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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-02-17

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 Issue No: 4888

CONTENTS

  • [01] Varoufakis: Europe cannot ask us to implement a failed programme
  • [02] Dijsselbloem: An extension of the current bailout programme is the best solution
  • [03] Greek side claims attempt to 'go back' on Tsipras-Dijsselbloem announcement at Eurogroup
  • [04] Greece presented with different documents on fiscal programme, in Brussels, sources say
  • [05] European officials call for Greece to accept extension of current programme, at least in the short term
  • [06] ANEL leader says extension to memorandum is out of the question
  • [07] Former PM Samaras calls on gov't to continue negotiations with Eurogroup
  • [08] To Potami leader rejects former PM's proposal, awaits gov't briefing
  • [09] Varoufakis in NYT: No more loans until we have a credible plan for growth
  • [10] "We want a solution on a political level," gov't spokesman says
  • [11] The issues to be discussed at the Eurogroup dominated a phone contact between Juncker and Tsipras, Commission spokesperson says
  • [12] Eurogroup's meeting on Monday is 'decisive' for Greece and the Eurozone, EU Commissioner Moscovici says
  • [13] Greece must respect EU rules but compromise needed, French FinMin says-Reuters
  • [14] German Finance Minister Schaeuble comments ahead of the Eurogroup meeting
  • [15] German FinMin: Greek government has irresponsible bahaviour
  • [16] Germany urges Greece to honour its commitment to reforms
  • [17] Italian PM Renzi: 'Greece needs time and Europe needs to show flexibility'
  • [18] Greece's European partners no longer insist on an extension of the current bailout-Handelsblatt
  • [19] We will have a tough negotiation tonight at the Eurogroup, SYRIZA's Mantas tells ANA-MPA
  • [20] The government needs to proceed with an honest compromise, Potami leader says
  • [21] KKE's Koutsoumbas says the government negotiation will turn into a compromise
  • [22] PASOK wants formal briefing on Eurogroup by government
  • [23] Majority of citizens say they evaluate positively the government's handlings
  • [24] Parliament to vote on Wednesday for Greek president
  • [25] Presidential candidate will be announced to SYRIZA MPs first on Tuesday, gov't spokesman says
  • [26] ANEL deputies meet on Tuesday to discuss presidential candidate; spokesperson lashes out at German FinMin
  • [27] Potami MPs said that they will suppport SYRIZA's candidancy for President if they like it
  • [28] Foreign Ministry condemns the murder of 21 Christians in Libya
  • [29] FM Kotzias visits Embassy of Denmark
  • [30] Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece condemns Copenhagen attacks, decapitation of 21 Egyptian Christians by Jihadists of the
  • [31] ND leader calls former prime minister Costas Karamanlis
  • [32] New Democracy's Samaras speaks with Theodorakis, Venizelos
  • [33] Joint ministerial decision abolishing civil mobilisation for striking workers soon, sources say
  • [34] Main opposition ND slams decision to stop EOPYY coverage of treatment in private clinics
  • [35] ND spokesman slams 'unhelpful' statements by SYRIZA officials
  • [36] New Democracy deputies call on party leader Antonis Samaras to postpone meeting
  • [37] Main opposition ND slams decision to stop EOPYY coverage of treatment in private clinics
  • [38] Greek commerce confederation meets Social Insurance minister, urges creation of three pension funds
  • [39] Social insurance minister meets with representatives of merchant unions
  • [40] Alt. finance minister visits Thessaloniki prefecture public finances inspection service
  • [41] Council of State upholds decision to cut Golden Dawn's state funding
  • [42] Civil Protection Minister wants to close Amygdaleza's migrant detention centre in 100 days
  • [43] National Defence Minister Kammenos watches Greek navy training exercise
  • [44] Economy Minister Stathakis holds talks with UNI Europa
  • [45] There can't be employees without businesses, says EBEA president Mihalos
  • [46] Greek IT consumer product market up significantly in Q4
  • [47] Corruption costs Greece 14 bln euros annually, research finds
  • [48] Greek stocks end significantly lower
  • [49] Greek bond market closing report
  • [50] ADEX closing report
  • [51] Foreign exchange rates - Monday
  • [52] Flu outbreak death toll rises to 51, authorities report
  • [53] Three ships from the Chinese Navy's South Sea fleet in Piraeus
  • [54] Kalashnikov confiscated at Athens airport post office
  • [55] Rain, sleet on Tuesday
  • [56] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Varoufakis: Europe cannot ask us to implement a failed programme

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni, M. Spinthourakis, V. Demiris) - Greece is and will continue to remain in the Eurozone and the Eurozone is indivisible, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Monday evening, following a meeting of the Eurogroup in Brussels.

    Speaking at a press conference, Varoufakis expressed optimism that an agreement will be reached in the end. "I have no doubt there negotiations will continue in the next few days and that in the end there will be a deal which will be therapeutic for Greece," the minister told journalists.

    The minister said the aim of these talks was to find common ground that would create a time table of four to six months to achieve a long-term loan agreement for growth between Greece, the Eurozone and the IMF.

    He said the real reason there was no agreement on Monday was the discord on the essence of the programme, the same one which failed to stabilize Greece, created a humanitarian crisis and made reforms especially difficult to implement.

    Commenting on the previous Eurogroup meeting last Wednesday, Varoufakis said Greece rejected the joint communiqu? which included mention of an extension and successful completion of the current bailout programme. "We rejected it because we believe this programme cannot be completed successfully," he noted adding this programme is part of the problem and not the solution.

    Continuing with today's Emeeting, the minister said that during the European Summit meeting, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed on the need to start technical discussions, in order to find common ground between the current programme and the Greek government's plans for a new contract with Europe.

    Varoufakis reveled he was ready to sign the draft of the joint communiqu? presented to him by EU Commissioner on Economy, Pierre Moscovici, before the start of the meeting. He said this draft mentioned extending the loan agreement which would lead to a four-month intermediate programme that would serve as a transitional stage towards a new growth contract for Greece. The same document included the provision of technical assistance on behalf of the Commission for accelerating the implementation of reforms.

    "We were and continue to be willing not to take any unilateral initiative during the transitional phase, until the summer, which wouldn't cause any fiscal derailment and would not include any actions that the ECB would consider as a threat for the stability of the banking sector," Varoufakis noted.

    He also said the only condition set by the Greek side was that no measures would be implemented that would cause recession - no pension cuts, or VTA hikes - especially in regions of Greece where tourism activities are highly developed.

    Unfortunately, he said, the text which the Greek side was ready to sign was withdrawn shortly before the Eurogroup started by Dijsselbloem himself and was replaced by another. At Wednesday's extraordinary Eurogroup meeting, the Greek side had been pressured to sign an extension of the ongoing fiscal programme in exchange for a vague phrase about flexibility in the programme's implementation, he said.

