|Saturday, 19 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-04-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 29 April 2015 Issue No: 4946
 PM Tsipras repeats optimism that deal will be reached, does not rule out referendumPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday said he was optimistic that an agreement will be reached with Greece's creditors, while repeating that he will resort to a referendum if this deal was too far beyond the limits of the mandate he received from the electorate on January 25.
Addressing a joint meeting of the ruling coalition SYRIZA party's Parliamentary group and Political Secretariat, Tsipras also highlighted that the deadlines in the negotiations were now extremely pressing.
According to sources, he noted that the negotiations were now at a crucial phase but he also appeared confident that an agreement will be reached but only be finally concluded, if this was possible, at the next round of negotiations in June.
Doubts were expressed by members of SYRIZA's Left Platform as to whether an agreement that included harsh measures could be called an "honourable compromise" and, in light of this, they stressed that the option of a "rupture" in talks with the creditors must be on the table.
Members of the Political Secretariat noted the need for further discussion on the text of the agreement so that they can be fully briefed and the meeting was interrupted to be resumed next Thursday, after Tsipras returns from Nicosia and a trilateral summit with the leaders of Cyprus and Egypt.
 Political negotiation team concludes meeting in Parliament on Tuesday eveningThe newly-set up "political negotiation team" concluded its meeting in Parliament on Tuesday evening, under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to prepare a draft bill codifying the reform proposals outlined on a list recently submitted by the minister to the country's creditors.
The new team, drawn up on Sunday by the prime minister to facilitate negotiations, met for the first time on Monday at the finance ministry. Their second meeting in less than 24 hours indicates the government's acceleration in aiming for a medium-term agreement with the partners, the country's creditors.
Tonight's draft bill will be reviewed by the cabinet on Thursday and will include among other things fiscal matters, the tax service's administration, tendering of television frequencies and taxation of television ads, changes in the political court code and others.
 Gov't spokesman: Agreement within the framework of the people's mandate"We are close to an agreement that will revive the economy and the society," government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said speaking on Tuesday to private TV Skai.
"At this phase we are heading to a minimum agreement in order to unblock the liquidity and the main agreement will close after June," he stressed adding that "under no circumstances will this government sign any kind of memorandum."
On the referendum, Sakellaridis noted that "the prime minister is very clear. It will be held only if the agreement does not move within the framework of the people's mandate and of our policy statements...it will not be necessary if the agreement is fair."
However, he underlined that the government does whatever possible for a fair agreement that will not violate the people's mandate red lines for a real breather. "As long as this government is negotiating, it will do whatever possible for a just agreement. We are close to an agreement with the characteristics of dignity that will revive the economy and the society based on February 20 Eurogroup agreement. The Greek government's aim is to close the agreement in a series of matters of its own choice," the government spokesman said and reassured that "the agreement with the partners will not be harmful."
Regarding the political negotiation group, Sakellaridis said that the "negotiation issue is not Mr.Varoufakis' (Yanis, Finance Minister) personal matter...a huge effort has been made to target Mr. Varoufakis in a way that is unfair. Mr.Varoufakis has our full support, but at this crucial moment a redeployment on all negotiation levels was considered necessary... and we are very optimistic for a just solution," he added.
The three-year agreement will not be viable if the debt sustainability problem is not solved. It is one of the most important issues that the government is called to deal with and it will do so", said Sakellaridis.
 Eurogroup's Dijsselbloem says Greece will not make it without aidThe head of the Eurogroup said on Tuesday that a recent reshuffle of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' negotiating team would not by itself resolve the impasse between Greece and its lenders, and Athens would need new loans to stay afloat.
"Without further loans, Greece won't make it, that's the reality," Jeroen Dijsselbloem was quoted by Reuters as saying in a television interview with RTL Nieuws. He said the reality is that there's very little money and that without help, Greece will not be able to exit the crisis.
Dijsselbloem said that it is good news that the Greeks have appointed a single contact person for negotiations, although it doesn't resolve by itself the problems between Greece and the Eurogroup.
"It's not just about Finances, it's also about Energy, Justice, Foreign Affairs...It's so large [the field] that we need a direct contact, under the responsibility of the prime minister [Alexis Tsipras]," he added.
Dijsselbloem also noted that little progress has been made in negotiations over the past two months, and sometimes there were even some backward steps. He signaled he did not think a Greek referendum on a deal with creditors would be a good idea. "It would cost money, it would create great political uncertainty, and I don't think we have the time," Dijsselbloem said. "And I don't think the Greeks have the time for it."
Commenting on the stance of the ECB towards Greece, the EU official said it should not have come as a surprise to Greece's government that the Bank has not relaxed limits on how much Greek government debt its banks may use as collateral.
"The Greek government gambled that if it negotiated with us the ECB would open its cashier windows, relax its rules," Dijsselbloem said.
But "there will be no easy access to the ECB's windows until there's a solid agreement with the Eurogroup," he told RTL Nieuws. "That's been made clear to them time and time again."
 There is convergence that talks need to be more productive, Commissioner Moscovici's spokesperson saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
There is convergence on the fact that talks between Greece and the representatives of the institutions need to be made more productive and efficient, Annika Breidthardt, spokeswoman of the EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici, said on Tuesday.
Asked to comment on changes in the negotiating group, she said that since they have the mandate to negotiate, they are satisfied.
She declined to comment on whether the procedure of the negotiations and the current relation between the Brussels Group and the Athens Group will change. She only stated that discussions are underway in order to make the negotiations more productive and efficient.
