|Saturday, 24 October 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-01-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 29 January 2015 Issue No: 4872
 Tsipras' message to the first cabinet meetingPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday in his address in the first meeting of his cabinet sent a double message, one to the lenders - that the new government does not want things to be taken to a "mutually destructive rupture" but at the same time it will not concede to submission - and a second one to a domestic audience that it will decisively deal with the establishment of the past decades and corruption.
Tsipras referred to the priorities of the government which is dealing with the humanitarian crisis, the restitution of the country's prestige and the Greek people's dignity, the restitution of the social justice and the reforms to deal with the patronage state.
The social salvation government has a difficult task, Tsipras said and noted: "We must not forget that the people have high expectations of this government." He added that the Greek people does not expect the government to change everything in the economy in just one day but expects radical changes in justice, transparency, egalitarianism and demands we be a government with a different type of governance. This government, the premier said, has no dependence other than the citizens themselves.
He also made clear that the new government intends to put an end to the way policy is implemented in the country, to the regime of favours and the patronage state.
"Keep in mind," the prime minister told the cabinet members "that the power given to us belongs to those who entrusted us, namely the Greek people" and stressed the need for zero tolerance to phenomena of arrogance, squandering and corruption and "not forget that the people suffer. The people require we bleed, " Tsipras said "to defend their dignity."
Referring to the changes that took place and led to the new structure of the government cabinet, Tsipras said that changes that were unseen in the last 40 years were implemented in just two days, that the cabinet is smaller compared to the past and this proved that commitments will be met.
He reiterated there are no winners and losers, that there will be broader consensus and that he will work for the consolidation of a civilized political climate.
He asked that the government's work be immediately launched and that priority be given to dealing with the humanitarian crisis and unemployment as well as to the support of the weaker strata.
The prime minister underlined there is a four-year reform plan; he noted he would work for balanced budgets without deficits and at the same time without exhausting surpluses.
Tsipras emphasized on fighting corruption and stressed his government would conflict with the establishment of the past decades and noted the need for institutional shielding aimed at dealing with vested interests and the broadening of the democratic institutions.
The second message
The prime minister noted that the result of the elections had a strong international impact and estimated that the international climate has been changing, the country has been regaining its international status and its self confidence and has been building its alliances.
Tsipras said he was ready to discuss with all parties and added he welcomed Martin Schulz who is visiting Athens on Thursday and Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem who is coming on Friday.
We will move to the new era with stability and confidence and we will do what is needed through dialogue, with social consensus, but without compromises. There is no room for mistakes and delays. The responsibility is heavy and we have no right to disappoint the people's mandate, the prime minister concluded.
We are a social salvation government, PM Tsipras says in first cabinet meeting
We are a social salvation government, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday said in his speech at the first cabinet meeting of his government.
The first priority is to address the humanitarian crisis, he said and stressed that "the people demand we bleed in order to defend its dignity."
 New Democracy's reaction to PM Tsipras' speech in cabinet meeting"The first announcements of the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras demonstrate his inability to understand what exactly he is about to deal with," main opposition New Democracy spokesman Kostas Karagounis said commenting on the speech of the prime minister in the first cabinet meeting.
Karagounis said that those who were opposed to any reform, are now, as a responsible government, talking about the necessary reforms, but the announcements of ministers in key sectors demonstrate that they refer to the cancellation of the reforms already achieved, bringing Greece back to the past.
According to New Democracy spokesman, suspending the privatisation of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE), the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and regional airports along with the reappointment of surplus civil servants and the return of the asylum to the eternal students will lead the country to a rupture with the European partners, and the common sense, as the revenues already included in the budget will be cancelled. "When Mr. Tsipras is speaking of a balanced budget, taking out tens of billion euro revenues, and at the same time he is announcing expenses of the same amount, he needs to inform people on how he will finance them, as well on the emerging risks regarding Greece's equal stay in the eurozone," he added.
"Unfortunately, Tsipras' new governance model is likely to justify our worse concerns," Karagounis concluded.
 KKE on the first meeting of the new cabinet"In extreme poverty, breadcrumbs are not true relief for the low income earners who are suffering, especially, when it is declared that the same course will be followed as regards the commitments to the EU, the agreements with the partners, the balanced budgets and the reforms; namely, a similar course with that which led the people to bankruptcy," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday commented.
The KKE announcement was made in response to the first meeting of the new cabinet.
 Meetings with Schulz and Dijsselbloem discussed in meeting called by PM TsiprasPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his top ministers discussed on Wednesday the government's position for the upcoming visit of the European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem who will be arriving in Athens on Thursday and Friday respectively.
The meeting took place at the government headquarters in Maximos Mansion and was attended by government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis.
Concerning the meeting with Dijsselbloem, Dragasakis said, "We will present him our views on how Greece will get out of the dead end and how Europe will disengage from this situation."
Asked about the banks, Dragasakis said the state will exercise its rights but will not hurt the interests of private stock holders. "The government's aim is to strengthen the banks. Everything will be decided through public consultation."
Commenting on another question about the halted privatisations, he said: "It is logical for those investors who had invested in those privatisations to change their plans," he said and added Greece is not an impoverished country but a country where there are plenty of opportunities for investments.
Discussing the upcoming negotiations with the troika, he said that since Sunday, Greece is a country with its own voice and opinions, just like other countries and this is why the government is talking about a consultation. "No bravado, no mutual blackmails."
Dragasakis also noted that the ministers of economy and finance are at the disposal of investors so that they will not be misled by misinformation from those who have selfish motives.
Tsipras is scheduled to meet Schulz at Maximos Mansion at 14:30, while on Friday, Schulz will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
 President Obama says U.S. will support end to austerity in phone call to PM Tsipras, sources sayU.S. President Barack Obama telephoned Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to congratulate Greece's new premier on his election victory and told him that the United States will support the Greek government's efforts to end austerity policies, Greek government sources said on Wednesday.
Obama told Tsipras that this support will also be expressed in action, through cooperation between the U.S. Treasury and the Greek finance ministry.
The U.S. President noted that Europe must break free of austerity policies, as the U.S. had done, and adopt a strong agenda for growth.
He advised Tsipras to get some rest now that the election campaign was over, saying that he would need his strength for what lay ahead, with Tsipras replying that "this is difficult, due to the circumstances". Obama expressed certainty that he will also manage to get some rest and told Tsipras: "I started young as well and now my hair has turned grey".
 U.S. State Dep't official 'has a lot of work to do' with new Greek gov'tNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The United States "has a lot of work to do" with the new Greek government, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Victoria Nuland said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, in Washington, DC.
Ambassador Nuland congratulated the Greek people and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and looked forward to collaborating with Greece in NATO. "It's a new government and it will take time to get to know the prime minister and the people he has appointed," she said.
There was a lot of work to be done between the two countries, she said, on bilateral level, as NATO allies, on Cyprus, fighting terrorism and dealing with Islamic militants.
She also expressed the hope that the Greek people's sacrifices for the economy will not be in vain and said the United States would support Greek-EU talks concerning Greece's direction in the future.
The State Department official also said that the U.S. does not have a problem with Greece's collaboration with Russia. The previous government, she said was "very useful in conveying messages to Russia that what we are looking for is a change in (Russian) policy concerning its attacks on its neighbours," and hoped that Greece's role would continue.
 Gov't spokesman Sakellaridis announces weekly informal government council of ten ministersThe new government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis in his first informal briefing to journalists said that there will be a weekly informal government council of ten ministers with the Prime Minister, the Ministers of State and the Deputy Prime Minister.
He also said that there will be a full cabinet meeting once a month as well as a government economic policy council, chaired by Yiannis Dragasakis, with the participation of the relevant ministers.
