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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-20

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

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

Friday, 20 March 2015 Issue No: 4914

CONTENTS

  • [01] Crucial meeting for Greece on Thursday in Brussels
  • [02] First day of EU summit ends, mini-meeting on Greece to start at 23.30
  • [03] EU needs brave political initiatives, PM Tsipras says at Brussels summit
  • [04] Positive political direction is the Greek side's goal, government sources say
  • [05] Eurogroup's Dijsselbloem says little progress has been made on Greece
  • [06] German Chancellor Merkel says no solutions should be expected at Thursday summit
  • [07] Greece still has a difficult road ahead, Chancellor Merkel says
  • [08] Schulz expresses hope for speedy solution on Feb. 20 agreement interpretation
  • [09] Greece and EU must arrive at agreement quickly, Schulz says
  • [10] EU's Schulz warns Greek financial situation is 'dangerous'
  • [11] French President Hollande says Greece must respect its commitments
  • [12] Austrian Chancellor Faymann criticises 'cynicism' with which Greece is treated
  • [13] Nobody wants a so-called Grexit, European Council president Tusk says
  • [14] Economy Minister Stathakis: There are forces in EU that want to cancel Eurogroup's agreement
  • [15] Greece will pay in time the 350-million-euro loan instalment to IMF
  • [16] There is no issue of elections or referendum, Gov't Vice President Dragasakis says
  • [17] 'I will do everything I can to help Greece exit the crisis,' says ND leader Samaras
  • [18] Parliament passes humanitarian crisis bill per article
  • [19] Discussion on draft bill to restart the economy begins on parliamentary committee level
  • [20] Defence ministers of Greece, Russia meet in Moscow ahead of PM Tsipras' visit
  • [21] We will show our partners that the people are sovereign and united, Defence min says on March 25th national holiday parade
  • [22] The Greek government has delivered on its promises, Defence min Kammenos says
  • [23] Alternate Administrative Reform Min Katrougalos defends Parliament President
  • [24] ND again urges Varoufakis to present Feb. 20 agreement in Parliament
  • [25] SYRIZA's strong lead over ND, shows opinion poll
  • [26] Citizens have positive opinion on the gov't negotiation strategy, says opinion poll
  • [27] Justice Minister Paraskevopoulos visits the Court of Audit
  • [28] Potami: the country's presence in the eurozone should not be jeopardized
  • [29] KKE on the overdue debt settlement
  • [30] Former PASOK minister Valirakis addresses letter to PM and parliament president on Siemens bribery scandal
  • [31] Education ministry's initiatives to address bullying phenomena
  • [32] Parliament strips a ND MP of his immunity; rejects similar requests for another two MPs
  • [33] 'Europeans are being influenced against Greece,' says Metropolitan Arsenios of Austria
  • [34] Ruling in former finance minister Papaconstantinou's trial to be delivered on Tuesday
  • [35] Finance ministry to audit HRADF privatisation agency's use of revenues, Mardas tells Parliament
  • [36] New board appointed at HRADF privatisation agency
  • [37] Government mulling social residential tariff for natural gas, EPA director says
  • [38] Alt. tourism minister has series of meetings with travel agencies in Russia
  • [39] Greek pension funds' deposits in Bank of Greece offer higher returns, minister says
  • [40] Finance ministry issues circular on procedure for transferring tax residence abroad
  • [41] Alpha Bank says operating profits up 49 pct in 2014
  • [42] Piraeus Bank reports losses in 2014
  • [43] Grivalia Properties completes sale and lease back transaction with Praktiker Hellas
  • [44] Lufthansa to increase flights to Greece over the summer
  • [45] Greece among the top destinations for Easter, says Trivago
  • [46] Loulis Mills issues 6.0-mln-euro bond loan
  • [47] Carnival Cruise to use Piraeus port as Mediterranean hub as of spring 2016
  • [48] Greek stocks remain under pressure
  • [49] ADEX closing report
  • [50] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [51] ActionAid 'social experiment' on racism in Athens sends largely encouraging messages
  • [52] Partial solar eclipse visible in Greece from 10:39 a.m. on Friday
  • [53] Folk artist Theofilos' paintings undergoing conservation on Lesvos
  • [54] National Gallery guards to continue strike action on Sunday
  • [55] Youths protesting for dead student shout slogans outside Ioannina's Dairy School
  • [56] Clouds, rain on Friday
  • [57] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Crucial meeting for Greece on Thursday in Brussels

    A meeting with focus on Greece will take place on Thursday evening in Brussels after the end of the EU Summit between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other European top officials.

    "Following Mr.Tsipras' request, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk will organise a meeting on Greece in which German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, ECB chief Mario Draghi and the European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker will participate," said a European Council representative who clarified that Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijesslbloem will also attend the meeting.

    US president Barack Obama had a phone contact on Wednesday with Merkel and referred to a 'realistic agreement' aiming at Greece's return to growth within the eurozone.

    [02] First day of EU summit ends, mini-meeting on Greece to start at 23.30

    The first day of the EU Summit meeting has been concluded and the seven-party mini-meeting was set to start at about 23.30 (Greek time), government sources said on Thursday evening.

    The government hopes to receive a positive political direction, the sources said.

    [03] EU needs brave political initiatives, PM Tsipras says at Brussels summit

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    "The European Union needs brave political initiatives, which respect both democracy and the treaties," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday, as he arrived for a European leaders' summit in Brussels.

    "Let us leave the crisis behind us and be led toward growth," he added.

    [04] Positive political direction is the Greek side's goal, government sources say

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)

    The Greek side wants a positive political direction to come out of the European leaders' summit here, government sources said on Thursday.

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will reaffirm the Greek government's will to observe the February 20 Eurogroup agreement, sources said. The prime minister will reaffirm the government's will to promote the reform package included in Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis' letter to the Eurogroup, assuring that the reforms that will have to be implemented by April 20 will be decided.

    The Greek side will ask for certain clarifications as regards the Eurogroup agreement, the government sources said, noting that it should be clarified that the conclusion of the fifth review of the Greek programme is not at issue, commenting that "they cannot ask us to do what the previous government could not do."

    According to government sources, French President Francois Hollande in a brief discussion he had with Prime Minister Tsipras in the margins of the meeting said that "today there should be a solution".

    [05] Eurogroup's Dijsselbloem says little progress has been made on Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Very little progress has been made on Greece's issue and the multi-party meeting later in the day will hopefully kick-start negotiations so that an agreement can be achieved, the chairman of Eurozone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem told journalists as he arrived at the EU summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

    Dijsselbloem also said Eurozone is ready to support Greece based on the Eurogroup agreement of February 20, which was a clear statement with which the Greeks agreed.

    "We have to work hard to reach a package which has to be implemented within the coming three months," he added. "Time is ticking away. We don't have a lot of time so we really have to get to work.

