|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-03-31
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 31 March 2015 Issue No: 4923
 PM Tsipras issues call to opposition parties to rally in national effortPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on opposition parties to rally in a national effort to end austerity, in his address to Parliament on Monday night on the current developments in negotiations with the country's creditors.
It is time to speak the truth, he said, explaining, "We seek an honest compromise with our partners. But do not expect us to sign a truce with no terms. This is the reason we are under merciless attack, but this is also the reason that society supports us.
Opposition parties must respond tonight whether they will support the negotiation policy of the government to end the austerity that destroyed the economy and Greek society or be mouthpieces of those who created the loan memorandum, he said.
He called on parties that ruled in the past five years to explain what the reforms were that they carried out to benefit Greece, and asked main opposition New Democracy leader and former premier Antonis Samaras why he forgot the memorandum obligations to institute licencing of radio and television stations and control tax evasion. "The new Greek government is negotiating, fighting and bleeding to end the bleeding of the majority of the Greek people," he said, adding that the reforms list supplied to the partners will change the country.
Tsipras referred to the "unprecedented state of credit asphyxiation the country is experiencing," the only country he said that is not refinancing its loans but repays them from its budget "even though some saw to it that this asphyxiating situation was created, knowing that change is coming to Greece."
The present government of social salvation did not hesitate to speak the language of truth and claim what has been forgotten, the prime minister said - including words like "dignity" and "Siemens" - even within Berlin.
 Samaras: The government signed the continuation of the bailout programme on February 20Main opposition leader Antonis Samaras said on Monday his party will support the government but will not adopt any measure presented.
Speaking in parliament, the president of New Democracy (ND) criticised Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for not properly briefing Parliament on the ongoing negotiations and noted he the government of "criticizing the opposition for the benefit of his own party members."
"You strike us who don't govern to warn your own people who don't let you govern. You're not governing and the country is sinking," Samaras said and wondered whether Tsipras convened the House on Monday evening to make the opposition "partly responsible for a probable rupture, which is where you are leading the country."
He also wondered whether ruling SYRIZA's component groups agree with the privatization of Piraeus Port Authority or the airports and spoke of a "theatre of virtual negotiation", the cost of which will be paid by the people.
Samaras said you cannot speak of a negotiation when you don't present numbers and data which the government refused to provide it to the technical teams of the institutions.
Referring to Greece's fiscal gap, Samaras warned that whatever cannot be covered by the budget will have to be covered by our partners with a new loan "because we cannot enter the markets yet" and concluded saying the government signed the continuation of the bailout proramme on February 20 without getting anything and now it's threatening with a credit event.
 ANEL rep calls for opposition to support national effortIndependent Greeks (ANEL) party parliamentary spokesman Nikos Nikolopoulos, speaking on behalf of party leader Panos Kammenos who is on an official visit to the United States, appealed to all opposition parties to "understand how critical the times are and support the national effort," on Monday night in Parliament.
The representative of the junior coalition member said that his party continued to support the government of Alexis Tsipras "because it is truly negotiating".
 Potami leader: We will support gov't but will fight idea of return to the drachmaPotami will support the government on certain issues like the debt, which needs restructuring, but it will fight the ideologies of a section of majority ruling coalition party SYRIZA, Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said in Parliament on Monday evening.
"The real dilemma is - clashing with the interests that stand to win from the crisis, [and] the lobby supporting the return to the drachma, or staying in Europe," Theodorakis said, charging that some SYRIZA deputies supported the return to the drachma and calling for brave reforms instead of a catastrophic exit from the euro that would lead to a national tragedy.
Responding to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' call to parties to clarify whether they agree with the measures on the humanitarian crisis or the regulation of 100 installments for repayment of outstanding debts, Theodorakis said Potami voted for them although the latter was not a reform, and he asked for a minimum guaranteed wage to be introduced.
Potami's leader asked the government to clarify its position on whether it was for or against Europe and Chinese investments in Greece, and whether it planned to follow the previous administration's agreement to turn over the airports to German interests. Among other things, he asked for more incentives to attract investments to Greece and for a check for tax evasion on all lists the government had of Greek deposits abroad.
 Talks at Brussels Group meeting are proceeding in a good climateDiscussions at the Brussels Group meeting continue and progress has been achieved on some aspects of the negotiations, government sources said on Monday.
"Discussions at the Brussels Group meeting are continuing in a good climate and it is recognized - by both sides - that progress has been made on some points of the negotiations," the sources said.
Answering "various media reports which insist on presenting the Greek side as 'unprepared', or that 'there are frictions' within the Greek delegation", the sources noted that "if they're not trying to undermine discussions, they are simply altering reality."
According to the government, the Greek side has substantiated positions which are presented to the institutions during arduous and lengthy negotiations. Some of these proposals are accepted, while others are not.
The same sources noted that reports presenting the government's list of reforms indeed include some of the measures included in the list submitted to the Brussels Group, but the list is longer and more detailed.
 EC spokesman; Deliberations with Brussels Group constructiveBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
The fact that the experts' discussions were held throughout the weekend and continue today is a positive sign that indicates all sides' volition and seriousness to deliberate in a constructive way, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Monday.
Schinas noted that the discussions are constructive and have been underway since Friday in Brussels within the context of Brussels Group but as he said "we have not yet reached an agreement and for this reason the discussions will continue in Athens to collect data". The aim of all these deliberations is to secure that this list of reforms is reliable and complete, Schinas stated. However, he refused to comment on the details of the discussion because they are in progress.
