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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-01-08

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 8 January 2014 Issue No: 4554

CONTENTS

  • [01] Official opening ceremony for the Greek EU presidency on Wed. afternoon
  • [02] Barroso tells ANA-MPA he is confident Greece will make EU presidency 'a real success'
  • [03] Athens will also promote top national priorities during EU presidency, Venizelos tells interview with ANA-MPA
  • [04] The omens for Greece's EU presidency are good, Venizelos says
  • [05] Greece takes over EU Presidency as a country in recovery, FinMin says
  • [06] Police announce traffic restrictions, ban on demonstrations in central Athens on Wednesday
  • [07] SYRIZA criticises ban on rallies and marches on Wednesday
  • [08] KKE comments on Wednesday's ban on demonstrations, marches
  • [09] PM, Venizelos scrap 25-euro hospital fee during meeting on EU presidency
  • [10] PM Samaras chairs meeting on tourism
  • [11] The first half of 2014 is crucial for the country, Venizelos says
  • [12] Europarliamentary committee to visit Athens 'probably within January'
  • [13] SYRIZA 'making fuss over nothing', Kedikoglou says regarding postponed EuroParliament delegation visit
  • [14] Gov't to revoke 25-euro hospital admission fee, PASOK sources say
  • [15] ISA comments on governments decision to scrap 25 euro hospital admission fee
  • [16] Employees to close down Gennimatas hospital cashier's desk for two days
  • [17] SYRIZA's Konstantopoulou asks FinMin Stournaras for explanations regarding the "65 Lagarde lists"
  • [18] Independent Greeks leader rules out collaborating with gov't parties, Golden Dawn
  • [19] Public Order minister meets Greek president on terrorism
  • [20] Police search for November 17 convict
  • [21] Justice Minister orders disciplinary investigation at Korydallos prison over November 17 convict leave
  • [22] Justice minister says prison leaves need review and change
  • [23] Nov. 17 convict's disappearance 'consistent with his views', his attorney says
  • [24] Second Xiros brother involved in November 17 terrorist group is hospitalized
  • [25] Anti-terrorism squad arrests terror suspect Nikos Sakkas
  • [26] Administrative Reform minister, Athens mayor promise crackdown on late birth registrations
  • [27] Greece reports positive employment balance in 2013
  • [28] Charge of 1 euro per prescription fulfilled goes into effect on Wed.
  • [29] Greek exports up 1.2 pct in December 2012-November 2013
  • [30] Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from T-bill auction
  • [31] FinMin sets fines for outstanding debts by taxpayers, companies
  • [32] Greek exports to third countries down 28.8 pct in Nov.
  • [33] OTE completes voluntary exit program
  • [34] Kri-Kri says fire damage cost to reach 18.75 mln euros
  • [35] Sarantis sets up subsidiary in Portugal
  • [36] Winter sales start on January 13
  • [37] Greek stocks jump 2.7 pct on Tuesday
  • [38] Greek bond market closing report
  • [39] ADEX closing report
  • [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [41] Youngster burned in Thessaloniki house fire still critical
  • [42] Fifteen injured in bus-truck collision
  • [43] Hunter found burnt to death in his car
  • [44] Air Force aircraft takes infant to London for surgery
  • [45] Abducted Greek seaman released by pirates
  • [46] Four traffickers arrested in Komotini
  • [47] Cloudy on Wednesday
  • [48] [00] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Official opening ceremony for the Greek EU presidency on Wed. afternoon

    The Greek presidency of the European Union starts officially on Wednesday afternoon, with a meeting between the College of Commissioners and the Greek cabinet.

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who will have had a working lunch earlier with the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, will also meet officially and separately with Barroso and the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Following the Samaras-Barroso meeting, the two will make joint press statements.

    The official opening ceremony will be held on Wednesday afternoon at the Athens Concert Hall in the presence of the President of the Greek Republic Karolos Papoulias. Barroso and Rompuy will address the event.

    "The arrival in Athens of all EU Commissioners chaired by President Barroso is particularly meaningful and symbolic as the presence of the chief executive body of the European Union recognizes the important sacrifices of the Greek people in order to overcome the country's unprecedented crisis," the head of the EU office in Greece Panos Karvounis said.

    "The Greek government aims to a successful presidency that would further strengthen the prestige of Greece abroad. The Prime Minister has stated that it is a presidency of hope for Europe and that our country takes a positive outlook and having achieved a primary surplus in 2013," he added.

    The budget of the EU presidency has been estimated at 50 million euros. During the presidency, 14 informal cabinet meetings will be held, of which 13 in Zappeion.

    The Greek presidency has set four key priorities: growth and employment, deepening of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the effective management of illegal immigration and the promotion of maritime policy.

    [02] Barroso tells ANA-MPA he is confident Greece will make EU presidency 'a real success'

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)

    In an exclusive statement to the ANA-MPA on Tuesday to mark the start of Greece's 5th EU presidency this week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso stressed that this will be a crucial, since it concides with the period leading up to the European Parliament elections. He also expressed his confidence that Greece would make it "a real success":

    "Greece embarks on its Presidency of the Council of Ministers as Europe enters election mode, making it more important than ever to get our priorities right and show voters we can get things done. Our main challenge is to firm up the recovery and deliver our shared goals of stability, growth and jobs. I am sure that Greece's Presidency will be marked by the same courage, resilience and determination that the authorities and the Greek people have shown in response to this crisis. This is an opportunity for Greece to show the world that it is not only capable of managing the crisis but is and always has been a valuable contributor to the European project. This is Greece's fifth Presidency since it joined the EU, so it is in familiar waters. I am confident Greece will bring its particular experiences to bear on this Presidency and make it a real success."

