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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-04-17

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 17 April 2014 Issue No: 4636

CONTENTS

  • [01] Diplomacy should prevail, Defence Minister Avramopoulos says on Ukraine
  • [02] EU Commissioner Barnier to ANA-MPA: Greece's exit to the markets extremely important
  • [03] EU Commissioner Reding says Greece's future is promising
  • [04] Infrastructure minister meets with French Ecology minister in Paris
  • [05] 'Generics will not increase the cost for the insured' Health minister says
  • [06] Greece needs to draw up its own national reorganization plan, Administrative Reform Minister Mitsotakis says
  • [07] Judges call for speeding up of Golden Dawn MPs' immunity lifting
  • [08] LAOS president Karatzaferis resorts to justice on the Baltakos case
  • [09] Decision on social dividend distribution signed
  • [10] Opposition leader Tsipras slams the premier from Chalkida rally
  • [11] SYRIZA on developments related to Eurobank share capital increase
  • [12] U.S. ambassador visits Lesvos at Justice minister's invitation
  • [13] Supreme Court forwards to prosecutor movement's complaint on Syrian chemicals processing
  • [14] Husbands of self-employed women are entitled to paternity leave, says the Greek Ombudsman
  • [15] Development Minister Hatzidakis stresses the importance of innovation
  • [16] Hellenic Navy contracts with Skaramangas workers to finish work on four submarines
  • [17] Eurozone annual inflation down to 0.5 pct in March, Eurostat
  • [18] NBG to discuss 2.5 bln euro capital increase at May 10 meeting
  • [19] Hellenic-Arab Chamber holds event on the two countries' economic and trade relations
  • [20] Pharmaceutical sales up in volume, down in value in 2013, report
  • [21] EAV participates in Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' C-130J production programme
  • [22] Companies have until June 20 to settle pending issues with the tax bureau
  • [23] Industrial turnover index down 0.1 pct in Feb
  • [24] Spending on wages and salaries in public sector fell in 2013, report
  • [25] First cruiseship arrival in Chania port opens 2014 tourist season
  • [26] Bottled water consumption on the decrease, ICAP says
  • [27] Greek stocks recover strongly after nine-day decline
  • [28] ADEX closing report
  • [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [30] Swiss Committee on the Return of Parthenon organises events at Zurich and Geneva Universities
  • [31] "Greeks are the best audience," British saxophonist Nat Birchall says
  • [32] Former leper colony of Spinalonga, now a UNESCO-listed site, gets improvements
  • [33] Blast outside home of former Tsochatzopoulos associate
  • [34] Railway workers' strike on Saturday, Sunday and Monday
  • [35] Pension fraud cases file forwarded to prosecutor
  • [36] Contraband tobacco confiscated in Patras; three women arrested
  • [37] Overcast on Thursday
  • [38] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies Politics

  • [01] Diplomacy should prevail, Defence Minister Avramopoulos says on Ukraine

    The developments in Ukraine, EU's military operation in the Central African Republic, the EU maritime security strategy and the development of its military potential and defence industry dominated the EU Defence Ministers Council and the meeting of the European Defence Agency board held on Tuesday in Luxembourg.

    Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who represented Greece's EU presidency, referred to the developments in Ukraine and underlined the need for diplomacy and a political solution as in Ukraine it is not "the peaceful settlement of a regional crisis that is jeopardized but also the global stability. I believe it is now the time to reaffirm our commitment to the value of mutual understanding and conciliation."

    He also expressed the hope that the "meeting on Holy Thursday in Geneva between the EU, the United States, Ukraine and Russia will bear concrete and tangible results that will lead to the de-escalation of the crisis. The common goal should be a free, democratic and undivided Ukraine, uniting in practice the Euro-Atlantic area with Russia."

    Regarding the EU maritime security strategy, Avramopoulos stressed that "it is the duty of the Union to protect its interests for a safe, open and clean marine environment, allowing the free movement of goods and people and the peaceful, lawful, fair and sustainable use of marine wealth." He finally reiterated his proposal to upgrade the European Defence Agency to "'a pillar of the European Union, equal to those of the political and economic union."

    [02] EU Commissioner Barnier to ANA-MPA: Greece's exit to the markets extremely important

    Greece's exit to the markets is extremely important not only for Greece but for whole the European Union, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier on Wednesday told ANA-MPA WebTV in an interview on Wednesday, underlining that "the confidence returns" and estimated that the "reforms bring results to Greece and are to the right direction."

    "It is an extremely important situation not only for Greece but for all of us. I have said during the crisis...that Greece must make efforts but also that it is not alone. There is also the EU," said Barnier at a query on Greece's exit to the markets. "The confidence seems to be returning. That is why this is good news not only for Greece but for whole the EU".

    At a question whether an additional reforms programme will be necessary, Barnier expressed the opinion that "things are not normal yet and the efforts must continue according to the indications, the volition, the proposals and the decisions of prime minister Antonis Samaras' government which is a government of national unity and showed huge courage".