    [06] German Chancellor Merkel says no solutions should be expected at Thursday summit

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / M. Aroni)

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday warned as she arrived for a European leaders' summit that no solutions or significant progress should be expected from the meeting as regards the Greek issue, noting that decisions are made on Eurogroup level.

    Responding to a question on Greece, Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb said, as he arrived for the summit, that adherence to the February 20 Eurogroup agreement is necessary. "The euro means confidence. We should be certain that we implement the decisions we make," he said.

    [07] Greece still has a difficult road ahead, Chancellor Merkel says

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    Greece still has a difficult road ahead of it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said adding that Greece has to understand that the help provided is an obligation for financial stability and reforms.

    She cleared out that a solution should not be expected either at the meeting on Thursday in Brussels or in the meeting on Monday in Berlin as the Eurogroup and the agreement reached cannot be replaced.

    "I have invited Alexis Tsipras to Berlin and I am glad about his coming here. We will have time to talk in detail and even discuss," Merkel said while addressing the German Parliament ahead of the European Council meeting. "Nobody can expect a solution to Greece's problems at the meeting tonight in Brussels or at the meeting on Monday evening" as "a solution to the problems can only exist based on what was jointly agreed at the Eurogroup. No meeting between a few people can and will replace the Eurogroup agreement."

    The Chancellor pointed out that Greece is far from leaving the crisis behind and has yet a very difficult road ahead. "It is just as clear today as in 2010, when European partners gave Greece with a great political and economic effort the first aid package, that only with such a great effort can this be achieved...By making agreements that all can comply with," Merkel underlined and reiterated: "If the euro is destroyed, Europe will also be destroyed," because it is much more than a currency.

    "Along with the European institutions it is the most powerful expression of our will to unite peacefully the people of Europe," she noted and concluded by saying that Europe managed to become from a continent of war a united Europe, and this was achieved with creativity and adherence to the agreements, understanding and willingness to compromise.

    [08] Schulz expresses hope for speedy solution on Feb. 20 agreement interpretation

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz expressed the hope on Thursday that a solution will be found on the interpretation of the Eurogroup's decisions concerning Greece soon, possibly even this day.

    At a press conference in Brussels, Schulz reiterated the need for Greece to follow up on its commitments he also expressed support for initiatives Greek authorities are taking to deal with the humanitarian crisis. The obligations Greece has, whether made by the current or previous governments, cannot be ignored following national elections, he added.

    Referring to this (Thursday) evening's scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and EU's key leaders and top officials - a meeting that will follow an EU summit in Brussels - Schulz said it could be of use if it contributes to resolving the misunderstandings over the Eurogroup's decision on the Greek debt issue.

    Among other things he also said that privatisations and investments from abroad should not raise questions over issues of national sovereignty.

    [09] Greece and EU must arrive at agreement quickly, Schulz says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ A. Sakka)

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday stressed the need for Greece and the EU to arrive at an agreement quickly, on his arrival for a meeting of the Party of European Socialists (PES) held on the sidelines of the European leaders summit in Brussels.

    Schulz said the Greek government needs to take action immediately and noted that "there are many people in Brussels, among them myself, who want to help the Greek government and especially the Greek people but we need specific proposals from the Greek government."

    He expressed hope that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will have the same views as the other leaders concerning the reforms that will lead to a solution.

    European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans was optimistic concerning the outcome of Thursday's summit on the Greek issue, saying that the EU Commission and its president Jean-Claude Juncker were working to find a solution. He urged Tsipras to clarify what reforms he intends to carry out.

    He also expressed a desire to find a solution for the benefit of the Greek people and said the possibility "always exists".

    [10] EU's Schulz warns Greek financial situation is 'dangerous'

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday said that Greece's financial situation was "dangerous" and it needed two to three billion euros in the short term to avoid bankruptcy, Reuters news agency said.

    "Time is short," Schulz told Deutschlandfunk radio. "In the short term, two to three billion (euros) are needed to keep to the existing obligations," he said.

    [11] French President Hollande says Greece must respect its commitments

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    Greece must stick to its commitments and show that it is pressing ahead with the reforms agreed at the Eurogroup on February 20, while Europe must supply Greece with the financial means to implement the reforms, French President Francois Hollande said as he arrived for the European leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday.

    He said France will do what was needful for Greece to stay in the euro zone, noting that there were commitments that applied equally to all countries.

    Asked to comment on the humanitarian crisis bill that was passed by the Greek Parliament despite the objections raised by European Commission officials, Hollande replied:

    "What shocks me is not that the Greek government is making an effort for the poor. What we ask of Greece is to make the richest people pay tax," he said.

    [12] Austrian Chancellor Faymann criticises 'cynicism' with which Greece is treated

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann on Thursday criticised the "gloat" and "cynicism" with which Greece is being treated, saying it's inappropriate.

    Speaking to journalists as he arrived at the EU summit meeting in Brussels, Faymann said there should be a meaningful discussion in which Greece should be asked to respect its obligations, but "we have ventured far from this course" and at this point "nothing works".

    The Austrian Chancellor also criticized the choice not to include European Parliament president Martin Schulz in tonight's mini summit on Greece which will take place on the sidelines of the main event and added that "this discussion was urgently needed, on the one hand because we want to keep Greece in the Eurozone and on the other because specific proposals have to be demanded [from Greece]".

    Answering a relevant question, Faymann said there has to be an approach from Greece's side, but the Greek government must also be respected and should be shown that it has to comply with agreements.

    [13] Nobody wants a so-called Grexit, European Council president Tusk says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)

    Nobody wants a so-called Grexit, and everybody wants to avoid a so-called Grexident, European Council president Donald Tusk said on Thursday.

    Referring to the meeting to be held on Thursday in Brussels on the Greek issue, he underlined that it will not be a last chance meeting and that it was his obligation to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' demand for that meeting.

    He also argued that today's informal meeting will not be a decisive one as there are more formal areas of decision making.

    Such consultation is necessary in order to avoid political controversy, the president of the European Council noted.

    [14] Economy Minister Stathakis: There are forces in EU that want to cancel Eurogroup's agreement

    The promotion of the regulation on the first residence foreclosures is not a unilateral action on Greece's part, Economy Minister George Stathakis reassured in an interview to private MEGA TV late Wednesday, adding that such a message does not exist on the institutions' part.

    Stathakis said that the ministry has already started the necessary procedures and had a contact with the European Central Bank as well as with the Greek Banks Union on the government's intentions.

    On the general issue of dealing with the households and businesses' bad loans, the minister clarified that it is a process that needs time to be completed. However, within the next days the ministry will be in the position to present a comprehensive regulation that will lead to the problem's solution, he said.

    At a question where the necessary capitals that will finance these loans will be found, the minister said that they will come from the Financial Stability Fund.