    [03] Athens will also promote top national priorities during EU presidency, Venizelos tells interview with ANA-MPA

    "The Greek Presidency of the European Union is starting with very good omens," government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in an interview broadcast by the ANA-MPA web TV on Tuesday.

    Along with European priorities, Venizelos said, the Greek presidency "will also promote Greece's top national priorities," adding that the first half of 2014 will be a semester during which Greek citizens will witness a shift that will mark the end of the bailout memorandum and the economic crisis.

    He stressed the specific period will also be marked by the beginning of a "redressing of injustices" that had been necessary in order to bring the desired fiscal results.

    As for the record-high unemployment rate, which he called "barbaric," Venizelos stressed that the Greek presidency will seek "an increase in European funds" to fight joblessness, and would in addition encourage more European actions to tackle immigration.

    Emphasis will be placed on a multi-faceted maritime development and on Southern Neighbourliness, Venizelos underlined, adding that Europe must realise that it is both a southern and a Mediterranean region.

    Asked about anti-European forces which may build up ahead of May's European elections, the minister stressed that "if Europe responds by taking action on major concerns such as growth, employment, investments, security and protection of rights, Euroskepticism will get the answer it deserves."

    Venizelos' entire interview on ANA-MPA Web-TV may be accessed at http://www.amna.gr

    [04] The omens for Greece's EU presidency are good, Venizelos says

    The importance of the first half of 2014 for both Europe and Greece was underlined by government vice-president and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday.

    "The first half of 2014 is extremely crucial for Europe ahead of the European elections in May and it is extremely crucial for Greece as it is the final turn to exit the crisis and the memorandum," Venizelos noted following his visit at Zappeion, where a series of events with the participation of the European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and the European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will be held on Wednesday.

    "The omens are very good for an EU presidency that can leave its mark and will also show that Greece in crisis can overcome the crisis with dignity and appear as an institutionally equal, proud and dignified country which claims its position in Europe and in the world," he added.

    [05] Greece takes over EU Presidency as a country in recovery, FinMin says

    Greece is taking over the EU Presidency not as a country in crisis but as a country in recovery, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters during a news conference, the Greek FinMin said that the country had performed better than expected in 2013, both fiscally and in containing recession. Greek 10-year benchmark bond spreads fell below 600 basis points, reflecting efforts made so far, Stournaras said, adding that there was not a negative climate about Greece in the Eurogroup. Commenting on a recent wave of negative German press reports, the finance minister said: "We have an impeccable partnership relation with Berlin".

    Stournaras noted that if the basic programming was implemented, then decisions over Greek debt should be taken within the Greek EU Presidency.

    "Eurostat will verify our primary surplus in April and then a discussion will begin immediately," he stressed. He noted that the EU presidency's goal was to promote a Single Restructuring Mechanism for banks and said that the issue of dealing with the problems of systemic banks would be discussed at an informal Ecofin meeting scheduled for April 1st.

    One of the most important issues will be a directive to combat money laundering. Stournaras said that the agenda also included: A European six-month (fiscal recommendations to EU member-states), deepening of economic and monetary union, financial governance and rules for a more efficient fiscal adjustment, representation in G20, long-term funding of economies and supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises.

    [06] Police announce traffic restrictions, ban on demonstrations in central Athens on Wednesday

    The Hellenic Police (ELAS) on Tuesday announced strict security measures in the centre of Athens on Wednesday, when European Union officials are due in Athens for events marking the official launch of Greece's EU presidency.

    The measures will include a ban on parking and stopping for all vehicles on central Athens roads used to move EU officials between venues in the city centre, as well as a ban on all outdoor demonstrations and marches in the centre of Athens and along the route between the city centre and Athens airport.

    [07] SYRIZA criticises ban on rallies and marches on Wednesday

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Tuesday criticised a decision taken by the police to ban all public outdoor rallies or marches over a large part of central Athens on Wednesday (as well as at the airport and along the route between the airport and the city centre), describing it as "unacceptable".

    SYRIZA said in an announcement that "the banning of public rallies and marches that the memorandum government is imposing once again, particularly at the moment when our country is also assuming the EU presidency, is an unacceptable event that tramples on the rights of citizens and diminishes democracy. The government's authoritarian downward slide has no end."

    Large numbers of European Union officials are expected to arrive in Athens on Wednesday to participate in the opening ceremony of the Greek EU presidency.

    [08] KKE comments on Wednesday's ban on demonstrations, marches

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday issued an announcement commenting on a ban of outdoor demonstrations and marches in Athens on Wednesday, saying that such actions cannot stop the working-class struggle against the European Union.