    The current government has decided not to continue applying the particular programme, and its intention throughout the meetings was to reach an agreement, he said, but that was proven impossible since Greece's partners were unable to clarify what they meant by the word "flexibility" - for example, they did not clarify the percentage that low pensions should be cut.

    Under these conditions, Varoufakis said, it was impossible for Greece to sign, but the Greek side is ready to do whatever necessary to find an honourable compromise within the next few days. The government, he added, will assume any initiatives, as long as any solution proposed does not aggravate the social crisis.

    Asked whether he thought there is a possibility of reaching an agreement by Friday - the period of grace granted by the Eurogroup - he said the history of the European Union is full of crises that were overcome. The Greek side's goal is to draft a statement that will allow both sides to continue to explore whether and to what degree there is common ground, he said.

    The Greek side is not bluffing and means what it says, he stressed, while adding that if a four-month extension were granted to Greece, it would allow enough time to reach a new agreement with the Europeans. Europe ought to adapt to the difficult case that Greece has a new government and does not want to implement a programme that failed, he stressed.

    Finally, asked whether he intended to apply for an extension to the fiscal programme, the minister said that the European side had to come to some arrangement within the next 48 hours first. "I have no doubt that within the next 48 hours Europe will manage to submit to us a document based on which we will start real work and put into action a new agreement for Greece," Varoufakis said.

    [02] Dijsselbloem: An extension of the current bailout programme is the best solution

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    A request by Greece to extend the current bailout programme is the most appropriate solution, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said shortly after the end of the meeting of Eurozone's finance ministers on Monday evening.

    Dijsselbloem said talks in the past few days between the Greek government and the institutions on both a technical and political level, were fruitless. "Today at the Eurogroup we discussed how to move forward and we continue to believe that the best way to move forward is for the Greek authorities to submit a request extending the programme," the Eurogroup chief said.

    Dijsselbloem noted Greece will have to submit a request within the next few days and once it does, the EU will be ready to convene an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting on Friday. He also noted that the request will be based on Greece's commitments and that it's up to the country's government to decide if they want an extension and if they'll provide the necessary commitments.

    The Eurogroup chief also noted that there is room for flexibility within the framework of the existing programme, on condition that agreed targets will not be abandoned. When Greece asks for an extension, any changes will have to be approved by the three institutions which will review the programme's progress.

    Taking his turn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Pierre Moscovici said an agreement was possible and desired, but it wasn't accomplished. He said a constructive discussion took place from which it derived that "there is no other alternative than to submit a request to extend the Greek programme."

    "The point is for logic to prevail and not ideology," Moscovici added saying that election results must be taken into account but also commitments have to be honoured.

    The director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, clarified that if the programme review is not completed, the IMF's loan installment will not be disbursed.

    The Chief Executive Officer of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), Klaus Regling, noted that 1.8 billion euros are waiting to be disbursed form the fund, along with another 1.9 billion euros from the profits central banks have made from Greek bonds (SMPs). Regling also said that 10.9 billion euros from the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund will be lost if no agreement is achieved.

    Asked whether a Eurozone summit meeting will have to be called if Greece doesn't request an extension, Dijsselbloem said the president of the European Council, Donald Turk, assured him it is not in his intensions to do so.

    [03] Greek side claims attempt to 'go back' on Tsipras-Dijsselbloem announcement at Eurogroup

    Greek government sources on Monday said the country's European partners were trying to "go back" on last Thursday's joint statement agreed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, and had presented a text that "radically retreated" from the joint statement as a basis for discussion during Monday's Eurogroup.

    "The insistence of certain circles that the new Greek government carry out the memorandum is unreasonable and not acceptable. The implementation of the memorandum programme is 'off' the agenda at the summit," the same sources said, adding that those attempting to bring it back were "wasting their time".

    They also noted that "under these conditions, there cannot be an agreement today."

    [04] Greece presented with different documents on fiscal programme, in Brussels, sources say

    Greece was presented with two documents in Brussels, one seen positively by it and another completely at odds with its stance, according to government sources referring to the failed attempt between Greece and its creditors to reach agreement at Monday night's Eurogroup meeting.

    During the last few days and hours there was an attempt to bridge differences between the new Greek government on one side and European leaders and officials on the other, the sources said, with continuous negotiations. The document that would have been used as the basis of discussion at the Eurogroup - to which the Greek government responded positively in principle - was replaced at the meeting by an entirely different document that lay in a completely different direction, requesting the extension of the memorandum (beyond its expiration on February 28).

    The Greek government, they said, could not accept a document completely at odds with the mandate of the Greek people; it appeared that some parties did not want negotiations and persisted in supporting a programme that had failed.

    Throughout European history, democracies have rejected ultimatums, the sources said, and added "European democracies do not practice blackmail and cannot be blackmailed."

    [05] European officials call for Greece to accept extension of current programme, at least in the short term

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    There was mounting pressure on Greece to accept an extension of the current bailout programme, ahead of a crucial Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on Monday.

    French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said extending the existing programme would be a "good solution" for Greece as he arrived for the Eurogroup finance ministers' meeting, adding that the Greek government must respect the commitments that Greece has made as a country.

    He noted that an extension of the programme would give the Greek government the time and security needed for negotiations.

    Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said he did not expect results from Monday's Eurogroup. According to Schelling, the previous Eurogroup meeting had shown that even if agreement was reached, if it was not reflected in a joint statement then there was effectively no agreement. He said the meeting would seek to end with a joint statement and added that a solution was possible but also difficult because of time pressures.

    European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said that an extension of the current Greek programme was the "most realistic solution" as he arrived at the Eurogroup and also repeated that the basis of negotiations was to "respect the commitments undertaken by each side". He said that the Commission's position was in favour of an extension of the current programme, in order to give more time for negotiations.

    "It is important that we reach an agreement as soon as possible, taking into account that the programme runs out at the end of February," he said. Dombrovskis noted, however, that Greek authorities must first express a commitment to successfully conclude the current programme.

    According to the Latvian EU Commissioner, an extension of two to six months would be "appropriate".

    Similarly, Ireland's Finance Minister Michael Noonan said that a decision by the Greek side to ask for an extension of the current programme would make the talks much easier and lift obstacles. He noted that the Greek side had not yet presented specific demands, which would be clarified during Monday's meeting, and reported that talks over the weekend had not made great progress that would allow the problem to be overcome.

    The ball was now in Greece's court, Noonan added, saying that a new programme for Greece would raise certain legal issues but also issues with the financing of Greek banks and for this reason he was insisting on an extension, while he did not rule out a negotiation on a new programme in the summer.