    He also referred to the government's priorities on the restart of the economy and the invigoration of the business interest noting that the simplification of the licencing procedures will continue and within the next months the Citizens Facilitation Centers (KEP) for businesses will be ready to operate, the growth law will change and the new one will offer incentives to the small and medium sized enterprises, the young enterpreneurship and to businesses that can have high added value for the economy.

    The minister expressed his opinion that finally the country will reach an agreement with its partners despite the fact that there are 'powers' in the EU that are trying to cancel the February 20 Eurogroup agreement and to send the country back to a memorandum.

    Regarding the government's red lines in prime minsiter Alexis Tsipras' meeting with EU top officials on the sidelines of the EU Summit on Thursday and in his meeting on Monday in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he said that the country will not accept any additional measures that will further burden the Greek citizens.

    Finally, referring to the privatisations, Stathakis said that those that have been completed will not change, there will be a negotiation for those that are in progress adding that for those that the procedure has not started it will not open at all.

    [15] Greece will pay in time the 350-million-euro loan instalment to IMF

    The Greek government has sufficient liquidity to repay another 350-million-euro instalment of the loan it has received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the deadline on Friday (March 20), a Greek government official said in Brussels, where the European leaders' summit is being held.

    "We'll pay it. We have the money to pay the IMF on Friday," the official told Reuters, despite statements by Government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis on Greek TV that the country is facing "liquidity problems".

    [16] There is no issue of elections or referendum, Gov't Vice President Dragasakis says

    We haven't got a tranche since last August and we as well as the previous government are paying all of our obligations to the partners, Government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis told Alpha TV on Thursday.

    "We have an economy that is getting money to repay loans and that creates asphyxiation. There is a liquidity problem; we have obligations and there should be good cooperation with the partners so that those obligations can be covered," he added.

    On the climate during the last period of time, Dragasakis spoke of "a dilemma in Europe between the old and the new; whether there will be a continuation of the submission and uncontrollable rupture or we will move to something different, something positive, the formation of a new way of operation. We reached an agreement with great difficulty; but we honour this agreement - as the prime minister said - because it forms the basis so that we can move forward."

    On the meeting that prime minister Alexis Tsipras will have with EU leaders and top officials in Brussels on Thursday evening, he expressed the hope that the outcome would be positive and that the agreement would be specialized so that things can move forward.

    Referring to the issue regarding the intervention by Declan Costello on a veto by the EU Commission to the humanitarian crisis bill, he said that "a technical official wanted to become Greece's prime minister."

    "I am glad that the Commission did not cover for him," he said referring to statements by Pierre Moscovici.

    "There are two levels of communications; the political one and the level on which we are discussing with the technical teams. These will come to review the figures, not for political negotiation. I respect Brussels' technocrats but I cannot accept they are any better than (Finance Minister Yanis) Varoufakis and (Alternate International Economic Relations Minister Euclid) Tsakalotos. Their view is not rightfully a better one," he said.

    Regarding the 100 installments draft law, he noted that this was also discussed in the Euroworking Group meeting.

    "We received some general comments and not proposals. On one hand, they would not give us the money and on the other, they would not let legislate to raise revenues," he stressed.

    On the so-called Grexit scenarios, he was very explicit. "This is neither the government's option, nor my personal one. We in SYRIZA are not concerned with this issue. The prime minister is going to Brussels with specific proposals. We are ready, based on the agreement, to discuss specific priced reforms. We can be more specific on which changes and policies can be implemented in the next period of time."

    Regarding the possibility of a referendum, he noted that "some things are in the back of our mind, but they should not come forward. Above all, we must produce work. Some people try to prevent the government from doing its work. There is no issue of elections or referendum."

    "Greece was the guinea pig; inequalities must be reduced, this is our vision. We don't have a prosperous Europe but a Europe in deep crisis; we want a Europe that inspires its people. We take up the responsibilities and the risks of a pioneer. Greece found itself in the bottom; with our plan it can recover. We are not a ragged country. We have debts, but others have debts too. We are not asking for solidarity and charity. We do not want a special treatment but an equal one," he said.

    [17] 'I will do everything I can to help Greece exit the crisis,' says ND leader Samaras

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    The leader of New Democracy (ND), Antonis Samaras, said on Thursday he will do all he can to keep the country in Europe and help it exit the crisis, following a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP) in Brussels.

    "I will do everything I can to help Greece exit the crisis and stay in Europe. This is the mission, this is what I believe and this is what I ought to do," Samaras, whose party is the country's main opposition, said after the meeting.

    "I explained to the other leaders in the EPP that the country is sinking in uncertainty. Everything we achieved in two and a half years, the surpluses and the growth, are now in risk of being lost," he noted, adding that time has been wasted in communication games and not on the real economy.

    Samaras also urged all sides to tone down their rhetoric and come to an agreement as soon as possible. He also reiterated his intention to support the government in every positive step and to oppose it in anything that jeopardises Greece's European course. He warned that wasted time raises the bill, increases the risks, leads to job cuts and lost revenue and investments.

    [18] Parliament passes humanitarian crisis bill per article

    The humanitarian crisis bill was passed per article by a majority in Parliament early on Thursday.

    The first four articles concerning the provision of free electricity, food allowance and housing to households living in extreme poverty were voted unanimously by the plenary. However, the fifth article, which authorises the government to determine precisely, through a joint ministerial decision, the income and other parameters to identify beneficiaries, was not voted by Golden Dawn, To Potami and communist party KKE.

    [19] Discussion on draft bill to restart the economy begins on parliamentary committee level

    The discussion on the draft bill on "regulations for the restart the economy" was launched on Thursday in the standing parliamentary committees on economic and social affairs under emergency proceedings, following a recommendation by Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani. The alternate minister referred to the need to boost public revenues and the urgency for thousands of taxpayers, with overdue debts to the state, to enter a settlement.

    Valavani told parliament that emergency proceedings were necessary considering that it will take more than 20 days to create the electronic platform through which debtors will be able to submit an application for their inclusion in the settlement scheme.

    The alternate minister also noted that the draft bill includes a provision that refers to the criteria based on which the country's coastal region will be mapped out, noting that the relevant deadline expires on March 31 and will have to be extended until the end of the year to protect public interest.

    In favour of the procedure were the ruling coalition SYRIZA-ANEL deputies, while the rest of the political parties raised objections.

    [20] Defence ministers of Greece, Russia meet in Moscow ahead of PM Tsipras' visit

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    The Greek-Russian Joint Interministerial Committee (JIC), which last met two years ago, will be reactivated, said Alternate National Defence Minister Kostas Isichos and Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Anatoly Antonov in Moscow on Thursday.

    The two ministers met ahead of the visits to Moscow of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on April 8 and National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos two weeks later, Isichos, who co-chairs the JIC, told ANA-MPA.

    Speaking of his meeting with Antonov, Isichos said, "We reviewed the agreements of the two countries in defence and discused the necessary maintenance and upgrading of Russian-made air defence systems that Greece has." He said his meetings at the Russian capital were "especially productive."

