|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 3 March 2015 Issue No: 4899
 Economic Policy Council discusses reforms to be presented to Monday's EurogroupThe economic reform proposals that Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will present to the Eurogroup next week were discussed at a Government Economic Policy Council meeting held at the finance ministry on Monday, chaired by government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis.
Dragasakis said that the finance minister will head for next Monday's Eurogroup armed with specific and costed proposals for reforms that "promote efficiency and social justice in the sector of the economy."
Asked whether the proposals will concern draft legislation currently being prepared, Dragasakis said they will "also include new things".
"The government has its own programme of reforms. It is a broad field that contains both our own programme and the agreement with the institutions. The agreement is a subset of the government's programme," he said.
He denied rumours that technical teams from the institutions (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) will be arriving in Athens on Wednesday, saying that he had not been informed of any such visit.
The meeting included the government's full economic policy team, among them Varoufakis, Productive Reconstruction Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, Alternate Finance Ministers Nadia Valavani and Dimitris Mardas and Alternate Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.
Earlier on Monday, Varoufakis and Mardas also met with the head of Greece's Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) Stelios Papadopoulos to discuss ways to cover state financing needs. On the sidelines of this meeting, a senior finance ministry source noted that there were "alternative solutions for handling liquidity issues in March".
 Government sources confirm PM's plan to hold debate on loan agreement in ParliamentGovernment sources on Monday confirmed that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras intends to present the loan agreement with Greece's creditors to Parliament for discussion.
"All political party leaders and MPs will therefore publicly have the opportunity to be briefed, to put questions and receive answers," the same sources noted. They underlined that the new Greek government's respect for transparency and democratic procedures was "non-negotiable, in contrast with previous governments that excelled in untransparent handling."
The government sources also clarified that the new agreement arising at the end of the current four-month extension will be sent to Parliament for ratification.
Regarding current developments, they made the following points:
1. The new Greek government has not signed a new loan agreement but simply extended the expiration date of the current agreement until the end of June.
2. The extension of the loan agreement has already been signed by all parties involved since last Thursday. The ESM has not required any ratification by the Greek Parliament since there is no international demand and considers the signature of the finance minister in office sufficient. This has also been cleared by the Legal Council of State.
3. The German Parliament did not ratify any loan agreement but simply gave its approval to the Eurogroup decision and the list of the reforms sent by the Greek finance minister.
4. The central goal (and a key election pledge made by SYRIZA) is and remains the abolition of the memorandum and the renegotiation of the loan agreement. The first stage (the memorandum) has been achieved. In relation to the second, the loan agreement, the country has now received the necessary extension (bridge) in order to negotiate on terms that are sustainable for the country and the people. The aim is that a new agreement in June will be accompanied by a new loan agreement that does not contain commitments and terms, such as those in the present agreement, that are unilateral with respect to the country's interests.
"The demand, therefore, for a renewed ratification of the existing agreement by Parliament, without this being demanded, is not as innocuous as it sounds. Some people are seeking to extract decisions and commitments from the present Parliament that will create negative faits accomplis during negotiations," the government sources commented.
5. No extension of the memorandum follows from an extension of the loan agreement. The memorandum is already abolished since the notorious "current programme" is not expected to be "successfully completed".
6. The new agreement arising at the end of the four-month period will come to Parliament for ratification.
7. The draft bill relating to the humanitarian crisis was tabled in Parliament on Monday, while others will follow that will make more specific the list of reforms and action sent by the finance minister to the Eurogroup.
 Parliament will debate agreement with Greece's lenders but not vote on it, gov't spokesman saysThe government will meet all financial obligations in March, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Monday told Real radio station in Athens.
"Public opinion should not be worried about that. The Greek government all these days has been considering the solutions and has put forward solutions so as not to have the slightest problem with the repayment to the International Monetary Fund and the country's other financial obligations within March," he noted.
He said the government's economic team is in contact with investors regarding the issue of Greek Treasury bills scheduled for this week and also with the partners so as not to have any problems.
Sakellaridis referred to the issue of the agreement with the lenders, announcing plans for an initiative to be taken up by the prime minister aiming to bring the issue to Parliament for a debate.
He said the government did not plan the agreements to Parliament for ratification but that the prime minister "is himself willing and determined to raise this issue in Parliament, so as to have a debate with the premier himself, during which he will present the agreement. From that point onwards, there will be a debate so that everything is out in the open. We are not afraid of the dialogue. We are not the ones who said different things before the elections."
Asked whether a vote will also take place, Sakellaridis said: "Right now, the reason that we are avoiding holding a vote is not that we are afraid of internal party reactions...The reason why the government right now chooses not to bring the agreement to Parliament for ratification has to do with the fact that it is simply the extension of an existing loan agreement."
 Memoranda ended on Jan. 25, say gov't sourcesEFSF officials should be briefed on the tough negotiations in three Eurogroup meetings and the end agreement between Greece and the EU which includes no mention of bailout programmes, Greek government sources said on Monday.
"The memoranda ended on January 25," the sources said, following a press release by the ESM on the relation between the Greek Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The same sources accused main opposition New Democracy (ND) of "siding with the [Greece's international] lenders and not Greek society" and called on the party to appear in parliament to discuss the extension of the loan agreement to inform themselves of what was signed and what the new government cussedded.
 Government to table draft laws within the weekThe government's first draft law will concern the humanitarian crisis, as part of the legislative initiatives announced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. A series of bills on the settlement of the overdue debts to the State, legislation on the protection of primary residence and the re-operation of former national broadcaster ERT will follow.