Regarding Alexis Tsipras' speech in the cabinet meeting, he said the prime minister asked for a collective operation of the government in a climate of solidarity and confidence, that ministers be careful with their statements and added that everything will be on the table during the policy statements.
The prime minister also referred to the political ethos and conduct - restriction of any kind of extraordinary expenses, reduction of the number of police guards, but also making the necessary travels in economy class.
He also stressed the importance of demonstrating particular respect to public administration officers.
Asked on the existence of a draft debt agreement, as it was reported by Italian media, he said that there is no such draft agreement, adding that the negotiation will start in the following days.
Sakellaridis also said that there will be a meeting at the Foreign ministry on the visit of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to Brussels.
As for the President of the Republic, he said that no discussion has been made, as the government's first priority is to get the "engines started".
 ANEL spokeswoman: ANEL and SYRIZA agreement will be reflected in policy statementsThere will be an agreement between the Independent Greeks (ANEL) and SYRIZA which will be described in the policy statements, said ANEL spokeswoman Marina Chrysoveloni after the end of the first cabinet meeting.
Asked to comment on statements regarding SYRIZA's position on the migration policy, Chrysoveloni said that ANEL's red lines are respected and there will be a discussion before the draft laws are tabled in Parliament.
Finally, she said that there is common ground on the economic policy and on the debt issue adding that the Deputy Minister of State on the coordination of the Government Work Terens Quick will cooperate with the Minister of State Alekos Flabouraris and will be the link between ANEL and SYRIZA on the coordination of the government's work.
 Europe has shown that it knows how to find solutions, new FinMin Varoufakis says at handover ceremonyGreece's new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Wednesday appeared confident that Greece will succeed in reaching an agreement with its creditors, while addressing reporters at the ministry handover ceremony with former minister Gikas Hardouvelis.
"Europe has shown that it knows how to find solutions and avoid ultimatums," the new minister said. Varoufakis noted that, prior to the elections, he had predicted that the climate of fear would give way to reason and negotiations after the elections were over, adding that "this is happening now".
The new minister said that the ministry's leadership will have a series of meetings with Greece's EU partners in order to arrive at an agreement "bridging" the old adjustment programme and a new final agreement. He said that this would put an end to the introversion, promote reforms and put an end to the "self-reinforcing crisis".
Varoufakis said the government had undertaken to make not one but three major breaks with the past at the finance ministry:
"The first concerns tackling the self-reinforcing crisis," he said, calling the bailout agreed in 2010 a "major, toxic mistake" in that it treated a problem of default and as a problem of liquidity shortage. This led to Greece receiving the biggest loan in history on condition, among others, that incomes were reduced. According to Varoufakis, "this affair could not end well," and ultimately had a cost in lives lost and undermined. Today marked the start of resolving this problem and a "new page," he said.
"The second concerns austerity," Varoufakis said, noting that he was in favour of living simply but not of "Ponzi austerity".
"Growth does not mean how having so many Porsches and Cayennes in the narrow roads of Athens, rubbish on the beach and destruction of the environment," he noted. "Greeks were creative when they lived simply, without credit cards and loans, and used their savings to educate their children," he said.
He said change in this direction will begin at the ministry itself, where one of the first moves will aim to save funds by reducing spending on advisors, associates and others, which will allow the ministry to rehire laid-off cleaning staff.
The third change, Varoufakis said, was to make use of the ministry's existing personnel: "We will not bring a party army or any other army," he emphasised.
Reporting on a conversation he had on the phone with Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is due in Athens on Friday, Varoufakis said there had been agreement on many points and a "common ground". There was also a joint commitment to dismantle the narrative of a supposed "duel" between Europe and the Greek government over who would back down first, he added, noting that the crisis that erupted in 2010 in Europe had so far had only victims and losers.
"On Friday, the foundation will be laid for dismantling this climate," he said.
The minister also reported talking to his French counterpart Michel Sapin on Tuesday night, with a meeting scheduled early next week, and that the discussion focused on an investment shortage in Europe and proposals on a European 'New Deal'. On Wednesday he held talks with his Italian counterpart and again arranged a meeting soon.
Varoufakis stressed that the negotations with Greece's partners will not be easy - noting that they had never been easy - but he appeared confident that things were moving in the right direction and that Greece's partners recognised the new government's right to a "new chance and a reboot".
"The state has continuity. What will not have continuity is the self-reinforcing crisis of recent years," he said.
Hardouvelis, on his part, noted that political uncertainty had now ended and that this was an advantage for the new government. He noted that the economy faced real restrictions, due to the country's financing needs, adding that the fall in revenues as a result of the elections brought the financing needs closer than March.
He said that he also wanted an additional extension to be given to the new government and wished it every success, adding that "this is what all the world wants".
 Finance Min Varoufakis says he will continue bloggingFinance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he intended to keep in touch with the blog readers. In a message posted on his personal blog http://yanisvaroufakis.eu, he said he planned to defy the advice to stop blogging as "it is considered irresponsible for a Finance Minister to indulge in such crass forms of communication." He noted his blog posts would become more infrequent and shorter but that he hoped to compensate his readers with juicier views, comments and insights.
He concluded by saying that "for hope to be revived we must all strive to change the ways of a dismal past. Maintaining an open line with the outside world may be a small step in that direction."
 Alternate Finance Minister Valavani says gov't to focus on tax evasionNewly-appointed Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani on Wednesday sent a clear message that the new government will focus its efforts on tax evasion, during the handover-takeover ceremony at the ministry of finance.
She said that the ministry of finance will utilise the new digital era for a fair taxation system based on the taxpaying ability of the citizens, so that all will live with dignity.
Valavani underlined that this will help in the collection of revenues, underlining that when there is a sense of justice it will be a patriotic issue for the people to pay their taxes.
Outgoing Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis said that a lot has been done in the past 2.5 years but a clear direction as regards tax reliefs should be given.
 New Alternate FinMin Mardas: 'We will contribute to the state's modernisation'"We are the state's wallet and that's why we can make a spectacular contribution to its modernisation," new Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas, responsible for the State General Accounting Office, said on Wednesday during the handover ceremony at the ministry of finance.
Outgoing Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said that the choices made by the previous government have started to give fruit, noting that in 2014 the primary surplus will be considerable, while the overdue debts by private individuals to the state are down 50 pct.
 'We must cut overspending' Alternate Finance minister says"For some issues there are already solutions. There was also a pre-election announcement. For example, regarding tax-evasion from fuel smuggling, we have a study, which was drafted by the University of Thessaloniki in cooperation with GSEBEE and POPEK. We must find a way to implement it," Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said on Wednesday.
In a radio interview, the minister noted "there's no need to re-invent to wheel". Mardas stressed that "2015 will be a difficult year, because there is adjustment process which must be implemented rapidly and that is an element of success we must pursue. After that we will see what's needed to be done exactly. What a new supervision mechanism will be in the framework of the European Union. There are some procedures agreed for some time now and you can't just not negotiate in the framework of the EU. We will see exactly what is going to be decided in a partnership framework and move within this framework after that".
The Greek minister stressed that self-evident steps must be made "because they can offer much money or can save additional money, which we do not see at the moment". Referring to public spending, Mardas said "we must try to cut overspending as much as possible, as it still exists. If we move towards this direction and we succeed, we will have greater room to manage state funds. We will start with the areas we have studied. We already have the method on what to do, so we have a head start compare with others in the past who entered a ministry and then began to know what's was going on in there".
 Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism min Stathakis announces plans for private debt settlement regulationThe new Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis on Wednesday during the handing over ceremony of the ministry announced there would be a legislative regulation for the settlement of the so-called private debt.
