|Thursday, 27 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-11-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 28 November 2012 Issue No: 4233
 Samaras: Eurogroup deal opens way for growth, ensures Greece's place in eurozoneThe Eurogroup's decision in the early hours of Tuesday morning marked the end of a "very grey, very dark period for Greece," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening.
"It was a period that was dragging us back and threatening us directly as a country and a society. Greece has succeeded in regaining its credibility. It has also succeeded in turning a programme of endless austerity into a programme that dares to carry out reforms and leads to growth," he emphasised.
Samaras stressed that the decisions for Greece had laid the foundations for making the country's debt sustainable and for ensuring that Greece remained in the euro.
He particularly emphasised the fact that, out of the 34.5 billion euro in bailout loans for Greece that European countries had agreed to disburse in mid December, only 10 percent would be used to pay off interest and repay debts.
"The rest will stay in the country, in one way or the other," the premier noted, with seven billion going directly to the economy to cover this year's deficit and pay off state debts to the private sector. Similarly, he added, most of the nine billion to be disbursed over the next three months would go to the real economy.
Samaras noted that the money spent to recapitalise the banks, which will make up the bulk of the aid received by Greece, will act to permanently protect the deposits of the Greek people and also allow the return of vital liquidity to the Greek economy, finally leading to recovery and stemming the rise in unemployment.
He also highlighted a decision allowing Greece to directly reduce its debt through bond buybacks at low prices and a reduction of interest charged on the remaining debt, so that repayments were less of a burden on Greek tax payers.
"The interest rates paid by Greece will now be among the lowest in Europe. Furthermore, we will not pay interest for 10 years and principal for 15 years. This will give a huge respite to the Greek economy, so that we can enter a stable growth trajectory," Samaras underlined.
Even the profits made by foreign banks from Greek bonds will be returned to Greece to pay off its debts, without an official default that would put the country's future in hock for decades, he added.
Perhaps the most important thing about the deal was that Greece's overall debt will be reduced by 20 percent of GDP, thus permanently pushing aside the prospect of a country mired in endless debt and with a precarious position in the eurozone and opening the way for Greece's renewal, Samaras said.
The prime minister emphasised that this was a result that all Greeks achieved together, through their sacrifices and their support for difficult decisions taken in very difficult times, and he praised the role played by all three parties in the coalition government and thanked his two coalition partners for their support.
He also stressed that this outcome was the result of tough negotiations in successive phases, which helped to change Greece's image abroad.
"We converted many enemies into friends. We achieved things that most considered impossible a short while ago. And we have opened the way for even more...We spoke little and did much. And this proved to be a much better negotiating strategy than that of those that shout alot and destroy everything," he said.
Stressing the need for unity, the prime minister underlined that Greeks had to stay together and promised that there would be a relief of injustices once the goals set were overshot, while noting that the main order of the day was work and investments that would create jobs, especially for young people.
 PM Samaras to hold meeting with Venizelos and Kouvelis on Wednesday morningPrime Minister Antonis Samaras will be holding a meeting on Wednesday with the two party leaders supporting his coalition government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left party president Fotis Kouvelis, starting at 10 in the morning.
At 11:30, Samaras will receive German State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office Emily Haber at the Maximos Mansion.
Th prime minister will also chair a cabinet meeting at 13:00.
 Eurogroup OKs 43.7-bln-euros tranche to Greece, beginning with 34.4 bln installment in mid-Dec.BRUSSELS (AMNA)
A Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers finally approved the release of a pending 43.7-billion-euros tranche of the EC-ECB-IMF bailout loan tranche to Greece, which will be disbursed in four installments, with a first disbursement of 34.4 billion euros to be approved by Dec. 13, while the balance of 9.3 billion euros will be disbursed in early 2013 in three smaller installments.
The decision came in the early morning hours of Tuesday after a marathon session.
After 13 hours of talks in a meeting that commenced on Monday afternoon, the ministers agreed over measures to bring Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio from an estimated 144 percent to 124 percent in 2020, which European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi welcomed as a decision that will "certainly reduce the uncertainty and strengthen confidence in Europe and in Greece".
In a Eurogroup statement issued after the meeting, the Eurogroup welcomed an updated assessment by the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's international lenders that Greece has implemented all the agreed prior actions and in particular the assessment that Greece has satisfactorily implemented a wide-ranging set of reforms, as well as the budget for 2013 and an ambitious medium-term fiscal strategy for 2013-2016.
The Eurogroup further commended the Greek authorities for their demonstrated strong commitment to the adjustment programme and reiterated its appreciation for the efforts made by the Greek citizens.
 Eurogroup statement on GreeceThe Eurogroup recalls that a full staff-level agreement has been reached between Greece and the Troika on updated programme conditionality and that, according to the Troika, Greece has implemented all agreed prior actions.
The Eurogroup in particular welcomes the updated assessment of the Troika that Greece has implemented in a satisfactory manner a wide ranging set of reforms, as well as the budget for 2013 and an ambitious medium term fiscal strategy 2013-16.
The Eurogroup noted with satisfaction that the updated programme conditionality includes the adoption by Greece of new instruments to enhance the implementation of the programme, notably by means of correction mechanisms to safeguard the achievement of both fiscal and privatisation targets, and by stronger budgeting and monitoring rules. Greece has also significantly strengthened the segregated account for debt servicing. Greece will transfer all privatizations revenues, the targeted primary surpluses as well as 30% of the excess primary surplus to this account, to meet debt service payment on a quarterly forward-looking basis. Greece will also increase transparency and provide full ex ante and ex post information to the EFSF/ESM on transactions on the segregated account.
