|Thursday, 21 February 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-04-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 11 April 2014 Issue No: 4631
 Samaras more confident and optimistic about Greece's recovery after bond issueIn an address to the Greek people on Thursday, the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (above) stressed, that "the international markets expressed their confidence in the Greek economy in the most unambiguous way", on the occassion of a successful bond issue by the Hellenic Republic, the first one after years of the country having been excluded from the international financial markets.
Samaras noted, that the success of borrowing from the markets signals "the trust of the markets in Greece's future - because that's the future in which they invest - their trust in the ability of the country to exit from the crisis even earlier than many thought possible up until now.".
The Premier emphasized, that prior to Thursday's bond issuance by Greece, Greek banks had already managed to tap into funds from the international markets, accelerating the return of liquidity in the Greek economy.
He also remarked, that Thursday's bond issuance success constitutes another decisive step towards the end of the crisis, noting that "after the primary budget surplus which no one expected we would attain, after the [re]distribution of the surplus which will be paid within a month to relieve one million of our fellow citizens, today we regained access to the international markets".
Samaras said, that the bond issue "surpassed every expectation", noting "we asked for 2.5 billion euros, they offered us more than 20 billion, at a rate of 4.75 pct.". According to the Premier "if everything goes well henceforth, next time Greece will be able to borrow greater sums at a lower cost". Thursday's bond issue was a "trial exit... which paved the way for cheaper borrowing" by the Hellenic Republic, through the restoration of trust in Greece by the international markets.
The prime minister emphasized, that from now on Greek companies and banks will be able to borrow funds abroad at a much lower cost, which will enhance market liquidity and aid the recovery of the economy. He also recognized, that the positive outcome of the bond issue was made possible "through the sacrifices of the Greek people", adding that there's still a lot to be done, blaming the opposition for "reacting with misery".
Samaras also thanked the MPs of the coalition government, who "at a cost and chiefly with patriotism" supported so many difficult government decisions and brave reforms. According to the Premier, "faith in what Greeks can achieve united" was the main drive to Thursday's turning point.
 Greece concludes bond issue, coupon at 4.75 pctGreece on Thursday announced it has agreed to sell a 5-year bond in a principal amount of 3 billion euros with an annual coupon of 4.75 percent.
The transaction is expected to be settled next week, the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
"Demand for the bonds was very strong. The participation of long-term investors outside Greece is expected to approach 90 percent," the statement said.
The Finance Ministry issued the following announcement:
" NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION IN OR INTO THE UNITED STATES, AUSTRALIA, CANADA, JAPAN OR ANY OTHER JURISDICTION WHERE TO DO SO WOULD BE UNLAWFUL.
"The Hellenic Republic today announces that it has agreed to sell a 5 year bond in a principal amount of ? 3billion with an annual coupon of 4.75%. The transaction is expected to settle next week.
Demand for the bonds was very strong. The participation of long-term investors outside Greece is expected to approach 90%.
THIS ANNOUNCEMENT MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTED, TAKEN OR TRANSMITTED IN OR INTO THE UNITED STATES, ITS TERRITORIES OR POSSESSIONS, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, JAPAN OR ANY OTHER JURISDICTION IN WHICH TO DO SO WOULD BE UNLAWFUL AND ANY FORWARDING, DISTRIBUTION OR REPRODUCTION OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT IN WHOLE OR IN PART IS UNAUTHORISED. THE OFFERING AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT MAY BE RESTRICTED BY LAW AND PERSONS INTO WHOSE POSSESSION THIS COMMUNICATION OR SUCH OTHER INFORMATION COMES SHOULD INFORM THEMSELVES ABOUT AND OBSERVE ANY SUCH RESTRICTION.
THIS ANNOUNCEMENT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE OR FORM A PART OF ANY OFFER OR SOLICITATION TO PURCHASE OR SUBSCRIBE FOR SECURITIES IN THE UNITED STATES OR ANY OTHER JURISDICTION IN WHICH TO DO SO WOULD BE UNLAWFUL. THE SECURITIES HAVE NOT BEEN AND WILL NOT BE REGISTERED UNDER THE SECURITIES ACT OR WITH ANY SECURITIES REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF ANY STATE OR OTHER JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES AND MAY NOT BE OFFERED OR SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES UNLESS SUCH SECURITIES ARE REGISTERED UNDER THE SECURITIES ACT OR ARE OFFERED AND SOLD PURSUANT TO AN EXEMPTION FROM, OR IN A TRANSACTION NOT SUBJECT TO, THE REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS OF THE SECURITIES ACT AND IN COMPLIANCE WITH STATE SECURITIES LAWS. THE SECURITIES ARE BEING OFFERED AND SOLD (i) OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES PURSUANT TO REGULATION S AND (ii) INSIDE THE UNITED STATES TO QUALIFIED INSTITUTIONAL BUYERS WITHIN THE MEANING OF RULE 144A UNDER THE SECURITIES ACT. THE SECURITIES HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR DISAPPROVED BY THE US SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, ANY STATE SECURITIES COMMISSION OR OTHER REGULATORY AUTHORITY
IN THE UNITED STATES, NOR HAVE ANY OF THE FOREGOING AUTHORITIES PASSED UPON OR ENDORSED THE MERITS OF THE OFFERING OR THE ACCURACY OR ADEQUACY OF THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. ANY REPRESENTATION TO THE CONTRARY IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE IN THE UNITED STATES. FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THIS NOTICE MAY RESULT IN A VIOLATION OF THE SECURITIES ACT OR THE APPLICABLE LAWS OF OTHER JURISDICTIONS.
THIS ANNOUNCEMENT IS DIRECTED ONLY AT PERSONS WHO (I) ARE OUTSIDE THE UNITED KINGDOM OR (II) HAVE PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE IN MATTERS RELATING TO INVESTMENTS FALLING WITHIN ARTICLE 19(5) OF THE FINANCIAL SERVICES AND MARKETS ACT 2000 (FINANCIAL PROMOTION) ORDER 2005 (THE "ORDER") OR (III) ARE PERSONS FALLING WITHIN ARTICLE 49(2)(A) TO (D) ("HIGH NET WORTH COMPANIES, UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATIONS ETC.") OF THE ORDER OR (IV) TO WHOM THIS ANNOUNCEMENT MAY OTHERWISE BE DIRECTED WITHOUT CONTRAVENTION OF SECTION 21 OF THE FINANCIAL SERVICES AND MARKETS ACT 2000 (ALL SUCH PERSONS TOGETHER BEING REFERRED TO AS "RELEVANT PERSONS"). THIS ANNOUNCEMENT MUST NOT BE ACTED ON OR RELIED ON BY PERSONS WHO ARE NOT RELEVANT PERSONS. ANY INVESTMENT OR INVESTMENT ACTIVITY TO WHICH THIS ANNOUNCEMENT RELATES IS AVAILABLE ONLY TO RELEVANT PERSONS AND WILL BE ENGAGED IN ONLY WITH RELEVANT PERSONS.
