|Thursday, 15 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-01-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 9 January 2014 Issue No: 4555
 Greece will become a symbol that Europe can succeed, PM Samaras saysBy the end of its Presidency, Greece will have switched from being Europe's weakest link to a symbol of Europe's ability to overcome difficult times, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday, in a speech declaring the official start of Greece's Presidency of the EU.
Starting with references to former Greek statesman Constantine Karamanlis and the signing of Greece's accession to the European Economic Community decades earlier, Samaras said: "Greece is healing its wounds. We, Greeks, are stubborn and we will get through this.
Today, Greece is assuming the Presidency; this is not just a hand over. The crisis has been an ordeal for Greece, the county has paid dearly for its own faults and the structural deficiencies of the EU. Now, it has proven the 'Cassandras' wrong." While some predicted and some even wished for Greece's exit from the Eurozone, Samaras added, Greece and Europe had proven they can get through difficult times.
Greece has achieved the greatest fiscal consolidation ever attempted in a recession. We do not forget the reasons for European integration, and what has been achieved in five decades. The European Union is the most ambitious project ever attempted, a Union of common values, in which, every people, without losing their identity, can accomplish a lot.
Freedom, democracy, competitiveness, social justice are the four key issues that predominate in the modern world. Our response to the crisis is a better Europe. This means that every citizen will be more involved in the decisions that concern him, Samaras said.
"Now that we have got through the hardest part and have avoided the worst, it is time to beat the recession and unemployment, it is time to find a balance between growth and stability, it is time to develop maritime policies, it is time to deepen the banking union," he added.
"The Greek Presidency will highlight the things that unite us and set us on a growth path," Samaras said and added: "More and better Europe, this is the better world we can build for our children. This is what the rest of the world asks of us. We are Europe. Europe is not just abstract statistics, it is a matrix for freedom and growth."
 Greek PM says country and Europe are leaving the crisis behind themGreece and Europe are leaving the crisis behind them, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday during joint statements with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, after their meeting in Athens. He said that Greece aims to achieve a more positive contact between European citizens and the EU.
"Greece, through its presidency, hopes to bring the European citizen closer to the European Union, and for this reason the guiding principles will include dealing with vital problems, economic revival, fighting unemployment - which is our greatest issue currently - and the strengthening of cohesion - especially social cohesion - both internal and external," Samaras said, adding that "the goal is to safeguard the single currency, the euro. Greece is leaving the crisis behind it, following tremendous sacrifices. Europe is leaving the crisis behind it."
Peoples besides those of Europe "have set their hopes on the success of Europe's undertakings - on European integration, which was a distant dream and is now a reality. A strong and more secure Europe, which is a guarantee for a safer and stronger world," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said.
Samaras thanked Barroso and said "Greece has gone through immense difficulties, and has lost a quality of life level that no European peoples have lost since World War II. It has (survived) in a coordinated manner with Europe's help so that future generations have hope."
In relation to national elections, Samaras said that polls would take place in 2016.
"There is stability in Europe and this will be maintained", he said. He added that staying or exiting the eurozone is what is at stake at the European Parliament elections.
"Voters have to decide whether they want Europe or not. I hope they will vote in favour of Europe. Some are eurosceptics, but I don't agree with them. SYRIZA and its leader chose not to come to this ceremony. These ideas are against Europe, against the West and NATO," Samaras said.
 PM Samaras: A strong and more secure Europe a guarantee for a safer and stronger worldPeoples besides those of Europe "have set their hopes on the success of Europe's undertakings - the European integration, which was a distant dream and is now a reality. A strong and more secure Europe, which is a guarantee for a safer and stronger world," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday during a joint press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at Zappeio.
Samaras thanked Barroso and said "Greece has gone through immense difficulties, and has lost a quality of life level that no European peoples have lost since World War II. It has (survived) in a coordinated manner with Europe's help so that future generations have hope."
 Samaras: Greek presidency aims to achieve more positive contact between EU citizens and EUGreece aims to achieve a more positive contact between European citizens with the EU, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday during joint statements with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, after their meeting in Athens.
"For this reason, the principles will be to deal with the vital problems, with economic recovery and the fight against unemployment, protect the Union's social cohesion, establishing both external and internal security. Following this is the deepening of the Union to deal with the architectural problems highlighted by the crisis in order to secure the euro," Samaras said.
 EU's Barroso: Greece is an experienced pilot and is determined to succeedThis year will be better than the previous ones, in economic terms, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday, during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
"Greece is an experienced pilot," he said, as this is the fifth time the country is assuming the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union. "Greece is very well prepared and is determined to succeed," he added, expressing the EU's full support.
"This year we are exiting the recession, and I believe that Greece will also exit the recession," Barroso said, noting that "the fact we are now in Athens to celebrate the European presidency proves that forecasts that Greece would exit the euro were wrong. The euro's existential crisis is over, and we are exiting the crisis."
The Greek presidency is very well prepared and can rely on the full support of the European Commission, he said.
Referring to Greece, Barroso said that it will exit the crisis in 2014 and this will strengthen the trust of the other EU countries.
Bail-out programmes do work when they are properly implemented, Barroso noted. He added there is a perception that underestimates the efforts of the country's authorities and the Greek people, but "Greece is one of the best performers in terms of implementation (of the bail-out programme).
"The programmes are succeeding and the efforts made so far should not be wasted. In a country like Greece, there are difficulties and we know that what we are seeing is immediately experienced by the average citizen," he said. "We want to pay tribute to the Greek citizens, for the sacrifices they have made, for their courage and for their efforts," he added.
Barroso also referred to the 1.0-billion-euro tranche of the bail-out funds that was approved in December, saying that Greece still faces many problems and needs to speed up reforms and improve privatisations. He acknowledged there is a problem with the funding of small and medium-sized companies, pointing out, though, that Greece is one of the top performers in absorbing EU funds.
 Greece withstood the crisis thanks to European solidarity, Barroso saysWith the Greek phrase 'efcharisto' (thank you), the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso marked the opening ceremony of Greece's EU Presidency on Wednesday, pointing out that Greece has withstood the hardest period of the crisis thanks to European support.
Greece is taking over the rotating Presidency at a particularly challenging moment, Barroso said, reiterating that the European Commission has always stood by the side of the Greek government and people. "I always said that the success of Greece is the success of the EU," he said.
