|Friday, 6 December 2013|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-12-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 3 December 2013 Issue No: 4527
 PM holds meeting on government strategy in light of new negotiations with troikaThe government is reconsidering its strategy ahead of a new round of meetings with the troika representing Greece's creditors, following the stand-off in negotiations between the two sides. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras chaired another meeting on all the "burning" issues at the government headquarters on Monday evening, attended by Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
According to the defence minister, an extensive discussion took place on the fate of the state defence industry Greek Defence Systems, with Stournaras stressing that the government's aim is that they be downsized through voluntary staff departures and that they maintain their export activities.
On the issue of foreclosure auctions for housing loans, Stournaras said that the government, regardless of whether a solution is found or not, must bring legislation regulating the issue or the protection currently afforded to specific social groups will end automatically.
The framework (of negotiations with the troika) is firm and I believe that common sense will prevail as the numbers speak for themselves and things cannot get stuck on matters which - in my opinion - are being wrongly raised, such as home foreclosures," Government Vice President Evangelos Venizelos told reporters after the end of the meeting.
Referring to a speech he gave earlier on Monday at an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference in Athens, Venizelos said that the government wanted to protect "the poor and middle-class households, which are striving to survive - not the systematic bad debtors who are hiding behind the vulnerable social groups."
"We are focusing on the vast majority of people who are facing real difficulties," he added.
 Admin. Reform Minister Mitsotakis optimistic over an agreement with the troikaAdministrive Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his optimism on Monday over an agreement with the troika while speaking at private Skai radio.
He admitted that the government is at a critical point and asserted: "The government will not fall. We must have a four-year horizon, however difficult this may seem. The government will not fall. If the government falls, I prefer it does so fighting all the way."
The basic "thorn" in negotiations with the troika is foreclosure auctions, he said adding that the first residence of those who can not pay will be protected.
"The issue can be resolved. Those who cannot pay, should have their loan installement reduced and be given a longer period to repay their loan," he noted.
As for the government efforts to reduce tax evasion, Mitsotakis said that they have not brought the expected results.
 EU confirms troika not returning to Athens before Dec. 9BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The representatives of Greece's troika of lenders are not returning to Athens before the Eurogroup meeting on December 9, Simon O'Connor, spokesman for European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said on Monday.
During his regular press briefing, O'Connor said that the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund delegations will remain at home base and continue their talks with Greek authorities from there. The Eurogroup is not expected to discuss the Greek issue.
The spokesman reiterated that Greece has made progress in the financial sector and economic reforms but need to resolve pending issues. In earlier briefings, he has mentioned the fiscal gap for the 2014 budget, tax reforms, privatizations, competition, product markets and services that will enhance the economy's competitiveness.
Asked about the issue of seizures of first homes, he said that one of the major issues for an agreement to be concluded is to protect the most financially vulnerable families. The issue should be resolved without leaving room for abuse, as is happening now under the system in effect, he said.
Greece wants to fulfill its debt agreement obligations before the end of the year - the prior actions and current review by the troika of the fiscal adjustment programme - and its assumption of the EU presidency on January 1, 2014 for six months.
 DIMAR says government must repulse troika's demandsOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR), in an announcement on Monday, stressed that there has to be a strong renegotiation with Greece's lenders for a change in economic policy, commenting on the troika's insistence on a lifting of restrictions on foreclosure auctions and mass layoffs by private companies.
"The government's concessions encouraged troika's insistence on a mistaken policy of unfair austerity, which does not lead to an exit from the crisis. The government today must repulse the troika's unacceptable demands and not accept the taking of new measures that burden the society," stressed DIMAR.
In addition, DIMAR concluded with the statement that "the end of protection for primary residences and overtaxation of real estate with no real social criteria must not be accepted."
 Latest harsh measures will also be permanent, KKE says of gov't-troika stand-offCommenting on a stand-off in negotiations between the government and the troika representing Greece's creditors, the opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Monday stressed in an announcement that the austerity measures, old and new, were here to stay.
"The liberalisation of auctions and mass layoffs and other measures are anti-popular demands of the troika, equally anti-popular as the so-called 'red lines' drawn by the government, because they both serve an exit from the crisis benefiting capital," KKE said in an announcement.
"For this reason the measures, old and new, will be permanent because the target of capitalist growth is permanent," KKE said.
 'We are not looking for favours,' gov't vice-president Venizelos stresses at AHCC conferenceGreece is not looking for 'favours' but real recognition of the sacrifices made by the Greek people and of their limits, instead of additional austerity measures that 'cannibalise' the country's macroeconomic prospects, Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed on Monday, addressing an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference taking place in Athens.
"We are not looking for favours in a political negotiation, we want financial negotiation with intelligent partners, without bureaucratic inflexibilities," he underlined, asking that the troika representing Greece's creditors adopt a similar approach and not unjustifiably test the limits of Greek society and democracy.
He added that Greece wanted a prompt discussion, before the European Parliament elections, on the completion of the Greek programme.
Venizelos particularly focused on the issue of foreclosure auctions and whether these were so crucial, noting that they were not, in fact, crucial at all.
"The problem of the Greek banks is not whether the mortgage and consumer loans of poor and middle-class families are being serviced but the business loans," he said.
On the issue of restrictions of mass dismissals by companies, Venizelos again questioned whether this was such a critical issue given that the option existed anyway when it was necessary.
Venizelos said that he was levelling his criticism as PASOK's president also, stressing that his party had chosen to overlook political cost in order to keep Greece on its feet, and raising questions about whether the tension with the troika was justified "after all we have achieved and done".
According to Venizelos, the recycling of this discussion was absolutely "unfair" and "counterproductive".
He noted that the country's public debt was "very close to sustainability" and highlighted what he called the simultaneous successes of fiscal and structural reform.
 Troika demands could undermine support for government, S&D Group President Swoboda saysGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Monday met at the foreign ministry with visiting President of the European Parliament's Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group Hannes Swoboda, heading an S&D Parliamentary group delegation.
In statements at the meeting, Swoboda called for recognition of Greece's reform efforts and warned the institutions representing Greece's creditors, especially the troika, "not ask for things that are unacceptable because they will torpedo popular backing to the government in this difficult moment".
Venizelos reiterated the priorities of the forthcoming Greek EU Presidency namely, economic growth and new job positions, the protection of the European social state on a healthy fiscal and demographic basis, the consolidation of financial governance institutions and the banking union. Also, the protection of European borders and the European coastline, the management of migration flows without humanitarian crises like the tragic events in Lampedusa and Sicily and an integrated maritime policy, which was characterized by Venizelos as "horizontal priority".
