|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 5 March 2015 Issue No: 4901
 PM Tsipras held talks with central bank governor Stournaras on the phone, sources sayPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras contacted Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras on the telephone, while the BoG governor was in Cyprus for a meeting of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB), government sources said on Wednesday.
They prime minister expressed certainty that "Stournaras will do the utmost for the full restoration, using all 'tools', of the financing of the Greek economy," they added.
Stournaras is expected to brief the prime minister immediately upon his return late on Thursday night, they said.
 Gov't council for economic policy endsThe government council for economic policy finished a meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras late on Wednesday.
Leaving Maximos Mansion, where the meeting was held, Government Vice President Yiannis Dragasakis said they discussed several issues.
 Greek gov't to table draft bill on overdue tax debtThe Greek government intends to table in Parliament this weekend a new draft bill offering more favorable repayment terms to taxpayers with overdue debt to the state, Finance Alternate Minister Nadia Valavani said on Wednesday.
In a television interview, Valavani said that this legislation would not be included in the agenda of negotiations in the Eurogroup next Monday and noted that it was not a unilateral action since the new legislation will have a fiscal benefit for the state. The minister said that the draft bill will not include a haircut on capital after the reactions recorded in an initial announcement of such a measure. Valavani said that the new bill will envisage the write off of all fines and charges on overdue tax debt if these debts were to be repaid within March.
She also announced more favorable tax status for professionals also working under salary and noted that a new property tax -replacing an existing ENFIA- will be introduced after a readjustment of objective property values -to be completed by June. Valavani said the state needed a new mechanism, coordinated and supervised, to effectively combat tax evasion but said that the country's creditors should offer more time to the government in order to bring results.
 The bill for the humanitarian crisis addresses gaps and deficiencies, Alternate Social Solidarity min Fotiou saysThis bill is the first, yet comprehensive, step towards the materialization of our commitment to rapidly deal with the consequences of the deep crisis on our fellow citizens that were mostly affected by it, Alternate Social Solidarity Minister Theano Fotiou said responding to the criticism expressed by New Democracy spokesman on the government's bill for the humanitarian crisis.
"The regulations of the bill go beyond the measures implemented so far; and they aim to cover gaps and deficiencies and restore injustices, which we all - except for New Democracy - have seen," she said.
"We are talking about restoring cut-off electricity connections and offering electricity power for free, granting a rent subsidy so that beneficiaries can meet their housing needs with dignity and offering an allowance for food and the supply of basic goods, which will also support local markets.
Another important first step to effectively address the humanitarian crisis caused by the memorandum austerity policies of the previous governments is the restitution of the protection of primary residence annulled by Samaras' government at the end of 2014 and the effective regulations on bad loans and indebted households.
Let us recall that the benefits, which the New Democracy's spokesman referred to, were based on the primary surplus created by hard cutbacks and destructive measures that directly led to the humanitarian crisis, which we are now called to deal with.
As for the pilot implementation of the Guaranteed Social Income, this program will be evaluated and its feasibility will be assessed on a national level. It should be emphasized, however, that the necessary funds to finance the specific program for the second half of 2015 and the nationwide implementation had not been allocated by the previous government."
 Greece should focus on the implementation of the Eurogroup agreement, Chancellor Merkel saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)
What comes first for Greece is the implementation of the Eurogroup agreement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said here on Wednesday in a joint press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after their meeting at the European Commission's headquarters.
On whether Germany is ready to negotiate a new financial bailout for Greece in the summer, Merkel said that what comes first is the implementation of the Eurogroup agreement. She pointed out that every possible effort is being made for the successful conclusion of the second financial assistance to Greece and added that the three institutions will review the implementation of everything that was agreed.
Chancellor Merkel insisted that there is still a lot left to be done before the successful conclusion of the Greek programme and reminded that the Bundestag has approved the extension of the Greek programme with an overwhelming majority.
On his part, Juncker said that it is premature to speculate about a third programme for Greece, adding that all efforts focus on the implementation of the Eurogroup agreement. He also noted that over the next few months, Greece should not make unilateral decisions and pointed out that the social relief measures adopted will have to be accompanied by equivalent measures.
 IMF's Lagarde: Success of Greek reform plan will be judged by resultsNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Pamagiotou)
The success of Greece's reform plan depends on the framework that is put in place and how the plan will be implemented, International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde said in an interview on Wednesday.
"They've made progress over the years," Lagarde told American TV network MSNBC. "But now clearly number one, they should not lose the benefit of that progress and, two, they really have to reform in-depth the economy so that it works, so that it's attractive again and so that people want to invest in Greece, so that people want to lend to Greece."
The IMF chief reiterated that institutions will now have to see in practice how the reform plan will be implemented.
 Greece needs to fulfil the terms of the agreement before further aid is granted, German FinMin Schaeuble tells paperGerman Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is sticking to his hard line on Greece, telling a German newspaper the onus was on the government in Athens to fulfil the conditions of its bailout programme before further aid would be paid out, Reuters news agency reported.
"Before money can flow, Athens has to show that it is meeting the agreed conditions," Schaeuble said in an interview in the Stuttgarter Zeitung on Wednesday. "How long Greece needs to fulfil the terms depends on Athens."
Schaeuble also warned Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis against trying to change the terms of the agreement.
"If the Greek Finance minister declares the euro group's agreement with Greece is unclear, then he is stating that against his better judgement," Schaeuble said.
 No plans for new aid package to Greece, German FinMin spokesman saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Monday's Eurogroup meeting will not discuss anything about a third loan package to Greece, German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said on Wednesday.
