According to government sources, Tsipras briefed Lagarde on the progress of the negotiations as well as the implementation course of the Eurogroup February 20 agreement, while the IMF head telling the premier that "the Lagarde-list has made me famous in your country" and Tsipras responding "Yes, but in a positive sense."
Lagarde noted to Tsipras that Greece so far has done nothing to make use of the list and the wealthy people still do not pay their taxes. Tsipras agreed with her and noted that the new government aims for a socially fair tax system, government sources said.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a "constructive discussion" on the next steps and IMF support for the Greek programme, IMF deputy spokesman William Murray reported on Thursday.
Speaking during a regular press briefing, Murray was replying to questions about a lengthy phone call between Lagarde and Tsipras on Wednesday. In reply to other questions relating to the technical teams in Athens, he said that talks were continuing in Athens and that political talks were expected to follow.
He confirmed that Greece had promptly paid installments for IMF loans in March and said he was unaware of any request by the Greek premier to delay the next installment. He noted that Greece had publicly stressed its intention to pay off its loans and pointed out that when a country failed to meet its obligations to the IMF, then its financing programme was stopped.
Questioned about a recent Bloomberg report, according to which the IMF considers Greece the "least cooperative country" in its 70-year experience, Murray denied that there was any basis for this claim or that there had been any such reference, adding that the IMF "would have liked to be asked" before this was published.
Murray was also asked whether the discussion between Lagarde and Tsipras had included the so-called 'Lagarde list' sent to Greece and getting richer Greeks to pay their share of taxes. In reply, he stressed that the IMF was clear on the need to distribute the tax burden fairly, especially the taxation of the wealthier classes in the population.
"[The reform plan] includes some basic commitments of the Greek government and some basic reforms, which aim to give some breathing space to the Greek economy and Greek society," he said.
Presenting the positions that the government will adopt during negotiations, he noted that there would be no discussion of raising retirement ages above 67 in the pension system.
"The Greek government has prepared a plan of structural reforms that deals with important issues and in relation to the taxation framework, with issues of taxation administration, so that there are greater returns and greater collectability of revenues...It is not the Greek government's intention to discuss other scales in VAT rates," he said.
Commenting on the Eurogroup Working Group teleconference and its failure to agree to the return of 1.2 billion euros from the EFSF to the HFSF, Sakellaridis said this was due to "bureaucratic interpretations and inflexibility, which did not allow the immediate disbursement of a sum that is on no account a new loan."
"They want the decision to be taken by the EFSF board. When the decision is taken by the EFSF board, then I believe that there will be no problem and the money will return to its owner," he added.
The spokesman also referred to the recent press furore surrounding Alternate Interio Minister George Katrougalos and the activities of a legal firm in which he had been a partner, noting that the minister had supplied answers "in which he is covered in every way," and that there was no "Katrogalos issue" for the government.
The document was signed by State Minister Nikos Pappas and was submitted to Parliament following former Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis' question to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. In his written reply, the State Minister said that Greece has no international obligation to pass the agreement from the parliament nor does the Greek law provides for that. He also stated that the Legal Council of State has delivered a relevant opinion on the matter.
More specifically, the State Minister's reply is the following:
"No new loan agreement has been signed between the Greek government and the partners, let alone an agreement of an extension of the memorandum. On February 26, 2015 the maturity date of the existing loan agreement between Greece and the European Financial Stability Facility / European Support Mechanism (EFSF / ESM) was extended until the end of June this year. The extension of the loan agreement has been signed by all parties. As there is no international requirement of our country, the ESM requires no further ratification process, in addition to Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' signature. The Greek law likewise does not provide for the ratification of the extension of the loan agreement for the same reason.
The signing of the extension of the loan agreement is accompanied by a Finance Minister's document of political initiatives, which was submitted to the Eurogroup and was published. The content of this document does not constitute a contract and there is no reason to be ratified by the Parliament. The Legal Council of State delivered a relevant opinion on February 25, 2015. The new agreement with the partners that will occur after the expiration of the extension of the existing loan agreement will be obviously submitted for ratification to parliament, according to the Constitution."
Former Parliament President Meimarakis had asked to be informed when the government will brief the Parliament and the Greek people for the content of the agreement signed by the Minister of Finance and "when the agreement for the extension of the memorandum will be submitted for approval in the Parliament."
The government stressed there would be no recessionist measures and called for the understanding and support of the Greek society.
According to the statement, the memorandum ended on January 25 and the new Greek government signed for an extension of the loan agreement based on the Eurogroup decision of February 20. Negotiations are taking place on the basis of reforms proposed by the Greek side, and they do not include recessionary measures or measures of reduced pensions and wages or measures that will further throw the labour market off track.
"If we had signed to continue the memorandum, then what would the purpose of negotiations be?," it asked, adding that "the new government would have continued to apply whatever the previous government had bequeathed it. It is obvious something like that cannot be done - on the contrary." It cited laws that it had voted to deal with the humanitarian crisis and the overdue debts, in contrast to the previous finance minister's intentions.
Referring to the previous prime minister, the government said that Antonis Samaras "in essence is doing what the technical experts began doing when they came to Athens. Despite the decision of February 20 - which does not say anything about the completion of 'the current programme' - Samaras and the technical experts thought that on January 25 absolutely nothing changed in the country." This is why, the government said, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent the letter to European leaders to meet on the sidelines of the EU Summit in Brussels, "to clarify the content of the February 20 decision. And that is exactly what happened."
