|Thursday, 23 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-12-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Tuesday, 4 December 2012 Issue No: 4238
 Gov't anticipates immediate benefit of 2 bln euro from clampdown on bureaucracy with help of OECDBureaucracy costs Greece some 14 billion euro annually, representing 6.8 percent of GDP, but up to 7 billion euro can be saved from a clampdown on red tape, reducing 25 percent of the bureaucratic burden by end 2013 and lifting of the restrictions that hinder competitiveness, through a double cooperation agreement signed between the government and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The aim of the agreements is a more efficient competition in prices, increasing the options of the consumer, reversing attitudes that harm competitiveness, encouragement of investments and boosting exports, Development, Competitiveness, Transport and Networks minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Monday, presenting the double agreement. ` According to Administrative Reform and e-Governance minister Antonis Manitakis, bureaucracy costs Greece 14 billion euro or 6.8 percent of GDP each year, against an EU average of 3.5 percent of GDP, while businesses are burdened with an additional cost of 2 billion euro to deal with bureaucratic hurdles.
The first agreement, on stamping out bureaucracy concerns the charting of laws and regulations in 13 fundamental sectors of the Greek economy, including energy, pharmaceutical legislation, state contracts, statistics, and tax legislation (VAT).
The target is to pinpoint and reduce bureaucratic burdens in legislation by 80 percent, and according to the plan the benefit to arise from the elimination of bureaucratic burdens will reach 25 percent by end-2013, which translates to a 2.4 percent increase in GDP by 2025. The immediate benefit anticipated by the government from the elimination of unnecessary burdens is 7 billion euro.
The second accord concerns the pinpointing of restrictions to competition in the sectors of tourism, food processing, retail trade and construction material. The first stage will be completed in April and the second stage by September 2013.
European Commission representation in Greece chief Panos Karvounis said that the recent Eurogroup decision on Greece is a "certification of credibility for the country's stay in the eurozone", adding that the goal of the collaboration with the OECD is bring prices on par with the salary levels. He noted that the bailout loan tranche approved by the Eurogroup corresponds to one-fifth of Greece's GDP and is larger than the GDPs of 140 countries worldwide.
OECD Deputy Chief of Staff Luiz de Mello noted that the OECD recommends specific measures in cooperation with the relevant ministries for enhancement of competitiveness, reducing bureaucracy and increasing productivity.
 BoG governor calls for 'national strategy broader in scope than memorandum'Bank of Greece governor George Provopoulos on Monday stressed the need for a "national strategy broader in scope than the memorandum" in the central bank's interim report on monetary policy presented to Parliament. Provopoulos said that this was a necessary condition for an exit from the crisis, warning that uncertainties and dangers continue to exist despite the progress made.
The bank's report predicted a continued severe recession in 2013, with Greece's GDP shrinking by 4-4.5 percent and unemployment rising to 23.5 percent in 2012 and 26 percent in 2013 and 2014. The economy is only expected to return to positive growth from 2014. The cumulative decline in GDP since the crisis began has now reached 20 percent and may rise to 24 percent at the end of 2013, the bank said.
It also points out that a recession of this intensity and duration "is unprecedented in Greece's peacetime history" and has taken a heavy toll on both incomes but also on potential output and social cohesion, not only preventing fiscal adjustment but also causing banks' deposit base to shrink and reducing their capacity to extend credit, with the result that it "ultimately worsens the debt-to-GDP ratio".
The report listed a number of areas where positive progress has been made, such as the drop in the current account deficit or legislation for structural reforms but also listed a number of preconditions for a return to positive growth.
Among these were the lifting of uncertainty about Greece's place in the euro area and finalising a national plan for a transition to a new growth model that went beyond the provisions of the austerity memorandum, with a national strategy to eliminate the twin deficits and set up a modern, competitive economy.
The bank especially emphasised the need to speed up structural reforms, warning that conditions in the economy will quickly become even more adverse if the causes of the deficits are addressed with measures that are only a temporary fix.
Its report goes on to suggest six priority areas for speeding up the rate of reforms, such as implementing measures to help restart the economy using funds from the EU's National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), the Hellenic Investment Fund, the European Investment Bank to finance major projects such as motorways.
It also calls for measures to address liquidity and lack of credit through actions targeting the banking system, action to improve the efficiency of public administration and simplify the legal and regulatory framework, establishing a stable tax regime and reducing the tax burden, making greater progress in privatisations to generate proceeds reducing public debt and, finally, ensuring effective utilisation of EU funds, with faster absorption and optimisation of their use as tools for growth.
