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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-09-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Thursday, 12 September 2013 Issue No: 4458


  • [01] Defence Minister Avramopoulos visits the SEEBRIG Command in central Greece
  • [02] Venizelos on Syria: Greece has condemned chemical weapon use, not specific actor
  • [03] President Papoulias meets Venizelos, praises outcome of Egypt visit
  • [04] Barroso: Fiscal changes and reforms in Greece 'very impressive'
  • [05] Parliament passes new law on upper high school reform
  • [06] New school year starts Wednesday, as teachers are set to strike
  • [07] Presidential decree on teacher evaluation not legal, Supreme Court finds
  • [08] DIMAR leader says country does not need any more memorandums
  • [09] PASOK delegation discusses mobility issue with Administrative Reform ministry officials
  • [10] Ten members of Greek Red Cross central board resign, including Martinis
  • [11] Public Order Minister Dendias wraps up two-day visit to Serbia
  • [12] Public Order Minister in Belgrade: 'Greeks are not xenophobic'
  • [13] Deputy FM holds meeting with Rhode Island State Senator
  • [14] Opinion poll shows SYRIZA lead over ND
  • [15] Golden Dawn party offices in Thessaloniki attacked
  • [16] Hellenic Sepsis Study Group reports life-threatening shortages of hospital staff
  • [17] HEALTHWORLD Congress in Athens
  • [18] Republic President Papoulias receives Culture Minister Panagiotopoulos
  • [19] Greek exports' growth rate slowed in H1
  • [20] Dev't Minister sets up group to revise SA corporate laws
  • [21] Shipping Minister Varvitsiotis decides restructuring of Port Consular Offices
  • [22] Energy watchdog awards PPC's cost-control contract to Ernst & Young
  • [23] Alternate finance minister receives high-ranking Chinese delegation
  • [24] Deputy development minister to meet UAE government delegation, Russian businessman
  • [25] Talks on investments in Greece
  • [26] Rise in tourist visits to museums, archaeological sites in May
  • [27] TAP project presentation to Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Regional Authority
  • [28] Karamolegos to issue 2.3-mln-euro bond loan
  • [29] Greek stocks end slightly lower on profit taking
  • [30] Greek bond market closing report
  • [31] ADEX closing report
  • [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday
  • [33] Larisa of Argos medieval castle to get repairs with EU funds
  • [34] Donation for children by 'Stavros Niarchos' Foundation
  • [35] Police operation in Patissia region to crack down on illegal immigration, crime
  • [36] Over 100 illegal migrants arrested at the seaport of Patras so far this month
  • [37] Ghana national arrested on international warrant for cocaine trafficking
  • [38] Moldovan national wanted on international warrant arrested
  • [39] New quake jolts southern Crete
  • [40] Skunk holds airport staff at bay on Crete
  • [41] Cloudy on Thursday
  • [42] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Defence Minister Avramopoulos visits the SEEBRIG Command in central Greece

    Greece was described as a factor of stability and peace in SE Europe by National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who visited the South Eastern European Brigade (SEEBRIG) HQ in Tirnavos, central Greece, on Wednesday. The visit was carried out in the context of the handover ceremony for the presidency of the South Eastern Europe Defence Ministerial Coordination Committee (SEDM-CC) Political Military Steering Committee (PMSC) and for the new SEEBRIG command.

    Romanian Deputy Defence Policy & Planning Minister Sebastian Huluban is the new PMSC President, replacing Italian Deputy Defence Minister Gioacchino Alfano, while Turkish Brigadier General Hakan Eser is the new SEEBRIG Commander replacing FYROM Brigadier General Zdravko Popovski.

    The handover ceremony was attended by FYROM Deputy Defence Minister Talat Xhaferi and Turkish Consul General to Thessaloniki Turgul Biltekin. A courtesy meeting between Avramopoulos and the FYROM deputy defence minister focused on defence cooperation issues.

    Referring to the special symbolism of the ceremony, Avramopoulos said that the SE Europe alliance should become rid of its bad past as soon as possible. "Through relations of cooperation and friendship we should create an oasis of security for all the peoples in the region," he said, adding that "the message sent by this ceremony is that the armed forces' main purpose is the protection, independence and integrity of a country but, at the same time, they can also be a key-factor in shaping an environment of broader peace and stability. This is the message sent by our country as well, to the entire region, as one of the steadier factors in SE Europe that can undertake missions in the name of international cooperation and peace."