The draft law on the humanitarian crisis includes specific regulations for free electricity and food to 300,000 households. The same bill will include the regulation for the start of the housing programme for 30,000 citizens with subsidy per person and with provisions for the limitation of evictions that have multiplied in the five years of the memorandum.
The second bill on the overdue debts to the State will include a settlement on the debts to social security funds while the government will also proceed with the lifting of the standing flagrante delicto, the arrest, detention and imprisonment for up to 50,000 euros debt to the State.
Moreover, the government will table legislation that will implement its commitment on the protection of primary residence in order to "put a halt to thousands of citizens, pensioners and labourers' agony, who are facing the risk of losing their home" as Tsipras said.
Finally, the draft law for ERT will be tabled in parliament on Thursday. The prime minister also announced that a proposal on the setting up of an examination committee for the memoranda will be submitted to parliament to investigate the conditions and the political responsibilities of all those that played a role in the country's bankruptcy.
 Measures against the humanitarian crisis to be included in draft billRent support, free electricity, food stamps and free access to public transport and the national health system for people on the verge of poverty, are among the measures included in the draft bill aimed at tackling the humanitarian crisis in the country. The bill is to be tabled in parliament soon by Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas and Alternate Minister for Social Solidarity Theano Fotiou, it was announced on Monday.
The draft bill provides for rent support to roughly 30,000 people with no income and up to 300 KW free electricity a month to 300,000 households on the social residential tariff. The rent benefit will amount to 70 euros per person and up to 220 euros for a family of four.
Also, 300,000 people will be eligible for food stamps in cooperation with the Church of Greece, local administration organisations (OTA) and non-governmental organisations.
Those eligible for the above benefits are individuals and families whose annual income, based on their tax statement, is up to the poverty line. The measures will be made more specific through ministerial decisions.
According to figures released by the Greek statistical authority ELSTAT for 2013, a total of 35.7 pct of Greece's population are at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
The poverty limit is 5,023 euros a year for a single individual and 10,547 euros for a family of four.
 If an extraordinary contribution is imposed, it will concern those who did not pay taxes although they could, FinMin says"The extraordinary contribution, if imposed, will concern those who did not pay any taxes although they were able to do so," Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Monday told Parapolitika radio station.
Responding to Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Varoufakis noted that "We will not take the tranche if the price is the continuation of the memorandum. We could have gotten it; we could have signed the so-called Hardouvelis e-mail and received the money. However, this is not what the people voted for."
 Alt. Social Insurance Minister: People's needs come firstThe people's needs and the need to face the humanitarian crisis provoked by the memoranda comes first, before the institutions, noted Alternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis speaking to private TV ANT1 on Monday referring to the draft laws that will be tabled, starting from today, in parliament.
Referring to the funding of the draft laws on the humanitarian crisis, Stratoulis clarified that "they are separate from whatever negotiation we are making". The issue is not whether our partners and the institutions agree with the specific bills but "that SYRIZA and Independent Greeks deputies will vote for them", he said expressing also the hope that "New Democracy and Communist Party deputies will also vote for them."
He underlined that there will be no problem with the memorandum's commitments and that as a minister he will send "nothing to the institutions since the bills have no fiscal cost".
Stratoulis explained that "each minister is not obliged to talk with the institutions. There is no troika anymore and the Finance Minister talks with the institutions".
The minister also revealed part of the regulations such as free electricity to up to 300,000 households and clarified that the specific measure will be applied under conditions saying that the cost will reach 58 million euros, which as he said, is easy to be found. He also referred to a rent subsidy to 30,000 families which will stand at 70 euros per person and 220 euros for the four-member families and will be offered to those close or under the poverty line as well as to coupons for food to up to 300,000 citizens in cooperation with the local authorities.
Stratoulis said that all citizens-tax payers are eligible to these measures regardless of their nationality. Referring to the zero deficit clause he said that it will be included in the one of the next bills noting that there will be not more cuts in the supplementary pensions.
According to Stratoulis, there will be no additional taxes to cover the latter but those "who have never paid" will pay and referred to the so-called Lagarde and Lichtenstein lists.
 German Chancellor Merkel: 'Greece can complete its loan programme successfully'BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Greece has the opportunity to bring its loan programme to successful completion, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a European Investment Bank meeting in Berlin earlier on Monday.
"Greece has submitted the initial proposals for reforms," she said, "now these proposals must become more specific and for this there must be cooperation with the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Commission," she said, adding, "On this basis I wish Greece a good future," in reference to the successful resolution of economic crises in Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
The crisis in Europe can only be overcome with a strong and competitive economy, she said, and called on member-states to show willingness to coordinate more on economic policy. Strengthening monetary union is as important as fiscal health is, she said, but the monetary union would not have been possible without an economic union.
 Eurogroup head Dijsselbloem proposes funding for reforms-Financial TimesGreece can get as early as this month the "first disbursement" of the 7.2 billion euro tranche remaining in the current economic aid programme, if its government adopts some reforms that the two sides could quickly agree on, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem told Financial Times.
"My message to the Greeks is: try to start the programme even before the whole renegotiation is finished. There are elements that you can start doing today. If you do that, then somewhere in March, maybe there can be a first disbursement. But that would require progress and not just intentions," he said.
"If we spent two months talking to each other and not doing anything, at the end of April there are major problems," he added.
 German FinMin: If Greece does not keep its commitments it will have to face the consequencesBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told German TV station ZDF that what he is interested in is the commitments of the Greek side.