After the Eurogroup in Riga, contacts have been intensified so that greater progress is achieved. Talks at all levels continue, she said, while as regards the Brussels Group, negotiations will continue either through a teleconference or a meeting.
She stated, however, that she is not in a position to confirm a Brussels Group meeting on Wednesday, in Brussels.
According to European Commission sources, a Euro Working Group meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.
 Grexit not a scenario ECB is working on, ECB board member Coeure saysThe European Central Bank is making no plans for a Greek exit from the eurozone, ECB Executive Board Member Benoit Coeure said in a magazine interview, according to Reuters news agency.
"The exit of Greece is not a scenario we are working on," Coeure was quoted as telling French magazine Alternatives Economiques.
In a transcript of the interview released by the ECB, Coeure also said that, as things stood, there was no reason for concern about the euro area recovering in 2015 and 2016.
 Government strongly denies press reports claiming Eurogroup chief criticised FinMin Varoufakis' roleEurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem never said anything remotely related to Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' role, as proven also by the former's interview on Dutch television, the government said on Tuesday, denying press reports that the government sought to replace the Greek minister.
Had the Dutch finance minister said anything of the sort, sources said, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would have been obliged to respond. Varoufakis, they said, remains finance minister and will also serve as the chairman of the political negotiation team (which was set up on Sunday); he also enjoys the unreserved support of the Greek government.
Attacks targeting the finance minister, especially during the most critical moment of negotiations, are obviously serving specific purposes and intentions, they said.
 PM Tsipras interview concludes with wide-ranging questions from audienceWages and pensions are our priority, whether an agreement is reached or not, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview to "enikos.gr" website on Monday night rebroadcast through private Star TV in response to audience questions, but the Greek people and this country played an important role at critical times.
The interview began at 11:30 p.m. and ended at 2:36 a.m., with Tsipras saying he enjoyed it, especially in his contact with the Greek people.
Tsipras took questions from the small audience and messages to the show, in a wide range of topics. Audience members included all ages and backgrounds, employed, unemployed. The questions were predominantly about the market and the economy rather than on politics, and several came from SME owners concerned about taxation, lack of liquidity, bureaucracy and a very slow and ineffective justice system.
Among other things, the PM said that high social insurance prices were a problem and needed to be dealt with by a draft bill; meanwhile, a joint ministerial decision was being drafted to cover more than 2.5 million uninsured Greek people - a humanitarian crisis.
Greece has some intrinsic problems that are difficult to be resolved. "I am not one of these people who believe 'foreigners are to blame' but the memorandums were the drug that made us much worse - maybe in latin American and Asia they helped but here they didn't work becuase 80 of SMEs were not exporting.... What the memorandum did was shut them down."
Asked to comment about German reparations, he said the issue was not so much monetary as ethical. "What drives me crazy is that some people accuse us that we are not paying our debts four years now, but those who owe us are wagging a finger at us."
He added that the government would not put the issue to rest. "The German people have a sense of justice... the yellow press has done a good job of making us (look poorly)... it needs two to tango, and Siemens played a great role in corruption in Greece."
 Verbal confrontation in the Parliament over PM Tsipras' interview"Any agreement the Greek government reaches, any agreement which will take the Greek economy out of the vicious circle of austerity will probably make you a historical parenthesis," State Minister Nikos Pappas on Tuesday said during the debate on public broadcaster NERIT in Parliament in reply to main opposition deputies' comments on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' interview.
"Your party has a consistent strategy. It is waiting for the country to fall into the rocks so as to verify the scenario of the left parenthesis," Pappas said. "You continue to believe that the country's interests coincide with the options of the German government. This policy has been tested and has been disapproved by the Greek people. We will exhaust all the negotiating opportunities of the country," he added.
New Democracy deputy Makis Voridis has earlier accused the prime minister of joining the 'Merkelists'. "You used to call us 'Merkelists'. I guess that this group has been enlarged since yesterday. Because after the prime minister's interview, we can see that he has obviously understood the Chancellor's graces, her clear policy direction, her struggle and all that. The insults, the criticism and the derogatory characterizations belong to the past. But now things have changed," Voridis stated.
On his part, New Democracy parliamentary spokesman Adonis Georgiadis intervened to agree with his colleague that the government has turned to 'Merkelism' although Tsipras was saying in the pre-election period that he has no reason to ask for a meeting with the German Chancellor.
 ND spokesman: PM's interview a total fiascoMain opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Costas Karagounis called prime minister Alexis Tsipras' interview to private TV Star late Monday "a total fiasco and complete destruction."
In his statement, Karagounis noted: "After learning that the 'proud negotiation' was a mistake as the abolition of the memorandum, the debt cancellation and the aboliton of ENFIA (Uniform Real Estate Tax) and the increase of the tax free limit, were forgotten, they finally confess that they are led either to a summersault or to a referendum for the drachma."
 KKE comments on PM Tsipras' interview"Mr Tsipras, repeating the rationale of 'scorched earth' and 'the difficulties in the EU', which he would supposedly 'change', is paving the way for the people to accept the new anti-popular agreements and commitments and to say "thank you," the Communist Party KKE on Tuesday said regarding the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' interview.
 PM and Attica regional authority governor meet on TuesdayA meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Attica regional authority governor Rena Dourou concluded without statements on Tuesday. After the meeting, both left the prime minister's offices and headed on foot toward Parliament, going through the National Gardens.
The meeting was held to brief Dourou on the legislative act that requires local authorities to transfer cash reserves to the Bank of Greece, since Dourou had been out of the country when the premier's meeting with other heads of regional authorities took place.
