|Friday, 20 September 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-04-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 22 April 2015 Issue No: 4940
 Russian-European consortium could build natural gas pipeline, Gazprom's Alexei Miller says in AthensA Russian-European consortium could build a natural gas pipeline from Turkish borders through Greece, Alexei Miller, CEO of Russian natural gas giant Gazprom said on Tuesday, following a meeting at Maximos Mansion in Athens with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Productive Reconsturction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis.
Miller told the press Greece supports the construction of a pipeline carrying natural gas from the borders with Turkey, adding that there are already European companies showing interest in a plan for a Russian-European consortium. A project of this sort must observe European law, which would not be a problem for the Russian side, he added.
Gazprom can guarantee that the pipeline crossing Greek territory will carry up to 47 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually, he said, noting that this volume would give Greece the opportunity to secure enough credit to implement other programmes in the country.
Lafazanis said that the Greek government has been presented with the opportunity for constructive discussion with the head of Gazprom, and that on its side it aims for greater expansion in relations with Russia, especially in energy, which would present a strategic collaboration.
He also expressed the hope that "we will have an agreement very soon" on the pipeline, which will carry Russian natural gas from the Black Sea coast to the Greek-Turkish borders and on to central Europe. He noted the benefits of such a project to the Greek people, the upgrading it would provide for Greece in strategic terms and he reiterated that the government's intent is that the construction follows absolutely European legislation.
Asked whether Russia provides alternatives to Greece, Lafazanis underlined that Greece ought to follow an independent foreign, economic and energy policy.
 Energy Min. Lafazanis, Gazprom chief to set up working group on gas pipelineThe meeting of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis with Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller in Athens ended without statements on Tuesday evening.
Sources who participated in the meeting said the two sides agreed to form a working group to promote the creation of a pipeline which will transfer Russian gas through Greece into Europe and specify a timetable and road map detailing the responsibilities of each side. The sources also didn't exclude the possibility of a relevant agreement being signed.
 Greece has proposed Russia's participation in exploiting hydrocarbons, Russian energy minister saysMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/ Th. Avgerinos)
Greece has proposed that Russia participate in drilling for natural gas and oil from Greece's continental shelf, a proposal that Moscow was examining "with interest," Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak was reported as saying in an interview to the German newspaper "Die Welt" that was picked up by the Russian media.
In the interview published on Saturday, Novak said that Greece's Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis proposed that Russia participate in exploiting Greek fossil fuel reserves during recent contacts with the Russia side, which he said "will examine these possibilities".
Referring to recent talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Novak said these had also covered issues relating to natural gas supplied to Greece by Russia.
"The agreement for the export of natural gas was extended until 2026. Still pending are issues concerning the size of 'take or pay' obligations. The conditions for achieving agreement exist," the minister was reported as saying.
Regarding the price of natural gas to Greece, he said that the formula had been more flexible over the past year and the prices was now reduced due to a drop in oil prices, adding that it was now comparable to that paid by Ukraine without referring to specific figures.
According to calculations made by the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti, this meant that the price for Greece does not exceed 248 U.S. dollars per tonne.
 PM Tsipras to meet with Chancellor Merkel on ThursdayPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday on the sidelines of the extraordinary EU Summit on migration that will be held in Brussels, according to a prime minister press office announcement on Tuesday.
 FinMin Varoufakis: An agreement will be achieved and the situation will stabiliseResolving the non-performing loan problem of Greek banks will require Europe's intervention, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Tuesday at a banking forum in Athens organised by the Hellenic Management Association (EEDE), adding that the issue is being discussed in Paris between the Greek government and its partners (loan creditors).
He supported the creation of a "bad bank" and the speedy use of EFSF funds, to resolve the issue and said it was also necessary to create a development bank.
Speaking about the government's negotiations with its partners, Varoufakis expressed certainty an agreement would be reached and the situation stabilised. "The convergence is clear and the institutions acknowledge it," the minister said, adding however that there won't be a solution at the next Eurogroup in Riga, Latvia.
"Our partners and we have invested in an agreement and we won't let the opportunity go to waste," Varoufakis noted, adding that the government's aim in negotiations was not just resolving the Greek issue but ensuring a true integration of the eurozone.
Among other things, he said that low inflow to social insurance funds made it impossible for them to cope, calling for smart funding tools in order to support their viability.
In terms of privatisations, they should secure a percentage for the state, even if a minority stake, instead of outright sell-offs, while private investors should also connect with local communities. The era when a Left government would oppose enterprise has long gone, he said.
 Eurogroup's Dijsselbloem: Negotiations with Greece to be completed at the end of JuneBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Negotiations between Greece and its creditors are expected to be completed at the end of June, the head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem told RTL television on Tuesday, denying that the deadline has been moved.
Asked if the deadline for the completion of the negotiations has been moved further awayas it is impossible to complete them by the next Eurogroup meeting, Dijsselbloem said: "I didn't move any deadline in the future. We've said this program is extended by four months; that's the firm deadline, so the program ends at the end of June. That's when the programme will end. Secondly, we'll start giving money only after the Greeks will start implementing reforms. This is not happening now, therefore the programme has stopped. However, we have tried to negotiate anew, to reach a new agreement. This is still feasible. We won't make it on April 24, this is why we must continue next week; we will need a few more weeks."
Asked to comment on the Greek government's decision to ask all municipal authorities to deposit their cash reserves in order to meet the government's financial obligations, the head of the Eurogroup said: "Yes, it's true that all piggy-banks in Greece have emptied. At the same time, I see some progress in negotiations, so this is reason for some optimism. We have to reach a deal this week and restart the aid programme. But the problem is that the more you discuss about the measures you will implement, the more time you lose to really implement them."
