needs to pay out 4.5 billion euros within the next quarter. "With the achievement of an agreement we will enter a new relationship with our lenders. Greece will regain access to the markets, having in any case secured precautionary credit line funding. Market expectations will change for the better, the cost of borrowing will drop and the danger and uncertainty for the country will end," the minister said.
He added, "In any case, the judicious recourse to markets calls for an expenditure that will not jeopardise the viability of fiscal adjustment and the public debt; it will be then that the issue of the debt will be put on the table for discussion, at last," and he called for political consensus to help the Greek economy avoid slipping backward and growing instead.
 Gov't spokeswoman: SYRIZA and Independent Greeks are allies against the election of President of RepublicGovernment spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi on Monday, speaking to private ANT1 TV, called Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Pavlos Chaikalis' alleged bribery an internal case of "Kammenos' (ANEL leader) party where they monitored each other.
It is the third attempt against the election of President of Republic, Voultepsi said and attacked ANEL party saying "Either we have confidence in Justice or we don't" adding "I can't accept that they did not give the evidence to the prosecution because they were afraid they would leak. In this sense, Justice would never work. Justice would not be able to make an investigation, without proof."
Voultepsi charged main opposition SYRIZA that it is involved in the case saying that it "benefits" and referred to a "clear alliance between SYRIZA and ANEL to prevent a president to be elected."
The memoranda will end, Voultepsi said, but if democracy is damaged, it will take 2-3 generations to be restored.
 Prosecutor shelves alleged bribery case of ANEL deputy; SYRIZA reactsA public prosecutor on Monday shelved the accusation by Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Pavlos Haikalis that an attempt was made to bribe him to change his vote for Greek president, in a case that rocked Parliament and made Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promise to file a suit for libel.
Prosecutor Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos concluded that there is inadequate evidence to proceed to filing charges for attempted bribing of a Greek deputy. He said that "the validity of the charge cannot be substantiated."
According to sources, the prosecutor said in his conclusion that Haikalis' argument could not stand, as the man he alleged was the intermediary for the bribe, Giorgos Apostolopoulos, an investment consultant, had been taping their meeting, therefore Haikalis rushed to the prosecutor before someone had the opportunity to publicise the recording. Panagiotopoulos, the source said, was puzzled by the fact that the deputy did not notify a prosecutor beforehand about the meeting.
The prosecutor also said that Apostolopoulos did not show up at MP Haikalis' home as the latter said, because he had no reason to do so; this was a meeting that police was notified about after it was supposed to begin.
In additional arguments, the prosecutor said that the material submitted by Haikalis was illegal, and did not rule out further action on the issue.
Haikalis, on the other had, told the Ethics Committee in Parliament on Monday that the money he received from Apostolopoulos were an installment for a loan he had given the investor. Speaking to the press after the committee met, he claimed that Apostolopoulos had told him he would receive the money of the bribe (to vote for the government's candidate for Greek president) either from him or from the chief body guard of the Bank of Piraeus governor.
He also alleged that Apostolopoulos had told him that other deputies stood to be bribed and that To Potami, the new party, "also was bribed from several sources," naming its leader Stavros Theodorakis specifically as allegedly being bribed.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party objected to the prosecutor's decision, saying that "the decision to shelve the case without first ordering the lifting of phone privacy in conversations between those involved gives rise to reasonable questions as to the correctness and motivation of the decision."
 ANEL leader reacts to prosecutor's decision to shelve alleged bribery caseIndependent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos called on the Greek people on Monday to shelve the government itself through national elections, following a prosecutor's decision to shelve a case by an ANEL deputy alleging he was being bribed.
"What remains is for the Greek people to shelve, with their vote, the government, the establishment and the deep state," Kammenos said.
 Independent Greeks leader on PM's initiative, Chaikalis caseOpposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos loosed a barrage of criticism against Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in comments to the radio station 'Real FM' on Monday, against the backdrop of the bribery allegations made by the party's MP Pavlos Chaikalis that were shelved as "unsubstantiated" by a public prosecutor later the same afternoon.
Criticising the prime minister's initiative on Sunday, Kammenos accused him of offering cabinet positions in a last-ditch effort to stay in power.
Referring to Giorgos Apostolopoulos, the man that allegedly tried to bribe Chaikalis, ANEL's president insisted that Apostolopoulos was a banker with extensive knowledge of credit default swaps that was introduced to him by Samaras himself and Greek Minister of State Dimitris Stamatis as a Deutsche Bank expert. He said Apostolopoulos left ANEL in 2013 in order to take up a job in a bank that was "incompatible with an anti-memorandum line" and that he left Piraeus Bank in July 2014.
Kammenos also referred to "an attempt to close the [Chaikalis] case without two key pieces of evidence," including Apostolopoulos' phone records and the second the original material submitted by the MP.
Among others, ANEL's leader criticised the prime minister's leadership of New Democracy "and the manner of his Ovidian change and conversion of an entire party into a far-right mechanism," while suggesting that his continued stay in power would bring new memorandums and "fully destroy property in the country and the middle class."
 Gov't spokeswoman blasts SYRIZA for criticising shelving of alleged bribery caseThe government spokeswoman on Monday attacked main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party for criticising the prosecutor's decision to shelve an alleged bribery attempt of an Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP.