On his part, Swoboda called on all parties involved, the troika of the country's creditors included, "to acknowledge the immense work done by the government to reform Greece, for example on administrative issues". He said that there is still a lot to be done but this cannot happen in a matter of days or even years, adding that "the European Commission, the European Council and institutional bodies, like the troika, should acknowledge everything that has been done," and not undermine popular support for the government by their demands.
He said that the issue of migration is of major importance and noted that "Greece has undertaken a huge task considering its difficult geographic position," adding that "actions in the Mediterranean region in particular will have to be improved".
On the issue of the phenomenon of the neo-Nazis, Swoboda underlined that "all types of extremism should be combated" and praised the government's determination "to combat criminal organizations hiding behind political movements or parties.
 Greeks cannot withstand more austerity, Venizelos underlines in telephone talk with SchaeubleBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos expressed opposition to the likelihood of new austerity measures in a telephone communication with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Sunday, according to German Press Agency DPA report citing Greek government sources.
According to the report from Athens, Venizelos underlined that Greeks cannot withstand more austerity, while there was a discussion regarding more international assistance.
During the weekend, the government vice-president also had a telephone communication with European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, DPA reported.
 German FinMin: Greece deserves respect for fiscal achievementBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Greece fulfilled its commitments better than expected during the last year and a half, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.
Schaeuble was reported as saying, "The growth data is better than we expected, the reduction of the fiscal deficit occurred faster than assessed," he added. The achievement was worthy of respect, he said.
Referring to the eurozone in general and its prospects, the German minister said the euro "has held up and remains stable, despite forecasts" and said "markets are no longer worried about the future of the eurozone, as there is no danger of the crisis spreading any more."
He asserted that "Europe has exited the longest recession in its history" but warned that its vision should be renewed, in order to deal with Euroscepticists. "Markets suddenly discovered that Europe is a complicated structure...we proved that even the complicated structure of Europe can be successful."
 Barroso underlines Greece's 'courage and determination'BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
The Greek government has shown "great courage and determination" in dealing with the special challenges it faced, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday while referring to the progress made by Greece in its efforts to get through the economic crisis.
Speaking at a tourism conference in Berlin, also attended by Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, Barroso stressed that there was no existential threat to the euro and suggested that a more balanced, more competitive and more resilient to global challenges European Union is now being built.
"Growth based on debt is not sustainable," Barroso stressed, warning Germany that "it will not remain an island of blissfulness, if surrounded by countries in crisis." He further suggested that tourism entrepreneurs from richer countries make investments in the countries of the South, such as his homeland Portugal or Greece.
"There are huge opportunities in these countries, which are now making major reforms in terms of competitiveness and ways to attract tourists," Barroso noted.
Referring to countries in trouble, the European Commission president reiterated the importance of continuing reforms and supplying the economy with incentives, particularly where recovery is mostly needed.
"For many citizens across Europe do not feel the improvement. The threat of a recovery without jobs still haunts us, and especially young people need hope and opportunities," he noted and expressed the belief that 2014 will be the year that economic reform efforts would be rewarded.
 Development minister Hatzidakis at Competitiveness Council in BrusselsThe Greek EU Presidency's four main priorities during the first half of 2014 are compensation from the cartels, food safety, the handling of pending issues regarding the question of public contracts and the growth process and new jobs.
This was stressed by Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, concerning issues of the ministry's area of responsibilities, in interventions by him at the Competitiveness Council held in Brussels on Monday.
According to an announcement by the ministry, concerning the European Commission's proposal-directive on personal compensation for cartel victims, Hatzidakis noted that it was an important step not only for competition law, but mainly for society.
"In essence, it is a measure of social policy because it gives consumers the right to claim compensation from the cartels," Hatzidakis said, adding that for this reason the specific measures should be adopted very soon.
 Deputy foreign minister addresses AHCC conference in AthensDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas on Monday stressed that the coming six months will have a "double message" since the start of Greece's exit from the deep economic recession will begin to take shape at the same time as the country "returns to the heart of European developments" through its stint in the rotating presidency of the European Union.
Speaking at the 24th conference organised by the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens, Kourkoulas referred to signs that Greece was gradually overcoming its economic woes, such as an impressive current accounts surplus or the reduction in the trade deficit, saying that this period of recovery will coincide with the Greek EU presidency and the run-up to the European Parliament elections.
Consequently, the Greek presidency will be called on to "contribute to restoring the credibility of the European vision" and a "new narrative" to counter not only the rising tide of neo-Nazism but also that of euroscepticism, he said.
He said the priorities of the Greek EU presidency will focus on economic growth on a European scale, boosting employment and, therefore, the "full and effective implementation of the Growth and Employment Pact".
Within its priorities will be promoting banking union and also the handling of migration flows, as well as an integrated maritime policy for growth and tourism, energy and maritime zones.
The deputy minister concluded by stressing the need for European solidarity and internal political stability, in order for this crucial six months to result in a happy outcome, urging Greece's European partners to heed the Greek government's warnings concerning the limits for horizontal cuts and the need to avoid "recycling" the recession.
 Deputy Dev't Min.: Government will protect first residenceThe government will honour its commitment to protect the first residence of every financiallly weak citizen, Deputy Development Minister Theodoros Skordas reiterated on Monday while speaking at private radio station To Vima.
He added that in negotiations with the troika of Greece's lenders, "the Greek side still retains the right ... (to unilaterally extend the protection of the foreclosure auctions, as of January 1, 2014)."
Skordas also noted that the troika believes that there are some borrowers who could probably meet their obligations but are choosing not to do so.
 Papoulias on a two-day official visit to South KoreaGreek President Karolos Papoulias is in South Korea on an official two-day visit starting Tuesday.
Papoulias is accompanied by a delegation of Greek business representatives who will participate in the Greek-Korean Economic Forum on Tuesday where he is scheduled to deliver an address.
On Monday afternoon (local time), Papoulias and the business delegation will visit Samsung Electronics amid speculations that the company is considering investments in Greece.
On Tuesday, the president will visit the National Assembly of Korea before addressing the Greek-Korean Economic Forum. At noon, he will arrive at the official guests' residence Yeong Bin Gwan, for a welcoming ceremony by President of South Korea Hugh Gkien Park. The two leaders, along with delegations from the two countries, will hold official talks and are expected to sign an agreement for the protection of classified military information.
