|Thursday, 13 December 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-04-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 4 April 2014 Issue No: 4626
 Greece is back, PM Samaras tells ReutersGreece is considering issuing new debt within three months, having put the worst of the debt crisis behind it, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told Reuters on Wednesday.
"Greece is back. Two years ago, we were the epicenter of financial instability in the area, and we were an unstable country in a relati-vely stable region. Now the situation is totally different:
Greece has stabilized, both politically and economically and there is growing instability around Greece," he said.
Referring to the possibility of a bond issue, he said: "The timing of any such offering is subject to market conditions and we have not ruled out the possibility of coming to market as early as during the first half of 2014."
"We've hit rock bottom and now this is the curve going up," he said. "We are at the very beginning of the curve going up...The most important words now are stability and growth. I must not lose my direction, straight all the way, I'm not going to zig zag," he reiterated.
"The image and the perception of Greece interna-tionally has changed also. This is a new psychology and this is a new sentiment taking place in Greece and this is why I'm saying Greece is back," Samaras said.
 Greece examines return to markets, Stournaras saysGreece examines the possibility to return to markets as the international financial community has regained its confidence to Greece and its economy, with Greek bond spreads falling, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the results of a Eurogoup and Ecofin meetings in Athens, Stournaras said developments were very positive and stressed that a personal contact between the premier and Eurogroup's president, the German Finance minister and all other Eurogroup finance ministers played a very important role, as the Greek government has established a personal contact with Eurozone officials.
The Greek finance minister said Athens was examining the possibility of exiting to markets but the date of bond issue will depend on developments. "The positive thing is the Greece has not only changed page, or chapter. It has changed book," he said.
Commenting on a political clash with opposition parties over the Baltakos issue, Stournaras said he was not concerned at all for the possibility that this development could affect the positive view of the economy. "We have to look at the big picture. The big picture is significant for Greece today," he noted.
 Brief meeting between Venizelos and MerkelBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
International promotion of the fact that Greece is turning a new page dominated in a brief meeting government vice-president and foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos had here on Wednesday evening with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the margins of the EU-Africa Summit.
Venizelos said that they had a brief and substantive discussion ahead of Merkel's forthcoming visit to Athens, mainly focused on the international promotion of the fact that Greece is turning a new page and entering the final phase of a definitive exit from the memorandum and the crisis.
Venizelos pointed out that this fact is associated with a confirmation of the sustainability of Greece's public debt, adding that certain technical facts were also discussed.
Greece's return to the markets is a reality that will take place gradually and cautiously, he said, noting that it is very important for Greece to return to international markets and have the place it deserves. He also underlined that international markets "often have a better understanding of how things are than technocrats and even our institutional partners".
Commenting on the appointment of Supreme Court judge Fotis Kaimenakis as the government general secretary replacing the resigned Panagiotis Baltakos, he said that "we need a good technocrat and a judge can play this role without being involved in political issues".
Referring to the EU-Africa Summit, Venizelos said that Greece had the opportunity to address the African countries with which it shares strong historical ties, noting that Greece's priority is to forge bilateral economic and trade relations with all the countries in Africa.
 Prime Minister Samaras holds talks wth US Vice President Biden on the phonePrime Minister Antonis Samaras had a telephone commu-nication with US Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday afternoon that lasted half an hour.
They focused on developments in Ukraine, as well as on energy and security issues in the greater region.
 Informal Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs (Gymnich) in Athens on April 4-5The biannual informal meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers "Gymnich" will take place in Athens on April 4-5 in the context of the Greek EU Presidency, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice-President Catherine Ashton.
Discussions will focus on the EU southern and eastern neighbourhoods against the backdrop of recent developments. A discussion on the EU's Strategic Partners will also take place to assess the impact of recent events on these very important relations.
The foreign ministers of the candidate countries for accession into the EU have been invited to a joint working breakfast on the second day of the Gymnich to exchange views on developments in European Neighbourhood Policy.
 Fotis Kaimenakis appointed as government general secretaryThe Supreme Court judge Fotis Kaimenakis is the new government general secretary replacing Panagiotis Baltakos.
Kaimenakis is president and a member of the Central Legislative Drafting Committee as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Judicial Studies Association.
Panagiotis Baltakos resigned on Wednesday, in the wake of claims made by ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) MP Ilias Kasidiaris relating to an alleged video recording.
 Panagiotis Baltakos to testify before prosecutor on TuesdayFirst Instance Court prosecutor Kalliope Dayanda called former secretary of the government Panagiotis Baltakos to testify on the videotape case on Tuesday.
The prosecutor responsible for the investigation has already asked for the parliament to forward the records and the videotape that Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) MP Ilias Kassidiaris has tabled in parliament.
 Baltakos testimony on Golden Dawn video moved up to MondayA meeting between First-instance Court Prosecutor Kalliope Dagianda and the former government general secretary Panagiotis Baltakos has been moved up to Monday, instead of Tuesday as originally announced.
Diagianda is investigating the circumstances in which far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) MP Ilias Kasidiaris recorded the video of a conversation with Baltakos that he presented in Parliament. The decision to take Baltakos' testimony sooner was made to speed up the proceedings, since the investigation is being treated as urgent.
The prosecutor has already asked Parliament to forward the transcripts and the video-recording that Kasidiaris has tabled in Parliament.
 Urgent investigation over Kasidiaris-Baltakos videoThe head of the first-instance court prosecutor Panagiota Fakou ordered an urgent investigation on the occasion of a video tape tabled in Parliament by Golden Dawn deputy Ilias Kasidiaris.
Fakou assigned the preliminary investigation to prosecutor Kalliope Dayanda so that it can be determined whether the felony of violating the law on personal data has been committed on the part of the deputy.