"The only thing that has been admitted in this staged case is the alliance between SYRIZA and the party of (ANEL leader) Kammenos- (MP) Chaikalis," Sofia Voultepsi said.
Voultepsi accused SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras of insisting on backing his main partners in the third conspiracy in a row and that their main goal is to implement another plan for political anomaly.
"With these plans they are considering to create (political) anomaly, they don't hesitate to attack Justice," she noted.
A public prosecutor shelved the accusation by ANEL deputy Pavlos Haikalis that an attempt was made to bribe him to change his vote for Greek president, concluding that there is inadequate evidence to proceed to filing charges for attempted bribing. He said that "the validity of the charge cannot be substantiated."
 ANEL MP Chaikalis appears before the parliamentary Ethics Committee in response to a letter by ND MP PipiliOpposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Pavlos Chaikalis appeared before the Special Permanent Committee on Parliamentary Ethics on Monday afternoon, in response to a written request by ruling coalition senior partner New Democracy (ND) MP Fotini Pipili, to give clarifications on his economic transactions with investment adviser Giorgos Apostolopoulos.
In statements to the committee, Chaikalis claimed that the money he received from Apostopoulos was an installment of a loan. The MP said that he had lent Apostolopoulos 5,000 euros so that the latter could carry out stock market transactions himself, not on Chaikalis' behalf, and that Apostolopoulos was returning the sum to him bit by bit.
The committee had been asked to finding out why Apostolopoulos was returning money to Chaikalis and the provenance of this money, namely whether it "was it money from a loan with interest or from investing in a foreign stock market through an intermediary?" This question has been raised considering that active MPs are banned from engaging in stock market transactions pursuant to Law No 3213/2003.
The letter, addressed to the president of the Special Permanent Committee on Parliamentary Ethics, with which Pipili asked that Chaikalis' economic transactions be investigated, has been given to publicity by the ND MP.
Pipili underlined in her letter that "the foul smelling Chaikalis case, under investigation by justice, has another parameter that needs to be investigated," referring to the admission by Chaikalis himself that as an MP, he had economic transactions at a very high interest rate with another individual and that, through an intermediary, he invested in the stock market in violation of Law No 3213/2003.
The ND MP noted in the letter that the above-mentioned actions were described by Chaikalis himself in a series of statements he made to almost every media.
In statements to reporters as he exited the Ethics Committee, Chaikalis described his dialogue with Apostolopoulos and denied that any involvement in stock market transactions. Asked to explain why his statements broadcast by television channels seemed to indicate precisely the opposite, namely that he had given Apostolopoulos the money to invest for him in stock markets abroad, Chaikalis said it was case of "poor expression" that was the result of heightened "emotional duress" and repeatedly insisted that he had no stocks in his name.
The MP also told reporters that Apostolopoulos had claimed that Chaikalis would receive money to vote for the government's candidate for president either from Apostolopoulos himself or from the head of the Piraeus Bank governor's guard.
He also alleged that Apostolopoulos had told him that other deputies stood to be bribed and that To Potami, the new party, "also was bribed from several sources," naming its leader Stavros Theodorakis specifically as allegedly accepting bribes.
 'ANEL MP Chaikalis was willing to accept any kind of offerings since summer', Apostolopoulos saysInvestment adviser Giorgos Apostolopoulos told prosecutor Panagiotis Panagiotopoulos that Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Pavlos Chaikalis had confided in him last summer that he was willing to abandon the party and accept any kind of offerings in order to give a positive vote at the election of a President of the Republic.
According to Apostolopoulos, who on Saturday testified to the prosecutor, the deputy "was afraid of being recorded and that I would turn him in" and now he is trying to reverse the case.
Moreover, Apostolopoulos called Chaikalis' accusations "a result of deceptive expediency aiming at meeting specific partisan interests" and reiterated that he has nothing to do with vulgar political thoughts or behind the scenes negotiations. He also accused the complainant side of having commited a felony by intercepting private conversations without the permission of the authorities.
 Athens Bar Association refuses strike exemption for premier's lawsuit against the MP ChaikalisThe Athens Bar Association on Monday refused to grant the lawyer Petros Machas permission to 'break' the nationwide lawyers' strike in order to file a civil suit on behalf of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras against Independent Greeks (ANEL) party MP Pavlos Chaikalis.
The prime minister on Friday announced that he intended to sue Chaikalis over the latter's claims during the main newscast on the private television channel Mega, in which he embroiled Samaras in alleged attempt by a third individual, Giorgos Apostolopoulos, to offer him a bribe in order to change his vote in the presidential elections and support the ruling coalition candidate Stavros Dimas.
Due to the lawyers' strike, Machas needed to obtain the permission of the Athens Bar Association in order to file the suit on the prime minister's behalf but this was denied, on the grounds that the charges of slander and libel would not be written off if the suit was filed within three months.
The lawyer therefore withdraw his request for permission to file the suit. The prime minister still has the option of filing the suit in person, even at a police station, irrespective of whether the wording of his suit is drafted by his lawyer.
Lawyers throughout Greece are currently abstaining from all non-emergency duties in protest against the changes to the code of civil procedure.
