|Friday, 20 September 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-04-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 16 April 2015 Issue No: 4935
 Austerity policies will not return, government sources stressNoting that there was heightening pressure on the government to accept "recessionary measures" such as mass dismissals or further cuts to wages and pensions, government sources on Wednesday underlined that "the memorandum has died and austerity policies will not return."
According to the sources, the government would not back down from the positions it considered "non-negotiable" and had presented as such to the electorate before the January 25 elections. They also stressed that the problem with the negotiations was not that Greece was not submitting detailed lists or processed proposals and deadlines.
"There are proposals, they know this very well and, in fact, have leaked these themselves," the same sources added.
They accused "hyper-conservative circles in Greece and abroad of refusing to accept the reality," namely that the austerity policies had been implemented, had failed and had led the country to the "tragic state currenly being experienced by the majority of the Greek people".
"Instead of leaking and gloating over scenarios of default, let them finally realise the dead ends that their policy leads to, especially since Greece is paying off its obligations normally and has not received even one euro since August 2014," the government sources concluded.
 I don't think we should go to elections, State min Flambouraris saysIt does not hurt to ask the Greek people over historic decisions, State Minister Alekos Flambouraris on Wednesday told ANT1 TV regarding a possible referendum. "We got a mandate two months ago, we will implement it, we don't need elections," he added.
"I don't think we should go to elections," he said and noted: "In case of an impasse, we could also consider the possibility of a referendum. It does not hurt to ask the Greek people over historic decisions."
Referring to the negotiations, he spoke of a "tough battle, which will be won," and reiterated that the government will not back down on "issues which led the country to its present tragic situation."
"The issue is not whether this will be delayed by a week or 10 days but to have an agreement," he said and expressed his optimism over the reaching of an agreement with the lenders.
He stressed that "there are points of compromise" in the proposals submitted to the partners and commenting on the reports that lenders disagree with Athens' proposals, he said this is news "circulated by several media, which is also reproduced by Greek media."
He insisted "there is no way the lenders would not back down" and explained that "Europe's sovereign powers have not decided to break the Union apart. On what grounds will it be Greece to leave and not Italy or France. This will be costly."
However, he ruled out the possibility of the government causing an accident saying that "the popular mandate for a solution within the euro" was very clear.
On the migration issue, he noted that "the refugee issue is a comprehensive issue of Europe that we need to resolve together."
"The Greece of the crisis cannot take all the war refugees," he stressed and added: "No one is telling us what should be done with those people."
Referring to a possible temporary solution, he said the proper conditions should be created so that these people can stay here for a while.
Alternate Migration Policy Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou, he said, is making a big effort. "There is an effort to find places, such as old military camps, or abandoned buildings, where they can stay temporarily. We have appealed to (EU Commissioner Dimitris) Avramopoulos for a solution. If we don't have the solution, then we must take temporary measures so that people don't die in the middle of the street and then, in cooperation with Europe, we should resolve the issue," he said referring to the government's actions to address the issue.
 Jump in migration flows towards Greece not due to a change of gov't policy, says Alt. Minister DritsasThe large increase in migration flows towards Greece is not due to a change of government policy on the issue, but a result of the deterioration of the problems mainly in Syria and other countries from where migrants arrive, Alternate Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas told journalists during a briefing on Wednesday.
"The claim that the increase in migration flows is due to the government's new migration policy is unfounded. Nothing has changed. The same circular from August 8, 2013 still applies," the minister said.
"There are about two million migrants in Turkey who want to cross over to Europe. Despite the fact that we have some cooperation, Turkey has to become more active in controlling traffickers," he added.
Presenting the work of the ministry so far, Dritsas also discussed the efforts made to tackle the issue of unpaid maritime labour, saying the available institutional tools are few and that a legislative regulation will be tabled to resolve the issue.
He said he will start talks with social partners on ways to reform the institutional framework in which shipping operates, adding that horizontal cuts made by previous government also hurt navigational services and their staffing.
 Migrants will be taken where reception facilities exist, Alt. minister saysAlternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulo-poulou on Wednesday told the radio station 'Sto Kokkino' that migrants entering the country at places lacking necessary reception facilities will be transported to the mainland, where such facilities exist. The government was looking into the possible charter of a special ship for this purpose, she added.
Christodoulopoulou said the majority of those arriving in Greece were refugees originating in countries experiencing war and disasters, chiefly from Syria, with very few economic migrants among them. She noted that Greece, due to the economic crisis and massive unemployment, was no longer a destination chosen by people simply seeking a chance at a better life in Europe.
The minister clarified that all the refugees whose identity can be confirmed will undergo a process to examine their applications for political asylum, while migrants will be given 30 days to voluntarily depart.
Regarding the facilities where migrants will be temporarily housed, she indicated that the government was seeking "enclosed" spaces but would also organise camps if there were not enough such adequate spaces found, with the state covering the cost.
"The European Union must proceed to a proportional distribution of refugees among its member-states," she stressed, referring to the overall strategy for handling this issue.
Replying to criticism levelled against her, Christodoulopoulou said she was the victim of "black propaganda" seeking to tarnish not just her but the government as a whole. She accused the media and opposition parties of contradictory reactions, deploring incidents that led to deaths of migrants while cultivating a climate of hysteria when the government "sought practical solutions, compatible with our humanity and culture."