    The Greek side also applied formally for Russia's and the Russian state archives' help in researching documents from the era of Greece's occupation by Germany in 1941-1944, "in order to enrich the documents from the American side and so that the bilateral issue we have with Germany - related to the forced occupation loan, the reparations to war victims and the theft of archaeological treasures - is fully documented and the ethical, historical and economic restitution is an achievable goal," Isichos said.

    The Russian defence ministry said that among other things they discussed the Greece-Russia Year (2016) and Kammenos' attendance of the 4th international defence conference on April 16-17.

    [21] We will show our partners that the people are sovereign and united, Defence min says on March 25th national holiday parade

    "We will move ahead with the legislation and then we will tell them what this is all about. (Declan) Costello cannot possibly approve draft laws when people are suffering," Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Thursday told ANT1 TV, giving an indication of the stance that the government will keep on the bill it will submit.

    "From the first moment, we had a decent stance towards the lenders and the people that we will change the memorandum policy...This country is taking orders only by the people. We are a country that has restored its national sovereignty," he underlined.

    "The economic crisis was turned into a humanitarian one. We will not ask anyone on the bill," he commented referring to the humanitarian crisis bill.

    As Kammenos noted "the policies that have led us to this situation are changing."

    Regarding the March 25th national holiday parade and the events to take place on Syntagma square, he said that "with the dances and the traditional costumes we will show our partners that the people are sovereign and united," and added: "Those that will parade will be our children. The armed units are our children serve in the army...The people are the army."

    [22] The Greek government has delivered on its promises, Defence min Kammenos says

    Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Thursday gave an interview to ANT1 TV and referred to the big reforms in the defence sector that are underway, to the new structures that will be set up and to the cooperation with other ministries in order to reduce the government's general expenditure.

    "I believe that right now the country's Armed Forces have reached a good level of morale and operation. It is the first indication of hope that we can change a lot, without any additional cost, but on the contrary by reducting costs further," he noted.

    Asked about the prime minister's meeting on Thursday with EU leaders, he said that from the very first moment, the government made clear to the lenders that it has been given a mandate by the Greek people to change a mistaken policy, adding that "the Greece people decided, as happens in sovereign states, to change this policy. And this policy will change."

    He also referred to the February 20 agreement and noted that after this agreement "certain individuals in the European Union, in the European Central Bank started 'bombarding' the agreement instead of implementing it. The Greek government, on the contrary, delivered on its promises."

    "We will not move to something different compared to what we agreed on February 20. And what the prime minister will ask for today is that they - they and we - keep promises so that we can move to a different policy, which will start being implemented and delivering results as of the first days of June," he added.

    Asked about the personal attacks against him, Kammenos said it must be absolutely clear that "the government wants a good relation with the partners but it takes orders only from the Greek people."

    "We are a country which has restored its national sovereignty. We don't get pre-drafted bills, which we translate and then table to the parliament. We table bills which before the elections we promised the Greek people we would submit and whether they like them or not, we will pass them," he noted, highlighting the importance of the voting of the first bill on Wednesday as a message that "it is not Kammenos and Tsipras that negotiate, it is not SYRIZA and the Independent Greeks that negotiate; it is Greece that negotiates."

    Regarding the bills and their review (by the institutions) he said that on the issue of the humanitarian crisis and the draft laws on the 100 installments "we will not let them go through Declan Costello so that he can approve it or not when the Greek people are suffering."

    "The obligation of an elected government is above all to ensure the survival of the people. We will not ask anyone about this. We will move ahead with the legislation and then we can explain for which reason this is taking place," he added.

    Regarding the March 25th national holiday parade, he noted that it is the first time that Cyprus Defence Minister will attend it, following an official invitation. He explained that the idea for traditional songs and dances and the participation of the Armed Forces bands in the celebrations was based on the way the parade to commemorate the Liberation of the Dodecanese was held.

    He noted that the important thing was for the Greek people and the country to send out a message of unity as a sovereign state. He noted that the whole issue, including its cost, has been approved by the prime minister and the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA).

    As regards the decision by the Council of State on the wages of the uniformed personnel, he said "I believe the greatest power factor is man. What is the use of expensive arms when the people that handle them are suffering. That is why we are ready to give that money. I am waiting for a response by the Civil Protection and the Shipping ministries and the money will be soon released."

    [23] Alternate Administrative Reform Min Katrougalos defends Parliament President

    Alternate Minister for Administrative Reform George Katrougalos on Thursday defended the President of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou over the reactions to her decision to hold a roll-call vote following a request by Golden Dawn.

    Konstantopoulou is receiving unfair criticism, Katrougalos said in statements to ANT1 TV stressing the importance of having regulations in the Parliament.

    [24] ND again urges Varoufakis to present Feb. 20 agreement in Parliament

    Main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Costas Karagounis on Thursday repeated a call to Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to present to Parliament the agreement negotiated by the government with Greece's EU partners and creditors on February 20.

    Responding to the finance minister's claim that no documents of the agreements signed by the previous government remained at the finance ministry, Karagounis noted in his announcement that "if [Varoufakis] doesn't know the location of legal documents published in the government gazette and the internet, then there is something wrong with the minister and the government."

    "Perhaps, until he has found the documents he doesn't know about, he could bring to Parliament the documents that he himself negotiated and which everyone else in SYRIZA has yet to understand what it is they signed," Karagounis added.

    [25] SYRIZA's strong lead over ND, shows opinion poll

    SYRIZA has a 20 percentage point lead over main opposition New Democracy, according to an opinion poll conducted by Marc for private TV Alpha.

    Specifically, at a question if general elections were held today what you would vote, 40.2 of the respondents said SYRIZA and 21 pct said New Democracy.

    The Communist Party (KKE) was third in the citizens' preference with 4.9 pct followed by Golden Dawn 4.8 pct, Independent Greeks with 4.5, To Potami with 4.3 pct, PASOK with 2.5 pct, Democrats Socialists Movement 1.8 pct.

    At the possibility of early general elections, 94 pct of the citizens asked said they are against and 4.8 pct said they see it positively.

    [26] Citizens have positive opinion on the gov't negotiation strategy, says opinion poll

    The citizens majority has a positive opinion on the government's strategy regarding the negotiation with the country's partners, according to an opinion poll conducted by University of Macedonia for private TV SKAI.

    More specifically, 56.5 pct of the respondents consider Athens' negotiation strategy positive, 27 pct negative and 9.5 pct said that it is not stable and other times right and other wrong.

    60 percent of those asked said that the recent agreement with EU institutions to extend that contract with our lenders until June was a government's success while 19.5 pct said it was a failure. 20.5 pct said it was neither a success nor a failure.

    56.5 of the citizens asked believe that SYRIZA government seems determined to implement its pre-election promises in their whole. 72.5 pct said it agrees with the view that "the government will delay the implementation of its pledges in order a climate of trust to be established with the Europeans".