The Eurogroup again commended the authorities for their demonstrated strong commitment to the adjustment programme and reiterated its appreciation for the efforts made by the Greek citizens.
The Eurogroup noted that the outlook for the sustainability of Greek government debt has worsened compared to March 2012 when the second programme was concluded, mainly on account of a deteriorated macro-economic situation and delays in programme implementation.
The Eurogroup considered that the necessary revision in the fiscal targets and the implied postponement of a primary surplus target of 4.5% of GDP from 2014 to 2016 calls for a broader concept of debt sustainability encompassing lower debt levels in the medium term, smoothing of the current financing hump after 2020 and easing of its financing.
The Eurogroup was informed that Greece is considering certain debt reduction measures in the near future, which may involve public debt tender purchases of the various categories of sovereign obligations. If this is the route chosen, any tender or exchange prices are expected to be no higher than those at the close on Friday, 23 November 2012.
The Eurogroup considers that, in recapitalising Greek banks, liability management exercises should be conducted in respect of remaining subordinated debt holders so as to ensure a fair burden sharing.
Against this background and after having been reassured of the authorities' resolve to carry the fiscal and structural reform momentum forward and with a positive outcome of the possible debt buy-back operation, the euro area Member States would be prepared to consider the following initiatives:
? A lowering by 100 bps of the interest rate charged to Greece on the loans provided in the context of the Greek Loan Facility. Member States under a full financial assistance programme are not required to participate in the lowering of the GLF interest rates for the period in which they receive themselves financial assistance.
? A lowering by 10 bps of the guarantee fee costs paid by Greece on the EFSF loans.
? An extension of the maturities of the bilateral and EFSF loans by 15 years and a deferral of interest payments of Greece on EFSF loans by 10 years. These measures will not affect the creditworthiness of EFSF, which is fully backed by the guarantees from Member States.
? A commitment by Member States to pass on to Greece's segregated account, an amount equivalent to the income on the SMP portfolio accruing to their national central bank as from budget year 2013. Member States under a full financial assistance programme are not required to participate in this scheme for the period in which they receive themselves financial assistance.
The Eurogroup stresses, however, that the above-mentioned benefits of initiatives by euro area Member States would accrue to Greece in a phased manner and conditional upon a strong implementation by the country of the agreed reform measures in the programme period as well as in the post-programme surveillance period.
The Eurogroup is confident that, jointly, the above-mentioned initiatives by Greece and the other euro area Member States would bring Greece's public debt back on a sustainable path throughout this and the next decade and will facilitate a gradual return to market financing. Euro area Member States will consider further measures and assistance, including inter alia lower co-financing in structural funds and/or further interest rate reduction of the Greek Loan Facility, if necessary, for achieving a further credible and sustainable reduction of Greek debt-to-GDP ratio, when Greece reaches an annual primary surplus, as envisaged in the current MoU, conditional on full implementation of all conditions contained in the programme, in order to ensure that by the end of the IMF programme in 2016, Greece can reach a debt-to-GDP ratio in that year of 175% and in 2020 of 124% of GDP, and in 2022 a debt-to-GDP ratio substantially lower than 110%.
As was stated by the Eurogroup on 21 February 2012, we are committed to providing adequate support to Greece during the life of the programme and beyond until it has regained market access, provided that Greece fully complies with the requirements and objectives of the adjustment programme.
The Eurogroup concludes that the necessary elements are now in place for Member States to launch the relevant national procedures required for the approval of the next EFSF disbursement, which amounts to EUR 43.7 bn. EUR -- 10.6 bln for budgetary financing and EUR 23.8 bln in EFSF bonds earmarked for bank recapitalisation -- will be paid out in December. The disbursement of the remaining amount will be made in three sub-tranches during the first quarter of 2013, linked to the implementation of the MoU milestones (including the implementation of the agreed tax reform by January) to be agreed by the Troika.
The Eurogroup expects to be in a position to formally decide on the disbursement by 13 December, subject to the completion of these national procedures and following a review of the outcome of a possible debt buy-back operation by Greece.
 PM Samaras welcomes Eurogroup's decision for Greece"Everything has gone well," Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said early Tuesday, welcoming the Eurogroup's decision on Greece, adding that all the Greeks, together, fought for this, and that "tomorrow a new day begins for all the Greeks."
He added that the government would have more to say, in detail, on Tuesday.
Asked if he had communicated with the leaders of the two other parties supporting his coalition government, Samaras replied "of course".
Government circles expressed satisfaction on Tuesday with the outcome of the marathon Eurogroup meeting, noting however that now was not the time for gloating but for hard work in order to achieve economic recovery and a reduction of unemployment, which is the government's basic target.
The sources also said that the prime minister is expected to have meetings in the immediate future with the leaders of the two coalition government junior members -- PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis -- to discuss the outcome of the Eurogroup decisions, following which the procedures begin for the approval of the disbursement of the 43.7 billion euros tranche of the EU/IMF bailout loan to Greece.
 Gov't spokesman: Eurogroup outcome not an easy process, was the result of the sacrifices of all the GreeksThe outcome of Monday's Eurogroup meeting "was not at all expected, nor an easy process", it was the "fruition of the efforts of all the Greeks", government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Tuesday.
"Thanks to the sacrifices of the Greeks, Greece remains alive in the heart of Europe," the government spokesman and deputy minister to the prime minister said in an exclusive interview on the AMNA web TV.
He also welcomed the Eurogroup decision as a "generous decision by our partners, who appreciated the super-effort being made by Greece".
"We had great support. It was not an easy process," Kedikoglou added.