 Alt. Shipping Minister Dritsas: Time is not mature for review of Dublin RegulationAlternate Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas speaks of an irresponsible exploitation of the refugee and migration problem in an interview with ANA-MPA on Wednesday.
Dritsas added that the problem does not accrue from the "government's allegedly policy of open frontiers". He also noted that according to the ministry's data the migration flows in the Aegean increased by 285 percent in 2014 in comparison with 2013 and underlined that it is not a national but a European problem and it should be examined on European level.
Asked on Dublin Regulation, he said that he believes that the time is not mature for its immediate review. What is mature is the need for additional measures and new supplementary policies for the common confrontation of the problem.
The full audio interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Refugees cannot stay on the islands, Independent Greeks spokesperson say"The successive waves of refugees and migrants to our country render the preparation and the implementation of an urgent plan by the government inevitable. The decision to transfer the newcomers from the islands to reception centers in mainland Greece and the creation of camps and special facilities, where all health and safety standards are met, was the recommendation of Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and the justification of his positions," Independent Greeks (ANEL) spokesperson Marina Chrysoveloni said.
"The main criterion of Kammenos' proposal is the position that the waves of migrants and refugees cannot stay on the islands for health reasons, but also because there can be no control over them, as well as the necessary distinction between refugees and immigrants," Chrysoveloni said adding that "the adoption of Kammenos' proposal prevents the further piling up of the problem on the islands, something that they certainly cannot take," she said.
"However, we, Independent Greeks, point out that the problem of refugees and migrants from countries of the Middle East is a European problem. The European Union needs to exert pressure on Turkey to implement the push-back agreement it has signed while there should also be a proportional distribution of migrants and refugees," she concluded.
 Defence minister meets Russian counterpart during official visit to MoscowMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/ Th. Avgerinos)
National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, currently on an official visit to Russia, on Wednesday met his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu and discussed the prospects for improving bilateral military relations and international cooperation against the Islamist terrorist threat.
"Greece and Russia are two countries with historic and religious ties and in our meeting we reaffirmed the friendly relations of the two countries," Kammenos said after a one-on-one private meeting with the Russian minister, which was held without an interpreter and lasted 45 minutes. Earlier, there had been a half-hour meeting between a Greek and Russian delegation.
Kammenos said that existing defence cooperation programmes will continue, that there would be maintenance of existing programmes and that they exchanged views "on the major threat that exists, for both Russia and NATO and concerns Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and North Africa."
As the only NATO defence ministery to accept an invitation to address the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS), which he is due to address on Thursday, Kammenos said he would use the opportunity to brief his NATO counterparts on what takes place.
"The Greek people, at all difficult moments, has resorted to Russia for assistance," the Greek minister noted, adding that Greece will never forget Russia's support on major Greek foreign policy issues, such as the invasion and occupation of Cyprus and the Russian veto on Cyprus issue cases.
"The new Greek government is seeking cooperation with Russia in all sectors. The recent agreements between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin open up new prospects," Kammenos said. He also pointed out that Greece had expressed disagreement with EU sanctions against Russia, in the EU and NATO, and was making efforts to bring about a change in this policy.
Shoygu referred to the "deep roots" of Greek and Russian military and defence cooperation, expressing hopes that this will continue.
 Defence Min. Kammenos: Greece only discussing maintenance of S-300 systems with RussiaMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/T. Avgerinos)
National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos denied on Wednesday a report that it is negotiating with Russia the purchase of missiles for its S-300 anti-missile systems, saying the two sides are only discussing maintenance and technical support of the systems which the Greek Army already owns.
"My statements were sufficiently clear," Kammenos told ANA-MPA and added that "we're discussing with the Russian side only issues of technical support and of course the replacement of projectiles which have expired for existing systems of air defence, among which are the S-300. Everything else is science fiction."
Reuters reported earlier that Greece is negotiating with Russia for the purchase of missiles for its S-300 anti-missile systems and for their maintenance, citing Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier, Kammenos met with the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia Kirill, with whom they discussed the 2016 celebrations for the 1,600 years of monastic life in Mount Athos, as well as the dangers facing Christian populations in Middle East and Northern Africa.
The minister also had telephone conversation with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras whom he briefed about his meetings in the country.
On Thursday he will speak an international conference organized by the Russian Defence ministry on security in the Southeastern Mediterranean and the new challenges facing the peoples of the region.
 Defence Minister Kammenos meets with Patriarch of Moscow KirillNational Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, who is currently on an official visit to Russia, had on Wednesday an hour-long meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia Kirill.
 Alt. defence minister in Brazil, to visit Brazilian president's foreign policy advisor on ThursdayAlternate Defence Minister Kostas Isichos, currently on a visit to Brazil, is to visit the presidential mansion on Thursday for a meeting with Marco Aurelio Garcia, the foreign policy advisor to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Isichos attended the Laad Defence and Security 2015 international defence and security trade fair in Rio de Janeiro, where the Greek defence industry had its own pavilion. He had a series of meetings on the sidelines of the trade fair, including a meeting with the Brazilian armed forces chief and his counterparts from Turkey, Argentina and Colombia.
 Draghi dismisses talk of a Greek defaultEuropean Central Bank president Mario Draghi on Wednesday dismissed fears of a possible Greek default. Asked about a Greek default, during a regular news conference in Frankfurt, Draghi said: "I don't even want to contemplate that. And based on the Greek government leaders' statements this option is not contemplated by themselves as well. So I'm not ready to discuss any possible situation like that."
