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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-30

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

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

Monday, 30 March 2015 Issue No: 4922

CONTENTS

  • [01] Brussels Group talks continuing on Sunday, EU sources tell ANA-MPA
  • [02] Brussels Group discussed reform proposals
  • [03] PM Alexis Tsipras optimistic over proposals under review, stands by ministers
  • [04] Gov't reforms list does not include cutbacks promised by Samaras administration, spokesman reiterates to newspaper
  • [05] No recession measures or rise in VAT rates, FinMin Varoufakis says in interview to 'Sunday Vima'
  • [06] Leading German media say no progress over negotiations yet
  • [07] European Green Party delegation visiting Athens, meeting with several ministers Tuesday
  • [08] No dispute over legal status of Greek islands or islets, FM spokesman says
  • [09] Potami leader Theodorakis lashes out at government's double-faced policies and Grexit talk
  • [10] Golden Dawn MP Pappas released from jail pending trial, as detention period has expired
  • [11] Committee to evaluate hydrocarbon research, exploitation bids is set up at ministry
  • [12] Fitch downgrades Greece's long-term IDRs to 'CCC'
  • [13] Energy minister to visit Moscow and meet with Russian counterpart, Gazprom CEO
  • [14] New electronic system to track deposits as far back as 15 years, alternate FinMin minister tells newspaper
  • [15] Gov't to table act protecting Hellenic Sugar Industry workers, farmers
  • [16] Twelve released over explosion at Dafni police station; other incidents over the weekend
  • [17] Young Russian man knifes mother in front of his brother, 10, at Sofitel
  • [18] Car rolls into sea after absent-minded driver forgets handbrake
  • [19] Five arrested on Crete for separate cases of debt to the state, one owing 11mln-plus
  • [20] March against goldmine activity concludes without incident in Thessaloniki
  • [21] Freight train derails north of Thessaloniki
  • [22] 5.3 earthquake near Kassos island, southern Aegean
  • [23] Rainy on Monday
  • [24] The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Brussels Group talks continuing on Sunday, EU sources tell ANA-MPA

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The Brussels Group is continuing talks on Sunday, EU sources told ANA-MPA, who added that talks were constructive and progress was registered.

    The Group, consisting of representatives from the Greek government and Greece's creditors, has been discussing a list of reforms ahead of a Eurogroup Working Group teleconference tentatively scheduled for Wednesday. Sources said the Group's convening would depend on progress made by the Brussels Group in finalising the reform proposals.

    They added that there are no indications the Eurogroup - the eurozone's finance ministers - will meet within the coming week; it is more likely to be convened after the Catholic Easter, or after April 6, they said.

    [02] Brussels Group discussed reform proposals

    The Brussels Group has reached an initial agreement that the government's policies must transfer the burden of taxes from lower incomes to higher ones, instead of what was done by the previous administration, government sources said.

    The Brussels Group includes representatives of the Greek government and of the country's creditors.

    According to the government, on Saturday the Group discussed reform proposals in a detailed programme that foresees revenues of over 3 billion euros for 2015, does not include recession measures and actions that can bring a primary surplus of 1.5 percent of GDP and a growth rate of 1.4 percent. Details will be discussed at technical group level in Athens, they said.

    Negotiations are continuing, they added.

    [03] PM Alexis Tsipras optimistic over proposals under review, stands by ministers

    There will be no wage and pension cuts, mass layoffs or other recession measures that will worsen the social crisis, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated in an interview to "RealNews" newspaper published Saturday.

    Among other things, Tsipras said that the liquidity problem the Greek economy is facing will be resolved with the completion of the agreement on the reforms (being discussed at first phase in Brussels today, Saturday), and insisted that there is no discussion about a third loan or memorandum agreement.

    The prime minister stood by the alternate administrative reform minister (Katrougalos), the finance minister (Varoufakis) and the national defence minister (Kammenos) over what he called concerted efforts to discredit them, and said that he was happy in his collaboration with all three.

    Fighting corruption and vested interests was among the government's priorities, he stressed, and said large-scale depositor lists and suspicious state contracts were under review. In terms of privatisations, he said they are not called such by the government but are "growth consortiums with a strengthened participation of the state, in order to safeguard public interest and the undeviating compliance with labour and environmental legislation."

    Tsipras rejected early elections, added there is no reason for a meeting of all party leaders at this point and expressed willingness to meet with New Democracy leader and former premier Antonis Samaras if he wished to be briefed about developments. He also denied that top-level government or party officials had put their own personal interests above those of the government or SYRIZA, and said if he determines such is the case in the future, "this will not be tolerated."