If the main opposition, the government said, "wants to contribute to the effort of the government to give the Greek society a breather, it would be best if it does not try, even through rhetoric, to mix the country up in the memorandum past - the power of habit is understandable, and the weakness of the opposition is understandable."
"In the significant days ahead of us, we are asking for the support of Greek society in the struggle for dignity, prosperity and social justice," it concluded.
Stathakis said that the so-called reforms package, which will be formed exclusively from the Greek side and will be approved by our partners, will be submitted and on the other hand the approval will 'unlock' the financing in order the liquidity problem that is facing the Greek economy to be solved.
The minister rejected that the negotiation is the continuation of the memorandum and supported that from now on the basis of whatever discussion is the February 20 Eurogroup agreement. Based on this agreement "the evaluation will be completed at the end of the four-month period and afterwards we will close a new agreement with our partners."
He clarified that the final plan to tackle the bad loans' 'thorn' needs at least 5-6 months to be completed. He noted that the government is considering the establishment of a public entity to which all the bad loans of the families that are at the poverty line will be transferred as well as of those families that saw their income decrease dramatically because of the crisis.
Stathakis referred to the VAT issue claiming that there is a margin for small-scale changes that will make VAT institution more progressive, friendly and just adding that these improvements will not refer to VAT on the islands.
As he noted, "during the discussion two days ago in the Council of State on the extrajudicial settlement with Siemens, the Judge of the State Legal Council, who represented the Greek government, did not ask for the consultation of the political leadership on this issue. In any case, the aim of the Finance ministry is to fully restore the economic and moral damage the Greek government has suffered. The legal assistance of the German authorities for the activities of Siemens in Greece will help this effort. We are working in this direction."
Sakellaridis said that he understands Samaras' "existential angst but the so-called revelations he made today cannot fool even small children" and repeated that the government "extended the previous loan agreement," adding that "the text allegedly revealed by Samaras has been posted on the internet since late February."
The government spokesman also said that Samaras should not look for accomplices in his policy, noting that he was the one who had said that "no one is without sin."
"The Greek people can understand very well who negotiates today to protect the country's interests and who is on the look out, wishing that the national effort will fail and he will manage to retain his party's leadership," Sakellaridis added.
"The main opposition is trying hard to prove the current government is preparing to implement its policies. It's all in vain. Anyone can compare the policies of Mr. Tsipras and Mr. [Antonis] Samaras," said Gavriil Sakellaridis.
"If it worries that its work as a government - meaning the tax rises, the wage and pension cuts - were left unfinished, it is right to do so. After voting in favour of the humanitarian crisis bill and the bill on the debt settlement scheme, it should prepare its parliamentary group to vote for more such 'austerity' measures," he added.
'Greece is an integral part of the European reality,' PM Alexis Tsipras says in address to Athens University on March 25 national holiday
"When people take their lives and futures in their own hands, no matter how weak they are before their powerful opponents, they have the right on their side along with the self-confidence deriving from their right and struggle; and they can make it," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a speech on Wednesday evening at the University of Athens as part of the celebrations for the March 25th national holiday.
The event was attended by the President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Archbishop Ieronymos as well as by cabinet ministers, academics and university students.
Tsipras said he was honoured to have been invited to address the event, an invitation he accepted as he wanted to underline how important the state university was for the government.
"We consider the Greek state university one of the main hubs in the great effort we have launched, an effort to revive the Greek society and democracy, for social justice and solidarity, for the dignity and the cultural development of the country and the Greek people," he said.
Referring to the national holiday, he said that "we cannot conceive and comprehend the Greek Revolution outside and beyond the ecumenical dynamics of large social and political trends of that time; of conflicts and revolutions, which, within a few decades, were to cause radical cracks and overturning in the old regime."
On the characteristics of the 1821 Revolution, the premier noted that "the progressive features of the Greek Revolution put forward and acquire a European dimension through their violent clash with the old regime."
Referring to current times, Tsipras noted that although history is not aimed at offering lessons in a simple way, it is valuable for thought and for action. He stressed that "Greece, historically and even today, has been a part of Europe, a part of the European developments, an integral part of the European reality," as "Greece and Europe have always been in a state of interaction. On the one hand, Greece, perhaps because of its location, history, climate, or social processes, was found to exert significant influence on Europe, several times disproportionate to its economic and demographic significance, and at certain times it was to take leading roles as well. The Revolution of 1821 and the National Resistance are two such significant moments. "
He also pointed out that "Greece in its turn, has been decisively influenced by Europe in all fields. The European ideas, the European movements and revolutions, the democratic and social achievements have played a key role in the shaping of modern Greece."
On Europe in general, the prime minister noted that it had never been uniform. As he said "there is the Europe of the Enlightenment, of the big labor and democratic struggles, but there is also the Europe of fascism and Nazism. There is the Europe of movements and peoples, but there is also the Europe of neo-liberalism and the compulsion of the markets. There is the Europe of democracy, tolerance, progressive ideas, but there is also the Europe of social conservatism, racism and xenophobia. In this sense, we choose the tradition whose continuation we want to be. And we want to be the heirs of the fine and noble struggles for freedom, equality, solidarity and social liberation."
