|Monday, 12 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-11-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 21 November 2013 Issue No: 4517
 Samaras expresses satisfaction over Onassis Foundation investment HIFThe Onassis Foundation will invest in the Hellenic Investment Fund and support the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday following a meeting with the foundation's president Antonis Papadimitriou.
Samaras expressed his satisfaction over an investment that will boost liquidity in the market, adding that this is also a vote of confidence in the Greek economy and its prospects.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who also attended the meeting on the planned Hellenic Investment Fund, noted that the Onassis Foundation's investment sends the message that all Greeks united are trying to overcome the crisis so that the country enters on a new course.
The Onassis Foundation's president Antonis Papadimitriou referred to the sacrifices made by the Greeks, noting that the Hellenic Investment Fund will boost development, create new jobs and contribute to the recapitalisation of the SMEs.
"The Onassis Foundation is pleased to be the first organisation, the first private entity, that will support the Fund hoping that Greece and its economy will recover," Papadimitriou said.
On November 13 the European Investment Bank came to an agreement with Greece to sign a memorandum of understanding for participating in the Fund, which has not yet been established.
Also, Greece has a already signed a memorandum of understanding with the German bank KfW to participate in the Fund, while other organizations - including the Onassis Foundation - have pledged to participate in the project. According to sources, the Onassis Foundation plans to participate in the Fund with 30 million euros.
 Prime Minister Samaras meets with Yannakis Omirou in AthensPrime Minister Antonis Samaras met in Athens on Wednesday with the President of the House of Representatives of the Cyprus Republic Yiannakis Omirou to discuss among others the economic situation of both countries, according to the prime minister's press office.
"It is our deep conviction that the reconstruction and revival of Cyprus' and Greece's economies are prerequisites not only of the well-being and social cohesion of our peoples, but also of the successful handling of national issues and, of course, the Cyprus issue," Omirou said following the meeting.
He also stressed the need for a strong economy in Cyprus and Greece together with a proper multi-dimensional foreign policy and a strong defence.
Omirou underlined that negotiations should aim at a solution based on the principles of international law, and at a solution that is compatible with the status of Cyprus as an EU member-state.
He concluded by thanking the Greek prime minister for proving once again Greece's commitment to Cyprus' struggle for freedom and vindication.
 President Papoulias meets Cyprus House of Representatives presidentHellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday metwith visiting Cyprus House of Representatives President Yiannakis Omirou at the presidential mansion in Athens.
Referring to the latest developments concerning the Cyprus issue, Omirou said that "the Turkish Cypriot side, the Turkish side to be exact, is still unwilling to cooperate in formulating a joint announcement, an adequate negotiating basis that will be clear, crystallized and indisputable, incorporating the main principles of the solution, which we supposedly seek through the negotiations. Namely, a state with an international legal identity, a single sovereignty and a single nationality, respecting human rights and freedoms pursuant to the European acquis".
He added that the solution should be compatible with the country's status as an EU member-state, noting that the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu referred to two sovereignties - namely, that there are two peoples and two states.
"It's an old story," President Papoulias said, agreeing with the observation made by Omirou that the EU should undertake certain additional responsibilities and assist the UN efforts for the solution of the Cyprus issue.
 FinMin-troika talks close to agreementThe new budget's finalised plan will be tabled in Parliament on Thursday and with the EC/ECB/IMF troika's departure from Athens the same day, another round of negotiations will be concluded without, however, a full agreement being achieved on the open issues and mainly on the fiscal gap for 2014.
The budget, according to a senior Finance ministry official, will anticipate a primary surplus for this year exceeding 700 milion euros, compared to 344 million euros in the draft plan.
However, according to the same official, following Wednesday's meeting with the troika, "the fiscal gap is no longer the main problem, since the troika places greater emphasis on the structural reforms and does not demand salary and pension cuts and tax inxcreases". As regards a final agreement being reached until the Eurogroup on December 9, he said "I am not 100 percent certain about an agreement, but we have come closer".
On the question of the budget, the senior Finance ministry official said that the lenders' representatives "accept that the budget is not a text out of place and time. It is a text that has a rationale".
The official added that "every budget text can be changed at any moment within the year", but pointed out that "with this government, however, it has never changed".
The new budget's 250 pages will have, according to the same official, "specific interventions and specific amounts that are expected to be received from them". The interventions will be finalised or amended, if required, through the Medium-Term Framework 2014-2017, which will be agreed with the troika and shall follow the budget.
As regards Wednesday evening's meeting between the troika and the finance ministry's leadership, the senior official said that "discussions were mostly of a political nature," adding that "discussions were brief and on a principles' level, aiming for us being ready for December 9, which is also the target set by both sides."
Regarding the 2014 fiscal gap, which the Finance ministry estimates at 1.3 billion euros, the official said that "we talked about it for just a half minute".
On Thursday, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras departs for Friday's Eurogroup meeting in Brussels. Greece will not be on the agenda of the meeting. The troika representatives will not be present at Friday's meeting and are expected to be back in Athens in early December. In the meantime, there will be a "correspondence" between the two sides during which, according to Finance ministry officials, "there will be progress which will be becoming more intense".