"If they do not keep them, they will have to face the consequences," he said referring to public statements made by Greek government's officials. "If the Greek government asked for my advice, I would say: you need to behave in such a way so as to gain the best possible trust, because you need the trust of the investors and of the banks. The way they behave or as this is perceived by the international media, I do not feel that strengthens the trust and that leaves me speechless, because in my opinion, this is not in the interests of Greece," he noted.
In another interview with German TV station ARD, he said he understands the lack of trust that the German public opinion shows towards Greece's reform plans. He also expressed the wish that the Greek government would make use of the four-month extension that was given so as to complete the reforms.
"It is in Greece's interests and also of Europe's; but mainly of Greece. If they want aid, they need to do what has been agreed. Greece has lately made its position rather difficult, with a rhetoric which is difficult to be understood outside Greece," he said.
Asked whether a statement by his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis on Greece's payments to the ECB constitutes a threat or even blackmail, Schaeuble said: "It is none of the two, because Greece has signed to keep all its commitments in full and in time. He knows - and he should know, since he is Greece's Finance minister and an Economics professor, therefore he knows all that - that the moment he does not make the first payment in time, this would mean a credit event. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes and be responsible for what would then happen to Greece."
 No ambiguities in Eurogroup decisions on Greece, German finance ministry saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
The Eurogroup's decisions on Greece still apply and do not contain ambiguities, German finance ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said on Monday.
The spokesman for German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble said that every step in the implementation of the process agreed jointly with Athens will be carefully monitored.
Referring to Schaeuble's interview on Sunday, when the German finance minister spoke of a "credit event" in the case that Greece failed to promptly make payments to the European Central Bank (ECB), Jaeger said that Schaeuble was simply explaining the facts.
He also said the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had made a "very unusual mistake" by EU standards in accusing Spain and Portugal of wanting to drive Greece to "economic asphyxiation" during the recent negotiations, noting that such things were not done in the Eurogroup and that "we must not interfere in the affairs of our partners' governments."
The spokesman said that Spain and Portugal were partners with whom there was very close cooperation and that Germany recognised their achievements in terms of reforms in recent years.
 Government issues list of ministers with assignments already setFollowing press reports, the government released a list explaining which of its ministers had their duties formally set by now, March 2 (Monday).
Those of the three ministers of State - for combatting corruption (Panagiotis Nikoloudis), coordinating government operations (Alekos Flambouraris) and State (Nikos Pappas) - are set.
Those of the two deputy ministers to the prime minister - Gavriil Sakellaridis (also government spokesman) and Terens Quick (in the ministry of State for coordinating government operations) - are set.
Twelve of a total 16 of those of alternate ministers had been set on Feb. 27 (Friday) - George Katrougalos (administr. reform), Yiannis Panousis (civil protection), Thodoris Dritsas (shipping), Elena Kountoura (tourism), Nadia Valavani and Dimitris Mardas (both finance), Nikos Xydakis (culture), Tasos Kourakis (education), Theano Fotiou (social solidarity), Rania Antonopoulou (combatting unemployment), Nikos Chountis (European affairs) amd Euclid Tsakalotos (international economic relations). The responsibilities of another two, Yiannis Tsironis (environmen) and Vangelis Apostolou (rural development), both under the productive reconstruction, environment and energy minister (Panagiotis Lafazanis) will be announced later tonight (March 2).
In terms of deputy ministers, the related ministers are responsible for speeding up the decisions.
Once the decisions are issued, they must be published in the Government Gazette to go into effect.
 Admin. Reform Alternate Minister Katrougalos gets portfolio duties formally set by PM TsiprasThe responsibilities of Alternate Minister for Administrative Reform George Katrougalos were set by decision of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and published on Monday evening in the Government Gazette.
Katrougalos will assume the portfolio of the former ministry of administrative reform and electronic governance, and the oversight of government agencies of both private or public nature, and of decentralised public services.
He will also be responsible for the general directorate of reform policy and electronic governance, the general directorate of administration and human resources (including all their directorates and sections) and the National Printing Office.
The administrative reform alternate ministry is one of four sections under the interior-administration reconstruction ministry, headed by Nikos Voutsis. There are three alternate ministers - for administrative reform (Katrougalos); for civil protection (Yiannis Panousis); for migration policy (Tasia Christodoulopoulou) - and a deputy minister for Macedonia-Thrace (Maria Kollia-Tsarouha).
The main opposition had complained this past week about the government's delay in assigning him his specific duties.
According to the administrative reconstruction ministry, there is an acceleration of the procedures by which those laid off from the state under the previous administration will be reinstituted. Katrougalos had announced earlier that those laid off would be placed in positions that were in urgent need of being filled.
 ESM clarifies relation between Memorandum of Understanding and extended MFFAThe European Stability Mechanism (ESM) on Monday released a document on the relation between the Greek Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), in the wake of Friday's decision to extend the MFFA) by four months until the end of June, giving Greece access to EFSF funds.
In this, it notes that the MoU did not need to be extended because "it has no termination date" and is a document that is "often updated" following a review to reflect new circumstances.
The full announcement is appended below:
"The Greek Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA) is a legal contract between the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the Greek government, the Greek central bank, and the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF), which is Greece's national bank recapitalisation fund. It specifies the terms and conditions of the financial assistance to Greece, regarding e.g. the loan amount, availability period, fees, interest and repayment. It is signed by the EFSF CEO and the Greek Finance Minister.