Former secretary general of the government Panagiotis Baltakos will be called to testify so as to clarify, provided he is aware of it, when and under what circumstances his conversation with Kasidiaris was recorded.
'Whatever I have said served one purpose: to find out what they were doing' Baltakos says referring to Kasidiaris video recording
Government's former secretary general Panagiotis Baltakos on Thursday referred to his comments on a video recording with Golden Dawn deputy Ilias Kasidiaris, saying what he did was for the good of the party and the country.
Talking on Real FM, he admitted more conversations took place before and after Pavlos Fyssas' murder. When asked if he had said worse things, he responded: "I don't know, I don't remember. Whatever I have said served one purpose: to find out what they were doing. That is why I was saying what they wanted to hear."
He pointed out that what he did was related to the fact that "New Democracy, as a centre-right party, during the last years has risked losing its right wing and this should not have happened." He noted though there was no reason for the prime minister to be aware of his contacts with Golden Dawn.
"There is no plot, no conspiracy. I referred to the prime minister's phone calls because I had read about them in the press, I had not asked the prime minister. Everything I told Kasidiaris I had seen them in written, they were published in the press. Why should I be afraid of the recording? There were only intentions in it, I should have known and realized that," he added.
Referring to the incident with Ilias Kasidiaris, he said the deputy had seen him in parliament and agreed to talk with him as he had done in the past: "He is accused, not condemned. When I realized what these people had done, these meetings terminated. I only met with him because I wanted to see their intentions," he said.
 SYRIZA leader asks for off the agenda debate in parliament on Baltakos issueSYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras in a letter to parliament president on Thursday asks for an off the agenda debate in parliament within the next days and as soon as possible on the latest developments and revelations over former government's general secretary Panagiotis Baltakos' close and secret relations with Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) which according to the main opposition leader raise a serious issue for the democracy.
"The prime minister cannot continue to hide after all these. The least he could do is to give explanations to parliament and to the people. But he did nothing, he did not even expel Baltakos. He offered him the opportunity to resign. This stance proves he is guilty," he said.
 Baltakos' son wanted by policeThe son of former secretary general of the government Panagiotis Baltakos, Dimitris, is being wanted by the Greek police in order to be arrested within flagrante delicto for the attack against Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) MPs on Wednesay evening in parliament after the revelation of his father's conversation with Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kassidiaris.
Three Golden Dawn MPs have sued Dimitris Baltakos. The flagrante delicto expires on Thursday midnight.
 'What is said about rigged justice is ridiculous,' Justice minister saysJustice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou on Thursday rejected as ridiculous what it is said about "rigged" justice and judges.
Athanassiou met with former government secretary Panagiotis Baltakos after claims made by ultra-right Golden Dawn (GD) MP Ilias Kasidiaris relating to an alleged video record and asked for explanations.
"The bottom line is that there has been no intervention. There was no intervention by Baltakos to me or by me to judges. If I had intervened, then why Kasidiaris has not been remanded in custody? Kasidiaris is accused and he can say whatever he wants," Athanassiou told private TV station Ant1.
Referring to Tsipras, who asked for his resignation, he said: "I have never thought of resigning. Tsipras would rather look at his own problems. He is in a difficult situation."
He concluded that "It's as simple as that, were the offenses committed or not? Is it possible that the whole world, all witnesses have conspired against the Golden Dawn? Obviously not."
 Defence minister on former government general secretary resignationNational Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, in comments on Thursday regarding the resignation of former government general secretary Panagiotis Baltakos, said that New Democracy (ND) has always opposed anti-democratic behaviours and authoritarian ideologies, while it was the political party that helped embed democracy and parliamentarism in Greece.
"The government and the prime minister guarantee constitutional order and political stability in our country's path to financial recovery," Avramopoulos said and stressed that "we must secure all these achievements, staying united."
 Grigorakos: "The premier has been wronged by Mr. Baltakos' mistake"Alternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos on Thursday told Parliament that the government's former general secretary Panagiotis Baltakos, who resigned the previous day, bore sole and personal responsibility for the events revealed in Parliament the previous day. "The Premier was wronged by Mr. Baltakos' mistake," the minister said, adding that the former government secretary "couldn't handle the authority that was given to him."
"Everyone has the right to defend themselves but, if you make a mistake, you don't go out and repeat it," Grigorakos added, indirectly referring to statements made by Baltakos to the media after a scandal broke out regarding private comments he made to an MP of the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party, which were unexpectedly disclosed through the airing of a secret video recording. The alternate minister stressed that events such as that involving Baltakos did not help in preserving Greece's political stability.
He also went on to note the distinct ideological identities of the two coalition government parties - New Democracy (ND) and PASOK - saying that these continued to defend their autonomy. According to Grigorakos, "an ND-PASOK policy convergence is imperative" and it was a mistake for the two parties to each seek to impose its positions on the other.
 Allegations over 'clusters' within the New Democracy are ridiculous, Interior Min saysInterior Minister Yiannis Michelakis on Thursday disassociated New Democracy from the Golden Dawn, rejecting allegations over far-right clusters in the party.
As Michelakis told Mega TV, the facts show that Golden Dawn members are in jail and law enforcement authorities are in the middle of an investigation.
"We must distinguish facts from personal opinions. The facts are that at this time the Golden Dawn is facing charges, some are facing charges and are remanded in custody, others are facing charges and are out of prison, there are specific files that justice is checking and law enforcement authorities are still conducting an investigation which has not been concluded yet," the minister said.
The minister said any allegations on "clusters" within the New Democracy were ridiculous and added: "After certain events that took place, especially after the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, all cases were dealt with in a unified way at the initiative of the government. The issue of Golden Dawn was raised politically by New Democracy before the elections, when some players of the political scene were not even aware of the name Golden Dawn, they wouldn't say a single word as they considered that this issue was hurting the New Democracy ahead of the elections - that is before the 2012 elections. These efforts to raise an issue over ND and alleged clusters are ridiculous."
