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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-12-18

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

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

Thursday, 18 December 2014 Issue No: 4839

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek Parliament fails to elect new president in first round of voting
  • [02] PM Samaras confident Parliament will elect Greek president
  • [03] Greece cannot tolerate political uncertainty, ND parliamentary spokesman says
  • [04] PASOK leader addresses parliamentary group before Greek presidential election begins
  • [05] Greek people and democracy will provide way out, main opposition SYRIZA leader says
  • [06] Roll-call vote for election of president to begin in Parliament at 19:00
  • [07] PM Samaras' office statement ahead of first round of presidential election
  • [08] PASOK leader addresses parliamentary group before Greek presidential election begins
  • [09] SYRIZA spokesman: Gov't is far away from the 180 votes needed for the election of President
  • [10] Results of round one in Greek president elections point to national elections, DIMAR leader says
  • [11] DIMAR leader Kouvelis: Recourse to early election will work as redemption for the people
  • [12] ANEL leader Kammenos: Greece will turn a new page on Dec. 29
  • [13] ANEL leader Kammenos says his MPs will not vote for Greek presidency
  • [14] Independent MP Melas says he will change his stance in the next rounds of vote
  • [15] Independent MP Kourakos: 'I will vote for president under three conditions'
  • [16] KKE's Koutsoumbas on the presidential election
  • [17] Potami party repeats call for election of 'strong president' from present Parliament
  • [18] Independent MP Polydoras says he will vote according to his conscience
  • [19] Detained Golden Dawn deputies escorted to Parliament for Greek president voting (ADDS)
  • [20] National Front's Marine Le Pen on Greece's presidential elections
  • [21] PM Samaras meets with Gov't Vice President Venizelos
  • [22] Parliament plenary to hold debate and vote on NSRF on Thursday
  • [23] German gov't spokesman: Greece-troika collaboration based on implementation of agreement
  • [24] SYRIZA lead over ND, shows opinion poll
  • [25] SYRIZA lashes out at BoG's Stournaras
  • [26] Juncker and Moscovici's interventions in Greek political affairs are 'unacceptable and illegal', MEP Marias says
  • [27] Former Commissioner Rehn replies to SYRIZA MEP on Tsipras and Greek debt
  • [28] Former Golden Dawn MP Boukouras to be released on conditions
  • [29] Honorary ND president Mitsotakis to meet ANEL leader Kammenos on Thursday
  • [30] Greek and Cypriot foreign affairs and energy ministers meet in Athens
  • [31] Socialist Int'l president condemns Taliban attack in Pakistan
  • [32] Education Minister, Cypriot counterpart meet at presentation of 62 scholarships to Greek students
  • [33] ADEDY holds protest against lay-offs in public sector
  • [34] FinMin Hardouvelis meets with tourism sector leader to discuss VAT raise in hotels
  • [35] Eurostat gives -1.2 pct inflation rate for Greece
  • [36] Port employees oppose revised friendly settlement agreement between OLP and Cosco
  • [37] Chinese PM says rapid railway network to connect Greece to central Europe
  • [38] Large debtors present higher loan delay rate, BoG report
  • [39] Christmas table cheaper, but political climate weighs on consumers, GSEVEE head says
  • [40] OLP's Anomeritis: Agreement with PCT (Cosco) to promote port industry
  • [41] Thessaloniki metro consortium asks to terminate construction contract
  • [42] Greece drains 1.3 bln euros from T-bill auction
  • [43] Sarantis Group to issue 150-mln-euro bond loan
  • [44] Plaisio to issue 15-mln-euro bond loan
  • [45] Plaisio to issue 15-mln-euro bond loan
  • [46] Greek stocks end significantly higher
  • [47] Greek bond market closing report
  • [48] ADEX closing report
  • [49] Foreign exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [50] Asclepius' ancient healing sanctuary to get NSRF funding, minister says
  • [51] Universities are at risk of being shut down, rectors warn
  • [52] Court of Audit rules for second time against Attica Region grant for refurbishing Panathinaikos stadium in central Athens
  • [53] New app allows commuters to purchase Athens urban transport tickets online
  • [54] Man arrested for at least 30 armed robberies
  • [55] Shops open on December 21 between 11.00 and 20.00
  • [56] Partly cloudy on Thursday Politics

  • [01] Greek Parliament fails to elect new president in first round of voting

    The Greek Parliament on Wednesday failed to elect Stavros Dimas as president of the Hellenic Republic in the first of three rounds of voting for the presidential election. With 160 votes supporting his candidacy, 135 MPs abstaining and five MPs absent, Dimas did not gain the support of 200 MPs needed to be elected in the first round, as required by article 32 of the Constitution.

    The deputies participating in the vote had only two options: they could either vote for by calling out Dimas' name or abstain by calling out 'present'.

    The five MPs absent during the roll-call vote were the independent deputies Georgios Kasapidis and Kostas Giovanopoulos, former Golden Dawn and now independent deputies Stathis Boukouras and Chrysovalantis Alexopoulos and main opposition SYRIZA MP Anna Hatzisofia, who was abroad.

    Hatzisofia had sent a letter stating that if she were in Parliament she would vote 'present' (not supporting Dimas' candidacy) but her statement could not be counted as a vote.

    One surprise was the vote of independent MP Panagiotis Melas who also abstained, even though it had earlier seemed as though he would support Dimas.

    None of the MPs strayed from the official party line as decided by their Parliamentary groups during the first round of voting, with all 127 New Democracy deputies and all 28 PASOK deputies, the two parties in the coalition government, voting in support of Dimas. An additional five votes in favour of Dimas were given by independent deputies, among them former DIM.AR MPs Spyros Lykoudis, Grigoris Psarianos and Katerina Markou, former Independent Greeks MP Georgios Davris and former PASOK MP Christos Aidonis.

    The MPs that did not support Dimas and abstained by calling out 'present' included all 70 SYRIZA MPs that were present for the vote, except Hatzisofia, all 12 Independent Greeks MPs, all 12 Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MPs, all 10 Democratic Left (DIM.AR) MPs and all 16 far-right Golden Dawn MPs.

