|Friday, 24 February 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 17-01-09
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Weekend Bulletin
Monday, January 8 2017
 President Pavlopoulos urges unity to overcome the crisis, in message for EpiphanyPresident of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday urged Greeks to stand united as they struggle to overcome the social and economic crisis and defend the country's rights, in his message for the Feast of the Epiphany celebrated throughout the country.
"I hope that the Light of Christianity, which is both the light of our faith but also the light of our civilisation, will lead our steps, the steps of Europe, the steps of humanity, to the path of peace, democracy and human dignity. Especially for our country and our nation, I hope the eternal radiance of Epiphany will illuminate, as a beacon of unbroken unity, our thoughts and our actions in our common sacred struggle to overcome the deep social and economic crisis and to defend fully our nation's rights," the president said after attending a ceremony for the blessing of the waters in central Athens.
 PM and UNSG Antonio Guterres discuss Cyprus issue on the phonePrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday had an in-depth discussion with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the telephone, ahead of the multilateral meeting on the Cyprus issue, discussing aspects of both the process and the issue itself.
According to an announcement from the prime minister's press office, Tsipras repeated Greece's standing positions during their conversation and also Greece's steadfast commitment to the talks for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue, on the basis of UN decisions.
The discussion lasted 40 minutes, with a government source claiming Guterres was "very positive" about Greece's positions and raised no objections to the possibility of EU participation in the meeting, which Athens greatly desires. Asked by the ANA whether the prime minister intends to travel to Geneva, the source said that Tsipras "will go if there is a chance of achieving an agreement."
In the case that Turkey does not allow a solution to be achieved, the source predicted that the international practice for salvaging the talks will follow, with a pause for talks to be held at a lower level followed by a resumption.
 Greece offers friendship and cooperation but defends its territorial rights, PM says in AlexandroupolisGreece extends a hand of friendship and cooperation to all but is determined to defend its territorial rights, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday. He made the statement in a message after attending an Epiphany ceremony for the blessing of the waters in the northeastern port city of Alexandroupolis, also attended by Alternate National Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas.
"It is no accident that we are here today, in the easternmost major port of the European Union, in Alexandroupolis. Using the opportunity afforded by my own presence here, that of the Alternate National Defence Minister and the chief of the National Defence General Staff,
I wish to send a message of friendship, cooperation but also of our determination to defend our rights," the prime minister said. "We offer a hand of cooperation but at the same time, however, we state our determination to defend our territorial rights, as these arise from international treaties and international law."
Tsipras noted that Greece offered friendship and cooperation toward all peoples, acting as "a beacon" transmitting the great values of peace, cooperation, solidarity, and love for fellow human beings. This, he noted, made the country a pillar of security and stability in a globally destabilised environment.
He also highlighted the city's future prospects for becoming a hub for energy, trade and transit goods, saying this future could be built with "unity and vision" and again stressed that Europe's eastern borders, from Evros to Kastellorizo, were also those of Greece.
 Tzanakopoulos: Erdogan absence would leave 'many possibilities open'The absence of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the multilateral meeting on Cyprus in Geneva would leave "a very large number of possibilities open," government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Sunday, in an interview with the radio station 'Athina 9.84'.
He noted that Greece has constantly worked for the best possible outcome, in other words a viable solution. The spokesman indicated that Erdogan would not be present at the meeting and that Turkey will be represented by its prime minister, Binali Yildirim.
"From our point of view, we have said that the country's representation must be at the highest possible level but the non presence of Erdogan leave open very many possibilities," Tzanakopoulos noted. "Erdogan plays a most central political role and we, given what the Turkish side has allowed to be understood, will review our position," he added.
The spokesman also commented on the second review, noting that there were no reasons to delay its conclusions and child of apprehended terrorist Pola Roupa, noting that this should be swiftly turned over to its family members.
 Turkey is key player in success or failure of Cyprus talks, ND's official tells UK ministerTurkey is the key player in the success or the failure of the ongoing talks on Cyprus, New Democracy's shadow foreign minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos told British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Alan Duncan, during a meeting in Athens on Thursday.
"We discussed the latest developments [on Cyprus] and he informed me of the conclusions and impressions from his visit to Ankara yesterday. Turkey is the key player in achieving success or failing in the new effort to find a solution to the Cyprus issue," he said after the meeting.
 Mitsotakis: 'A great collective effort' is needed to overcome the crisisMain opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday celebrated Epiphany on the island of Salamina, off the coast of Attica, where he attended the customary ceremony for the blessing of the waters.
