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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 19 March 2015 Issue No: 4913

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM says government is determined to implement society-oriented reforms
  • [02] Meeting between PM Tsipras, Merkel, Hollande and other top EU officials confirmed for Thursday
  • [03] Meeting with top EU leaders requested by Tsipras to take place on Thursday at 21.00, according to sources
  • [04] Tusk in contact with top EU officials to hold meeting on Greece in the margins of EU summit, his spokesman says
  • [05] Mrs. Merkel is willing to take part in a meeting with Tsipras says Chancellery spokesman
  • [06] Chancellor Merkel thinks this is the right time for a talk with Greek PM, Berlin says
  • [07] Main issue for Greece isn't debt but returning to competitiveness and the markets, German FinMin says
  • [08] Belgian expert confirms that initial results of parliamentary debt review committee will be out by June
  • [09] Juncker says he 'remains concerned' about Greece, urges sides involved to 'regroup'
  • [10] Austria's Faymann: 'Greece must be given an honest chance'
  • [11] France appeals for 'restraint' on all sides to avoid 'accident' in Greek crisis
  • [12] Moscovici says EU won't keep Greece in euro zone at any price
  • [13] SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman Filis: We will safeguard the Greek people's interests
  • [14] We want to see prosperity and growth in Greece, US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland says
  • [15] ND leader has phone contact with US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland
  • [16] This government takes orders only by the Greek people and not the lenders, Defence Minister Kammenos says
  • [17] Parliament President backs down on proposed roll-call vote for humanitarian crisis bill
  • [18] Opposition parties attack Parliament president for siding with Golden Dawn on request for roll-call vote
  • [19] Economy minister: Issues related to social priorities are non-negotiable
  • [20] Addressing the humanitarian crisis in not a unilateral act, Labour Min says
  • [21] New Democracy to vote for the humanitarian crisis bill, Samaras says
  • [22] Potami, KKE parliamentary spokespersons on humanitarian crisis bill
  • [23] KKE to abstain from the roll-call vote on the humanitarian crisis bill
  • [24] Kotzias briefs Parliament's foreign affairs committee on ministry's goals
  • [25] Foreign ministry announcement on the terrorist attack in Tunis
  • [26] SYRIZA government 'distancing itself daily from people's mandate,' Potami leader tellsParliament
  • [27] Venizelos lashes out at government, accusing it of 'unilateral actions'; Interior Minister Voutsis' response
  • [28] President Pavlopoulos receives Cyprus' AKEL secretary general Kyprianou
  • [29] Top SPD and Greens members asks for a solution to war reparations to Greece, Financial Times report
  • [30] ND accuses government of 'only keeping promises to hoodie-wearing rioters'
  • [31] Alt. Foreign Minister Tsakalotos meets with the ambassadors of Germany and Holland
  • [32] Justice Minister on provisions against bullying
  • [33] ND leader Samaras to participate in EPP's Summit on Thursday in Brussels
  • [34] ND parliamentary spokesman Georgiadis lashes out at the government
  • [35] ND MP Hatzidakis criticises PM Tsipras over OECD comment
  • [36] KKE slams government, says negotiations don't serve the people
  • [37] Alt. Environment Minister Tsironis to tour northern Greece
  • [38] Criminal charges against TrainOSE 2006-08 executives for OSE property mismanagement
  • [39] Attica Region governor meets with Turkish ambassador for posible collaboration
  • [40] 58 pct believe government is not implementing campaign promises, in poll for Vergina TV
  • [41] ECB raises maximum of emergency funding for Greek banks by 400 million euros
  • [42] State raises 2.6 billion euros revenues from ENFIA tax in 2014, in line with targets
  • [43] Productive Reconstruction minister plans to limit powers of power regulator RAE
  • [44] Greece to introduce 26 pct tax on business supplies bought from tax havens
  • [45] Greece raises 1.9 bln euros from T-bill auction
  • [46] Seli Skiing Centre alleged mismanagement case file forwarded to prosecutor
  • [47] Mytilineos Group says EBITDA up in 2014
  • [48] Greek stocks end sharply lower
  • [49] Greek bond market closing report
  • [50] ADEX closing report
  • [51] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [52] Chinese delegation from Jiaxing visits to find out more about thermal springs tourism in the Peloponnese
  • [53] Workers at Kassandra mines in Halkidiki to strike on March 20
  • [54] Archaeologists association call 24h strike for Friday
  • [55] Spyros Louis cup to return to Acropolis Museum on March 18
  • [56] Drug dealing arrests in Thessaloniki
  • [57] Law School building occupation ends
  • [58] Conservation crew cleaning graffiti from Byzantine Kapnikarea church in central Athens
  • [59] Eight detained at anarchist demonstration outside government headquarters
  • [60] Work stoppage in metro, ISAP electric railway on Thursday
  • [61] Clouds, rain on Thursday
  • [62] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM says government is determined to implement society-oriented reforms

    The government is determined to implement society-oriented reforms as well as the February 20 agreement, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday in parliament during the debate on the humanitarian crisis bill.

    "If some believe that nothing changed with the elections in Greece and they dream of our country going back to the era of the memoranda, let them keep their threats for those who put up with them. No threats to this government and primarily no threats to the Greek people," the premier said, stressing that the government is obliged to respect the popular mandate, calling on it to end the memoranda and austerity, to engage in a process of recovering the Greek people's dignity and hold tough negotiations.

    Tsipras called on all parliamentary parties to vote for the humanitarian crisis bill "the first bill that was not translated but was drafted here (in the country)."

    Tsipras also warned those "trying to undermine the political negotiations with Greece's partners, threatening the country with economic asphyxiation" that he would not accept unilateral actions.

    Regarding the humanitarian crisis bill, he said the broad support it appeared to have was important, not only because it was not translated into Greek from an e-mail sent from abroad but also because it addressed the needs of the many, not a select few.

    "A draft law is being voted on that gives more to those who have greater need than any of us for someone to stand at their side. The first bill in five years that does not take away from citizens, does not strike at labour and social rights but offers support to the weaker social strata," he added.

    Tsipras also underlined that the government will not back down when it came to bringing legislation necessary to give the economy the necessary breathing space it needed to grow.

    "The government is starting to implement the things it promised to do in its policy statements and some people still seem incapable of understanding this. We promised to be the government that will carry out its programme and its promises. We promised, if necessary, to even bleed in order for the people to stop bleeding. Today we make a start," he said.

    The process will continue on Thursday and Friday, Tsipras said, with the bill that extended and improved the 100-installment repayment schemes debts to the public sector, which was expected to help citizens meet payments and start filling state coffers. The next steps after that will be an overhaul of the public sector, kickstarting the economy, refounding the public broadcaster ERT and reforming justice.

    "All these bills will be written here, because we will not continue the tactic of allowing technocrats to write our bills," he added.

    Regarding the difficulties facing the government in its attempts to carry out its election promises and the pressures being brought to bear, Tsipras said that "we knew from the start that the road to implementing the people's mandate had been laid with mines beforehand. Even this operation of economic asphyxiation and the pressures, so that we would back down from our promises to the Greek people. So that we would be dragged into the implementation of a policy that would simply be a continuation of the policies of the previous government."

    This would not happen, Tsipras assured Parliament, stressing that the government had entered into the negotiations "without secret or personal diplomacy" and hidden nothing from the Greek people.

    "Nor did we ask for special treatment. We asked and are asking for treatment as equals," he stressed.

    Referring to the humanitarian crisis, the prime minister acknowledged the sincere efforts made by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during their meeting last Friday in Brussels to find funds able to address the problems from current EU programmes.

    "For the first time, Europe is starting to get used to the idea that there can be governments that run counter to the neoliberal dogan within the EU," he noted.

    Among the successes of the government in this respect, Tsipras listed the February 20 Eurogroup agreement that cancelled the "notorious Hardouvelis e-mail" and the end of the troika in its previous incarnation, where it "was in the habit of entering ministries, taking down files and humiliating ministers, who waited in line until they were cross-examined by the technocrats".