    [04] Gov't reforms list does not include cutbacks promised by Samaras administration, spokesman reiterates to newspaper

    The government's list of reforms "does not include recession measures, in other words, cutbacks which the Samaras government had committed to" through an email by then finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis told Sunday's Avghi newspaper, adding that the list "entirely opposes the logic of memorandums."

    Sakellaridis said that the reforms list the economy officials drew up "can become the basis of a mutually beneficial agreement for us and the partners," meaning the creditors of Greece. The government, he claimed, had managed within two months to change the climate in Greek society.

    He also said that it was promoting the licensing of television channels "in order to put some order in the radio and television sector and allow the state to collect what it has a right to." As to the former public broadcaster ERT, replaced by current Nerit, he said it is a matter of weeks before it is re-established.

    [05] No recession measures or rise in VAT rates, FinMin Varoufakis says in interview to 'Sunday Vima'

    VAT rates will not be raised, nor will there be any recession measures, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told "Sunday Vima" newspaper.

    The finance minister's full statement runs as follows: "The negotiation is continuing by the hour. There will be no recession measures, or increases of VAT rates. On the contrary, we are presenting a comprehensive programme that will allow us to have a primary surplus in 2015 of 1.5 percent of the GDP, if of course the problem of the economy's liquidity is resolved on time. As you are aware, we have a noose around our necks."

    [06] Leading German media say no progress over negotiations yet

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)

    German media on Saturday said the Greek government had not submitted a list of reforms to be discussed that day and said a list would be drawn up jointly with its creditors.

    According to the Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS), "the Greek government, according to FAS information from negotiation-affiliated sources, has not yet submitted a list with reform plans to Brussels," which were scheduled to be discussed on Saturday.

    It confirmed that representatives of Athens and of the creditors (European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF) met on Friday evening for an initial meeting, but they discussed procedural issues. The creditors' representatives "complained about the inadequate lack of preparation for negotiations," the article said adding that technical-level talks in Athens had been repeatedly cancelled. It also added that negotiations continued on Saturday as of 13:00, and were expected to last all weekend-long. "The list of reforms will be drawn up jointly," the newspaper said, quoting creditor-affiliated sources and saying that a Eurogroup teleconference will take place on Wednesday.

    If there is a list by then, the finance minister could meet after the (Catholic) Easter in an emergency meeting, but the Greek Parliament must agree on certain negotiated reforms, FAS said. "If the eurozone finance ministers [the Eurogroup] approve the list [of reforms] and confirm the successful completion of the current reform programme, then a last loan tranche of 7.2 billion euros can be released to Greece," it said.

    The newspaper reported however that "creditor representatives were not given access to Greek ministries, despite the fact Prime Minister (Alexis) Tsipras had promised so to German Chancellor (Angela) Merkel on Monday," and quoted a participant on the creditors' side as saying "they were disappointing days."

    In its Sunday edition, news magazine Der Spiegel said that despite assertions to the contrary, the reality is that tension is running high. "Three months after his electoral victory, Tsipras is facing off with 18 governments of the eurozone countries that want to pressure the leftist politician to forget a large part of his campaign promises; if he does not yield, what all hope against will happen - Greece will leave the eurozone, it will be bankrupt and long-term political chaos will follow, perhaps all of these together."

    Der Spiegel said the dilemma Greece has to decide on is "reforms or bankruptcy," as set by the eurozone leaders, and said nothing will be left of the primary surplus that was expected to reach 3 percent of GDP. "Specialists assess that within the next few months there will be an additional fiscal gap of 10 to 20 billion, which must be dealt with with yet one more support package that could exceed 30 billion," the magazine said.

    It also said that during his visit to Berlin Tsipras presented Merkel with a list of 18 reforms focusing on tax revenues and promised free access to ministries for technical teams, which Der Spiegel said might not be kept, based on current indications.

    The magazine also said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who up to now had expressed optimism over the case, has started saying that the EU should be prepared for the eventuality of a Greek exit from the eurozone.

    [07] European Green Party delegation visiting Athens, meeting with several ministers Tuesday

    A delegation of the European Green Party (EGP) is expected in Athens on Monday to meet with Greek ministers on Tuesday, a press release from Greece's Ecologist Greens said on Saturday.

    The delegation will consist of EGP co-chair Monica Frassoni, Secretary General Mar Garcia Sanz, Committee member Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield of France's Greens party, and Europarliament Greens secretary Voula Tsetsi.