THIS ANNOUNCEMENT AND THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED AND SHALL NOT CONSTITUTE A PUBLIC OFFER OR ADVERTISEMENT OF SECURITIES IN THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC OR AN INVITATION TO MAKE OFFERS TO PURCHASE ANY SECURITIES IN THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC WITHIN THE MEANING OF ART. 2 (1) (D) OF GREEK LAW 3401/2005 OR ANY OTHER APPLICABLE PROVISION."
 Seriousness, consistency and good coordination were rewarded, FinMin Stournaras saysThe best way to compensate all those who have been affected by the crisis either by wage reduction or tax increases is the recovery of the economy, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said after a meeting with EU Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia.
"The first signs are already visible. The course we have taken is the best recipe so that gradually and over a period of time the losses we have suffered are restored," Stournaras noted.
Regarding the 5-year bonds, the minister said that "seriousness, consistency and good coordination were rewarded." On the fact that the issue was under U.K. law, the minister said that "there is no provision for confiscation to any country (in case Greece does not meet its obligations to its lenders)."
Almunia expressed his content over the good news and the very good results for the economy and society after the country's return to the markets which vindicate the efforts of the people and Greek authorities to overcome the crisis, adding that confidence is boosted and optimism over the Greek economy is reinforced.
Almunia also praised the good performance of the Hellenic Competition Commission. "We work in harmony to help companies restructure and consolidate," he said.
 WSJ:Greece gets more than 20 bln euros of demand in bond saleGreece will raise 3 billion euros from its first longer-term bond sale in four years after attracting more than 20 billion euros of demand, Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.
According to bankers working on the deal, the bond would price to yield 4.95 percent - a sharply lower price tag than initial suggestions in the range of 5.25 percent - 5.5 percent, the report said adding that about 550 investor accounts placed orders.
Earlier, a Reuters report said guidance was set at 5 percent area with the order book over 17.5 billion euros.
 Greece will exit the crisis, Almunia saysGreece has followed the right path and will manage to exit the crisis at the end, Joaquin Almunia, European Commission vice-president responsible for Competition, said on Thursday.
Addressing a conference on Competition organized by the Greek EU Presidency in Athens, Almunia wished luck to the country's exit in international markets. "I remember the beginning of the debt crisis. Since then, Greece has implemented ambitious reforms with the sacrifices of the Greek people. The course has not yet finished. The road is long and not an easy one. This is not a speed race but an endurance race," Almunia said, adding that the government should not lose the finish line in this race. He expressed his satisfaction for the job done by the Greek Competition Commission and forecast that future growth in Europe will come from digital services, telecommunications, energy and technology. Referring to banks, Almunia said that the EU was supporting Greek government's efforts but it was also monitoring to see whether the big financial help offered to banks would be distributed to the real economy.
Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, addressing the conference said the EU was very near a banking union that will guarantee the credibility of the banking system in Europe and noted that Greece has achieved to be very close to exiting the crisis. "From very high deficits we achieved surpluses. Now we must focus on creating a new model of growth, focusing on technology and export as the average income has fallen by 30 pct since the beginning of the crisis," Stournaras said, adding that "through competitiveness we must achieve more in reducing domestic prices".
 Schulz, Juncker and Daul hail Greece's return to the marketsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spinthourakis)
Greece's re-emergence in the international financial markets on Thursday was hailed by the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, the European People's Party's candidate for President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the president of the European People's Party Joseph Daul.
In a written statement, Schulz noted, that the successful bond issue by Greece is a sign of trust towards the country and a step further to normality, stressing that full success will have been achieved when the Greek people see their standard of living being improved and when unemployment falls.
Juncker said, that the common European formula is starting to bear fruit and that Greece remains an integral part of the euro-zone family, while Daul emphasized, that the Greek people's sacrifices are producing results, hailing the efforts of the coalition government and the Greek Premier Antonis Samaras.
 Greece is heading the right direction, IMF's Lagarde saysNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Greece is heading in the right direction, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund said here on Thursday. Speaking to reporters, Lagarde commenting on Greece's return to capital markets, said it was a clear indication that the country's full return to borrowing from the international markets, which is a basic objective of IMF's programme, is on the horizon.
"It is the case that Greece is still under a programme, and that we have just recently approved a review of the programme, which shows that after significant discussions and work being done by the Greek authorities and the Greek people, progress is under way," the IMF's head told reporters, adding that "I see the issuance that took place today that was massively oversubscribed, as an indication that Greece is heading in the right direction, and that the water testing that the authorities wanted to do is really successful."
Lagarde, however, underlined that there was still a lot to be done. "The programme is not over. But, this is a clear indication that the return to markets, which is clearly the objective of any IMF programme, is on the horizon."
 Greece's return to the markets an encouraging sign for the country and Europe, EU Commission saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni) -
Greece's return to the markets is positive news and an encouraging sign for the country itself as well as for Europe, European Commission spokeswoman Chantal Huge said on Thursday.
She added that the European Commission will issue a statement as soon as the Greek government officially releases the bond details.
 'Greece is gradually gaining markets' confidence,' Zurcher Kantonalbank chief economist saysGreece's exit to the markets is a clear step forward, Anastassios Frangulidis, chief economist of Zurcher Kantonalbank told ANA-MPA in an interview.
"The country is gradually gaining markets' confidence. Greece has taken big steps as far as its fiscal consolidation is concerned," Frangulidis said.
"An increasing number of Greeks realize nowadays that conditions have started improving, at least in the international markets, and this bodes well for the improvement of the country's financial situation in the future," he estimated.