    Asked on whether there is a risk of Greece leaving the eurozone given the main opposition SYRIZA's different positions from the government, the EU Commissioner declined to make any comments, saying it was not his role to say to the Greek people what to vote or interfere in Greece's elections for the local governments.

    "I know that the policy implemented by Samaras' government is fruitful and that the reforms have results for Greece that are to the right direction. My only choice is for Greece to remain on the same direction, to go further and to count on the other European countries' solidarity, as it happens today," concluded Barnier.

    Barnier's interview is available on http://www.amna.gr/webvideo.php

    [03] EU Commissioner Reding says Greece's future is promising

    European Commission Vice-president and Commissioner responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding on Wednesday underlined that the dominant question in the forthcoming European elections is whether "we want a fragmented Europe or a strong united Europe where people live and prosper".

    In an interview with ANA-MPA WebTV, she also referred to Greece, noting that the "latest economic news shows that there is hope and that things are getting better," expressing the conviction that "the Greeks realise that Europe has not abandoned them".

    (For the full interview, please refer to WebTV on the ANA-MPA Internet page.)

    [04] Infrastructure minister meets with French Ecology minister in Paris

    Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis on Wednesday met with French Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Minister Segolene Royal in Paris, in the framework of the Greek EU Presidency, with talks focusing on European railways policies.

    The ministers discussed two important issues, the adoption of the fourth railways package and railways policies in Europe, and the SHIFT2RAIL programme (with a budget of 1 billion euros), which after the necessary negotiations was voted by the European Parliament last week.

    In addition, the two ministers discussed issues related to the introduction of common truck inspection mechanisms to fight illegal activities in Europe's transportation sector and safeguard free competition. The ministers agreed to work on joint proposals over the installation of photovoltaic systems in trains and railway facilities, a programme partially applied by Greece already through GaiaOse, dealing with real estate assets of Hellenic Railways (OSE).

    [05] 'Generics will not increase the cost for the insured' Health minister says

    Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Wednesday reassured that generics would not increase the cost for the insured people.

    Generic drugs correspond to 20 percent of drugs consumed in Greece compared to 60 percent in Europe, Georgiadis said during a visit to a clinic treating people with autism.

    "This is completely wrong...We have to change our way of thinking and one of the goals is to change the way the cost covered by the insurance funds is determined," the Health minister said.

    Asked if there is a hidden price hike in generic drugs, up to 78 percent, as it is said, he replied: "There is no hidden hike. The insurance price in an active substance is the average of the three cheapest generics with an average market share of 4 percent at least." The Health minister added that prices have already fallen and are expected to fall further in June.

    Regarding the upcoming European Parliament elections, Georgiadis said: "I believe that New Democracy will be the first party in the elections. I am absolutely sure of it." Asked if the ballot ticket is unitary and if it includes new persons, he replied: "It was a very nice ballot ticket."

    [06] Greece needs to draw up its own national reorganization plan, Administrative Reform Minister Mitsotakis says

    Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday underlined that "the cycle of mobility and layoffs with the implementation of the memorandum commitments is closing," adding that the country need to draw up its own national reorganization plan.

    Speaking on Real FM private radio station, he referred to the public administration twelve-priority reform agenda unveiled a few days ago, to the new organizations in 14 government ministries that have already been submitted for approval to the Council of State and to the new selection plan for public sector managers that will be put to public consultation by the end of the month. He noted that the selection of managers will be made through the state hiring agency ASEP, underlining that political intervention in the procedure will be impossible.

    Referring to the system of employee transfers in the public sector, he said that employees, following an open and transparent procedure, will be able to apply to cover vacancies that will result from the evaluation of structures and staffing plans.

    He also referred to the administration of disciplinary justice, noting that all pending issues are being recorded. As regards the government's Diavgeia website, which promotes transparency, he said that it is a very successful institution that is being upgraded and "the political parties being financed almost exclusively by the state budget should be included in it".

    [07] Judges call for speeding up of Golden Dawn MPs' immunity lifting

    Examining magistrates handling the case of extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) Ioanna Klapa and Maria Dimitropoulou on Wednesday asked for an immediate decision regarding the lifting of the immunity of the party's deputies, stressing that the examination timetable is very narrow.

    The two magistrates underlined that 66 persons are involved in the case, from which 29 are in custody. They stressed that the timetable in connection with the examination's completion and the initiation of the trial is very narrow, as the procedures should be completed within 18 months, otherwise some of the detained individuals could be released before trial.

    Klapa and Dimitropoulou completed the testimonial procedures of non-political individuals involved with the case after the complementary testimonies of Giorgos Roupakias and Yannis Kazantzoglou, over their alleged involvement in the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas and participation in a criminal organisation.

    [08] LAOS president Karatzaferis resorts to justice on the Baltakos case

    The Athens First Instance Court Prosecutor's office on Wednesday forwarded to the Supreme Court prosecutor a complaint report filed by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) president Giorgos Karatzaferis, who is requesting the launch of a preliminary investigation to determine if there was "political intervention" in the handling of the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) case by justice.

