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Athens News Agency: News in English, 12-01-04
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Gov't: Oil rigs in three regions by end 2012AMNA--Deputy Environment, Energy & Climatic Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Tuesday predicted that the first oil rigs will have been set up in at least three new three fields -- the Ioannina region, the Patraikos Gulf and off the coastal town of Katakolo -- after a briefing for Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on energy issues. amna
Maniatis said he briefed the prime minister on oil exploration, procedures regarding surveys in the Ionian Sea and off southern Crete, as well as on an international tender issued on Monday for the three specific regions. amna
He also briefed the prime minister on the process of staffing the agency that will coordinate hydrocarbon exploration in Greece.
 PASOK Political Council convenesAMNA--PASOK party leader George Papandreou will chair a meeting of the party's 17-member Political Council at 16:00 on Wednesday and members as well as Papandreou are expected to examine a series of issues concerning PASOK.
 Twenty percent of country's population threatened by povertyAMNA--20.1 percent of the country's population is threatened by poverty, according to a report by the Greek Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on income and living conditions in 2010.
According to the evidence, it appears that the financial limit of poverty reaches the annual amount of 7,178 euros per person and to 15,073 euros for households with two adults and two dependent children less than 14 years of age. amna
Moreover, the average annual individual income amounts to 13,973.94 euros and the average annual available income of households in the country to 24,224.38 euros.
 PM round of talks with social partnersAMNA--Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will begin a lightning round of talks with trade unions and employers on Wednesday, in order to discuss reforms concerning wages, pensions and labour relations in view of the advent of EU-IMF troika inspectors on January 16.
He is scheduled to hold talks with the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organisation, the Federation of Greek Industry (SEV), the association of small manufacturers and traders (GSEBEE) and other major employer associations on all outstanding issues concerning pay and pensions.
Commenting on the upcoming talks, Labour and Social Solidarity Minister George Koutroumanis noted on Monday that there were no "taboo" measures and that it would be best on all sides if there could be agreement on issues concerning wages.amna
Koutroumanis said that a reduction in the minimum wage was not a top priority for either the government or for businesses, which were primarily interested in reducing the cost of social insurance contributions and VAT.
Conversely, according to Koutroumanis, troika representatives were insisted on both a reduction of the minimum wage and the abolition of the 13th and 14th wages in the private sector.
Employer associations oppose the abolition of the minimum wage under national collective labour agreements but agree with a freeze on wage increases for the next three years and the reduction of non-wage-related costs, including a 10 percent reduction in social insurance contributions that now account for 45 percent of total payroll costs.
The total payroll cost for the private sector is estimated at 45 billion euro per year, meaning that a 10 percent reduction of social insurance contributions will amount to savings of 2.0 billion for private enterprises.amna
They propose that businesses instead pay 0.1 percent of turnover, offset against taxation, to cover the shortfall in revenues to social insurance funds. SEV is pushing for greater flexibility in the labour market in line with European standards and the abolition of restrictions for laying off staff for businesses that hire OAED-subsidised unemployed.
GSEE has warned that it will not accept any measure that further increases the burdens on wage-earning employees, noting that the minimum wage is already extremely low compared with the cost of living. They also point to OECD figures showing that labour costs in Greece decreased 2.8 percent in the last year, the sharpest reduction in the Eurozone, while productivity increased by 2.4 percent.amna
Trade unionists have grave reservations concerning a reduction of social insurance contributions, pointing out that the economic crisis has already resulted in a roughly 6.0-billion-euro reduction in social insurance fund revenues in 2011.
Other issues to be examined are troika demands for a reduction in supplementary pensions and lump sums on retirement.
 FM on cooperation with RussiaAMNA--Foreign minister Stavros Dimas underlined in a document forwarded to parliament on Tuesday that the foreign ministry has received no Russian proposal for the exploitation of resources beneath the sea near Kastelorizo.
The document signed by the foreign minister was put together in response to a relevant question addressed by New Democracy (ND) MP Nikos Nikolopoulos.
Dimas stressed that “our relations with Russia are excellent and our cooperation with the Russian side continuous and unfailing,” adding that this was confirmed in the recent meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov held within the framework of the OSCE ministerial council in Vilnius, Lithuania.
He said that “Greece’s policy includes the delimitation of all sea zones with all its neighboring states,” adding that “Greece does not sell out its sovereign rights and therefore, the EEZ cannot be an exception to this fundamental principle and position of our foreign policy.” amna
The foreign minister stressed that “the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea constitutes part of the European acquis. The adherence, signing and ratification of the convention are fundamental elements in the European prospect of all candidate states for EU accession, including Turkey.” amna
In his question that was tabled in parliament, ND MP Nikolopoulos had cited press reports according to which, Russia had made a specific proposal to the Greek government before the signing of the memorandum, suggesting the creation of a strategic relationship between the two countries focusing on the exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves in Kastelorizo. The MP also called on the foreign ministry to brief Parliament “on the reasons for the delay in the Greek EEZ delimitation as dictated by international contracts, thus failing to follow the example of Cyprus.”
 Ministry on sale of 4 disused aircraftsAMNA--Clarifications on the sale of four disused Airbus A340-300 jets that belonged to the fleet of Olympic Airlines, the former national carrier, were given on Tuesday by the Ministerial Committee for Privatisations and Restructurings (DEAA).
In a statement DEAA underlined that the sale of the airplanes was made within the framework of the privatizations’ programme provided by the medium-term fiscal strategy programme, stressing that move constitutes an obligation undertaken by the country in compliance with the cooperation memorandum signed with the troika (EC-ECB-IMF) which constantly checks if the relevant deadlines are being met. amna
The four Airbus A340-300 were sold in August 2011 to Apollo Aviation Group for 40.4 million dollars, being the highest bidder.
A previous open international tender announced in late 2009, was declared void after the highest bidder (Cirrus International), which had offered 97 million dollars, withdrew its interest due to inability to finance the transaction. amna
The statement underlined that the international market for this type of airplanes is shrinking considering that they regarded as high maintenance, while their production has been interrupted by the Airbus company. Any further delay beyond the deadline set by the medium-term programme could bear the risk of being forced to sell the airplanes in question to an even lower price, the statement pointed out.
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