|Monday, 18 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-02-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 5 February 2015 Issue No: 4878
 PM Tsipras meets Hollande, urges 'new deal' for EuropePARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged a 'new deal' for Europe, during joint statements with French President Francois Hollande after a lengthy meeting in Paris on Wednesday.
Hollande, on his part, underlined that austerity as "the only reality and choice" was no longer acceptable but also noted that there were commitments that had to be respected. He called for dialogue between Greece and Europe and said that France will give its support.
The first meeting between the two leaders, which overran the scheduled time to last nearly two hours, was described as very cordial. Afterwards, Hollande reaffirmed France's willingness to assist the new Greek government in finding "a stable and long-term solution".
Tsipras, referring to France as a stabilising and "guarantor power" in the European Union, said it should take a leading role in the "common effort for political change".
He also stressed that Greece was not a threat for Europe and that the political change in the country was an opportunity that everyone had to exploit. "By overcoming the crisis in Greece, we will give impetus to overcoming the crisis in Europe," Tsipras said.
The Greek prime minister expressed satisfaction at visiting the "country of the Enlightenment at a time when, in Europe, economic irrationality has been imposed on logical argument and common sense has given way to obsession."
Stability at this time called for a change of policy and a final and decisive shift toward growth, Tsipras added, saying that Europe needed a new agreement for a return to growth, higher employment and stronger social cohesion.
The Greek prime minister also noted that there were no "tenants and landlords" in the EU and the Eurozone: "we are all joint residents in our shared home and we have an obligation to work for our common future," he said. While everyone had to respect the rules governing their co-habitation in Europe, there must also be respect for the equality of the member-states, he said.
Referring to his meetings over the last two days, Tsipras said that he had presented a "realistic proposal that can lead to a mutually acceptable and sustainable result." He said this agreement would give the Greek government enough time and space to make the necessary reforms, which no one was forcing Greece to make.
"We ourselves must proceed to make our state reliable, our public administration efficient and to restore social justice," he said.
Tsipras stressed that the Greek people have suffered over the last few years and made many sacrifices, but "not everyone paid their share".
"We must, therefore, work hard in order to tackle tax evasion and be finished with the clientelist state," he added.
With regard to Greece's debt, Tsipras said he had submitted "realistic proposals for making this sustainable" and emphasised that this was not just a Greek issue but a matter that concerned all of Europe, which must hold a discussion and take decisions together for a common future "so that we exit the self-reinforcing crisis".
On his part, the French president referred to a new situation emerging in Europe after decisions for greater flexibility combined with the investment programme planned by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. He said these created a better climate for a long-term solution for Greece after four years of austerity.
At the same time, he emphasised the need for certain principles to be respected, among them responsibility in ensuring the stability of the euro, the internal solidarity of EU countries, respect for the strong mandate given by the Greek electorate but also respect for the country's commitments regarding the debt.
Success, according to Hollande, would depend on a reinforced but sincere dialogue between all interested parties, aiming at an agreement that will determine the economic framework of a new contract. He also repeated a French pledge of assistance to Greece in improving its tax mechanisms and promised to encourage French companies to invest in the country, taking advantage of the Juncker programme.
The two leaders did not take reporters' questions after making joint statements.
Sources within the French presidency later said that Hollande had been genuinely pleased with the Greek premier's stance during their meeting, saying that Tsipras appeared to want "discussion among equals but not confrontation". They also conceded that Hollande sought to use cooperation with the Greek government in order to promote his own views on growth within Europe.
Before his departure from Paris, Tsipras also briefly met with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
 'We are in a good way to find a viable solution' PM Tsipras saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
"We don't have already an agreement, but we are in a good direction to find a viable agreement," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said after a meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
Tsipras expressed his optimism for "finding a common, viable and mutually acceptable solution for our common future," adding that "that the history of the EU is a history of disagreements but in the end of the day of compromises."
"We respect the rules of the EU and we want to correct this framework, not to smash this framework," he said.
"We believe in this framework we could find a common viable and mutually acceptable solution for our common peoples, for our common perspectives," he stressed.
On his part, Schulz said that a prime minister travelling around Europe meeting governments, meeting European institutions today is a prime minister fighting for European cooperation and not for Greek separation. "This is a very good and strong signal," he underlined.
"The Greek prime minister is fighting for its country and the way he is doing it offers a dialogue and a dialogue is the basis for compromise and constructive solutions. It is time those who brought their money out of the country during the years contribute to the solution of the problem as well and the government which is running to this direction can count 100 percent on the support of the European parliament," he added.
 EU's Schulz says Greece risks bankruptcy if it does not uphold commitmentsBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Greece risks national bankruptcy if it does not uphold its commitments to its European partners, European parliament President Martin Schulz said in a newspaper interview that will be published on Thursday.
"If Greece unilaterally changes the agreements, the other side is no longer obliged to stick to them," he told business daily Handelsblatt. "Then no more money will go to Greece and the state won't be able to finance itself," Schulz was quoted as saying. This can only be averted if Athens sticks to its commitments agreed with Eurozone.
The EU official said the Greek government had no choice but to stick to its commitments to European partners, adding that it was only on this condition that they would be able to talk about whether to give Athens concessions.
Schulz explained that if Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras backs down, his European partners could do some things for Greece. For example, the EU could recover funds that rich Greeks had sent abroad during the financial crisis so that they will be taxed in Greece.
"If Tsipras asks, we'll find ways and means to make it possible," he said adding that this could also hold true of accounts in countries with which the EU has tax agreements.