According to Barroso, the union faced its most serious crisis during the past five years. "And we fought back together. Greece has not defaulted and has not left the euro. Greece is now taking the helm of the Council. The euro has been saved and strengthened," he said.
There are still immense challenges, Barroso said, but important progress has been achieved.
"Greece is turning around the economy, it will emerge from recession this year, is expected to reach a primary budget surplus and is reducing its current account deficit," he said.
The Commission's visit to Athens demonstrates an ambition to join forces with Greek authorities, Barroso said, wrapping up his speech with a pledge in Greek 'Imaste mazi sas' (We are at your side).
 EU's Barroso: Greece well prepared, with full EU supportThe Greek presidency is very well prepared and can rely on the full support of the European Commission, its president Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at Zappeio.
Referring to Greece, he said that it will exit the crisis in 2014 and this will strengthen the trust of the other EU countries. The programmes are succeeding and the efforts made so far should not be wasted. "In a country like Greece, there are difficulties and we know that what we are seeing are immediately experienced by the average citizen," he said, adding, "We want to pay tribute to the Greek citizens, for the sacrifices they have made, for their courage and for their efforts."
 Herman van Rompuy optimistic for a new start for Greece and Europe, after meeting with PM SamarasPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday afternoon had a meeting with European Council President Herman van Rompuy, who attended the events in Athens marking the official opening of Greece's Presidency of the European Union.
After his meeting with the Greek premier, van Rompuy released a statement trough his twitter account in which he said the following:
"The start of this new year can hopefully also be a new start for Greece and for Europe. Last year we put the existential crisis of the euro zone behind us. I hope that in 2014 we can finally leave the worst economic crisis in our living memory behind us.
This is easy to say but we know, and you know, through experience during the last years, how hard it is to do. Still, it is a positive and welcome fact that growth is returning to Europe.
Exports continue to increase and confidence is slowly but surely returning. Unemployment is still much too high and remains the biggest challenge. Ireland and Spain are leaving their support programmes. Latvia just joined the eurozone.
And the European Council in December reached agreement on the banking union - to prevent such banking crises from happening again in Europe. So yes, there are good reasons to be positive.
At the same time, we cannot and should not close our eyes to the social and often very personal costs of the crisis. We have to address those concerns as a matter of priority - both as Member States and together as a Union.
And this is what we have been doing and continue to do, including by helping young people into jobs, and small and medium-sized enterprises to access credit. We need to be clear that we are still climbing out of a hole, and this is not the time to slip. This also means continuing on the path of necessary structural reforms.
We are all fully aware of the social impact the crisis continues to have in Greece. We know that the people of Greece are still suffering from the consequences of the painful but nevertheless needed reforms that are taking place.
However, there is no better alternative to reforms. Stability, fiscal consolidation, reforms are not an aim in themselves but a means to create well-being and jobs. And we have to say clearly and honestly that this crisis would have happened - euro or no euro. The European Union has supported Greece from the start and will continue to do so. Since 2010, the Union has shown solidarity by disbursing more than 180 billion euros to Greece.
The glimmer of hope that we are now seeing is proof that the dedicated and courageous policies and efforts, the hard sacrifices, with the support of the European Union, are bearing fruit.
Greece is now assuming the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the priorities for the coming six months: "Growth, Jobs and Investments", capture with great precision the concerns of all European citizens and what we are all striving for. I am glad to see that Greece is ready and well prepared for this important task. Greece has a long-standing experience in exercising the role of the EU Presidency. This is already the fifth time. I am confident that the Greek Presidency will be both fruitful and successful this time as well.
Finally, a few words about the new year and another of your Presidency priorities. 2014 will be a very important year, in particular because of the European elections in May. We need to engage and deliver results across Europe.
Better perspectives; the first results of all our efforts; and an open, honest and responsible debate on what Europe means: those are the most effective remedies against fear and despair.
In all our countries, and together as a Union, we need to speed-up job creation. We need to show the work that societies and governments are doing. And we - politicians and opinion leaders - have to stand up for our European convictions, for our policies, and tell where the long-term interests of our citizens lie, as they prepare to vote.
Because, as your motto says, "United we sail further"!
 Europe will be at Greece's side until its recovery, Rompuy saysEconomic and social recovery was a difficult path demanding sacrifices and the Greek people deserve respect for their courage and resilience, European Council President Herman van Rompuy said on Thursday, addressing an event for the start of Greece's EU presidency held at the Athens Concert Hall.
"Greece carried out reforms and the EU showed solidarity. We will be at your side until recovery," he stressed, noting that no country could deal with the crisis alone.
Today we can leave the crisis behind us, the European Council president added, saying that 2014 must be a better year, in which the EU would achieve results, especially in fighting unemployment.
"Jobs, growth and security are the goals of Greece and Europe. A stronger EU is the best way to deal with the challenges... Europe remains our common goal," he said, noting that the time had come to show hope in the future.
"The rotating presidency represents the idea of common goals, is proof that the Union is everyone's business. Greece has long experience of these responsibilities, this is its fifth time, which comes at an especially difficult moment," he said.
 Venizelos' address at the opening ceremony of the Greek EU PresidencyAddressing the opening ceremony of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the Athens Concert Hall on Wednesday evening, Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos referred to Athens' political priorities, saying that "Greece has a full sense of the role and limits of the rotating presidency of the Council."
He stressed that Athens will work closely with the permanent presidencies of the European Council, the Foreign Affairs Council and the Eurogroup.
"But the Hellenic Presidency is obliged to point out the fact that it is a Presidency of the European South, a Mediterranean Presidency that will be exercised by a medium-population member-state of the Union," he added.
Specifically, Venizelos said:
"The Hellenic presidency is European: dedicated to the major European priorities. But on a national level, these six months also coincide with our top priority which is our turnaround to a definitive exit from the crisis and the Memorandum and a return to the 'normalcy' of a member state of the Union and the Eurozone: fiscally stable, financially secure, developmentally competitive, democratically strong and nationally proud.
"In this framework, the Hellenic Presidency's main political priorities are priorities of the citizens and the peoples of the Union:
Growth, jobs and the safeguarding of the social dimension of Europe, with the combating of youth unemployment as the number one issue.
Integration of EU and Eurozone economic governance institutions, mainly through a banking union that does away with internal inequalities and guarantees deposits and equal potential for access by businesses to sources of financing.