 SYRIZA leader: Europe needs a new deal to exit the crisisSYRIZA leader and candidate of the European Left for the European Commission presidency Alexis Tsipras estimated that Europe needs a new deal to exit the crisis and the austerity policies in an interview with the French Press Agency (AFP).
"Without a European new deal, a new investment financing agreement to promote growth, employment and social protection, Europe will not succeed," Tsipras said.
Tsipras, who is the first Greek political leader candidate for the Commission's presidency, considers his candidancy "symbolic and an honour" for his party and for Greece, which, he said, is a victim of "a humanitarian crisis after the implementation of unjust austerity policies."
"What happened to Greece is an example of what not to do and it should not be repeated elsewhere," he said.
According to Tsipras, "the answer to the social devastation and the movements of intolerance in Europe is the abolition of the austerity policies" adding that these policies devastated the middle classes and now the two traditional parties (New Democracy and PASOK) do not represent their interests".
Tsipras said that his party is ready to govern and that SYRIZA is better prepared than two years ago. "Greece needs Europe and Europe needs Greece," he noted adding that "we do not believe that the dissolution of the eurozone or a country's exit from the system would be a positive development".
"We want to destroy the memorandum that changed dramatically the Greek people's lives, to make reforms, to fight the corruption and the waste, but without making any cuts to the necessary public expenditure in health, social protection and in education," clarified Tsipras.
 Gov't spokesman Kedikoglou on Tsipras' commentsGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou sternly attacked main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras after the end of Tsipras' TV interview.
"Mr.Tsipras threatens again the country not to make an exit to the markets by saying that 'Greece's exit is staged," Kedikoglou said.
"An exit to the markets also means an exit from the memorandum. Obviously, Mr. Tsipras wishes Greece remained in the memorandum forever, because he is fuelled exclusively by it," Kedikoglou said and underlined "But, at this moment that the country is recovering, Mr. Tsipras by sabotaging the exit to the markets, is practically understimating the Greek people's sacrifices and hardship only for his personal ambitions. He is ruthless."
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras in a television interview on Wednesday called for the resignation of Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou.
He said he was "shocked" at the revelations of the Baltakos-Kasidiaris discussion, which led to the resignation of the government's secretary general, while stressing that the prime minister also bears responsibility and asked him to provide explanations.
Tsipras added that a political and institutional issue has arised, since the disclosures reveal the prime minister's way of thinking on a major issue concerning the political system's stability. We, he said, did not discover Golden Dawn's (Chryssi Avgi) criminal action with the killing, we were aware of it and we had denounced it many times.
Asked on what he considers success for SYRIZA in the euroelections, he said that their aim is to win the elections, even with one vote. However, he clarified that the stronger the lead is, the sooner the government will leave.
SYRIZA leader insists that the exit to the market is "staged" so that the government can support the success story it propagates.
Regarding banks, Tsipras said that this is the "heart of the crisis" and reiterated his position that "the law will be implemented".
On speculations that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will be appointed governor of the Bank of Greece (BoG), Tsipras called it "a major degradation" and insinuated that, if he got the position, his relations with the troika would affect his performance.
Finally on the parties' funding, Tsipras said that the decision to reduce them was the appropriate one and noted that the abolition of parties' funding disguise other manipulations because PASOK and New Democracy owe 250 million euros to the state and the banks withhold their fundings.
 Gov't spokesman accuses Tsipras of constantly changing opinion about the surplusGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou lashed out on main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on financial issues.
More specifically, Kedikoglou said that until recently Tsipras was arguing there would be no surplus, he went on saying it was a "fraud" and then he considered it "fake".
He said that Tsipras then termed the surplus insignificant and argued that it would not be distributed to the low income classes, while now he acknowledges there is a surplus. "Really, how seriously can anyone consider the views of Mr.Tsipras on the economy?" Kedikoglou wondered.
 Minister of State accuses Tsipras of being a self-appointed advocate of the Golden DawnMinister of State Dimitris Stamatis said on Thursday he could not understand the reason why the main opposition SYRIZA leader Tsipras asked for the resignation of Public Order and Justice ministers, accusing him of adopting Golden Dawn's position that the prosecutions of its deputies is "supposedly" the result the two ministers' plot.
"Does he (Tsipras) claim that everything revealed regarding their criminal activity is unfounded and the decisions of the competent judicial officials are ungrounded and reprehensible? Does he accuse the government and the justice that collaborated so as to unfairly manipulate the prosecution of a democratic party's members performing in a legitimate way their constitutional rights?" Stamatis wondered.
"If this is the view of Mr.Tsipras, he must defend it in public and without half truths, assuming the responsibility of his words. Until then, he will be nothing but an opportunistic and self-appointed advocate of the Golden Dawn," he concluded.
 Minister of State accuses SYRIZA leader of adopting Golden Dawn party's positionsMinister of State Dimitris Stamatis on Thursday accused main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras of adopting the positions of the Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party, namely that the judicial prosecution of its cadres was supposedly the result of a plot by the justice and public order ministers.
Commenting on the SYRIZA leader's interview on Wednesday, Stamatis wondered whether Tsipras claimed that all that has come to light regarding the far-right party's criminal activity is supposedly groundless and the decisions made by the relevant judicial functionaries were unfounded and reproachable. He called on him to clarify whether he believes that the government and justice "coordinated themselves and in illicit ways launched the penal prosecution of the members of a democratic party who exercised their constitutional rights in a lawful way".