Commenting on how far the ELA mechanism could be extended for Greece, the ECB's president said: "I think the answer to your question is entirely in the hands of the Greek government. As you know, we approved ELA and we'll continue to do so, extend liquidity to the Greek banks while they are solvent and they have adequate collateral ... So from this viewpoint we ... have always been and we continue to be a rules-based institution."
"It's entirely depending on the conditions that will be in place" after negotiations between Greece and euro zone peers, Draghi said.
 Berlin says unrealistic to expect new tranche of aid to Greece in AprilThe German government said on Wednesday that it was unrealistic to expect euro zone countries to be able to pay out a new tranche of aid to Greece this month, Reuters news agency reported.
"We are negotiating with Greece at the moment. If there is a reform list, then the next step is a so-called Staff Level Agreement to make formal changes to the conditions of the aid programme. This is a complex process and no one in the Eurogroup expects this to be concluded by April 24," a finance ministry spokeswoman said.
"Once you have this Staff Level Agreement, then you have to have implementation. Greece would have to agree laws and at some point the institutions would conduct an implementation review and only on this basis could aid be paid out. If people are under the impression that aid could be paid out in April, I think this is wrong."
 German Fin Min Schaeuble 'confident' Greece won't exit EurozoneGerman Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Wednesday he does not expect Greece to leave the Eurozone, although markets have already priced that into their calculations.
"I would like to say that I am quite confident it will not happen," Schaeuble said at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York.
He said there are no signs that markets are worried about a possible Greek default or an exit from the Eurozone and that there doesn't seem to be any contagion risk.
"If you look at Greece it's not a major part of the economy of the euro zone as a whole. Most participants of financial markets are telling us that markets have already priced in whatever will happen. You can't see any contagion," he noted.
Schaeuble also said no solution has yet been achieved at the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its creditors and that none is expected next week. "Until now we don't have a solution. And I don't expect to get a solution in the next week."
The German minister said the situation is very difficult for Greece and that the country's new government has destroyed all scenarios on which economic recovery was based on.
He also noted that Greece doesn't need more money but more reforms adding that the country's problem is not its debt but the "lack of competitiveness".
Eurozone's finance ministers are expected to meet in Riga on April 24.
 ESM's Regling: Greece doesn't need a haircut for debt sustainabilityGreece's debt can become sustainable without the need to incur another haircut on its creditors, European Stability Mechanism (ESM) chief Klaus Regling said on Wednesday.
"With continued reforms and the continued benefits of this size every year, the country can return to debt sustainability without another haircut," he was quoted as saying by Reuters at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
Regling also said Greece is benefiting from long debt maturities and low borrowing costs, which saved the country billions of euros.
 Government criticises main opposition for comment on tackling humanitarian crisisGovernment circles accused New Democracy's spokesman for labour issues Vasilis Economou of "dubbing" in Greek the views of "the most extreme pro-memorandum circles" adding that he opposes even an increase of minimum age.
In a statement made earlier, Economou said the measures presented in the government's humanitarian crisis law have already been legislated and integrated in the current budget by the previous administration.
 Government officials' statements over a referendum are 'a confession to a deadlock', ND spokesman saysNew Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis said that the referendum that some government officials are considering would basically be turned into a referendum over the country's stay in the eurozone, which does not fall within the mandate the government got on January 25.
"Even the thought for such a referendum is a confession to a deadlock. If they proceeded with this, they would turn the deadlock to a tragedy," he stressed. "It would be more honorable for them to come out and say that their promises are unfeasible and that they came to power by deceiving the Greek people," he added.
 Potami leader visits Lesvos, makes proposals on migration issuePotami leader Stavros Theodorakis on Wednesday visited the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos and urged Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to introduce a national policy on the migration issue and the refugees.
"A broad meeting should take place in Athens with the participation of the governors and mayors of borderline regions as well as coast guard officials that have been involved in operations and know well what is happening in the Aegean Sea. I am not talking about a bureaucratic meeting; I am talking about the meeting of people that are aware of the real problem. I hope - and Tsipras has no reason not to accept it - that such a meeting will take place with the participation of political party leaders, of those who believe that the issue should be addressed with solidarity and a plan, and have a national policy."
Theodorakis visited the island's main port, where the authorities take the migrants and refugees that are found in the sea or on the island's beaches and talked with coast guard officials, migrants and families of refugees, mainly from Syria.
"Our first proposal is the enhancement of Frontex," he said and added that Greece, with the European Union in the forefront, should have an understanding with Turkey. "We must have an understanding with Turkey because right now there are two million refugees in Turkish camps," he said.
"We are before a tourist season...We have to protect the economy of the islands," he said.
On the government's policy over the migration issue, Theodorakis said "they should see what is happening on Lesvos, Oinousses and Kos. They have to face reality and put their pre-election mottos aside and realize that that migration issue cannot be solved with wishes...The migration issue needs action and specific measures."
 Potami party publishes proposals for tackling illegal migrationOpposition party To Potami on Wednesday published its proposals for tackling migrant trafficking, guarding national borders and dealing with undocumented migrants and refugees, in a document co-authored by MPs Zoi Apostolopoulou and Giorgos Tsaousis.
The party says the European Union should help financially with guarding Greek borders and should launch an information campaign in the countries of origin, similar to the one initiated by Australia, while Turkey should be pressed to tackle traffickers.
Potami is in favour of migrant detention centres for all points of entry to the country, but notes that new ones should also be built with EU funds which will offer first aid and register migrants for further needs.
