|Thursday, 18 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-07-29
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Last day of EU-IMF inspectionA team of inspectors of the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika essentially winds up its contacts in Athens on Thursday with meetings with employment minister Andreas Loverdos and Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos in the afternoon, after which it will draw up its report on the basis of which a second tranche of the EU-IMF support package loan to Greece will be disbursed.
 Parliament passes laws on salary raises, exploiting state assetsParliament on Thursday passed legislation that will freeze the powers of labour arbitration tribunals to award salary increases for a year, even in the private sector. Also passed were measures giving the government powers to proceed with the exploitation of state assets without going through the Court of Audit.
The controversial legislation was passed by 53 votes for and 47 against, having the support of ruling PASOK and in some cases the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party. The amendment on salary increases was tabled by Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos in response to two decisions by the Organisation for Mediation and Arbitration (OMED) that gave specific professional groups an annual salary hike greater than that agreed in the memorandum signed by Greece for the EU-IMF bailout package.
In addition to the one-year freeze on OMED salary increases, it restricts increases in the lowest salaries and wages to the levels of average European inflation for the space of two years.
Also passed were measures allowing the finance ministry to use state bonds as a compensation payment to laid-off Olympic Airways staff and postponing the collection of a tax on TV advertisements until October.
More broadly accepted was an amendment that makes the State General Accounting Office in charge of monitoring the execution of the budget, which was also supported by main opposition New Democracy.
Answering to charges of effectively abolishing labour arbitration, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the bill did not abolish OMED or collective labour agreements but was a signal that when the country "is in the current fiscal state and social bodies had taken some very responsible decisions, no one has a right to diverge from them."
Replying, ND MP Kostas Markopoulos accused the government of trying to relieve employers from the obligations to give salary increases in exchange for the indirect taxes and emergency levy that they paid.
In criticism of the amendment for exploiting state assets without going through the Court of Audit, opposition parties questioned whether the measure was constitutional.
The finance minister clarified that the legislation aims to give the Interministerial Privatisations Committee the power to evaluate state assets that is not given by current legislation, such as for radio and television frequencies.
He said that the law imposing a pre-contract inspection of agreements greater than one million euros had not been applied to privatisations since 2002. This position was, however, disputed by ND, while other MPs noted that the Court of Audit staff association had condemned the measure.
The left-wing parties, in particular, were highly critical of the measure that delayed payment of TV advertising taxes, pointing out that the government made no delay in "looting the income of workers".
 Crucial meeting between striking truckers and transport ministerStriking truck owners and Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas were in talks for some four hours on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise that would defuse the tension and peacefully end a strike that has starved Greek markets of fuel.
On Wednesday, the government responded to the open-ended strike by ordering a civil mobilisation to force truckers to return to work.
After the conclusion of Thursday's meeting, a representative of the truck owners, including tanker trucks that transport fuels, said only that the sector's federations were currently meeting and would soon announce what stance they intend to take.
Among truck owners demands to end their strike action was that the minister promise to delay any vote on a draft bill that seeks to open up their currently closed profession until the end of August. This demand had been provisionally agreed to on Wednesday by ministry general secretary Haris Tsiokas.
In the meantime, prefectures were beginning to issue the orders requisitioning individual truck owners' services and their vehicles so that the market might be supplied with fuel and resume its operation.
Earlier on Thursday, truck owners clashed with police on Thursday morning outside the ministry after they attempted to storm the ministry in protest against the civil mobilisation order.
Police used tear gas to turn back the strikers, who tried to storm into the building to meet with Reppas.
Orders to individual truckers began being served from 6:00 a.m. by administrative process-servers, but defiant truck owners originally said they would ignore them.
Refusal to obey the order carries penalties of up to five years imprisonment (the maximum term for a misdemeanor) and the risk of having their licence revoked.
The government legislation seeks to open up the currently closed road freight market that is open only to licensed "public use" trucks. The last government licences were issued in the 1970s and opening this market is among Greece's obligations to the EU.
 Deal for Hellenic ShipyardsNational Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday announced that the European Commission had accepted a solution regarding the illegal state subsidies to Hellenic Shipyards in Skaramanga, under which sections of the shipyard would be sold off and it would be confined only to military-related activities for the next 15 years.
The minister outlined details of an agreement reached on Wednesday between representatives of the Greek finance and defence ministries with the European Commission during a press conference to unveil a draft bill on career advancement and the new command structure within the Greek Armed Forces.
Venizelos clarified that the civilian activities at Skaramangas would be taken over by another company, while non-military activity could also be developed by the shipyards at Elefsina and Neorio for which the restrictions did not apply. According to the minister, this would also help to establish a balance in the sector, which needed restructuring.
He stated that Hellenic Shipyards will not be nationalised and that the government was seeking to find the cheapest solution in negotiations with arms systems manufacturers.
The minister repeated that the agreement must be ratified by Parliament with the broadest possible majority and in a climate of consensus.
In April, the European Commission announced that it will refer Greece to the European Court of Justice for failing to comply with a 2008 decision calling for the recovery of 230 million euros in illegal subsidies from Hellenic Shipyards SA. The Commission has asked from the recovery of the above sum plus interest.
 Case on austerity cuts to CoSTen professional associations, trade unions and pensioner unions and 22 private individuals filed a petition with the Council of State (CoS) on Thursday demanding that the economic measures imposed by the government be declared void, characterized as unconstitutional and in violation of the European legislation, the European Human Rights Convention and international treaties.
Among the petitioners are the Athens Bar Association, the Athens Journalists' Union, the civil servants' union ADEDY, the National Health System (ESY) medical doctors, the Technical Chamber of Greece, military officers associations and university professors.
In a press conference they outlined the reasons that led them to this decision citing procedural violations in passing the relevant legislation in parliament; illegally conferred authority from the parliament to the minister of finance and violation of the right to property (referring to the salary and pension cuts) guaranteed by the European Human Rights Convention.
 ASE surpasses 1,700 levelGreek stocks resumed their upward trend on Thursday, after Wednesday‚s mild correction, as buyers took the upper hand in the market pushing the composite index above the 1,700 level. The index rose 1.21 pct to end at 1,708.38 points, with turnover at 129.893 million euros.
The Big Cap index rose 1.0 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.77 pct up and the Small Cap index rose 1.88 pct. All sectors, with the exception of the Insurance (-0.32 pct), ended higher with the Media (6.91 pct) and Health (5.48 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 165 to 35 with another 43 issues unchanged.
Vovos (17.32 pct), CPI (16.0 pct) and NEL (14.29 pct) were top gainers, while Elmec Sport (9.59 pct), Xylemporia (8.70 pct) and Alsinco (8.64 pct) were top losers.
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