|Sunday, 11 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-11-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 15 November 2013 Issue No: 4512
 Dijsselbloem: Urgent need for progress in Athens-troika talksBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)
The urgent need for progress to be achieved in negotiations between Athens and the troika of lenders was on Thursday stressed by Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, shortly after the end of a Council of the Finance ministers of the Eurozone, held in Brussels.
Greece's Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stressed the need to achieve what he called the "golden mean" in negotiations with the troika.
Specifically, Dijsselbloem stressed that the Greek authorities should "urgently" make progress in four areas. Firstly, to implement the prior actions of the fourth program evaluation; secondly, to cover the financial gap for 2014 and 2015; thirdly, to advance structural reforms; and fourth, to speed up privatisations.
Dijsselbloem also underlined the need for troika's assessment to be completed as soon as possible. He expressed concern at the delay in reaching an agreement, adding that the Eurogroup would probably not be in a position to take decisions on Greece by December.
He added, however, that "the glass is more half-full than half- empty," and recognized the significant social and political costs of reforms in Greece.
"I understand that the situation is tough, but the only way to go is to observe the agreement," Dijsselbloem said.
Rehn: "Further progress is needed"
On his part, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs Olli Rehn noted the significant efforts made by Greece, both in fiscal adjustment and in reforms.
Referring to the ongoing evaluation by the troika, Rehn commented that "further progress is needed".
He noted that covering the financial gap for 2014 and 2015 was "key" to reach an agreement (with the troika), but added that equally important were the structural reforms, as well as privatizations, improving tax collection, etc.
Stournaras: "We have reached a point where we believe we are right"
Greece's Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stressed the need to achieve what he called the "golden mean" in negotiations with the troika.
"We would like to convince them that the measures we are take to support the 2014 budget are credible," he said, adding that "we have reached a point where we believe we are right."
Stournaras said that in recent days there has been a "great convergence" between Greek authorities and the troika of lenders, expressing confidence that a deal would close before the end of the year. In fact, he noted that before Thursday's Eurogroup session, he had a "thorough discussion" with Olli Rehn in a private meeting, which he said was of help.
As far as covering the financial gap for 2014, Stournaras said the measures proposed by the Greek side to the troika are of a structural nature and correspond to 0.7 percent of GDP, or 1.3 billion euros.
 Government Vice President Venizelos holds meeting on issue of business premise leasesThe issue of business premise leases was the focus of a meeting held at the foreign ministry between government Vice President, Foreign Minister and PASOK party president Evangelos Venizelos and representatives of Greece's main trade federations on Thursday.
Those present at the meeting included Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Constantine Michalos, National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) president Vassilis Korkidis, General Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) president George Kavathas and the Panhellenic Federation of Property Owners (POMIDA) president Stratos Paradias.
Speaking afterward, Venizelos spoke of a "very interesting discussion" and expressed optimism regarding business leases since, as he said, he sees that "there is ground for an agreement on a solution that will be mutually acceptable, fair, balanced, developmental, that will help the market, help the recovery of the economy".
On the question of the real estate tax, Venizelos said that the trade federations "acknowledge the great effort that has been made, also thanks to the interventions of PASOK's Parliamentary Group, to enable the relevant bill to be improved," and stressed that "the remarks of society and the market will be taken into consideration to the greatest possible degree".
Lastly, he said that the issue of the real estate tax must also be seen in the framework of the overall arrangement for the national tax system. He added that such an integrated system "is difficult under the pressure of the crisis, but we are in the last stage now, we are one step before the exit from the crisis".
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos addresses Tufts University eventNEW YORK (ANA-MPA / P. Panagiotou)
Addressing an event at Boston's Tufts University on Thursday, National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos referred to a recent statement by the Turkish prime minister, noting that "it does not concern Cyprus and Greece as much as it concerns international law, because it is in conflict with UN Security Council and EU decisions at a crucial moment for Greek-Turkish relations."
Speaking at an event organised by the Constantine G. Karamanlis Chair in Hellenic & European Studies at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, Avramopoulos referred to the Cyprus issue and the recent statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and pointed out that the solution of the Cyprus issue will serve as a catalyst for a full restoration of Greek-Turkish relations and mainly, it will put an end to a pending issue that is an insult to international legality. He also underlined that "this has become clear to everybody; the Cyprus issue is key to the normalization of the Greek-Turkish relations and Turkey's European course".
On Greece's regional stabilizing role, he pointed out that the western world needs a new strategy against the ongoing crisis in the eastern Mediterranean and northern Africa. "We need a strategy that will exert pressure for democratic reforms and, at the same time, take regional reality under consideration. Greece can serve as the bridge for a new, more realistic western approach in the region," he said.
