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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 12-03-24
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM on elections: Be a little patientAMNA- Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday had a half-hour meeting with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias. The meeting took place after the ceremony when the new finance minister Philippos Sahinidis was sworn into office, following the departure of Evangelos Venizelos to lead the PASOK party in the next elections.
Questioned about the possible date of the upcoming elections as he left the meeting, Papademos only urged reporters to "be a little patient".
 Venizelos elected new PASOK leaderAMNA -- Evangelos Venizelos, currently serving in the Lucas Papademos government as deputy prime minister and finance minister, and sole candidate for the PASOK leadership, announced his election as party leader one and a half hours after the closure of ballot boxes on Sunday evening, following internal party elections throughout Greece.
"PASOK's relation with the citizens has been re-estasblished today," Venizelos said in a televised statement, while declaring that he was moved by the participation of the party's members, cadres and friends in the intraparty procedures for the election of a president by the grassroots.
He said he was particularly moved by the participation of ordinary citizens, adding that these people who are feeling the crisis in their skin are aware that PASOK has waged a struggle of national survival and now it is waging the struggle for the country's recovery and its exit from the crisis.
The new PASOK president thanked all who participated, the overseas Greeks and former party leader George Papandreou for his contribution to the party, as well as Sunday's statement of support for the party's new leadership.
Venizelos said that Sunday's intraparty procedures, which he termed a "big exercise of policy and organising readiness", sent the message that "PASOK is here" and that the target of "first place" in the national elections is feasible, so that the party will have a catalytical say in the developments.
He added that the people "want security and stability, knowledge of the truth and a feeling that the sacrifices are being distributed fairly," while noting that the people "want a strong progressive governance".
The new PASOK president said that he "is fully aware of the mistakes committed" and that he "is aware of the dissatisfaction and of the difficulties that the citizens are facing," adding on the other hand that Greece "has hope again on condition that a lot of work will be done by all."
Lastly, Venizelos said that he is assuming the responsibility of a collective effort, from which no one will be left out, for the restructuring of the party and of the country.
Venizelos had lost to outgoing PASOK president George Papandreou in party elections in November 2007.
He is expected to tender his resignation from the government on Monday.
 Seamen launch 48h rolling strikesAMNA -- Ships remained docked at ports throughout Greece on Monday morning as seamen launched rolling 40-hour strikes in all vessel categories.
The initial 48-hour strike runs through 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, by the executive committee of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) will convene at noon Tuesday to decide a second 48-hour strike.
The biggest reactions to the seamen's strike have been on the island of Crete, where local producers said they are livid and determined to protect their products and, according to sources, will gather on Tuesday at the Heraklion port.
According to sources, farmers have asked that one ship will set sail every two or three days so that their perishable products will not spoil.
Also taking part in the PNO mobilisations are the employees at the Seamen's Pension Fund (NAT) and the Seamen's House, who have said they will stage takeovers of the two buildings as of Monday.
Cruiseships and cargo ships transporting containers are allowed to enter the port of Piraeus only with the escort of navigation boats.
Meanwhile, National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) president Vassilis Korkidis on Monday called on the PNO to suspend its rolling strikes.
"Greek commerce once again appeals to the PNO, despite their just demands, to restrict the announced rolling strikes and allow ships to conduct their routes normally from Tuesday night, to and from the islands in order to transport the perishable produce," Korkidis said.
 Samaras: Majority gov't ND's goalAMNA--New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras on Monday reiterated that the party's target in the upcoming elections is an absolute majority, speaking during a meeting with former deputies, many of whom will be candidates again on ND's ballots. amna
Samaras explained that the first memorandum is different from the second, as regards the benefits it foresees for the country. ND and Samaras, personally, were opposed to the first Memorandum brought to Parliament by the then Papandreou government. However, ND officially supported the second Memorandum negotiated by the current Papademos government, although several ND MPs voted against the plan and were subsequently expelled from the party.