    "The government and police decision to ban demonstrations during the opening ceremony of the Greek EU presidency generates serious questions. Especially the fact that demonstrations are banned because their aims are counter to the above-mentioned events," KKE said. The party underlined that "such reasoning opens the way to prevent working-class demonstrations, when their content comes into conflict with government and EU policies."

    "This kind of bans cannot silence the opposition of a large proportion of people, to the EU and capital's alliance," concluded KKE.

    [09] PM, Venizelos scrap 25-euro hospital fee during meeting on EU presidency

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Government Vice-president, Foreign Minister and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday decided to scrap a measure raising hospital admission fees to 25 euros, during their meeting to discuss the official start of Greece's EU presidency on Wednesday.

    The news was announced to reporters by Venizelos, who said that Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and a delegation from the ruling coalition's junior partner PASOK, in a meeting to discuss alternatives to the higher hospital charges, had been immediately notified of the premier's decision by phone.

    According to Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis, it was implemented immediately through a circular issued on Tuesday, which abolished the three previous circulars raising the charge for hospital admission as of Wednesday morning. The additional revenue the measure was designed to collect will instead be raised by imposing an additional 0.05-euro tariff on cigarettes and tobacco, Georgiadis explained.

    PASOK's leader welcomed the decision to scrap the rise in hospital charges and said the issue had been resolved in the right way, since the additional tax on cigarettes was also linked to health and was not merely a fiscal measure but one promoting preventative healthcare.

    Venizelos said the meeting with Samaras had covered the preparations for the official launch of Greece's EU presidency, as well as "our own priorities". Chief among these, he listed the negotiations with the troika.

    PASOK's leader also highlighted a reduction in bond spreads, adding that "what we have said, that [Greece's] debt is sustainable, will be confirmed". He underlined that falling bond spreads and debt sustainability translated into stronger banks and therefore the availability of funding for businesses, leading to investments and jobs.

    "It means the the cycle of the real economy is moving," he underlined, adding that the main issue was restoring jobs, incomes and correcting injustices.

    [10] PM Samaras chairs meeting on tourism

    2013 was a very good year for Greek tourism, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said on Tuesday, during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at Maximos Mansion.

    Kefalogianni noted that the first signs for 2014 were positive and encouraging, boding well for more revenues and jobs that would breath life to the economy. She characterized 2014 a year of responsibility and called workers in the private tourism sector to take their own responsibilities.

    "We should respect the law, fight undeclared labor and trust Greek workers", Kefalogianni said, noting that Greece can have a stable upward trend in tourism.

    The head of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) Andreas Andreadis, who participated in the meeting, said that in 2013 there were 17.8 million arrivals and 12.5 million euros in direct revenues, noting that "in 2014, provided there is political stability, we will have new records in tourism". He said the target for 2021 is 24 million arrivals, 48 billion total revenues and 300,000 jobs. For 2014 in particular, he estimated that arrivals would exceed 18.5 million, direct revenues would reach 13 billion while total revenues would be more than 35 billion, and about 50,000 new jobs would be created.

    Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, who participated in the meeting, said that the increase in tourism in 2014 would contribute in the deceleration of unemployment for the first time, while Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos announced that the Ministry is considering extending the opening hours of the country's 30 most popular archaeological sites and museums from 8 in the morning until 8 in the evening.

    Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis also took part in the meeting. Asked on the postponement of the visit by troika representatives, Stournaras said he has no information on this. "We've sent the responses to their questions and we expect them to come, perhaps next week", he noted.

    Regarding 2014, he said if the past is a gauge for the future, then "2013 was a very good year, so will 2014".

    [11] The first half of 2014 is crucial for the country, Venizelos says

    The first half of 2014 is crucial as it will determine the fate of the country and put Greece to the test as it holds the EU Presidency, the government's vice-president and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday.

    During the traditional cutting of the "New Year cake" ceremony at the party's Parliamentary group, Venizelos noted that "in fact the stability of the government and the country depends on PASOK's Parliamentary group," and "this is where the guarantees for the course of the country are found".

    "Each day and each week have their own value. The things that change must become part of everyday life, so that citizens feel more secure and optimistic. They deserve this after the hardship they have been through and the sacrifices they have been forced to make all these years, Venizelos noted.

    [12] Europarliamentary committee to visit Athens 'probably within January'

    A delegation from the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee will visit Greece in the next few weeks and possibly within January, a spokesman for the body's vice president Othmar Karas told the ANA-MPA in an interview on Tuesday.

    Referring to the postponed visit by the committee, Karas' spokesman Daniel Koster said, "There is no mystery in the postponement of the visit by Karas and the European Parliament committee...There were just scheduling issues on both sides. Karas is a vice-president of the European Parliament and during the essentially first parliamentary week of the year he had important meetings here in Brussels, and that was the problem on our side."

    He added, "Naturally, it was also difficult because of the events for the start of the Greek presidency in Athens this week to set our meetings in Athens. These scheduling issues led to the postponement of the visit, but not to its cancellation. It is just a postponement, and the visit will likely take place within January."

    A press spokesman for Europarliament president Martin Schulz had said on Monday that the decision to postpone the visit was his, while sources had added the same day that he had contacted Prime Minister Antonis Samaras by telephone on Sunday night to express his regret that he was unable to attend the events in Athens due to other engagements. They said the Greek premier had not made any request concerning the delegation's arrival in Athens.