 Despite progress in Greek negotiations, no deal is visible by end of April, says eurozone officialBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Despite the progress in the negotiations between Greek authorities and the institutions in the last few days, the achievement of an agreement by the end of April is not yet visible, a senior eurozone official said in Brussels.
"There is a clear pick-up in activity, a clear pick up in engagement, but we are a significant way away from a signal that a result is in sight," the official said.
Asked on the decision of the Greek government to pool the cash reserves of local authorities in a government bank account, the official welcomed the action, saying that the implementation of this decision was a standing demand of the institutions and that such arrangements have been made by other member-states, like the Netherlands.
The official also said that in order to have a clear image on the country's future financing needs there must first be an overall agreement on the full range of government expenditures and revenues.
He also noted that the Greek government had agreed with the February 20 Eurogroup statements, according to which it will have to agree to a comprehensive list of reforms by the end of April. "The deadline has not been lost yet, but it will be very difficult to keep," the same official said, explaining that any deal will have to be approved by the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG), which in turn will have to prepare the ground for the political discussion of the Finance ministers at the Eurogroup.
He said that no decisions are expected at the Eurogroup meeting on April 24 in Riga and insinuated that the same applies for the next meeting on May 11. The official did say that an important deadline is June 30, when the Greek programme expires.
The official also noted that during the EWG teleconference on Wednesday, the institutions will brief eurozone's technocrats on the course of the negotiations and the same will happen at the Eurogroup on April 24.
 'We are prepared for all kinds of events but I am excluding at 100 percent this Grexit,' Commission President Juncker saidBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
"There will be no default," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday in an interview with European news site Politico.
"The Greek government is testing European Commission president's patience, but he says there will be no Grexit," is the subtitle of the report, which stresses that Juncker warns that Greek intransigence risks pushing the continent towards economic catastrophe and rebukes Athens for an "unacceptable" lack of cooperation.
The report notes and an agreement on a financial rescue package remains distant, but that Juncker ruled out a Greek debt default or exit from the eurozone. He said his main reason for optimism rests less on any tangible progress than on the simple fact that the alternative is unimaginable.
Juncker pushed back on an increasingly commonplace view among eurozone leaders that a Greek default could be a lever to force the Syriza-led government to get serious about its finances, and that its fallout could be contained. He declined to elaborate on the nightmare scenarios he sees potentially unfolding but warned that the failure to keep Greece afloat would "lead us to consequences that people don't know the amplitude about."
"We are prepared for all kinds of events but I am excluding at 100 percent this Grexit, or Greek exit," Juncker said. "There will be no default."
Juncker said the negotiations in recent days between Greece and its lenders "started to move in the right direction, but it's still a long way to go." The Greek government continues to insist on pulling back on austerity measures, while the eurozone countries expect significant reforms in exchange for 7.2 billion euros to ease its cash crunch, the report said.
On the negotiations, which started in Paris last Saturday, the report noted that European Union officials had wanted Greece to propose a list of reforms by this week, ahead of a meeting Friday of Eurogroup finance ministers in Riga.
He said he was highly preoccupied that the Greek government will let us know in time what is happening. "We need clarity and haven't gotten it. I had lost patience in the meantime. Now I regained patience and do not want to lose it again."
 EU's Juncker: Greece faces a humanitarian crisis, but has to intensify efforts for dealEuropean Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis and will not be abandoned, adding however that the country has to step up efforts to strike a deal with its international creditors.
"Greece has a humanitarian crisis which one has to face so it's out of the question to abandon Greece," Juncker was quoted as saying by Reuters in Vienna. "It is also out of the question to support Greece at any price."
"We are absolutely not satisfied with the course of talks so far. There is urgent need for greater efforts on the Greek side to be able to conclude this matter in our mutual interests," he told reporters.
He said the intensity of talks has increased in the past few days but is not yet at the maturity needed to be able to reach a quick conclusion.
 There is progress in the negotiations between the institutions and the Greek authorities, Commissioner Moscovici's spokesperson saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
There is progress in the negotiations between the institutions and the Greek authorities but a progress report is not expected to be drafted, EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici's spokesperson Annika Breidthardt said on Tuesday in Brussels.
Asked whether Brussels Group was preparing a written progress report on Greece ahead of the April 24 Eurogroup, she said that there is progress but that she knew nothing of a written progress report. She added that in any case the Eurogroup Working Group which on Wednesday will hold a teleconference and the Eurogroup meeting in Riga will take stock of the progress accomplished lately in the talks between the institutions and the Greek authorities.
 Talks between Greek experts and Brussels Group expected to be concluded on TuesdayPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
The negotiations between the "Brussels Group" and the Greek delegation of economic experts continue on Tuesday for a fourth day in Paris in a climate of "progress."
Tuesday's meeting will start at 11.00 a.m. (Athens time) with an aim to be concluded within the day ahead of the Euroworking Group teleconference on Wednesday in Brussels. The participants are expected to take stock of the differences in certain fields of the programme aiming to find the best possible convergence.
 The US is interested in stability in Greece and the wider region, FM Kotzias saysThe meeting between Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and the US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday in Washington focused among others on the economic situation in Greece, the ways in which the US can help Greece, the need for greater confidence in the Greek economy, the increase of investments and trade, the Greek-Russian relations and the Cyprus issue.