Provopoulos presented the bank's interim report to Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis on Monday, noting that some positive signs pointing to a new, more optimistic prospect for economic recovery were beginning to emerge, not least a stronger banking sector.
 Merkel statements on Greek debt misinterpreted, chancellory spokesmanBERLIN (AMNA - F. Karaviti)
Statements by German Chancellor Angela Merkel concerning Greek debt and the possibility of a further debt restructuring were misinterpreted, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.
The spokesman stressed that Merkel had not intended to give the impression that she was considering another restructuring of Greece's debt after 2014-2015.
He was referring to the reply given by the chancellor to the German newspaper "Bild am Sonntag" to a question on whether a new debt restructuring for Greece would be postponed until after the German elections. In her reply, Merkel had indicated that if Greece was doing well with its revenues and not creating new debts, then there could be a "reassessment" of the situation, while noting that this would not happen before 2014-2015 "if things went according to plan".
Seibert said that interpreting this as a "non-rejection" of a second reduction in Greek debt was "far-fetched" and the Chancellor had merely meant that EU leaders must examine whether Greece would be able to return to borrowing on the markets.
The spokesman also absolutely denied any difference of opinion between the German finance ministry and the chancellor on the issue of the Greek package.
 Juncker confident over Greek bond buyback programmeBRUSSELS (AMNA/M.Aroni)
Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker told a press conference here he was confident that a Greek bond buyback programme, which started on Monday, would yield the desired results.
Speaking during a press conference at the end of a Eurogroup Finance ministers council meeting on Monday night, Juncker said that Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras briefed the council on the details of the bond buyback programme and refrained from any comment on the programme as long as it was still running.
Asked if he believed that the buyback programme would succeed thus resulting to a Eurogroup decision on December 13 for the disbursement of a massive bailout loan tranche, Juncker answered "Yes".
 PASOK's Venizelos warns tax bill will be a 'test' for governmentThe upcoming tax bill will be a test "for the government, Parliament, society, the tax administration and the productive forces of the country", PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos warned on Monday. The leader of the second-largest party in Greece's coalition government, Venizelos was addressing a conference organised by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens on "The Greek Economy: State Reform - the Cornerstone for Investment and Development".
"In order to convince people that we know what must be done, we must be especially careful on issues of taxation legislation and tax policy," Venizelos underlined. He stressed that the government must not "make mistakes that will bring us into conflict with the whole of society".
PASOK's leader also emphasised that the government must convince citizens that it was departing from the narrow dictates of the memorandum and implementing a "home-grown national plan for recovery".
Venizelos called for a tax system arising through dialogue with the market place and social forces and stressed that the major issue was to make changes to tax administration and track down undeclared income, not just to change the way the tax burden was spread between declared incomes.
He underlined that the first priority for national recovery was governmental and political stability, adding that PASOK guaranteed this in spite of the difficulty and the damage.
He ended by calling for the organisation of a major national movement for the return of deposits to the Greek banking system, saying that this could be an initiative taken jointly by the political system and private sector.
 SYRIZA urges finance ministry to unveil draft tax billMain opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) on Monday called on the finance ministry to finally unveil the proposals it has submitted for the draft tax bill and "to stop the communications tricks".
"At a time when society is in despair and the citizens' overdue debts have increased sharply, the scenarios leaked to the press for new, merciless tax burdens reveal the plans of the three-party government to lead small and middle-income households to pauperisation," the party's press office said in an announcement.
 KKE leader on tax systemCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Monday visited the National Research Foundation, and to a question on the taxation of business profits clarified that her party believes that a 45 percent tax should be imposed on business profits.
"It is not right the natural entities with an income of over 26,000 euros annually pay a 45 percent tax. We are talking about mass poverty and devastation of the people," she said.
Moreover, in her meeting with the Foundation's Board said that her party supports the financing of the National Research Foundation and is against layoffs, adding that her party will prepare a parliamentary intervention on the issue.
Papariga charged the government that, with the mergers, it wants to downgrade the Foundation with the aim of the promotion of reinforcing private research centers.
 Papoulias received Cyprus' DI.SY leaderPresident Karolos Papoulias on Monday received visiting Democratic Rally Party (DI.SY) president Nicos Anastasiades, who is also a presidential candidate in February's elections in Cyprus.
