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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-02-16

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Monday, 16 February 2015 Issue No: 4887


  • [01] PM Tsipras to 'Stern' magazine: 'Greece will be a different country in six months'
  • [02] PM Tsipras calls cartoon on German FinMin 'unfortunate', according to 'Stern' interviewer
  • [03] Greek gov't expresses reservations as to whether there can be an agreement in Monday's Eurogroup
  • [04] FinMin Varoufakis: 'We shall all do our duty' to reach agreement
  • [05] Reconstruction Min. Lafazanis: Gov't not looking for a rift, but fiscal programme cannot be extended
  • [06] EU official on Juncker-Tsipras' phone contact
  • [07] Europarliament President Schulz: EU will help Greece fight tax evasion and fraud if it becomes top priority
  • [08] Cabinet meeting to brief ministers on Eurotalks ends after midnight
  • [09] Greece obliged to accept extension before any other agreement, German chancellor's associate says
  • [10] French FM Fabius: Talks progressing 'somewhat', but time running out for Greece
  • [11] U.S. Treasurer Jack Lew calls on all sides to 'set aside rhetoric' and work on a pragmatic solution
  • [12] FM Kotzias and U.S. Sec'y of State Kerry hold telephone briefing
  • [13] Greek foreign ministry issues statement on Copenhagen attack
  • [14] NPL of households to be handled by to-be established agency, minister says in interview
  • [15] Gov't focused on collecting from large-scale tax evaders, ministers tell 'Sunday To Vima'
  • [16] Gov't to abolish 5 euro hospital admission fee, Health min says
  • [17] Minister visits site of Pakistani national's suicide at detention centre, expresses 'shame' at conditions
  • [18] SYRIZA political secretariat meeting
  • [19] Candidate President of the Republic to be announced on Tuesday
  • [20] Independent Greeks parliamentary group to hold meeting on Tuesday
  • [21] ANEL's Nikolopoulos on candidate President of the Republic
  • [22] Former ND minister Staikouras reviews previous government's fiscal achievements
  • [23] To Potami leader Theodorakis: Gov't must redouble efforts towards an agreement with creditors
  • [24] KKE leader Koutsoumbas: Fiscal programme by another name is still anti-popular
  • [25] KKE leader tours flood-stricken areas in western Greece
  • [26] PASOK leader Venizelos' opinion piece in Sunday's 'RealNews'
  • [27] Citizens rally in Greek cities to express support to the government
  • [28] Rally in Rome on Saturday to express support of Greece's negotiations in Europe
  • [29] New government gets high marks in opinion poll by Kapa Research
  • [30] Albanian national, 30, commits suicide after shooting Greek woman, 32, in Kalamata
  • [31] 119-member drug ring dismantled after sweeps in Larissa, Katerini and Thessaloniki
  • [32] Super League Results
  • [33] Overcast, locally rainy on Monday
  • [34] The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Tsipras to 'Stern' magazine: 'Greece will be a different country in six months'

    Greece does not need new bailout loans, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview in German magazine "Stern" to be published on Thursday, and said he looked forward to a win-win situation in talks with the country's creditors and Monday's Eurogroup meeting.

    The magazine followed Tsipras for two days in the Greek Parliament and at his office in the Maximos Mansion for a feature story ahead of Monday's Eurogroup meeting, and quoted him as saying he is open to dialogue and optimistic.

    "I support a solution where everyone wins, a win-win solution," he is quoted as saying, "I want to save Greece from a tragedy and protect Europe from being split apart."

    Tsipras told journalists Andreas Albes, Ferry Batzoglou and Andreas Petzold, "We do not need new bailout loans." Following the cabinet meeting that began on Friday and ended in the early morning hours on Saturday, Tsipras told the three journalists that "instead of money we need time, to implement our plan for reforms; I promise you, Greece will be a different country in six months."

    Stern mentioned that the bailout programme ends at the end of February, and if an agreement is not reached with its creditors - the European Commision, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - Greece will face an economic collapse. It mentioned among other things that the social insurance system can hardly take care of the victims of the crisis, that 1.3 million people are without a job, and hundreds of thousands do not have medical insurance.

    It said that Tsipras wants to deal with the heaviest repercussions of the crisis with a programme that according to his party SYRIZA will cost 12 billion euros; the programme will depend on the willingness of EU members, especially Germany, to reach a compromise.

