|Wednesday, 16 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-04-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 30 April 2015 Issue No: 4947
 Greece, Cyprus, Egypt are pillars of security in a wider destabilised region, PM Tsipras saysGreece, Cyprus and Egypt are pillars of security in a wider destabilised region, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said in statements following the conclusion of the trilateral Greece-Cyprus-Egypt summit in Nicosia.
The prime minister said that they agreed to proceed with the delimitation of maritime zones, in cases that the consultation and cooperation with third countries is not required, with respect for international law and the law of the sea. He noted, however, that this process will not only be in the interest of the three countries, but it will also be a challenge for other countries in the region to cooperate and delimitate their maritime zones on the basis of all principles of international law.
He made special reference to the need to strengthen cooperation on the issue of regional security in order to address radical Islamism, a threat to our civilization, as he said.
Tsipras spoke of further deepening cooperation between Greece and Egypt, stressing that "economic, commercial and energy cooperation contribute effectively and are prerequisites for the consolidation of prosperity but also peace and stability in the region."
He said that in his private meeting with Sisi, they agreed to set up a new technical on economy and trade between the two countries. "We are very interested...in having Greek and Cypriot businesses participate in the ambitious plan to reconstruct the Egyptian economy, which President Sisi is preparing to implement."
The prime minister spoke in favour of the resumption of intercommunal talks in Cyprus and said the election of Mustafa Akinci in the Turkish Cypriot community was "interesting".
Finally, he invited the Cypriot and Egyptian presidents in Athens for a third trilateral summit meeting.
On his part, the Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said that the alarming developments in other countries of the region, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, intensify the need for joint action by the international community in addressing the challenges that transcend national borders.
Regarding the peace process in the Middle East "we reiterated the principle position to achieve a just and lasting peace through the creation of a viable and sovereign state in Palestine under the UN resolutions," said Anastasiades and added that "we discussed the increasing migratory flows that are a threat not only to countries in the region but to all European countries. With the intensification of our efforts, the objectives we have set will be successful and will be a model for cooperation for the other countries in the region as well."
The president of Egypt Abdul Fattah El Sisi said that "the second summit between the three countries in just six months reflects the willingness to deepen our cooperation. We seek cooperation in shaping a bright future for our people based on tolerance, peace, stability, social justice." He referred to the Cyprus issue, saying that "our position is steady, based on the unity of the people of Cyprus with all its communities with sovereignty and independence."
Sisi also spoke about his meeting with the Greek prime minister saying: "Today we agreed to open new horizons for cooperation between our countries in the economic, energy, tourism, and shipping sectors." He also said that they agreed on measures to combat terrorism and referred to the need to resolve the Middle East issue with the creation of a Palestinian State on the basis of UN resolutions.
 Greek gov't wants a mutually beneficial deal, possibly before May 11, says senior officialGreece wants a mutually beneficial deal with its creditors as soon as possible, even before May 11, a senior government official who participated in the meeting of the political negotiating team at the finance ministry said on Wednesday.
"We want a mutually beneficial agreement as soon as possible - possibly even with an emergency Eurogroup meeting before May 11 - which we connect with a solution to the problem of liquidity," the official said, adding that an important breakthrough in negotiations would suffice to resolve the liquidity crunch.
He also said the government is not discussing cutting pensions and not backing down from the "red lines" presented by the prime minister, while he noted that it is "not playing political games". The statement came after comments by European officials in Brussels that if Greece backs down on social security, labour or tax issues, a deal will be brokered.
The same official said that the government will present a draft of the omnibus bill based on "Varoufakis' list" at the cabinet meeting on Thursday (at 17.00pm), but warned the bill "is not written in stone" and may not be completed in one meeting, or in 1-2 days. Among the unresolved issues is the auctioning of the main residences of debtors, which will be decided on Thursday.
After it is completed, the bill will then be submitted to the Brussels Group which will convene again on Thursday to discuss tax and publicadministration, state assets and the disagreements which remain from the previous meeting.
The official also said the government received a positive climate from the EuroWorking Group (EWG) which is currently convening in Brussels.
 A bridge agreement will be reached in early May, gov't vice president Dragasakis saysThe agreement with Greece's creditors should include a policy that will make the country viable, Government Vice President Yiannis Dragasakis on Wednesday said in statements to private radio 'Sto kokkino'.
Dragasakis estimated that a bridge agreement will be reached in early May. "Today, we are seeking an agreement-solution. Not any agreement though. The agreement needs to be viable. After reaching a bridge agreement, the debate on the debt, the primary surplus, investments and the growth will start," he underlined.
He added that "the bridge agreement is being sought within the framework of the February 20 Eurogroup's agreement. We are seeking a minimum agreement, let's call it like this, with actions that can be immediately implemented. We are struggling for an agreement that will give an immediate solution to the country's liquidity problem, which we have not created, but we inherited."
He attributed the delay in the negotiations to the creditors change of stance and a suffocation mechanism with aim to put pressure on the government.
Priority is given to the needs of the many, Dragasakis underlined, adding that if the government finds itself at an impasse, there is the solution of resorting to people.
"We learn more things as time goes by and we are becoming more efficient," he stated while expressing optimism over an agreement with the country's partners and creditors.
"The political negotiation group was the result of the experience gained all that period," he noted.
 PM Tsipras to chair meeting of the cabinet on ThursdayPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to chair a meeting of the full cabinet that will begin in Parliament at 17:00 on Thursday, it was announced.