EC spokesman also said that the Euro Working Group will discuss the Greek issue at its next meeting in order to find the best way for progress. He also said that there might be a Euro Working Group teleconference before the Catholic Easter and another meeting which is scheduled for April 8.
Finally, Schinas reiterated that the responsible body for the disbursement of the installments is the Eurogroup after the preparation discussion on a Euro Working Group level.
 Brussels Group consultations in Athens continuing, Moscovici tells European ParliamentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)
European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Monday told the European Parliament that the Brussels Group was continuing consultations in Athens in an effort to collect the figures needed. He expressed support for Greece's presence in the Eurozone, noting its importance for the Greek people.
He said that the two sides were working together "in a good climate" but that "things are not that simple." Noting that it was not easy, he said the teams were working night and day and at weekends and that everyone was mobilised.
Moscovici said that he was in favour of not obstructing growth, competitiveness and employment while also dealing with the problems faced by society, adding that "this is what we are working for".
He said the main target was to take into account the priorities based on what the Greek people want while, at the same time, he stressed that it was fundamental for Greece to respect its obligations to its partners.
The Commissioner also warned that time was running out and deadlines were approaching.
 Economy Minister Stathakis is optimistic over the outcome of negotiations with partnersEconomy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis on Monday expressed his optimism over the outcome of the negotiations with the partners, adding that the positive climate will also affect the markets.
These statements were made on the sidelines of a meeting with German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth who referred to his country's intention to assist by all means the Greek government's efforts so that Greece exits recession as soon as possible while at the same time reducing the alarmingly high rates of youth unemployment and addressing the humanitarian crisis in the Greek society.
Roth stressed the importance of continuing the bilateral business cooperation in Greece and expressed his readiness to discuss on specific proposals to strengthen areas of common interest related to new development institutions and administrative reforms and create conditions for restructuring the Greek economy. He also noted that bilateral efforts are being made to simplify procedures in order to boost the exports of Greek products to the German market.
 The government said 'No' to mass layoffs and pension and wages cuts, Alternate FinMin saysThe government's economic team said 'No' to mass layoffs and pension cuts in the negotiations with the lenders in Brussels, Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas on Monday told Mega TV.
"We convinced them that there is no reason to discuss this issue anymore considering the measures which we are proposing and which can give equivalent results," he said referring to pensions and noted that the issue was also discussed in Berlin in the meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
On the negotiations he said: "I don't see any specific opposition on the part of the Brussels Group. We said 'No' to mass layoffs - this is a point on which there is still some discussion - 'No' to pension cuts... and you realize that if this happens, it would be very painful. The position on a mass increase in VAT on hotels, medicine, food is the third point which we do not discuss and which apparently has been comprehended and the fourth point is a 'No' to privatizations the way they used to be carried out by the previous government," he said.
 Labour issues still the main disagreement at Brussels Group, Alternate FinMin saysLabour issues remain the main point of disagreement at the Brussels Group, according to Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas.
"We say 'no' to the mass layoffs, there is no disagreement as far as it regards pensions and VAT," Mardas on Monday said in statements to ANT1 TV. "Is there a reason to cause a rupture for two or three reasons? This is a basic issue at the Brussels Group and among the senior officials," he added.
Referring to the content of the reform list, Mardas urged against any rush on the ENFIA (Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax) issue, adding that Greece's proposals are quantitative and equivalent measures of 5 billion euros have been submitted and, according to sources, have been approved.
On the VAT, he said there will not be an overall increase, saying that "it is one of the four measures that are still open." However, he ruled out a horizontal increase in VAT on medicine, hotels and food.
Regarding the special tax on heating oil and diesel, he said that the government's position is to "return to a settlement that is similar to the one of the past, so that there is a difference between the heating oil and diesel. That means that the heating oil will be around 60 cents per litre and diesel will be reduced to the lowest levels."
 Alternate Social Insurance Minister Stratoulis on pensions and negotiations"We are seeking a positive agreement. A positive agreement is the one that does not include memorandum measures and will not continue the memorandum policies," Alternate Social Insurance Minister Dimitris Stratoulis on Monday said in statements to REAL FM.
Asked on the government's red lines, he said that "there cannot be any measures for the social security system, there cannot be measures for the reduction of pensions" and added: "We have sent 17 proposals which have been totally priced and they are based on the prime minister's programmatic statements..."
Asked on the institutions, Stratoulis said: "If we accept the rationale of the institutions that insist on continuing the zero deficit clause on supplementary pensions, the new formula on lump sums and the extension of the zero deficit clause to the main pensions, then, based on their rationale, we should kill all retired Greeks, so as not to have deficits in pension funds."
"If they insist on the zero deficit clause, based on their rationale, supplementary pensions should be reduced by 90 percent," the Alternate minister noted.
Referring to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' interview to Real news, he stressed: "The government's red line is not to make any changes in the social security system, based on their own priorities, changes that would trigger new reductions in pensions and less social security benefits. Our point of view is not to have any reductions this year and abolish the zero deficit clause."
 Greece has yet to submit a detailed reform list, German Finance ministry spokesman saysBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
Athens has not yet submitted a detailed reform list, Martin Jaeger, a spokesman of the German Finance ministry, said on Monday. He also underlined that the disbursement of further funds for Greece will only be possible if Athens implements new reforms.
Jaeger cleared out that the negotiations between the Greek government and the creditors continue, adding that the date of the Eurogroup meeting has not yet been defined. "We have to wait for the Greek side to present a full list of reforms, which will be suitable for discussion with the institutions and then with the Eurogroup," Jaeger noted.