    Asked to comment on his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels, Tsipras told the interviewers, "I met a polite human being. She is not as strict as one would expect from press reports." She is a realistic politician who does not wish to jeopardise Europe's future, he said. Speaking of the Eurogroup where a decision is expected to be finalised on Greece's fiscal programme, Tsipras said, "Monday's negotiation will be difficult, but I am optimistic - our power rests on the support of the Greek people."

    PM Tsipras interview: 'Negotiations at Monday' Eurogroup will be difficult'

    Reaching agreement with Greece's European partners may be difficult, but "a significant step forward was taken," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told "Real News" daily, published Saturday.

    He added that "negotiations at Monday's Eurogroup will be difficult."

    His full statement is as follows: "In Brussels, our partners met another Greece, one that knows what it wants to ask for. A significant step forward was taken, it is however early to speak of an agreement. Monday's negotiations at the Eurogroup will be difficult. The support of the Greek people will once again be our strength."

    [02] PM Tsipras calls cartoon on German FinMin 'unfortunate', according to 'Stern' interviewer

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a cartoon published in the government-friendly newspaper "Avgi" about German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble "unfortunate", according to an interview in German magazine "Stern".

    According to a Twitter post by journalist Andreas Petzold, who interviewed the Greek prime minister, Tsipras said the cartoon did not make him happy and he did not share the cartoonist's opinion. He clarified however that he respects creative freedom and the freedom of satire.

    [03] Greek gov't expresses reservations as to whether there can be an agreement in Monday's Eurogroup

    The Greek government expresses reservations as to whether there can be an agreement in the Eurogroup meeting on Monday, noting however that "no one can prejudge the outcome."

    According to an unofficial government briefing, the technical teams late on Saturday concluded their mission, which was to seek and record points of convergence and divergence. At the same time, the Greek government assured that, since this was the role of those committees and they were not supposed to negotiate, there is no discussion on looking for equivalent measures.

    The government's positions on the work of the technical teams and ahead of the Eurogroup meeting are the following:

    1. The works of the technical teams concluded late on Saturday, as planned.

    2. The role of the technical teams was to seek points of convergence/divergence - not to negotiate. Each side now has its own text and is aware of the areas of agreement and disagreement. The (intended) leaks on "equivalent measures" in the existing programme demonstrate that the role of the technical teams is not understood by all. The teams were "recorders" of positions; they did not seek equivalent measures. Therefore, any leaks on the issue have nothing to do with the role of the technical teams.

    3. The "bridge-agreement" is intended to give time as well as a breather to the Greek society until the final negotiation and agreement. Therefore, the "bridge-agreement" is not identified, in any case, with our four-year plan.

    4. The fight against tax evasion-tax avoidance and corruption, are "actions" that the new Greek government has the political will to undertake; as well as fair taxation. These fields have been and remain central points of the Greek policy and a key meeting point with the European leaders. Therefore, scepticism by certain sides -not necessarily by the technical teams - as to the results of these actions, has to do with the non-performance of the previous government. The new Greek government, however, has comparative advantages and as a Greek official in Brussels noted, fighting tax evasion / tax avoidance / corruption is an essential element of the government policy.

    5. The negotiation in the Eurogroup meeting on Monday will be difficult. The support of the people is once again the government's strength. The people's rallies in dozens of cities across Europe are a key factor, as they strengthen the new Greek government's bargaining position.

    6. In any case, it is not certain that there will definitely be a decision in the Eurogroup meeting on Monday - no one, of course, can prejudge the outcome. This is a struggle of endurance, with safety and respect to democracy. And of course the scaremongering, in which some invest, has once again proved at least unfounded.

    7. The Greek side from the first moment has been firmly demonstrating its willingness to find a mutually beneficial solution with respect to its partners, the Greek people and their verdict.

    8. Finally, people are not numbers. Therefore, leaks as to whether "numbers" add up or not are the know rhetoric used to justify hard austerity.

    9. The technical team of the Greek side presented the government's positions with figures, arguments and absolute competence. This was recognized by the technical team of the creditors as well.

    [04] FinMin Varoufakis: 'We shall all do our duty' to reach agreement

    A solution to the talks impasse between Greece and its creditors "will be found even if at the last minute," Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told "Kathimerini" newspaper in an interview published Sunday.

    The finance minister said the two sides would reach agreement, adding that "we shall all do our duty to prevent any issue that might undermine the unity of the eurozone."