Jaeger was asked for a comment on Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos' statements that there were plans for a new aid package to Greece workth 30-50 billion euros.
The spokesman said the successful completion of the current fiscal programme was necessary. Besides, he said, "Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has clearly and indubitably stated that Greece does not wish a third package."
He noted that there was "great need to talk with Greece on Monday" and said that "from our point of view, everything has been said" that needs to be said.
 Tsipras will have to explain that some of his pre-election promises will not be fulfilled, EU Commission President Juncker saysThe President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in an interview published on Wednesday in Spanish paper El Pais said that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will have to explain that some of his pre-election promises will not be fulfilled as elections do not change treaties.
"Alexis Tsipras took a fundamental step: he started taking up responsibilities. However he has a problem; he has to explain that some promises with which he won the elections will not be fulfilled," Juncker said.
"He asked the right questions but he never gave answers," he said and noted: "With regard to Greece and its programme, there are 19 public opinions in the eurozone that count. Elections do not change treaties: it is clear you can have another approach to the Greek crisis. There may be more flexibility, but Tsipras' victory does not entitle you to change everything."
 Ministry announcement confirms investigation begun on unauthorised migration release orderThe government and specific ministries are solely responsible for setting policy on major social issues like migration, the interior and administrative reconstruction ministry reiterated on Wednesday, following up on a press conference by Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis, who earlier in the day said an order to release foreign nationals at migrant detention centres was sent to police departments without his authorisation.
The order created a furore and brought condemnation by the main opposition, while at the press conference earlier on Wednesday, Panousis had said that he had no knowledge of the document.
The ministry confirmed that a preliminary investigation was under way on the issue. "The drafting of policy to handle the migration issue efficiently - under a spirit of humanitarianism, legal civility and absolute respect of human rights of the sensitivities of Greek society - is currently and fully under way in collaboration with relevant misnisters," it said in its announcement.
"We aim at lifting existing imbalances, fixations, violation of national law and the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the irregular exaggerations in managing the migration issue, without that meaning that when foreign nationals break the law and show illegal behaviour they will be let off scot-free," it added.
 Alternate Citizen Protection Min on the report over the release of detained migrantsThe order for the release of foreign nationals detained in migrant centres was sent to police departments in violation of the hierarchy, according to Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis, who earlier on Wednesday held a press conference on the issue.
During the presser the Alternate minister said the following:
1.The order was issued in violation of administrative procedure, since neither he nor the police chief had been informed of it.
2.As to its content, from a legal point of view it is based on several provisions and laws; however, the minister disagrees with the legal interpretation made by the police officer who signed the document.
3.The media did not handle the issue properly. "I will not speak of a conspiracy theory but I will call the border guards who released this order, so as to track the route of this document," he said.
Regarding developments on Wednesday, Panousis said he revoked the order early in the morning and ordered a disciplinary-administrative inquiry, while the police chief asked for the resignation of the officers. Sources at the police headquarters said that no resignation has been asked for yet, since the inquiry is still underway, however they admitted that hierarchy had been overriden.
Panousis also spoke of "a jungle of misinformation" and noted he would not make any special statements or give interviews to the media but that any action by the ministry will be announced to all media.
He also said the officer who sent the order resigned. When asked, however, whether the order was issued in consultation with the advisors of the Ministry of Migration Policy, he replied that he was not aware of it and that there would be an investigation. "The officer who sent the order will certainly be asked and then we will see," he said. He clarified, however, he was very surprised when he heard the story on the issue on SKAI late on Tuesday. Minister Nikos Voutsis, who he got in touch with, was just as surprised, he said. He added that this issue was internal, administrative and no political person gave instructions for this order.
He also said that the recording of scattered laws, which are currently in force, within this order has a legal basis, but it does not constitute a policy. He said the policy has not been announced yet and it will be presented soon by the relevant Migration Policy Minister Tasia Christodoulopoulou, along with how this policy will be implemented.
The order in question was sent on Tuesday to police departments by the Department of Foreign Nationals and Border Protection of the Greek Police Headquarters and was signed by the officer in charge, Police Major General George Nitsas. Under the order, all foreign nationals that enter the country will be released after their identity is confirmed and will be given a deportation decision, without being detained, with a 30-day deadline, while certain conditions will also apply. After the expiration of the deadline, they will be re-arrested and decisions for their return will be issued, which will be postponed for six months under the current legal framework. For those already detained - in detention centers and other facilities - and unless there are other reasons of public order and security, the deportation decision is suspended for six months. The contentious point is that this will apply "regardless" of how long they were detained.
In a second order, however, it is clarified that "it is obvious that asylum seekers and vulnerable groups will be released regardless of their detention time, while in the case of minors the process for their transfer to hospitality structures will be speeded up."
 Greece's migration policy will be determined by ministers, gov't spokesman saysThe document on migrants was issued by initiative of an official without the minister having been informed beforehand and has been revoked, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Wednesday told SKAI, adding that the government will implement its policy when it decides itself to do so.
He also added that Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis and Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou will essentially decide on the migration policy on Wednesday. "The country's migration policy is determined by the relevant ministers," he underlined.
 The ministry is not responsible for the document on migrants, Interior Min Voutsis says"The relevant ministry has no responsibility at all regarding the document that passed around yesterday, according to which the government has decided not to arrest undocumented migrants but only to check their documents," Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis on Wednesday told MEGA TV.
"No relation and responsibility of the political leadership of either the Citizen Protection ministry or the new Migration Policy ministry. Responsible for the document is whoever has signed it and therefore there is an issue," the minister said.