    [06] ANEL leader says extension to memorandum is out of the question

    The government will not request any extension to the fiscal programme, Independent Greeks (ANEL) party leader Panos Kammenos said on Monday evening about the failure of an agreement between Greece and the Eurogroup over the fiscal programme, the same day.

    The junior ruling coalition party leader said in an online posting, "There is no way we will apply for any extension to the memorandum, we have a popular mandate to go to the end. All Greeks, together, we say No. We cannot be blackmailed."

    [07] Former PM Samaras calls on gov't to continue negotiations with Eurogroup

    A rift is not a solution, former prime minister Antonis Samaras said on Monday evening, following the failure of Greece and the Eurogroup to agree on the extension of the current fiscal programme.

    Calling it an unpleasant development, the New Democracy leader called on the government to remain in the process of negotiations, which is, he said, "the only path to a positive outcome for our country."

    Negotiations must be carried out responsibly because of the seriousness of the situation; "we have come a long way, to blow it all up," he said, "a rift is not the solution."

    [08] To Potami leader rejects former PM's proposal, awaits gov't briefing

    To Potami party confirmed that former prime minister Antonis Samaras spoke with party leader Stavros Theodorakis late on Monday following the failure of Greece and the Eurogroup to reach agreement in Brussels on the extension of the bailout programme, which ends on February 28.

    According to the party, Theodorakis responded to Samaras' proposal for the collaboration of pro-European parties on the government's handling of talks by saying that To Potami believes the government is solely responsible for handling the economy issue and it has the obligation to brief Greek parties and to create the terms for a joint stance.

    [09] Varoufakis in NYT: No more loans until we have a credible plan for growth

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Monday Greece will not sign another loan agreement and called on the country's international lenders to provide the country with "a few months of financial stability" to implement its reform programme, in an opinion piece penned by the minister for the New York Times and published on the online edition of the paper.

    "Some commentators rushed to presume that as Greece's new finance minister I was busily devising bluffs, stratagems and outside options, struggling to improve upon a weak hand. Nothing could be further from the truth," Varoufakis said, adding that Greece will not accept more debt accumulation.

    "No more loans - not until we have a credible plan for growing the economy in order to repay those loans, help the middle class get back on its feet and address the hideous humanitarian crisis. No more 'reform' programs that target poor pensioners and family-owned pharmacies while leaving large-scale corruption untouched," the minister wrote.

    Varouakis noted his government is not asking its EU partners for a way out of repaying its debts, but only asks for some time to implement the reforms proposed by Greece.

    "We are asking for a few months of financial stability that will allow us to embark upon the task of reforms that the broad Greek population can own and support, so we can bring back growth and end our inability to pay our dues."

    Varoufakis concluded by saying that the difference between his government and previous is that the current government is determined to clash with vested interests in order to reform Greece and not to be treated as a "debt colony that should suffer what it must".

    [10] "We want a solution on a political level," gov't spokesman says

    "(Considering) who is irresponsible and who is responsible is a subjective thing," government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Monday told parapolitika radio station noting: "I could also respond that Germany's behavior is irresponsible."

    Regarding German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's statement on a "poker game", Sakellaridis said: "We want a solution on a political level; we don't see this as a poker game, neither are we bluffing."

    He added that the government wants the agreement with the partners to be concluded as soon as possible, so that legislative initiatives can be launched.

    "We don't like putting a strain on things but the negotiation cannot end before we have a mutually beneficial agreement. Irrationality must end," he said and clarified that the government is in constant deliberations with the European partners and the heads of state - as "the problem cannot be solved on a technocratic level - with an aim to find a solution on a political level."

    [11] The issues to be discussed at the Eurogroup dominated a phone contact between Juncker and Tsipras, Commission spokesperson says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The issues to be discussed at the Eurogroup meeting on Monday dominated a phone conversation between European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Commission's spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

    Regarding Sunday's phone contact between Juncker and Tsipras, Schinas implied that it would be preferable for this type of phone appointments not to be publicized.

    Schinas stressed that at this stage the Commission is working on the information available at the negotiating table. He added, however, that the politicization of the current Eurogroup does not facilitate the negotiation on the technical issues that are on the table.

    Moreover, Annika Breidthardt, EU Commissioner Pierre Moskovici's spokesperson, said that the Commission no longer uses the term troika. As she said, this is the "agreed language" applicable after the meeting between the Greek Prime Minister and the Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Breidthardt stated, however, that the structure of the troika remains the same.

    On the two-day technical talks of the Greek authorities with the institutions ahead of the Eurogroup, Breidthardt reiterated that the aim of the talks was to figure out the common points between Greece and its partners and to facilitate discussions at the Eurogroup. According to her, representatives of the lenders (Commission, ECB and IMF) will now brief the finance ministers of the euro zone on the content of the deliberations on a technical level.

    Finally, she declined to comment on the distance between the two sides, saying she does not want to jump into conclusions before the Eurogroup meeting.

    [12] Eurogroup's meeting on Monday is 'decisive' for Greece and the Eurozone, EU Commissioner Moscovici says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Responsibility and solidarity are the principles which we will work on, aiming to reach an agreement and proceed to a new phase between Greece and its partners, EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said on Monday arriving at the Eurogroup meeting.

    According to Moscovici, the Commission is working only on one scenario so as to reach a good agreement that will pave the way for this new phase in the relations of the two sides.

    He also noted that this is a decisive meeting both for Greece and the Eurozone, with the common ground being everyone's wish for Greece to remain in the Eurozone. He added that it was fundamental for Greece to respect its commitments, taking into consideration that in the last years Eurozone has shown solidarity towards Athens, in a programme that the Commissioner did not want to term as an austerity one.

    There is a new government in Greece, which is after certain changes that we will have to consider, such as social programmes, a more effective tax administration and many reforms of common interest, he noted.

    The discussion will focus on these issues, he said, adding however that this will be a difficult meeting.

    [13] Greece must respect EU rules but compromise needed, French FinMin says-Reuters

    French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said on Monday that Germany's firm position on Greece's debt position was right in some ways, but the euro zone must also respect the change of government in Greece, according to Reuters news agency.

    "The Germans are right from a certain point of view," Sapin said on France 2 television. "Greece, not the government of today, the country, signed a number of agreements. They must respect those agreements independently of the change of government. But the Greeks say, and they are right, I support them, 'we have just changed government, so we are not going to do everything as before.'

    "What we have to do is to find a way of functioning together."

    Sapin was speaking ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers later on Monday at which Greece's finance minister and his euro zone peers and ECB President Mario Draghi will discuss how to proceed with Greece's bailout programme, which runs out on February 28.