    Adding that he remained open to constructive ideas by the country's partners and said he was "convinced that Europe knows how to produce honourable agreements through honourable disagreements." The government and its partners have already agreed to several issues, while "developments in the last few days have produced a significant level of optimism," he added.

    The government drew the line at labour rights, privatisations and fiscal targets, he stressed, adding that in terms of privatisations, specifically, the government "wants to move from the rationale of selling off (assets) at ridiculous prices to the rationale of growth in collaboration with the private sector and foreign investors."

    Among other things, he noted that the European Central Bank recognises that the banking system is sound, while responding to whether there is a "Plan B" about the talks, he said, "There is no Plan B in a mutually beneficial agreement," adding that "negotiations are being carried out sincerely and with no suggestion of bluffing."

    [05] Reconstruction Min. Lafazanis: Gov't not looking for a rift, but fiscal programme cannot be extended

    This government is not seeking a rift with its bailout partners, it wants Greece to stand up on its feet again, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said in an interview to ANA-MPA published on Sunday.

    Asked whether he believed an agreement could be reached, Lafazanis said that "there will be no agreement if our so-called partners insist on extending the existing fiscal programme - their name for the sinful memorandum - in any form. Then, the partners - or, really, Germany - will have made a conscious choice of a rift." He added that it would be difficult for Germany to assume the burden of such a rift because the repercussions will affect it directly.

    "We are not seeking a rift," he added. "On the contrary, we want our country to stand up on its own feet. We want to safeguard our national independence, popular rule, the survival and future of our people, and, along with all these, the rights of all working people and the peoples of Europe. These goals are our plan, from beginning to end, and the lines we draw."

    The government he stressed was seeking an agreement with its creditors that would "retain the government plan's unified nature and radical direction". "SYRIZA's programme cannot be split, subdivided and separated into 'good' and 'bad'," Lafazanis said, adding, "That does not mean, of course, that we expect an agreement with the partners that will include our programme in every wording. But what we are seeking is an agreement that respects democracy in our country, is entirely compatible with the programme approved by the Greek people and retains the government programme's unified nature and radical direction as is."

    Asked about the country's energy policy, the minister said that the government was "looking for independent and multi-level international energy links and relations from any of the four cardinal points which can be planned and promoted without unilateral dependencies, based solely on national interest and the interests of the Greek people."

    [06] EU official on Juncker-Tsipras' phone contact

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    "(European Commission) President (Jean-Claude) Juncker is making a last effort in an extremely difficult situation," an EU official on Sunday said confirming the phone contact between Juncker and Alexis Tsipras, initiated by the Greek premier.

    According to the same official, the hopes for an agreement at the Eurogroup meeting on Monday are not high, as the Greek government appears to have different views compared to the other partners attending the meeting.

    [07] Europarliament President Schulz: EU will help Greece fight tax evasion and fraud if it becomes top priority

    European Union member-states will take part in the Greek government's efforts to recover its fiscal assets that have been taken out of the country, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in an interview to "Parapolitika" newspaper published Saturday.

    "Greece will have both the EU and governments by its side if it gets to work and fights tax evasion and tax fraud as its absolute priority," Schulz was quoted as saying. He added, "Rich Greeks must assume a greater burden not just for ethical reasons, but also because this will contribute to the increase of tax revenues. This would be an excellent way to put money in the economy and social services without putting an end to efforts for fiscal health."

    [08] Cabinet meeting to brief ministers on Eurotalks ends after midnight

    A cabinet meeting was held late Friday, ending after midnight, to update ministers on developments in the Eurogroup and the EU Summit held this past week.

    According to government sources, the briefings were carried out by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Government Vice President Yiannis Dragasakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias (who spoke on bilateral contacts in Russia and Germany). Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis joined the meeting a little after midnight.

    The government will intensify its efforts to set the Greek stance before Monday's Eurogroup and "to improve further our stance in terms of correlations," sources said, referring to other parties that could agree.

    [09] Greece obliged to accept extension before any other agreement, German chancellor's associate says

    The Greek government "must agree to an extension of the current fiscal adjustment programme" if an interim solution to its debt issue is to be found, Michael Fuchs, a deputy and close associate of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told Saturday newspaper "Agora" in an interview.

    Fuchs, vice president of Merkel's Christian Democratic party, said, "the new Greek government must accept it has to observe the agreed reforms; adjustments may only be discussed after such a commitment."

    The leading German politician also rejected Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' proposal for a bond swap. "The European Central Bank (ECB) cannot participate in a bond swap for legal reasons; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot in any case agree to a bond swap, nor will European governments agree to that," he said, referring to the troika of Greece's lenders.