He highlighted the fact that "the issue of the five-year bond was under UK law, as there is a difference compared to an issue under the Greek law. That means if the country is found in a difficult position it will not be able to easily change the repayment terms, something that could be done more easily under the Greek law.
Nevertheless, this is the first trend of improvement and confidence by the markets, but of course at a relatively high interest rate and under UK law, which gives the creditor more possibilities than if it were under the law of the country in which the bond is issued."
Asked on the interest rate of the issue, he estimated "it would be 4.5-5 percent" and that a new deal between Greece and its lenders would be reached this summer regarding the extension of the debt-repayments schedule and the further lowering of interests rates.
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Greece's bond issue is a clear step in restoring market access, Commission Vice-President Kallas saysGreece's successful bond issue is the first but clear step in restoring market access, the European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas said in a statement on Thursday.
He added that it was a positive sign that the Greek economy had begun to recover investors' confidence and to reflect the positive results of the extensive reforms it implemented in order to address the challenges it faced in spring of 2010, when the country requested financial assistance.
"However, this should also be a reason to stay on the course of reforms and strengthen the recovery underway," he pointed out.
 FM Venizelos' statement after meeting with SamarasThe top issue is the return to the capital markets, Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos said after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday.
"It is the official, praising, tangible confirmation that the country is turning a page. We become again sovereign," Venizelos noted adding that the markets give an indisputable answer. "And all this was achieved thanks to the sacrifices and labours of the Greek people," he underlined.
Venizelos also referred to the political leaders who are unhappy with the country's return to normality.
 ANEL leader Kammenos on Venizelos' statementsIndependent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos on Thursday critisized Governmnet Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos' statements in connection with Greece's exit to the international capital markets.
"Samaras partner's statement goes beyond the limits," Kammenos said and stressed that "when he makes statements like this he should be able to look in the eyes of two million unemployed, the relatives of 6,000 Greeks that committed suicide and the impoverished middle class."
 Venizelos rules out early national elections, expects European elections to be 'an ordeal' for the oppositionGovernment Vice President Evangelos Venizelos told a private TV station on Thursday evening that the country is "one step before exit from the crisis," stressing the need to reach a national agreement for the recovery of Greece's economy in cooperation with the private sector.
Venizelos ruled out the possibility of early national elections, which, to his view "nobody wants," not even the opposition "which trembles at the idea of elections."
Referring to the former government general secretary Panagiotis Baltakos, Venizelos said Baltakos overstepped his duties and role, by moving behind the scenes in an undemocratic way which went beyond institutional.
The vice president conceded that the former Prime Minister and former PASOK president George Papandreou "made a huge effort and retains the right - as PASOK does - to express his views and also see his efforts being vindicated."
Asked about the likelihood of personally being challenged as the incumbent president of PASOK in case of a worse-than-expected result at the forthcoming European elections, Venizelos retorted that the elections will prove an ordeal for the opposition, especially for SYRIZA.
 Dev't Min Hatzidakis meets with Commissioner AlmuniaDevelopment Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday met with EU Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia, according to a ministry statement.
The two officials discussed among others issues related to the state funding system and the new map of Regional funding for 2007-2014.
They focused on issues related to the Block Exemption Regulation in view of its adoption by the European Commission in May. Those issues are related to the new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) for 2014-2020 and the Investment Law.
 Greek President visits Kassos, expresses content over exit to the marketsGreek President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday expressed his content over the fact that Greece is in a stage of recovery following its exit to the markets.
Papoulias, who is on a visit to the Kassos Island in the Dodecanese, pointed out this development was particularly positive and was attributable to Greeks and their efforts.
Papoulias visited Kassos to attend the launch of the national programme for the promotion of primary health care, which enables small islands' citizens to have medical exams at mobile units.
 Restructuring of Greek debt allows money to be distributed to growth, reportA series of interventions made on Greek public debt has ensured that huge amount of money could be now distributed to growth, Greece's Public Debt Management Organization said on Thursday.
In a report to Parliament, referring to the debt sustainability issue, the Organization said that debt sustainability was not solely depending on the debt/GDP ratio but on other parameters as well, such as average maturity, timing of debt and interest payments, etc. It also noted that the term debt sustainability was not an objective one, but it had different meanings for the IMF, an investor and a debtor. The Organization said that the crucial issue determining the sustainability of debt was the debtor's ability to service its obligations.
The Organization said that a series of interventions made on the Greek debt since 2012 resulted in improving the country's ability to service its public debt. These inerventions were: reducing the nominal value of the debt from 365 billion euros in December 2011 to 321 billion in December 2013, lowering the average service cost of the debt, from 4.75 pct in December 2011 to slightly above 2.0 pct currently, raising the average natural maturity of the debt, from 6.6 years to 16.02 years, a significant fall in the cost of refinancing the debt -on a five-year basis- from 51.4 pct in December 2011 to 23.75 pct in December 2013. A sharp decline in fiscal deficits and a change in the profile of the country's public debt, mainly its debt holders and debt trading, also helped significantly to improve the country's debt situation. The report noted that by the end of 2013, 85 pct of Greek debt was held by official creditors and 15 pct by private investors, in sharp contrast compared with three years earlier (end 2010) when 86 pct of Greek debt has held by private creditors and 14 pct by the official sector. The report noted that interest spending, in cash basis, will fall to around 6.0 billion euros this year (and the years to come), from 17 billion euros it would have been from 2012 onwards if this significant restructuring has not been made.
"These characteristics have been noticed by investors, who now believe that Greek debt was no longer a threat for their investments," the Organization said, adding that following a ratification of a primary surplus for 2013, Greece and its Eurozone partners will begin a new discussion over ways to restructuring Greek debt, as agreed in 2012.
 The return to markets does not mean Greece is through the crisis, DIMAR leader saysDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday stressed that Greece's return to the financial markets does not constitute an exit from the crisis.
Kouvelis, currently on a tour of eastern Macedonia and Thrace region, underlined that Greece's debt is disproportionate to its GDP and higher compared to 2010 when Greece entrered the bailout mechanism. He also stressed the need for debt restructuring, time extension and interest rate reduction, while he said that the need for a eurobond issue is vital, in order to absorb the deep recession of Greece and other eurozone member states.
DIMAR will support all local election candidates that are active citizens with progressive positions Kouvelis said.