He also added that "regardless of the crisis, the values on which modern Greece was built still exist. The economic crisis did not affect Greece's credibility as a key factor for regional and international stability. Our country is a model of consistency as regards its foreign policy and a model of reliability as regards its relations with its allies. The countries of the world and the countries in the region acknowledge and respect this fact."
Referring to US-Greece relations, he said that recently they were reinforced even further as a result of two new developments: the crisis in the eurozone and the regional instability in Arab countries.
"The crisis in the eurozone brought us closer together because our countries agree that unilateral austerity is dangerous to global economic stability and progress. Our countries agree that Europe and the world economic system need a strategy that will lead to sustainable development," Avramopoulos underlined, adding that as regards regional instability, both countries agree that it is imperative to have a stable international environment based on the state of law.
 Hungarian EU Affairs Minister in Athens for talks on upcoming Greek EU presidency (adds)Hungary's Minister of State for EU Affairs, Eniko Gyori, met with Greek leadership on Thursday for talks focusing directly on Athens' upcoming assumption of the European Union's rotating presidency in the first half of 2014.
Following talks with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas in Athens, Gyori expressed confidence that the Greek presidency will prove efficient and serious about tackling the major problems facing the Union, especially the ongoing economic crisis plaguing Europe and Greece.
She said Budapest, despite Hungary not being a member of the euro zone, supports efforts at fiscal consolidation by EU member-states, while repeatedly stressing the Hungarian government's keen interest on deliberations concerning any Euro zone banking union.
"The viewpoints of non-Euro zone countries should be taken into serious consideration when discussing the banking union; Euro zone-based banks operate subsidiaries in Hungary, and we don't want any agreement that will neglect the subsidiaries. We discussed this and (the Greek side) guaranteed that such viewpoints will be fully taken into consideration," she said.
Gyori acknowledged that the Greek EU presidency will have less time to promote its initiatives, particularly on the complex issue of a banking union, given that European Parliament elections are scheduled in late May 2014 followed by subsequent discussions on new candidates for the EU Commission.
She also said the issues of asylum policies and illegal immigration were discussed, noting that Hungary's conservative government wants the upcoming EU presidency to also emphasise security of land borders. Gyori said Hungary has experienced a 700-percent increase in the number of people detained while illegally entering its territory between 2011 and 2012.
Greece's rotating EU presidency is widely expected to highlight the problem of illegal migration towards southern European countries in the Mediterranean.
Finally, asked about the high-profile "chill" in EU-Hungarian ties over the past two years or so -- especially over a new constitution in the central European state -- the Hungarian minister said no "open issues" exist at present between Brussels and Budapest.
"Two difficult years are now behind us ... and I trust that this tension is over. A two-thirds majority (achieved by the ruling Fidesz party in the 2010 election) is a huge responsibility and gives you the potential for passing difficult things through; the first results are already visibly."
The Hungarian minister also met with the vice-chairman of Parliament's standing committee on European Affairs, Costas Mousouroulis, as well as with former Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyanni, the head of the Greek delegation to the CoE's Parliamentary Assembly. Discussions again focused on the Greek EU-Presidency, Hungary's experience with its EU Presidency in 2011, along with bilateral cooperation in support of economic growth and creation of jobs.
 Government promises protection for primary residences facing foreclosureGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Thursday promised that people's homes will be protected when a ban on auctions for foreclosed properties expires at the end of the year. He was speaking to the private television station ANT1.
"Because this issue is currently in consultation, what I can tell you is that the primary residence of those affected by the crisis and therefore unable to make payments will be protected," he said.
He clarified that those included individuals who had lost their jobs or whose family income was drastically reduced and could therefore prove their inability to meet past commitments based on objective criteria.
Kedikoglou also referred to the new property tax, saying that the government was doing its utmost to improve a system that had to collect a certain amount of revenue in order to avoid cutbacks in other areas.
He said the new property tax, as planned, would lead to lower taxation for the majority, with an average reduction of around 15 percent.
 New property tax incorporates majority of MPs' proposals, ND Parliamentary group secretary saysAn announcement issued by the office of New Democracy Parliamentary Group Secretary Thanassis Bouras on Thursday said that the MPs in the ruling coalition's majority that sit on Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee had discussed the new proposals for a 'comprehensive' property tax earlier in the day.
From their discussion, the announcement said, it transpired that the overwhelming majority of the proposals submitted by ND MPs had been incorporated in the new draft bill and had led to a radically overhauled taxation system for property.
"A system that is fairer, more objective, more proportional, more progressive and more realistic," the announcement added, noting that ND MPs will continue to participate in the further processing of the draft law.