    Finally, 43.5 pct of the Greeks said that the prospect of a Grexit fears them while 14.5 pct said that it brings them 'hope'.

    [27] Justice Minister Paraskevopoulos visits the Court of Audit

    Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on Thursday paid a courtesy call to the Court of Audit and met with its president Nikolaos Angelaras, focusing on issues that concern the country's supreme audit institution.

    The justice minister attended a meeting with the court's president and vice-presidents, who briefed him on issues falling under their authority and on problems faced by the court.

    The overburdening of the courts as a result of piecemeal legislation and the existence of a large number of laws in combination with the public administration's practice to take to the courts even cases that can be settled based on existing case laws was also underlined, according to a Court of Audit announcement.

    The state's refusal to comply with irreversible court rulings that leads to unnecessary delays in the effective administration of justice, part of which is the execution of court rulings, was also underlined.

    [28] Potami: the country's presence in the eurozone should not be jeopardized

    Opposition Potami party on Thursday urged Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to secure the country's presence in the eurozone, in an announcement on the occasion of the European leaders' summit in Brussels.

    The meetings the prime minister will have in Brussels today and in Berlin on Monday will be decisive for the country's fate, Potami underlined.

    "Unfortunately, Greece is with its back against the wall in these negotiations because the government was able to lose all allies, when some in Germany and in other countries, mainly in the north, are fueling the scenarios of Greece's exit from the eurozone; scenarios that are being supported by some foolish people in Athens," the Potami announcement underlined.

    [29] KKE on the overdue debt settlement

    The government settlement on overdue debt aims at bringing revenues to state coffers, and as the government itself has confessed, does not aim at the real relief of the popular classes that have huge debts to the Tax Bureau and the social security funds, communist party KKE on Thursday said in a statement.

    KKE noted that for the employees on payroll, the self-employed and the unemployed who owe to the funds the problem is not the number of installments, but the fact that they do not have to pay huge taxes, adding that this is proved by the fact that the vast majority of popular classes cannot benefit from the current settlement of 100 installments.

    "Essentially, the government under the pretext of relieving the working classes and increasing revenues for state coffers proceeds to settlements that will facilitate big capital," KKE noted.

    [30] Former PASOK minister Valirakis addresses letter to PM and parliament president on Siemens bribery scandal

    Former PASOK minister Sifis Valirakis on Thursday addressed a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou, underlining that the government, the judicial authorities and the parliament should continue the investigation into the Siemens bribery scandal.

    Valirakis, who chaired the parliamentary fact-finding committee that investigated the case, noted in his letter that "the political system in general, as well as the judicial, executive and legislative powers were unable to rise to the occasion and deal with the scandal in all its aspects or even utilise the findings of the committee." As a result, dozens of low-ranking officials have been led to justice but no political figures, despite the important incriminating evidence pointing at their involvement, Valirakis underlined.

    [31] Education ministry's initiatives to address bullying phenomena

    Alternate Education Minister Tasos Kourakis told parliamentarians that the ministry will make use of NSRF funds to train 16,500 teachers so as to be able to deal with bullying cases.

    During the debate of a current question tabled by SYRIZA deputy Alexandros Triantafyllidis, Kourakis said that the ministry has started recording bullying incidents so as to draft a comprehensive policy on the issue, with the main focus being on the enhancement of health care and welfare structures. The ministry's priorities include efforts so that schools are supported by a psychologist in order for children to know how to deal with such incidents.

    [32] Parliament strips a ND MP of his immunity; rejects similar requests for another two MPs

    The parliament on Thursday rejected two of three prosecutors' requests to strip MPs of their immunity from prosecution.

    It rejected the requests concerning Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Nikos Karathanassopoulos. New Democracy (ND) MP Christos Kellas was stripped of his immunity from prosecution over a case concerning a fine imposed on a store owner when he was a deputy mayor.

    Of the 206 MPs present, 174 voted against stripping Kammenos of his immunity to face charges in a case of slander through the media, 16 voted in favour and 16 "present".

    Fifteen MPs voted in favour of lifting the immunity of KKE MP Karathanassopoulos for his participation in mobilisations against the operation of a landfill, 189 MPs voted against and two voted "present" .

    Votes in favour of stripping ND MP Christos Kellas of his parliamentary immunity were given by 147 MPs, against 49 and 10 voted "present".

    [33] 'Europeans are being influenced against Greece,' says Metropolitan Arsenios of Austria

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA / D. Dimitrakoudis)

    The Europeans love Greece but they are being influenced against it and this will have to change, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Mid-Europe Arsenios told ANA-MPA during a book launch here on Greece, orthodoxy and monasticism.

    "We will not be able to go far unless we realise that there are people, who suffer and die in Greece, not numbers. In Greece, we need more understanding, help and moral support instead of money and this is the message that should be sent across Europe, to Germany, France and all the major powers," he noted.

    As it is often said, Europe is a family and you can suggest things to a family but you cannot order it to do something, the Metropolitan underlined. "In a democracy there is no room for orders. You have dialogue and the outcome of the dialogue is respected by everybody. When someone gives orders it means that they are not willing to enter a dialogue," he said.

    [34] Ruling in former finance minister Papaconstantinou's trial to be delivered on Tuesday

    The hearing process in the trial of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, over charges of removing his relatives' names from a controversial list of Greek depositors abroad under review for possible tax evasion (the so-called Lagarde list), was concluded on Thursday.

    Prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou repeated that Papaconstantinou should be found guilty of all charges against him.

    The court adjourned until Tuesday, March 24 to deliver its verdict.

    Financial News

    [35] Finance ministry to audit HRADF privatisation agency's use of revenues, Mardas tells Parliament

    The finance ministry intends to conduct an audit of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), the agency responsible for Greece's privatisations programme, to determine whether the revenue raised from public assets was properly used to pay down Greek debt, Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told Parliament on Thursday. Mardas was replying to a question tabled Independent Greeks (ANEL) MP Dimitris Kammenos, belonging to the smaller member of Greece's coalition government.

    Kammenos had emphasised the need for an audit of HRADF spending, which he said included expenses "at the margins of legality," and to clarify a murky picture concerning the amounts raised by the Fund to pay down debt. Figures released by HRADF showed that the total amount going directly to service debt was just over 3.0 billion euros, which he said was very low, while in the last two years the amount was just 1.0 billion.

    Mardas said that he was in favour of investigating whether it the fund had really only paid 1.0 billion from privatisations toward the debt in the last two years but also noted that, at a first glance, it appeared that the total sum of money raised went toward debt repayments. He said that there was a "mistaken impression" because, prior to 2013, the money was paid into a different account.