"As we come into the eighth year of economic crisis and Greece resembles, more and more, a blocked society, our Church's prayer for divine inspiration is today more timely than ever and also more necessary than ever. By itself, however, it is not enough. A great collective effort is needed," the ND president said in a message afterward
"United, we Greeks will once again regain our self-confidence as a nation, guided by the values of sincerity, seriousness and responsibility, to begin the great effort for national reconstruction," Mitsotakis added.
In an intervew published by the newspaper "Parapolitika" on Friday, which also coincided with the first anniversary since he took over ND's leadership, Mitsotakis again expressed certainty that Greeks could emerge from the crisis if they worked together. He said his party was changing and providing the country with a way forward, saying that all the healthy forces in society had to be mobilised toward this end, without the divisions and exclusions of the past.
"I address all Greeks with the certainty that together we can succeed. We have survived much tougher times. The fundamental requirement now is that we speak the language of truth and restore trust between ourselves. To work together for a better present and future for the children of all Greeks," he said.
Talking about his party's internal elections on January 10, Mitsotakis said it was the "citizen's mandate" that he proceed with a creative renewal of the country's major centreright party and that he was now acting on this mandate, promising major changes and new blood within ND.
 FM Kotzias: Greece always supported Cyprus"Greece has always supported and supports Cyprus based on the interest of Cyprus itself and the people of Cyprus," said Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, after marathon contacts he had New York ahead of the critical conference on the Cyprus issue in Geneva.
"We are against issues that have to do with the security, ie guarantees, intervention rights and the occupation army, and this is a policy that we follow consistently from the beginning," he stressed.
 We will not accept IMF's unreasonable demands, Labour Min Achtsioglou saysLabour Minister Effi Achtsioglou on Saturday in an interview with Real News newspaper sent a clear message that the government will not accept unreasonable demands from the IMF on labour relations outside the European regularity, such as legislating austerity measures for the period after the completion of the programme in 2018.
She underlined that she will insist on keeping the threshold for mass layoffs stable while she left open the way that the IMF will participate in the Greek programme.
The Greek Labour Minister also said that it is impossible to meet the 0.5 percent primary surplus in 2016 and estimated that the automatic contingent mechanism will not be activated.
 Greece is doing a great job on refugee issue, Lord Alfred Dubs tells ANAGreece is in a very difficult financial situation but it is working hard on the refugee issue, Lord Alfred Dubs said in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).
"You are doing a great job, but I think that you need more help," he underlined.
Alfred Dubs visited Thessaloniki, northern Greece, to see the living conditions of unaccompanied children - refugees in our country. "Initially we focused on Calais because of the situation there, and the fact that it was closer to Britain. But now, Britain will be getting some of the unaccompanied children in Greece," he said.
He stressed that this country should "strengthen its support not only to children refugees, but all refugees" and other countries should do the same adding that "Europe did not show the necessary solidarity on the refugee issue."
 IMF demand for measures in 2018 is absurd, gov't spokesman says"The IMF demand for more measures in 2018 is absurd," State Minister and government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Saturday said in an interview with Kontra News newspaper.
He also stressed the importance of concluding the economic programme review as soon as possible.
Tzanakopoulos underlined that the government's aim is to discuss the long-term and shortterm measures on debt as well as the primary surpluses and their reduction, which is necessary, after 2018.
 Greek government works hard for positive outcome on Cyprus, gov't sourcesThe government and more particularly the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras are working hard to achieve a positive outcome on the Cyprus issue, according to government sources on Saturday.
"The Greek government and the prime minister are working hard and will continue to do so ahead of the Geneva conference in order to achieve a positive outcome in the negotiations on the Cyprus issue. The Greek government is ready to respond positively and to be represented at the highest level in Geneva, if so decided by the Turkish side," the same sources said.
 Problems continue as Greece remains in the grip of the cold frontGreece's civil protection mechanisms remained fully mobilised on Sunday to cope with the effects of a severe cold front sweeping across Europe and into the country from the north, bringing snow, ice and very low temperatures. State services struggled to keep major highways open and advised the public to avoid unnecessary movement due to the danger of ice on the roads.
"We are on standby to deal with the bad weather and our goal is to do everything humanly possible to avoid problems," Civil Protection General Secretary Yiannis Kapakis told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA). "As long as the bad weather continues, the entire civil protection mechanism and all forces involved will remain on standby," he added.
According to Kapakis, all the problems that have arisen up to this point have been dealt with and virtually the entire state mechanism and all the means at its disposal had been mobilised.
Among the areas hardest hit were the Greek islands: a state of emergency was declared on the island of Skopelos due to the heavy snow overnight, while the same is expected for nearby Alonissos. Snow even settled as far south as Crete, where authorities were struggling to keep roads open on Sunday. According to reports the situation in Alonissos is even worse than on Skopelos, with 1.5-2.0 metres of snow, roads cut off, no electricity and therefore no phones or water, since the pumps were unable to function.