 Order for irregular migrants 'a major provocation against the government', Kammenos tells Independent Greeks MPsThe draft bill on tackling the humanitarian crisis in Greece but also the furore created by a senior police officer's order for the release of migrants from detention centres were discussed during an informal meeting of the Independent Greeks Parliamentary group on Wednesday afternoon. According to sources, Independent Greeks leader and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, who chaired the meeting, called the second incident a "major provocation against the government".
Kammenos also briefed the party's MPs on the latest developments within the armed forces, following the recent promotions, and also referred to the need for good organisation within the Parliamentary group in order to maximise the efficiency of its Parliamentary work.
During the meeting, MPs were briefed on the humanitarian crisis bill by the MP Pavlos Haikalis and responsibility for prefectures was assigned.
Kammenos also stressed that the Independent Greeks, the junior member of Greece's coalition government, "support the government in the steps it takes and support anything that does not harm the interests of the Greek people, while retaining our 'uncrossable' lines."
He additionally expressed his displeasure with an initiative taken by the Parliamentary Group secretary Nikos Nikolopoulos to conduct a phone interview with jailed Golden Dawn MP Ilias Kasidiaris for a television show in which he appears, stressing that the party had no connection.
 New Democracy lashes out at government on undocumented migrants issueNew Democracy on Wednesday lashed out at Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis on the way the government handled the issue of undocumented migrants.
In a statement, the main opposition spokesman Kostas Karagounis accused Panousis of lying and that with his comments "he is deteriorating his own position and the position of the Tsipras-Kammenos coalition government."
More specifically, Karagounis noted that the minister "did not say a word about whether migrants entering the country illegally will be eventually arrested or not and where they will be detained as of tomorrow", "did not say how many irregular migrants' deportation orders have been suspended over the last days", and "where all the irregular migrants that have been released from the detention centers are now".
According to Karagounis, Panousis is lying as "he denied the existence of such a document," talking about a figment of the imagination, "provocations" and "other nonsense," while "the truth is that a few hours later it was revealed that the ministry document was real!"
Alt. Min. for Civil Protection Panoussis' response to ND spokesman Karagounis on the handling of irregular migrants
It is a matter of hours before the truth about the provocation and those behind it are revealed, since the 'partners' are already blaming each other, Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panoussis on Wednesday. He was replying to main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Costas Karagounis, who had accused him of "lying" regarding the document on irregular migrants.
Panoussis spoke about "fabricated news stories" and accused the previous ND-led government that it had violated the country's international obligations and court decisions and was now giving lessons on "ethics and responsibility."
As regards the main opposition party's insinuations concerning the retirements and appointments of the chiefs of the Greek Police (ELAS), he commented that he does not want to refer to the dark past of governments that created their 'own army' and their 'own police'."
Referring to the already revoked order for the release of foreign nationals detained in migrant centres that was sent to police departments in violation of the hierarchy, Panoussis said that obviously ND knew about it much earlier than him and planned to cause panic through SKAI radio & television.
He said that the order was revoked because it was issued in violation of the rules and after bypassing hierarchy, noting that the ministry's political decisions are signed by him and not by some official without the approval of his superiors.
Referring to ND, Panoussis wondered if anyone from the party knows the location of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants who lived in Greece and spread fear in the country when ND was the ruling party.
"You violated Law No 3907/11, the country's international obligations and court decisions and now you give lessons on ethics and responsibility," he said, adding that the European Court of Human Rights has issued a number of decisions condemning the "reception centres" for irregular migrants created under the ND-led government.
 Government attacks ND over statements on migrants detention centersGovernment officials late on Tuesday lashed out at former prime minister Antonis Samaras and New Democracy (ND) regarding reports that the government was opening up migrants detention centers, calling on them "to end these risky games that are beyond imagination."
According to the government "in a badly staged and risky theatrical performance, ND president Antonis Samaras in tandem with specific groups pass around news that the government will open up all migrants detention centers."
Samaras' irresponsibility is known - in any case they all know where his policies have taken the country. We would expect however that any piece of information is cross checked by all sides before it is reported, the same sources said.
 Potami says the government's migration policy lacks planning and infrastructuresOpposition Potami party on Wednesday accused the government of a migration policy that "lacks planning and organisation" and of "risking the return of downtown Athens to the state it was before the establishment of the migrant reception centres," underlining that the effectiveness of a policy, including migration policy, "presupposes infrastructure and not boastful declarations."
"The abolition of the unacceptable reception centres for irregular migrants should be combined with the creation of new infrastructure that will provide food, hospitality and medical care," the Potami announcement said, adding that the irregular migrants "shouldn't be pushed to the Athens ghettos without a job and a roof over their heads, thus making them easy prey for exploitation by lurking criminal networks."
Potami also accused the government of having no specific migration policy, referring to the contradictory statements on the issue made by government officials.
"The threats of unilateral abolition of the Schengen treaty and of channeling the migrants to the rest of Europe will have as a result the further deterioration of the already tense relations between Greece and our partners," Potami underlined.
 Government uses doublespeak on migration policy, KKE saysThe necessary investigation in the issue so as to find out how this official document regarding the detention procedure for migrants was issued cannot hide the doublespeak characterizing the government policy and practice on migration issues, arising from the fact that on one hand the government complies with the EU's reactionary pledges and on the other hand it is seeking to promote a supposedly popular front, communist party KKE said in a statement.
"The unacceptable detention centers must close down and be replaced with decent, public and open hospitality centres," the statement added. "What is more important is to give permission to those want to travel to other EU member states, which is the majority, to provide asylum to those coming from areas of conflict and grant residence permits to those who have developed biotic links in Greece."