 PASOK parliamentary group takes positive view of new property tax proposalPASOK's parliamentary group takes a positive view of the new property tax proposal, it was announced on Thursday. Speaking after the party's economic sector meeting on Thursday, PASOK MPs said that it incorporates all the suggestions they had introduced. A definitive announcement will be made after the relevant draft bill is finalized.
The Parliamentary group was briefed on the new property tax framework, as shaped after meetings held with New Democracy (ND) representatives, and concluded that its collective intervention has resulted in substantive changes to the draft bill currently under debate.
A Parliamentary group announcement underlined that "a fair distribution of the financial burden is achieved," as well as, "a progressive taxation of large real estate properties".
According to PASOK MPs, the new draft bill proposal provides for considerable reductions in the taxation of real estate and building plots, while farm land taxation will be slightly reduced as well.
 Tsipras foresees early elections, gov't spokesman repliesMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Thursday visited the installations of the ERT 3 channel in Thessaloniki to express solidarity to the employees who are remaing there and broadcasting an informative programme.
In an interview to the channel, Tsipras stressed that "the government is dying and very soon, under the popular outcry, it will find itself on the margin of history".
He claimed that SYRIZA "gained from the tabling of the censure motion since for the first time a deputy of the government majority, Theodora Tzakri, voted in favour of the main opposition's motion."
He added that three days after the rejection of the censure motion, "government officials are seeking a successor for (Prime Minister Antonis) Samaras."
The government is weakened, Tsipras said, adding: "the pullover is coming apart centimetre by centimetre" and soon the government will be unable to forge ahead and the only solution will be resorting to elections.
He also assessed that the Parliamentary elections will take place sooner than the end of the government's tenure, but said that he cannot say when exactly. On the question of with whom SYRIZA will cooperate after the elections, for the formation of a government, he replied that he cannot say because he does not know which parties will enter Parliament. Even in the event that SYRIZA achieves a majority, it will seek alliances with social forces again, persons and political forces.
He criticised Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for his "attitude and character" and for not replying to questions tabled in Parliament.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, commenting on Tsipras's interview, said that "the allies that Mr. Tsipras says he found in Texas, are not considered as allies by Mr. (SYRIZA's parliamentary spokesman Panagiotis) Lafazanis."
"Really, will Mr. Tsipras ever reply to the accusations of his mentor, Alekos Alavanos, that he is lying when he says that he will tear up the memorandum while remaining in the euro.
 Gov't 'pretending' to negotiate with troika, SYRIZA saysThe government is pretending to negotiate with troika officials representing Greece's creditors when it has already agreed to lay offs, punishing taxation of land and property, as well as the selling off of public assets, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said in an announcement on Thursday.
"In other words, [it has agreed] to a continuation of the extremist and leveling memorandum policy," SYRIZA's press office said, adding that there could be no real negotiation without clashing with the "memorandums of destitution and poverty, austerity and abolition of the social state."
 KKE accuses the government of making 'show' of negotiations with the troikaOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Thursday said that "the people should not be the audience to a negotiation 'show' repeatedly played by the government, the troika and government MPs which concerns the method and timing of implementing already agreed anti-popular measures and not the essence of the anti-popular policy".
Commenting on the government-troika negotiations, KKE added that governments and political parties that accept the EU, the debt and the domination of monopolies, for the benefit of which the cruel measures are being implemented, cannot enter a negotiation that will benefit the people.
 DIMAR leader rules out party's return to gov't coalitionDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday ruled out all possibility that his party might return to ruling government alliance with the New Democracy (ND) and PASOK parties under present political and social conditions.
Speaking during a press conference in Kavalla, northern Greece, Kouvelis said that DIMAR's withdrawal from the then three-party coalition government last June, was the result of concrete political differences. DIM.AR's leader asserted that there had been no "common ground" for cooperation and the government "was acting as a single-party government, despite the fact that it was supported and formed by three political forces," Kouvelis said.
"Given our disagreement with those policies that have been implemented and the policies currently implemented by the government, it is not possible and there is no logic in DIM.AR returning to the government under a new policy agreement," he added.
 SYRIZA message for November 17 Polytechnic DayIn a message to mark the 40th anniversary of the November 17, 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising against the military junta, the main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said that "at a time when the two-party pro-bailout-memorandum government makes an all-out attack on the rights of the majority of society, and democracy is shrinking and authoritarianism and repression are routine, the only way for workers and young people is the organized and collective action and a collective resistance against the policy of impoverishment."
SYRIZA added that the 1973 uprising by the students against the junta was "a living example of selflessness and militant collective action and an inspiration for a lifetime."