The provision of financial assistance under the MFFA is conditional upon Greece's compliance with policy reform measures set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was agreed by Greece, the European Commission, and the ECB. The MoU is a separate and self-standing document, but is linked to the MFFA - no disbursement can be made without MoU compliance, which is assessed by the institutions.
The Greek MFFA originally expired on 31 December 2014. But on 19 December 2014, the EFSF Board of Directors decided to grant a technical extension until 28 February 2015. On 27 February 2015 the EFSF Board of Directors decided to further extend the Greek MFFA by four months until 30 June 2015.
In addition, it should be noted that the MoU is a document that is often updated when a review takes place, potentially reflecting new circumstances and the need to adapt the list of policy measures to be implemented. The MoU (unlike the MFFA) did not have to be extended because it has no termination date."
 Turkey revokes Notam about military exercise; gov't spokesman speaks of 'quiet diplomacy'The revocation of a Notam by Turkey, which designated an area in the Aegean Sea as an area for military exercises and as a firing range starting Monday and until December 31, was revoked following Greek demarches to the EU, NATO and the UN Secretary General.
"The revocation of the Notam, by which Turkey tied up a large area of the Aegean Sea for military exercises until the end of the year," government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said on Monday, "proves that effective diplomacy is carried out quietly, decisively and with a plan, without drums rolling."
Criticising earlier statements by former prime minister Antonis Samaras who called for the convening of the national council of foreign policy, the spokesman said, "Samaras' hurry to ask for the council's convening a few hours before Greek diplomacy brought results and the Notam was revoked, exposes him."
Sakellaridis also said that "it is also very impressive that the leader of the main opposition party requested a briefing of the military leadership directly, not of the political one... Somebody who a month ago was prime minister should be more careful with issues of foreign policy."
The diplomatic result came after communication between Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and PM Alexis Tsipras. Initially, the Turkish government responded by removing the area of Limnos island, and later issued a new Notam revoking it.
Diplomatic sources in Athens commented that common sense prevailed and said that by the revocation Turkey contributes constructively to dialogue and good neighbourliness between Greece and Turkey.
 Nat'l Defence Minister Kammenos on the Turkish Notam; visits the islands of Kythera, AntikytheraNational Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Monday paid a visit to the islands of Kythera and Antikythera, south of Peloponnese, with specialised medical personnel of the armed forces that examined local people. He was accompanied by Attiki Regional Governor Rena Dourou in the context of a stable cooperation inaugurated between the ministry and local administration.
The visit of the armed forces medical personnel was carried out following a request to the ministry of national defence by Metropolitan Seraphim in response to the fact that the Kythera hospital is understaffed and Antikythera residents had to undergo medical examinations.
Kammenos also commented on the Notam issued by Turkey (revoked later), saying that "the foreign ministry has done everything in compliance with international regulations and international law after the Civil Aviation Authority under the authority of which the issue falls." He also said that "the ministry of national defence and the country's armed forces guarantee readiness and defend national sovereignty."
It is clear, he said, that "when we have violations and infringements of the national airspace the aircraft committing the violations and infringements, are intercepted. Ships violating international regulations are also intercepted. The country's defence doctrine and the orders given, the specific ones in particular, have not changed. We will not tolerate any violation of the national airspace or the country's territorial waters."
According to Turkish Notam 889/15, from March 2 until the end of the year, the airspace over a large section of the Aegean Sea, from the island of Skyros to that of Limnos, is designated as an area where Turkey will conduct military exercises and use it as a firing range.
 ND calls for a meeting of the National Council on Foreign PolicyMain opposition New Democracy party on Monday called for a meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy, as it believes political parties should be briefed in full detail regarding the NOTAM issued by Turkey, with which the neighbouring country has reserved the airspace over a large section of the Aegean Sea for military exercises by the end of the year.
ND leader Antonis Samaras earlier in the day contacted the head of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff Mikhail Kostarakos so as to be briefed on the situation arising after the issue of the NOTAM by Turkey on February 27.
 Potami on the Turkish Notam and the Greek government's reactionThe Greek government rightfully denounced Turkey's arrogant initiative, opposition Potami party on Monday said and called for a meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy under the chairmanship of the foreign minister.
The party announcement underlined that "Greece rightfully denounced to the UN, NATO, EU and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) the unprecedented and arrogant initiative on behalf of Turkey to 'engage' for ten months the centre of the Aegean Sea in order to carry out military exercises."
Potami also repeated its proposal to establish a National Security Council comprising the parliamentary political party leaders chaired by the prime minister.
 KKE condemns Ankara's recent NOTAMOpposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Monday condemned "the new provocative decision-announcement by the Turkish government according to which, from March 2 until the end of the year, the airspace over a large section of the Aegean Sea, from the island of Skyros to that of Limnos, is designated as an area where it will conduct military exercises."
KKE underlined that the Turkish NOTAM 889/15 includes part of the Athens FIR, violates Greek airspace and causes problems to relevant air corridors."
"This provocation escalates the actions systematically adopted by Turkey for a long period of time in the context of the dispute of Cyprus' EEZ and the Greek borders, which are in line with the Aegean Sea division policy encouraged by relevant NATO designs and practices," KKE underlined.
"At the same time, the SYRIZA-ANEL government pledges allegiance to imperialist organisations while the Greek armed forces continue to participate together with the Turkish armed forces in NATO exercises and joint training programmes, which are part of the imperialist designs and rivalries in the region," the KKE announcement added.