Citing a phrase by historian Antonis Liakos, that today is "the Greek hour of Europe and the European time of Greece," the prime minister said that "this view explains the extent of the international interest in Greece today: The Greek issue is a European issue, because the conflicts, the convergences, the problems and their solutions are both Greek and European. At the same time, this can explain the wave of solidarity for Greece and the Greek people, manifested throughout Europe and around the world. The fights which the Greek government gives today - on behalf of the Greek people and all the peoples of Europe - for democracy, the welfare state, the social justice, the halting of the devastating austerity, are at the same time European ones. They are fights that concern all Europe and all European people."
The minister was replying to a question by opposition Potami party MPs Panagiotis Karkatsoulis and Haris Theoharis asking about the criteria used for selecting ministry general secretaries, specifically naming seven individuals from the ruling coalition parties SYRIZA and ANEL that were in the process of being appointed.
Noting that the matter had been discussed at length during the debate on the bill concerning the operation of the government passed on March 18, Voutsis added that the individuals selected by the present government were chosen from the political staff within the two parties making up the government or their "broader political area" and all "obviously" had the qualifications required by law.
According to Voutsis, the government also "respected and made real use" of all the staff in state services and had already shown a different approach by allowing the most senior general directors to take over the secretariats of decentralised administration.
"The Greek government and the Greek people stand by Cyprus until a fair solution is found and all those who were driven away by the invasion and the occupation of 1974 return to their homes," Kammenos said. ?
He also pointed out that the Cyprus Defence minister's presence, before the entire political and military leadership "sends out a clear message that the fate of Hellenism is common, in two countries that are different but with a people belonging to the same nation" he concluded.
Cyprus Defence Minister expressed his "deepest gratitude for Greece's long and unwavering support in the struggle of the Cypriot Hellenism for liberation and reunification of our country."
At the same time, he stressed that his presence at the March 25th celebrations, representing the Cyprus government, "confirms our strong will to move united so as to address the common threats and our common interests."
Mr. Kotzias had a phone contact with Mr. Steinmeier, to whom he expressed the government and the Greek people's solidarity and support to the victims' relatives.
Stathakis briefed Kittmer on his ministry's priorities which include planning the new programme to receive EU funds, as well as joint private and state investments. He said one of the ministry's top goals is to seek new sources of funding for infrastructure projects and change legislation regarding the release of subsidies.
Kittmer, on his side, presented Stathakis with the British investments which have been made in Greece in the sectors of tourism, pharmaceuticals and infrastructure and expressed his certainty that the structural reforms which the government is planning to implement will invite new investors in all the aforementioned sectors, as well as in energy.
The British envoy also spoke of the close cooperation between the two countries in shipping and the stable relationship between London and Piraeus since World War II.
Regarding voluntary early retirement decided by bank managements from time to time, Stratoulis said that the banks themselves should cover the gaps in pension fund finances that these created.
OTOE President Stavros Koukos said that he had briefed the minister on the state of the banking sector pension funds and the problem inherited from the past, adding that the union federation will submit a detailed report with its proposals to the ministry.
As president of the Authority for Combating Money Laundering from Criminal Activities, he presented information to the committee of the Parliament that is responsible for auditing the deputies' assets. As Minister of State, however, he has no right to audit statements of deputies to the Parliamentary Committee responsible for auditing assets.
Loverdos in his query cited a report according to which Nikoloudis, as president of the Authority for the fight against money laundering, called for an investigation into the deposits of former Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis in foreign banks and asked if a similar investigation has been called for the four SYRIZA deputies and ministers who have their money abroad.
"As President of the Authority for Combating Money Laundering from Criminal Activities I forwarded information - complaints to the Parliamentary Committee responsible for auditing assets, as the law provided for. As Minister of State I have no right to audit deputies' statements to the aforementioned Commission", the State Minister Panagiotis Nikoloudis stated.
Samaras released the agreement signed on February 20 and has the signature of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
"The government for one and a half month has not dared to bring the extension of the loan agreement it signed to the Parliament, as it is afraid of the voting in Parliament, of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks parliamentary groups and mainly because it does not want the Greek people to find out the truth. However, a lie has no legs.
We publish the document so that each Greek citizen can look it up and draw his own conclusions. The contract is the modification of the Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement so as to get a four month extension, just like our government did in December to get a two month extension. Both are inextricably linked with the memorandum. Therefore, the government did not tear the memorandum apart but it co-signed it. However, our government was terminating it along with the memorandum. The new extension of the contract equals an extension of the memorandum too. The fact that the memorandum is extended is also confirmed by the rest of the troika, by the announcements of the ECB and the IMF; and they shouldn't tell us that they cannot read the texts.
The two texts are identical, apart from one point which includes the return of 10.2 billion euros. The 1.2 billion euros, which the government should not have returned and is now asking back to cover cash needs are part of this amount.
Up until last month, the government assured it did not need the 7.2 billion euro tranche, while it is now anxious to disburse any amount to limit the domestic default in payments."
He concluded by saying that "all that is part of the supposedly tough negotiation that the government made" and called on it to put any communication tricks aside. "Creative ambiguity equals lies within the country. Let the government stop any procrastination and delays and implement what it signed on February 20 because each day that goes by the economy collapses and the cost on the society increases."
Deputy Christos Staikouras released the document of the agreement, claiming the texts of the two updated contracts are identical.
"The government has to stop lying, because the economy cannot take it any more," Karagounis said, adding that an extension agreement text, essentially extending the memorandum, has been uploaded on the Internet for a long time now.