Problems were also reported on the island of Evia, near the Karystos and Kymi areas, where several areas are cut off and the snow reached up to 2.0 metres deep.
Commenting on the closure of the Patras-Corinth national highway from Saturday afternoon until the early hours of Sunday, Kapakis said this was due to the heavy snow and the roadworks in those locations that led to delays.
Despite improved weather and some sunshine on Sunday, temperatures remained bitterly cold and stayed below freezing throughout all areas of northern Greece, plunging as low as - 19C in Florina and -16C in Nevrokopi in Drama. The bitter cold is forecast to continue in the next few days.
In Attica, the road to the summit of Mount Parnitha was closed due to the snow, as was the Penteli peripheral road from the 414 Military Hospital to Agios Petros and Fylis Avenue from Kleiston Monastery to Dervenochoria. Authorities have also banned trucks from using the old Elefsina-Thiva road after Vilia and advised all other vehicles to use snow chains. These are also necessary in Ippokratios Politia and Agiou Merkouriou Road.
Authorities in other areas of Greece are struggling to keep major roadways open but snow chains are necessary in several areas and some roads have been closed due to icy conditions, especially on higher ground.
Several regions throughout the country announced that schools in their area will not open as planned on Monday due to the weather, especially in northern Greece and in higher altitudes.
Another casualty of the bad weather was the PPC's power station in Kardia, which left the entire town of Ptolemaida without heating. The hot steam from the power plant is used to provide heating for 14,000 homes in Ptolemaida but the freezing -17C temperatures affected the functioning of two medium and high-voltage switches outside the plant, causing two of the units to fail.
Many other areas, including Thessaloniki, were left without water for a second consecutive day as water pipes froze and burst and meters seized due to the low temperatures.
 Polakis to ANA: Novartis scandal on a par with that involving SiemensThe Novartis scandal, which he described as comparable to the Siemens' kickbacks scandal, and the prospects for improving Greece's ailing state health system were the topics that Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis mainly addressed in an interview with the Athens- Macedonian News Agency (ANA) released on Sunday.
Polakis said that Greeks continued to have faith in the national health system in spite of the problems in health care. Though far from perfect, he said this now presented the image of a system "that is beginning to recover after many years of understaffing, underfunding and deliberate destruction."
"Clearly we are not satisfied overall but we are satisfied that we have balanced a system that was in danger of collapse," he added, noting that the horizontal cuts imposed in the years prior to SYRIZA's arrival had "not touched one hair" of a system that generated overpricing, graft and corruption.
"The difference in spending between what New Democracy had signed and what we negotiated is close to one billion euros more money for state hospitals. If you do not make a political choice to give money to a system that is collapsing than you're not doing anything," Polakis added.
On the scandal surrounding the pharmaceutical firm Novartis, Polakis said that this involved more than 4.0 billion euros of illegal money. He noted that "penal, political and administrative" responsibilities would be uncovered in the case concerning how the administrative mechanism, doctors and the political leadership had handled a specific portion of pharmaceutical spending and how the company had distributed drugs "while violating protocols and good practice".
The minister blamed the slow procedures of the Supreme Council for Staff Selection (ASEP) for delays in hiring the additional staff announced, noting that the "ASEP system was set up in order to stall and delay". He pointed out, however, that 3,830 people had been hired since October 2015 when the first recruitment drive was announced, while another 3,100 were in the process of being hired and thousands more hirings were planned in the months ahead.
Lastly, the minister appeared confident that Greece was ready to face the peak of the flu season, noting that there were now 554 functioning ICU beds, compared with 438 last year, with another 100 ICU beds available in the private sector. The Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP) was now expected to advertise for additional positions that would allow an addition 40-45 beds in ICUs to open, he added.
 Terror suspects Roupa and Athanasopoulou in hospital for testsRecaptured convicted terrorist Pola Roupa and her 25-year-old suspected accomplice Konstantina Athanasopoulou, both jailed on remand for a fresh set of terrorism-related charges, were on Sunday taken to Sotiria Hospital in Athens after they complained of feeling weak and unwell.
The two women, who arrived with a strong police escort, will undergo a series of medical tests as a precaution, so that doctors can determine their state of health.
 Guns and munitions found in the house occupied by convicted terrorist Pola RoupaCombat rifles, hand grenades and other weaponry were among the items found in the Ilioupolis residence occupied by convicted terrorist Pola Roupa at the time of her arrest, Greek police announced on Sunday.