    Tsipras stressed that from now on there will be political negotiations, in which "the elected [will speak] with the elected and the technocrats with the technocrats," while the Greek government will no longer tolerate receiving orders from technocrats and legislating via e-mail. He also charged that elements within Greece, "more troikan than the troika," had from the first attempted to undermine the agreement and even members of the government.

    "We reply to them today and tomorrow in Parliament, raising a wall of sovereignty and dignity. We reply to them by voting the bill for addressing the humanitarian crisis, staying true to the implementation of what was agreed on February 20," he said.

    He was also critical of those in Europe who had called the humanitarian crisis bill in Greece a "unilateral" action, not compatible with European decisions. "They are asking us to freeze the bill so that some in Greece can continue to freeze," he said, wondering whether this was the Europe that people had envisioned and who in Europe this expresses.

    The prime minister also referred to cooperation with the OECD, charging that the so-called OECD toolkit presented by the previous government was actually the toolkit of the then minister Kostis Hatzidakis, serving the interests of specific economic interests that "hijacked" the OECD's signature.

    [02] Meeting between PM Tsipras, Merkel, Hollande and other top EU officials confirmed for Thursday

    A mini-meeting on Greece will take on Thursday evening between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and other top EU officials on the sidelines of the EU summit meeting, an official confirmed on Wednesday, as AFP reported.

    "At the request of Prime Minister Tsipras, EU President Donald Tusk will convene a meeting on Greece Thursday evening after the European Council with the participation of... Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande," a spokesman for Tusk said.

    The meeting will also be attended by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the spokesman added.

    [03] Meeting with top EU leaders requested by Tsipras to take place on Thursday at 21.00, according to sources

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The so-called five-party meeting will be held on Thursday at 21.00 on the sidelines of the EU summit, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras requested from the president of the European Council Donald Tusk, according to sources.

    Apart from Tsipras, sources said the meeting would be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, ECB president Mario Draghi and the president of European Council Donald Tusk. ?

    [04] Tusk in contact with top EU officials to hold meeting on Greece in the margins of EU summit, his spokesman says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis)

    The Greek issue is not officially included in the agenda of the EU summit which starts on Thursday, a spokesman for the European Council president Donald Tusk said on Wednesday, adding that Tusk is in constant contact with top EU officials to hold a meeting on the Greek issue in the margins of the summit.

    The spokesman did not reveal further details on the meeting and its participants. However, he said that the implementation of the latest Eurogroup decisions and the general situation in Greece will be among the issues to be discussed.

    Asked whether the issue of Greece's immediate cash needs will be discussed, he refused to make any comment.

    [05] Mrs. Merkel is willing to take part in a meeting with Tsipras says Chancellery spokesman

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to participate in the meeting asked by Greece on the sidelines of the EU Summit, according to Chancellery's sources, the German service of Reuters news agency said.

    If the president of the European Council Donald Tusk calls such a meeting, Mrs Merkel will not refuse to attend, her representative stated earlier on Wednesday. However, he clarified that such an invitation does not exist yet.

    It was also noted that it is clear that the evaluation of Greece's condition will be done by the institution and not by independent countries while the basis for all the discussions on Greece is 20 February's Eurogroup agreement.

    Regarding Merkel's invitation to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the same representative stated that it is important now to talk to one another. "It is exactly the right time for a detailed and direct discussion," the spokesman said adding that there will also be a working dinner on Monday.

    [06] Chancellor Merkel thinks this is the right time for a talk with Greek PM, Berlin says

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel is convinced that the right time has come to have an in-depth talk with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday, concerning the upcoming meeting between Merkel and Tsipras to take place on Monday.

    Seibert was replying to a question on why the chancellor had waited so long in order to invite the Greek prime minister to Berlin.

    Regarding the agenda for the meeting, Seibert said that this would include the "obvious" issues but that he could not predict what issues will be raised by Tsipras.

    "It is absolutely clear that the issue that will be discussed is the situation that has arisen between Greece and the other members of the euro zone and to see how we can, on the basis of the February 20 agreement, proceed with a successful conclusion of the current programme," he said.

    [07] Main issue for Greece isn't debt but returning to competitiveness and the markets, German FinMin says

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    The talk on Greece should not focus on the country's debt but on how its economy will regain its competitiveness, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Wednesday said, ruling out the likelihood of a new "haircut".

    The issue is not debt restructuring but how Greece will be able to return to a path leading to the restoration of its competitiveness and to international markets, Schaeuble said in a joint press conference with Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, noting the long-term financing of the Greek debt.

    "Everyone who is dealing with the issue of Greece agrees that time is running out," he noted and pointed out that "the 'tragedy' with the institutions in Athens shows that it is difficult to reach a solution". Referring to the Greek foreign ministry demarche, he said that he will not apologize for something he did not do and spoke about "mistranslation".

    Responding to a question on whether there is escalation in the expressions used by Greece and Germany, he said that it is a "carefully objective description of the situation."

    He said that the fact is that "after long negotiations in the Eurogroup we adopted a joint statement," which he tabled in the German parliament, "and despite the many doubts it was passed with a strong majority."

    "It is not helpful if on the very next day you turn and say that you don't intend to observe the joint statement or meet the obligations undertaken. If you look at the 'tragedy' with the three institutions in Athens you will see that it is difficult to reach a solution. This is the concern. Greece has the opportunity to agree with the institutions on the implementation of the current programme. Discussions on debt restructuring are obsolete. Everyone who is dealing with the issue of Greece agree that time is running out," he noted.

    On the relations with his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis, he said that there are "no impolite statements," adding that he has given a fight so that the German media will not broadcast news related to Greece using negative expressions. He also said that his relation with his counterpart is absolutely correct noting, however, that they have disagreements on substantive issues.

    As regards the demarche made by the Greek foreign ministry, he said that he always respected Greece, the Greek people and the Greek politicians.

    "Sending your ambassador to deliver a demarche in response to an unprecedented translation nonsense by a Greek journalist is not a rational use of the diplomatic service means. I will not start apologizing for things I did not do," he said.

    "We need a strong Europe characterized by solidarity. Major challenges lie ahead and in Europe we should depend on each other. That's why those who are doing better should help those who are in a tough situation. Solidarity is the precondition, but a minimum of credibility wouldn't hurt either," he noted.

    Responding to a question on the Greek claim for German WWII reparations, Gabriel cited recent statements by the spokespersons of the ministries of foreign affairs and justice and underlined that the picture of a conflict between Germany and Greece is not doing good.

    He said that it is a difficult situation within the EU and not a conflict between Germany and Greece, adding that it is a confrontation between the Greek government and the eurozone or if one looks closer, the rest of the EU. He also said that all efforts are being made to settle this dispute.

    Gabriel also said that new discussions, attempts to personify and references to historical responsibility create the impression of a national conflict, noting that these two should be distinct.

    Referring to the same issue, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an interview in Stern magazine characterized as "politically dangerous" the Greek claim for war reparations and repeated that this issue has been settled.

    As regards the situation in the eurozone, Steinmeier said that he is against a Grexit and that anyone who thinks that Greece's exit from the eurozone is manageable forgets how it will be perceived, adding that it would be a mistake to start a feud between Athens and Berlin.

    [08] Belgian expert confirms that initial results of parliamentary debt review committee will be out by June

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The first conclusions from an Audit Committee of Public Debt, whose founding was announced by Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou on Tuesday, will be ready by June this year, Belgian expert on odious text Eric Toussaint confirmed in an interview published Wednesday.

    Konstantopoulou had said the committee will convene for the first time on April 7 or 8 and she first mentioned the initial results would be presented in an international conference on public debt in June. The international team will be coordinated by SYRIZA Eurodeputy Sofia Sakorafa.

    On Tuesday, during the press conference to present the committee, Toussaint had said that the committee will show which part of the debt is legal and which is odious and non sustainable, the repayment of which does not allow people to enjoy their fundamental rights. It will also examine the period before 2010 focusing on armaments, Olympic Games, transport, Siemens and the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE S.A.) contracts.