Referring to the uploaded text, he said that the Parliament vice-president's and majority ruling party SYRIZA cadres' statements that the government has not placed its signature on a text of extending the memorandum agreement, are lies. The uploaded text "displays their signatures obviously," he added, "and despite the fact they claim they have not signed off on a memorandum, their extension agreement is explicitly and directly linked to the memorandum, which is also confirmed by troika [creditors'] organisations in their letters."
Karagounis accused SYRIZA of changing its views depending on who is in the government and noted that Greeks do not have short-term memory.
ND leader Antonis Samaras will make a statement at 12:30 on Thursday at the party's headquarters in Athens.
Theodorakis, who is paying a visit to Chania, Crete, said that he will support the government on this effort.
"Mr.Tsipras, in his latest press conference, along with Mrs. Merkel, criticized the previous government because they had not carried out evaluations that would have allowed the country to have now a better economic relationship with Europe. In order to get money from Europe, we have pledged - both this government and the previous one - that we will implement various reforms. The relationship with Europe is not a la carte; I need some money, give me some money. It is not like that, this is not the agreement, this is not the contract. The agreement is that I want to join the great movement of change in Europe, I promise that I have to do certain things and I need that money. This is the agreement," Theodorakis said.
He also noted that in order for Greece to get out of the austerity cycle, the government needs to proceed with reforms.
Moreover, it calls the government to bring the agreement it signed in parliament. The people have already seen this play and it needs to be in alertness in order to intercept measures that will continue and will extend that attack to the income, the social and labour rights and in their lives, today and in the future.
Venizelos said that "they are uncontrollably cynical, with only incentive the assumption of power and hit the most sensitive core of democracy itself that is the public aesthetics."
PASOK stressed, however, that "the issue, above all, is the political-ideological descent of SYRIZA."
"There is not any modesty? Have you become blind subordinates of Mr Kammenos?" Venizelos wondered.
Venizelos said that "on February 27 they signed the four-month extension of the loan agreement without legal jurisdiction and they are hiding it from Parliament... so that it does not show that they signed the same text as the previous government. But this is not the end of the problem... A very harsh term was added: They [the creditors] removed from them 11 billion euros in capital from the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund at a time when the country has the most urgent funding needs." Now the government "says it gave 1.2 billion euros over what it should have given and is begging them to return them," he added.
The mayor of the municipality of Distomo, his deputy, SYRIZA's MP Giannis Stathas and lawyer Christina Stamouli wanted to discuss with the minister whether a Supreme Court ruling allowing relatives to receive compensation will be executed.
Paraskevopoulos said that anything he may sign on the relatives' claims will be decided by the government.
The representatives presented the minister with a local council decision ordering the execution of a local court ruling which is in favour of Distomo residents.
Stathas said the issue must be decided by the government and not the Justice minister and noted that no one is discussing seizing Goethe, but of enforcing the court decision on other German state assets.
Stamouli said: "Professor Paraskevopoulos is the first Justice Minister, since 2000 when the court ruling was announced, who pledged in Parliament and confirmed his will again today to sign."
Jan Jarab, Regional Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on March 30 will pay an official visit to Greece.
During his three-day stay in Athens, he will meet Greek officials and discuss several issues, such as irregular migration, police operations at the borders, migration policy, migrants' children and their right to citizenship, migrants' integration into society, search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and the rights of Roma and children.
Jarab is scheduled to have meetings with Alternate Civil Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis, Alternate Migration Policy Minister Tassia Christodoulopoulou, Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Alternate Social Solidarity Minister Theano Fotiou, Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos and the ministry's secretary general Kostis Papaioannou and the Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas.
His agenda includes among others meetings with the Citizen Ombudsman Calliope Spanou and Foreign ministry officials.
Jarab is also expected to visit the Migrants Detention Center in Amygdaleza and schools in Athens that Roma children attend.
Earlier, Prosecutors for Corruption Popi Papandreou and Antonis Eleftherianos pressed criminal charges in the case against former defence ministry armaments programmes director Antonis Kantas, who is already in jail on remand, and the representatives of the company KBP Konstantinos Dafermos.
The charges against them are for giving and accepting bribes, aggravated by the provisions of the law on embezzlement from the public sector, as well as legalising income from illegal activity.
The case concerns the purchase of 98 new generation Kornet-E anti-tank missile launchers. Based on evidence collected by the two prosecutors for corruption, three million U.S. dollar were given by the representative of the arms manufacturer for the signature of a contract worth 100 million dollars in total.
According to a confession made by Kantas, who collaborated with the authorities and returned the money that he illegal accepted as gifts to the state, he received an illegal commission of 3 pct from Dafermos amounting to 3.0 million dollars. Of this, 700,000 euros in cash are in Greece and the remainder are in a bank account held by the former defence ministry employee at a Swiss branch of UBS in Zurich and other banks in Switzerland.
The case, which concerns a deal for the purchase of German submarines, was uncovered during a major and ongoing corruption investigation into the period when the now jailed former minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos was at the helm of the defence ministry.
The indictment issued by the Appeals Justices Council relates to illegal and untransparent payments made for the purchase of the submarines by the Hellenic Navy in contracts signed between the defence ministry and the German firm HDW-Ferrostaal. The Appeals Court justices found that 32 individuals should be tried on charges relating to acts of giving and accepting bribes, breach of faith and legalising income from illegal activity (money-laundering), among them business people and members of the military.