On the issue of granting asylum status, the party proposes setting up Asylum Agency teams so that applicants can receive a positive or negative reply within 60 days, while also put pressure on the EU to form a European Asylum Agency, so that refugees are distributed within member-states depending on population.
Potami also says repatriation should be done on a voluntary basis and incentives such as vocational training in the country of origin with the help of international organizations should be offered.
The party also reiterated its proposal to grant Greek nationality to second generation children which were born in Greece and attended a six-year educational training at a Greek school. It also says children born elsewhere should also be offered the nationality when they turn 18 and have completed 9-year education in a Greek school, or university.
 Holding referendum simply 'passing the buck', opposition Potami party saysReplying to a statement by Minister of State Alekos Flambouraris earlier on Wednesday, the opposition Potami party strongly opposed any idea of a referendum concerning the ongoing negotiations with Greece's creditors. Potami press spokesman Dimitris Tsiodras called it an attempt to pass the buck and ask the Greek people to "make the decisions that [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras and his self-proclaimed SYRIZA-ANEL 'national salvation' government are loathe to make."
Flambouraris and other government ministers appeared "unable to understand that they were appointed to rule and not to recycle discussions on elections and referendums," Tsiodras added, noting that the government's "overtime" play was daily sinking the country's real economy ever lower.
 KKE leader on government's migration policyCommunist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Wednesday said that "there is no more time to lose. Temporary hospitality camps, quick and just offer of asylum to refugees as well as of travel documents for the countries of destination should be ensured," referring to government's policy on the refugees and migrants issue adding that the "government's subordination to Dublin's Regulation and to Schengen Treaty worsens rather than solves the problem". No more words, said Koutsoumbas.
 Draft law on re-opening of ERT approved in principle by parliamentary committeeThe draft law for the re-opening of former public broadcaster ERT was voted in principle by the relevant parliamentary committee on Wednesday, with State Minister Nikos Pappas calling for consensus, so as to achieve the largest possible majority when it is submitted at the plenum.
SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks (ANEL), the parties forming the government coalition, voted in favour, while main opposition New Democracy (ND) and PASOK voted against the bill. Golden Dawn, Potami and the Communist Party expressed their reservation.
 Amendment tabled in Parliament to extend deadline allowing tax fine write-offsAn amendment tabled in Parliament on Wednesday will empower the finance ministry to add a month's extension to a favourable measure for those with overdue tax debts, due to expire on April 27.
The measure allows tax-payers to write off fines and interest on the principal sum owed, provided that they make an advance payment equal to 10 times the minimum monthly installment of their debt. The special application on Taxisnet for the payment of debts in 100 installments, due to expire in 12 days, has not yet been activated, something that is expected to happen at the end of the week.
 "We cannot rule out an accident in Greece," Greek Capital Market Commission head says"We cannot rule out an accident in Greece," Konstantinos Botopoulos, chairman of the Greek Capital Market Commission, told Europe 1 radio station.
Asked if the country is threatened by a major crisis, he replied that "it is threatened by an accident and not by choice, as everyone is seeking an agreement."
He noted that "the government itself has admitted that the state coffers have money for two weeks, until early May" and added that there will be problems in meeting the country's obligations domestically and abroad.
As regards the Greek government's reform program, he stressed that "in order to reach an agreement, Greece will have to convince the European Union of the seriousness of the efforts and reforms."
 'Citizens' Hour' begins on pilot basis at selected police stations on MondayThe 'Citizens' Hour' action designed to build trust and friendly relations between the public and police is to be launched on a pilot basis next Monday, at 14 selected police stations throughout the country. The action is among innovative policing techniques announced by Civil Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis as part of a new policy to combat crime and enhance trust in the police force.
The programme, called "The hour of the citizen, organisations and social partners" in full, will be first tried out in Attica, Thessaloniki, Patra, Halkida, Rhodes, Iraklio, Ioannina and Larisa. Under the programme, police station chiefs will receive members of the public, organisations and social partners twice a month, hearing their views and proposals on various issues concerning the local community. In cases when the issue falls under the remit of another branch of the police force, this will be officially forwarded for further handling.
For issues with broader local interest, the head of the police station will ensure they are discussed at the Local Council for the Prevention of Delinquency.
The programme will initially run for two months on a pilot basis, after which any necessary improvements and modifications will be made so that it can be extended throughout the country.
 Attica region governor Dourou to deliver lectures in US universitiesAttica region governor Rena Dourou has been on a visit to New York since Tuesday, having been invited by two American universities to participate in their lecture programmes.
On Friday, April 17, Dourou will address the New York University on "The Dawn of Another Attica", while on Tuesday, April 21 she will deliver a speech at Princeton University on "A new face for Greece. What difference can a woman make?"
 Agreement on new natural gas pipeline to be signed very soonThe initial agreement for the construction of the new natural gas pipeline which will start from the Greek-Turkish borders and will reach central Europe via Greece - a project with knock-on effects for the Greek economy - is expected to be signed within the next few days.
According to Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis (who on Wednesday and Thursday is visiting Riga, Latvia to participate in the informal meeting of EU Energy ministers), the agreement could be signed as early as next week.
The construction of the Greek section of the pipeline between the Greek-Turkish borders and the borders with FYROM, entails a 2 billion euro investment which will create 2,000 jobs.