 We cannot agree on measures that kill the economy, Alternate Social Insurance Min Stratoulis saysAlternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis on Wednesday in statements to MEGA TV lashed out at Greece's creditors on their demand not to implement the 100 installment settlement.
"Do we have to surrender because we have run out of money and do we have to sign whatever they want? Is that the right tactics? This is a trap," Stratoulis stated.
As he also said in Riga, Latvia, the partners raised the issue to Varoufakis while the settlement was already underway. He noted that the creditors disagree with the increase of minimum wage and they are asking for reductions in pensions, an increase in VAT on islands and the deregulation of mass layoffs, adding that the government remains committed to its red lines.
"Pensions are not going to be reduced," Stratoulis reiterated and cleared out that if they insist on that, they have another plan. "We have a plan for any case, but when you are at the last phase of the negotiation, you do not reveal your plans."
Referring to the possibility of a referendum, he argued that what matters now is to reach an agreement and not to hold a referendum. He estimated though that the issue will be solved politically.
The minister underlined that there will be no austerity measures as a result of a difficult compromise as we cannot agree on measures that kill the economy.
 EU Commissioner Moscovici: Negotiations are not going fast enoughEuropean Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici stated on Wednesday that the talks between Greece and its lenders to reach an agreement are conducted "under better conditions" after the establishment of a political negotiation group by Athens, however he reiterated that "the negotiations are not going fast enough."
"The negotiation is serious, taut and has advanced, but not fast enough and in an unsufficiently way," Moscovici told French BFM-TV, according to Reuters news agency. "A consistent, comprehensive and coherent reform programme should be set now on the table," he added.
Referring to the new negotiation team, the European Commissioner stated "We have a team that it seems to be more coherent, that it seems to me more ready for reforms...but I want results. I believe that this negotiation that is now forming under better conditions has not been completed yet" he added noting that "there is an emergency".
What is important, said Moscovici, is that Mr. Tsipras is taking back the negotiations himself and is sending to Brussels his people, trustworthy people who we can talk to" he said estimating that "from this point of view it is a good sign". He also noted that "EU wants Greece to remain in the eurozone' and stated that "there is not plan B, there is not other solution".
 EuroWorking Group meeting ends 'in positive and pleasant' climateThe EuroWorking Group meeting in Brussels concluded its meeting on Wednesday, with head of the economic council of experts George Chouliarakis attending on behalf of the Greek government. Eurozone sources told ANA-MPA they were happy with the discussion, held under a "positive and pleasant" climate. They added that discussion focused mostly on the new process of negotiations (between Greece and its lenders) and how it could become more effective and productive.
 Draft law on "Varoufakis list" to be submitted to Brussels Group on WednesdayThe government's draft law based on "Varoufakis' list" of reform proposals will be submitted to Brussels Group on Wednesday, a senior Finance ministry official said after yesterday's meeting of the political negotiation group in Parliament.
According to the same official, the draft law will not include the protection of first residence from home foreclosures and bad loans. He added that any discussions on social security and labour issues will be held during the negotiation in June. He also dismissed rumours for an emergency contribution.
The bill will be presented to the cabinet meeting on Thursday and is expected to be discussed at the Euro Working Group which will take place after the Brussels Group on Wednesday.
 Varoufakis tells Die Zeit he's still in charge of negotiationsFinance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Wednesday that he was still responsible for the ongoing negotiations with Greece's eurozone partners and that both sides were a closer to a deal than many media believed, according to a German newspaper.
"I set the tone. I'm still in charge of the negotiations with the Eurogroup," Varoufakis was quoted by Reuters as having told the online edition of weekly Die Zeit.
He added that Athens still had to convince its partners that it was serious about reforms. "It's in our interests to reach a compromise as fast as possible. We are closer to that than many media believe," Varoufakis said.
 There must be red lines, Alternate Min for International Economic Relations Tsakalotos says"I believe that there must be red lines, compromise areas, but the compromise areas must be a part of a political plan," Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos on Wednesday told Kokkino radio station, referring to the negotiation.
"If you have a political plan that gives solutions, then you can accept some compromises," he noted adding that "if one compromise leads to another one, then you have no reason to make it."
"We have no reason to reach a bridge agreement that will make us rather weak in the main negotiation," he underlined.
Tsakalotos estimated that Greece's creditors do not want to bring the government down or see Greece out of the eurozone.
Regarding the attack on Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, he said that "the attack against Varoufakis is an attack against the government." He pointed out that they consider Varoufakis annoying because he knows their arguments better than they do.
"The previous government had representatives that agreed on everything. I do not think that this was a good negotiating method. Yanis and the negotiation group's method has already brought results," he noted.
Tsakalotos stressed that the delay is a result of the creditors' insistence on the memorandum and not of a lack of government plan.
 Productive Reconstruction Minister: 'Greece has alternative solutions but EU does not'"Our so-called partners and the IMF do not ask from our government an agreement that even barely respects the survival of the Greek people and the recent radical popular mandate," Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said on Wednesday. The more ruthless and harsh establishment centers in Berlin, Brussels and the IMF want Greece's total capitulation, they demand new measures reducing pensions and salaries, a fire sale of the country, new taxes and new deregulation," he said in his article in "Crash" magazine.
The minister said that Greece has alternative solutions, unlike the EU, which he said would suffer a devastating hit in case of Greece's exit from the eurozone.