    He explained, "We have given Greece all options for reducing the debt, such as a postponement of the repayment of the debt and nearly-zero interest rates. Further lightening of the already extremely reduced servicing of the debt does not constitute a solution. Greece needs structural reforms, private investments, strengthening of employment opportunities and growth."

    Asked to comment on the Greek government's request for an end to the role of the troika, he said "the problem is not the term 'troika' itself... Greece's creditors include the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB. All three are not the problem, but the necessary solution for Greece... All three institutional agencies wish to continue to help Greece and the Greek people."

    [10] French FM Fabius: Talks progressing 'somewhat', but time running out for Greece

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)

    On the Greek issue, there must be double respect, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told radio Europe1 in an interview on Sunday morning, respect for the Greek voters who turned down a perennial austerity and respect for Greece's commitment to reform.

    Fabius told the station that "there were talks that brought no results in the beginning, but now we are somewhat progressing, as the Greek prime minister has said that 70 percent of the earlier reforms programme may be retained and the remaining 30 percent are up for discussion" and expressed the hope that agreement would be reached.

    The French foreign minister said that Greece must reveal what its reforms programme is that will lead to growth, and said "there is no question of writing off the debt - the technical specialists, however, can talk about what they call 'maturity'. But all this must be done very quickly."

    To a comment by the interviewer that PM Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister Yanis Varoufakis "moved through arrogance to challenge and now they are discovering reality," Fabius said, "No, it's not exactly like that. You know, many Greek citizens lost 50 percent of their income, a very serious thing."

    [11] U.S. Treasurer Jack Lew calls on all sides to 'set aside rhetoric' and work on a pragmatic solution

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew called on all sides to leave rhetoric aside and focus on a pragmatic solution, according to a message issued by his office after he spoke with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late on Friday.

    The U.S. Treasury announcement reads as follows:

    "Today, Secretary Jacob J. Lew spoke by phone with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss the latest developments in Greece. Secretary Lew said that he looks forward to working with the new Greek government as it proceeds to articulate a concrete and comprehensive reform agenda in partnership with Europe and international institutions.

    "Secretary Lew urged all parties to set aside rhetoric and focus on reaching a pragmatic path forward. Secretary Lew welcomed the fact that Greece and its partners are engaged in technical discussions and noted that Monday's Eurogroup meeting marks a significant opportunity to achieve concrete progress."

    [12] FM Kotzias and U.S. Sec'y of State Kerry hold telephone briefing

    Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on several issues, including the economic situation, Greece's energy policy and the continuing violence in Ukraine, according to a State Department press release.

    Another statement, by the Greek foreign ministry, said the two men discussed relations with Russia, following Kotzias' recent visit to Moscow. The Greek FM also briefed his U.S. counterpart on a recent initiative to protect Christian populations in the Middle East, which was discussed at the February 9 meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers in Brussels.

    Kerry reiterated the support of the U.S. for the success of the efforts of Greece, with its European partners, to find a mutually acceptable programme for exiting the crisis.

    [13] Greek foreign ministry issues statement on Copenhagen attack

    The Greek foreign ministry on Sunday condemned the terrorist attack in Copenhagen on Saturday afternoon during an event on freedom of speech.

    "We categorically condemn and express our abhorrence of the armed terrorist attack that took place today in Copenhagen during a public event for freedom of speech," the announcement said. "We express our deep condolences to the family of the victim, to the Danish government and to our friends the people of Denmark. Democracy can be neither intimidated nor terrorised."

    [14] NPL of households to be handled by to-be established agency, minister says in interview

    A public agency that will handle non-performing loans of households which are at or below the poverty threshold will be set up by law in the next few months, according to statements made by Economy Minister George Stathakis to "Ethnos Sunday edition".

    The agency will restructure the loans in their entirety, he said, but until then a law to be tabled in Parliament will block the auctions of main residences for defaulted loans. He also said a provision will cancel debts of those who are objectively proven to be unable to pay their debts.

    Other provisions will include an extension of payments and reduction of interest rates, depending on financial ability, which will be assessed on the basis of property, monthly wages and bank deposits.

    For overdue business loans, he said, the debts to state and insurance funds will be combined and the monthly installment will not exceed 40 percent of business profits.