The two officials also discussed on the Greek government's initiatives regarding the Greek-Turkish relations, the relations with FYROM, the developments in the region and the Cyprus issue.
Regarding the controversial bill of the Justice ministry, Kotzias said he explained the attitude of the Greek government, "an attitude which is defined and determined by the fact that there are eleven rulings of the European Court of Human Rights regarding the conditions in prisons," noting that "none of the convicted to be subject to the provisions of the new law is going to be released, but will be detained under other conditions, namely in his home under the conditions provided by the new law."
"The importance that the US government gives on terrorism issues is known," Kotzias said adding that the Greek government understands the US concerns, but stated that they "do not correspond to reality and the essence of the law."
In reply to journalists' queries on the Cyprus issue, he noted that "all our western partners are interested in a solution to the Cyprus problem" and added that "in order for a solution to be found, it must be a good solution accepted by the Cypriot people, a solution that in order to be effective should not let other rights to the so-called guarantors."
Both sides gave explanations regarding the attitude towards Russia and the problem of Ukraine. "We explained to them," Kotzias said the "good and traditional relations we have with Russia, our help to Ukraine, and regarding Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' recent visit to Moscow we explained that it is a good agreement with economic prospects for the country. Kerry was kind enough to tell me that in a few days they will send their own proposals to help develop the country's economy."
Finally, Kotzias said that the United States is interested in the stability of Greece and the wider region adding that he has invited Kerry to visit Greece.
 FM Kotzias to meet US legislative bodies, IOCC members in WashingtonOn Tuesday, April 21, the second day of his visit to the U.S., Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will meet with leading figures of the two legislative bodies of the U.S., according to a Foreign ministry's announcement.
Within the framework of the Greek initiative for the protection of persecuted Christian communities and other religious minorities in the Middle East, he will meet with representatives of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).
Kotzias will then visit the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies and an exhibition, entitled "Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance", which is taking place under the auspices of the Greek Embassy, at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, in cooperation with the General Secretariat for Press and Information, and which is on the subject of the participation of Greek Jews in the Resistance.
Finally, the Foreign Minister will attend a dinner being hosted in his honor by the representatives of the Greek American organizations A.H.I., AHEPA, and the Coordinated Effort for Hellenes.
 United States officially designate Christodoulos Xiros, Nikos Maziotis as terroristsThe U.S. State Department on Tuesday officially designated Christodoulos Xiros and Nikos Maziotis as terrorists under Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism, agencies reported.
"As a result of these designations, all property subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which Xiros and Maziotis have any interest is blocked and any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen," the State Department said in a press release.
 Alternate FM Chountis submits data on migrants' readmission to Turkey to parliamentAlternate Foreign Minister Nikos Chountis submitted data on the implementation course of the Greek-Turkish Readmission Agreement to the parliament.
The figures, in a document dated April 17, were sent as a reply to a query by New Democracy deputy Stefanos Gikas on the "escalation of irregular migrant inflows from the Turkish coasts to Greece." The document is quite clear on the Greek position towards the steps taken by the Turkish side.
"The implementation of the Greek-Turkish Readmission Protocol to combat irregular migration, signed in Athens on November 8, 2011, despite Turkey's occasional statements and commitments, is not considered by our side quite satisfactory," Chountis said in his response.
The minister cited data showing that since the Protocol came into force (April 2002) and until January 2015, 6,393 requests were submitted to Turkey for the readmission of 137,722 of irregular migrants, of which the Turkish authorities accepted the readmission of 13,314 and ultimately admitted only 3,838, "which is mainly due to the responses of the Turkish side which were delayed and beyond the deadlines provided for by the Protocol."
Additionally, the Foreign ministry noted, the Turkish side's commitment to accept 1,000 readmission requests per year is not met.
 A legislative act should be made sparingly without hurting the people's rights, Alternate Social Insurance min says"It's not a good thing to bring a Legislative Act, even for emergency measures," Alternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis on Tuesday told ANT1 TV.
He noted, however, that this decision "is not very dramatic" as it relates to reserves and not current needs of the entities.
Asked to comment on opposition parties' criticism that the government which was opposed to legislative acts when it was in the opposition has resorted to them twice in a 90-day period, he estimated that "this legislative act does not stigmatize (the government) as it does not concern wage and pension cutbacks."
"The legislative act needs to be made sparingly and without hurting the people's rights and ahead of the battle we are fighting to keep the country on its feet while they want the country to go bankrupt and sign a new memorandum. There are patriotic acts that one should consider," he added. Stratoulis was also opposed to possible elections or referendum, as, he said, "we have a popular mandate."
 Defence min Kammenos meets Egyptian PresidentDefence Minister Panos Kammenos, who is on an official visit to Egypt, on Tuesday met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
The two officials agreed to set up a joint steering committee for the cooperation between Greece and Egypt on defence issues.
The committee will be headed by the Defence ministers of the two counties and its works will start in the coming days.
The two officials also discussed the defence planning of the two countries as soon as Greece and Egypt's EEZ is defined.
 Defence Min. Kammenos lays wreath for Greek soldiers in El AlameinNational Defence Minister Panos Kammenos completed his visit to Egypt on Tuesday with a visit to El Alamein where he laid a wreath at the monument of the Greek Fallen of the Second World War.
The Greek delegation, which is returning to Athens this evening, included the president of the Parliament's Foreign and Defence Committee and SYRIZA MP Giorgos Varemenos and the Chief of Defence, General Mikhail Kostarakos.