Kedikoglou said that the decision had not at all been expected, and the more than 12 hours of deliberations at Monday's Eurogroup meeting, which lasted into the early hours of Tuesday, "disprove the insinuations of 'rigged games' and 'foregone decisions'."
"Things were tough, but Greece managed. Now different difficulties begin, we need to prove that the sacrifices of the Greeks have not been in vain, we need to pass on to recovery in order to be led to growth. The first criterion is the creation of jobs, because the biggest 'monster' in our society is the monster of unemployment," Kedikoglou said.
He added that the reduction of the interest rates on the bailout loan and the banks' rebates of profits to Greece are an answer to criticism that everything was being done for the banks and prove that everything done was for the citizens, "and our partners proved their solidarity".
Asked what the citizens should anticipate in their everyday lives, Kedikoglou said that the citizens are waiting for results and to see their lives changing for the better, because "we all very well know that the Greek society has reached its limits...that there are vulnerable social groups living in extremely difficult circumstances".
The prime minister himself has set that we were obliged to take painful decisions, some of them unfair, "and we must look to their relief as soon as possible, in other words, as soon as the economy provides us, to begin relief with them first," the spokesman continued.
"The most important thing, however, is that we have prospect. Those who were saying that Greece is being destroyed are being belied. Those who aspired to play the role of Cassandra (doom-sayers) did not succeed. We do not concern ourselves with them. We are concerned with building a better future for the Greek people," he stressed.
Asked if, with the liquidity to the banks, they will start extending loans to the market, to the small and medium size enterprises ((SMEs), Kedikoglou replied in the affirmative.
"First of all, the deposits are secured -- this is a parameter that has not been sufficiently mentioned -- the banking system operates, which is for a national economy what the circulatory system is for a living organism. The banks will finally be able to provide liquidity to businesses. Think only of how many healthy businesses are at risk of closing just because they did not have liquidity. Particularly the export businesses, which are necessary for our economy, because our economy must become outward-oriented. Now the conditions are being offered for them to be able to operate, to give yield and to create new jobs but also the national wealth that we need," Kedikoglou explained.
 PASOK leader: New beginning for Greece"The framework formed in the Eurogroup is the new starting point that the country needs after nine months of waiting," junior coalition government partner PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said after the conclusion of the Eurogroup meeting early Tuesday and a communication with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
"The details have their meaning, but the crucial (element) is the 'larger picture', and this is undoubtedly positive resulting from the Greek people's huge sacrifices. Now it is in our hands to take advantage of this framework and to organise the internal prerequisites for the national recovery," noted Venizelos.
 Venizelos: 'Eurogroup decision new starting point for Greece'PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told his party's Parliamentary group members on Tuesday that the country is now at a new starting point, "now is the time for a counter-attack," he said hours after a Eurogroup decision regarding the Greek debt's sustainability and disbursement of a massive 34.7-billion-euro bailout tranche.
"The initiative for a national 'counter-attack' is in the hands of the Greek society ... and despite a tough first semester in 2013, the year is also the time that Greece will make a turn toward a primary surplus ... a time of entering an exit from of the crisis", Venizelos said.
Commenting on Eurogroup decisions, the PASOK leader stressed that there was meaning in all details, but the most crucial point of all was "the big picture, which is undoubtedly positive."
He further noted that it is now up to citizens to tap the opportunities that are now opening up and to organize the domestic conditions for economic recovery.
 DIMAR leader: Decisive step towards Greece's remaining in eurozoneDemocratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, one of the two junior partners in the Greek coalition government, on Tuesday called the Eurogroup's decisions on Greece a decisive step towards Greece's remaining in the eurozone.
"Many things still have to be done in European level to deal with the crisis, and Greece must participate substantially in this process," he added and underlined that "our country must continue the huge effort for stabilisation and recovery, with the restructure of the public sector, the acceleration of growth interventions to deal with the recession and the creation of a social support network".
 SYRIZA criticises PM's statement on Eurogroup decisionsThe Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), in an announcement on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's statement on decisions taken at the Eurogoup, stressed that "at the same time that the country and society is being ruined, the prime minister's celebrations reveal either ignorance of danger or hypocrisy".
SYRIZA said that Samaras and his government were absent from the negotiating and the only thing they supported and are continuing to support fanatically is the implementation of the memorandum.
The announcement further said this decision is not a solution for the Greek problem and concluded that "a viable and fair solution can come with the people in the forefront, to claim a great political change, that will not be late".
 SYRIZA leader: Eurogroup solution 'is no solution', does not contain viable plan for GreeceThe solution agreed at the Eurogroup does not contain a viable plan for Greece and consequently it is not a solution, main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday.
The negotiation was conducted between German chancellor Angela Merkel and International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde, and the compromise was between them, he said, adding that the solution does not include Greece, and accusing the Greek government of being "absent from the negotiation".
He said that after the developments at Tuesday's Eurogroup, SYRIZA feels vindicated on its predictions regarding the confrontation of the crisis, noting that "after subsequent failures of a programme that has led society to catastrophe and does not attain any of the targets promised, everyone listens to us with greater attention and we feel vindicated because all of our predictions have unfortunately come true".
Tsipras accused the government of saying different things before the elections and of following a strategy of subjugation, adding that "two years ago they were telling us that the target is sustainability of the debt at 120 percent of GDP, whereas now they are telling us that it can be sustainable at 124 percent, and tomorrow they may tells us that it is sustainable at 130 percent".
"These are not solutions," Tsipras stressed.
He said that the only solution is for Greece to re-enter the negotiations and be present at the decisions.
"The only real solution is the big political change that is coming, that the people come to the forefront. And everyone now awaits this great political change in Greece," Tsipras added.