 IMF installment will be paid on time, finance ministry saysGreece will pay the IMF installment due on April 9 normally, the finance ministry said on Monday.
Although the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) has to change, the ministry underlined that it might remain through 2015, while as regards the tax-exempt ceiling of 12,000 euros for individuals, it said it will be implemented gradually.
The finance ministry denied news on the imposition of a Fat Tax (taxation of products with high content of saturated fats) and tax increases on alcohol and cigarettes, pointing out that in addition to the first list of reforms sent to the country's creditors, a second list with structural reforms has also been sent.
 Greece-Cyprus ties are inextricable, Greek President Pavlopoulos saysNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos)
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who is on an official visit to Cyprus, on Monday said that the ties between Greece and Cyprus are inextricable and that no crisis will affect them.
In a joint press conference with President Nicos Anastasiades, following a meeting at the Presidential Mansion, Pavlopoulos noted: "The friendly and brotherly ties between Cyprus and Greece are imperishable and inextricable and they will remain as such. The economic crisis couldn't and will not affect these ties, which will help us deal with all the challenges."
"Our strength lies in our unity and we will secure this at every cost," he said.
Pavlopoulos said it is a tradition for all Greek Presidents to pay their first official visit abroad to Cyprus, noting, however, that keeping tradition is not about formalities but "it is substantial under the current circumstances."
He also said that Greece supports Cyprus in its efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, as this is an obligation of the Hellenic Republic, noting that it is unthinkable for Cyprus to be under occupation.
He added that the pausing of the discussions, because of the presence of Turkish "Barbaros" research vessel in the Cyprus EEZ, was a right thing to do as is the view for the talks not to resume unless the vessel returns to Turkey.
"We support the process of discussion under the auspices of the United Nations as regards the core of the solution, which can only result from the full implementation of the United Nations decisions, namely the international law and to fully respect the European institutional acquis," he noted.
He said that Cyprus is a full member of the European Union and the Eurozone and any solution that would make its course in those two bodies impossible or difficult, is not feasible. "A solution to the Cyprus issue that would violate the European institutional acquis would be an insult to Europe," he noted.
He noted that the borders of Cyprus are also the borders of the EU and Cyprus' ability to make use of its natural resources and exercise its sovereignty within its borders also related to the ability of the EU to exercise the same rights.
Any violation of the the Cyprus EEZ is a violation of the EU EEZ and that means than every time Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey violate the Cyprus EEZ, they insult the EU itself, he said. He also added that that Turkish stance also affects its candidacy for EU membership.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, on his part, described his earlier meeting with Pavlopoulos as important and substantial. He added that he briefed him on the latest developments over the Cyprus issue and the prospects for dialogue.
"I saw the unselfish interest of the government and the Greek people in a solution that would safeguard human rights and the evolution of the Cyprus Republic to a modern European state," Anastasiades said.
He added that they discussed the current economic conditions in both countries as well as the course of reforms that they have undertaken.
"We expressed our determination for the unwavering support of the Greek government in its effort to deal with the economic and humanitarian crisis," Anastasiades said.
He noted that they reiterated the common position on the discovery and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the region, as it was recently expressed during Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' recent visit. He also said that Pavlopoulos' visit confirms the interest of the Greek President personally and of the country for the long lasting support of Cyprus.
 President Pavlopoulos says a visit to Ankara would be meaningless unless there is progress on Cyprus and continental shelfNICOSIA (ANA-MPA / A. Viketos)
Hellenic Republic President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday commented here that he could visit Ankara if there is progress on the Cyprus issue and the continental shelf dispute between Greece and Turkey.
Responding to a question put by a reporter for the Greek public broadcaster NERIT, on the invitation extended to him by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Turkey, Pavlopoulos said that he responded that a visit to Ankara would be meaningless unless it signals specific progress on the two key issues mentioned.
President Pavlopoulos underlined that plain visits do not offer anything at all. On the contrary, he said, they can complicate things and be misinterpreted.
"If steps of progress and good will are not made by Turkey on these two issues, which for us are uniform, there can be no such visit. Not because we don't want good relations with Ankara. We want them and we seek them but because, and I stress this, it is necessary to have progress and by talking about progress, we mean implementation of international and European law. Unfortunately, we have reached the point of asking for the self-evident but this is the international reality and we have to adjust to it," the president said.
"Sooner or later and despite the difficulties, he international and European law will be implemented," he underlined.
President Pavlopoulos said that it would be very fortunate if the EU participated in the negotiations on the Cyprus issue with a representative who could guarantee that the proposals tabled by both sides are compatible with the European law. "Even if this is not made possible, Cyprus, as a full EU member, could ask for the responsible legal services' opinion on whether a solution is compatible with the institutional European aquis," he added.
The president also said that he is ready to undertaken initiatives that will support the promotion of Greece's fair demands to lead its economy out of the crisis and address the humanitarian crisis, clarifying that the initiatives will be undertaken in consultation with the government.
 Violation of Cyprus EEZ a violation of EU and European law, Greek President saysNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos)
Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone is an area protected by European law and any violation of this area is also "a violation of the European Union and European law," President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Monday. Pavlopoulos was addressing a special session of the Cypriot Parliament in Cyprus, where he is on an official visit.
The Greek president noted that Turkey's EU accession course must not continue on these terms, adding that this message must be sent to the EU.
"We do not forget that there is an occupation army on Cyprus and our partners should not forget this either," he said.
"We unite our voice with Greece, the efforts it is making to demonstrate the self-evident, namely that growth cannot prosper in conditions of recession, unemployment and social impoverishment," Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Yiannakis Omirou said in his speech.