"Forty years later, the Polytechnic is here to keep reminding us of its meaning and inspire in the current struggles to eventually free the country of the bailout memoranda, to defend social cohesion and protection of the weak," a SYRIZA press release stressed, adding "The Polytechnic lives in the today's struggles for Democracy, Equality, Social Liberation."
 CoS plenum rules in favour of ministerial decision abolishing university administrative staff positionsThe Council of State (CoS) plenum on Thursday rejected the petitions filed by the country's universities and the University of Athens Administrative Staff Association for the suspension of the September 23 ministerial decision that abolished 1,349 permanent administrative staff positions in higher education institutions, placing the employees on "labour reserve".
The CoS supreme administrative court ruled that the controversial ministerial decision cannot be suspended for reasons of public interest.
The CoS plenum underlined that the abolition of 1,349 administrative staff positions is linked with the country's memorandum obligations for the public administration reorganization, the loan agreements and the medium-term fiscal programme.
According to the ruling, the documents presented in court did not show that the operation of the country's universities is jeopardized as a result of the ministerial decision and therefore, a decision in favour of its suspension is not justified.
 Greek municipalities agree to voluntary, 'inter-municipal' mobility in meeting with ministersThe Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE) on Thursday agreed to voluntary mobility between municipalities for local authority employees, during a meeting with Interior Minister Yiannis Mihelakis and Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Municipal employees that participate in the voluntary mobility scheme will enter a reserve labour pool for about a month before they are transferred to their new jobs and will attend retraining programmes whenever necessary.
The two sides also agreed to scrap the staff transfer system that required up to 14 signatures for each move, arranging for these transfers to be carried out with just two signatures, one of the municipality an employee is leaving and one from the municipality he is going to.
Through the new system, there will be a rationalisation between municipalities that were clearly overstaffed and those that lacked employees to carry out their plans. While the staff involved will not lose their jobs, they will count toward the 2013 mobility targets Greece has promised to meet. Only employees whose move to another municipality has been confirmed will enter the labour reserve pool.
 Striking public-sector staff march to ParliamentOrganisers on Thursday reported a large turnout for a protest march to Parliament held by striking public-sector staff, including fired former ERT employees, university administrative staff and members of the high school teachers' union OLME. A nationwide work stoppage for the entire public sector had been called by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY on Thursday afternoon, with the Athens journalists' union ESIEA joining in the action from noon until 3:00 p.m.
The protest rally started at around 1:00 p.m. at Propylaia and the march set off about an hour later, heading for Parliament.
Among ADEDY's demands was its opposition to the activation of an amendment by the education and administrative reform ministries that fired university staff on the grounds that they did not participate in a census because they were on strike.
ESIEA held its work stoppage over the taking over of the ERT broadcasting building in Agia Paraskevi by riot police, noting that there is "no legal basis for all the unacceptable events underway for the last seven days".
A concert in the forecourt of the Athens Polytechnic building by the popular orchestra 'Mikis Theodorakis' is to take place at 7:00 p.m. and is organised by fired ERT staff and university employees.
 SYRIZA expressed its support to public-sector union delegationsCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) deputies Dimitris Stratoulis and Rena Dourou on Thursday received delegations from Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (OLME), the former state broadcaster ERT's union federation POSPERT, school guards and administrative employees of universities. Talks focused on issues regarding the party's support for the employees' struggle against layoffs, and the shrinking and privatisation of public agencies and state social services.
In a statement, the two MPs said that the solution to the workers' problems was "political and related to the need to overthrow the government, the ECB/EC/IMF troika and their memorandums and the election of a left-wing government will put an end to these barbaric policies."
"We repeat SYRIZA's commitment, as reflected in legislation proposed by 72 deputies in Parliament, that if the people's struggles and vote result in a left-wing government, this will cancel the unconstitutional legislative measures regarding layoffs and suspensions in the public sector," they said, adding that SYRIZA will reinstate all those that lost their jobs as a result of the measures.
 PASOK MP Nikos Sifounakis resigns as Parliamentary group rapporteurPASOK MP Nikos Sifounakis resigned from his post as the party's Parliamentary group rapporteur on transport and shipping issues, it was announced on Thursday.
Sifounakis tendered his resignation in a letter to PASOK Parliamentary group secretary Panagiotis Rigas. A second letter was addressed to PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos.
In his resignation letter, Sifounakis referred to major problems in the New Democracy (ND)-PASOK government alliance, stressing that PASOK MPs are not adequately briefed by the ND ministers or are called to vote on draft bills at a minute's notice, sources said.
Sifounakis underlined that he has raised those issues repeatedly in PASOK's parliamentary group meetings and he intends to raise them again dyrubg Thursday's meeting of the party's economic sector.