    The independent MPs that abstained included Vyron Polydoras (formerly of ND), Petros Tatsopoulos (formerly of SYRIZA), Mimis Androulakis, Theodora Tzakri, Markos Bolaris and Theodoros Parastatidis (former of PASOK), Vassilis Kapernaros, Mika Iatridi, Rachel Makri, Chrysoula Giatagana, Panagiotis Melas and Yiannis Kourakos (formerly of Independent Greeks) and Odysseas Voudouris, Paris Moutsinas and Vassilis Economou (formerly of DIM.AR).

    Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis has announced that the second round of roll-call voting will be held next Tuesday, December 23 at noon and will again require a two-thirds majority or 200 votes. If this is not reached, a third round on December 29 will require 180 votes. Following failure of the third round to elect a president, the country goes to national elections.

    [02] PM Samaras confident Parliament will elect Greek president

    We still have two rounds of voting ahead of us, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday evening after the failure of the first round to vote in Stavros Dimas as Greek president.

    "I am sure we shall elect a Greek president," Samaras said to the press after the vote, which included 160 for, 135 "present" and five absent deputies.

    The country "must not enter into adventures," he warned, and congratulated those independent deputies who voted for Dimas in the first round.

    [03] Greece cannot tolerate political uncertainty, ND parliamentary spokesman says

    "The Greek economy will be destroyed in case of early elections. There is no doubt about it," New Democracy (ND) parliamentary spokesman Adonis Georgiadis on Wednesday said speaking to VIMA FM, adding that this is the position of rating agencies.

    Georgiadis explained that early elections would trigger uncertainty at a time when the country is about to exit the crisis. "The country cannot tolerate political uncertainty," he underlined.

    However, he did not rule out the possibility the government to accept a candidate proposed by SYRIZA.

    [04] PASOK leader addresses parliamentary group before Greek presidential election begins

    A majority in votes for the Greek president is not the same as a government majority, PASOK leader and Government Vice-President Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday, shortly before the vote, to the party's parliamentary group.

    The vote for Greek president is not a mechanism to promote national elections, but a cooperation process, Venizelos, who is also foreign minister, said. (The Parliament is voting on the presidency of Stavros Dimas, proposed by the New Democracy-PASOK ruling coalition.)

    "We want the Greek president to be elected - we believe that going to national elections would be harmful, yet we are not afraid of them and we will serve as guarantors of stability during and after," Venizelos said.

    [05] Greek people and democracy will provide way out, main opposition SYRIZA leader says

    The Greek people and democracy will provide a solution, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday evening, after a vote in Parliament failed to elect a Greek president.

    "The danger-mongering of the last few days has failed," he said. "The strategy of fear has collapsed. Tomorrow will bring a new day, more optimistic, because democracy cannot be blackmailed. Very soon the people will play a leading role in developments. There will be a way out and the solution will be given by the Greek people and democracy," he stressed.

    [06] Roll-call vote for election of president to begin in Parliament at 19:00

    The first roll-call vote on the election of Stavros Dimas as president of the Hellenic Republic will begin in the Parliament plenum at 19:00 on Wednesday, based on a proposal co-signed by New Democracy and PASOK, the two parties in Greece's coalition government.

    Based on article 32 of the Constitution, the election of a president in the first round requires a two thirds majority in Parliament, or 200 votes. In order for Dimas to be elected in the first round, he must win the support of all 155 deputies belonging to the ruling coalition in addition to 45 opposition party MPs or independents.

    Up to this point, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) with 71 MPs, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 12 MPs, the far-right Golden Dawn party with 16 MPs, the Independent Greeks party with 12 MPs and the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party with 10 MPs are officially against the election of a president by the current Parliament.

    According to DIM.AR leader Fotis Kouvelis, while his party has voted against supporting Dimas's candidacy as a whole, he will not consider a different vote by a DIM.AR MP as a 'defection'.

    The group of representing 17 of Parliament's independent MPs - 'the Independent Democratic Deputies - has not adopted a joint position on the election of a present, neither have the seven independent deputies that are not in this groups.

    If Parliament fails to elect a president during Wednesday's vote, the second round in the election process will be held next Tuesday.

    [07] PM Samaras' office statement ahead of first round of presidential election

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' office on Wednesday issued the following statement ahead of the first voting for the election of a President of the Republic:

    "Tonight, the first voting for the election of a President of the Republic will be carried out. During that voting procedure, positive votes are not considered a vote in favour of the government; but a decision to defend the Constitution and respect the institution of the President of the Republic, as well as an avoidance of a political adventure that could be fatal for the country's European course."

    Greek MPs will rise to the occasion, considerate and weigh the national interest, beyond partisan entrenchments, Presidential candidate Dimas says

    "My aim is to contribute to the unity of the Greek people, who is currently required by everyone, so that the country exits the crisis," Presidential candidate Stavros Dimas told CRASH magazine.

    Among others, Dimas underlined: "I believe that Greek deputies will rise to the occasion, will considerate and weigh the national interest, beyond the partisan entrenchments."

    "I am excited and honored by the love of the world, and the fact that regardless of the election, members of all parties spoke positively of my personality and my course," he added.

    [08] PASOK leader addresses parliamentary group before Greek presidential election begins

    A majority in votes for the Greek president is not the same as a government majority, PASOK leader and Government Vice-President Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday, shortly before the vote, to the party's parliamentary group.

    The vote for Greek president is not a mechanism to promote national elections, but a cooperation process, Venizelos, who is also foreign minister, said. (The Parliament is voting on the presidency of Stavros Dimas, proposed by the New Democracy-PASOK ruling coalition.)

    "We want the Greek president to be elected - we believe that going to national elections would be harmful, yet we are not afraid of them and we will serve as guarantors of stability during and after," Venizelos said.

    [09] SYRIZA spokesman: Gov't is far away from the 180 votes needed for the election of President

    SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis on Wednesday, referring to the first round of the presidential elections, said "I believe that during the voting procedure it will be confirmed that we are far away from the 180 deputies and there will be no signs that these votes will be gathered in the next rounds. I estimate that the government will not find the 180 votes even if the candidate changes."