Stamatis added that "if this is Mr. Tsipras' view, he must defend it publicly and without mincing his words, also assuming the weight of the responsibility of his words. Until then, he will be no more than a self-appointed and opportunist attorney of Golden Dawn".
 Grigorakos rules out early national electionsAlternate Interior Minister Leonidas Grigorakos on Thursday excluded the possibility of early national elections, after earlier telling the Parliament that he "could not rule out the possibility for triple elections, given the current developments" concerning the resigned general secretary of the government Panagiotis Baltakos.
Grigorakos clarified with a newer statement, that "there is no issue of resorting to national elections. National elections are clearly a matter to be decided by the premier and the vice-president of the government."
The minister added that "the difficult part is over... the government has no reason to be afraid. That's what I meant. There is no issue of national elections."
MPs from the main opposition party SYRIZA accused the government of deliberately inserting a provision in the European elections bill, which regulated matters concerning judicial representatives in case of concurrent national and European elections. Grigorakos refused all alleged government intentions.
 Magistrates judge on documented evidence, Transport minister saysDemocracy will decide whether Golden Dawn members are criminals or not, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis said on Thursday.
"Whether Golden Dawn members are criminals or not rests with the relevant bodies of the Democracy, not with the governement's secretary general or the indictee Kasidiaris," the minister said. He added magistrates judge based on documented evidence under the civil code and the criminal law.
"Yesterday, it was made clear how severe and how close to us the issue of Nazism is; we need to be very careful as we can easily be taken to practices outside the boundaries of democracy," he added.
 Greek authorities ready to sign consession contracts for hydrocarbon research in western GreeceGreek authorities are at the last stages of a process to sign concession contracts for hydrocarbon research in Western Greece regions.
According to sources from the Environment, Energy and Climate Change ministry, the ministry has overcome all technical-legal hurdles in negotiations with the joint ventures which have been declared preferred investors in the project in the framework of an "open door" tender launched in 2012.
The concession contracts cover the regions of Ioannina and Patras Gulf and will be followed by the region of Katakolo. Hydrocarbon researches had been made in these regions back in the 1990s without success.
According to official estimates, the estimated reserves in the Patras Gulf (underwriter is the joint venture of Hellenic Petroleum-Edison-Petroceltic) are 200 million barrels, in Ioannina (underwriter is the joint venture Energean-Petra) the estimate is for 50-80 million barrels and in Katakolo (underwriter is the joint venture Energean Oil & Gas-Trajan Oil & Gas Ltd/Schlumberger) the estimate is 3.0 million barrels.
The Greek state estimates that revenues from the first two regions would total 11 billion euros in a 25-year period.
 Kedikoglou on the assault targeting University of Macedonia studentsGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Thursday called on all political parties to condemn actions like the assault carried out in Thessaloniki's University of Macedonia by individuals who had their faces covered and underlined that all sides in the university community will have to assume their share of responsibility.
Kedikoglou said that such incidents are repulsive and condemnable, noting that they violate national laws.
He said that the state cannot and does not tolerate hooded individuals invading university grounds using force, assaulting students - members of the ND-supported student party DAP-NDFK - destroying public property and threatening students, faculty members and administrative staff.
Anyone engaging in such illegal actions on campus cannot enjoy immunity, he said, adding that the laws of the state are in effect everywhere. Universities cannot be the exception, he said, noting that the implementation of the law guarantees the citizens' safety. He also underlined that universities and education institutions in general should be dedicated to education and not be places where violent groups operate and illegal actions are committed.
 President Papoulias receives AHEPA delegationPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received a delegation from the American-Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) led by AHEPA Supreme President Anthony Kouzounis.
"Greece, the Greek people, has achieved through great sacrifices that which many believed it could not do, to emerge from the great crisis. And, as serious and academic circles now say, Greece has now exited the crisis by 75-80 pct. Now, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras says is the right time to issue Greek bonds. This is a great success that is owing to the sacrifices of the Greek people," Papoulias said as he received the delegation.
The president thanked AHEPA members for their active participation in the overall effort of the Greek people, encouraging American investors to invest in Greece and creating the right atmosphere to boost tourism. He also thanked the U.S. leadership and specifically U.S. President Barack Obama for a telegram sent to mark Greece's Independence Day holiday on March 25, which he described as "warm and heartfelt".
He noted, however, that problems still remained concerning the Cyprus issue and were due to the Turkish-Cypriot side and especially Ankara, which insisted on views that were not in line with what had been signed by the two sides.
 Venizelos to deliver speech at Interparliamentary Conference on Common Foreign and Security PolicyGovernment Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday will deliver a speech on "Security challenges in the EU's Southern Neighbourhood. The Greek perspective" at the Interparliamentary Conference for Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy.
The Conference will be held as part of Greece's EU Presidency at Divani Apollon Palace hotel, while Venizelos will speak at 17.20, according to a ministry announcement.
 Education minister announces the introduction of new model schools by the end 2020Education and Religious Affairs Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos on Thursday announced that at least one model school will be established in every region of the country by the end of 2020.
"We applied selection tests for student admissions in model schools and we will choose the most excellent faculty to teach, through an evaluation process," Arvanitopoulos said and stressed that "not only did demand not decrease, as believed by some people, but it increased by 30 pct, confirming our choice."
Greece's education system currently has 68 model schools in nine of the country's educational regions. The minister announced the introduction of 24 additional schools in 13 regions, as well as the creation of two kindergartens, 15 elementary schools, 10 junior high schools and six senior high schools.
 Supreme Court asked to revoke embezzlement charges in 270 million euros scandalThe Supreme Court prosecutor on Thursday asked the supreme court to revoke a Council of Appeal Judges indictment against 19 executives and employees of the private electricity companies "Energa" and "Hellas Power" to stand trial on embezzlement charges at an Athens Criminal Court. The defendants would face many years' - or even life - imprisonment if found guilty, as they would be tried under the aggravating provisions of the law concerning embezzlement from the State, smuggling and money laundering.