He also said that PASOK is not taking action to correct any shortcomings in the "Kallikratis" local government reform, while as regards the property tax draft law, he noted that PASOK's Parliamentary group has tabled its proposals a year-and-a-half ago and despite this the draft law tabled was characterized by sloppiness. He also said that the shipping ministry policy is exercised unilaterally.
Sifounakis underlined that PASOK's political identity is unclear, while as regards the ND-PASOK policy agreement, he said that it is a text prepared by associates of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and government vice-president Evangelos Venizelos without the consultation of the two parties' Parliamentary groups.
 Tamilos statements about Golden Dawn a 'cynical admission', SYRIZA saysThe main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Thursday commented on statements made by New Democracy MP Mihalis Tamilos, a deputy supporting the ruling coalition government, saying that they amounted to a "cynical admission".
Speaking on a panel on the private television station 'Action24' about the action of the far-right party Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi), Tamilos suggested that this had "suited" the government and SYRIZA because GD had "done its dirty work" by "clearing neighbourhoods of foreign nationals" without the government or the police having to deal with the political cost.
"These statements leave the government and the prime minister himself exposed," SYRIZA underlined. "However much the government would like to hide and show latter-day anti-GD reflexes, its responsibility for allowing Nazi violence to grow is more than evident and cannot be swept under the rung of government propaganda," SYRIZA's announcement said.
 British Ambassador to Greece stresses importance of dialogue between young peopleThe participation of young people in politics and the opportunity to shape the future of Europe was the main topic of an event held in Thessaloniki by the British Embassy in Athens and the Thessaloniki, European Youth Capital 2014 organisation.
The event aimed to promote dialogue between young people, as dialogue "is the cornerstone of a democratic society," British Ambassador to Greece John Kittmer explained to ANA-MPA.
Addressing the event, Thessaloniki mayor Yannis Boutaris underlined the importance of dialogue under the present situation, adding that we should discuss why we got into that situation and how to get out of it.
 Greece lags behind in most categories in "Government at a glance" reportPARIS (ANA-MPA/Olympia Tsipira)
Greece managed to cut its fiscal deficit to 9.6 pct of GDP in 2012, from 15.6 pct in 2009, recording the second best performance among OECD's countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report.
The report, "Government at a glance", released here, said that the percentage of the country's workforce employed in the public administration was less than 8.0 pct, the smallest percentage among OECD countries. The report also showed that trust on government plunged from 38 pct to 13 pct in the
2007-2012 period. The report also said that the percentage of spending on Education was 7.9 pct in Greece, down from 12.5 pct in the OECD on average, while spending on Health was 11.6 pct, from 14.5 pct the average rate in the OECD.
The country's index for the efficiency of public administration spending was 0.27 pct, down from 0.38 in the Organization, while state spending absorbed 52 pct of GDP in the country, up from 45.4 pct in the OECD. Employment in the general government represented 7.9 pct of the country's workforce, down from 15.5 pct the OECD average, while the participation of women in the general government was 36.2 pct (56.8 pct in the OECD), while the percentage of women-ministers was 5.6 pct (25.9 pct). The percentage of Greeks using the internet for their transactions with the state was 34 pct (50 pct in the OECD).
 Finmin reveals plans for system to monitor government payroll spendingThe finance ministry plans to set up a system to monitor payroll spending for general government agencies, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras revealed in a document sent to Parliament.
The document was forwarded to Parliament on Monday in response to a question tabled by a ruling coalition MP, ND deputy Kostas Koutsogiannakopoulos, who asked for each ministry to send figures on the average wage paid to employees at the ministry and in bodies under its supervision.
On the implementation of the uniform civil service pay scale, the finance minister said the payroll cost had to be examined in light of 2011 legislation providing for a gradual adjustment of wage reductions to the levels set by the pay scale.
 Environment Minister Maniatis meets with US Ambassador to Athens David D. PearceDevelopments concerning the tenders for hydrocarbon exploration, the privatisations programme in the energy sector and the priorities of the Greek EU Presidency were among the issues discussed in a meeting on Thursday between Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis and US Ambassador to Athens David D. Pearce.
Their discussion focused on the energy sector and recent developments in the exploitation of national hydrocarbon reserves, as well as on the implementation of natural gas projects, such as, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the "East Med Pipeline" that will pass through Greece and link the European markets with the natural gas reserves in the regions of the Caspian Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, respectively.
Maniatis referred to the priorities of the Greek EU Presidency and the initiatives Greece intends to undertake in the first half of 2014 in the sectors of environmental protection and climate change.
They also discussed privatisation issues in the sector of energy and energy saving initiatives.
Both sides expressed certainty that the initiatives undertaken by the government will soon turn Greece into an energy hub in the greater region of SE Europe and the Mediterranean.
