|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 12 March 2015 Issue No: 4907
 Technical discussions underway in BrusselsThe discussions of the technical staff in Brussels started at 15.00, according to government sources, with the participation of European Commission officials, as well as officials from the ECB, the IMF, the ESM/EFSM and Greece.
According to the same sources, the negotiation, political and technical, will take place in Brussels. However, this does not rule out the possibility of officials coming to Greece.
 Technical teams to be called Brussels Group; PM Tsipras to visit Paris and BrusselsBrussels Group (BG) will be the code name of the technical teams that will meet in Brussels comprising officials from the EC, ECB, IMF, ESM/EFSM and Greece, government sources said on Wednesday.
According to the same sources, negotiations will take place between counterparts, while the Brussels Group will have the authority to appoint technical advisers to visit Greece and hold talks in Athens with same rank officials.
On specialised issues, that may arise as regards the facts the Greek government will be called to present during the negotiations and in order to deal with disputes or lack of facts, the Brussels Group will be authorised to appoint technical advisers who will visit Athens for an "on site exchange of facts".
 PM Tsipras and FinMin Varoufakis to Paris for an OECD meetingPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will travel to Paris on Wednesday ahead of the meeting with the OECD secretary general Angel Gurria and other officials of the organisation on Thursday.
The prime minister is accompanied by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, Minister of State Nikos Pappas and Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos.
According to an OECD announcement, Tsipras will have a working meeting with Gurria and the other officials on Thursday morning. A press conference to the media will be held at 16.30 (Athens time).
Tsipras will also address a conference on "Greece's reform in a Europe that changes" at 17.00.
On Friday, the prime minister will be in Brussels and hold separate meetings with European Parliament President Martin Schulz at 08:30 hours, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 09:30 hours and SYRIZA MEP Manolis Glezos at 11:30 hours.
 FinMin Varoufakis meets briefly with French counterpart Sapin in Paris, ahead of OECD meeting ThursdayPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Finance Minister Yianis Varoufakis met for half an hour with his French counterpart, Michel Sapin, in Paris this afternoon, in what the Greek minister called a "courtesy visit" to discuss "important bilateral issues."
In press questions related to whether Greece count count on French support, despite recent statements by the country's presidency, Varoufakis said, "There is a misunderstanding. The Greek government is not asking for the support of any specific country in the eurozone. We believe it is a great mistake to see both the Greek crisis and the European crisis in the framework of alliances and such bilateral agreements. The eurozone crisis, part of which comprises the Greek economy crisis, is a problem for all of us and for all members of the eurozone." He also cited European Central Bank governor Mario Draghi's statements in Helsinki in the fall of 2014 to the effect that "for the euro to succeed, it must succeed everywhere," which requires united effort.
Varoufakis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be meeting with OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and other staff members on Thursday. He called the scheduled meeting "very important" and said he and Tsipras would be "presenting the entire reforms programme we want to implement."
"Beyond the list of reforms we have already presented to our (European) partners," he added, "we will also present some that have not been presented before. The OECD has the technical know-how on various issues, so there will be a series of seminars on, for example, taxation, corruption, changes in products and goods, and so on." OECD officials will present to the Greek government the organisation's programmes and experiences of other countries.
The minister said that the agenda on Thursday would focus on talks. "The purpose is to get help in creating a reforms programme that is the most effective possible and most measurable in terms of outcome. That has happened with other governments that have wanted to use the OECD's technical know-how, experiences and work to improve their output," he added.
Varoufakis rejected the term "new OECD toolbox," calling the term "outmoded" and insisting it was not part of talks, citing Gurria to confirm it. "We are talking about a new reforms package that will result from our collaboration with Angel Gurria and his staff at OECD," he stressed.
 The German Europe is over, Alternate Social Insurance Min Stratoulis says"What does Mr. Schaeuble think? That Greece is a so-called banana republic, a protectorate because this is what (Antonis) Samaras and (Evangelos) Venizelos taught him?" Alternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis wondered on Wednesday, commenting on German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's statements over his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis.
"He even suggested that the Finance minister should be replaced, he is obsessive," he told ANT1 TV.
"The German Europe is over, having Germany giving instructions and other countries simply carrying them out...When Podemos is elected in November, things will be worse for them," he said.
He clarified that the priority is "to meet the Greek people's expectations; it's not elections or referenda that is a priority" and underlined "We were elected so that the Greek people can take a breather...We are not demagogues or liars, we will implement our programme gradually, we said we will do what we are able to do, we wish we could do more things sooner."
 The opposition aligns itself with Europe's hardliners, says government spokesmanThe main opposition continues to align itself completely with the hardliners amongst our lenders and the European Union which favour austerity, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said on Wednesday, commenting on a statement by the main opposition on the government's negotiations with Greece's lenders.
"The main opposition mentions the real negotiation. The obvious question that arises is what it knows about this issue. There is not one Greek citizen who cannot remember the troika going in and out of Maximos Mansion and the ministries and deciding jointly with the government of [Antonis] Samaras for wage and pension cuts, mass layoffs and the dismantling of the welfare state," the spokesman said.
"The main opposition's nostalgia for those days is understandable, but we take it on ourselves to inform them that they are long gone since January 25," he added.
"The real negotiations have indeed started from the first day of this government's election and the proof is that Mr [Gikas] Hardouvelis' e-mail has been placed in the dustbin of history, while reforms which will kick start the economy and give society some breathing space are being implemented."
 EU expects Greece to implement Eurogroup agreement, EPP head saysSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/N. Roussis)
What the European Union expects from Greece is to implement what it has agreed upon in Brussels, the Chairman of the Group of the European People's Party, Manfred Weber, said on Wednesday, responding to a question posed by Greek MEP Manolis Glezos.