 President Pavlopoulos comments on Germany's role in EUNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos)
Germany's role within the European Union was the focus of statements that visiting President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos made here on Monday, after a meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.
"Germany herself should strive to exist as Germany within the EU. In other words, Germany should strive to be a European Germany," Pavlopoulos said.
Given the wisdom of the German spirit and its political life, the president added, he would never like to think that the majority in the German political system could consider it possible for the EU to exist as a German Europe.
Pavlopoulos also referred to his discussion with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble, whom he described as a friend, saying that this talk also led him to understand that Germany was seeking to be a European country.
The Greek president said that he did not dare to even think that "anyone in the framework of the EU - the EU built on all those visions, which we know what they wanted to avoid immediately after WWII - is thinking, no matter how powerful they may be, in terms of extortion."
Pavlopoulos expressed his conviction that the problems currently faced by Greece and Cyprus will end in the best possible way for the EU itself.
He stressed the importance of remembering that both countries had been hurt by the memorandum process and "by mistakes that happened in Cyprus, in Greece" but also that the general course toward the memorandums and in the implementation of the memorandums, "included mistakes that did not concern the two countries but the lack of experience and readiness on the part of the EU and Eurozone to deal with a global economic crisis."
Greece's president noted that economic union and monetary union were not an end in themselves. "They are policies that must be followed and precisely observed in order for principles and values on which the EU was founded to be made strong," he said.
 Gov't mulling changes to system for police promotions, minister tells ParliamentThe government is considering changes to the legislation governing career advancement and promotions in the police force, Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Yiannis Panousis said in a document sent to Parliament on Monday.
He said recent promotions were conducted with "full transparency" but the ministry was already looking into a system based on an annual evaluation, using objective criteria and quantifiable indicators of efficiency and job performance. The minister said these plans will also be discussed with trade union organisations and legislative intervention will soon follow.
The minister was replying to a question tabled by main opposition New Democracy MP Stefanos Gikas, who referred to complaints about the way the recent promotions in the police were conducted and asserted that "several capable officers" had been "axed" in the process.
Responding, Panoussis simply outlined the procedure followed by the relevant police promotions councils, noting that their decisions were binding for the minister and that all minutes from these council meetings and their decisions were kept.
The same MP also tabled a similar question for Defence Minister Panos Kammenos concerning the retirement of Lieut. Gen. Christos Manolas after only one year at the head of the Army General Staff. Replying, the minister said the selection of new leadership cast no aspersions on the worth of outgoing chiefs but "simply marked the end of a cycle".
He also repeated the defence ministry's plans to introduce a specific term of service for armed forces chiefs, of either three or four years, in order to ensure the smoother running of the armed forces, adding that relevant legislation will be tabled in Parliament soon.
 Defence Minister Kammenos wraps up visit to NY stateNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Monday wrapped up a visit to New York City, where he represented the Greek government in events commemorating the Greek Independence Day (March 25).
Events culminated in the annual parade down Fifth Avenue this past Sunday (March 29) which was organised by the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York and attended by several dignitaries including the state's Senator (D) Charles Schumer and House of Representatives (D) Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Greek representatives from the UN and embassies, and Greek-American community members. Governor Mario Cuomo was the parade's grand marshal.
During his visit, Kammenos met among others with NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio and is scheduled to meet with Archbishop Demetrios this evening (Greek time), Monday, after meeting with American Jewish Committee representatives.
Kammenos was accompanied in the United States by the National Defence General Staff Chief General Michail Kostarakos and the Hellenic Navy General Staff Chief Vice-Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
 KKE on Defence Minister Kammenos' statements during US visitCommunist KKE party on Monday commented on Defence Minister Panos Kammenos' visit to the US and spoke of "unacceptable and dangerous statements."
"He tried to present the joint sharing of the energy resources of the Aegean and the country with the United States as a panacea for the exit from the capitalist crisis. However, life shows that the issues of energy, in conditions of capitalism and escalation of counter-imperialist conflicts, cannot secure prosperity but are a 'magnet' for conflicts and bloody confrontations, the 'source' of the division of countries and other ills," KKE said.
"The government has a major responsibility. Calling on the US to play the role of the transatlantic regulator of the country's energy resources and their presence as a power of stability is a provocation to our people," it added.
"Experience has proved that these 'solutions' not only do they undermine sovereign rights but lead our people to new adventures," the party noted among others.
It added that Kammenos' statements were made a few days before Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' visit to Moscow which shows that the new Greek government aims at "risky maneuvers in the geopolitical conflict of capitalist 'giants', seeking to get the biggest possible benefits for the country's bourgeoisie."
 Parliament President Konstantopoulou to meet with visiting OHCHR regional representative for EuropeParliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou will meet on Tuesday with visiting Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Representative for Europe Jan Jarab, it was announced on Monday.
The UN High Commissioner representative is on a three-day visit to Greece and will be accompanied by UN Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) in Brussels desk officer for Greece and Cyprus Dimitris Fatouros.
 Minister says judge will decide change of venue for Golden Dawn trialIt is in the court's discretion to decide if the Golden Dawn (GD) party criminal organisation case should be tried elsewhere instead of at Korydallos Prison, Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos on Monday said, clarifying that at this moment the option of a change is not available.
Responding to a current question by ruling SYRIZA party MP Vassiliki Katrivanou, the minister said that the country does not have the necessary infrastructure for such a trial and the place selected, in the women's wing section of the jail, was the most suitable under the circumstances.
