|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-01-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 8 January 2015 Issue No: 4854
 PM Samaras expresses grief and abhorrence over Paris massacrePrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday expressed abhorrence and the solidarity of the Greek people with the victims of the bloody attack in Paris that cost many lives.
"On behalf of the Greek people, I express deep grief and abhorrence for the bloody terrorist attack in Paris. We, the Greeks, express our solidarity with the families of the innocent victims and participate in the mourning of our friends, the French people," the prime minister's statement underlined.
 FM Venizelos' statement regarding the terrorist attack on the offices of the French newspaper "Charlie Hebdo"Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday condemned the deadly terrorist attack on the offices of the French newspaper "Charlie Hebdo."
"We express our outrage at and unequivocal condemnation of the monstrous and barbaric deadly terrorist attack on the offices of the French newspaper 'Charlie Hebdo'", he said.
In addition, he expressed his deepest condolences to the victims' loved ones, to the French people and to the French authorities.
"We assure the French government that Greece remains at its side as a firm ally of those who fight for freedom and against terrorism," he added.
 SYRIZA condemns bloody attack on 'Charlie Hebdo' offices in ParisMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday condemned "the atrocious attack on the offices of French magazine 'Charlie Hebdo' that cost the lives of 12 people and has filled with grief and rage every thinking human being and democratic citizen."
"Intolerance and indiscriminate violence run counter to democracy and equality, against the principles of Enlightenment, against Europe itself and its citizens, regardless of their religions or origin," the SYRIZA statement underlined.
The party also expressed solidarity and support to the French people and the families of the victims.
 To Potami shocked by 'barbaric murder' of journalists, cartoonists in 'Charlie Hebdo'To Potami party on Wednesday expressed its shock at the "barbaric murder" of journalists and cartoonists of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
"The cowardly terrorists wanted to murder free thought, supposedly in the name of the defence of their religion. In essence the bullets of the murderers are a painful blow to cultural tolerance," the party said in an announcement.
"No barbarity and no fanaticism will manage to undermine the open European societies and our values. Hundreds of new cartoonists will soon take in their hands the pens of the exceptional and brave Cabu, Charb, Wolinski and Tignous," To Potami added.
 Movement of Democratic Socialists spokesman Petalotis on terrorist attack in ParisThe bloody terrorist attack in Paris targeting the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" magazine was characterized as "an attack on the freedom of press" and "an attack on democracy itself" by newly-founded Movement of Democratic Socialists spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday.
"It will not suffice to express condemnation of this heinous act that cost the lives of eleven people," he underlined, adding that "we have to actively rally together to defend freedom of expression and confront totalitarian ideas that foment terrorism."
 PM Samaras will 'present full economy programme on Saturday'A minority dragged Greece to elections that a majority did not want, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday in Chalkida, on the island of Evia, speaking of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) party, which he also accused of fooling other parties it collaborated with.
Samaras said that if all SYRIZA claimed were applied, Greece would lose all EU funding, including the credit extension from the European Central Bank, and said the party was intent on "discussing from scratch all EU rules, something that cannot be done. Some people are trying to blow up all our achievements."
Among other things, the prime minister said that taxes would be lowered and businesses would pay a unified tax of 15 pct, with a lower VAT. He pledged that pensions and wages would not be reduced any more, and said that on Saturday he would "present to the Greek people our full programme on the economy."
Under his government, he said, Greece "did not see what bankruptcy and exiting the eurozone means, nor did it see shut-down ATMs and banks," which it won't see when ND wins elections. Samaras also charged SYRIZA with trying to grant citizenship and insurance to all immigrants, regardless of whether they are war refugees or not: "You see what is happening in Europe. Today we had a massacre in Paris with 12 dead, while some people are inviting foreign immigrants here. Populism wants to take us back - for what reason? To protect the privileges of those who have become comfortable in statism."
The main opposition party, he said, "serves the interests of those who have become comfortable and of the drachma speculators."
 PASOK leader Venizelos on the party's role as a guarantorPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday, speaking to SKAI TV, referred to the role of PASOK as a guarantor.
"We are aiming at the third place in order to call on all democratic forces, that believe in the country's European orientation and the need to conclude that effort with safety, to cooperate," he underlined.
"We are not the wildcard that adheres to the perceptions of others," he stressed and added that PASOK does not want to participate in any government at all costs.
"SYRIZA," he said, "is a party that has no references to the European governing parties. This means that it is not aware of the correlations and speaks in a way that currently creates a contact and communication difficulty."
Moreover, Venizelos noted that "there is no fiscal gap."
 SYRIZA spokesman Skourletis accuses PM Samaras of scaremongeringMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) spokesman Panos Skourletis on Wednesday accused the prime minister of scaremongering. He underlined that it is a contradiction in itself the fact that the outgoing prime minister fosters scaremongering instead of adopting an appeasing stance and added that apparently the prime minister believes that his election campaign will be benefited.
He said that ND presented no concrete election campaign proposal, noting that obviously its programme is the continuation of the memorandum.
Commenting on the different positions voiced by SYRIZA cadres, Skourletis said that no SYRIZA cadre has backed a cessation of payments or mandatory internal borrowing and referring to the issue of primary residences, he said that as of January 1, 2015 they are not being protected from foreclosures.