The Greek government's demarches to NATO and the EU cannot hide that once again it is proven in practice that Greece's integration into NATO and the EU cannot safeguard the country's sovereign rights, creates risks and create new troubles for the people.
 Russian president's spokesman on the embargo on EU farm products affecting GreeceMOSCOW (ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)
Greece, being a member of the EU, cannot be excluded from the countermeasures imposed by Russia on its farm production, but other forms of cooperation could be discussed, including the supply with Greek raw materials of food-sector joint ventures on Russian soil, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday said.
Responding to a question on the talks held recently in Thessaloniki between Alternate Minister for Rural Development Panagiotis Sgouridis and Russian Federation's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) representative Alexey Alekseenko and the request made publicly to exclude the Greek fruits and vegetables from the Russian countermeasures, Peskov told the newspaper Izvestia that the rules of the World Trade Organization are clear and Russia, as a member of the organisation, cannot engage in preferential treatment.
"You cannot impose sanctions on the EU member states and choose to exclude one of them," he said, adding that "in the specific case, we could work on a plan that will not include direct exports but the supply of raw material through investments in the Russian food processing sector."
The newspaper report focused on Greek strawberries, which had a 50 pct market share and appeared on Russian supermarket shelves in early March. Now, Greek strawberry imports are banned in all forms, fresh or processed. Certain presidential decrees ban strawberry imports even in the form of raw material further processed by the Russian food industry. According to Peskov, "the issue will be examined," therefore, there is room for a partial review of the Russian embargo under the precondition that there will be Greek interest in the creation of joint ventures and in further negotiations.
 Alt. ForMin Tsakalotos meets Azerbaijan's envoy, discuss TAP, economyThe TAP natural gas pipeline, the economic situation in Greece and the Eurozone and issues of bilateral economic and trade interest were the focus of Monday's meeting between Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos and Azerbaijan's ambassador to Greece, Rahman Mustafayev, at the foreign minister.
 Alt. Tourism Minister meets Russian ambassador, discusses tourism issuesAlternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura on Monday received the Russian Ambassador in Athens Andrey Maslov for a courtesy visit, during which they held an extensive discussion on bilateral ties relating to the tourism sector.
A ministry announcement said the meeting referred to planned meeting of the Greece-Russia Mixed Ministerial Committee due to be held in the second half of 2015 and the joint promotional action that can be taken by both sides in the context of a year dedicated to Greece in Russia and Russian year in Greece planned for 2016.
The ambassador congratulated Kountoura on taking on her new duties as minister and both sides reaffirmed the historically close bonds of friendship between Greece and Russia.
 Productive Reconstruction Minister Lafazanis meets with governor of Seoul province Nam Kyung-PilProductive Reconstruction Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis on Monday met with the governor of the metropolitan province of Seoul, capital of the Republic of Korea Nam Kyung-Pil.
The two officials focused on the need for the relations between Greece and the Republic of Korea to develop in all sectors and particularly on the issues of economy, tourism and cultures.
Nam Kyung-Pil was accompanied by the ambassador of Korea to Greece Shin Gil-Sou, the ambassador Lee Yong-Joon, responsible for the international relations of the metropolitan province, as well as other officials.
 New Democracy criticises government for not bringing loan deal to parliamentMain opposition New Democracy (ND) on Monday accused the government of being afraid to present the loan agreement it signed with the country's international partners to parliament.
"[The government] is not bringing the agreement to parliament either because it is afraid to publically admit what it signed, or because it doesn't trust its lawmakers," ND spokesman Kostas Karangounis said.
"The Eurogroup agreement itself explicitly refers to the memorandum and its mechanisms, which is also expressed in the official announcement of the ESFS which notes the direct link between what the government signed and the memorandum, stressing in fact that a loan installment cannot be released without the implementation of the memorandum," he added.
 'Potami' party leader has asked for meeting with PM TsiprasThe head of the "Potami" party Stavros Theodorakis on Monday announced that he has asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in order to be briefed on the conclusions of Tsipras' meetings in Europe last week. Theodorakis made the announcement after a meeting of his party's Parliamentary group and Potami officials on this issue.
"There are worrying messages in Europe," he said, which he hoped to discuss with Tsipras, as well as the apparent division within the ranks of the ruling coalition's leading party SYRIZA, where 55 members of the party's central committee voted in favour of Tsipras' decisions and 45 voted against. Theodorakis expressed hope that this division would not also be expressed within the government, noting that "there are signs that the government ministers are behaving more like faction leaders rather than ministers in a national government".
He went on to deplore "wrong messages" sent abroad when ministers were talking about emergency taxes at the same time "as they 'sort out' friends and supporters, give raises to trade unionists that apply pressure and others that helped them and saying that they will hire them back in the public sector."
Theodorakis also urged the government to bring the agreement for a four-month extension of the programme to Parliament, adding "I think we will have better results than the 55-45 in SYRIZA's Central Committee".
 The government adopting practices similar to those of previous government, KKE saysThere is no excuse "for not having the agreement on the extension of the loan contract-memorandum that the government signed, brought immediately to parliament for debriefing, discussion and voting," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) party on Monday said in a statement.
"The pretenses that it uses to avoid the self-evident obligation simply aim at concealing from the people the fact that the government, by continuing the policy of the New Democracy-PASOK governments, has not only pledged to keep the obligations and implement memorandum laws but has also adopted practices similar to the ones of the previous governments in order to impose them," it added.