 Gov't accuses SYRIZA leader of pettinessGovernment spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Tuesday accused main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras of pettiness.
"Mr.Tsipras' sad impasse is understandable. Mr. Tsipras wagered on catastrophe and the drachma lobby. His petty and erratic positions do not persuade even his own party's constituent groups. Greece succeeded and will continue to succeed," said Kedikoglou.
 SYRIZA leader requests off-the-agenda debate on Eurogroup decisionsMain opposition "Coalition of the Radical Left" (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday sent a letter to Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis, in which he asked for an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on the decisions taken by the Eurogroup for Greece's debt.
Tsipras also attacked the government for accepting a compromise that he said had "many grey areas in all things concerning the economic crisis and Greece's debt crisis" and for lacking any strategy or negotiating plan and simply going along with whatever Germany wanted.
 KKE leader on Eurogroup agreementCommunist Party (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga told a press conference on Tuesday referred to a "tremendous provocative lie" an agreement achieved by a eurogroup finance ministers hours earlier on Tuesday, namely, that the deal is a "breath for the Greek people".
"It was also revealed that it is a big lie, that everything depends on whether one holds 'tough negotiations', as (the main opposition Radical Left Coalition) SYRIZA claims, or whether one holds 'clever negotiations', as the three-party coalition government supports," she also noted.
"When one negotiates after accepting the committments imposed by the European Union, competitiveness and the capitalist road of growth, then this sort of negotiation does not presage anything better for the people," the KKE leader added.
"It is a lie to say that (Tuesday's agreement) constitutes a breath for the people, since the new measures that have been decided will be implemented as of Jan. 1, 2013, and the people's life will become hell," Papariga said, adding that the policy of mamorandums will be of long duration, at least until 2030, if one takes into consideration the "risky, according to us, prevision that the Greek debt will fall, by the year 2020, to the level of 124 percent of the GDP."
 KKE leader foresees political instability to prevail in the following yearsCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga, referring to the eurozone debate on the crisis, said that "the entire discussion is about the eurozone".
"Although it appears that they are discussing about Greece, they are seeking a model that in the future it will possibly be applied to Spain, Italy and even in France," Papariga said on private MEGA television station late Monday.
Moreover, Papariga opined that there is a series of contradictions within the EU itself bit also between the EU- and the IMF on which the USA and China and other emerging capitalistic economies taking position.
On Greece, she said that the political instability, including a prospective collapse of the government, will be the characteristics of the coming years in Greece, adding that everything will be determined by the popular intervention.
 IMF chief welcomes Eurogroup decisions on GreeceInternational Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde welcomed the initiatives agreed by the Eurogroup on Greece, in a written statement issued by the IMF headquarters in Washington late Tuesday.
"I welcome the initiatives agreed today by the Eurogroup aimed at further supporting Greece's economic reform program and making a substantial contribution to the sustainability of its debt. This builds on the significant efforts by the Greek government to carry forward its fiscal and structural reform agenda.
The initiatives include Greek debt buybacks, return of Securities Market Programme (SMP) profits to Greece, reduction of Greek Loan Facility (GLF) interest rates, significant extension of GLF and European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) maturities, and the deferral of EFSF interest rate payments.
Taken together, these measures will help to bring back Greece's debt ratio to a sustainable path and facilitate a gradual return to market financing. The debt ratio is expected to decrease to 124 percent of GDP by 2020 through significant upfront debt reduction measures of 20 percent of GDP. In addition, I welcome the commitment by European partners to bring back Greece's debt to substantially below 110 percent of GDP by 2022, conditional on full implementation of the program by Greece. This represents a major debt reduction for Greece relative to its current debt trajectory. Once progress has been made on specifying and delivering on the commitments made today, in particular implementation of the debt buybacks, I would be in a position to recommend to the IMF Executive Board the completion of the first review of Greece's program."
 Austrian chancellor says EU cannot leave Greece without helpVIENNA (AMNA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austrian Chancellor and Austrian Social Democrat leader Werner Faymann said after Tuesday's weekly cabinet meeting here on Tuesday, that the European Union cannot leave Greece without help, stressing that in periods of limited economic growth and the existence of recession in many countries, credibility and predictability is necessary.
Faymann said that the omissions that took place for decades in Greece cannot be corrected now in a little time, adding that the right path has been selected now and Europe gave Greece more time and will accompany it further on the path of reforms.
"With the observance of the agreed terms by Greece, we shall also observe the share of commitments corresponding to us in aid," the Austrian chancellor assured and noted that with the current decisions Greece is given again "air to breathe".
 Chinese officials, COSCO hail Eurogroup decisions on Greece in talks with Dep. FMChinese officials and the management of China Ocean Shipping (COSCO) Group on Tuesday expressed great satisfaction with the Eurogroup's decisions on tackling Greece's debt issues, during a meeting between Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas and China's Vice Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng, attended by top COSCO executives. The meeting was held on the second day of Kourkoulas' visit to China in order to attend the 11th Greek-Chinese Joint Interministerial Committee (JIC) in Beijing on Wednesday.
"This agreement puts Greece on track for an exit from the crisis and constitutes a vote of confidence from our European partners and international creditors in the stabilisation programme implemented by the Greek government," Kourkoulas told AMNA from China.
The minister said that COSCO had once again reaffirmed its satisfaction with the investment it has made in Piraeus, repeating that it considers Greece a gateway to southeast Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, and presenting figures showing an impressive increase in the tonnage moved through Piraeus since the start of its investment there.