Papoulias stressed that the necessary preconditions to overcome the crisis are present, adding that "this is owed to the people that have already offered a lot and cannot suffer any more because poverty has soaked through the bone marrow of lower social classes."
Anastasiades referred to the crisis that has reached Cyprus as well, stressing that he will back his country's government "in negotiations with the troika without political party or ideological hang-ups keeping in mind the country's benefit."
They also discussed developments in the Cyprus issue with President Papoulias noting that "Ankara's intransigence does not allow for hope but despite this the Cypriot people and leadership continue the efforts."
On his part, Anastasiades underlined that "the Turkish intransigence can be faced only with collective action." He referred to the collective decisions for Cyprus' EU accession and to the exercise of the country's sovereign rights in the EEZ case "as a result of the involvement of US and Israeli interests," stressing that "they were two successful policies which have proved that will and proper strategy can produce results".
 PM meets Cypriot Democratic Rally leaderPrime minister Antonis Samaras met on Monday with visiting Cypriot Democratic Rally party leader Nikolaos Anastassiades, for talks that focused on the developments in the Cyprus issue and the economic crisis in Greece and Cyprus.
Anastassiades thanked the Greek premier for his interest in Cyprus, noting that Samaras' concern about Cyprus and the Cyprus issue is well-known.
He said they also exchanged views on the crisis faced by both countries, adding that Samaras' experience is very important, particularly given the latest events and developments.
 SYRIZA elects new nat'l coordinating com'tMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Monday released the results of the vote held in the party's nationwide conference for the election of the members of its new nationwide coordinating committee in view of the founding congress scheduled for spring.
According to the results, the Single Ballot candidates won 168 seats (74.29 pct with 2,008 votes) while the Leftist Platform candidates won 58 seats (25.71 pct with 695 votes). Other 75 seats are occupied by individuals proposed by the party.
Based on the results made public by the returning board in SYRIZA's nationwide conference, the registered voters were 3,308 while the votes cast were 2,897. Of them, 2,879 were valid, nine were declared null and nine were blank.
 Loverdos expelled from PASOK parliamentary group after creation of new political movementPASOK deputy elected in the Athens A' district and high-profile former minister Andreas Loverdos was expelled from the party's parliamentary group and the party by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos just hours after Loverdos announced the establishment of a political movement called the Radical Social-Democratic Alliance Movement (RIKSSY).
Loverdos announced the new movement in a brief statement posted on his personal website, and invited anyone sharing the founders' views and purposes to sign the founding declaration on the movement's website http://subscriber.amna.gr/anaweb/attachment/www.rikssy.gr
The new movement's acronym RIKSSY is a homophone for the Greek word for rift.
In a letter to parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis, Venizelos announced that Loverdos has been expelled from the PASOK parliamentary group.
Venizelos also expressed the opinion that, with his action of establishing a political movement "not as a tendency or trend within PASOK, but as a springboard for (the establishment of) another party" automatically removes Loverdos from the party.
Venizelos, in a statement, said that for months he had tolerated "insistent and organised" attitudes that were harmful to the party for reasons of national interest, and in order to ensure governmental stability, and had expected that Loverdos, following his "reappearance" in the PASOK bodies, would re-enter the collective functions of the party, "but this lasted only a few days".
At a time when PASOK was "organising the new 'we' with toil and difficulties, someone has opted for the 'me'," Venizelos said, and expressed his regret.
 PASOK unveils initiative against racist violence; SYRIZA responsePASOK party on Monday unveiled a number of initiatives aimed at "tackling the phenomenon of the "fascistisation" of society", as it said, inaugurating a clash with the ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party, which it accused of racist and social violence.
Speaking at a press conference, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos stressed that an invitation to join forces is addressed to all political parties, social powers, European and international institutions suggesting that one of the initiatives could be to exclude Golden Dawn for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Venizelos rejected the viewpoint that the ultra-right gained momentum as a result of the economic crisis, and clarified that no provision is included in the constitution banning the operation of a political party.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) strongly criticised Venizelos' statements, pointing out that Golden Dawn can be dealt with "only if democratic and progressive forces form a united front" and not by resorting to "communication fireworks".
According to SYRIZA, the causes that led to the rise of the fascist extreme-right can be found in the unprecedented economic crisis experienced by Greek society and in the "Memorandum policy" being implemented, which it said marginalises the financially weak. "Memorandums feed fascism and threaten democracy," SYRIZA said.