    In the interview for Belgian newspaper "L' Echo" published Wednesday, Toussaint - a historian and political scientist specialising in debt analysis and advisor to several governments on the issue - said the committee will consist of 30 people whose names will be released early in April, when the committee begins. He said the committee would work on issues arising from the '90s and later, but in this phase it would focus on the intervention of the troika of lenders to the present, which is when 80% of the debt whose repayment is demanded today was created.

    "We will not exclude anything - we will analyse the process of how the public debt was formed, we will explain why the debt rose and the repercussions of tax gifts to shipowners or the Greek Orthodox Church - things we must also take into considerations. It's logical," he said.

    The committee will move fast, definitely go to December 2015, he said, and will try to bring to the Greek public's knowledge the exact type of loans given to Greece, "which is a bit urgent, when we see a campaign to stigmatise the Greek people "by representatives of governments who make insulting statements about the Greek people, with significant media reproducing them. All we need to hear is a series of statements by (IMF head) Christine Lagarde about Greeks and taxation... The Greek Parliament also wants to restore a balance to show what the real situation is."

    He said he will not suggest the writeoff of part of the Greek debt, but will "focus on a serious analysis of the terms under which loans were made to Greece" - whether they were legally drawn up, respecting the Lisbon Treaty, the Greek Parliament, whether the IMF respected its own rule, and so on.

    Asked whether he thinks this committee could be construed as provocative because of the tension between Greece and its creditors, Toussaint said that was not the case. "In May 2013, the EU adopted Regulation 472, which obliges countries under structural adjustment to complete a full review of their debt, in order to explain why their debt reached such an unbearable level - this is what Greece has not decided to do," he noted.

    [09] Juncker says he 'remains concerned' about Greece, urges sides involved to 'regroup'

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday said that he "remained concerned" and was not satisfied with the progress made in recent days in issues with Greece, while urging all the sides involved to "regroup".

    Juncker was replying to a question about Greece during a joint press conference given with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

    [10] Austria's Faymann: 'Greece must be given an honest chance'

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greece should be given an honest chance, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said during a speech at the European Affairs Committee of the country's parliament on Wednesday.

    "It's undeniable that rules have to be respected. The question though is, whether Greece will submit proposals and whether one can adjust with those proposals the existing bailout programme," Faymann told lawmakers who were briefed on Thursday's EU summit meeting.

    The Chancellor said everything will depend mainly on the stance of the Greek government in the next few weeks and months.

    "At any case, I am in favour of giving Greece an honest chance, even if the situation right now does not inspire optimism," he added.

    [11] France appeals for 'restraint' on all sides to avoid 'accident' in Greek crisis

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira)

    Speaking in the French Parliament on Wednesday, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin appealed for restraint on all sides in order to avoid an "accident" in the handling of the Greek crisis.

    "France will be do everything it can to avoid an accident and I believe that what we will do will avoid it," Sapin told a French Parliament committee, "But no one can be categorical on this and this is why it behooves everyone, on both sides, to control their language."

    He noted that "in this area, accidents happen when people lose control of their words and not when some rules are not kept."

    [12] Moscovici says EU won't keep Greece in euro zone at any price

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti) - "We won't keep Greece in the euro zone at any price, but under strict conditions which are acceptable for both sides,? EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told German daily Die Welt.

    "The Eurogroup has an overwhelming will to keep Greece in the euro zone. Financial accidents can happen. Our task, however, is not to organise this but to prevent it," Moscovici underlined.

    He warned that a Greek exit would inflict great damage on the currency union. "Everyone would ask which member state is next?" he said. He did not rule out the possibility of concessions to Greece provided that Greece shows willingness to cooperate adding that it is clear that a third economic package will have to be different from the previous ones.

    Moscovici also referred to the need to respect the fact that Greeks voted for a change in policy. Moreover, he cleared out that the Greeks will have to respect the fact that their country has committed to its European partners.

    As for war reparations, he said that the past should not be forgotten and we should be careful so that history is not repeated, but it is not right to make use of the past for political reasons in the present.

    [13] SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman Filis: We will safeguard the Greek people's interests

    SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman Nikos Filis on Wednesday, during the debate on the humanitarian crisis bill, warned that the Greek government will respond if unilateral actions on the part of Greece's lenders continue and they continue to tighten the noose around Greece's neck.

    "If the lenders continue to play a game of blackmails and ultimata and continue to tighten the rope around Greek people's neck then the government has no other solution but to respond to the lenders' unilateral action by taking recourse to the only strong weapon it has. The safeguarding of the Greek people's interests. The Greek state's operation and its responsibilities before the Greek citizens, as priority" said Filis.

    He added that "we will not become the recipients of unilateral actions on the part of our lenders. Our opinion is clear and we state it with clarity to anyone who wants to hear it once again. We do not make unilateral actions but we will not accept unilateral actions against the Greek people. It is obvious it is not a government that rules under supervision or under partial authorisation and mandate. It is a government that wants to restore the national sovereignty, the democracy, the national dignity, the country's international prestige, the citizens' social and democratic rights."

    Moreover, SYRIZA parliamentary group spokesman underlined "The blackmails dictated from outside and inside will fail. Blackmails that want to set hurdles to this government's legislation work. We will proceed without giving account to anyone on those we have announced and that are completely within the context of the fiscal adjustment...we will insist on the implementation of 20 February agreement framework which we have co-signed with the Eurogroup which is a move for reforms and gives a definite end to the memorandum and the fifth evaluation. Moreover, we will insist that is our lenders' obligation to give the money to Greece during the four-month transition period."

    [14] We want to see prosperity and growth in Greece, US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland says

    The United States want to see Greece emerge from its economic crisis stronger and more stable, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland on Tuesday said during her meetings with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos.

    She stressed that the United States want to see prosperity and growth in Greece and to see Greece be able to make a good deal with the institutions.

    According to an announcement issued by the US embassy in Athens, Nuland discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, and described the discussions as "very good".

    During her visit she also discussed security and defense issues, the issue of Ukraine, the anti-ISIL coalition and energy issues. On the crisis in Ukraine, Nuland said that the United States and the European Union have had to impose sanctions on Russia because of the increasing rounds of aggression in eastern Ukraine. She added that the United States are very gratified for the solidarity between the EU and the US, and that Greece has played its role in helping to build consensus.

    [15] ND leader has phone contact with US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras late Tuesday had a phone contact with US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian issues Victoria Nuland.

    The two officials discussed international economic issues and other issues related to Greece's economic situation.

    [16] This government takes orders only by the Greek people and not the lenders, Defence Minister Kammenos says

    This government takes orders only by the Greek people and not the lenders, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Wednesday told parliamentarians and called on all deputies to support with their vote the humanitarian crisis bill so as to prove that Greece is a sovereign state.

    "I want to make clear that what you have to do right now with your vote is to support this bill so as to prove that we are determined as a nation, that we are a sovereign state that takes no orders from anyone apart from the Greek people," he noted.

    "Ignore the orders being given by the lenders, who with the wrong policies have taken the country to impoverishment, and let us, as a united nation, to claim the victory in a Europe that respects the sovereignty of each country and the popular mandate. In this country, this mandate is given by the people and not by them."

    He also accused Samaras-Venizelos' government of being responsible for "the humanitarian crisis in Greece, the recessionary measures, the impoverishment of the Greek people, the increased deficits, unemployment, the degradation of the labour and insurance rights."

    "Whose policy was that? It was the policy of the previous governments that (PASOK leader Evangelos) Venizelos supported. But the Greek people decided that this policy should change and it will change, whether some like it or not, because we are a sovereign state," he stressed.

    "This government will not carry out orders by others apart from the Greek people's orders. And the Greek people's mandate was for a change in the policy that instructed Greece being on its knees."