"If our partners and the IMF believe that they will blackmail us, using as their weapon a refusal to finance us and that they will terrorise the Greek people in perpetuity with the 'bogeyman' of default and a return to the national currency, they are fooling themselves. Greece has many alternative ways and can have a prospect without EU and IMF's funding and without the liquidity that ECB gives to the banks drop by drop," Lafazanis added.
Greece might have alternative solutions but the same was not true of the EU and IMF with their "predatory policies," Lafazanis said, adding that an "alternative and progressive Greece" would present "huge problems to a staggering EU, which may well prove unmanageable and insurmountable."
According to the minister's analysis, Greece together with Cyprus constitute the southeastern part of Europe, the frontier of three continents, giving Greece crucial geopolitical weight, while its absence would create a "tragic" geopolitical gap for Europe. "The progressive reversal in Greece may be the first step towards a major reversal in Europe".
The minister also referred to the energy and fiscal benefits from the construction of the natural gas pipeline in Greek territory that will start from the Greek-Turkish borders to FYROM's borders and will bring Russian natural gas via the Black Sea.
Finally, he rejected any kind of joint exploitation of the Aegean Sea, either with USA or with Turkey or with both of them, saying that a settlement of the problems in the Aegean should be based on the international law of the sea.
 Losing Athens would be major blow for Berlin on a 'geopolitical front', article in Austria's 'Der Standard' claimsVIENNA (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel cannot risk losing Athens as a partner at this time, given Greece's role within NATO and the ongoing dispute with Russia, according to an article in the Austrian newspaper "Der Standard" on Wednesday.
The paper said that the SYRIZA-led coalition government in Athens was now attempting to shift the decision-making from the finance ministers to heads of government in hopes of a better response to its positions, since the prime ministers will also have to take into account the geopolitical aspects of the situation, to a greater degree than finance ministers.
Under the headline 'Greece's Strategic Provocateur', the article also referred to the criticism levelled against Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, saying it was hard to judge whether this was valid since it was almost always made off the record and without any proof, even though it was widely reported in the media.
 SYRIZA issues message ahead of Labour DayMain coalition partner SYRIZA issued a message on Wednesday ahead of Labour Day, saying May 1 is a day of remembrance and fight against exploitation, oppression and social injustice.
The party said that in the last few years, workers around the world are facing an extreme attack which aims at abolishing all the rights which the movement has won during the previous century.
"In our country, this attack took a particularly violent form with the memorandums of the past 5 years, which used the pretext of the debt crisis - which was a result of the policies implemented by previous governments - to attempt the complete leveling of labor and social rights," SYRIZA said.
"The debt, for which workers are not responsible, was created to serve the interests of bankers and the oligarchy and based on it, the entire Greek society was pillaged," the press release added.
 Social Insurance Minister Stratoulis rules out further pension cuts, promises crackdown on contribution evasionAlternate Minister for Social Insurance Dimitris Stratoulis on Wednesday said that the government will seek to raise pension fund revenues by cracking down on contribution evasion and will deliver on promises to suspend memorandum-imposed pension cuts.
"There won't be further reductions to main and supplementary pensions," he underlined in a meeting with trade unionists representing Social Insurances Foundation (IKA) staff nationwide. "We have already sent an amendment to the general secretariat of the government that suspends the memorandum laws," he said.
He also promised to boost staff levels at social insurance funds and crack down on uninsured or undeclared labour 'black' labour, passing legislation through Parliament that will allow funds to send out teams for on-the-spot regular and surprise inspections to combat the phenomenon.
Stratoulis also agreed with a demand for more staff at social insurance funds to reduce the inconvenience and long waiting times faced by the public, especially the long delays in decisions to issue pensions.
 Bill on reopening of public broadcaster passes in Parliament plenumA draft bill for the reopening of former public broadcaster ERT was voted by majority in Parliament plenum late on Tuesday.
"A debate was completed during which a broad consultation was made," State Minister Nikos Pappas said adding that the government's aim is to restore at all levels a sense of justice.
 Law for the reopening of public broadcaster ERT ends 'dark period', says SYRIZAThe law for the reopening of the former public broadcaster ERT which was approved by Parliament on Tuesday evening ends a dark period which started when the channel was closed by the previous government in 2013, main coalition partner SYRIZA said on Wednesday.
"The new Greek Radio and Television channel will no longer be the mouthpiece of the government, just another propaganda device, but a truly public broadcaster, which will observe constitutional principles, will promote pluralism of opinions, will inform, entertain and promote culture for Greeks, expats and serve Democracy," the party said.
 Draft bill on sports violence passes first reading in Parliament committee; opposition parties praise ministerA draft bill fighting violence in sports was voted in principle at the relevant Parliament committee on Tuesday night.
SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) coalition parties voted for it. Opposition parties reserved judgment but at the same time praised Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis for the changes he made to the original bill which they said "were in the right direction."
 FinMin Varoufakis verbally attacked by anti-establishment groupFinance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was verbally attacked by a small anti-establishment group late Tuesday while dining with his wife at a restaurant in Athens' Exarchia district.
Asked by the press about the incident, Varoufakis stated that "It was not an organised incident, an attempt to cause us injuries, or part of the recent attempts to bring me down."
Varoufakis said that an anti-establishment group entered the restaurant where they were dining and told him to leave their 'area'.