    Asked about the chances of a deal being reached at the talks, Sapin said "thankfully," but he declined to quantify them.

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a radio interview on Monday that he was not very optimistic for an agreement.

    "From what I've heard about the technical talks over the weekend, I'm very sceptical, but we will get a report today and then we'll see," he said.

    [14] German Finance Minister Schaeuble comments ahead of the Eurogroup meeting

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble appeared cautious arriving for the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on Monday, stressing that the Greek bailout programme has to be completed.

    The programme expires at the end of February, he said, adding that this programme has to be completed and if time is not enough - as long as they want to complete it - we can think about what we can do.

    He said that he does not know exactly what the Greek government is asking for and he said he is not the only one to think so. As long as the Greek government doesn't want a programme, there are no other options he can think of, he added.

    Schaeuble said that obviously there were no results until now considering that the Greek government's stance has not changed.

    He said that it is not an issue of negotiation but an issue of a decision by Greece on what it really wants - how it wants to move on the path that, at some point, will lead to the return of the markets' confidence. That does not appear possible right now, but he said they were open to the reports they will receive.

    [15] German FinMin: Greek government has irresponsible bahaviour

    BERLIN(ANA-MPA/F.Karaviti)

    "I am very sorry for the Greeks" said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble who spoke of an "irresponsible" behaviour on behalf the Greek government.

    In an interview to the German national radio on Monday, Schaeuble noted that the issue is not a compromise to be reached at the Eurogroup meeting on Monday but to "make Greece competitive again" adding that many of his colleagues in the European Union state that the standard of living in their countries is lower than Greece's.

    Referring to the European social programmes proposed by the Greek side, Schaeuble noted that there no issue for discussion and called them 'waste of time'.

    Germany does not want Greece's exit from the eurozone, underlined Schaeuble clarifying that if Greece wants to avoid it and to receive additional assistance from the EU, the Greek government should cover the minimum of the prerequisites. All eurozone countries are willing to help Greece to help itself. "The issue is if the Greeks want it to," he said adding that he believes that the new Greek government deals with the issue as 'a major poker game'.

    [16] Germany urges Greece to honour its commitment to reforms

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday urged the Greek government to honour its commitment to reforms, saying that the country's European partners expect the Greek delegation to present its detailed and substantiated proposals during the Eurogroup meeting.

    Germany and the other partners have been expecting those proposals for days, Seibert said, expressing his hope that they will be presented during the meeting. He also said the base for any talks should be everything that has been agreed upon and the commitments deriving from these agreements.

    Asked to comment on Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's statements who, earlier this morning, said he feels sorry for the Greeks because they have voted for a government which is behaving irresponsibly, the spokesman said the minister is expressing his government.

    The spokeswoman of the German finance ministry, Marianne Kothe, said that if there are significant changes to the programme, they will have to be approved by the parliament.

    [17] Italian PM Renzi: 'Greece needs time and Europe needs to show flexibility'

    ROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Syngelakis)

    Italy is serving as a bridge in terms of Greece's (financial) issue at the European Union while it has also begun efforts to change European policy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday.

    During a meeting of the Democratic Party's directorate, Renzi said that what is needed for Greece is a solution that allows Europe to use flexibility without disregarding rules.

    The difference between the two countries he noted is that Italy requested a change of policy in Europe without doubting the obligations already agreed to.

    Speaking about Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his position, Renzi stated, "The rationale Tsipras uses as his starting point is reasonable - he won the elections based on a programme different from the past (one). So if he has to keep implementing the old programme, it's as if they are telling him elections were useless. He has not said he wants to tear up the agreements signed so far, he is asking for time. The European Union needs to show intelligence, so that the rules are respected but with flexibility."

    [18] Greece's European partners no longer insist on an extension of the current bailout-Handelsblatt

    BERLIN(ANA-MPA/F.Karaviti)

    Greece's European partners no longer insist on Greece asking for an extension of the current bailout, the German economic newspaper "Handelsblatt" said on Monday, citing senior EU officials.

    Instead of extending the programme, double-digit billions of credits could be transferred from the old to the new bailout programme, the report said, so that Athens could be, at least theoretically, in a position to renegotiate the terms. According to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's circles, the newspaper added, the support can be given only in exchange for reforms. "We are patient, but faithful to our principles," the German Finance ministry underlined.

    The newspaper also said that this is a critical week for Greece's stay in the eurozone referring to today's Eurogroup and the ECB meeting on Wednesday, during which they will raise the issue of the extension of emergency aid for the Greek banks (ELA).

    [19] We will have a tough negotiation tonight at the Eurogroup, SYRIZA's Mantas tells ANA-MPA

    "We will have a tough negotiation tonight at the Eurogroup meeting," SYRIZA's parliamentary group secretary Christos Mantas told ANA-MPA in an interview.

    "The mobilization of our people and other peoples of Europe and across the world gives us strength to assume these risks. What we are discussing is much larger in size and quality, than to get a loan or not. I am telling you that without underestimating the financial needs of the country, generally in relation to the lenders," he noted.

    Asked about the climate in Brussels, Mantas said: "If the climate is changing, this is due to the movements of the Greek government and the fact that it succeeds, despite the so-called Cassandras, to find allies at a government level and mainly mobilizing the people, not only in Greece but also in Europe and around the world ... The change of climate is due to the fact that the focus has been shifted to an essentially political debate. The main issue is the political issue."

    The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.

    [20] The government needs to proceed with an honest compromise, Potami leader says

    Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis on Monday stressed the need for the country to maintain its portfolio in the European Commission - a position linked with Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is reportedly the frontrunner candidate for the Presidency of the Republic.

    "Greece should not lose this portfolio," Theodorakis told ANT1 TV.

    On Potami's stance regarding the President of Republic, he said "everything is open" adding that the candidate President should not necessarily come from the political world.

    "There are Greeks who have honored Greece abroad. Internationally recognized scientists and people who have excelled abroad," he stated. The party will consider the government's proposal and if it does not agree with it, it will propose its own candidate, Theodorakis said.

    Moreover, he underlined that he supports the government at the Eurogroup meeting. "We support the government in its effort," he pointed out. As for the Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, he said that he is still his friend although they do not share the same views.

    The leader of Potami party stressed the need for the government to proceed with an honest compromise as the country needs to find the necessary funds. "A solution must be found by the end of week so as to ensure liquidity," he said.

    Theodorakis also referred to the party's three priorities: the reduction of the primary surplus, a different approach in Education and combating unemployment.

    [21] KKE's Koutsoumbas says the government negotiation will turn into a compromise

    Opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary and parliamentary group president Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Monday said that the government negotiation will turn into a compromise and a "new memorandum," regardless of how it is named. He underlined that the government's interlocutors will be the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF, which will continue to be present as institutions.