On Tuesday evening the president of South Korea will host an official dinner in honour of Papoulias.
On Wednesday morning, Papoulias will visit the demilitarised zone on the 38th parallel, which divides North from South Korea. At noon, Papoulias and the Greek delegation will go to the monument of Greeks who fell in the war of Korea, at Incheon.
 Health Minister Georgiadis warns he will take action if doctors continue strikeHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis warned on Monday that he will take action if the doctors of the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) continue their strikes.
"I want to advise the EOPYY doctors to stop their strike. We do not want to be unfair to anyone. We just want to build a strong public primary health care system, accessible to everyone, and we want doctors to help us," Georgiadis noted during an interview at private Athina 9.84 radio station.
"I do not want to be in a war with the doctors. My office is always open for them to discuss their problems," he added expressing his concern over the problems of the Greek people.
"This strike must stop. It is pointless. The reform will definetely take place," Georgiadis underlined.
 Minister gives clarifications on labour reserve measure; slams Athens university rectorThe 11,000 layoffs that must be carried out in 2014 will come about through those not reabsorbed by the public sector when the labour reserve and mobility scheme measures have concluded, as well as those dismissed after assessment of the state's private-sector-law entities and those fired for disciplinary transgressions, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis repeated on Monday.
During an interview on SKAI private radio, the minister was also scathing about the rector of Athens University Theodosis Pelegrinis, saying he was "not fit to exercise his duties" and stressing that it was unacceptable for universities to be closed "and the rector to be in Paris play-acting".
He also clarified that the abolition of a job in one of the private-sector-law entities meant automatic dismissal, while for public-sector-law or civil service agencies the staff involved will enter a labour reserve pool.
Mitsotakis stressed that his ministry was now "caught up" with the prior actions required by Greece's creditors, having made up for the June delays in placing 12,500 staff in the mobility scheme.
He said the second wave of the mobility scheme had been given an "unofficial" extension of two to three months, stressing that this was a complicated process since the surplus positions had to be identified, assessed and the staff involved rated based on a point system.
Regarding public-sector dismissals, the minister stressed that "we have to make difficult and harsh decisions" in order to reach the target 15,000 layoffs by the end of 2014. He said the process would begin with those found guilty of discplinary transgressions or who were found to have given fake qualifications, noting that at least 45 members of the municipal police were found to have given fake foreign language certificates.
 Tertiary education administrative staff industrial action continuesThe fall semester was left hanging in the balance after the University of Athens (UoA) administrative staff on Monday voted to hold a new 48-hour strike on Wednesday and Thursday and a similar decision was reached by their colleagues in the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) for Tuesday and Wednesday, where sit-in protests by students are underway in five of its nine schools.
There were 168 administrative staff members voting in favour of the NTUA strike, while 128 voted in favour of ending the mobilization and continuing dialogue with Education Minister Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos on the basis of his proposal.
The UOA striking personnel discussed the proposal tabled by the minister in a meeting he had with their representatives on Sunday. According to administrative staff representatives who were present in the meeting, the minister provided assurances that there will be no layoffs and that employees on mobility will return to their posts with 75 pct of their wage; the remaining 25 pct will be covered by UoA resources.
However, the administrative staff general assembly voted in favour of continuing their strike because the minister's proposal was not accompanied by the necessary guarantees.
The University of Patras administrative staff also decided in favour of a 48-hour strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. Classes in the institution continue unaffected by the industrial action underway.
The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) administrative staff decided to hold work stoppages in protest to the public sector employee "mobility scheme" affecting them. Three-hour work stoppages will be held on a daily basis from 10:00 to 13:00 until Friday.
A UoA administrative staff union federation official stressed that they demanded assurances and guarantees, inviting the minister to dialogue "for the good of the university".
UoA staff will have a new general assembly on Thursday and a meeting with the university's rector Theodosis Pelegrinis on Tuesday, as well as seeking a meeting with Arvanitopoulos.
 Athens University rector faces disciplinary actionThe rector of the University of Athens (UoA) Theodosis Pelegrinis was on Monday referred to the disciplinary board on misconduct by Education minister Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, who said that in a statement that "unlike the other seven university rectors who have been affected by the so-called suspension measure, the UoA rector, Mr. Pelegrinis, keeps the institutions' doors closed by his inaction and inability to implemented the decisions taken by the senate."
"His (Pelegrinis') actions and oversights have harmed the operation and the authority of the University," Arvanitopoulos added.
The Education minister also noted that dialogue with administrative staff can take place only under the condition that tomorrow morning will be at their jobs.
"At the UoA, there is enough time not to 'lose' the semester, without making cuts in the educational process, even if classes would have to be held in the summer," the minister concluded.
 Dep. Admin Reform minister meets EuroParliament Socialist and Democrats presidiumDeputy Administrative Reform Minister Efi Christofilopoulou on Monday met with the leadership of the European Parliament's Progress Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group, in a meeting held in the context of Greece's EU presidency.
During the meeting, Christofilopoulou presented details of the public administration reforms in Greece and the country's cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for lifting administrative burdens and stamping out bureaucracy, as well as the new organisational charts and the assessment process for ministries and state agencies.
She referred to staff cuts in Greece's public sector that helped restrict payroll costs to the OECD average and noted that "we have achieved our targets and must now look to the productivity and quality of public administration".
Referring to PASOK's role, she stressed that PASOK had supported all the important laws until now and all the reforms.
"Our goal is to keep Greece alive in the euro and the eurozone. Now is the time for the European Union to rethink and promote growth with jobs in order to preserve social cohesion in the member-states," she added.
Socialists and Democrats Group President Hannes Swoboda underlined the need to promote necessary reforms in Greece and also boost economic growth.
 FM Venizelos gives interview to Turkish newspaperISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, speaking in an interview with the newspaper Sabah published on Monday, said that Greece and Turkey were ready "for a new step" in their relations.
Venizelos termed relations with Turkey "very constructive" despite "the known problems that have to do with the international law of the sea". He further said that "there is the weight of history, there are misunderstandings, but our stategic option is rapprochement and we are continuing successfully with the channels of dialogue." He stressed that "for the past 13 years we have definitely been on the right path. And this is our strategic choice".
Venizelos went on to say that "Turkey's European prospects are a strategic option for us. We need Turkey to be stable, developed, European and to not feel the need to export problems."