On the statements made by SYRIZA MP George Stathakis as regards the private television stations' operation licenses, he said that "we should all accept the fact that they do not have legal licenses." He noted that this is a lingering issue that will have to be resolved and added that television stations "do not pay taxes," underlining that they should serve pluralism and information and not be used to manipulate public opinion as the instruments of those in office.
He announced that the public sector will exercise its rights in the banks and added that the boards appointed will defend the interests of the main shareholder, namely, the state.
Responding to a question on Bank of Greece (BoG) Governor Yannis Stournaras, he said that the central banker should act within the limits of his role and if he chooses to exercise a policy he should know that, sooner or later, he will be in conflict with the political leadership.
On the privatisations made, he characterized them as a sell-off of public property that did not serve public interest.
 ANA-MPA interview: 'Grexit' talk an attempt to manipulate voters, SYRIZA's Kalyvis saysIn an interview with ANA-MPA on Wednesday, main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Political Secretariat member Alekos Kalyvis said that statements by foreign officials about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone and in support of continuing current policies were "part of an attempt to manipulate voters and attempts to determine a negotiation strategy with a new SYRIZA government."
The head of the party's political planning committee, Kalyvis noted that these forces failed to understand that, if the Greek people choose another policy with their vote, this is the policy that will be implemented and not those imposed by the European "directorate".
Asked about the possibility of cooperation with either the Potami party or the new party formed by former premier George Papandreou, as well as the Independent Greeks led by Panos Kammenos, Kalyvis stressed that SYRIZA will not cooperate with parties that are part of "the so-called memorandum arc" and that SYRIZA is striving for a Parliamentary majority "so that the power balance does not prevent us from implementing our policy."
Regarding the staff that will be needed for SYRIZA to carry out its pledges for state reform, Kalyvis said that the party will not launch a policy of "assaults" on the state but a process of major reforms, chiefly with the participation of the workers and society. "Consequently, we will not follow a logic of trusting only our own people but every worker that wishes to contribute to a major change," he added.
 The first target is to avoid the debt 'trap', SYRIZA's Tsakalotos saysWe will have a government on a different basis, with different values and different analyses for the economy, SYRIZA deputy Efkleidis Tsakalotos on Wednesday told ANA-MPA webTV in an interview.
"We are saying that we need to reverse almost everything the government has said. We must restart the economy and deal with the humanitarian crisis. There will be flagship interventions as of the first week, for people that have no access to electricity and for people that have no housing, but also regulations for the economy so as to give a breather to small entrepreneurs and small shop owners...Saying there is no other way is unacceptable and absurd. Citizens across Europe and all peoples have always had choices," he said.
He noted that the first target is to avoid the continuation of "the trap called debt."
"There should definitely be a debt write-off. To the best of my knowledge, no respected economist claims that this debt is sustainable," he said.
The full interview is available for subscribers at ANA-MPA web TV.
 Minister of State Stamatis says "SYRIZA's lead over ND is reversible"New Democracy will be the winner in the forthcoming general elections, Minister of State Dimitris Stamatis predicted on Wednesday, pointing out that SYRIZA lost the 2012 general elections despite the fact that opinion polls had given it a lead ranging between 3 and 6.2 percent.
Speaking on Vima FM private radio, Stamatis underlined that a 2-3 percent lead was reversed in the past, adding that now conditions are even more favourable for such a development.
As regards the negotiations with the troika of the country's international creditors and the measures ND will take if it forms a government, he said that ND's developmental agenda will be unveiled soon, noting that the issues under discussion are legislation governing trade unions, the EKAS benefit for low-income pensioners, VAT rates and a gradual increase of retirement age in certain cases.
On the prime minister's decision to reject the SYRIZA leader's invitation to a televised debate, Stamatis said that, the prime minister has been rejecting this invitation for more than a year and will continue to do so for as long as the SYRIZA leader will continue his "unethical and unacceptable behavior," adding that "it is a matter of political civilisation" and "such a behavior cannot be tolerated and legalised."
He ruled out the likelihood of a broad government alliance, noting that a necessary precondition for such a development would be for SYRIZA to change its stance.
 Ecologists Greens officially announce cooperation with main opposition SYRIZAGreece's Ecologists-Greens on Wednesday officially announced its decision to run on the same ticket as main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) in the upcoming elections on January 25. The announcement was made after a meeting on Wednesday between Ecogreens Executive Secretariat Coordinator Yiannis Tsironis and SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who both spoke of "strategic cooperation" between their parties.
Tsipras said the two parties had a common course in the past on environmental protection issues and would now be "joining forces on the same election ticket". He said it was a historic decision on a European level also, since the Eco-Greens were the party representing Greece within the bloc of the European Greens in the European Parliament and that their cooperation will enhance the momentum of a major electoral victory in Greece, as well as paving the way for necessary alliances in a European framework.
SYRIZA's leader also spoke of a strategic alliance that went beyond the upcoming elections, with the chief aim of jointly drawing up the country's environmental policy.
Tsironis said that his party, through this alliance, hoped to assist in changing Greece's fate and the current government, as well as the current regime that not only destroyed the environment, as something superfluous, but also social relations and individual people.