    Commenting on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' press office announcement, Skourletis noted, speaking to VIMA FM: "Despite their efforts to 'neutralise' the procedure in relation to the implemented policies, meaning the continuation of the memorandum policies, the announcement does not succeed in doing so. For this reason, the announcement concludes by saying that the country must avoid the political adventure and by political adventure they refer to early elections."

    Regarding Bank of Greece (BoG) governor Yannis Stournaras' statements, Skourletis noted "Stournaras' statements on Tuesday are considered the darkest statements in the bank's history. You must be certain that are written on the black page and will be evaluated in more appropriate times. There are no similar statements by a BoG governor in the past."

    On main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras' meeting with former BoG governor Giorgos Provopoulos on Tuesday, the party spokesman said "Mr. Provopoulos holds the helm of the Greek central bank in very crucial times, he knows persons and conditions and possibly mechanisms that operate in periods of instability and irregularity. So, in all senses it was a useful meeting."

    [10] Results of round one in Greek president elections point to national elections, DIMAR leader says

    The failure of the first of three rounds to elect a Greek president opens the way to national elections, Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis said on Wednesday evening, after the vote in Parliament.

    "Based on today's result, the path to national elections has opened," he said, adding that DIMAR's deputies have sent a message that the current policies being followed by the government cannot continue any longer.

    [11] DIMAR leader Kouvelis: Recourse to early election will work as redemption for the people

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) wants the country to be taken to early elections because the people will be able to choose which policies they prefer, party leader Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday told SKAI TV and estimated that the recourse to snap elections will "work as a redemption" for the society.

    He also said that his statement - that if a party deputy votes for a President against the party congress' decision, his or her decision will not be considered a defection - was misinterpreted, underlining that with this position he did not, in any case, mean that the members of his party's parliamentary group are disengaged from the party's decisions.

    Kouvelis described Bank of Greece (BoG) governor Yannis Stournaras' intervention regarding the risks posed by the political uncertainty during the last few days as "wrong" and criticized EU officials' "unacceptable intervention".

    According to skai.gr, DIMAR leader once again left the possibility of cooperation with main opposition SYRIZA open, clarifying that all the decisions will be taken by the party's bodies in the first 10 days of January after the end of the presidential election procedure.

    [12] ANEL leader Kammenos: Greece will turn a new page on Dec. 29

    Greece will turn a new page after the last round of vote for a new Greek president, the leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos said on Thursday.

    "On the 29th the country is turning a page," Kammenos said as he arrived in parliament to participate in the election.

    Asked whether tomorrow's meeting with the honorary president of New Democracy, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, will concern the presidential election, Kammenos said: "Not necessarily."

    [13] ANEL leader Kammenos says his MPs will not vote for Greek presidency

    "The Independent Greeks will not vote for Greek president in the second and third round of the election as well, regardless of who will be the candidate. Even if Prime Minister [Antonis] Samaras resigns," party leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday commented while exiting the parliament building after the first round of the presidential election.

    Referring to the outcome of today's vote, the ANEL leader said that it is clear and means "[national] elections".

    "They were unable to persuade, in any way, the Greek MPs, who cast a conscience vote. I am certain about the other rounds of voting as I am certain that the Greek people cannot be intimidated. Mr. Samaras must leave the government," he noted.

    [14] Independent MP Melas says he will change his stance in the next rounds of vote

    Independent MP Panagiotis Melas, who abstained from the vote for Greek president in parliament on Wednesday night, said he will change his stance in the next rounds of vote.

    "I had stated I was 60 pct Stavros Dimas and 40 pct 'present'. Today I expressed the 40 pct," Melas told reporters outside the parliament, after lawmakers failed to elect the government's candidate, Stavros Dimas, as president.

    With 160 votes supporting his candidacy, 135 MPs abstaining and five MPs absent, Dimas did not gain the support of 200 MPs needed to be elected in the first round, as required by article 32 of the Constitution.

    Two more votes are scheduled for Dec. 23 and 29.

    [15] Independent MP Kourakos: 'I will vote for president under three conditions'

    Independent MP Giannis Kourakos, who abstained from the vote for Greek president in parliament on Wednesday night, told ANA-MPA he would only vote in favour of candidate Stavros Dimas if three conditions were met:

    - If a national purpose government is formed to negotiate Greece's debt "because the debt is a national issue and will affect 4-5 generations of Greeks"

    - If the constitutional revision is completed

    - If a date is selected for general elections

    According to Kourakos, "under these conditions a president would be voted with the largest possible consensus."

    The MP also said that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras "wants to lead us to early elections. In order not to be led to elections, the aforementioned conditions have to be met."

    [16] KKE's Koutsoumbas on the presidential election

    A new "bipartisan altercation" is being set up between senior ruling coalition partner New Democracy and main opposition SYRIZA on the occasion of the election of the Greek president, opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas said on Wednesday before addressing an event in Thessaloniki marking the party's 96th anniversary.

    Koutsoumbas told reporters that "New Democracy and SYRIZA accuse each other of being responsible for the economy's and the country's destabilisation," adding that "in reality both are being tested by the EU, the financial markets and the capital holders."

    [17] Potami party repeats call for election of 'strong president' from present Parliament

    The newly founded opposition party Potami, which did not exist in 2012 and is not represented in Parliament, on Wednesday repeated its position that the current Parliament must elect a "strong" president of Greece.

    The party stressed that it will repeat this "every day until the end of the process" and also that the government "is obliged to reach an understanding with the main opposition and set a date for elections within 2015, after the foundations have been laid for a revision of the Constitution, for a change of electoral law and to cover the countries' borrowing needs."

    In an announcement, the party led by Stavros Theodorakis said that the current situation was a "Greek paradox" and that Greece was "the only country in the modern world where the inability to elect a president of the Republic leads to general elections."

    "In no other Constitution apart from the Greek one is there a provision that unavailing votes in elective bodies lead to national polls," the announcement said, adding that it was "unprecedented" for parties and MPs to reject a candidate for president but not propose their own candidate instead, especially when "a democracy in a period of great crisis demands responsibility by all sides and not petty political scheming."

    [18] Independent MP Polydoras says he will vote according to his conscience

    Independent MP Vyron Polydoras on Wednesday said to ANA-MPA that he will vote in today's first round of the election for President of Republic according to his conscience which is as he said "made of steel and not of plastic."