Exiting the meeting, Dourou had underlined that the Attica Region will do its utmost to assist in the "national effort" and underlined that the country's largest region had "acted as dictated by the common interest, in order to be useful to the country and itself" and placed its ready cash into a single account earning a higher interest.
She said that she had also briefed the prime minister on her meetings during her seven-day visit to New York.
 Labour Minister: Gov't will implement its pledges on minimum wage and collective contractsThe government's pledges for minimum wage and collective contracts will be implemented, Labour Minister Panos Skourletis on Tuesday reassured addressing an event on the occassion of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
Skourletis stated that "beyond safety and health, there is insecurity to those that work and despair to those that lost their jobs. We are at a crucial period and we are conducting difficult and unprecedented negotiations. On the government's part, I want to reassure you that we will not lose the way to defend the working people's interests. The legislative intiatives on the gradual restoration of the minimum wage, the restoration of the collective contracts with their real context in order for the working people's voice to be heard, the restructuring and upgrading of the labour supervisors body and all those we set as our main priorities are underway and will proceed", he said.
 Gov't tables amendment extending 'write-off' of tax fines until May 27An amendment tabled in Parliament by Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani on Tuesday extends until May 27 the closing date of a measure allowing tax-payers settling any portion of overdue tax debts to "write off" an equivalent amount in fines and added interest.
The measure would have expired on Monday but the extension means that the closing date now coincides with that of a measure allowing tax payers to enter into a settlement of past debts in up to 100 monthly installments. Effectively, this means that tax payers can pay off as much of the original debt as they are now able, writing off the equivalent amount of interest and fines, while the remainder of the debt can go into a 100-installment settlement scheme.
 Gov't to offer favourable tax status to Greek deposits in SwitzerlandThe Greek government will table to Parliament a new draft bill that will allow Greek citizens to voluntarily reveal deposits held in Switzerland in exchange for a smaller tax payment, Yanis Varoufakis said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Swiss State Secretary for International Financial Matters Jacques de Watteville, Varoufakis added that the two sides agreed to move forward with the new legislation, which will allow Swiss authorities to issue a political declaration calling Swiss banks to ask their customers to reveal their deposits in Switzerland, taking advantage of favourable tax provisions.
This initiative is to the benefit of both countries, the Greek finance minister said, as the Swiss government would have to adapt with an automatic information exchange status, currently valid with third countries, after an imminent signing of a similar agreement with the European Union. The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Combatting Corruption Panagiotis Nikoloudis.
 Gov't preparing bill for voluntary declaration of Greeks' deposits in Switzerland, FinMin Varoufakis saysThe government is working on a draft bill that will allow Greeks to voluntarily reveal deposits held in Switzerland, in exchange for the payment of a sum in taxes, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis revealed in statements made on Tuesday, following his meeting with Swiss State Secretary for International Financial Matters Jacques de Watteville.
The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Combatting Corruption Panagiotis Nikoloudis.
 Greece, Cyprus, Egypt trilateral meeting on Wednesday in NicosiaThe further upgrading of the relations between Greece, Egypt and the Republic of Cyprus on economic, political, energy and diplomatic sector will be clearly specified on the joint statement expected to be adopted on Wednesday by the leaders of the three countries, Alexis Tsipras, Abdul Fattah El Sisi and Nicos Anastasiades during the three part meeting that will be held in Nicosia.
The meeting is expected to attract the international interest because it constitutes the only established diplomatic intiative for dialogue and cooperation in the Mediterrenean provided that many believe it is the first step for a new political safety dialogue in a region that experiences intensely and deeply the repercussions of the destabilisation.
According to sources, the meeting will focus on energy issues, the EEZ and the tackling of terrorism based on the need to confront jihadism, the trade relations and the political dialogue. The three leaders are expected to underline the special weight they give to the need for regional stabilitiy and to support that the trilateral cooperation contributes substantially to the climate of stability needed in the area of the Mediterrenean.
The meeting is held at a period that the bilateral relations are developing rapidly. Last week, the Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos met in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart while a few days earlier Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades had visited Athens. Moreover, the relations between Egypt and Cyprus are good and devoping.
Diplomatic sources say that the trilateral meeting is held at a moment that the hopes for progress in the negotiations for the Cyprus issue revive with the election of Mustafa Akinci. Tsipras and Anastasiades will discuss the developments and their strategy for the coming period.
The Greek prime minister will leave on Tuesday evening for Cyprus and will return to Athens on Wednesday.
 ND leader Samaras in Strasbourg for meetings with European officialsMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras spoke at a closed-door meeting of the European Parliament's European People's Party group (EPP) in Strasbourg on Tuesday and has scheduled meetings with several European officials to solicit their support Greece's negotiations with its creditors.
Samaras reminded the participants of his government's efforts for the economy and the painful sacrifices of the Greek people and asked that the latter especially do not prove they were done in vain. He underlined the importance of self-respect for a country and for its freedom and social cohesion, adding that "no country can sustain its dependence on loans for a very long time." He said Greece's place was in Europe and any alienation from it would spell a bad future for Europe.
The former PM is scheduled to meet with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) leader Gianni Pittella and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) leader Guy Verhofstadt.
 ND leader Samaras:'Either a somersault or a referendum for drachma.'Asked to comment on reports regarding a possible referendum, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said: "Either a somersault or a referendum for drachma."
 Potami party calls on Tsipras not to roll over his responsibilities to peoplePotami party on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras not to roll over his responsibilities to the people, referring to the possibility of a referendum.