 Deputy Defence Minister Toskas meets U.S. State Dept official Todd C. ChapmanDeputy Defence Minister Nikos Toskas on Tuesday met the U.S. State Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Todd C. Chapman for talks on geostrategic issues concerning the broader region and ways to improve defence cooperation between Greece and the United States, the defence ministry announced.
 Politics is one thing and companies is another, Parliament President Konstantopoulou saysPolitics is one thing and companies is another, the President of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou said during the Conference of Presidents of Parliaments of the Member States and the European Parliament, which takes place in Rome.
"There must be a clear message to all those who negotiate that the countries are not companies, the European Union is not a company to sign agreements and treaties concerning countries or the European Union as a company," Konstantopoulou noted adding that this a questionable strategy which at the end of the day poses problems to the citizens and creates difficult living conditions as is the situation with countries that have signed memorandums.
"Therefore, we have to understand that these negotiations should not continue to be as secret as they are," the President of the Parliament noted stressing the need for a more democratic process.
 President Pavlopoulos briefed by Alt. Defence Minister Isychos"The Greek borders are European borders and all European people should address the issue on conditions of humanism and security," stated on Tuesday President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos while receiving Alternate National Defence Minister Costas Isychos at the Presidential Mansion.
Pavlopoulos noted that "the Greek armed forces offer many things to Europe" adding that "the matter is firstly humanitarian but also a matter of security and this is something we should not forget."
Isychos agreed with Pavlopoulos and underlined that is not an issue that refers only to Greece but to the whole of Europe and the world. Moreover, he said that he wants to brief the president on the outcome of his recent visit abroad as well as on a huge campaign for the German war reparations that will start.
 ANEL spokeswoman Chryssoveloni's message for colonels' coup anniversary"Greece remembers today, April 21, one of the most dark pages of modern history, as it marks 48 years since the coup of the colonels and the establishment of a seven-year Junta. April 21 brings back to the Greeks the memory of the heavy social and national cost of the totalitarian regimes. It indicates everyone's duty to serve the Democracy, the smoothness and stability. A duty that is becoming more important at this time, that our country begins to stand on its feet and getting out of the crisis," Independent Greeks (ANEL) spokeswoman Marina Chryssoveloni said in her message for the "black anniversary of the April 21 coup."
The struggle for democracy and our rights is daily and timeless, Chryssoveloni underlined and added: "Nowadays, the people, with their vote, have given a strong and clear mandate to halt the social and economic crisis, to support social justice and contribute to the restoration of democracy. As a united and proud people, with the fairness of our claims as a weapon, we are the most powerful 'card' in any negotiation, in any conflict with vested interests."
Chryssoveloni also referred to "the fighters who resisted the US-led junta", stressing: "Their struggles inspire us even today, reminding us of our continuing duty to protect the Democracy with all our strength, creating barriers of good governance, social sensitivity and efficiency. Independent Greeks honor those who fought against the junta and hold in trust their struggle to consolidate the Democracy, for an open society, far from intolerance and prejudices."
 Potami leader proposes meeting of political leaders on Greek negotiationsThe leader of To Potami party Stavros Theodorakis on Tuesday called for a meeting of political leaders chaired by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, to discuss the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its lenders and the country's course in the EU.
Speaking at a Cypriot broadcaster, Theodorakis said that "when we're talking about the big issue of our relations with the EU, we must all be together in this meeting."
Commenting on Potami's proposal, circles of the main opposition New Democracy said: "When the time comes, this will happen too," without elaborating further.
 Potami party criticises government for draining municipal cash reservesOpposition party Potami on Tuesday slammed government officials for calling the draining of local government's cash reserves a "patriotic duty".
Thanasis Skokos, Potami's commenter on political and economic issues, said in a statement that "after 90 days, the country is being led to isolation and a complete domestic economic asphyxiation . The responsibility for this situation now touches the prime minister. He has to do something. Our country is at risk of collapsing."
And continued: "Is it a patriotic duty to stop the operation of municipal kindergartens and social services? Does governing with legislative acts have anything to do with the democratic operation of a state, which they themselves criticised before they assumed power?"
 Greece has been isolated, Potami party says over US, Great Britain's reaction on Savvas XirosInstead of making new friends, we even lose the ones we already have, Potami party said in a statement commenting on reactions by the US and Great Britain on the regulation over the home arrest of those facing health problems and possibly of convicted terrorist Savvas Xiros.
"At a time when the country needs international support, the government opts to cut off ties with traditional allies such as the United States and Great Britain," the party said.
"The unprecedented movement of the public denouncement by the US ambassador David Pearce on Savvas Xiros' release, the complaint by the US Secretary of State John Kerry to the prime minister himself, the fact that the release shadowed the meeting between Kerry and (Foreign minister Nikos) Kotzias in Washington and the annoyance of Great Britain demonstrate the international isolation in which Greece finds itself on a daily basis," it added.
 KKE on FM Kotzias meeting with John Kerry in Washington"Convicted terrorist Savvas Xiros' issue should not hide the fact that the Foreign Ministers of Greece and US agreed to deepen their cooperation regarding the confrontation of terrorism" the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said on Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington.
"Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias must inform the Greek people on what he discussed with US Secretary of State on the Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue as well as on the development in the wider region" concluded KKE's announcement.
 KKE sec gen briefs Commissioner Avramopoulos on party's migration positionsThe communist party KKE secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Tuesday spoke on the phone with the Commissioner of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos in order to brief him on party's views and proposals regarding the large flows of refugees and migrants entering Greece and ask him to provide immediate solutions.