    [13] SYRIZA 'making fuss over nothing', Kedikoglou says regarding postponed EuroParliament delegation visit

    SYRIZA "is making a fuss over nothing," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told the local radio station 'Vima 99.5' on Tuesday, referring to the postponement of a visit by a European Parliament (EP) delegation investigating the role and operations of the troika in the Eurozone's bailed-out economies.

    "It was a decision made exclusively by the European Parliament and there was no room for intervention," Kedikoglou noted, adding that European Parliament President Martin Schulz informed the Greek prime minister that the visit would be postponed.

    The spokesman added that the EP's decision was a reasonable one, given that major events are expected in the country over the next two days linked to the launch of Greece's Presidency of the EU Council.

    Some people do not want the country to be viewed positively, some prefer that a shadow be cast this whole process on the day when Greece will be in the spotlight, he said.

    "In SYRIZA's translation (of a letter sent to a SYRIZA MEP sitting on the EP Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee), they should improve their English. It reads 'agreed', not 'decided'. It means that he (Martin Schulz) informed him (Samaras) and there was an agreement. Words have their meaning, too. But in fact, the president of the European Parliament briefed the Prime Minister, and there was no objection on this. This thing happened, because some people do not want Greece to be presented in a positive way", he stressed.

    Regarding Greece's EU Presidency, Kedikoglou said: "This is a European presidency and there are European priorities during this six-month period, such as growth and employment, deepening of the Union, tackling illegal migration, mobility and marine policy. For one reason or another, Greece happens to have its own experiences and expertise in some of those fields. In some of them, we have learned the hard way. Our aim is for the Greek presidency to serve the directions set by the EU, promoting the development of the EU during a crucial stage for the future of Europe".

    Earlier on Tuesday, main opposition SYRIZA had reiterated accusations that the prime minister and the government were not exploiting the European Parliament's inquiry into the actions of the troika, preferring to hide them instead. It said that the government remained committed to austerity policies and would use neither the EP probe nor the Greek EU presidency to defend the interests of the Greek people.

    [14] Gov't to revoke 25-euro hospital admission fee, PASOK sources say

    The government has agreed to revoke a decision for a higher, 25-euro hospital admission fee and to replace this with an additional 0.05 euro tariff on cigarettes and tobacco, sources with the ruling coalition's junior partner PASOK said on Tuesday. The party made the announcement after a meeting between Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and a PASOK delegation to discuss the measure, stressing this was "a major development in the framework of our initial decision and the battle we waged."

    The decision indicated that "2014 can really be a year of social sensitivity and for redressing injustices," the same sources added, saying that legislation implementing the measure will be tabled over the coming days.

    [15] ISA comments on governments decision to scrap 25 euro hospital admission fee

    The Athens Medical Association (ISA), in an announcement on Tuesday, welcomed the government's decision to scrap a measure raising hospital admission fees to 25 euros per patient, and describing the decision as fair.

    "We find the PM's decision positive, alongside with his belief that healthcare must have sensitivity during a such difficult financial situation," ISA said, noting that "ISA was against the 25 euro hospital admission measure since 2012 when it was legislated"

    "We are happy that today, ISA's decision alongside the citizens and institution's reaction towards the measure gave a final and fair solution," the association said.

    [16] Employees to close down Gennimatas hospital cashier's desk for two days

    The employees of Athens' Gennimatas Hospital on Tuesday decided to close down the hospital's cashier's desk for two days, protesting against a measure raising admission fees to 25-euro for anyone who needs to be hospitalized.

    The cashier's desk at the hospital will remain closed on Thursday and Friday, between 8:00 in the morning and 14:00 in the afternoon.

    At the same time, Greece's Medical Association asked that the higher fee be revoked, so that the cost of healthcare services is not rolled over to individual insured citizens.

    [17] SYRIZA's Konstantopoulou asks FinMin Stournaras for explanations regarding the "65 Lagarde lists"

    Main Opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) deputy Zoi Konstantopoulou has asked Finance minister Yannis Stournaras for clarifications in relation to a press article titled "65 unchecked Lagarde lists," published in Tuesday's issue of the "Efimerida ton Syntakton" newspaper.

    According to the newspaper, "sixty five CDs, whose content relates to details of all those who may have tax-evaded or laundered black money in the past 12 years" have been put on ice at the Financial Crime Squad (SDOE) offices for one-and-a-half year."

    The evidence has been gathered from banks' electronic files upon request by the then Public Prosecutor Grigoris Peponis, which had focused on deposits exceeding the annual amount of 300,000 euros and on remittances abroad of 100,000 euros.

    [18] Independent Greeks leader rules out collaborating with gov't parties, Golden Dawn

    Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos ruled out the possibility of collaborating with New Democracy, PASOK or the extreme-right Golden Dawn party, at an interview on private Ant1 TV on Tuesday.

    "We are not interested in building a center-right party," he said, adding that he would discuss collaboration with Vyron Polydoras, independent deputy who was recently expelled from the ND parliamentary group for voting against the party line. "We will meet over the next few days," Kammenos said.

    [19] Public Order minister meets Greek president on terrorism

    Domestic terrorism is a major issue for Greece, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said on Tuesday, during a meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Hall.