According to a party's announcement, Tsipras has to face the phony promises he gave in the pre-election period and the constant mistakes of his ministers all these months.
"In yesterday's interview he appeared again without a plan for the country. During the two hours (of the interview), he did not say anything about the hundreds of thousands of unemployed, the party state, the investments, or how the country's wealth will increase and corruption will be tackled. Promises that were the flagship of his policy while in opposition, such as the abolition of ENFIA, are now shelved. The same applies for the 12,000 euro tax-free threshold," Potami party said in an announcement.
 Potami leader Theodorakis meets Spain's Ciudadanos leadershipOpposition Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis on Tuesday met the leader of Spain's Ciudadanos (Citizens) party Albert Rivera in Barcelona, repeating his message that Europe must be changed "without tearing it down" in order to become a "Europe of the people".
"We must hand over Europe to new minds and put more distance between us and the things that create the problems. From the bureaucracies, the party mechanisms, the interests and the interest groups," Theodorakis said in a joint press conference with Rivera after their meeting.
He noted that Potami and the Ciudadanos were "united by Europe...and the need to strive for something new," outlining his vision of Europe as a "large family" but one that respected the continent's many cultures and their individualities.
Cuidadanos have risen sharply in the Spanish polls, while the two leaders found that their parties' approaches to many issues relating to changes in Europe shared many common points.
 PASOK leader to gov't: You do not have mandate for riftThe referendum is not an escape way for the government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday said in parliament and warned that in case of a referendum the banking system will collapse and the country will be destroyed. Venizelos put the blame on the government because instead of creating a prospect for an exit from the crisis, it created with its stance the prospect of a long-term stay in the memorandum status.
PASOK leader, addressing the government during the debate in parliament for the public broadcaster draft law, said "You do not have a mandate for rift."
 President Pavlopoulos hails ANA-MPA as a source of accurate information in meeting with agency head PsilosGreek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday said the Athens-Macedonian News Agency is a source of timely and reliable information, following a meeting with the President of the BoD and General Director of ANA-MPA, Michalis Psilos.
"[I hope] you will continue the tradition at the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, which has become a real source of timely and accurate information for the Greek people in general, and not just them," Pavlopoulos told Psilos as he welcomed him at the Presidential Mansion.
On his side, Psilos thanked the President for the warm welcome and said the agency is making a new effort to "turn the ANA-MPA towards society and its problems."
"It will not be an agency addressed only to ministries; it will be addressed to society, it will emphasise problems and the correct presentation of the country's positions abroad...This is a promise and to you personally, but also of course to the Greek people, who pay ANA-MPA without complaining," the head of the agency added.
Psilos offered the President a book about the agency's 100 years, as well as a book written by the late Andreas Christodoulidis, whose memory is commemorated on June 5. He also invited Pavlopoulos to reveal the honourary plaque which will bear Christodoulidis' name at the building of ANA-MPA, which was bought on the initiative of the former general director of the agency.
The invitation was accepted by the President who said he will attend the event.
Speaking after his meeting with Pavlopoulos, the head of ANA-MPA said: "We agreed to highlight abroad the potential of all the Greek scientists, artists, architects, creators and philosophers, with the help of the Presidency; to showcase abroad, as ANA-MPA, the wealth of Greek intelligentsia and the Greek social life."
 State Minister Pappas makes legislative changes to draft bill on reopening of ERTState Minister Nikos Pappas made on Tuesday some legislative improvements to the draft bill for the reopening of former public broadcaster ERT which will be submitted to the Parliament's plenum for voting this evening.
The changes include an explicit addition which will allow for the reopening of ERT 3 with its own administrative commission and the obligation to pay 1.5 pct for the production of movies and to support independent book publishing.
Concerning new hirings, the terms and conditions of employment of staff will be determined by indefinite or fixed term collective labour agreements, which will be based on private sector law.
The amendment also notes that the salary of the president, the CEO and the members of the board of directors will be determined by a joint decision of the finance and state ministries.
Another change specifies that the amount of the public television fee collected through power bills cannot be less than 3 euros, while the minister also abolished the 25 pct ceiling in the cost of the projects awarded to independent contractors.
 Government updating its data on public administration organisation, servicesThe interior and administration reconstruction ministry is updating its Registry of Services and Agencies of the Greek Administration, it announced in a document on Tuesday, in order to get an accurate impression of public administration as it now stands under the new government.
According to the memo, the updating is an ongoing process, it said, but in this particular case it became obligatory to update it because of extensive changes in the organisation of ministries, such as mergers or break-offs, or redistribution of duties.
The document has been sent to all ministries, local organisations, agencies and related entities for information and it asks ministries to be particularly careful in listing accurately all central services and general secretariats, as structures, names and positions have changed by presidentical decree (24/2015).
 Gov't sources refute press report that pro-SYRIZA local authorities were 'warned' about legislative actGovernment sources on Tuesday denied a press report in "Ta Nea" that local authorities administrations affiliated to the ruling coalition's SYRIZA party had been warned in advance about a legislative act for the transfer of their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece.
According to sources at the interior ministry, all local governments were officially informed by the associations representing them, the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece and the Union of Greek Regions, via Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas and the prime minister himself.
The same sources called the reports inaccurate and "deliberate misinformation" and said that anyone having evidence concerning even one mayor of regional governor should produce this.
The paper had claimed that the SYRIZA-dominated local authorities had been given advance warning so they could settle their financial affairs and avoid the transfer of their cash to the central bank.