Protection of European borders and management of immigration flows, which is a top humanitarian priority, on the one hand, as well as a critical security issue for all of Europe, and not just for the countries on the Union's external borders, coastal countries and especially Mediterranean countries.
"It is reasonable that our Presidency should have a fourth, horizontal priority: that of integrated maritime policy, which concerns blue growth, fisheries, energy, the environment, tourism and capitalisation on maritime zones in accordance with the International Law of the Sea.
"The Hellenic Presidency's logo refers to the sea, shipping, as well as to the ongoing historical challenge of European integration, which is our common quest, and which we want to be our common attainment."
 Visit to Greece a sign of Germany's solidarity with Greek people, Steinmeier saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in statements to the online edition of the German magazine 'Der Spiegel', said his visit to Greece on Thursday seeks to signal Germany's solidarity with the Greek people.
"The Greeks are going through a difficult time. The government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos has undertaken an ambitious programme of reforms. In a few years they must make up for the omissions of decades," he said, stressing that the reform effort must continue and that it would not end soon.
"The progress in this fast-forward course of modernisation is huge but so are the social difficulties linked with this course. There is still a long road that must be travelled. For their readiness and the courage demanded, Greeks deserve every respect," Steinmeier added.
"We will stand at the side of the Greeks," he said.
 European Commission arrives in Athens for Greek presidency opening eventsEuropean Commissioners arrived at the Athens International Airport on Wednesday and were on their way to centrally-located Zappeio and a working lunch with Greek ministers. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who headed the College of Commissioners, had a working lunch with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at the same hall.
The working lunch was followed by meetings between the College of Commissioners and the Greek cabinet.
Samaras and Barroso will meet and then make statements to the press around 17:15 at Zappio.
The prime minister will also meet officially with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who is expected to arrive in Athens after 17:00.
The official opening ceremony for the Greek presidency will be held at 19:30 on Wednesday at the Athens Concert Hall, in the presence of the President of the Greek Republic Karolos Papoulias. Barroso and Rompuy will address the event.
Tight security measures around Zappio, prior to Commissioners' arrival
The Zappio Hall, where the European Commissioners are holding meetings with the Greek government on Wednesday, has been placed under tight security measures, with traffic cut off, police guarding the building and police helicopters patrolling overhead.
 EU presidency is a major challenge for Greece, FinMin saysThe assumption of EU presidency is a major challenge for Greece which is called to deal with a series of complex and demanding issues, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told foreign correspondents during a press conference on Wednesday.
"Fiscal consolidation in Europe still continues and the first signs of recovery are already visible. Unemployment rates have stabilized, although they recently reached unacceptably high levels, especially in the countries implementing adjustment programmes," Stournaras said admitting that social conditions though remain difficult. "For that reason, there is an urgent need to focus our policies on strengthening social cohesion and ensuring stability and prosperity for all citizens," he added.
"Thanks to the sacrifices of the Greek people and the support of our European partners, we were able to stand up and prove our commitment to the European value of solidarity," Stournaras underlined, adding that "we have assumed the presidency not as a country in crisis, but as a country in recovery."
Referring to Greece's return to markets, Stournaras was cautiously optimistic saying that "the country will have limited access to international markets in the second half of 2014."
 Dimar leader on the Greek EU presidencyGreece assumes the presidency of the European Union for the first half of 2014 at a crucial time both for Greece and the European Union, Democratic Left (Dimar) leader Fotis Kouvelis said on Wednesday.
"The Greek presidency is called to prove that despite the great difficulties of the economic crisis, the country can play an important role in European affairs. The challenges are great. The economic crisis and the options offered have increased euroscepticism and alienated citizens from the European vision," he noted.
Kouvelis stressed that the key message of the Greek presidency is to change policies in Greece and Europe so as to exit the crisis, with main priority given to the connection of fiscal adjustment with growth, job creation and social protection.
"Dimar is firmly focused on Greece's European path. The main objective of its political proposal is to stay in the eurozone, while promoting different policies both in Greece and in the European Union as a whole," he added.
 Greek presidency will maintain EU's unpopular policies, KKE saysThe Greek presidency will continue implementing the EU's unpopular policy, which does not only relate to the Greek people, but to the people of all countries with or without a memorandum (bailout agreement), as this is defined by the goals of competitiveness and profitability of the capital, which the EU follows since it was set up, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said on Wednesday.
"This presidency, like all the previous ones, will contribute to escalating the attack on income, labor relations, social security, cuts in health, welfare and other social benefits," the KKE said in its announcement.
The goals of the Greek presidency "for the so-called marine policy are about the use of natural sources by business groups, which will help boost inter-imperialist rivalries, with the people being the casualties," the party said, adding, "At the same time, promoting a uniform immigration policy marks the strengthening of repression against immigrants and refugees, who are forced to leave their countries due to poverty, regimes, and EU-led wars."
SYRIZA's position that a Greek presidency in the EU, under its own government, would work in favor of the people "is a blunt and undisguised mockery on those who suffer from the policies of the EU and its governments," the KKE said, accusing SYRIZA and the European Left Party, of which SYRIZA is member party, "are the leaders in the whitewashing the EU and its institutions."
 Greek Presidency's priorities on tourism, focus on sea and coastal tourismThe integrated management of sea and coastal tourism will be the focal point of Greece's presidency in the EU for the tourism sector, according to an announcement by the Tourism ministry.
Sea and coastal tourism is crucial for the national economies of many country-members, as last year more than 6 million of Europeans went on a cruise, while 3.5 million tourists visited the Mediterranean.
The contribution of the sea tourism industry to the EU's real economy is very important. Each year it generates 38 billion euros and 327,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Greece's Tourism Ministry is closely watching the Commission's initiative to set up a European strategy regarding the challenges and the opportunities of Sea and Coastal Tourism in the EU.
The Ministry will organize on March 14, 2014 a high-level meeting on sea and coastal tourism, to present the Commission's announcement and discuss the challenges, the issues and the opportunities in sea tourism. This conference is expected to offer an active platform to top European officials from the tourism sector, so that they share their views and practices on coastal tourism, cruise tourism, the yachting, coastal management, marine clusters, the cooperation between the public and the private sector.
The aim of this conference is to promote the sustainable sea and coastal tourism in the EU at a time of intense competition from other regions of the world.
The Greek presidency will also focus on facilitating the visa regime for nationals of third countries, as it believes this will be highly beneficial for the European tourism industry, with increased tourism flows even before the start of the next spring season.