During a meeting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Glezos had asked the chairman to clarify if what he was asking was for the Greek people to overturn their mandate.
"In the past we have made agreements with our Greek partners, with their elected governments and, as it has happened with Italy and Ireland, we have kept a partnership with Greece. What the European Union expects the Greek government to do is to implement what was agreed in Brussels and to make them clear to the Greek people. There must not be a game of doublespeak. We want Greece to be a stable and strong partner in the European Union," Weber said.
 Euro Working Group head Wieser sees 'stabilisation' in Greece after July, if current hurdles are overcomeVIENNA (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)
The head of the Euro Working Group Thomas Wieser appeared confident that the situation in Greece will start to stabilise after August, provided current obstacles until July are overcome. In statements to the Austrian media, he expressed his belief that this will be achieved and also noted that the Greek government had cash reserves for the next few months and weeks.
"From mid-August Greece factually has no commitments for interest payments ...for the rest of the decade and so one just has to get past the months of April, May, June, August and then the situation should be stabilised sustainably," Wieser said to Austria's ORF broadcaster on Tuesday.
"We think that there are certainly still reserves of money there for the coming weeks and months, there are budgetary reserves, there are reserves within social insurance schemes of stateheld companies."
He said that the position adopted with the Greek government was that an agreement on the overall programme must be made in order for the full sum of money to be disbursed and that what happened at Monday's Eurogroup meeting was a first payment of a tranche to be followed by others, while in a few weeks the negotiations will be completed.
Wieser emphasised that a comprehensive package of reforms must be worked out before the money is given, saying that this was a mutual interest that the "Greek government cannot close its eyes to". After the hurdles of the next few months were overcome, the repayment of Greece's debt will be "relatively easy," he suggested.
He also suggested that the previous Greek governments had implemented fiscal austerity but failed to implement structural reforms that would make its economy more open and efficient, so prices remained high and the impact of fiscal austerity was much greater than it would otherwise have been.
 Foreign ministry spokesperson responds to German WWII reparations questionForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias did raise the issue of German WWII reparations when he met with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on February 10, ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras said on Wednesday.
Responding to a press question on today's statement from the assistant spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry, Sawsan Chebli, in which she said that, as far as she knows, the issue of German war reparations was not discussed during the recent one-on-one meeting in Berlin between the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Germany, Koutras said,
"As far as I know, the issue of German war reparations was raised during Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias's visit to Berlin, on February 10, 2015, in both the Joint Press Conference and the one-on-one meeting of the two Ministers, during which, in fact, Mr. Kotzias proposed to Mr. Steinmeier the setting up of a joint Greek-German Committee of wise persons to examine all the aspects of the issue."
 'I am prepared to give permission for the execution of top court ruling on Distomo,' Justice min saysJustice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on Wednesday in statements to ANT1 TV said he was prepared to give the permission for the execution of a ruling by Greece's Areios Pagos top court for the compensation of the relatives of those who suffered from the Nazi atrocities in Distomo.
"The legislation provides that in order for Areios Pagos decision to be executed, the Justice minister needs to give an order for this. I believe that this permission should be granted and I am prepared to do so; despite any obstacles. There should probably be some negotiation with Germany," he said.
He noted that the other side, the German one, "must respect the decision of the Greek justice and the facts."
 Germany dismisses Greek demands for WWII reparationsBERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)
The issue of WWII reparations, including the repayment of the forced loan by the then Greek government to the Nazi occupation forces, is definitively resolved both "legally and politically" for the German government, according to statements made on Wednesday by German government spokesman Steffen Seibert and the spokespersons of the ministries of finance and foreign affairs.
Seibert said that Germany has acknowledged "its moral and historic responsibility" for the pain caused by the Nazi forces in many countries and referred to the common path of the two peoples in the EU, underlining "we should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully what will be a good future for our countries." Seibert refused to comment on statements made by Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on the Goethe Institute real estate property in Athens.
On his part, German finance ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said that there will be no such discussion with Greece, pointing out that there is always the path of international law. He said that this discussion is a mistake and cited today's serious problems, noting that "sentimentalising" is not helpful.
Responding to a question on whether the issue of the war reparations was raised by Greece on bilateral level, Seibert said that it was not among the issues discussed in the talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. A similar response was given by German foreign ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli referring to the meeting between German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias and by Jaeger referring to the meetings between Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his counterpart Yanis Varoufakis.
In favour of the Greek demands is Germany's radical Left party Die Linke MP Annete Groth, who told Reuters that Berlin should pay the 11-million-euro war reparations, calling the Greek demand as justified, while noting that the German government should reach a joint solution with Greece as to how the 11 million euros could be repaid.
Commenting on the issue in an interview to German newspaper Handelsblatt, SCU party representative Hans Michelbach noted "the subject has been closed since the 1950s. If it came to Greek violations of German property, Germany would know how to defend itself."
 German politician Hans Michelbach comments on Greek ministers' statementsBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
In the case that there are Greek "attacks" against German property, Germany will not take this lying down, said Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) member Hans Michelbach on Wednesday. The CSU parliamentary group spokesman on fiscal issues, Michelbach was said commenting on statements made by Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos.
The issue has been settled since the 50s, Michelbach told the online edition of German paper Handelsblatt. He also described criticism of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble by State Minister Nikos Pappas as "low" and excessive.
 Parliamentary committees approve in principle humanitarian crisis billThe government's bill on addressing the humanitarian crisis and fighting corruption was approved in principle by the parliament committees debating on it.