Indicative of the weight given to the Piraeus investment, the minister added, was the fact that COSCO President and CEO Capt. Wei Jiafu had invited top executives of the group stationed in Asian and European countries to be present for their meeting.
Talking to AMNA, Kourkoulas said that the Chinese group, which currently employs 130,000 people and transports goods to 80 countries and 1,600 ports around the world, expressed a desire to increase its investments in Greece and also expand into the energy sector.
"The Chinese believe in Greece's recovery," Kourkoulas stressed, adding that their plans involved strategic investments that could act as a positive example for other foreign investors.
During talks with the Chinese business community, the deputy minister also informed them of actions taken by Greece to create an investment-friendly environment, including fast-track investments and actions taken to facilitate the issue of visas, as well as plans to grant long-term residence permits to foreign nationals that buy property valued at more than 300,000 euro in Greece.
Also part of the Greek delegation was foreign ministry secretary general for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation Peter Mihalos, who met with officials from the China Investment Corporation for talks concerning planned privatisations in which China has expressed an interest.
 Foreign minister meets UNSG's adviser for CyprusGreek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had a meeting on Tuesday with the United Nation's Secretary General's special adviser for the Cyprus issue Alexander Downer, expressing Greece's support for his mandate and mission.
Avramopoulos underlined that the Cyprus issue was primarily an issue of respect for principles, values and the rules of the international community and international law. In this framework, he added, it was imperative to achieve a solution that lay within the parameters set by the decisions of the United Nations and the Cyprus Republic's membership of the European Union.
Downer also briefed the Greek minister about the current standstill in the negotiating process and stressed the responsibility borne by Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot side for the lack of progress.
 SYRIZA leader holds talks with EU member-state ambassadorsMain opposition "Coalition of the Radical Left" (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras held a wide-ranging discussion with European Union member-state ambassadors in Athens on Tuesday morning, over a working brunch at an Athens hotel organised by the Cypriot EU presidency.
Sources said that the foreign diplomats had mainly discussed the debt crisis in Greece, with SYRIZA's leader presenting his party's proposals, while the climate at the discussion was described as excellent and "particularly creative and productive".
The talks also focused on the situation in the EU, with the foreign diplomats asking questions concerning the implementation of the memorandum agreements on the austerity programmes, political developments, privatisations and SYRIZA's positions on these issues.
In earlier statements commenting on the results of the Eurogroup meeting that ended in the small hours of Tuesday morning, Tsipras had criticised the solution agreed by saying that it "did not contain a viable plan for Greece and consequently it is not a solution".
 Gov't calls for redundancy lists from local gov'tsLocal governments must specify which jobs spots in their organisations are necessary in order to guarantee their smooth operation, Interior Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said on Monday, when asked about repercussions from whatever civil service layoffs.
A circular has already been sent to all municipalities and affiliated state agencies, he said, adding that "this will achieve a reduction of public debt but assure that services operate effectively."
"Layoffs are a policy agreed upon and applied by the administrative reform ministry. The sooner the lists of possible redundancies are drawn, the sooner the exceptions will be identified and the necessary personnel will staff operational positions. The goal is to avoid layoffs, yet it is also to guarantee (implementation of) the public budget so that we can move forward quickly," Stylianidis said.
 Council of State rejects appeals against incorporating pension funds into EOPYYThe Council of State, Greece' supreme administrative court, on Tuesday rejected appeals lodged by bar associations, the bank employees' union OTOE, notary associations and the Technical Chamber of Greece, which asked that the incorporation of their respective pension and social insurance funds into the National Organisation for Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) be suspended.
The various bodies involved had asked the court to end the refusal of the National Actuarial Authority to issue an actuarial study on whether their respective pension funds were viable, which they intended to use in order to convert their social insurance funds into private-sector legal entities and avoid their merger with EOPYY.
Their case was rejected by the presiding judge because their respective pension funds had already been incorporated into EOPYY by the omnibus bill on the austerity measures passed by Parliament and the court had no powers to overturn an existing law.
 New head of Public Debt Management Agency appointedThe government on Tuesday announced the appointment of Stelios Papadopoulos to the helm of the Public Debt Management Agency.
Papadopoulos is a graduate of the Athens Law School and holds a post-graduate degree in law and finance from the Dauphine Universite Paris.
His appointment was finalised by a decision of Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.
 OECD report: Greek economy to return to growth by end 2014The Greek economy will return to growth rates by the end of 2014, helped by strengthening global trade, improved competitiveness and a restoration of confidence, the Organization for Economy Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced on Tuesday.
In its six-month economic outlook report, published in Paris, the OECD noted that Greece must implement all fiscal adjustment measures agreed and stressed that if economic growth proved to be less that provisions included in a fiscal program, then automatic stabilizers should be activated, even if that meant the targets set will not be achieved.
OECD said the Greek economy will shrink by 6.3 pct this year and by 4.5 pct in 2013 and 1.3 pct in 2014. The unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 26.7 pct in 2013, from 23.6 pct this year and to 27.2 pct in 2014. The general government's fiscal deficit is projected to fall to 5.6 pct of GDP in 2013, from 6.9 pct this year, and to 4.6 pct of GDP in 2014, while the country's current account deficit to shrink to 4.6 pct of GDP in 2013 and to 2.3 pct in 2014, from 5.5 pct of GDP this year.
The inflation rate is expected to turn negative (-0.2 pct) in 2013 and in 2014 (-0.8 pct), from 1.3 pct this year. The organization said the most vulnerable sections of the Greek society should be better protected from cuts in social benefits and noted that a recapitalisation of the banking system must be a priority to strengthen credit channels supporting economic growth.
The OECD underlined the need to implement structural reforms, combating tax evasion, promoting a more efficient public administration and lifting hurdles in competition.