 Greek government, troika discuss first home foreclosure protectionThe Greek government remains steadfast against the troika's demands to lift foreclosure protection on first homes when a debtor is in the red. The Greek position was presented during Wednesday's meeting between the troika's officials, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou.
Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis rejected the troika's demands, and noted that "in any case, this measure needs at least a transition period".
Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou said that "a code" was necessary to examine whether a debtor -who is in the red- has really the inability or if he is taking advantage of economic conditions prevailing in the country to declare inability to repay his loan obligations. He added it was necessary to find a solution to stop this rise in non-performing loans.
 Admin. Reform Minister Mitsotakis receives green light from the troikaThe meeting of the Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and representatives of Greece's troika of lenders was completed in a positive climate on Wednesday.
The troika members recognised that the first wave of 12,500 public sector employees' layoffs has been completed; they also approved the evaluation of infrastructure and the staffing plans for 400,000 public sector employees as well as the 2,730 public sector redundancies.
Mitsotakis noted that the second wave of public sector employees' layoffs will take place with a small delay, adding that the target of 4,000 layofffs in 2013 will not be met.
The minister noted that the plans for the merger and abolition of small public sector organizations are going ahead while he ruled out the possibility of a "sudden death" a large public entity.
The two sides also discussed the improved quality of services in the public sector and the e-governance.
 SYRIZA sees gov't u-turn in negotiations with troika, new 'sudden death' closureMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday said the government was rapidly retreating from its supposedly "tough" stance in negotiations with Greece's creditors and preparing to fold on a number of key issues.
"The so-called negotiations with the troika and the proud cries that there will be no new measures are ending up in a new 'sudden death' of a public organisation to satisfy the demands of the creditors for further layoffs. At the same time, the lifting of a ban on foreclosure auctions is being prepared while the new taxation for property is the greatest tax raid that Greek society has ever known, since it leads to the seizure of real estate for a large part of our fellow citizens," a SYRIZA announcement said.
According to SYRIZA, the dead-ends, destruction of the economy and social devastation caused by austerity policies had been fully illustrated in all its dimensions and no amount of spin on the part of a "weak and politically delegitimised government can cover up the tragic reality".
"The government's political time is rapidly running out and the sooner it is overturned, the better it will be for the country and our people," SYRIZA's announcement concluded.
 DIMAR comments on the government's negotiations with the TroikaDIMAR announced on Wednesday that the government must fend off calls for cuts to wages and pensions, protect primary residences from foreclosure, prevent further burdents on real estate and reject any further Public Investment Program cuts, in opposition to Troika's requirements.
In addition, DIMAR said the government had made a negotiating error by abandoning its avowed position that the financial gap was 500 million euros.
 Government-troika negotiations will end up in taking new austerity measures, KKE says"As long as the government and the troika agree on the main target, that is for the people to pay the debts and an exit from the crisis to the benefit of capital, any negotiation will end up in taking new antipopular measures, either under the current or a future government within the walls of the EU and the capitalist system," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Wednesday commenting on negotiations between the government and the country's troika of lenders.
KKE added that "there can be no exit from the crisis that will be to the benefit of both the people and the capital, as pledged by the main opposition and other pro-EU parties."
Lastly, the announcement said "the people must map out their own path to block layoffs and the closure of public organisations, as well the permanent harsh taxes, the home foreclosures, and to set the conditions for radical changes in the economy and power."
 German finmin spokesman optimistic on Greece's economyBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
In statements made here on Wednesday evening, German Finance ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus said that Greece's European Union partners' solidarity was "absolutely given," adding that in spite of difficulties "we see light at the end of the tunnel." Kotthaus expressed Berlin's respect for and recognition of the efforts made by the Greek people.
As far as possible faults in the program implemented in Greece are concerned, the spokesman said "it is hard to tell where, how, and what led to whatever results." Instead, he expressed belief that the EC/ECB/IMF troika's work was evaluated as positive.
"It is true that the initial forecasts for Greece had to be revised many times, for many different reasons. Partly, this is because we were in new ground. The fact that we have not yet done well with forecasts has to do with certain procedures in Greece, namely because some reforms were delayed or some specific measures were not taken as promptly as agreed upon," Kotthaus said.
The spokesman noted that "all participants showed flexibility in reacting to the framework's change and showed the necessary flexibility when there were delays so that they could be dealt with."
"It is a common will that Greece gets back on its own feet in a more strengthened and recovered state, with a more robust economy. I think this resolve of solidarity is absolutely given," Kotthaus underlined.
 Chancellery spokesman says partners will also reply with credibility to Greece's credibilityBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
"We always insisted that Greece proves credibility in the implementation of the programme and that then of course the credibility of the European partners will 'stand before' this," Chancellery spokesman Stephen Zibert said here on Wednesday.
He added that from the meeting (meaning between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday) "what one can expect is that the chancellor will listen with great interest how the Greek prime minister will present the situation in his country and the implementation of what has been agreed".