    Former parliament president stated "I will follow my conscience which is sleepless, national and made of steel and not of plastic".

    [19] Detained Golden Dawn deputies escorted to Parliament for Greek president voting (ADDS)

    Parliament guards closed off from the press the corridor through which detained Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) deputies were escorted to the main hall, where MPs were to begin voting for Greek president, on Wednesday evening. Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias was also on the scene for some time, supervising the security measures.

    The only exception to the strict security was when GD MP Christos Pappas was allowed a brief moment with his wife and son, who had been given permission to wait for him in the Parliament's entrance.

    The GD MPs jailed on remand entered via the underground parking garage, under police escort, but were not wearing handcuffs.

    The deputies, including their party leader, are held pending trial on charges of running a criminal organisation as well as individual charges for other offences.

    [20] National Front's Marine Le Pen on Greece's presidential elections

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    In a statement published on the official website of France's National Front (FN), party leader Marine Le Pen lashed out at the European Commission, accusing it "of entering a new phase in its deviation toward authoritarianism", noting that "for the first time in its history it made suggestions" concerning the presidential election in Greece.

    In the statement under the title "Presidential election in Greece: European authoritarianism reveals its true face," she underlined that "the Commission's support to Stavros Dimas, a former Commissioner and official candidate of the Greek government and the financial markets, comes as no surprise. The goal is to rule out any chance for a change or substantive discussion on how well-founded the European austerity policies are."

    [21] PM Samaras meets with Gov't Vice President Venizelos

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday met with Government Vice-President Evangelos Venizelos, at Maximos Mansion, ahead of the first round of the election of the President of the Republic.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    [22] Parliament plenary to hold debate and vote on NSRF on Thursday

    The parliamentary Standing Committee on Production and Trade on Wednesday voted for the bill on the management, operation and implementation of the NSRF funding to Greece in the new programming period 2014-2020.

    The bill was voted in principle and as a whole by New Democracy and PASOK deputies. SYRIZA and communist KKE party voted against it, while other parties and independent MPs said they will express their view in the plenary voting.

    The plenary debate and voting will be concluded on Thursday in one session, as the whole process is conducted with emergency procedures.

    Development Minister Costas Skrekas assured deputies he would make improvements which he would submit to Thursday's debate in the plenum.

    He termed the new NSRF the "locomotive of the Greek economy and a growth tool that will bring investments and will create new jobs," adding that the aim is for no funds to get wasted.

    "The Greek economy is exiting the tunnel of the crisis. With the new 2014-2020 Programming Period, about 26 billion euros will flow into the Greek economy. The new legislative framework defines in a clear and effective way how this money will be used in real productive activities," he said.

    [23] German gov't spokesman: Greece-troika collaboration based on implementation of agreement

    BERLIN (ANA-F. Karaviti)

    The troika's collaboration with the Greek government is always based on an analysis of the economic and fiscal situation of Greece and on the degree of implementation of what has been jointly agreed upon, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday.

    Seibert was responding to a question about whether the demand of Greece's troika of lenders for specific reforms extended beyond Greece's current government.

    Asked to comment about the "[main] opposition's differing view" in the above, Seibert declined to comment "as a matter of principle."

    Responding to a query of whether the German government would be willing to negotiate with a government led by current main opposition SYRIZA, in the event national elections were held and the party won, the spokesman said that he would not discuss theoretical domestic developments in Greece.

    "The German government is in intensive talks and collaboration with the Greek government, as it has collaborated with its previous governments also. I have [already] explained what is guiding the troika in its evaluation of the Greek situation and the implementation of the [fiscal] programme," he added.

    [24] SYRIZA lead over ND, shows opinion poll

    Main opposition SYRIZA leads ruling New Democracy (ND) with 3.2 percentage points, according to an opinion poll conducted by VCITIZENS for two private financial agencies published in Efimerida ton Syntakton on Wednesday.

    According to the poll, SYRIZA leads with 23.3 percent followed by ND with 20.1 percent, Golden Dawn with 6.1 percent, the Communist Party (KKE) with 4.9 percent, TO POTAMI with 4.2 percent, PASOK with 3.1 percent, Independent Greeks with 2.4 percent and Democratic Left (DIMAR) with 1 percent. 4 percent of the respondents said the will vote for another party and 15.2 percent said have not decided yet or refused to answer.

    The poll was conducted between 11-14 December 2014.

    [25] SYRIZA lashes out at BoG's Stournaras

    SYRIZA's Department of Economic Policy on Wednesday criticised Bank of Greece (BoG) governor Yannis Stournaras over his statements regarding liquidity in banks and the election of a President of the Republic.

    "In any case, those responsible will be held accountable," SYRIZA's Department of Economic Policy said in a statement.

    The main opposition's economists suggest that Stournaras undermines the stability of the banking sector, noting that "the central banker should provide for the protection of the banking system and not undermine its stability, causing unjustified panic with statements in order to promote his own ambitions."

    [26] Juncker and Moscovici's interventions in Greek political affairs are 'unacceptable and illegal', MEP Marias says

    The interventions by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici in the Greek political affairs are "unacceptable and illegal," Notis Marias, Independent Greeks MEP, vice-president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and head of the Political Movement Anti-Memorandum Citizens, told ANA-MPA in an interview.

    "The European Commission, under the European legislation and the decisions of the EU Court, has to be politically neutral. This means, it is not allowed to interfere in the internal, partisan and political affairs of a member state," he said.

    "Neither he (Juncker) nor Moscovici have the right to intervene in an unacceptable and illegal way in the country's internal affairs and point out to Greek MPs or the Greek people what they should do," Marias said.

    Asked on statements by unnamed German Finance ministry officials who claimed that "if SYRIZA comes to power and implements all its pledges, Greece will not receive any further financial support from the EU," Marias noted: "If you take a look at the current economic figures of the country, Greece can function as a state and pay salaries and pensions...without the need for lending. The lending, which lenders have invented supposedly as being necessary, is put on the day's agenda in order to provide liquidity and Draghi's usurious bonds can be repaid."

    The full audio interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.