    However, the prosecutor can take no court action, as Karatzaferis' report is requesting the initiation of proceedings against the prime minister and the ministers of Justice and Public Order, who fall under Constitution-related laws protecting ministers from court suits. Therefore, the report will be forwarded to Parliament.

    Karatzaferis filed the report in response to the contents of the videotaped conversation between former cabinet secretary Panagioris Baltakos and Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kassidiaris.

    [09] Decision on social dividend distribution signed

    The Joint Ministerial Decision determining income and asset criteria for the payment of the social dividend (out of the state's budget surplus), its amount, the categories of beneficiaries, the agency, the procedure and the time and way of its payment was signed on Wednesday.

    According to the decision, the social dividend is paid in a lump sum to support citizens and families with a low total annual income and real estate of small value, based on specific income and real estate criteria that must apply accumulatively.

    [10] Opposition leader Tsipras slams the premier from Chalkida rally

    The leader of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition SYRIZA party Alexis Tsipras lashed against Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in a speech delivered at a rally in Chalkida, Evia, on Wednesday, calling the premier "a comedian" and a "leader of catastrophe who advertises himself as a saviour".

    For SYRIZA's leader, the premier "is a comic when he poses as guarantor of the unity of a society which he breaks apart and crushes every hour".

    Tsipras announced that he intends to organise referendums for crucial issues, while he also demanded caution in bank-related matters, warning that "in the banking scandal there will be no immunity".

    The leader of the opposition qualified Greece's re-emergence in the bond markets as "tragicomic", explaining that it is "comic because it brought hilarity to all serious analysts and economists" and "tragic because it burdened the Greek people with new debts and endowed Samaras' international patrons with hundreds of millions".

    Tsipras also found "comitragic" the "distribution of the pre-electoral social dividend of philanthropy", which in his view constitutes a "savage attempt to buy out the conscience of the people, matching no other ever seen previously in Greece".

    He went on to note that "the end of memorandums [the texts governing the tripartite Greek bailouts] and of those who impose them is near" and accused the coalition government of "having tied the country hand and foot to (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel's chariot".

    In response to Tsipras' verbal attack of the government and the premier, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou replied with the following: "Misery begets panic. Tsipras wanted to become Chavez and degenerated to Beppe Grillo. We move on! Happy Easter, Mr. Tsipras!"

    [11] SYRIZA on developments related to Eurobank share capital increase

    The Economic Policy Sector of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) termed developments focusing on Eurobank's share capital increase "a crime at an opportune price", stressing that they "signal the start of the big scheme (we had named it "colpo grosso"), aimed at the sellout of public property for the private profiteers to get rich once again at the expense of the Greek taxpayers".

    Criticising the government and the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, SYRIZA stressed that "the intention to support the interests of the oligarchy and of local and foreign capital is obvious, and causing great harm to the Greek state".

    [12] U.S. ambassador visits Lesvos at Justice minister's invitation

    United States Ambassador to Greece David Pearce arrived in Mytilene, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesvos, on Wednesday, invited by Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou.

    The U.S. ambassador, together with the Justice minister and Lesvos mayor Dimitris Vounatsos visited the Mytilene Archaeological Museum.

    The mayor invited Pearce to attend this summer the inaugural courses of the University of Maine-Portland Summer School programme, at a municipal building in the region of Skala Mystegnon where professors and students of the university will be housed. Pearce accepted the mayor's invitation gladly.

    [13] Supreme Court forwards to prosecutor movement's complaint on Syrian chemicals processing

    The Supreme Court forwarded a complaint filed by the "Citizens' Movement against the Neutralization of Syria's Chemical Weapons in the Mediterranean Sea" to an Athens prosecutor.

    The citizen's movement claims in its complaint that there are ongoing violations of international and Greek environmental law by Greece as regards the neutralization of Syria's chemical weapons, owed to Greece allegedly refraining from excercising its rights granted by the legal framework on environmental jeopardy, which the ship load of Syrian chemicals in the Mediterranean is supposed to cause.

    The movement claims that the destruction of 1,000 tonnes of chemicals from Syria's arsenal is methodically arranged.

    As reported in the complaint, the whole process poses a pollution hazard to the Mediterranean Sea and its inhabited environment. It is also stressed, that there has been an official information blackout on this sensitive issue since November 2013.

    [14] Husbands of self-employed women are entitled to paternity leave, says the Greek Ombudsman

    Husbands now have the right to a paternity leave regardless of whether their wives are on a payroll or self-employed, according to the new National Collective Work Agreement, said the Greek Ombudsman on Wednesday.

    The Ombudsman's office underlined that according to article 2 of the Work Agreement, signed on March 26, self-employed women's husbands are entitled to a paternity leave, which is initially implemented in the form of reduced working hours.

    It said that it had noted as early as 2010 that fathers on payroll were not entitled to a paternity leave if their wives were self-employed, which constituted a gender-based discrimination.