    [15] Gov't focused on collecting from large-scale tax evaders, ministers tell 'Sunday To Vima'

    The government is considering plans to collect not the return of illegal profits themselves but the taxes lost because of it, Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told "The Sunday Vima" newspaper.

    The plans were at an early stage he said, while mentioning as example that as much as 1.5 billion euros could be collected from undeclared taxable earnings from illegal gas and oil activities, and another 800 million - on an annual basis - for illegal cigarette trade.

    Mardas said the public sector pay scale would also undergo changes, with a review of the unified payscale's institutional framework and of the twenty special wage scales. "The changes we will put in the pipeline aim at correcting imbalances, weaknesses and injustices - but any change that will be carried out will not overturn further the family budget," he stressed.

    In separate statement in the same newspaper about tax evasion, Minister of State for Combatting Corruption Panagiotis Nikoloudis said the purpose was not to jail people but to collect what the country is entitled to and he warned that tax evaders who refuse what authorities propose "will face the repercussions and penalties."

    He added, "The amount of 2.5 billion euros we hope to collect is our baseline, as audits are continuing, and it seems it will lead to a further rise" in collectable taxes.

    "When a tax payer admits his obligation to the tax service, he must immediately fill out a supplementary income tax statement," he explained. "It is not my purpose to lead people to jail. But those who refuse to pay must know the penalties, such as confiscation of assets or criminal prosecution and, of course, the accruing fines that tax transgressors must pay anyway," he said.

    [16] Gov't to abolish 5 euro hospital admission fee, Health min says

    Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis in statements published in Sunday's Vima said that the government would abolish the 5 euro hospital admission fee and the 1 euro fee per medicine subscription for those having an AMKA social insurance number.

    He also noted added that the state would not cover expenses for hospitalization in private clinics.

    [17] Minister visits site of Pakistani national's suicide at detention centre, expresses 'shame' at conditions

    Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis said on Saturday he was "ashamed as a human being" after seeing the foreigners' detention centre in Amygdaleza, north of Athens, where a Pakistani national, 28, hanged himself late on Friday night in the container used as temporary housing.

    "I came to express the sadness and grief of the ministry and the government," he said, "but now I express my shame, not as a minister, but as a human being, as a representative of a civilisation."

    He said that the detention conditions for undocumented migrants were unbelievable, and clarified that this had nothing to do with the behaviour and attitude of the police, which was correct, but with the idea of creating such centres. "It is not the image of a European country and of a country that respects human beings," he said, and stressed that the detention centres would be replaced by "open hospitality centres." The whole system would be overhauled in cooperation with Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodouloupoulou, he added, to guarantee acceptable conditions for detainees.

    Anti-racism organisation members had been rallying at Amygdaleza since early on Saturday, leaving only after the minister's visit. Deputies and representatives of parties and agencies also arrived at the controversial centre, where conditions for both adults and children have been the focus of protests several times in the past.

    "We are all here - parties, agencies, all of Greece - and Greece cannot sustain such an image. We will change everything," Panousis said.

    The 28-year-old Pakistani was found in a container serving as a holding cell on the first day of his tranfer to the centre; he was discovered by fellow detainees at 02:00 on Saturday. He was arrested on December 12, 2014 in Rethymno, Crete, for illegal entry and residence and transferred to Athens two days ago, kept overnight at the foreigners' directorate of Attica on Petrou Rallis Street before being taken to Amygdaleza.

    Police attributed the death to suicide but an autopsy is scheduled for Sunday. Detainees protested over the incident, the second one of a young person in the last few days, following initial information that he killed himself over the length of his detention.

    [18] SYRIZA political secretariat meeting

    The SYRIZA party's political secretariat is currently (Sunday afternoon) meeting to review the negotiations of the government with the country's creditors, the government's stance ahead of Monday's Eurogroup meeting and the government plans beyond.

    SYRIZA is the senior member of the ruling coalition, along with Independent Greeks (ANEL) party.

    'National duty to support new gov't in negotiations,' former ND minister Dendias says in interview

    Supporting the new government in its negotiations is a national duty, former minister and New Democracy deputy Nikos Dendias said in an interview to Saturday newspaper "Agora".

    "It is our national duty to support the government in its negotiation efforts, as in the implementation of reforms, if it dares carry them out," Dendias was quoted as saying, adding however that "we ought to recognise that the [previous] government of Antonis Samaras also negotiated, and toughly so."