"A while before the 2012 elections the country was close to bankruptcy which was avoided thanks to the three heterogenous political powers," Kouvelis said when asked about DIMAR's decreased percentages, its participation in the 2012 government and its withdrawal from it, while he stressed that he is proud for both of these choices.
 Merkel on an official visit to Athens on FridayGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Athens on Friday, in the aftermath of Greece's successful re-emergence in the international financial markets.
Merkel alongside Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will participate in a young entrepreneurs' forum at 03:15 pm while at 04:20 p.m. they will have the chance to meet with representatives of various institutions and SMEs.
The chancellor will visit the Maximou Mansion - the official residence of Greece's prime minister - for her official meeting with Samaras at 05:30 p.m., which will be followed by a Press conference for Greek and foreign media.
While in Greece Merkel is expected to congratulate the Greek government for its efforts so far to exit the crisis, but also the Greek people for all their sacrifices, while also stressing the need to continue walking the path of reforms in order for the Greek economy to recover.
The chancellor is also expected to announce the creation of a Greek-German investment fund and disclose its available total funds.
Merkel is anticipated to make a reference to the outlook of the Greek economy, underlining that Greece's successful accomplishment of its commitments now allows Germany and the European partners to keep their end of the deal and contribute to improve Greek public debt's sustainability.
Due to the German chancellor's visit, the police announced a total ban on rallies in various downtown Athens locations starting from 11:30 a.m. up until 09:30 p.m., which is expected to result in heavier Athens traffic loads and casual route changes of public transportation bus services during the afternoon and evening on Friday.
 'Greece will not return to the markets overnight' German Deputy Finance Minister saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
Europe's solidarity to Greece aims for the country's return to capital markets, Germany's Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter said.
"If Greece, after some smaller bond issues in the past, dares to take the next step, then I welcome it and I hope that these efforts are successful," he said in an interview to the Greek service of Deutsche Welle.
"Greece's future financial performance and therefore the ability to return to financial markets will not recover overnight," Kampeter said, clarifying this was a whole process.
"So I think it is smart and right that the European partners support Greece on this path and especially in the process of looking for potential financiers, with particular credibility and step by step," he added.
Regarding the possibility that Greece may need a third support package, Kampeter noted that there was an agreement under the Eurogroup that they wait for the details of the troika's final report and then the Greek political system and not the German one should consider whether there is need for new measures, for example a new package.
"Wolfgang Schaeuble has always emphasized that clearly, as well as the fact that it is a decision of the Greek and not the German or European bodies," he said.
 SYRIZA leader says Merkel's visit to Athens will have opposite resultsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday that Friday's visit to Athens by German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have the opposite results since in Greece the Greek people are the landlord who will have the last say.
Tsipras added that Merkel is only coming to support her representative in Greece, Mr. (Prime Minister Antonis) Samaras. According to Tsipras, the Merkel visit does not have an institutional character, as the visit by German President Joachim Gauck had, who asked to see, as he institutionally had to, the main opposition party.
Tsipras also invoked the results of opinion polls, according to which Merkel and her policy meet with objection by the majority of the Greek people, a policy that is disastrous for society.
He went on to say that Merkel "must prepare herself because very soon she will have before her a government that will negotiate substantively for the interests of the Greek people."
Tsipras stressed that there are no pending debt issues only on the part of the Greek people but, as he put it, there is also a historically unfulfilled debt on the part of Germany to the Greek and all the European peoples, that concerns the occupation loan and German reparations, an issue which "our government will place on the negotiating table for historic and moral reasons."
 KKE party says ban on demonstrations in Athens unacceptableThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Thursday on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Athens, stressed that "the fact that on the one hand the government is 'celebrating' with its international allies, such as Mrs Merkel, can only be considered a provocation, over the 'successful' implementation of the people crushing policy, and on the other hand convicts with prison sentences the leading steel workers on strike and bans protest rallies."
The announcement added that "the decision, once again, on the banning of demonstrations in Athens, due to the German Chancellor's visit now, is unacceptable and confirms KKE's position that the antipopular measures go hand-in-hand with authoritarianism."
 Gov't spokesman on SYRIZA leaderGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou in a statement on Thursday addressed main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, saying it was a crime to turn his personal misery into politics.
"At a time when the international community acknowledges the progress of your country, it is a crime to do your best to downgrade it and annul the sacrifices of the Greek people. It is really a shame," he said.
 Committee for German reparations to request meeting with German Chancellor MerkelThe Committee for claiming German war reparations on Thursday decided unanimously to request a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Committee decided during a meeting to authorise Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis to mediate to enable the meeting between the two sides to take place on Friday.
 Defence Minister concluded visit to LatviaThe developments in Ukraine and Syria and the cooperation between Greece and Latvia dominated Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos talks with his Latvian counterpart Raimonds Vejonis in Riga on Wednesday evening.
Avramopoulos invited his Latvian counterpart to visit Athens during which an agreement for cooperation in defence particularly in education, exchange of know-how and information as well as staff training would be signed.
The Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Latvian parliament will also visit Athens in order to promote the cooperation with the relevant Greek committee.
On his part, Vejonis stated that he and Avramopoulos "discussed ways to upgrade our cooperation not only within the NATO framework but also in a bilateral level. We will soon sign an agreement which will be the beginning of a further cooperation," he said.
Avramopoulos was also received by the Latvian president Andris Berzins who asked him to give his congratulations to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the Greek government for the return to the capital markets and their success to lead the country to recovery.
The Greek delegation returned late Wednesday to Athens.
 Opinion poll shows SYRIZA lead over ND in European and national electionsThe main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) is shown to be in the lead against the New Democracy (ND) party both for the European and the national elections, in an opinion poll conducted by Pulse RC for television station Action 24.
Specifically, with regard to voting preferences in the forthcoming European elections, SYRIZA garners 19 pct against ND's 17.5 pct, followed by newly formed "To Potami" with 9.5 pct, far-right Golden Dawn (GD) 9,5 pct, Elia 7 pct, Communist Party (KKE) 6%, Independent Greeks (ANEL) 4 pct and Democratic Left (DIMAR) 2 pct.
With regard to the national elections, SYRIZA gathered 21 pct and the ND 20 pct, followed by GD 10 pct, To Potami 8 pct, PASOK 6 pct, KKE 6 pct, ANEL 4 pct and DIMAR 2 pct.