    The defence minister also visited the Hellenic Tactical Air Force Command (ATA) and the 1st Army Corps.

    The SEEBRIG command changes hands every two years on a rotating basis, taken over by member-states Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, FYROM, Italy, Albania and Turkey.

    [02] Venizelos on Syria: Greece has condemned chemical weapon use, not specific actor

    Referring to Greece's position concerning events in Syria while addressing Parliament on Wednesday, Government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed that his previous statements condemned the use of chemical weapons but not any specific party for using them.

    "Greece has asked and is asking for a clear, unequivocal and steadfast condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, is asking for a peace conference on Syria's future (Geneva-2) and a comprehensive plan equivalent to the peace process for the Middle East," Venizelos told Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee.

    "At no time has Greece referred to military intervention, at no time condemned any actor for the use of chemical weapons but their use in itself - and at no time was any actor referred to precisely because we are waiting for the international community to decide," he said.

    Venizelos came under fire from opposition MPs for his statements so far, with main opposition SYRIZA MP Theodoros Dritsas noting that "Greece has become identified with the forces that announced aggressive initiatives, ignoring global concern over their one-sided evaluations." SYRIZA MP Zoi Constantopoulou said that the foreign minister had "used human rights to justify our country's participation in a war of aggression".

    Replying, Venizelos accused them of a "deliberate and childishly distorted reading" of his statements.

    The foreign minister underlined the need for Greece to be in the international mainstream and not allow gaps to develop in regional planning "as the role of other countries in our region is being strengthened".

    "Turkey is developing very intense diplomatic activity, has come out in favour of the Syrian opposition and was a country accelerating, from August 21 until today, for the need to take military-style action in the framework of article 7 of the UN charter. It is once again in the central stream of the international community and certainly in that of the western world countries. We said and continue to say that Greece will meet its obligations as a UN member-state, as a member-state of the EU and NATO and we do not, of course, overlook our obligations arising from bilateral treaties on security and defence issues," Venizelos said.

    [03] President Papoulias meets Venizelos, praises outcome of Egypt visit

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday expressed satisfaction that discussion between Greece and Egypt to define their Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mediterranean had overcome obstacles stalling its progress, during his meeting with Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    Venizelos paid a visit to the president to brief him on foreign policy issues and the latest developments concerning Syria.

    He admitted that the visit to Egypt had "gone very well" and said the overall effort had aimed to "protect and improve the country's position in a very turbulent and dangerous region.

    "In Egypt we did very well. This is a mutually acceptable framework that is very positive for both countries, not just Greece but also for Egypt and, I would venture to say, for the eastern Mediterranean in general," the minister added.

    Referring to Greece's stance in relation to the crisis in Syria, Venizelos said an effort was being made to "try and help with a political solution that is final, comprehensive, while participating, of course, in the mainstream of the European Union since we must have allies in order to achieve great goals."

    The two men expressed hope that a political solution will prevail in Syria, though Venizelos noted that this will requre "the participation of many factors for a good outcome to be reached".

    [04] Barroso: Fiscal changes and reforms in Greece 'very impressive'


    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the fiscal changes and reforms applied in Greece in the last years extremely impressive, speaking before the European Parliament plenum on Wednesday in Strasbourg.

    In the opening of his speech, Barroso referred to the current situation in the European Union and said that after the impressive changes that took place in Greece in the last three years, the country is close to having a primary surplus.

    Referring to the picture of the Greek economy before the crisis, he reiterated that at that time all the eminent economists were almost certain that Greece would leave or would be forced to leave the eurozone and that that would have a domino effect on other eurozone country members.

    "However, nothing like that happened," Barroso concluded.

    [05] Parliament passes new law on upper high school reform

    The summer session of Parliament passed the draft bill on educational reforms in the last three grades of high school by 52 for, 45 against, and Independent deputy Giorgos Kassapidis declaring present, following a roll-call vote requested by main opposition SYRIZA.

    It was passed by New Democracy and PASOK, while all opposition parties voted against it. Independent Greeks deputy Kostas Giovanopoulos and Democratic Left's Spyros Lykoudis were absent.

    The draft bill created a strong reaction by secondary school teachers, who have decided to strike in protest, claiming that at a time of reduced staffing, changes in the curriculum can enlarge the number of students in classrooms by as much as 10 percent. In public schools teachers have declared five-day rolling strikes starting next week, while private school teachers will strike September 16 and 17.