It will continue the negotiations on the revision of the directive on tour packages, aiming to review the existing regulatory framework on the industry of tour packages, so that travelers can buy them online. Its priorities also include the strengthening of the EU policy, aimed at promoting tourism, in a bid to maintain Europe's position as a leading destination in the world and maximize the contribution of the tourism industry in growth and employment.
The second day of the Greek presidency's conference on tourism, titled "Intense On-line Marketing and New Tools: Challenges and Perspectives", is focused on the contribution of new technologies and the tools to present and promote tourism.
Venizelos to meet EU Parliament head on foreign affairs Thursday
Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet on Thursday with the president of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs Elmar Brok, at 9 a.m., at the Foreign ministry, according to an announcement.
Joint statements to the press will follow.
 Tsipras will not attend the official ceremony for the Greek EU presidencyRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras' decision not to attend the event at the Athens Music Hall for the official launch of the Greek presidency of the EU is official, according to party sources.
The absence of the main opposition's leader from the event is a political decision that relates to a series of events that have influenced his final decision, sources said.
According to party sources, the overall agenda of the Greek presidency does not reflect the seriousness of the current period for both Greece and the EU. According to SYRIZA, the Greek government should highlight the problems of unemployment, growth and democracy among others, in order to lay the foundations for a new approach to the crisis.
SYRIZA also called on the government to postpone the visit of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the European Parliament which is reviewing the responsibilities of Greece's troika of lenders regarding the fiscal adjustment programme imposed on Greece, Cyprus and Portugal. According to the same party sources, during the presidency, SYRIZA will highlight this "another agenda" of Greece and the EU.
 Gov't spokesman on Tsipras' decision not to attend the EU presidency ceremonyGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Wednesday strongly criticized main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras for his decision not to attend the official opening ceremony of the Greek EU presidency.
"Tsipras presents himself as a candidate president of the European Union while refusing to attend the official opening ceremony for the assumption of the EU presidency from his own country," according to a government spokesman announcement.
 PASOK condemns Tsipras's abstention from the Greek presidency opening eventPASOK criticized on Wednesday a decision by the leader of the main opposition SYRIZA party Alexis Tsipras not to attend the opening ceremony of Greece's Presidency in the EU.
"The absence of Alexis Tsipras from the opening ceremony of the Greek presidency demonstrates a profound contempt for the institutions of the European Union, in which Tsipras claims a role as he runs for president of the European Commission", PASOK's press office said in a statement.
"In relation to the counteraccusations on terrorism issues, on a day that our country officially assumes the presidency of the European Union and is in the spotlight, we need to demonstrate seriousness and be responsible and not engage in purely clashes of a promotional type that maintain an artificial bipolarity and offer nothing to the needs of the country and its citizens".
 SYRIZA spokesman explains party leader's decision not to attend Greek EU presidency eventsThe main opposition leader's decision not to attend the opening ceremonies for Greece's assumption of the EU presidency is based on the government's unwillingness to take advantage of the presidency to deal with the economic crisis, including the failure of the loan memorandum, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) spokesman Panos Skourletis told ANA-MPA in an interview on Wednesday.
"The political meaning of (SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras') non-participation in today's events is related to the government's refusal to use this presidency to place the great issue of European perspective in general and of European strategy face-to-face with the issues of the economic crisis, and (the government's refusal) to talk about the universal failure of the memorandum program," Skourletis said, referring to the fiscal adjustment program which is part of Greece's loan terms.
"Instead of this, we are seeing the government's pronouncements following the line of non-questioning of these prevailing strategic choices which, for our country at least, have helped spread everywhere poverty, misery and have become front-line news in the European press, in negative terms," he charged.
The party spokesman also linked Tsipras' decision to what he claimed was Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' "attempts to postpone the arrival of the European Parliament committee to review the troika of lenders' work" in Greece, something he further claimed "shows that Samaras cannot take advantage the committee's research to expose most tangibly to European public opinion where the memorandum has taken us."
Commenting on a decision banning all large open gatherings in Athens for Wednesday, Skourletis accused Samaras of "participating in this celebratory fiesta wearing a costume of authoritarianism," charging the premier with "exposing Greece to ridicule internationally and in Europe....The operation of democracy in Greece, by extension, brings to mind states of a grand authoritarianism and a regime of extensive oppression."
Skourletis' full interview can be accessed by subscribers at ANA-MPA's website.
 Independent Greeks leader will not attend EU presidency opening ceremonyIndependent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos will not attend the official opening ceremony of the Greek presidency of the European Union on Wednesday as he is travelling to London, according to a statement on Wednesday.
Kammenos will meet with the UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage to discuss the European Parliament elections, and will return to Athens on Thursday.
Reffering to the EU officials' visit to Athens, Independent Greeks attacked the government on its policy, saying that "they may have hidden the homeless, but they cannot hide how unsuccessful their policy is."
"The bureaucrats of Brussels, headed by (European CommissionPresident Jose Manuel) Barroso, came to Athens and saw the empty streets because the government of the troika (of Greece's lenders) forbade Greek citizens from protesting and show their improverishment - a result of the creditors' policy," the party noted in a statement.
"They have hidden the homeless, the unemployed, the low-income pensioners who do not have money to buy medications. But, they cannot hide the failure of their policy in Greece in order to seize the property of citizens and the wealth of our country. They are accountable," tha party added in its statement.
 Protest rally in Omonia SquareThe Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow (ANTARSYA) held a protest rally in the region of Omonia Square in downtown Athens on Wednesday afternoon, reacting to the formal opening ceremony of the Greek Presidency of the EU. The demonstrators, unable to march to Syntagma Square through Stadiou street, due to the presence of strong police forces, headed to Patission street where they dispersed.
 Abolishing troika would be true victory for Greece and Europe, Swoboda saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The President of the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Hannes Swoboda on Wednesday said in a written statement that a true victory for the Greek EU presidency will be the abolition of the EU-IMF troika.
"European commissioners and European Commission President Barroso, who are today in Athens, must seize the opportunity and ascertain the real living conditions in Greece," Swoboda said, stressing that harsh austerity imposed by troika had driven almost half the country's population below the poverty line.
According to Swoboda, the troika's policies had failed in each of the bailed-out countries and "nobody stopped them because there is no democratic control."