 Parliamentary Ethics Committee to convene on the parliamentary institutionThe Parliamentary Ethics Committee on Monday will convene to discuss issues regarding the protection and strengthening of the parliamentary institution.
More specifically, the committee will convene at noon to investigate the statements made by independent deputies Odysseas Voudouris and Theodoros Parastatidis regarding the change of some deputies' attitude in the election of President of the Republic.
 Parliament's 'source of wealth' committee to convene within the week on Chaikalis' caseThe Parliament's "Source of Wealth" Committee is expected to convene in the coming days - possibly within the week - to examine the case of Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Pavlos Chaikalis.
According to parliament sources, the chairman of the committee Giorgos Kalantzis is expecting the exact phrasing of Chaikalis - who had claimed he had given 5,000 euros to Giorgos Apostolopoulos to invest in the stock market - to see if he had violated the article 13 of a 2003 law under which deputies are not allowed to have any securities transactions.
 SYRIZA spokesman Skourletis on political developmentsMain opposition SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis on Monday commented on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' proposal, speaking on Real FM private radio.
"Mr Samaras moved in the shadow of two major fears, yesterday. The first one is the fear of a special purpose government promoted by different sides, which means that he will not stay in his position, and the other, even bigger fear is that of the elections," Skourletis noted.
Regarding negotiations on debt and loan agreements, he said that "the reality today greatly differs from the reality in 2012, the parameters are not the same," adding that "the climate is more favourable to finally make this great debate on European strategies and at the same time raise our country's issue, the issue of negotiating the debt and loan agreements."
Skourletis underlined that the political forces, which have a plan and the authorisation, need to put all these into course.
Asked whether it is possible for negotiations to come to a deadlock and things take a turn for the worse, he said that he would refer to SYRIZA's programme as it was announced in Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), the proposals on non-performing loans, the settlement of debt to social security funds and the State, and the urgent need of tax measures, such as the restitution of the 12,000 euro annual income tax threshold.
"It is certain that this path will lead to a better situation and fewer difficulties than those that the Greek society is living and facing today," he added.
 DIMAR MP Founta says she will stick to 'present' in 2nd round of presidential electionsDemocratic Left (DIMAR) deputy Niki Founta on Monday in statements to Vima FM said she would not change her stance and still vote "present" in the second round of the presidential election.
"I will stick to 'present' and I will wait...for the prime minister to take this big step towards all parties and not just independent deputies so as to hold a series of discussions and then all can be called to explain whether they make their decisions considering the national or partisan interest," she said.
Asked on the possibility of a different candidate running in the third voting, she said: "Despite the fact that Dimas was not a commonly accepted choice...I have no problem with him or his candidacy. He is a fine man, but it is not about persons; it is about the essence."
 DIMAR spokesman Tsoukalis denies news report on the party's dissolutionOpposition Democratic Left (DIMAR) parliamentary spokesman Nikos Tsoukalis on Monday denied a media report claiming the party's imminent dissolution.
Speaking on "Athens 9.84" radio, he said that the news report in question "is out of place and out of time" and needs no comment, noting that the issue was never raised.
As regards the election of the president of the Republic, he said that he has contributed to the drawing up of a consensus proposal that would have allowed the country to have a minimum consensus in the months to follow.
He said that the proposal of the seven DIMAR MPs and the eight MPs is not his party's position even though he would have liked it to be, underlining that as the party's parliamentary spokesman and cadre he respects his party's collective decisions.
The DIMAR spokesman added that "Prime Minister Antonis Samaras with his earlier attitude has 'burned' the consensus initiative."
Responding to a question on future cooperation between DIMAR and SYRIZA, he noted that he cannot answer because the issue was never raised for discussion in his party's bodies.
 MPs Moutsinas, Kountoura rule out vote for president; 'Result locked' says SYRIZA cadre PappasIn the wake of statements on Monday by the MPs Paris Moutsinas and Elena Kountoura ruling out a vote in favour of the ruling coalition's presidential candidate Stavros Dimas in the second round of voting, a senior cadre in main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Nikos Pappas asserted that the result was now "locked" and the "political scene was set". All three were speaking to the radio station 'Sto Kokkino'.
According to Pappas, who heads SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras' political office, the "country is heading for elections" and the result of the first round of voting for the president showed that some move was imperative, since it was very far from the desired limit.
Commenting on the positions expressed on Sunday by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras about the possibility of agreeing to early elections, Pappas said these were a response to pressures within the premier's own party and not to the "democratic opposition parties, which have made it clear that the central choices that face us cannot be made without the popular will, therefore resort to the people's mandate takes precedence."
Pappas also pointed out that the only way that the 180 votes needed to elect a president could be collected was for MPs to vote counter to the official line of their respective parties.
Commenting on the bribery allegations made by ANEL MP Pavlos Chaikalis, Pappas noted that there was a "strong stink" and that in SYRIZA, "we view these events with revulsion."
"We cannot fail to note that one side went to the authorities and the public prosecutor, while the other side was hiding. I also note that in my case, for the media reports on 'piggy banks', I was summoned to testify within 24 hours... people have drawn their own conclusions," he added.
Independent MP Moutsinas had earlier said he would vote against Dimas in the second round and that the only solution was elections, and dismissed the PM's proposals as a "manoeuvre" and a "diversion" to overcome a deadlock he had created himself.