Maniatis underlined that political stability and making the country investment friendly are the key elements of national policy.
 State contribution to pension system to be gradually reduced, labour minister tells conferenceGreek Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Thursday outlined plans for a gradual reduction of the state's contribution to Greece's pension system in the next few years, speaking at the 3rd annual "Labor and Insurance" conference organised by the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce.
"Of the 28.3 billion euros of the overall spend on pensions for 2013, 55.9 pct comes from the state budget," Vroutsis pointed out. The total spend on pensions in 2014 would remain at roughly the same level, or 28.6 billion euros, based on the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy Framework but only 46.5 pct of this amount will be from the state budget, he added.
The reduction in state funding will be offset through a series of innovative structural and organisational changes that have already been announced, without affecting the amount of pensions, he explained.
Specifically, he outlined plans for a gradual reduction in the state's contribution to pension systems from 12.6 billion euros in 2013, to 10.5 billion euros in 2014 and to roughly 9.7 billion euros in 2015 and 2016, when the state contribution will be reduced to 42.1 pct and 40.8 pct, respectively.
The minister also highlighted the fact that, despite a relatively large spend on pensions as a percentage of total social spending, the risk of poverty and inequality actually rose post-retirement in Greece.
He attributed this to the complexity and fragmented nature of the system, with a mosaic of special pension regimes and "privileged exceptions", stressing that the entire system was in need of an overhaul. He also announced plans to set up a committee of technocrats to examine ways to implement the changes brought about by a 2010 law on pensions from January 1, 2015, that introduces the institution of main and 'pay-as-you-go' pensions.
 HFSF announces Eurobank's 2-bln-euro share capital increase planA proposed share capital increase is a step forward towards a further strengthening of Eurobank's capital base and enhances the bank's ability to support the Greek economy, Hellenic Financial Stability Fund said on Thursday.
In a statement, HFSF said that the 2-billion-euro share capital increase plan will be made through the offering of new shares and noted that the Fund will examine the possibility of one or a group of institutional investors to buy a significant equity stake in the bank. The Fund also has the right to participate in Eurobank's share capital increase plan.
Anastasia Sakellariou, chief executive of the Fund, said: "In continuation of our efforts to stabilize and strengthen our banking system, we announce the start of procedures for Eurobank's share capital increase, which will allow a capital strengthening of the bank and its rapid return to the private sector. The Fund will make every effort for the success of the project and to contribute in a further strengthening of the Greek economy".
Lazard Frures is acting as financial advisor to the Fund. Hellenic Financial Stability Fund owns 95.2 pct of Eurobank's shares.
 Seasonally adjusted unemployment jumped to 27.3 pct in August, ELSTAT reportsSeasonally adjusted unemployment levels in Greece jumped to 27.3 percent in August 2013 from 25.2 pct in the same month in 2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The number of unemployed came to 1,365,406 in August 2013, not significantly changed from the previous month but increased by 7.5 pct (or 95,326 people) compared with August 2012. In comparison with August 2010, the year of the first bailout memorandum in Greece, an additional 724,623 people swelled the ranks of the unemployed.
The increase in unemployment was markedly higher for under-24s, having almost doubled in the last four years to 60.6 pct in August 2013 from 31.3 pct in August 2010, with six in 10 young people neither in work, education or training.
Also hard-hit were women, with female unemployment at 31.2 pct (up from 29.2 pct in August 2012) compared with 24.3 pct for men (up from 22.7 pct in August 2012).
The regions with the highest unemployment rates in Greece as Epirus-Western Macedonia (29.7 pct in August 2013), Macedonia-Thrace (28.5 pct) and Attica (27.5 pct).
The number of employed decreased by 88,242 persons compared with August 2012 (a 2.4 pct rate of decrease) and increased by 9,777 persons compared with July 2013 (a 0.3 pct rate of increase). The increase in the number employed in August relative to July, chiefly due to the tourism industry, slightly overshot the increase in unemployed by 3,220 individuals.
The number of employed amounted to 3,631,430 persons in August 2013. The number of unemployed amounted to 1,365,406 while the number of inactive to 3,360,334. The number of unemployed increased by 95,326 compared with August 2012 (7.5 pct) and 6,557 compared with July 2013 (0.5 pct).
ELSTAT reported an observed stabilisation of the estimated seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the last three months, while noting that seasonal adjustment procedure requires data for many months in order to remove the seasonal component from a time series, requiring several "observations" (that is a sufficient number of monthly results) in order to confirm a significant change in the trend of employment and unemployment.
 Registered unemployment slightly down in Sept.The number of registered unemployed people - seeking jobs - fell by 0.86 pct, or by 7.383, in September compared with August, totalling 853,896, official figures showed on Thursday.