SYRIZA, Independent Greeks, New Democracy, Golden Dawn and PASOK voted in favour of the bill, with Potami and communist KKE party voting "present." The parliament committees continue the debate on the articles of the bill, two of which are expected to undergo changes.
 Debate on humanitarian crisis bill continues, final vote next weekThe parliament committees on Wednesday continued to debate the articles of a draft bill on tackling the humanitarian crisis in Greece, with the government defending the measures and talking of a first but important step towards the support of vulnerable social groups and the opposition asking for further corrections and clarifications.
SYRIZA, Independent Greeks, New Democracy, Golden Dawn and PASOK voted in favour of the bill, while Potami reserved the right to vote at a later stage and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) party voted "present".
The discussion of the bill in the appropriate Parliamentary committees will be concluded on Thursday with the second reading, while the discussion and vote by the plenary of the Parliament is expected to take place next week.
 Health ministry sets up working group to examine access to healthcare for uninsuredThe health ministry has set up a working group to examine existing legislation and identify problems preventing the access of those without insurance to public health organisations, Alternate Health Minister Andreas Xanthos said on Wednesday.
The ministry's aim is to swiftly take all necessary action to ensure access to free and quality health services for all, he said.
Until the time when the legislative measures are in place, the health ministry called on all health system and hospital managements throughout Greece to do their utmost to life legal and other obstacles prevent people's access to necessary health care, he added.
The working group is expected to deliver its report at the end of this month and this will form the basis of the necessary legislative and political measures to end exclusions from healthcare, Xanthos said.
 Government to set ceiling on loans to political partiesThe government is raising the issue of changing the current framework for loans to political parties while SYRIZA deputies Stathis Panagoulis and Nasos Athanassiou are asking for details over PASOK and New Democracy's loan obligations.
"The issue of bank loans to political parties is a major one and is directly linked to the elimination of vested interests and the proper functioning of Democracy," Interior and Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis said in a document submitted to the Parliament.
"We focus - as part of a comprehensive legislative initiative on the status of political parties, together with the relevant ministries - on the reform of the current framework of bank lending to political parties, aiming at boosting transparency, encouraging the equal treatment of political parties and ensuring their independence," he noted.
The document was submitted to the Parliament following a question by Independent Greeks (ANEL) parliamentary group secretary Nikos Nikolopoulos.
State Minister Panagiotis Nikoloudis said that stricter rules on the legislation regarding the loans to political parties are included in the list of reform proposals sent to the European partners and institutions, such as setting a ceiling on loans by financial and other institutions.
"The illegal financing of political parties is considered corruption and it will be treated as such," the Minister of State said adding that any complaints about violations of the existing legislation are considered by the Audit Committee of party finances.
 Alt. Min. for Migration Policy Christodoulopoulou in the EU Justice and Home Affairs CouncilAlternate Minister for Migration Policy Tassia Christodoulopoulou will outline the migration policy of the new Greek government in the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council to take place in Brussels tomorrow, it was announced on Wednesday.
Christodoulopoulou will demand financing from special funds to establish open reception structures and support integration, while she will also discuss detention alternatives and the reinforcement of asylum agencies and reception structures with an emphasis on vulnerable groups of migrants and refugees.
The council will meet in the presence of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
 Interior Minister Voutsis on managing mixed migrants flowsThe management of mixed migration flows at the Greek territory's entry points will be based on border controls with respect for human rights, on providing international protection along reception and living conditions in implementation of international, EU and national legislation, according to a document by Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis tabled in parliament following a question by New Democracy deputy Lefteris Avgenakis.
The document includes data from the former Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection, which shows that the majority of the detained undocumented migrants come from countries entitled to international protection.
"Our aim is to manage the issue of mixed migration flows at the Greek territory entry points in a way that ensures both the control of the borders and consequently of the entry of third country nationals in our country, the respect of human rights, that provides international protection and ensures reception and living conditions in implementation of international, EU and national legislation," he said.
He noted that relevant ministries will make concerted efforts aiming at:
-the further upgrade the first reception services for the effective inclusion of those who enter the country into first reception procedures (registration, information, psychosocial support, legal assistance)
-the further upgrade of the national asylum system to ensure a fair and efficient processing of asylum applications in implementation of international, EU and national legislation
The minister added that the intention of the government is to undertake the necessary initiatives which would be implemented by the relevant ministries, the necessary practical measures for the effective management of migratory flows in all procedural stages, with full respect to human rights and the rule of law. To this effect, the appropriate organization of services is being put forward along with the creation of modern infrastructure and the ensuring of the necessary conditions so as to adequately meet the requirements not only related to the migration issue and to cover any emerging needs.
 Interior Minister Voutsis on initiatives over Hellenic Police upgradeInterior and Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis submitted a document to the Parliament on the initiatives to be taken in the near future over the operation of the Hellenic Police.
The document was submitted following a question by New Democracy deputy Lefteris Avgenakis.
These initiatives are: the evaluation of the structure and operation of the Police and the implementation of measures to improve it
making use of the current institutional and regulatory framework and taking measures to increase the credibility of the Hellenic Police as well as the development of everyday communication relations, cooperation and mutual trust with society and citizens
increasing the participation of the Police in combating economic crime in order to protect the national economy, and relieve the citizens' tax burden
the improvement and development of the Police technical equipment and means of transport, in order to upgrade the operation and the potential responsiveness of services to the needs of their institutional mission
the modernization of the regulatory framework governing the overall system of the uniformed personnel and strengthening its human resources
the gradual review and modernization of the regulatory framework governing the administrative operation of the Police
dealing with pending issues and financial and insurance issues of the staff
the direct promotion of legislative initiatives to regulate important or urgent issues which affect the smooth operation of the Police.
