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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-17

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 Issue No: 4911


  • [01] German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited PM Tsipras to a meeting in Berlin, PM's office announces
  • [02] Economic situation in Greece and Cyprus dominates meeting between Tsipras and Kyprianou
  • [03] National defence minister meets with visiting AKEL leader
  • [04] We will not back down on what we have announced, PM says
  • [05] FinMin Varoufakis on Greece's liquidity
  • [06] Ministers to meet with European Commission VP in Brussels over 2-bln-euro programme
  • [07] EU Commission president says dignity of Greeks must be respected, opposes potential 'Grexit'
  • [08] The positive outcome of the negotiations is of primary importance, European Commission spokesman says
  • [09] German government's political goal is to keep Greece in the euro zone, Seibert says
  • [10] Former German president accuses Greece of 'attempted political blackmail'; German arguments unfounded, international law e xpert says
  • [11] Schaeuble: The Greek government has completely destroyed the trust of its partners
  • [12] German MEP Elmar Brok warns of 'security vacuum' for EU-NATO if Greece crisis takes bad turn
  • [13] Discussions with institutions take place at a technical level, says Social Insurance minister
  • [14] Parliament to present audit committee of public debt on Tuesday
  • [15] Government preparing legislation for non-performing business loans, Economy Minister tells Parliament
  • [16] NSRF funding is 'not frozen', economy ministry says in response to press reports
  • [17] The government will not take austerity measures, Labour min says
  • [18] Alternate Foreing Min Tsakalotos asks partners for more time and room
  • [19] President Pavlopoulos visits Defence ministry
  • [20] Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis resigns as Athens municipal councillor
  • [21] US Consul in Thessaloniki says Greece must remain in the eurozone
  • [22] PASOK on government's adjusted primary surplus calculation
  • [23] KKE's Koutsoumbas meets with visiting Cyprus' AKEL general secretary Kyprianou
  • [24] PASOK on gov't spokesman's statements over reserves of social security funds
  • [25] PASOK lashes out at the government for 'word games'
  • [26] Minister for Macedonia-Thrace Kollia-Tsarouha meets with German consul general to Thessaloniki
  • [27] Thessaloniki mayor Boutaris to seek meeting with Economy Minister Stathakis on metro
  • [28] Justice Minister Paraskevopoulos visits Thessaloniki's courthouse
  • [29] Dean files suit for Law School occupation; ND spokesman Karagounis condemns lack of action
  • [30] Sit-in protest in Athens Law School continues
  • [31] Minister for Migration Policy will not answer questions by Golden Dawn MPs
  • [32] Council of State fines finance ministry for non-compliance to decision to restore uniformed staff's pay cuts
  • [33] Civil protection minister urges police to protect strays, abused animals
  • [34] Supreme Court appoints Giorgos Pandelis as head of Authority for Combating Money Laundering
  • [35] Joint Greek-U.S. air force training at Elefsina base on March 18-27
  • [36] Greece needs to implement structural reforms, IMF head says
  • [37] Environment minister notes need for improvements in Greece's water resources management
  • [38] Greek 2014 primary surplus revised lower
  • [39] Greek central gov't cash balance shows a deficit in Jan-Feb
  • [40] Lafazanis announces lower natural gas rates during parliamentary committee address
  • [41] Finance ministry reviewing issue of mortgage loans in Swiss francs
  • [42] Alt. Tourism Minister discusses seaplanes issue
  • [43] Productive reconstruction minister says Hellenic Sugar Industry needs plan focused on farmers
  • [44] Hellenic Exchanges report 35 pct fall in after-tax profits in 2014
  • [45] Delta Dairy is not for sale
  • [46] OTEGLOBE says turnover up in 2014
  • [47] Cotton farmers to receive subsidies on Tuesday, rural development minister says
  • [48] Subsidies to cotton producers will be paid on Tuesday, says government spokesman
  • [49] Greek stocks end lower
  • [50] Greek bond market closing report
  • [51] ADEX closing report
  • [52] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday
  • [53] Alco barometer poll finds Greeks more optimistic about economy, support handling of negotiations with EU
  • [54] Audio recordings missing from Norman Atlantic ferry black box, Italian paper says
  • [55] Thessaloniki university unveils five-year plan to help protect Epirus monuments
  • [56] Evidence points to suicide for bullying victim Vangelis Giakoumakis, authorities report
  • [57] ND says death of student Vangelis Giakoumakis should be promptly investigated
  • [58] Minister expresses condolences over death of world rowing champion, 23, in road accident
  • [59] Ship with contraband cigarettes located off north of Crete
  • [60] Deaths from flu outbreak in Greece reach 84
  • [61] Partly cloudy on Tuesday
  • [62] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited PM Tsipras to a meeting in Berlin, PM's office announces

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to come to a meeting in Berlin, the prime minister's office announced on Monday.

    The announcement said that Merkel had asked for a time to call the Greek premier on Monday morning, while the phone call between them took place at 16:30 in the afternoon. During their conversation on the phone, the German Chancellor invited Tsipras to visit Berlin and the German chancellor on Monday, March 23 and the Greek prime minister accepted the invitation.

    [02] Economic situation in Greece and Cyprus dominates meeting between Tsipras and Kyprianou

    "We had a very good discussion with the prime minister during which we discussed the economic developments in Greece and Cyprus, because I believe that the discussions underway between Greece and the European Union will also affect other countries," AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou said after a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Mansion.

    "We, on our part, we reiterate our support to the effort made by the Greek government, to be granted the right, within the obligations undertaken towards the EU, to follow such policies that can deliver the same economic results, without the same kind of serious consequences to the detriment of the world and particularly the workers," Kyprianou stressed and added: "We support this effort because many of the decisions taken in the EU are not -unfortunately- taken only based on economic criteria, but mainly on political ones, and attempts are being made by certain groups to impose their views on all countries, all peoples, without exception."

    "We disagree with this approach and believe that a different view should also be heard," AKEL's secretary general said.

    Asked to comment on the fact that the example of Cyprus is used to exert pressure on Greece, he said that "the issue of Cyprus should be considered from the exact opposite aspect" and explained: "Europeans imposed on us decisions that have destroyed the Cyprus economy, which would have been in a much better condition today if all these decisions had not been taken, and which we did not consider inevitable. They could have been avoided, taking into account the discussions held on the part of the Christofias government with the troika."

    "We had a discussion with Alexis Tsipras some years ago and he had told us that the pressure on the Greek government is comparable or even greater than the one exercised on Dimitris Christofias," he added.

    Kyprianou described reports that Cyprus is exiting memoranda as "the greatest joke he has recently heard of" adding that "Cyprus will exit the memorandum. All memoranda have an expiration date, they have a three-year duration, and then there are monitoring mechanisms by the lenders because the loan needs to be repaid, in our case this is around 2030, but beyond that there are also the EU decisions, such as the Treaty of Lisbon and other ones, which form a very tight framework that does not allow us to follow different policies," he underlined.

    Kyprianou reiterated AKEL's support to the efforts being made by the Greek government "in order to find some room for maneuver from the national governments" and added that the stance of the current Cyprus government towards Greece is a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" stance with President Nicos Anastasiades and Finance Minister Haris Georgiadis expressing different opinions.

    "I do not know the real position of the Cyprus government on all these efforts," he pointed out.

    Kyprianou also said that he discussed the Cyprus issue with the Greek prime minister. More specifically, they discussed the current developments, the need for substantial negotiations to start again, negotiations which will be based on the principles of finding a solution to the Cyprus issue.

    Kyprianou thanked the Greek government, the current and the previous ones as well as the Greek people in general, because they are Cyprus' main support in the efforts for the liberation and reunification of Cyprus.

    [03] National defence minister meets with visiting AKEL leader

    National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos met with visiting leader of Cypriot communist party AKEL, Andros Kyprianou, on Monday.

    They discussed bilateral relations and Kyprianou briefed Kammenos on latest developments in Cyprus.