    Asked to comment on the possibility that the current government might achieve a better result in negotiations, Dendias said, "Let us not hide behind our fingers, we ought to recognise that in that case there will truly be an issue over how (things) were handled - especially the last few months before the fall of the former government - by those who had assumed the specific responsibility of negotiating."

    Dendias said "New Democracy suffered a great strategic defeat," attributing it partly to the party's distancing from its ideological core, social liberalism.

    [19] Candidate President of the Republic to be announced on Tuesday

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will announce the person that he will propose as a candidate President of the Republic on Tuesday, February 17 at SYRIZA's parliamentary group meeting, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said on Sunday.

    The parliamentary voting for the election of the new Greek President will take place on Wednesday, he added.

    Sakellaridis also said that on Sunday the prime minister has had continuous talks with EU and Greek government officials. In the afternoon, he spoke on the phone with the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on the negotiation underway.

    The government spokesman noted that today the people sent out a resounding message from several places across the country and once again made clear that their dignity is not negotiable.

    "With the popular mandate in our hearts and minds, we continue the negotiation just as we started it," he noted and added "We are ready for a mutually beneficial solution, both for Greece and Europe.".

    [20] Independent Greeks parliamentary group to hold meeting on Tuesday

    Defence Minister and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos on Tuesday at 16.00 will chair a meeting of the party's parliamentary group. The meeting will focus on the developments regarding the negotiation with the European partners and the candidate President of the Republic.

    [21] ANEL's Nikolopoulos on candidate President of the Republic

    Neither do I deny it nor do I confirm it," Independent Greeks (ANEL) parliamentary group secretary general Nikos Nikolopoulos told ANA-MPA on Sunday commenting on reports that party leader Panos Kammenos proposed New Democracy MP Dora Bakoyiannis as candidate President of the Republic to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

    [22] Former ND minister Staikouras reviews previous government's fiscal achievements

    New Democracy (ND) deputy and former alternate finance minister Christos Staikouras provided a summary of the financial achievements of the previous government in response to statements by Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas.

    Staikouras said that Greece had a primary deficit of 6 billion euros (2.9 percent of GDP) in 2011, while it is expected that 2014 will close with a primary surplus of 2.9 bln euros (1.6 pct of GDP), therefore during the previous government the annual primary balance improved by about 9 bln euros (circa 4.5 pct of GDP), while the country achieved a "significant and nationally needed primary surplus" for two years in a row.

    In 2011, he said, the budget deficit was 21 bln euros (10.1 pct of GDP), while 2014 will close at around 4.5 bln (ca. 7.5 pct of GDP), therefore under the leadership of former prime minister Antonis Samaras the annual deficit was reduced by 16.5 bln (ca. 7.5 of GDP) and ended below 3 pct of GDP, the prerequisite set by the EU's Stability and Growth Pact.

    Outstanding debts of the state to the private sector were 8.8 bln at end-2012 and dropped to 3 bln by end-2014, reduced by about 70 pct during the last two years, he pointed out.

    "I am of the hope that the present government will also take one more step, in 2015, towards the further reduction of the budget deficit. It remains to be seen," the ND deputy said.

    [23] To Potami leader Theodorakis: Gov't must redouble efforts towards an agreement with creditors

    The Greek people may want strong negotiations but do not want the country's EU membership to be cast into doubt, To Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis said in an opinion piece published on Sunday in "RealNews" newspaper.

    "The efforts must be redoubled in the next few days," he said of efforts to find an agreement with bailout creditors on Greece's fiscal programme, as the deadlines are short. "The government's 'turn to realism' must be completed; we hope that the benefits of an agreement versus a rift is obvious to the government, as it is to the Greek people. People may want strong negotiation, but they do not want the country's EU membership to be cast in doubt," he said.

    Theodorakis also advised the prime minister to "put the breaks on some of his ministers who are pronouncing benefits that will essentially throw the country off-track" and said it was essential to focus on the substance of agreements, not on how to manage them in terms of communication strategies. "Unfortunately, some in the government do not seem to realise that the effort being expended now is just the start of a difficult course towards the resetting of our economy and the final exit from the crisis," he pointed out.

    "It is important to understand that what will allow Greece to regain the degree of freedom it has lost through its loan dependency on its partners is to regain its ability to borrow from markets. That is why I said in Parliament that at the end of the year the government should be in a position to issue a 10-year bill with an interest rate close to 3 percent," he added.

    [24] KKE leader Koutsoumbas: Fiscal programme by another name is still anti-popular

    The Greek language may allow a new debt agreement to appear under non-negatively charged terminology, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Dimitris Koutsoumbas said in an opinion article on Sunday's "RealNews" newspaper, but it will still be an anti-popular agreement.