"I want to point out once again, in the event that there are mistaken expectations, that the meeting is not a meeting for negotiations. The troika is the one that checks every time how the implementation of what has been agreed is going ahead on the part of the Greek government," Zibert also stressed.
"This is not a bilateral issue of certain national governments. We consider ourselves a very close partner of the Greeks on this difficult path. We have great respect for the reforms and for the difficulties that must be overcome in Greece, as well as for the harshness that many people must experience in this process. We believe, in spite of this, that this is the right path for Greece, which is also showing the first successes and which will bring the country back in the medium-term and the longterm to a good stable and viable path. The Chancellor and the Greek prime minister will be discussing all this and I can say for the Chancellor that she is looking forward to this meeting".
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos meets with visiting Armenian counterpartDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday met with his Armenian counterpart Seyran Ohanyan, who is currently on a visit to Greece.
Avramopoulos underlined that the exemplary bilateral cooperation serves stability and security in the greater geopolitical region.
On his part, Ohanyan noted that his country will continue efforts to further upgrade bilateral defence relations taking under consideration the Greek proposals submitted.
The adoption of Greek and Armenian diaspora cooperation initiatives was also announced.
Avramopoulos referred to Greece's support for closer EU-Armenia cooperation and his Armenian counterpart and invited him to attend next year's celebrations marking the 22nd anniversary of the founding of the Armenian armed forces.
 'No shortages of medication and supplies in public hospitals,' Health Minister Georgiadis saysHealth Minister Adonis Georgiadis on Wednesday confirmed that 280 million euros will be channeled to hospital budgets on November 25 and therefore, there will be no shortages in medication and medical supplies for the remainder of the year.
Responding to a current question tabled by New Democracy (ND) MP Andreas Psycharis on whether public hospitals in Athens and the greater region are reporting major shortages of medical supplies for treating serious conditions, Georgiadis said that hospitals meet their budget and have no pharmaceutical and medical supply problems.
He also said that the health ministry can guarantee the smooth operation of the healthare system if there are additional major cutbacks on pharmaceutical spending, if the two-billion-euro budget for outpatient prescription drugs and the 600-700-million-euro hospital medication budget set for 2014 are met.
 Draft 2014 State Budget to be tabled in Parliament ThursdayA draft of the State Budget for 2014 will be tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday, at 11:15.
 Anti-racism bill tabled in ParliamentA draft bill on anti-racism and xenophobia, prepared by the ministry of Justice, was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday evening.
It stipulates penalties of between 5000 and 20,000 euros and up to three months imprisonment for anyone provoking, inducing or diverting any act or acts of violence or hate against a person or group of persons defined under specific racial, genetic and other characteristics or things exclusively used by them in a way that endanger public order or threaten their life, liberty or physical integrity.
The same penalties would also apply for anyone establishing or participating in an organization or association of any kind that seeks to systematically commit the aforementioned acts.
 SYRIZA leader meets laid off finance ministry cleaners, expresses support for their causeMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday had a meeting with laid-off finance ministry janitorial staff, who have been protesting against their dismissal for the past two months.
Tsipras expressed support for their "just and honest struggle" and condemned the government's refusal to meet with them for dialogue, saying that "it is obviously too busy carrying the orders received in successive meetings with the troika".
Talking to the fired cleaning staff, Tsipras noted that "in your faces we see the faces of thousands, millions of Greek men and women brought one step before destitution at the same time as some continue to make profits," and that the interests of "the kleptocracy and oligarchy, bankocracy and mediocracy of Greece continue to rule a country in shambles".
"The time is drawing near when, instead of cleaning their offices, you and the popular movement, all together, will be cleaning out the troika and the kleptocracy from this country, the time is drawing near when we will clear the scene and work hard, all together, to rebuild the country with justice and hard work," he added.
Tsipras repeated pledges to correct the injustices of the memorandum and said that the ministry cleaners were among those most unfairly treated.
 Repeat of past tactics would be 'suicidal', new Greek public broadcaster chief saysThe head of Greece's new public broadcaster NERIT, George Prokopakis, on Wednesday clarified in statements to the ANA-MPA his comments in an interview with the French newspaper 'Le Monde', signed by an Athens-based correspondent of the paper.
According to Prokopakis, an "attempt to repeat the mistaken political tactics of the past would be an attempted suicide," while noting that, until now, "there has been no political intervention in the procedure for setting up the new body."
He made it clear that he never referred to a "violent closure" of the predecessor broadcasting organisation ERT during the 'Le Monde' interview, while describing the decision as an "operationally flawed manoeuvre".
 New public broadcaster NERIT outlines required qualifications for staffThe new Greek public broadcaster NERIT on Wednesday posted a description of the required qualifications for new staff to be hired by the broadcaster on the internet, for a period of public consultation until November 29, at the website http://www.opengov.gr/consultations/?p=1756.
An announcement issued by new NERIT chief George Prokopakis said the move continues efforts to create a "new, open public organisation...that fulfills its institutional role and the expectations and demands of the society of citizens".