A report by the Workforce Employment Organization (OAED) said that the number of registered unemployed people - not seeking jobs - fell by 2.35 pct compared with August, while the number of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefit fell by 5.5 pct over the same period.
The majority of registered unemployed people were Greek citizens, aged 30-54, while women remained at the top of unemployment (59.61 pct of total unemployment).
Registered unemployment in the below-30 age group totalled 229,211 (26.84 pct), in the 30-54 age group it was 534,289 (62.57 pct) and in the above-55 age group it was 90,396 (10.59 pct).
Greek citizens accounted for 94.05 pct of registered unemployment, with EU citizens accounting for 1.33 pct and third country citizens 4.62 pct.
From the total of registered unemployed people - not seeking jobs - a 38.27 pct were unemployed for more than 12 months.
The number of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits totalled 138,350 in September, down from 145,865 in August, of which 135,791 (98.15 pct) were regular unemployed and 2,559 (1.85 pct) were seasonal workers in the tourism sector.
 Greek economic recession slowed to 3.0 pct in Q3The Greek economy recorded a significant slowdown in its recession in the third quarter of 2013, helped by a significant increase in tourism, with the country' s Gross Domestic Product shrinking by 3.0 pct, after shrinking by 6.7 pct in the corresponding period last year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the rate of economic recession slowed steadily so far this year, from 5.5 pct in the first quarter to 3.7 pct in the second and 3.0 pct in the third quarter, with the country's GDP shrinking by 4.07 pct in the nine-month period from January to September, down from 6.6 pct in the corresponding period last year.
Finance ministry officials, commenting on the data, said that the slowdown was expected to continue falling in the fourth quarter of 2013 to around -4.0 pct on average this year, while they did not exclude the recession falling more to -3.6-3.8 pct this year. The officials expect the economy to return to positive growth rates (0.6 pct) next year.
In Brussels, Eurostat said that the Greek economy shrank by 3.8 pct in the second quarter of 2013, compared with the same period last year. In the Eurozone, the GDP shrank by 0.4 pct in the third quarter, while in the EU-28 the economy grew by 0.1 pct, compared with the same period in 2012. On a quarterly basis, the GDP grew 0.1 pct in the Eurozone and by 0.2 pct in the EU in the third quarter.
 Greek import price index down 3.5 pct in SeptGreece's import price index in the industrial sector fell 3.5 pct in September, compared with the same period last year, after a 4.9 pct increase recorded in September 2012, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development in the so-called imported inflation to a 0.5 pct decline in the import price index from Eurozone states and a 6.4 pct decline in the import price index from countries outside Eurozone.
The index was up 0.2 pct in September from August, after a 0.8 pct recorded in the same period last year.
 Most regional deputy governors decide in favour of retail stores opening on SundaysThe overwhelming majority of deputy regional governors nationwide decided in favour of giving small retail stores (under 250 square meters) the option of opening on Sundays all year round, it was announced on Thursday.
According to the ministry of development and competitiveness, 37 of the 57 decisions issued allow retail stores to optionally open on Sundays. Only twenty deputy regional governors decided that retail stores can open only on the seven Sundays each year when all shops are allowed to open by law.
Deputy Development & Competitiveness Minister Athanassios Skordas stated that a satisfactory number of deputy regional governors decided in favour of the measure, resisting pressures to the contrary, and added that in time the measure will have more supporters.
 Construction consortium bids successfully in tender for Athens mosqueThe transport, infrastructure and networks ministry on Thursday accepted a bid submitted in a repeat tender for the building of a mosque in Athens' Votanikos district, by a consortium made up of the construction firms J&P-Avax, Terna S.A., Aktor and Intrakat.
The project has a total budget of 946,000 euros, with the contractor offering a 7 percent discount, and is expected to be completed within six months of the contract being signed.
Ministry staff estimate that work on the mosque will begin in about two months, after the independent authority on contracts and the Court of Audit examine the proposed contract agreement. They do not rule out the possibility of a delay, however, as a result of legal action initiated by Votanikos residents, who have appealed to the Council of State for the cancellation of the project. The case is to be heard by the court at the end of January.
The planned mosque is to be built on a 1.7-hectare property in the Votanikos area, on the site of an old Navy car maintenance and repair workshop. The building will cover an area of 600 square metres, having two areas of prayer but no minaret. It will be surrounding by gardens and supporting buildings, such as offices and toilets. The terms of land use do not allow construction of residences in the area.
 OTE announces voluntary retirement programHellenic Telecommunications Organization on Thursday announced a voluntary retirement program covering around 1,000 workers with a total cost of 190 million euros.