    [04] We will not back down on what we have announced, PM says

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in an interview with daily Ethnos expressed his determination to proceed with and implement his programme down to the last detail, to which he has committed himself over a four-year period, with the government submitting crucial bills to the Parliament soon. He also reckoned that common ground has been found with the partners on reforms.

    "Our programme was presented in the policy statements and this is the programme we have committed ourselves to. This four-year programme will be implemented down to the last detail...The bills that the government has announced are non-negotiable and will be soon tabled in Parliament," the premier said and added: "We have informed the institutions, we are open to their proposals but in Greece the Greek people voted, they chose a government to govern."

    He said "Greece is not a colony" and that "there is no way back to the memorandum for Greece." He cleared out that "there is no risk for wages and pensions and no threat for deposits in Greece.

    "The Eurogroup agreement on February 20 was clear and agreements are to be kept. We keep it and we expect the other side to do so as well," he said and noted: "We had elections in Greece and the people's vote brought down Samaras' government. If they think that they will insist on the new government implementing what Samaras' government left behind, then I am sorry but we will let them down."

    He also reckoned that "the key" for a decent compromise is the "acknowledgement that the previous policy of extreme austerity has failed not only in Greece but throughout Europe."

    Asked on a "political solution" to the issue, Tsipras replied: "If the undermining of the February 20 agreement continues, it goes without saying that there should be a political solution on the highest possible level."

    [05] FinMin Varoufakis on Greece's liquidity

    Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the "the Greek government is doing its best to secure that all our creditors will take back their money and that pensioners and our partners will be paid on time" responding to a question on Greece's liquidity sufficiency and made a made a plea for 'reasonable agreements' that will give Greece the opportunity to develop and repay its debts.

    "Neither Angela Merkel nor Mario Draghi want Europe's division. We want a successful Europe, a successful eurozone" stated Varoufakis noting that that Europe's partition would be a disaster not only for Greece but for the whole Europe.

    Asked on how the government will deal with tax evasion and particularly with Greek citizens' bank deposits abroad, the Greek minister noted: "We want to cooperate with our European partners and to safeguard that the Greeks who send their money abroad and do not pay taxes will be caught and punished" he said adding that a cross-checking of tax statements with deposits abroad is currently underway."

    Varoufakis made the above statements to German national broadcaster ARD.

    [06] Ministers to meet with European Commission VP in Brussels over 2-bln-euro programme

    Deputy Minister for Combatting Unemployment Rania Antonopoulou and Alternate Minister for European Affairs Nikos Chountis will meet with European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on Monday in Brussels, the government said on Friday.

    The meeting is a result of an agreement between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the government said, relating to a special Commission plan totalling 2 billion euros for 2015.

    The funds will be allocated to the humanitarian crisis, unemployment and the revival of the economy.

    [07] EU Commission president says dignity of Greeks must be respected, opposes potential 'Grexit'

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday said that the "dignity of the Greeks" must be respected and stressed that he was against a possible "Grexit" while speaking at a discussion organised by the Jacques Delors Institute in Brussels on governance in Europe.

    Replying to reporters' questions, he referred to his own efforts as Eurogroup president to "fight the easy idea, of Greece abandoning the eurozone". While measures had since been taken to "ringfence" the risk of systemic contagion, there were other dangers linked to the difficulties faced by the Greek people, he said.

    The Commission's president pointed out that any country that implemented austerity measures as Greece had done would come up against a very difficult situation. "We are dealing with a form of humanitarian crisis in Greece and we must find a solution. We must respect the dignity of the Greeks," he added.

    He said Greece's EU partners must find the right approach to the problems faced by Greeks, while stressing that Greece must respect its commitments. He also underlined that the Euro zone did not have only one democracy but 19 and that all the member-states must respect each other.

    "I want to preserve the integrity of the euro zone," he said.

    Asked about the liquidity issues faced by the Greek economy, Juncker said that he discussed this in talks with the Greek prime minister during their meeting in Brussels last week and was continuing to examine the issue, declining to make any further statements on the matter.

    [08] The positive outcome of the negotiations is of primary importance, European Commission spokesman says


    The positive outcome of the technical consultations underway between the Greek authorities and the institutions is of primary importance, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Monday.

    Asked whether a solution for Greece will be possibly sought during the EU summit at the end of the week in Brussels, Schinas said that "the situation is serious and the priority this week is to continue working on implementing the decisions taken at the February 20 Eurogroup."

    The European Commission spokesman underlined that technical discussions continue, including the discussions in Athens, pointing out that the time framework is known.

    "Before we move to a European Council level, we should allow experts to discuss at a technical level. These technical discussions are ongoing. Now it is the time of experts," he stated.

    [09] German government's political goal is to keep Greece in the euro zone, Seibert says

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)

    There has been no change in the German government's political goal to keep Greece in the euro area, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

    "For the government the positions remains unchanged that the political target is to keep Greece in the euro zone. The government has worked and will continue to work toward this goal," he said, adding that there was complete unanimity behind this position in the German government.

    Seibert repeated that the central issue was the second aid programme to Greece, which had been repeated extended and whose successful completion was a condition for the further disbursement of funds. He noted that Greece had made commitments for specific steps and "was now in talks with troika experts." This is where the German government was focusing its attention and Athens should do the same, he added.

    German finance ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger, asked about a recent statement by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that avoided ruling out Greece's exit from the euro zone, noted that the comment should be interpreted in the context of the discussion but stressed that the statement remained as it stood. "There isn't anything to interpret to take back," he said, adding that Schaeuble that does participate in conjecture except sometimes in discussions.

    He avoided any comment on whether a solution along the lines of Cyprus was being sought for Greece, saying that this speculation leads nowhere, while stressing that the ECB was independent and did not take orders from any EU member-state.

    Regarding the statements made by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to the German media channel ARD, Jaeger said that the German government noted the Greek minister's positive assessment regarding Greece's cash flow but that Berlin did not comment on such issues. With respect to Varoufakis' assurances that Greece will pay all its creditors, he said that also arose from the Eurogroup agreement of February 20 and repeated that there was always respect in the personal interactions of the Greek and German finance ministers.

    He dismissed as "nonsense" a claim made by Greece's Defence Minister Panos Kammenos that Schaeuble was conducting "psychological warfare" against Greece.

    [10] Former German president accuses Greece of 'attempted political blackmail'; German arguments unfounded, international law e xpert says

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA / F. Karaviti)

    Former German president Roman Herzog has urged the German government "not to give way" to what he called Greece's "attempted political blackmail" by raising demands for German WWII reparations. At the same time, expert in international law expert Andreas Fischer-Lescano, in statements to the German magazine "Focus", said that Berlin's position is "legally unfounded".

    Herzog told "Rheinische Post" newspaper that Greece's claims constitute an attempt at political blackmail and that, until now, the Athens government has not come up with anything better than blaming others for its own omissions.

    On his part, international law expert Andreas Fischer-Lescano criticised the German government for its positions on the issue of WWII reparations and told Focus magazine that "the arguments used by the German government are legally unfounded."

    Fischer-Lescano said it was "embarrassing" that the German government leaves out a sense of historic responsibility, despite publicly made statements to the contrary. He also said that Berlin will follow this policy strictly because it is afraid of creating a precedent.

    [11] Schaeuble: The Greek government has completely destroyed the trust of its partners

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    The new Greek government has completely destroyed all the trust of its European partners which had been restored in the past, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Monday.

    "This is a serious setback," he said in an event in Berlin and accused Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of lying to the Greek people saying Greece will not receive war reparations.

    "Until November, Greece was on a path that could lead to an exit from the crisis. This is gone. I don't know what to do with Greece now," the German finance minister said and noted he doesn't know anyone from the institutions who can tell him what Greece wants to do.

    He also said no foreign investor wants to buy Greek T-bills, noting their issuance destroyed investor's trust.