He announced that the Eco-Greens candidates will include former MEP Michalis Tremopoulos in the 1st Thessaloniki constituency, former regional councillors Costas Diakos in Hania, George Dimaras in the 2nd Athens constituency and Dimitra Lymberopoulou in Corinth, as well as Dimitris Politopoulos in the Cyclades, Costas Kalogranis in Attica and George Dimitriou in the 2nd Piraeus constituency.
 Dep. Administrative Reform Min.: Negotiation with troika a 'thriller'Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Evi Christofilopoulou on Wednesday, speaking on SKAI radio, called the negotiation with Greece's lenders a "thriller."
"We have borrowed from European institutions, from European parliaments and from the IMF," she said.
Christofilopoulou noted that "many of them borrow with a 5 pct interest rate and they lend us with a 2 pct interest rate. They have demands. Mr. Venizelos (Evangelos, Government Vice President and PASOK leader) has never made any compromise as well as the ministers we negotiate with, however, there were adjustments for the negotiation needs while constantly safeguarding the utmost national interest."
 EU parliament head Schulz criticises 'irresponsible speculation' over GrexitBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Debate in Germany over Greece's exit from the eurozone strengthens SYRIZA and its leader Alexis Tsipras, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz warned and referred to "irresponsible speculation" that do not help.
Schulz, in an interview with "Die Welt" newspaper on Wednesday, reiterated that it should be clear to everyone that there is no question of an exit from the eurozone. The unsolicited advice which gives the people of Greece the impression that it is not up to them to decide their fate via their votes, but up to Brussels and Berlin, probably drives voters straight into the arms of radical forces, he noted.
 Neither Greece's exit from the Eurozone nor the restructuring of its debt are on the agenda, EU Commissioner Moscovici saysQuestions of Greece exiting the Eurozone or restructuring its debt are not on the agenda, EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told 'Le Monde' newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.
Moscovici noted that the European Commission wanted Greece to remain in the Eurozone.
"The Commission wants Greece to stay in the Eurozone. It is important for monetary union - its integrity," he was quoted as saying.
He added that Greek elections do not constitute a potential trigger for a new crisis in the Eurozone.
 Austrian chancellor critical of 'grexit' pressures on Greek votersVIENNA (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, voiced strong criticism of the rekindled speculation about Greece's exit from the euro emanating from Berlin in recent statements to the Austrian newspaper "Kurier". Stressing that the things discussed in Greece's pre-election race were the concern of the Greeks, he termed the debate "more than superfluous" and "disrespectful" to Greek voters and European citizens.
In statements printed by the paper on Monday, Faymann said it was "pointless arrogance" to attempt to explain to a people facing elections how the domestic situation in Greece was viewed in Berlin and noted that Greece had upheld all its agreements and obligations in the past, expressing no doubt that it would continue to do this in the future.
He was critical of what he called an "exaggeration" concerning the pre-election debate in Greece and the resulting triggering of a discussion about a possible Grexit that he said created the impression of a threat against Greeks, adding that such intervention and provoking insecurity among people has no result, while expressing "disappointment" with the leadership of the German Christian-Democrats.
 Next Greek government must continue implementing bailout programme, Latvian EU presidency saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Whichever party takes over governance of Greece has to understand that it must continue on the path of implementing the country's bailout programme, otherwise there will be repercussions that could shake faith in the Eurozone, Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkvis said here on Wednesday. Latvia has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council.
The Latvian foreign minister expressed hope that the choice made by Greek voters in the election will be "responsible" and meet the prior conditions included in the programme, while adding that it was necessary to wait for the results of the elections.
He stressed that scenarios about a possible Greek departure from the Eurozone was without basis and that the country's adjustment programme will be successfully completed.
Rinkvis also noted that the programme agreed with Greece's creditors had resulted in some harsh structural reforms, including drastic pay cuts ranging from 25-30 pct in the public sector.
 Latvian PM: New Greek government should respect agreements signed with lendersBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
The Prime Minister of Latvia, Laimdota Straujuma, expressed on Wednesday her hope that the new Greek government will respect the agreements signed with the member-states of the Eurozone, as part of its bailout programme.
Latvia has just taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council.
Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Straujuma noted that the EU will have to wait for the results of the elections in Greece and not rush to conclusions, as the country has "the right to choose its government freely."
The prime minister of Latvia also said reforms in Greece will have to continue since there's no alternative solution to the implementation of its programme which has been agreed with its international lenders.
 ANEL leader accuses PM of a 'subordination policy' in Greek-Turkish issuesIndependent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos, who is visiting the northeastern Greek city of Komotini, on Wednesday accused the prime minister of a "subordination policy" in the Greek-Turkish issues.
"Yesterday, the prime minister, fearing citizens, avoided Orestiada and Didimoticho mayors. He chose to speak to the Turkish officer at the borders. Today, Turkey has imposed a naval blockade on Cyprus, binding specific areas within the Cyprus EEZ. This is Mr. Samaras' policy of subordination," he said.
He also lashed out at the government and the troika, saying that they "chose to abandon the area (of Thrace)."
As part of his tour in Thrace, Kammenos is also due to visit the city of Xanthi.