According to the communist party's press release, Koutsoumbas noted that wars and intrusions, the economic crisis and the government policies are responsible for the fact that thousands of persecuted people flock at the coasts of Greece and other Mediterranean countries in their effort to escape poverty and death. He stressed the position of the communist party on the need for indiscipline in the Dublin Regulation and the Schengen Treaty, which encloses thousands of people in Greece, as well as the need for Greek troops not to participate in operations and missions.
He also referred to the need of finding areas where migrants can be temporarily accommodated while being taken care of, taking all necessary measures for the rapid and fair asylum provision to refugees and granting travel documents so as to arrive at their destination.
Avramopoulos briefed Koutsoumbas on the proposals he submitted to the extraordinary Council of EU Foreign and Interior Ministers ahead of the extraordinary EU summit on Thursday.
 The country unfortunately is bankrupt in terms of cash, PASOK leader saysPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday said the Legislative Act is a forced confiscation of the reserves of the municipalities, regions, social security funds, public entities in order to cover the short-term needs of the State.
"Unfortunately as a country, we have gone bankrupt in terms of cash and the responsibility for this rests with the government, which has engaged the country in a three-month tug of war," Venizelos said. "Now what does it want to tell the European partners with whom it is supposedly negotiating hard?" Help us, back down, give us some money as an installment of the loan so as not to be destroyed." Is that a decent and effective argument? Is that nationally proud negotiation?" he wondered.
 Municipalities, regions oppose new law obliging them to turn over cash reserves to Bank of GreeceMunicipalities should not transfer their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece, their union urged on Tuesday following a meeting with Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas, who briefed both the local administrators during their emergency meeting and the regional governors at theirs, earlier, on the measure.
The Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDE) opposed a recent government decision obliging by law all cities and several public-sector agencies to transfer their cash reserves to a special account at the country's central bank. The law exempted social insurance funds and companies listed on the Athens bourse with a government stake. The emergency legislation, described as "an extremely urgent and unforeseeable need" for the transfer of the amounts, allows the government use of the funds to cover public-sector expenses. The law is backdated to March 17.
While briefing the regional governors at their union meeting, Mardas explained that regions should calculate their needs for the next fortnight, keeping the required funds and turning the rest over to a special account at the Bank of Greece which will provide a 2.5 percent interest. When regions need additional funds, they will be able to draw them immediately, if the amount required does not exceed 10 percent of the capital originally deposited. If it exceeds 20 percent, they need to file an application, getting the amount within two days.
The measure, he said, will bring in up to 2.5 billion euros, which will be placed in repos and used for the country's running needs.
The regional directors called the decision "a violent constitutional overturn," violating the principle of local authorities' self-governance. They also said the measure threatened to put a stop to growth projects that came under NSRF funds, which would jeopardise EU funding among other repercussions.
Mardas also explained the same process to the municipalities at their meeting.
According to explanations by the government preceding Tuesday's regional authorities meetings, a recent government amendment fully guarantees the cash reserves of public-sector entities with a right to compensation from the state. Several bodies have already deposited their cash reserves at the Bank of Greece and were able to withdraw necessary amounts, it said, citing the case of Attiko Metro which recently withdrew 150 million euros from the central bank.
 Government abolishes law allowing HIV positive sex workers' details to be made publicThe government on Tuesday announced the abolition of a controversial health and hygiene regulation that allowed authorities to publish the details, including photographs, of sex workers that had tested positive for HIV. This is the second time this regulation has been abolished since its first introduction in 2012. A health ministry decision for its abolition was published in the Government Gazette on April 17 and comes into force 15 days after publication.
Originally brought by then minister Andreas Loverdos in a bill on measures designed to contain the spread of contagious diseases, the law led to the publication of photographs in the press of women arrested as prostitutes as a means to "protect" public health.
It's implementation had led to a storm of protests and reactions over the public humiliation of the women involved and for the trampling of their fundamental rights, as well as patient-doctor confidentiality.
The law was subsequently scrapped by then deputy health minister Fotini Skopouli in May 2013 but its abolition was subsequently reversed in June by the following health minister, Adonis Georgiadis, after he took over the ministry.
Effectively, the decision signed by Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis and published in the government gazette abolishes that of Georgiades and brings the Skopouli regulation back into force.
 Economy ministry refutes 'Proto Thema' story on alleged double jobbers at ministryThe economy, infrastructure, shipping and tourism ministry on Tuesday denied an anonymous report published in the newspaper "Proto Thema" on Sunday, under the headline "Stathakis' double-triple jobbers".
A ministry announcement denied claims that the head of the ministry's press office Haris Savvidis concurrently held two other jobs, including a university post as lecturer and one as director of a financial paper. It also criticised the article for repeating "unfounded accusations" against the ministry's general secretary Manos Manousakis, to which the ministry had already replied in a press release on April 7.
Concerning the claims about Savvidis, the ministry pointed out that the alleged position as lecturer at Pantion University was actually held by Savvidis only until 2011, on the basis of a three-year temporary contract, after which he had no other dealings with the university. Regarding the second job at an unnamed paper, the ministry assumed this referred to the newspaper "Imerissia" where Savvidis had been employed since 1998 but never as director, only a representative of the staff at the Athens journalists' union ESHEA, and from which he recently resigned in order to take up a full-time job at the ministry.
 Political uncertainty affects domestic liquidity, IOBE report?Prolonged and turbulent negotiations between the new government and its creditors, without having any clear signs over their outcome, have heightened political uncertainty inside and outside the country, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Tuesday.