"If the presiding judge finds that the proper conditions for a trial are missing, he or she can interrupt the proceedings and the justice ministry will be obliged to present an alternative solution," the minister said.
He also said that the court proceedings cannot be recorded, noting that the cost will be too high for the ministry to bear.
 Council opinion puts a brake on beach exploitation by municipalitiesThe right to use of the beaches cannot be granted to municipalities by a single, one-size-fits-all ministerial decision, the Council of State said on Monday, in a case on how coastal cities can utilise beaches for revenues, whether on their own or by granting licences to third parties.
The fifth section of the Council, the country's highest administrative court, said that the exploitation of beaches must be carried out "singly, per case, and after individualised decision by [local] management."
Because of the significance of the issue, however, the Council's section referred it to a larger section for a final ruling.
The opinion came after an injunction filed by the Athens Bar Association, asking for cancellation of a 2009 ministerial decision allowing municipalities to award contracts directly to third parties.
 Money given to local gov't organisations to repay debts should not be counted as revenuesThe grants paid from the state budget to local government organisations and their legal entities for the repayment of overdue obligations to third parties are non-refundable and not deducted from the resources earmarked for local government, according to a document of the Interior ministry sent to local administrations, municipalities and prefectures around the country on Monday.
This is why these amounts should not be included in their audit books as revenues which affect their annual budgets. Instead, these amounts should be registered as "emergency funding", the ministry said, adding that if they are included in their revenues it would give the wrong impression of the real economic state of local government organisations.
 Energy Minister Lafazanis on meetings with Russian counterpart, Gazprom CEO, in MoscowMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
A new chapter opened in relations between Greece and Russia, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said from Moscow after meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller.
Novak, who invited Lafazanis, told him he was asked by Russian President Vladimir Putin to examine the perspectives of a collaboration between the two countries, ahead of the visit to Moscow of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on April 8 and his meeting with Putin.
Lafazanis, who began his two-day visit on Sunday, said Greece is interested in a new energy policy which will serve Greek interests "without subservience and satellite relations and complexes" and would look for opportunities at all four points of the horizon. "In general, we want to develop our relations with Russia for the benefit of both countries, and for stability and security in Europe," he said.
Gazprom's Miller expressed concern that the consumption of Russian natural gas in Greece has dropped and said "we understand what it is attributed to and we hope the new government corrects the situation."
Miller said the European Commission did its best to stop the South Stream pipeline, but if the EU does not create its own infrastructure up to the Greek-Turkish borders, than up to 47 billion metric tonnes of natural gas will be disposed of in the free market at the borders with Greece. According to Miller, of the 63 billion tonnes of natural gas the new pipeline will convey after its completion, 16 of them will be disposed of on Turkish territory for its needs and the rest will be disposed of either in Europe or in the free market. From 2019 on, Russia will not renew the contract for conveying its natural gas through the pipeline network on Ukrainian territory, thus cancelling forever this path for Euro-Russian relations.
In statements to ANA-MPA after meeting with both officials, Lafazanis said, "With the two meetings today, especially with the one we had with Energy Minister Novak, a new chapter opens in energy cooperation between the two countries of Russia and Greece, and a new chapter in Greek-Russian relations overall."
Lafazanis is also expected to meet with representatives of the Russian Duma and government officials before returning to Greece.
 Government expects 3.7 billion euros in revenues from reforms packageThe Greek government expects revenues of 3.7 billion euros from the introduction of a reform package currently discussed with the country's creditors in the Brussels Group.
These reforms include, among others, the introduction of taxes on Greek citizens' deposits abroad - with an expected revenue of around 750 million euros - more favourable terms for repaying overdue debt to the state, combating smuggling and licensing of television stations. The government also envisages revenues of up to 1.5 billion euros from privatisations at Piraeus Port, regional airports and horse betting license.
The primary surplus is expected to surpass 1.2 pct of GDP this year, to around 1.5 pct, with the introduction of a package of reform measures with a fiscal impact of 3.7 billion euros. The biggest part of these revenue will come from controls on deposits abroad (725 million), combating tax evasion on VAT (350 million), licensing of TV stations (350 million), more favourable terms of repaying overdue debts to the state (600 million), simplification of income tax code (300 million), a lottery on retail receipts scheme (270 million), combatting smuggling on cigarettes and fuel (250 million) and new tenders for e-gaming (200 million).
GDP growth is projected at 1.4 pct this year, down from an initial estimate of 2.9 pct, and to 2.9 pct in 2016. The unemployment rate is expected to total 23.4 pct this year, instead of an earlier estimate of 22.6 pct, falling to 21.1 pct in 2016. The inflation rate will remain in negative territory this year (-0.5 pct), returning to positive ground (-0.6 pct) in 2016. These estimates are based on the assumption that the government will postpone a zero deficit clause for supplementary pensions and will re-introduce a 13th pension payment for low pensioners. The postponement of a zero deficit clause will cost 326 million euros.
In terms of privatisation, the proceeds target was revised down to 1.5 billion euros this year, from 2.2 billion initially, reflecting the sale of Piraeus port, horse-betting licensing and a tender on regional airports.
The programme envisages measures to strengthen the autonomy of Public Revenue Secretariat General, abolishing all early retirement schemes, modernising a revenue collection code, streamlining transactions between the state and taxpayers, introducing an organic law on budget, promoting out-of-court compromise deal on non-servicing loans, a more efficient court legislation and finally improving the credibility and independence of Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
The government will also examine previous reforms pledges covering public administration, bankruptcy law, professional and services markets. It also recommends the creation of an investment programme in cooperation with European Investment Bank and managing the non-performing loans problemme through the set-up of a bad bank, using the 10.9 billion euros cushion of the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund.