 Tsipras-Juncker discussed need for new plan and 'bridge' agreement, gov't sources sayIn his meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proposed a joint agreement on a new four-year plan and also called for a 'bridge' agreement in the interim, Greek government sources said.
They said the meeting was held in a good atmosphere and that "reference was made to the need for a bridge-agreement that will ensure a transitional period, in which the Greek economy and society will have room to breathe. The aim of the bridge-agreement is to give enough time in order to jointly draw up a four-year plan for the period 2015-2018."
According to the Greek side, this agreement will include such elements as:
- A radical National Reform Plan in critical sectors, such as fighting corruption and graft, tackling tax evasion and boosting the efficiency of public administration.
- Fiscal balance, but without the "monstrous" primary surpluses of 4.5 pct that kept the Greek economy hostage and set up a debt and recession trap that was crushing Greek society. Tsipras said that the Greek government will respect EU rules but underlined that there is no rule demanding such extensive austerity. He said that Europe must not insist on a mistake that was intensifying the vicious cycle of recession and debt, both in Greece and Europe.
According to the same sources, Juncker said he was at the disposal of the new Greek government, to help and assist in finding a joint agreement, but also noted that differences remain and must be bridged. He said he was aware of the political aspect of the issue and was obliged to talk to all side in order for an agreement to be reached.
The Greek side said it was "extremely positive" that all EU institutions were willing to talk with the new Greek government and understood that time was needed for discussion, without presenting ultimatums.
"It is indicative that there was not the slightest mention of the 'troika' nor any reference to continuing the previous programme, nor the slightest mention of continuing the previous policy," a government source said. This confirmed that the Greek people, with their vote on January 25, "opened a new path for the Greek economy and society and for all of Europe. And also that they have a government that will honour the mandate it was given," the source added.
 EU Commission Vice-President Sefcovic says Juncker, Tsipras talks to continue without mediaBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, in charge of Energy Union, on Wednesday said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to continue their talks.
A few hours after the meeting between Juncker and Tsipras, the European Commission vice-president gave a press conference on energy in the EU, during which he was asked by reporters if the issue of Greece was discussed in today's scheduled meeting of the European commissioners.
Sefcovic responded that developments in Greece were not discussed because the meeting between Juncker and Tsipras was in progress at the time. However, he underlined that Juncker and Tsipras agreed to continue their talks but not through the mass media.
European Commission sources said that the meeting lasted an hour and focused on all issues concerning the Greek economy. They also said that Juncker listened carefully to the Greek prime minister's views and positions and that the two men agreed to continue their talks without the mass media observing.
The same sources refused to comment on Tsipras' statement that "the talks are in the right direction". They also said that Juncker is in continuous contact with all officials related with the Greek issues, so that they have a clearer picture before the February 12 Summit meeting.
European Commission sources did not rule out the likelihood of an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting before February 12 "if the necessary ingredients are present" as they noted characteristically.
 EU Council President Tusk's statement after meeting with Greek PM TsiprasBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The President of the EU Council Donald Tusk on Wednesday met Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Brussels and stressed the need to find a solution acceptable to all member-states involved in the negotiations as regards the European financial assistance to Greece.
In a written statement, Tusk underlined that those negotiations will take place in the Eurogroup, will be difficult and will require cooperation and dialogue as well as determined efforts by Greece.
He also noted that during the meeting they agreed on the importance of unity within the European Union with regard to other key challenges facing Europe.
 White House official: 'It's important for Greece to cooperate with Europe, IMF'NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The Greek government should cooperate with its European partners and the International Monetary Fund to achieve an agreement, a senior White House administration official stated on Wednesday, in a conference call on the Vice President Jo Biden's trip to Belgium and Germany.
"We do believe that in the case of Greece it is very important for the Greek government to work cooperatively with its European colleagues, as well as with the IMF. And we have advised it to do so, and we are hopeful that these conversations are now moving to a place with some cooperation and mutual understanding," the official said, answering a question on Greece.
"We very much favor a strong Europe with a strong euro and the integrity of the eurozone. So that's as far as Greece is concerned."
The official also explained that for a number of years, the US have suggested and argued in the G20 that it's important to have a focus on growth and jobs. "We believe that the G20 and the G7 have moved over time to put that as a higher priority and that that is something that there is increasing support for. Of course, then you have to figure out what is the best way to achieve that."
The issue of Greece is also expected to be discussed in Biden's meetings with the leaders of Belgium and Germany, as well as in the meeting of US President Barack Obama with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House next Monday.
 Anxious to meet PM Tsipras, says Chancellor MerkelBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said "I don't think that the positions of the Eurozone member-states differ from each other as regards Greece."
The German chancellor made the comment after her meeting with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and reiterated that German policy is firmly in favour of Greece's presence in the eurozone. She also underlined that she is anxious to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in next week's Summit meeting.
On his part, Muscat expressed opposition to a Greek debt "haircut", adding that he is open to a discussion on the debt's terms.
 FinMin Varoufakis says talks with Draghi "very fruitful"Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Wednesday said he was "encouraged about the future" following "constructive talks" he had in Frankfurt with the president of European Central Bank, Mario Draghi. The Greek Finance Minister met ECB's head to ask for support for Greek banks.
"We had very fruitful talks," the Greek FinMin told reporters after the meeting, reassuring that their communication was "excellent", a fact offer "strong encouragement for the future".
 Greece has started debt talks with IMF, FinMin Varoufakis tells Italian paper La RepubblicaGreece has started negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over its plan to swap existing government debt for growth-linked bonds, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in an interview published on Wednesday, according to Reuters news agency.