    "The country faces a problem of terrorism. And unfortunately, it does not only face a problem of imported terrorism, like other countries, it also has a major problem of domestic terrorism", Dendias said, adding that this year was off to a bad start, with the disappearance on Tuesday of November 17 convict Christodoulos Xiros after being granted leave from prison.

    "Today, we have this unfortunate incident", noting that the Greek Police are doing a very good job. "During the past few years, police have brought dozens of terrorists to justice. Unfortunately, I have to say, many of them are free men as we speak. And today, we have this unfortunate incident with the convicted terrorist who was granted a leave. Honestly, it is particularly upsetting", he stressed.

    The Minister appeared confident that terrorism issues can be dealt with, if the Greek society is united and if the State's institutions do a proper job.

    The Greek president noted that a sense of security is crucial and agreed with Dendias that "terrorists' bullets actually aim at the unemployed, and they harm the unemployed more than anything else". Papoulias added that "The effort should focus on that. Fight unemployment, fight all those things that have led to the crisis. If there is terrorism, then we are weak".

    [20] Police search for November 17 convict

    Police launched a search early on Tuesday for November 17 terrorist group member Christodoulos Xiros who was on nine days' leave from prison and failed to present himself at a police station on Monday.

    Christodoulos Xiros was given licence to leave Korydallos prison in Piraeus on New Year's day. He was supposed to report daily to the police of Nea Kallikratia, on the Halkidiki peninsula, near the northern city of Thessaloniki. But he failed to show up, leading police to launch a search for him in Halkidiki and Thessaloniki.

    Christodoulos was one of three brothers arrested and convicted for their role in the group's 27-year-long campaign of killings and bombings in 2002.

    [21] Justice Minister orders disciplinary investigation at Korydallos prison over November 17 convict leave

    Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou said on Tuesday he has ordered a preliminary disciplinary investigation of the members of a Korydallos prison board that granted a furlough to convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros.

    After a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at Maximos Mansion, also attended by Public Order and Citzen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias, Athanassiou said a public prosecutor would be in charge of the probe.

    He added that a maximum security prison for dangerous criminals and terrorists would open in the next 100 days.

    The minister announced plans to change the legislative framework, so that those convicted of terrorism are not granted furlough from prison.

    Xiros, jailed for his involvement in the November 17 terrorist group, is being sought after failing to report to northern Greek police during a leave from jail.

    [22] Justice minister says prison leaves need review and change

    The whole legal framework of granting leaves of absence to convicts, especially those involved in terrorism, will be re-examined, Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou said on Tuesday, following the no-show of November 17 convict Christodoulos Xiros at a police station after being granted an eight-day leave.

    "The benefit of leave for convicts, which is foreseen by European penal rules and the Greek Penal Code, cannot be transformed into a means of casting doubt on the country's institutions and of undermining its anticriminal policy," Athanassiou said.

    [23] Nov. 17 convict's disappearance 'consistent with his views', his attorney says

    Christodoulos Xiros' decision not to present himself at a police station during his nine-day leave from prison is "a political escape" consistent with his political activities and his views on freedom, his attorney Fragiskos Ragoussis said on Tuesday in an interview at private TV station Skai.

    He stressed, however, that he has not contacted his client and that he had not been aware of his intentions.

    Christodoulos was one of three brothers arrested in 2002 for their participation in the terrorist group November 17. He was given permission to leave Korydallos prison in Piraeus on New Year's day and was supposed to report daily to the police of Nea Kallikratia, on the Halkidiki peninsula, near the northern city of Thessaloniki. But he failed to show up, leading police to launch a search for him in Halkidiki and Thessaloniki.

    Reffering to the same issue, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou in an interview on Tuesday stressed the need for changes to the leave system for certain prisoners.

    [24] Second Xiros brother involved in November 17 terrorist group is hospitalized

    Savvas Xiros, jailed for his involvement in the November 17 terrorist group along with two of his brothers, was transferred under heavy guard from Korydallos prison in Athens to the Larissa University Hospital in central Greece on Tuesday morning.

    Savvas' brother Christodoulos is being sought after failing to report to northern Greek police during a leave from jail.

    According to hospital manager Thanassis Mitsios, Savvas Xiros requested a prosecutor's permission to be hospitalised at the oncology section, where a special space has been created for the heavily guarded patient. A Piraeus court has ordered the suspension of his sentence for 30 days in order to be hospitalised and have tests carried out.

    [25] Anti-terrorism squad arrests terror suspect Nikos Sakkas

    The anti-terrorism squad on Tuesday announced the arrest of Kostas Sakkas, a member of the leftist guerrilla group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" for violating the terms of his release from prison, where he was being held on remand.

    Sakkas was released in July by order of an Appeals Court but prohibited from leaving the country or the region of Attica and barred from contact or communication with any fellow suspects in Conspiracy of Cells of Fire case. In addition, Sakkas was required to report to his local police station every Monday and reside in the house he declared as his permament residence, his passport and identity card had been taken away and he was required to post a 30,000-euro bail.

    [26] Administrative Reform minister, Athens mayor promise crackdown on late birth registrations

    Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Athens Mayor George Kaminis on Tuesday stressed their determination to continue a crackdown on fake late birth registrations with "unabated intensity" and the effort to ensure the detection and "exemplary punishment" of all involved.