    "We will support this government because it proved it negotiates standing up on its feet, it listens to the mandate of the Greek people and acts only in the interests of the Greek people," he concluded.

    [17] Parliament President backs down on proposed roll-call vote for humanitarian crisis bill

    Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou's initiative to hold a roll-call procedure for the voting in principle of the humanitarian crisis bill prompted an incensed reaction by opposition parties, who threatened to walk out of the plenary.

    As a result, Konstantopoulou backed down and the bill was voted in principle by the majority of the deputies via a show of hands.

    The roll-call vote was requested on Tuesday by Golden Dawn deputies; however the party's MPs that are remanded in custody did not attend the parliament proceedings. Under the Parliament's standing orders, a roll-call vote can be held if at least 15 of the deputies requesting the specific procedure are present. After ascertaining that the necessary number of Golden Dawn deputies were not present, Konstantopoulou made use of certain provisions and announced her decision to go ahead with the roll-call vote.

    The session was briefly adjourned due to the reaction of the opposition parties. A while later, Konstantopoulou explained her decision saying that it was important for the wide majority of deputies that were in favour of the bill to be able to support it via a roll-call vote. However, she noted some attempted to misinterpret her actions and for this reason the plenum would not hold a roll-call vote.

    [18] Opposition parties attack Parliament president for siding with Golden Dawn on request for roll-call vote

    The decision - later withdrawn - by Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou to agree with far-right Golden Dawn's request for roll-call voting on the humanitarian crisis bill prompted a concerted attack on her from all the opposition parties on Wednesday.

    PASOK President Evangelos Venizelos went so far as to say that, in his opinion, the bill had not been passed in principle and accused Konstantopoulou of "wanting to politically identify with Golden Dawn and to place it under her auspices and protection."

    Main opposition New Democracy's parliamentary spokesman Yiannis Vroutsis said Konstantopoulou must "not even think of saying that ND had not voted for the bill" and former Parliament president Vangelis Meimarakis also said he "would not allow her to say that we did not vote for the bill".

    Among others, Venizelos accused Konstantopoulou of violating Parliamentary procedure, "destroying the conditions for political consensus" and "offering no service to anyone, not even your own party and the government."

    Vroutsis said that "historically, there has never been a Parliament president that in two months has earned the ire and rage of the majority of Parliament."

    She was also criticised for not allowing the head of the Potami party Stavros Theodorakis and former minister Kostis Hatzidakis the opportunity to address the Parliament during the debate.

    Meimarakis repeated a request that the original of the February 20 agreement signed by the government should be submitted to Parliament, saying failure to do so "generated questions and suspicions that it contained provisos". He also stressed the ND had voted in favour of the bill "and continues to support the government in this course and the negotiations, provided that the country isn't placed at risk."

    Earlier, ND's rapporteur Nikos Panagiotopoulos had blamed the government for a letter sent by European Commission official Declan Costello, in which he advised the government to hold off a vote on the humanitarian crisis bill, saying that the financing of the bill had been "inadequately explained".

    Communisty Party of Greece (KKE) Parliament spokesman Nikos Karathanasopoulos blamed Konstantopoulou for the turn the discussion had taken, while warning that siding with GD was a "slippery path".

    Replying to the critics and deploring the climate in Parliament, SYRIZA Parliamentary spokesman Nikos Fylis stressed that the tension sparked over procedural issues led to a loss of prestige for Parliament and stressed that SYRIZA's Parliamentary group was unanimous in opposing the "neo-Nazi formation called Golden Dawn".

    "It is not right to raise issues and create impressions of selective sensitivities that might affect developments in justice," he added.

    Noting that all parties had expressed backing for the bill and there was broad consensus, Fylis said the "way we behaved did not do Parliament credit," and the people wanted more than squabbling over procedural disputes or "unfortunate handling".

    GD's Parliament spokesman Artemis Mattheopoulos spoke of a deliberate attempt to block Parliament's work, with ND and PASOK "on the front line" in protests and disturbance, and added that the plot against his party would soon be uncovered.

    A Potami party announcement slammed the Parliament president, saying she had outdone even herself in disrupting Parliamentary procedure, and strongly criticised her failure to allow Theodorakis to speak as he requested, either before or after the prime minister.

    [19] Economy minister: Issues related to social priorities are non-negotiable

    The draft law on addressing the humanitarian crisis is an exceptional government initiative that must proceed, Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis on Wednesday said adding that it must be clear that the issues that refer to social priorities are not subject for discussion within whatever context.

    During the draft law debate in parliament, the minister reassured that the electronic procurements system will encompass the total of the public sector's supplies. Referring to the amendment that foresees the postponement of the entry into force of the law on the contracts of works and supplies in the public sector for 31/12/2015, he said that the amendment was tabled because the system would be not ready by March 1 as a result of legislative gaps that the government must bridge and because a new directive for the public contracts must be incorporated in the domestic legislation.

    Stathakis also explained that all public sectors are not yet prepared to be incorporated in the electronic system while there must be improvements and upgrading to the public contracts' reception and distribution center. Under these circumstances we ask for a postponement in order to take the necessary measures, he said.

    [20] Addressing the humanitarian crisis in not a unilateral act, Labour Min says

    Labour Minister Panos Skourletis on Wednesday, speaking to Parliament, underlined that this government will not step back from the legislative work on addressing the humanitarian crisis and rejected allegations on unilateral action.

    Skourletis termed the humanitarian crisis bill as a necessary step. He referred to top European officials who try to strangle the Greek economy with their statements and lashed out at the opposition parties, mainly New Democracy and PASOK, calling on them to stop encouraging those who want to strangle the Greek economy.

    "This draft law is a first necessary step and I cannot understand those who see that necessary act as a unilateral act," Skourletis noted and added: "When social indicators are in the red, what we are doing is not enough, but it is necessary. The humanitarian crisis is produced by capitalist policies. There is no room for those social indices in the reviews. There is no room in the strict neoliberal rationale evaluating the progress of the Greek government, but they relate to the actual situation of the country."

    Skourletis called on all parties to assist the government in its effort to restore social justice and dignity in the country.

    [21] New Democracy to vote for the humanitarian crisis bill, Samaras says

    Main opposition New Democracy party will vote the humanitarian crisis bill, its leader Antonis Samaras said on Wednesday.

    "It is the government's responsibility how it will make use of it within the framework of the agreement with the partners," Samaras said before the opening of the party's parliamentary group.

    [22] Potami, KKE parliamentary spokespersons on humanitarian crisis bill

    The humanitarian crisis bill has many flaws, Potami party parliamentary spokesman Haris Theoharis said on Wednesday during its debate in the parliament plenum.

    "On one hand, it does not specify where it will get the money it gives and on the other hand, it offers only a few things: only 15 euros a month for electricity," he added.

    "We have been asking for a long time for you to govern at last. Ninety days went by; we have started thinking that perhaps it was better when you did not govern," Theoharis commented.

    "In every ministry we see two policies: two policies on the migration issue...(Finance Minister Yanis) Varoufakis tells Eurogroup one thing, by signing and reaching an agreement which we welcomed and supported in action, and (Alternate Finance Minister Nadia) Valavani tells quite another," he noted among others.

    "The SYRIZA government does not do anything essentially different from the previous governments," communist KKE parliamentary spokesman Nikos Karathanassopoulos said.

    "It is negotiating hard with the institutions, the troika representatives, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund but this negotiation does not concern measures to relieve the people, or to restore the losses and meet the people's needs; it does not negotiate on behalf of the people but on behalf of the capital," he added.

    "The government claims that the memorandum policies are to be blamed for poverty and impoverishment. There is indeed such responsibility - but why don't you bring a law to abolish all the implementation laws that have led people to poverty and impoverishment?" he said.

    "Have you imposed an extraordinary contribution on ship owners so that they give money to the impoverished popular strata? On industrialists, bankers and big traders? No. You are making certain amendments within the Budget which is funded by the people's taxes, as it is the people that pay for the taxes and not capitalists or industrialists," he noted.