    Financial News

    [15] Development Minister Hatzidakis stresses the importance of innovation

    The meeting with startup and innovative businesses was probably the main event during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit in Athens last week, Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Wednesday.

    Hatzidakis, who chaired the meeting of the Innovation Council, underlined Greece's dynamics, adding that Greece that does not give up, it fights and wins. "This is the kind of Greece we want to support with our strategy for innovation," the minister said.

    The strategic discussed during the meeting is based on boosting the Venture Capital institution, appointing a Chief Technology Officer, facilitating the connection between research and production, promoting the so-called "incubators" of businesses in order to support young entrepreneurship in practice and offering incentives so as to adopt the Business Angels system that supports young entrepreneurship.

    "We consider innovation a key pillar of the new Greek economy. The economy will be reborn through the problems of the crisis," Hatzidakis noted adding that this is also the reason why Prime Minister Antonis Samaras decided to double the funds allocated to innovation to 8 percent of the budget from 4 percent.

    [16] Hellenic Navy contracts with Skaramangas workers to finish work on four submarines

    The Hellenic Navy has called on workers at Skaramangas Shipyards to contract for the completion of work on four submarines it has commissioned, it was announced on Wednesday.

    In an effort to restart the submarine construction, the Navy at an initial stage extended an invitation to the Shipyard employees to inform them on the work to be done and the way that it will be completed at the enterprise's facilities. The employees were asked to present themselves at the Skaramangas facilities at 10:00 a.m. on May 5 and 6 May.

    Following relevant announcements by National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos a day earlier, Navy officials visited the Skaramangas shipyards are examining the state of the submarines so that the necessary work can start immediately.

    According to the agreement, the Hellenic Navy will contract with Skaramangas workers to complete the submarine work, and any relation between the two parties will be dissolved ipso jure at the end of the project.

    [17] Eurozone annual inflation down to 0.5 pct in March, Eurostat

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    Eight eurozone member-states registered negative inflation, while only another four showed an annual inflation rise of over 1 percent, according to the European Union's official statistics agency, Eurostat, data released Wednesday.

    On average annual inflation was 0.5 pct in March 2014, down from 0.7 pct in February. A year earlier the rate was 1.7 pct.

    In March 2014, negative annual rates were observed in Bulgaria (-2.0 pct), Greece (-1.5 pct) and Cyprus (-0.9 pct), while the highest annual rates were recorded in the United Kingdom (1.6 pct), Malta and Austria (both 1.4 pct).

    Compared with February 2014, annual inflation fell in 19 member-states, remained stable in 3 and rose in 6.

    The largest upward impacts to euro area annual inflation came from tobacco and restaurants & cafes (+0.08 percentage points each) and milk, cheese & eggs (+0.06), while fuels for transport (-0.24), telecommunications (-0.10) and heating oil (-0.06) had the biggest downward impacts.

    [18] NBG to discuss 2.5 bln euro capital increase at May 10 meeting

    The National Bank of Greece (NBG) decided to call an extraordinary general meeting on May 10 to approve a capital increase in cash through a non pre-emptive share issue of new ordinary shares, with total gross proceeds of up to 2.5 billion euros, it said late on Wednesday.

    In an announcement, the NBG Board of Directors said the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) has indicated its support for the equity issue by voting in favour of the calling of the meeting.

    The equity issue is expected to be executed by means of a private placement through a book-building outside of Greece to institutional and other eligible investors, it added.

    "The proposed offering is expected to allow for the completion of the transaction on an expedited basis and is also intended to provide the opportunity to attract new investors seeking exposure to the Greek economic recovery as well as existing shareholders and holders of warrants relating to the Bank's shares issued by the HFSF," according to the bank announcement.

    It added that Goldman Sachs International and Morgan Stanley & Co International plc will act as joint global coordinators and joint book runners on the equity issue.

    In explaining the rationale behind the decision, NBG said that its capital needs were estimated by the Bank of Greece on March 6 at 2,283 million euros in the baseline scenario. NBG will take additional actions besides the equity issue; the Bank of Greece "has determined capital actions (other than the Equity Issue) amounting to 1,040 million euros to be eligible for inclusion in the Bank's capital plan," it noted.

    "The country's efforts to strengthen its economy are starting to pay off, with the extraordinary fiscal efforts combined with a significant increase in competitiveness resulting in growth and new jobs," NBG chairman George Zanias said.

    "The path to recovery is recognised by international markets, with strong investment flows to quality issuers. In this context, the National Bank of Greece considers it is the appropriate time to return to the equity capital markets and address its capital needs," he added.

    Alexandros Tourkolias, CEO of NBG, said that "Greek banks have gone through a very difficult period, including the effects of the Hellenic Republic debt restructuring (PSI), as well as the effects that the recession has had on Greek households and businesses alike."

    NBG, he said, had benefitted from its diversified business model to deliver profitable results since Q4 2012, and has emerged in a strong position to benefit from the improving macroeconomic environment.