 Foreign minister addresses RED conference, stresses role of tourism, travelForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday emphasised the crucial role of travel and tourism in Greece's efforts for growth but also in the broader framework of foreign policy.
"The traveller is the first top open channels of communication, cooperation, understanding and commercial transactions between nations and people," Avramopoulos noted in an address to the 7th Real Estate and Development (RED) conference.
In this context, he referred to the issue of visas for entry into Greece, which act as an obstacle in Greece's access to important tourism markets, and said that the Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2014 will seen to establish an exception facilitating visa requirements for "those countries that have tourism as their main source of income".
 Shipping minister in London, urges Greek ship owners to invest in GreeceShipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Mousouroulis on Tuesday noted the potential role of Greek shipping as a "lever for exiting the crisis", in statements to AMNA from London, where he is on an official two-day visit for talks with Greek ship-owners based in the British capital.
Noting that the Greek presence in London, a global centre of shipping and finance, had always been strong and prominent, Mousouroulis said he had come to ask Greek ship owners to support the Greek flag and shipping-related Greek businesses, through collaboration that was both absolutely feasible and efficient.
The minister's scheduled meetings on Tuesday include one with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu, covering general shipping issues such as shipping safety, piracy, carbon emissions and environmental pollution.
Mousouroulis said he intended to ask the IMO chief for greater participation by Greeks in the IMO in order to improve Greece's position in the organisation, in light of the country's dominant role in the global commercial shipping sector.
The minister is then due to meet members of the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee in London on Wednesday, inviting them to carry out investments in Greece, both in shipping and more generally. The two sides are also expected to discuss the new Greek shipping register and ways to make the flag more attractive, as well as issues concerning ship safety and naval training.
Before departing for Greece, Mousouroulis is scheduled to meet the British Undersecretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond, in charge of shipping issues.
 Deputy Development minister and Russian ambassador discuss Greek-Russian trade relationsDeputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis held a meeting on Tuesday with Russian Federation ambassador to Greece Vladimir Chkhikvishvili, focusing on investments opportunities presented in Greece, following Eurogroup's decisions on Monday.
A discussion was held during the meeting on possibilities existing for further strengthening economic and trade cooperation between Greece and Russia.
 Post Bank employees prepare for industrial actionHellenic Post Bank (TT) should be recapitalized and remain an independent credit institution under state control, so it can continue to offer its services to the country's economy, the nationwide board of TT employees said in announcement on Tuesday.
Employees are determined not to accept TT's break up into a so-called good and a bad bank, and are asking for a meeting soon with finance minister Yannis Stournaras, to be briefed on government plans on the future of TT.
In case a meeting with Stournaras is delayed, TT employees are decided to go ahead with a rally and a march to the finance ministry on Wednesday, a three-hour work stoppage on Thursday and a 24-hour strike on Friday.
 Pharmacists' meeting with EOPYY chief ends without resultRepresentatives of Greece's pharmacists on Tuesday declared themselves unsatisfied with the results of their meeting with the head of the National Organisation for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) Lefteris Papageorgopoulos, saying his replies to their main demands left them unconvinced.
"We are waiting to see actions, not assurances. The mobilisations will continue," the head of the Panhellenic Pharmacists Association Theodoros Abatzoglou said after the meeting.
This means that patients will have to continue to pay for prescription medication from their own pockets at least until Saturday when there is a general assembly for the pharmacy sector.
Pharmacists are pressing for an immediate payment of outstanding debts for August and September, with EOPYY promising to give specific dates for the payment in two days time. They also want a time schedule for the payment of money due for October, November and December, as well as older debts dating from 2011 and those of social insurance funds incorporated into EOPYY.
 Intralot reports higher 9-month resultsIntralot Group on Tuesday reported higher revenues and profits in the January-September period this year, with consolidated turnover rising 16.9 pct to 1.0 billion euros compared with the same period in 2011, while EBITDA rose 4.3 pct to 117 million euros.
Pre-tax earnings eased to 32.6 million euros in the nine-month period, from 33 million euros last year, while operating cash flow grew 39 pct. Net borrowing totaled 402.5 million euros in the nine-month period.
Parent turnover rose 6.8 pct to 101.8 million euros, while EBITDA jumped to 16.5 million euros, from 5.1 million euros in 2011.
 Bussiness Briefs-- Public Power Cor. (PPC) on Tuesday said its net profits rose to 118.1 million euros in the January-September period, up from 90.8 million euros in the same period last year, while EBITDA rose to 813.8 million euros from 794.7 million euros over the same periods, respectively.
-- The Piraeus Port Authority on Tuesday said it will relaunch an international tender to install a photovoltaic power station at the port, offering new and more attractive terms.
-- Fourlis Group on Tuesday reported losses - after tax and minorities - totaling 11.4 million euros in the January-September period, after profits of 1.6 million euros recorded in the same period last year.
-- Halcor Group on Tuesday reported losses of 18.6 million euros in the January-September period, up from 12.9 million euros in the same period last year.
 Stocks end mixed on Tues.Strong buying interest for selected blue chips, such as OPAP, Coca Cola Hellenic, PPC and OTE, counterbalanced significant losses suffered by bank shares at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, leading the composite index of the market slightly higher.
The index rose 0.29 pct to end at 847.06 points, with turnover rising significantly to 92.245 million euros. Bank share came under strong selling pressure because of uncertainty over a Greek debt buy back programme - a precondition set by the IMF to approve the release of its aid package for Greece.