 DM contacts Egyptian counterpartDefence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos held a telephone conversation on Monday with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, whom he congratulated, along with the Egyptian government, for Cairo's role in achieving a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
According to a ministry announcement, the Egyptian defence minister confirmed his intention to visit Greece soon, responding to a relevant invitation.
 Draft bill on protection of classified EU information tabled in ParliamentA draft bill for an agreement among representatives of European Union member-states was tabled for ratification in Parliament on Monday evening, relating to the protection of classified information exchanged within the EU framework.
Ratification of the agreement is regarded as especially beneficial for Greece, as it makes it unnecessary for member-states to sign bilateral agreements, while it safeguards the exchange of classified information and covers legal gaps.
 Greece launches procedure for debt buy-backGreece on Monday released the method for its debt buy-back, through a modified "Dutch" auction.
The deadline for statement of interest in the buy-back is December 7, with the expected settlement date on December 17.
The Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) on Monday announced an invitation to eligible holders of the bonds to submit offers to exchange the designated securities (together with accrued and unpaid interest on them) for up to 10 billion euro aggregate principal amount of six-month notes to be issued by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).
"The invitation is designed to improve the Republic's (Greece's) debt profile in furtherance of the November 27, 2012 Eurogroup Statement," the PDMA said in an announcement.
The PDMA set a minimum price range of 30.2 percent to 38.1 percent and a maximum price range of 32.2 percent to 40.1 percent depending on the bond maturities on the 20 series' of outstanding bonds.
The PDMA announcement in full can be accessed at http://www.pdma.gr/index.php/el/debt-instruments-gr/announcements-gr/247-el031212a
 Squatted state land estimated at 28,300 propertiesSome 28,300 land properties owned by the state, equal to nearly 101,000 acres, have been squatted, according to figures from the State Properties Company (ETAD) S.A. electronic files, finance ministry general director for state property and national endowments Aglaia Vasilopoulou said in a document submitted to parliament on Monday, in reply to a question tabled by main opposition SYRIZA deputy Vangelis Apostolou.
Apostolou asked the number and expanse of squatted state properties and properties of unknown ownership that have arisen in the process of drafting the national Cadastre (Land Registry) and checks by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF).
 KKE strongly opposes airport privatisation plansCommunist Party (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Monday expressed her party's strong opposition to government plans for the privatisation and/or closure of several airports - especially on islands - saying such a prospect will also affect the country's defence needs and sovereign rights.
Following a meeting with the board of the Federation of Civil Aviation Associations (OSYPA), Papariga said "the aim of airport privatisation is not primarily cash-related, but rather connected to the air transport sector liberalisation policy, designed to create the 'single European sky'."
OSYPA representatives conveyed both their concern and opposition to the government plans to sell to private hands or even close down the country's 39 state-operated airports, saying this would have negative repercussions to both employees and domestic travelers, especially on the islands.
 Eurobank Securities most active firm in NovEurobank Securities topped the list of the most active securities firms in the Athens Stock Exchange in November, with a market share of 15.45 pct, followed by National Securities (13.84 pct), Investment Bank of Greece (9.53 pct), Piraeus Securities (6.43 pct), Alpha Finance (5.94 pct), Euroxx (5.21 pct), Pantelakis (3.13 pct), Solidus (3.03 pct), BETA (2.85 pct) and Sarris (2.21 pct).
Eurobank Securities was at the top of the list in the January-November period this year, with a market share of 16.16 pct, followed by National Securities (12.38 pct), Investment Bank of Greece (11.13 pct), Euroxx (6.48 pct) and Piraeus Securities (5.67 pct).
 Business Briefs-- The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds fell significantly, while bond prices rose sharply in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday.
-- Titan Group, a major Greek cement producer, on Monday launched a plan to extend the maturity of its debt through a bond exchange transaction.
 Stocks end 1.27 pct higherStocks rallied at the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday as the market reacted positively to the announcement of participation terms in a Greek bond buy back programe. Bank shares were the focus of buying interest. The composite index of the market rose 1.27 pct to end at 819.39 points, off the day's highs of 824.7 points, with turnover falling to 45.545 million euros.
The Big Cap index jumped 2.36 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.32 pct higher. The Telecoms (6.13 pct), Banks (5.82 pct) and Construction (4.77 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Food (1.85 pct) and Technology (1.54 pct) suffered losses.