    Mitsotakis warned in a joint announcement with the mayor that "the era of inertia and impunity belongs to the past." He added that inspections to ensure the legality of administrative action are being "extended in all directions and it is very encouraging that in this effort we are finding allies in local administration as well."

    Kaminis stressed that the legal gaps governing the regime for late birth registrations must be covered and that the Athens municipality will continue to modernise the way that the registry functions, as well as all its services, in order to provide a better service to citizens and improve transparency.

    Financial News

    [27] Greece reports positive employment balance in 2013

    Greece reported a positive employment balance in December, with 19,999 new job positions recorded in the last month of 2013, while a total of 133,488 more new job positions were created in the year, official figures showed on Tuesday.

    A report by Ergani, an IT system recording employment flows, said that new hirings totaled 109,797 in December, while dismissals totaled 89,798. The December figures are the first positive performance recorded in December since 2001. December was the eighth month of 2013 with a positive employment flow in the private sector. In the January-December period, new hirings totaled 1,149,194, an increase of 35.28 pct compared with 2012, while dismissals totaled 1,015,706 in the same period.

    Labor, Social Insurance and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, commenting on the figures said they set a 10-year record, adding that the labor market was stabilizing while a growth rate in unemployment dropped to 5.9 pct in September 2013 from 44.4 pct in June 2012. "For the first time in 2013 we saw a decline in unemployment rate after 60 months of constant increase, while employment rates are rising from April 2013 onwards," Vroutsis said, adding that this trend would continue.

    The Ergani report showed that the restaurant service sector recorded the biggest employment balance (4,227), followed by education (2,351), retail commerce (1,838) and entertainment (1,058). On the other hand, the wholesale commerce (1,479), hotel (1,257), food industry (1,148), financial services (943) and non-metal mining products (604) recorded the biggest negative balance.

    Flexible forms of employment accounted for a large part of the labor market (46.14 pct).

    Full-time employment accounted for 53.85 pct of total new job positions created in 2013, 37.13 pct were part-time jobs

    September recorded the highest positive employment balance in the year, with 63,122 new job positions, as enterprises responded to the introduction of more austere fines for informal labor.

    [28] Charge of 1 euro per prescription fulfilled goes into effect on Wed.

    A one-euro charge imposed on all prescription being fulfilled at pharmacies will go into effect on Wednesday, January 8.

    The chronically ill, who need to carry out prescriptions at regular basis, are being excluded from the particular measure, according to a circular issued by the Health Ministry.

    The implication of the measure caused the strong reaction of the pharmacists, since they are the ones collecting the charge on behalf of the Greek National Health Service Organization (EOPYY).

    As stated by the the Attica Pharmaceutical Association the charge raises the insured people's participation in the cost of medicine obtained from the pharmacists, while consequently decreases the EOPPY's charge for their medicine and clarifies that "the pharmacist has neither immediate participation in nor is he collecting the charge for himself".

    The Association concludes, "The constant burdening of the citizens in order to cover EOPPY's black holes (budgetiring gap) leads into total depreciation of people's healthcare, with devastating results".

    [29] Greek exports up 1.2 pct in December 2012-November 2013

    Greek exports grew 1.2 pct in the December 2012-November 2013 period, compared with the corresponding period in 2011-2012, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said the value of exports-deliveries totaled 2.138 billion euros in November from 2.764 billion euros in November 2012, for a decline of 22.6 pct, while excluding oil products the value of exports fell by 7.9 pct.

    The value of import-arrivals fell 15.3 pct to 3.669 billion euros in November, from 4.332 billion euros in November 2012, while excluding oil products the value of imports rose by 4.4 pct in the month. The value of import-arrivals fell 4.7 pct in the December 2012-November 2013 period.

    [30] Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from T-bill auction

    Greece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue raising 1.625 billion euros from the market. The country's Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue was set at 4.10 pct. Bids submitted totaled 2.592 billion euros, 2.07 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers, while settlement date was set for Friday, 10 January. The organization also accepted non-competitive bids worth 375 million euros and said it will accept additional non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 9 January.

    [31] FinMin sets fines for outstanding debts by taxpayers, companies

    An annual interest rate of 8.76 percent will be imposed on tax arrears to the state, according to a decision by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Tuesday.

    Tax refunds delayed for more than 90 days will have a 6.0 percent interest rate, according to the same decision.

    As for large companies facing charges of tax evasion, they will not be allowed to transfer assets, while 50 percent of their bank deposits and of cash held in safety deposit boxes will be frozen.

    According to a circular issued by the Public Revenues secretariat, in case of tax evasion authorities should freeze half of the deposits found in any kind of accounts, held by businesses and individuals and the whole of non-financial content in safety deposit boxes.

    [32] Greek exports to third countries down 28.8 pct in Nov.

    Greek exports declined to reach a negative four-year record in November 2013, although exports managed to record positive growth rates in the 12-month period, a report by the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters said on Tuesday.

    The report attributed this negative development to an adverse macroeconomic environment in global trade and, in particular, to conditions prevailing in the international oil products market during the winter months.