In each case, the charges are aggravated by legal provisions concerning embezzlement from the public sector. The indictments are in line with the recommendation made by the Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Efstathios Vergonis, who said that 32 of the 37 people charged in connection with the case should stand trial, based on evidence collected by the magistrates for corruption.
The defendants are allegedly involved in the movement and concealment of the illegal sums, which are believed to exceed 60 million euros, and were moved primarily via two companies. The evidence was judged insufficient to support the charges against the wife of the former arms dealer Panos Efstathiou, as well as the defendants Georgios Agouridis, Petros and Georgios Christodoulidis and Georgios Kamaris.
Among those to stand trial are the ship owner Michael Matantos, business man Alexandros Avataggelos, the former deputy director for procurements at the defence ministry Antonis Kantas, bankers Jean-Claude Oswald and Fanis Lyginos, arms dealer Panagiotis Efstathiou, lawyer Spiros Metaxas, former Tsohatzopoulos associates Yiannis Beltsios and Pavlos Nikolaidis, the former head of Hellenic Shipyards Sotiris Emmanouil, former general secretary for arms procurements Spiros Travlos and several others.
The indictment ordered the continued imprisonment on remand for Kantas, who has been in custody pending trial for 12 months already. It allowed the release with restrictions of Yiannis Beltsios until trial, on a bail of 500,000 euros, forbidding him to leave the country and requiring that he report to a police station twice a month. The appeals justices also agreed to a request by Sotiris Emmanouil to reduce the bail for his release from 2.0 million euros to 500,000 euros.
In the meeting with the British ambassador they had an in-depth discussion on current economic developments in Greece and the eurozone. With regard to the reforms being promoted, Tsakalotos referred to the new government's vision for every reform to be an intrinsic part of a whole that will lead to a transition from the vicious cycle of austerity to a just cycle of growth.
On his part, Ambassador Kittmer expressed particular interest in the course and the results of the negotiations with the European partners, with Tsakalotos noting that there is will on both sides to find a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution.
The meeting with Finnish Ambassador Makela focused on the course of the negotiations with the partners in the European Union, as well as, on current political developments in Finland, with an emphasis on the upcoming April 19, 2015 parliamentary elections.
The survey by GSEBEE's research institute showed that a 3.0 pct of small enterprises expected to terminate operations in the next three months, or 8,500 business closures with a loss of 20,000 job positions.
George Kavvathas, president of GSEBEE, presenting the survey during a news conference said that although a negative dynamism of expectations which prevailed in the previous years seemed to slowdown, it was the will and ability of the new government to implement policies and to introduce measures which will boost the real economy, business activity, investments, liquidity and employment which would determine a change in economic climate in the country.
"Businesses remained very cautious over their economic outlook as liquidity and investment environment, two of their biggest problems, have not yet been resolved. This insecurity is feeding largely current lower levels of employment in the country," Kavvathas said, adding that the government had to plan and implement rapidly realistic solutions addressing current challenges faced by small enterprises.
The survey showed that turnover fell by 13 pct in the 12-month period from February 2014 to February 2015. The survey, which was conducted in cooperation in Marc SA on a sample of 1,009 very small and small enterprises in the period February 17-26, showed that only one in four enterprises reported profits last year, while a 37.3 pct reported losses. Bigger enterprises (higher turnover and workforce) recorded a better performance. A 53.2 pct of enterprises said their turnover will fall in the six-month period, along with demand (55.2 pct) and new orders (58.9 pct). Turnover is down 77 pct since the crisis began, with the commerce sectors suffering the heaviest losses.
A 62.4 pct of enterprises said liquidity conditions worsened, while only a 12.1 pct made new investments. Business expectations over the next six months showed some improvement with a balance of positive/negative expectations falling to 31.4 pct from 56.1 pct in the previous survey of July 2014.
Another problem facing small enterprises was their fixed inability to escape from a trap of very high tax and social insurance obligations. A 38.1 pct of enterprises had overdue debt to pension funds and a 31.9 pct had overdue debt to tax agencies, while more than 20 pct said they would not be able to meet their tax obligations in 2015.
The dismissal/hiring ratio was 1:1.1 in the next six months, down from 1:1.6 in February 2014, a sign that employment outlook remained bleak.
The survey said that the results from Sunday's opening of shops were disappointing, with only 4.0 pct of enterprises recording an increase in turnover due to Sunday's opening.
The meeting, which was concluded earlier on Thursday, was also attended by Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos and the President of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou.
In short statements, the Swiss official described the discussion as very constructive. He also referred to an agreement between Switzerland and the EU, which is to be activated within the next two years and includes among others the exchange of data, adding that during the meeting he offered some know-how details on the issue.
"The tools are in place, we will soon meet again," he noted.
It said the decision aimed to ensure improved returns on investment, with OAED expecting a yield that exceeded 2 pct a year. The announcement clarified that the sums involved are not needed for investment nor required to cover the organisation's immediate operating needs, while they include sums in NSRF accounts that also do not need to be disbursed immediately.
OAED governor Maria Karamesini said that this was a better placement of OAED funds given current safety guarantees provided by the existing legislative framework and that the organisation's current obligations were fully covered and would be paid to beneficiaries early, on April 3.
According to the announcement posted on the government's transparency site Diavgeia on Thursday, the project had been approved by the previous government but the final approval by the EU meant the tendering process would have to be carried out in two stages.