    Addressing "Mornos" chemical industry plant employees in Viotia administrative unit, central Greece, he noted that 70 pct of the memorandum laws "that nobody says that will be abolished" will continue to be in effect through a relevant agreement that has been reached in principle, and added that the remaining 30 pct will be "covered" by the government with the implementation of reforms based on the OECD proposals, which has always suggested anti-popular measures.

    Koutsoumbas said that the first draft bills to be tabled in parliament by KKE will concern the abolition of the memorandum's enabling laws, while proposals will be tabled for the immediate relief of low income households, the reinstatement of the 13th and 14th salaries and pensions and the immediate enactment of the 751-euro minimum wage.

    The abolishment of the memorandum implementation laws will be among KKE's first law proposals, Koutsoumbas says

    One of the first law proposals that the communist KKE party will table will relate to the abolishment of all the implementation laws of the memorandum, the party's secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas said on Monday.

    Law proposals, he noted, will relate among others to the restitution of the 13th and 14th bonus salaries and pensions and of the minimum wage at 751 euros without any delays.

    [22] PASOK wants formal briefing on Eurogroup by government

    PASOK asked for a formal briefing by the government of developments at the Eurogroup meeting on Monday night and the negotiations with Greece.

    In an announcement, the party said that the government must brief the parties in a way it sees as institutionally most effective and in depth in order to "guarantee the country's course under terms that are better, instead of worse, for citizens and the economy."

    Earlier, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos had spoken with former prime minister Antonis Samaras, also a former ruling coalition partner, who proposed the rallying of a front of "Europe-friendly forces." Venizelos, the party said, rejected the proposal and opted instead for awaiting a briefing of parties by the government.

    [23] Majority of citizens say they evaluate positively the government's handlings

    Eight out of ten (81.5 pct) citizens say they support the government's handling of the situation, according to a nationwide opinion poll conducted by Marc for Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper.

    At a query if the government negotiates in a right or wrong way, 81.5 pct of the citizens said yes and 14 pct said that they disagree while a 4.3 pct did not answer.

    Moreover, 79.7 pct said they are optimistic over the outcome of the negotiations and 13.4 pct said that there will be a rift.

    On Greece's stay in the eurozone, 81 pct said yes and 13.4 pct said they prefer to return to the drachma.

    Asked on a first estimate of the new government, 83.6 pct of the sample was positive and 13.2 pct of the respondents was negative.

    [24] Parliament to vote on Wednesday for Greek president

    The roll call vote for the election of a new Greek president will be held on Wednesday, the parliament announced on Monday evening.

    According to the order of the day signed by the Parliament speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou, the plenary will convene at 19.30 local time (1730GMT) at a special meeting to "conduct a roll call vote for the election of the President of the Republic."

    For the presidential candidate to be elected, he or she needs to secure the three fifths of the total number of lawmakers, the announcement said. The government is expected to announce its candidate for the post on Tuesday.

    [25] Presidential candidate will be announced to SYRIZA MPs first on Tuesday, gov't spokesman says

    The government's proposed candidate for Greek president will be announced to the members of SYRIZA's Parliamentary group when they meet on Tuesday at 16:00, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said on Monday, speaking to the radio station "Parapolitika". He noted that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will make the announcement first to his party's MPs "as he ought".

    "At this time, believe me, there is a climate of complete awareness of the responsibility by all members of the government and the Parliamentary group," he added.

    According to an earlier statement to the same radio station by SYRIZA MP Costas Lapavitsas, the best choice for president will be someone that expresses the Greek people's shift, in their vote, toward a leftist government.

    SYRIZA's Parliamentary spokesman Thanassis Petrakos called for someone "that unites the Greek people" and has a "consistent stance toward the policies that led the country to disaster," in statements to the radio station 'Athina 9.84'.

    Other SYRIZA officials have openly called for a president from that is from the area of the Left, rather than the more usual centre-right or centre-left candidates. Syriza MEP Manolis Glezos is one of them.

    "This game has to stop. When PASOK was in government, the President of the Republic was from New Democracy and when New Democracy [was in power] the president was from PASOK," Glezos told Kokkino radio station.

    The most important thing however, said Glezos is "to fulfill the will of the Greek people who want those games to end; and its fulfillment would be to have a President of the Republic from the Left."

    [26] ANEL deputies meet on Tuesday to discuss presidential candidate; spokesperson lashes out at German FinMin

    The Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputies will meet at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday to discuss developments concerning the government's candidate for the Greek presidency.

    The junior ruling coalition meeting will be chaired by party leader Panos Kammenos.

    Sources told ANA-MPA that Kammenos canceled his scheduled visit to Latvia on Tuesday to attend a summit on Wednesday in order to be present in the parliamentary vote for the election of the new President of the Republic.

    ANEL lashed out at German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble through its spokesperson Marina Chryssoveloni who pointed out that when the German minister described as "waste of time" the discussion on the European social programmes suggested by the Greek side, "he apparently means that he couldn't care less about the humanitarian crisis faced by our country and other EU countries." Chryssoveloni added that he should be reminded that "our European partners, including him, allied to the previous memorandum-led government, led the Greek people to a pitiful state and to absolute indigence."

    As regards the German finance minister's statement on the "present government's irresponsibility," she said that "obviously, he is annoyed by Greece's determination and dynamic presence in the crucial negotiations for the country."

    [27] Potami MPs said that they will suppport SYRIZA's candidancy for President if they like it

    Potami parliamentary group convened on Monday at the parliament with main issue the candidancy for President of Republic.

    According to sources, Potami deputies decided to examine the candidancy that will propose Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday and if they agree they will support it.

    The same sources said that Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said among others "If we like the government's proposal for President of Republic, we will vote it or we will bring our own proposal".

    [28] Foreign Ministry condemns the murder of 21 Christians in Libya

    The coldblooded murder of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya by an extremist Islamist organization linked to the "Islamic State" organization is yet further proof of the barbarity and horror represented by ISIS and a clear indication of the intentions of ISIS supporters in Libya to establish an authoritarian, fanatical and intolerant jihadist regime, according to a Foreign ministry's announcement.

    "We strongly condemn this vile and inhuman atrocity, and we express our great concern and the escalating persecution of Christians and of all the other religious communities of the Middle East and North Africa; communities that are suffering the impact of terrorism, of unreason and of religious intolerance.

    We express our deep condolences to the families of the victims and we assure all of the governments and peoples of the region that Greece will continue to stand by them as a firm supporter of human rights and religious freedoms, wherever those are threatened.