"Without conflict and rupture with the Dublin Regulation, the Schengen Agreement and its Directives, the EU, not even a temporary populist relief of the migration problem can exist," KKE underlined.
KKE stressed that the government needs to express a clear position on the above, adding that the party has already tabled in a question to the responsible ministers.
 EU Commissioner Avramopoulos on migration issues in GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
The four basic axes of a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration were outlined in a press conference here on Wednesday by European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
On the sidelines of the press conference, Avramopoulos responded to a question on Greek news reports concerning the future of reception centres and the abolition of the arrests of irregular migrants.
Avramopoulos said that the responsible Interior & Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis informed him immediately that the ministry has not issued a relevant circular.
"Next week, the Home Affairs Council will discuss the Greek road map on asylum. My agencies, which are in contact with Athens, will visit Greece to reinforce the efforts of the Greek authorities for the implementation of a European Asylum System. A meeting with the ministry's political leadership will be scheduled soon after. Greece is not alone - Europe stands by it," Avramopoulos said.
 New Democracy criticises the operation of the ParliamentMain opposition New Democracy party reacted strongly to the refusal of the Parliament's departments to accept current questions, saying the Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou was personally responsible for it.
New Democracy parliamentary spokesman Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke of the parliament's improper operation and noted that while the government got a confidence vote on February 11, deputies are still unable to table current questions.
"Unfortunately, the bodies of the House have not met yet and as a result the smooth functioning of the Parliament and thus of democracy itself continues to be hampered by the stance of the President of the House," he said. Mitsotakis has submitted a question to Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and to State Minister Nikos Pappas on the Public Revenues General Secretariat and the cutting down, as he says, of its independence.
"My initial intention was to submit it as a current question to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, due to the significance of the issue. Unfortunately, three weeks after the vote of confidence that the government got on February 11, 2015, party deputies are still unable to submit current questions," he said.
ND deputy Fotini Arabatzi, in a written statement, said that she has been trying for a week to submit a current question to the prime minister and the parliament departments are telling her that the President of the House has not given an order so that deputies' current questions can be accepted.
 Opposition Potami accuses Alt. FinMin of inaccuracies and contradictions relating to taxes and debt settlementsThe opposition Potami party on Wednesday accused Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani of contradictions and inaccuracies regarding tax issues and the settlement of state debts, with announcements that cancelled earlier statements she had made.
"We all expected that the new government will correct injustices, not add new ones to those that already exist," Potami's announcement said.
"We heard that if someone pays the entire sum within March, there will be a 100 pct write off of surcharges. What can one say? That this measure already exists? She also said that, in the last days of March all surcharges will be written off if any part of the principal is paid. Who will proceed with a settlement now if a better settlement will be available in the last days of March? And finally, is it right with the payment of one euro in capital to give up 100 pct of surcharges that could potentially amount to several thousands of euros?" the party said.
It also claimed "inaccuracies" in the ENFIA property tax regarding the tax-free allowance of 500,000 euros, saying the minister should be aware that of the 550 billion euros-worth of estimated property values for private individuals, only 100,000 billion euros represented properties with a value exceeding 500,000 euros. This would lead to "crushing" tax rates, the party noted.
 KKE strongly criticises draft bill for tackling humanitarian crisis as inadequateIn strong criticism of the government's draft bill on dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Greece, opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday said the bill did not even meet the "urgent needs for securing a decent living [standard] for those living in conditions of extreme poverty".
"The only thing it promises are a fuew crumbs for those living in conditions of absolute destitution - with a family income of 400 euros a month for a family of four - and even here there are 'discounts' in relation to SYRIZA's election promises," the party said in an announcement.
It also noted that no provision was made for health care for the uninsured and under-employed in the freelance workers' fund OAEE but simply a one-year extension of the measures adopted by the previous coalition government.
 Foreign Minister Kotzias meets Venezuelan counterpart in AthensForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias met with visiting Foreign Minister of Venezuela Delcy Eloina Gomez Rodriguez at the Greek foreign ministry on Wednesday. During their talks they examined issues of bilateral cooperation and discussed issues of regional and international interest.
Earlier, the Venezuelan foreign minister was received by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters.
 Energy Min Lafazanis meets with Russian Ambassador MaslovProductive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis on Wednesday had a meeting with the Ambassador of Russia to Greece Andrey M. Maslov to discuss on the development of the Greek-Russian relations, especially in the energy sector.
 Commander of US Transportation Command General Paul J. Selva visits GreeceThe Commander of US Transportation Command General Paul J. Selva, who is on a official visit to Greece, met National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, while he is also expected to visit the US Naval Support Activity in Souda Bay, Crete, according to a US embassy announcement.
During his meetings, General Selva made a special reference to the close bilateral relation between the US and Greece and the significant cooperation of the two countries in defence and security.
He expressed the United States' appreciation to Greece's contribution to NATO and the significance of maintaining peace and stability in the region.
He also said that Greece is a stable strategic ally in NATO and added he was happy to be in Greece so as to meet his new counterparts and further strengthen the relation of the two countries.
 Golden Dawn trial may be delayed due to Justice understaffing, Justice min saysThere are delays in Justice due to understaffing, Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on Wednesday told Vima FM.
"This is what may lead to a delay in the Golden Dawn trial and the release of its deputies, due to the expiration of the 18-month period for their temporary detention," he said in an interview published on the radio station's website.
He said the first bill that the Justice Ministry will table in Parliament will relate to the civil partnership agreement. He also reiterated his intention to abolish maximum security prisons noting, however, that all jails will have this kind of units.