According to the indictment, the two companies, acting in their role as energy providers, were collecting on behalf of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) the special tax on electricity consumption and the extraordinary real estate tax, but were not passing these proceeds on to the State, which thus suffered a significant loss of 270 million euros.
The prosecutor said the indictment was not sufficiently supported, containing vague, indeterminate and contradictory admissions as regards the relationship between the assignment of electricity provision and the operation of the two companies. The Supreme Court Criminal Department is expected to issue a ruling on the prosecutor's request in the near future.
 Tourism Minister and Food Minister hold series of meetings in New YorkTourism Minister Olga Kefalogiannis and Rural Development and Food Minister Athanassios Tsaftaris who are in New York will speak at a conference of the "Stavros Niarchos" Foundation on the promotion of youth employment and against unemployment in Greece, with particular emphasis on the key sectors of tourism and agriculture.
On Wednesday, the two ministers had a series of meetings with officials and representatives of American companies and organizations.
Kefalogiannis, accompanied by the secretary general of the Greek Tourism Organisation (EOT) Panos Livadas, is holding meetings with representatives of major tour operators and with representatives of the Diaspora with aim to boost the tourist flow from US to Greece and in promoting Greece in the US market.
Moreover, Tsaftaris on Wednesday met with owners and managers of companies importing Greek products in America, as well as with investors with interest in the agricultural sector.
 Development Minister meets with US Ambassador to GreeceDevelopment and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday received US Ambassador to Greece and Davice D. Pearce and held talks focusing on boosting small and medium-sized enterprises, youth entrepreneurship and a forthcoming vist by a Global Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP) delegation to Athens in April.
The discussion was also focused on bilateral cooperation in issues of mutual interest, such as those discussed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker during their meeting on November. Technology, health and innovative entrepreneurship were also among the issues discussed.
The meeting was attended by Deputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis.
 Exercise INIOCHOS in full operationThe exercise INIOCHOS, involving all services, whose base is the 117 Combat Squadron in Andravida and in which a large number of air and naval forces and land army units are participating, has been in full operation day and night since March 31.
The aim of the exercise is to provide realistic training similar to the first days of operations in real conditions.
Thursday's activities were watched by National Defence General Staff chief general Michael Kostarakos and Air Force General Staff chief Evangelos Tournas.
The exercise will conclude on April 11.
 Turkish frigate enters Greek territorial watersA Turkish frigate on Thursday entered Greek territorial waters and its on-board helicopter approached the coast of an inhabited island of the Dodecannese.
According to an announcement by the National Defence General Staff, it is the Turkish frigate BARBAROS that at 15:25 entered Greek territorial waters between Amorgos and Kinaros. As the frigate sailed in Greek territorial waters, the helicopter carried out a cooperation exercise with the ship, approaching the coast of Kinaros. The Turkish frigate left Greek territorial waters at 16:00.
Navy ships and means monitored the course of the Turkish ship, which passed into international waters in the region of Ikaria. A Greek Air Force plane identified and intercepted the Turkish helicopter. The Turkish frigate had set sail from Aksaz in Turkey.
 Greece plans to issue five-year bond this month, foreign media sayGreece plans to issue a five-year bond worth 2.0 billion euros in April, sources close to the matter told Reuters, while the FT in a report said that the bond issue will be 2-3 billion euros and stressed that Greece will tap the markets before Easter, probably next week, in order to take advantage of reduced borrowing costs.
The 10-year Greek benchmark bond yields fell to new four-year lows, slightly above 6.0 pct, raising prospects for a successful return to markets, the FT report said. The Reuters report said that Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have been given the mandate to organize to sale. Greece's finance ministry had meetings with international bankers last week to discuss the country's return to markets two years after its debt restructuring. "This will be the most important issue to be made by Greece," a banker said. Both the timing and the final list of banks were open to changes, the sources said.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told Reuters on Wednesday, that Greece's comeback to the bond markets after four years of exclusion will be a test and that the country was looking forward to fully cover its borrowing needs without help from 2016. "The climate has changed dramatically lately. Just look at what happened in the Eurogroup -everyone thinks that Greece is out of the woods," the Greek minister added.
Greek bond yields have fallen dramatically since the country's debt restructuring in February 2012. The 10-year bond, maturing in February 2023, is now trading at a price of 80.5-81.5, or a return of 6.08-5.90 pct, Reuters said. The same bond was trading at 14 in June 2012, with a return of 31 pct.
A series of Greek enterprises successfully issued corporate bonds lately. Piraeus Bank sold three-year bonds worth 500 million euros, while Public Power Corporate plans to issue a 300-mln-euro bond, Reuters added.
 2014-2020 NSRF will focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and extroversion, Dev't min saysThe new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) should be the kick-starter for Greece's economy, which the Operational Programme Competiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation being the keypoint of this objective, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Thursday during an one-day event on the consultation of the new operational programme.
The programme will be the biggest one under the new NSRF, as 25 percent of the total funds, amounting to around 4 billion euros, for 2014-2020 will be allocated to it. These funds will be directed to 9 specific sectors of the economy.
"We don't want to distribute funds here and there. The aim is to support entrepreneurship, not only through subsidies but through targeted actions," Hatzidakis said, pointing out the new 2014-2020 NSRF will focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and extroversion.
The minister said that until April 28 Greece will have sent its plans for national and regional programmes to the European Commission, while regarding the specific programme sectoral councils will be established to monitor its progress.
Public Investment-NSRF secretary general George Giannousis said the on-line consultation with market participants would run until April 22.