    He also said that he did not expect Athens to keep its election promise to introduce higher taxes on ship owners. "Even a radical leftist government won't keep that promise," he said and added the reason for Greece's debt problems was that the country lived beyond its means in the past.

    [12] German MEP Elmar Brok warns of 'security vacuum' for EU-NATO if Greece crisis takes bad turn

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)

    A Greek exit from the euro zone would weaken both the European Union and NATO, German MEP and chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs Elmar Brok said in an interview with Austria's "Der Standard" on Monday.

    The German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) MEP warned that the risk of war and crises would edge closer in the event that Greece pulled out of the euro area, since there would two unstable NATO member-states in the region. He noted that this would lead to dramatic changes and that Turkey's reaction was another unknown factor, while it would also have repercussions for Cyprus and the possible natural gas and fossil fuels reserves that Turkey and Israel believed to have discovered in its vicinity.

    Fundamental questions would also be raised about whether Greece could withdraw from the West, he pointed out.

    Brok noted that a 'Grexit' leading to financial collapse for Greece would create a security vacuum that may have to be filled by Europe undertaking to pay wages in the country, so that Greece doesn't become a "failed state" - a solution that he noted may be more expensive than others. Another alternative, he said, was for the Chinese to step in to fill the vacuum created, since they were interested in Greece's ports, but possibly not Russia, which did not have the capacity.

    In the case that Greece is allowed to become a "failed state," he added, this would have repercussions for Turkey, the Middle East and possibly lead to other developments in the region. In the case of a deterioration of the refugee problem, he said, this could lead to the next step, which would be to close borders under the Schengen Treaty and a return of border controls, which would lead to further isolation for Greece.

    Brok issued warnings for the Greek side, noting that a situation might arise where Greece was no longer in a position to support the common policy against extremist and similar movements. He said it was important for Greece to realise that there was a point at which its EU partners would say there was no other way, while also warning that Europeans must not be too quick to give up on Greece, due to anger, and must find a solution.

    He noted that the Greek government must seriously consider the repercussions of such a collapse for the Greek people and their lives, for the general political climate, and stressed that "this could well happen". At the end of his interview, he suggested that the Greek side underestimated the "limits" of European governments and up to what point "they can play this game," adding that this would be decided in the next two months.

    [13] Discussions with institutions take place at a technical level, says Social Insurance minister

    Contacts between Greek authorities and the institutions are taking place at a technical lever, Alternate Minister for Social Insurance Dimitris Stratoulis said on Monday, adding he gave orders to officials in his area of responsibility to discuss data without getting into policy issues.

    Stratoulis was responding to a question posed by Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Nikos Nikolopoulos who asked the minister if media reports claiming the government submits draft bills to the institutions for approval before they go to Parliament are true.

    The issue was discussed during a meeting of the Committee on state-owned enterprises (SOEs) which decided on the appointment of Gerasimos Frangiskatos as president of the Civil Servants' Auxiliary Fund.

    His selection was voted by main coalition partner SYRIZA and its junior partner ANEL, while New Democracy, To Potami and Golden Dawn voted "present. The Communist Party voted "no".

    According to data submitted to the Committee, the Fund services 431,140 civil servants.

    Frangiskatos, who was present at the meeting, said payments for the current year are ensured, but admitted "there's a huge problem with funding", noting that if a problem emerges in the future "we'll see what we'll do".

    [14] Parliament to present audit committee of public debt on Tuesday

    The Parliament on Tuesday will present the initiative of the Audit Committee of public debt and the promotion of the Parliament's international cooperation with the European Parliament, the parliaments of other countries and other international organizations on debt issues.

    The Committee will be presented in a press conference, at 12.00. During the presentation the president of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou, European Parliament member Sofia Sakorafa and Eric Toussaint, specialised in issues of high debt will give speeches.

    The aim of this initiative, Konstantopoulou said, is that the debt audit Committee be a very powerful negotiating tool of society, the people, and overall, the European peoples and societies.

    [15] Government preparing legislation for non-performing business loans, Economy Minister tells Parliament

    The government is currently examining legislative measures to help small and medium-sized businesses that are struggling to keep up with loan repayments, Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis said in a document sent to Parliament on Monday. The document was sent in response to a request by opposition PASOK MP Dimitris Kremastinos, asking the government to brief Parliament on its plans for attracting investments and boosting economic growth.

    In his reply, Stathakis said the ministry was examining various alternatives and seeking an ideal compromise so that banks didn't lose money and businesses could restructure and regroup without ending up owned by the banks.

    "For this reason, in the coming months we will submit draft legislation in Parliament dealing with the non-performing loans of poor households and businesses," he said, clarifying that the ministry will differentiate between SMEs and larger businesses. With regard to SMEs, the ministry intends to keep the "positive" features of the Dendias law but add rules that would make its implementation universal, rather than at the banks' discretion.

    The minister underlined that the issue of liquidity and access to bank loans was the main obstacle to growth and its solution fundamental to the country's economic recovery.

    Among the tools being examined for increasing growth were a reinforcement of out-of-court settlements and arbitration rules, laws enhancing indirect state assistance, with emphasis on employment and environmental protection, while giving incentives for start-ups by young business people, social and other forms of private enterprise.

    Achieving this would require a fundamental overhaul of the administrative structures managing private investments and development law, with greater transparency and less bureaucracy, centring on the successful Citizen Service centres, the ministry said. Another key goal was improving the operation of the Competition Commission and market supervision services, the economy ministry added, promoting measures such as a price observatory.

    Among measures to support SMEs, the government is also mulling the creation of a developmental bank or investment fund via the merger of existing state structures, Stathakis said, and extending the Public Investments Programme to focus on small and medium-sized projects able to create economies of scale and support export activity.

    In support of the government's policy and the emphasis on boosting growth rather than austerity as a means to exit the crisis, the economy minister cited figures from Greece's Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) showing that the policies followed from 2009 until 2013 had reduced Greece's GDP by 23 pct, or 55 billion euros. In that same period, he added, Greece's debt had increased 48 pct as a percentage of GDP and by 18.1 billion euros in absolute, numerical terms, was tending to get worse in 2014.

    He stressed that Europe had failed to resolve the crisis that started in 2008 and, seven years on, the policy of austerity had made the problems worse, since the debt remained unsustainable despite the "unprecedented" PSI debt haircut in 2012 and was "choking" the country's capacity to grow.

    A return to growth, the minister concluded, would be a combination of both domestic and external factors. In addition to creating the appropriate framework and management of available funds within Greece, Stathakis also called for a strategy by European growth agencies, such as the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund, or even the European Central Bank, that combined debt repayment with tools for growth.

    [16] NSRF funding is 'not frozen', economy ministry says in response to press reports

    There is no such thing as a purported freeze placed on 25 billion euros in National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) funds earmarked for Greece and any such reports are entirely unfounded, the economy ministry said on Monday.

    Responding to weekend press reports that claimed that there were technical difficulties in the disbursement of the funds and that European authorities had informally told the Greek government about it, a ministry announcement said, "The (Greek) NSRF General Secretariat speaks very regularly with the relevant EU services, which on their side expressed surprise for these press reports."

    Supporting the inaccuracy of the report, the ministry said, was the fact that the European Commission held its annual meeting on NSRF programmes in Athens on February 26, 2015 and discussed in depth issues related to the smooth completion of the 2007-2013 funding period programmes and the procedures to activate on time the new programming period (2014-2020).

    On the contrary, it said, procedures activating the 2014-2020 business programmes have been accelerated in order to secure the best possible use of the EU funds for the government's basic development priorities. The ministry is also working intensely to prevent burdening the national budget from past mistakes by improving procedures, strengthening transparency and supporting end-users through a process that improves the programmes' health.

    "The specific press reports attempt to revive cases of past programming and management mistakes that in no way are connected to the programmes of the next programming period, and to reproduce them by misleading public opinion and the investment public," the announcement concluded.