Samaras on Monday also stressed that conditions in 2012, which necessitated a change in his stance, are also different. amna
Finally, he again rejected the prospect of any post-election co-governance (with speculation mostly citing PASOK), stressing that a strong majority government is necessary for the country to be ruled effectively.
 PASOK votes for new leaderAMNA - Polls opened throughout Greece on Sunday morning for internal elections in mainstream PASOK party for the election of a new party leader, with deputy prime minister and finance minister Evangelos Venizelos the sole candidate, stating that PASOK is "once again finding itself and its soul" after casting his vote in the Nea Philadelphia district of Athens.
Outgoing PASOK leader George Papandreou, casting his own vote in the Nea Erythrea district, said that the country has not sunk and, indeed, was changing for the better, adding that PASOK must carry on as a "pylon of stability".
Voting opened at 9:00 a.m. at 1,074 ballot boxes set up in 768 polling stations, and a large turnout of voters prompted the elections steering committee (EKAP) to extend the voting time by one hour to 6:00 p.m. from the originally scheduled 5:00 p.m.
Turnout nationwide in the first two hours of voting, was put at nearly 50,000 at 11:00 a.m.
 Bill for armed guards on cargo vesselsAMNA--The draft law introducing security services by armed guards on ocean-going cargo vessels, among other clauses, was passed in Parliament on Thursday after Citizen Protection Minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis tabled a number of amendments.
The draft law also included clauses regulating retirement package lump sum issues for the members of the Greek Coastguard and the armed forces.
Another clause, also included in the draft law, provided for the implementation of Article 111 and 112 of Law No. 4055/2012 on fair trial effective as of March 12, 2012.
 BoG head: Both parties aware of fiscal derailment riskAMNA--Testifying before a Parliamentary committee investigating claims that Greece's 2009 deficit had been deliberately inflated to pave the way for swingeing austerity cuts, Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos on Thursday insisted that both main parties in the country had been fully aware of the risks of fiscal derailment before the 2009 elections.
In potentially devastating testimony for the PASOK party, which won the 2009 elections with the slogan 'There is money' and promises of generous government spending, he said that he had personally informed the leaders of the two main parties of the emerging problem.amna
He stressed that the statistics generated in the first months of 2009 were an early indication of the problems to come, being significantly larger than those in the previous year, while economic indices in the first half of the year were a warning bell that borrowing would soon become difficult.amna
Though the Bank of Greece had repeatedly warned of the risks that the deficit would career out of control, the appropriate measures were not taken and the leaderships of the two main parties did not appear convinced, he added.
 Probe into assassination claims against KaramanlisAMNA--An Athens first instance prosecutor has ordered an investigation into allegations of an assassination plot against former prime minister Costas Karamanlis, following press reports dating from last June.
In fact, the prosecutor, Nikos Ornerakis, on Wednesday filed felony charges of "preparations for acts of high treason" and "disruption of the normal function of state" against unknown persons. amna
According to reports, officials of the national intelligence service and police officers serving on Karamanlis' personal security detail have already been interviewed.
 Bill ratifying new bailout programme tabled in parliamentAMNA-- The bill ratifying the current Legislative Act for approval of the second bailout package for Greece among the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the Greek state, the central Bank of Greece (BoG) and the Greek Fiscal Stability Fund totalling 109.1 billion euros was tabled in parliament on Wednesday night, under 'urgent' proceedings.
The bill was tabled after the Cabinet, chaired by prime minister Lucas Papademos earlier in the day, approved all acts of legislative content concerning the new agreement.
 Papademos: We've reached end of massive effortAMNA--Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday stressed, in his opening address at a Cabinet meeting, that "we are reaching the end of a massive effort" to secure the country's continued funding.
Papademos also referred to Thursday's IMF meeting, assessing that it will take a positive decision on its participation in the second bailout package for the country, participation that will amount to 28 billion euros.