"The lack of democratic legitimacy is incompatible with European values," noted Swoboda, concluding that "we demand the ban of the troika and its catastrophic policies and the EU must take full responsibility for the programmes to come. If the troika is banned during the Greek EU presidency that would be a true victory for Greece and Europe."
 New Democracy calls on SYRIZA to disassociate itself from terrorismNew Democracy in a statement on Wednesday strongly criticized the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on its stance on the escape of November 17 terrorist group member Christodoulos Xiros, who was on leave from jail when he disappeared on Tuesday. "SYRIZA's positions and relations with terrorism are known. Some of the senior representatives of the party remain central witnesses and defense lawyers of November 17 murderers", according to the announcement.
"The Greek society and all Europe expect that main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras will disassociate the party from terrorism and he must do it today. Otherwise, he will confirm that it coincides perfectly with it," the announcement added.
SYRIZA countercharges New Democracy with 'lack of seriousness'
An announcement released by SYRIZA, responding to the ruling's party criticism regarding its attitude towards terrorism and the support provided to SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras by foreign agents, states, "Where seriousness ends, the political reasoning of New Democracy (ND) starts".
SYRIZA said that Wednesday's comments by ND's press office go beyond its usual standards, by accusing everybody who supports SYRIZAin Greece as being terrorists, and now charging the party's supporters in Italy and the rest of Europe as well. "It is unfortunate that they are still governing - besides everything else, they are embarrassing Greece in Europe and everywhere."
 ND Deputy Dora Bakogiannis expresses fears of terrorist attackNew Democracy deputy Dora Bakogiannis expressed her belief that a terrorist attack is imminent, with the cooperation of both old and new terrorists.
Speaking to Vima FM, Bakogiannis was commenting about the dissapearance of the convicted member of 17 November, Christodoulos Xiros, who was on leave from prison and said it is only reasonable to assume that something bad is about to happen when Christodoulos' disappearance coincides with his brother and fellow convicted terrorist Savvas Xiro to hospital.
"I don't believe in coincidences. I think something is really under way and we should all be alert, to see what we can do to help the police catch them", the deputy stressed.
 Greek PM 'submissive' to Germany and its allies, SYRIZA saysPrime Minister Antonis Samaras is still "submissive" to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her allies, main opposition SYRIZA said in a announcement on Thursday, responding to the PM's statements on the commencement of the Greece's Presidency in the EU.
According to SYRIZA, Samaras follows the same general pattern of references to the economic recovery and the exit from the crisis, while shedding crocodile tears for the sacrifices of the Greek people, without presenting any specific proposal that serves those goals.
The government, SYRIZA added, repeatedly underlines its commitment to the bail-out agreements, regardless of the cost for the Greek people and Europe in general.
They refuse to make use of any opportunity to change the policy that is being implemented, such as the investigation of the troika's activities by the European Parliament Committee.
 SYRIZA leader to meet Ecumenical Patriarch on ThursdayMain opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is to meet Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Hotel Grand Bretagne in Athens on Thursday morning at 9:30.
 Gov't to provide health care for uninsured citizensThe government is considering health care benefits for uninsured Greeks or insuring those with outstanding debts to social security funds, provided they meet certain criteria, according to information.
The regulation covers a total of 22 categories of beneficiaries with specific income criteria - no more than 6,000 euros of income per year, with an additional 50 percent added to the ceiling for people with disabilities, 20 percent for each dependent member of the family of the beneficiary and 30 percent for dependent members of single-parent families.
Provisions will also cover those with chronic diseases, pregnant women and those with health problems that require hospitalization.
 Judicial inquiry into press allegations that politicians' properties received EU subsidiesThe Supreme Court chief prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani on Wednesday ordered the launch of a preliminary judicial inquiry into press reports claiming that politicians and their family members had used European Union subsidies to build personal residences and other properties.
Koutzamani assigned the inquiry to appeals court prosecutors, instructing them to examine the veracity of press reports naming, among others, former minister Mihalis Liapis and Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos, and whether the crime of fraud by the declaration of inaccurate or incomplete statements had led to the release of state or EU subsidies for use in building or completing properties. She also called for an investigation of whether the conditions for the release of such funds had been observed.
An order for an inquiry into the subsidies received by Liapis, a former transport minister, was also given by the Financial Prosecutor Panagiotis Athanassiou.
 Process of granting licenses to prison detainees to be reviewed, Kedikoglou saysThe process of granting licenses to prison detainees urgently needs reviewing, said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou at an interview to private TV channel Mega on Wednesday. Referring to the decision to scrap the 25-euro admission fee for hospitalization, which went into effect as of January 1, fuelling strong reactions by parties and unions before it was revoked, Kedikoglou underlined the government's high sense of responsibility, saying it always seeks the best possible solution for society.
 Greek and German FMs to meet on ThursdayGreek Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet with German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier at 18:30 on Thursday (Jan. 9) at the ministry, according to a press release.
After the private meeting, Venizelos and Steinmeir will make statements to the press and the Greek minister will host a working dinner in honor of Steinmeier.
 Vice-president Venizelos to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on ThursdayGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Thursday, at 13.00, at Foreign ministry, according to a Foreign ministry announcement on Wednesday. Bartholomew is in Athens to attend the opening ceremony for the Greek E.U. Presidency.
 Parliament ratifies National Flight Coordination Authority billThe National Flight Coordination Authority's bill was discussed and ratified by a majority vote at the Parliament Plenum on Wednesday. On the same day, a rollcall vote on the Greek Technical Chamber (TEE), requested by main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) was set for Wednesday. SYRIZA said it opposed the handing over of powers and responsibilities previously held by the state without even ensuring the protection of confidential information and data.
Deputy Infrastructure Minister Mihalis Papadopoulos said that the TEE must be a reliable body, which has room for all engineers with every type of qualification.
"All must register with the TEE and thus resolve outstanding issues with professional rights. These laws are a start for us to ensure that all engineers, who are the backbone of this sector, can coexist and each have their role in a body that is useful and essential for the country", the deputy minister said.
 Judges denounce minister's comments on magistate accountabilityGreece's Association of Judges and Prosecutors expressed its discontent at statements made by Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias regarding the accountability of magistrates, who left the 18-month pre-trial detention period expire, resulting in the release of certain high-risk prisoners.
The board of the Association expressed its discontent at the "simple way in which the state's institutions and agencies address issues of justice beyond their jurisdiction, being even unaware of the very nature of those matters".