    On Monday the delegates will meet with the Ecologist Greens at their Athens offices on 14 Koumoundourou Street. On Tuesday they are scheduled to meet successively with the minister of economy (9:30 a.m.), the state minister for transparency (11:00 a.m.), the finance minister (12:00 noon), the alternate minister for migration policy (1:00 p.m.), and with alternate minister for the environment and the productive reconstruction, environment and energy minister (2:00 p.m.).

    They will be joined during all of their meetings by Ecologist Greens' Georgios Dimaras, who was elected deputy under the ticket of SYRIZA.

    Also on Tuesday, the EGP and the Ecologist Greens will give a press conference at 5:30 p.m., which the alternate minister for the environment will attend.

    [08] No dispute over legal status of Greek islands or islets, FM spokesman says

    There is no dispute or doubt about the legal status of any Greek island or islet in the Aegean, Foreign Ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras said on Sunday, in response to press questions.

    Koutras was asked to comment on statements made recently by the Turkish defence minister in the National Assembly, disputing Greece's sovereignty over a number of Greek islands.

    "No dispute or point of doubt whatsoever exists with regard to the status of any island or islet in the Aegean or the Eastern Mediterranean," Koutras responded, adding, "What's more, international legality is among the foundations of European culture and is not altered by intentions to violate international law or by unilateral statements or actions."

    [09] Potami leader Theodorakis lashes out at government's double-faced policies and Grexit talk

    Opposition Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis on Sunday charged the government of being double-faced, presenting a difference face domestically and another abroad, and said that despite their constant talking and meddlesomeness, the majority party SYRIZA could not put together a list of reforms.

    At a Potami meeting in Parliament, Theodorakis said the government's attitude was to pretend they are "sympathetic pro-Europeanists in Brussels and Berlin, and nationalist-populist and Stalinists in Athens" and made fun of them about relations with China: "'We will not turn the port into Chinatown!' the relevant minister says, and he has to go to Beijing before we find out that we will turn it into Chinatown with pleasure, as long as the Chinese help us a bit with 200 million in interest-bearing bills."

    Theodorakis called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to decide on whether he wants Greece to remain in the euro, as the Greek people have mandated, saying that decisions on the country's future are not an affair of a single party and called talks with European partners "a fiasco with negotiation amateurisms."

    Among other criticism he levelled at the government and its creditors, the Potami leader said, "As talkative as the ministers are - and some of them are meddlesome in terms of the [SYRIZA] party - they have not even managed to put together a list of reforms. It's because campaign rhetoric is one thing, and government policy is another."

    Some can and others are not able, Theodorakis said, "so Tsipras is obliged to transform himself from an enthusiastic European in Berlin to the manager of a suffocating inter-party and governmental environment that is dominated by personalities and fixations of the past."

    He added that it was imperative Tsipras take a clear stance: "Alexis Tsipras must decide - reforms and Greece's remaining in Europe, or exit and national tragedy, that is the dilemma." The Greek people's mandate is for "a state of justice with economic and social protection, a European country - not a country dipping its feet in obsessions and nationalisms with bowed citizens looking for Third World support," he charged.

    The Potami leader said time is running out and the only solution for Greece is to break with interests groups, unionists and those who undermine the country's European path, not to listen to those who paint a rosy picture of a transition to a local currency.

    [10] Golden Dawn MP Pappas released from jail pending trial, as detention period has expired

    Extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) deputy Christos Pappas was released from jail on Sunday, as the 18-month limit of pretrial detention has expired.

    Pappas, one of several Golden Dawn MPs being tried on charges of participating in a criminal organisation, was released on conditions and following an order of the Council of Appels Judges, acting on the recommendation of appeals prosecutor Dimitris Asprogerakas.

    The Council also issued restrictions, forbidding Pappas from leaving the country, travelling outside the region of Attica or by air or sea, and ordering him to present himself to a police department three times a month and to spend nights only at his home.

    Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and MP Yiannis Lagos have also been released at an earlier date, under conditions; they are both allowed to go to Parliament.

    The Golden Dawn trial is scheduuled to open in April.

    Financial News

    [11] Committee to evaluate hydrocarbon research, exploitation bids is set up at ministry

    An eleven-member committee to evaluate bids for hydrocarbon research and exploitation in three areas in Greece was set up at the ministry of productive reconstruction, environment and energy.

    The areas it will deal with cover Arta and Preveza (NW Greece), Etoloakarnania prefecture (central Greece) and NW Peloponnese.

    Bids were submitted on February 6 and the ministry wants to complete their evaluation by May. The tendering began after an initial expression of interest for research in the three areas by Italian-based ENEL, which did not end up participating in the tendering.