The decision will allow the project to be completed in one phase and thus reduce construction time. It will also allow time to consider the possible amendments to the process following a preliminary injunction filed by Metka construction.
The Patras-Pyrgos road section, linking the two Peloponnese cities (N and NW, respectively), is part of the Olympic Road, whose cost is budgeted at 443 million euros.
In February 2015, the monthly net flow of credit to corporations was positive, at 433 million euros (February 2014: negative net flow of 439 million) and the annual growth rate of credit stood at -2.3 pct, from -3.1 pct in the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations stood at -2.4 pct, from -2.7 pct in January 2015, while the monthly net flow of credit to non-financial corporations was negative, at 52 million (February 2014: negative net flow of 353 million). The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at 0.5 pct in February 2015, from -7.9 pct in the previous month, while the monthly net flow of credit was positive, at 485 million euros (February 2014: negative net flow of 86 million), because of intra-group transactions. The monthly net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, at 302 million (February 2014: negative net flow of 315 million euros), while its annual growth rate stood at -3.0 pct, unchanged from the previous month.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that total outflow of deposits reached 24 billion euros in the period from the end of November to the end of February, putting strong pressure on Greek banks' liquidity, which is partly covered by the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism. The European Central Bank has raised the ceiling of draining liquidity from ELA to 71 billion euros.
Dimitris Stratoulis, social insurance alternate minister, commenting on the report said that a 44.8 pct of Greek pensioners (1,189,396) received pensions below the level of poverty of 665 euros, while around 60 pct of pensioners received payments up to 800 euros (which, excluding healthcare contributions, fell to below 700 euros).
Stratoulis said that the vast majority of handicapped pensioners received payments between 250 and 540 euros per month. These figures dismissed arguments presented by the country's creditors that Greek pensioners were enjoying a high average pension payment.
The seamen's union PENEN expressed its support for the crew mobilisation and said a solution had to be given, not only for the payment of salaries due but also for ensuring that wages were paid promptly. It noted that seamen were "in a difficult situation due to the unreliability of the majority of shipping firms in the coastal navigation sector".
Alternate Minister for Shipping Theodoros Dritsas recently met Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas and secured over one million euros to be paid to NEL, which stood to receive 743,166.77 euros after taxes and other payments due to the public sector. According to ANA-MPA sources, the money will be paid to the company on Friday or Monday morning.
In a message to the group's workers, National Bank's new chairman Luca Katseli and new chief executive officer Leonidas Fragiadakis, said their aim was to continue a long-term tradition and to create a strong group that will play a leading role in Greece and internationally.
"The human resources, all of you, are the most significant asset of the bank and the group. You are our stable partners that will help us to achieve our work," the message said.
The circular clarified, among others, that individuals at the age of 18, who have no real or estimated income do not have the obligation to file income tax return.
The board also authorised its president, Stergios Pitsiorlas, to sign the concessions agreement for the exclusive right to organize and conduct mutual betting on horse races in Greece, which was approved in January by the Court of Audit.
The agency said it will invite in the coming days the highest bidder to sign the agreement.
"We had the opportunity as political leadership....to have sincere discussion," Apostolou said.
The minister said he asked farmers to show understanding for the objective difficulties that exist while expressing the government's support for their action.
The farmers presented a series of demands relating to taxation, loans to farms and ways to boost agricultural production.
Consolidated revenues totalled 912 million euros last year, up 7.0 pct from 2013, while passenger traffic rose 14 pct to 10.1 million, an historic performance for the Greek airline company. Net, after tax earnings totaled 80.2 million euros, sharply up from 52.5 million in 2013, helped by an 11.7 million euros in tax provisions.
The board will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.70 euros per share dividend to shareholders. Cash flows totalled 112 million euros with cash reserves rising to 218 million euros despite significant advance payments made for the purchase of new Airbus aircraft. Domestic passenger traffic rose 15 pct to 5.240 million, from 4.549 million passengers in 2013.
International passenger traffic grew 13 pct to 4.873 million, from 4.294 million in 2013. The flight occupancy rate was 78.3 pct.
Dimitris Gerogiannis, chief executive of the company said 2014 was a "landmark year", adding: "We proved that joining forces offers benefits and create value for passenger, the country's economy, employment and of course to our shareholders".
Aegean Airlines plans investments on fleet renewal and significantly expanding its network from Athens and Larnacca, adding new destinations and more frequent flights.
Delta is increasing its operations between Athens and New York, with up to five additional weekly flights in 2015 compared to 2014. During the peak summer months, Delta will offer up to 5,900 weekly seats between Greece and the United States. All services from Athens are operated in conjunction with Delta's joint venture partners Air France, KLM and Alitalia.
Delta's Athens to New York-JFK schedule will begin five times weekly from March 30, 2015 increasing to a daily operation from May 2, 2015. An additional flight will then be added five times a week from June 2, 2015, bringing the number of weekly services to 12 in the peak summer months.
Customers with onward connections will benefit from smoother transfers to a number of U.S. destinations via the newly extended terminal at Delta's JFK hub.