    [23] KKE to abstain from the roll-call vote on the humanitarian crisis bill

    KKE parliamentary spokesman Nikos Karathanassopoulos on Wednesday announced that his party would not participate in the upcoming roll-call vote on the humanitarian crisis bill, a procedure that was requested by Golden Dawn.

    Karathanassopoulos said that "Golden Dawn, making use of the Parliament President's stance, submitted a request for a roll-call vote on the bill being debated on in the plenary. KKE parliamentary group, which has already said it votes 'present' in principle, will not participate in the roll-call vote that was scheduled to give a pretext for the presence of the Golden Dawn detained deputies. The government must assume its responsibilities against these methods that have been planned to cultivate a climate of tolerance against the Nazi, criminal organization of the Golden Dawn."

    [24] Kotzias briefs Parliament's foreign affairs committee on ministry's goals

    Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Wednesday briefed Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence regarding the initiatives taken by the foreign ministry in the last six weeks and its goals for the future.

    A key point, he said, would be an increase in the importance of foreign policy, which he said was a "sector of action that had declined in recent years". This would include an attempt to help the negotiations by shifting the debate way from purely economic considerations to a political understanding of the geopolitical dimensions, highlighting Greece's position within a triangle formed by the crises in Ukraine, Libya and the Middle East, an environment marked by volatility and destabilisation.

    In this context, he briefed MPs on two initiatives taken by the ministry to protect civilians in Mariupol and Christian populations in the Middle East, noting that the second now involved Cyprus, Italy, France and the Netherlands, the drafting a text and and the organisation of an international conference on the issue in May.

    Kotzias also announced his intention to make changes at the ministry, including the formation of a Parliamentary committee empowered to check classified ministry documents and the minister's actions.

    Outlining his goals, he said these included cultivating historic and cultural ties with the emerging economic powerhouses, such as BRIC countries.

    With respect to the Cyprus issue, he repeated that Turkey must help promote a dialogue for a just solution to the problem and said he was in favour of Confidence Building Measures aimed at improving Greek-Turkish relations "but not under the status of threats." Among others, he called on Turkey to withdraw a long-standing threat to consider any move to extend Greek territorial waters to 12 miles an act of war.

    Referring to the name dispute with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), he called this an international issue and announced that Greece has presented a proposal for CBMs that will be discussed in April, aimed at solving practical issues and creating a climate to facilitate talks at the UN.

    During the session, the minister came under fire from opposition party MPs, chiefly for what they said was Greece's growing isolation in Europe. Kotzias denied that Greece had become isolated by convincing its EU partners on the need for a compromise on the sanctions against Russia or "restoring equality and the country's equal presence at international institutions."

    [25] Foreign ministry announcement on the terrorist attack in Tunis

    The Greek foreign ministry on Wednesday condemned the bloody terrorist attack on a museum in Tunis the same day.

    "The deadly terrorist attack on a museum in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, targeting Tunisian citizens, as well as tourists visiting this country that for the wider region is a model of democratic transition and maturity of political institutions, is unequivocally condemned," the foreign ministry announcement underlined.

    Condolences were extended to the victims' families while it was underlined that the people and government of Tunisia have Greece's undivided support.

    "Greece will remain at the side of every country that is afflicted by the irrational violence of terrorism and threatened by the barbaric jihadist movement," the announcement concluded.

    [26] SYRIZA government 'distancing itself daily from people's mandate,' Potami leader tellsParliament

    The Greek people's vote that brought SYRIZA to power represents a mandate for a solution within the eurozone, but the government is distancing itself from this mandate on a daily basis, opposition Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said in an announcement on Wednesday.

    In a letter that had also criticised Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou for disrupting parliamentary procedure, Theodorakis had mainly called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to "respond to the anxiety of society which is watching the economy disintegrate and the rest of Europe look at Greeks like interlopers." He charged coalition partners SYRIZA and Independent Greeks (ANEL) of speaking openly about a return to the drachma.

    The Potami leader reiterated that the government bring the February 20 agreement signed between Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and the country's lenders to Parliament, which has no idea of the agreement's content, and said he would support it.

    Tsipras had a unique opportunity in Parliament to explain to the Greek people what he expects of the two meetings he will attend - the Brussels one with European leaders - and the talks in Berlin on Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but "he repeated empty promises and refused to present a specific framework" about what Greece wants from its creditors.

    "The clear mandate of the Greek people was to change course, to heal society's wounds, not to go to another type of bankruptcy under the sound of national-populist songs," Theodorakis said. "The vote was a mandate for a solution within the eurozone, a mandate from which the government is distancing itself every passing day," he charged.

    [27] Venizelos lashes out at government, accusing it of 'unilateral actions'; Interior Minister Voutsis' response

    Opposition PASOK party leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday lashed out at the government, accusing it of engaging in "unilateral actions".

    Speaking in parliament during the debate on the draft bill designed to address the humanitarian crisis in the country, Venizelos provoked a fierce response from Interior & Administrative Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis, who underlined that Venizelos "justifies the country's creditors and partners" and called his speech as a "manifesto of servile obedience".

    Venizelos said that all economic indicators have deteriorated rapidly and underlined that the Greek economy has lost "all advantages won through the sacrifices of the Greek people."

    "In the two months since SYRIZA-ANEL took office, the fiscal surplus has deteriorated rapidly, we lost the advantages of positive economic growth and we are tending to lose the third advantage, namely, a stable banking system. In 50 days, the country's strategic framework was destroyed," he said.

    In this context, "we have reached the point of a guerrilla war of unilateral moves as regards the draft bills that are being introduced, among them, the repayment of overdue debts to the state in 100 installments," he added, noting that "we will vote for those draft bills but we will not abolish them if the government is forced by the partners to ask the Parliament to do so."

    Referring to the likelihood of a referendum, he said that according to the constitution, it is not an option in case of fiscal measures and the only way out for the government will be to call new elections.

    He said that "what appeared to be a powerful government has suffered the absolute compromise," adding "you don't have a social mandate for a rift and no parliamentary majority to support a turn to responsibility."

    As regards the public debt, Venizelos said "the government does not talk about it and there is no government policy on the issue," adding that Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou "undertakes initiatives without consulting the government."

    In response, interior minister Voutsis accused Venizelos of a "scaremongering crescendo" and underlined that he cannot find any excuses for him, referring to the fact that he fully justifies the country's creditors and partners.

    Voutsis said that the interruption of cash flow to Greece is a unilateral move and noted that Venizelos was an ardent supporter of the theory that the Greek debt is sustainable.

    Labour min considers the stance of those asking the government to go back on its promises to the Greek people 'hostile'

    Statements by European officials, who "basically ask the Greek government to go back on its commitments to the Greek people" are "hostile positions towards the new Greek government and the Greek people," Labour Minister Panos Skourletis told ANA-MPA in an interview.

    "Such positions that ask for the message of the last elections to be ignored and for a policy, which was condemned by the Greeks, to continue cannot be described as friendly. I would say outright and in an absolutely clear way that these are hostile positions towards the new Greek government, towards the Greek people," he noted.

    "It is unthinkable and provocative for the first move by our government over the humanitarian crisis to be interpreted as a unilateral one. Obviously, Mr. Costello has not understood what was agreed on February 20 or there are forces that attempt to give a different content to the agreement itself and undermine what is to be reflected through the negotiation of the last few days, namely a new relation of egality between our country and the European partners. It is certain that these positions not only are they against our country but they also aggravate the cohesion of Europe and its day-after."

    Asked on the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' initiative to request the so-called five-part meeting of top EU leaders and officials in Brussels, Skourletis said: "The prime minister's move aims at attempting to give an answer on the highest political level in relation to the issues of the agreement between our country and our partners. It is obvious that we cannot waste any time or use delaying tactics - and of course I am not referring to the Greek side- so as to create conditions of asphyxiation. This is the time to give a political answer to these issues. This is the move that puts each one before one's own responsibilities."