He also stressed the importance that progress in a solution of the Cyprus issue and called on to again Ankara take steps over Cyprus. "It will be someting important for our common fortune and our common future," he said, adding that "if we find the final solution we shall end a historic period and open new horizons".
The government vice president and foreign minister also said "we are ready to meet in Athens with the negotiator of the Turkish Cypriot community, that is a part of the agreement of 1960. If we do not make the first step, we cannot change the atmosphere", while he supported the ideas lately put forward by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
Lastly, referring to political situation in Greece and replying to a question by the newspaper, Venizelos explains that PASOK has taken on a very great political cost and the effort for the reorganisation of the Greek economy, warning that comparisons of the current main opposition party with the early days of PASOK after its founding by Andreas Papandreou were careless and superficial.
 SYRIZA on girl's death from brazier fumes; gov't spokesman's reponseIn an announcement concerning the death of a 13-year-old girl killed by inhaling fumes from an open brazier lit indoors, main opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) on Monday said that this was yet one more death in 2013 that highlighted, in the most tragic way, the painful consequences of memorandum policies and the harsh reality faced by thousands of families.
SYRIZA stressed that the right to heating, cheap electricity and heating oil in non-negotiable. It is a demand of society to avoid mourning more victims as a result of government callousness, it said.
Replying to the SYRIZA announcement, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accused the main opposition "of once again seeking to shamelessly exploit a tragic incident for its own ends. Shame!"
The 13-year-old girl of Serb nationality died on Sunday in the apartment where she lived with her 54-year-old mother in Xirokrini, Thessaloniki. The mother, who is unemployed, had been unable to keep up with electricity bills so the mother and daughter were living without power or heat and had lit the brazier to keep warm during Sunday night's bad weather.
A coroner attributed the girl's death to carbon monoxide poisoning.
 KKE party on two fatalities caused by bad weatherThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on the two fatalities caused by bad weather, said that "the recent bad weather resulting in two more dead, due to the energy poverty and lack of basic infrastructures and flood-protection projects, highlights in the most dramatic way the inhuman character of the policy that on the one hand gives 'everything' to capital and on the other deprives the people of basic infrastructures regarding residence, the protection of the lives and property of working class families."
The announcement was referring to what KKE called the "new prescribed crime in Argos from floods and in Thessaloniki from fumes."
It added that "despite the development of science and technology, the target of capitalist recovery leaves the people distanced from all these achievements, to live under conditions of past decades."
KKE stressed that "the government has a very great responsibility for the consequences of its policy and must provide a solution now, for both the longstanding problem of huge insufficiencies in infrastructures and flood protection works and the serious problem of heating."
 SYRIZA leader Tsipras to address American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference in AthensMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday will be the keynote speaker in the 24th Annual Conference of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel in Athens.
Tsipras will address the conference on "The Hour of the Greek Economy" at 09:30 on Tuesday, December 3.
Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos was scheduled to deliver a welcome speech on Monday at the opening of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference on "The New Greek Economic & Production Model: Reform-Investment-Growth."
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas was also scheduled to speak at the event on Monday.
 Transport minister Chyssohoidis to meet Commissioner Rehn in Brussels on TuesdayTransport and Infrastructure Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis will be visiting Brussels on Tuesday to brief European Commission vice president Olli Rehn on the amended contracts on the assignment of the motorways, which have been tabled in parliament. The two men are scheduled to meet at 9:30 in the morning.
The motorways contracts are expected to be ratified by Parliament by December 10.
 Parliament President Meimarakis to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina on TuesdayParliament President Evangelos Meimarakis will be on a one-day official visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday.
Meimarakis will meet with House of Representatives Speaker Dr. Denis Becirovic and Chairman of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly Chairman Stasa Kosarac.
He is also scheduled to meet with House of Representatives Deputy Speakers Dr. Milorad Zivkovic and Dr. Bozo Ljubic and Bosnian Parliamentary Group President in the House of Peoples Halid Genjak.
Meimarakis will also meet with representatives of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Parliamentary Assembly.
He will have talks with the chairman and the members of the country's three-member collective presidency, Zeljko Komsic, Bakir Izetbegovic and Nebojsa Radmanovic respectively.
Meimarakis will wrap up his visit after meeting with Council of Ministers Vice-President and Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Dr. Zlatko Lagumdzija.
 Parliament passes changes to its Rules of ProcedureCertain changes to the Parliament's Rules of Procedure were ratified by a large majority on Monday evening, including the procedure by which state funding and any other financial support are suspended for political parties under investigation for criminal acts.
The New Democracy and PASOK parties, as well as the opposition's Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Independent Greeks (ANEL) and Democratic Left (DIMAR) all voted in favour, while the Communist Party (KKE) voted "present".
The only party to vote against the new Rules of Procedure was the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, with deputy Elias Kasidiaris arguing that it was an illegal and unconstitutional act directed against GD.
SYRIZA deputy Manolis Glezos, who abstained from voting on the amendment, told the plenum that "the Golden Dawn should be dealt with in a political way, not by restraining measures."
 Financial aid of 150,000 euros for flood-stricken ArgosIn an immediate response to help the flood-stricken municipality of Argos-Mycenae, Peloponnese, meet urgent needs regarding restoration works and cleaning up streets and bridges, the Interior ministry announced on Monday it will urgently disburse the amount or 150,000 euros.
Those hit can receive the financial aid by filing an application and a solemn declaration. On the question of infrastructures and networks, an inventory will be made and restoration works will begin by the Public Investments Programme, including flood protection projects.
Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis visited the areas affected on Monday morning and a meeting was held at noon at the Old Town Hall of Argos with the participation of Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis and other officials.
 Fitch affirms Greece's B- rating, outlook stableFitch Ratings on Monday affirmed its B- rating on Greece's long-term state bonds and the outlook was stable. The credit rating agency said the country's foreign and local bonds ratings have been affirmed at B- while the short-term country ceiling rating has been upgraded to B+ from B.
In a statement, Fitch said?Greece is on course to eliminate longstanding macroeconomic imbalances and there has been no repetition of the protracted delays in EU-IMF disbursements that marred previous years.
Fitch expects negotiations with the Troika (EU-IMF-ECB) on the fifth review of the Economic Adjustment Programme (EAP) to reach a satisfactory conclusion by year-end.
Near term, Greece is fully funded until February 2014. Fitch acknowledges that there are program funding shortfalls of EUR11bn in 2014-15, but believes various options should be available to address these.