Stathakis underlined the top priority of the government is to change its relation with the memorandum and the troika as otherwise the economy's growth momentum can be hit hard.
He mentioned the three sectors in which the new government is determined to re-orientate the ministry's policy priorities, which up to now were the deregulation of the markets, the privatizations and the operation of shops.
He also referred to the sectors where, as he said, there would be a continuation aimed at the productive reconstruction of the economy: the new NSRF, cutting down on red tape, turn to youth entrepreneurship through the opening of new businesses, change in the relation between businesses and the public administration, enhancing the procedures for start-ups, boosting exports in cooperation with other relevant ministries, expanding the public investments programme oriented to small and medium-sized projects.
The outgoing minister Costas Skrekas on his part referred to the economy's turn to development, the high NSRF absorption rate and the setting up of the Hellenic Investment Fund.
 'We will respect the European policies on migration' Defence Min Kammenos saysROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Syggelakis)
"I do not want to make any statement on the debt, you know our demands, and the official negotiation needs to start," Defence Minister Panos Kammenos told Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Kammenos, the leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL) party who is the junior partner in the coalition government, also said: "We will respect the European policies on migration. But Europe needs to help Greece so that bilateral agreements with Turkey are respected."
"If the rules of the Dublin agreements are applicable throughout Europe, and consequently in Greece, the principle that irregular migrants should be pushed back and return to their countries must also apply," Kammenos noted.
Kammenos underlined that the "prime minister is aware of my positions" and that it is a common position that Europe should help Greece more substantially and economically to effectively control its borders because it is a country more exposed than others.
 Alt. Migration Policy Minister Christodoulopoulou says migration is not an ideological issueAlternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulo-poulou said on Wednesday migration policy is not an ideological issue, but an institutional, regulatory and European problem that has to be dealt with realism and rationality, during the hand-over ceremony at the Interior ministry.
Christodoulopoulou hailed the work of the relevant directorate saying it will be utilized to provide the assistance every European state is obliged to offer and protect refugees looking for asylum. It also has to avoid further convictions by the Europeans courts for the living conditions inside the country's detention centres.
"We have to deal with migration and refugees with realism and not with screams," Christodoulopoulou - whom Interior & Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis described as an excellent jurist and activist in the area of human rights - noted.
On his side, Deputy Macedonia and Thrace Minister Maria Kollia-Tsarouha thanked the President of Independent Greeks (ANEL) for his trust and noted that northern Greece is a "great, heroic place."
Kollia-Tsarouha also assured the policy of this government will allow the citizens of Macedonia and Thrace to take over the development of the region. She also thanked the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for "keeping the ministry alive."
 New leadership promises to work within police hierarchy at public order ministry handoverOutlining the policies of the new government with regard to the security forces at the handover ceremony of the former public order ministry to its new leadership, Interior and Administrative Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis and Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Prof. Yiannis Panousis on Wednesday stressed that the new government will not replace existing management with its own advisors and ruled out "any hint of controversy or revanchism" in its dealings with the Hellenic Police.
They were received by outgoing minister Vassilis Kikilias, in a ceremony where Kikilias appeared visibly moved but - as Voutsis remarked - was "politically civilised, both here and at the administrative reform ministry with former minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis".
Kikilias stressed that in his short time at the ministry he had placed great emphasis on the human resources within the Hellenic Police and to present its 'friendly face' to the public, reflected in a decision not to send riot police but unarmed police women to keep the peace at demonstrations by fired finance ministry cleaners. He also focused on the police force's successes under his leadership, such as the arrests of wanted terrorist Nikos Maziotis, Christodoulos Xiros and others and at this point criticised the new government, saying these had been praised by the international community and Greek society "but not by members of the present government as they should".
"I hand over a much-maligned police force that must soon recover the prestige that it deserves," he said.
In his acceptance speech, Voutsis outlined the government's policy in details and said that it will not replace the existing managerial staff in the force with advisors. "We will depend on the seniority list and the hierarchy, without the Damocles Sword of suspension and dismissal," he underlined, while stressing that this would not apply in the case of disciplinary offences.
Voutsis referred especially to the policing of demonstrations, noting that there had been a problem with the use of the force and an "authoritarian" police presence that were due to policy and not the institution in itself. Asked whether the police force will be armed or unarmed, Voutsis stressed that SYRIZA had never spoken about disarming the police but only about implementing a 1996 law stating that the police should not bear arms at demonstrations and when policing sports matches.
Panousis, on his part, noting that most of the officers were his former students and that it was a "challenge to teach together ethical behaviour and faith in the Constitution and the law." He said the plan for the operation on the police force will seek to harmonise with the values of freedom, trust and security, adding that the police were the protectors of the poor and not the rich, which did not have such need of them, while abuse of authority will not be tolerated.
The alternate minister was briefed on ministry issues by Kikilias and by the chiefs of the police and fire brigade. He then announced that there will be radical changes in the police that will be announced as soon as he was briefed in detail on the existing situation, adding that the prime minister and government had given him powers to handle the issue.
 Interior & Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis says public sector staff can ensure public interest through cooperationInterior & Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis on Wednesday urged cooperation by all public sector employees for the benefit of public interest and the citizens', as well as giving assurances that those laid off as a result of the memorandum laws, including the reserve or mobility measures, will be reinstated. He was speaking at the handover-takeover ceremony held in the presence of new Alternate Administrative Reform Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and the outgoing administrative reform ministry leadership, former minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and deputy minister Evi Christofilopopulou.
The people who lost their jobs unfairly will be reinstated as soon as possible, Voutsis said, referring to laid-off school guards and cleaning staff. He also underlined that every effort will be made, step-by-step and with determination, without rifts to solve the difficult problems the country is faced with.
Outgoing minister Mitsotakis said that he will be at the disposal of the new ministry leadership to brief it on pending issues, noting that "reforms in public administration should be a national narrative not imposed from abroad" and handed over pending legislative initiatives in an electronic form, including the draft law on the evaluation of public sector employees.
On his part, new Alternate Administrative Reform Minister Katrougalos stated that the continuation of the state will be guaranteed, adding that "we want institutions to function, as opposed to past governments. He also said that "we will operate for the benefit of the people, in cooperation with the public sector staff for the benefit of the country and not based on what was dictated by the markets, which was unproductive to say the least."
Outgoing deputy minister Christofilopoulou put an emphasis on the new National Plan on e-governance and the upgrading of the transparency-promoting "Diavgeia" government website and stated that she is willing to offer her assistance to the new political leadership.
 New Labour minister says he will reinstate minimum wage at 751 eurosNewly appointed Labour Minister Panos Skourletis announced he will reinstate the minimum wage at 751 euros and restore the Collective Labour Agreements and the Organisation of Mediation and Arbitration (O.ME.D), during the hand-over ceremony at the ministry on Wednesday.
The Labour minister also pledged to restore the framework limiting layoffs, abolish the law for civil mobilization of strikers and restore the powers of the organization for Social Housing. "The state shows continuation. Policies are chosen. Our policies will be the opposite of the policies that have been implements so far and beyond the 'tight corset' of the memoranda," Skourletis said.
On his side, Alternate Welfare Minister Dimitris Stratoulis said: "Everything that is included in (former finance minister Gikas) Hardouvelis' e-mail to the troika and concerns the social security, the retirement age for old insured and pension cuts, for us they don't exist."
Stratoulis also said he will restore the 300-euro pension for uninsured elderly people and expatriates, as well as all pensions, depending on the growth rate of the economy and society.
 Alt. Administrative Reform Minister: Layoffs against the Constitution will be cancelledAlternate Minister for Administrative Reform Giorgos Katrougalos, speaking on Wednesday to ANT1 TV, reiterated the pledge that public sector layoffs that were against the Constitution will be cancelled.