ANEL MP Kountoura, on her part, said the premier's proposals was "not honest and clean" and "not convincing".
"This is not a climate of consensus. There should have been a meeting of the political party leaders. If it was sincere, would a draft bill have been tabled on Saturday with 139 amendments [attached to it]? They are settling up everything before the elections. They are leading things toward elections, even if they say they don't want them. They continue to trivialise Parliament and democracy," she said.
 ND deputy Kalafatis expects more votes in favour of candidate President Dimas in the second round of the electionNew Democracy deputy Stavros Kalafatis on Monday said he believed "results will be better" in the second round of the presidential elections compared to the first one.
He referred to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' statement on a consensus election of the Greek President and noted this was a particularly positive initiative and responsible stance.
He also lashed out at SYRIZA, claiming the party shows no respect to the institution of the Greek President's election.
 Independent deputy Iatridi will support Dimas for Greek president on TuesdayIndependent MP Mika Iatridi announced on Monday she would support the government's candidate, Stavros Dimas, in the second round of elections for Greek president scheduled for Tuesday.
In a statement issued from Rhodes, Iatridi said she had decided to respond to the prime minister's call on Sunday for consensus and to reject political instability and uncertainty after speaking to her constituents, especially representatives of the commercial and tourism sectors.
Iatridi was originally elected to Parliament to represent the Dodecanese islands under the Independent Greeks (ANEL) ticket.
 Independent MP Giovanopoulos says he 'is still in deep thought'"I'm still in deep thought. I decide for the country, not for myself or my family. I have reached a decision on what needs to be said in Parliament tomorrow," independent MP Konstantinos Giovanopoulos said on Monday, speaking on "Vima" private radio.
Referring to the bribery allegations made by opposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Pavlos Chaikalis and whether he had become the target of similar pressures as well, he noted that "the whole situation is on the verge of being ludicrous," and denied that he was ever approached in such a way. He also underlined that for as long as it contiues, this kind of talk can do only harm.
 KKE announcement on 'stink' of scandal surrounding presidential election"The endless stink rising up from the process for electing a president of the Republic, along with the blackmail, manipulation and political wheeling and dealing in which all the political forces participate shows that the confrontation with the anti-popular policy demands the people's intervention and struggle with a strong Communist Party of Greece (KKE)," a KKE announcement said on Monday.
 President Papoulias' message to Greek expatriatesGreek President Karolos Papoulias on Monday in a message to Greek expatriates expressed his wish for national exaltation in 2015 while expressing his optimism that their contribution will help the country deal with its problems.
"Thanks to this effort as well as the valuable, as always, contribution of yours, in a spirit of national unity and solidarity, I am sure that we will deal successfully with all the major upcoming challenges and 2015 will prove to be a year of national exaltation," Papoulias said.
Papoulias underlined that 2014 was another tough test period for the country and the Greek society, which "..... exceeding its tolerance limits is still trying and fighting for a better future for Greece's return to growth and progress."
Moreover, Papoulias stressed that the organized presence of expatriates in the countries where they live greatly contributes to the promotion of Greece's rights and the promotion of education, culture and historical development amid a particularly difficult time for the country.
 Parliamentary committee on revision of Constitution holds its first meetingThe committee to revise the Greek Constitution met for the first time in Parliament on Monday under contentious circumstances that were reflected in the absence of four parties and disagreements as to the committee's purpose and proceedings.
Absentees included deputies from main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Democratic Left (DIMAR), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi).
Rapporteur for New Democracy, senior ruling coalition partner, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, proposed the revision along ten topics, but called for contributions as to the approach of the committee's work by other parties as well. He also took a strong stance against neoliberalism, underlining that the Greek Constitution "remains at the boundaries of radical liberalism with a social profile."
Former Parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis, rapporteur for PASOK, junior member of the ruling coalition, claimed that Sunday's statements by Premier Antonis Samaras "showed to me that the prime minister wants national elections."
ND deputy Nikos Panagiotopoulos went along the same lines, saying, "We all wonder what we are here for" and said that "we are now planning and organising a process useful and critical in all respects which we will [however] as a body, probably undermine in the coming days, as responsibility remains personal and collective."
Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Marina Chryssoveloni asserted that her party would participate in the committee as long as the process moved on, and reaffirmed the party's stance on the process that needs to be followed for the revision.
 Administrative Reform Minister Mitsotakis says 'growth rate of 3 pct is feasible if president is elected'"Economic growth will be rapid if we manage to elect a president of the Republic," Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday said.
Speaking on "Vima" private radio, he said that the election of Greece's president in the third round of voting will be redeeming for the economy and assured that the budgetary target of 3 pct growth "is absolutely feasible," adding that such a high growth rate will create "new jobs in the private sector."
Referring to the Chaikalis case, he criticised "[main opposition Radical Left Coalition] SYRIZA's hastiness to adopt Chaikalis' allegations" and noted that "in the past few months SYRIZA has invested in an intimidation policy targeting all MPs who would consider voting for president."
He spoke about a specific plan being implemented, naming SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras as the "moral accomplice," and noted that Tsipras "was the first to hint that the MPs who will vote (for president) are likely to have received bribes."
He said that the country should not be led to national elections because "they will test its economic stability and possibly lead it to big problems."