In its quarterly report on the Greek economy, IOBE noted that "political uncertainty is considered to have affected and will continue affecting strongly on the level of liquidity in the Greek economy, with a clear trend towards withdrawing bank deposits by households and enterprises prevailing in the last few months, with the aim to safeguard their wealth against monetary risk. In on order to achieve this, they have probably turned to financial investments abroad, but it is also possible that households have raised the purchases of durable goods while enterprises have raised purchases of capital goods, thus boosting private consumption, investments and imports. In any case, reduced deposits deprived enterprises from funds which could be drained from the banking system to finance their investments, establishing and strengthening economic recovery in the Greek economy".
IOBE noted that "a successful completion of negotiations which would ensure fiscal adjustment already achieved, a continuation of efforts towards sustainable public finances and the necessary reforms in the state and markets, could immediately change climate to the better. But to improve investment environment it was necessary to regain confidence among investors over implementing agreed reforms with our partners and over the stability of certain economic parameters which significantly affect the performance of investments, such as tax system, labor relations and the strength of the banking system".
The report noted that if the macro-economic environment would not be strongly hit by the outcome of negotiations, maintaining or further improving the less pessimistic expectations of households and continuing a mild decline in unemployment could lead to higher consumption by households in 2015, slightly above 1.0 pct.
 Alternate Tourism Min Kountoura's contacts in Saudi Arabia focus on health tourismAlternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura on Tuesday, during her second day of her visit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, had a series of contacts in order to promote health tourism.
More specifically, she met with Alternate Health Minister Dr Mohammed Al Khoshaim and discussed the possibility of Greek doctors of all specialties to work in Saudi Arabia, even for a short period of a few months, as the country faces shortage of human resources in the health sector.
The Alternate Health Minister also expressed his intention to create a website where Greek doctors interested in working in Saudi Arabia can upload their personal information.
They also discussed the possibility of a bilateral cooperation on a technical staff training level as well as the know-how exchange in medicine production which are currently imported from third countries, as well as the manufacture of equipment and tools.
Kountoura stressed that Greece, with its great experience, could help Saudi Arabia in the rehabilitation and post-medical care as well as in raising public awareness on prevention. She also pledged to set up a forum for further discussion, and to examine possible cooperation at university level.
Moreover, Kountoura met with the President of Kingdom Holding Co Prince Al Waleedbin Talalbin Abdulaziz Al Saud and discussed the promotion of investment projects in Greece. She also invited the Prince to visit Greece to examine further investment opportunities, especially in the tourism sector.
 Economy minister meets with Cretan officials, deputies who raise issue of expanding Iraklio airportEconomy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis met with local government officials and deputies at Iraklion, the main city on the South Aegean island of Crete, on Tuesday to discuss the upgrading of the Heraklion International Airport "Nikos Kazantzakis".
The city's mayor, the regional director, five deputies of the island, local authorities and officials of the airport raised the idea that a study be conducted to expand the airport towards the north, and funding options were discussed for both the study and construction.
 Greek fiscal deficit at 3.5 pct of GDP in 2014, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Greece's fiscal deficit was 3.5 pct of GDP in 2014, while the country's public debt reached 177.1 pct of GDP, Eurostat said on Tuesday.
The EU executive's statistics service, in a report, said that Eurozone's fiscal deficit was 2.4 pct of GDP, while the EU's fiscal deficit was 2.9 pct of GDP in 2014, while the public debt was 91.9 pct of GDP in the Eurozone and 86.8 pct in the EU-28.
A total of 12 EU member-states recorded a fiscal deficit above the 3.0 pct limit, with Cyprus (8.8 pct) and Spain (5.8 pct) at the top.
A total of 16 member states recorded public debt levels of above 60 pct of GDP, with Italy (132.1 pct) and Portugal (130.2 pct) following Greece at second and third place, respectively.
Greek GDP fell to 179.081 billion euros in 2014, from 182.438 billion in 2013, while the country's public debt fell to 317.094 billion euros from 319.178 billion in 2013. Public spending fell to 49.3 pct of GDP in 2014, from 60.1 pct in 2013, while public revenues fell to 45.8 pct from 47.8 pct over the same period, respectively.
 Budget revenues sharply down in Q4 2014Budget revenues fell sharply in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 21.862 billion euros, from 25.205 billion in the corresponding period in 2013 and 25.544 billion euros in the same period in 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to an almost vertical drop in income and property tax revenues to 3.867 billion euros in the October-December period from 5.848 billion in 2013 and 6.311 billion in 2012 reflecting taxpayers' inability to meet their heavy tax obligations.
Budget spending fell to 25.077 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2014, from 26.189 billion in 2013. Primary spending fell to 23.426 billion euros from 24.426 billion over the same periods, with social benefits dropping to 9.752 billion euros from 10.029 billion. The country's public debt totaled 317.094 billion euros at the end of 2014.
 Finance ministry deactivates 18 tax registration numbers for 'triangular transaction' scamsThe finance ministry on Tuesday announced that it had deactivated 18 tax registration numbers (AFM) after uncovering their involvement in a triangular transactions "carousel" scam designed to fraudulently obtain VAT refunds from the Greek state.
The General Secretariat of Information System said it proceeded to deactivate the numbers after discovering the scam through a special risk analysis application developed in Belgium, which was offered to Greece in the framework of technical assistance. The application traced 18 cases with transactions totalling an improbable 6.0 billion euros, which were judged suspect. After an investigation, the 18 AFM numbers were deactivated, resulting in savings of 10 million euros for the Greek state.