The prime minister also termed as positive the upgrading of the country's credit rating by six notches by the Fitch credit rating firm. amna
He stressed, however, that several tasks must still be done by the country in the coming weeks, namely, the taking of measures to fulfil commitments, as well as legislative bills that must be immediately ratified by Parliament.
In reference to the upcoming March 25 Independence Day parades, he called on all Cabinet members to attend events.
 Barroso interview to AMNAAMNA--The belief that the political party that will come to power after general elections in Greece will display "no irresponsibility" by questioning the new memorandum, was expressed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, during an interview with AMNA WebTV on Wednesday.
The European Commission president underlined the need to implement the support programme for the country and, for the time being, he ruled out the adoption of new measures. amna
Barroso underlined the importance of the implementation of the support programme for Greece and the cooperation of the European Commission with the government that will be elected by the Greek people, stressing that the programme's implementation by Greece is the next important step after the PSI. amna
"The new programme has the government's and the Greek Parliament's approval. It was unanimously accepted by the Eurogroup, while, at the same time, we have the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," he said. He stressed that "we have succeeded namely, Greece was successful. It was an effort led by Greece (the PSI) and was done the right way. Now, I believe that we have a more realistic scenario both medium-term and long-term speaking. The programme that has been signed will have to be implemented. It is an ambitious programme, very difficult, but the truth is that there was no alternative solution available. The only alternative solution would have been the country's default. Greece would have stopped all payments. It would have been a tragedy. It would mean the collapse of the Greek State. Now Greece will receive funding approved by the European Union for the years to come, while the structural reforms will make Greece more competitive."
 Katseli, Kastanidis announce new political partyAMNA--Independent MPs and former PASOK ministers Louka Katseli and Haris Kastanidis on Wednesday announced the creation of a new political party, to be called "Social Agreement for Greece in Europe", during an event in downtown Athens.
Among those attending the event were several Independent MPs who, like Katseli, were expelled from PASOK after defying the party's official policy line and voting against the Memorandum in its entirety or against disputed articles.
The new party will be headed by Katselis, while Kastanidis will be the leader of its parliamentary group.
 IMF to finalize its contribution on ThursdayAMNA-- An IMF's board meeting on Thursday is expected to finalize its participation in a second bailout package for Greece, following a similar decision taken by a Eurogroup meeting on Monday, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said: "Following a successful completion of PSI, the approval of a new program by the Greek Parliament and the approval and signing of the biggest part of a package of lending contracts between Greece and the EFSF, a Eurogroup meeting finalized the funding form of a new program which is expected to be finalized by an IMF board meeting on Thursday". amna
Venizelos added that beyond the 130 billion euros of the new program, another 34.5 billion euros from the first program should be added to the Greek program along with another 8.2 billion euros of additional support by the IMF -which will be available for 2015- after the end of the official support program.
The Greek Finance minister said that in order to speed up the disbursement of the next tranche to Greece, the last lending contract must be approved and signed by Thursday.
 Four arrested with large quantities of drugsAMNA--Three men and a woman, aged 36, 45, 35 and 31, were arrested at Archangelos in Preveza, western Greece, for carrying in two cars a large quantity of drugs having a total weight of 219 kilos, contained in 194 packages, that they had received from Albanian associates of theirs at the Greek-Albanian borders.
The cars' two drivers did not stop when signalled by police and sped away. A pursuit followed and the police ultimately stopped the vehicles in Flamboura in Preveza. A search of the first car, that was driven by the 36-year-old and had the woman as a co-driver, revealed 98 packages containing cannabis weighing 105 kilos and 300 grams. The second car, driven by the 45-year-old and also having the 35-year-old on board, was also found to have 96 packages of cannabis weighing 113 kilos and 700 grams. amna
The drugs and the cars, as well as seven mobile phones were confiscated.