Voutsis, in his document, also referred to undocumented migrants, noting that it is a major issue for our country, and therefore its substantial and effective handling requires a comprehensive and perfect planning.
"The aim of the Interior and Administrative Reconstruction ministry is the management of mixed migration flows at the Greek territory's entry points in a manner that ensures both the need for checking the legality of foreigners in the Greek territory and their travelling in the single Schengen area and providing international protection to those entitled to, with particular attention to ensuring living conditions compatible with the value of man," Voutsis said adding that in cooperation with the Alternate Minister of Immigration Policy concerted efforts will be made to achieve these targets.
 Municipal police to be reinstituted, interior ministry sources revealThe interior and administrative reconstruction ministry is planning to bring a draft law to reinstitute the disbanded municipal police force, sources within the ministry said on Wednesday. The measure will be included in the ministry's bill for the rehiring of fired public-sector staff and the return of those in the 'availability' scheme, as well as other laws to democratise public administration.
According to the sources, Alternate Minister for Administrative Reform George Katrougalos decided to include the measure for the municipal police in the bill after examining the technical issues linked to the issue. The measure will also allow all former municipal police members transferred to the regular police force after it was disbanded to return, they said.
 Alternate Social Insurance Min Stratoulis on sec gen Romanias' complaint about pension cutsAlternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis on Wednesday said that the complaint by the ministry's secretary general George Romanias that the pension cuts implemented by the previous governments and the troika were based on false data is rather serious.
Stratoulis spoke of serious political responsibilities and hard measures that were taken based on false reports and underlined that they will be checked by both the Parliament and the Justice.
Secretary general for Social Insurance George Romanias claimed that the social security funds' assets and their revenues had not been included in the reports about the finances of the funds and they do not correspond to reality.
"We will do the necessary audits for the looting of social security funds' reserves. The issue is primarily political, because the previous governments used false studies with wrong data as an alibi...to justify the hard measures they took. The political responsibilities are serious, those responsible will be held accountable and nothing is ruled out," Stratoulis stressed.
 European Parliament urges date for start of accession talks with FYROM, calls for resolution of name dispute with GreeceSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/ N. Roussis)
The European Parliament plenum on Wednesday passed a resolution asking for the start of EU accession talks with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). With a show of hands, the MEPs approved a report on FYROM's progress brought before them for the ninth time and asked the European Council to set a date for the start of accession talks with Skopje without delay.
In the same resolution, they also called on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to launch new initiatives for an end to the impasse in the name dispute between Greece and FYROM and to facilitate dialogue ending the polarised political climate in the country.
 Alt. Defence Minister Isichos meets Italian envoy to discuss immigrationThe need to cooperate for the reform of European regulations known as Dublin I and Dublin II which concern ways to tackle the wave of irregular migrants arriving to Greece and Italy was discussed during a meeting between Alternate National Defence Minister Kostas Isichos and Italy's ambassador to Greece Claudio Glaentzer.
The two officials also discussed issues relating to military training. Deputy Minister Nikos Toskas also attended the meeting.
 ND spokesman calls on SYRIZA to condemn European Left amendmentMain opposition New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Wednesday called on ruling coalition leader SYRIZA to immediately condemn the "unprecedented amendment" tabled by four European Left MEPs in the European Parliament, with which they asked for financial support from the European budget in 2016 for countries "that are going to exit the Eurozone".
"We should not allow the suspicion to float around outside Greece that the faction that [Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras represented in the European elections is preparing the way for Greece's exit from the euro," he said.
 ND reacts to Lafazanis statements that Greece will not become an 'energy banana republic'In a criticism against statements by Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis - who said that Greece will not become an "energy banana republic" - main opposition New Democracy spokesman Kostas Karagounis said that the minister essentially casts into doubt the country's and the EU's strategic choices in energy and opposes the deregulation of the energy market and its infrastructures. "Truly, Greece will become a plain 'banana republic' with such logic," he said.
 Potami party leader slams those 'witlessly' stoking tension between Greece and GermanyOpposition Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis on Wednesday warned against stoking tensions between Greece and Germany and described those behind such efforts as "witless," stressing that Greece currently had need of allies, not enemies.
Addressing his party's MPs in Parliament, Theodorakis said the problem lay with "those in Germany that refuse to understand that the austerity policy is over because it failed" and those in "SYRIZA and ANEL that don't want to govern and prefer to play at being heroes on the Albanian front".
Nor did he spare Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou, who he said "thinks she is governor of Greece and can draw up the government's agenda."
Criticising the speech given by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Parliament on Tuesday night, he noted that the prime minister had chosen to talk about the Third Reich and the Nazis just one day after a Eurogroup meeting where nothing was settled in the negotiations with Greece's creditors.
"We have heard it all before from more authoritative sources - Manolis Glezos, Mikis Theodorakis - and we agreed. Why are we going over the same old things," he commented, pointing out that the prime minister had yet to talk about the Eurogroup agreement or what reforms he actually planned to carry out.
Regarding media reports that the government was considering the possibility of allowing Greek courts to order the confiscation of German state assets in Greece as compensation for war crimes, Theodorakis said this would be "foolish".
"Are they really threatening to confiscate the Goethe Institute? Do they believe that this threat, which is already being reported by the foreign media, will boost our country's negotiating position? Think about this; Greece, which owes money to all the peoples in Europe, says that there is another way to take what is owed. Seizing assets," he said.
 Potami MPs accuse defence minister of 'extreme populism and lack of moderation'Opposition Potami party MPs Spyros Danellis and Grigoris Psarianos on Wednesday issue a scathingly sarcastic announcement attacking Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, the leader of the ruling coalition's smaller partner Independent Greeks, in which they accuse him of "extreme populism, lack of moderation, lack of taste and refusing sound argument."