    "The contemplated equity issue will significantly strengthen the Bank's capital ratios, which, combined with its strong liquidity position, will allow NBG to continue to play a pillar role as a leading financial intermediary in supporting the Greek economy," Tourkolias stressed.

    [19] Hellenic-Arab Chamber holds event on the two countries' economic and trade relations

    The Hellenic-Arab Chamber presented its first guide for Exports, Services and Investment Opportunities in Greece, which will be distributed to all Arab countries.

    The guide was presented at an event organized by the Chamber regarding investments and development plans in Saudi Arabia.

    According to an announcement by the Chamber, the event was attended by Dr. Rayed Krimly, ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Greece and by engineer Omar Bahlaiwa, secretary general of the Committee for International Trade of the Council of Saudi Chambers.

    It was also attended by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, the secretary general of the Foreign Ministry Panagiotis Mihalos, ambassadors of Arab countries to Greece as well as businessmen.

    The head of the Chamber Harris Geronikolas referred to the relations between Greece and Saudi Arabia, while Krimly spoke of his country's role on a regional and international level.

    Hatzidakis referred to investment opportunities and projects in Saudi Arabia and urged Greek entrepreneurs to participate in them and further develop the two countries' economic and trade relations.

    [20] Pharmaceutical sales up in volume, down in value in 2013, report

    Pharmaceutical sales in the domestic market -excluding hospitals- fell by 10.3 pct in value while they rose by 4.3 pct in volume in 2013, a report by IMS showed on Wednesday.

    The report said that volume of pharmaceutical sales grew 4.3 pct in 2013 to 369.8 million packages, while revenues of the 354 enterprises in the sector fell by 10.3 pct to 2.79 billion euros hit by a reduction in pharmaceutical prices.

    The top five companies based on revenue in 2013 were:

    -Novartis with a market share of 8.4 pct and revenues of 235.8 million euros (down 17.3 pct)

    -Pfizer with a market share of 7.9 pct and revenues of 221 million euros (down 10.8 pct)

    -Sanofi with a market share of 7.1 pct and revenues of 199.2 million euros (down 14 pct)

    -AstraZeneca with a market share of 5.7 pct and revenues of 158.6 million euros (down 10.9 pct)

    -Vianex with a market share of 5.6 pct and revenues of 156.8 million euros (down 4.9 pct).

    They were followed by GlaxoSmithKline with a market share of 5.3 pct and revenues of 146.7 million euros, Elpen (4.4 pct and 122.1 million), Pharmaserve (3.8 pct and 105.8 million), Boehringer Ingelheim (3.6 pct and 99.8 million) and Merck Sharp Dohme (3.3 pct and 91.6 million).

    The report said that the 20 largest pharmaceutical enterprises accounted for 71.2 pct of the market, with the remaining sales (around 805 million euros) made by the remaining 334 enterprises.

    [21] EAV participates in Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' C-130J production programme

    Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A. (EAV) manufactured and assembled major parts of the fuselage of the first two C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft delivered to South Korea by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, it was announced on Wednesday.

    South Korea has become the fourteenth country in the world with C-130J transport airplanes in its air force.

    EAV's Chief Executive Officer Demetrios Papacostas underlined that "we will continue to honour the confidence displayed in us by the US company by doing our part in achieving even more milestones as its sole supplier".

    [22] Companies have until June 20 to settle pending issues with the tax bureau

    All companies that have outstanding issues with the tax bureau will have to reach a settlement with the relevant branch office by June 20, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Otherwise, tax authorities will estimate the size of the tax bill based on existing legislation, the General Secretariat of Revenues said in a circular sent to all tax office branches.

    [23] Industrial turnover index down 0.1 pct in Feb

    The turnover index in the industrial sector fell by 0.1 pct in February this year, compared with the same month in 2013, after a 7.9 decline recorded in February 2013, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    In a report, the statistics service attributed this development to a 17 pct jump in the mining turnover index and a 0.3 pct decline in the manufacturing turnover index. The statistics service also said that the domestic market turnover index fell by 8.9 pct in February, while the external market index rose by 11.5 pct.

    [24] Spending on wages and salaries in public sector fell in 2013, report

    Salaries and pensions in the wider public sector continued falling while state social spending shrank further, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    The statistics service, in a quarterly report, said that wages fell to 22 pct of total spending to 5.595 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2013, from 23.1 pct in the same period in 2012 and 23.5 pct in 2011. Spending on social benefits totaled 39.6 pct of total spending to 10.087 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2013, from 42.7 pct in 2012 and 41.6 pct in 2011.

    On the other hand, primary spending grew to 93.1 pct of total spending in the October-December period in 2013 from 92.8 pct in 2012 and 87.6 pct in 2011. Income tax proceeds totaled 23.2 pct of total general government revenue at the end of 2013, while the country's public debt totaled 318.7 billion euros.

    [25] First cruiseship arrival in Chania port opens 2014 tourist season

    The cruiseship M/S Artania, which docked at Chania port, Crete island on Wednesday opened the new tourist season for 2014.