    The Federation attributed the 22.6 pct decline in exports in November mainly to a 28.8 pct decline in exports to "third countries" outside the EU, while exports to the EU area fell by 13.8 pct. Excluding oil products, Greek exports to third countries fell by 10.6 pct and to the EU by 6.1 pct.

    The value of exports to EU member-states accounted for 45.7 pct of total exports, while the value of exports to third countries accounted for 54.3 pct of total exports (excluding oil product, exports to the EU accounted for 60.63 pct and exports to third countries to 39.37 pct).

    Exports of chemical products (+8.3 pct) resisted pressures, followed by tobacco/beverage (+7.6 pct), confidential products (64.6 pct) and various industrial products (+6.5 pct). All other categories recorded significant declines, led by oil products (-41.8 pct), olive oil (-34 pct), machinery (-18.5 pct), raw materials (-12.8 pct) and food (-6.5 pct).

    [33] OTE completes voluntary exit program

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Tuesday announced the completion of a voluntary retirement program including 1,827 workers nearing retirement age. OTE said its net annual savings from the program will total around 94 million euros.

    Such programs will not burden pension funds, as OTE fully covers any costs, estimated at around 73.5 million euros.

    "These programs offered OTE the ability to significantly reduce its operating expenses, to strengthen its competitiveness and to proceed with the modernization of the company, creating employment opportunities for young people," the group said in a statement. OTE is currently hiring around 500 new workers.

    [34] Kri-Kri says fire damage cost to reach 18.75 mln euros

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday lifted the suspension of trading in the shares of Kri-Kri after the listed company offered details over the financial cost of a fire that severely damaged its dairy production unit in Serres.

    Kri-Kri, in an announcement said that according to an initial estimate, the cost of the damage was 18.75 million euros. The company said that the facilities were adequately insured and that no extra burden on its financial results was expected. Kri-Kri said insurance compensation process was expected to be completed during the year.

    The company said that a business plan aimed at reconstructing the factory has already been drafted and that full restoration of dairy production was expected within the year. The new investment will be funded with existing cash. Kri-Kri said it has already signed agreements to cover its dairy production with third parties' production units to continue the smooth supply of the domestic and foreign markets.

    [35] Sarantis sets up subsidiary in Portugal

    Sarantis Group on Tuesday announced the set up of a subsidiary company in Portugal, Sarantis Portugal, to be based in Lisbon. The company said this move was part of a strategy to enhance distribution of cosmetics and to expand in the home product market through FINO products. Sarantis said its turnover in Portugal was projected to soar to 4.0 million euros annually, from 800,000 euros currently. The Group has established a presence in the Portuguese market since 2009.

    [36] Winter sales start on January 13

    The winter sales will begin on January 13 and end on February 28, 2014. Stores will remain open on Sunday, January 19.

    The National Confereration of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) clarified through a circular the guidelines and clarifications regarding the beginning of the winter sales and the opening of the stores on the first Sunday of the sales period.

    [37] Greek stocks jump 2.7 pct on Tuesday

    Greek stocks ended at almost a two-and-a-half-year high in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, boosted by the reappearance of foreign investors in the market. Traders said investors seemed to discount a restructuring of Greek debt and a return of the country to international capital markets this year. Sentiment was also boosted by speculation that Moody's was expected to upgrade the country's credit rating this month.

    The composite index jumped 2.70 pct to end at 1,238.06 points, the highest closing since July 25, 2011. Turnover was an improved 88.92 million euros. The Large Cap index rose 2.62 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.69 pct higher.

    Piraeus Bank (6.62 pct), Terna Energy (5.83 pct), Jumbo (5.75 pct) and Ellaktor (5.33 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (1.95 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (0.88 pct) and Eurobank Properties (0.24 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The Personal Products (5.29 pct), Utilities (4.27 pct) and Media (4.17 pct) sectors scored big gains, while Insurance (2.98 pct) and Real Estate (0.11 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 84 to 44 with another 19 issues unchanged. Compucon (20 pct), Atti-kat (17.86 pct) and Dours (17.67 pct) were top gainers, while NEL (15.56 pct), Bioter (10 pct) and Naftemporiki (9.78 pct) suffered losses.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: +2.52%

    Insurance: -2.98%

    Financial Services: +1.07%

    Industrials: +1.42%

    Commercial: +1.64%

    Real Estate: -0.11%

    Personal & Household: +5.29%

    Food & Beverages: +2.34%

    Raw Materials: +1.48%

    Construction: +2.00%

    Oil and Gas: +2.71%

    Media: +4.17%

    Travel & Leisure: +2.78%

    Technology: +1.40%

    Telecoms: +2.15%

    Utilities: +4.27%

    Health: +3.16%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, OTE, National Bank and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.66

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.53

    Coca Cola HBC: 21.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.00

    National Bank of Greece: 4.02

    Eurobank Properties : 8.34

    OPAP: 10.13

    OTE: 10.46

    Piraeus Bank: 1.61

    Titan: 19.78

    [38] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 6.23 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.11 pct and the German Bund 1.88 pct. Turnover was a strong 32 million euros, of which 31 million were buy orders and the remaining one million was a sell order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.47 pct, the six-month rate was 0.381 pct, the three-month rate was 0.280 pct and the one-month rate was 0.202 pct.