In the poll, 29 pct of the respondents said they preferred Antonis Samaras for prime minister as opposed to 22 pct who said they preferred Alexis Tsipras.
 Potami party to hold inaugural conference after EuroelectionsThe Potami party will be holding an inaugural conference shortly after the Euroelections, party head Stavros Theodorakis told a private television station on Thursday.
Theodorakis said that he will be deciding on the party himself up to the Euroelections, consulting a council that he has appointed. After the Euroelections, as he said, this will change as at the party's inaugural conference, to be held on June 15, he will be an ordinary delegate.
"On June 15 there shall be no Stavros," he said, adding that at the conference everyone will be able to claim his position or a place in the leading group.
 Justice Minister receives German Federal Court PresidentJustice, Transparency and Human Rights Minister Charalampos Athanassiou on Thursday received Germany's Federal Constitutional Court President Andreas Vosskuhle and discussed issues of mutual interest, such as justice procedures acceleration and enhancing European cooperation on justice issues.
"In spite of some delays, Greek court verdicts shine through their quility," Athanassiou said and referred to the efforts made to accelerate justice procedures with focus on the enhancement of mediation.
"We, too, in Germany, struggle with delays in justice," Vosskuhle said and underlined the need for European cooperation on justice. "It is worth working for the common European structure," he said.
The meeting was also attended by German Ambassador to Greece Peter Schoof.
 Parliament passes law amendment for four Navy submarinesThe Parliament on Thursday passed a law amendment which provides for the completion of the certification procedures and the operational accession of four new submarines into the Greek Navy fleet. Nea Dimokratia and PASOK - the two coalition government partners - as well as Democratic Left (DIMAR) voted in favour of the law amendment, while the main opposition party's SYRIZA MPs voted a more neutral "present".
Speaking at the Parliament earlier on Thursday, Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos declared the end of the lingering problem of the four new Naval submarines at Skaramaga shipyards, in the framework of presenting the relevant law amendment.
Avramopoulos commented, that "a definite end to the submarine adventure is hereby put". The Greek state demands from the owners of the shipyards the return of payments worth 360 million euros unduly paid during 2010-2011. The minister claimed, that if the courts finally justify the Greek state's case for the recovery of its funds, there will be a substantial decrease in the final cost of building the submarines, even in comparison to their contractual cost.
He also notified the Parliament, that the four new submarines have already been manned with their crews, which are highly trained and well-prepared for their missions.
 Deputy Development Minister Mitarakis' schedule in WashingtonDeputy Development and Competitiveness Minister Notis Mitarakis on Thursday departed for Washington, where he will represent the government at the Spring Meeting of the World Bank-IMF on April 10-14, according to a ministry announcement.
Mitarakis will take part in the ministerial meeting on "the economics of climate change" organized by Vice President of the World Bank Group and special envoy for climate change Rachel Kyte.
On Saturday, April 12, in his capacity as Alternate Governor to the Boards of Governors of the Group of World Bank, he will participate in the works of the Development Committee of the World Bank. On the sidelines of the Spring Meeting, Mitarakis will have bilateral meetings among others with the Vice President of the World Bank for Europe and Central Asia Laura Tuck.
On Monday, April 14, at 13.00, he will meet with the Special Adviser to the US President Christopher Smart and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matthew Murray.
 Greece ranked low in the first EU Transport ScorecardGreece ranked low in the European Commission's first EU Transport Scorecard published on Thursday, which compares member-state performance in 22 transport-related categories.
The Netherlands and Germany topped the scoreboard with high scores in 11 categories, followed by Sweden, the UK and Denmark. Greece, Poland and Bulgaria took the last three positions on the scoreboard.
According to the European Commission, the aim of this first EU Transport Scoreboard is to give a snapshot of the diversity of Member State performance in transport matters across Europe and to help Member States identify shortcomings and define priorities for investment and policies.
It brings together data from a variety of sources (such as Eurostat, the European Environment Agency, the World Bank and the OECD). The Commission's intention is to refine the indicators in the years to come, in dialogue with Member States, industry and other stakeholders, and to track Member State progress over time.
 PRESS RELEASE -- Letter of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to the Leaders of the countries receiving Russian gas, sent to Greek Prime Minister Antonis SamarasLetter of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to the Leaders of the countries receiving Russian gas / It was sent to the Prime-Minister of Hellenic Republic Mr Antonis Samaras
Ukraine's economy in the past several months has been plummeting. Its industrial and construction sectors have also been declining sharply. Its budget deficit is mounting. The condition of its currency system is becoming more and more deplorable. The negative trade balance is accompanied by the flight of capital from the country. Ukraine's economy is steadfastly heading towards a default, a halt in production and skyrocketing unemployment.
Russia and the EU member states are Ukraine's major trading partners. Proceeding from this, at the Russia-EU Summit at the end of January, we came to an agreement with our European partners to hold consultations on the subject of developing Ukraine's economy, bearing in mind the interests of Ukraine and our countries while forming integration alliances with Ukraine's participation. However, all attempts on Russia's part to begin real consultations failed to produce any results.
Instead of consultations, we hear appeals to lower contractual prices on Russian natural gas - prices which are allegedly of a "political" nature. One gets the impression that the European partners want to unilaterally blame Russia for the consequences of Ukraine's economic crisis.
Right from day one of Ukraine's existence as an independent state, Russia has supported the stability of the Ukrainian economy by supplying it with natural gas at cut-rate prices. In January 2009, with the participation of the then-premier Yulia Tymoshenko, a purchase-and-sale contract on supplying natural gas for the period of 2009-2019 was signed. That contract regulated questions concerning the delivery of and payment for the product, and it also provided guarantees for its uninterrupted transit through the territory of Ukraine. What is more, Russia has been fulfilling the contract according to the letter and spirit of the document. Incidentally, Ukrainian Minister of Fuel and Energy at that time was Yury Prodan, who today holds a similar post in Kiev's government.
The total volume of natural gas delivered to Ukraine as was stipulated in that contract during the period of 2009-2014 (first quarter) stands at 147.2 billion cubic meters. Here, I would like to emphasize that the price formula that had been set down in the contract had NOT been altered since that moment. And Ukraine, right up till August 2013, made regular payments for the natural gas in accordance with that formula.