He explained that the layoffs that were against the Constitution and those that have not gone through any evaluation will be cancelled as well as the availability "for example of the cleaning staff in ministries, the school guards and the teachers."
Asked on what will happen with ERT (former national broadcaster), he expressed his personal opinion because as he said, the issue does not lie into his authority. "What I have said for the other cases, also applies to ERT staff. A return to ERT does not mean a return to the ERT before the black screen but to the ERT after the black screen," he said. The aim is that "ERT is under the society's control and not under the control of whatever government and its interests."
 The first concern of the government is to stop the reduction of pensions, Alternate Min for Social Insurance Stratoulis saysAlternate Minister for Social Insurance Dimitris Stratoulis, speaking to ANT1 TV, announced the abolition of all memorandum obligations that reduce pensions and increase the retirement age.
He also said that one of the first draft laws to be tabled in Parliament is the reinstitution of the Christmas bonus for pensions up to 700 euros.
 PPC privatisation to stop immediately, Productive Reconstruction Min Lafazanis saysProductive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, speaking to SKAI TV, announced the decision of the new government to immediately stop any privatization of Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE).
"We will try to reduce the electricity tariffs and boost competitiveness in an effort to help the Greek households," he said.
Lafazanis reiterated the same statements to Mega TV. "The issue is not to sell PPC in order to boost budget revenues, because the cost of these revenues is too high," he stressed and announced the immediate launch of the programme of free electricity to those in need.
Asked whether these announcements will trigger problems in the negotiations with the European partners, he said that the government is held accountable only to the Greek people that have elected it.
 The privatizations of infrastructure that serve and can help the country's growth will stop, Alternate Infrastructure min saysThe central position of the government is that "the privatizations of infrastructure that serve and can help the country's growth will stop," Alternate Minister for Infrastructure Christos Spirtzis said on Wednesday regarding the privatization of regional airports.
However, he referred journalists to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' upcoming policy statements.
Spirtzis said his priorities as minister will be what the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) and the scientific world have said so far. Programmes, public investments and projects should be prioritized, he said and added that projects should serve the constructive reconstruction of the country.
He also noted that on an institutional level we will look into several fields that in the last 4-5 years had been totally disorganized through continuous legislation.
 New health ministry leadership takes over, pledges immediate action for relief of uninsuredArriving to take over the reins of the health ministry during handover ceremony on Wednesday, the new minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis said his main priority was to make himself useful to the citizens and to do so immediately, since the people did not have expectations but demands.
According to Alternate Health Minister Andreas Xanthos, the first order of business will be to provide relief to those lacking health insurance but also to the insured by reducing their contribution to the cost of pharmaceuticals. This will include the abolition of a five-euro fee in hospitals, in accordance with SYRIZA's policy platform, and the one euro fee for each prescription.
"First of all it is important to provide relief to the uninsured, then to ensure the survival of public structures and then to reorganise the National Health System," Xanthos said.
Kouroumblis, who has been blind since childhood, also stressed that his door will always be open: "I may not be able to see but I hear well," he noted. The new minister said that his main intention is to primarily defend the interests of the people and he noted that there are also other, intertwined interests operating in the health sector.
"We are aware of the difficulties, we want strong allies in order to go forward," he emphasised, saying that the government's instructions were to make use of all able staff in the public sector without excluding anyone.
Outgoing minister Makis Voridis, on his part, thanked all the workforce in the health sector for their efforts and gave his best wishes for the success of the ministry's new leadership. "They have knowledge and sensitivity, elements that are needed at the health ministry, and I think that they will contribute with their own viewpoint," he said.
 Health Minister Kouroumblis: The issue of the uninsured among the government' first prioritiesThe issue of the uninsured as well as the policies that should be applied in sectors such as the medicine are among Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis' first priorities.
Kouroumblis, speaking to Mega TV on Wednesday, said that he will send a request to the hospitals within the day in order to brief him within the next three days on the prevailing situation and their needs.
Referring to the medicines, Kouroumblis estimated that with the intervention of the new leadership of the Health Ministry there will be economic benefits that will be re-invested in the system.
At a question if there will be a reduction of the participation of the insured in the purchase of medicine, the minister said that the new government will examine the existing possibilities which depend on what priorities it sets.
 Broad dialogue for deep reforms, announced by new Education Minister Aristidis Baltas"The education issue is huge but the outgoing government is not the only one responsible for the problems. Education should not be handled randomly. We want to proceed with deep reforms. But changes take time, even years. The problem we are called to face immediately is the humanitarian disaster as far as the education sector is concerned and, at the same time, to start a broad dialogue on more substantive and deeper reforms," new Education, Culture and Religious Affairs Minister Aristidis Baltas on Wednesday said, during the hand-over ceremony at the ministry of education.
On his part, outgoing minister Andreas Loverdos pointed out that the hand-over takes place at a turning point, adding that "everything possible was done to keep the social structures standing in the worst post-war crisis the country is going through."
Alternate Education Minister Tassos Kourakis noted that the opposition exercised by his party was based on the principles and the values of the left, adding that they fought for a free, high-standard state school system. He said that all three qualities mentioned have been undermined and pledged that all election campaign commitments will be met by the new government.
"Human resources are our comparative advantage," Alternate Research and Innovation Minister Costas Fotakis noted, adding that "we are called to find out how we can reach the point when knowledge will produce wealth that will be returned back to society."
 New Justice Minister Paraskevopoulos says even in prisons the weak should be looked afterNew Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on Wednesday afternoon took a political oath of office before President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, in the presence of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Paraskevopoulos did not take the oath on Tuesday with the other government ministers because he was abroad.
In the handover ceremony at the justice ministry, Paraskevopoulos underlined the need for social justice, noting that there will be a policy change based on the Constitution and the state of law.
He also pointed out that the justice ministry's work is very important for the country, democracy and the state of law, noting that its work is even more important in conditions of crisis.
He underlined that justice should be on the side of the weak, combining strictness and leniency. "Even in prisons the weak should be looked after," he underlined.
Outgoing minister Charalambos Athanassiou referred to the ministry's legislative work and the pending draft laws, underlining that the ministry work was implemented despite the personnel shortages.
New Alternate Minister for Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Christos Spirtzis, Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tassia Christodoulopoulou and Alternate Minister for Research & Innovation Costas Fotakis have not taken the oath of office yet pending a legislative regulation for their government positions to be enacted. They will be appointed and take the oath of office soon after the relevant presidential decrees are issued.
The alternate ministers mentioned have already taken over their posts without having the right of signature as yet.
 Outgoing Tourism Minister Kefalogianni hands ministry over to Elena KountouraOutgoing Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni handed over her ministry portfolio to Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, whose duties fall under the new merged ministry of the economy, infrastructure, shipping and tourism, headed by George Stathakis, on Wednesday, expressing the hope that they "come to love" the sector of tourism.
Minister Stathakis said the new government will stand on the good developments that have been achieved in tourism so far and congratulated Kefalogianni for her work.
Kountoura said she would work to expand the tourism numbers in Greece.
 Handover ceremony at the ministry of cultureAlternate Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis on Wednesday underlined that the ministry of culture has a great mission, to highlight an identity and a framework of principles without using archaeology and history for ideological and political party purposes.
During the handover ceremony at the ministry of culture, new Education Minister Aristidis Baltas - head of the merged ministry that includes culture, education, research/innovation, sports and religious affairs - said that the merger of the ministries of culture and education constitutes a recognition of the culture's importance through its relations with education.
Baltas and new Deputy Minister for Sports Stavros Kontonis underlined that there will be no tolerance to corruption phenomena, noting that transparency, sportsmanship, the implementation of law and equality before the law will return in the sector of sports.