 A strong KKE is a power of certainty for the next day, KKE sec gen saysBoth New Democracy and SYRIZA are hiding from the people that any negotiation for the debt settlement, for loosening of the fiscal discipline - always in agreement with the partners - is sought not for the relief of the people, but for the state support of monopoly groups, communist party KKE secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that a strong KKE is a power of certainty for the next day.
 KKE says government 'fully responsible' for first-time voters' exclusion on January 25The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday stressed that the government bears "full responsibility for the exclusion of new voters from participation in the Parliamentary elections on January 25, 2015." Replying to an announcement by the interior ministry on the issue, it dismissed the explanation citing a legal inability to cover the gap caused by their non-registration in electoral rolls as a "pretext".
"The KKE has proposed specific ways, which are legal and feasible (either by modifying the relevant ordinances concerning the updating of electoral rolls or by implementing the process for 'omitted' voters) in order for those born within 1997 to exercise their right to vote, which they have in any case. We demand that this be immediately ensured," the party said.
 Greek parties must elect president with wide majority, To Potami leader says in LamiaGreek parties should overcome their inflexibility and elect president with 180 votes rather than by a slim majority, To Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis said in the central Greek city of Lamia on Wednesday.
In a campaign tour, Theodorakis said that "it is particularly important for To Potami to be Parliament's third party" and did not exclude collaboration with main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) or New Democracy (ND) to form a reliable government, under certain conditions.
"We don't want elections again and again, the country cannot sustain this," he said, while criticising both ND and SYRIZA for the stance they have kept. He also said Greece must remain in the eurozone, charging that "it is disastrous that some brainless politicians come out to say various things about Greece's relations with the EU" and warned there is nothing that will save the country if its membership is jeopardised.
Talk about what the ruling government will be like must begin the day after elections, he stressed. "We are not concerned about acquiring ministries. What concerns us is whether the government overall goes in the right direction."
About the new party former prime minister George Papandreou founded recently, Theodorakis said democracy does not exclude anyone. However, he added, "When the Greek people give you 45 pct of the vote, they give you a huge opportunity, almost a carte blanche. It's strange to return a few years later and ask for help again. You had a chance, and you missed it."
 Former general secretary for public revenues Theoharis to run for parliament with PotamiFormer finance ministry general secretary for public revenues Haris Theoharis (2013-14), who held office under the current ND-PASOK government, on Wednesday announced that he will be on the Potami party ballot and will run for parliament in the 2nd Athens electoral district.
The news was posted on his facebook account, mentioning that he accepted a relevant invitation from Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis.
His candidacy will be formally confirmed on Thursday, when Potami will announce its definitive list of candidates.
 SYRIZA leads ND by 3.5 pct in Pulse RC pollMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) led senior coalition party New Democracy (ND) by 3.5 pct in a poll conducted by Pulse RC for private TV station Action 24 on January 5 and 6, released on Wednesday.
In intention to vote, respondents said they would vote for the parties as follows: SYRIZA 29 pct, ND 25.5 pct (28.5 pct and 25 pct, respectively in the same company's last, Dec. 21, poll), followed by PASOK-Dimokratiki Parataxi, To Potami and Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) with 5.5 pct each, Communist Party of Greece 5 pct, Independent Greeks (ANEL) 3 pct and newly-founded Movement of Democratic Socialists 2.5 pct. Another 4 pct opted for "Other", 5 pct for Blank/Invalid/Abstention, and 9.5 pct chose "Undecided/No Answer".
Asked "who is better for prime minister", 36 pct chose Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and 30 pct SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. A further 31 pct said "Neither" and another 3 pct declined to answer.
To the question of which party they thought would win the elections if they were held next Sunday, regardless of what their personal choice was, 61 pct said SYRIZA, 29 pct ND and 3 pct said "Other". Another 7 pct declined to answer.
 SYRIZA leads 3.2 pct over ND, shows GPO opinion pollMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leads by 3.2 percent over main government coalition partner New Democracy (ND) according to an opinion poll conducted by GPO for the private TV station MEGA and published on Wednesday.
According to the poll results, SYRIZA leads among those questioned with 28.5 percent, followed by ND with 25.3 percent, To Potami with 5.8 percent, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 5.7 percent, Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) with 5.4 percent, minor government coalition partner PASOK with 5 percent, Independent Greeks (ANEL) with 2.7 percent, the newly founded Movement of Democratic Socialists with 2.6 percent, LAOS with 2 percent and ANDARSYA with 1 percent.
A 2 percent of the respondents chose "another party", while 0.9 percent chose "Invalid/blank". The unidentified vote reached 13.1 percent.
Asked who they consider the most suitable prime minister for after the elections, 40.3 percent chose Antonis Samaras, while 34.9 percent said Alexis Tsipras. Another 23.5 percent replied "none of them".
The poll was conducted between January 5 and 7, 2015.
 Two opinion polls give SYRIZA narrow lead over NDTwo opinion polls show that the gap between New Democracy, the leading party in Greece's ruling coalition, and main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) has narrowed to 2 pct and 3.3 pct respectively.