 Government's refusal to bring the loan agreement extension to Parliament is a violation of the Constitution, PASOK saysPASOK on Monday accused the government of a persistent refusal to bring the extension of the loan agreement to the Parliament. It also called on the government to publish on Monday -since the previous extension that was approved by the Parliament expired on Feb 28, 2015 - the documents that were already signed or will be signed for the extension and explain on what legal basis or jurisdiction it signed or will sign them.
PASOK said the government's refusal to bring the extension to the parliament is a flagrant violation of the Constitution and an insult to the Parliament's legislative jurisdiction.
It also accused the government of sending out an unprecedented message of "fraudulent use and degradation of national and European institutions," a message "that the government does not have the concession of its deputies to what it has been doing," that "the deputies of the (parliamentary) majority disagree with the government's policy and the country's commitments" and that "we want foreign parliaments to vote for the Greek programme, whereas in Greece we are looking for legal pretexts, because the government is afraid of its own majority in parliament."
 PASOK leader criticises government decision to not ratify loan agreement extension in ParliamentOpposition PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos on Monday strongly criticised the government's decision not to seek Parliament's ratification of an extension to Greece's loan agreement signed by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, saying it was flouting the Constitution and the laws.
"The government, unfortunately, via Mr. Varoufakis and in violation of the Constitution and the special laws, has signed the main loan agreement - in other words, the memorandum, the programme, wanting to avoid Parliament, violating Parliament's rights, because the government itself does not trust its MPs," he said.
Replying to reporters' questions, Venizelos said that this was something unprecedented "which exposes the country internationally but is also a major issue of democracy and Parliamentarianism."
"Is it possible for us to have a Parliamentary majority that says: do what you like, sign the extension of the memorandum, just don't make me get my hands dirty? Is this how the country will proceed? With such lies to the people? To the international community?"
 Deputy State min Quick visits Samos islandDeputy Minister of State Terens Quick on Sunday visited the island of Samos with an aim to record and discuss the problems of the eastern Aegean islands.
Quick met with Deputy Governor of Samos Nikos Katrakazos, the Metropolitan Eusebius and the mayor Michalis Angelopoulos.
During a press conference, the Deputy Minister said among others that the first bill that was sent electronically to him related to the handling of the humanitarian crisis.
 ND spokesman tables question on govt's intention to re-establish ERT and rehire 2,500 peopleParliamentary spokesman for New Democracy Kyriakos Mitsotakis asked the government to clarify how it is justifying the need to rehire close to 2,500 people for the ERT state broadcaster, to be re-established in the near future, especially as their payroll will burden the Greek people with more than 35 million euros annually.
In a question to State Minister Nikos Pappas tabled in Parliament, Mitsotakis also asked how the government how high it would raise the state broadcaster fee paid by taxpayers (this is currently collected through electricity bills); how it expected to cover critical vacant positions when it would reach the ceiling of 1,500 hirings for 2015 by rehiring the ERT people; and how it would guarantee that the new broadcaster will not return to its old patterns of serving political and trade union interests.
The old state broadcaster ERT was shut down by the previous government and replaced by Nerit.
 Appeals Court adjourns Vatopedi land swaps trial to March 23The Criminal Appeals Court on Monday adjourned the trial for the notorious Vatopedi Monastery land swaps affair to March 23.
The court adjourned the case so as to find a court room large enough for the 13 persons accused in the case - one of those originally indicted to trial passed away - among them Vatopedi Monastery Abbot Ephraim and monk Arsenios.
The Greek state's legal representatives stated in court they would attend the trial as part of civil action, since the state is claiming the amount of 234 million euros. They said this amount relates to the true value of the 76 property items that the Greek state swapped with real estate in Vistonida lake, while in the indictment file their value based on the contract prices is set at 69.4 million euros.
 Minister Stathakis at EU Competitiveness Council meeting in BrusselsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis represented Greece at Monday's meeting in Brussels of the EU Competitiveness Council, which focused on Single Market issues.
In his intervention, Stathakis called for brave measures in licensing, fighting corruption and managing state procurements and pointed out "significant delays" in the EU which "prevent the maximum effectiveness of its obligations."
He also pointed out that it was important to pay attention to labour relations and the environment before they become deregulated, "whenever member-states inevitably operate under different regulatory conditions."
Stathakis also called for the protection of consumers and SMEs, as they were the backbone and power engine of EU competitiveness and growth.
 There are alternative solutions for handling liquidity issues in March, finance ministry source says"There are alternative solutions for handling liquidity issues in March," a high-ranking finance ministry official said on Monday, on the sidelines of meetings involving the ministry's leadership. A meeting that will be chaired by government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis is scheduled for 18:00 to discuss draft bills currently being prepared and ways to cover the state's financing needs.
 Hellenic Federation of Enterprises proposes tripartite negotiation over minimum wageThe head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) Theodore Fessas, who on Monday met with Labour Minister Panos Skourletis, said he was in favour of tripartite negotiations between employers, employees and the government on the minimum wage.
"SEV represents big, medium and small-sized enterprises and is interested in having the right labour relations," Fessas said after the meeting and added that "the regulation of labour relations is to the benefit of all sides, the employees, the state and the businesses."
"The issue of the minimum wage is sector-dependant," he noted and added "there are sectors that pay higher salaries compared to the minimum wage currently in effect and sectors which will not be competitive by paying a higher minimum wage."
 Greek economic sentiment index up in FebGreek economic sentiment index rose to 98.2 points in February, from 95.3 in January, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Monday. The report showed a continuing and significant divergence in economic expectations between consumer and enterprises in the country.