The ceremony was attended by outgoing Culture Minister Costas Tassoulas, deputy Ministers Angela Gerekou and Yiannis Andrianos and secretary general secretary Lina Mendoni.
 Central importance of primary sector highlighted during handover at agricultural ministryThe primary sector can become the vehicle for Greece's exit from the crisis, as the country's main problem is the destruction of production, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said on Wednesday during the handover at the ministry of agricultural development and foods.
"We did not come here to tear down what has been achieved, but to create and to seek a greater change of direction for the agricultural sector in Greece and Europe," Lafazanis stressed, noting that a significant effort would be expanded to make primary products more competitive and profitable, creating, if possible, a modern, export-oriented industry.
The ministry would focus on reducing production cost and supporting agricultural income. "Farmers are experiencing a very strong taxation pressure, which is almost unbearable for those doing their work properly. A tax-free ceiling to 12,000 euros and the abolition of ENFIA (the unified real estate tax) we think will be an important contribution to farmers' incomes," he said.
Lafazanis also noted that Greece may be in the EU and still have foreign relations outside Europe, and took a stance against the embargo imposed by the EU on Russian imports. "Greece does not gain anything by imposing sanctions on Russia," he noted, and termed "unacceptable" an EU document that he said "was against Russia, and prepared the ground for further sanctions, which (document) was publicised without our approval... Greece is neither a protectorate within Europe, nor a Third World country, it is an equal member of the EU."
Alternate Ministers for the Environment Yiannis Tsironis and for Rural Development Vangelis Apostolou as well as Deputy Minister for Rural Development Panagiotis Sgouridis were presented and commented on agriculture.
Apostolou said the focus would be supporting product competitiveness and guaranteeing a livable income for rural producers while upgrading the natural environment. Tsironis added that the environment is closely tied to the revival of productivity, and said focus should be on quality, "a great weapon." Sgouridis said the bureaucracy and simplification of procedures is necessary, and said Greece could live off its land and its beauty.
Outgoing Agricultural Development Minister Giorgos Karasmanis reviewed the ministry's work, said that as a deputy he will continue to support the promotion of Greek farmers as central to the country's revival and said "in agriculture sector there are no fundamental issues dividing us, but thousands that unite us."
Outgoing Alternate Agricultural Development Minister Paris Koukoulopoulos said the reconstruction of the production sector would free Greece from its bondage to creditors, and urged the new leadership to insist on decentralising funding, thus freeing productivity forces in rural Greece.
 Statements by Alternate Civil Protection minister"The policing of a social movement is one thing and the policing of a terrorist organisation is quite another," Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis on Wednesday morning told ANT1.
Panousis noted his philosophy "had nothing to do with a police officer not having a weapon; but he must be trained so as to know what to do with this weapon." He also stressed this was his personal and scientific point of view and not a decision.
 New deputy minister for sports installed at ministryThe government of the Left "will face the phenomena of violence at playing fields, the scourge of anabolic steroids and especially the widespread corruption and interlinked interests with seriousness, stability and decisiveness," new Deputy Minister for Sports Stavros Kontonis said on Wednesday during the handover of duties by outgoing Deputy Minister Yiannis Andrianos.
Kontonis also said that transparency, meritocracy, the spirit of good sportsmanship, the observance of the law and equal treatment would return to the sports sector. He thanked his predecessor Andrianos for meeting all the questions of opposition deputies in Parliament with grace and in good faith.
Andrianos reviewed his work and congratulated Kontonis for being "an honest and able politician and scientist with whom we had a very constructive collaboration, and I know we share the same strong interest and commitment to the work, action and changes Greek sports need."
He said the toughest problems faced by the ministry were related to funding and procedural issues such as delays in licensing that greatly obstructed athletics, and expressed regret for the fact that a sports draft bill that took a long time to process and discuss publicly did not make it in Parliament for a vote.
 FM Kotzias talks to 'La Stampa' on coalition with ANEL, debt negotiationsIn a brief interview with the online version of the Italian newspaper "La Stampa" on Wednesday, Greece's new Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias commented on SYRIZA's decision to form a coalition with the Independent Greeks (ANEL).
"The support of ANEL to SYRIZA's programme is a contribution of fundamental importance for achieving government goals," he said. He noted that SYRIZA had also asked for the support of To Potami in Parliament "but our alignment is clear and everyone that signs on to it, know this."
Regarding Greece's negotiations with the EU-IMF troika and whether Athens would be prepared to accept an extension in the repayment period for its loans, Kotzias replied "Europe's history over a thousand years is based on battles and compromises. We want to achieve a compromise that's good for the Greek people."
 FM Kotzias in Brussels on ThursdayForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias will visit Brussels on Thursday in order to participate in the EU extraordinary council of Foreign Affairs called by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The council meeting will focus on the deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine.
 We do not agree with the spirit of the sanctions against Russia, Alternate Foreign min Chountis says"We do not agree with the spirit of the sanctions against Russia, which has adverse repercussions not only in agriculture as far as the economy of our country is concerned, but also more generally," Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Chountis said in an interview with ANA-MPA.
"Other EU countries have also reacted in a similar way, due to the implications of the sanctions," he noted and added: "Our objections, in essence, will be expressed by the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to the Council of Foreign Ministers. Some member states hastened; this haste was reflected in the declaration by which the new Greek government expressed its discontent ... as an announcement-statement of the heads of states was issued, without Greece having been informed or without the Greek Prime Minister having been consulted. They knew that we were in a transitional phase and the prime minister's opinion could have been taken into consideration," he said.
The full audio interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Greece to grant citizenship to migrants' children born and raised in the country, announced Alt. Migration Policy Minister ChristodoulopoulouThe Greek nationality to all migrants' children that were born and raised in Greece, announced Alternate Migration Policy Ministry Tasia Christodoulopoulou speaking on Wednesday to private radio "Sto Kokkino".
"SYRIZA has committed that it will grant the Greek citizenship to all those children that were born and raised in Greece, the so-called the second generation of migrants" she said adding that all those children that do not know another home "even those that were not born but came in Greece very young, attended and finished school here."
 EC insists that Greece should meet its commitments, its vice-president Katainen saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The European Commission reiterated that Greece should meet its commitments, according to its vice-president Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, on Wednesday.
In a press conference here on Wednesday, he said that Greece was discussed during the meeting of the European Commissioners and said that they unanimously agreed that the Commission should cooperate with the new government as it did with the previous one. He explained that the commitments undertaken by Greece must be met because they are commitments toward the European citizens.
"The real economy hasn't changed after the elections, the situation is still the same," he said, pointing out, "I don't expect that many changes from our part." He said that policy does not change depending on election results, noting that the Commission has to ensure that rules are observed.
He said that the Commission respects the results of democratic elections in all member states and reminded that the Eurogroup faces all governments and election procedures without discrimination. He underlined that the targets set in the EU do not change and must be met by everybody. He admitted, however, that there are various ways to be achieved.
According to Katainen, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has invited the Greek authorities to Brussels but no specific date has been set yet. Katainen noted that the Commission wishes to speak with the Greek authorities as soon as possible to have a clearer picture of the Greek government's intentions. "Time is running out," he said, pointing out that the Commission wants to have a confirmation on everything promised by the country and underlined that keeping the promises is necessary for the institutional bodies of the EU and the European citizens.
In conclusion, Katainen underlined that the Greek government, the eurogroup and the European bodies have to act in a way that will reinforce stability. He said that there should be mutual respect in Europe and the eurozone and that reaching solutions is necessary.
 Greece has the potential to boost employment and pay back its debt, EU's Moscovici saysROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis-Syggelakis)
"Greece has the potential to boost employment and pay back its debts," European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera."