"The main reason why we should not have national elections is because we don't need just a presidential majority but a constitutional majority to change the clauses of the Constitution that create substantive problems to the way policy is implemented in the country," Mitsotakis said.
 Opposition reacts strongly to the various amendments attached to a health ministry draft billOpposition party MPs were up in arms on Monday, over the large number of last-minute, unrelated amendments attached by ministers to a health ministry-sponsored draft bill on the founding of an Observatory for Dementia. The draft bill is currently under discussion in Parliament and is expected to be voted later on Monday.
Literally dozens of amendments sponsored by various government ministries - among them, the two-month technical extension of Greece's bailout agreements - have been added to the draft bill, causing an outcry among opposition MPs.
The government, through its ministers and rapporteurs, defended the necessity of the new measures, underlining that they concern the settlement of lasting problems that cannot be put off any longer.
On its part, the opposition claims that the proposed measures include political favours made in the context of clientelist relations.
 Phone contact between ND emeritus president Mitsotakis and SYRIZA MEP GlezosNew Democracy emeritus president and former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis had a phone contact with SYRIZA MEP Manolis Glezos, sources said.
Mitsotakis congratulated Glezos on this statement regarding what independent deputies Odysseas Voudouris and Theodoros Parastatidis said on MPs who switched their stance in relation to the government. According to the same sources, Mitsotakis told Glezos that with his statement, he "saves the honour of the political world."
 SYRIZA leader Tsipras meets with British Ambassador to AthensMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday met with British Ambassador to Athens John Kittmer.
Their discussion focused on developments in Greece, Europe and the greater region.
 Macedonia-Thrace min, Finnish ambassador discuss the two countries' increased cooperation prospects in tourismMacedonia-Thrace Minister George Orfanos on Monday met with Finland's Ambassador to Athens Pauli Maekelae and discussed the possibilities of strengthening financial cooperation between the two countries.
"Bilateral relations are at an exceptional level. We discussed the investments that can be made in the framework of the 3908/2011 development law that the ministry handles, as well as in other sectors such as infrastructure, primary production, manufacturing, commerce and tourism, namely all those things that can bring us closer," Orfanos said.
The Finnish ambassador said there is room for the strengthening of cooperation, especially in tourism, as each year 200,000 Finns visit Greece and their number could be increased.
 Public sector employees to assess the new evaluation systemPublic sector employees will be able to evaluate the new performance evaluation system in the public sector as of today (Dec. 22), it was announced on Monday.
All public sector employees are called to anonymously answer eight questions on the administrative reform ministry evaluation plan rough draft, after reading the analytical presentation of the new evaluation system posted on the website www.koitamemprosta.gr.
The responses given, in combination with the public debate to be launched by the ministry in the next few days, will be taken under consideration in the drawing up of the relevant draft bill.
"Keeping our commitments, we unveil for public debate the new permanent evaluation system for public sector employees. We are interested in the opinion of the public sector employees themselves," Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis underlined.
 Greek fighter planes in mock dogfight with armed Turkish aircraft infringing Athens FIRHellenic Air Force planes were scrambled on Monday to intercept armed Turkish fighter jets that entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) without submitting flight plans on two consecutive occasions. In both cases the interception and identification evolved into a mock dogfight between the Greek and Turkish planes west of Lesvos and the region above Anti-Psarra.
The last occasion when there was a mock dogfight between Greek and Turkish fighter jets was a few days earlier on December 19. Prior to that, the previous occurrence of a mock dogfight had been on April 15 this year, when there were two instances, and before that in January 2012, when there was one.
According to sources, the Hellenic Armed Forces are closely monitoring this change of stance on the part of Greece's neighbour Turkey.
A total of six Turkish fighter jets entered the Athens FIR on Monday. There was one infringement of air traffic regulations that evolved into two violations of Greek air space above the north and central Aegean. In all cases, the Turkish planes were intercepted and identified by Greek fighter planes.
 Press union urges public order minister to take strong stance on police violence against journalistsThe National Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) on Monday presented a memo to the ministry of public order and citizen protection in protest to "the repeated police violence and arrests targeting journalists."
POESY underlined that the memo was handed to the minister's aide, noting that its delegation had a brief opportunity to speak to the minister outside his office.
The memo underlined that "as recognized by the Reporters Without Borders, police violence against journalists is heightened and has assumed endemic dimensions." In some cases, it said, police violence has led to the permanent disability of journalists and that the internal investigations held usually reach the conclusion that there is no evidence proving that a disciplinary violation or criminal offence was committed by police officers.
POESY said this situation could no longer continue and urged the minister to be merciless when dealing with such phenomena and ensure that punitive action will be taken when necessary.
 Dep. Development Minister Mitarachi says "investors have adopted a wait-and-see approach"International markets appear to be "frozen" as regards the likelihood of investments in Greece, Deputy Development & Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarachi on Monday said, adding that the same trend is observed in the stock market and state bonds, considering that investors have adopted a wait-and-see approach.
In a press conference with Enterprise Greece CEO Stephanos Issaias on Enterprise Greece's operational programme for 2015, Mitarachi noted that in 2013 the net inflows of foreign direct investments in the country increased 43 pct, while the increase in the previous year was 63.6 pct.