    In light of all the recent tragic incidents and of the escalating religious intolerance, the implementation of the Greek initiative for the protection of Christian communities in the wider region of the Middle East and North Africa - an initiative presented by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and supported by the Republic of Cyprus at the recent meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels (9 February 2015) - is more timely than ever," the announcement added.

    [29] FM Kotzias visits Embassy of Denmark

    Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias visited the Embassy of Denmark on Monday to express to the Danish Ambassador the condolences and solidarity of the Greek government and the Greek people regarding the terror attacks that took place in Copenhagen on Saturday and Sunday.

    [30] Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece condemns Copenhagen attacks, decapitation of 21 Egyptian Christians by Jihadists of the Islamic State

    The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece strongly condemned the terror attacks in Copenhagen that once more targeted the freedom of speech.

    It also expressed its outrage and sorrow over the fact that "innocent people, among whom our coreligionists, have once again been the victims of fanaticism, bigotry and anti-Semitism."

    In its statement it noted that "the policy of the rhetoric condemnation of such phenomena by itself does?not provide either sufficient or efficient confrontation of the issue," and added that "the State, the Church, the Institutions and the social factors in our country have the moral obligation to undertake coordinated and multi-faced efforts which must combine measures for the immediate prevention with long-term projects."

    It also expressed its repudiation for the barbaric assassination of 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by the Jihadists of the Islamic State in Libya.

    "The international Community," the statement said, "has to put an end to the outburst of irrational violence launched against innocent people regardless of their skin colour, ethnic origins or religion, and furthermore to safeguard the core value of our civilization, the value of life, from the threatening powers of hatred, terror and ongoing bloodshed."

    [31] ND leader calls former prime minister Costas Karamanlis

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Monday spoke with former ND president and prime minister Costas Karamanlis on the telephone, ahead of an ND Parliamentary group meeting on Thursday.

    Sources said the telephone call was made by Samaras.

    [32] New Democracy's Samaras speaks with Theodorakis, Venizelos

    The president of New Democracy Antonis Samaras spoke on the phone with the head of the Potami party Stavros Theodorakis and the president of PASOK Evangelos Venizelos to coordinate pro-European parties, sources from ND said on Monday.

    Samaras is expected to speak again with the two party leaders in the coming days.

    [33] Joint ministerial decision abolishing civil mobilisation for striking workers soon, sources say

    A joint ministerial decision that will abolish the institution of civil mobilisations forcing strikers to return to work is currently being prepared by Alternate Administrative Reform Minister George Katrougalos and Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis, sources in the administrative reform ministry said on Monday.

    The new legal framework will make exemptions for emergencies events and health-related issues, the sources said.

    In recent years the measure had been used to break strikes by Public Power Corporation (PPC) workers, high school teachers, seamen and dockworkers, staff on the Athens metro and local authorities, among others. Among the first decisions taken by the government was to lift the civil conscription for employees at PPC SA, and the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE) and the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator S.A. The decision was signed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the recommendation of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis.

    [34] Main opposition ND slams decision to stop EOPYY coverage of treatment in private clinics

    Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Monday demanded explanations from the government over a decision to stop covering the treatment of patients in private clinics via the state social insurance fund EOPYY.

    Commenting on the decision announced earlier by Health and Social Insurance Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, ND's spokesman noted that thousands of citizens would now have to cover the full cost of their medical treatment themselves.

    He also slammed an announcement that the Greek armed forces will start to produce generic drugs, saying this will lead Greek pharmaceutical companies to bankruptcy.

    [35] ND spokesman slams 'unhelpful' statements by SYRIZA officials

    Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Monday attacked elected officials of the ruling coalition's SYRIZA party, stressing that their statements were not helping the "crucial negotiations underway for the future of the country".

    According to Karagounis, SYRIZA MP Costas Lapavitsas and MEP Costas Chrysogonos were openly talking about a referendum to decide whether Greece should stay or leave the Eurozone, at the same time that Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis predicted that the latter option would amount to "Armageddon" for the country.

    "Is there really anyone who truly believes that statements of this sort help the crucial negotiations now underway for the country's future," Karagounis wondered.

    [36] New Democracy deputies call on party leader Antonis Samaras to postpone meeting

    New Democracy (ND) deputies and party officials are calling on party leader Antonis Samaras to postpone the meeting of the party's parliamentary group scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 19), party sources said late on Monday.

    Deputies calling for postponement included Nikos Dendias, Yiannis Plakiotakis, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Nikitas Kaklamanis and EuroMP Maria Spyraki, among several.

    According to the sources, the former prime minister is considering the proposal.

    [37] Main opposition ND slams decision to stop EOPYY coverage of treatment in private clinics

    Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Monday demanded explanations from the government over a decision to stop covering the treatment of patients in private clinics via the state social insurance fund EOPYY.

    Commenting on the decision announced earlier by Health and Social Insurance Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, ND's spokesman noted that thousands of citizens would now have to cover the full cost of their medical treatment themselves.

    He also slammed an announcement that the Greek armed forces will start to produce generic drugs, saying this will lead Greek pharmaceutical companies to bankruptcy.

    [38] Greek commerce confederation meets Social Insurance minister, urges creation of three pension funds

    In a meeting with Alternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis on Monday, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (NCHC) proposed that the government create a total of three healthcare and pension funds, through the mergers of existing social insurance structures.

    They proposed that there be a single unified pension and healthcare fund for employees of all kinds, one for the self-employed and freelance workers and a third for farmers. They also proposed using money from the solidarity fund in order to pay unemployment benefit to freelance workers without work.

    [39] Social insurance minister meets with representatives of merchant unions

    Alternate Minister for Social Insurance Dimitris Stratoulis on Monday had separate meetings with representatives of commercial trade unions to discuss Self-employed Professionals Insurance Organisation (OAEE) issues focusing on more favourable settlements of overdue debts, freedom to opt for lower insurance contributions and healthcare for the uninsured.

    In the meetings with Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) and National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE), Stratoulis said that among the government's top priorities is to decriminalize the professionals' debts to social insurance funds, provide full healthcare to the uninsured and facilitate the retirement of the self-employed and freelance professionals who meet the necessary preconditions to retire but owe more than 20,000 euros to OAEE, their social insurance fund.

    Stratoulis pledged that the clause giving the insured individuals the option of choosing up to two social insurance coverage levels by the end of 2016 will be improved.

    On its part, the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce proposed that the government create a total of three healthcare and pension funds, through the mergers of existing social insurance agencies.

    They proposed that there be a single unified pension and healthcare fund for employees of all kinds, anoterh for the self-employed and freelance workers and a third for farmers. They also proposed using money from the solidarity fund in order to pay unemployment benefits to jobless freelance workers.