"It (Greece) does not send a message of instability, it will remain in the eurozone," he underlined.
Moscovici said that he does not want to discuss with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras "where he wants to go" but "how he wants to meet his target" adding that along with Tsipras "we will deal with the debt issue in a clear way."
Asked on the possibility of a partial debt write-off, the European Commissioner said that it is premature to make such a discussion as the negotiation has not yet started.
"We expect the Greek government to express its will, to tell us how they will respect the country's commitments, and to present their clear decisions. We congratulate Mr. Tsipras and his ministers. Together, we are going to face challenges with common goals," he concluded.
 New Greek government must be 'fair' to German tax payers, German Vice-Chancellor saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
German Vice-Chancellor and Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel, head of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), on Wednesday called on the new Greek government "to be fair to the people of Germany and Europe, who showed solidarity in recent years," while stressing that Germany respects the democratic choice of the Greeks.
Gabriel stressed that the aim had to be to keep Greece in the Eurozone but the principle of justice toward the German people and to Europe, who had shown their solidarity with Greece since the crisis erupted in 2010, had to also be respected.
Regarding the Greek government's stated intention to negotiate its debt and not complete all the reforms demanded by its creditors, Gabriel said that if Greece did not want to go ahead with the necessary reforms, this must not be at the expense of workers in other countries. "I cannot explain that to German men and women, it is not possible," he said.
He expressed the opinion that the new Greek government had an opportunity to take a fresh view on many issues, such as the battle against corruption. "We hope to carry out a fair dialogue with the new government," he said.
 Russian FM, spokesman on new Greek gov'tMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recalled meeting newly-installed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras a year ago, he told ANA-MPA at a traditional reception in honour of foreign correspondents in Moscow on Wednesday.
Speaking about Tsipras, Lavrov said that "he is an energetic, young politician. We wish every success to the Greek government," and said he had sent a congratulatory message to his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias and invited him to Moscow.
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukasevic said "we have never doubted our older, historically formulated relations with Greece," and therefore "the present change of government allows us to hope that these relations will be strengthened, expanded and will acquire a new dynamic, if the stance of the new prime minister is taken into account."
Lukasevic added that Greece would have to face "battles in the EU that will not be easy" in terms of its economic agenda, but stressed, "I want to say officially that Russia was always supportive of Greece's economic and political interestes, and this shall continue."
 End to the troika, SYRIZA's Milios says"End to the troika," Yiannis Milios, head of SYRIZA's economic policy department, on Wednesday told Real FM.
Responding to a question whether there will be an effort for the Greek government to talk with other governments and Europe's institutional bodies, Milios said: "Of course. There is a very positive precedent that shows Europe's democratic depth, which we need to preserve and showcase: this is a decision by the European Parliament, before the Euroelections, that troika not only in Greece but in all the countries it went to, has violated human rights and the basic treaties of the European Union, including the one for its establishment. Therefore, end to the troika."
 Meimarakis, Constantopoulou to meet again on ThursdayOutgoing Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis and the woman proposed as his successor by ruling coalition leader SYRIZA, Zoi Constantopoulou, agreed to have a new meeting at noon on Thursday, it was announced after their first meeting earlier on Wednesday.
Today's meeting that lasted an hour and 45 minutes, held at Meimarakis' initiative, was attended by parliament officials.
Constantopoulou was briefed on pending parliamentary issues and according to sources, the briefing took place in a cordial atmosphere, with Meimarakis assuring her that he will back the initiatives that will be undertaken by his successor to reinforce and upgrade the operation of the parliament.
 SYRIZA should not go to Europe on its own, Potami leader Theodorakis tells his parliamentary groupPotami leader Stavros Theodorakis on Wednesday in his address during the first meeting of his party's parliamentary group reiterated his proposal for a national negotiation team with the participation of SYRIZA, New Democracy, Potami and PASOK.
"SYRIZA should not go to Europe on its own," he said and noted that being "accompanied by Independent Greeks' (ANEL) phobic anti-Europeans would be a bad start, a wrong message to Europe which could have a high cost for the country."
"Debt is the mother of all battles," he said "and we must fight it united; but not in an amateurish way. Under no circumstances, however, are we going to follow them in revolutionary chimeras that would put our presence in the eurozone to a test."
Theodorakis criticized Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' cabinet choices saying it was a government with "far-right members, conspiracy theorists and anti-Europeans."
"The first signs are negative," he said and noted that "Alexis Tsipras appointed a bad government with old-partisan defects: ministers of the right wing, officials of the old PASOK and partisan, professionally unskilled, members that prepare us for a government that has a bad pace. An overstretched formation that is the product of balances and expediency," with few persons "that can give hope to a new government effort."
Theodorakis also referred to the issues on which Potami would offer its support: "Any attempt by the government to clash with interests and guilds," "any effort to liberate the creative powers of the private initiative, where the state would set the rules and effectively monitor their implementation." He also said his party would oppose any attempt to "rebuild a bloated government mechanism that oppresses citizens and strangles private initiative."
"As the third largest parliamentary group, our deputies will put the principle "first we consider and then we vote" into practice. The Potami party is not here to vote against whatever its opponents say," he noted. He also expressed the hope for small and larger alliances "away from the rationale of party rallying that has degraded the parliamentary operation."
Theodorakis said New Democracy leader "Antonis Samaras made a big mistake for not officially handing over the governance of the country to Alexis Tsipras as it is appropriate for a democracy." He added "Tsipras also made a mistake for not consulting with anyone on the person to assume the post of the Parliament's President."
"Potami has asked for the restriction of the politicians' privileges," Theodorakis said and noted: "We should consider everything- the financial subsidies, the Parliament spending, the (parties') TV advertising, benefits to the deputies and the parties and decide on a new balance."
Moreover, he said the issue of the Constitutional Revision should reopen and referred to changes on the legislation regarding ministers' accountability and the election law.
Finally, he emphasized on the opposition role of the party "as a positive force", but made clear "we are not going to offer an alibi to anyone that may attempt risky experiments; to whoever may think...that if things get really tough, he can attempt a "heroic exit", through a referendum and the recourse to elections."
 ND Executive Secretariat to meet on Thursday, chaired by SamarasMain opposition New Democracy's Executive Secretariat will convene on Thursday at 18:00, in a meeting chaired by ND leader Antonis Samaras at the party's headquarters on Syggrou Avenue.
 ND leader Samaras to meet with Europarliament president SchulzMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras will meet on Thursday at 14:30 with visiting Europarliament president Martin Schulz.
The meeting will be held at the party's headquarters in Athens.
 PASOK's Venizelos to meet with European Parliament President SchulzPASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos is to meet with European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday at the European Parliament offices in Athens, it was announced on Wednesday.
The meeting scheduled for 19:00 hours on Thursday will be attended by MEPs Nikos Androulakis and Eva Kaili.
 ND cadre Antonaros indirectly raises party leadership issueNew Democracy (ND) cadre Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday indirectly raised a leadership issue in the party.
Speaking on Parapolitika radio, he said "ND has a long tradition. Its presidents after a defeat placed themselves at the disposal of the party bodies. You remember, of course, that Costas Karamanlis in 2009 had launched the process for his succession himself with a clear statement."
According to the interview posted on parapolitika.gr, Antonaros was also critical of the fact that Maximos, Mansion government, headquarters was not handed over to Alexis Tsipras. "I have been brought up to welcome people and see them to the door," he said.
 Israeli ambassador commemorates Holocaust Remembrance DayIsrael's ambassador to Greece, Irit Ben-Abba, commemorated on Wednesday the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, in an event organized in the city of Ioannina, in northwestern Greece.