They called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to realise that "nationalist populism in the hyper-sensitive areas of national defence and foreign policy inevitably leads to new national misadventures."
The two MPs said their criticism was prompted by Monday's meeting at the defence ministry to arrange events in Greece focusing on German war crimes and reparations.
Replying in a similar tone, Independent Greeks spokeswoman Marina Chrysoveloni retorted that Potami "as its spokesman Haris Theocharis said yesterday, would refuse reparations because the Germans...did us good in WWII."
 SYRIZA on Potami's announcement as regards state broadcaster ERTThe debate on the draft bill on public broadcaster ERT has just started and the proposals presented by all political parties are more than useful, ruling SYRIZA party on Wednesday said in response to a relevant announcement by opposition Potami party.
SYRIZA underlined that Potami "obviously understands the need for a public-run radio-television minus past extravagance, unreasonably high salaries paid to executives and provocative spending for joint productions."
 PASOK lashes out at the governmentPASOK on Wednesday lashed out at the government on its strategies and their results 45 days after the elections.
In its statement, PASOK said SYRIZA created illusions over a non-existent plan B and a supposedly tough negotiation, told pre-election lies, divided the society and the nation into the so-called pro-memorandum and anti-memorandum sides. It also accused SYRIZA of taking the country to early elections and halting its progress, of forming a coalition government with the Independent Greeks and opening up fronts with all the EU countries and institutions.
Moreover, PASOK said that market liquidity dried up, coffers are now empty, the sacrifices and the efforts of the Greek people in the last five years tend to get wasted and economic figures have deteriorated.
According to PASOK, all this happened for several reasons such as that the troika is called "the three institutions and that Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis signed the extension of the Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement, namely the programme/memorandum, without the parliament being briefed on it or giving its approval.
 PASOK says gov't is 'playing petty party politics' at Skouries goldminesPASOK accused the government on Wednesday of "seriously harming the prospects of investments in Greece" and of "leading working people to unemployment" over its decisions at the goldmine of Skouries in northern Greece's peninsula of Halkidiki, where Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis revoked the project's tree-cutting licenses.
"The monstrosity (of the whole thing) is that after workers protested, Deputy Minister Yiannis Tsironis acknowledged that the licenses were wrongly revoked, as they were entirely within the law," PASOK said in a statement, accusing the ministers of playing games and calling on them to stop dividing people in Halkidiki over petty party interests.
 A new bailout will follow the 4-month agreement with the lenders, says KKE's leaderA new bailout programme will follow the four-month agreement with Greece's lenders, the General Secretary of the Communist Party (KKE) Dimitris Koutsoumbas said on Wednesday who spoke during a rally in Thessaloniki.
Koutsoumbas called on the government to bring the four-month agreement to Parliament and said he supports the immediate abolition of all the programmes and their implementation laws, in line with the proposal submitted by the KKE.
"Of course, it's an open secret," the leader of KKE said. "They don't want to bring the agreement to parliament because they know they will have to raise their hand and vote along with New Democracy and PASOK to say 'Yes' to the extension of the agreement-memorandum."
Koutsoumbas also noted that the extension of the agreement means an extension of the memorandum and that doesn't change just because SYRIZA run into a stone wall during the so-called negotiation with its lenders. "The memorandum simply specifies the measures of the loan agreement. This is what [PM Alexis] Tsipras himself also said once," he said.
Commenting on the government, Koutsoumbas claimed it implemented "internal borrowing" by "seizing people's money, from social security funds, hospitals and municipalities to cover part of its needs."
 Parliament votes against removing immunity of defence minister, KKE MP Nikos KarathanasopoulosParliament's Ethics Committee on Wednesday voted against removing the immunity from prosecutor of Defence Minister and Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos, as well as Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Nikos Karathanasopoulos.
The cases concerned a slander suit filed against Kammenos by a journalist and Karathanasopoulos' participation in mobilisations, forwarded to Parliament by justice.
Consideration of a request to remove the immunity of New Democracy MP Christos Kellas, in connection with charges concerning his term as a mayor, was postponed.
 Measures regulating the operation of public broadcaster ERT to be introducedThe government intends to adopt a number of measures "to tackle past dysfunctions" in the operation of public broadcaster ERT S.A., according to a government non paper on Wednesday.
The nine measures provide, among others, for the abolition of personnel privileges, tender announcements for independent productions and introduction of social control in the operation of ERT. Labour issues, wage scales and management issues are also settled.
 Alternate Finance Minister Valavani on her bank account abroadAlternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani on Wednesday underlined that, as it can be confirmed by her "source of wealth" statements, all her movable and fixed assets are in Greece and the only bank account she has abroad is very small, "less than the tuition cost of a postgraduate study semester in the UK."
Valavani underlined that her decision not to respond to New Democracy (ND) and PASOK cadres, and to the party of ND itself, who called on her "to give explanations" was interpreted as weakness, noting that they went as far as to lash out at the ruling SYRIZA party for not pressuring her to bring the money back to the country.
According to Valavani, she has become a target following the investigation that focused on former finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis' source of wealth statements.
 Europarliament Legal Affairs Committee favours lifting of New Democracy MEP Zagorakis' immunitySTRASBOURG (ANA/MPA-N.Roussis)
The European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs unanimously decided to lift the parliamentary immunity of New Democracy MEP Theodoros Zagorakis, following a request forwarded on December 19, 2014 by the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Areios Pagos top court and announced in the European Parliament plenary on January 28, 2015.
The Committee's report, which is subject to approval by the Parliament Plenary later in the day, noted that:
-Zagorakis is accused of causing bodily harm by negligence and failing to comply with workplace safety regulation. His prosecution concerns a workplace accident suffered on May 13, 2010 by an employee of the PAOK football club at the club's stadium in Thessaloniki and is against Zagorakis in his capacity as chair and legal representative of the club.