    On Tuesday, Stratoulis will meet with representatives of the municipal employees' union federation (POE-OTA), while on Wednesday and Thursday he will meet with civil servants union federation ADEDY and General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) representatives.

    [40] Alt. finance minister visits Thessaloniki prefecture public finances inspection service

    Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas on Monday paid a visit to the Thessaloniki prefecture's Public Finances Inspection Service and was briefed on matters relating to its operation and authorities. He also heard proposals for improvements to its public spending audits and inspections in order to improve management of public finances.

    [41] Council of State upholds decision to cut Golden Dawn's state funding

    The Council of State (CoS), Greece's supreme administrative court, on Monday upheld as lawful and constitutional and in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights a decision to suspend state funding for the ultra-right-wing party Golden Dawn, on the grounds that its leader and several of its members were suspected of operating as an organised criminal outfit.

    The decision to suspend the party's funding was taken in 2013, after the launch of a judicial investigation into Golden Dawn's activities in the wake of the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas. During the course of this investigation, Golden Dawn's leader Nikos Mihaloliakos and several of the party's MPs were jailed on remand, pending trial.

    Golden Dawn had appealed against the decision taken by the then finance, interior and justice ministers, who were acting on a decision taken at the end of 2013 by the Parliament plenum.

    A law passed in 2013 also stipulated that in the case that a party leader is charged and remanded in custody or if one fifth of the MPs of a party are charged with offences relating to organised crime, then state funding and financial grants to that party are temporarily suspended.

    The CoS plenum found that the possible involvement of a political party's leadership in actions relating to the formation of a criminal or terrorist organisation, due to the nature of the offences and in relation with the proper functioning of the democratic state, were a serious enough reason to justify suspending state funding to such a political party under the constitution, especially as this suspension was temporary and a precautionary measure until a final court ruling and could be appealed against.

    It also found that cutting the party's state funding did not bar its participation in political life and the election process.

    [42] Civil Protection Minister wants to close Amygdaleza's migrant detention centre in 100 days

    The government aims at closing the migrant detention centre in Amygdaleza in about 100 days, the Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis said on Monday, following a meeting with Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou.

    It is also planning to speed up the completion of three open hospitality centres in the Attica region, an action which had been initiated by the previous government, so that migrants can be hosted in humane living conditions.

    Panousis said that in the new centres, the migrants will be living in a regime of "probation" and this is why a committee will be established to go over the files of those held in Amygdaleza and determine in which category they belong to - unaccompanied minors, sick people, asylum seekers etc.

    Amygdaleza cannot be turned into an open hospitality centre because the Police Academy is housed in it, he added.

    Further announcement on the issue are expected to be made on Tuesday by the ministry of interior.

    Arrest warrant against US embassy employee issued by examining magistrate investigating the phone-tapping scandal

    The examining magistrate against corruption investigating a phone-tapping conspiracy targeting former prime minister Costas Karamanlis, among others, on Monday ordered the arrest of a former employee at the US embassy in Athens in relation with the case.

    Examining magistrate Dimitris Foukas issued an arrest warrant against a 65-year-old US embassy employee (initials W.B.) on charges of espionage. According to available evidence, the defendant played the leading role in the major phone-tapping scandal that shook Greece in the last decade. Authorities will release his identity within the next few days.

    Sources say that the examining magistrate has indisputable evidence in his possession, according to which, in June 2004, the wife of the former US embassy employee bought from a mobile phone store in Piraeus the so-called "shadow phones" that were connected to a recording machine. Also, in the period before the case was brought to light in March 2005, the defendant had made many trips to the United States.

    Based on the phone records examined, it appears that one of the controversial telephone connections was diverted to a phone number that belonged to the US embassy in Athens.

    The examining magistrate also has evidence concerning a building in Athens' southern suburbs where an antenna was installed by the wire-tapping suspects. It appears that in the past another antenna was operating in the building to receive information.

    After the eavesdropping case was brought to light the defendant was allegedly removed from Greece for a short while and returned in August 2005 under a diplomatic identity as the first secretary at the US embassy.

    Based on available evidence, the defendant cooperated with the Greek authorities mainly on counter-terrorism issues and participated in an operation code-named "web" which involved the removal of a large quantity of explosives from the Iraqi embassy in 2003.

    The examining magistrate's investigation focuses on the specific US citizen, who appears to have served in his country's intelligence service since 1990 when he was transferred to Athens, to decide if he has any involvement in the alleged assassination plot targeting former prime minister Costas Karamanlis. The case file is currently under investigation by the examining magistrate and charges have been filed against unidentified culprits.

    A few months ago, the defendant had informed the examining magistrate through his defence lawyer that he is willing to cooperate and that he will visit the examining magistrate's office to provide information on the case under investigation, which he never did.

    [43] National Defence Minister Kammenos watches Greek navy training exercise

    National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos observed the Hellenic Navy training exercise "Astrapi-Ormi", which ran from January 15 to February 15, at the Hydra firing range on board frigate "Spetses" on Monday.

    He was accompanied by Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDGS) Chief General Mikhail Kostarakos and Navy General Staff Chief Vice Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.

    Financial News

    [44] Economy Minister Stathakis holds talks with UNI Europa

    Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis on Monday met the regional secretary of UNI Europa Oliver Roethig, stressing the need to take action against the humanitarian crisis in Greece and provide relief to the affected households.

    He briefed Roethig on the new government's priorities in the labour sector, with Roethig expressing optimism about the "huge change" that has taken place in Greece, saying he was ready to offer any help needed in order for trade unions to once again come to the fore.

    UNI Europa is the European regional branch of UNI Global Union, an international trade union confederation representing 320 European trade unions in the services sector and a total of seven million employees. Members of UNI Europa in Greece include the bank workers' union federation, the OTE phone company union, the state broadcaster's union POSPERT and others.

    [45] There can't be employees without businesses, says EBEA president Mihalos

    The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) pointed out in a meeting on Monday the need for a viable agreement with Greece's partners, of an agreement based on today's situation of the Greek economy.

    In his opening speech, EBEA president Constantinos Mihalos noted that "what is really at stake for the market is how the conditions of economic growth will be created again in Greece because" as he said "there can't be employees without businesses."

    [46] Greek IT consumer product market up significantly in Q4

    The Greek IT consumer product market grew significantly in the fourth quarter of 2014, with four out of seven sectors recording positive rates and the telecoms and home appliances recording double-digit growth rates, a report by GfK said on Monday.

    GfK said that according to the TEMAX index the Greek IT consumer product market grew 10.1 pct to 567 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared with the same period in 2013, while the photo items category recorded double-digit decline.

    The IT product market recorded a slight decline in the last three months of 2014 hit by discount offers amid intensifying competition. The office equipment category remained on a positive trend for the seventh successive quarter, helped by strong growth in multi-purpose office machines.