The program will cover workers who are near their retirement age and special categories of workers (lawyers, etc), while it will not burden pension funds.
The program will cover 70-95 pct of net salaries until the worker becomes eligible for full pension payment, all legal compensations up to 25,291 euros plus salaries of nine months, additional sum up to 11,000 and a group private insurance program to all workers who will participate in the program.
 Greek stocks end 1.02 pct higherGreek stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market back above the 1,150 points. Bank shares were at the focus of buying activity. The composite index rose 1.02 pct to end at 1,143.62 points, after rising as much as 2.33 pct during the day. Turnover was a moderate 82.10 million euros.
The Large Cap index rose 0.93 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.68 pct higher. Piraeus Bank (5.38 pct), MIG (3.45 pct), Ellaktor (3.17 pct) and National Bank (3.13 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Viohalco (2.67 pct), OTE (1.95 pct), Intralot (1.02 pct) and Eurobank Properties (0.82 pct) were top losers.
The Construction (2.96 pct), Banks (2.78 pct) and Technology (2.73 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Telecoms (1.95 pct), Commerce (0.43 pct) and Travel (0.08 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 84 to 56 with another 26 issues unchanged. G.E.Demetriou (23.68 pct), AXON Holdings (20 pct) and PC Systems (20 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (20 pct), Spider (12.24 pct) and Vioter (11.52 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.63%
Personal & Household: +0.61%
Raw Materials: +0.13%
Travel & Leisure: -0.08%
Food & Beverages: +0.58%
Financial Services: +0.78%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OPAP, OTE, Viohalco and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.647
Public Power Corp (PPC): 9.78
Coca Cola HBC: 21.08
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.00
National Bank of Greece: 4.28
Eurobank Properties : 8.50
Piraeus Bank: 1.37
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds continued moving higher to 6.82 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday from 6.79 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.52 pct and the German Bund 1.70 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate was 0.50 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.41 pct, the six-month rate was 0.32 pct, the three-month rate was 0.21 pct and the one-month rate was 0.12 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe November contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a strong 84.419 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 41,774 contracts worth 80.120 million euros, with 53,393 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,743 contracts, worth 4.299 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (4,299), followed by National Bank (470), Alpha Bank (765), Eurobank (356), MIG (361), OTE (561), PPC (579), Viohalco (483), Mytilineos (443), GEK (2,187), Hellenic Petroleum (124), Titan (125), Intralot (128) and Jumbo (84).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.363
Pound sterling 0.849
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 9.108
Japanese yen 136.27
Swiss franc 1.251
Norwegian kroner 8.456
Canadian dollar 1.431
Australian dollar 1.467
 Health ministry on rabies issueKEELPNO figures on epidemic data, according there have been 376 contacts between human beings and animals with possible or confirmed exposure to rabies, was forwarded in a document sent to Parliament on Thursday by the health ministry. As revealed by Deputy Health Minister Zetta Makri, stray dogs were involved in 63.4 percent of the total number of exposures and cats in 7.5 percent.
The data shows, in other words, that strays account for 70.9 percent of cases of exposure to the virus.
The information was forwarded to Parliament in response to a question tabled by 39 deputies of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on the management of stray animals and the handling of rabies cases in Greece.
As Makri mentions in her document, circulars have been issued by the ministry on the prevention of rabies in people, with updated instructions regarding vigilance and preparedness for handling possible rabies cases following exposure to an animal infected by the virus.
 Convicted child-molestor sentenced to 50 years imprisonmentA 53-year-old petrol station owner found guilty of raping five underage boys in the northern Greek city of Edessa was handed down a sentence of 50 years imprisonment by a Thessaloniki mixed jury appeals court on Thursday. The court also imposed a fine of 400,000 euros.
The defendant admitted his actions to the court, claiming mental illness. The case had originally been uncovered in 2007 and, according to prosecuting authorities, the culprit had offered his victims money and gifts to keep them quiet.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 9C and 20C. Local showers in Athens with northerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 14C and 18C. Cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 13C and 16C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Rumours over 'a new government' flying".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Double surcharge in real estate.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: The salary reduction story a fiasco.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The reversals in the real estate taxation.
ESTIA: Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' commitment for the real estate taxation.
ETHNOS: Who are entitled retirement pension at the age of 55.
IMERISSIA: Spectacular improvement.
KATHIMERINI: Workers requisitioning to open the Universities
LOGOS: Primary surplus a 'negotiation advantage'.
NAFTEMPORIKI: 'Hybrid' real estate tax to overcome the oppositions.
RIZOSPASTIS: Popular alliance the realistic way for the self-employed.
TA NEA: Mad scenarios for the real estate taxation.
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