-The alleged offence clearly has nothing to do with the office of member of the European Parliament held by Zagorakis but is instead linked to this position as chair of the PAOK football club.
-The prosecution does not concern opinions expressed or votes cast in the performance of the duties of Member of the European Parliament and therefore there is no reason to suspect that the intention underlying the criminal proceedings is to damage a Member's political activity, given that the prosecution was initiated a number of years before the Member took office.
 European Parliament votes to remove immunity of Greek MEP over charges relating to workplace accident (ADDS MEP's reaction)New Democracy MEP Theodoros Zagorakis said he had "absolute trust in Greek justice", following the decision of the European Parliament plenum on Wednesday to strip his immunity from prosecution so that he may face charges related to a workplace accident.
Zagorakis is being charged over the accident of an employee at the PAOK football club field in May 2010, during his tenure as club chairman and legal representative of the team.
In a statement responding to the Europarliament's decision, he said, "I thank my Europarliament colleagues who through their vote supported my position calling for the lifting of my immunity. As I have stated in the past as well, I have absolute trust in Greek justice."
 Former FinMin Papaconstantinou to testify at Special Court on ThursdayFormer finance minister George Papaconstantinou, on trial over charges of removing his relatives' names from a controversial list of Greek depositors abroad who were under review for possible tax evasion (the so-called Lagarde list), will be testifying at the Special Court tomorrow, Thursday.
The first witness on Wednesday was a CPA who said that there was no evidence found that any of Papaconstantinou's three relatives had tried to hide taxable assets, according to review of assets covering the years 1997 to 2001.
 Appeals Court to decide in coming days whether to summon former PM Simitis to testify in Tsohatzopoulos' caseCriminal Appeals Court in the coming days will decide whether it would summon former prime minister Costas Simitis and the members of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) in 1998-1999 to testify in the trial of former Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
The prosecution magistrate recommended that KYSEA members who approved the procurement of submarines and TOR-M1 by the Defence ministry should be called to testify.
According to her recommendation, those persons include apart from Simitis, PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos and former minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Vasso Papandreou.
 Finance ministry sends circular to collect data for medium-term programme 2015-19Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas asked on Wednesday all ministries and state agencies to submit their projections for the revenues and expenses for the period 2015-2019 to the General Accounting Office by the end of March.
The circular aims at gathering data to draw up the medium-term programme for 2015-2019.
All bodies and ministries are expected to send separate tables for revenues and expenses concerning new actions and policies which they plan to implement.
The forecasts in the basis scenario for the medium-term programme will be based on the following: a.Indicative macroeconomic projections for the period (growth rate, unemployment, inflation, etc), taking into account that they may be updated b.The updated results of the expenses and revenues which were in force until now.
The second part of the programme will include new policies, which are divided into:
? Permanent - Permanent intervention is the one whose implementation has a permanent effect on a specific category of expense or revenue.
? Extraordinary - An extraordinary intervention is the one which affects part of the revenues or expenses for a specific year.
? The method for calculating expenditures and the efficiency of an action as well as the corresponding assumptions have been made by the ministry.
? Observations which contribute to the specification of a new policy are considered important for a better understanding of the priorities and needs of each ministry or institution.
 Athens Energy Forum focuses on oil and gas corridors securityEnergy specialists, government representatives and business people in the energy sector are attending the two-day Athens Energy Forum on energy security and cooperation that opened at a central hotel in Athens on Wednesday.
Speakers included among others Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis; Robin Dunningan, deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy and the U.S. State Department; and Sergiy Oleksiyenko, chief advisor to chairman of the board at Naftogaz, Ukraine.
Discussion at the forum, organised by the International New York Times, focused on the oil and gas supplies to Europe
Michael Hoffmann, external affairs director for the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), said the pipeline project has begun. The aim is to begin construction early in 2016 and have trials by the end of 2019, in order to have it operable by 2020. On the Greek side of the project, he said that 350 Greek companies had already entered talks for subcontracting. The programme for land appropriations has been released, with 55,000 property owners in total to be compensated for property the pipeline will cross; the first such agreements have already taken place, he said.
Emily Olson, BP vice president for communications & external affairs for the Southern Corridor, said that the necessary investments to supply TAP with natural gas are being carried out, and the funds are allocated, therefore the company will not back down. "We must be politically supported in Greece as well," she said, "political stability is necessary in order for the effort to succeed."
Speakers also included Elio Ruggeri, senior vice president of gas infrastructures at Edison S.p.A., the first private Italian energy operator, and CEO of IGI Poseidon SA, a company incorporated by Edison S.p.A. and Greece's DEPA SA for the realisation of the offshore section of the ITGI project. He said that even though the Greek-Italian pipeline was not chosen for the southern corridor, it still remains as a conduit to transfer gas to Europe from the Greek-Turkish borders and the fields in the southeast Mediterranean.
 Russia considers ways to ease the embargo on imports from Greece, Cyprus and HungaryMOSCOW (ANA-MPA / Th. Avgerinos)
The Russian ministry of agriculture is discussing ways to ease the embargo on food imports affecting EU countries like Greece, Cyprus and Hungary, minister Nikolai Fyodorov on Wednesday said.
According to Fyodorov, certain civilized options are being intensively considered to meet relevant proposals made by these countries, noting that it wouldn't be desirable to create problems between the countries mentioned and Brussels.
There are certain options, two or three, that are being considered, Fyodorov said, noting that no definitive decision has been reached yet.