 Parliament president questions validity of past bill voting, plans salary cuts for unjustifiably absent MPsTabling bills under emergency procedures - a practice abused in the last parliamentary period - will not be repeated in this Parliament, nor can the practice of attaching amendments to entirely unrelated bills, Parliament president Zoi Constantopoulou told the press on Wednesday.
In her first meeting with parliamentary correspondents since assuming her duties, Constantopoulou also raised the issue of whether some bills were valid, as they had not collected a majority (151) and as jailed deputies of the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) were not given permission to be present during the voting. "There will obviously be initiatives you will be informed about," Constantopoulou said on the issue.
Among other things, she said that a special meeting on Tuesday evening would set up and upgrade the parliamentary committee on German World War II reparations, adding that "it is a historical obligation of this Parliament to bring this mission to its conclusion."
At the same time, all parameters that contributed to the swelling of the debt will be examined, as will contracts like those related to Siemens and to armaments procurements.
She said she would request of three former prime ministers - Constantine Mitsotakis, Costas Simitis and George Papandreou - to give up their offices in the Parliament's central building so they may be used for deputies, and she also announced strict measures for unjustified absence by deputies: past five days in total will mean one-fifth of their monthly salary would be garnered, she said.
Changes she announced also included: a proposal asking for the cancellation of bonuses to deputies for committee participation, as that is part of their duties; an upgraded "objective information-providing" of all citizens about proceedings in Palriament through its channel ("Vouli") and the ERT Open channel (yet to be established); direct broadcasting of all plenum and committee sessions; opening the doors of Parliament to social groups that want to intervene - the younger generation, average citizens and researchers.
Reacting to Constantopoulou's comments, main opposition New Democracy said, "For the second time in a few days the president of Parliament tries to turn Golden Dawn (GD) into an arbiter of our political life. Does this view represent the government? Does the government understand where this tactic is leading to?"
Other party sources said that "the whole volume of bills Constantopoulou insinuated (were not properly voted) had been voted on much before the detention of the GD deputies. Therefore, there was not a single voting where the outcome was affected by these deputies' absence.... The presence or absence of GD deputies is an issue managed by independent justice."
The Golden Dawn party itself found itself agreeing with Constantopoulou, calling it a viewpoint that agrees with the Greek Constitution. In a written statement, the party said, "The Constitution of Greeks foresees the Parliament's operation with 300 deputies, therefore any memorandum laws and other anti-national legislations were voted without the GD deputies, who are being detained illegally, are invalid and go against the Constitution."
 Outgoing Greek President Papoulias hosts dinner for successor Prokopis PavlopoulosA dinner hosted by outgoing President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias for his newly-elected successor Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who takes over his new duties next week, was concluded at the presidential mansion late on Wednesday afternoon.
The dinner was attended by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras, Ambassador Petros Molyviatis and Council of State President Sotiris Rizos, and their respective aides and associates.
The prime minister departed and returned to the government headquarters at 15:30, while the remaining guests stayed and continued their meeting for an additional half hour.
 Greek NGO delivers emergency pharmaceutical supplies to Mariupol, UkraineA shipment of pharmaceutical materials sent by the Greek non-governmental organisation "Pharmacists of the World" has been delivered to the Federation of Greek Communities of Ukraine in Mariupol, the Greek foreign ministry announced on Wednesday. It said the shipment was delivered on Tuesday, "in the presence of the director of Greece's Consulate General in Mariupol, Mihail Stamatis, and the President of the Federation of Greek Communities of Ukraine, Alexandra Prochenko," as assistance for the beleaguered population of the region.
The pharmaceutical materials will be distributed directly to the villages of the wider region of Mariupol and eastern Ukraine where Ukrainians of Greek origin reside, while a portion of the materials will be conveyed to Mariupol's hospital to cover major shortages of pharmaceuticals.
 Alternate FM Tsakalotos meets with the Egyptian AmbassadorThe potential for further cooperation between the Greek and Egyptian ports as well as boosting Greek investments in Egypt dominated in the meeting on Wednesday between Alternate Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Egyptian Ambassador to Greece Ahmed Fouad El Bidewy.
The Egyptian ambassador briefed Tsakalotos on the preparations for the forthcoming International Conference for the Support and Development of the Egyptian Economy that will take place in Sharm El Sheikh on March 13-15, to which the Greek side has been invited.
On his part, Tsakalotos referred to the Greek government's priorities in the economic sector and to eurozone issues.
 Alt. Defence Minister receives Brazilian ambassador, discusses bilateral cooperationAlternate National Defence Minister Kostas Isichos on Wednesday received the Brazilian Ambassador to Greece Edgard Antonio Casciano, who proposed that the Greek defence industry participate in the next international defence industry forum for Latin American countries taking place in Brazil.
The meeting also placed emphasis on boosting cooperation between the two countries, especially on the prospects of signing a memorandum of defence cooperation between Greece and Brazil, as well as on an exchange of visits between the military and civilian leadership of the defence ministries in the two countries.
 Power utility PPC's head Zervos resigns following a court indictmentThe President and CEO of Greece's state-run power utility company PPC, Arthouros Zervos, submitted his resignation to the Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis on Wednesday evening, who accepted it.
In his resignation, Zervos says the decision of the Appeals Council to indict him for breach of faith against the company is an insult to his person. The court said he approved wage rises for 19 PPC executives in the period 2010-2012, during which a law limiting the salaries of the state company was in place.
The letter of resignation is expected to be sent on Thursday.
 Justice Minister Paraskevopoulos says cohabitation agreement law is a priorityThe first piece of legislation the justice ministry will sponsor will be a draft bill on "cohabitation agreements, which relates to treating both sexes equally," Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos said on Wednesday.