Jumbo (2.14 pct), MIG (1.27 pct) and Aegean Airlines (0.85 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (17.27 pct), Alpha Bank (12.61 pct), National Bank (11.11 pct) and Eurobank (7.77 pct) suffered heavy losses. Among market sectors, the Personal Products (1.57 pct) was the only one to end higher, while Banks (11.88 pct), Utilities (5.69 pct) and Health (5.58 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 67 to 37 with another 19 issues unchanged. Medicon (20 pct), Nereus (17.57 pct) and Dionic (16.36 pct) were top gainers, while Attikat (20.0 pct), Sato (20.0 pct) and Piraeus Bank (17.27 pct) were top losers.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly higher. The 12-month rate was 0.201 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.138 pct, the six-month rate was 0.089 pct, the three-month rate was 0.021 pct and the one-month rate was -0.012 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 50,479 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (19,336), followed by Alpha Bank (5,522), Piraeus Bank (13,505), National Bank (8,459), MIG (580), OTE (381), PPC (611), OPAP (337), Mytilineos (441), GEK (344), Ellaktor (242), Jumbo (225) and Hellenic Exchanges (139).
U.S. dollar 1.0973
Pound sterling 0.7371
Danish kroner 7.4678
Swedish kroner 9.325
Japanese yen 130.67
Swiss franc 1.0498
Norwegian kroner 8.6005
Canadian dollar 1.3653
Australian dollar 1.399
Greece has been wronged by its allies, given its struggles and the sacrifices of the Greek people, Archbishop Demetrios of America said on Thursday in an address at a reception to commemorate Greek Independence Day on March 25.
Speaking at the event held in the Greek consulate general in New York, Demetrios said, "When we look at our history, we see that Greece has been wronged to today. It is the country that has perhaps contributed the most of all other countries, especially in World War II, and in relation to countries in our neighbourhood that did absolutely nothing, there is a favourable treatment by our allies, a foolishly favourable treatment toward those countries."
The archbishop recalled the sense that the allies would win, in WWII, and that freedom was coming, but with the economic crisis there is a problem he said, and "it is necessary to reject any capitulation of the sort 'Nothing can be done' and so on." He went on to claim that what is happening is "deliberately, malicious propaganda, which uses our weak point, the lack of unity."
A parade to celebrate March 25 will take place on Sunday, March 29, down Fifth Avenue. This year's parade will include 180 university students from Greece (University of Thessaloniki, Anatolia College and the Greek College of Thessaloniki).
The event was attended by Greek Consul General George Eliopoulos, Greece's permanent representative in the UN Katerina Boura and other UN staff, consul Manos Koubarakis, representatives of the Greek-American community and organisations, and others.
Kotzias said that the Greek government is closely following the abduction case of Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Paul Yazigi and Grigorios Yohanna Ibrahim who have been missing since April 2013.
In response to a question by main opposition New Democracy (ND) party MP Nikitas Kaklamanis as regards the protection of Christian communities in the Middle East, the foreign minister said that the government is in contact and close cooperation, among others, with the Patriarchate of Antioch, to which it has expressed its continuous and undivided support.
Kotzias underlined that the foreign ministry expresses the greatest interest possible in the situation of Christian Communities in the Middle East and North Africa, noting "I have repeatedly underlined in contacts with EU institutions and my counterparts in the EU and third countries the need to assume coordinated action for the protection of the Christian populations."
"In this context, the foreign ministry will organize an international conference in May putting at the center of attention these populations by emphasizing multi-ethnicity, multi-religiousness and multiculturalism," he said.
The exhibition features roughly 300 ancient artifacts from 41 museums in Greece and abroad, including the British Museum in London, the Louvre and the Capitol Museum in Rome, that explore ancient ideas and practices relating to health, sickness and treatment and the shift from "divine" cures to scientific medicine.
The artifacts track the history of medicine from 1200 B.C. to the 3rd century AD, exploring how athletes dealt with injuries, ideas about diet and caring for the body, as well as the use of opium and medicinal herbs.
Among the highlights is an impressive marble statue of Hygieia from the museum on Kos, flanked by sculptures of the 'hero-healer' Asclepius representing magico-religious medicine and Hippocrates, father of modern medicine.
The opening hours are 09:00-20:00.
According to the announcement, Pavlopoulos met with the mayor of Antikythera Stratos Harhalakis, who briefed the president on the progress of the research being conducted on new findings and gave him an estimation on when the work will be completed.
Harhalakis was accompanied by University of Athens professor Giorgos Kassimis.
The union clarified that the sites and museums will be closed to the public during those hours but the necessary security staff will remain on duty, as on all other occasions.
The strike is taking place to demand the hiring of additional staff needed to cover the extended opening hours that begin on April 1 at all sites, with the union stressing that these are currently too understaffed to ensure their safe and smooth operation. It calls on the government to provide a "clean solution" and not rush to hired hundreds of contract workers at the last minute.
The union also expresses objections to ther merger of the culture and education ministries, as well as the conversion of large museums to public-sector law legal entities.
All six are barred from leaving the country and will have to appear at a police station on a regular basis, while each will have to post a 3,000-euro bail. The prosecutor had also suggested their release, underlining that they did not present a flight risk.
The six and another seven of their colleagues will be tried for torturing long-term convict Kareli to death, while the Nigrita Prison warden is accused of attempting a cover-up.
It was on March 25, 2014 that Kareli himself, while serving time at Malandrino Prison, central Greece, fatally wounded 46-year-old prison officer Giorgos Tsironis with a makeshift knife. The death of Tsironis was allegedly avenged by prison staff at the Nigrita Jail, in the northern part of the country (where Kareli was immediately transferred after the killing) who beat and tortured the prisoner. He later succumbed to his wounds in his cell, where he was found dead.