 Educational institution files first appeal against controversial act on cash reservesThe first appeal against a recent law obliging all municipalities and state-related entities to turn over most of their cash reserves to the country's central bank for government use was filed on Tuesday with the Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, by a higher education institution.
The controversial act of Parliament was voted in on April 20 by the ruling coalition parties amid stiff opposition. It allows entities to hold on to reserves covering needs for the next fortnight, after which applications must keep being filed to release more cash. A special account in the Bank of Greece has been set up for the reserves.
In its appeal, the Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki-Sindos calls for the act's suspension, to be followed by its revocation. The institution said that the cash reserves are needed to cover obligatory expenditures, have been included in its budget and are not confiscatable, while their confiscation will lead with certainty to suspension of operation. It also claimed the act contravened the Constitution because it harmed the independence of higher education institutions.
 Municipalities union president meets with Greek MEPs, Commissioner Avramopoulos in StrasbourgThe president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDE), Giorgos Patoulis, met with Greek European Parliament deputies in Strasbourg and with European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday.
Patoulis discussed local self-government and explored the possibility of the Eurodeputies' collaboration with the KEDE office in Brussels.
The MEPs he met with include Manolis Glezos and Costas Chryssogonos (SYRIZA); Giorgos Kyrtsos, Manolis Kefalogiannis, Theodoros Zagorakis, and Maria Spyraki (New Democracy); Miltos Kyrkos (Potami), Notis Marias (Independent Greeks/ANEL), Sotiris Zarianopoulos (Communist Party of Greece/KKE), and Eva Kaili (Elia/PASOK).
 UK Foreign Office denies changing travel advice on Greece, responding to 'Daily Telegraph' reportThe UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Tuesday denied a report appearing in the newspaper "Daily Telegraph," which seemed to suggest that the foreign office had changed the travel advice for those going to Greece in response to the "escalating debt crisis".
Replying to the ANA-MPA, a foreign office spokesperson said there had been no recent change to the ministry's travel advice to Britons visiting Greece and that the last time this was revised was in December 2012. The spokesman said that the phrase quoted in the paper's article was standard advice given by the UK foreign office for those travelling abroad generally, "since it is wise for travellers to have alternative forms of payment".
The newspaper's article stated that holidaymakers were being advised to take euros in notes and coins "in case an escalating debt crisis prompts the country's banks to switch off their cash machines" and then quoted the foreign office as saying that travellers should take "enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays."
 Ukrainian Ambassador Shkurov on the 29-year anniversary of Chernobyl disaster"Twenty-nine years after the tragedy in Chernobyl nuclear power station, Ukraine together with the international community, have been working to implement specific projects, aiming at the elimination of the effects of the technological disaster, the decommissioning of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and the conversion of the New Safe Confinement (NSC) in an ecologically safe system," the Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Shkurov told ANA-MPA, on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
When asked on the actions for the full restoration of the environment in the Chernobyl site, he replied:
"The Fund of the NSC, which is financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has collected 740 million euros," Shkurov explained. "The construction of the NSC, which will cover and will constitute the degradation of the "sarcophagus" infrastructure is underway. The work is expected to be completed in 2015 and the life cycle of the NSC are 100 years," he added.
Regarding the controversial tours in Chernobyl's "exclusion zone", Shkurov said:
"According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and the management of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the Chernobyl zone has been open to tourists for many years as the natural ecosystem of the area is being restored. Travel agencies in Ukraine in coordination with the management of the Chernobyl exclusion zone organize day trips, with special licences and to certain routes."
 Greece close to an agreement with its partners, Eurobank's president saysEurobank' s chairman Nikos Karamouzis on Tuesday predicted that the country was close to an agreement with its partners and noted that an agreement with a growth orientation and socially fair will pave the way for restoring stability in the country.
Addressing an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, Karamouzis said that the benefits for the state will be huge from an increase in banks' share prices in which the state has equity participations. Their value will rise by two or three times, Karamouzis predicted, adding that only growth could give the answer to the problems of debt, unemployment and poverty.
Eurobank's chief executive, Fokion Karavias, in his address noted a stabilisation of deposits in March and April, after two months of outflows, and stressed that a rising trend in new delayed loans - which began in December and heightened in January-February - had slowed. Karavias reiterated that deposits were fully secured and that Eurobank has ample collaterals for use in the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism.
The shareholders' meeting approved the election of two managing directors, Theodore Kalantonis and Stavros Ioannou, to the bank' s board, raising the number of board members to 12.
 Bond investors positive over Greek agreement, S&P reportBond investors in Europe "are more confident than not" that an agreement will be reached between Greece and its creditors to avoid a default on Greek debt, Standard & Poor's said in a report on the bond market.
The report, published by Financial Times on Tuesday, noted that Greek bond yields fell last week, with the Greek state bond index falling by 3.3 percentage points to 18.72 pct, compared with the previous week, despite the fact that a Eurogroup meeting in Riga was inconclusive.
The two-year bond yield fell to 21.9 pct on Tuesday, after soaring to 29.661 pct on April 21 on heightened fears of a deadlock in negotiations to secure more funding to Greece. S&P said that Spanish and Italian bond indexes also fell in the week, reflecting a weakening of concerns over a possible spillover of a Greek crisis.
 National Tourism Organization participates in WTM-Sao PaoloThe National Tourism Organization participated in the largest tourism exhibition of Latin America in order to attract new tourist markets, according to an Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism ministry' announcement.