Speaking on Vima private radio, the minister also said that the type C correctional facilities will be abolished, noting that this does not mean that there will be no high security wings in prisons nationwide to avoid inmate transfer problems.
He underlined that the delay in the opening of the trial for the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party on charges of being a criminal organisation is the result of justice sector shortcomings.
"We need more speed in the administration of justice," he said, adding that according to the Constitution, individuals held in custody pending their trial have to be released after 18 months of temporary detention.
 Two former financial crimes unit (SDOE) heads testify at former FinMin Papaconstantinou trialThe trial of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou on charges of tampering with possible tax evasion evidence continued on Wednesday with the testimonies of two former heads of the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE) at the finance ministry.
Papaconstantinou - finance minister from October 2009 to June 2011 - is on trial on allegations of striking the names of relatives off the so-called Lagarde list, containing the names and amounts of deposits held by Greek nationals at HSBC's Swiss branch. The list was sent to Greece from France and files on people who were expected to be audited by Greek authorities for possible large-scale tax evasion.
Wednesday's trial opened with the testimony of Stylianos Stassinopoulos, former head of SDOE (August 2012-February 2015). He said he had tried to meet with his predecessor, Ioannis Diotis, but had not succeeded in doing so and said he had found out that after Papaconstantinou's claim that the first list, on a CD, had been lost, a second had been sent from French and Greek secret services which included names not found on the first one. They were of relatives of Papaconstantinou, who owned bank accounts with amounts that were not justified by the tax service records, while one account balance was zero.
Testimony was also provided by Ioannis Diotis, who served as head of SDOE from 2011 to 2012. Initially Diotis asked the court to excuse him from testifying on grounds he was a defendant in a related trial, but the court rejected his appeal. At the trial he said Papaconstantinou had not given him a USB stick with the full list; he also refused to answer some of the questions put to him.
The trial will resume midday Thursday.
 Public hospital staff say slashed state funding has depleted medical suppliesPublic hospital staff threatened to take strike action on Wednesday, charging the government with further slashing already reduced budgets that prevent hospitals from providing free and quality services to the public.
The National Federation of Public Hospital Staff (POEDIN) - which includes public hospitals, health centres and the emergency ambulance service (EKAV) - said that ministry of health data shows the operational budgets of hospitals have been reduced by 60 percent in the last four years. "Staff has charged that they are forced to buy medical supplies at private pharmacies with their own funds for reasons of hygiene and safecty," an announcement they issued said.
POEDIN said the previous government had reduced the operational expenditures of hospitals in the current state budget by 20 percent, but the new government decide to start its cutbacks from hospitals as well. It said in March the monthly operational budgets will by slashed by 51 percent. The hospital management will also have to cover operational expenditures for March with 49 percent of the credits allocated to them in January and February 2015.
The new minister has asked hospital management for a record of all shortcomings in medical material, but these are not obvious the first two months of the year, the union said, charging the government with a "communications ploy."
Meanwhile, Alternate Health Minister Andreas Xanthos signed off on a call for 104 doctors to staff hospitals throughout Greece, especially in rural parts of the country. The ministry's priority is to complete regulation for the hiring of 800 assistant doctors and the calling of 1,095 openings for permanent staff in medical and nursing positions.
Representatives of the licenced practical nurses of Greece union (ENE) met with Alternate minister for Administrative Reform George Katrougalos and discussed the immediate need of hirings to cover needs, among other issues, even if restrictions had to be suspended.
 Greece drains 1.138 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreek authorities on Wednesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue draining 1.138 billion euros from the market at a higher cost. The Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement said that the interest rate of the issue was set at 2.97 pct from 2.75 pct in the previous auction of same T-bill in February 4. Bids submitted totaled 1.138 billion euros, 1.3 times more than the asked sum. The authorities will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, March 5.
 Loan/deposit interest rate spread up slightly in JanThe interest rate spread between loan and deposit rates increased by six basis points to 3.94 pct in January, as the overall weighted average interest rate on new deposits decreased marginally, while the corresponding rate on new loans increased marginally, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that the overall weighted average interest rate on all new deposits decreased marginally by 3 basis points to 1.12 pct. In particular, the average interest rate on overnight deposits from households decreased marginally by 3 basis points from the previous month to 0.18 pct, while the corresponding rate from non-financial corporations remained almost unchanged at 0.27 pct. The average interest rate on deposits from households, with an agreed maturity of up to one year, remained almost unchanged at 1.80 pct.
The overall weighted average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations increased marginally by 3 basis points to 5.06 pct. More specifically, the average interest rate on consumer loans without a defined maturity remained almost unchanged at 14.53 pct. The average interest rate on consumer loans, with a defined maturity at a floating rate or with an initial rate fixation period of up to one year, increased by 64 basis points to 7.38 pct.
The average interest rate on corporate loans without a defined maturity decreased by 7 basis points from the previous month to 6.41 pct. The corresponding average interest rate to sole proprietors also decreased by 7 basis points to 8.02 pct.
The overall weighted average interest rate on the outstanding amount of all deposits (including overnight deposits) decreased by 10 basis points from the previous month to 1.20 pct, while the corresponding rate on loans remained almost unchanged at 5.21 pct.
 Civil aviation workers union says lease deal for regional airports will be disastrous for economyPrivatising Greek regional airports will have disastrous consequences for the economic and social fabric of provinces, the union of civil aviation workers OSYPA said during an online press conference on Wednesday.