Varoufakis also said he was optimistic that the Greek debt problem would be solved and had received good feedback during meetings with financiers in London on Monday.
 Greece will 'never again present a budget deficit,' FinMin Varoufakis tells German paperGreek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis promised in an interview with a German newspaper that his country will "never again" have a budget deficit and tried to reassure Germany that Athens' new policies did not mean it was turning its back on reform, Reuters news agency reported.
"The Germans have to understand that it doesn't mean we are straying from the reform path if we give a pensioner who lives on 300 euros a month an extra 300 euros a year," the minister, who is due to visit Berlin on Thursday, told Die Zeit.
"I can promise you Greece will - apart from interest payments - never again present a budget deficit. Never, never, never!" said Varoufakis, adding that the new Greek government "will never seek financial help from Moscow".?
Varoufakis is scheduled to meet German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Thursday.
 Finance Minister Varoufakis' interview in 'Die Zeit'BERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
The online edition of the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" on Wednesday featured an interview with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis under the headline "I am the finance minister of a bankrupt state".
"Germany should not trust Greece, but should listen to it", Varoufakis said and pledged that he will not create new debts. He called the bailout policy a "huge mistake" and called for a "Merkel Plan," modeled after the "Marshall Plan," that will unite the peoples of Europe and be a wonderful legacy of the German chancellor.
Varoufakis said that reforms are needed to target nepotism and corruption and to ensure that the wealthy in Greece, who don't pay taxes, are made to pay their share. He noted that OECD secretary general Angel Gurria has been approached and will help the Greek government draw up a reform programme.
As regards the Greek debt "haircut" ruled out by the German government, he said that the burden of Greece's debt can be reduced without touching the amount owed, adding "my proposal is to link the interest paid with economic growth".
Varoufakis said that Greece needs a loan that will serve as a "bridge", noting that the ECB should support the Greek banks by issuing short term bonds. He noted that this wouldn't be the first time for the ECB and said that it wouldn't be a long-term solution, underlining that "we will have our plan ready by early June".
As regards the likelihood of requesting Russia's assistance, Varoufakis said "that this is not being discussed, we will never ask for Moscow's economic assistance".
 Finance ministry confirms meeting between Varoufakis and Thomsen in ParisFinance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met the Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) European Department Poul Thomsen at the weekend, in Paris, according to a Finance ministry's announcement.
The aim was for the two officials to get acquainted after the assumption of their new responsibilities, the announcement added.
 IMF confirms meeting between Varoufakis-ThomsenA spokesman of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday confirmed that Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met with the Director of the IMF's European Department, Poul Thomson in Paris over the weekend to "get to know each other" and "discuss the challenges Greece faces."
The spokesman also said "there is an agreed framework for the management of debt based on the current programme" and noted that "there has been no talk with Greek authorities on changing this framework."
Earlier, the Greek finance ministry had also confirmed the meeting.
 ND spokesman on Tsipras and Varoufakis' statementsNew Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Wednesday commented on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' recent statements.
"Yesterday in Rome, Tsipras called Greece a corrupt country. Today, Varoufakis described it as bankrupt. They are defaming our country just like (former Prime Minister) George Papandreou did. It is up to the Greek people to judge," he said according to a party announcement.
 Italian Finance Ministry: Growth a priority for the sustainability of the Greek debtROME(ANA-MPA/Th.Syngelakis-Andreadis)
The Italian Finance Ministry issued an announcement on Tuesday's meeting between Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and his Italian counterpart Pier Carlo Padoan.
"The meeting was held in a very friendly climate and lasted approximately one hour. The Greek Minister presented the general terms of the economic policy initiatives that the Greek government is planning to follow," the announcement said.
Moreover, the announcement said that "Minister Padoan underlined that emphasis should be put on the economic growth of all European countries" adding that "the focus on growth is a priority in order the sustainability of the Greek debt to be secured and new jobs be created in the country that will contribute in the effort the Greek people to overcome the difficult social condition which is the result of the crisis."
Finally, the Finance Ministry's announcement noted that Padoan also referred to the central role of the European institutions underlining that "in the European Union, solidarity and the feeling of responsibility are specific principles that are applied together. Eurogroup and Ecofin are the institutional bodies in which every country members can discuss and deal with its problems with trust that common solutions, for the benefit of all member states, will be reached."
 Berlin's stance on Greece hasn't changed, the German government spokesman saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
Germany's stance on Greece remains the same, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday said, pointing out that Berlin is waiting for the complete Greek plan. He also clarified that the issue of Greece was not discussed in today's cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile, the finance minister's spokesman Martin Jaeger repeated that Berlin rejects the likelihood of a Greek debt haircut and clarified that the credit line is not an option at this time, stressing that a precondition for Germany's support is that Greece is in a programme.
Also, he was negative on the Greek government's request for a European conference on the debt.
Responding to a question on the dress code in the meetings between the German officials and their Greek counterparts, Seibert noted that "the German government never judged its interlocutors based on whether they wore a tie, leather jacket or classic suit."
"It doesn't matter to us. What we expect from the Greek government is to present us its economic and fiscal strategy," he added.
On his part, Jaeger said, ahead of tomorrow's meeting between German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his Greek counterpart, that there is no dress code for the ministry's visitors.
 Greek government rejects alleged German request to implement measures agreed with previous govtGreek government sources estimated on Wednesday that the tough positions which were allegedly expressed by the German finance ministry in a leaked document which was made public by Reuters "prove that the German government has officially entered the negotiations."
The German government has chosen to keep "the tough stance at the start of the negotiation" and that all proposals included in the documented are rejected by Athens.