    [27] Former Commissioner Rehn replies to SYRIZA MEP on Tsipras and Greek debt

    STRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/ N. Roussis)

    Responding to a question put to him by Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis on Wednesday, MEP and former European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Olli Rehn declined to comment on Greek politics while noting that Greece's main opposition party and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras were committed to Greece's membership of the Eurozone.

    Papadimoulis had used the "blue card" procedure to ask the former commissioner to comment on what he called "fear-mongering and propaganda" that a SYRIZA victory in possible upcoming elections in Greece would mean Greece's exit from the Eurozone and be a great disaster for the Eurozone itself.

    In his reply, Rehn noted that Greece "had some difficulties in the past and these were increasing again" but stressed that he had no desire to intervene in Greece's internal political affairs.

    "It is my understanding, however, that SYRIZA and Mr. Tsipras are committed as regards Greece's membership of the Eurozone. I think this counts and is the main element," he added.

    On the issue of Greece's debt, he acknowledged that it was a heavy burden and added that Greece must therefore proceed with reforms "seeing what will happen with the loans that are also proceeding and not necessarily drawing from capital."

    [28] Former Golden Dawn MP Boukouras to be released on conditions

    The Appeals Court Judges Council on Wednesday adopted the prosecutor's recommendation and decided to release independent and former Golden Dawn MP Stathis Boukouras, who was remanded in custody pending trial over the GD case, on conditions.

    The Council issued a decree ordering his release on a 10,000 euro bail and the conditions of a ban on leaving the country and reporting at his neighbouring police station.

    The Appeals Council considered the fact that the accused has taken distances from Golden Dawn's positions as positive and according to their judgement, Boukouras is no longer suspicious of committing new crimes.

    Following this development, Boukouras will attend the parliament session on the election of the Greek President on Wednesday as a free man.

    The Court of Appeals Judges Council within the next days is expected to issue a decree on whether those involved in Golden Dawn case, facing a series of felonies charges, will be sent to court or not.

    The Council is called to rule on Prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos' recommendation, according to which 18 Golden Dawn deputies and 52 others involved in the case should be indicted.

    [29] Honorary ND president Mitsotakis to meet ANEL leader Kammenos on Thursday

    The honorary President of senior coalition partner New Democracy, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, will meet with the President of Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos on Thursday, at the Mitsotakis' office, at 11:00.

    The meeting was called after a telephone invitation by Mitsotakis to Kammenos.

    [30] Greek and Cypriot foreign affairs and energy ministers meet in Athens

    Greece's Foreign Affairs and Environment, Energy & Climate Change Ministers, Evangelos Venizelos and Yiannis Maniatis, respectively, on Wednesday met at the foreign ministry in Athens with their Cyprus Republic counterparts, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Energy, Commerce, Industry & Tourism Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis.

    The meeting focused on bilateral cooperation in the sectors of energy and maritime policy, the Turkish provocations within the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus and the latest developments in Eastern Mediterranean and the European Union.

    Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos underlined afterward that this first joint meeting was aimed at encouraging comprehensive cooperation between the two countries on issues of energy and maritime policy and information exchange to draw up a dual strategy on foreign policy, security policy and energy, the utilisation of natural resources and the prospects of economic growth, employment and prosperity for the two countries and the greater region of Eastern Mediterranean.

    He underlined that the bilateral and multilateral cooperation promoted is of peaceful and developmental nature and noted that they also discussed issues concerning SE Europe and EU-Russia relations.

    Venizelos reiterated that Greece acts always in close communication with Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the Cypriot government, always having as a goal to defend the Republic of Cyprus international legal identity, its sovereignty and sovereign rights. He also reminded that the restoration of international legality and the withdrawal of the Turkish survey ship "Barbaros" from Cyprus' EEZ is a precondition for the resumption of negotiations on the Cyprus issue.

    Cypriot Foreign Minister Kasoulides said that the meeting focused on bilateral cooperation in the sectors of energy and maritime policy, noting that the EU has a direct interest in these sectors and that Greece and Cyprus can contribute to Europe's energy security.

    He referred to peaceful and prosperous Eastern Mediterranean, without excluding any of the countries in the region noting, however, that countries should not exclude themselves by adopting hostile policies toward other countries.

    Kasoulides said that they also discussed the issue of Turkey's illegal actions within Cyprus' EEZ and added that negotiations on the Cyprus issue cannot continue under threats and blackmails. He underlined that the goal is to return to the negotiating table, noting that dialogue is the only way to settle the Cyprus issue and observed that in order for this to happen "Turkey must withdraw its ship from Cyprus' EEZ and not repeat such actions in the future."

    "Ankara should recognize that the interests of the Turkish-Cypriots as regards Cyprus' natural resources have already been safeguarded in the context of the negotiations considering that these natural resources fall under federal jurisdiction and will be distributed fairly for the benefit of all," the Cypriot foreign minister said.

    Responding to a question by ANA-MPA on the economic sustainability of EastMed underwater natural gas pipeline, designed to carry natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean fields to Europe via Crete and mainland Greece, Greek Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis said that this has been confirmed by preliminary studies. "The fact that the European Commission has pledged its assistance to this important plan shows that we have persuaded our partners that we should continue toward this direction," he noted.

    Responding to the same question, Cyprus' Energy, Commerce, Industry & Tourism Minister Lakkotrypis referred to a joint action in the European Commission "to help us examine in depth this ambitious project."

    On the likelihood of a meeting with the participation of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel, Foreign Minister Venizelos said that the idea to undertake a Mediterranean initiative has been discussed.

    [31] Socialist Int'l president condemns Taliban attack in Pakistan

    Socialist International President George Papandreou condemned the Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan on Tuesday that resulted in the deaths of 148 people, mostly children.

    Papandreou said he "unequivocably condemned the atrocious murder" in Peshawar that included 132 students, which targeted the right to education. "It is a barbaric action aiming at terrorising hopeful citizens of the future," he said, and expressed his condolences.

    According to reliable sources, the reference by Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis to the event prior to the start of voting for Greek president in Parliament on Wednesday evening was at the initiative of Papandreou.