Greece was represented in the World Trade Market (WTM)-Sao Paolo in Brazil by secretary general Panos Livadas, who held a series of meetings with major tour operators that specialize mainly in luxury tourism and religious tourism, such as CVC, Queensberry, Designer Tours, and Flot. The Greek delegation also met with the presidency of Braztoa, the Brazilian Association of Tour Operators as well as with journalists and tourism bloggers.
The Greek delegation also met with the Executive General Director of the World Tourism Organization on Competitiveness and Cooperation issues, Marcio de Paula, who is also Brazil's former Tourism Minister.
The arrivals of Brazilians in Greece almost doubled in 2014 compared to 2013, while the signs are positive for 2015, tourist agents said.
 Greek tourism body opposes new taxes on the sectorThe Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) on Tuesday expressed its opposition to any new taxes on the sector, considering that the tourism season has begun.
The statement released by SETE urges authorities to start immediate audits and impose sanctions on illegal accommodation and enforce the compliance of all businesses in the payment of existing taxes, VAT and social security contributions.
The confederation also noted that all salaries should from now on be paid through bank accounts and that the government should enforce the use of credit cards for sums larger than 100 euros, which would allow the State to receive the appropriate taxes immediately. SETE also estimated the State could collect to 500 million euros if it implements the above measures.
Commenting on the imposition of a luxury tax or an overnight tax in accommodation and destinations, SETE says this tax is imposed in other tourist destinations and a similar tax exists in Greece - it said it is collected by tourist accommodations and paid to municipalities.
 Transport minister to EU-ASEM conference in Latvia on April 29-30Alternate Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Christos Spirtzis will represent Greece at the 3rd Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) held in the framework of the informal council of EU Transport Ministers taking place in Riga, Latvia on April 29 and 30.
The 3rd ASEM Transport Ministers' Meeting theme is "Development of Euro-Asia Multimodal Transport Linkages - Status Quo and Blueprints for the Future," and speakers and participants include transport ministers from both EU and ASEM, the European Commission, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), international organisation representatives, academics and business people.eholders will discuss the development of land transport between Asia and Europe. Their aim is to identify current weaknesses and to promote harmonised cooperation between all states and institutions in this matter.
Some of the topics to be discussed include the ability of transport systems to handle the rapidly increasing trade volumes between East Asia and Europe; Trans-Eurasian overland transport corridors as alternatives traditional ocean routes; and technical and legal harmonisation, among others.
 Government to curtail RAE powers to raise electricity prices, minister saysThe government is preparing a new legislative framework for the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) that curtails its powers to act without state control but remains compatible with European regulations, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told Parliament on Tuesday.
The minister was in Parliament to introduce an amendment that abolishes recent hikes in the Special Duty for the Reduction of Gas Emissions (ETMEAR) imposed by RAE, which had already been incorporated in electricity bills and blasted RAE for acting "covertly" and without transparency, both before and after the elections.
According to Lafazanis, RAE had not only raised the duty in the run-up to elections without notifying anyone, either in the press nor via the Government Gazette, not even on its own website.
The decision was suddenly announced in Government Gazette on March 3 and had been deliberately concealed by the previous government, he claimed. Nor had the authority seen fit to inform him that this increase had been imposed since the start of the year when he sought a meeting on taking over the ministry after the Jan. 25 elections, he said, adding that such practices would be stopped.
 ELVAL sign memorandum of cooperation with UACJ CorpELVAL, a Greek-listed aluminium industry, on Tuesday signed a memorandum of cooperation with UACJ Corp for the set up of a joint company "Newco" with the aim to produce and distribute alternative heating materials for the auto industry in Europe.
Newco will be based on Germany under German laws and will be a limited responsibility company (GmbH). UACJ will have a 51 pct equity stake and ELVAL the remaining 49 pct. Under the agreement, UACJ will offer ELVAL the necessary technical assistance for the production of alternative heating materials for the auto industry, which will be purchased by Newco for its customers in Europe.
The companies have developed a close cooperation over the past and the new joint company will help to enhance and expand this cooperation. The two companies will continue consultations to reach a final agreement for the new company by July 2015.
 Greek households' available income up 1.4 pct in Q4Greek households' and non-profitable institutions' available income grew 1.4 pct in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 30.5 billion euros, but final consumption spending fell 0.2 pct to 32.6 billion euros, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that households' savings rate was -7.0 pct in the fourth quarter of 2014 from -8.8 pct in the corresponding period in 2013. Private investments (gross fixed capital investments) by non-financial companies fell 12.8 pct in the October-December period last year to 1.119 billion euros, from 1.284 billion in 2013, while the investments/Gross Added Value rate was 8.2 pct in 2014 from 9.0 pct in 2013.
Imports of goods and services grew 1.8 pct and exports rose 0.9 pct in the fourth quarter, with the country's trade deficit rising by 0.8 pct. Finally, the general government's net borrowing needs totaled 3.2 billion euros in 2014 from 1.0 billion in 2013.
 Athenian Brewery to invest 12 mln euros in 2015Athenian Brewery completed a 700,000-euro investment in its facilities in Athens to expand in the micro-brewery business by constructing a multi-purpose are called Athineo to produce limited-circulation beers, along with a mini beer museum, organizing seminars on the history, ingredients and flavors of beer and brewery methods.
Athenian Brewery ceased operations of its production unit in Athens in late 2013, transferring all of its production line to its unit in Patra.
Minas Zooulis, chief executive of the company said Athenian Brewery will invest 12 million euros this year as part of an investment plan worth 50 million euros in the 2015-2017 period. He said that the beer market shrank by 3.0 pct in volume last year and predicted that the market will stabilize this year before beginning a recovery in 2016.