"It's obvious these proposals will not be accepted by the new Greek government as they impinge on the recent mandate of the Greek people and don't help Europe's growth prospects," the sources said.
According to the document seen by Reuters, the German government wants Greece's new government to go back on anti-austerity promises made in its first days in office and revert to economic policies its predecessors' agreed with international lenders.
This means Germany wants the Greek government to continue with pension cuts, maintain the troika and implement all the tough measures agreed with the government of Samaras, the same government sources said, adding that Athens will continue the negotiations with all EU leaders in a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding.
 Greece will continue its good cooperation with NATO, says Defence Minister KammenosNational Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Wednesday reassured NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and his Deputy Alexander Vershbow that Greece will continue its good cooperation with the organization, during their meeting in Brussels.
The minister also clarified that Greece's relations with other countries outside of NATO "will not harm our good relations with the Alliance and we'll remain within the framework of our agreements."
Kammenos was accompanied by the chief of National Defence General Staff, General Mikhail Kostarakos. In Thursday's council of NATO defence ministers, Greece will be represented by the country's permanent representative.
 Greece's rapprochement with Russia puts its place in NATO at risk, the German defence minister saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
Greece puts its place in NATO at risk as a result of its rapprochement with Russia, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview in 'Sueddeutsche Zeitung' newspaper to be published on Thursday ahead of the alliance's defence ministers' meeting.
The German minister called on Greece to be more clear and underlined that "when someone asks for solidarity they should act with solidarity".
Despite the disagreements on economic and social issues, Greece shouldn't put at risk the confidence in its credibility on security issues, which was built over the past decades, she said.
The German minister called on Greece to take a stance and pointed out that "there shouldn't be any doubt that we agree on basic values."
 FM Kotzias meets with Ukrainian ambassadorForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Wednesday met with the Ukrainian Ambassador to Greece Volodymyr Shkurov.
The two officials exchanged views on the latest developments regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine regions with special reference to the need of the Ukrainian citizens of Greek origin, that live mostly in Mariupo,l which has been bombed to be protected.
 Foreign ministry spokesman slams Turkish-Cypriot leader's statement on CyprusThe Greek government is available to anyone who needs a lesson in International Law, the foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday responding to comments by Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu about the existence of "two states" in Cyprus.
"Athens is available to anyone for a delivery of lessons in International Lew, starting from the basics and obvious," Konstantinos Koutras told journalists.
Earlier, Eroglu's office issued a statement accusing Greece of ignoring the existence of the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," following a statement by an official of the Greek ministry.
Eroglu also insisted that Athens should not "confuse the words 'state' with 'recognized state.'"
 Negotiations with Europe will be tough but the message is positive for Greece, says Economy ministerNegotiations with Greece's European partners are difficult but the message is very positive for Greece and Europe, Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis said on Wednesday, during the presentation of a book.
"We seek a political agreement with Europe and the framework of the conversation now exists," the minister said, adding "the negotiation will be tough, but the message is very positive for Greece and Europe, because it ruptured the tight frame of choices."
He said the different framework of conversation is not just based on political change in Greece, but also on the failure of European policy. "The logic of 'one costume for all' doesn't work," Stathakis said at the presentation of the book titled "From crisis to growth. In search for new growth models for Greece and the European south."
He noted that new possibilities open up for Greece and its turn towards normalcy, stressing that the main policies of the new government are reducing social inequalities, implement the great reforms the state needs and which are not included in the bailout agreement and the change of the relationship between the public and private sector, for which brave measures need to be taken.
Discussing the growth model that has to be adopted, Stathakis said it remains an open question and set the basic parameters, excluding however the possibility of placing banks in the centre of the economy.
 Economy Min Stathakis on the new framework for the settlement of bad loansThe government is planning a new framework for the settlement of overdebted consumers and companies' bad loans while it is expected to proceed within the next few days to the legislation regarding the protection of primary residence from foreclosures for at least three months to allow time to prepare the overall framework.
The extension by law to protect the primary residence is characterized by Economy Minister George Stathakis as the government's top priority and according to sources it is expected to be implemented just after the opening of the Parliament.
According to sources, the settlement of bad mortgage loans is also expected to provide for the debt write-off of those being below the poverty line. The government is planning to roll over these debts to a new public sector organisation in an effort to alleviate poor households.
However, bankers claimed that this settlement will require significant equity capital and this may affect the banks' capital adequacy.
 Economy Minister Stathakis to CNN: We are trying to find the most logical solution for all"We do not want to go back to the state of affairs that existed prior to the crisis. Greece had many problems and we are not blackmailing the eurozone," Economy Minister George Stathakis said in an interview to CNN late Tuesday.
"We are trying to find the most logical solution for both sides, a solution that will minimise the losses for the European tax payers," he said among others.
In terms of structural reforms, he made a special reference to the reforms in taxation and public administration and estimated that the Greek government will very soon reach an agreement with its EU partners.
Moreover, he said that he supports the proposal for bonds with growth clause, noting that "growth is the new government's first priority." He also noted that the Europeans of the north have realised that the Greek citizens have many losses as a result of the austerity. "The only mandate we have is get Greece back to work and get the condition of the Greek households, 1/3 of which are below the poverty line, to a better state of affairs.
 Government spokesman Sakellaridis' response to the ND spokesman"It would be best if those who made Greece the leader in corruption and tax evasion internationally, would sometimes choose to remain silent. Those who made the Greek society bankrupt shouldn't be provocative," government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Wednesday, said in response to an earlier statement by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Costas Karagounis.
"The Greek people realise that we have turned a new page on January 25 and the government's efforts have the support of the overwhelming majority, regardless who they voted for," he said.