 Emphasis will be on supporting small and medium sized tourism enterprises, Alternate Tourism Minister saysEmphasis will be given to helping small and medium-sized tourism enterprises, Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura on Monday said at the meeting of the Confederation of Businessmen of Rented Rooms & Apartments in Greece.
The ministry will secure all available EU and national funds, as well as special programmes with a new incentive policy, which will enhance the small and medium-sized tour operator while boosting domestic tourism, she said, adding that there are many possibilities.
Kountoura also noted that "emphasis will be given on expanding the programmes of Social Tourism and Tourism for All, on a new modern and flexible institutional framework to support entrepreneurship, on subsidies for modernisation and personnel training, on integration into NSRF programmes, on tourism for people with disabilities and the elderly."
"Small and medium sized tourism entrepreneurs represent the majority of tourism businesses. Our goal is to support these businesses and give them new tools to continue contributing to the great development effort of the country," she added.
 Two-month extension to tenders for hydrocarbons research and exploitation in 20 sea block in Ionian Sea and south of CreteProductive Restructuring, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis gave a two month extension for the submission of tenders for research and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the 20 sea blocks in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete island.
The tenders must be submitted on July 14 instead of May 14.
According to the ministry, the extension was considered necessary so that the ministry's efforts and information initiatives are stregthened with the aim to increase the interest of countries and companies in the energy development of the specific area.
A series of initiatives to inform countries and companies will be undertaken on a wider internation level within the context of the development of Greece's multilateral and multidimensional international energy relations.
Moreover, the ministry forms a new institutional framework in the sectors of hydrocarbons research and exploitation which will be applied to the competition procedures that will follow.
On Sunday, an evaluation committee that will examine the tenders that have been submitted for hydrocarbons research in the areas of Arta and Preveza, Etoloakarnania and Achaia was formed.
 NBG chief Katseli to participate in Euro50 Group meeting in FrankfurtNew appointed National Bank of Greece president Louka Katseli will be in Frankfurt on Monday to attend the Euro50 Group on the issue "Monetary Policy in Time of Turbulence".
The Euro50 Group will focus on issues of monetary policy particularly of the European Central Bank within the context of the international economic crisis.
Katseli, who is member of the Euro50 Group will speak at today's opening debate while on Tuesday she will attend a dinner at which the European Central Bank's chief Mario Draghi will be the keynote speaker.
Euro50 Group, comprised by a group of eminent personalities from Europe, former ministers, heads of financial institutes and academics, monitors and submits documentated proposals regarding the course and the growth of the eurozone.
 Alt. Shipping Minister and Pireaus mayor discuss organisation of European Maritime Day eventsAlternate Minister for Shipping Theodoros Dritsas on Monday had a meeting with Piraeus Mayor Yiannis Moralis to discuss the organisation of European Maritime Day 2015 events, which are to be held in Piraeus this May. They also discussed cooperation between the municipality and the ministry on organisation and communications issues and issues affecting Piraeus.
The European Maritime Day 2015 Piraeus Conference will take place over four days (May 28-31) and focus on ports and coasts as engines for Blue Growth. Piraeus will also celebrate its maritime community on 30 and 31 May.
The events will also feature sessions, stakeholder workshops and exhibitions to be held in the Athens Concert Hall on May 28-29, in addition to public happenings and other events in Piraeus.
 Alternate Administrative Reform min Katrougalos meets representatives of business and industry organisationsAlternate Minister for Administrative Reform George Katrougalos on Monday met with representatives from business and industry organisations and discussed the development of entrepreneurship.
Katrougalos met the head of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry Constantine Mihalos and a representation of the Hellenic Federation of Entreprises (SEV) .
 Propery tax ENFIA to be replaced by another, gov't sources sayThe Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) will be replaced by the replaced by the Tax on Large Property, government sources said on Monday.
"Replacing one of the most unfair taxes that have ever been imposed with a socially fair tax is the government's priority," the sources said.
 Athens Water says turnover down, EBITDA up in 2014Athens Water on Monday said its turnover fell by 2.9 pct to 326.4 million euros last year from 336.2 million in 2013.
The water utility attributed this development to the introduction of new lower pricing policy to consumers in the framework of the company's wider social policy. EBITDA rose 4.8 pct to 87.6 million euros in 2014, from 83.6 million in 2013, reflecting an 1.2 pct decline in operating cost to 276.7 million euros. Pre-tax earnings grew 3.7 pct to 63.5 million euros, while after tax earnings fell to 42 million euros, from 77.7 million in 2013. Athens Water said after tax results were not comparable because of the positive impact of deferred tax on 2013 results.
The company will seek shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a 0.20 euros per share dividend to shareholders.
 Greek PPI down 4.8 pct in Feb.Greece's producer's price composite index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) fell 4.8 pct in February this year, after a 3.5 pct decline recorded in February 2014.
Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), in a monthly report, said that the index rose 4.2 pct in February from January 2015 after an 1.1 pct decline recorded in the same period last year.
The average index in the 12-month period from March 2014 to February 2015 fell by 2.1 pct, after an 1.3 pct decline in the previous 12-month period.
 Low cost airliner opens tourist season on ZakynthosThe new tourist season opened on Sunday on Zakynthos island with the first flight from Great Britain. Low cost EasyJet flight with 171 passengers landed at the island's airport at 11:30.
The next flight is scheduled for April 3 from Belgium and will be carried out by RyanAir.