 Terna Energy to return capital to shareholdersA Terna Energy general shareholders' meeting on Tuesday approved a board plan for a capital return of 0.09 euros per share to shareholders.
The meeting unanimously approved a board plan for a share capital increase worth 9,838,296 euros and a simultaneous reduction of the company's equity capital by 9,838,296 euros, thus returning 0.09 euros per share to shareholders. The meeting also unanimously approved a board plan to expand the company's activities.
 Greek stocks extend rally for fifth successive sessionGreek stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, extending their rally for the fifth successive session on hopes of a positive outcome in the negotiations between Greek authorities and its creditors. The composite index of the market rose 1.41 pct to end at 806.01 points, its highest closing since March 10.
The index ended off the day's highs of 812.28 points, standing 14.37 pct higher in the last five sessions, while the bank index is up 42.92 pct over the same period. The Large Cap index rose 1.31 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.18 pct up. Turnover was strong 100.53 million euros.
Motor Oil (9.48 pct), Ellaktor (7.10 pct), Piraeus Bank (7.04pct), MIG (6.0 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (4.88 pct), GEK Terna (4.88 pct) and Terna Energy (4.13 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Jumbo (2.74 pct), Aegean Airlines (2.27 pct) and METKA (1.20 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, Oil (7.57 pct), Financial Services (3.07 pct) and Banks (2.57 pct) scored big gains, while Media (10 pct), Personal Products (2.09 pct) and Travel (0.86 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 70 to 34 with another 25 issues unchanged. NEL (20 pct), Pasal (19.79 pct) and Dionic (18.87 pct) were top gainers, while Mohlos (21.42 pct), Kreka (19.88 pct) and Yalco (19.81 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +3.07%
Industrial Products: +0.34%
Real Estate: +0.53%
Personal & Household: -2.09%
Food & Beverages: +0.17%
Raw Materials: +0.41%
Travel & Leisure: -0.86%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.31
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.58
Coca Cola HBC: 19.47
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.30
National Bank of Greece: 1.22
Piraeus Bank: 0.38
Grivalia Properties: 7.09
Aegean Airlines: 7.32
 Greek bond market closing reportThe two-year bond - which completed a year since it was issued - yielded 20.4 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, while the five-year benchmark bond has a duration of four years, leaving Greece without benchmark bonds in the three- and five-year duration in capital markets. The five-year bond yielded 15.05 pct.
The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 11.37 pct from 11.57 pct on Monday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.53 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.16 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.168 pct from 0.171 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.11 pct from 0.114 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.062 pct from 0.066 pct, the three-month rate was -0.002 pct and the one-month rate was -0.034 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe May contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 13.631 contracts with 37,869 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 111,047 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (43,134), followed by Alpha Bank (15,996), Piraeus Bank (24,530), National Bank (20,641), MIG (1,337), OTE (1,206), PPC (868), OPAP (492), Hellenic Exchanges (287), Mytilineos (260), Hellenic Petroleum (281), Sidenor (222), METAK (194), GEK (414), Ellaktor (183), Motor Oil (188), Athens Water (117), Titan (139) and Jumbo (150).
 World Day for Safety and Health at Work celebrated on April 28The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is celebrated on April 28 in more than 100 countries. It was established in 2001 while Greece has participated in the events organised within the framework of World Day for Safety and Health at Work since 2005.
"A national occupational safety and health culture is one in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention," according to the International Labour Organisation.
The head of the General Directorate of Working Conditions and Health at Work Antonis Christodoulou said to ANA-MPA: "The World Day for Safety and Health at Work has been established since 2001 in order to turn the international interest into accident prevention and diseases related to work. The lack of prevention costs each year on average 4 percent of global GDP while in Greece this translates into 6 billion euros annually. The issue is not just economic, but it also has to do with the cost of human lives. Almost 5,000 people at European level die every year as a result of work accidents and nearly 160,000 people die from diseases related to work, mainly cancers. With a series of actions this year, we are stressing the importance of creating a culture of prevention that concerns everyone, that is the state, the employers and the employees."
 Annual memorial service for Constantine KaramanlisThe annual memorial service for the 17 years since the death of former President of Republic and New Democracy leader Constantinos Karamanlis was held at "Constantinos Karamanlis Institute" at the Athens suburb of Filothei on Tuesday.
President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, former prime minister Costas Karamanlis, New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and a large number of ND members, deputies and other politicians attended the service.
 No trains to run on May 1 due to Labour Day strikeThere will be no trains running throughout Greece on the May 1st Labour Day bank holiday on Friday, due to the participation of rail workers in the general strike traditionally held on that day.
The 24-hour strike will also affect the Proastiakos and metro services to Athens airport, as well as trains scheduled to depart late on Thursday night. More detailed information is available via the phone line 14511 and at the website www.trainose.gr.
The rail workers' union POS stressed the significance of the holiday "six years into the memorandums, six years into barbarity and the throttling of labour entitlements." It called on all the workforce to participate in the strike called by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants union federation ADEDY and attend the strike rally in Klafthmonos Square in Athens.
 Samos island fire brought under control; firefighters to remain on night vigilThe outlook on the large fire that broke out on Samos island in the NE Aegean on Tuesday morning has improved, as of evening, with the active fronts of Potami brought under control after strong winds abated.
Fire fighters will remain on duty throughout the night, as winds had earlier revived the fire in that section of the island, creating several new fronts. Water dousing efforts by airplane were limited by the strong winds prevailing in the area, and ground forces had to deal with an inaccessible terrain.