Ben-Abba spoke of the extermination of six million Jews from the Nazis and the annihilation of 90 pct of Greek-Jews, among which the Israeli community of Ioannina, one of the oldest communities in Greece and the world.
"After 12 centuries of continuous Jewish presence in the city, on March 25, 1944, 1,850 Jews were arrested by the Nazi death machine and their Greek collaborators and within the day were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, from which only 163 returned," she noted.
Ben-Abba expressed her gratitude towards Christians who helped Greek-Jews in Ioannina saying, "We are grateful to them as well as all the other non-Jews in Greece and the world who extended a helping hand to save members of European Jewry."
The Israeli ambassador also expressed her concern for the revival of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, from extreme Islamists and extreme forces. "Anti-Semitism is reviving all around the world," she said referring to the terrorist attacks in Paris and recalled the words of the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, according to whom, "the hatred towards the Jews threatens the social fabric of Europe."
Irit Ben-Abba concluded her speech by appealing to all the democratic countries, Greece included to join forces and fight these extreme ideologies.
Focusing on Greece, the ambassador said that important measures have been taken to address neo-Nazism and "they have to continue so that we don't mourn again victims of anti-Semitism and extremism."
 Fitch to hold video conference to discuss Greece on ThursdayLONDON (ANA-MPA/ A. Haralambidis)
The Fitch Ratings agency has announced plans for a video conference about Greece to be held at 16:00 (Greek time) on Thursday.
The main points to be discussed will include the latest political developments, their implications in terms of the negotiations with the troika representing Greece's lenders, Greek sovereigns and banks' liquidity position in coming months and the risk of contagion to the broader region and triggers for future rating actions.
The teleconference will be chaired by Ed Parker, Managing Director and Head of EMEA ratings at Fitch, who will be joined by colleagues, Douglas Renwick of Sovereigns and Josep Colomer of Financial Institutions.
 Greek gov't to terminate privatisation of PPC, Power OperatorProductive Reconstruction, Energy and Environment Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis on Wednesday announced the abolition of all applied legislation of the memorandum and of a procedure to further privatize Public Power Corporation, Independent Power Transmission Operator and Hellenic Petroleum Group.
Speaking during a ceremony to take over his duties, the new minister referring to international energy relation issues noted: "We do not intend to become anyone's satellite," and linked his comments with the government's reaction to a joint announcement by the EU against Russia on Tuesday.
Lafazanis said that "a debt crisis is not really a debt crisis, as debt is used by neo-colonial EU forces to demolish everything in the country. The real crisis is the dialysis of production and the country's downgrade".
"With our government there will be no more troika and memorandums, all implementing legislation voted in Parliament will be gradually, but directly, abolished," Lafazanis said, adding that one of the first measures to be taken would be an end to a split and further privatisation of the state power company PPC. "PPC will remain under state control and will be restructured, operating exclusively based on growth, environmental and productive criteria. It is a vehicle of a productive reconstruction, we want to re-examine all its relations and to relieve PPC from any harmful interconnection with private interests," he noted.
The Greek minister said that a privatisation process for Independent Power Transmission Operator (currently in the state of bid submission) will be terminated, along with every other privatisation conducted on "predatory" terms. For Hellenic Petroleum, Lafazanis said the state's equity stake that has been transferred to Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund will return to the state, while commenting on DESFA and a number of tenders for hydrocarbon research, he said the government will adhere to its pre-election pledges. He emphasised an effort to combat fuel smuggling, to safeguard energy resources and to seek affordable prices to help the economy and households.
Commenting on international energy relations, he said the ministry will work based on the national, popular, public interest. Referring to the Greek government's reaction to an EU announcement concerning Russia, he stressed that Greece was not a "pariah in Europe".
"We have problems, but we are an equal member and we want to have an opinion," he said, adding that the government will support small renewable energy source producers.
 SEVE sends congratulation letter to PM TsiprasThe strengthening of extrovertness and international competitiveness can play a major role in the country's exit from recession, the sustainable development and the reduction of unemployment, the Association of Northern Greek Exporters (SEVE) said in a congratulations letter to the new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The Association has been systematically working for 40 years to boost the extrovertness of the country, SEVE said in the letter, submitting its proposal regarding the national export strategy based on the best use of Greece's scarce resources as well as the healthy extrovert entrepreneurship.
In this context, SEVE expresses its support and willingness to cooperate with the new government in order to meet the growth target.
"It's time for the country to turn the page and finally change the development model, investing in the doctrine of 'producing and exporting' internationally competitive products," SEVE added.
 Hellenic Commerce Confederation expresses support for higher minimum wageNational Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (NCHC) President Vassilis Korkidis on Wednesday said the NCHC was in favour of raising the minimum wage to 751 euros a month, underlining that the reduction in wages had not only failed to improve competitiveness but also caused unemployment to soar as the economy ground to a halt.
Korkidis said that a higher minimum wage would boost demand, since the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) was much higher among lower incomes in relation to higher incomes. Boosting consumption would generate new income for businesses and gradually lead to a rise in employment, he said. He also noted that Greek small and medium-sized enterprises preferentially dealt with Greek suppliers of goods, both because of the relations and bonds of trust that existed but also because the latter provided goods on credit, which was especially important for businesses starved of liquidity.
At the same time, he called for an increase in the minimum wage combined with the adoption of a further drop in non-salary costs or employer contributions, so as to offset the additional burden on employers. Based on available figures from the Ergani system (October 2014) a total of 137,113 workers in the private sector currently receive the minimum wage and the total cost of the wage increase for private-sector wages will be 361.8 million euros.
NCHC said this will be the right motive in order to convert the OAED unemployment benefit to a 'work benefit' on the part of the state, by covering a part of the total payroll cost. This additional cost would be more than covered, Korkidis said, by the multiple beneficial impact of reducing unemployment, boosting consumption and the resulting rise in business turnover.
 Shipping ministry services will retain autonomy, new minister Stathakis saysEconomy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis on Wednesday offered assurances that the continued autonomy of the shipping and Aegean ministry, which has been merged with others under his portfolio, was non-negotiable. Speaking at the handover ceremony between the ministry's past and future leadership, Stathakis said the ministry's role will be upgraded and promised dialogue on all the problems.
"The future and potential of shipping is vast and its role strategic," the minister said, adding that weight must be given to naval training, labour relations and ways to link shipping with the domestic economy. On the issue of coastal shipping, he said that sustainable solutions must be found that will contribute to local development and, with regard to Greece's ports, he said that "we want to have a share in the international transportation of goods but in different ways."
Alternate Shipping Minister Thodoros Dritsas stressed that he will not proceed with the sale of shares in Piraeus Port Authority and Thessaloniki Port Authority, since all organisations in both cities disagreed with this policy. Regarding COSCO's presence in Piraeus, he said that every contract signed by Greece with other countries will be respected but that there will be an attempt to renegotiate with COSCO in order to make the deal more beneficial for Greece.
"Our major goal must be to once again link seamanship with Greece," he added.
Outgoing former minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis thanked his staff at the ministry and said he was proud of the work done at the ministry and, referring to COSCO, urged that relations with China with a renegotiation since they were of strategic importance.
 S&P places Greece's outlook to 'creditwatch negative'Rating agency Standard & Poor's on Wednesday revised Greece's outlook to "creditwatch negative" from "stable", on Wednesday, citing the policies announced by the newly elected government.
"The CreditWatch placement reflects our view that some of the economic and budgetary policies advocated by the newly elected Greek government, led by the left-wing Syriza party, are incompatible with the policy framework agreed between the previous government and official creditors," the agency said in a press release.
S&P added that, "In our opinion, if the new Greek government fails to agree with official creditors on further financial support, this would further weaken Greece's creditworthiness."