Piraeus Bank (11.46 pct), Cyprus Bank (7.69 pct) and Titan (6.58 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Terna Energy (3.28 pct), Frigoglass (2.19 pct) and Coca Cola
Hellenc (1.85 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 74 to 58 with another 21 issues unchanged. Fieratex (29.70 pct), Unibios (20.16 pct) and Altec (20 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (20 pct), Kathimerini (20 pct) and Olympic Catering (17.63 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.68%
Personal & Household: -0.19%
Raw Materials: +1.51%
Travel & Leisure: -0.09%
Food & Beverages: -1.85%
Financial Services: +0.84%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Bank of Piraeus and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.63
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.65
HBC Coca Cola: 17.55
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.36
National Bank of Greece: 1.37
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.72
Bank of Piraeus: 0.39
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank significantly to 13.14 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Monday, from 15.02 pct on Friday, with the Greek bond yielding 14.55 pct and the German Bund 1.41 pct. Turnover was a strong 30 million euros, of which 18 million euros were buy orders and 12 million euros sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate fell to 0.57 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.19 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.11 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a premium of 0.43 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover remaining a low 13.334 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,964 contracts worth 7.150 million euros, with 30,565 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 36,670 contracts worth 6.184 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (14,152), followed by Piraeus Bank (4,428), OTE (2,719), Eurobank (1,697), Intralot (325), Ellaktor (243), Cyprus Bank (832), PPC (510), OPAP (831) and Mytilineos (302).
 Foreign Exchange rates - TuesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.325
Pound sterling 0.824
Danish kroner 7.572
Swedish kroner 8.785
Japanese yen 108.97
Swiss franc 1.226
Norwegian kroner 7.459
Canadian dollar 1.315
Australian dollar 1.270
 Roughly one third of Greeks at risk of poverty, Eurostat report findsBRUSSELS (AMNA - M. Aroni)
Greece was among the six European Union countries with the largest percentage of their population at risk of poverty in 2011, sharing fourth place with Hungary at 31 percent. The figures were given in a Eurostat report on poverty and social exclusion rates in 2011 that was released on Monday, according to which 24.2 percent of the population of the EU or 120 million people were considered at risk of poverty.
The highest rates for those at risk for poverty were in Bulgaria (49 percent), Romania and Latvia (40 percent) and Lithuania (33 percent). The highest risk of income poverty rates, even after social transfers, were in Bulgaria, Romania and Spain, which all had rates of 22 percent, and then Greece with 21 percent.
According to Eurostat, persons considered at risk of poverty are those living in households with an available income less than 60 percent the national average (after social transfers).
The rate of those at risk of poverty in Greece was 28.1 percent in 2008, 27.7 percent in 2010 and finally 31 percent or 3.4 million people in 2011.
The percentage of Greeks considered severely materially deprived in 2011 came to 15.2 percent, compared to an EU average of 8.8 percent, roughly midway in a range of values from 44 percent in Bulgaria to just 1 percent in Luxembourg. Those considered materially deprived are those that are unable to meet the cost of four of the following: rent or mortgage payments, heating their home, unexpected expenses, meals of meat or fish every second day, one week's holiday, a car, a washing machine, a colour television or a telephone.
In the third category of poverty, living in a very low work intensity household, 11.8 percent of Greeks fell in this category in 2011 compared with 10 percent of the EU.
 Thessaloniki one of National Geographic's 20 best places to visitThe northern port city of Thessaloniki is among the 20 "must-see" places in the world for 2013, according to National Geographic, confirming its international reputation.
"Thessaloniki's sparkling harbor is almost empty - a good thing. It remains one of the last urban seafronts in southern Europe not hemmed in by a giant marina. Instead, wooden caiques still ply the quiet bay while footpaths trace the meandering waterfront of Greece's second largest city, some 320 miles north - and a world away - from chaotic Athens," National Geographic noted.
It referred to the century-old street markets of the metropolis, characterising them as the city's trademarks "tucked between relics of Byzantine and Ottoman antiquity, art galleries, bohemian nightclubs, and culinary hot spots, all part of a grassroots vision turned reality by Thessaloniki's large (about 50 percent of the population) do-it-yourself youth culture".
"We are driven by our optimism and positive energy for a new way of living that embraces our heritage," says Vicky Papadimitriou, a university graduate who helped Thessaloniki gain official status as the 2014 European Youth Capital.