The president of the Greek banks association George Zannias asked the EU for more flexibility, so that across-the-board rules are not applied dogmatically on all countries and Greece can reduce its unemployment rates. He also estimated that at an annual growth rate of 3 percent, Greece would need seven years to regain its GDP, noting that the stabilization of the banking system would increase liquidity flows. He also noted that despite the improved business climate, limited financing is still a pressing problem for 34 percent of Greek SMEs compared to a eurozone rate of 17 percent.
Margaritis Schinas, director-level head of the Athens office of the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN), noted that the new Greek economy will require new structural priorities. He estimated that funds would not help unless a new regulatory environment is set up in the country and noted that new skills will be needed in Greece.
 Revenues target for privatisations at 1.5 billion euros in 2014, HRADF saysThe revised target for revenues collected from privatisations in 2014 is set at 1.5 billion euros, Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) CEO Yiannis Emiris announced on Thursday, in a press conference on the privatisation of Hellinikon real estate in Athens.
The target set for 2015 is at 2.3 billion euros.
Since August 2011, when HRADF started operating, the revenues from privatisations reached 2.7 billion euros, while based on the deals closed so far revenues are estimated to total five billion euros, Emiris underlined.
 HRADF: First projects at Hellinikon to be delivered by 2017The first land development sub-projects at the former Hellinikon airport area will be ready for public use by 2017, according to information released on Thursday at a Press conference of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) on the occasion of the nomination of Lamda Development as Preferred Investor of the Hellinikon metropolitan expanse. This requires that all necessary licencing from the competent authorities shall be offered in time.
In a time-span of 15 years, a whole new city of 5.000 dwellings with 30.000 inhabitants will be built where once stood the main Athens international airport. Part of the expanse will be turned into a huge metropolitan park of 2 million sq. m., one of the largest of its kind in the world. At the end of its first - out of three - phase, the large real estate project will see all sports facilities, the upgraded seafront and tourist infrastructure completed.
HRADF executives expect the project to add significant value to the surrounding area of Hellinikon.
 Key points in the new 2014-2020 National Strategic Reference FrameworkGreece on Thursday launched the public consultation on actions to be included in the programme aimed to enhance competitiveness and entrepreneurship during the new programming period.
The programme will focus on the following sectors: Tourism, Food and Agriculture, Supply Chain, Environment, Health-Pharmaceutical Industry, Energy, Materials and Constructions, Information and Communications Technologies, Creative-Cultural Industries.
The programme will have the highest budget between the operational and regional programmes for the period 2014-2020.
More specifically, the budget amounts to 3.73 billion of a total of 20.8 billion (without taking into consideration the "review clause" that can add another 2 billion).
 Shipping ministry organising conference on new model of growth and jobsThe shipping & Aegean ministry will be holding a high-level conference at the Eugenides Foundation in Athens on Friday, in the framework of the Greek EU Presidency, on the issue of "Insularity: A new model of growth and jobs".
According to a relevant announcement by the ministry, acting on the conviction that the seas and maritime activities constitute an unlimited source of growth and prosperity for all of Europe, Greece has decided to highlight the "Sea" as one of the main pillars of its presidency of the EU Council.
In particular, the "Sea" pillar includes a vast variety of issues, such as maritime transport policy, integrated maritime policy, migration by sea, safety at sea and especially insularity.
At the conference, Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis will address the various aspects of the integrated policy followed by the ministry in the field of insularity.
 Greek Labour minister on job market crashA sharp decline in the Greek labor market in a period of three years -from the mid-2009 to mid-2012- was not just the result of the crisis and economic recession, but was basically attributed to structural reasons, Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said on Thursday.
Addressing an event on "Drivers of the Economic Growth-The Day after Greece", Vroutsis said among the structural problems of the Greek labor market were "the productive orientation of the economy and the frigidity of the labour market which raised hurdles to a more mild adjustment of employment."
"Greece did not have an organized and ready mechanism to lower working time to save job positions, nor an institutional maturity, or a common stance to sign collective agreements that could protect employment," Vroutsis said.
The Greek minister noted, however, that "a big turn in the Greek economy was evident, the start of exiting the crisis" adding that "the worst is behind us after completing a tough and painful cycle of fiscal consolidation, the greatest ever adopted by an OECD member-state".
 Greek banks' deposits to rise again, analysts sayDeposits in Greek banks are expected to rise in the next few months after falling to 160.54 billion euros in February, from 161.03 billion in January and 163.25 billion in December 2013, Alpha Bank's analysts said in report.
The bank's analysts estimated that restoring a positive trend in deposits could lead to a timely come back of positive growth rates in credit expansion to the private sector, currently at -4.0 pct on an annual basis, which could lead to a relatively positive economic growth rates in the second half of 2014.
Alpha Bank's analysts said that "given current trends, the Greek state has the ability to borrow from international markets at a satisfactory cost and noted that following a successful completion of a bank recapitalization and with Greece returning to markets again, the government could fully finance its capital needs for 2014 and 2015 and possible for 2016.
 Energy authority introduces 26.4 pct rise in renewable source stamp dutyA 26.4 pct increase in a renewable energy source (RES) stamp duty for household consumers, introduced from April 1, will help in closing a gap in RES accounts - a gap created by increased penetration of renewable energy sources in the market combined with guaranteed high energy absorption prices introduced in previous year, the market's watchdog said on Thursday.
The Energy Regulatory Authority expects that this gap will be filled by the end of 2014.
 AB Vasilopoulos to invest 73.5 mln euros on new storesAB Vasilopoulos plans to invest at least 73.5 million euros with the aim to further develop its network this year, Leonidas Vrettakos, executive managing director told reporters.