Moreover, judges and prosecutors called on the representatives of the state and media to "prudently address issues of operation and administration of criminal justice, and criticize accordingly in line with the constitution, the law and the undisputed known facts of each case".
 Police were aware of Xiros' prison furlough, justice ministry sources sayThe Greek Police (ELAS) were aware that convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros had been granted a nine-day prison furlough, justice ministry sources said on Thursday. More specifically, Korydallos prison director Maria Stefi had informed the Kallikratia Police Station chief, the head of the Korydallos Security Police and the Violent Crimes Department in writing a week earlier that the convicted November 17 terror group would be taking a nine-day leave on January 1 to go to Kallikratia in Halkidiki.
On the same day that Xiros left the prison on January 1, Stefi sent a new document concerning the duration of his furlough to the deputy chief of ELAS, the General Attica Police Department, the central police headquarters Crimes against Life and Property Department, the Korydallos police station captain and the Kallikratia police station captain.
The Korydallos prison director acted in the framework of instructions she had received in an ELAS document dated 11.6.2013. With this document ELAS asked the justice ministry to notify prisons when detainees receive prison furlough, police authorities in the areas where they are going must be informed.
 Public order ministry criticises justice ministry leak over Xiros' disappearanceThe Public Order ministry and the Greek Police (ELAS) reacted strongly to reports released by justice ministry sources on Wednesday, that indirectly attributed responsibility to the police for the disappearance of fugitive convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros, for failing to keep him under surveillance during a furlough he received from prison.
Sources at the Greek Police headquarters said that "there is no institutional framework in the Hellenic Republic for the surveillance of detainees to whom a furlough is granted. A furlough is granted when the relevant board, presided over by a judicial functionary, has judged that the specific detainee is not a flight risk or liekly to commit another crime."
The announcement also pointed out that the final decision rested exclusively with members of the judiciary when disagreement arose, without involving or consulting with the police, while the notification of police authorities of the movements of prisoners on furlough was to enable monitoring that the restrictions and terms of furlough, such as reporting to local police stations, were being observed.
"Instead, therefore, of ignoring existing legislation to avoid their responsibilities it would be better if some were more careful during its implemention," the announcement adds.
 Ten Korydallos prison employees suspended over terror groups' New Year partyBy decision of Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou, 10 Korydallos prison employees have been suspended from duty until a full inquiry is carried out into allegations that they allowed convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros to visit the wing where the suspected members of the terror group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" were being held on New Year's Eve.
According to reports, a New Year party was taking place in the specific wing, with the participation of Christodoulos Xiros.
 Greek economy's positive results are obvious, FinMin says"The positive results of the Greek economy are obvious. We have achieved our goals for 2013 and somehow we have surpassed these goals," Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Wednesday while briefing foreign journalists in Athens.
"As you surely know, in the science of economics, there is a lag between improving the figures and the prosperity of citizens. We believe that 2014 will prove that the Greek people will feel this improvement," he added.
Stournaras said he expected a positive economic growth rate this year and noted that the unemployment rate was stabilizing. "In 2014 we will see more improvements in this direction," he said.
The Greek finance minister said that Greece was not asking for a new haircut. "For this reason, I clearly said there was a legal basis of the Eurogroup and that this decision will be used to lower the country's debt. As you know, there are different ways to cut a debt with present value terms. We don't just have a haircut in nominal terms. There are other options. And I assure you that markets are more interested to see what happens on an annual basis, how much the Greek state's borrowing needs have fallen, instead of having another haircut," he said, adding that a reduction in interest rates or extending repayment deadlines were more efficient.
Stournaras said that a funding gap was around 11 billion euros and said that this gap could be covered. He added that Greece was ready and willing to have limited access to capital markets in 2014. He acknowledged there were delays in ongoing negotiations with the troika and noted that the government would like to reach an agreement with the troika before next Eurogroup meeting. "We hope we will have an agreement very soon. There are some issues of disagreement and we propose some compromises," he noted.
 Greek unemployment rose to 27.4 pct in Sept.BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Greek seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 27.4 pct in September 2013, slightly up from 27.3 pct in August, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report published here, said that the unemployment rate in the eurozone was unchanged at 12.1 pct in November, from October (unchanged since April 2013), while in the EU-28 the unemployment rate was stable at 10.9 pct (unchanged since May). The eurozone recorded 19.241 million unemployed people in November, while in the EU the number of unemployed people totalled 26.553 million euros.
Greece (27.4 pct), Spain (26.7 pct), Croatia (18.6 pct) and Cyprus (17.3 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates, while Austria (4.8 pct), Germany (5.2 pct) and Luxembourg (6.1 pct) the lowest rates.
Cyprus (17.3 pct from 13.3 pct), Italy (12.7 pct from 11.3 pct) and Greece (27.4 pct from 26.0 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increase in unemployment in the last 12 months, with the number of unemployed people in Greece totalling 1.376 million.
Youth unemployment in Greece fell to 54.8 pct in September, from 57.7 pct in August, ranking second after Spain (57.7 pct in November from 56.8 pct in September). Youth unemployment was 23.6 pct in the EU and 24.3 pct in the eurozone.
 Owners must file contracts online from now onOwners leasing homes or commercial properties, including farms and tourism-related properties on contracts shorter than a year, will submit copies of the contracts electronically, instead of through the tax offices, the Finance Ministry clarified on Wednesday.
In clarifications issued on the new regulations, the ministry's General Secretariat of Information Systems, which handles all tax-related electronic filing by taxpayers, said that contracts must be filed online through the Taxisnet platform even if the agreement with the renter is verbal, and even in cases of subleasing and granting of free use or by some exchange.
An exception is made for those allowing the free use of a home up to 200 square metres in surface area, to be used as a main home for immediate relatives.
All owners must have a tax identification number (AFM), or apply for one, before proceeding with their online application. Exceptions are made for rentals to foreign nationals who don't have AFMs, as long as the lease is under a year, and new legal entities whose paperwork has not been completed.
Applications must be completed by the end of the month following the start or change of a lease and taxpayers may print the proof of the application's acceptance through Taxisnet.
Greece's current account balance showed a surplus of 2.2 billion euros in the January-October period, against a deficit of 3.4 billion euros in the same period of 2012, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.
In a report, the central bank attributed this development primarily to a significant decline in the trade deficit (down by 2.7 billion).