Market worries focused on the possibility that Greek commercial banks could be forced to participate in a debt buy back program, selling their bond portfolio with a loss. Analysts said that if banks would sell their bonds at a price of 28 basis points there was a risk of banks recording losses totaling 10 billion euros.
The composite index jumped 1.28 pct early in the session to fall by 1.95 pct during the day. The Big Cap index fell 1.39 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.93 pct higher.
The Technology (15.83 pct), Industrial Products (3.94 pct), Food (3.43 pct) and Personal Products (3.18 pct) sectors were top gainers, while Banks (9.80 pct) and Constructions (1.16 pct) suffered losses. Metka (6.14 pct), Viohalco (4.32 pct) and OPAP (3.59 pct) were top gainers, while Eurobank (12.64 pct), Piraeus Bank (11.78 pct) and Alpha Bank (11.11 pct) suffered the biggest percentage losses among blue chip stocks.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 76 to 66 with another 31 issues unchanged. Fieratex (26.5 pct), Intracom (22.55 pct) and Mihaniki (20 pct) were top gainers, while Progressive (20.91 pct), Sfakianakis (20 pct) and HOL (19.85 pct) suffered losses.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +1.44%
Personal & Household: +3.18%
Raw Materials: +1.96%
Travel & Leisure: +3.04%
Food & Beverages: +3.43%
Financial Services: -0.03%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank, OTE and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.68
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.89
HBC Coca Cola: 18.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.78
National Bank of Greece: 1.54
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.79
Bank of Piraeus: 0.40
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds continued shrinking to 14.97 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 16.39 pct and the German Bund 1.42 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, all buy orders. The yield spread fell to its lowest levels since a Greek debt restructuring program in March.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.58 pct, the six-month rate was 0.35 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate was 0.10 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.48 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising to 29.315 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,593 contracts worth 12.917 million euros, with 30,958 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 97,587 contracts worth 16.398 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (35,723), followed by Alpha Bank (27,413), Cyprus Bank (4,439), Piraeus Bank (12,528), MIG (865), OTE (4,426), PPC (1,207), OPAP (2,914), Cyprus Popular Bank (2,283), Eurobank (2,548), GEK (906), Mytilineos (764) and Intralot (518).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.315
Pound sterling 0.820
Danish kroner 7.57
Swedish kroner 8.771
Japanese yen 108.06
Swiss franc 1.222
Norwegian kroner 7.467
Canadian dollar 1.303
Australian dollar 1.255
 Ceremony at Tel-Aviv embassy returns citizenship to 6 Holocaust survivorsA ceremony at the Greek embassy in Tel-Aviv on Tuesday witnessed a naturalisation ceremony for six Holocaust survivors who were born and raised in Greece up until WWII.
In brief remarks after an emotional oath-taking ceremony, Greek ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis expressed his satisfaction over the adoption and implementation of recent legislation reinstating citizenship to members of the Jewish community lost through the latter's emigration. He also emphasised the significant role of the Greek-Jewish community as a bridge between Greece and Israel.
Another 160 requests for the reinstatement of citizenship to Greek Jews that emigrated from the country in the wake of the war are pending, according to the Greek envoy, who expressed his optimism that they will soon be fulfilled.
On his part, the chairman of the Association of Survivors of Concentration Camps of Greek Origin living in Israel, Moshe Haelion, thanked the Greek government for the initiative as well as the diplomatic staff for their work towards fulfilling the long-standing demand by the Greek-Jewish community.
 Saffron, the Gold of the Greek EarthThe harvesting season has begun for saffron, an autumn-flowering perennial plant that is used in cooking but also known for its medicinal properties.
Widely used in Indian, Persian and European cuisines, saffron has also been widely used as a fabric dye, particularly in India and China, and in perfumery.
It also has a long medicinal history in traditional healing, while modern research studies have hinted that the spice has possible anti-carcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), immunomodulative and antioxidant properties.
The Organic Red Saffron, produced by the renowned Kozani Saffron Cooperative, in Northern Greece, is a certified organic product that is distinguished for its excellent quality which places it in the Coupe Class, the top quality of Saffron in the world. Saffron, made from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower, is the world's most expensive spice.
Saffron cultivation is believed to date back to Prehistoric Greek times.
The excavations in Knossos, Crete, brought to light some frescoes where saffron is depicted. The most famous of these frescoes is the "saffron gatherer", where it was depicted that there was a monkey amongst the yellow saffron flowers.
Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek word "croci" which means the weft, thread used for weaving on a loom.
Mythologically, according to Ovid, the plant took its name from the youth Crocus, who after witnessing in despair the death of fair Smilax was transformed into this flower.
Known since antiquity, saffron it was one of the most desired and expensive spices of ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties.
It was quite popular among the Phoenician traders, who carried it wherever they traveled. The ancient Assyrians used saffron for medical purposes.
Hippocrates and other Greek doctors of his time, like Dioskourides and Galen, mention crocus as a drug or a therapeutic herb.
From the writings of Homer, who calls dawn "crocus veil", Aeschylus, Pindar, and others, it is known that the crocus was considered a rare pharmaceutical plant of ancient Greece with unique properties. It is referred to throughout ancient history and in the course of many medical writings of the classical Greek and Roman times all the way to the Middle Ages.
Another saffron use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery.
The history of red saffron in modern Greece starts in the 17th century when traders from Kozani, Macedonia, brought the red saffron from Austria.
For more than 300 years, Greek red saffron is systematically cultivated under the warmth of the Greek sun, in the rich soil of a unique area in Kozani, in western Macedonia.
 Administrative elex again called for Athens PolytechnicElections have again been proclaimed at the Athens Polytechnic, where the university's top administrative council convened for a sixth time on Tuesday, following five earlier and futile attempts to conduct an election by faculty members for a new council.