IOBE, in its monthly report, said that almost all business sectors recorded weakening expectations, while consumer confidence improved emphatically, rising to the highest level in six years. The report noted that consumer confidence grew to its highest level since October 2009, right after the general elections.
More analytically, business expectations in the manufacturing sector improved over current demand, while expectations over inventories falling slightly and forecasts over new orders and demand weakening.
In the services sector, expectations over current demand and short-term demand were negative, in the retail sector, positive expectations over current sales weakened, while estimates over short-term sales improved slightly.
In the construction sector, employment forecasts gained ground, while estimates over the works program deteriorated slightly.
Greek households' estimates over the country's and their finances in the next 12 months improved, along with intention to save and estimates over unemployment developments.
 Greek prime office prices down 31.6 pct in 2014The cumulative drop in the prices (in nominal terms) of prime office premises in the country averaged 31.6 pct in the first half of 2014, compared with the first half of 2010, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.
The central bank, in a report, said the decrease was similar in Athens (31.7 pct), Thessaloniki (31.8 pct), and the rest of the country (31.5 pct). Particularly, in the greater Athens area, the cumulative decrease in the prices of prime office premises from their peak before the onset of the crisis up to the first half of 2014 is estimated at 38.7 pct. It is estimated that office prices (in nominal terms, provisional data) for the country as a whole decreased by 6.9 pct in the first half of 2014 in relation to the first half of 2013, a rate of decline lower than in the first half of 2013 (-11.7 pct) and the second half of 2013 (-9.0 pct). The respective change for the greater Athens area is estimated at -10.0 pct.
The central bank also said that according to provisional data, in the country as a whole, the cumulative decrease in prime office rents averaged 26.9 pct in the first half of 2014 compared with the first half of 2010, while the respective rate for the greater Athens area is estimated at 29.6 pct. The total fall in office rents came to 22.4 pct for Thessaloniki and 24.8 pct for the rest of Greece in the respective period.
In the first half of 2014, prime office rents declined in the country as a whole by 10.7 pct in relation to the first half of 2013.
Also, according to provisional data, in the country as a whole, the cumulative drop in prime retail prices averaged 28.8 pct in the first half of 2014 compared with the first half of 2010. The corresponding rates for Athens, Thessaloniki and the rest of Greece are estimated at 30.5 pct, 31.4 pct and 25.3 pct respectively.
In the first half of 2014, prime retail prices (in nominal terms, provisional data) for the country as a whole declined by 9.1 pct in relation to the first half of 2013.
 Greek PMI edge up to 48.4 points in FebGreece's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) edged higher to 48.4 points in February, from 48.3 in January despite faster declines both in production and new orders and a bigger increase in employment. Production levels in Greek manufacturing units fell for the second successive month in February, reflecting a further decline in new orders. A recent decline in incoming new works -for the sixth successive month- was the steepest since July 2013.
According to unconfirmed data, the survey said that "political uncertainty provoked a turmoil negatively affecting demand, while sales abroad fell because of a reluctance of customers".
The PMI, compiled by Markit, measures business activity in the manufacturing sector. Readings above 50 indicate a growing sector, while readings below 50 a shrinking sector.
 Alpha Trust reports higher 2014 earningsAlpha Trust on Monday said its net after-tax earnings totalled 920,000 euros in 2014, from a loss of 60,000 euros in 2013.
Turnover rose 1.8 pct to 6.60 million euros, while EBITDA fell to 1.65 million euros in 2014, from 3.67 pct in 2013 (results were boosted by the sale of the group's UK subsidiary for 380,000 euros last year).
Alpha Trust said he appointed Chris Aisopos as chief executive of the group, while Phaedon Tamvakakis remains as executive vice-chairman of the company. The company said a decision on a dividend payment will be taken in the next few months.
 Greek stocks extend decline for fourth successive sessionGreek stocks remained under pressure for the fourth successive session to end significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with bank shares suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The composite index of the market fell 2.45 pct to end at 858.95 points, off the day's lows of 852.06 points, returning all the previous week's gains. The index is down 8.42 pct in the last four sessions. The Large Cap index fell 2.68 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.97 pct lower.
Turnover shrank to 84.15 million euros. OPAP (5.10 pct), Titan (4.03 pct), OTE (2.81 pct) and GEK Terna (1.34 pct) scored big gains among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (11.80 pct), National Bank (11.19 pct), Alpha Bank (10.0 pct) and MIG (8.59 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, Media (7.0 pct), Travel (3.89 pct) and Telecoms (2.81 pct) scored big gains, while Banks (9.91 pct), Health (5.12 pct) and Utilities (5.0 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 81 to 41 with another 14 issues unchanged. Nakas (29.61 pct), Pegasus (20 pct) and Andromeda (9.98 pct) were top gainers, while Sato (20 pct), Pasal (20 pct) and Kathimerini (19.54 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -2.00%
Industrial Products: -1.81%
Real Estate: -4.72%
Personal & Household: -2.55%
Food & Travel: -1.05%
Raw Materials: -1.51%
Travel & Leisure: +3.89%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Cyprus Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.333
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.51
Coca Cola HBC: 15.97
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.46
National Bank of Greece: 1.19
Piraeus Bank: 0.501
Grivalia Properties: 8.68
Aegean Airlines: 7.40
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek bond prices came under strong pressure in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, pushing yields higher.