The Greek economy's ability to adjust and recover is crucial to the restoration of sovereign creditworthiness. To date, adjustment has taken place chiefly through recession and unemployment. Recovery still hangs in the balance. However, the rate of contraction of real GDP has slowed to 3% in 3Q from 5.6% y-o-y in 1Q, while unemployment appears to be leveling out, albeit at a record high of 27%.
Fitch has revised its real GDP forecast for 2013 to negative 4% from negative 4.3%, leaving 2014 unchanged at 0.5%. Primary fiscal surpluses are in sight, holding out the prospect of a stabilization in the public debt/GDP ratio, Fitch said, adding that the draft 2014 budget estimates that Greece should realize a primary surplus of 0.4% of GDP in 2013 and a headline deficit of 2.2% of GDP, down from 6.1% in 2012, excluding bank recapitalization costs.
The degree of primary fiscal adjustment - around 11% of GDP in 2009-13, excluding bank recapitalization costs - has been remarkable, while Fitch expects gross general government debt (GGGD) to stabilize at 176% of GDP in 2014.
 Greek economic data revised upwards, minister saysThere are strong indications that the sacrifices of the Greek people are beginning to bring results. These positive signs are the starting point for continuing an effort to exit the crisis the soonest possible with the smallest possible social cost, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said on Monday.
Addressing the annual conference of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, Staikouras said that an economic recession was slowing down, while initial estimates were revised upwards as a rising trend in unemployment was slowing down, inflation continued moving lower and the general economic climate was improving.
"It is estimated that the country will record a primary surplus of 812 million euros this year, while the program envisaged a zero surplus. This estimate does not include the positive impact of a retrospective reduction of the interest rate on loans offered to Greece and the transfer of returns from Greek state bonds held by European central banks. With these figures included, excluding the one-off support of financial institutions, the country's primary surplus is expected to reach 3.9 billion euros this year," Staikouras added.
The minister referred in detail to the policies of a wider strategy aimed at achieving sustainable primary surpluses, sustainable growth, boosting competitiveness, strengthening employment, safeguarding social cohesion. Staikouras said the government was promoting the designing of financial techniques to support the country's return to international capital markets, through the issue of short-term bonds, in the second half of 2014.
 Labour Minister Vroutsis optimistic about Greek economyLabour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis expressed his optimism for the development of the Greek economy during his speech at the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) conference on Monday.
"Greece carried the burden of the greatest fiscal adjustment -possibly in the entire world - and managed to send a positive message for all Europe," he noted.
Greece will have a primary surplus and positive current account balance for the first time, and unemployment will drop in 2014, he underlined.
"After so many years, Greece returns to recovery, with the help of the Greek people," he said adding that "Greece has crossed the ocean and it would be a pity to stop now."
 Parliament ratifies TAP contract with braod consensusThe agreement between Greece and the company managing the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline AG) natural gas pipeline was ratified in Parliament on Monday evening with a broad consensus. The pipeline will be passing through Greece and to supply Europe with natural gas from Azerbaijan.
Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis said "Greece is taking a place on Europe's energy map at last," adding that "it is a great national success", thanking for the extensive agreement reached in Parliament since New Democracy, PASOK and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) voted in favour of the bill, while the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) voted "present".
Voting against the bill were the Independent Greeks, Golden Dawn and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Speaking on behalf of the main opposition party, rapporteur Athanasios Petrakos asked for points in the ratifying contract to be amended and for more guarantees as regards the stipulation of the buyoff of 5 percent of the pipeline's shares by Greece and the unilateral selective possibility to be anticipated for an increase in the share stake to 15 percent after a decade.
 Tourism Minister Kefalogianni promotes Greek tourism in BerlinTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni underlined the important role the tourism industry can play in Greece's economic recovery, addressing the 17th annual conference of the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry (BTW) in Berlin, formally opened by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Kefalogianni underlined that tourism in Greece functions as a barometer for economic growth and employment and, at the same time, it is a highly important tool in the country's efforts to exit the crisis. "It is widely acknowledged that tourism is a major help in this difficult moment for Greece," she noted.
Referring to the Greek EU Presidency to be launched in January, Kefalogianni pointed out that the issues to be raised will concern the European south and will be associated with competitiveness, entrepreneurship and new investments in the tourism sector in the context of a new well-targeted tourism policy. "It is a vital issue for the countries of the south to reinforce tourism," she underlined.
As regards the government's recent reform work, Kefalogianni said that "we have met our pledges in pressing timetables" and underlined that "the Greek people have made painful sacrifices reaching their limits". She also reminded that the efforts have given results and referred to the primary surplus achieved by Greece.
The tourism minister also outlined the national strategic plan for tourism referring to its four key elements, namely, legislative reforms, the spatial aspect of tourism, the new NSRF and Greece's tourism campaign strategy.
During her visit to Berlin, Kefalogianni will meet with leading tour operators in Germany and give an interview to FVW, a leading German trade magazine for tourism and business travel.
 Business official on Greek site to promote tourismBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
German Hellenic Business Association (DHW) vice president Phaedon Kotsabopoulos praised on Monday the Greek government's decision to create a website promoting agencies in special natural, historic and cultural value that were not developed to now.
In an announcement, Kotsambopoulos said that last July DHW informed Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni that organised German sports, involving millions of young people, were looking for new sites to visit for educational purposes, such as the Centre of the International Olympic Academy in Olympia and to Korgialenios Anargyrios School on Spetses island.
He said that he was pleased DHW's proposal became a reality through the site www.grect.com.
 Greek-listed companies' profits up 150.6 pct in Jan-SeptGreek-listed companies reported a spectacular 150.6 pct increase in after tax earnings in the January-September period this year, totaling 5.797 billion euros, largely reflecting strong results reported by Greek banks, which were not burdened by heavy extra losses this year, a survey by Beta Securities showed on Monday.
The survey noted, however, that turnover fell 5.1 pct in the nine-month period to 53.374 billion euros, while operating earnings fell 18.9 pct to 4.732 billion euros.
Commenting on the results, the securities firm said the nine-month results rebounded strongly, reversing their decline, as most listed companies returned to profitability compared with those which fell to losses. Among the 206 listed companies, 81 (39 pct) were profitable and 25 (61 pct) loss-making. Among the profitable ones, 15 reported an increase in earnings, 28 lower earnings and 28 returned to profitability. Among the loss-making, 60 cut their losses, 48 saw their losses widening and 17 returned to loss.