Vrettakos said that Delhaize -the parent company- has already approved investment spending worth 70 millon euros this year, double the amount of 35 million euros in 2013, a sign of confidence in its subsidiary in Greece, while last week Delhaize approved an additional 3.5 million euros sum for new stores this year. Vrettakos said this sum did not include the cost of possible acquisitions.
AB Vasilopoulos plans to open 32 new stores in 2014 (10 franchise and 22 corporate), with emphasis in Northern Greece and Crete. A 62 of sales is generated in Athens and 38 pct in regional Greece, with the company aiming to change this rate to 58 pct and 42 pct respectively by 2015.
AB Vasilopoulos operates a branch network of 281 units. Vrettakos said the supermarket company raised its market share to 23 pct, with net sales totaling 1.741 billion euros and pre-tax profits of 74 million euros.
 'Digital alliance for female employment' initiative announcedThe new strategic initiative "Digital Alliance for Female Employment" was announced on Thursday in a press conference hosted by the General Secretariat for Gender Equality in collaboration with the European Centre for Women and Technology (ECWT).
The initiative will be presented at the Conference "Women & Girls Go Digital - WGGDG, National Action Plan for increasing the female talent in digital jobs" to take place in Athens on Friday in the context of the Greek EU Presidency.
 Greek stocks end sharply lowerGreek stocks ended sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with market sentiment hit by concern over political developments in the country. The composite index of the market dropped 2.20 pct to end at 1,323.24 points, at the day' s lows, with turnover soaring to 158.06 million euros.
The Large Cap index fell 2.19 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.46 pct lower. Alpha Bank (4.89 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end higher in heavy trading (more than 70 million shares). On the other hand, Titan (5.76 pct), Piraeus Port (5.11 pct), Frigoglass (4.66 pct), Ellaktor (4.47 pct) and Korinth Pipeworks (3.92 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Chemicals sector (3.12 pct) was the only one to move higher, while Constructions (4.86 pct), Commerce (3.23 pct) and Industrial Products (3.23 pct) led losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 99 to 47 with another 19 issues unchanged. Lanakam (29.93 pct), Pegasus (20 pct) and AAA (19.71 pct) were top gainers, while Geniki Bank (20 pct), Compucon (20 pct) and Yalco (19.92 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -1.35%
Industrial Products: -3.23%
Real Estate: -1.24%
Personal & Household: -2.40%
Food & Beverages: -2.08%
Raw Materials: -2.87%
Travel & Leisure: -2.26%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, OPAP and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.72
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.99
Coca Cola HBC: 17.76
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.25
National Bank of Greece: 4.06
Eurobank Properties : 8.80
Piraeus Bank: 1.93
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 4.56 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 4.68 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 6.16 pct and the German Bund 1.60 pct. Turnover was a moderate 14 million euros, of which 13 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 1.0 million was a sell order.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.60 pct from 0.592 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.508 pct from 0.501 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.423 pct from 0.418 pct, the three-month rate was 0.319 pct from 0.313 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.24 pct from 0.236 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.75 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 19.642 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,652 contracts worth 12.203 million euros, with 58,139 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 20,120 contracts worth 7.439 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (11,064), followed by National Bank (1,175), Piraeus Bank (1,309), MIG (1,075), OTE (1,629), PPC (972), OPAP (441), Hellenic Exchanges (757), Mytilineos (317), GEK (335), Ellaktor (172), Hellenic Petroleum (190), Titan (180) and Eurobank (82).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.397
Pound sterling 0.842
Danish kroner 7.576
Swedish kroner 9.089
Japanese yen 145.27
Swiss franc 1.239
Norwegian kroner 8.353
Canadian dollar 1.540
Australian dollar 1.513
 Corruption survey shows significant reduction of bribery in GreecePetty corruption in Greece was significantly reduced in 2013, with 15 pct fewer incidents according to a survey unveiled on Thursday by Transparency International Greece (TI-Greece) and the polling company Public Issue. Hospitals and the public sector remained the 'champions' in rates of corruption, however, the survey showed.
An encouraging development is that roughly 30 pct of those taking part in the survey said they had refused to pay bribes demanded by doctors, or the so-called "fakelaki" (little bribery envelopes), both in the public and private sectors. Their increased resistance was mainly the result of the economic crisis and a systematic state policy against corruption that had a positive impact on attitudes and took the "air of legality" off corruption, TI-Greece Chairman Costas Bakouris and Public Issue President & CEO Yiannis Mavris underlined during a presentation of the survey.
Also, for the first time, failing to issue receipts was defined by people as an element of corruption.
The public sector remained at the top of the petty corruption list, accounting for 70 pct of the incidents recorded. Hospitals, tax offices and town planning permission bodies still occupied the top places in terms of corruption. Hospitals recorded an increase of 5 pct in corruption incidents, while tax offices and town planning permission bodies recorded a decline of 1.2 pct and 2.8 pct, respectively.
Most corrupt private sectors are the health professionals, the banks, lawyers, automobile trade and constructions.
The average amount paid as a bribe was reduced from 1,442 euros in 2012 to 1,333 euros in 2013.
The National Survey on Corruption in Greece was conducted for a seventh year and was based on the responses given to a questionnaire addressed to a sample of 12,108 people.
 Conditions for children deteriorated in Greece, according to UNICEF's 2014 reportConditions for children have deteriorated in Greece in recent years, as a result of a reduction in welfare benefits, rising parental unemployment, poverty and insufficient access to healthcare, according to UNICEF's report "State of Children in Greece 2014 - The repercussions of the economic crisis on children" released on Thursday.
The report, compiled by UNICEF's Greek Committee in collaboration with the University of Athens, was presented during a press conference on Thursday that also announced the annual UNICEF radiothon for children throughout the world, due to take place on April 10.