Karagounis had commented on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' recent statements by saying that "yesterday in Rome, Tsipras called Greece a corrupt country. Today, Varoufakis described it as bankrupt. They are defaming our country just like (former Prime Minister) George Papandreou did. It is up to the Greek people to judge."
 Government will deal with presidential election after policy statement, sources sayIn a comment on recent media articles about the upcoming election of a new Greek president, government sources on Wednesday stressed that this issue "will preoccupy the government after the policy statement" is presented in Parliament.
 Foreign Ministry announcement on the brutal murder of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh by the terrorist organization ISISThe Greek Foreign Ministry issued an announcement on Wednesday on the brutal murder of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh by the terrorist organisation ISIS.
"We are shocked at the barbaric and brutal murder of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh by the terrorist organization ISIS - an act inconceivable in its barbarity and horror. We express our deep condolences to the victim's family, to the friendly Jordanian people and to the Jordanian government" it said adding that "We assure all the governments and peoples of the region who are suffering under the terrorist threat of ISIS that Greece will be unrelenting in its assistance of their efforts to confront the so-called "Islamic State", a barbaric terrorist and criminal organization that acts with utter contempt for human life and without being bound by the principles of civilization or the humanitarian values of any religion".
 Municipal staff trade union, prefecture union meet interior minister, ahead of government policy statementInterior Minister Nikos Voutsis on Wednesday held meetings with the local authority staff trade union federation (POE-OTA) Executive Committee and a delegation from the Union of Prefectures of Greece (ENPE), to discuss issues affecting local authorities at various levels ahead of the general policy statement to be unveiled by the government in a few days time.
POE-OTA President Themis Balasopoulos raised issues such as staff evaluation, a re-examination of contracts, disciplinary law and job advancement, as well as privatisation plans involving local government entities, especially in refuse collection. He stressed that the government must carry out its election promises, highlighting the re-examination of contracts and staff evaluation as "major and open issues" that must be dealt with directly.
According to POE-OTA, the minister said that developments in important issues was linked to developments in the negotiations.
ENPE President and Thessaly Regional Authority governor Costas Agorastos said the meeting with the minister sought to brief him on the issues involving local government and discuss a mechanism of cooperation.
Among their proposals was that the recommendations of the Financial Observatory should not be binding for local authorities but only advisory. They also made suggestions for the abolition of intermediate agencies in the allocation of EU funds, a one-year extension of the old NSRF programme since its execution was delayed by reform programmes and the repeated elections and the creation of a permanent sources of funds for dealing with severe weather phenomena.
 Getting cancer patients their meds a priority, health minister saysThe Greek cancer patients that had been forced to discontinue their treatment due to the unaffordably high cost of the medication were a priority for the health ministry, Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis said on Wednesday in a message for World Cancer Day.
Describing these patients as crisis "martyrs", Kouroumblis said the issue must be dealt with at once.
"Apart from the indisputable importance of prompt diagnosis and prevention, through identifying the social and environmental factors that cause the rise in the disease, the battle against cancer must be fought on the level of treatment and support for patients. Here, the high cost of anti-cancer medication, whose international prices have doubled in the last decade, remains the biggest problem," he said.
He added that the new government will fight alongside the patients, their families and health professionals, as well as with the Greek people, for that which was self-evident.
"The 'legitimate' percentage of company profit is determined primarily by social need, which is none other than to ensure human dignity," Kouroumblis said.
 We all wish and offer our support so that Greece can achieve a good deal with Europe, ND deputy Georgiadis says"If the prime minister does succeed in a better agreement, which will relieve the Greek citizen, why should we be opposed to it? There is no such case. We will applause with generosity. There is no querulousness on the part of New Democracy. New Democracy points out the risks and I can even say, welcomes the realistic turn that the Tsipras' government has been lately showing," New Democracy (ND) deputy Adonis Georgiadis told ANA-MPA in an interview.
"If SYRIZA does take such a turn towards realism, which would render an agreement with Europe likely, then the New Democracy can only be happy about it. How could New Democracy be unhappy with the fact that SYRIZA is coming closer to ND positions. We are waiting for the results of the negotiations and the policy announcements in the Parliament. Right now we have a new government which is making an effort; we wish them good luck and we are waiting for the results," he said.
The full audio interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Real opponent has 'not gone away' with SYRIZA victory, KKE's Koutsoumbas tells party's MPsCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary and MP for Athens Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Wednesday addressed the party's Parliamentary group, stressing that the monopolies and big capital that were the "real opponent" had not gone away when SYRIZA and its coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) came into power.
The real opponent, he said, "is still here, more ready and equipped to use the alternation in government for new privileges, for a capitalist recovery."
"KKE's Parliamentary group, supported by the work of the entire party and feeling the weight of the responsibility of meeting the fundamental duty of empowering the worker-popular opposition within and outside Parliament, will contribute to strengthening the struggle against the monopolies and their power, the imperalist alliances, the EU, its agreements and inspections in individual states, will make use of the specific power that the people have given the KKE in the direction of reconstructing the labour movement and to seek to extract whatever entitlements possible for the popular strata and immediate measures for their relief," Kouroumblis said.
He went on to criticise the government for its position that Greece will meet commitments within NATO, as well as for signing the EU agreement on Ukraine, despite its initial "show of resistance".
According to Koutsoumbas, the new Greek government had the support of "major bourgeois political forces" and "symbolises and serves the pressure of the United States," as well as forces in France and Italy on the German government in order to alter the distribution of burdens and profits in managing the Eurozone debt crisis, replacing a policy of austerity with an expansionary policy.