    In his article, Koutsoumbas claimed a new memorandum was under preparation within the regulations of the European Union, "which is the 'shared house' of European monopolies that may compete for the profits and losses of the crisis and the management of the debt, but in terms of peoples and their rights they have a joint stance - perennially hostile."

    A new term for the troika of representatives of Greece's creditors will not change the fact that an agreement will be signed and supervision will continue "through perhaps a technical extension of the memorandum, under the name of 'bridge programme," he said, referring to a transitional programme proposed by the government.

    Under such circumstances, he said, "it is very important to understand that such a negotiation, as proudly as it may be done, cannot result in a benefit to the people," Koutsoumbas said, noting the prime minister's abhorrence for sweeping reforms. The fact that the negotiation is being carried out in an anti-popular camp is proven, he said, by the fact that the government has identified with countries like France, Italy and mainly the United States, which may be pressuring Germany in their own interests, but follow the same cruel policy against the peoples.

    [25] KKE leader tours flood-stricken areas in western Greece

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Dimitris Koutsoumbas began a tour of areas damaged by severe weather conditions this past week at Anthotopos in Arta, western Greece, on Saturday which bore the brunt of torrential rains and flooding from the nearby Arachthos River.

    Koutsoumbas spoke with residents of the village and explained that his tour was part of pressure being applied by KKE for restitution to those who have been affected by flooding. He said that relevant questions have been tabled in Parliament and the European Parliament, and criticised the Public Power Corporation for the way it handled the river's dam.

    His touring plans include visiting Neochori; meeting with the mayor and agencies of the Nikolaos Skoufas town; and meeting with the mayor of Arta and the deputy regional manager and agencies of the greater Epirus area.

    [26] PASOK leader Venizelos' opinion piece in Sunday's 'RealNews'

    The government has accepted the position that there will be interventions in the country's debt that essentially constitute a "haircut", PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos said in an opinion piece published in "RealNews" daily on Sunday.

    "We are trying to support (the government) as opposition. We are not behaving like they treated us the five previous years," he said, "but we must know the final and complete position of the government, which expresses internationally all Greeks, whatever the vote they cast."

    Venizelos charged the government with acting "with small-minded party communication angst" instead of with "national generosity" and said the government's use of the term "bridging (or linking) programme" to avoid the use of "extension" of the current fiscal programme was unclear but pointed to a precautionary credit line in the future. "In order not to appear that a necessary national plan is accepted, the word 'extension' is replaced by the term 'bridging programme'. The only problem is that the end of the bridge cannot be defined. Will it again be the precautionary credit line, but months down the line? What else could it be?" he asked.

    "We wish and hope there is agreement" with the country's bailout partners, he stressed. "We are trying to help. Of course, this will have made widely acceptable a national strategy" for which the party paid a tremendous political cost. "It's alright. Let the nationally and socially right thing prevail. And let it be named 'bridge, change, breath, triumph, pride'. Such a development is worth many words. But the critical (words) are only two: national interest," he concluded.

    [27] Citizens rally in Greek cities to express support to the government

    Thousands of citizens on Sunday evening gathered at Syntagma square in down town Athens to claim a "breather of dignity" and an "end of austerity" and express their support to the efforts of the Greek government ahead of Monday's Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.

    Demonstrators held up Greek flags and banners and chanted slogans in favour of policy changes in Europe and against austerity.

    Similar demonstrations took place in other Greek cities, including Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Patras and Heraklion. Citizens also expressed their support to the Greek people in rallies held in cities abroad, such as Nicosia, Paris, Vienna and Brussels.

    [28] Rally in Rome on Saturday to express support of Greece's negotiations in Europe

    ROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Syngelakis)

    Italians are rallying to express their support to Greece in its debt negotiations in Europe on Saturday under the banner "Athens calls and Rome responds."

    A march was expected to start at Indipendenza Square at 14:30 (local time) and end at the Colosseum, with speeches by representatives of the participating political groups and activists.

    The event includes volunteers organisations, the Cgil trade union, the Italian forum against water privatisation, and ecologist and communist parties. Marchers plan to unfurl two banners, "No to austerity, at the right place: Change Greece, change Europe," and "No more deaths at the Mediterranean, enough with a fortified Europe."

    Two representatives of SYRIZA party, senior member of Greece's ruling coalition, are also expected to address the rally at the Colosseum.