"The figures for the first nine months are very encouraging, as they confirm that we are on an upward course," the deputy minister said, adding that liquidity will improve in 2015 because the cash flow from the banks will be restored.
A presentation of the 2015 planning was also made during the press conference.
 Greek current account surplus up significantly in Jan-OctGreece's current account deficit rose slightly to 199 million euros in October, from 118 million in the same month last year, reflecting the improvement, on the one hand, in the services balance, owing mainly to a rise in net transport and "other" services receipts, and, on the other hand, in the current transfers balance, due to an increase in net transfers from the EU, despite the deterioration in the trade balance, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.
The central bank, in a report, said that the country's trade deficit grew by 209 million year-on-year, owing to the higher net import bill for oil and other goods excluding ships. By contrast, net payments for purchases of ships decreased considerably. The trade deficit excluding ships grew, despite a 12.0 pct rise in oil export receipts and a 9.4 pct rise in ''other'' goods export receipts.The surplus of the services balance widened by 199 million euros year-on-year, primarily on account of improvements in the transport and in the "other" services balances. Travel receipts increased by 4.6 pct, reflecting an 18.9 pct rise in non-residents' arrivals, which was largely offset by a rise in travel spending by residents abroad.
In the January-October 2014 period, the current account balance showed a surplus of 3.6 billion euros, compared with 2.1 billion over the same period in 2013. In addition, the overall balance of goods and services recorded a surplus of 2.9 billion, compared with 1.2 billion in 2013. Receipts from exports of goods increased by 4.9 pct, while receipts from services rose by 11.4 pct.
The trade deficit grew by 908 million euros, mainly on account of higher net payments for purchases of ships. The net oil import bill recorded just a slight increase, as did the trade deficit excluding oil and ships.
Travel spending by non-residents in Greece grew by 10.6 in the January-October period, year-on-year, reflecting a 21.9 rise in non-residents' arrivals.
Moreover, in the January-October 2014 period, the income account deficit fell by 429 million euros, mainly as a result of lower net interest payments. Finally, the current transfers surplus contracted by 726 million year-on-year, mainly as a result of lower general government transfer receipts from the EU, and stood at 2.9 billion euros.
The overall transfers balance (current transfers plus capital transfers) recorded a surplus of 4.7 billion euros in the January-October 2014 period, compared with 6.4 billion over the corresponding period in 2013. In the January-October 2014 period, the combined current account and capital transfers balance showed a surplus of 5.3 billion, against 4.9 billion in the same period in 2013.
In the January-October 2014 period, non-residents' direct investment in Greece showed a net inflow of 1.3 billion, while residents' direct investment abroad showed a net outflow of 512 million. Under portfolio investment, a net outflow of 3.5 billion was recorded.
At the end of October 2014, Greece's reserve assets stood at 4.9 billion euros, compared with 4.5 billion at end-October 2013.
 Finance ministry amendment to resolve several outstanding issuesAn amendment tabled by the finance ministry in Parliament gives extensions to outstanding issues in taxation, including withdrawn cars, real estate and changes on the E9 tax form.
Among others, the amendment includes the one-year extension of the replacement of old-technology private cars with new ones up of to 2,000 cc to December 20, 2015; the criteria will not change; changes in the real estate assets as recorded on the tax service's E9 form are extended to December 30 (From December 19); and capital gains taxation resulting from property taxes is suspended from January 1, 2015 to December 30, 2016.
The changes included also affect taxation of transfer of titles, details on claiming expenditures for farmers and professionals who do not have to keep accounting books, casino supervision rules (extended beyond January 1), details on blocking bank accounts and assets other than cash held by banks whose owners are being investigated and the opportunity of including the state in privatisation procedures involving the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund.
 Tourism minister at innovative enterprises event; meets with shipping minister, cruise repsPolicies in support of innovative enterprises in the sector of tourism were presented by Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Monday in a ministry-sponsored event on "Innovation and Tourism: Policies in support of startups and clusters to upgrade the tourism product."
Kefalogianni underlined that the efforts made target young entrepreneurs, startups, technology innovators, private sector investment organizations, public sector tourism organisations and all the productive structures of tourism.
She noted that "entrepreneurs should exploit Greece's advantage, called tourism" and underlined that "the state-entrepreneur era is long gone." She referred to the online platform Greece4Start aimed at creating a data base that will be able to support young entrepreneurs and startups by providing useful information on legislative, financial, technical and management issues.
The importance of the sea cruise sector was underlined in a broad meeting held earlier at Piraeus Port Authority S.A. with the participation of shipping & Aegean and tourism ministers, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Olga Kefalogianni respectively. The meeting was also attended by the managements of port authorities, representatives of sea cruise companies and Coastguard officials.
Varvitsiotis referred to the country's benefits from sea cruise tourism that recorded a 13 pct increase this year and announced the establishment of a National Coordinating Committee to monitor the sector in order to solve daily problems.
On her part, Kefalogianni noted that 2014 was an excellent year for the tourism sector, noting that more than 20 million tourists visited the country not counting the 2 million sea cruise visitors.
 ESEE warns against the impact of political developments on the marketAs soon as the government decided to go to early presidential elections in early December, the market started destabilizing, resulting in a reduction of consumer spending by 6-8 percent compared to the same month last year, the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) on Monday said in an open letter to political leaders.