Koutsoumbas said that KKE's Parliamentary group will work to reveal government policy, to demand that losses be restored and contemporary social needs met, while at the same time supporting and carefully examining every bill that brought real relief to workers.
 KKE sec gen Koutsoumbas meets with Ambassador of the Palestinian AuthorityCommunist party KKE secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Wednesday met with the Ambassador of the Palestinian Authority Marwan Emil Toubassi.
The Ambassador conveyed the warm greetings of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, stressing that the party's successes are the successes of the oppressed people for real justice. He also briefed him on the latest developments regarding the Palestinian issue.
Koutsoumbas reiterated his party's position on solidarity with the Palestinian people, the firm position for recognition of the Palestinian state.
He also briefed him on the party's assessment of the election results and developments in Greece.
 PASOK to support Constantopoulou as Parliament president, vote against SYRIZA policy statementDuring the first meeting of its newly-elected Parliamentary group, the opposition PASOK party on Wednesday decided to vote in favour of SYRIZA's Zoi Constantopoulou as the new Parliament president but not to give a vote of confidence in the government.
A PASOK announcement said that the vote for Constantopoulou was intended to signal the need to respect Parliamentary ethics and "express the wish that the new president...will rise above the omens of the previous Parliamentary period."
Explaining the reasons for voting against the government's proposed policies, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told the meeting that PASOK supports the government's efforts on the international scene, given that it sees a "clear shift toward responsibility and a national strategy that PASOK served at a cost." In terms of domestic policy, however, he said that SYRIZA had given "easy promises" as a main opposition before the elections, when "PASOK was speaking with truths" and that its pledges were infeasible to carry out.
It also criticised the government's failure to try and form a "national negotiating team" with other opposition parties and its decision to form a coalition with right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL).
 Alt. Min. for Rural Development Apostolou announces relief plans for farmers hit by recent severe weatherThe government's interventions for the immediate relief of people affected by the recent heavy rainfall and flooding in western Greece were announced on Wednesday by Alternate Minister for Rural Development Vangelis Apostolou, after meeting with local authorities in the city of Arta.
Immediate assistance, through the distribution of animal feed, will be provided for farm animals that survived the flooding, he said, adding that the livestock lost will be recorded and compensations will be given to eligible stockbreeders based on the damage they suffered.
He also said that farmers, who saw their crops destroyed by frost last month, will receive compensation from the Hellenic Agricultural Insurance Organisation (ELGA), expressing certainty that relevant procedures will be completed within the next 15 days.
Apostolou also referred to the restoration of equipment and buildings damaged by the flooding, noting that the damage caused to the crops will be assessed later.
He said that the first file to be tabled to the European Commission requesting the approval of funds will concern the restoration of animal breeding equipment and buildings, followed by a second file on crop production.
 Death of sailor and abduction of three others in pirate attack is 'heavy blow', says Alt. shipping ministerThe pirate attack against a Greek-owned tanker earlier in the day that resulted in the death of a Greek chief mate and the abduction of three more men, two of them Greeks, is a heavy blow to the family of Greek sailors, Alternate Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas said late on Wednesday.
"It is a heavy blow to the family of Greek sailors. The foreign and shipping ministries have taken the necessary initiatives to transfer the body of the dead sailor, to save the hostages and to investigate the incident," Dritsas said.
The minister also expressed the state's deep sorrow for the tragic loss of life and the abduction of the other crew members to their families.
Dritsas added that the further management of the incident requires careful handling to secure the release of the abductees.
The ministry also announced that the rest of the crew, which includes sever Greek nationals, are safe. According to the latest information, the vessel belongs to Aeolos Management, based in Piraeus. The company's office in London has already assigned the case to special negotiators in Nigeria.
 It's legal to receive two pensions from different member-states, says top admin. courtThe Council of State ruled on Wednesday that it is legal for an individual to receive two pensions, one from a German social insurance fund following a labour accident and the other from the Organisation of Agricultural Insurance (OGA) because of a disability. The court also annulled the decision of OGA to deny a disability pension for the man in question.
The man worked in Germany from 1966 to 1972 and was insured at a German social insurance fund. In November 1966 he suffered a labour accident and he's been receiving a disability pension ever since, as his ability to work was diminished by 30 pct. However, the same person worked as a farmer from 1961 to 1966 and from 1973 to 2000.
In 2000, he asked OGA to issue him a disability pension, but the relevant agency told him he's not entitled to one from the Greek fund, as he's receiving a pension from the German organization, which exceeds the amount of the minimum pension issued by OGA. The agency also said the pension he receives from Germany is of the same type as the one he's requesting from OGA.
The court, interpreting European and Greek legislation, said that European regulations, which supersede national law, "do not allow the implementation of national law that precludes the reception of a disability pension because the insured already receives a pension of similar nature from a social insurance fund of a different member-state, irrespectively of the amount of this pension."
 Judicial Council indicts 70 defendants in Golden Dawn criminal organisation caseSeventy defendants in the ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) criminal organisation case will stand trial, among them, the party's leader and deputies in the previous parliament as well as a number of party cadres, according to a Court of Appeals Judicial Council order issued on Wednesday.
With a two to one majority, the members of the Judicial Council decided after several meetings that 70 of the 83 defendants in the major case will stand trial for a series of crimes against Greek and foreign nationals, including the murder of Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013.
Before reaching a decision, the Judicial Council deliberated intensively on the main charge of running a criminal organisation.
One of the judges, citing the Palermo Convention against organised crime, questioned whether the criminal organisation charge could stand up in court without first proving that the organisation's actions led to financial gains for its members and argued that the defendants should be tried for criminal conspiracy.