Beta Securities said that Aegean Airines, Hellenic Exchanges, Plaisio, Sarantis, Metka, Iaso, Piraeus Port, Kyriakidis, Kanakis, FFGroup, Profile, Iktinos, MLS Informatics, Perseus, Karatzis, Elton Chemicals and Crete Plastics continued their positive earnings course. OTE, Thrace Plastics, Coca Cola and European Reliance reported lower profits and PPC showed a significant improvement in earnings.
Titan, Fourlis, Hellenic Petroleum and Motor Oil reported slightly improved results in the January-September period, while Papoutsanis, Crete Building, Petropoulos, Unibios, Eltrak, Kleeman, Info-Quest, Ekter, Euroconsultants, Lampsa, Varvaresos, Mermeren Combinat, Cyclon and Ionian Hotels returned to profitability.
On the other hand, Forthnet, Parnassos, Pegasus, Alumil, Heracles Cement, Dionic, Axon, Sfakianakis, Sidenor, Halcor, Hellenic Cables, Viohalco, Hygeia, GEK Terna, Avax, Creta Farm, Hellenic Sugar, Hellenic Textiles, Lavipharm and Akritas reported significant losses.
 Geniki Bank to be transformed into development and investment bankGeniki Bank will be tranformed into a specialised development and investment banking organisation, creating a new business plan of development through raising private capital from markets.
A bank statement said the plan will be submitted to banking authorities for approval as soon as it is ready.
Geniki Bank said its activities will focus on asset management products, raising savings, selective funding of healthy enterprises with capital and liquidity combined with a parallel raising of capital from international markets, capital market consulting services, management of international and domestic development and investment capital and offering a full range of non-performing loans management services.
The bank reported net after-tax losses of 14.4 million euros in the January-September period, from a net loss of 85.3 million euros in the corresponding period last year. Excluding extra expenses, its losses fell to 7.4 million euros.
Pre-provision loans totaled 3.1 billion euros, of which 49 pct were corporate loans.
Deposits totalled around 2.0 billion euros at the end of September, down 3.0 pct compared with December 2012, despite a significant reduction of the bank's branch network. Geniki Bank said non-performing loans fell 2.0 pct in the third quarter of the year, while its capital adequacy rate (Core Tier I) jumped to 17.55 pct in the third quarter from 14.70 pct in December 2012, the highest rate in the Greek market.
 Deputy Dev't Minister Mitarakis to represent Greece at WTO conference in IndonesiaDevelopment Deputy Minister Notis Mitarakis is visiting Indonesia on Monday to represent Greece at the 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to a ministry announcement.
On Tuesday, he will participate in the preparatory meeting of the Coordinating Council of EU Foreign Trade Ministers.
The WTO Conference will begin at 15.00 on Tuesday and will end on Friday.
 Chambers of Commerce propose export-import bankCredit growth is expected to remain negative for the fourth consecutive year in 2014, the president of the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry Konstantinos Michalos said during his visit to the exhibition "Made in Greece" on the extroversion of Greek products and services.
"Despite the recapitalisation of the banking system, borrowing is almost impossible for most businesses. Especially small and medium-sized businesses face the highest rejection rate in the eurozone. Whilst borrowing costs for business loans of less than one million euros are up to three times higher compared with loans to countries such as France, Belgium and Austria," he said adding that many companies have participated in international competitions where they had to pay cash value of guarantees.
Michalos noted that the cost of energy is a serious problem for manufacturing enterprises, exceeding 30 percent of total operating costs, as the last four years the price of electricity has increased by 45 percent, whereas natural gas in Greece is among the most expensive in the European Union.
Thus the Union of Chambers proposes the creation of a development export-import bank providing special programmes for pre-financing of exports, along with a more favorable tax environment, and motives for extrovertion as well as initiatives to reduce energy cost.
 Greek PMI rebounds to 49.2 pct in NovemberGreece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rebounded to 49.2 points in November, from 47.3 in October, to the highest level in the last 51 months, a Markit report showed on Monday.
The November data showed that new orders' levels stabilised after a decline in the previous month, while employment levels fell at a slower pace, contributing to an increase in the PMI.
Production levels in Greek manufacturers' factories rose slightly in November, ending a shrinking period which began at the end of 2009; growth however was limited in the consumer goods' sector, while intermediate and capital goods' producers recorded lower production levels for the month.
New orders' levels were unchanged from October, after falling for two months in a row, while employment levels continued falling, although at the slowest pace in the last four years.
The PMI is a composite index measuring business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 Greek economic sentiment index unchanged in Nov.Greece's economic sentiment index remained at 91.2 points in November, unchanged from the previous month, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Monday.
IOBE, in its monthly report, said that a deteriorating climate in the manufacturing and services sectors was counterbalanced by a slight improvement in the retail and construction sectors, while consumer confidence remained almost unchanged in the month. The Institute said expectations of citizens and enterprises were stabilising, with a recession trend slowing down while a rising tax burden further pressured family budgets and enterprises.
More analytically, business expectations in the manufacturing sector eased over short-term production trends and expectations over the current level of orders and demand deteriorating.
In the services sector, business expectations over their current activities weakened, forecasts over current demand remained unchanged while negative forecasts over short-term developments widened further.
In the retail sector, negative forecasts over current sales intensified although estimates over inventories showed signs of stabilisation.
In the construction sector, negative forecasts over the work programme intensified slightly, although estimates over employment rebounded.
In the consumer confidence, forecasts over households' finances deteriorated, while estimates over the country's economy improved, as did estimates over savings. Greek households, however, were more pessimistic over unemployment developments.
 Intrasoft in 37.8-mln-euro contract with EUIntrasoft International on Monday announced the signing of a new contract with the European Union's Tax and Customs Union Directorate-General.
The project, worth 37.8 million euros, covers IT services in taxation and special consumption tax system controls.
Intrasoft will participate in 45 pct of the budget, while Arhs Developments SA is controlling the remainder 55 pct. The contract has a maximum duration of eight years.