    [17] The government will not take austerity measures, Labour min says

    There are certain "groups" in the European Union that want to bring the Greek government down by delaying funding and by refusing to allow support which is outside the context of the memorandum obligations, Labour Minister Panos Skourletis on Monday told Skai.

    "We do not want memorandum funding," he noted stressing that the government will not take any austerity measures. Referring to the deliberations with the institutions, he underlined that the aim is to build "equal relations of trust" between Greece and the partners.

    It is not "only (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble that poses dilemmas in the negotiation," Skourletis said.

    He added, according to, that the government keeps "all the arrows in its quiver", clarifying however that it does not speak of a possible exit from the eurozone. "This is not the time to answer hypothetical questions," he said and assured that wages and pensions will be paid without any problem.

    He also mentioned that the increase of the minimum wage to 751 euros will be made gradually - possibly in two parts - while the bill is expected to be tabled before Easter.

    [18] Alternate Foreing Min Tsakalotos asks partners for more time and room

    Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos on Monday delivered a keynote speech at the Economist Conference on "Greece and its creditors: a win-win deal? The strategy, the risk, the outcome" and asked the country's partners for more time and room so that the Greek government can prove it will keep its promises for the deep reforms that it needs.

    Greece, he said, spends a lot of time on short-term issues and faces financial asphyxiation as a result of the tough line adopted by the ECB, a "difficult situation that not only does it undermine the compromise but it has once more raised issues on the future of the euro."

    SYRIZA and the new government, Tsakalotos said, have a pro-Europe strategy noting this is not about tactics, as "the worst result would be the collapse of the euro, the increase of rival nationalisms, competitive devaluations, a clear repetition of the 1930s," in other words reasons that render a compromise necessary, which is what the Greek government is after.

    "The democratic legality is important for every economic and financial architecture and the Eurozone is no exception," he said noting that a compromise solution both on an economic and political level required a prospect for recovery and growth.

    "The previous memorandum is over," he noted and added that "SYRIZA has no interest in turning back to the memoranda and if this ever happened, it would only benefit nationalists and extreme-right supporters." This is something that "Europe should be aware of" and noted that "Greece is not asking for special treatment but for equal treatment in a Europe of equal partners."

    "On one side," he said "we need a monetary union that creates room for strategies of growth in the periphery and the addressing of the debt issue. On the other hand, we know that even if all debts were written-off, Greece would still have a problem unless it implemented a great deal of reforms in many sectors."

    Referring to corruption and tax evasion, he said the government is prepared to deal with the chronic problem, which could have knock-on effects on the whole society and create a need for consistency.

    After the end of his address, Tsakalotos in statements to ANA-MPA referred to the foreign economists' speeches saying that "they had many arguments as to how the previous memorandum did not work out and that we need a change of course."

    "Not all of them were certain this could be done within the eurozone but they all said this was also a problem of the eurozone and the economic architecture of this institution which needs many changes," he said. "(They also said) that there is an opportunity now to discuss these changes with the SYRIZA government and how they can be incorporated not in populist demands but in the people's demands for wages and pensions."

    [19] President Pavlopoulos visits Defence ministry

    The Armed Forces, as guarantor of national sovereignty, national independence and territorial integrity, defend Europe's borders around Greece, and this should not be forgotten, President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday said during his address to the political and military leadership of the Armed Forces.

    Pavlopoulos, who paid a visit to the Defence ministry, also underlined that Greece is a country of peace and justice, and these values determine its course.

    Pavlopoulos also noted that the sacrifices of the Armed Forces' officers regarding their income have not lowered their morale and stressed that the State has a duty to ensure the means for their mission, but also the necessary prestige.

    He assured that he will do everything he can on his part in order to help them carry out their mission, adding that the State will not abandon the families of those killed in war times and in peacetime.

    The Greek President was welcomed by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos - who referred to him as a symbol of unity - and assured that the Prime Minister and the government are determined to strengthen the Armed Forces and their effective operation.

    Referring to the unstable geopolitical environment, Kammenos said that national issues are open and pointed to the need for special awareness and readiness, reiterating that the Armed Forces guarantee the security of citizens.

    [20] Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis resigns as Athens municipal councillor

    Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Monday sent a letter to Athens Mayor George Kaminis, in which he announced his decision to give up his seat as municipal councillor in Athens.

    Sakellaridis, who had run against Kaminis for Athens mayor, said that his duties in the Greek Parliament and his appointment as government spokesman made it impossible to fulfill his duties as councillor and that his position as head of the 'Open City' faction in Athens would be taken by councillor Elina Angelopoulou.

    [21] US Consul in Thessaloniki says Greece must remain in the eurozone

    It is in the US and Europe's interest for Greece to remain in the eurozone and to continue playing a stabilising role in a very difficult region, the Balkans, the US Consul in Thessaloniki Robert Sanders said after his meeting with Macedonia-Thrace Deputy Minister Maria Kollia-Tsarouha on Monday in Thessaloniki.

    US President Barack Obama's support to the Greek people is granted, said Sanders.

    On her part, Kollia-Tsarouha underlined that she counts on the cooperation with Sanders with the aim to attracting tourists and investments from the US to the regions of Macedonia and Thrace.

    Sanders characterised Thessaloniki a 'unique city' and expressed his sorrow that he will have to leave in summer in order to assume his new post at the State Department.

    [22] PASOK on government's adjusted primary surplus calculation

    The way the current government has calculated the primary surplus is "spiteful about the previous government" and reflects the current government's encouragement as main opposition of false expectations to the public that tax debts would be forgiven, PASOK charged on Monday, in response to the adjusted figures released earlier.

    Regardless of how it calculates the primary surplus, PASOK - the junior member in the previous coalition government - said that the government must realise two things:

    "First, for the execution of every annual budget, what is crucial is December and the first two months of the enxt year that are fiscally calculated into the previous year. What really changed in December, January and February in relation to the previous months? Maybe something political changed?

    "Did something change in relation to the expectation that tax obligations would be forgiven, something that was systematically cultivated by the then main opposition and the current government?

    "Secondly, the calculation method of the primary surplus that makes the government appear spiteful before the previous one is the same it will find before it in talks about the fiscal gap and funding needs."

    [23] KKE's Koutsoumbas meets with visiting Cyprus' AKEL general secretary Kyprianou

    Opposition Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Monday met with visiting Cyprus' AKEL party general secretary Andros Kyprianou at the party offices in parliament.

    "We had a very interesting discussion as always and we exchanged views and opinions on the situation experienced by our peoples in Greece and Cyprus, as well as in other countries in the region and in Europe in general," Koutsoumbas said. "As KKE, we expressed once again our solidarity with the efforts aimed at finding a fair and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue in the context of the repeatedly expressed firm positions and principles of both our parties," he underlined.

    Koutsoumbas also referred to the need for struggle and solidarity. He said that both peoples seek relief from the anti-popular measures and memorandum policies and from the consequences of the economic crisis, underlining the need for real economic growth for the interests of both peoples.

    On his part, Kyprianou said that the talks with Koutsoumbas were very productive, noting that the two parties have traditionally brotherly relations and share the same views on how the modern world functions and on the anti-popular nature of the policies currently promoted by dominant EU cycles.

    [24] PASOK on gov't spokesman's statements over reserves of social security funds

    PASOK on Monday issued a statement on the comments made by the government spokesman over the social insurance funds' reserves.

    "Now that the government is trying to conceal the liquidity problems, by "making use of" the reserves of the social security funds, it will realize how terrible and foolish the slander against the PSI - namely the debt haircut and radical restructuring in 2012 - were," the party said.

    It added that "the funds' unionist /partisan administrations that did not respect the recommendations of the government of that time and did not restore the Funds' portfolio after the PSI" have great responsibilities which should be investigated.

    "SYRIZA and ANEL are no longer an irresponsible opposition that used to say whatever they wanted...Now they bear a government responsibility and will be called to give explanations for the reserves of the funds and the withholding of EU funds, such as the ones of the OPEKEPE (Greek Payment Authority of Common Agricultural Policy) to farmers," it said.