The report showed that the number of children in Greece was smaller than in 2001, with the underage population having shrunk 9 pct based on a 2011 census, at a faster rate than the overall population, which fell by 1.1 pct. Specifically, children under 18 accounted for 17.5 pct of the country's permanent inhabitants (51.2 pct boys and 48.8 pct girls), though the number of children belonging to migrant or foreign families increased, rising 11.8 pct relative to 2001 and accounting for 9.6 pct of the underage population in Greece (from 7.8 pct in 2001).
More than a third of the child population, specifically 686,000 children or 35.4 pct of the total, were considered at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2012. The percentage had risen from 30.4 pct in 2011, with children of one-parent families (74.7 pct) and three-child-plus families (43.7 pct) the most at risk. Children living in households with no working adults rose to 292,000 or 13.2 pct of the total in 2012, having increased by 204,000 compared with 2008.
Foreign nationals at risk of poverty in Greece came to 43.7 pct in 2012, while for children of foreign nationals this percentage was even higher at 53.1 pct, from 49.6 pct in 2011.
Living conditions for children deteriorated, with 74.1 pct of poor households with children and 29.5 pct of non-poor households with children saying they were unable to meet the cost of unplanned but also daily spending, including payment of bills, loans and the cost of a diet that included chicken, meat, fish or vegetables every second day. Roughly 86.5 pct of poor households with children said they did not have enough money to spend for a week's holiday in 2012.
Welfare payments decreased by 4.9 pct in 2011 relative to 2009, while a significant number of children in Greece had no access to health care because their parents had lost their state social insurance coverage.
Another repercussion of the economic crisis was to extend the age of dependency beyond childhood, with high rates of poverty (32.3 pct) and youth unemployment (58.6 pct) among 16-24 year olds leading young people in their 20s (73.3 pct) to stay with their parents well into adulthood, with the average age for leaving the parental home rising to 29.1 years old in 2012.
The majority of the statistics used to compile the report were collected in 2011-2012 and not the following years, though authors noted that the trends showed a further deterioration in quality of life and greater poverty in households and, by extension, for children.
 Lawyer forwards written deposition on fax sent from his office allegedly instigating prison riotingA widely known criminal lawyer, who was summoned last Monday to testify after it was established that a fax addressed to Corfu Prison inmates urging them to start a riot had originated from his office, has delivered a memo with his positions to First Instance Court Prosecutor Kalliopi Dagianda, it was announced on Thursday.
The controversial text faxed to Corfu Prison urged for "dynamic reactions" in correctional facilities as a show of protest to the construction of maximum security prisons in the country.
According to sources, the lawyer insists that he committed no illegal act and underlined that the controversial text was written by a group of inmates in response to the draft bill on the maximum security prisons and his role was to forward it to Corfu Prison as they had asked him to do.
He underlined that the fax was signed and sent following a telephone communication with correctional officers, who wouldn't have forwarded it if they thought that it instigated illegal acts.
The lawyer also underlined that he never intended to create tension between his clients and the judicial authorities and cited his intervention in ending a hostage situation in Korydallos Prison in December 2011, when he convinced notorious inmate Panagiotis Vlastos to hand over his gun and release three correctional facility officers he was holding.
 Examining magistrate charges 15 correctional officers with prisoner tortureFifteen correctional officers at the Nigrita prison in Serres have been summoned by examining magistrate Georgia Toutountzi to defend themselves against charges relating to the death of 42-year-old Albanian convict Ili Kareli. It is expected that all 15 will ask Toutountzi for sufficient time in order to prepare their lines of defence after studying copies of their indictments along with their attorneys.
Judicial sources said that the charges against them are for torture of a prisoner resulting in death and liability extends not only to those who participated in Kareli's torture but also those that took no action to prevent it. The director of the Nigrita prison is not included in the group of 15 correctional employees but has been charged with aiding and abetting a criminal.
 Lady Gaga presale tickets released for Athens concertTicket presales for Lady Gaga's concert at the Olympic Stadium in Athens on September 19 start at 10:00 hrs on Friday in all Germanos stores and online at www.lavris.gr, it was announced on Thursday.
The response of Lady Gaga's fanclub LittleMonsters.com members on the first day of the ticket presale on April 1 that was completed at 15:00 hrs on Wednesday was enthusiastic.
Lady Gaga's concert in Athens will be one of the many stops in her world tour "Lady Gaga's artRAVE: The Artpop Ball".
 Hundreds of Catholic pilgrims will follow the steps of the Apostle PaulRoughly 500 Catholic pilgrims participating on a pilgrimage cruise will visit the northern Greek city of Veria on Saturday, following the steps of the Apostle Paul. Their itinerary also includes a visit to the Royal Tombs of the Macedon Kings in Vergina.
The Catholic pilgrims, accompanied by a German Cardinal, will tour the greater region of Veria and visit the city's commercial center.
 Overcast on FridayHot and humid weather and southerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 7C-20C. Clouds in the central and southern parts of the country, 7C-23C. Scattered clouds over the islands, 12C-21C. Mostly fair in Athens, 8C-22C; cloudy in Thessaloniki, 10C-19C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Samaras' (Antonis, prime minister) parastate.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The president's man.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Parastate at the maximum.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Inappropriate relation between Baltakos (Takis, government's general secretary) and Golden Dawn.
ESTIA: The political management of Baltakos' issue.
ETHNOS: BLACK DAWN for Takis Baltakos.
IMERISSIA: Tax reduction clause (in the revised memorandum).
KATHIMERINI: Samaras' expels Baltakos.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Contacts with foreign institutional investors for immediate exit to the markets.
RIZOSPASTIS: Recovery means 'opportunities' for the capital.
TA NEA: Dancing with the snakes.
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