 Energy Min. Lafazanis: Greece must turn into an energy hub between Europe and AsiaGreece needs to follow a new progressive, independent and multidimensional policy on energy, part of which is to become an energy hub between Europe and the East, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said on Wednesday during a speech at the informal meeting of EU energy ministers in Riga, Latvia.
"Greece, despite the difficulties, has made positive steps towards energy efficiency, although there's still a lot that needs to be done," the minister said.
"The main problem though for our economy in the energy sector remains the very high energy cost, which, in order to be dealt with, requires our country to follow a new, progressive, independent and multidimensional energy policy, part of which is to turn Greece into an energy hub between East and Europe," he added.
 S&P downgrades Greece rating to CCC+/CStandard & Poor's on Wednesday downgraded Greece's long and short-term sovereign credit ratings to 'CCC+/C' from 'B-/B', citing worsening economic conditions due to prolonged negotiations between the government and creditors.
The ratings agency also removed Greece's ratings from CreditWatch, where it had placed them with negative implications. S&P's outlook on Greece is now negative, the agency said. "Without deep economic reform or further relief, we expect Greece's debt and other financial commitments will be unsustainable," S&P said. "Greece increasingly depends on favourable business, financial, and economic conditions to meet its financial commitments. We are therefore lowering our sovereign credit ratings on Greece to 'CCC+/C' from 'B-/B' and removing the ratings from CreditWatch negative. The outlook is negative, given the risk of further worsening in liquidity for the sovereign, the banks, and the economy.
"The downgrade reflects our view that Greece's solvency hinges increasingly on favourable business, financial, and economic conditions. In our view, these conditions have worsened due to the uncertainty stemming from the prolonged negotiations between the almost three-month-old Greek government and its official creditors. The outlook for full-year economic growth is highly uncertain. We estimate the Greek economy has contracted by close to 1% over the past six months despite a weaker euro and lower oil prices. In our opinion, economic prospects could deteriorate further unless talks between Greece and its creditors conclude soon. Weaker economic activity and rising arrears on taxes payable to the central government suggest that last year's relatively modest primary budgetary surplus will shift back to a deficit in 2015, absent a policy change. Greek banks are also experiencing liquidity pressures. Since end-November 2014, Greek banks have lost about 14% of their deposit base to customer withdrawals and deposit outflows have continued. The banks have funded these withdrawals primarily with Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) from the Bank of Greece and with European Central Bank (ECB) financing (against European Stability Mechanism notes as collateral). The availability of this ELA financing (which we estimate at close to 7% of Greece's GDP) remains subject to frequent reviews by the ECB Governing Council. The Greek government's credit standing faces several near-term challenges. This week, an estimated 2.4 billion euros in Greek treasury bills mature, with as much as one-third held by non-residents. We assume that most non-residents will not roll over their holdings. We expect that the government will marshal cash reserves of state-owned enterprises and municipalities to maintain a ? 15 billion stock of treasury bills outstanding. It might also exert moral suasion to have insurance companies and mutual funds of commercial banks increase their treasury bill holdings. If this assumption does not hold, the government could fail to achieve its borrowing requirement, leading to a default on sovereign debt, including treasury bills. We also expect that the government will manage to continue to pay salaries and pensions in cash (rather than non-negotiable IOUs) despite weakening cash fiscal receipts.
The government's most pressing hurdle centers on its negotiations with its official lenders (the European Commission, International Monetary Fund [IMF], and ECB). In our view, if the stalemate between Greece and its official lenders is not resolved before the middle of May, then there might not be enough time for the Greek parliament to enact whatever conditions are attached to a revised lending program. Nor will the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) group of eurozone finance ministers likely have time to sign off on the disbursement of the remaining 7.2 billion euros loan tranche to Greece under the current programme or establish a successor financing facility. We consider the disbursement of this tranche to be necessary by late June so that Greece can avoid missing payment to the ECB on an estimated 3.5 billion euros in sovereign bonds held by the Eurosystem. Another 3.2 billion euros in payments to the Eurosystem are due in July. According to official data, total principal payments on medium- and long-term obligations held by commercial creditors due this year (including on debt issued by Hellenic Railways Organization SA) are only 300 million euros. Our understanding is that talks on mutually acceptable revisions to the Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece continue, albeit at a slow pace. A Greek exit from the eurozone is not our base-case scenario. We believe that the economic, social, and political ramifications for Greece of such an unprecedented step would be severe and likely be accompanied by widespread public- and private-sector payment defaults. Early signs of heightened eurozone exit risk could include capital controls and bank deposit withdrawal limits as well as a cash-strapped government issuing IOUs to pay employees, pensioners, and suppliers. These IOUs could circulate as a secondary means of exchange and, over time, lead to a national currency.
Our sovereign ratings pertain to a central government's ability and willingness to service financial obligations to commercial creditors. A missed payment to an official creditor would not constitute a trigger to lower the rating to 'SD' (selective default) under our criteria, although, all other things being equal, it would likely constitute a negative factor in our analysis. Under our criteria, only a missed payment to a commercial creditor would constitute a default (apart from a distressed exchange). The Greek government has repeatedly committed itself to excluding private-sector creditors from any further debt reprofiling, though we believe the incentives for another restructuring could shift if Greece's sovereign debt difficulties intensify. The negative outlook means that we could lower our rating on Greece within a year if we perceived that the likelihood of a distressed exchange of Greece's commercial debt had increased further. This could be the case if, for example, we took the view that further official creditor disbursements will fail to materialise, resulting in the Greek government's inability to honor all its financial obligations in a full and timely manner. We could revise the outlook to stable and affirm the ratings at the current levels if we believed that Greece and its creditor countries would agree on a new financial support programme with policy conditions that satisfy all parties. Such a scenario could contribute to promoting political stability, tax compliance, and a gradual economic recovery in Greece," S&P said in its report.