    "They should also remember that the PSI and the full implementation of what was agreed in 2012 is the only thing that can be made in practice for the debt," a major issue that the government chooses not to refer to, it concluded.

    [25] PASOK lashes out at the government for 'word games'

    Opposition PASOK party on Monday spoke about a game played by the government with the troika of Greece's landers and lashed out at the government, saying that "the second round of ridiculousness after the game with words costs the country and the people dearly".

    PASOK called on the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government "to stop the hide-and-seek with the Athens Group (Athens troika)," noting that they cannot fool anyone "because the people know that the Athens Group and the Brussels Group are the troika."

    [26] Minister for Macedonia-Thrace Kollia-Tsarouha meets with German consul general to Thessaloniki

    The Greek government honours Germany as a great EU country but there are issues that are being discussed, like the German WWII reparations, Minister of Macedonia-Thrace Maria Kollia-Tsarouha on Monday said in the context of her meeting with German Consul General to Thessaloniki Ingo von Voss.

    Responding to a question by a reporter as regards the rising tension in relations between Greece and Germany and whether there is concern about the likelihood of irreversible damage to them, the minister said that "obviously, the Greek government's intention is not to make things worse and have bad relations with Germany. We honour Germany as a great EU country. There are problems and issues that are in progress at the moment, like the German WWII reparations." She noted that people in northern Greece are hospitable and friendly with their friends, "but when it comes to claiming their rightful demands, they will do so in the most decent way which characterizes the Greeks."

    The German Consul General refused to comment on political issues, noting that it is not under his authority, and pointed out that the German general consulate was founded in Thessaloniki 125 years ago. He also said that the consulate's goal is to keep bilateral relations on a good level and as regards discussions on political issues, he said that they do not fall under the consulate's authority. "We are here focusing on the improvement of bilateral relations," he underlined.

    [27] Thessaloniki mayor Boutaris to seek meeting with Economy Minister Stathakis on metro

    Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris will request a meeting with Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis to discuss about the ongoing project of the city metro, following the emergence of a document presented by the minister, which claimed the municipality bears responsibility for delays in its construction.

    "Attiko Metro is trying to put the entire blame on the municipality, even the planning. I was informed of the document, I will look at it and I will contest it," Boutaris said.

    The document was issued by Attiko Metro following a question by MPs of the Communist Party who wanted to be informed about the delays in the construction of Thessaloniki's metro.

    [28] Justice Minister Paraskevopoulos visits Thessaloniki's courthouse

    Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on Monday said that he is prepared to sign the execution of an irreversible Supreme Court ruling for the compensation of relatives of victims of Nazi atrocities committed in Greece during WWII.

    During his visit to Thessaloniki's courthouse, he clarified that the time of his signing will depend on the political negotiation taking place on the issue of reparations and on the outcome of certain legal issues.

    The minister made the statements in response to comments he had made a few days ago concerning his belief that German property in Greece should be confiscated as compensation to the Nazi victims of the town of Distomo.

    Referring to the Type C maximum security prisons he said that they will be abolished, underlining that security will not be jeopardized, but will ensure that detention conditions will not deteriorate.

    As regards the reform of the Civil Procedure Code that caused strong reactions on behalf of the legal counsels, he said that the preexisting plan will be revised to achieve a middle ground, underlining the need for fair trial. He also said that special attention should be given to the cases of debtors who are in a tough spot not because of their own responsibility, but because of the economic crisis.

    In the case of a young techical school student who is believed to have killed himself after continuous bullying, Paraskevopoulos said that the ministry cannot intervene in individual cases, and in this instance it needs to be dealt with first with the citizens protection ministry, then justice will take over.

    [29] Dean files suit for Law School occupation; ND spokesman Karagounis condemns lack of action

    Dean of the Athens Law School Thanos Dimopoulos filed a suit for grand destruction of the building by antiestablishmentarians who have taken over the building for the fourth day.

    The dean's suit comes a day after a prosecution order filed by the examining magistrate over one criminal charge and four misdemeanours related to damage of the nearby Greek Orthodox church f Saints Anargyroi, and arson of cars parked in the area. Chief magistrate Elias Zagoreos also called on police to intervene in order to prevent further acts of the sort.

    In a statement earlier in the day, main opposition New Democracy (ND) said, "No one can accept such unacceptable phenomena any longer." Party spokesman Costas Karagounis said that the government stands by idly while the occupiers carry one, instead of taking measures to restore order. He also underlined that the responsible state authorities and university administrators make no effort to start procedures for the removal of the intruders and the imposition of penalties.

    "They have a huge responsibility," he said, underlining that it is urgent to immediately implement the law to ensure the smooth operation of the university and the effective protection of the historic building.

    [30] Sit-in protest in Athens Law School continues

    The sit-in protest by an anti-establishment group in the building of the Law School in down town Athens continues for a fourth day on Monday, with the Rectorship noting that any efforts for the protesters' withdrawal have so far failed.

    The protesters' demands include the release of prisoners for terrorism and the abolition of high-security prison, while the Athens prosecution has already intervened in the case.

    [31] Minister for Migration Policy will not answer questions by Golden Dawn MPs

    Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou has decided not to respond to questions submitted by extreme-right Golden Dawn MPs, in view of the pending trial of party lawmakers for participation in a criminal organization, according to a document sent to Parliament on Monday.

    The document, signed by Interior, Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis, was submitted following a question by Golden Dawn MP Ioannis Lagos on the danger of Jihadists arriving in Greece.

    "With due respect to the institution of parliamentary control, we are at the disposal of lawmaker for any further information regarding the issues raised in the submitted means of parliamentary control, in accordance with the terms of the Rules of the House and within our competence," Voutsis said.

    "We inform you that Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou does not answer questions by Golden Dawn lawmakers for reasons of constitutional and parliamentary order, in view of the pending trial for participation of its members to a terrorist organization."

    [32] Council of State fines finance ministry for non-compliance to decision to restore uniformed staff's pay cuts

    The finance ministry must pay 200,000 euros to four federations or unions of uniformed personnel for failing to comply to final and irreversible decisions by the Council of State, a Council review board said on Monday.

    The Council of State, the country's top administrative court, found that the retroactive pay cuts of police officers, army personnel and port authority personnel are unconstitutional, therefore the ministry must pay each of the four federations or unions 50,000 euros.

    Pay cuts were introduced on August 1, 2012 and the Council ruled nearly a year ago that the ministry had to repay the cuts and bring the salaries to the original levels. When the government did not comply, the groups appealed to the Council again.

    An additional two unions that had appealed to the Council of State originally - for police staff in Rodopi and Xanthi, both in northern Greece - were rejected for procedural reasons.

    [33] Civil protection minister urges police to protect strays, abused animals

    In a message to all police headquarters in Greece, Alternate Interior Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis on Monday urged them to show the "socially responsible" face of the police force in cases involving the mistreatment of animals.

    Among others, the minister said the police had an obligation to protect animals from abuse and mistreatment, not only bringing those responsible to justice but also taking care of strays until they find shelter, working together with municipal structures and animal welfare organisations.

    [34] Supreme Court appoints Giorgos Pandelis as head of Authority for Combating Money Laundering

    The Supreme Judicial Council of the Supreme Court appointed on Monday the body's deputy prosecutor Giorgos Pandelis as president of the "Authority for Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Statement of Assets Audit".

    Pandelis replaces Panagiotis Nikoloudis who will take over as Sate Minister for Combatting Corruption.

    The Court also appointed deputy prosecutor Dimitris Tasoulas as deputy to Pandelis.

    [35] Joint Greek-U.S. air force training at Elefsina base on March 18-27

    The U.S. 67th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) and Greece's 31st Squadron of Search and Rescue Operations will be jointly trained at the Elefsina base, northwest of Athens, from March 18 to 27.

    The two squadrons will train in parachute jumps.

    SOS is based at the Mildenhall airport base in the United Kingdom.