The application processes data from multiple data bases using specific risk analysis criteria that flag potentially suspect transactions. In the case that a field investigation proves the transactions to be fake, the authorities deactivate the tax registration number involved and cancel the application for VAT refunds.
 Greek stocks end sharply lowerThe composite index of the market fell on Tuesday 3.33 pct to end at 704.74 points, its lowest level since September 7, 2012, off the day's lows of 700.02 points. The index is down 9.12 pct so far in April and 14.70 pct since the beginning of the year. The Large Cap index fell 2.75 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 4.47 pct lower. Turnover was an improved 107.174 million euros.
Alpha Bank (3.81 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (1.08 pct) were the only blue chip stocks to end higher, while Ellaktor (12.88 pct), PPC (11.34 pct), Athens Water (10.56 pct), Piraeus Bank (9.48 pct), National Bank (7.30 pct), MIG (6.72 pct) and Aegean Airlines (6.60 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Insurance (1.55 pct) and Food (1.03 pct) scored gains, while Utilities (10.08 pct), Health (7.75 pct) and Real Estate (7.03 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 82 to 36 with another 17 issues unchanged. Heracles (20 pct), Sato (20 pct) and Sidma (20 pct) were top gainers, while Pasal (20 pct), Selonda (19.10 pct) and Hellenic Sugar (18.81 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -6.04%
Industrial Products: -2.81%
Real Estate: -7.03%
Personal & Household: -2.29%
Food & Beverages: +1.05%
Raw Materials: -2.36%
Travel & Leisure: -1.86%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, OPAP and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.21
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.30
Coca Cola HBC: 18.70
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.65
National Bank of Greece: 0.92
Piraeus Bank: 0.21
Grivalia Properties: 7.00
Aegean Airlines: 6.51
 Greek bond market closing reportThe three-year Greek bond yield rose further to 29.49 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 28.14 pct the previous day, while the five-year bond yield rose to 20.21 pct from 19.37 pct over the same periods, respectively. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 11.97 pct from 12.05 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 12.90 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.93 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was stable at 0.176 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.118 pct, the six-month rate unchanged at 0.069 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.001 pct from 0.001 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.034 pct from -0.032 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe May contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.27 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 6,325 contracts with 38,793 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 85,790 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (31,411), followed by Alpha Bank (17,634), National Bank (13,854), Eurobank (16,643), MIG (1,008), OTE (988), PPC (1,271), OPAP (331), Hellenic Exchanges (250), Mytilineos (301), Hellenic Petroleum (126), METKA (105), GEK (741), Ellaktor (156), Jumbo (295) and Terna Energy (214).
 Coast guard rescues 42 migrants, transports them safely to Samos; another 52 migrants arrestedIn yet another migrant rescue operation on Tuesday, a coast guard patrol boat picked up 42 irregular migrants in the sea southeast of Agathonissi and transported to safety on the island of Samos.
The migrants were spotted by a Hellenic Navy ship in a dinghy that was slowly sinking. A coast guard boat immediately sped to the scene and an operation began to save the migrants before the dinghy sank. Among the migrants were seven children and six women, who were all in good health.
They were taken to the coast guard headquarters at Pythagorio on Samos, where they told authorities that they had been travelling all night before they were spotted and saved.
Another 52 migrants were arrested in Paleokastro and were taken to Vathy.
 Another 45 migrants rescued from sinking dinghy off Lesvos coastAnother 45 irregular migrants, among them four children, were rescued from a sinking inflatable dinghy in waters off the Aegean island of Lesvos early on Tuesday morning.
Responding to a distress signal, a coast guard vessel at 6:30 found the inflatable craft, which had set sail from the Turkish coast, in the sea near Mytilene airport. One of the occupants had punctured the boat, which was slowly sinking, with its occupants ending up in the water one by one.
Men on board the coast guard patrol boat that went to the scene, as well as officers on the shore, dove into the water to collect the migrants that had fallen in the water. A total of 44 were rescued and taken to Mytilene harbour, where a headcount revealed that one child was missing. The child was collected after the other migrants had departed from the scene.
Three of the childen were taken to the island's hospital as a precaution.
In addition to the rescue operation, the coast guard responded to two more incidents in the regions of Mantamadou and Molyvos, in which a total of 85 migrants and refugees were intercepted.
 Alleged migrant traffickers in Rhodes sailboat incident to testify on ThursdayTwo alleged Syrian migrant-traffickers, aged 26 and 27, accused in connection with the sailboat full of irregular migrants that sank off the island of Rhodes the previous day, were led before a public prosecutor on Tuesday and given until Thursday to prepare their testimony.
The sail boat ran aground on rocks near Zefyros beach and fell apart, plunging all those on board into the water. Three people, a man, a woman and a child, were recovered dead.
The two were identified as traffickers by other migrants on the vessel.
Ninety people, most of them Syrian nationals, out of the 93 that were on board the sailing boat were rescued. Seven women among them are currently receiving treatment at Rhodes General Hospital.
Meanwhile, another 50 migrants were successfully rescued from the sea off Farmakonissi and another 34 in the sea north of Lesvos. Those found near Farmakonissi will be taken to the island of Leros and those near Lesvos will be taken to Mythymna.
 Ecumenical Patriarch visits Ancient AmphipolisEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Vartholomeos) visited on Tuesday the finds at Kasta Hill in Ancient Amphipolis in the framework of his five-day visit to the northern Greek city of Serres.
Bartholomew, who showed a great interest for the recent archaeological finds, was toured by chief archaelogist Katerina Peristeri.