The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 9.23 pct from 8.92 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 9.56 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.33 pct). There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate eased to 0.230 pct from 0.233 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.161 pct, the six-month rate was stable at 0.11 pct, the three-month rate was unchanged at 0.039 pct and the one-month rate stable at -0.005 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 1.36 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 7,815 contracts with 36,201 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 46,120 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (13,792), followed by Eurobank (10,115), Piraeus Bank (9,674), Alpha Bank (7,366), OTE (1,277), MIG (1,257), PPC (832), OPAP (462), Mytilineos (217), Titan (179), Ellaktor (136), GEK (95), METKA (87) and Hellenic Exchanges (95).
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.1227
Pound sterling 0.7294
Danish kroner 7.4633
Swedish kroner 9.3436
Japanese yen 134.47
Swiss franc 1.0724
Norwegian kroner 8.6085
Canadian dollar 1.4025
Australian dollar 1.4433
 University student, two more suspects appear before examining magistrate for terror caseThe 22-year-old university student Angeliki Spyropoulou who was captured earlier on Monday in Salamina and is alleged to be convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros' close associate appeared before the examining magistrate.
She was followed by 60-year-old mother of two detained members of the "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" terror group, Christos and Gerasimos Tsakalos, as well as the latter's 26-year-old companion. The two women are expected to be charged with harbouring a criminal.
Spyropoulou's defence lawyer asked and received a postponement for Thursday to be briefed on the case, while the other two women will reappear before the examining magistrate on Tuesday.
 Wanted student alleged to be Xiros' close associate arrested on SalaminaWanted 22 year-old university student Angeliki Spyropoulou alleged to be convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros' close associate and acted as the link between him and the terror group "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" was arrested on Monday morning on Salamina island.
 Police arrest mother, companion of detained terror group members for harbouring Angeliki SpyropoulouPolice on Monday arrested the 60-year-old mother of two detained members of the "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" terror group, Christos and Gerasimos Tsakalos, as well as the latter's 26-year-old companion for being members of a terror organisation.
The two women were arrested earlier on Monday for harbouring 22-year-old university student Angeliki Spyropoulou who was captured earlier today at the house of the 60-year-old woman on the Saronic Gulf island of Salamina, off the coast of Attica.
Police arrested the mother of the Tsakalos brothers outside the Athens court, where she had been summoned by the special investigating magistrate to testify on the case of a 36-year-old woman, also was arrested on Salamina on Sunday in relation to Xiros' case.
 Convicted terrorist Tsakalos to appear before examining magistrate on TuesdayChristos Tsakalos, who has been convicted for his membership in the terrorist group Conspiracy of Cells of Fire will appear before the examining prosecutor on Tuesday.
Tsakalos will give testimony on the escape plan for the members of the Conspiracy group detained in Korydallos prison which was revealed following the arrest of convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros in early January.
 Twenty-one to face trial for the 2013 arson attack on the Skouries goldmineTwenty-one individuals will be tried in a Thessaloniki court for their role in the arson attack two years ago, targeting a Hellas Gold mining company worksite in Skouries, Halkidiki, in northern Greece, it was announced on Monday.
The defendants face charges of forming a criminal organisation, while individually they are accused of attempted homicide, possession of explosives, explosion and arson, among others.
Goldmine guards were assaulted and installations were set on fire, while vehicles and offices were destroyed by fire when hooded assailants broke into the premises of the gold mining company in February 2013.
All the defendants are northeast Halkidiki residents and members of the movement against the goldmine investment. After their arrest, four of them had been held in custody but later they were released with conditions. In their testimonies before the examining magistrates all the defendants had denied any involvement in the February 2013 attack.
All charges against one of the defendants were dismissed by a Council of misdemeanour court judges in Poligiros, Halkidiki.
In the days to follow, the judicial council will decide if 29 defendants, in another case concerning a number of incidents in 2013 in regions of northeast Halkidiki associated with protests against the gold mining activities, will face trial.
The indictment concerns incidents allegedly committed in the regions of Lakkos Karatza, Megali Panagia and in the greater region of Ierissos. All defendants face felony charges.
 Alt. Culture minister on Turkish writer Yasar Kemal's deathAlternate Minister for Culture Nikos Xydakis expressed his admiration for the work of Turkish writer Yasar Kemal, who died on February 28, and whose memorial service was held on Monday.
"One of Turkey's most prominent writers, Yasar Kemal was a friend of Greece and was loved by Greek readers. His sensitivity and his fights for human rights are reflected in his prolific work, which connected the past and present of the Mediterranean," Xydakis said.
 Deaths from flu outbreak in Greece reach 70The total number of people who have died from flu in Greece has come to 70, authorities said on Monday.
Patients who have been hospitalized in intensive care units since the start of the flu season have reached 149. Of those, 28 continue to be monitored in those units.
 Mostly fair on TuesdayMostly fair weather and south-northsoutherly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy with a chance of rain in the northern parts and temperatures ranging from 02C-15C. Scattered clouds in the western parts of country with temperatures between 05C-18C. Some clouds in the eastern parts with a chance of light rain in the eastern parts, 02C-19C. Clouds with possibility of rain over the islands, 09C-18C. Mostly fair in Athens, 08C-19C. Scattered clouds and low visibility in the morning in Thessaloniki, 04C-13
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: Serious charges.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The first measures against poverty.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Who will not be affected by the new retirement age limits in public sector.
ETHNOS: The 7 changes in pensions.
TA NEA: The European south 'eats its own flesh'.
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