Later, when the minister left with his wife, the group was waiting for him outside. "I began talking to them, saying that I want to listen to them even if this means they will hit me. After 15 minutes of a tense discussion, things calmed down and the group left without any further threat."
Varoufakis also clarified: "For one more time I will state my adamant position that whatever fear or anger we feel at the exercise of arbitrary violence, the answer to these people's anger and to their violent exression should not and must not be either a hasty retreat nor violent suppression."
In other statements, he also emphasised the youth of his attackers, calling them "angry young people who feel that the area is theirs and don't want politicians there," but stressed that this would not deter him from visiting Exarchia again.
He said that most of the group had taken off their hoods during the encounter and noted that "it is not right to show hatred toward them, what is needed in such cases is understanding, not to reply violently to violent behaviour."
Varoufakis said he left the area without security to accompany him, while adding that he was touched by the reaction of his wife Danae Stratou during the incident.
 SYRIZA condemns verbal attack against Varoufakis as 'unacceptable and provocative'Main coalition partner SYRIZA condemned on Wednesday the verbal attack against Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis by a small anti-establishment group in central Athens late Tuesday as "unacceptable and provocative".
It then added: "No minister or SYRIZA MP is daunted by such actions. Their place is among the citizens."
 The attack against Varoufakis is a fascist and repulsive act, ANEL spokeswoman says"The attack against Mr Varoufakis constitutes a highly fascist and repulsive act. It makes no difference at all whether the perpetrators come from a small minority or not," Independent Greeks (ANEL) spokeswoman Marina Chryssoveloni said.
Chryssoveloni underlined that "violence and cruelty have no place in Democracy, where the only measure is the dialogue and the culture factor is the respect to the other's opinion."
"Independent Greeks strongly condemn the attack against the Finance Minister," the spokeswoman concluded.
 Opposition parties condemn verbal attack against FinMin VaroufakisOpposition parties condemned on Wednesday the verbal attack against Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis by a small anti-establishment group in central Athens late Tuesday.
The Communist Party noted that "such actions have nothing to do with genuine popular protest," while PASOK deplored the attack adding however that "in similar attacks against other officials and party offices in the past SYRIZA kept silent, and some of its officials even covered them."
 New Democracy condemns attack again FinMinNew Democracy on Wednesday strongly condemned the attack against Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
In a statement, main opposition underlined that it condemns violence wherever it comes from and that violence practices do not fit in Democracy.
 Greece must be among countries leading the fight against trafficking, says Alt. Min. ChountisThe government is determined to stop trafficking and the exploitation of people by other people, Alternate Minister for European Affairs Nikos Chountis said on Wednesday, in his address at a meeting titled "Prostitution and Trafficking in Greece" which took place at the foreign ministry.
The minister said the government wants Greece to be among the counties which lead the international campaign against modern forms of slavery and also utilize European legislation.
"We want to lead in a social struggle which fights the structures that have trapped us in the mentality that the laws of supply and demand can determine the fates of defenseless people," he said adding that trafficking constitutes a continuous crime and one of the worst type of human rights violation.
Chountis notes that profits from trafficking in Europe alone reach 3 billion dollars per year, while 84 pct of trafficking concerns sexual exploitation, with women and children constituting the majority of the people being trafficked.
 Health Minister calls on multinational pharmaceutical firms to invest in GreeceHealth and Social Insurance Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis on Wednesday issued a stern warning to multinational drug companies that they should invest in Greece, during a speech at a conference titled "Shaping the Future of Healthcare in Greece".
The minister said pharmaceutical companies should support the Greek economy and for that reason "every company should produce in Greece its two drugs with the highest consumption in the country."
"We all witnessed the excesses in the health sector, with virtually no returns for the State from their profitability, the waste and the habit of over-prescribing medicines," Kouroumblis said, adding it's his intention to form a stable framework in the field of medicine while noting that changes in the ministry's policy which include using the rebate model will be fairer.
He noted the new draft bill on pharmaceutical policy will be published for public consultation in mid-May.
 European Commission calls on Greece to comply with legislation on security of EU documentsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The European Commission on Wednesday sent reasoned opinions to Greece and three more countries, calling on them to ensure the mandatory exchange of information under the EU document security legislation and the integration of biometric features in residence permits.
Almost three years after the deadline (20 May 2012), Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece and Lithuania have not yet set up a Single Point of Contact to ensure a smooth implementation of security features' standards and meaningful communication between member-states, the Commission said in its letter.
"The establishment of such contact points is mandatory and should allow for the exchange of information necessary to access the fingerprint images stored on the chip of documents (passports and residence permits)," the letter notes.
Concerning Greece, the Commission said the country still does not issue residence permits containing two fingerprints of the holder. "The harmonisation of security features and the integration of biometric identifiers is an important step towards more secure documents and better protection against fraud," it argued and urged Greek authorities to implement the biometric identifiers in the residence permit for third country nationals.
It also warned Greece and the other countries that they now have two months to take the necessary measures to comply with the Commission's requests. "If they fail to do so, the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the EU Court of Justice."
 Potami leader Theodorakis urges PM Tsipras to side with EuropePrime Minister Tsipras must choose whether he wants to side with Europe or with the "obsolete minds" of some of his ministers, Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said on Wednesday in statements to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.
"He must choose if he wants to walk along with Europe, or with the obsolete minds of his government, as he cannot satisfy both," Theodorakis was quoted as saying, while he expressed hope that Tsipras will choose Europe, because the other path "leads to the destruction of Greece".