 PASOK Central Committee meeting postponedPASOK Central Committee's meeting, originally scheduled for Wednesday at 14.00, was postponed for next week due to a sudden indisposition of PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos.
According to information, Venizelos was feeling ill with a light bout of the flu.
 DIMAR's event on local administrationDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis will address a party event on Wednesday at 18.00 at Park Hotel in Athens on the issue of "Local administration before the challenges of the new era".
 Athens University rector interviewed by ANA-MPA, appeals for end to deadlockIn an interview with the ANA-MPA on Wednesday, Athens University Rector Theodosis Pelegrinis appealed to the Greek state for dialogue to end the deadlock that has kept the university closed since the start of the semester.
Describing the problems faced by students anxious to make a start on their studies, on the one hand, and university administrative employees fighting for the jobs and livelihoods, on the other hand, the rector strongly criticised the employee mobility measure.
Pelegrinis expressed concern about whether the university, one of Greece's largest and most historic institutes of higher learning, had a future and urged the state to aid in its rescue.
Regarding the list of university employees to enter the mobility scheme, the rector said that staff were planning to submit dozens of objections and that the list was "full of mistakes". He insisted that if the measures were implemented as planned, the university will be unable to function, since certain departments and sectors were stripped entirely of staff.
"These are not just issues of function, they are issues of survival, people must understand this. We will not have a university tomorrow. The only possibility for escaping from the deadlock that we find ourselves in, through no fault of our own, is dialogue. For this reason, we addressed the prime minister and I appeal to the minister to sit down and talk and overcome the deadlock," he said.
 Supreme Court prosecutor summons Athens University rector to discuss ongoing strikeSupreme Court Prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani on Wednesday asked Athens University Rector Theodosis Pelegrinis to come to her office to discuss the problems preventing universities from opening.
During their discussion, which was described as constructive, the prosecutor asked Pelegrinis to press striking university administrative staff to end their labour mobilisation and return to work so that the universities can open.
Koutzamani noted that court orders - such as that ruling the university staff strike abusive and illegal - should not be defied since this was a automatically prosecutable offence.
 Thessaloniki Aristotle University Senate resignsThe members of Thessaloniki's Aristotle University (AUTH) Senate on Wednesday resigned en masse citing the institution's inability to function as a result of the public employee mobility programme affecting members of its administrative staff.
An announcement by the AUTH Senate members demanded that the relevant ministerial decision be revoked, underlining that "the institution's operation will collapse, with the education ministry solely responsible for this development since it refuses to see the problem and contribute to efforts for its solution, thus leading AUTH to total collapse".
Meanwhile, student registration at the University of Patras will take place from November 25 to December 13, according to a decision by its Senate.
 State to consolidate funds owed to it with tax returns, revenues director saysThe state will consolidate taxes by withhold debts to the state from income tax due returns, Secretary General for State Revenues Haris Theocharis said on Wednesday in an interview to ANA-MPA.
If a tax payer expects a tax return while owing money to the state, the owed amount will be subtracted before the return is made, Theocharis, who oversees the tax service from the Finance Ministry, said. The state will subtract funds due even if they are not past the payment deadline, and even if arrangement has been made for them to be collected in installments, he said, as the law provides for this.
The law however excludes the property tax (known as "charatsi" in Greek), which is collected in installments through Public Power Corporation (DEI) bills.
Asked whether the tax authorities have the right to seize agricultural subsidies for debts to the state that are not past their payment deadline, Theocharis said, "I think there is no such option, but if the subsidy is being collected through the tax services, then its subtraction from due returns will be reviewed; I do not think however there is any such issue, as subsidies are normally paid through OPEKEPE," the Greek authority handling payments from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds.
He added, "There is an issue with VAT returns or even perhaps with agricultural petrol, such things, but not with subsidies."
Asked to comment on the state of revenues so far, the secretary general asserted that "revenues exceed targets."
 Deputy FM Gerontopoulos meets with Greek community representatives in JohannesburgDeputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos, currently on a visit to South Africa, met on Tuesday with representatives of the Greek community in the region of Johannesburg and discussed issues of their concern focusing on the teaching of the Greek language to the younger generations.
Gerontopoulos congratulated them for their achievements and invited them to help Greece in any way they can in these difficult times for the country, underlining that the Greeks must be united and show solidarity to each other.
The deputy foreign minister also visited the Greek Studies Department at the University of Johannesburg.
 Alternate FinMin Staikouras to present 2014 state budget to GAO on ThursdayAlternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras will present the 2014 draft state budget to the General Accounting Office on Thursday morning, at 11:30, according to a Finance ministry announcement.
 Venizelos condemns bomb attack against Iranian embassy in BeirutGovernment Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos firmly condemned on Wednesday the bomb attack outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
"The Greek government condemns in the most explicit and unequivocal manner the bloody attack near the Embassy of Iran in Beirut, which resulted in a great number of victims, including embassy staff, and many injured," Venizelos said, according to a foreign ministry press release.