    [39] ADEX closing report

    The January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 1.35 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 16.562 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,724 contracts worth 9.549 million euros, with 50,167 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,681 contracts worth 7.013 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,275), followed by Alpha Bank (1,650), National Bank (1,190), MIG (1,143), OTE (882), PPC (1,296), OPAP (938), Hellenic Exchanges (209), Titan (105), Mytilineos (969), Hellenic Petroleum (241), Motor Oil (126), Athens Water (192), GEK (993), Ellaktor (357), Intralot (228) and Jumbo (192).

    [40] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.364

    Pound sterling 0.831

    Danish kroner 7.460

    Swedish kroner 8.857

    Japanese yen 142.43

    Swiss franc 1.236

    Norwegian kroner 8.385

    Canadian dollar 1.458

    Australian dollar 1.528

    General News

    [41] Youngster burned in Thessaloniki house fire still critical

    A teenager admitted to hospital with severe burns on Tuesday was still in critical condition, doctors said. The youngster was burned in a house fire that ripped through his home in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and killed another three members of his family. A younger boy in the building also suffered extensive burns but his condition was not life-threatening, doctors said.

    The blaze started in the fourth-floor apartment on a building in Thessaloniki's Kordelio district, resulting in the death of the two youngsters' grandmother, their grandfather and the elderly couple's 1.5-year-old grandchild. Theodoros Kaltsidis, a plumber working in a nearby construction site, managed to save the old couple's adopted son and their 10-year-old grandson, who were hospitalized with severe burns.

    "I heard the old lady shouting, while I was working in a nearby construction site. I ran to see what happened" Kaltsidis told the ANA-MPA, saying he climbed up a light well and broke into the flaming apartment through a window in order to save those trapped inside.

    The fire brigade is investigating the possibility that 65-year-old Grigoris Kazoglou, the family's grandfather, may have started the fire deliberately after covering himself and the apartment in gasoline. Neighbours reported that Kazoglou had differences with one of his two daughters, who was living in the second floor apartment, and that he had threatened his family members and his wife in the past. Additionally it was reported that Kazoglou suffered from mental problems.

    [42] Fifteen injured in bus-truck collision

    Fifteen passengers on an Aitoloakarnania intercity bus were slightly injured in a road accident on the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway, 3km from the Nea Malgara toll station, heading towards Thessaloniki.

    The bus fell into the back of a truck with foreign licence plates parked on the right hand side of the road. According to sources, the bus driver was the most seriously injured in the accident.

    Meanwhile, the injured passengers were taken to hospitals in Thessaloniki, while the traffic police temporarily stopped inbound traffic towards Thessaloniki.

    [43] Hunter found burnt to death in his car

    The charred body of a 69-year-old hunter was found in his car early on Tuesday morning in the Kalamaki Klitorias area of Achaia, northern Peloponnese. The charred bodies of three dogs were also found in the car.

    According to preliminary information, the jeep he was driving overturned and burst into flames after crashing into a wall. Police is investigating.

    [44] Air Force aircraft takes infant to London for surgery

    An Air Force EMBRAER-135 aircraft airlifted a one-year-old boy to London earlier on Tuesday, so that he might undergo surgery for a diaphragmatic hernia.

    The aircraft took off from the 112 Combat Squadron in Elefsina, travelled to Kavala where it picked up the boy and landed in London in the early afternoon. Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos gave the order for the airlift, following a request submitted by the emergency ambulance service EKAB centre. The infant was escorted by two doctors.

    The cost of the flight will be covered by EKAB.

    [45] Abducted Greek seaman released by pirates

    The chief engineer of the Greek-owned tanker "Althea", a 65-year-old Greek seaman abducted by pirates 35 nautical miles off the coast of Guinea on December 17, has been released, according to an announcement by Medtankers Management Ltd.

    According to the company, the Ukrainian captain of the Marshall Islands-flagged ship, who was also kidnapped in the same raid, was also released. There was no information as to whether any ransom has been paid for the release of the hostages.

    According to Shipping Ministry, the chief engineer was the only Greek in the 18-member crew.

    Pirates had boarded the ship and kidnapped the chief engineer and the captain, without hurting the rest of the crew.

    [46] Four traffickers arrested in Komotini

    Four foreigners from Syria were arrested in the area of Psathades, Evros (Northwestern Greece), for attempting to bring undocumented migrants to Greece.

    The arrested, aged 18, 19, 26 and 33 years old, were found transferring 9 people from Turkey through the river Evros, using two dinghies.

    Another group of approximately 60 individuals were waiting in Turkish territory in order to enter Greek soil.

    The police seized the two dinghies, cell phones, and a sum of money.

    Weather forecast

    [47] Cloudy on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 5C and 18C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-6 beaufort winds and temperatures between 9C and 16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 6C and 14C.

    [48] [00] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    DIMOKRATIA: A torrent of circulars

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: 65 Lagarde lists without inspection

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: We had also arrested Yannos (Papantoniou, former finance minister)

    ESTIA: The false mix of taxes

    ETHNOS: Supplementary pensions to be cut again

    NAFTEMPORIKI: 16 measures that will increase tax burden in 2014

    TA NEA: The new debt deal on May 5

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