 Technical problem causes private TV network blackout for two hoursDigital television network operator Digea experienced a technical problem between 9 am and 11 am on Tuesday with all private TV channels, except the public broadcaster NERIT, remaining off air.
"Due to a serious technical problem, the digital signal has been temporarily interrupted. We have taken the necessary steps to quickly fix the problem," Digea said in its announcement.
The problem is being gradually restored.
 TV network operator Digea to investigate causes of 2-hour private channel blackoutDigital television network operator Digea said on Tuesday it is conducting a "detailed technical inspection" to investigate the exact cause of the technical failure which resulted in the interruption of the transmission of all private nationwide channels between 9 am and 11 am this morning.
In a statement released by the company, Digea apologized to viewers and said its board of directors has assigned to an external consultant the investigation of the incident who will decide on any responsibility and on a review of the overall system of multiplexing and signal transmission, if this arises from the investigation.
Digea also said the technical problem was located "in the process of streaming in the multiplexer."
 Telecoms regulator EETT says it has requested full report on TV blackout from DigeaThe National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT), Greece's telecoms regulator, said on Tuesday it has requested from digital television network operator Digea a complete report on the causes of the two-hour blackout in all private nationwide channels earlier this morning.
Digea announced earlier it is investigating the technical failure which caused the interruption of the transmission between 9 am and 11 am.
In a press release commenting on the incident, EETT said it sent "a technical team at 10am to Digea to perform an investigation on the spot", as well as a letter to the company which gave it "24 hours to submit a report on the causes of the incident and proof from its log and the company's network management system (NMS)."
The regulator also said it alerted the relevant ministries on the event and noted it "will continue to inform fully and responsibly the State and the public."
 Owner of strip joint and four more given suspended sentences over sexual traffickingFour individuals, including the former owner of a bakery chain, were served suspended sentences ranging from 10 to 12.5 years by a criminal appeals court on Tuesday for human trafficking.
The four, who were tried in a case of sexual trafficking ring that provided women to nightclub and stripjoint clients, included the leader of the ring (Angelos G., who recently transferred the ownership of the bakery chain to his mother); his employees, Michael K and Igor F, and former policeman Constantine K. A fifth person, a woman, was found guilty over misdemeanour charges and given a lighter suspended sentence.
There were twenty-two defendants in the case. All but the five above, were staff at Angelos G.'s nightclubs and dismissed; they include the ring leader's brother.
The five charged are forbidden from leaving the country and have to register at regular intervals at police stations. Bail was set for the main defendant (Angelos G.) at 200,000 euros while for the rest it ranged between 20,000 and 70,000 euros each.
According to the case file, the ring was set up by the main defendant to "take financial and sexual advantage of foreign women from Eastern European and Balkan countries, who were located by members of the ring in their countries of origin and especially through a so-called job-finding bureau called 'West Line' that was owned by N.M."
The defendants promised them jobs, the case file said, and gave them false papers and tickets to Greece, where they were housed in apartments rented or owned by the ring. They acquired residency permits and applied for asylum based on fake Lithuanian passports. The ring leader confiscated their real documents and threatened them physically as well as provided them with drugs to coerce them into having sex with clients of the striptease joints "Alcatraz" and "Star" in the greater Athens area.
 Air traffic safety engineers to hold three-hour work stoppage on April 30The Air Traffic Safety Electronic Engineers Association on Tuesday called a three-hour "warning work stoppage" for Thursday to protest staff and equipment shortages.
The stoppage has been called for 13:00 to 16:00 on April 30.
The safety engineer service, part of the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (YPA), expressed its concern over safety issues related to the increased summer passenger traffic because of "significant delays in upgrading and modernising the VAR and PALLAS air navigation systems of YPA" and of staff shortages, especially substitute and standby staff units.
 Fire on Samos island slightly abatesThe fire which broke out on Tuesday morning on Samos island in the northeastern Aegean and burned forest and arable land has slightly abated, as the strong winds blowing in the area are subsiding.
An active front continues to burn in the area of Potami, with firefighting forces and aircraft concentrating their efforts to put it out.
However, the adverse weather conditions and the area's inaccessibility allowed firefighting planes to make only one drop of water over the region, leaving the ground teams to continue alone.
An additional ground team is expected to arrive on the island to assist the operation.
 Piraeus Flower Show open to the public April 30 to May 15Piraeus Mayor Yiannis Moralis will inaugurate the port city's 5th Flower Show at 19:00 on Thursday, at the Tinaneios Garden on Vassileos Georgiou Avenue.
The flower show will be open from 09:00 to 21:00 every day, from April 30 to May 15, and the public will be able to choose plants to buy from thousands of varieties.
 Partly cloudyPartly cloudy weather and northwesterly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and rain in the afternoon in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 10C-22C. Same weather in the western parts with temperatures between 13C-23C. Scattered clouds in the morning in the eastern parts with temperatures between 10C-26C. Sunny over the islands, 13C-23C. Mostly fair in Athens, 10C-24C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki, 11C-21C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Resolution without austerity measures
DIMOKRATIA: A Berlin order
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: He is taking charge of the game
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: They put hands to future pensions
ESTIA: The new risk for Greece
ETHNOS: Varoufakis' withdrawal after Riga
IMERISSIA: A group of resolution
KATHIMERINI: Speeding up after the removal of Varoufakis
LOGOS: Stock market in 'red'
NAFTEMPORIKI: A draft law without obstacles
RIZOSPASTIS: They are preparing the people for further measures
TA NEA: How they displaced Varoufakis
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