    He also clarified that "there is no problem with the payment of wages and pensions" and said that the bill for the gradual restitution of the minimum wage to 751 euros will be tabled around the end of March and the draft legislation for the restoration of collective labour agreements will be released around Easter.

    The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.

    [28] President Pavlopoulos receives Cyprus' AKEL secretary general Kyprianou

    President of Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos met on Wednesday with visiting Cyprus' AKEL party secretary general Andros Kyprianou at the presidential mansion.

    Pavlopoulos expressed Greece's unconditional support to Cyprus Republic's effort towards the creation of the appropriate conditions that will allow the restart of the talks for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue.

    The newly elected President noted that the solution to Cyprus issue is always sought within the framework of the UN decisions and taking into account the fact that Cyprus is a member of the European Union with one sovereignty, international personality and citizenship.

    [29] Top SPD and Greens members asks for a solution to war reparations to Greece, Financial Times report

    "Greeks find support for German reparations claims - in Germany," Financial Times (FT) said in a report on Wednesday.

    When Greek governments have periodically sought reparations from Germany for crimes committed during the Nazi occupation, Berlin has tended to respond with an abrupt "case closed", the report said.

    "But the latest Greek demand ? aired in the context of an increasingly bitter fight with Germany over access to the country's bailout loans ? is finding an opening with unlikely allies in Berlin," it added.

    Two leading members of the Social Democrats (SPD) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partners - urged the government to start talks with Athens over World War II reparations questions.

    Gesine Schwan, a former Social Democrat presidential candidate, and Ralf Stegner, an SPD vice-chairman, shared this view along with Anton Hofreiter, parliamentary chief of the opposition Greens. All three were quoted in the online version of news magazine Der Spiegel, according to the FT report.

    "The government's legal argument isn't convincing," Schwan told the Financial Times. "It leaves a bad impression that Germany doesn't want to face up to its responsibilities. It was possible to find a solution in German-Polish relations. Something similar can be done with Greece."

    [30] ND accuses government of 'only keeping promises to hoodie-wearing rioters'

    New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Wednesday heaped criticism on the government over Tuesday's nights incidents in Athens and the draft law allowing the release of prisoners with disabilities and health problems.

    According to the spokesman, the "Tsipras-Kammenos government are only consistent in their promises to the hoodie-wearing rioters that burn, loot and desecrate undisturbed to release terrorists-murderers with 'made-to-measure' legislation."

    The masks had fallen long ago and were "replaced by hoodies that celebrate the release of the killer Xiros by burning Athens," the spokesman quipped.

    If the bill becomes law, among those eligible for release will be the convicted November 17 terrorist Savvas Xiros, who has extensive disabilities (93 pct) as a result of injuries sustained during a bungled bomb attack in 2002, which led to his arrest and a sentence of life imprisonment.

    [31] Alt. Foreign Minister Tsakalotos meets with the ambassadors of Germany and Holland

    Alternate Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Tuesday met with the ambassadors of Germany and Holland to Athens, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The meeting with German Ambassador Peter Schoof focused on issues of bilateral interest and on the course of negotiations between the Greek government and the European partners.

    Tsakalotos reaffirmed the Greek government's commitment to the February 20 agreement and the reform programme, referring to the priority sectors as regards Greece and the eurozone.

    The meeting with Dutch Ambassador Jan Versteeg focused on current developments with the alternate minister pointing out that a likely collapse of the eurozone would be a worst case scenario for everybody.

    He also repeated the government's commitment to the February 20 agreement with its creditors and the reform programme, underlining the priority sectors.

    [32] Justice Minister on provisions against bullying

    Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, on Wednesday in statements to MEGA TV, made clarifications on the new provisions against bullying that will be included in the bill for the abolition of the maximum-security prisons, saying that the existing Criminal Code could not provide for cases where the victim was an adult.

    The current legislation concerned cases of victims under the age of 17 who have suffered injuries after continuous strident behaviour, Paraskevopoulos said adding that it could not provide for adults, even elderly people who are victims of bad behaviour.

    He also underlined that current legislation did not refer to tough behaviour that caused psychological problems and affected health in general.

    Referring to bullying at schools, he said that "possibly more provisions may be needed, this is a specific weakness of the regulation in the Criminal Code."

    Regarding the abolition of high-security prisons, he said that this kind of prison is abolished but that does not mean that security is abolished.

    [33] ND leader Samaras to participate in EPP's Summit on Thursday in Brussels

    New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Wednesday will visit Brussels to participate in the European People's Party Summit to be held on Thursday.

    Samaras will meet most of the foreign leaders that will participate in the EU summit on Thursday afternoon.

    According to sources, Samaras will stress the need for an agreement with the Greek government because any delay or failure in the negotiations would create huge problems to the Greek society.

    [34] ND parliamentary spokesman Georgiadis lashes out at the government

    Tension flared late on Tuesday in Parliament when New Democracy parliamentary spokesman Adonis Georgiadis accused the government of being responsible for the conflict with the European partners.

    "If you had brought the February agreement to the parliament, we could have possibly avoided the current developments," Georgiadis said, taking into account the recent statements made by the European Commission's representative to the institutions Declan Costello.

    "You decided to take up the whole responsibility yourselves," he said and addressing Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said "You have signed that you promise the government will not proceed with any unilateral action and that you will not bring any measures unless you have found the fiscal equivalent ones."

    "We vote for the bill, in good faith, as we believe you have made the necessary arrangements so that all those which we vote will not constitute reasons for the discontinuation of the country's funding," Georgiadis said.

    "Instead of saying that there is a unilateral action against the country by the turning off of the liquidity tap...you claim that we are responsible for a default on payments?" Voutsis responded.

    "You should be rather puzzled as we have managed to take the discussion to a political level for the first time - and at the same time have an issue that for the first time in a public dialogue concerns an alternative strategy beyond austerity. The Greek people will win time, more political correlations will come and the course will change," he added.

    Alternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis also referred to the issue and said it was unthinkable on Georgiadis' part to repeat the arguments of the lenders and of those who try to blackmail the people and the country.

    "I heard representatives of the institutions saying that his bill, like the one on the 100 installments, constitutes a "unilateral action." What do they want after all? Having thousands of Greeks without a house or electricity? Could they possibly refer to a "unilateral action" when we submit a bill for the State and the social insurance funds, which this year will raise 1.46 billion euros? Is this considered fiscal cost?"

    He added that the response is that "the government does not back down, does not succumb to blackmails - it will implement its programme to the end."

    [35] ND MP Hatzidakis criticises PM Tsipras over OECD comment

    New Democracy MP and former minister Kostis Hatzidakis criticised Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday for saying Hatzidakis made up the so-called "OECD toolbox" to serve specific interests when he held a ministerial post, during a debate in Parliament.

    "I would like to congratulate the government for choosing to continue its cooperation with the OECD. We encourage it to continue in that direction. Until last year, SYRIZA claimed OECD is giving us the rope to hang ourselves. Now it has to justify its new position," Hatzidakis told lawmakers debating the humanitarian crisis bill.

    "Tsipras said we imposed the toolbox to the OECD. If that's true, it means it has limited responsibility. But then why do you continue to cooperate with it? I heard with great sadness what the prime minister claimed. I didn't expect the prime minister, a young man who embodies hope to say these things," he added.

    [36] KKE slams government, says negotiations don't serve the people

    Criticising the government in an announcement on Wednesday, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said that the negotiations it was conducting with Greece's creditors did not serve the interests of the people.

    "When the government, in its talks with the partners, makes its primary goal the implementation of the anti-popular agreement of February 20 and at the same time the institutions-troika ask that even these crumbs are withdraw, then anyone can understand that the negotiation does not servie the people and that their interests will lose out, whatever its outcome," the party said.

    [37] Alt. Environment Minister Tsironis to tour northern Greece

    Alternate Minister for Environment Yiannis Tsironis will tour northern Greece within the next days.

    On Thursday afternoon he will visit Thessaloniki where he will meet with regional government of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas.