 OECD report shows over-taxation of families with children in GreeceThe burden of taxes and social insurance contributions accounted for 43.4 pct of wages in Greece, sharply up from an average of 26.9 pct in OECD countries, a report showed on Wednesday.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in a report on its 34 member-states, highlighted the levels of over-taxation in Greece and noted that families with children were taxed more compared with taxpayers without a family. According to these figures, and after taking in mind family benefits, families with children in Greece were taxed by three percentage points more than taxpayers without a family, while in the OECD taxation of families with children was by nine percentage points lower.
Belgium (40.6 pct) and France (40.5 pct) followed Greece in taxation of families with children, while the lowest taxation levels were recorded in New Zealand (3.8 pct), Chile (7.0 pct), Switzerland (9.8 pct) and Ireland (9.9 pct). Greece ranked 14th among OECD countries in taxation of taxpayers without a family.
The report showed that the percentage of taxes and social insurance contributions on wages accounted for 40.4 pct (39.1 pct in 2000), from 36 pct on average in the OECD.
 Greek banks' borrowing from ELA up in MarchGreek banks' dependence from liquidity offered by the European Central Bank and the Emergency Liquidity Assistasnce (ELA) mechanism grew to 107.2 billion euros at the end of March, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a report, said that Greek banks' direct borrowing from ECB totaled 38.7 billion euros in March, from 38.6 billion in February, while borrowing through ELA grew to 68.5 billion euros form 65.6 billion in February. The ECB has raised the ceiling for borrowing from ELA to 74 billion euros.
 Social partners agree on minimum wage increaseThe representatives of the social partners (employers and trade union associations) in their first trilateral meeting with the government on Wednesday supported an increase of the minimum wage, though the employers expressed certain reservations relating to wage progression and social insurance contributions.
All representatives welcomed the resumption of the social dialogue after five years and asked for the restitution of the National General Collective Labour Agreement, as well as for social partners being enabled to decide upon all issues without any intervention.
The private sector labour union GSEE described the government's proposals as being totally in line with the unions' demands, while employers expressed reservations on a couple of issues, including high non-wage costs.
GSEE President Yiannis Panagopoulos supported restoring the minimum wage to 750 euros with a single act of legislation, adding that "everything will be judged at the implementation stage".
Vassilis Korkidis, president of the Greek commerce confederation (ESEE), made a rather impressive statement, referring to 800,000 undeclared employees and 2 billion euro annual losses for the social insurance funds.
The so-called 'social dialogue' launched on Wednesday will continue at the Economic and Social Committee.
The head of the tourism enterprises association, SETE President Yiannis Retsos, referred to the high cost of social insurance contributions in Greece, placing Greece 34th in the world, and announced that SETE would present a series of proposals extending beyond those of the labour ministry.
 Greek public debt at 177.1 pct of GDP in 2014Greece's public debt totaled 317.1 billion euros, or 177.1 pct of GDP, at the end of 2014, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, also said that the general government's deficit was 6.4 billion euros, or 3.5 pct of GDP (the figure is not related with a fiscal surplus/deficit of the memorandum). The country's Gross Domestic Product totaled 179.081 billion euros last year, down from 182.438 billion in 2013 and 207.752 billion at the end of 2010. The country's public debt (excluding the year 2012 with the introduction of a PSI program) continues rising as a percentage of GDP, although falling in nominal value. The public debt was 355.977 billion euros (171.3 pct of GDP) in 2010, 304.714 billion euros (156.9 pct of GDP) in 2011, 319.178 billion (175 pct of GDP) in 2013 and 317.094 billion euros (177.1 pct of GDP) in 2014.
The statistics service said that if spending on state support to financial institutions and their impact on the general government balance was taken into account, the result was a primary surplus of 0.4 pct of GDP in 2014.
 Greece raises 812.5 mln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Wednesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue raising 812.5 million euros from the market. The interest rate of the issue was set at 2.70 pct, unchanged from the previous auction of same issue in March 18. Bids submitted totaled 813 million euros, 1.3 times more than the asked sum of 625 million euros.
 Marinas can be leased out but ownership belongs to state, Council decreesThe Council of State ruled on Tuesday that the Greek Constitution and legislation allow the lease, management and use of Greek marinas under private economy rules by non-public agencies, but their ownership remains under the state and the leasees cannot claim ownership or related rights.
The country's highest administrative court also said that private companies could carry out port and land projects to improve the facilities.
The ruling comes after an injunction filed by ten Piraeus port residents, who opposed the privatisation of the Zea Marina, calling it unconstitutional and illegal. The bid for Zea has been won by "Consortium Attica Marinas", which has signed a 40-year lease, with the option of a five-year extension.
 Natural gas prices down at least 16 pctGreek consumers and households using natural gas are benefiting from a decline in prices, as natural gas prices for all categories of consumers were reduced by at least 16 pct in April 1st, compared with March. These declines will benefit households using natural gas for heating and other household use, along with enterprises and electricity production units. These declines reflect a decline in international oil prices. Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy ministry officials said natural gas prices were expected to be further reduced from July.