    [32] Education Minister, Cypriot counterpart meet at presentation of 62 scholarships to Greek students

    Education Minister Andreas Loverdos and his Cypriot counterpart Costas Kadis on Wednesday met at the education ministry in Athens, during the presentation of 62 scholarships to students in Greece, funded by money collected by school children in Cyprus.

    The meeting was held in the presence of the students who received the scholarships, based on academic excellence.

    "The children of Cyprus actively demonstrated their support for the Greek fellow students. This is worthy of congratulations, as are you for doing well and earning these scholarships," Kadis commented.

    [33] ADEDY holds protest against lay-offs in public sector

    Public sector union ADEDY on Wednesday held a rally in down town Athens protesting against lay-offs in the public sector.

    Dozens of protesters gathered at Klafthmonos square and marched towards the Administrative Reform ministry.

    The entrance of the ministry building had been cordoned off by police, while traffic in nearby streets was disrupted for more than an hour.

    Financial News

    [34] FinMin Hardouvelis meets with tourism sector leader to discuss VAT raise in hotels

    Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis met with Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) president Andreas Andreadis on Wednesday to discuss the issue of a government proposal to the troika of Greece's lenders raising 6.5 pct VAT rate in hotels to 13 pct.

    The SETE president said that the government recognises the negative repercussions of such a move on tourism but believes it is the mildest possible measure that could be taken to move forward the outstanding review by the troika of Greece's fiscal programme, which is tied to the disbursement of the last loan tranche to the country. (The programme was extended from December 31 to end-February.) The finance ministry also believes that the sector's business owners will be able to absorb any losses, Andreadis said, adding that the repercussions from such a raise will be visible as of 2016, since tour operators have already booked 2015.

    SETE he said has contracted two international research companies to examine the fallout from the VAT rise; their reports will be ready in January 2015.

    [35] Eurostat gives -1.2 pct inflation rate for Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    Deflation slowed in Greece last month according to annual Eurozone inflation rate figures released by Eurostat on Wednesday, which gave an annual rate of -1.2 pct for Greece in November 2014, from -1.8 pct in October.

    Annual inflation throughout the Eurozone slowed to 0.3 pct in November, down from 0.4 pct in October, and annual inflation in the EU28 stood at 0.4 pct in November, down from 0.5 pct in October.

    Countries experiencing deflation on an annual basis included Bulgaria (-1.9 pct), Greece (-1.2 pct), Spain (-0.5 pct) and Poland (-0.3 pct). The highest rates of annual inflation were in Romania and Austria (1.5 pct), followed by Finland (1.1 pct).

    The rate of annual deflation has slowed significantly in Greece compared with November 2013, when it stood at -2.9 pct against an EU average inflation of 1 pct.

    [36] Port employees oppose revised friendly settlement agreement between OLP and Cosco

    Port employees federation OMYLE and Piraeus Port dockworkers' association, in an open letter addressed to the prime minister, the government vice-president and the political parties' leaders and deputies, asked for the freezing of the procedure for the ratification of the new revised friendly settlement agreement between Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT), a company owned by Cosco.

    The amendment on the ratification of the agreement was submitted to Parliament on Tuesday, attached to a town planning expropriations bill, which is expected to be debated on at the plenum on Friday and Saturday.

    The unions claim among others that the government has attempted to ratify the agreement within a short period of time, without an in-depth discussion as it was put forward as an amendment and, what is more, amid the process of electing a Greek President and the possible call of early elections.

    OMYLE also decided to call a 24hour strike for OLP employees on Friday 19/12 and abstention from work on Saturday 20/12. On Friday at 11.00, it will also hold a protest at Klafthmonos square and a march towards the Parliament.

    [37] Chinese PM says rapid railway network to connect Greece to central Europe

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA/N. Pelpas)

    Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said on Wednesday his country will participate in the upgrade of the entire railway network linking Greece to central Europe, during a two-day visit to Serbia.

    At a joint press conference with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic after their meeting, Li said the construction of the railway network from Belgrade to Budapest constitutes the first section of a rapid rail network that will extend all the way to Greece.

    "At the Belgrade summit, we signed an agreement for the implementation of the project to reconstruct the railway network to Budapest, where trains will travel with 200 klm per hour and now this project is being expanded with the participation of FYROM and Greece," Li said.

    "The Greek railways and the port of Piraeus will also form part of the rapid maritime and land route connecting China to Europe," he added.

    The Chinese shipping giant Cosco has a 35-year concession to expand two container terminals at Piraeus.

    Li also noted "this railway line will be a major logistics route to and from China and will enhance its relations with the European Union, while helping in the development of the regions from where it will pass."

    The Chinese prime minister said he will soon start procedures for the planning of the project with all interested parties and will look for ways to fund it, while adding his country is willing to participate with capital.

    During the meetings in Belgrade, the two sides signed 12 cooperation protocols, with the most important being one for the construction of the thermal power station Kostolac II, with a capacity of 350 megawatts, and the construction of an industrial zone outside the Serbian capital where Chinese companies will transfer part of their production line.

    The visit of the Chinese premier will be completed on Thursday with the inauguration of a bridge on the highway ring around Belgrade, which was built by Chinese construction companies.

    [38] Large debtors present higher loan delay rate, BoG report

    Around 3/4 of large enterprises with bank debt have a debt of up to 5.0 million euros and present a higher loan repayment delay rate compared with debtors with a debt of more than 5.0 million euros, the Bank of Greece said in its interim report on Monetary Policy, released on Tuesday. The survey was conducted on a sample of around 16,000 debtors with a total loan debt of 98.5 billion euros (around 54 pct of the country's GDP in 2013 current prices), of which around 6,000 present a repayment delay of around 28.5 billion euros (15.6 pct of GDP).

    The central bank report said that around half of loans in delay were distributed among a few hundred debtors, while 50 pct of them represented only six sectors of economic activity from a total 88 sectors. The survey also showed that around 50 pct of loans in delay remained in this position for a period of at least three years, while debtors mainly came from the construction, wholesale/retail, hotel, real estate management, food industry, health and textile sectors.

    An 1/3 pf loans in delay covered around 800 debtors which have conducted loans in at least two systemic banks with a loan portfolio of around 11 billion euros.