National Geographic's 20 best places in the world to visit include Crimea, Marseilles, Ravenna, the ancient city of Gerasa in Jordan, Bodo in Noway, Valparaiso in Chile, Kyoto in Japan, Malawi and Uganda, among others.
 President's message on World Disability DayThe degree of the civilization of a society is determined and realized through the way it treats sensitive social groups, such as persons with disabilities, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said on Monday in a message on the UN-designated International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Papoulias said that the International Day is a day against discrimination of fellow citizens with disabilities who are waging an unequal battle with their daily problems in an environment that constantly projects obstacles to them.
"It is the duty of every modern and civilized society to envision and look to providing equal opportunities in education, work and full participation in all areas of life," Papoulias said, stressing that, in a period in which Greece is battered by the biggest economic crisis in its contemporary history, it would be a mistake, in the name of this crisis, to adopt non-privilege policies that would result in the downgrading of the provision of services and infrastructures ensuring dignified living conditions for persons with disabilities.
 First snow falls in northern GreeceThe mountains of northern Greece received the first snow to fall in the country this winter on Monday, with vehicles needing snow chains to negotiate mountain roads in Western Macedonia around Ioannina, Kastoria, Florina and Grevena.
Snow has also started to cover the ski resorts in the north of the country, which are expected to get their first customers this coming weekend.
 Prosecutor appeals acquittal of 3 unionists in incident involving German consulA first instance court prosecutor in the northern city of Thessaloniki has appealed the acquittal of three men, identified as unionists, on charges of simple assault against the German consul in the city late last month.
The diplomat was shown on television being shoved and targeted with plastic cups full of coffee, amongst others. He was attending a conference in the city on local government reforms, which in part was sponsored by the German side.
In a statement, prosecutor Ioanna Katsi said she considers the single-judge first instance court ruling as "legally faulty" against the three original defendants, two local government employees and an educator. She added that the "true events" were not correctly evaluated by the judge.
All three of the men were arrested on the basis of TV footage of the incident and press photos.
A new trial will now be scheduled before a three-justice misdemeanor court -- which qualifies in this instance as an appellate-level hearing.
Charges against the trio include disturbing the peace and simple assault, while the educator was also charged with resisting authority because he refused to give his fingerprints.
 Three that attacked German consul back in courtThree local authority workers that attacked the German consul in Thessaloniki some weeks ago are to be led back to court to face charges after a public prosecutor appealed against their acquittal by a Thessaloniki court.
Thessaloniki public prosecutor Ioanna Katsi considered the acquittal issued by a judge for the two municipal employees and a teacher trade unionist to be "legally erroneous" since it did not accurately assess the evidence against them, including footage broadcast on television and websites.
The three will now face a repeat trial in the case before a higher-level Thessaloniki court. The three will face charges of disturbing the peace and illegal violence, while the trade unionist will be further charged with insubordination for refusing to have his fingerprints taken. The charge will not include attempted grievous bodily harm, on which they were acquitted.
 Sprider Stores charged with setting fire to collect insuranceFormer board members and management of the Greek clothing chain Sprider Stores were on Monday charged with deliberately torching a Sprider outlet in Anthousa last February in order to collect on the insurance. Criminal charges of morally instigating arson, insurance fraud and general fraud were brought against Savvas and Athanassios Hadjiioannou and other members of the company's management of that time, based on the findings of a lengthy investigation.
Charges of arson and causing an explosion have also been brought against four associates of the company that are allegedly involved in the premeditated fire.
The fire broke out in the early hours of February 13 this year and had originally been blamed on "hooded trouble-makers" of the type also responsible for acts of vandalism in central Athens, carrying out reprisals against austerity measures passed by Parliament.
The initial claims concerning the fire were that a band of hood-wearing vandals attacked and tied up a security guard on the premises - who had to be taken to hospital - then set multiple fires within the building, the most serious of which were in the room containing a fuel tank and an area housing power generators and a fire alarm system. The ensuing fire completely gutted the 20,000 square foot building, from the basement to the top floor.
Based on a subsequent investigation, the public prosecutor concluded that the arson attack aimed to cash in on an insurance policy of 16 million euro. After taking inventory of the damage, the company had announced that the cost in stock and equipment, which were fully insured with four insurance agencies, exceeded 15 million euro.
The evidence collected in the case includes that from the suspension of phone privacy for specific individuals, from which authorities discovered that three of the four accused for the arson were moving in the specific area at the time of the fire. Prosecuting authorities were also able to take advantage of significant discrepancies arising in the testimony given by the suspects.