    On Friday, he will visit Mavrorahi landfill to examine that problems that the particular area faces and afterwards he will go to the city of Serres where he will have a series of meetings with representatives of the local authorities.

    Tsironis on Friday noon will leave for Kavala where he is expected to hold meetings on TAP natural gas pipeline issue.

    [38] Criminal charges against TrainOSE 2006-08 executives for OSE property mismanagement

    Prosecution authorities pressed criminal charges against those being in charge of TrainOSE, the Hellenic Railways OSE operational branch, during 2006-2008 for the mismanagement of OSE property, which incurred losses for the railway organization.

    The case was brought to justice, following a report by OSE legal department which found that the heads of TrainOSE in 2006, 2007 and 2008 repeatedly leased OSE property without a prior agreement between the two sides and at a low price.

    According to the case file, the property that TrainOSE leased had not been legally transferred to it by OSE. The prosecutor's investigation found that the price for the leasing of the property was very low, resulting in over 3 million euro losses for OSE.

    The prosecution relates to the offense of the breach of trust.

    The case will be assigned to an examining magistrate who will handle the main investigation.

    [39] Attica Region governor meets with Turkish ambassador for posible collaboration

    Attica Region governor Rena Dourou met with Turkish Ambassador Kerim Uras on Wednesday to discuss opportunities for mutually beneficial initiatives.

    The sectors they discussed for joint actions included culture, development, trade and tourism.

    Dourou stressed the necessity of collaborations like these which contribute to improve relations between the two countries and create common grounds of action, especially significant under the current political and economic developments in this area of the world.

    [40] 58 pct believe government is not implementing campaign promises, in poll for Vergina TV

    The government is not implementing its campaign promises, 58 percent of people polled nationwide by Interview company for Vergina TV, in northern Greece, but 39.8 percent would still vote for SYRIZA, the coalition's senior party.

    Of those asked, 73 percent believe that the government has not put an end to the troika of Greece's lenders - they just changed names - while half of all polled (50.5 percent) said they are not happy with the course of negotiations.

    According to the poll, SYRIZA got 39.8 percent, main opposition New Democracy got 17.0 percent, extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) 5.7 percent, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 5.1 percent, Independent Greeks (ANEL) 4.8 percent, To Potami 4.2 percent and PASOK 3.2 percent.

    Financial News

    [41] ECB raises maximum of emergency funding for Greek banks by 400 million euros

    The European Central Bank (ECB) decided on Wednesday to increase the maximum Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) Greek banks can get from the Bank of Greece by 400 million euros, according to sources.

    This brings the total funding of Greek banks through ELA to 69.8 billion euros, from 69.4 billion euros. The review of the ceiling will take place next week.

    According to the monthly accounting statement for February released by the Bank of Greece a few days ago, the borrowing of Greek banks through ELA came to 65.6 billion euros by the end of February. After today's (Wednesday) raise of the ceiling the banks will have access to an additional ELA funding over 3 billion euros.

    [42] State raises 2.6 billion euros revenues from ENFIA tax in 2014, in line with targets

    The Greek state raised 2.6 billion euro of revenues from the 2014 Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA), meeting the target that had been set.

    The figures from the ENFIA revenues give the Finance Ministry a breather in its efforts to meet the budget targets.

    According to ministry data, ENFIA revenues reached 337 million euros in January and 316.9?million euros in February. By the end of December 2014, ENFIA revenues amounted to 2 billion euros.

    Finance ministry officials estimate that the new regulation for the settlement of arrears in 100 installments will help increase budget revenues.

    The bill of the settlement scheme was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, so that it can be soon voted and tax payers can start making use of its provisions.

    [43] Productive Reconstruction minister plans to limit powers of power regulator RAE

    Productive Reconstruction, Environment, and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis announced on Wednesday he will pass a legislation limiting the role of Greece's power regulator RAE, so that it "doesn't substitute the government on important political choices like setting tariffs".

    "The government respects the character and autonomy of RAE and counts a lot on the employees' advice, so that the Authority can play its role in a progressive and positive way," Lafazanis said following a meeting with RAE employees' union.

    The ministry had already announced it would limit the powers of RAE after it was revealed the authority was preparing to raise the special duty for the reduction of gas emissions (ETMEAR).

    Employees also asked the minister to have a say in the drafting of the new Operation Rules for RAE, which he pledged to do.

    [44] Greece to introduce 26 pct tax on business supplies bought from tax havens

    Businesses will have to pay a 26 pct tax on expenses made for supplies bought from countries with preferential tax regimes which will be returned within 12 months, after it is proved the transaction was real, according to a new provision which will be included in the draft bill on settling overdue debts towards the state.

    The provision concerns article 21 of the finance ministry's bill which aims at blocking tax evasion through triangular transactions through tax havens and countries which impose very low taxes on business profits.

    The ministry's 2014 list with countries that have preferential tax regimes or low taxes on business profits include, among others, Cyprus, Albania, Andorra, Bulgaria, Gibraltar, Ireland, FYROM, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

    [45] Greece raises 1.9 bln euros from T-bill auction

    Greece on Wednesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue raising 1.3 billion euros from the market at an unchanged cost. The Public Debt Management Organisation, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue was set at 2.70 pct, unchanged from the previous auction of same issue in March 11. Bids submitted totaled 1.3 billion euros, 1.3 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers while settlement date was set for Friday, 20 March. The organisation will also accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 19 March.

    [46] Seli Skiing Centre alleged mismanagement case file forwarded to prosecutor

    The case file of "Seli National Skiing Centre" sports facility, which is a public property under the authority of the general secretariat for sports, was forwarded on Wednesday to the First Instance Court prosecutor in the northern city of Veria on orders by Deputy Minister for Sports Stavros Kontonis.

    Judicial authorities were requested to investigate if individuals responsible for the centre's management committed crimes against the state and third parties.

    According to the case file, the investigation will focus on allegations for mismanagement, looting of public facility and labour law violations.

    [47] Mytilineos Group says EBITDA up in 2014

    Mytilineos Group on Wednesday reported a consolidated turnover of 1.233 billion euros in 2014, from 1.403 billion euros in 2013, reflecting changes in the operation of the domestic energy market. EBITDA rose to 253.9 million euros from 225.3 million in 2013, reflecting an improved performance of the metals business and steadily high performance of EPC projects.

    Net after tax and minorities earnings jumped to 64.9 million euros in 2014, from 15.9 million in the previous year.

    The metals sector reported higher turnover to 470.8 million euros in 2014, from 435.9 million in 2013, and an 109 pct jump in EBITDA to 87 million euros.

    The EPC sector continued its positive course. METKA reported a turnover of 609.3 million euros in 2014 from 606.5 million in 2013, EBITDA rose to 103.9 million euros and net after tax and minorities earnings eased to 90.2 million euros from 91.7 million in 2013.

    [48] Greek stocks end sharply lower

    Greek stocks came under heavy selling pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, pushing the composite index of the market to its lowest closing since January. Traders said market sentiment was hit by uncertainties over delays and tension in negotiations between Greek authorities and its creditors. The composite index fell 4.13 pct to end at 737.96 points, off the day's lows of 733.20 points. The Large Cap index fell 3.95 pct and the Mid Cap index dropped 4.93 pct. Turnover was an improved 96.59 million euros, while the market's capitalizations fell by 1.7 billion euros.