Theodorakis also said the handling of the negotiations with Greece's partners was wrong, arguing that instead of submitting a list of reforms to the Eurogroup, the government has chosen to perpetuate the political discussion - but time is running out.
"You want to go to Madrid and instead of taking the plane or the train, you choose to climb the mountains and what's more, you tell the people this is the shortest way. This is unacceptable," Theodorakis told the paper.
 Potami party accuses gov't of 'blatant intervention' in telecoms regulatorThe opposition party Potami on Wednesday accused the government of "blatant intervention" in the running of the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT), Greece's telecoms regulator, using Tuesday's failure of the Digea digital TV signal as a pretext. The party was reacting to a letter that Alternate Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Networks Christos Spirtzis sent to the EETT, asking for the resignation of its board.
"At every turn [the government] shows itself 'allergic' to independent authorities and anything that is not under its party control," a Potami announcement said.
It criticised Spirtzis for rushing to demand resignations before seeking to uncover the facts and shed full light on the event, which was the EETT's responsibility. The party also pointed out that the EETT, based on community laws, was an independent administrative authority that was obliged to act independently and neither seek nor take orders or pressures from any body of agency concerning its responsibilities.
The party went on to accuse Spirtzis of wanting to replace EETT's board members with others affiliated to the SYRIZA party.
 Education bill to be tabled in Parliament on ThursdayA draft bill to be tabled in the education committee of Parliament on Thursday will be voted under emergency procedures in the plenum on May 8 to quickly resolve issues that are preventing schools from operating normally, Alternate Minister for Education Tasos Kourakis told ANA-MPA in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Kourakis said the bill introduces changes in admission procedures for experimental schools (both types of experimental schools), in specialities of technical and career-oriented programmes and in the selection procedures for principals, among other things.
The government, he noted, will introduce further legislation to resolve educational issues like teaching staff shortages, which may be as many as 25,000 positions, and to provide free access to university-level education, a long-term priority of this administration. Changes will need an increase of funding, he said; the government's goal is a public, free and high-quality education, but this will depend on the state of the economy.
 A committee to investigate how Greece entered the memorandum is set up, Parliament President saysThe President of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou on Wednesday announced the decision to set up a committee to investigate how Greece entered the memorandum.
The investigating committee consists of 17 members with representation in proportion to the strength of all parliamentary groups.
 Committee on Parliamentary Ethics to recommend stripping GD MP Kasidiaris of immunityA majority of the Special Permanent Committee on Parliamentary Ethics on Wednesday voted in favour of a recommendation to strip far-right Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris of his immunity from prosecution so that he might stand trial.
Conversely, the committee decided on a recommendation against stripping the immunity of main opposition New Democracy MP Costas Karagounis, the party's spokesman.
 Alternate FM Chountis to meet Albanian and Montenegrin AmbassadorsAlternate Foreign Minister Nikos Chountis on Thursday, 30 April 2015, will meet the Albanian Ambassador Dashnor Dervishi and the Montenegrin Ambassador Petar Popovic.
According to a Foreign ministry's announcement, the meeting with the Albanian Ambassador has been scheduled for 12.00 and the meeting with the the Montenegrin Ambassador for 13.00.
 Testimonies of political persons and former KYSEA members postponedThe five-member Court of Appeals for Felonies postponed hearings of political persons and former KYSEA members that had been summoned to testify for jailed former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos' case for another date in May.
More specifically, former prime minister Costas Simitis and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos will testify on May 13, and former ministers Vaso Papandreou and Yiannos Papantoniou on May 20. Top-level military officials will testify on May 27.
 Greek Parliament Budget Office says agreement feasible, drastic reforms neededThe Greek Parliament' s State Budget Office on Wednesday warned that the economy could return to recession this year because of uncertainty over a series of issues, such as a prolonged inability to reach an agreement with the country's creditors, fiscal adjustment and reform policies combined with other factors such as contradicting comments made by government officials over an agreement which prevailed in the first quarter of 2015.
In a quarterly report, the Budget Office said that all these factors caused an investment shortfall in the market, which combined with the contradictory policy characteristics of the previous government led to a negative growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2014. The Greek economy shrank by 0.4 pct in the October-December period, compared with the previous quarter, based on seasonally-adjusted figures. The report predict that the economy will remain in negative territory in the first quarter of 2015, leaving unemployment stable at very high levels.
The report noted that bank deposits have fallen by 26 billion euros (134 bln in April from 160.3 bln euros in December 2014), a development temporarily offset by emergency liquidity assistance offered by the European Central Bank through ELA. A drastic deterioration of economic conditions is giving birth to a new generation of non performing loans. The economic sentiment index fell significantly in the first quarter, while enterprises were facing funding difficulties and a huge problem in their transactions with customers and suppliers. Overdue tax debt grew by 3.47 billion euros in the first quarter. The report noted that the current situation did not threaten only those companies in critical conditions but also those which had withstood all these years of crisis, invested, paid taxes, kept wages and avoided dismissals. It threatened healthy business activity in the country. If the prevailing uncertainty were extended the situation would dramatically deteriorate, the report noted.
The Budget Office report said that an agreement with the country's creditors was feasible and that deep reforms must be made to keep the country on a sustainable growth course.