 Greece must take advantage of EU presidency to boost exports, Federation saysGreece should take advantage of its EU Presidency to boost its export activity, Dimitris Lakasas, president of the Exporters' Federation of Northern Greece, said on Tuesday.
Addressing an event to celebrate the new year, Lakasas said that Greece could soon enter a new virtuous economic cycle, as "crises do not last forever", adding that the Greek EU presidency was beginning with positive performance. He stressed that he disagreed with those arguing that the economic crisis in Greece began in 2009, saying that the country "paid the consequences of its economic model, operating since the 1980s".
Lakasas noted that the answer to the crisis was to change the country's economic model, focusing on production and exports. He added that exports have grown by 58 pct since 2009, while their contribution to the country's GDP totalled 16 pct (rising to 28 pct including services).
 Bank interest rates on deposits and loans fell in Nov.The overall weighted average interest rates on new deposits and loans decreased in November, while the interest rate spread between loan and deposit rates remained broadly unchanged at 3.69 percentage, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that in the case of deposits, the average interest rates on overnight deposits from households and from non-financial corporations remained unchanged, in November 2013, at 0.39 pct and 0.41 pct respectively. The average interest rate on deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to one year decreased further by 14 basis points to stand at 2.83 pct. The overall weighted average interest rate on all new deposits decreased by 9 basis points to stand at 1.81 pct in November 2013.
In the case of loans, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity decreased by 20 basis points to stand at 14.66 pct in November 2013. The average interest rate on consumer loans with a defined maturity, at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year decreased by 19 basis points to stand at 7.32 pct.
In November 2013, the overall weighted average interest rates on outstanding amounts of all deposits and loans decreased. The spread between loan and deposit rates remained almost unchanged at 3.47 percentage points. In particular, in November 2013, the average interest rate on outstanding amounts of deposits from households with an agreed maturity of up to two years decreased by 13 basis points to stand at 3.35% while the corresponding rate on deposits from non-financial corporations also decreased by 13 basis points to stand at 3.00 pct.
The average interest rate on outstanding amounts of housing loans with over five years' maturity decreased by 8 basis points to stand at 3.04 pct, the corresponding rate on corporate loans decreased by 3 basis points to stand at 4.65 pct and the rate on loans to sole proprietors decreased by 12 basis points to stand at 5.57 pct. In November 2013, the overall weighted average interest rate on the outstanding amount of all deposits (including overnight deposits) decreased by 7 basis points to stand at 2.14v while the corresponding rate on loans decreased by 6 basis points to stand at 5.61 pct.
 Enviroment Minister approves wind farms on Mt. VermioEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Yiannis Maniatis on Wednesday issued a ministerial decree defining the environmental terms and conditions for the construction and operation of seven large wind farms with an installed total capacity of 465 megawatts in Mt.Vermio, between the regions of Imathia and Kozani, Northern Greece.
The wind farms will contribute 558 million euros to the country's real economy and produce 1,075 gigawatts of 'green' electricity on an annual basis, corresponding to 2 pct of national demand.
Another 16 wind farms with a total capacity of 422.7 megawatts will be constructed on the mainland and the islands, contributing 507 million euros to the real economy. The development of wind farms in Naxos, Paros, Tinos and Andros and their connection with the mainland grid will solve the islands' energy problems, especially during the summer months. They will also generate revenue for local government and local economies, as well as contributing to environmental protection by replacing power production units using fossil fuels.
 Court of Auditors blocks sale & lease back of 28 properties in privatisation programmeThe Court of Auditors on Wednesday officially informed Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) it was temporarily suspending the signing of an agreement for the sale & lease back of 28 real estate assets of the Greek state.
Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund said it would seek to revoke this action within legal deadlines. The Greek state has reached an agreement with National Pangaea and Eurobank Properties for the sale and lease back of 28 buildings for a period of 20 years, worth 261.31 million euros.
 Forthnet completes 29.1-mln-euro share capital increase planForthnet on Wednesday announced the successful completion of a share capital increase plan, worth 29.1 million euros. In a statement, Forthnet said its share capital increase plan was fully covered by existing shareholders and option holders. The company issued 97,144,575 new shares worth 0.30 euros per share. The share capital increase scheme was 2.2 times oversubscribed.
 Jumbo says sales up 7.23 pct in H1Jumbo on Wednesday reported a 7.23 pct increase in its six-month turnover to 316.74 million euros, from 295.39 million euros in the corresponding period last year.
Second quarter sales remained positive in Greece; while they rose significantly in Cyprus, they recorded double-digit growth rates in Bulgaria and performance of the two first shops in Romania was better than expected.
Jumbo Group operated a network of 66 shops of which 52 are in Greece, 4 in Cyprus, 8 in Bulgaria and 2 in Romania, which also operates an e-Jumbo shop.
The company will launch a new shop in Northern Greece and will gradually begin a renovation of its existing retain unit.
 Greek stocks jump 3.34 pct on WednesdayGreek stocks surged to their highest levels in the last two-and-a-half years in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, boosted by strong buying interest by foreign investors who continue to consider Greece's return to capital markets a certainty. Market sentiment was also encouraged by a new decline in the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds to its lowest level since early 2010.
The composite index ended 3.34 pct higher to 1,279.41 points, its highest closing since July 22, 2011. The index is up 10.04 pct so far this year. Turnover jumped to 149.59 million euros.