"Terrorism and the use of violence, wherever they come from, undermine peace, stability and security in Lebanon," he added.
Venizelos also expressed "deep sorrow for the tragic event and condolences to the families of the victims."
 Kalamata not going to be a base for space tourism right now, ministers tell deputyGreece is not currently planning to turn the airport of Kalamata, in southern Greece, into a lift-off base for tourist spacecraft, two ministers said on Wednesday in response to a deputy's question in Parliament.
Independent Greeks (ANEL) deputy Vassilis Kapernaros tabled a question requesting information on whether there is an official study on turning Kalamata International Airport into a "Lift-off base for manned spacecraft in space for tourism reasons," and, if the project has begun, what stage it is at now.
In his response, Deputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis forwarded a document by Invest in Greece and said that to his knowledge there is no investment proposal right now related to the aerospace sector in Greece.
Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis responded that the possibility of changing the use of the Kalamata airport to a spacecraft base presupposes a financial and technical ROI study and would require an investment of hundreds of millions of euros, "while its operation and maintenance should be examined very seriously," on the basis of European and international regulations.
 Foreign Min. sec'y general to meet with visiting Cypriot counterpart on FridayForeign Ministry Secretary General Ambassador Anastassios Mitsialis will have political consultations at the Foreign ministry with his Cypriot counterpart, Ambassador Alexandros Zenon on Friday, November 22.
The talks will cover a broad spectrum of bilateral, regional and international issues.
 Public prosecutor launches inquiry into ongoing strikes at universitiesThe head of the first-instance court public prosecutors' Panagiota Fakou on Wednesday ordered an emergency preliminary examination of the ongoing strikes by university administrative staff, in defiance of court orders ruling the strike action illegal.
The State Security department has been assigned the task of investigating whether the labour action of staff at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and the University of Athens (UoA) is continuing, even though a court had ruled it illegal, and whether the court ruling has been violated.
 Supreme Court prosecutor says former FinMin should be sent to Special CourtSupreme Court (Areios Paghos) prosecutor Anastassios Kanellopoulos submitted a six-page report to the judicial committee of the Special Court asking that former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou be tried by that court, as the crimes attributed to him are still valid.
Kanellopoulos said that Papaconstantinou should be charged for document falsification and dereliction of duty among other things because the time period that gives Parliament the right to prosecute him has not expired yet.
Papaconstantinou's case was referred to the Supreme Court for review of its technical aspect, to determine whether it falls under a regulation stipulating that if no action is taken over two consecutive sessions of Parliament criminal liability is written off permanently.
The former minister's case revolves aroung the so-called Lagarde list, and of his possible involvement in allegedly aiding tax evasion by Greek nationals with large bank deposits abroad. Early on July 16, Parliament voted to indict him on for three offences, two felonies and one misdemeanour, in connection the list.
 Tourism Minister Kefalogianni addresses ND event on innovative entrepreneurshipTourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni on Wednesday referred to the National Strategic Plan for tourism in her address at an event on "Innovators. An alternative approach to entrepreneurship" hosted by the New Democracy (ND) party.
Speaking at the event held in the context of the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Week, Kefalogianni underlined that "tourism can play a leading role in the country's efforts to exit the crisis because it can be linked with most of the sectors of the Greek economy, including primary production".
"The unique products of the Greek land and traditional Greek cuisine, linked with tourism, can offer considerable opportunities that can revive Greek villages and communities nationwide and create new jobs," she underlined.
Kefalogianni said that Greece invests in modern forms of tourism and referring to the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, she noted that a working group was set up by the tourism ministry last December to draw up an action plan.
Kefalogianni also referred to the adoption of a well-targeted campaign strategy aimed at changing the country's image abroad and promoting the uniqueness of the Greek tourism destinations.
 Culture minister, tourism enterprises discuss cooperation on cultural heritage issuesCulture and Sports Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos on Wednesday held a meeting on supporting and promoting cultural tourism with the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), also attended by the new president of the Archaeological Resources and Expropriations Fund (TAPA) Theodoros Soubasis and SETE President Andreas Andreadis.
Andreadis referred to the sharp increase in tourism during 2013 and said there was a realistic expectation that this will rise even further in 2014, to some 18.5 million tourists generating some 13.5 billion euros in revenues.
SETE representatives expressed their willingness to cooperate with the ministry, offering know-how successfully developed by foreign agencies such as the English Heritage fund to help protect and promote the country's national heritage.
"Culture is not only a fundamental element of our national identity, it is a foreign policy tool and a key lever for modern development," Panagiotopoulos said. He announced that the ministry is has tabled legislation extending the opening times for a series of museums and archaeological sites, increasing TAPA sales points, improving the organisation of e-ticketing and also the presentation and promotion of Greek museums and sites on the internet.
The two sides agreed on the drafting of a memorandum of cooperation between the ministry and tourism enterprises linked to cultural heritage.
Panagiotopoulos also had a meeting with representatives of Greece's Hoteliers' Chamber to discuss issues relating to copyright and royalties for music and cooperation in cultural heritage issues.