 Jumbo says sales up 8.57 pct in nine-month periodJumbo, a Greek-listed retailer, on Wednesday said its sales totaled 446.17 million euros in the nine-month period of the year (July 2014-March 2015), from 410.94 million euros in the corresponding period last year, for an increase of 8.57 pct, after rising by 7.7 pct in the first half of the year.
In an announcement, Jumbo said that sales in Greece recorded a positive growth rate -relative to the six-month rate- in the January-March period this year, while sales growth in Cyprus remained at double digits following the opening of a new store in Limasol. Double-digit growth rates were also recorded in Bulgaria and Romania.
Jumbo attributed this positive development in sales to the fact that the Easter holidays came earlier this year, compared with 2014. The group maintains its initial estimate for an annual growth rate in turnover of 4-6 pct.
Jumbo Group operates a network of 70 stores, of which 52 in Greece, 5 in Cyprus, 8 in Bulgaria and 5 in Romania.
 Wine production down 16.24 pct in GreeceWine production fell by 16.24 pct in the 2014-2015 period to 2,800,000 hectolitre, from 3,343,000 hectolitre in the previous period, surpassing initial estimates for a 3.44 pct decline in production.
A report by the central cooperation union of wine products, released on Wednesday, said that production was negatively affected by weather conditions which prevailed in spring and summer last year.
Production of wines under Protected Origin Name fell to 237,000 hectolitre last year from 315,000 in the previous year, while production of wine under Protected Geographical Sign fell to 439,000 hectolitre from 600,000 in the previous year. The only exception to this declining trend was the production of varietal wines which rose to 114,000 hectolitre from 70,000 hectolitre.
 Greek stocks remain under pressureGreek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 750-point level, with bank shares remaining at the focus of selling activity. The composite index fell 1.94 pct to end at 743.95 points, off the day's lows of 728.61 points. The Large Cap index dropped 2.17 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.22 pct lower. Turnover was a low 65.62 million euros.
Terna Energy (3.56 pct), Grivalia Properties (2.59 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (1.39 pct) scored big gains, while Piraeus Bank (13.18 pct), Eurobank (8.16 pct) and MIG (6.40 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, the Food (1.38 pct), Real Estate (0.98 pct) and Personal Products (0.25 pct) scored big gains, while Health (5.33 pct), Banks (5.08 pct) and Telecoms (3.94 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 75 to 26 with another 17 issues unchanged. Motodynamic (21.22 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (19.23 pct0 and Alpha Trust (9.92 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (19.64 pct), G.E.Demetriou (18.75 pct) and Kekrops (16.13 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -3.45%
Industrial Products: -2.63%
Real Estate: +0.98%
Personal & Household: +0.25%
Food & Beverages: +1.38%
Raw Materials: -3.55%
Travel & Leisure: -3.02%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, Eurobank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.226
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.00
Coca Cola HBC: 19.03
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.67
National Bank of Greece: 1.08
Piraeus Bank: 0.27
Grivalia Properties: 7.13
Aegean Airlines: 7.10
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek state bond yields continued moving higher in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the three-year bond yield rising to 23.58 pct from 23.30 pct on Tuesday, while the five-year bond yield rose to 16.88 pct from 16.87 pct over the same period, respectively. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 11.62 pct from 11.28 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 11.73 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.11 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.18 pct from 0.183 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.121 pct from 0.124 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.072 pct from 0.076 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.004 pct from 0.008 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.029 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe April contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.46 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 50,763 contracts with 39,636 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 122,417 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (39,523), followed by Alpha Bank (22,490), Piraeus Bank (27,660), National Bank (25,657), MIG (1,942), OTE (1,018), PPC (1,020), OPAP (585), Mytilineos (272), Hellenic Petroleum (581), GEK 9443), Hellenic Exchanges (167), Ellaktor (117) and Jumbo (144).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.0579
Pound sterling 0.7168
Danish kroner 7.4671
Swedish kroner 9.3115
Japanese yen 126.52
Swiss franc 1.0321
Norwegian kroner 8.415
Canadian dollar 1.3277
Australian dollar 1.3945
 Culture ministry asks Christie's to withdraw ancient stele from auction as illegalThe culture ministry on Wednesday announced that it has asked Christie's auction house to withdraw a 4th century B.C. funerary stele from an upcoming auction, on the grounds that it was exported from Greece illegally.
The announcement notes that the ministry systematically monitors auctions of cultural goods and takes all necessary action in cases where there is legal proof that an item on auction was exported illegally.
The case concerns a 4th-century B.C. funerary stele from Halkida, which is on sale at Christie's in London. The ministry is now awaiting Christie's reply to a letter on the issue.
In the announcement, the ministry underlined that the withdrawal of an item from auction can only take place if there are incontrovertible legal arguments proving illegal action.
 Greek information taken under consideration but stele auction can continue, Christie's sayResponding to a request by Greek authorities to withdraw a 4th-century B.C. stele from an auction taking place the same day, Christie's auction house on Wednesday replied that the information supplied by Greece was given "serious consideration" but that the auction will continue.
"Based on our own investigation and in accordance with British law, we are convinced that the auction can proceed normally. For this reason, we have not withdrawn the specific item," Christie's said.