However, the fact that after signing that contract, Russia granted Ukraine a whole string of unprecedented privileges and discounts on the price of natural gas is quite another matter. This applies to the discount stemming from the 2010 Kharkov Agreement, which was provided as advance payment for the future lease payments for the presence of the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet after 2017. This also refers to discounts on the prices for natural gas purchased by Ukraine's chemical companies. This also concerns the discount granted in December 2013 for the duration of three months due to the critical state of Ukraine's economy. Beginning with 2009, the sum total of these discounts stands at 17 billion US dollars. To this, we should add another 18.4 billion US dollars incurred by the Ukrainian side as a minimal take-or-pay fine.
In this manner, during the past four years Russia has been subsidizing Ukraine's economy by offering slashed natural gas prices worth 35.4 billion US dollars. In addition, in December 2013, Russia granted Ukraine a loan of 3 billion US dollars. These very significant sums were directed towards maintaining the stability and creditability of the Ukrainian economy and preservation of jobs. No other country provided such support except Russia.
What about the European partners? Instead of offering Ukraine real support, there is talk about a declaration of intent. There are only promises that are not backed up by any real actions. The European Union is using Ukraine's economy as a source of raw foodstuffs, metal and mineral resources, and at the same time, as a market for selling its highly-processed ready-made commodities (machine engineering and chemicals), thereby creating a deficit in Ukraine's trade balance amounting to more than 10 billion US dollars. This comes to almost two-thirds of Ukraine's overall deficit for 2013.
To a large extent, the crisis in Ukraine's economy has been precipitated by the unbalanced trade with the EU member states, and this, in turn has had a sharply negative impact on Ukraine's fulfillment of its contractual obligations to pay for deliveries of natural gas supplied by Russia. Gazprom has no intentions except for those stipulated in the 2009 contract, nor does it plan to set any additional conditions. This also concerns the contractual price for natural gas, which is calculated in strict accordance with the agreed formula. However, Russia cannot and should not unilaterally bear the burden of supporting Ukraine's economy by way of providing discounts and forgiving debts, and in fact, using these subsidies to cover Ukraine's deficit in its trade with the EU member states.
The debt of NAK Naftogaz Ukraine for delivered gas has been growing monthly this year. In November-December 2013 this debt stood at 1.451,5 billion US dollars; in February 2014 it increased by a further 260.3 million and in March by another 526.1 million US dollars. Here I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in March there was still a discount price applied, i.e., 268.5 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. And even at that price, Ukraine did not pay a single dollar.
In such conditions, in accordance with Articles 5.15, 5.8 and 5.3 of the contract, Gazprom is compelled to switch over to advance payment for gas deliveries, and in the event of further violation of the conditions of payment, will completely or partially cease gas deliveries. In other words, only the volume of natural gas will be delivered to Ukraine as was paid for one month in advance of delivery.
Undoubtedly, this is an extreme measure. We fully realize that this increases the risk of siphoning off natural gas passing through Ukraine's territory and heading to European consumers. We also realize that this may make it difficult for Ukraine to accumulate sufficient gas reserves for use in the autumn and winter period. In order to guarantee uninterrupted transit, it will be necessary, in the nearest future, to supply 11.5 billion cubic meters of gas that will be pumped into Ukraine's underground storage facilities, and this will require a payment of about 5 billion US dollars.
However, the fact that our European partners have unilaterally withdrawn from the concerted efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and even from holding consultations with the Russian side, leaves Russia no alternative.
There can be only one way out of the situation that has developed. We believe it is vital to hold, without delay, consultations at the level of ministers of economics, finances and energy in order to work out concerted actions to stabilize Ukraine's economy and to ensure delivery and transit of Russian natural gas in accordance with the terms and conditions set down in the contract. We must lose no time in beginning to coordinate concrete steps. It is towards this end that we appeal to our European partners.
It goes without saying that Russia is prepared to participate in the effort to stabilize and restore Ukraine's economy. However, not in a unilateral way, but on equal conditions with our European partners. It is also essential to take into account the actual investments, contributions and expenditures that Russia has shouldered by itself alone for such a long time in supporting Ukraine. As we see it, only such an approach would be fair and balanced, and only such an approach can lead to success.
President of Russian Federation
 Greece raises 3.0 bln euros with five-year bond issueGreece raised 3.0 billion euros from a five-year bond auction in international markets, signaling the country's return to capital markets for the first time since 2010. Finance ministry officials told ANA-MPA that the outcome of the auction was very successful and stressed that demand for the issue was very strong as a book building process -which opened on 11.00 a.m.- closed in less than one hour later, with bids totaling around 20 billion euros. The strong demand allowed the Greek government to raise 3.0 billion euros, from an initial target of 2.5 billion euros. The annual coupon of the issue was set at 4.75 pct, while the yield of the bond -which it is expected to be set following the settlement of the issue- will be around 4.95 pct, lower than initial estimates of 5.0-5.25 pct.
The Finance ministry, in an announcement, said the transaction is expected to be cleared next week, while foreign institutional investors' participation in the bond issue will reach 90 pct. These investors are characterized as of high-quality and with a long-term investment horizon. Sources said these investors were long-term investment funds (pension funds, etc). Market sources said the success of the bond issue paved the way for a wave of corporate bond issues preparing by large business groups, banks and state-owned enterprises, while it facilitated cash flows towards the country and not only for borrowing but for investments as well.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, commenting on the bond auction during a meeting with EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, said that the success of the issue "was an award to consistency and good coordination".
 Greek unemployment eased to 26.7 pct in JanGreek unemployment rate slowed to 26.7 pct in January, from 27.2 pct in December, but remained up compared with a 26.5 pct figure in January 2013, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the number of unemployed people remained at very high levels (1,317,848), while unemployment among young people was 56.8 pct. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 26.7 pct in January, with the number of unemployed people rising by 0.5 pct compared with January 2013, although they fell by 1.3 pct compared with December 2013. The number of employed people fell by 14,913 in January, compared with the same month last year, but rose by 1.1 pct (40,119) compared with December 2013. The financially non-active population totaled 3,386,498 in January. Unemployment among women was 30.2 pct in January (from 30 pct in January last year), which among men the unemployment rate was 24.1 pct from 23.9 pct over the same periods, respectively.
Young people, aged 15-24 years old, recorded the highest unemployment rate (56.8 pct), followed by the 25-34 age group (35.5 pct), the 35-44 age group (23.7 pct), the 45-54 age group (20.5 pct), the 55-64 age group (18.2 pct) and the 65-74 age group (11.6 pct).