 Greek enterprises face lack of skills in leadership, DeloitteLack of skills in leadership is considered to be the most significant problem facing the heads of human resources departments in Greek enterprises, a report by Deloitte said on Wednesday.
The third annual report on "Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work", based on a sample of more than 3,300 directors of human resources and enterprises in 106 countries around the world, showed that 83 pct of respondents said lack of skills in their leadership was their greatest concern. A 62 pct said there were "slightly prepared" to deal with the issue, evidence that Greek enterprises were not ready to address the problem. The second most important issue was redefining the operation of human resources department (83 pct), while a 10 pct of respondents said they were "well prepared" to address the issue. The third most important issue was organizing culture and commitment (76 pct), with 50 pct of respondents saying they were "slightly prepared" to meet the challenge.
Heleana Yabana, head of human resources management services in Deloitte Greece, commenting on the report said: "Compared with lack in skills, a shortfall in leadership skills ranked first followed by lack in performance management and in third place it was redefining operations of human resources department. This means that people are less ready to manage these problems by plan".
Workers' commitment was very important for an enterprises said a 50 pct of respondents (up from 26 pct last year). A Deloitte Business Confidence Report 2014 said that only 49 pct of high-ranking officials asked replied they were committed to developing leadership skills throughout all levels of an business organization.
The report also showed that a 66 pct of respondents said workers were "chocking" in the prevailing labor environment, while a 74 pct said that complexity of labor environment was a significant problem.
 Morgan Stanley's Moghadam says Greece must simplify framework for investmentsGreece needs to simplify the institutional framework to allow investments and remove the obstacles on investing in land and property, the Vice-Chairman for Global Capital Markets at Morgan Stanley, Reza Moghadam said on Wednesday at an event organized by the Athens-based research institute IOBE.
Moghadam also said that it will be difficult to achieve high growth rates in Europe if the banking system doesn't help, which will not happen unless the banks are not freed from their bad loans portfolios.
He also wondered if there's a point in establishing the same fiscal architecture for all member-states regardless of their economic peculiarities in the eurozone, while he noted that job creation at a European level is discouraging.
Taking his turn, Dirk Reinermann, the Head of the Europe and Central Asia unit at the World Bank, spoke about the need to bolster the net protecting society in Greece adding that fiscal stability and growth are equally necessary preconditions which will send optimistic message to the markets.
He also said that the crisis and recession in Greece were the biggest in the last century at an international level and pointed to the poverty indexes.
 European Maritime Day Conference to be held in Piraeus on May 28-31The European Maritime Day 2015 Conference will be hosted by Piraeus, Greece's largest port from May 28 to 31 and will include high-level sessions and stakeholder workshops with delegates coming from European and other countries.
Presenting the conference and its schedule in a press conference at the municipal theatre on Wednesday, Piraeus Mayor Yiannis Moralis said that it was a great opportunity to showcase Piraeus after its selection by the European Commission to host the programme. "Greece is a traditional seafaring power, Piraeus is the city of seamen and this is an opportunity to resolve the issue of jobs for them," he said.
The presentation was attended by shipping ministry and regional government authorities, by the head of the European Commission office in Athens, and by port officials.
The Commission has established May 20 as the date for the annual European Maritime Day. As part of the events, the city of Piraeus will host for the first time a "Days of the Sea" celebration on May 30 and 31, with activities and events for tourists and visitors highlighting the city's offerings. They will include tours, concerts, performances, dancing, food sampling, film screenings and other activities for the public.
 Bank credit to private sector remained negative in MarchBank credit to the private sector remained negative in March, with the annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector remaining at -2.5 pct, unchanged from the previous month, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that the monthly net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, at 639 million euros (March 2014: negative net flow of 729 million).
In March 2015, the monthly net flow of credit to corporations was negative, at 303 million (March 2014: negative net flow of 406 million) and the annual growth rate of credit remained almost unchanged at -2.2 pct, against -2.3 pct in the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations stood at -2.6 pct, from -2.4 pct in February 2015, while the monthly net flow of credit to non-financial corporations was negative, at 451 million euros (March 2014: negative net flow of 353 million). The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at 3.7 pct in March 2015, from 0.5 pct in the previous month, while the monthly net flow of credit was positive, at 149 million (March 2014: negative net flow of 53 million).
In March 2015, the monthly net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, at 328 million euros (March 2014: negative net flow of 322 million), while its annual growth rate remained at -3.0 pct, unchanged from the previous month.
 ECB raises funds available to Greek banks via ELA by 1.4 bln eurosThe European Central Bank on Wednesday decided to raise the funds available to Greek banks from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) system by 1.4 billion euros, to 76.9 billion euros.
Bank of Greece sources said the banks have not yet exhausted the above limit and a "safety cushion" of about 3.0 billion euros remains. The ECB will convene again next week to reappraise the situation concerning Greek banks.
 Greek bank deposits outflow slowed in MarchGreek banks' deposits fell to 145 billion euros in March, from 147.5 billion in February in a sign that the outflow of deposits was slowing down in the domestic banking system, the European Central Bank said on Wednesday.
Deposits in Greek banks were down by around 7.8 billion euros in February.
 Exposec-Defenseworld conference to be held on May 5-6 in AthensThe Greek-American Chamber of Commerce organizes the annual Exposec-Defenseworld conference on defence and security, titled "National Defense & Security Strategy in Today's Challenging World" on May 5-6 , .
National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos will inaugurate the convention, while Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis will open the second day of the event.