    "In every case, however, we will see whether a small sum did not go toward the proper purpose," he added, agreeing that the disappointing result in terms of revenues was a good card in the negotiations. He said the state had sold off prime assets for a meagre 5.0 billion euros, when the original estimates from privatisations and exploiting state assets had been closer to 50 billion euros. Mardas suggested that this raised questions about whether these assets had been deliberately undersold, in line with the phenomenon that the economist Joe Stiglitz had described as "briberisation" and that an extensive inquiry will be needed to prove this.

    He said the audit would extend back, not just to the last three years but to the period before that, in order for a clear picture to emerge both about the prime assets sold and whether the money was used to pay down debt.

    [36] New board appointed at HRADF privatisation agency

    Stergios Pitsiorlas has been appointed as the new board president of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) privatisation agency, with Antonis Leousis as CEO, it was announced on Thursday. The appointments were given a green light by majority vote last Monday by the Parliament Committee on State-owned enterprises, Banks, Public Utility Enterprises and Social Security Agencies.

    According to a finance ministry announcement, a general meeting of the body was held on Tuesday regarding the election of a new president, CEO and three members of the new administrative board.

    The new board, which was formed on Wednesday, also includes Lazaros Stathakis, Angelos Vlachos and Evangelia-Anastasia Tsitsogiannopoulou.

    [37] Government mulling social residential tariff for natural gas, EPA director says

    The government is considering the introduction of a cheaper Social Residential Tariff for natural gas to assist poorer households, along the lines of that for electricity, the general director of the Attica Natural Gas Supply Company (EPA Attikis) Christos Balaskas said in a press conference on Thursday.

    He said that the ministry for productive reconstruction, environment and energy ministry was currently in talks with the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) on the issue.

    The Social Residential Tariff for electricity has rates that are 40 pct lower for vulnerable households, including those on low income, the unemployed and people with long-term ailments etc. Similar criteria are expected to be applied to gas consumers. The price of natural gas for residential use was 29 pct lower than heating oil over the last winter and is expected to fall further as a result of falling prices for crude, which form the basis for calculating gas rates.

    [38] Alt. tourism minister has series of meetings with travel agencies in Russia

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/ Th. Avgerinos)

    Alternate Economy Minister for Tourism Elena Kountoura had a succession of meetings with some of the largest travel agencies in Russia on Thursday, during her visit to the Russian capital to attend the Greek National Tourism Organisation's pavilion at the Moscow MITT 2015 exhibition.

    In statements to the ANA-MPA, Kountoura emphasised the importance of her meetings with her Russian counterpart Alla Manilova focusing on plans for events and the prospects for cooperation during 2016, the Greece-Russia cultural year.

    "We discussed how we can further cooperate in tourism, since there are very close bonds, historic and cultural, linking us with Russia," she said. They had also looked at ways to further support relations that existed in order to see a rise in tourism, in spite of the economic crisis faced by Russia, Kountoura added.

    The Greek minister expressed satisfaction at a revival in Greek-Russian relations, noting that Russians loved Greece a great deal and tended to come back as tourists.

    She commented on estimates by airlines and travel agencies, who forecast a large dip in the flow of Russian tourism toward Greece, saying that the economic problems in Russia that were the cause of this trend could not be avoided but Greece was striving to keep the reduction to a minimum, as far as was possible.

    "We will strive for better packages, better offers, marrying culture, tourism and sport and help so that our partners will make the tourism product a little more attractive with the existing financial capabilities," she said.

    Asked to comment on problems faced by Russian in obtaining a visa to visit the EU after the Ukrainian crisis, Kountoura said that there was no problem at the Greek General Consulate in Moscow and that visa issue had been greatly simplified, but stressed that the law could not be changed and Greece had an obligation to be careful.

    "Let us not forget, also, that anyone buying a house worth 250,000 euros or more has the right to a residence permit. This is very important for those that want to come and undertake activity in Greece, and above all invest," she added.

    [39] Greek pension funds' deposits in Bank of Greece offer higher returns, minister says

    Greek pension funds will be able to make a better management of their cash reserves by deposit them to the Bank of Greece, Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said in Parliament on Thursday. Replying to a question by Golden Dawn deputy George Galeos over the management of pension funds' money, Mardas said the Parliament voted an amendment allowing pension funds to deposit their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece and that these money could be invested in repos and other securities. These investments carried a full state guarantee in case of losses, Mardas said, adding that the Bank of Greece offered a higher deposit interest rates than commercial banks (2.3-2.5 pct insted of a 0.5-0.6 pct of commercial banks).

    Mardas noted that pension funds were not obliged by the new amendment to deposit their cash to the Bank of Greece.

    [40] Finance ministry issues circular on procedure for transferring tax residence abroad

    Finance ministry General Secretary for Public Revenues Katerina Savvaidou on Thursday issued an order outlining the procedure and necessary supporting documents needed in order for an individual or entity to transfer their residence for tax purposes abroad.

    This applicant must submit the M0 application form along with the completed forms M1, M7 and a written statement with a certified genuine signature that state's their tax representative in Greece by the last working day of the first 10 days of March of the tax year following the tax year of departure. The applicants must submit the necessary supporting documents by the last work day of the first 10 days of September of this year.

    As an exception, for those wishing to transfer their tax residence abroad in the tax year 2014 and have not yet submitted the above documents, the deadline for submission is set as the first 10 days of May 2015.

    The tax office then has an obligation to make a decision on whether the tax payer is considered a tax resident of Greece or another country within two months of the date when the supporting documents are submitted.

    Greek municipalities to get 2.57 bln euros from state in 2015, along with regulation helping citizens settle outstanding debts

    The state will fund municipalities with 2.57 billion euros in 2015 in returns and subsidies, according to Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas.

    Mardas gave the information in a document forwarded to Parliament in response to a question by Potami MP Antigoni Lymberaki, who wanted to know the subsidy totals for 2014 and 2015 and how they are allocated to the 325 municipalities nationwide.

    The figures, Mardas said, would broken down as follows: 2.20 billion euros would come from central independent funds, 150.4 million euros are a special subsidy to allow them to meet their obligations, and 213.9 million euros will cover any outstanding state subsidies left over from previous years.

    He said that during 2014, returns and subsidies to municipalities totalled 2.74 billion euros (2.33 billion from central independent funds, 193.9 million in special subsidies and 213.9 million for past obligations). The distribution of funds, Mardas said, is the responsibility of the interior and administration reconstruction ministry.

    Earlier on Thursday, the central union of Greek municipalities (KEDE) said an appeal it had made to the state to ease the burden of outstanding obligations of citizens to municipalities was accepted, with all such amounts confirmed by May 26, 2015 falling under the provisions of a bill currently in Parliament on reviving the economy.

    KEDE said it had appealed to Interior and Administration Reconstruction Minister Nikos Voutsis and Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani because it would help citizens begin paying their obligations in smaller installments and provide revenues at a time when state budget cuts left municipalities cash-strapped.