    The home appliance category continue growing, helped by higher sales in washing machines, while the small home appliances market eased slightly in the last quarter of 2014.

    The telecoms market grew 29 pct to more than 170 million euros in the last quarter of last year, led by smart phones and headphones.

    The electronic market continued growing helped by higher TV and game console sales. The market grew 8.7 pct in the October-December period.

    [47] Corruption costs Greece 14 bln euros annually, research finds

    Corruption costs Greece 14 billion euros annually and increases the cost of doing business by 12 percent, according to data presented in Thessaloniki by Transparency International-Greece (TIG) and the University of Macedonia (UM) on Monday.

    According to the nonprofit TIG, in 2014 it received 600 calls about corruption that mostly focused on local government, the health system and uninsured labour.

    As UM professor Harry Papapanagos noted, corruption on a European level is calculated at 120 billion euros annually, close to the total of Romania's economy. The World Economic Forum (held at Davos, Switzerland), assesses corruption as totalling 2.6 trillion U.S. dollars annually on a global basis, leading to a 10 percent rise in cost for businesses.

    Six graduate students presented projects on corruption in southeastern European countries and Turkey and their proposals for fighting the phenomenon, including activating the society of citizens and creating an independent agency.

    [48] Greek stocks end significantly lower

    Greek stocks came under strong selling pressure on Monday pushing the composite index lower after a spectacular 12.72 pct jump recorded in the previous two sessions in the Athens Stock Exchange. Traders said market attention focused on a crucial Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, while bank shares suffered heavily.

    The composite index fell 3.83 pct to end at 859.70 points, off the day's lows of 851.83 points. The Large Cap index dropped 4.81 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.71 pct lower. Turnover was a moderate 90.44 million euros.

    Coca Cola HBC (1.95 pct) and Grivalia Properties (0.25 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while National Bank (12.41 pct), Piraeus Bank (12.22 pct), Eurobank (12.09 pct), Alpha Bank (8.86 pct), MIG (8.15 pct), Ellaktor (7.59 pct) and GEK Terna (6.73 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    The Media (3.03 pct) and Food (1.89 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (11.50 pct), Health (9.52 pct) and Telecoms (4.43 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 79 to 31 with another 21 issues unchanged. Pegasus (18.57 pct), NEL (16.67 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (13.21 pct) were top gainers, while Altec (20 pct), Eurobrokers (18.75 pct) and Attica Bank (14.29 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: -11.50%

    Insurance: -4.32%

    Financial Services: -3.71%

    Industrial Products: -1.78%

    Commercial: -0.46%

    Real Estate: -1.04%

    Personal & Household: +3.03%

    Food & Beverages: +1.89%

    Raw Materials: -3.15%

    Construction: -2.38%

    Oil: -4.01%

    Chemicals: -0.39%

    Mass Media: +3.03%

    Travel & Leisure: -3.77%

    Technology: -2.17%

    Telecoms: -4.43%

    Utilities: -2.65%

    Health: -9.52%

    ?

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, OTE and Eurobank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE

    Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.36

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.00

    Coca Cola HBC: 16.19

    Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.00

    National Bank of Greece: 1.20

    OPAP: 9.45

    OTE: 8.20

    Piraeus Bank: 0.63

    Titan: 23.75

    Grivalia Properties: 7.97

    Aegean Airlines: 7.64

    [49] Greek bond market closing report

    Greek state bond prices came under renewed pressure on Monday with bond yields rising further, particularly in the medium-term curve, on market worries over the outcome of a crucial Eurogroup meeting. The three-year bond yield rose to 17.08 pct from 15.3 pct on Friday and the five-year bond yield rose to 14.45 pct from 12.87 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 8.94 pct from 8.83 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 9.28 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.34 pct. Turnover was a thin 8.0 million euros, of which 3.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 5.0 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate eased to 0.258 pct from 0.259 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.186 pct from 0.188 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.128 pct from 0.127 pct, the three-month rate was unchanged at 0.048 pct and the one-month rate stable at 0.001 pct.

    [50] ADEX closing report

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.12 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday.

    Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 24,864 contracts with 50,594 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 40,334 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (11,348), followed by Piraeus Bank (10,646), Alpha Bank (7,589), Eurobank (6,797), PPC (834), OTE (716), OPAP (580), MIG (522), Mytilineos (269), GEK (222), Ellaktor (151), Hellenic Exchanges (121) and METKA (98).

    [51] Foreign exchange rates - Monday

    Reference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.1408

    Pound sterling 0.7421

    Danish kroner 7.444

    Swedish kroner 9.5838

    Japanese yen 135.26

    Swiss franc 1.0626

    Norwegian kroner 8.6035

    Canadian dollar 1.4206

    Australian dollar 1.4669

    General News

    [52] Flu outbreak death toll rises to 51, authorities report

    The total number of people who have died from flu in Greece has come to 51, authorities said on Monday.

    Patients who have been hospitalized in intensive care units since the start of the flu season have reached 115. Of those, 27 continue to be monitored in those units.

    [53] Three ships from the Chinese Navy's South Sea fleet in Piraeus

    Three ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy), of the 18th Squadron of the PLA Navy South Sea fleet, sailed in the port of Piraeus on Monday.

    The Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) management and its CEO George Anomeritis will receive the head of the squadron Rear Admiral Zhang Chuanshu, the Chinese Ambassador in Athens Zou Xiaoli and their delegation at the PPA's central offices at 17:30 on Monday, where they will present them with port's crest and commemorative gifts.

    PPA's management will pay a return visit to the ship on Thursday, which is the Chinese New Year.

    [54] Kalashnikov confiscated at Athens airport post office

    A carton box containing a Kalashnikov automatic rifle destined for Germany was confiscated by customs officials at the Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" on Monday.

    The weapon was deposited at the airport's Hellenic Post Office (ELTA) and was found wrapped in aluminium foil to circumvent detection by the X-ray system. On the accompanying documentation it was described as a type of decoration.

    The discovery, according to authorities, was possible through a programme being used by the customs authorities.

    Weather forecast

    [55] Rain, sleet on Tuesday

    Sleet and northerly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Light snowfall in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from -02C-05C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts with temperatures between 0C-14C. Rain and sleet in the eastern parts and temperatures between -01C-11C. Partly cloudy over the islands, 07C-14C. Rain in Athens, 03C-07C. Sleet in Thessaloniki, 01C-05C.

    [56] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Nobody (Greece and EU partners) makes a single step back.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: All the changes in the retirement age limits.

    ESTIA: State coffers empty due to general elections.

    ETHNOS: The total plan of changes in public sector.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: The time of the truth.

    TA NEA: Europe divided.

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