    The report said that 30 business sectors, which account for 23 pct of bank credit, present a loan delay rate between 38-91 pct, another 28 sectors which account for 58 pct of bank credit present a loan delay between 21 and 37 pct and the remaining 30 sectors, which account for 19 pct of bank credit, present a loan delay rate up to 20 pct.

    The central bank, in the report, noted that the fact the a deterioration in loan repayment delay was comparatively higher in sectors with already high delay rate made necessary to address the problems in these sectors with a priority to reduce the risk of transferring this problem to healthy enterprises.

    [39] Christmas table cheaper, but political climate weighs on consumers, GSEVEE head says

    The so-called Christmas table will be cheaper this year compared to 2013, but despite the Christmas mood in the market, consumers are negatively affected by the uncertainty caused by the current political climate, Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) president Giorgos Kavvathas said on Wednesday in an interview with ANA-MPA.

    Kavvathas was also pessimistic over the possibility of market recovery during the Christmas period. As he said, prices have been significantly reduced and the so-called Christmas table, in many cases, will be cheaper than last year.

    However, he stressed the crucial role of the current political situation ahead of the election of a President of the Republic, and how it is perceived by the majority of the citizens-consumers.

    Kavvathas noted that the climate affects the citizens' psychology and added: "We are entering a period of uncertainty as to what will happen. This reduces the households' spending during the Christmas period. Besides, the opening of the stores on Sundays did not deliver any special results," he underlined.

    Kavvathas said that the 100 or 72 installment debt settlement is "generous, but delayed by two years." Private debt, especially that of the businesses, has reached such levels that does not allow the majority of entrepreneurs to make use of it.

    Moreover, he estimated that there is no growth prospect "neither in the country's economic situation nor the budget, in its current form. Any possible prospects are based on the hope that there will be an 11.7 percent increase in investments in 2015" and wondered who will invest in a country whose banking system does not support business efforts.

    The full audio interview is available for subscribers in Greek at ANA-MPA website.

    [40] OLP's Anomeritis: Agreement with PCT (Cosco) to promote port industry

    The agreement between Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and Cosco's subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) submitted to parliament for approval on Tuesday night will promote the Greek port industry more than any other agreement, OLP's President and CEO Giorgos Anomeritis said on Thursday.

    "The main objective in Greece is growth. The agreement between OLP and PCT achieved through the friendly settlement contributes to the development process and growth of the port industry like no other," Anomeritis said.

    "This agreement is the result of many months of negotiations and will bring to the country a new investment totaling 230 million euros, to OLP an increase of 678 million to about 1 billion euros of its assets according to the net current value of the agreement, an increase of OLP's annual revenues to 109.3 million euros in 2021 and to Piraeus port an overall traffic of 7.2 million containers annually," he added.

    Anomeritis also noted that the current agreement is not related to the privatisation agency's planned sale of 67 pct of OLP's stocks and fully serves the economic interests of the organisation.

    [41] Thessaloniki metro consortium asks to terminate construction contract

    The consortium (consisting of AEGEK, Impregilo, Ansaldo, Ansaldobreda and Seli) in charge of constructing the Thessaloniki metro system on Wednesday decided to submit a request to terminate the contract, following an arbitration court ruling concerning the deadlines for the project, an Attiko Metro announcement said.

    Attiko Metro said it will examine the consortium's application and take all legal action within the 15-day period given by law, with the aim of protecting the public interest.

    [42] Greece drains 1.3 bln euros from T-bill auction

    Greek authorities on Tuesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue draining 1.3 billion euros from the market at a slightly higher cost. The Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue was set at 1.90 pct from 1.80 pct of the previous auction of same issue in December 10. Bids submitted totaled 1.625 billion euros, 1.93 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers and settlement date was set for Friday, 19 December. The organization will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 18 December.

    [43] Sarantis Group to issue 150-mln-euro bond loan

    A Sarantis Group extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on Wednesday approved a board plan to issue a bond loan up to 150 million euros. The meeting also approved the inclusion of workers and executives to a share offer program. The shareholders also approved the election of Christos Economou as independent member of the board, to replace Souriadakis Emmanouel.

    [44] Plaisio to issue 15-mln-euro bond loan

    A Plaisio extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on Tuesday approved a board plan to issue a bond loan worth up to 15 billion euros through a private placement and to proceed with a share capital increase worth 220,800 euros.

    The meeting also approved a share buyback program of up to 662,400 common nominal shares, representing 3.0 pct of the company's equity capital, at a price range of between 3.0 euros per share (minimum) and 10 euros per share (maximum), in the next 24 months.

    [45] Plaisio to issue 15-mln-euro bond loan

    A Plaisio extraordinary general shareholders' meeting has approved a board plan to issue a bond loan worth up to 15 billion euros through a private placement and a share capital increase worth 220,800 euros.

    The meeting, held on Tuesday, also approved a share buyback program of up to 662,400 common nominal shares, representing 3.0 pct of the company's equity capital, at a price range of between 3.0 euros per share (minimum) and 10 euros per share (maximum), in the next 24 months.

    [46] Greek stocks end significantly higher

    Greek stocks ended significantly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, only a few hours before the first vote in Parliament to elect a new president of the Republic, with some investors betting on a positive outcome. The composite index of the market jumped 3.33 pct to end at 862.06 points, off the day's highs of 866.15 points. Turnover was an improved 92.65 million euros.

    The Large Cap index rose 3.24 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.13 pct higher.

    Athens Water (8.52 pct), Ellaktor (7.73 pct), PPC (6.09 pct) and Jumbo (5.80 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while Motor Oil (1.85 pct) and Aegean Airlines (1.65 pct) suffered losses.