 Democratic Left announces 'green shift' in policyDemocratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis on Tuesday announced the start of collaboration between his party and members of the green movement, stressing the need for a 'green shift' in politics and a meeting of the Left with environmentalism.
"We are the Left that has incorporated into its core the conviction that the left and ecology can comprise a policy innovation for the world and contemporary societies," Kouvelis said, noting that a green shift was a "mature possibility" for the economy that had broad acceptance in society.
In an event held at the Athens journalists' union building, Kouvelis and green politics activist Stavros Livadas ratified their cooperation with a "Memorandum on Ecology" proposed by Ilias Efthymiopoulos and Mihalis Modinos.
He said this would include "strong reformist and political initiatives for the climate, a new energy model, renewable energy sources, innovation within a modern framework for the organisation of space, natural resources and ecosystems".
According to Kouvelis, a joint course with forces from green politics could encourage and serve the type of reforms that the Democratic Left was seeking to promote.
Livadas, on his part, expressed his conviction that the collaboration between Leftist and green forces would prove "especially fertile" and was not opportunist due to the elections but based on common beliefs concerning how the country could exit from the crisis.
 Barroso: Greece will succeed in reformsAMNA/ European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday expressed his certainty that Greece will succeed in making the necessary and agreed reforms in order to get back on a development course, during an address to the European parliament plenary.
The Commission president reassured that there is close cooperation between the European Commission and Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos and his staff in order for Greece to proceed immediately to facilitation of investments, provision of liquidity to small and medium enterprises and the creation of new jobs.
"We are discussing the issue with the European Investment Bank (EIB) in order to see under what conditions it can contribute to Greece's investment programme," said Barroso. amna
Finally, he announced that at the end of April, the European Commission and Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the euro Olli Rehn will release a report presenting the progress achieved in Greece.
 FinMin: Greece's target return to growthBRUSSELS (AMNA/M. Aroni/V. Demiris) - Government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, arriving at the Eurogroup Council on Monday, expressed his conviction that there shall be total participation in the PSI, while stressing in parallel that Greece's target is the programme's full implementation and the return to growth.
"We are expecting the response of the markets to the extension of our offer to the remaining 4 percent of the holders of Greek bonds of foreign law. The market is well aware that the acceptance of our offer is a clever and productive solution. I am very optimistic that there shall be total participation in the PSI. On our part, the target now is the full implementation of the programme and the return of Greece to growth," the minister said.
Also arriving at the meeting of the euro member-states in Brussels, Eurozone head Jean-Claude Juncker expressed certainty that Greece's new loan contract will be approved by Monday's Eurogroup. amna
Juncker clarified that the programme's basic principles will be scheduled on Monday and that the final decision will be taken by the Eurogroup's task force on Wednesday. amna
Also asked whether be believes that there is danger of the reforms in Greece being delayed due to the elections, the Eurogroup president replied that he does not believe that such a thing will happen.
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesThe Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
The success of the voluntary bond swap (PSI) with 85.8 percent participation and the sharp rise in unemployment mainly dominated the front pages of Athens' newspapers on Friday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Salary increases of 400-700 euros for 500 elite members of the party system that serve in deputy ministers' and ministry general secretaries' offices, as they make haircuts to the 300-euro pensions".
AVRIANI: "Provocative amendment to settle the debts of the political parties".
AVGHI: "Barren country in the Middle Ages of the Memorandum - Unemployment among youth up to 24 years of age at 51.1 percent - 1,000 layoffs per day".
DIMOKRATIA: "Threat for deposits above 2,000 euros".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Amnesty to Siemens in exchange for a few euros and an...apology".
ESTIA: "Not now elections - They could lead to an impasse".
ETHNOS: "Debt haircut: bond swap nears 97 percent participation".
IMERISSIA: "Greece at a new starting point - The high PSI acceptance a national success".
KATHIMERINI: "The biggest state debt write-off".
LOGOS: "New historic record: Unemployment shoots to 21 percent".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Voluntary participation in the 'haircut' a success".