    Financial News

    [36] Greece needs to implement structural reforms, IMF head says

    Greece needs to implement structural reforms, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said on Monday, echoing other international creditors who have urged Athens to implement reforms to secure urgently needed funds, Reuters news agency reported.

    Lagarde, who is on a two-day visit to India, said that she felt strongly for taxpayers, but added the country needed to reduce the fiscal deficit.

    "I know how hard it has been for the Greek population particularly the people who pay their tax, particularly the people who are transparent," she said.

    "Equally, I really strongly feel that economy needs to be transformed, that structural reforms need to take place, that pension schemes need to be stabilised and properly funded because you cannot borrow in future constantly," she added.

    According to Lagarde, there is no alternative to fiscal reforms.

    "Ultimately, you reduce the fiscal deficit that has not been have to deal with it," she said.

    "But you deal (with) it in such a way that it becomes sustainable in the medium to long term and the country can stand on its feet, borrow in the international market," she noted.

    [37] Environment minister notes need for improvements in Greece's water resources management

    Alternate Minister for the Environment Yiannis Tsironis on Monday said that the state and scientific staff dealing with the management of Greece's water resources were "striving to make up for lost time" in the implementation of an EU directive dating back to 2000 for the protection and management of water.

    "It has been nearly 15 years since the directive was introduced and, unfortunately, we cannot be satisfied with the state of its implementation in the country, something that has a huge impact on good management of our waters," he told a seminar organised by the Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters Institutes of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR).

    He noted that the goal was to ensure that the management plans led to the best possible implementation of EU directive 2000/60 and noted significant improvements relating to the infrastructure, organisation and involvement of the environment ministry and the Special Secretariat for Waters on environmental issues focusing on water management.

    Tsironis emphasised the importance of ensuring modern water management in Greece, stressing that the country's wealth lay in its natural resources and especially its rivers, lakes, wetlands and other water-rich ecosystems.

    He noted that the 2000 directive had changed the approach to internal and coastal waters, shifting the emphasis away from chemical indicators to a deeper, ecosystemic approach that put emphasis on biological indicators of a water system's "health".

    [38] Greek 2014 primary surplus revised lower

    Greece's primary budget surplus was revised downwards to 0.3 pct of GDP in 2014, from a budget target for a surplus of 1.5 pct of GDP, according to the government's Economic Policy Programme (EPP), a finance ministry report said on Monday.

    The report noted that this estimate, based on the EPP (used since the country remained in a support mechanism) did not take into account three factors: a retrospective reduction of interest rate for loans received from the European Union, the transfer of profits made by Greek state bond portfolios from central banks in the Eurosystem (ANFAs and SMPs) and the impact of supporting financial institutions in the country.

    The finance ministry said that revenue from the transfer of profits made by Greek state bond portfolios by other Eurosystem central banks (SMPs) will total 10 billion euros by 2025. These revenue were exclusively used to cover the country's funding gap. Financial support offered to Greek banks has an impact on the general government's result, however, this impact is reflected on assets (shares) currently owned by the Greek state, which will be sold contributing in the reduction of the country's public debt.

    The EPP does not include revenue from ANFAs and SMPs (these are estimated at 2.419 billion euros in 2014), while it includes only part of privatisations (gaming licenses, telecom licenses, sales of aircraft and extension of the airport concession agreement of the Athens International Airport), totalling only 119 million euros.

    Meanwhile, a finance ministry report recently released showed that state budget net cash revenue showed a shortfall of 3.914 billion euros last year, of which 3.5 billion in the regular budget and 414 in the Public Investment Programme. This shortfall could be reduced to 2.026 billion euros if revenues from ANFAs and SMPs (1.886 billion euros) were taken into account.

    [39] Greek central gov't cash balance shows a deficit in Jan-Feb

    Greece's central government cash balance showed a deficit of 684 million euros in the January-February period this year, compared to a surplus of 139 million in the same period in 2014, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.

    In a report, the central bank said that during this period, ordinary budget revenue amounted to 6.735 billion euros, compared to 7.950 billion in the corresponding period of last year. Revenue of 55 million euros regarding Securities Markets Programme (SMP) income transfers from the Bank of Greece was excluded. Ordinary budget expenditure amounted to 7.677 billion euros, from 8.630 billion in January-February 2014.

    [40] Lafazanis announces lower natural gas rates during parliamentary committee address

    Productive Reconstruction, Environment & Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis on Monday addressed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Production and Trade and referring to the raise of the special duty for the reduction of gas emissions (ETMEAR) blamed the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) for the way the issue was handled.

    Lafazanis briefed the committee members that Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) will announce considerable natural gas rate reductions next month.

    The reduction of energy rates is an important issue for the government, Lafazanis said, adding that the way out of the crisis is directly linked with energy rate reduction and all efforts will focus on this direction.

    He also said that despite difficulties as a result of the crisis, electricity rates will be lowered soon, adding that unpaid bills have skyrocketed and combined with other factors create additional difficulties to such an initiative.

    On the issue of RAE, he said that the decision to raise ETMEAR was unacceptable and scandalous from a procedural point of view.

    Lafazanis said that a legislative initiative will be undertaken to curb those authorities of RAE that are closely linked with the country's government. He said that RAE had decided to increase ETMEAR, depending on consumer category, and kept this decision secret since December 31, 2014 until March 4, 2015 when it was published in the Government Gazette.

    Lafazanis also referred to the procedure followed in the sale of the Natural Gas System Operator (DESFA), noting that it was not a privatization because it was sold to the Azerbaijani state-run company Socar. He clarified that the procedures for the sale of the company have advanced, adding that the government's future stance will depend on pending European Competition Commission findings.

    Referring to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) issue, he said that the government supports the project because it will benefit the country and noted that the ministry has agreed with TAP to set up a joint committee to examine the proposals for offset benefits to Greece from the TAP consortium. He also did not rule out changes in the pipeline route in case of strong reactions by local communities.

    [41] Finance ministry reviewing issue of mortgage loans in Swiss francs

    The finance ministry is examining legislation that will incorporate court decisions and European directives over the issue of a large number of Greek nationals who have taken out mortgage loans in Swiss francs, Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis said via a document tabled in Parliament on Monday.

    He said that the first-instance court of Xanthi, in northeastern Greece, had issued a ruling in favour of a borrower in Swiss francs. The issuing bank had relied on a term the court found invalid and excessive that required repayment to be made in euros at the current price instead of on the parity of francs to euros valid on the day the loan was disbursed.

    Stathakis cited similar decisions by courts on the island of Rhodes and in central Greece's city of Lamia, as well as EU directives that called for the provision by banks of adequate and clear information to borrowers, and prohibit a wide parity imbalance that harms the borrower. The application of the directives lies with the government, he said, thus the ministry was following the cases and examining the legislative options.

    The implementation of a recent European directive (2014/17/EC) setting out guidelines about mortgage loans in foreign currency is being examined by the finance ministry and a relevant law-preparing committee, which must complete its work by November 15, 2015, the minister said.

    Stathakis was responding to a question tabled by main opposition New Democracy deputy Anna Karamanli, who asked for a legislative act to help borrowers after the central bank of Switzerland put an end to the parity of exchange between the Swiss franc and the euro.

    [42] Alt. Tourism Minister discusses seaplanes issue

    The seaplanes issue dominated Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura's meeting on Monday with representatives of the Hellenic Seaplanes.

    According to the company's announcement, all the problems of the new sector of hydroplanes were discussed as well as how this new means of transport can contribute to the extension of the tourist season to 12 months, how new destinations can be promoted and the benefit of the local societies and markets. The main point was the development and the creation of suitable waterways throughout Greece in order to offer the necessary business support to the hydroplanes.

    Kountoura noted that tourism is a pylon for Greece's economic growth by contributing in the productive restructuring of the country adding that that she will take initiatives in order a solution in bureaucratic problems that delay investments to be found.