 European Commission asks Greece to amend discriminatory inheritance tax provisionsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M.Aroni)
The European Commission on Wednesday sent requests to Greece to change two discriminatory inheritance tax rules.
The first relates to a tax exemption which Greek law allows on real estate inheritances. The exemption is only given to EU nationals who are residing in Greece and who do not own a primary residence.
The European Commission considers this to discriminate against EU and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals residing outside Greece and an obstacle to the free movement of capital set out in treaties.
The second request relates to a discriminatory provision whereby Greece allows a preferential tax rate for bequests to non-profit organisations in other EU/EEA states, solely on condition of reciprocity.
The European Commission considers that applying a condition of reciprocity results in discriminatory treatment that is an obstacle to the free movement of capital.
The European Commission's requests take the form of Reasoned Opinions and if Greece fails to comply within two months, the European Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.
 European Commission asks Greece to comply with European building energy efficiency regulationsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis)
The European Commission announced on Wednesday that it is sending a "supplementary reasoned opinion" to Greece, asking for full compliance with the obligations under EC's legislation regarding building energy efficiency.
According to the Commission, member states should establish and implement minimum requirements for building energy efficiency and ensure the energy certification of buildings, as well as the regular inspection of heating and air conditioning systems.
In addition, the member states must ensure that all new buildings are constructed with near zero energy consumption. This instruction should have been transferred to the Greek law until July 9, 2012.
The EC mentioned in an announcement that, up until now, Greece and Malta among EU member-states, have not fully transferred EU provisions into national law. The European Commission also pointed out that if the two member states won't fulfill their legal obligation in two months, the Commission may decide to take the case to the European Court of Justice.
 Eurobank funds Greek SMEs expansion abroadMore than 200 Greek enterprises have already received funding, or were in the process of approval, taking advantage of a program exclusively operated by Eurobank in Greece.
In a statement, Eurobank said the "TEPIX-Exostrefia" program is funding investment plans or moving capital aimed at boosting competitiveness and develop the export orientation of Greek enterprises in the expansion drive in new international markets. The program is focused on enterprises with up to 250 workers. Loans offered are up to 500,000 euros, while the interest rate of the loan is far lower compared with current market levels and remains stable throughout the loan period (5-10 years).
 Mytilineos Group reports improved results in Jan-SeptMytilineos Group on Wednesday reported a consolidated turnover of 1.051 billion euros in the January-September period, slightly down from 1.095 billion euros in the same period in 2012.
The group, in a statement, said that EBITDA jumped 61 pct to 183.7 million euros, while net after-tax and minorities earnings totalled 22.5 million euros, up 131 pct, compared with the corresponding period last year.
Mytilineos Group said a strategic alliance with Fairfax will enhance the company's access to international capital markets, creating more favourable conditions to implement its business goals. The group's credit profile improved further, with net borrowing falling from 725 million euros to 573 million euros, following the transformation of its short-term debt to long-term.
The EPC project sector reported the best performance, as Metka said its turnover was 405.4 million euros in the nine-month period, from 409.2 million euros last year, EBITDA eased to 64.3 million (69.4 million in 2012) and net after-tax and minorities earnings rose 11.9 pct to 57.1 million euros.
The energy sector said its turnover eased to 311.3 million euros, from 339.8 million euros last year, accounting for 29.6 pct of total group turnover. EBITDA jumped to 72.5 million euros (44.5 million euros last year).
Mytilineos said the viability of Aluminium SA, and of the whole of the energy-consuming industry of the country, will depend on the implementation of government-sponsored measures to reduce energy costs.
The Group also announced changes in its board. Nikolaos Karamouzis was elected new independent non-executive member and Wade Burton non-executive, replacing two members who resigned.
 Mytilineos Group to sell around 6.0 pct of Metka's equity stakeMytilineos Group on Wednesday announced its intention to sell through a private placement up to 3,217,288 shares of Metka, through an accelerated book-building offer. Mytilineos current owns 29,192,589 shares in Metka, or 56.2 pct of the company's equity capital. Following completion of the sale, Mytilineos will control 50 pct plus one share in Metka. Under the plan, the private placement program will last for 90 days. The book-building process will begin immediately and can be completed without further notification. Credit Agricole CIB and HSBC Bank plc will act jointly as joint book runners.
 Energean Oil & Gas raises production in Prinos oilfieldEnergean Oil & Gas on Wednesday its oil production from its Prinos oilfield grew to 2,300 barrels per day, following the successful completion of a new drilling in the oilfield.
The company said the new drilling added 850 barrels to its daily production and it is the first of a total of four new drilling included in a 60-million-US dollar investment programme currently under way.
Energean Oil & Gas estimates that the new drilling could raise around 820,000 barrels of oil.
"Energean Oil & Gas proved once again that with scientific research, investments and daily, systematic efforts it is feasible to revive even mature oilfields, such as Prinos. However, the reserves of Prinos are declining and it is obvious that the exploitation of new regions - recently tendered through an open-door procedure - must begin in order to further develop domestic oil and natural gas production to the benefit of the economy," the company's chairman and chief executive Mathios Rigas said in a statement.