The defendants in the GD criminal organisation case include 18 current and former GD MPs, and 52 party cadres, members of the organisation's units in Nikea, Perama and Piraeus. Twenty six of the 70 defendants are currently in custody pending trial.
Thirteen of the defendants will not face charges of joining a criminal organisation.
 Police find 'Group of Popular Fighters' statement claiming responsibility for Israeli embassy attackPolice early on Wednesday found a statement claiming the responsibility for the armed attack against the Embassy of Israel in a garbage bin in the Athens suburb of Nea Smyrni.
According to the police, the responsibility was claimed by the "Group of Popular Fighters", which in the past had carried out an attack against the German ambassador's residence in the Athens suburb of Halandri. Police are looking into the 19-page statement, the content of which has not been yet made known.
According to the information available so far, the claim of responsibility was found after 01.00 on Wednesday morning following a phone call by an unknown individual to the Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper.
The newspaper alerted the police saying they received the call a while before 9 in the evening. Newspaper staff went to the spot indicated by the unknown caller, searched the garbage bin in the area but could not find anything.
The Counter-terrorism squad was then alerted. The police officers rushed to the area and after several hours they found a data stick in a garbage bag inside a bin. The findings were initially taken to the crime lab for processing while the data stick was then handed over to the Counter-terrorism squad.
 Journalist Dimitris Tsiodras is the new spokesman of PotamiJournalist Dimitris Tsiodras is the new spokesman of Potami, according to a party announcement on Wednesday.
Tsiodras was a Potami candidate in the January 25 Parliamentary elections but failed to be elected.
He replaces Odine Linardatou, who was appointed European Relations & Foreign Media Director.
 Greek consumers less pessimistic in Dec 2014Greek consumers were less pessimistic at the end of 2014 compared with the beginning of the year, a report by GFK Consumer Climate showed on Wednesday.
The report, covering he fourth quarter of 2014, showed that Greek consumer sentiment index recovered to -16.3 points in December from -32.5 points in January 2014, after recovering as much as -10 points in June -to its highest level since December 2009.
GFK said this development reflected a positive economic growth trend during the year, their first positive growth since 2007. Although unemployment remained at extremely high levels, at 25.8 pct, it has begun falling slightly, while income expectations remained at negative territory, -38.1 points in February 2014, -18 points in June and -22.2 points in December 2014.
Greek consumers' desire for new purchases recovered temporarily from -37.6 points in January to -3.8 points in July, but fell again to -31.5 points in December.
GFK noted that risks remained for consumer sentiment in Greece as after the general elections consumers were focusing on the new government's economic policy and its relation with other European countries and the European Commission.
 Gov't Vice-President Dragasakis meets Chipita CEOGovernment Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis on Wednesday met Chipita CEO Spyros Theodoroupoulos. According to sources, their meeting focused on issues related to the transfer of the group's headquarters from Cyprus to Greece, which would be a vote of confidence in the Greek economy.
Theodoropoulos also referred to the new investment plans of the group in the primary sector of the economy.
 Dragasakis meets National Bank chairmanYiannis Dragasakis, vice-president of the Greek government, on Wednesday met with the chairman of National Bank of Greece (NBG) and president of the Hellenic Bank Association George Zanias.
Sources told ANA-MPA that Zanias informed Dragasakis that banks have not carried out any foreclosures of main residences, despite a lack of legislation on the issue. The vice-president of the government was also briefed on a successful oversubscription of today's Treasury bill auction, while the two men discussed issues relating to foreign direct investments in the country.
 Alt. Min. for Shipping Dritsas meets with passenger shipping companies representativesAlternate Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas on Wednesday said in a meeting with Passenger Shipping Companies Association (SEEN) representatives that he was in favour of dialogue on issues that concern the sector to avoid any surprise changes.
The representatives of the coastal shipping companies told ANA-MPA that the meeting focused on the current state of the sector.
In the next few days, Dritsas will also meet with representatives of the Greek Shipowners Union (EEE).
 Greece drains 812.5 mln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Wednesday successfully auction a six-month Treasury bill issue draining 812.5 million euros from the market at a higher cost. The Public Debt Management Organization said the interest rate of the issue was set at 2.75 pct from 2.30 pct in the previous auction of same issue in January 7. Bids submitted totaled 813 million euros, 1.30 times more than the asked sum of 625 million euros.
 Cost of electricity production could fall by 20-40 pct, reportThe cost of electricity production could fall by 20-40 pct, with a relative impact on household and corporate electricity rates, according to a report conducted by the Energy Regulatory Authority. The report was presented during a meeting between Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis with the management of the Authority on Wednesday.
"It is a very significant cost reduction, which if it was to be achieved, would have great significance for lowering final energy prices. Based on the Authority's report and other data, we will draft, soon, significant reductions in electricity production prices," Lafazanis said, adding that final price reductions will be smaller compared with production cost reductions as retail energy prices were burdened with extra fees.
"We will support with any means necessary the viability of small independent energy producers, suffering from the policies of memorandums. Large energy units have their own role to play, they were formed within a specific framewoek and must move on this path to have any prospect. We will not play a role of supporting large private interests in the energy sector, we will support a state PPC, the state role in electricity production and the implementation of rules and frameworks supporting growth, the society and will have eco-friendly direction," Lafazanis noted.
The Greek minister said the government will re-examine the regulatory framework of the operation of the Authority, with the aim to limit its powers - within community regulations - and to strengthen the state role in drafting energy policy. The management of the Authority is expected to be changed soon.