At the same time, foreign suppliers demanded Greek import companies to pay in advance the total amount of the 2015 orders, the confederation added.
"Early national elections for a fourth time in a five-year period and amid strong pressure by the two-month extension period of the Greek programme must be avoided," the confederation noted in the letter.
Market representatives warned that prudence and calmness should prevail in the market as soon as possible, otherwise the economic and political consequences will be harmful for the country's entrepreneurship.
Therefore, ESEE suggested all possibilities for national understanding be exhausted by the end of the year so that so that a President of the Republic is elected through a procedure of political consensus, dignity, credibility, democratic expression and above all unity.
 SYRIZA tables draft law for restoring Christmas bonus for low pensionsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA)'s Parliamentary group, in a proposal led by party leader Alexis Tsipras, on Monday again tabled a draft law in Parliament for restoring the 13th 'Christmas bonus' pension for pensioners receiving less than 700 euros a month.
"SYRIZA is tabling the present draft bill on this day, December 22, when pensioners would have received their Christmas bonus if this had not been abolished by the then memorandum governments with law 4093/2012," SYRIZA said.
The party said that the measure would benefit 1,162,920 pensioners at a total annual cost of 543,055,600 euros, as calculated in the proposals presented by the main opposition at the Thessaloniki International Fair in September. It also repeated a pledge to "put the brakes" on pension cuts and gradually restore losses to pensions imposed in recent years, according to the rate of recovery of the economy and starting with the lowest pensions.
It added that the draft bill tabled on Monday would be an "immediate post-election legislative measure that a government of the Left will promote, in the framework of a programme of urgent measures to deal with the humanitarian crisis."
 First Greek water aerodrome to operate in sping 2015 in CorfuThe first Greek water aerodrome will start its operation in spring 2015 in Corfu, in time for the Easter tourist season, following the signing of the relevant agreement by Shipping and Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Saturday.
However, the key to its success is the creation of a wider network of operational water aerodromes, the president of the operating company "Greek Water Airports," Tasos Govas, told ANA-MPA.
"A crucial prerequisite for a company to start its flight operations and become viable is to create a minimum network of water aerodromes in the wider region, which will operate flights," he said.
Greek Water Airports, which is also responsible for the creation and operation of water aerodromes in another 13 regions around Greece, is expected to receive licenses for the town of Patras and the islands of Paxi, in western Greece, within the next two months.
The facilities in Corfu and Patras will be operated jointly with the local port authorities.
In Corfu, the company said it will initially use two Canadian seaplanes and will cooperate with Greek airport company K2 SmartJets for their operation. Seaplanes will be able to land in four water lanes - the main one and three alternative in case of bad weather - and will employ 10 people.
Govas also said there's great interest from foreign investors to participate in Greek water aerodromes, as the country's geomorphology is considered ideal for the operation of his type of plane. They are however worried about political instability and the ever-changing tax laws, he added.
Greek Water Airports will also expand its operations in Crete, with three lanes planned on Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Hersonissos.
A second company, Hellenic Seaplanes, is also joining the competition in Cete, planning the creation of water aerodromes in Sitia.
The same company is proceeding with the licensing of two facilities in the ports of Rafina and Lavrio, in Attica.
Seaplanes are expected to promote tourism, cover medical emergencies, facilitate cargo flights, search and rescue operations and take an active role in small-scale fire-fighting.
 Outstanding debts towards the state rise by 1.6 billion euros in NovemberOutstanding debts towards the state increased by 1.6 billion euros in November, raising the total number of new debts to 12.5 billion since the beginning of the year, the finance ministry revealed on Monday.
According to the data, the overall number of arrears towards the state amounts to 72.77 billion euros. Of this amount, 60.27 bilion euros are old debts accumulated until the end of 2013.
 Piraeus port employees, dock workers warn of more labour action against OLP-Cosco agreementGreek port employees and workers warned on Monday they would continue their labour action against the planned sale of the 67 pct of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) or any other kind of privatisation plans, following the parliamentary approval of a friendly agreement between OLP and Cosco in Saturday.
"With procedures that distort Democracy, with an amendment that was voted in an empty parliament, the government handed over the expansion of the Pier III to Cosco," the Federation of Port Employees (OMYLE) and OLP Dock Workers Union said in a joint statement.
"It (the government) even ignored the very few conditions put forward by the Court of Audit, hurt the interests of the state and promoted the business position of Cosco," they added.
The two unions also said they have taken legal action to cancel and suspend the friendly agreement between OLP and Cosco which will be brought to court in the next few months (February - May), while another case against the sale of OLP and OLTH has a set hearing date at the Supreme Court.
 Public opens two new stores in Agrinio and KavalaPublic, a Greek electronics and entertainment retail chain, is expanding its network with new stores opening in the cities of Agrinio and Kavala, raising the number of stores to 49 in Greece and Cyprus. The new stores have a workforce of 43 workers and their set up cost more than 1.0 million euros.
Public expanded in several cities around Greece this year, such as Alexandroupoli, Pyrgos, Halkida, Drama, Serres, Larisa, Rhodes and Trikala.