    The union's president, Giorgos Patoulis, said he had requested of the two ministers that debtors be given the option of paying in up to 100 installments with as little as 20 euros per installment.

    [41] Alpha Bank says operating profits up 49 pct in 2014

    Alpha Bank on Thursday reported after tax losses os 329.7 million euros in 2014 and a 49 pct jump in operating profits to 1.051 billion euros reflecting a reduced financing cost, a gradual achievement of synergies and a restructuring of operating spending.

    The loan delay coverage index grew to 62 pct at the end of 2014, from 54 pct a year earlier. Loan portfolio fell 4.1 pct to 49.6 billion euros, while deposits fell 1.5 pct in the fourth quarter to 42.9 billion euros (deposits in Greece fell 2.0 pct in the fourth quarter compared with a 3.0 pct decline in the market).

    The loan/deposit index fell to 116 pct in 2014 from 122 pct in 2013, while borrowing from the European Central Bank totalled 14.8 billion euros. Non-performing loans grew to 260 million euros in the fourth quarter from 116 million in the previous quarter, while bad debt provisions totalled 12.8 billion euros, accounting to 21 pct of loan portfolio.

    The bank's liquidity was negatively affected by additional outflow of deposits which led to greater dependence from the Eurosystem (borrowing through ELA totalled 17.6 billion euros at the end of February 2015).

    Dimitrios Mantzounis, the bank's chief executive, commenting on the results said Alpha Bank's efforts will focus on safeguarding its capital through a further strengthening of organic profitability and a more active management of portfolio quality, maintaining adequarte liquidity and supporting customers.

    [42] Piraeus Bank reports losses in 2014

    Piraeus Bank on Thursday reported losses of 332 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2014 and net losses of 1.9 billion euros in the year.

    Group assets fell 3.0 pct to 89.1 billion euros, reflecting a decline in loan portfolio. Deposits totaled 54.8 billion euros at the end of December, up 1.0 pct from 2013, but down 0.4 pct from September on political uncertainty. Deposits fell by another 6.9 billion euros in the first two months of 2015. The bank said that outflows has minimized following an agreement reached in a Eurogroup meeting on February 20.

    Loans, pre-provision and adjustments totaled 71.2 billion euros, down 2.0 pct on a quarterly basis. Loans after provision totaled 55.3 billion euros.

    The loan/deposit rate eased to 101 pct in December from 102 pct in September.

    Piraeus Bank Group operated a network of 1,175 units by the end of December, of which 803 in Greece and 372 abroad. The network shrank by 274 units in 2014 of which 234 in Greece achieving a goal for 870 branches by 2017, three years earlier. Workforce fell to 15,539 at the end of December in Greece.

    [43] Grivalia Properties completes sale and lease back transaction with Praktiker Hellas

    Grivalia Properties on Thursday announced the completion of a transaction to acquire and lease back a real estate property asset from Praktiker Hellas. The real estate property is located in Nea Alikarnassos, Heraclio Crete. The value of the transaction was 8.5 million euros and the guaranteed initial leasing return was set at 9.5 pct. The transaction was made using capital raised from a share capital increase plan which was completed in 2014.

    [44] Lufthansa to increase flights to Greece over the summer

    The airline group Lufthansa on Thursday announced a decision to increase the frequently of flights to Greece over the summer, "investing in the Greek market and the rise in Greek tourism." The estimated increase in the number of German tourists visiting Greece is around 9-12 pct for this summer.

    According to Lufthansa's head of passenger services and sales in Greece and Cyprus Harro-Julius Petersen, the number of passengers and arrivals of German tourists to Greece does not appear to have been affected by political developments.

    In addition to German tourists, Lufthansa also gets custom from those travelling to Greece from North America via Germany, since there are no direct flights.

    The airline has already added four flights a week between Athens and Munich in March, while from the end of the month it will be operating flights between the two cities 23 times a week. It is also introducing a new route from Munich to Iraklio, Crete from May 30.

    During the summer, Athens-Frankfurt flights will increase to 25 a week, while group member Austrian Airlines will add four more night flights from Vienna to Athens from April 29. More frequent flights to Greek destinations are also planned by Swiss and Brussels Airlines.

    [45] Greece among the top destinations for Easter, says Trivago

    The tourist interest for Greece at Easter is high, according to tourist reservations website Trivago.

    According to an announcement, Greece is top in Italian tourists preference for Easter vacation. Greece is also among the top destinations for the Polish, English, Spanish and for the Austrians.

    [46] Loulis Mills issues 6.0-mln-euro bond loan

    Loulis Mills SA on Thursday announced the issuance of a bond loan worth 6.0 million euros on Tuesday, 17 March. The new capital will be used to refinance the company's existing short-term bank debt. The loan has a two-year duration and was issued in cooperation with Alpha Bank.

    [47] Carnival Cruise to use Piraeus port as Mediterranean hub as of spring 2016

    Carnival Vista, a sea cruise vessel owned by Carnival Cruise, will use Greece's main Piraeus port as an arrival and departure port as of spring 2016 for its voyages in the Mediterranean Sea.

    The agreement was reached during a World Sea Cruise Fair in Miami between Piraeus Port Authority and Carnival Cruise. The ship was built in 2014, it has a length of 321 metres and a capacity of 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crue members.

    Piraeus Port, which participates in the Miami Seatrade, the largest sea cruise fair in the world, announced that the largest sea cruise vessel in the Mediterranean and third largest in the world - the "Quantum of the Sea" of Royal Caribbean - will arrive at the port on May 18.

    [48] Greek stocks remain under pressure

    Greek stocks remained under pressure in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, ahead of a crucial meeting between the Greek Prime Minister and European leaders to discuss the Greek economy issue. A severe deterioration of climate in the domestic bond market also had a negative impact on Greek shares. The composite index of the market fell 1.94 pct to end at 723.66 points, after rising as much as 1.45 pct early in the session. The Large Cap index fell 1.92 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.94 pct lower. Turnover was an improved 117.22 million euros.