    [29] New government gets high marks in opinion poll by Kapa Research

    A 60.6 percent of Greek people polled sees the new government in a positive light against 37.1 percent that is critical of it, according to a Kapa Research opinin poll published in "Sunday To Vima".

    According to those polled, 48.1 pct believe the government's negotiations with its partners will conclude with success while 51.1 remain pessimistic and concerned. Polled people belive that the economy will have improved a year from now (46.8 pct) while another 8 pct believe it would have improved by a lot. Another 21.3 pct believes nothing will change and 10.5 pct believe it will be worse.

    Asked about their opinion on Alexis Tsipras as prime minister, 53.7 pct believe he will prove to be better than any prime minister of the last 20 years while 34.6 pct believe he will be worse.

    General News

    [30] Albanian national, 30, commits suicide after shooting Greek woman, 32, in Kalamata

    A 30-year-old Albanian national shot and seriously injured a Greek woman, 32, before killing himself in Kalamata, southern Greece, it was reported on Saturday.

    The incident took place shortly before midnight on Friday. Both were taken to the Kalamata general hospital where the man died early on Saturday, while the woman was transferred to an Attica hospital.

    Police confiscated the gun and said the man lived in Greece illegally. The Kalamata police are investigating.

    [31] 119-member drug ring dismantled after sweeps in Larissa, Katerini and Thessaloniki

    The activity of a nationally-active drug ring came to an end when police arrested 15 leading members out of 119 in total, on Thursday and Friday in Larissa and Katerini (central Greece) and northern Thessaloniki.

    Police said on Saturday the 15 include three of the ring leaders and 12 of the group's nucleus while case files have been drawn up for the rest (104) on charges of participating in a criminal organisation and violating the law on addictive substances.

    The ring had handled 75 kilos of cannabis and 2 kilos of cocaine since May 2014, for a total of around 400,000 euros in profit.

    Police said that the group worked within Greece and was hierarchical and systematic.

    The sweeps and arrests are being coordinated by the police in Larissa, where those arrested are to give their depositions before a misdemeanours prosecutor.


    [32] Super League Results

    Games played for the Super League had the following results:

    Panthrakikos-Niki Volou 3-0 (without game)

    Panetolikos-Asteras Tripolis 2-0

    PAS Yiannina-Panionios 1-3

    Olympiakos-Ergotelis 3-0

    OFI-Panathinaikos 2-3

    Kerkyra-Kalloni 2-0

    Levadiakos-Veria 0-2

    Atromitos-PAOK 4-0

    Xanthi-Platanias 16/2

    Standings after 24 games:

    1. Olympiakos 58

    2. Panathinaikos 52

    3. PAOK 47

    4. Panetolikos 41

    . Asteras Tripolis 41

    6. PAS Yiannina 37

    7. Atromitos 34 (23 matches)

    . Veria 34

    9. Xanthi 33 (23 matches)

    10. Kerkyra 30

    11. Kalloni 28

    12. Panthrakikos 27

    13. Platanias Chanion 25 (23 matches)

    14. Panionios 24 (23 matches)

    15. Levadiakos 22

    16. Ergotelis 21 (23 matches)

    17. OFI 13 (23 matches)

    18. Niki Volou 6

    Weather forecast

    [33] Overcast, locally rainy on Monday

    Slightly overcast with local rains through most of Greece. Variable winds starting at 4 Beaufort and rising to 6 by afternoon. Temperatures from -4C in the north and Central Greece (8C on the Aegean Islands), to a high of 14C. In Athens, slightly overcast with local rain later in the day. North-northeasterly winds 4-6 Beaufort. Temperatures from 1C to 11C. In Thessaloniki, the same, with snowfall in nearby mountains, winds slightly lower (3-5 Beaufort). Temperatures from 0C to 10C.

    [34] The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: "We can, together with the Greek people"

    DIMOKRATIA: "Terror at Kastri - the terrible secrets of the Lagarde list"

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "VAT in support of debt on debate table"

    ETHNOS: "(Econ. Minister) Stathakis: This is how we'll settle NPLs"

    KATHIMERINI: "(FinMin Varoufakis): Solution, even at last minute"

    LOGOS: "Gov't draws its red lines"

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Any name it goes by, the people will pay for it"

    TO VIMA: "Empty coffers bringing (new) measures"

    VRADYNI: "Final decisions in insurance funds, NPLs, taxes"

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