    Binding tenders have been submitted by Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) for Arta-Preveza and NW Peloponnese, and by Energean Oil & Gas for Arta-Preveza and Etoloakarnania. In a previous tendering, ELPE had assumed research in the Patras Gulf and Energean (which is exploiting the northern Greek Prinos fields) in Katakolo and Ioannina, NW Greece.

    Meanwhile, the deadline for submitting bids for research and exploitation of hydrocarbon beds in 20 marine areas in the Ionian Sea and the southern Cretan Sea is this May. Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis however has said the terms of the call for tenders must be reexamined for reasons of public interest and did not rule out the extension of the invitation for bids.

    [12] Fitch downgrades Greece's long-term IDRs to 'CCC'

    Fitch Ratings downgraded Greece's long-term foreign- and local currency issuer default ratings (IDRs) to 'CCC' from 'B' on Friday, and the short-term foreign currency IDRs to 'C' from 'B'.

    Fitch ascribed the downgrade to the high lack of market access, uncertain prospects of timely disbursement from official institutions (EU/IMF), and tight liquidity conditions in the domestic banking sector, which it said "have put extreme pressure on Greek government funding."

    It forecast that "the government will survive the current liquidity squeeze without running arrears on debt obligations," but said the heightened risks led the agency to downgrading the ratings.

    The damage to investor, consumer, and depositor confidence has almost certainly derailed?Greece's incipient economic recovery, it added, saying that the damage will take time to repair even if prospects for a successful programme completion improve over the coming days or weeks.

    [13] Energy minister to visit Moscow and meet with Russian counterpart, Gazprom CEO

    Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis will go on a two-day visit to Moscow as of Sunday, following an invitation by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.

    Lafazanis and Novak will meet on Monday to discuss energy relations between the two countries. He will also meet with Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, representatives of the Russian Duma and government officials.

    The Greek minister will be accompanied by parliamentary spokesman for majority coaliton partner SYRIZA Thanassis Petrakos.

    [14] New electronic system to track deposits as far back as 15 years, alternate FinMin minister tells newspaper

    A new electronic system will track bank deposits as far back as the last 15 years and help fight tax evasion by the wealthy, Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani told Sunday's Avghi newspaper.

    Valavani also said that cash registers will be linked electronically to the finance ministry's central information system and that payment by cards will be expanded.

    The bank deposit registry, she said, will give the authorities the ability to check immediately the real tax-paying ability of an individual. The registry "will facilitate the government's plans for the option of 'stating voluntarily' - without penal offences - funds of tax evasion, not from kickbacks or other criminal activities, that exist or have gone through bank accounts in Greece and abroad," Valavani explained.

    Doctors and lawyers will also be able to connect to the system, she said. In terms of the 12,000-euro tax exemption for individuals, the minister said that it will be legislated in the second half of this year and will be applied to 2015 revenues. "The only people we finally hope to burden [with taxes] are those who have been taxed at much lower rates than their actual tax-payment ability - due to tax evasion or the so-called legal tax evasion," Valavani said.

    Asked to comment on the lower VAT status on Greek islands, she said the reasons for reduced VAT rates on popular Aegean islands like Mykonos and Santorini are no longer valid. "I do not understand why thoughts of aligning these two islands with the VAT rates of the rest of the country raises protests, for example, from the mayor of Lesvos - is it out of solidarity?" she asked of the northeast Aegean island's mayor.

    Among other things, she said that taxes on drinks and cigarettes were already very high.

    [15] Gov't to table act protecting Hellenic Sugar Industry workers, farmers

    An act protecting workers of and farmers affiliated with the Hellenic Sugar Industry will be tabled in Parliament on Monday following its signing off by the cabinet, government sources said on Saturday.

    They added that the act was necessary to protect both plant workers and sugarcane farmers. The company is headquartered in Thessaloniki, with fields and plants in other northern Greek areas as well.

    General News

    [16] Twelve released over explosion at Dafni police station; other incidents over the weekend

    Twelve people were released early on Sunday after being rounded up by police on suspicion of placing self-made bombs outside the police station in the Dafni district of Athens on Saturday night.

    About 25 people wearing hoodies and helmets threw several bombs at the station a little after 22:30 on Saturday, damaging three police cars but without injuring anyone. Police of the motorcycle squad (Dias) arrested twelve people for identification.

    Early on Sunday morning, at 04:30, another police station was attacked by self-made bombs in the Zografos section of Athens, in a similar manner. They slightly damaged the entrance to the building and the roof of a police car parket outside. Police did not find them.