 Greek stocks extend rally for third successive sessionGreek stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange in extremely volatile trading conditions on Wednesday, extending their rally for the third successive session. Bank shares remained at the focus of buying interest. The composite index of the market rose 0.89 pct to end at 848.04 points, after falling as much as 2.63 pct and rising as much as 2.77 pct. The index is up 17.47 pct in the last three session. The Large Cap index jumped 1.64 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.41 pct higher.
Turnover was a heavy 206.90 million euros. Piraeus Bank (20.80 pct), Eurobank (10.74 pct), National Bank (6.56 pct), Ellaktor (4.61 pct) and Viohalco (2.47 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Aegean Airlines (3.47 pct), PPC (3.34 pct), Mytilineos (2.61 pct) and OPAP (2.52 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, Banks (9.26 pct), Chemicals (1.37 pct) and Health (1.12 pct) scored big gains, while Utilities (2.43 pct), Raw Materials (2.34 pct) and Travel (2.18 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 63 to 48 with another 20 issues unchanged. Piraeus Bank (20.80 pct), AEGEK (20 pct) and Forthnet (18.24 pct) were top gainers, while Sfakianakis (20 pct), Eurobrokers (20 pct) and Medicon (18.53 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +0.53%
Industrial Products: -0.14%
Real Estate: +0.60%
Personal & Household: +0.41%
Food & Beverages: -2.07%
Raw Materials: -2.34%
Mass Media: unchanged
Travel & Leisure: -2.18%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.382
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.50
Coca Cola HBC: 14.69
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.15
National Bank of Greece: 1.30
Piraeus Bank: 0.755
Grivalia Properties: 7.80
Aegean Airlines: 7.80
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek state bond prices recovered and bond yields fell as pressure eased in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, for the third successive day. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell to 9.09 pct from 10.49 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.45 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.36 pct. The three-year bond yielded 16.3 pct and the five-year bond yielded 13.06 pct. Turnover was a thin 6.0 million euros, of which 5.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.0 million euros were sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.263 pct from 0.266 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.195 pct from 0.199 pct, the six-month rate was unchanged at 0.132 pct, the three-month rate was stable at 0.055 pct and the one-month rate unchanged at 0.001 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 2.30 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 19,341 contracts with 46,641 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 99,526 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (32,592), followed by Alpha Bank (18,939), National Bank (22,371), Eurobank (16,224), MIG (1,478), OTE (1,185), PPC (1,687), OPAP (1,304), Hellenic Exchanges (471), Mytilineos (970), Hellenic Petroleum (184), Motor Oil (170), GEK (680), Ellaktor (335) and Jumbo (255).
 Foreign exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.1446
Pound sterling 0.7516
Danish kroner 7.444
Swedish kroner 9.4281
Japanese yen 134.49
Swiss franc 1.0602
Norwegian kroner 8.6305
Canadian dollar 1.4253
Australian dollar 1.4722
 Officer on Greek tanker killed during pirate attack off the coasts of Nigeria and CameroonA Greek chief mate on board the Greek-owned tanker "Kalamos" was killed during an attack by pirates off the coasts of Nigeria and Cameroon, it was announced on Wednesday. Three crew members were abducted, among them two Greeks.
The "Kalamos", which was not carrying any load, had set sail from China for Nigeria with 23 crew members on board, including 10 Greeks.
According to the ministry of shipping, there was an exchange of gunfire between the armed pirates and members of the ship's crew.
The vessel is not under occupation and remains anchored in the sea region where it was attacked.
 Evros area in northeastern Greece still on alert for possible floodingResidents and local authorities along the banks of the Evros River in northeastern Greece are preparing for another difficult night, as the water levels continue to remain at "alarm levels."
The deputy prefect of Evros, Dimitris Petrovits, spoke to ANA-MPA: "The situation seems to be stabilizing to a degree. It's important though to see how this night evolves and if the levees will hold in areas where there might be flooding, like Pythio, Lavara and Mandra."
Technical crews in all local municipalities and the prefecture of eastern Macedonia and Thrace will be on alert to intervene if necessary.
 Flu outbreak death toll rises to 30, authorities reportThree more people died from flu in Greece this week, raising the total number to 30, authorities said on Wednesday.
Patients who have been hospitalized in intensive care units since the start of the flu season have reached 90. Of those, 36 continue to be monitored in those units.
 Gas bottle explosion in Amphilochia cafe injures 16Sixteen people were injured on Wednesday when a gas bottle exploded at a cafe at Loutro village, near Amphilochia, western Greece.
All of them, four of which suffered serious injuries, were taken to the local hospitals of Agrinio and Arta and the Amphilochia Health Center.
 Mostly fair on ThursdayMostly fair weather and southeasterly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 04C-14C. Mostly fair in the western parts with temperatures between 08C-17C. Same weather in the eastern parts with temperatures between 06C-18C. Scattered clouds over the islands, 11C-18C. Mostly fair in Athens, 07C-17C. Scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 05C-14C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Negotiation face to face.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Alliance of reason.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 48-hour crash test after the 'turn' for the debt.
ESTIA: The fatal 2009 is repeated.
ETHNOS: The new agreement will be decided in four meetings.
IMERISSIA: The market 'sees' solution. Athens Stock Exchange skyrockets by 11.27 percent.
KATHIMERINI: The difficult way towards realism.
LOGOS: Yes to growth, no to austerity.
NAFTEMPORIKI: The Italians said 'yes'.
RIZOSPASTIS: The people will not get rid of the ordeals with negotiations within EU.
TA NEA: Reversal of climate with series of meetings.
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