The carved marble stele is dated circa 350-325 B.C. and bears the inscription 'Dorias [daughter of] Poseidonios'. According to the lot description it was found in Halkida on the island of Evia and recorded in the travel notes of Eduard Schaubert in 1844. The auction house claims the stele was from a private collection in France acquired prior to 1994. It's value is estimated between 28,000-40,000 euros.
Greek authorities argue that there is proof that the stele was recorded in Greek territory after the country's liberation from Ottoman rule and therefore, its export was illegal.
Four items have already been withdrawn from Wednesday's antiquities' auction after an investigation by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, specialising in the illegal antiquities' trade, in cooperation with Interpol and Italian authorities. These are three ancient Greek vases and an Etruscan head, all of them of Italian origin. The value of these objects exceeds 100,000 pounds sterling.
Dr. Tsirogiannis, a member of a Trafficking in Culture research centre, said it was "no surprise" that Christie's was once again attempting to auction antiquities of "dubious or nonexistent legal provenance". He said his own investigation had not been linked to the Dorias stele, which he said had been handled by the Greek culture ministry.
Earlier, the Greek culture ministry announced that it had sent a letter to Christie's presenting evidence that the stele had been illegally exported from Greece and asking that it be withdrawn from auction.
 Contested 'Dorias' stele sold by Christie's for 75,000 GBPThe late classical 'Dorias' stele that the Greek culture ministry asked Christie's to withdraw from auction was sold by the auction house on Wednesday for the sum 75,000 pounds sterling (104,458.63 euros).
In an announcement earlier on Wednesday, Greece's culture ministry said that it had asked Christie's to withdraw the item from auction, saying there was firm evidence that it had been illegally exported from Greece. In its reply, Christie's said that the Greek information was given "serious consideration" but insisted that its own investigation showed that the auction would continue as planned under British law.
The carved marble stele is dated circa 350-325 B.C. and bears the inscription 'Dorias [daughter of] Poseidonios'. According to the lot description it was found in Halkida on the island of Evia and recorded in the travel notes of Eduard Schaubert in 1844. The auction house claims the stele was from a private collection in France acquired prior to 1994. It's value is estimated between 28,000-40,000 euros.
Greek authorities argue that there is proof that the stele was recorded in Greek territory after the country's liberation from Ottoman rule and, therefore, its export was illegal.
 Halkidiki miners travel to Athens for Thursday's protest marchMiners working at a Canadian-owned gold mine in Halkidiki, northern Greece, boarded buses on Wednesday to travel to Athens, where they will participate on Thursday in a protest rally in favour of the company and in an effort to defend their jobs.
The workers will rally outside the Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy ministry and will then march towards the Canadian embassy, the company's headquarters, the offices of the European Commission delegation, the prime minister's office, Parliament and the finance ministry. During these stops, they will submit copies of their signed resolution.
The march will reach Syntagma square at 17.00, where protesters are planning to stay until late at night.
 Anti-fascist protest to mark start of Golden Dawn trial on ThursdayAnti-fascist organisations and other bodies will hold a protest rally and march towards Korydallos prison on Thursday morning, to coincide with the start of the trial of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party being held in its premises.
Protesters are demanding the conviction of the "Nazi-criminal organization", while by public sector union ADEDY has called for a work stoppage for Attica region between 07.30 and 11.30 to facilitate those who want to participate in the action. Anti-fascist bodies said they will also have buses in 20 main areas around Athens to transfer protesters to the rally.
Lawyers of victims of attacks by Golden Dawn supporters have said the trial should take place at a larger venue, such as Athens' Appeals Court.
 Municipality employees to participate in ADEDY work stoppage on Monday, April 20 over the start of Golden Dawn trialLocal administration workers will participate in the work stoppage called by public sector union ADEDY for Attica region for Monday, April 20 between 07.30 and 11.30, following a decision by the executive committee of the municipal employees' federation POE-OTA.
The work stoppage is being held on Monday to coincide with the start of the Golden Dawn trial in Korydallos prison.
"This trial should be the starting point for the termination of the Golden Dawn neo-Nazi members' criminal activities and their scandalous immunity status," POE-OTA said in a statement.
The federation will also hold a protest outside Korydallos football stadium at 08.00 and a march towards the prison.
 Moderate quake jolts CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos)
A moderate quake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale was recorded at 11:30 on Wednesday at the sea region northwest of Paphos. The quake's depth was 3km and was strongly felt in Limassol and Nicosia.
A series of aftershocks of lower magnitude followed.
No damages have been reported so far.
 Mostly fair on ThursdayMostly fair weather southerly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Mostly fair in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 06C-22C. Scattered clouds in the western parts with temperatures between 08C-23C. Mostly fair in the eastern parts and temperatures between 07C-24C. Sunny over the Aegean islands and Crete, 10C-22C. Mostly fair in Athens, 10C-23C; the same for Thessaloniki, 08C-21C
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGI: Double negotiation in Brussels and Washington
DIMOKRATIA: Ministers and journalists in the so-called 'Nikoloudis list'
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Responsibility on Europe, burden on Greece
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Government's faux-pas with fast-track issue of passports for Syrians
ESTIA: Tragic mistakes in the negotiation
ETHNOS: Red alert for migrants
IMERISSIA: The market is drying up
KATHIMERINI: Three 'mines' for the prime minister's office
Kontranews: Terror over 'Nikoloudis list'
LOGOS: Relief measures for those in need
NAFTEMPORIKI: Alert signal by the IMF
RIZOSPASTIS: They are paving the way for an anti-popular agreement
TA NEA: Now we are speeding up
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