 National Insurance says premium production up, profits down in 2014National Insurance Group on Monday reported pre-tax profits of 105.5 million euros in 2014, from 111.9 million in the previous year, while parent earnings totalled 105 million euros.
The insurance company said in an announcement that last year's earnings further enhanced its capital adequacy, with equity capital rising by 64.4 million euros to 591 million. National Insurance said its solvency margin surplus grew to 595 million euros from 478.3 million in 2013, placing the company into a better position ahead of the Solvency II rules.
Premium production rose significantly to 778.9 million euros last year from 660.2 million in 2013 (consolidated), while parent production jumped to 748.9 million euros from 630.9 million, respectively.
 OPAP says profits up 38.2 pct in 2014OPAP, a Greek-listed lottery and betting company, on Monday reported net profits of 195 million euros in 2014, from 141.1 million in the previous year, for an increase of 38.2 pct. Net profits soared 158.5 pct in the fourth quarter.
Sales rose 14.8 pct in 2014 to 4.259 billion euros, from 3.711 billion in 2013, while fourth quarter sales rose 19.5 pct to 1.277 billion euros, remaining on a positive ground for the sixth successive quarter.
 EBITDA jumped 56.3 pct to 346.5 million euros in 2014, from 221.7 million in 2013.Kamil Ziegler, chairman and chief executive of OPAP, commented on the results that financial results grew strongly in the first year after OPAP's full privatisation, confirming the management's commitment to create value and significant returns. Ziegler said he expected 2015 to become a particularly important year, full of challenges for OPAP.
 Greek stocks end moderately higherGreek stocks ended moderately higher in thin trading conditions in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday with investors sidelined awaiting the outcome of negotiations between Greek authorities and its creditors. The composite index of the market rose 0.53 pct to end at 772.71 points, after falling as much as 1.91 pct early in the session. The Large Cap index rose 0.53 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.58 pct lower. Turnover was a thin 59.03 million euros.
Jumbo (8.16 pct), Piraeus Port (7.54 pct), Ellaktor (7.34 pct) and OPAP (4.88 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (11.35 pct), Alpha Bank (6.33 pct), Aegean Airlines (4.70 pct) and OTE (4.37 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Personal Products (6.70 pct), Commerce (4.09 pct) and Travel (3.25 pct) were top gainers, while Financial Services (4.45 pct), Telecoms (4.37 pct) and Banks (2.11 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 64 to 41, with another 18 issues unchanged. Hatzikraniotis (25.60 pct), AEGEK (20 pct) and Alko (18.64 pct) were top gainers, while Varvaresos (18.75 pct), Ekter (14.89 pct) and Leventeris (14.11 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -4.45%
Industrial Products: +2.54%
Real Estate: +0.57%
Personal & Household: +6.70%
Food & Beverages: +2.62%
Raw Materials: +2.12%
Travel & Leisure: +3.25%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, OPAP, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.281
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.80
Coca Cola HBC: 16.91
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.62
National Bank of Greece: 1.10
Piraeus Bank: 0.343
Grivalia Properties: 7.65
Aegean Airlines: 7.10
 Greek bond market closing reportGreek bond prices remained under pressure in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, with the three-year bond yield rising to 21.2 pct from 20.6 pct on Friday and the five-year bond yield remaining unchanged at 15.9 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was almost unchanged at 10.87 pct from 10.88 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 11.06 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.19 pct.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.198 pct from 0.201 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.138 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.087 pct from 0.088 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.018 pct from 0.021 pct and the one-month rate rose to -0.014 pct from -0.012 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe April contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.02 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 3,891 contracts with 40,729 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 31,555 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (9,727), followed by Alpha Bank (5,359), National Bank (4,729), Eurobank (8,044), MIG (1,082), OTE (568), PPC (402), OPAP (414), Hellenic Exchanges (105), Motor Oil (96), Athens Water (95), GEK (178), Ellaktor (130), Jumbo (122), Folli Follie (123) and Terna Energy (127).
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.0845
Pound sterling 0.7328
Danish kroner 7.469
Swedish kroner 9.3207
Japanese yen 130.02
Swiss franc 1.0439
Norwegian kroner 8.6545
Canadian dollar 1.3709
Australian dollar 1.4158
 Local authorities in Serres focus on the protection of villages from flood watersDeputy Governor of Serres Yiannis Moissiadis on Monday visited the flooded regions in the municipalities of Emmanuil Pappas and Vissaltia, northern Greece, underlining that efforts focus on the protection of villages, manufacturing plants and stockbreeding units.
He noted that an estimated 7,000 hectares of cultivated land in the prefectural unit of Serres, along Strymonas River, will be flooded.
An extraordinary meeting on the problems created will be held this afternoon in the Regional Authority offices in Serres with the participation of local authorities. Alternate Rural Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou, Deputy Regional Governor Moissiadis and representatives of the ministry of economy, infrastructure, shipping and tourism are scheduled to meet in Athens tomorrow.
 Greek-Turkish cooperation between municipalities along the Evros RiverA protocol of cooperation for the solution of "identical problems" was signed on Monday by the presidents of the chambers of Alexandroupolis, northeast Greece and Edirne, across the border in Turkey and by 11 mayors (five in the prefectural unit of Evros and six in municipalities along Evros River on the Turkish side of the border) in regions faced by flooding phenomena when the Evros River breaks its banks.
The meeting was attended Deputy Rural Development Minister Panagiotis Sgouridis, who welcomed the effort, noting that he will convey to the government the positions expressed.