    Coca Cola HBC (1.25 pct), Alpha Bank (0.72 pct) and Folli Follie (0.25 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Ellaktor (8.57 pct), Viohalco (8.07 pct), Eurobank (6.59 pct) and OTE (4.71 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Among market sectors, Health (2.78 pct), Food (1.24 pct) and Commerce (0.45 pct) were top gainers, while Telecoms (4.71 pct), Constructions (3.64 pct) and Industrial Products (3.47 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 77 to 42 with another 14 issues unchanged. Leventeris (29.37 pct), Attikat (20 pct) and Selonda (20 pct) were top gainers, while VIS (27.13 pct), Vioter (19.76 pct) and Varvaresos (19.33 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Banks: -2.45%

    Insurance: Unchanged

    Financial Services: -1.93%

    Industrial Products: -3.47%

    Commerce: +0.45%

    Real Estate: -3.00%

    Personal & Household: -3.32%

    Food & Beverages: +1.24%

    Raw Materials: -0.89%

    Construction: -3.64%

    Oil: -2.73%

    Chemicals: -2.38%

    Media: Unchanged

    Travel & Leisure: -1.12%

    Technology: -0.73%

    Telecoms: +1.24%

    Utilities: -1.89%

    Health: +2.78%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Jumbo, OTE and EuroBank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE

    Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.28

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.84

    Coca Cola HBC: 16.25

    Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.46

    National Bank of Greece: 1.02

    OPAP: 7.85

    OTE: 8.10

    Piraeus Bank: 0.341

    Titan: 20.33

    Grivalia Properties: 7.4

    Aegean Airlines: 6.55

    [49] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.25 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 23,952 contracts with 44,484 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 190,302 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (80,851), followed by Alpha Bank (21,354), Piraeus Bank (44,802), National Bank (17,960), MIG (4,957), OTE (6,804), PPC (2,623), OPAP (722), Mytilineos (2,693), Hellenic Petroleum (1,560), Sidenor (460), METKA (191), GEK (562), Ellaktor (1,989), Jumbo (391) and Terna Energy (324).

    [50] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.0677

    Pound sterling 0.7183

    Danish kroner 7.4508

    Swedish kroner 9.2797

    Japanese yen 129.12

    Swiss franc 1.0595

    Norwegian kroner 8.6355

    Canadian dollar 1.3578

    Australian dollar 1.3966

    General News

    [51] ActionAid 'social experiment' on racism in Athens sends largely encouraging messages

    The results of an interesting "social experiment" carried out by the Greek chapter of 'ActionAid' were presented in Athens on Thursday, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, which showed that an encouragingly large number of people in the city are prepared to stand up for racism victims.

    The experiment was designed to gauge how people react when they witness a racist attack and employed the services of two actors, one Greek and the other Bangladeshi, to play out a racist verbal assault before unsuspecting witnesses. The "experiment" was held on February 20 in Athens' Syggrou-Fix area, at two separate bus stops, and involved the Greek actor verbally abusing the Bangladeshi actor as he sat on a bench, repeatedly demanding that he "get up off the bench so that a human being can sit down."

    The scene was repeated 22 times over eight hours and witnessed by more than 200 passers-by, while ActionAid cameras recorded the scene and the real reactions of the people waiting for the bus.

    Their findings were encouraging, for while a few kept quiet and even fewer approved of the insults, a far greater number reacted negatively and defended the victim. According to ActionAid's head of communications Anna Botsoglou, the group was "pleasantly surprised" that on 15 of the 22 occasions, those on witnessing the scene rose up in the victim's defence. On four occasions people did not become involved, on two occasions they applauded the attacker and on two occasions there was a mixed reaction, with people both defending the victim and supporting the attacker.

    "We are stronger against injustice than we think," the video produced by ActionAid concluded, stressing that it is up to every person to resist racist phenomena and stand up for its victims.

    Botsoglou said the social experiment was part of the group's ongoing campaign against racism that started a year ago and has produced another two videos, including one involving prominent Greek journalists, artists and athletes. The video footage can be viewed on the ActionAid website at the following address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhIaPWvW07o.

    [52] Partial solar eclipse visible in Greece from 10:39 a.m. on Friday

    A partial solar eclipse will be visible in Greece late on Friday morning, the National Observatory of Athens said, and it warned against looking at the Sun without special eye protection, especially in the case of children.

    The Observatory said the eclipse will occur tomorrow, March 20, from 10:39 a.m. to 12:49 p.m., with its deepest point occurring at 11:43 a.m.

    In safety instructions issued by Public Health Secretary General Yiannis Baskozos, the public is warned against looking at the eclipse directly without special glasses because of long-term damage to the eye's retina that may not be immediately felt. Specialists worldwide also warn against looking at the Sun through camera lens or mobile telephone cameras, while even sunglasses offer inadequate protection.

    [53] Folk artist Theofilos' paintings undergoing conservation on Lesvos

    The works of folk painter Theofilos (Hatzimichail) dated around 1930 on the northern Aegean island of Lesvos are being conserved by the ministry of culture, it said on Thursday.

    Eighty-six of Theofilos' paintings are exhibited at the Theofilos Museum in Varia. Of these, 23 have already been conserved and are exhibited in new museum-quality frames in the renovated museum.

    The works are painted on cloth directly, without any preparation, which makes them especially susceptible to wear. Around 1960, they had been nailed on wooden frames and placed in Plexiglas (R) frames, which made them hard to see by visitors because of the reflection; they had also developed mould and damaged by insects.

    Helping the non-invasive cleaning and restoration was the chemical engineering department of the National Polytechnic University and the microbiology department of the Athens Medical School.

    The paintings are being remounted on frames of beechwood, covered by an acrylic (Optium Museum Acrylic) that is unbreakable and unscratchable, and filters out 99 percent of ultraviolet light.

    [54] National Gallery guards to continue strike action on Sunday

    The guards at Greece's National Gallery will continue a strike-abstention this coming Sunday, the Panhellenic Union of Staff for Guarding Antiquities (PEYFA) announced on Thursday.

    The union said the strike will be continued since there had been no action on the part of those responsible for the problem that has arisen with the payment of overtime for Sundays and holidays. PEYFA said it was waiting for action from the alternate minister for culture in order to ensure the smooth running of the National Gallery.

    [55] Youths protesting for dead student shout slogans outside Ioannina's Dairy School

    Protests continued outside the Dairy School in the town of Ioannina, northwestern Greece, where bullying victim Vangelis Giakoumakis was studying until his death in early February.

    Protesting youths, who believe there are witnesses who may know what led the 20-year-old Giakoumakis to commit suicide and should come forward, gathered outside the School in the afternoon and started shouting insulting slogans. They then walked to where the body of Giakoumakis was found and about 50 protesters returned outside the heavily guarded School.

    The School's director said earlier that it is unacceptable to protest against violence by using violence.

    Weather forecast

    [56] Clouds, rain on Friday

    Clouds and rain and north-northwesterly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 03C-09C. Scattered clouds in the western parts with temperatures between 05C-14C. Clouds in the eastern parts with temperatures ranging from 03C-12C. Clouds and light showers over the islands, 09C-14C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 06C-12C. Clouds and rain in Thessaloniki, 03C-09C.

    [57] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: Respect to the agreement the only solution.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Alone against everyone.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Cutbacks in lump sums and with the new calculation system.

    ESTIA: Huge mistakes in the negotiation.

    ETHNOS: Crucial meeting for agreement or rift.

    IMERISSIA: Meeting in gloomy landscape.

    KATHIMERINI: Crucial meeting in heavy climate.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Partners' stance hardens.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Whatever happens in the the negotiation the people are doomed from the start.

    TA NEA: Zero visibility.

    TO PONTIKI: Dancing with the wolves.

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