    Moreover, she confirmed the government's political volition to support new activities and investments underlining the multiple benefits that would bring their implementation as the creation of new job positions, regional growth, development of the infrastructures and networks and the positive effects on tourism and the invigoration of the internal industry in this crucial period for Greece.

    [43] Productive reconstruction minister says Hellenic Sugar Industry needs plan focused on farmers

    In a meeting on Monday, Productive Reconstruction Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Alternate Rural Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou expressed their full support for the Hellenic Sugar Industry (EBZ), noting the need to implement a plan to overhaul its production processes with a focus on supporting and boosting sugar beet farming in the country.

    They announced a proposal to appoint Dimitris Giannakidis as EBZ's CEO, describing him as a "successful, experienced and tested senior executive in industry."

    The ministers also announced a plan for a single price for sugar beet farmers for the coming year that will make cultivation economically viable and ensure a decent income, based on the previous year's rates.

    [44] Hellenic Exchanges report 35 pct fall in after-tax profits in 2014

    Hellenic Exchanges SA Holdings on Monday reported a 35 pct drop in its consolidated net after-tax profits to 21 million euros in 2014, from 32.3 million in 2013.

    Net after-tax earnings per share eased to 0.32 euros from 0.49 euros in 2013. Hellenic Exchanges, in an announcement said its 2013 results were bloated by a 42.4 million euros from the recapitalisation of banks and a public tender offer for Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co.

    Group turnover fell to 47.3 million euros in 2014, from 81.5 million in 2013, while EBIT fell to 16.7 million euros from 24 million in 2014.

    Daily average turnover was 127.1 million euros in 2014, from 86.6 million in 2013, an increase of 47 pct, while the average capitalisation of the Greek stock market grew 34 pct to 69.4 billion euros from 51.9 billion in 2013. Average daily volume of transactions jumped 77 pct to 95.2 million euros.

    In the derivatives market, average volume rose 17 pct in 2014, while revenue from trading and settlement rose 2 pct.

    Hellenic Exchanges will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.21 euros per share dividend to shareholders and a capital return plan worth 0.11 euros per share.

    [45] Delta Dairy is not for sale

    Delta Dairy on Monday categorically dismissed reports alleging it was a takeover target by Olympos Dairy.

    In an announcement, Delta said that "this continuing novel of alleged takeover intention by Olympos is a sample of lack of transaction ethics by its initiators. The truth is that in a meeting that Sarantis Brothers have persistently asked with representatives of MIG, without any briefing on the subject, when they mentioned that they wished to submit a written offer for the takeover of DELTA, MIG's representatives kindly replied that DELTA was not for sale and also refused to accept all related papers. DELTA, the leading company in the field, is not for sale. The next move in a consolidation trend in the dairy market is the takeover of MEVGAL, through legal procedures".

    [46] OTEGLOBE says turnover up in 2014

    OTEGLOBE on Monday said its turnover totalled 287.15 million euros in 2014, up 2.0 pct from the previous year, but up a staggering 74 pct compared with 2007 (165.1 million euros). The company said that around 80 pct of its revenue in 2014 came from international customers. Net cash flows grew 57 pct, rising to 15.2 million euros from 9.6 million in 2013. EBITDA fell from 23 million euros to 18.4 million.

    OTEGLOBE is expanding in new developing markets, through investments and cooperations with large international providers.

    [47] Cotton farmers to receive subsidies on Tuesday, rural development minister says

    Subsidies due to be paid to cotton farmers will be paid into their accounts on Tuesday, Alternate Minister for Rural Development Vangelis Apostolou told the ANA-MPA on Monday. The production-linked subsidies for cotton are paid to approximately 50,000 cotton farmers.

    [48] Subsidies to cotton producers will be paid on Tuesday, says government spokesman

    Greek cotton producers will receive their subsidies on Tuesday (March 17) and the delay in the payment was due to bureaucracy, the government spokesman said on Monday.

    "The problem that came up with the delay in the payment of subsidies to 50,000 cotton producers has been resolved with the immediate and effective government intervention," Gavriil Sakellaridis said, adding the subsidies - which concern 2014 - will be available on March 17.

    He said bureaucratic and technical delays, which have to do with the interpretation of an ECB directive to the Bank of Greece became the subject of petty exploitation from the main opposition.

    "The mockery of cotton producers by the opposition has no limits. The government will not follow it down this trail. It prefers to provide solutions to the problems of the farmers, who suffered under the previous government," he added.

    [49] Greek stocks end lower

    Greek stocks ended lower for the fourth successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, but a rebound in bank shares helped the market to close off their day's lows. The composite index of the market fell 0.92 pct to end at 763.09 points, after falling as much as 3.35 pct during the day. The index is down 6.64 pct in the last four sessions. The Large Cap index fell 1.02 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.27 pct higher. Turnover remained a disappointing low 65.02 million euros.

    National Bank (9.43 pct), Grivalia Properties (3.42 pct), Viohalco (2.70 pct) and Alpha Bank (1.33 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Piraeus Bank (5.63 pct), PPC (5.21 pct), Jumbo (4.84 pct) and Terna Energy (3.24 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Among market sectors, Real Estate (2.88 pct), Bank (2.52 pct) and Technology (0.45 pct) scored big gains, while Personal Products (4.44 pct), Utilities (3.75 pct) and Telecoms (3.49 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 60 to 40, with another 22 issues unchanged. Spider (16.67 pct), Alpha Astika (15 pct) and Unibios (14.42 pct) were top gainers, while Selonda (19.75 pct), Varvaresos (19.59 pct) and Attikat (16.67 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: +2.52%

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Financial Services: -3.20%

    Industrial Products: +0.40%

    Commercial: -2.94%

    Real Estate: +2.88%

    Personal & Household: -4.44%

    Food & Beverages: -0.34%

    Raw Materials: -1.30%

    Construction: -2.23%

    Oil: -0.77%

    Chemicals: -0.29%

    Media: Unchanged

    Travel & Leisure: -2.17%

    Technology: +0.45%

    Telecoms: -3.49%

    Utilities: -3.75%

    Health: -0.64%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank, Alpha 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): 4.91

    Coca Cola HBC: 15.60

    Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.73

    National Bank of Greece: 1.16

    OPAP: 8.20

    OTE: 8.29

    Piraeus Bank: 0.33

    Titan: 21.00

    Grivalia Properties: 7.86

    Aegean Airlines: 6.90

    [50] Greek bond market closing report

    Greek bond prices remained under pressure for one more session in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday as Greek state bonds cannot benefit from a rally in other European markets created by ECB's QE program.

    The three-year bond yielded 20.10 pct from 19.05 pct on Friday, while the five-year bond yielded 15.9 pct from 15.4 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly 10.01 pct from 10.32 pct with the Greek bond yielding 10.27 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.26 pct). Turnover was a thin 1.0 million euros, with one sell order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.212 pct from 0.214 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.141 pct from 0.144 pct, the six-month rate was unchanged at 0.096 pct, the three-month rate was stable at 0.025 pct and the one-month rate rose to -0.011 pct.

    [51] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.87 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 11,180 contracts with 41,298 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 136,257 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (40,530), followed by Alpha Bank (20,910), Piraeus Bank (36,026), National Bank (21,697), MIG (10,135), OTE (1,818), PPC (1,400), OPAP (691), Mytilineos (427), Hellenic Petroleum (381), Sidenor (207), METKA (312), GEK (381), Ellaktor (196), Jumbo (349) and Hellenic Exchanges (109).

    [52] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday

    Reference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.0557

    Pound sterling 0.7131

    Danish kroner 7.4659

    Swedish kroner 9.1532

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    General News

    [53] Alco barometer poll finds Greeks more optimistic about economy, support handling of negotiations with EU

    Greeks are more optimistic about the prospects of the Greek economy and their own personal finances, while 53 pct support the new government's handling of the negotiations with Greece's EU partners, according to an 'Economic Barometer' poll unveiled on Monday. The survey was the first quantitative economic barometer held in 2015 and was conducted by Alco on behalf of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) Research Centre.