 OPAP says Q3 sales up 0.7 pctOPAP SA on Wednesday said its net profits fell 70 pct to 111.7 million euros in the January-September period this year, from 371.7 million euros in the corresponding period in 2012.
Sales totaled 2.6 billion euros in the nine-month period, down 10.3 pct from 2012, while third quarter sales rose 0.7 pct to 897.6 million euros.
The management reiterated its goal for an EBITDA of 242 million euros this year. Kamil Ziegler, OPAP's chairman and chief executive, commenting on the results said: "a stabilization of OPAP's revenues in the third quarter, in parallel with the undertaking of our duties, lead to a positive restart of the company," adding that "through an improving productivity and taking advantage of new opportunities, this trend will be further enhanced, creating added value to our shareholders".
 Shopping malls have built effective policies to deal with recession, survey showsShopping malls in Greece are hit by a protracted economic crisis but have developed policies to deal with the impact of recession which seem to be effective, a survey showed on Wednesday.
The survey, conducted by the Small Enterprises Institute of GSEBEE -the union umbrella of the country's craftsmen and merchants- also showed that shopping malls seemed to strengthen by taking advantage of their operation -a single organizing-administration structure and financial control mechanisms- while they also enjoyed advantages resulting from their technical background in the fields of funding, planning, building and operation to become viable.
Professor Pavlos Marinos Delladetsimas, who oversaw the survey together with Yiannis Loukakis, presenting the survey said that lack of town planning strategy in Greece was the basic issue needed to change following dialogue and cooperation with all interested parties. The country presents the paradox of "having too many large shops and supermarkets being illegal since they is no framework for their operation".
GSEBEE president G. Kavvathas, said that small- and medium-sized enterprises were not opposing development but insisted that development should be based on rules and not just for the few and powerful but for everyone.
 Greek merchant shipping fleet down in volume, up in capacity in Sept.Greece's merchant shipping fleet fell in numbers but rose in capacity as Greek shipowners built new, larger, vessels in September. The volume of the Greek merchant shipping fleet fell by 2.7 pct to 1,909 vessels, compared with the same month last year, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that total capacity of the Greek fleet rose 0.6 pct in September to 44,241,594 dwt.
 Greek stocks end moderately downGreek stocks ended moderately lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday with the market failing to push the composite index above the 1,150 resistance level for the third consecutive session. The index fell 0.74 pct to end at 1,136.65 points, after rising as much as 0.79 pct to 1,154,13 points during the session. Turnover remained a moderate 76.11 million euros.
The Large Cap index fell 0.54 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.91 pct lower. Frigoglass (2.56 pct), National Bank (1.98 pct), Jumbo (1.43 pct) and Folli Follie (0.88 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Terna Energy (4.56 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.60 pct), GEK Terna (3.33 pct), OTE (3.03 pct) and Intralot (2.67 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The Personal Products (1.11 pct), Commerce (0.87 pct) and Food (0.64 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecoms (3.03 pct), Health (2.07 pct) and Utilities (1.45 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 84 to 40 with another 25 issues unchanged. Kreka (17.22 pct), Kyriakidis (8.03 pct) and Selonda (7.14 pct) were top gainers, while Geniki Bank (19.34 pct), Minoan Lines (18.18 pct) and Boutaris (14.71 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.50%
Personal & Household: +1.11%
Raw Materials: -0.79%
Travel & Leisure: -0.93%
Food & Beverages: +0.64%
Financial Services: -0.79%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OPAP, Jumbo, OTE and Titan.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.637
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.10
Coca Cola HBC: 21.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.09
National Bank of Greece: 4.13
Eurobank Properties : 8.70
Piraeus Bank: 1.34
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 6.84 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.56 pct and the German Bund 1.72 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates remained almost unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.495 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.414 pct, the six-month rate was 0.318 pct, the three-month rate was 0.219 pct and the one-month rate was 0.124 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.24 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover remaining a low 15.789 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,816 contracts worth 11.022 million euros, with 51,786 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 5,816 contracts worth 11.022 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,130), followed by National Bank (705), Alpha Bank (1,321), MIG (925), OTE (1,469), PPC (933), OPAP (359), Mytilineos (282), Motor Oil (252), GEK (503), Intralot (517), Jumbo (162) and Hellenic Exchanges (80).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.373
Pound sterling 0.850
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 9.053
Japanese yen 137.23
Swiss franc 1.250
Norwegian kroner 8.351
Canadian dollar 1.435
Australian dollar 1.463
 Greek population shrank 5.5 ? in 2012, Eurostat report findsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Aroni)
Greece's population shrank 5.5 ? in 2012 at a time when the population of the European Union increased 2.2 ? on average, according to figures released by Eurostat on Wednesday.
Specifically, the population in Greece fell by 60,500 people in 2012 and came to 11,161,000 residents by January 1, 2013. A total of 100,400 births and 116,700 deaths were registered during that year, while more than 44,000 residents emigrated.