According to a nationwide opinion poll conducted by Interview on behalf of northern Greece's Vergina TV on January 5 and 6, SYRIZA remained in the lead, with 27.1 pct of voters saying they intend to vote for the party, followed by ND with 25.1 pct, To Potami 6.3 pct, Golden Dawn (GD) 5.7 pct, Communist Party (KKE) 4.6 pct, PASOK 3.6 pct, newly-founded Movement of Democratic Socialists 2.1 pct, Independent Greeks (ANEL) 1.7 pct and Democratic Left (DIMAR) 0.2 pct. Six percent of those asked said they would vote for "another party", 10 pct are undecided, while 7.6 pct said that they would cast a blank or invalid ballot.
According to the same poll, 53 pct of those asked said that they do not think that SYRIZA's economic programme is realistic, while its position on ending economic austerity and the memorandums was also characterized as unrealistic by 59 pct of those polled.
In terms of party leaders, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras continues to have a clear lead (41 pct) over SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras (29 pct) as to who is most suitable for prime minister. Also, 41 pct of those who answered the questionnaire said that Samaras can negotiate better with the country's creditors.
A previous opinion poll conducted by the same company gave SYRIZA a lead of 2.3 pct over ND (SYRIZA 27.4 pct and ND 25.1 pct).
Meanwhile, an ALCO opinion poll to be published on Thursday in the weekly newspaper "To Pontiki" gives SYRIZA a 3.3 pct lead.
According to the opinion poll conducted on January 4 to 6, SYRIZA leads with 33.8 pct, followed by ND 30.5 pct, To Potami 4.5 pct, GD 4.4 pct, KKE 4.1 pct, PASOK 3.9 pct, Movement of Democratic Socialists 2.7 pct, ANEL 2.4 pct, and "Other" 3.4 pct. The undecided are 10.3 pct.
 PES President contacts PASOK leader Venizelos, former PM PapandreouParty of European Socialists (PES) President Sergei Stanishev on Wednesday contacted PASOK President Evangelos Venizelos, as well as the founder of the new Movement of Democratic Socialists party, former premier George Papandreou. In discussions over the telephone, he was briefed on the pre-election period in Greece and the current situation.
A PASOK announcement said the Stanishev expressed his full support for PASOK-Democratic Party and its role as guarantor of policy and institutional stability in Greece.
According to the Movement of Democratic Socialists, Stanishev told Papandreou that the PES will support three parties in the Greek elections: PASOK, the Movement of Democratic Socialists and Potami.
 Interior ministry settles issue of 18-year-olds votingIndividuals born in 1997 will not be able to vote in national elections on January 25, the caretaker interior minister announced on Wednesday, putting an end on requests by several parties to include them on the voting lists.
In an announcement, the minister said that by law voting lists are based on the township lists of eligibility provided by mayors from February 1 to the end of the month. Therefore, those turning 18 this year will not be able to vote.
On Friday, SYRIZA requested that Minister Michael Theoharidis modify the current presidential decree so that youngsters who turned 18 in the past few months are not denied their voting rights "on technicalities or formalities."
New Democracy charged the main opposition party SYRIZA with blatantly requesting the violation of law, which would "undermine directly the validity of the elections," it said in a statement. "It is obvious that, once again, they are trying to overtly deceive the people," it said.
ND also said that if the opposition really wanted the amendment it could have requested it while Parliament was still open.
 Finance ministry 'mystified' by ELSTAT claims of alleged interference attemptsIn replies to the Second Annual Report issued by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) Good Practice Advisory Committee, the finance ministry on Wednesday said it was "mystified" by references in the report to alleged attempts at interference in ELSTAT's work, as well as the complaints about an outstanding court case against ELSTAT President Andreas Georgiou.
At least four pages of the 17-page report, released on December 31, concerned an ongoing judicial investigation into the actions of Georgiou and two other ELSTAT members relating to the 2009 deficit, with some heavy-handed criticism of the decision to continue "the long drawn out legal process against the President and senior staff of ELSTAT." According to the report, this continued to "weaken the independence of ELSTAT both now and into the future" and damage its reputation and its capacity to perform its tasks within Greece.
The report also related a "very disappointing" incident relayed to the Committee, in which "ELSTAT was approached towards the end of 2014 by some officials to delay introducing revisions to the (Excessive Deficit Procedure) EDP figures that take account of newly available high quality data."
In its reply, the finance ministry stressed that ELSTAT "carries out a difficult task and is an independent authority, whose decisions we fully respect." It said that the ministry has always supplied detailed economic figures whenever these were requested by ELSTAT and that, especially for EDP for which many man-hours had been devoted.
"Any sort of delay in announcing these figures, in the long term, is pointless and without meaning. Consequently, the vague allegation of intervention by public officials, as mentioned in an ELSTAT internal document, is considered puzzling," a ministry announcement said.
New Democracy, the dominant partner in Greece's coalition government, also slammed Georgiou in an announcement for "trampling" on the ELSTAT employees' right to trade union representation, which it stressed was established in the Constitution.
It said the announcement was issued in response to complaints that ELSTAT's president had on New Year's Eve demanded that the head of the ELSTAT employee association depart from the conference room when the latter came to present staff positions, as well as later demanding a written apology "for indecent, inappropriate behaviour, unfit for an employee".
ND called the action "unprecedented" and said that it had been condemned by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY, as well as New Democracy, and urged Georgiou to stop persecuting elected trade union representatives.