The Large Cap index jumped 3.29 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.46 pct higher. The Utilities sector was the only one to end lower (-0.76 pct), while Real Estate (12.03 pct), Construction (6.84 pct), Health (5.96 pct) and Telecoms (5.77 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Eurobank Properties (12.55 pct), OTE (7.55 pct), GEK Terna (6.30 pct), MIG (5.21 pct) and Ellaktor (3.93 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Terna Energy (2.54 pct) and PPC (0.87 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 107 to 42 with another 21 issues unchanged. Voyatzoglou Systems (29.92 pct), Alumil (29.55 pct) and Forthnet (19.85 pct) were top gainers, while Elviemek (20 pct), Douros (19.89 pct) and Pasal (19.83 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +3.99%
Real Estate: +12.03%
Personal & Household: +3.07%
Food & Beverages: +1.41%
Raw Materials: +1.91%
Oil & Gas: +1.37%
Travel & Leisure: +2.49%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, Piraeus Bank, OPAP, and Jumbo.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.69
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.43
Coca Cola HBC: 22.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.00
National Bank of Greece: 4.17
Eurobank Properties : 7.80
Piraeus Bank: 1.66
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank significantly, falling below the 6.0 pct level to 5.76 pct, in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 6.23 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.64 pct and the German Bund 1.88 pct. Turnover was a low 4.0 million euros, of which 3.0 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.0 million was one sell order.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved slightly higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.552 pct from 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.47 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.383 pct from 0.381 pct, the three-month rate rose to 0.281 pct from 0.280 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.203 pct from 0.202 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.14 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising significantly to 29.225 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,699 contracts worth 18.170 million euros, with 50,400 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,036 contracts worth 11.055 million euros, with investment interest focusing on OTE's contracts (2,716), followed by Alpha Bank (2,560), National Bank (1,872), Piraeus Bank (2,238), MIG (1,333), PPC (1,159), OPAP (1,266), Mytilineos (1,927), GEK (619), Intralot (341), Motor Oil (287), Hellenic Petroleum (800), Ellaktor (136), Hellenic Exchanges (287) and Eurobank (184).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.359
Pound sterling 0.827
Danish kroner 7.460
Swedish kroner 8.896
Japanese yen 142.33
Swiss franc 1.238
Norwegian kroner 8.411
Canadian dollar 1.469
Australian dollar 1.521
 Two college students die in bus collision with truck, Turkish driver arrestedA 55-year-old driver of a truck was arrested on Wednesday for intentional traffic obstruction leading to an accident with a long-distance Ktel bus, during which two young women died and 22 passengers injured.
The accident occurred Tuesday afternoon near the Nea Malgaron toll station on the Thessaloniki - Athens national road.
The driver, a Turkish national, was brought before a prosecutor and was given a 48hr extension to testify, then he was detained.
Two female college students, aged 21 and 23 years old, died during the collision, while three of the 22 injured bus passengers were in serious condition, according to police sources.
 Traffic restrictions around the Acropolis Museum Wedn. night to Thurs. morningTraffic restrictions will be introduced on Wednesday night until midday Thursday, for European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's visit to the Acropolis Museum, police announced.
Cars will not be able to stop or park in the section comprising Makrygianni Street (from Chadzichristou St. to the walkway of Dionyssiou Areopagitou) and Mitseon and Chadzichristou Streets, from 22:00 on Wednesday to 12:00 noon Thursday.Traffic will be cut off on the above streets gradually, from 06:00 to 12:00 on Thursday.
 Cells of Fire member innocent of violating release restrictionsKostas Sakkas, who was arrested yesterday for breaching restrictions, was found innocent by the Misdemeanors Court of Athens.
The young man, who was accused of being a member of the terrorist organization "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire", was brough to court after spending the night at his girlfriend's house, which was considered a violation of the restrictions enforced.
Sakkas was kept in custody for 31 months and was released a few months ago after a hunger strike, by order of the Appeals Council. In order to be released, he had posted a 30,000 euro bail, and had been banned from leaving the country, coming into contact with fellow Cells members and moving within Attica. He had also had to appear on a regular basis at a police station and to live only at the residence he had declared. In court, Sakkas stated that he remained at his girlfriend's house and not returned home because he was dunk and felt dizzy, addressing the judges.
 Examining magistrate summons ten people to answer bribery chargesExamining magistrate for corruption Gavriil Mallis on Wednesday issued summons for ten individuals to answer charges in an ongoing kickbacks investigation linked to a suspect submarines' deal and the ASRAD military equipment programme. The new suspects will appear before the magistrate within the coming week.
The summons are for persons named by a former representative in Greece of the German company STN ATLAS Panagiotis Efstathiou, who a few days ago testified on charges on illegally handing out money as kickbacks for defence ministry contracts.
Efstathiou, charged with bribery and money laundering, confessed to bribing many individuals and especially military officers. After his testimony, a Misdemeanor Court's ordered his release on bail of 500,000 euros, while he was forbidden to leave the country and was required to report to his local police station three times a month.
 Arrest warrants issued in Postal Savings Bank bad loans caseAt least ten arrest warrants against noted entrepreneurs, as well as former heads of the Postal Savings Bank (TT), were issued on Wednesday by public prosecutors for corruption offenses relating to malpractice, fraud and money laundering, associated with TT loans.
The case, being handled by examining judge Giorgos Andreadis, relates to a deficit of several million euros allegedly detected in TT, based on evidence by the Money Laundering Authority, as well as on prosecutors' research material.
According to the brief documents, losses are said to exceed 400 million euros.
Among the persons being sought by police are two former TT governors, a noted businessman (who reportedly is in hospital), and a foreign ship-owner, among others. One of the accused has already been arrested.
 Zongolopoulos sculpture vandalised in FilotheiThe six-metre-high stainless steel sculpture "Poseidon" located in George Zongolopoulos Square in the Athens suburb of Filothei, made by the sculptor of the same name, was extensively vandalised by unidentified individuals over the Christmas holidays, to the extent that it was completely deformed and destroyed.
"Since the steel wires supporting the sculpture were pulled and cut, we believe that many individuals, including adults, participated in the attack," the "George Zongolopoulos" Foundation General Manager Aggelos Moretis told the ANA-MPA, adding that the attack took place in the early hours of December 31 and had been preceded by an attack that damaged the light installations around the square.
The "Poseidon" sculpture was made by the famous sculptor Zongolopoulos in 1957, originally to be placed in Omonoia Square, but had never been erected there despite winning many awards. In the last three years it had been placed in the square bearing the artist's name in Filothei.
 Bank robbery in Agii TheodoriAn armed robbery took place at Wednesday morning, 8:30, at a bank in Agiii Theodorii, Korinthias.
Two people with sledgehammers smashed the glass front of the branch store of ALPHA BANK, went inside, held up the bank, took an unknown amount of money and disappeared, according to preliminary information. Police investigation is in progress.
 Trolley drivers to hold work stoppage on ThursdayThere will be no trolley buses in Athens tomorrow, Thursday January 8, from 12:00 noon till 16:00, due to a work stoppage, in order for employees to attend a general union meeting.
 Fair on ThursdayGenerally fair with low visibility early in the morning in most of Greece, and temporarily overcast in the eastern Aegean and on Crete. Low winds, mostly northerly, up to 5 Beaufort. Temperatures from 3C to 17C. In Athens, the same, with temperatures from 6C to 17C. In Thessaloniki, the same, with temperatures ranging from 3C to 15C.
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