The head of OSYPA Vassilis Alevizopoulos said if the privatization goes through, it will create a "monopoly with expensive fees and taxes, but will also to weaken them.
He went on to say the move will harm regional communities, travelers, Greek tourism and the country.
The airport fees will jump to 26.5 euros from 12 euros today per departing passenger during the first year of operation after the German investor takes over and then to 32 euros in the fourth year, Alevizopoulos said.
"Germans want to turn the country into their own fiefdom. It's a big game played at the expense of the industry and tourism," he added.
Alevizopoulos said more fees will be added to the total bill which will be paid by the passengers.
OSYPA proposed keeping control of regional airports to promote the real needs, such as growth, tourism, revenues for the state and society and ensuring national security.
 Space Hellas reports improved 2014 resultsSpace Hellas on Wednesday reported a 5.1 pct increase in its 2014 consolidated turnover to 43.1 million euros, from 41 million in 2013. Gross earnings eased to 12.4 million euros last year, from 13.2 million in 2013, while EBITDA edged up to 4.1 million euros from 4.0 million over the same periods, respectively.
Pre-tax earnings fell to 416,000 euros in 2014, from 689,000 in 2013, while after tax earnings jumped to 749,000 euros from 31,000 euros, respectively. Bank debt fell to 18.9 million euros in 2014, from 20.1 million in 2013, while the company reported positive operating cash flows worth 4.0 million euros.
Parent turnover rose to 40.9 million euros, EBITDA rose to 4.1 million euros, pre-tax earnings jumped to 1.963 million euros and after tax earnings soared to 2.444 million euros.
 Number of visitors to Ellinon Kosmima exhibition reaches 3,622A large number of commercial visitors and professionals visited the Exhibition "Ellinon Kosmima" organised by TIF-Helexpo in Athens.
3,622 visitors from Greece and abroad including Cyprus, Albania, Slovakia, Canada, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, India, Sri-Lanka, China, USA, Libya, Italy, Germany, Egypt, Spain, Turkey and Great Britain toured the pavilions of 404 exhibitors that participated in the jewellery exhibition.
 Head of power utility PPC to be indicted for illegal wage rises of executivesA Greek Appeals Council decided on Wednesday to indict the current President and CEO of the country's state-run power utility company PPC, Arthouros Zervos, for breach of faith against the company, an offense relating to unlawful wage increases of executives.
Zervos is to be tried before the Three-member Court of Appeal for Felonies for approving wage rises for 19 PPC executives in the period 2010-2012, during which a law limiting the salaries of the state company was in place. According to the law, the monthly wage of an executive could not exceed 5,900 euros.
The Council ruled the accused violated the legislation in question for wage rises causing a reduction of the business' assets for the benefit of third parties.
 Greek stocks end lowerGreek stocks resumed their downward trend in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, after Tuesday' s technical rebound, pushing the composite index of the market below the 850-point level. The index fell 1.40 pct to end at 849.16 points, off the day's lows of 840.10 points. The Large Cap index fell 1.38 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.77 pct lower. Turnover was a moderate 71.77 million euros.
OPAP (2.72 pct), Mytilineos (1.64 pct), Titan (1.31 pct) and PPC (1.27 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (6.86 pct), Viohalco (6.63 pct), Jumbo (4.95 pct) and Motor Oil (4.61 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, Media (4.42 pct), Travel (1.93 pct) and Raw Materials (1.36 pct) scored big gains, while Banks (4.55 pct), Personal Products (4.50 pct) and Oil (3.77 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 72 to 44 with another 15 issues unchanged. Ionian Hotels (20 pct), Lavipharm (18.80 pct) and NEL (18.18 pct) were top gainers, while Sfakianakis (20 pct), AEGEK (19.05 pct) and Alco (17.39 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services : -0.87%
Industrial Products: -2.47%
Real Estate: -0.79%
Personal & Household: -4.50%
Food & Beverages: +0.21%
Raw Materials: +1.36%
Mass Media: +4.42%
Travel & Leisure: +1.93%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Eurobank, National Bank, Piraeus Bank, OTE and Alpha Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.34
Public Power Corp (PPC): 6.40
Coca Cola HBC: 16.17
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.37
National Bank of Greece: 1.25
Piraeus Bank: 0.475
Grivalia Properties: 8.59
Aegean Airlines: 7.52
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek state bonds remained under pressure in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, pushing yields higher. The three-year bond yield rose to 14.07 pct from 13.8 pct on Tuesday, while the five-year bond yielded 12.54 pct, from 12.28 pct.
The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 9.23 pct from 9.14 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.6 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.37 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate eased to 0.227 pct from 0.228 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.158 pct from 0.159 pct, the six-month rate rose to 0.11 pct from 0.109 pct, the three-month rate was unchanged at 0.038 pct and the one-month rate stable at -0.006 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.03 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 5,865 contracts with 39,460 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 46,554 contracts, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (14,250), followed by Alpha Bank (4,635), National Bank (11,256), Eurobank (13,129), MIG (454), OTE (760), PPC (494), OPAP (265), Hellenic Exchanges (123), Mytilineos (118), Motor Oil (110), METKA (106), Ellaktor (159) and Jumbo (251).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.1124
Pound sterling 0.7259
Danish kroner 7.4575
Swedish kroner 9.2379
Japanese yen 133.15
Swiss franc 1.0694
Norwegian kroner 8.6145
Canadian dollar 1.3922
Australian dollar 1.4191
 Woman alleged to be involved in Xiros' case released on conditionsA 36 year-old woman that was arrested on Saturday alleged to be involved in convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros' case and "Gorgopotamos plan" (Plan for the escape of convicted members of terror group Conspiracy of Cells of Fire from Korydallos prison) organised by the terrorist was released on conditions after her testimony to the Appeals examining magistrate.