    Just under half, or 47 pct, believe that the government must finally compromise with Greece's creditors if the negotiations fail. A majority of those taking the survey also see the new government's economic proposals as significantly different from those that the previous government had agreed with Greece's EU partners.

    ACCI President Constantine Michalos noted that the government had broad support but the majority of Greeks did not want a head-on clash with Greece's European partners, hoping for an honest and mutually beneficial compromise.

    When asked to given their opinion on the way the government was negotiating with its European partners, 53 pct of the participants said the agreed with the current negotiating method adopted by the government, 34 pct said they disagreed and 13 pct declined to participate.

    The second question asked them to evaluate the economic proposals presented by the government to its EU partners, with six out of 10 participants saying that they were significantly different from those agreed to by the previous government, three in 10 sayin there was no real differences between the two sets of proposals and 10 pct declining to answer.

    On what policy the Greek government should adopt in the case that negotiations with its EU partners failed, 47 pct consider that the government must compromise with its creditors if the negotiations fail, 38 percent believe that the ideal solution is a confrontation and 10 pct declined to participate.

    On questions about the economic outlook, the survey returned the highest rates of optimism about the Greek economy in the last four years. Four in 10 participants (39 pct) consider that the Greek economy will improve, while the next highest percentage to this question over the last four years was 22 pct. The percentage of those that continue to be pessimistic about the course of the economy remains high at 50 pct but is the lowest recorded over the four years. The previous lowest percentage was 57 pct over the four years, while three years ago percentage pessimisn among Greeks concerning the economy had reached as high as 93 pct.

    In terms of personal finances, four in 10 (39 pct) appeared optimistic about their future earnings, five in 10 (52 pct) continue to be more pessimistic, while 10 pct declined to answer. Again, the percentage of citizens that were optimistic about the improvement of their financial situation was the highest in the last four years of conducting the survey.

    The nationwide survey was conducted over the phone using a sample of 1,000 people aged over 18, between March 9-13.

    [54] Audio recordings missing from Norman Atlantic ferry black box, Italian paper says

    ROME (ANA-MPA/ T. Andreadis-Syngelakis)

    Audio recordings are missing from the black box of fire-stricken Norman Atlantic ferry, Italian paper Corriere della Sera reported on Monday referring to the fatal maritime accident.

    The paper said that according to the official reports, 11 people lost their lives, 18 were still missing and six persons have been summoned by the court authorities to testify.

    The paper said that authorities handling the investigation have not yet managed to clear out decks 3 and 4, where the fire reportedly broke out.

    According to the press report, the fact that audio recordings are missing from the black box hinders the progress of the investigation and authorities cannot assess whether the necessary evacuation procedure was followed properly. According to the information available so far, the hard disk containing the audio material was possibly ruined by the fire and a company specialising in computer systems has been asked to assist with its recovery.

    The paper added that two of the bodies recovered have not been identified yet; however, the data indicates that the bodies possibly do not belong to migrants, as was initially reported. As far as the opening of the ferry stern door is concerned - which would give direct access to the car hold where the fire broke out and spread - this would take a few more weeks as the door has been destroyed by the high temperatures.

    The Norman Atlantic was carrying several hundred passengers and crew when a fire broke out in the car parking area on December 28, 2014, after the ferry had left Igoumenitsa in northwestern Greece for Ancona, Italy. The Italian-flagged ship was leased by the Greek ferry company ANEK and has been towed to Italy for investigation.

    [55] Thessaloniki university unveils five-year plan to help protect Epirus monuments

    The Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki on Monday unveiled a five-year plan involving more than 300 members of its teaching and research staff, who will lend their expertise to help protect the monuments and cultural heritage of Epirus, northwestern Greece.

    The project involves finding solutions and overseeing their implementation for the restoration and preservation of some 150 monuments in the area. The initiative was undertaken after the collapse of historic bridges in the region during the winter's heavy rains revealed the need to maintain and protect monuments in the area.

    The Epirus regional authority has accepted the university's proposal, confirming this in a meeting held the previous Thursday between representatives of the university and the authority's chief Alexandros Kahrimanis in Ioannina. A five-year contract outlining the actions to be taken is to be signed by the end of the month.

    Immediate priority will be given to the single-arch bridges of Arta, Konitsa, Zagori and Vovousa, while the teams will also examine whether the collapsed Korakas bridge can be restored.

    [56] Evidence points to suicide for bullying victim Vangelis Giakoumakis, authorities report

    The evidence points to suicide as the most likely cause of death of 20-year-old student Vangelis Giakoumakis, Greek authorities announced on Monday. The student was first reported missing on February 6, allegedly after being a victim of bullying.

    Giakoumakis' body was found in a state of advanced decomposition early Sunday in a marshy area near Lake Pamvotida at Ioannina, northwestern Greece, 800 meters away from the Dairy School he attended.

    The forensic investigation revealed an ante mortem contusion (a cut made with a knife) on his right wrist, while the time of his death coincides with the time of his disappearance.

    The police investigation continues, while lab test results are expected soon.

    Giakoumakis' body will be taken for burial to his hometown of Armenous, near Rethymno, on the island of Crete.

    Meanwhile, an Athens First Instance Court prosecutor filed criminal charges against the operators of a website that hosted insulting comments about the deceased. They are accused of instigating violence and hatred via the internet. The case file has been forwarded to the electronic crimes squad to locate the suspects.

    [57] ND says death of student Vangelis Giakoumakis should be promptly investigated

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) expressed on Monday its condolences to the family of the deceased 20-year-old student Vangelis Giakoumakis, saying the case has to be fully investigated and justice should be served swiftly.

    Giakoumakis, who is alleged to have been a victim of bullying, was found dead near a lake in Ioannina, with initial evidence pointing to a suicide.

    "The unjust loss of a young man, which has shocked Greece, must unify citizens and the State in the fight against bullying," ND spokesman Costas Karangounis said.

    "We need vigilance, cooperation and immediate action to put an end to this sad phenomenon," he added.

    [58] Minister expresses condolences over death of world rowing champion, 23, in road accident

    Deputy Minister for Sports Stavros Kontonis on Monday expressed his condolences to the family of Evripidis Sklivanitis, a junior rowing champion who died in a road accident on Sunday.

    Sklivanitis, 23, had top rankings in European and world championships, rising to silver in the World Rowing Junior Championships in 2009. He was from Ioannina, northwestern Greece.

    "Greek sports mourn the loss of a rower who honoured the Greek colours on international level, leaving a mark with his achievements and his model behaviour both in and out of competition venues," the minister said.

    [59] Ship with contraband cigarettes located off north of Crete

    Coast Guard on Monday located a ship loaded with contraband cigarettes at the sea region of Kali Limenes, southern Crete.

    According to sources, 8 persons have been arrested while the counting of the illegal cargo is currently underway.

    The same sources said that the quantity of the illegal cargo is among the largest ever located with destination the island of Crete.

    [60] Deaths from flu outbreak in Greece reach 84

    The total number of people who have died from flu in Greece has come to 84, authorities said on Monday.

    Patients who have been hospitalized in intensive care units since the start of the flu season have reached 185. Of those, 23 continue to be monitored in those units.

    Weather forecast

    [61] Partly cloudy on Tuesday

    Clouds and northerly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy and light rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 02C-13C. Scattered clouds in the western parts with temperatures between 05C-16C. Cloudy with a chance of rain in the eastern parts and temperatures between 04C-14C. Partly cloudy over the islands, 10C-17C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 07C-13C; the same for Thessaloniki, 06C-11C.

    [62] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    DIMOKRATIA: Terrifying plans.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: They (former goverment) have left secret holes.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Pension before the age of 60 for insured in 6 social security funds.

    ESTIA: We let go our allies.

    ETHNOS: Not a single step back to those we have announced.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: 'Standard of living' tax system to become stricter from 2015.

    TA NEA: Secrets and lies.

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