 Special examining magistrate to be assigned LAOS leader Karatzaferis case on ThursdayA special examining magistrate will be assigned the case of the inaccurate source of wealth ("pothen esches") statement submitted by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader Giorgos Karatzaferis, now facing felony and misdemeanour charges after a parliamentary committee decided to refer him to justice, it was announced on Wednesday.
The magistrate will be appointed by the Courts of Appeal Judges plenum that will meet tomorrow.
The LAOS president is facing felony charges for submitting an inaccurate source of wealth statement and also, misdemeanour charges for his participation in an offshore company.
According to the case file, Karatzaferis is accused of receiving the amount of 1.6 million euros in two installments in 2007 and 2008, via the offshore company Catalina Ltd which he allegedly owned jointly with his son. The remittances were allegedly sent by entrepreneur Alexandros Tsatsos who together with entrepreneur Stavros Komnopoulos appear as the middlemen for the purchase by the state of four Super Puma helicopters in late 2000 that cost roughly 64 million euros.
According to the evidence available, a second offshore company, Homeric TCI, was also allegedly owned by the LAOS president.
The two businessmen mentioned and three retired military officers involved in the four helicopter case will be summonsed to testify before Examining Magistrate against Corruption Gavriil Mallis beginning on January 12.
According to the investigation, the illegal payments made for the purchase of the helicopters in question amounted to 5.5 million euros, including the 1.6 million euros for which Karatzaferis is under investigation.
The five individuals summonsed to appear before Examining Magistrate Mallis face charges for active and passive bribery and money laundering.
 Athens Bar Association occupied by lawyers protesting against high security prisonsAbout 40 lawyers are occupying symbolically the offices of the Athens Bar Association in central Athens on Wednesday, demanding that the body takes a stance against the newly founded high security prison in Domokos and the transportation of prisoners there.
The lawyers, among who is Ioanna Kourtovik, are also demanding that authorities grant leaves to all political prisoners, without exceptions, saying high security prisons are "inhumane and constitute torture".
In the meantime, the decision of the justice and public order ministries concerning the operation and security regulations of detention facilities were published on Wednesday in the Government Gazette.
The regulation specifies the preventative and punitive security measures that may be implemented in the interior and exterior areas of the prison and the actions of the guards and police forces to maintain order and control.
According to the regulation, every prison will have to have four zones (enclosures) which are: 1) courtyard enclosure, 2) middle enclosure, 3) outer enclosure and 4) perimeter security fencing.
 Police round up 37 after Golden Dawn office attack in AthensThirty-seven individuals were rounded up by police on Wednesday night in central Athens after a group of anti-establishment people attacked the offices of the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party on Diligianni Street.
Police said about 40 individuals with covered faces and wearing helmets and hoods staged an attack at the office, damaging the exterior. They were turned away by the motorcycle police squad (DIAS) and ran away, boarding the Metro at Larissa Station. They were met by police at Panepistimiou Street (Propylaea); 37 were rounded up and taken to the Athens police headquarters on Alexandras Avenue, where a preliminary investigation is going on.
 Chambers' head Mihalos stresses the benefits of euro decline for Greece's competitivenessThe continued downward trend of the euro against the dollar strengthens the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, the head of the Central Union of Hellenic Chambers and the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry Constantinos Mihalos said on Wednesday.
"The combination of falling international oil prices below 50 dollars and the weakening of the euro against other major currencies enhance the competitiveness of the Greek economy and especially of the export-oriented companies through their export activity," Mihalos underlined.
"Given that the Greek economy is largely based on imports, the combination of inflation and the decline in oil prices further strengthens the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector and assists in reducing the current account deficit. The decline of the euro also strengthens our tourist product making our country a more attractive destination," he added.
 Greece drains 1.625 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreek authorities on Wednesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue draining 1.625 billion euros from the market at a higher cost. The Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue was set at 2.30 pct from 2.15 pct in the previous auction of same issue in December 10, 2014. Bids submitted totaled 1.975 billion euros, up 1.58 times from the asked sum. The organization also accepted non-competitive bids worth 375 million euros and will accept additional non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 8 January.
The auction was made with the market's primary dealers and settlement date was set for Friday, 9 January.
 Spyros Kyritsis elected new president of the Association of Members of the Athens ExchangeThe board of directors of the Association of Members of the Athens Exchange (SMEHA) on Wednesday elected unanimously Spyros Kyritsis as its new president, following the resignation of Alexandros Moraitakis last December, because of his participation in the upcoming general elections.
According to the announcement, Kyritsis is an economist with postgraduate studies in business management and many years of experience in securities companies and the financial sector.
He served as senior executive of the Athens Stock Exchange working, among others, as trading manager and director of listed companies. During the last year, he has been a member of the board of directors of the Hellenic-American Securities.
 Greek stock remain under pressureGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by a new significant deterioration in the domestic bond market where the 10-year Greek bond yielding surpassed the 10 pct level for the first time in 15 months, while the three-year bond yielded 15.36 pct, a new all-time high, on concern over the resurgence of a Grexit scenario in international media.