"The natural border, which is the Evros River, and the flooding in the region as a result of the increased volume of water, the problem of animal diseases and the need for business and tourist cooperation led the mayors to decide to meet twice a year, on Greek and Turkish soil," the cooperation protocol underlined among others.
The mayors will intensify efforts to link the seaports of Thrace (Alexandroupolis and Samothrace) with the seaports on the island of Gokceada (Imvros) and Canakkale to boost tourism and the transport of goods.
They also underlined the need to seek Bulgaria's participation in the effort to solve the problems on a trilateral basis.
 German students lay a wreath at Holocaust monument in village near IoanninaGerman students visiting the village of Ligiades in the region of Epirus, northwestern Greece, send a message against Nazi atrocities and in favour of fraternity among peoples on Monday.
The 15-year-old students from Augsburg, Bavaria, laid a wreath at the Holocaust monument in the village. Their visit is part of the student exchange programme between their school in St. Stephan and the Greek high school of Zosimaia School in the city of Ioannina. The students are being hosted by the families of their peers.
As their teachers told the mayor of Ioannina, it was the students who asked to lay a wreath at the monument along with their Greek friends.
In Ligiades they were welcomed by the deputy mayor on Education Pandelis Kolokas, who, addressing the students, described their initiative as "a solace on the wounds opened by the Nazi atrocities" in the village.
I should be noted that the main foreign language taught to students in their school in St Stephan is ancient Greek, while Modern Greek is also available.
 Oil pumping operation completed from freighter that had run aground north of AndrosThe oil pumping from the Cyprus-flagged freighter GOODFAITH that had run aground north of Andros island was completed on Monday.
The ship had run aground on February 11 with 22 members crew. The drainage operation started on February 21 under the supervision of Andros port authority and the Shipping and Aegean Ministry's environment protection directorate.
The ship was empty of cart and had sailed from Elefsina fro Ukraine. The owner company will take care of the freighter's removal from the area.
 Nikaia Hospital doctors decide to continue strikeDoctors at Nikaia Hospital, one of the largest in the districts around Piraeus, on Monday announced their decision to continue strike action over unpaid back-pay for emergency duty shifts. They noted that this created a lack of essential specialists when the hospital was due to go on emergency duty on Tuesday, such as pathologists, neurologists, ear, nose and throat specialists and gastroenterologists.
They warned the hospital's management against operating the hospital in this state and urged them to take measures "so that patients are not exposed to danger by being transferred or coming to a hospital that in practice, lacking basic specialists, is not safe."
They also plan to close the cashier during the emergency shift and during the day so that it cannot collect the five-euro hospital visit fee and plan to hold another general meeting on Wednesday.
 Sifis the crocodile found dead in RethymnoThe crocodile that newspapers had fondly dubbed 'Sifis' after he was discovered living wild in a water reservoir on the island of Crete last summer has been found dead, it was reported on Monday. His decayed body was found by workers with the Crete Development Organisation and, according to a first estimate by veterinarians, it appears he was unable to cope with the low winter temperatures.
The crocodile, which authorities suspect was originally a pet or zoo animal that either escaped or was unwisely released by its owner, had eluded numerous unsuccessful attempts to recapture him since the summer, involving Greek and foreign experts and several local inhabitants.
Rethymno's 'favourite' reptile was found floating lifeless in the water on Sunday, in an advanced state of decay, and will eventually be transferred to the Museum of Natural History. There scientists will conduct tests to discover the cause of death and when this occurred.
Experts say the luckless reptile faced uneven odds in his attempt to adapt to conditions in the area, including a winter considerably harsher than that of its natural habitat.
 Commemorative set of stamps 'Greece's Railways' released by Hellenic Post (ELTA)The commemorative series of stamps "Greece's Railways" released on Monday by the Hellenic Post (ELTA) is dedicated to railway transport in Greece going back 150 years.
Four of the most historical and distinct locomotives used for roughly 100 years until the 1970s are being depicted in the commemorative series of stamps designed by painter-engraver Myrsini Vardopoulou.
 Three to police court over violence at handball cup final match in PylaiaThree alleged supporters of the AEK club were on Monday charged in connection with violent incidents at the AEK-PAOK handball cup final match in Pylaia on Sunday night and ordered to stand trial before a police court. The three men, aged 20, 27 and 39 years old, are accused of breaking laws concerning sports and use of flairs, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and causing unprovoked bodily harm.
 Protest at toll posts on April 5A nationwide protest at toll posts throughout the country will be held on April 5 (Palm Sunday) and alternatively on April 19 by the Coordinating Committees against Toll Posts.
The decision was reached during the meeting of the Committees with participation from all over Greece and via internet, held on Saturday at the Transport Directorate of Attica region.
 Rain in the morning, mostly fair in the afternoon on TuesdayRain in the morning and mostly fair in the afternoon in forecast for Tuesday. Winds from variable directions will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy with rain in the morning in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 04C-17C. Mostly fair weather in the western parts with temperatures between 06C-20C. Partly cloudy in the morning and mostly fair in the afternoon in the eastern parts with temperatures between 08C-20C. Clouds and rain over the islands, 11C-18C. Sunny in the afternoon in Athens, 10C-19C. Possibility of rain in the morning in Thessaloniki, 09C-16C.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: The suffering of Greece
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Conflict on the red lines
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The retirement ages that will be increased by 2 to 5 years
ESTIA: Country being led to 'Graccident'
ETHNOS: The new system of university entry examinations?
NAFTEMPORIKI: Actions for a 'development shock'
TA NEA: Balancing act ahead of the agreement
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