The convention, held for the third consecutive year, will take place at Athens Ledra Hotel.
 Settlement for bad loans and home foreclosures likely to be included in omnibus billDeliberations among ministries on the content of the regulation regarding the suspension of first home foreclosures are underway.
Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism ministry's senior officials told ANA-MPA that the same applies for the bad loans issue on which there is an agreement with Greece's creditors.
 OAEE pension fund received over 13 mln euros due to measure for overdue debts, Parliament toldThe implementation of measures to facilitate repayment of overdue debts has already had encouraging results, the new governor of the OAEE pension fund for the self employed Anastasios Petropoulos told Parliament's Committee for Monitoring the Social Insurance System on Wednesday.
Petropoulos said that some 56,550 applications for inclusion in the measure had been submitted to OAEE in 15 days, with the fund receiving 13,167,000 euros in repayments immediately and a further 870 million euros expected in total.
 Credit cards for transactions over 70 euros on Greek islands with 3,000 inhabitantsTransactions over 70 euros on Greek islands with population of more than 3,000 inhabitants will be carried out by credit cards.
This provision is included, according to sources, in the bill based on "Varoufakis list" and aims to increase VAT revenues.
Both the Brussels Group and the political negotiation team are expected to convene on Wednesday.
 OPAP says first playOpap shops ready by late JuneConstruction of playOpap shops that will host OPAP' s 16,500 video lottery terminals (VLTs) around the country was in full swing and progressing rapidly, OPAP announced on Wednesday, with the first 70-90 shops expected to be fully operational by late June in Athens, Thessaloniki and other big cities.
The right of exploitation and operation of these shops has been offered mostly to current OPAP agents, with the signing of lease contracts current underway.
OPAP officials said that around 700 Gaming Halls will be developed around the country, offering a unique experience to players, designed used the latest technology and under international standards. The officials said that the new shops will create a new landscape in the domestic gaming market with multiple benefits both for players and local societies, employment, real estate and public revenues.
 British Airways to launch direct flights to Iraklio, Corfu from LondonBritish Airways on Wednesday announced the launch of direct flights to Iraklio, Crete and the island of Corfu, which will be added to existing Greek island destinations currently operated by the airline, such as Kos, Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini. The decision marks BA's return to Crete after 30 years.
With the addition of the new flights, BA will offer flights from London to Kos on Tuesday and Saturday, to Rhodes on Wednesday and Saturday, to Iraklio, Crete on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday, to Corfu on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday, to Mykonos on Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday, and finally to Santorini every Tuesday and Thursday until the end of the tourist season.
 Greek stocks end lower on profit takingGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as a investors took profits after a five-day rally which pushed the composite index 14.37 pct higher and the bank index 42.92 pct up. The index fell 1.0 pct to end at 797.99 points, after rising by as much as 1.47 pct during the session. The Large Cap index fell 1.25 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.33 pct higher. Turnover was a reduced 81.65 million euros.
Terna Energy (3.97 pct), Grivalia Properties (1.41 pct), Piraeus Port (1.15 pct) and Aegean Airlines (1.09 pct) scored big gains among blue chip stocks, while MIG (8.81 pct), Ellaktor (7.14 pct), GEK Terna (5.81 pct) and Piraeus Bank (5.0 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Insurance (2.14 pct), Real Estate (1.92 pct) and Commerce (0.86 pct) scored gains, while Media (9.83 pct), Health (3.27 pct) and Banks (3.12 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 61 to 56 with another 14 issues unchanged. Pasal (20 pct), Kreka (19.71 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (17.74 pct) were top gainers, while Viokarpet (22.48 pct), Yalco (18.82 pct) and Altec (18.18 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -1.65%
Industrial Products: -0.09%
Real Estate: +1.92%
Personal & Household: -1.31%
Food & Beverages: +0.56%
Raw Materials: -1.07%
Travel & Leisure: +0.04%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.297
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.46
Coca Cola HBC: 19.58
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.33
National Bank of Greece: 1.20
Piraeus Bank: 0.361
Grivalia Properties: 7.19
Aegean Airlines: 7.40
 Greek bond market closing reportSentiment in the domestic electronic secondary bond market improved further on Wednesday, pushing bond yields lower. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 10.78 pct from 11.37 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.03 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.25 pct. The market showed signs of life after several weeks of zero transactions with turnover totaling 1.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.167 pct from 0.168 pct, the nine-month rate was unchanged at 0.11 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.061 pct from 0.062 pct, the three-month rate was -0.005 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.038 pct from -0.034 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe May contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.47 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 13,748 contracts with 40,228 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 90,434 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (24,292), followed by Alpha Bank (19,038), National Bank (17,537), Eurobank (24,018), MIG (898), OTE (776), PPC (821), OPAP (675), Mytilineos (277), Hellenic Petroleum (274), Athens Water (198), Sidenor (146), GEK (216), Intralot (146), Frigoglass (299) and Jumbo (125).
 President Pavlopoulos receives medal-winning Greek gymnastsPresident of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday received the gymnasts that won medals at the last World Cup and European Artistic Gymnastics Championships, who were accompanied by their team coaches and Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis, as well as Sports General Secretary Ioulios Synodinos and the head of the Greek gymnastics federation Athanasios Vasiliadis.
Congratulating the athletes on their medal-winning performances, Pavlopoulos stressed that all Greece "feels proud...especially in these hours when the country needs to show, chiefly abroad, what it really is."