Suspicions had earlier been aroused when the fire brigade arson investigation unit discovered that part of the security system had been turned off shortly before the fire was set.
The file on the case has been sent to the 21st examining magistrate, who is expected to call the suspects to testify after examining the evidence.
This was the fourth fire in a Sprider Stores facility. It had been proceeded by a fire in the company's warehouse in Alimos in 2004, and the fires at the Lykovrisi and Ermou Street stores in 2008 during the riots for the Grigoropoulos murder.
The two Hadjiioannou brothers are no longer on the company's board, though they continue to among the largest shareholders.
 Thieves make off with bank strong-box containing more than half a million euroThieves demolished an Agricultural Bank (ATEbank) branch in Anogeia, Rethymno on the island of Crete in the early hours of Monday and made off with the bank's strong-box containing more than 500,000 euros in cash.
The thieves broke through the bank's facade with a heavy duty truck, drove into the branch demolishing everything in the truck's way and loaded the strong-box onto the truck, disappearing before police were able to respond to the alarm that went off.
Police launched a manhunt for the perpetrators, and a short while later, a few kilometers outside Anogeia, spotted a burnt vehicle that was being investigated to ascertain whether it was the truck used by the perpetrators.
Police believe that the perpetrators were at least three, and knew the layout of the bank and that a large sum of cash was in the strong-box for the payment of pensions and Christmas bonuses.
 Illegal fuel trade case cracked by financial crimes policeA major illegal fuel trade case was reportedly uncovered by the financial crimes police after an investigation involving phone-tapping and evidence gathering that led to several organised gangs, mostly active in the western Attica region, it was announced on Monday.
A police operation was in progress on Monday morning for the arrest of at least 16 individuals involved. A total of eight people are already in police custody, among them three individuals arrested for similar cases in the past.
Based on the evidence collected during the past year since the investigation was launched, the unpaid tariffs and taxes to the state as a result of the gang's illegal transactions are estimated at four million euros.
 Christmas 'Dreamland' opens in DramaChristmas 'Oniroupolis' (Dreamland) of Drama, northeastern Greece, will open on Tuesday 4 December and will run through Jan. 5, 2013.
More than 200 different events and activities, among them concerts, theatrical productions, creative workshops and puppet theatre, will be hosted in the Dreamland.
This is the ninth consecutive year that Drama is hosting the annual Dreamland, which is considered one of the largest Christmas fests held in Greece.
 Super League resultsOlympiacos Piraeus beat Platanias Crete 2-1 in a match played at home over the weekend retaining its lead in the Greek Super League soccer championship.
In other action:
Xanthi - Asteras Tripoli 1-1
Aris Thessaloniki - Atromitos Athens 1-1
OFI Crete - Panthrakikos 1-1
Veria - PAOK Thessaloniki 0-0
Levadiakos - Kerkyra 2-0
Panionios Athens - Panathinaikos 1-2
AEK Athens - PAS Yiannina 2-1
Standings after thirteen weeks of play:
1. Olympiacos 35
2. PAOK 25
3. Asteras 24
4. Panionios 21
5. Atromitos 21
6. Panathinaikos 19
7. PAS Yiannina 18
8. Levadiakos 18
9. Platanias 15
10. OFI 14
11. Panthrakikos 14
12 Kerkyra 12
13. AEK 11
14. Xanthi 11
15. Aris 11
16. Veria 11
NOTE: Panathinaikos has had two points deducted.
 The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe debt buy-back procedure for the private sector starting on Monday, the new taxation system and main opposition SYRIZA party's nationwide congress, mostly dominated the headlines on Monday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: 'Reserved optimism over the bonds' buy-back".
AVGHI: "SYRIZA: Left, democratic, radical party".
DIMOKRATIA: "In the Bermuda...triangle".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Children the hostages of the tax rise".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Mini face-lift to new tax system".
ESTIA: "SYRIZA in PASOK's role".
ETHNOS: "45 percent tax on over 26,000 euros incomes".
IMERISSIA: "Bond buy-back procedure begins".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Extreme scenarios for the taxation of incomes".
TA NEA: "Salary earners again facing the firing squad".
VRADYNI: "Three ways to reduce your loans' installments".
6 DAYS: "Financial Crime Squad (SDOE) list with 1,747 prominent names".
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