 Greek stocks end 2.72 pct higherGreek stocks ended significantly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, pushing the composite index of the market to new 2013 highs above the 1,200 level. Market sentiment was supported by a Moody's decision to upgrade the country's credit rating to Caa3 from C. The composite index ended 2.72 pct higher to 1,228.23 points, its highest closing since July 26, 2011. Turnover was a strong 145.68 million euros. The Large Cap index jumped 2.31 pct and the Mid Cap index rose 2.99 pct. MIG (8.98 pct), Hellenic Exchanges (8.70 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (8.06 pct), Ellaktor (6.33 pct) and GEK Terna (5.92 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Hellenic Petroleum, National Bank and Alpha Bank remained unchanged. All sectors moved higher with the Financial Services (8.78 pct), Raw Materials (5.18 pct), Utilities (3.78 pct) and Health (3.65 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 95 to 42 with another 20 issues unchanged. Ideal (29.53 pct), Kathimerini (26.78 pct) and Spider (20 pct) were top gainers, while Hellenic Aquaculture (18.99 pct), Sato (18.37 pct) and Medicon (16.52 pct) were top losers.
 ASE suspends trading in Shelman, AlsincoThe Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) on Monday announced it was temporarily suspending trading in the shares of Shelman and Alsinco, in response to a request by the Capital Market Commission.
ASE said it was suspending trading in Shelman for a maximum period of 10 days in order to protect investors following the release of the company's quarterly results, which showed a "negative conclusion" by the company's auditor.
ASE also suspended trading in Alsinco after the company failed to timely release its results for the January-September period.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.00%
Personal & Household: +2.41%
Raw Materials: +5.18%
Travel & Leisure: +2.46%
Food & Beverages: +1.47%
Financial Services: +8.78%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OTE, OPAP and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.66
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.30
Coca Cola HBC: 20.95
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.85
National Bank of Greece: 4.58
Eurobank Properties : 8.65
Piraeus Bank: 1.65
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank on Monday, falling below the 7.0 pct level to 6.93 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market, with the Greek bond yielding 8.66 pct and the German Bund 1.73 pct. Turnover was a thin 4.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.502 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.422 pct, the six-month rate was 0.331 pct, the three-month rate was 0.236 pct and the one-month rate was 0.17 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.10 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover rising to 23.016 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,922 contracts worth 13.916 million euros, with 51,594 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,653 contracts worth 9.100 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,221), followed by National Bank (1,933), Alpha Bank (1,804), MIG (1,579), OTE (1,963), PPC (1,139), OPAP (425), Hellenic Exchanges (1,142), Motor Oil (681(, GEK (377), Ellaktor (293), Jumbo (162), Intralot (196), Athens Water (204), Hellenic Petroleum (240) and Mytilineos (1,028).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.373
Pound sterling 0.838
Danish kroner 7.571
Swedish kroner 9.023
Japanese yen 141.25
Swiss franc 1.250
Norwegian kroner 8.434
Canadian dollar 1.460
Australian dollar 1.503
 Strong winds, sharp drop in temperatures expected this weekStrong northerly winds and a drop in temperatures along with snowfall in higher elevations of the country are expected this week, according to the weather service.
Following a heavy rainfall that flooded many Greek cities over the weekend, the eastern part of Greece and Attica, including Athens, in particular will be hit by strong northerly winds reaching as high as 10 on the Beaufort scale.
The strong winds will lead to a steep drop in temperatures, below 0 Celsius, not only the north but throughout the Greek mainland.
Snowfall is expected in higher elevations on Evia island, the eastern Peloponnese and Attica (in altitudes of over 900 metres) as well as on Crete.
Director of the National Meteorological Service (EMY) Antonis Lalos told ANA-MPA that "we are in the heart of winter, that is why we have constant weather changes".
Low temperatures will continue until Saturday, when southerly winds will take over and cause temperatures to rise again.
 Torrential rain floods major cities of Corinth, Argos; woman drowns in her apt.A woman drowned in her apartment in northeastern Peloponnesian city of Argos following flooding by heavy rain and thunderstorms that started Saturday and continued into Sunday.
The woman has not been identified yet but may be of Serb origin and was found in her apartment in Argos, the city to bear the brunt of the flooding in Greece when two local rivers overflowed.
Fire brigade units from throughout the Peloponnese were called to Argos to help people in the city that had become unapproachable because of the height of the waters.
Several villages in the same area were also affected and power went out, both in mountain and valley villages.
The major hub of Corinth, which links the mainland with the Peloponnese, also had problems with flooding and the fire brigade called in at least 30 cases to pump water out while nearby Kiato units got as many as 100 for help in getting people out of their homes and pumping water.
Further south in the Peloponnese, schools were shut down in the Kynouria district, especially in main production town of Leonidio, which flooded when the sea rose and overran cultivations. Rock slides led to the shutting down of the Tripoli-Astros road, which is expected to be cleared by midday Monday, while the mayor of North Kynouria said the worst problem was the garbage carried by the Argolid rivers that has washed up by the shore.
 Road to Nemea reopens; ministers converge on flooded ArgosCirculation on the Corinth-Tripolis motorway leading towards Nemea was restored on Monday after repair of the sunken part of the pavement destroyed by heavy rainfall that hit the area on Sunday.
However Argos is facing a lot of difficulties after heavy flooding over the weekend that made roads impassable. Residents and store owners are removing mud carried by two rivers that overflowed into the city, with preliminary estimates saying that the damages are severe.
A government's delegation headed by Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis, Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis and Deputy Culture Minister Yiannis Adrianou are currently in Argos to meet with the prefect of Peloponnese Petros Tatoulis, the chief of Peloponnese Fire Brigade Constantinos Giovas, Argos mayor Dimitris Kambosis and other officials.
 Interior Minister to visit flood-striken city of ArgosInterior Minister Yiannis Michelakis on Monday will go to the city of Argos that was striken by heavy thunderstorms on Sunday.
Michelakis will visit the area to estimate the situation, following the order of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
 Adolescent dies from brazier fumes in ThessalonikiA 13 year-old girl of Serbian nationality died on Sunday of fume inhalation from a brazier that she and her mother had lit to keep warm in Xirokrini, Thessaloniki.
The girl and her 54 year-old mother, who is unemployed, lived in an apartment without electiricity.
According to police, who arrested the mother, they were called by the national emergency aid service for a sudden death in an appartment in Xirokrini at 23:00 on Sunday. Police confirmed the girl's death and said it appeared that the mother, who was unconscious, had regained consciousness and called for help.
The coroner attributed the girl's death to carbon monoxide poisoning.
 Mother of adolescent who died from smoke inhalation released by authoritiesA 54-year-old Serbian national, arrested over the death of her 13-year-old daughter of smoke inhalation from a brazier on Sunday, was released on Monday by order of the prosecutor in Thessaloniki.