NIKI: "Increase your revenues with 'smart' deposits".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The government is bankrupting the people and financing the banks".
TA NEA: "We've had a haircut - The success of the PSI brings a new page".
VRADYNI: "Samaras (New Democracy leader) calls for haircut of loans (of overindebted citizens)".
 Main parties amendment on settling debts to banksAMNA--The two largest parties in Parliament, coalition partners PASOK and New Democracy, on Thursday jointly tabled an amendment that stipulates how political parties will pay off outstanding loans taken out against their future state funding. The amendment was attached as a rider to a draft bill regulating livestock breeding.
It provides that loans taken out by the end of 2011 will be paid off in fixed annual installments at an interest rate of four percent. The size of the installment is set at 20 percent of a party's annual regular state funding for debts less than 20 million euro and at 50 percent of their annual state funding for debts above this amount.
Under the amendment, the Greek state is required to pay each of the debt-holders the proportion of the "agreed interest-bearing installment" that is due to them, while the rest will go to the political parties involved.
It also stipulates that parties will not be able to hand over more than 50 percent of their regular annual funding in order to take out loans after January 1, 2012. A reference in the amendment to "writing off unpaid interest" was removed by the two parties later on Thursday.
 Greek per capita GDP at 94.3% of EU average in '09AMNA / Greece's per capita GDP in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) for the year 2009 came to 94.3 percent of the European Union average based on data released by the European statistical agency Eurostat on Tuesday. These figures reflect economic performance before the start of the debt crisis in late 2009 and the subsequent imposition of wage and pension cuts.www.amna.gr
Based on these figures, per capita GDP in four of the 13 Greek regions was under 75 percent of the EU average. These were Epirus (65.3 percent), Western Greece (65.8 percent), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (70.1 percent) and Thessaly (72.4 percent).
The highest levels of per capital GDP were in Attica (123.9 percent of EU average) and the Southern Aegean (114 percent), followed by Central Greece (87.3 percent), Western Macedonia (86.3 percent), Crete (84.6 percent), the Ionian Islands (81.4 percent), Northern Aegean (76.4 percent), Peloponnese (76.1 percent) and Central Macedonia (76 percent). amna
 LAOS party leader Karatzaferis on implementing billPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the debate on the implementing law containing pensioning arrangements, criticised the two mainstream parties.
"You will find in the ballot box what you are voting for today. On the night of the elections PASOK and (New Democracy) ND will be obliged to apologise to the Greek people for the state to which they have led the country," Karatzaferis said
 PASOK leader speaks by phone with BarrosoPASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou held a telephone conversation with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday evening.
During the telephone contact, which took place at Barroso's initiative, the two men discussed the need to break the "vicious circle" of a prevailing negative climate regarding Greece's prospects, sources said.
Barroso also referred to his meeting in Brussels on Wednesday with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.
 EuroParliament President meets PASOK party leaderVisiting European Parliament President Martin Schulz held a meeting in Athens on Tuesday with outgoing PASOK party leader George Papandreou, at Papandreou's office in Parliament.
During the meeting, Schulz underlined that Greece and its people needed solidarity and not words, adding that this was the reason why he had accepted the invitation to visit Greece and address its Parliament from Greek Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos.
Schulz noted that the approval of the latest bailout package for Greece did not provide a solution to the problem in itself, since the country also needed measures to boost growth and employment.
He noted that the conditions existed in Greece for investments in solar energy, tourism and trade and that the country could play the role of a commercial hub in the centre of the Mediterranean for trade with Africa.
He further underlined the need to activate European funding to help the young unemployed.
Papandreou thanked the European Parliament president for his support and the solidarity that he displayed toward the Greek people, both in his current role and in his previous capacity as head of the socialists in the European Parliament.
He particularly thanked Schulz for displaying a "strong political will to convert the European Parliament into a powerful institution of European unification, with more democracy and transparency".
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