    The cruiseship, which sailed from Valetta, Malta with 1,057 passengers and 520 member crew, will leave from Chania for Istanbul at 18:00. Forty three cruise ships are scheduled to dock at Souda port (Chania) in 2014.

    [26] Bottled water consumption on the decrease, ICAP says

    The consumption of bottled water has been steadily decreasing in Greece in recent years, according to an industrial sector analysis of water bottlers' performance conducted by Greek-based ICAP Group S.A..

    ICAP found that demand for all categories of bottled water is satisfied mainly through the supply of domestically produced bottled waters. Moreover, domestic bottlers do not seem to be especially active in exporting their products.

    According to the findings of the study, the greatest share of the total production volume of bottled water in Greece is claimed by mineral water (about 73 percent), followed by table water and carbonated water.

    Interestingly enough, the bottled water sector in Greece is represented by many SMEs, as well as a small number of larger companies which either solely produce bottled water or are also engaged in the production of further food and beverage products.

    It comes at no surprise that the larger water bottlers have developed distribution networks that cover most of Greece, while their SME counterparts mainly operate on a local level.

    [27] Greek stocks recover strongly after nine-day decline

    Greek stocks rebounded strongly after nine successive sessions of decline in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 1,200-point level again. The recovery of the market was based on a strong performance of non-banking shares. The composite index jumped 2.61 pct to end at 1,218 points, while turnover soared to 401.70 million euros, of which 288 million euros were block trades in Piraeus Bank.

    The Large Cap index ended 2.26 pct higher and the Mid Cap index ended 0.62 pct up. The Telecoms (6.73 pct), Insurance (5.59 pct), Financial Services (4.95 pct) and Raw Materials (4.79 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among the market's sectors, while Media (10 pct), Banks (0.89 pct) and Chemicals (0.15 pct) suffered losses. Intralot (7.46 pct), Metka (6.84 pct), OTE (6.73 pct) and Frigoglass (6.37 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (2.30 pct), Titan (2.27 pct) and Piraeus Bank (2.23 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 82 to 39, with another 18 issues unchanged. Haidemenos (30 pct), Mathios (29.10 pct) and Elinoil (20 pct) were top gainers, while Galaxidi (27.71 pct), Audiovisual (10 pct) and Aegek (7.50 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: -0.89%

    Insurance: +5.59%

    Financial Services: +4.95%

    Industrial Products: +4.48%

    Commercial: +4.13%

    Real Estate: +7.22%

    Personal & Household: +2.92%

    Food & Beverages: +1.19%

    Raw Materials: +4.79%

    Construction: +1.26%

    Oil: +3.04%

    Chemicals: -0.15%

    Media: -10.00%

    Travel & Leisure: +3.38%

    Technology: +2.32%

    Telecoms: +6.73%

    Utilities: +4.50%

    Health: +2.52%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and OPAP.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.69

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.84

    Coca Cola HBC: 18.30

    Hellenic Petroleum: 6.38

    National Bank of Greece: 2.97

    Eurobank Properties : 8.61

    OPAP: 10.46

    OTE: 10.78

    Piraeus Bank: 1.75

    Titan: 21.50

    [28] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 1.16 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover soaring to 111.779 million euros.

    Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 53,810 contracts worth 102.600 million euros, with 57,834 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 25,405 contracts worth 9.179 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (14,418), followed by Alpha Bank (673), National Bank (1,357), Eurobank (1,824), MIG (936), OTE (1,829), PPC (1,197), OPAP (669), Coca-Cola HBC (343), Hellenic Exchanges (261), Mytilineos (407), Hellenic Petroleum (522), GEK (159), Intralot (225)and Folli Follie (109).

    [29] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.404

    Pound sterling 0.836

    Danish kroner 7.578

    Swedish kroner 9 .228

    Japanese yen 143.67

    Swiss franc 1.235

    Norwegian kroner 8.363

    Canadian dollar 1.542

    Australian dollar 1.501

    General News

    [30] Swiss Committee on the Return of Parthenon organises events at Zurich and Geneva Universities

    Parthenon sculptures need to return to Greece, the president of the Swiss Committee for the Return of Parthenon Marbles Professor Dusan Sidjanski said during an event at the University of Zurich entitled "Europe and the Parthenon Marbles-Common Cause."

    During his speech, Sidjanski referred to the Swiss Committee' opposition to the legal claim of the return of the Parthenon sculptures, emphasizing that it is a European issue which must be resolved through dialogue at the European institutions' level as well as through informing the public, especially in Britain.

    He stressed that the demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles is a unique case, which concerns the integrity of a symbolic monument that has been ravaged.

    A similar event took place at the University of Geneva, where speakers referred to the peculiarity of the request the return of the Parthenon Marbles, to the ways of resolving cultural differences, while they generally supported the proposal of the Swiss Committee for reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the issue as well as to the disadvantages of legal resolution of cultural differences.