    In other incidents, this time around the Athens Polytechnic, two people aged 20 and 21 were arrested on Saturday and were expected to appear before prosecutors today, Sunday, following an anti-establishment rally in the centre of Athens. Case files were drawn up against them for damaging property and disturbing the peace.

    According to police, a group participating in a march from Monastiraki Square to Syntagma spraypainted buildings and injured a Monastiraki shop owner. Then some of the same people walked to the Polytechnic, entered the building and placed trash bins as barricades before setting them on fire, after which they attacked police with stones and other objects.

    The 21-year-old has been arrested previously for similar incidents in December 2014 and was set free on condition he would appear at the local police station the first half of each month.

    [17] Young Russian man knifes mother in front of his brother, 10, at Sofitel

    A 38-year-old Russian national was hospitalised and out of danger after her son, 20, knifed her several times at a Sofitel hotel room at Athens' International Airport early on Friday, it was announced on Saturday.

    The knifing took place in front of her other son, 10, and was attributed to her eldest son's mental problems; he had been hospitalised in Russia in the past.

    The family arrived from Russia to attend a furs trade fair at the Airport's expo centre. The woman was rescued by hotel staff who heard her screams and intervened before calling the police to arrest the young man. She was taken to the Erythros Stavros hospital and her youngest son to the Aglaia Kyriakou children's hospital, where he is being treated for shock.

    [18] Car rolls into sea after absent-minded driver forgets handbrake

    A car without its driver fell into sea at the Piraeus port area called "Pagoda" on Saturday.

    The 64-year-old owner told the port authorities that he had forgotten to put the handbrake on. The port's underwater unit checked the vehicle to confirm there were no passengers.

    [19] Five arrested on Crete for separate cases of debt to the state, one owing 11mln-plus

    A 63-year-old man was arrested in Crete's main city of Iraklio, following an economic prosecutor's order, for debts to the state exceeding 11 million euros.

    The Iraklio police also arrested another four people, aged 40-48, for debts ranging from 50,287 to 478,031 euros. All five were led before the local misdemeanours prosecutor.

    [20] March against goldmine activity concludes without incident in Thessaloniki

    A protest against goldmining in Halkidiki peninsula, northern Greece, ended peacefully in Thessaloniki on Saturday.

    Protesters marched from Tsimiski Street and concluded at the White Tower. They briefly stopped at the central Aristotelous Square to form the letters "SOS" with leaves from branches they held during the march, to emphasise their environmental concerns over the goldmine's activity.

    The march was organised by the "Committees of Struggle Against the Goldmines" and attended by main ruling coalition party SYRIZA deputies Despina Charalambidou and Tassos Kourakis and Communist Party of Greece deputy Athanassios Vardalis.

    [21] Freight train derails north of Thessaloniki

    A freight train from Thessaloniki heading to Hungary was derailed at the Gefyra community in northern Greece on Saturday morning, slightly injuring two engine drivers who were conveyed to a local health centre for first aid.

    The train is carrying electronic equipment from Iconio, in the Piraeus port area. Fifteen of a total of 30 cars were derailed, blocking the Thessaloniki-Belgrade rail traffic.

    [22] 5.3 earthquake near Kassos island, southern Aegean

    A strong earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale occurred on Saturday. Its epicenter was at sea 67 km northwest of Kassos island, a southern Aegean island lying east of Crete, the National Observatory of Athens and University of Thessaloniki said.

    Weather forecast

    [23] Rainy on Monday

    Overcast with rain developing over most of the country on Monday, with low visibility in parts of the country early in the morning. Mostly southerly winds, from 3 to 5 Beaufort, rising to 7 at the Aegean Sea and the eastern mainland and Evia. Temperatures from 7C to 20C. In Athens, the same, but with periods of clear skies and sunshine. Westerly winds 3-5 Beaufort. Temperatures from 9C to 19C. In Thessaloniki, the same with weaker southerly winds. Temperatures from 8C to 16C.

    [24] The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: "Online 'deposit registry' to fight tax evasion"

    DIMOKRATIA: "What we consume - 6 billion euros annually to creditors (France, Germany, Holland) for milk, meat, wheat"

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Breaking the piggy-bank of insurance funds for 3 billion euros"

    ETHNOS: "The secret contract for [state] funding"

    KATHIMERINI: "Goal: Compromise by April 8"

    LOGOS: "Shocking tax for thousands of owners"

    RIZOSPASTIS: "'New list' of measures finalised, at expense of populace"

    TO VIMA: "High acrobatics with empty coffers"

    VRADYNI: "Social security: Big changes in early pensions, age limits"

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: ANTONIS SKYLLAKOS


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