The country's birth rate was the third-lowest in the EU at 9 ?, tied with Italy, after Germany (8.4 ?) and Portugal (8.5 ?). The highest birth rate in the EU was in Ireland (15.7 ?), the United Kingdom (12.8 ?) and France (12.6 ?).
The report found that the population increased in 17 member-states, with the largest rates of increase in Luxembourg (23 ?), Malta (9.1 ?) and Sweden (7.7 ?), and shrank in 11 member-states, with the largest population decreases in Lithuania (-10.6 ?), Latvia (-10.3 ?) and Estonia (-6.8 ?).
Overall, the population of the EU28 increased by 1.1 million people in 2012 and came to 505.73 million on January 1, 2013. During that year, there were 5.231 million births, 5.014 million deaths and 882,000 people entered the EU as migrants.
 State of emergency declared in Kalamata due to heavy rainsThe municipality of Kalamata, in the extreme southern tip of the Peloponnese, was declared in a state of emergency on Wednesday by the Civil Protection secretary general, at the request of the municipality and with the agreement of the Peloponnese Region.
According to the decision, the municipalities of Thouria and Kalamata and the local communities of Sperhogia, Mikromani, Asprohoma and Ari were declared in a state of emergency due to problems caused by heavy rain that fell on November 11.
 Trial of coast guard officers accused of torture begins in PiraeusThe trial of three coast guard officers accused of subjecting migrants to mental and physical torture began before the Navy Court-Martial in Piraeus on Wednesday.
The case concerns two Moroccan nationals picked up on the Greek island of Chios in 2007, who filed a complaint that the three coast guard officers had repeatedly use techniques such as 'dunking' to the point of drowning and the staging of fake executions on them. The accused deny the charges, which were repeated by one of the two Moroccans that appeared before the court on Wednesday, the second having since moved to Norway.
The hearing is expected to be concluded late on Wednesday evening and the court's ruling issued at a later date.
The case had received a lot of attention from the shipping ministry's political leadership in 2007, which had ordered an internal inquiry, while it has also been included in a report compiled by a group of lawyers on the rights of refugees and migrants.
Senior coast guard officials stressed that such cases of misconduct are dealt with ruthlessly if proved true but also quoted cases where migrants made similar claims fraudulently in order to secure more favourable treatment from countries where they are seeking asylum.
 Armed Forces Day will be honored at Agios Dionisios church with festivitiesThe Armed Forces Day will be celebrated on Thursday with a ceremony for the raising of the Greek flag on the Acropolis rock, followed by festivities at Agios Dionisios Church in Athens and the laying of wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of Parliament.
Armed Forces' military bands will perform on Sunday November 24 at 12.00 at the Benaki Museum open space, as part of the celebrations. The event is open to the public.
 Cruiseship crashed into Piraeus port dock; no injuries reportedThe Panama-flagged cruise ship 'Magnifica' crashed into a dock of Piraeus port on Wednesday.
The 2,469 passengers and 976 crew members are safe. The causes of the accident have not been yet clarified.
Material damages and a small crack on its side have been reported.
 Old Athens-Corinth national road closed due to landslideOne direction of old Athens-Corinth national road was shut down on Wednesday due to a lanslide on the 49 km at Kakia Skala. Traffic is using one side of the road, with officials rotating traffic direction.
 Sham marriages-for-citizenship scam under investigation in western GreeceThe Achaia prefecture prosecutor's office, in the western Peloponnese, has ordered an investigation into allegations of a fake marriage-for-citizenship scam reported by the ministry of interior, it was announced on Wednesday. Among those implicated for the sham marriages between Greek citizens and foreigners are a local mayor, city councillors and lawyers.
An announcement by the interior ministry noted that in the summer of 2013, a total of 26 weddings were held in the region between Greeks and foreign nationals, some of which included instances of bigamy, according to the National Registry Office.
Specifically, it was established that Greek women had been married twice on the same day to two different foreign nationals who, on the basis of their marriage to Greek women had filed for residence permits.
In another instance, an underage girl had married a foreign national without a court permit as defined by law for the marriage to take place legally.
Moreover, in the past two weeks alone, a single lawyer had lodged 67 resident permit applications on behalf of foreign nationals who had married Greek citizens.
The investigation underway will also determine whether criminal offences were committed by municipal employees or agencies.
 Rainy on ThursdayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 8C and 22C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 15C and 21C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 14C and 18C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Public University protection movement.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Middle class' requiem.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Up to three months unpaid - Two business contracts open Pandora's Box.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Four burning fronts in negotiations with troika (of Greece's creditors).
ESTIA: SYRIZA (main opposition) want elections every two years.
ETHNOS: Open the universities.
IMERISSIA: OECD to ECB: Print money.
KATHIMERINI: Pressure for open universities intensifies.
LOGOS: Oil smuggling uncontrollable.
NAFTEMPORIKI: NSRF will bring to Greece 42 billion euros within the next seven years.
RIZOSPASTIS: Stop to the antipopular attack only with combative, popular opposition.
TA NEA: Final blow to universities with sit-ins.
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