Epirus-Western Macedonia (28.6 pct), Macedonia-Thrace (28.1 pct) and Attica (27.3 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates among the country's regions, followed by Thessaly-Central Greece (26.3 pct), Peloponese-Western Greece-Ionian Islands (26 pct), Crete (23.5 pct) and Aegean (20.4 pct).
 PwC survey finds CEOs optimistic over Greek economic prospectsCEOs are optimistic over Greece's economic outlook, a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed on Thursday. In presenting the survey, Marios Psaltis, chief executive of PwC Greece, said that negative forecasts and perceptions over the Greek economy have changed drastically. Following a dramatic fiscal consolidation and a consequent crisis, the Greek economy begins to show signs of improvement with future prospects looking positive, Psaltis said, adding that Greece's return to markets on Thursday eradicated all concern about the country's debt sustainability.
CEOs said that economic growth must come through investments in sectors with comparative advantages, such as tourism and infrastructure. PwC said infrastructure projects would lure investments up to 20 billion euros, while tourism could add another 20 billion euros in new investments by 2020. A 67 pct of CEOs participating in the survey, claimed they are certain that the Greek economy will improve in the next three years, while a 65 pct sounded optimistic over the future of their enterprises, feeling confident about turnover growth next year. A 42 pct of CEOs said they expected the global economy to improve next year (this rate grew 40 pct in the last 12 months).
A 65 pct of chief executive officials said they were concerned over the inadequacy of basic infrastructure, necessary to attract investments and said that personnel reductions in the private sector would not continue. In fact, a 25 pct said their workforce will increase, while a 49 pct of CEOs said they were concerned about the lack of skilled executives (up 20 pct from 2012 levels). Finally, CEOs asked for a continuation of reforms in implementing a simpler tax regime and faster court procedures.
 Piraeus Bank successfully completes share capital increase planPiraeus Bank on Thursday announced the successful completion of a share capital increase plan raising 1,749,999,998 euros from a public tender and a international offer issue.
The bank said it had issued 1,029,411,764 new common nominal voting shares of a nominal value of 0.30 euros each and at an offer price of 1.70 euros each. These shares were offered through a public tender to Greek investors and through a book-building process to international investors. A 10 pct of the new shares (102,941,176) were offered through a public tender while the remaining 926,470,588 shares (or 90 pct of the new shares) were offered to international investors.
Piraeus Bank said that following completion of the share capital increase plan, its equity capital totaled 6,101,979,715 common nominal shares, worth 2,580,593,913 euros.
 Manufacturing production shows signs of recoveryTwelve out of a total 24 industrial sectors in the country reported higher production levels in the first two months of the current year, compared with the same period in 2013, an analysis of data released by Hellenic Statistical Authority showed on Thursday.
This recovery was fuelled by a weak improvement of domestic demand despite the fact that exports of industrial products fell in the January-February period. The statistics service said that production by the domestic manufacturing sector grew 1.5 pct in the first two months of 2014, with production volume up 1.0 pct in January and up 1.9 pct in February. Manufacturing production levels, however, remained 34 pct lower compared with the average production levels in the first two months of 2005.
The food sector (+1.2 pct) in the two-month period, paper (+2.5 pct), printing (+1.3 pct), oil products (+3.5 pct), chemicals (+5.1 pct), plastics (+7.3 pct), base metals (+4.8 pct), electronics/optical (+107.3 pct), machinery (+14.3 pct), vehicles (+74 pct), furniture (+9.3 pct) and machine repair (+15.2 pct) recorded increases in production levels in the January-February period.
 Greek inflation remains in negative territory for 13th month in a row in MarchGreek inflation remained in negative territory for the 13th month in a row in March, with the inflation rate at -1.3 pct, from -1.1 pct in February, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that the so-called "housewife's basket" recorded price increase (annual basis) in dairy/eggs (2.4 pct), fresh veal (2.6 pct), clothing/footwear (0.4 pct), cigarettes/tobacco (1.3 pct), wines (2.9 pct), electricity bills (7.9pct), pharmaceuticals (29.8 pct) and road tolls (0.9 pct), while on a monthly basis, prices increases were recorded in feta cheese (1.1 pct), fresh vegetables (6.9 pct), fresh fruit (9.0 pct), cigarettes (0.5 pct), pharmaceuticals (2.1 pct) and petrol (0.6 pct).
On the other hand, prices fell (annual basis) in poultry (7.7 pct), lamb/goat (5.7 pct), fresh vegetables (3.3 pct), fresh fruit (7.9pct), olive oil (1.2 pct), fresh potatoes (7.7 pct), heating oil (3.0 pct) and petrol (4.2 pct).
The inflation rate fell 1.3 pct in March from a decline of 0.2 pct in the 2013/2012 period.
The food/beverage group recorded a 1.2 pct decline in March, followed by the housing price index (-1.8 pct), transport (-2.2 pct), entertainment (-2.6 pct), education (-3.9 pct), hotel/coffee-restaurant (-2.7 pct), other goods and services (-4.4 pct). On the other hand, alcohol/tobacco prices grew 1.5 pct, clothing/footwear rose 0.4 pct, healthcare rose 2.7 pct and communications rose 0.1 pct.
Greece's harmonized inflation rate was -1.5 pct in March, from -0.9 pct in February and compared with -0.2 pct in March 2013. On a monthly basis, harmonized inflation grew 1.8 pct in March from February, from an increase of 2.5 pct recorded in the same period last year.
 Life insurance production up 2.3 pct in Feb.Life insurance premium production grew 2.3 pct in February, compared with the same month last year, the fourth month since August 2013 when the life insurance sector records an increase on a monthly basis.
A report by the Hellenic Association of Insurance Company said that premium production in the life insurance sector grew 1.3 pct in the January-February period this year, compared with the corresponding period in 2013, while total premium production (life and damage) was 2.8 pct down.
 Greek stocks continue moving lowerGreek stocks remained under pressure for the sixth successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market to its lowest closing since the 25th of February. Traders said the market had already discounted Greece's successful return to international capital markets. The composite index fell 0.74 pct to end at 1,283.96 points, after rising as much as 0.71 pct during the day. The index is down 5.10 pct in the last six sessions. PPC, OPAP and OTE came under strong selling pressure.