    Coca Cola HBC (2.29 pct), METKA (0.23 pct) and Grivalia Properties (0.23 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (10.34 pct), GEK Terna (9.94 pct), Jumbo (9.09 pct), Ellaktor (8.85 pct) and Alpha Bank (8.55 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Among market sectors, only Food ended higher (2.77 pct), while Health (10.56 pct), Personal Products (9.10 pct) and Banks (8.26 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 93 to 21, with another 16 issues unchanged. Medicon (19.72 pct), NEL (17.95 pct) and Altec (16.67 pct) were top gainers, while VIS (28.64 pct), Ekter (23.75 pct) and Leventeris (22.70 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: -8.26%

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Financial Services: -4.73%

    Industrial Products: -1.83%

    Commerce: -2.90%

    Real Estate: -1.91%

    Personal & Household: -9.10%

    Food & Beverages: +2.27%

    Raw Materials: -6.02%

    Construction: -5.25%

    Oil: -2.50%

    Chemicals: -0.45%

    Media: Unchanged

    Travel & Leisure: -5.78%

    Technology: -2.50%

    Telecoms: Unchanged

    Utilities: -4.35%

    Health: -10.56%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP and Piraeus Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE

    Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.27

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.90

    Coca Cola HBC: 16.05

    Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.54

    National Bank of Greece: 1.04

    OPAP: 7.94

    OTE: 8.50

    Piraeus Bank: 0.35

    Titan: 20.92

    Grivalia Properties: 7.61

    Aegean Airlines: 6.74

    [49] Greek bond market closing report

    Greek bond prices remained under pressure, pushing yields higher in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday. The three-year bond yield rose to 21.1 pct and the five-year bond yield rose to 16.2 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 10.51 pct from 10.19 pct on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 10.47 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.19 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month rate rose to 0.212 pct from 0.209 pct, the nine-month rate rose to 0.142 pct from 0.139 pct, the six-month rate was unchanged at 0.095 pct, the three-month rate was stable at 0.025 pct and the one-month rate was -0.011 pct.

    [50] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.01 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 36,973 contracts with 45,045 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 153,539 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (40,945), followed by Alpha Bank (22,711), National Bank (21,262), Eurobank (35,699), MIG (10,783), OTE (4,625), PPC (1,313), OPAP (977), Hellenic Exchanges (313), Mytilineos (2,133), Hellenic Petroleum (904), METKA (451), GEK (9,553), Ellaktor (311), Jumbo (333) and Korinth Pipeworks (202).

    [51] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.0592

    Pound sterling 0.723

    Danish kroner 7.4591

    Swedish kroner 9.3325

    Japanese yen 128.35

    Swiss franc 1.0627

    Norwegian kroner 8.9

    Canadian dollar 1.3583

    Australian dollar 1.3901

    General News

    [52] Chinese delegation from Jiaxing visits to find out more about thermal springs tourism in the Peloponnese

    A delegation from the Jiaxing region of China visited the Peloponnese to learn more about the therapeutic use and technology of thermal springs in Greece and agreed to a collaboration between the two country areas in this sector, after a meeting with regional governor Petros Tatoulis on Wednesday.

    Tatoulis said that Greece and China were the gates respectively of western and eastern civilisation. He added that the Peloponnese has a unique brand internationally that has brought a rise in tourists and exports of its farm products.

    The Chinese delegates expressed interest in the area's thermal tourism and its cultural products in general, and extended an invitation to Tatoulis to visit their area and the city they are building for thermal tourism.

    [53] Workers at Kassandra mines in Halkidiki to strike on March 20

    Workers at the gold mines of Kassandra in Halkidiki, northern Greece, have called a strike for March 20 (Friday) to protest the government's ambivalent stance towards the investment.

    At a press conference in Athens employees accused the government of constantly changing its decisions on the gold mines run by Hellas Gold and asked Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Alternate Minister for the Environment Yiannis Tsironis "to clarify their position on the investment".

    They also called on the government "to examine the real stake for Halkidiki and its environment" and added they will continue to work based on "officials statements, documents of the Greek state and court decisions."

    They noted that the majority of the company's 1,986 employees are residents of Aristotelous municipality, which means the impact on the local labour market is extremely important.

    Employees also plan labour actions in Athens and Halkidiki.

    [54] Archaeologists association call 24h strike for Friday

    The association of archaeologists that work on a provisional basis called a 24h strike on Friday 20 March.

    The temporary staff demand among others "an autonomous Culture Ministry, stable payments, permanent staff hirings and other issues regarding their salaries.

    The association also calls its members at a protest rally on Friday at 11 in front of the Culture Ministry in Athens, at the White Tower in Thessaloniki and at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion on Crete.

    [55] Spyros Louis cup to return to Acropolis Museum on March 18

    The silver cup won by Spyros Louis, the man who won the world's first-ever Olympic marathon when the event was created for the 1896 inaugural Olympics held in Athens, is to return to the Acropolis Museum on March 18.

    The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which bought the cup in 2012 at an international auction, said it was returning to Athens after six months at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and will be on display in an area accessible without a ticket, until construction of the SNF Cultural Centre where it will be permanently housed is completed.

    The cup was on display at the Acropolis museum from September 2012 and August 2014, where it was viewed by more than two million visitors.

    [56] Drug dealing arrests in Thessaloniki

    A 45 year-old woman was arrested in Thessaloniki facing charges of drug dealing.

    Following a coordinated operation, police found and confiscated 25 packages each one of them containing 20 grams of heroin in the suspect's residence.

    In another place of the house police found 27 plants of cannabis which were also confiscated.

    At a separate incident, a Greek couple aged 29 and 37 was arrested in Thessaloniki when police found 101,8 grams of heroin on their possession as well as three bottles containing 165 grams of methadone.

    Police also found two electronic scales and 2,040 euros cash probably relating to drug dealing.

    [57] Law School building occupation ends

    The occupation of the University of Athens Law School building by illegal intruders ended on Wednesday.

    The anti-establishment youths, who had occupied the building six days ago demanding the release of convicted terrorist Savvas Xiros and the abolition of Type C maximum security prisons, left just before 14:00, while earlier the deanery of the University of Athens had issued an announcement calling on all responsible sides to do what was necessary to end this unacceptable situation.

    The building will be inspected to assess the damages caused.

    [58] Conservation crew cleaning graffiti from Byzantine Kapnikarea church in central Athens

    The Ephorate of Athens Antiquities sent a conservation crew to clean the slogans sprayed in red and purple colour on the walls of the Byzantine Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea in central Athens, the Culture ministry said on Wednesday.

    According to the ministry, the four-member crew has already removed the first layer of paint and work will continue until the entire graffiti has been removed.

    [59] Eight detained at anarchist demonstration outside government headquarters

    Eight people were detained and taken to the police headquarters for identification during a demonstration held by self-proclaimed anarchists outside the government offices at Maximos Mansion at 14:00 on Wednesday. The demonstration was held in solidarity with hunger-striking inmates currently held in prison in connection with terrorism cases.

    The protestors had erected a banner outside the government headquarters with the slogan 'Memorandums - bridges - suicides - poverty - Type C hell prisons - political prisoners and witch hunts - at the side of the hunger strikers to the END," signed by "autonomous anarchists with solidarity".

    [60] Work stoppage in metro, ISAP electric railway on Thursday

    Workers in the Athens fixed rail public transport, including the metro and ISAP electric railway, announced a three-hour warning work stoppage from 11:00 until 14:00 on Thursday.

    They demanded the withdrawal of certain new metro trains that have proven to be defective and put at risk the safety of passengers, personnel and equipment.

    Weather forecast

    [61] Clouds, rain on Thursday

    Clouds, rain and north-northwesterly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain and snowfall in the mountainous and semi-mountainous areas of the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 03C-10C. Same weather in the western parts with temperatures between 06C-14C. Clouds in the morning and rain in the afternoon in the eastern parts with temperatures between 03C-13C. Scattered clouds in the morning and showers in the evening over the islands, 09C-15C. Mostly fair with a chance of rain in the evening in Athens, 05C-12C. Rain in Thessaloniki, 05C-09C.

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

    AVGHI: The blackmail fell on deaf ears.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Clash scenery.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Unilateral races, five-party meeting for agreement.

    ETHNOS: War of nerves at the final stretch.

    IMERISSIA: Scenery of a new rift.

    KATHIMERINI: Athens, eurozone's relations on a slippery slope.

    LOGOS: Everything on the table.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: On a collision course.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Popular alertness needed over the developments.

    TA NEA: Contradictory statements.

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