Both examining magistrate and prosecutor agreed to restrict her exit from the country and the mandatory appearance to a police station.
According to the case file the woman is alleged to have the role of the transporter in Gorgopotamos plan.
Sources said that the woman denied the charge for participation in a terror organisation and claimed that "We are neighbours with Tsakalos' mother. We are friends and we are animal activists. She gave me a bag and she told me that a friend of hers will come over to collect it. I accepted to help her without knowing what was in the bag."
Another Xiros' case suspect aged 32 that was also arrested on Saturday is currently testifying to the examining magistrate.
 Two women arrested for harbouring alleged associate of convict terrorist to go on trial on March 12The two women accused of harbouring the fugitive Angeliki Spyropoulou - the 22-year-old alleged associate of convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xiros, who was found hiding in their home - will be tried by a Piraeus Court as part of the flagrante delicto procedure on March 12.
The 60-year-old, the mother of detained "Conspiracy of Cells of Fire" terror group members Christos and Gerasimos Tsakalos, as well as the latter's 26-year-old partner, were arrested on Monday for harbouring Spyropoulou in a house on Salamina island.
Authorities on Tuesday ruled the two women should be detained pending trial on charges of participating in a terror group.
In the meantime, court authorities on Wednesday ordered the release with conditions of a 32-year-old arrested on Saturday and also alleged to be Xiros' associate.
The 32-year-old was banned from leaving the country and required to regularly report to a police station. He has been charged with complicity in a terror group. However, according to sources, he denied all charges against him.
 Western Macedonia landfill agrees to take 5,000 tonnes of refuse from rubbish-choked TripoliThe Western Macedonia regional landfill has agreed to accept 5,000 tonnes of mixed refuse from the city of Tripoli in the Peloponnese, the landfill's management announced on Wednesday. The Western Macedonia Waste Management company DIADYMA SA said it agreed to the municipality's request "displaying social responsibility" and "solidarity" with Tripoli, which has been forced to declare a state of emergency over its waste mountain. DIADYMA SA said it would charge 25 euros per tonne for accepting the city's refuse, including VAT.
Meanwhile, a group of Levidi residents held a protest outside the old dump at Magoula to protest against the depositing of refuse there by Tripoli city authorities, picketing the entrance and guarding the site. They have also filed a suit against Tripoli municipality and its mayor, Dimitris Pavlis, as well as the deputy mayor for sanitation Ilias Totsis and the head of the Tripoli's environmental department. The suit was filed after an unsuccessful attempt to transfer and deposit the city's refuse in the old Levidi dump last Friday, on the grounds that the area is now part of the Natura 2000 network.
A protest is planned in Tripoli on March 6 to demand the removal of rubbish from the city by 17 organisations and associations in the region, including the Labour Centre, the bar and medical associations, the Parents and School Children Association and others.
 Primary education school teachers to consider mobilisations if their demands are not metThe primary education school teachers trade union DOE on Wednesday announced that the outcome of the meeting between their representatives and the leadership of the ministry of education did not correspond to the needs, expectations and seriousness of the problems faced by the sector and announced that mobilisations will be considered to ensure that their justified demands are met.
According to DOE, Tuesday's meeting was "full of goodwill expressions" that "did not lead to much awaited answers that would have given a breather to the sector, which has suffered a lot as a result of memorandum policies and past education ministry decisions."
DOE said that the education ministry leadership gave negative or vague responses as regards wage and pension cuts, promotions and hirings, while the only satisfactory responses concerned the changes in disciplinary law and the issue of preschool education.
 Greek man charged in pedophilia case remanded in custodyThe 40-year-old man charged with seducing minors was remanded in custody on Wednesday, after giving testimony for more than two hours to the investigative magistrate.
The accused is charged with raping a 14-year-old girl a year ago, seducing a minor, attempting to seduce a minor and attempting to solicit a minor. Police officers who investigated his activity, say his case is "very serious".
According to the evidence, the accused located his victims through a social network website by pretending to be a minor. He then made appointments with the children with the explicit aim of sexually assaulting them.
 German man arrested in Halkidiki on European warrantA 70-year-old German national charged with multiple counts of fraud and forgery was arrested in the coastal town of Nikiti in Halkidiki, northern Greece, on a European warrant issued against him, police announced on Wednesday.
The suspect, who was arrested on Tuesday, allegedly participated in a six-member ring that defrauded 45 German citizens in different German cities of a total of roughly 800,000 euros in the period from December 2013 until February 2014.
 Rain on ThursdayClouds and rain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 06C-14C. Same weather in the western parts with temperatures between 08C-18C. Partly cloudy with rain in afternoon in the eastern parts and temperatures between 06C-17C. Partly cloudy over the islands, 11C-19C. Rain in the afternoon in Athens, 08C-16C. Rain in Thessaloniki, 07C-14C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens dailies at a glanceAVGHI: (New Democracy's leader Antonis) Samaras' provocation
DIMOKRATIA: Empty coffers
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Treasure hunt
ESTIA: Lenders were telling us the same things 120 years ago
ETHNOS: Education personnel to be appointed based on a new system
IMERISSIA: All transactions under the microscope of the Tax Bureau
KATHIMERINI: Signs to Brussels in order to guarantee the next tranche
NAFTEMPORIKI: New tools in the fight against tax evasion
RIZOSPASTIS: Possible continuation and expansion of tax looting are still open
TA NEA: Total recall for labour issues
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