    All market sectors moved higher, Utilities (6.28 pct), Personal Products (5.66 pct) and Commerce (5.57 pct) scoring the biggest gains.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 76 to 38 with another 14 issues unchanged. Medicon (19.94 pct), Karamolegos (18.52 pct) and Sidma (17.65 pct) were top gainers, while Selonda (10.77 pct), Kekrops (10 pct) and F.G. Europe (9.89 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: +2.77%

    Insurance: unchanged

    Financial Services: +2.94%

    Industrial Products: +2.11%

    Retail: +5.57%

    Real Estate: +0.64%

    Personal & Household: +5.66%

    Food & Beverages: +2.77%

    Raw Materials: +4.40%

    Construction: +3.85%

    Oil: +0.65%

    Chemicals: +3.64%

    Mass Media: Unchanged

    Travel & Leisure: +3.29%

    Technology: +2.42%

    Telecoms: +2.44%

    Utilities: +6.28%

    Health: +4.29%

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

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.497

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.10

    Coca Cola HBC: 15.42

    Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.00

    National Bank of Greece: 1.51

    OPAP: 9.35

    OTE: 9.25

    Piraeus Bank: 0.931

    Titan: 19.50

    Grivalia Properties: 7.61

    Aegean: 7.77

    [47] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 8.56 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.44 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.13 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.57 pct. Turnover was a moderate 20 million euros, of which 18 million were buy orders and the remaining 2.0 million euros were sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to 0.33 pct from 0.329 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.256 pct from 0.255 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.178 pct from 0.179 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.081 pct from 0.082 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.026 pct from 0.025 pct.

    [48] ADEX closing report

    The December contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 1.65 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 34,729 contracts with 51,605 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 109,945 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (53,857), followed by Alpha Bank (16,689), National Bank (14,483), Piraeus Bank (4,789), MIG (6,227), OTE (1,721), PPC (2,061), OPAP (956), Hellenic Exchanges (756), Mytilineos (1,400), Hellenic Petroleum (442), Sidenor (438), METKA (453), GEK (1,414), Ellaktor (503), Intralot (313), Korinth Pipeworks (316) and Terna Energy (2,079).

    [49] Foreign exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.2448

    Pound sterling 0.7932

    Danish kroner 7.4405

    Swedish kroner 9.5019

    Japanese yen 145.89

    Swiss franc 1.201

    Norwegian kroner 9.2505

    Canadian dollar 1.4482

    Australian dollar 1.5203

    General News

    [50] Asclepius' ancient healing sanctuary to get NSRF funding, minister says

    A project to upgrade services and design the landscape around the ancient sanctuary of the healer god Asclepius in Epidaurus, southern Greece, will be included in National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds for 2014-2020, officials said on Wednesday.

    Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis said the budget for the project amounts to 5,650,000 euros and will be provided under the business programme "Infrastructure of Transport, Environment and Sustainable Development."

    The work will highlight the landscape of the great sanctuary complex of ancient Greece's legendary doctor god and include a garden with healing and native plants. It will also include pathways for tourists, improvements in the parking area, an information kiosk promoting local Greek agricultural products, bathrooms, and digital tours. A separate building will also be put up to show the history of medicine that will be able to host congresses.

    The area of ancient Epidaurus' sanctuary to Asclepius includes - besides the ancient theatre (dedicated to Asclepius and used for ancient Greek plays every summer) - a temple to Asclepius, a stadium and baths, as well as several large buildings.

    [51] Universities are at risk of being shut down, rectors warn

    University rectors warned in a joint press conference on Wednesday that higher education institutes are facing the risk of being forced to shut down.

    Athens University of Economics and Business rector and chairman of the Hellenic Universities Rectors' Synod Konstantinos Gatsios warned of a "de facto closure of the university," noting that "when this happens no one will have the right to wonder why" and called on the ministers of education and administrative reform to reach a common ground on the issue of labour reserve.

    The rectors suggested that the joint ministerial decision on labour reserve be repealed and invited the state to recognise that it made a mistake by implementing the measure on university administrative staff, noting that tertiary education institutes are faced with suffocation as a result of administrative staff shortage and underfunding when, in other countries, governments invest in education.

    University Administrative staff are on a 48-hour strike today and tomorrow in protest against the "labour reserve measure" which is part of the government downsizing and public sector reform effort.

    [52] Court of Audit rules for second time against Attica Region grant for refurbishing Panathinaikos stadium in central Athens

    The Court of Audit on Wednesday ruled for a second time against a grant approved by the Attica Region authority, under the previous regional governor Giannis Sgouros, finding the 7.0-million-euro grant for refurbishing the Panathinaikos FC stadium on Alexandras Avenue in central Athens to be illegal.

    The court, after examining the contract, agreed with the previous ruling which had found it was contrary to the public interest and violated the principle of cost-efficiency.

    [53] New app allows commuters to purchase Athens urban transport tickets online

    Commuters in Athens will be able to purchase public transport tickets through a free application available for mobile phones and tablets, it was announced on Wednesday by the Athens Urban Transport Organization.

    The application "TfA tickets", available for mobile phones and tablets with Android or iOS operating systems, allows commuters to buy their tickets online. The prices of tickets will not change, and receipts for electronic purchases will be sent to the passenger's email. The e-tickets can be activated through a code before boarding that will take two minutes to be processed.

    [54] Man arrested for at least 30 armed robberies

    Police on Wednesday announced the arrest in the Athens district of Neos Kosmos of a 50-year-old Greek man suspected of at least 30 armed robberies targeting banks and shops. The suspect was caught by a team of Delta force police on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Romanian authorities for attempted homicide and illegally carrying a weapon.

    The suspect had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment by a Bucharest criminal court.

    An investigation carried out by the Crimes Against Property department indicated that the 50-year-old had carried out a total of 27 bank robberies and three armed robberies against shops since 2008, acting alone, in various districts in Athens. He used stolen motorbikes as a getaway vehicle, which he then abandoned a short distance from where the robbery took place. Police have so far connected him to 11 motorbike thefts. The total amount stolen in the robberies is estimated at 327,000 euros.

    The suspect has been led before a public prosecutor, while police are continuing to investigate his possible involvement in similar crimes.

    [55] Shops open on December 21 between 11.00 and 20.00

    Shops across the country on Sunday, December 21, will be open between 11.00 and 20.00, according to an announcement by the Hellenic Retail Business Association.

    Weather forecast

    [56] Partly cloudy on Thursday

    Clouds, rain and northerly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 4 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the morning in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 05C-11C. Clouds and rain in the western parts with temperatures between 10C-16C.Partly cloudy in the eastern parts with possibility of rain, 06C-16C. Rain over the islands, 12C-18C. Scattered clouds in Athens, 12C-16C; the same for Thessaloniki, 08C-10C.

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