A case file being drawn on her will be sent to court.
The woman and her daughter lived in an apartment without electricity, which had been cut for the last three months over unpaid bills; they had lit a brazier for heat in their home at the Xirokrini district of Thessaloniki. Responding to a call, police confirmed the adolescent's death at the scene, while a coroner who arrived said she had died of poisoning, most probably from smoke inhalation.
According to the neighbours, the mother had been living in Thessaloniki for ten years and working at temporary jobs but had had trouble finding any work recently.
A neighbour on the same floor, speaking to the authorities, said he had tried to give mouth to mouth resuscitation to the girl. "Sara was a classmate of my daughter, used to come often to our apartment and I knew they were preparing to return to Serbia," he said. She had another sister in Serbia and a brother who lives in Athens.
The principal of the school she went to, Archontoula Anesti, said "nobody knew the straits they had come to, not even her friends." She said that if they had known, they could have been helped through church programmes or through the city, where a city council member said there was no application by her for free meals or similar services.
 KAPA RESEARCH survey on disabled unveiled"Greek society no longer hides the problem of disability; progress has been made in specific living conditions of people with disabilities over the last ten years. However, there has been a rapid deterioration in their lives with respect to their means of livelihood as a result of the crisis, a matter that must be addressed by the state. At the same time, the public greatly opposes any policy that burdens people with disabilities."
These are the key conclusions reached by a nationwide survey presented on Monday ahead of the National Day for the Disabled on December 3, conducted by KAPA RESEARCH for the National Confederation of People with Disabilities (ESAmeA) to investigate Greek society's views on disability issues.
Among its findings, the survey showed that 51,6% of persons related to someone with a disability or a chronic ailment report that the biggest difficulties are financial, 49,1% reported difficulties in transactions with public services and 37,1% highlighted psychological, emotional and practical problems.
Life for people with disabilities got worse over the past three years, according to 58,8% of respondents, with loss of income, including benefits and pensions, cited as top cause by 74,1%. Other difficulties were access to employment (59,1%) and the support afforded to families with disabilities (53,7).
At the same time, 88,2% said that a key obstacle preventing disabled people from living with dignity was the inadequacy of state structures, 73,3% referred to social prejudices, 65% to the psychology of a disabled person and the 58% to the disability in itself.
An overwhelming 95,9% answered yes to the question: "Do you believe that the society must cover the additional living cost that occurs due to disability?" and 96,5% estimated that the economic crisis has created major difficulties for families with a disabled person.
On policies for the inclusion of the disabled, 93.2% were in favour and said that this was an issue of human rights, while 82% said that government policies promoting equality and diversity were considered less important in Greece and received less funding.
In terms of discrimination, 79.4% believe that this exists in Greece and is most in seeking employment and equal access in public places.
Areas where there have been improvements relate to access to new technologies and the internet (63.6%), access to news and information (55.6%) and better access to education and public transport.
Overall, the government, trade unions and political parties ranked last in the assessment of their work for the disabled.
"The conclusion that arises is that the existing social state is not enough, either in terms of quality or in terms of quantity," Deputy Labour and Welfare Minister Vassilis Kegeroglou commented on Monday, saying that the government must work harder to improve the situation.
The survey was conducted using a sample of 4,506 people from October 31 to November 21.
 Happy ending for three hikers on Mount OlympusThe adventure of the three hikers caught out by bad weather on Mount Olympus ended happily, while the mobilisation of firemen and volunteers sent out to look for them proving to be a false alarm.
The search began on Sunday night when their families reported that the hikers were not answering their cell phones. Their concern further deepened because of the bad weather prevailing on that day. As it turned out, all three were safe and well but had moved towards the Mouses Plateau, an area that is off the mobile network, and spent the night in a shelter. On Monday morning, the three men managed to communicate with their families and informed them that they were doing well and were on their way home.
Members of the Hellenic Rescue Team stressed the need for those climbing the mountain to be fully equipped with wireless radios, in order to avoid unnecessary mobilizations.
 Criminal group commiting thefts in Lakonia uncoveredThe Sparta Police Department on Monday uncovered a criminal group suspected of a spate of shoplifting, home and car thefts, including twenty-nine cases of burglaries and thefts.
Members of the criminal group are five Roma aged 15-24, who were charged with forming a criminal gang and aggravated theft.
More specifically, the police investigation showed that the Roma team had formed a criminal group at the end of last September in order to commit thefts in different areas of Lakonia in the Peloponnese.
Their suspected activity included stealing money, electronic devices and various objects whose value exceeded 4,000 euros.
 Foreign woman reports being gang raped in a farm near KilkisA 38-year-old woman, a Bulgarian national, reported to police that she was the victim of a gang rape by three men, also Bulgarians, it was announced on Monday.
According to police, the woman, who had agreed with the suspects to transport her from her country to Athens, was raped in a farm in the village of Horigi in the northern prefecture of Kilkis.
The victim told police that her assailants locked her in a room where they gang raped her and using physical force robbed her of 215 euros she was carrying. According to her testimony, after they assaulted her they put her in a car and abandoned her in the town of Nea Messimvria, near Thessaloniki.
One of the alleged suspects, a 49-year-old, has already been arrested in the village where the rape was allegedly committed. He is facing charges for rape, robbery and illegally holding an individual.
An investigation is underway for the arrest of the two remaining rape suspects.
 Three undocumented migrants still missing after boat capsizes in Evros RiverPolice and Coast Guard rescue operation to locate three undocumented migrants in the Delta of Evros River continued on Monday.
Four migrants left the Turkish coast on Sunday with two dinghy boats to cross into Greece. One of the boats with four migrants on board capsized and the migrants fell into the frigid waters of Evros. One of them managed to swim and reach the Greek coast while the other three are still missing.
There was no information on the second dinghy.
The Turkish authorities have been informed on the incident and are conducting a search on the opposite banks of the river.
 Rainy on TuesdayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday. Winds 3-10 beaufort. Temperatures between 0C and 17C. Local showers in Athens with northerly 6-9 beaufort winds and temperatures between 8C and 11C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 4C and 6C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: Government with the gun at the head.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Favours and in reserve labour.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Government's show with real estate.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Last chance for pension at the age of 50.
ESTIA: Great politicians, great visions.
ETHNOS: Regulation breather for municipal employees.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Tax documentation required for transactions.
TA NEA: Crime and comedy (refers to condition in Universities).
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