Police said they found two rifles, two hand guns, four hand grenades and various calibres of ammunition during a search of the premises.
Near the home of Konstantina Athanasopoulou, a 25-year-old woman arrested with Roupa as a suspected terrorist, police found and confiscated a vehicle that the two women bought in December 2016.
Both homes also contained substantial quantities of cash that were confiscated as evidence.
All the items found were taken to the Hellenic Police forensic laboratories for testing while the search of the two homes continues.
 Custody of Pola Roupa's son given to his grandmotherA public prosecutor for juveniles on Sunday ordered that custody of Pola Roupa's six-yearold son with fellow convicted terrorist Nikos Maziotis should be given to the boy's grandmother. After studying the expert reports, the prosecutor ruled that Roupa's mother should have sole custody and not joint custody with Roupa's sister, as the prisoner had originally requested.
 Channel owners ask CoS to exempt them from filing wealth statementsThe Association of Nationally Broadcasting Television Station Owners (EITHSEE) on Sunday filed a petition with the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, asking that its members and their senior executives be exempted from an obligation to submit wealth statements. The association has also asked for a temporary suspension of the obligation to submit a wealth statement for its members and their senior staff until the CoS issues its ruling in a similar case filed by five judges' unions.
The deadline for submission of wealth statements expires next Sunday.
In its arguments, the association raises many of the same issues as the judges' unions but also questions of privacy and the possible leaking of sensitive private information. Among others, it highlights a 150,000 euro fine imposed on the General Secretariat for Information Systems for leaking the personal information of nearly all tax payers in Greece.
 Greeks celebrate Epiphany and the blessing of the watersUndeterred by a cold front working its way across the country from the north and the generally unsettled weather, Greeks turned out in good numbers to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany on Friday, while many braved the freezing waters and dived after the cross during the various ceremonies to bless the waters, including in one instance an eight-year-old girl.
Despite strong winds, the ceremonies went smoothly on most of the Aegean islands, while on Rhodes a young woman called Eleni Karagianni stole the show when she beat her male rivals to recover the cross from the stormy seas.
A notable exception was Iraklio on Crete, where the ceremony in the city's Venetian Harbour was cancelled due to a torrential downpour and held in the Cretaquarium instead. In spite of this, some swimmers dove into the harbour anyway and formed a symbolic human "cross" instead.
Three swimmers defied temperatures of -4C to dive after the cross in Lake Kastoria in northern Greece, four at Lake Polyfytos in Kozani, while 10 young Roma men observed the tradition by diving into the frozen waters of the Sakouleva River in Florina in light snowfall.
 Domestic flights disrupted by strong winds in AegeanStrong winds of up to 8 Beaufort in the Aegean disrupted flights to and from the Greek islands on Friday, while some flights using smaller aircraft had to be cancelled outright as they were unable to take off and land.
Among the latter were scheduled flights from Thessaloniki to the island of Samos and from Samos to Thessaloniki, and flight 204 from Athens to Rhodes, where the pilot abandoned attempts to land in Rhodes airport and decided to return to Athens.
 Rio-Antirio bridge closed on Saturday for safety reasonsThe Rio-Antirio bridge closed on Saturday for safety reasons due to snowfall and frost. The company responsible for the operation of the bridge, in consultation with the police, found that it was necessary to close the two traffic streams to avoid the possibility of an accident.
 Top official in Greek athletics federation takes own lifeOne of the foremost figures in Greek athletics, the vice president of the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS) Yiannis Stamatopoulos, took his own life by jumping off the fifth storey of an apartment building in Athens on Sunday. Stamatopoulos was a member of the Hellenic Olympic Committee and president of the Athens Marathon organising committee.
SEGAS and the HOC issued announcements expressing their deep anguish over Stamatopoulos' death, noting that he had devoted his life to Greek athletics and to its athletes.
 Weather ForecastMore snow and very low temperatures are forecast on Monday, with below freezing temperatures throughout northern Greece. Winds mainly from northerly directions, between 5-8 Beaufort. Temperatures from -12C to -1C in the north, -4C to 5C in the Ionian islands and the west, -5C to 4C in east and central Greece, -1C to 8C on the Aegean islands. Cloudy in Athens with occasional snow and temperatures from -2C to 4C. Clouds and snow in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from -7C to -2C.
 Athens News Headlines at a glanceKATHIMERINI: The bets at stake
AVGHI: Geneva on focus
ESTIA: Increasing euroscepticism
PROTO THEMA: Pressure in order to hire
REAL NEWS: Election games
KONTRA NEWS: Extreme right on the rise in Europe
RIZOSPASTIS: Dangerous contradictions and competition
EPOCHI: The Cyprus issue in Geneva
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