"We have therefore placed our 'B/B' long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings on Greece on CreditWatch negative. We could lower the ratings if negotiations with the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund stall, constraining Greece's ability to service its debt," the announcement concluded.
 Greek state bond yields up on WendesdayThe Greek electronic secondary bond market remained under pressure on Wednesday pushing benchmark bond yields to record-high levels. The three-year bond yield jumped to 16.36 pct, an all-time high, while the five-year bond yield was up at 13.3 pct and the 10-year bond at 10.42 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 10.05 pct. Analysts attributed this development to market pressure on the new government to accept fiscal austerity policy measures. Other regional European Union bond markets were under mild pressure, with the 10-year Portuguese bond yield rising to 2.57 pct.
 Rebasing of the FTSE/ATHEX Banks IndexTo ensure the seamless operation and efficiency of the FTSE/ATHEX Banks Index (DTR) and the FTSE/ATHEX-CySE Banking Index (FTSEB), the Athens Stock Exchange (ATHEXGROUP) and FTSE will rebase the bank index by multiplying index values by 10 after the close of business on 3rd February 2015.
The treatment has been applied in the past for other FTSE/ATHEX Indices.
 Tax and custom revenues up 0.28 pct in 2014Revenues by tax and custom agencies grew 0.28 pct in 2014, while overdue tax collection rose 12.8 pct in the same period, the Public Revenue Secretariat-General said on Wednesday.
In a report, the secretariat-general said that tax and custom agencies' revenue totaled 44.44 billion euros in 2014, from 44.31 billion in 2013, of which tax revenue totaled 32.58 billion euros, up 1.24 pct.
Overdue tax collection totaled 3.68 billion euros in 2014, up 12.8 pct from 2013. The report noted that overdue tax collection grew by more than 20 pct until the end of October but slowed down in the last two months of the year as taxpayers awaited for a more favorable payment scheme by the government.
The report noted that overdue tax collection from wealthy taxpayers totaled 395.5 million euros in 2014, surpassing a budget target by 13.01 pct. Home auctions totaled 18 in 2014, for a total debt of 140,862,105 euros.
 Greek stocks remain under heavy selling pressureGreek stocks remained under heavy selling pressure for the third successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by a negative climate prevailing in the domestic bond market where the three-year bond yield soared above 16 pct. Bank shares suffered the heaviest blow, with the bank index down more than 20 pct one hour before closing. The composite index was down 8.61 pct, the Large Cap index dropped 10.68 pct and the Mid Cap index was down 6.89 pct.
 Greek stocks plunge to lowest levels since Sept 2012Greek stocks plunged to their lowest levels since early September 2012 in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, hit by a deteriorating climate in the domestic bond market where the three-year bond yield surpassed 16 pct to new all-time highs. Bank shares remained at the epicentre of selling activity with the sector index losing almost 30 pct, for a net loss of over 40 pct in the last three sessions.
The composite index plunged 9.24 pct to end at 711.13 points, off the day's lows of 708.61 points. The index is down 15.39 pct in the last three sessions, while the bank index is down 43.81 pct. The market's capitalisation fell by 5.8 billion euros, for an accumulated loss of 11.7 billion euros in the last three sessions.
Turnover was a heavy 199.40 million euros. The Large Cap index dropped 12.10 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 5.98 pct lower. Folli Follie (1.54 pct), Grivalia Properties (1.23 pct) and Viohalco (0.46 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (29.26 pct), Alpha Bank (26.76 pct) and Eurobank (25.93 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Commerce (1.49 pct) and Food (0.13 pct) moved highers, while Banks (26.67 pct), Telecoms (12.70 pct) and Travel (10.34 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 91 to 26 with another 13 issues unchanged. AEGEK (15.63 pct), FG Europe (10.59 pct) and Mathios (10.47 pct) were top gainers, while Piraeus Bank (29.26 pct), Moda Bagno (28.39 pct) and Alpha Bank (26.76 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -7.07%
Industrial Products: -3.46%
Real Estate: -2.61%
Personal & Household: -2.03%
Food & Beverages: +0.13%
Raw Materials: -7.34%
Mass Media: Unchanged
Travel & Leisure: -10.34%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.271
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.45
Coca Cola HBC: 14.44
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.54
National Bank of Greece: 0.835
Piraeus Bank: 0.498
Grivalia Properties: 8.20
Aegean Airlines: 6.70
 Greek bond market closing reportThe three-year Greek benchmark bond yield jumped to 16.7 pct - a new record high - in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the five-year bond yielding 13.4 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 9.15 pct, from 9.0 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.38 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.35 pct. Turnover was a low 16 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.273 pct from 0.277 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.204 pct from 0.208 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.135 pct from 0.138 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.053 pct from 0.055 pct and the one-month rate fell to 0.001 pct from 0.005 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.76 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 20,301 contracts, with 44,691 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 79,294 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (26,258), followed by Alpha Bank (20,826), Piraeus Bank (13,558), Eurobank (7,710), OTE (3,639), PPC (2,852), MIG (1,334), Mytilineos (950), OPAP (528), GEK (295), Ellaktor (242), Jumbo (179) Titan (169), Hellenic Petroleum (160) and Intralot (80).
 Foreign exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released
by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.1344
Pound sterling 0.7466
Danish kroner 7.444
Swedish kroner 9.2895
Japanese yen 133.7
Swiss franc 1.0242
Norwegian kroner 8.795
Canadian dollar 1.409
Australian dollar 1.4234
 Flu outbreak death toll rises to 22, authorities reportThe death toll as a result of the latest flu outbreak has risen to 22, Greek authorities said on Wednesday.
A total of 66 patients have been admitted to an ICU due to infection with the flu virus according to the latest reports, of which 30 are still in intensive care.
 Bodies of two Greek pilots killed in Spain to be flown in on ThursdayThe bodies of the two Greek pilots who were killed when their F-16 fighter jet crashed at the Los Llanos airbase in Spain during an exercise will be transferred by an C-27J to Elefsina's Air force airbase on Thursday morning.
 Five migrants from Syria arrested in Perama, northwest GreeceFive migrants from Syria, among them a minor, were arrested after their car veered off course and fell in an irrigation ditch during a police car chase in the region of Perama, near the borders with Albania in northwest Greece, it was announced on Wednesday.
The passengers of the car suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons.
Police pursued the car when its driver, an Albanian national who was also arrested, ignored signs to stop his car at the side of the road for a routine check.
 5-Richter earthquake shakes northern CreteA strong earthquake measuring 5 on the Richter scale shook the southern Aegean island of Crete at 17.54 on Wednesday.
The epicenter was in the sea, 79 km southeast of the Tymbaki area in Iraklio, Crete's largest city, at a depth of 10 km, according to the Geodynamic Institute at the National Observatory of Athens.
 Rain on ThursdayHeavy rain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country and temperatures ranging from 04C-10C. Storms in the morning in the western parts and particularly over the southern Ionian islands and Peloponnese with temperatures between 05C-14C. Clouds, rain and thunderstorms early in the morning in the eastern parts and temperatures between 02C-14C. Rain and storms over the islands, 08C-16C. Rain in Athens, 07C-12C. Clouds and rain in Thessaloniki, 04C-09C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailiesat a glance
AVGHI: New faces and national dignity.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Ready for battle.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Re-hirings, open borders and nationalisations.
ESTIA: New elections and parliamentary majority.
ETHNOS: Government with left DNA.
IMERISSIA: Three superministers for the economy.
KATHIMERINI: Government with fragile balances.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Government seeks relief of conditions.
RIZOSPASTIS: The new co-governance with the capital's 'blessing'.
TA NEA: Chemistry lessons.
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