 Greek stocks end slightly upGreek stocks ended slightly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, in subdued trading conditions as investors remained on the sidelines ahead of a second vote in Parliament on Tuesday to elect a new Greek president. The composite index of the market rose 0.63 pct to end at 867.84 points, after rising as much as 2.39 pct early in the session. Turnover was a low 64.96 million euros.
The Large Cap index rose 1.45 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.19 pct lower. OPAP (6.11 pct), OTE (4.31 pct), National Bank (3.95 pct) and PPC (2.82 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Aegean Airlines (5.19 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (3.67 pct), Ellaktor (3.63 pct) and Motor Oil (3.50 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Travel (4.88 pct), Telecoms (4.31 pct) and Food (2.20 pct) were top gainers, while Oil (3.57 pct), Raw Materials (2.53 pct) and Financial Services (1.44 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 57 to 54, with another 15 issues unchanged. PC Systems (20 pct), Pasal (19.32 pct) and Pegasus (18.75 pct) were top gainers, while Space Hellas (9.95 pct), Lazarides (9.81 pct) and Akritas (9.68 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -1.44%
Industrial Products: -1.24%
Real Estate: -1.87%
Personal & Household: -1.80%
Food & Beverages: +2.20%
Raw Materials: -2.53%
Mass Media: Unchanged
Travel & Leisure: +4.88%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.47
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.19
Coca Cola HBC: 15.88
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.94
National Bank of Greece: 1.58
Piraeus Bank: 1.00
Grivalia Properties: 7.55
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 7.64 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 7.75 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.23 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.60 pct. Turnover was a low 12 million euros, of which 8.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 4.0 million euros were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.329 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.252 pct from 0.254 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.176 pct from 0.177 pct, the three-month rate was unchanged at 0.081 pct and the one-month rate unchanged at 0.026 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 1.93 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 5,516 contracts with 43,674 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 9,361 contracts with investment interest focusing on
National Bank's contracts (2,931), followed by Piraeus Bank (1,404), Alpha Bank (1,393), PPC (932), OTE (583), OPAP (485), MIG (402), Eurobank (249), Ellaktor (226), Mytilineos (159), Jumbo (78), METKA (72), Grivalia Properties (72) and Hellenic Petroleum (69).
 Foreign exchange rates - MondayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.2259
Pound sterling 0.7849
Danish kroner 7.4401
Swedish kroner 9.5536
Japanese yen 147.06
Swiss franc 1.2035
Norwegian kroner 9.0565
Canadian dollar 1.4257
Australian dollar 1.5057
 Parliament's Conference of Presidents decides on members of NERIT supervisory boardParliament's Conference on Presidents on Monday decided to appoint the members of the Supervisory Board of the state broadcaster NERIT SA, by a simple majority of the members that were present. The names approved included Nikolaos Amanatidis (journalist), Aikaterini Apostolou (lawyer), Efthymia Ioannidou (lawyer), Anna Karamanou (former chair of the European Parliament's Committee on the Rights of Women and Gender Equality), Thalis Mikhail Poulantzas (political scientist), Ioannis Tomkos (IT and telecommunications professor) and Constantinos Tsiakalos (writer-journalist).
 SYRIZA offices evacuated after bomb hoaxPolice on Monday evacuated SYRIZA main offices at Koumoundourou square in Athens, in the wake of a bomb threat that was later proved to be a hoax.
Several meetings were taking place at the time the warning call was made. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras had already left the building to have a scheduled meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos.
A search by the police bomb squad concluded on Monday afternoon did not find anything suspicious in the building and employees were allowed to return to the party's offices.
 National Archaeological Museum to host 'Christmas concert' on December 24The National Archaeological Museum will host a "Christmas Concert" featuring the string quartet "Arco dell'Arte' to celebrate the festive season, starting at noon on Christmas Eve.
The programme presents three of the best Baroque concertos written for the Christmas holiday (A. Corelli's Concerto Op.6 No.8 in G minor "Fatto per la notte di Natale", G.Torelli's Concerto Op.8 No.6 in G minor, P. A. Locatelli's Concerto Op.1 No.8 in F minor) and four arias from J. S. Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" sung by mezzo-soprano Marisia Papalexiou.
The concert is free of charge for visitors to the museum.
 Work stoppages on metro, ISAP electric railway and tram on TuesdayWorkers in the Athens fixed rail public transport - including the metro, the ISAP electric railway (green line) and tram - have announced work stoppages during the morning shift on Tuesday.
The work stoppage will extend from the start of the day's shift until 8:00 for the metro and electric railway and until 7:00 for the tram. Tram services are not expected to fully normalise until 8:00.
In an announcement, workers said the strike action was held to demand a final solution to problems linked to staff recruitment and the covering of vacant positions via the return of colleagues that were fired or transferred elsewhere. If this occurred, they added, "the outsourcing of jobs to state-dependent private 'entrepreneurs' will be greatly restricted and the organisation will be able to operate depending entirely on its own resources, human and material."
 Fair on TuesdayFair weather and northwesterly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Mostly fair in the northern parts of the country with temperatures between -01C-15C.Sunny in the western parts with temperatures ranging from 04C-18C.Same weather in the eastern parts with temperatures between 0C and 18C.Sunny over the islands, 10C-18C. Fair in Athens, 06C-18C; the same for Thessaloniki, 05C-14C.
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