Turnover was a strong 188.55 million euros, of which 44.16 million euros were a block trade of 6.0 million shares by Aegean Airlines (8.4 pct of its equity capital) offered to institutional investors through a private placement.
The Large Cap index fell 0.59 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.87 pct lower. Alpha Bank (1.81 pct), National Bank (1.78 pct) and Folli Follie (1.69 pct) were top gainers, while PPC (5.0 pct), Metka (4.97 pct), GEK Terna (3.13 pct) and OPAP (2.92 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses among blue chip stocks.
The Commerce (1.65 pct), Banks (1.32 pct) and Raw Materials (0.57 pct) sectors scored gains, while Media (4.0 pct), Utilities (3.77 pct) and Industrial Products (3.29 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 78 to 47 with another 29 issues unchanged. Fieratex (28 pct), Mathios (23.93 pct) and Pasal (19.39 pct) were top gainers, while Dionic (20 pct), Progressive (19.57 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (15 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -0.79%
Industrial Products: -3.29%
Real Estate: +0.33%
Personal & Household: -0.35%
Food & Beverages: +0.12%
Raw Materials: +0.57%
Travel & Leisure: +0.31%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Aegean Airlines, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.73
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.40
Coca Cola HBC: 18.15
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.71
National Bank of Greece: 4.00
Eurobank Properties : 8.58
Piraeus Bank: 1.86
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 4.36 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 4.53 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 5.89 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.57 pct. Turnover grew substantially to 35 million euros, of which 20 million euros were sell orders and the remaining 15 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate was 0.599 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.509 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.426 pct from 0.427 pct, the three-month rate was 0.327 pct and the one-month rate was 0.251 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe April 2014 contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.12 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising slightly to 23.214 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,224 contracts worth 15.088 million euros, with 59,092 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,825 contracts worth 8.126 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (9,176), followed by Alpha Bank (2,075), National Bank (949), MIG (914), OTE (2,083), PPC (1,341), OPAP (541), Mytilineos (534), Hellenic Petroleum (114), GEK (145) and Ellaktor (162).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.407
Pound sterling 0.839
Danish kroner 7.578
Swedish kroner 9.187
Japanese yen 143.12
Swiss franc 1.236
Norwegian kroner 8.339
Canadian dollar 1.534
Australian dollar 1.495
 Powerful explosion outside Bank of GreeceA strong explosion was reported at 5:55 on Thursday outside the Bank of Greece in Athens.
An unknown individual called at 5.10 the website "Zougla" and at 5.15 at Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper and said that "a booby-trapped car with 75 kilos of explosives will explode in 45 minutes outside the Bank of Greece".
Police cordonned off the area and spotted a stolen NISSAN SUNNY parked outside the bank which blew up at 5.55. Damages to nearby buildings and stores were reported.
Counterterrorism squad is currently at the area conducting an investigation.
 Gov't spokesman Kedikoglou on the explosionThe aim of the perpetrators is apparently to change the agenda, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told private TV station SKAI regarding the explosion outside the Bank of Greece.
"We will not let the terrorists achieve their goal," Kedikoglou said adding that the investigations to find the perpetrators are the priority right now.
 SYRIZA on bomb attack outside Bank of GreeceSYRIZA in an announcement condemned the attack outside the Bank of Greece (BoG) on Thursday morning.
"The bomb attack outside the Bank of Greece contributes to the creation of a climate of general fear, disorientation and reinforcement of repression measures. Greek people have their own means of struggle, the mass peaceful battles for democracy and social justice," main opposition SYRIZA said in a statement.
 Lieutenant General Tsaknakis appointed as new Hellenic Police chiefPolice Lieutenant General Dimitrios Tsaknakis, who up until now was Inspector General for Northern Greece, has been appointed as the new chief of the Hellenic Police.
Outgoing police chief Nikos Papagianopoulos, whose term had been extended to October 2014, on Wednesday resigned in order to facilitate the typical procedure of police officers' evaluation.
The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) met later in the day and appointed Tsaknakis as the successor of Papagianopoulos.
 Body found on river Evros's bankThe body of a 25-30 year-old man was found on Wednesday afternoon on the bank of Evros river, extreme northeastern Greece.
The body in a stage of decomposition belongs to a man of Asian or African origin, probably an undocumented migrant. It was tranferred to the University General Hospital of Alexandroupolis.
First indications do not attribute the man's death to a foul play.
 Parthenis' painting sold for 422,500 poundsGreek painter Constantine Parthenis' "Prayer in the Mount of Olives was sold for 422,500 GBP at a Bonhams auction in London with Greek artists works. The auction's revenues reached 2.1 million GBP.
 Work stoppages in the public health sector scheduled for FridayThe Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees (POEDIN) announced on Thursday a work stoppage for Friday, starting from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. in hospitals, health-care units, health centers and the National Center for Emergency Care (EKAB) employees.
POEDIN demands the immediate re-employment of 1,000 National Healthcare System (ESY) drivers transfered into the mobility scheme, because as the announcement stresses their absence causes an "operational chaos".
The employees have scheduled Friday protests in front of the ministry and the regional health offices.
 Central Metro stations to remain closed due to German Chancellor's visit to AthensThe central Metro stations of Evangelismos and Megaro Moussikis will remain closed on Friday from 1:00 pm while Syntagma and Akropoli stations will close at 6:00 pm due to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's official visit to Athens, police announced on Thursday.
Metro trains will operate normally but they will not stop in the above-mentioned stations.
 Overcast on FridayRain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 7C-16C. Same weather in the central and the southern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 7C-21C. Cloudy over the islands, 13C-20C. Clouds with possibility of rain in Athens, 9C-18C; the same for Thessaloniki, 9C-15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesAVGHI: Exit with new Memorandum.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: We're back to the markets!
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Fixed games.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: What exiting the markets' quarantine means.
ESTIA: Landmark for the Economy.
ETHNOS: Huge step to exit the memorandum.
IMERISSIA: The great return.
KATHIMERINI: Spectacular return to the markets.
LOGOS: Greece in the capital markets.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Offers for the 2.5 billion euros bond exceed 16 billion euros.
RIZOSPASTIS: Combative response to capital, government, EU.
TA NEA: The markets tear up the memorandum.
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