    Scientists and archaeologists as well as Greek ambassador Charalambos Manessis attended the event at Zurich University. The event at Geneva University was attended by scientists, students and members of Greek communities as well as consul general Angelos Ipsilantis.

    [31] "Greeks are the best audience," British saxophonist Nat Birchall says

    "The Greek audience is probably the best. Everyone who came, came purely for the music. If the audience is really listening, you can feel it inside and the music sounds better," British saxophonist Nat Birchall said in an interview to ANA-MPA.

    Birchall gave two performances in the central Greek city of Larissa. He plays tenor and soprano saxophones; he is a band leader, composer and arranger who has grabbed listeners' attention with his soulful sound and spiritual music.

    "Both nights we played, that was how it was. They were very very positive and very open to the music. They welcomed the music and you can feel that when you play, you can feel the positivity, you can feel the love for the music. And they just made us so welcome and feel happy to be there," Nat noted.

    Nat told ANA-MPA that he got into music almost by chance. "I bought a saxophone one day, almost by accident as a hobby, a past time, and I also played the guitar. I had a guitar a few years before, but I didn't quite take it seriously. But when I got the saxophone, there was something that really spoke to me and had a kind of deeper meaning. So I just took it up as a hobby and never put it down. I just got more and more into it as time progressed."

    Referring to his music, he said: "I try to allow the music to happen by itself. To some degree or another and for me is a kind of an honest way of playing when the music takes life from itself."

    As for the possibility to visit Greece again, he said that if he was given the chance, that would be fantastic.

    The whole interview of Nat Birchall:

    You've recently visited Larissa. How did you find the people there?

    The people were beautiful, fantastic. Everyone really came along to enjoy the music, everyone loved the music and we were very happy to be there.

    In your album "World Without Form" there is a song called "Return to Ithaca". How did you get inspired the title?

    Because of Odyssey. From the famous Greek poem or story. Way back there was something I was reading. I don't know. When I write my songs, they don't have words so they are not necessarily about anything specific. When I record a song, I listen to it and it usually puts me in mind of something, it could be anything and whatever it makes me think of, I tend to find a name for a song based on what it makes me think of and something about that song made me think about the journey back to Ithaca and Odyssey and I am not quite sure why these things used popping to my head.

    What influences does your music have?

    Everything influences really. There are specific musical influences, but there are also other influences. You can be influenced by literature. I am really attracted to ancient history, space, the universe, things like these. All these things you can sort of relate on some levels to music or creativity. So everything really inspires me to some degree.

    How has your trip to Jamaica influenced your music?

    Jamaican music was the first music I was really attracted to and still am. And it has a very deep soul meaning to me. The first music that I really listened to in depth and investigated.

    How did you get into music?

    I bought a saxophone one day, almost by accident as a hobby, a past time, and I also played the guitar, I had a guitar a few years before, but I didn't quite take it seriously. But when I got the saxophone, there was something that really spoke to me and had a kind of deeper meaning. So I just took it up as a hobby and never put it down. I just got more and more into it as time progressed. I had some lessons from a jazz saxophone player for a couple of years when I first started but I didn't really get around to doing some serious studying for another 15 years when I did a two-year course at college about jazz.

    When did you start your own band?

    I've had a band for a long time, for many years. When I started I played in some sort of pop, rock bands to begin. I really wanted to play jazz, but I wasn't good enough to join anyone's band so I had to start my own band. So most of the playing all these years has been with my own band.

    How would you describe the spiritual music you play?

    Spiritual and jazz is a term people use a lot nowadays and it means different things. To be spiritual is just more that the notes, the music.

    A deeper meaning?

    Yes, a deeper meaning. You may not be able to express this meaning in words and it is also a way of playing, a way of approaching the music and playing especially when you improvise. I am not playing to play anything that I know already. And I don't think I am going to play this phrase or these notes. I try to allow the music to happen by itself. To some degree or another and for me is a kind of an honest way of playing when the music takes life from itself. I believe when you play this way that the music is better and it seems to speak of something, people relate to it. And some people think it is God speaking to you, some people say it's your soul speaking, some people say the spirit, some people may say it is just your subconscious. It doesn't really matter what name you give it. If you accept, if you believe it is there, and this phenomenon can happen when you play... I believe that the music adds up to a lot more than the notes. It goes beyond, it communicates to people a lot more. It is not a particularly easy question to answer.

    What are your plans for the future?

    I just keep developing the music. I have been recording albums almost every year for the past five or six years. And I try to continue to do this because I find it a very good way of allowing the music to develop and to change, to get better and I think I get better as a musician and the more I record, the more the music gets out, the more people hear the music and hopefully I will be able to travel and play to more and more people because that is what all is about. It is about creating the music, getting out so that you can play in front of people.

    Any plans to come to Greece again?