"The treasures found in Amphipolis prove the glory, the splendour and the Greekness of Macedonia," stated the Ecumenical Patriarch.
 6th-century B.C. clay drinking vessel to go on show in Mytilini museumA 6th-century kantharos, or tall-stemmed ceramic drinking vessel with long vertical handles, will be on display at the New Archaeological Museum of Mytilini on the North Aegean island of Lesvos as of April 26 as part of a revolving exhibition showcasing excavation finds.
The kantharos was found in Ancient Antissa, on the island's western coast, during the 1932-1933 season of excavations directed by archaeologist Winifred Lamb.
The wine cup is the third archeological find to be put on show on the island - which is alternatively referred to Lesvos or Mytilini - by the local branch of archaeological ephorate in a programme begun nation-wide on January 31. The "find of the month" exhibit on the island follow the year-long theme of "Religions and Sanctuaries on Lesvos, from the past to the present."
A clay figurine of the goddess Cybele was the first object to be exhibited under the programme, and it came from the town of Mytilini proper. The second one to go on show was a monumental burial urn from the Temple of Clopedi in central Lesvos, dated to the 8th century BC, with the Aeolian (early Classical) columns.
The inauguration of the kantharos' showing on April 26 (Sunday) will take place at 8:00 p.m. and will be accompanied by screenings on digital television, while the vessel's background story will be screened in the museum's amphitheatre, including the history of Lamb's excavations.
 Athens bicycle race honours World Earth Day, on SundayThe city of Athens and the organisation of culture, sports and youth are holding the 22nd Bicycle Run of Athens on April 26, and dedicating it to World Earth Day, which is celebrated annually on April 22.
The race will begin at 11:00 a.m. at Zappeion Hall, next to the National Gardens, on Sunday (2.7km and 8.5km races). A 1.1km race for the physically-impaired will start at Propylaea, on Panepistimiou Street. All runs will conclude at Zappeion.
"Our municipal administration's priority is for viable transportation," Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said, speaking to ANA-MPA, "and this is not easy, given the conditions that have developed and the mentalities that have been cultivated for decades now... Despite that, encouraging bicycle usage, making it easier for pedestrians, turning over to residents more public space and discouraging the use of private cars are part of a great Athens issue."
Registration can be done at www.opanda.gr and www.cityofathens.gr until April 24. Transportation, and that of their bicycles, will be free from 07:00 to 16:00 on all public transportation means by showing one's registration.
Other events on the day include a bike expo with information to the public on bicycles, and a traffic training centre for children aged 4 to 7 years old, from 09:00 to the end of the races.
 Light aftershock east of CreteAn aftershock measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale was recorded at 4:57 on Tuesday at the sea region east of Crete island with same epicentre as the strong tremor (6.1R) recorded on April 16.
Five shocks under 3.5R followed.
Over fifteeen afteshocks between 2.6R-4.1R have been reported in the last 24 hours.
 Tempi valley section on Athens-Thessaloniki motorway to close on 22 and 23 AprilTempi Valley on the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway will close for maintenance on 22 and 23 April from 07:00-20:00.
Traffic will be conducted by regional roads.
 Hospital doctors in Athens, Piraeus on work stoppage FridayAthens and Piraeus state hospital doctors will hold a four-hour work stoppage on Friday (11:00-15:00), their union (EINAP) decided, to protest their "extensive unpaid work", as their federation said on Tuesday that past payments due by the state will start being paid by April 27 the latest.
Doctors and nurses will be paid part of overtime and emergency duty reimbursement owed them for three years, 2012-2014, by April 27, the federation of hospital doctors (OENGE) said on Tuesday, confirming a decision by the health ministry.
The total owed state hospitals for overtime and emergency duty by staff totals 40 million euros: 28 million euros for emergency duty rotations by doctors and 12 million for overtime of all other staff. Payments due for the first quarter of 2015 are expected to begin in mid-May.
OENGE said it had pressured the government for the payments on a daily basis, adding it would meet on April 24 to evaluate the situation.
Specialist doctors for central Evangelismos hospital and the Penteli Children's Hospital have filed injunctions over their delayed payments.
 No ferries on Friday as PNO joins Labour Day strike on May 1No ships will sail throughout the country on Friday after the Panhellenic Seamen's Union announced that it will join the 24-hour strike declared by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on the Labour Day holiday on May 1. The strike extends from one minute past midnight until midnight on Friday.
In an announcement, PNO noted rampant unemployment among sailors and blamed this on both the undermining of their labour and social insurance rights and laws reducing crew compositions on passenger ships, as well as the flouting of the relevant legislation.
 Partly cloudy on WednesdayPartly cloudy and northerly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country and temperatures ranging from 05C-17C. Possibility of rain in the western parts of the country and temperatures between 08C-21C. Scattered clouds with a chance of light showers in the afternoon in the eastern parts and temperatures between 07C-20C. Partly cloudy over the Aegean islands and Crete, 12C-20C. Clouds in Athens, 07C-20C. Clouds and light showers in Thessaloniki, 06C-17c.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: The US reactions over the release of (the convicted November 17 terrorist Savvas) Xiros
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Full of hypocrisy
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Greece is running out of cash and allies
ESTIA: The origins of unemployment
ETHNOS: The US reacts against Xiros' release
KATHIMERINI: Internal borrowing
NAFTEMPORIKI: They put their hands to the social security funds of 1,500 organisations
TA NEA: US-Greek relations on a razor's edge
IMERISSIA: Reactions over reserves
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