The passenger ship Vitsenzos Kornaros had been en route from Piraeus port to the island of Rhodes with eight stops on the way. It ran aground late Wednesday as it approached to dock at the small island of Kassos, in the Dodecanese.
The crew of the tug boat said it was unable to reach the ship due to troubled waters and will attempt to do so once the winds weaken, but the Weather Service has forecast winds of 7-9 on the Beaufort scale for Friday.
Executives of coastal shipping companies told ANA-MPA that if there are strong winds in Kassos, any attempt to disembark passengers to other smaller boats would be very dangerous.
As soon as Vitsenzos Kornaros is detached from the sand, it will be tugged to the port of Kassos to be examined.
Koutzamani underlined that since mid December 2014, tonnes of refuse are piling up on the city streets and in public spaces, as well as in the nearby suburbs "creating an uncontrollable situation and posing immediate risk to public health."
The Supreme Court prosecutor ordered the urgent preliminary investigation to determine whether criminal actions were committed in waste management and demanded to be immediately briefed on the issue.
According to data released Thursday, eight people were arrested on March 23 - four men and four women, all Greek nationals aged from 26 to 67 years old - including the leader of the gang, a former private insurance employee, 53, who told police that "I did good, because the people could not live" without them.
The man also issued a pension of a physically impaired individual and worked with a 45-year-old staff member of OAEE, who found "clients" based on their insurance rights, and made sure they were not people who had outstanding debts to social security funds. A case file was drawn up with charges of drawing up and participating in a criminal organisation and fraud against the state, among other things.
Several other doctors are implicated in the case, including nine private practice doctors, eight doctors with IKA contracts (some of whom were members on committees certifying physical impairments), four staff members of the funds and another eight people who served as witnesses to fake workplace accidents.
The gang charged 2,000-5,000 euros per case and are thought to have cost the state at least 360,000 euros, at least for data since September; as the gang was active for four years, the total cost to the state will be higher. Doctors received from 50 to 700 euros for visits or committee certifications.
Economic police were alerted to the scam after OAEE staff noticed that different labour accident witnesses appeared to be the same. So far, authorities said, 133 individuals have been identified for illegal bonuses and pensions, while in 41 suspect work accident cases, the above doctors have signed off on 34.
Police search at homes and vehicles yielded several items inlcuding 100 X-rays of various ailments, 46 health booklets, 17 Lithuanian passports and rbber stamps of various companies and civil servants.
Those arrested were led before the Athens first instance court prosecutor and the finance ministry was also alerted for its own investigation.
The five women were charged for participating in a criminal group with activities spanning at least ten years during which they issued illegal benefits and bonuses to insured people, costing the state at least 11 million euros, according to IKA estimates.
Eleni Bourazani was sentenced to 37 years and a 150,000 euro fine; Christina Pateraki to 31 years and 150,000 euros; Chryssoula Ferra to 33 and 120,000 euros; Myrsini Thomakou to 33 years and 120,000 euros; and Christina Souridi to 38 years and 150,000 euros. They will each have to serve at least 25 years.
The husband of Bourazani, Constantine Karaiskos, was sentenced to 4 years and 60,000 euros with suspended sentencing. Ferra's sentence was suspended because she is mother of two minors, while her husband, Panagiotis-Alexandros Ematides, who was also being charged, died in the court room during the two-year trial. A sixth woman, head of the IKA branch's section of benefits, was found innocent.
It also ordered the confiscation of real estate assets and cars as well as 1 million euros of each of the plaintiffs whose assets were in a state of confiscation already.
The court also ruled that IKA would be compensated with 2 million euros for ethical harm. IKA is asking for 11 million euros for damages and another 5 million for ethical harm, both of which it will claim through different courts. The appeals judges rejected a request by one of the sentenced women to turn over to IKA real estate and cash as compensation.
The case was revealed in 2012, and the fraud appears to have begun in 2003. The court case began in July 2013 and IKA governor Rovertos Spyropoulos had testified that an inspection had revealed 7,999 cases of non-legal payments made to 1,213 beneficiaries of IKA.
Investigations are continuing both into the facts already uncovered and in the case files of beneficiaries.
A tug boat is expected within the day to arrive from Mykonos to detach the ship.
The ferry was carrying out the itinerary Piraeus, Santorini, Anafi, Heraklion, Sitia, Kassos, Karpathos, Diafani, Halki and Rhodes and back to Piraeus.
The lights-off event, founded in 2007, is held annually to raise awareness about climate change. This year it will be held on Saturday at 20:30 local time in over 162 countries and territories worldwide.
Earth Hour was first held in 2009 in Greece, where it is coordinated by WWF Greece. It will involve hundreds of municipalities throughout the country, while in the past lights have gone off on iconic buildings of the country like the Parthenon, the Greek Parliament, the White Tower in Thessaloniki and the Rio-Antirrio bridge linking central and southern Greece.
The airport authorities said that during the one-hour event they would also reduce lighting at staff parking lots and other select spaces at the airport and make public announcements about the event.
Nearby businesses will also participate - Leroy Merlin, Factory Outlet, Sofitel hotel, IKEA, Kotsovolos and others.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 4+1 reversals to contributions and professionals' pensions
ESTIA: Greece's international image
ETHNOS: Debts' cancellation from the social security funds.
NAFTEMPORIKI: 18+1 tax reversals
TA NEA: Suspended step towards solution
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