The Russian financial newspaper Rosbusinessconsulting cited the appeals made by a number of EU countries requesting the full or partial lifting of the embargo on EU imports that was imposed by Russia last August in response to the EU sanctions against it.
The newspaper also referred to the talks between Greek Alternate Minister for Rural Development Panagiotis Sgouridis and the Russian Federation Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) representative Alexey Alekseenko during the latter's visit to Thessaloniki last month, that focused on the lifting of the Russian embargo imposed on the imports of peaches, strawberries and citrus fruits.
 Minister meets with industrialists who ask for lower energy costThe productive reconstruction, environment and energy ministry is reviewing all options for reducing energy prices for homes and businesses, in the latter case especially for those that consume a lot of energy and could be asked to open up more jobs in exchange, according to Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis on Wednesday.
Lafazanis met with representatives of the union of industrial energy consumers (EVIKEN), who said the high cost of energy reduced the competitiveness of their products in the market.
The meeting was attended by two of the ministry's secretaries general (for energy and industry) and two majority rule SYRIZA party deputies.
 Alternate shipping minister meets newly-elected Union of Greek Shipowners boardAlternate Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas met with the newly-elected board members of the Union of Greek Shipowners on Wednesday.
He was briefed by the board members on their position on several issues, including the state of shipping in Europe and globally, the need for Greece to retain the competitive edge in shipping and maritime training and labour.
 Overdue debt of state to private sector rises to 3.1 billion eurosOverdue state debt to the private sector rose to 3.106 billion euros in January, against 3.006 billion euros in December 2014, according to data from the General Accounting Office.
Outstanding tax refunds dropped in January 2015 to 648 million euros, from 755 million euros in December.
The greatest part of the outstanding debt relates to social insurance organisations and totals 1.81 billion euros.
 Greek wage index up 0.3 pct in Q4The wage index of the Greek economy (excluding the primary sector and households' activities) rose by 0.3 pct in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared with the corresponding period in 2013, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to the fact that no further wage correction has been made and to the payment of the 14th wage during the Christmas holidays. Seasonally-adjusted, the wage index grew 1.4 pct in the fourth quarter, after an 8.3 pct decline in the same period in 2013.
 Finansbank to launch re-IPO offer in AprilNational Bank on Wednesday said that Finansbank plans a re-IPO through the Istanbul Stock Exchange as part of a strategy to boost its capital and to finance the bank's further expansion in the rapidly growing banking market of Turkey.
The re-IPO will be completed in April, depending on market conditions. Finansbank, National Bank's subsidiary in Turkey, will raise significant new capital that will allow the bank to expand activities in the promising area of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the country.
Finansbank will seek to raise its loans portfolio by at least 20 pct annually, achieving an average return on equity of 15 pct and on assets of 1.8 pct and to maintain capital adequacy rate at a minimum of 12 pct (according to Basel III rules).
National Bank also expects to boost its capital raising significant liquidity from the market.
Alexandros Tourkolias, National Bank's chief executive, said the group was welcoming Finansbank's intention to launch a re-IPO offer in the dynamically growing Istanbul Stock Exchange and noted that this plan will support the bank's future growth. "National Bank aims to become a majority shareholder in Finansbank and we are convinced that the bank, led by Finansbank excellent staff and operating model, will continue playing a vital role in the growing Turkish market," Tourkolias said.
The re-IPO offer will include the issuance of 7,150,000,000 new common shares by Finansbank and the offer of 800,000,000 shares from National Bank's equity stake in the bank. National Bank will offer an additional 1,590,000,000 shares, while up to 795,000,000 shares could be repurchased for National Bank's account. The offer will be an international stock offering to institutional investors and a public offer to institutional and individual investors in Turkey.
National Bank does not plan to reduce its majority stake in Finansbank to less than 60 pct.
 Greece raises 1.3 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreek authorities on Wednesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at a slightly higher cost. The Public Debt Management Organisation, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue rose to 2.7 pct from 2.5 pct in the previous auction of same issue in February 11. Bids oversubscribed the asked sum by 1.3 times. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers. Settlement date was for Friday, 13 March. The authorities will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 12 March.
 British Airways announces new flight routes to Greek islands in the summer monthsBritish Airways on Wednesday announced plans for four new flight routes from the UK to the Greek islands of Kos, Corfu, Rhodes and Crete during the summer months.
BA will operate two flights a week to Kos and Rhodes and four flights a week to Corfu and Iraklion on the island of Crete.
BA will fly six times a week to Mykonos and five times a week to Santorini from Heathrow and London City airports, while it will operate four flights a week to the northern city of Thessaloniki from Gatwick.
 Greek stocks end significantly lowerGreek stocks came under heavy selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market below the 800-point level for the first time after 18 sessions. Bank shares were at the focus of selling activity. The composite index fell 2.46 pct to end at 797.30 points, with the Large Cap index falling by 2.81 pct and the Mid Cap index ending 0.64 pct lower. Turnover was a low 70.51 million euros.