The composite index fell 1.46 pct to end at 777.70 points, off the day's lows of 761.20 points. The index is already 5.87 pct down so far this year. The Large Cap index fell 1.49 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.41 pct lower. Turnover was a strong 125.44 million euros.
Eurobank (5.14 pct), Piraeus Port (3.90 pct) and Grivalia Properties (2.50 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while Ellaktor (5.50 pct), National Bank (5.11 pct) and Athens Water (5.09 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, the Media (9.92 pct), Chemicals (2.03 pct) and Insurance (1.48 pct) scored big gains, while Health (5.88 pct), Personal Products (4.14 pct) and Telecoms (3.42 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 61 to 46 with another 15 issues unchanged. Ekter (18.34 pct), Kepenos Mills (10 pct) and Audiovisual (9.92 pct) were top gainers, while Galaxidi (30 pct), Elgeka (24.70 pct) and Hatzikraniotis (14.50 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -2.16%
Industrial Products: +1.22%
Real Estate: -0.55%
Personal & Household: -4.14%
Food & Beverages: +0.22%
Raw Materials: -1.23%
Mass Media: +9.92%
Travel & Leisure: -2.95%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OTE, National Bank, Alpha Bank, and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.44
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.97
Coca Cola HBC: 14.44
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.56
National Bank of Greece: 1.30
Piraeus Bank: 0.90
Grivalia Properties: 7.80
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened sharply to 9.64 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.87 pct the previous day, with the 10-year Greek bond yielding 10.11 pct - surpassing the 10 pct level for the first time in the last 15 months - while the German Bund yielded 0.47 pct. Turnover was a moderate 27 million euros of which 22 million were sell orders and the remaining 5.0 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.319 pct from 0.321 pct, the nine-month rate was unchanged at 0.241 pct, the six-month rate was 0.168 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.070 pct from 0.075 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.012 pct from 0.015 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 2.19 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,460 contracts wirth 48,353 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 24,807 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (8,901), followed by Alpha Bank (4,804), Eurobank (3,040), Piraeus Bank (2,254), MIG (1,430), PPC (1,054), OTE (995), OPAP (607), Ellaktor (369), GEK (202), Titan (185), Jumbo (165), Mytilineos (177), Folli Follie (131), Hellenic Exchanges (121), Motor Oil (86) and Grivalia Properties (60).
 Foreign exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.1831
Pound sterling 0.7823
Danish kroner 7.4421
Swedish kroner 9.3989
Japanese yen 141.17
Swiss franc 1.2011
Norwegian kroner 9.15
Canadian dollar 1.3996
Australian dollar 1.466
 Problems due to snow, low temperatures continue on WednesdayProblems due to snow and ice continued throughout Greece on Wednesday, following a cold snap that has swept the country since early on Tuesday morning. Among the areas hardest hit was normally sunny Crete in the extreme south, where heavy snowfall resulted in the collapse of a woman's house and the death of a 35-year-old man, possibly as a result of an attempt to keep warm.
Several villages in the Cretan prefecture of Lasithi were snow-bound and experienced power outtages, with local authorities on standby to deal with continuing problems.
Schools will be shut on Thursday throughout East Attica, as well as in several areas on the island of Crete and in the municipalities of Soufli and the island of Samothrace in northern Greece.
The bad weather also resulted in extended power cuts on the island of Tinos, which was without power due to a grid malfunction on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday morning, while dozens of minor problems with power cuts were reported in northeast Attica, where the weather conditions were most severe, due to power cables felled by trees and fallen branches.
The icy conditions hampered traffic on the roads throughout the country, especially in the early hours of Wednesday.
 More schools shut down in Attica, northern Greece on ThursdaySchool shutdowns on Thursday will extend from East Attica to at least half of the north sector of the region, it was announced Wednesday, due to icy road conditions and very low temperatures.
Municipal townships announced the shutdown of schools in Kifissia, Vrilissia, Halandri, Papagou, Holargos, Lykovrissi and Pefki. Sections of the municipality of Penteli road network has been shut down but no further announcements were made on more shutdowns.
So far, no school shutdowns have been announced for Agia Paraskevi, Filothei and Psychiko, Maroussi, Neo Iraklio, Metamorfossi and Nea Ionia.
Elsewhere in Greece, schools will not operate in several areas on the island of Crete, and in northeastern Greece at Soufli and the island of Samothrace.
In the northwestern Florina, schools will also be shut down. They will delay opening by an hour on Thursday in the municipalities of Grevena, Eordea (Kozani), Argos Orestikou (Kastoria) and Prespes Lakes (Florina area).
 Guns, explosives and bomb-making materials discovered in Xiros hideouts in Loutraki, AnavyssosAfter an exhaustive two-day search of the two hideouts used by fugitive convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros during the months following his escape from prison, police on Wednesday reported discovering a mass of evidence that included guns, explosives and materials for constructing bombs.
Counter-terrorism squad officers said that evidence found at the seaside house used by Xiros in Perachora, Loutraki included:
Two pairs of fake vehicle registration plates
Four gas canisters
89 reels of explosives
45 plastic containers filled with an unidentified white substance in solid form, possibly the explosive ammonium nitrate flares two sealed sacks of industrial ammonium nitrate, weighing 40 kilos one sack of a granulous substance, against suspected ammonium nitrate
A hand-gun with a bullet in the chamber and specially adapted clip with six bullets.