The previous attempts were interrupted by violent protests by groups of students and self-styled anti-state activists to block a new framework law for higher education institutions in the country.
A new election will be held on Dec. 3, whereas if the process is interrupted with the conventional ballot box method, it will then be repeated on Dec. 4. If the two efforts do not produce results and the elections are declared inconclusive, the election process will be held electronically on Dec. 10.
Only the Athens Polytechnic and University of Crete have not held such elections.
 Births decline 2.7pct in 2010Births in Greece declined by 2.7 percent in 2010, according to figur.es from the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) submitted to parliament on Tuesday.
The data for 2011 are currently in the final stage of processing.
According to ELSTAT, a total of 114,766 births were recorded in Greece in 2010, of which 93,192 were from Greek mothers, posting a decline of 2.6 percent against the preceding year, while 21,574 births were from foreign mothers, posting a 3.2 percent decline against 2009.
Figures for births in the period 2004-2010 were submitted by ELSTAT in reply to a question tabled by Independent Greeks MP Maria-Kollia Tsaroucha on demographic ageing and low birth rates in Greece.
 Greek coin exhibition in GenevaTwenty centuries of history are on display at the exhibition "Words and coins: From Ancient Greece to Byzantium" currently running at the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Geneva, organised jointly with Athens' Benaki Museum.
The exhibition is enriched with material from the Numismatic Collection of the private public benefit foundation KIKPE (Welfare Foundation for Social and Cultural Affairs) on loan to the Benaki Museum.
The exhibition invites visitors on a journey through space and time. The display features coins that portray twenty centuries of history, spanning the 5th century BC to the 15th century AD - from the 'invention' of democracy in Greece, to the glory and decline of Byzantium.
The exhibition will run through March 17, 2013.
 Three arrested for Olympia museum robbery given until Wednesday to present caseThe three suspects arrested for a robbery at the old museum of Ancient Olympia were given an extension until Wednesday morning to present their case when they appeared before a Patras examining magistrate on Tuesday.
In statements to the press, one of the lawyers of the three accused described them as "amateurs" that had nothing to do with antiquities-trading circuits and had been driven to desperation due to the economic crisis.
In the meantime, police are continuing to search for two other individuals allegedly involved in the affair and are awaiting the results of forensics tests on evidence to determine what role each of the suspects played in the robbery.
 Four arrested for attack and vandalism of foreign nationals' homeFour locals aged 17, 19, 20 and 23 were arrested on Monday in the coastal towns of Artemida and Spata in northeastern Athens, charged with attempted arson, assault against foreign nationals and aggravated damages.
The four suspects, wearing hoods, broke into a house in Spata where two Pakistani nationals, aged 26 and 32, reside. One of the suspects smashed the entrance door with a hammer while the second suspect threw stones at the windows and the third sprayed with gas the ground around a parked motorcycle and unsuccessfully attempted to set fire to it.
After the attack the perpetrators fled with a car where the fourth suspect was waiting for them.
Police located them later and arrested them. A search of the 19-year-old suspect's house revealed a rifle lacking licence and two shells.
All suspects will be sent before an Athens prosecutor.
 Prosecutor orders police to end Thessaloniki University building occupationThe head of the Thessaloniki public prosecutors' office Evangelos Mademlis on Tuesday ordered the police to end the occupation of Thessaloniki University's administrative building by protestors, arresting those responsible.
The charges against the sit-in protestors include disturbing domestic peace, illegal violence, vandalism and 'degradation of the environment'.
Prior to the order for police intervention, Mademlis had received a letter from the university's rectors asking him to end the occupation because it was preventing the university from running and citing non-reversible damages.
At the same time, the prosecutor also asked for police to end an occupation at Macedonia University by students from the Kalamaria student housing complaining about living conditions in the student accommodation.
The protestors had taken over the building and were preventing the collection of rubbish in support of striking janitorial contract staff. Mounds of rubbish accumulated in buildings and on the campus while protestors also came to blows with academic staff and students that attempted to clean up.
 Man arrested transporting 23 kilos heroin in IgoumenitsaA team of Greek coast guard special missions officers on Tuesday morning arrested a 59-year-old foreign national caught transporting 23.82 kilos of heroin into Greece at Igoumenitsa port. The drugs were divided into 45 separate packages and concealed within a special crypt in the roof at the back of a campervan that the suspect was driving.
The drugs and the vehicle were both confiscated by the Igoumenitsa Central Harbour Authority.
 Two-day strike at tax officesTax office (DOY) employees on Tuesday decided to call a 48-hour strike in protest of pay cuts and tax office mergers.
As a result, tax offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 4C and 21C. Slightly cloudy in Athens with northerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 11C and 18C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 10C and 17C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe Eurogroup's decision for the disbursement of 43.7 billion euros to Greece in four installments, with a first installment of 34.4 billion euros in December, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.
AVGHI: "Fireworks instead of solution".
DIMOKRATIA: "Blood tranche".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Poisonous tranche".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Landmark agreement for 40 billion euro debt reduction".
ESTIA: "Compromise in Eurogroup".
ETHNOS: "Compromise after 12-hour...itch".
IMERISSIA: "Historic agreement - The way for the tranche opened".
KATHIMERINI: "Finally, a decision on tranche and debt".
LOGOS: "The great compromise on the Eurogroup's table".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The 34.4 billion euros tranche in December a 'deep breather'."
RIZOSPASTIS: "The struggle must have the popular authority as its prospect".
TA NEA: "The first smile".
6 DAYS: "Compromise of misery".
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