Jumbo (0.75 pct), Folli Follie (0.56 pct) and Mytilineos (0.51 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (7.50 pct), Eurobank (6.96 pct), Piraeus Port (6.48 pct), Titan (5.25 pct), Alpha Bank (5.0 pct) and Hellenic Exchanges (4.59 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, Insurance (3.79 pct), Health (3.73 pct) and Personal Products (0.61 pct) scored gains, while Banks (5.81 pct), Constructions (4.67 pct) and Financial Services (4.17 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 74 to 33 with another 20 issues unchanged. Pegasus (19.70 pct), Progressive (19.44 pct) and Dionic (18.18 pct) were top gainers, while Levenderis (29.61 pct), NEL (20 pct) and Hellenic Fish Farms (20 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -4.17%
Industrial Products: -1.42%
Real Estate: -1.27%
Personal & Household: +0.61%
Food & Beverages: -1.87%
Raw Materials: -0.09%
Travel & Leisure: -2.28%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank, National Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.58
Coca Cola HBC: 15.60
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.97
National Bank of Greece: 1.11
Piraeus Bank: 0.40
Grivalia Properties: 7.60
Aegean Airlines: 7.34
 Greek bond market closing reportThe launch of a QE programme by the European Central Bank is pushing European state bond yields to record lows, with the exception of Greek state bond yields, which keep moving higher. The 10-year French bond yield has fallen to 0.46 pct, the Spanish to 1.13 pct, while the borrowing cost for the five-year bonds is negative for Germany (-0.12 pct), Denmark (-0.377 pct) and Belgium (-0.065 pct).
The Greek three-year bond yield rose to 18.2 pct and the five-year bond yield to 14.84 pct. In the domestic electronic secondary bond market, the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 10.32 pct on Wednesday, from 9.71 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 10.51 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.19 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.21 pct from 0.219 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.150 pct from 0.152 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.101 pct from 0.102 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.031 pct and the one-month rate was unchanged at -0.009 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.38 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 7,357 contracts with 39,098 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 66,155 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (25,314), followed by Alpha Bank (11,928), Piraeus Bank (14,370), National Bank (7,696), MIG (1,649), OTE (831), PPC (342), OPAP (366), Titan (174), Mytilineos (206), METKA (108), GEK (2,328) and Jumbo (180).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.0578
Pound sterling 0.70355
Danish kroner 7.4591
Swedish kroner 9.1204
Japanese yen 128.33
Swiss franc 1.0655
Norwegian kroner 8.657
Canadian dollar 1.3432
Australian dollar 1.3899
 State of emergency declared in many northern Greek towns, villagesGreece's Alternate Interior Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panoussis has ordered a state of emergency to be declared for several towns and villages in northern Greece, in Drama, Kavala, Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros. The decision was taken at the recommendation of the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace regional authority due to extensive damage suffered by infrastructure due to the recent bad weather, including powerful storms, large quantities of snow and gale-force winds on March 6-7. The state of emergency will continue until May 30.
 Lamia Appeals Court postpones trial of two former special guards charged with murdering teen in 2008Lamia Criminal Appeals Court on Wednesday adjourned once again the second-degree trial of two former special guards Epaminondas Korkoneas and Vassilis Saraliotis, convicted in first degree for the killing of 15-year-old student Alexis Grigoropoulos at Exarchia in Athens in December 2008, triggering widespread riots in the city.
The lawyers defending Korkoneas and Saraliotis asked for the postponement of the hearings, a request that was accepted by the prosecution and the court.
The new date of the trial will be set in the next period of time, with the hearings expected to take place in the beginning of the fall or in spring 2016.
Korkoneas, who is serving a life imprisonment sentence in Domokos jail in central Greece, was transferred to the court under tight police security, with hundreds of offices being deployed outside the building. Saraliotis, who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but released on conditions in 2012, also appeared in court.
 'Bank of Topics' for final exams to be abolished in current school yearOnly the teachers will be able to choose the topics of the final exams for the students in the first and second class of high school in morning schools and in all three classes of evening high schools, according to a circular sent by Alternate Education Minister Tasos Kourakis on Wednesday.
According to the circular, the topic selection by 50 pct from the so-called 'Bank of Topics' will be abolished starting from the exam period of May-June 2015.
At the same time, the ministry reintroduces a general average of 9.5 as a passing grade, while the grade students receive in the first and second class of high school will not be taken into consideration for entrance to the university.
Additionally, the selection of the examination material from each course will be done after the recommendation of the teachers and the approval of the school director and will be made known to students five working days before the end of classes.
 Convicts Koufontinas, Sofianidis transfered to hospital for exams, continue hunger strikeConvicted terrorist Dimitris Koufontinas and prisoner Giorgos Sofianidis, who have been on hunger strike since the start of March, were transferred to the hospital of Lamia on Wednesday for a medical checkup.
The two prisoners, who are serving their sentences in the high security prison of Domokos, were examined by doctors who determined they had to be sent to hospital.
Following a series of exams, they were escorted back to Domokos under heavy security.
 Football clubs to play without spectators for rest of Super League season, per minister's ordersThe 28th season of the Super League games will continue without any spectators, by order of Deputy Culture Minister for Sports Stavros Kontonis on Wednesday.
Football clubs were given time to come up with measures to avoid violence on the field, but Wednesday's game between AEK and Olympiakos at OAKA stadium had to be interrupted after violence broke out.
The minister's order follows recommendations by the Greek police and will be formally presented to the organising authority on Thursday.
 Overcast, rain on ThursdayClouds, rain and variable winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds, local showers and light snowfall on high ground in the northern parts of the country; temperatures ranging between 2C and 11C. Same weather in western parts with temperatures between 3C and 16C. Overcast and local showers in the eastern parts and temperatures between 6C and 15C. Clouds and local showers over the islands, 7C-18C. Overcast and scattered showers in Athens, 7C-13C; clouds and showers in Thessaloniki, 4C-10C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: Those who will be held accountable for the memoranda
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: War of nerves
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Government to reduce number of students accepted to the country's three largest universities
ESTIA: Lost time for the economy
ETHNOS: Bad loans soar
IMERISSIA: The rising dollar - ECB prints money
KATHIMERINI: The gates of the public sector are opening
NAFTEMPORIKI: An obscure negotiation
RIZOSPASTIS: "Surveillance" of the extension of the anti-popular policy
TA NEA: Settlement for those who have transferred money abroad
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