26 glass bottles labelled 'Nitromethames', some empty and some not
Five plastic bottles that contained a liquid and were labelled 'methanol'
Two stolen vehicle with fake number plates that were confiscated and sent on to the police forensics department for investigation.
In the fugitive terrorist's hideout in Anavyssos, police also found the following evidence:
A map book containing hand-written notes, possibly for an escape route
Six mobile phones
Sim cards and sim card components memory cards a silencer a mobile phone attached to cables and a battery that could have been used as part of an explosive device
475 9mm bullets
173 combat rifle bullets
Two bins of components for an automated watering system specially adapted with nails, possibly for use in puncturing vehicle tyres.
A piece of paper with a hand-written note of the vehicle registration plate 'YPX-4397' that was the same as one of the fake vehicle registration plates found in the Loutraki house.
The investigation was carried out following the recapture of the fugitive terrorist Xiros last Saturday, several months after he had violated his prison furlough.
He has already been sentenced to six times life imprisonment and 25 years for his role in the notorious terrorist group 17N, which involved other members of his family as well.
 Piraeus Prosecution orders prelimininary investigation into 'Araevo' tanker crew members' deathThe head of Pireaus Prosecution of First Instance Court on Wednesday ordered a preliminary investigation into the death of two crew members of "Araevo" tanker of Greek interests, which on January 4 at 13.30 was attacked by a Libyan military aircraft while it was anchored in Derna port.
The investigation, already assigned to the head of the Pireaus Port Authority, aims at ascertaining the circumstances of the incident following reports that military officers from the internationally recognized Libyan government had stated the ship had been warned against entering Derna port, claiming that Muslim fighters were on board.
The Greek Foreign ministry has strongly condemned the air attack against the Greek-owned tanker. It has also said it would proceed to all necessary representations to the Libyan authorities - in spite of the volatility of the prevailing situation - to enable the clarification of the conditions under which the tragic incident occurred, the identification and punishment of the perpetrators of the attack, and the payment of compensation to the families of the victims.
According to information from the company that owns the tanker, the vessel was under lease to Libya's state-owned "National Oil Corportation" (NOC) and for a number of years traveled between the Libyan ports of Marsa al-Brega and Derna without any problems. It has also dismissed press reports on the ship's alleged denial and non-compliance to orders to stop before entering Derna port so that its load can be inspected.
"Araevo" is sailing towards Piraeus port carrying the bodies of the two crew members (one Greek and one Romanian national). It is expected to reach Piraeus in the afternoon. The tanker had a 26 member crew - three Greeks, 21 Philippines nationals and two Romanians.
 Police release photos, details of second suspect in Koumantareas murderGreek authorities on Wednesday released photographs and details of two men, one currently under arrest and one still at large, who are suspects for the murder of the writer Menis Koumantareas. A 26-year-old Romanian is currently in custody for the attack, while police are searching for a second Romanian man identified as 29-year-old Kosmin Gaitan. The wanted man's details were released by order of a public prosecutor.
The two suspects are accused of homicide and attempted robbery, while the man already in custody has also been charged with resisting arrest.
The writer was found dead in his apartment in Kypseli last month, with injuries to the face and body, while there were no signs of a break-in, even though the apartment had been searched, leading police to suspect that the victim had known his assailants. According to the autopsy, Koumantareas had been strangled to death.
Footage from security cameras around Koumantareas' building showed the two suspects entering the building at 17:35 and exiting at 23:06, while the victim entered at 22:42.
Subsequent investigation revealed that the writer had become acquainted with a foreign national known as 'Stefan' and analysis of his phone records helped police identify the first suspect, who was tracked down and placed under arrest in Patissia.
The suspect admitted that he had visited the victim on the night of December 5, together with the other suspect wanted in connection with the killing, in order to borrow some money. He said that an argument had ensued, during which he pushed Koumantareas away roughly, causing him to fall on the floor. He then claimed to have left, together with the second suspect, without searching the apartment or removing any money or valuables. His testimony is in conflict with evidence already collected by investigating officers, however, especially from the security camera footage, blood spatter on the stairs and finger prints found within the apartment.
Photographs of the individual wanted by police are available at the link: http://www.astynomia.gr/index.php?option=ozo_content&lang=%27..%27&perform=view&id=49516&Itemid=1440&lang=.
 Light snowfall, low temperatures on ThursdayOvercast and light snowfall in forecast for Thursday. Northerly winds will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy with possibility of light snow in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from -08C-05C and in Western Macedonia from -15C-01C. Mostly fair in the western parts of the country with temperatures between -03C-11C. Partly cloudy with light snowfall in the eastern parts and temperatures between -09C-07. Clouds and sleet over the islands, 01C-09C. Partly cloudy with light snow in the northern parts of Athens and temperatures between 01C-07C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki, -04C-05C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Rift to the scaremongering climate.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Alarm in Europe and in the markets over a 'Greek accident'.
ESTIA: Need for honesty.
ETHNOS: The regions that will determine the result (of the general elections).
NAFTEMPORIKI: European Commission 'puts a brake' on Grexit scenarios.
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