The president also noted that, while athletes were lauded when they reached the top, "we often forget - and this is a public apology from me on the part of the state - that you hav to make a great struggle to get there, a struggle from which the state is often absent."
 Dep. Sports Minister meets with UEFA chief InfantinoDeputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis' meeting with UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino on the sports bill was concluded on Wednesday.
Infantino and Kontonis appeared optimistic that the issue of exclusion of the Greek football clubs from the international competitions does not exist any more.
 Aegean islands townships cooperate to handle garbage in interim solution proposed by ministryMayors of towns with managed garbage dumps on the Aegean islands agreed to temporarily take garbage from other islands that are facing an accumulation of garbage until a long-term solution is found, Interior and Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis said on Wednesday following a meeting.
Agencies handling solid waste, which manage the dumps, and the mayors of the corresponding towns agreed to help out temporarily other islands, which will ship their garbage to them.
Hygienic garbage burial sites in the South Aegean operate on 18 islands including Rhodes, Kos, Paros, Mykonos and Syros. In the North Aegean, there are such sites on Lesvos, Chios, Limnos, Fourni and Samos, which has two such sites, the productive reconstruction, environment and energy ministry said.
Voutsis said the country cannot face a continuation of this problem any longer and keep paying fines because of the decades-old bad handling of garbage on most of the islands, especially in South Aegean. The day's meeting was called to put into action specific solutions, he said, and called on regional authorities to push for a faster absorption of already disbursed EU funds.
Municipalities and regions will work together to present an interim solution in the next 1.5 months, focusing on a comprehensive plan that includes recycling at source, separation of biowaste and an end to unmanaged dumps.
 Panathinaikos stadium facility upgrade approved by Court of AuditThe Court of Audit on Wednesday approved a seven-million-euro contract to upgrade the facilities of the Panathinaikos football stadium on Alexandras Avenue in Athens in a plenary session, reversing an earlier opinion that blocked a decision by then-Attica Region governor Yiannis Sgouros to release the funds on the basis of its being contrary to the public interest.
Panathinaikos had appealed against the earlier opinion. The Court, which reviews contracts for state-related entitites and local agencies, gave its opinion on the go-ahead after meeting behind closed doors and on the suggestion of its president Nikos Angelaras.
Its members decided that work on the stadium would make it safer for athletes and audience alike and agree with additional requirements as set out in Greek and UEFA regulations on stadiums. They also said that the region's funding to upgrade the facilities was related to the greater public interest that indirectly results from promoting Greece abroad.
 Samos wildfire under controlA wildfire that broke out on Tuesday morning near Karlovassi on Samos island on Wednesday was under control.
According to first estimates, the blaze burnt approximately 200 hectares, mostly forest and farmland.
A strong team of firefighters remains in the area to prevent rekindling.
 Man charged with arson by negligence for Samos fire is detainedA 69-year-old man who was charged with arson by negligence in connection with the fire that began early on Tuesday on Samos island will be detained until Thursday morning, following an order by the first-instance court prosecutor.
The blaze at Karlovasi River, which burned about 62 acres of forest and 2.4 or arable land, was put off by firefighters in the afternoon, but ground forces remain in the area to prevent a rekindling of the blaze.
The 69-year-old will be appear in court at 08.30am on Thursday.
 New stops on X80 express bus line to give cruise passengers greater access within PiraeusThe Piraeus municipality on Wednesday announced the addition of new stops on the X80 express bus running from Piraeus port to the Acropolis and Syntagma Square in central Athens, starting on Thursday. The bus line chiefly serves cruise passengers arriving in Piraeus and wanting to visit the sites in Athens.
The local authority, working with the public transport organisation OASA, has worked out a new route that takes in many of the sites along the Piraeus waterfront and shopping high streets, with 10 of its 16 stops actually located in the port city. The express bus will also link with the 904 bus line going through Piraeus, which has a terminal in Karaiskaki Square.
 Work stoppage in metro, tram and electric train on Labour DayUnions of workers in Athens metro, tram and electric trains have declared a work stoppage on May 1 (Labour Day) from the start of the shift until 09:00 a.m.
The unions joint announcement noted "in the last years the barbarous neoliberal policies devastated salaries, pensions and labour rights and thousands of workers were left without job. The wounds caused by the memorandum policies are too many" and they reassured that the unions will always be present in the new struggles and will participate in the rallies for the Labour Day.
 Mostly fair on ThursdayMostly fair weather and northwesterly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 10C-22C. Scattered clouds in the western parts with temperatures between 12C-23C. Mostly fair in the eastern parts and temperatures between 12C-26C. Sunny over the Aegean islands and Crete, 13C-23C. Fair in Athens, 13C-24C. Scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 12C-22C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: "Golden" depositors in the spotlight of the Tax Bureau
DIMOKRATIA: ENFIA (Uniform Real Estate Tax) shock
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The Berliners
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: ENFIA "locked", social security and labour issues open
ESTIA: Prime Minister in a quandary
ETHNOS: New taxes and strict penalties
IMERISSIA: New taxes to come
KATHIMERINI: Amnesty in undeclared money
LOGOS: Mediterranean diet for heart protection
NAFTEMPORIKI: So close, so far away
RIZOSPASTIS: Implementation law with a first tranche of anti-popular demands
TA NEA: SYRIZA's pentozali (folk dance)
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