    If it is possible to do that it would be fantastic. Because the Greek audience is probably the best. Everyone who came, came purely for the music. Sometimes when you play, not everyone comes along to the venue to hear the music. They may come along to have a drink with friends or they come along to eat or they just drop by. Everyone who came in Larissa, came for the express purpose of listening to this playing. I don't know how many had heard our music before, but they were the perfect audience. They were really listening. There was a kind of atmosphere. You can have an audience that doesn't make noise, that is quite and doesn't disturb you but they may not be listening that much and you can feel it when you play. It is like talking to someone and you can tell if they are not listening. With the audience when you are playing if they are really listening, you can feel it inside and the music sounds better and the music gets better and better as you play. Both nights we played, that was how it was. They were very very positive and very open to the music. They welcomed the music and you can feel that when you play, you can feel the positivity, you can feel the love for the music. And they just made us so welcome and feel happy to be there. It was just a positive atmosphere and that come across on the recording of the album.

    [32] Former leper colony of Spinalonga, now a UNESCO-listed site, gets improvements

    Sixteen buildings of the former leper colony of Spinalonga, an island off northeastern Crete that has been designated an archaeological site, will be reinforced and cleaned up as part of works to promote the island as a tourist destination.

    Two studies were approved by the Central Archaeological Council at its latest session, on Tuesday, involving both the propping of buildings and improvements on tourist accessibility, following a surge in tourist arrivals on the island and its inclusion in the list of UNESCO's cultural monuments.

    The island and its history have served as background for films and books, the latest being a historical novel ("The Island") by Victoria Hislop, which was made into a TV series by a private Greek channel.

    The buildings that will be reinforced and cleaned up are currently in a state of ruin. They are single-storey and two-storey buildings and one preserves graffiti from the 50-year era the colony existed.

    As of this year's tourist period, the island will be receiving visitors from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the framework of the Culture ministry's pilot programme that includes 33 archaeological sites and museums.

    Spinalonga is situated at the northern entrance of the gulf of Elounda, in the prefecture of Lasithi. Ancient and medieval remnants compose the turbulent history of the island, which operated as a leper colony from 1903 until 1957.

    [33] Blast outside home of former Tsochatzopoulos associate

    A blast occurred shortly after 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday outside the house of Yiannis Sbokos, one of the defendants in the armaments kickback ongoing trial, in the northern suburb of Kifissia.

    The blast damaged the door and broke some roof tiles that fell above the entrance. A house helper was the only one present at the house, but no injuries reported.

    Specialists and the antiterrorism squad are examining the site and the blast mechanism.

    Sbokos, responsible for armaments at the National Defence ministry when Akis Tsochatzopoulos was minister, has been charged with being an accessory to breach of trust. He has denied the charge. The trial will reconvene on April 28.

    [34] Railway workers' strike on Saturday, Sunday and Monday

    Commuters using Hellenic Railways (OSE) during the Easter holidays will be affected by the rolling 24-hour strikes called by the railway workers' union federation POS for Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, it was announced on Wednesday.

    TrainOse rail operator also announced that a number of train services will be canceled on Holy Friday as well.

    Metro train services between Doukissis Plakentias station and Athens' international airport will be disrupted during the strikes, while freight trains will be on strike throughout Holy Week.

    [35] Pension fraud cases file forwarded to prosecutor

    A case file concerning a total of 179 fraudulent pensions paid for decades to deceased pensioners was submitted to the Athens First Instance Court Prosecutor following an investigation conducted by the Greek Police Internal Affairs division, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The damages caused to the state amounted roughly to 12 million euros, according to a Greek Police spokesman.

    In 102 of the investigated cases pensions were fraudulently claimed by relatives and the damage caused to the state is roughly 8.4 million euros.

    Another 77 cases are still under investigation. The damage caused is estimated at 4.3 million euros.

    [36] Contraband tobacco confiscated in Patras; three women arrested

    Three women were arrested in the southern city of Patras for trafficking and transporting contraband tobacco, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Acting on a tip-off, police arrested two women, both 25 years old, at the intercity bus terminal as they were receiving a package with 9 kilos of contraband tobacco that had originated from the town of Agrinio in central Greece.

    The two received the package on behalf of a third woman, aged 44, who was arrested soon after.

    An investigation is under way to locate the sender of the package.

    Weather forecast

    [37] Overcast on Thursday

    Rain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Storms in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 4c-14C. Rainfall in the central and the southern parts, 4C-17C. Heavy rain over the islands, 11C-18C.Clouds and rain in Athens, 6C-16C; the same for Thessaloniki, 4C-14C.

    [38] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies

    AVGHI: They unsheathed their swords in New Democracy (ND).

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Eurobank sold for nothing...

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras between two fires.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Who are entitled to 500-1,083 euros from the social dividend.

    ESTIA: PASOK is now the problem.

    ETHNOS: The pros and cons of 50 university schools.

    IMERISSIA: Banking 'fever'.

    KATHIMERINI: Military intervention in East Ukraine.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: 22 percent of Eurobank to Fairfax's consortium.

    RIZOSPASTIS: EU's military and repressive measures in the name of the "maritime safety'.

    TA NEA: The major trick with the Bulgarian licence plates.

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