    School year starting 'with worst possible omens', Tsipras says; Shutting schools is 'obscurantism', gov't responds

    The new school year is starting with the worst possible omens, main opposition 'Radical Left Coalition' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, talking to students at the Nea Ionia 1st Vocational High School on the first day of the Greek school year. SYRIZA's leader also expressed his conviction that a wave of resistance and change will begin from schools.

    "This year will be different. The memorandum government has decided to dismantle the most valuable things left in the country, which are state schools," Tsipras said.

    He urged students to support the struggle of their parents and teachers, saying it was a struggle to keep schools standing.

    SYRIZA's leader stressed that the changes did not only greatly reduce vocational high schools but also all-day schools, leaving thousands of working parents without this childcare option, with major gaps and shortages in all the schools in the country. He accused the troika of Greece's creditors of deciding to set off a nuclear bomb at the foundations of Greek society, which were its schools, and to generate surpluses by kicking teachers and children out of education.

    "We are not here to comment on the forms of struggle of students and teachers and parents," he added, saying he was certain that this will not take the form of strikes, did not concern labour rights but the future of Greek society as a whole.

    Commenting on Tsipras' statements in Nea Ionia, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accused him of appearing as "the president of a student committee rather than main opposition leader, urging students to shut down their schools".

    "Closing schools is not progress, it is obscurantism. It is not struggle, it is a return to the Middle Ages," Kedikoglou said, adding that state education was a democratic right, not an unionist exercise in revolutionary gymnastics.

    "We must leave all that behind us, along with those that defend decadence tooth and nail," he said.

    [06] New school year starts Wednesday, as teachers are set to strike

    The new schoolyear opened officially on Wednesday with the traditional blessing ceremony as teachers from primary to high education level declared a series of long-term strikes to protest budget cuts and staff transfers in education.

    Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos, who visited several Athens' schools, expressed the wish for a good academic year with schools remaining open.

    However, next week several schools will be closed after the federation of public high school teachers decided to hold five-day rolling strikes. Teachers in private schools will strike on 16 and 17 September, while the primary school teachers will decide what to do by Wednesday. Teachers are protesting against the reserve labour measures and staff shortages, claiming that this school year will start with 16,000 teachers fewer than last year.

    Government Vice President Evangelos Venizelos met with the board of the Schoolteachers' Federation (DOE). After the meeting he said that they discussed the huge problems that exist in the education but that the most important issue is that the schools remain open. "We can discuss everything else with good will and find solutions despite the strict fiscal framework," he stressed.

    Moreover, Venizelos underlined the importance of all-day schools, special schools for children with disabilities and the normal operation of the public educational system which is a fundamental good for the society and is not negotiable.

    On his part, the president of DOE Haralambos Kokkinos said that the union will decide by Thursday what their stance will be but clarified "the certainty is that there will be strikes and other mobilisations that will highlight the issues that are bothering us."

    Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos, who is currently in the city of Thessaloniki, visited an elementary school and gave his wishes to the pupils and the teachers for the new school year. Addressing the pupils' parents, Kammenos wished them courage to support their children because education is a nation's foundation.

    "Keep your head high and don't allow to anyone to treat you as second-rate citizens, study and keep your soul's eyes open," said Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas, who visited the technical lyceum of Petroupolis on Wednesday.

    Koutsoumbas said that KKE will do whatever possible and will offer its resources to the people's benefit, adding that the despair and indignation the populace feel are justified.

    [07] Presidential decree on teacher evaluation not legal, Supreme Court finds

    The Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, on Wednesday returned a draft presidential decree for the evaluation of teachers in primary and secondary education to the education ministry, finding that it did not meet legal requirements.

    According to the court, the decree should have been sent to the CoS and published in the government gazette by March 10, 2013. Due to the failure to submit the draft decree within the deadline stipulated, the court found that the decree in its entirety was not legal and did not examine its details.

    In the bill on upper high school passed by Parliament on Tuesday, however, the education ministry included an article extending the deadline for a resubmission of the specific decree given that the CoS had only examined whether it had been submitted before the deadline expired.

    [08] DIMAR leader says country does not need any more memorandums

    Democratic Left (DIMAR) president Fotis Kouvelis, who is visiting the city of Thessaloniki on the occasion of the 78th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), said on Wednesday that "the fiscal programme is not succeeding. The curbing of both austerity and recession is necessary and it is time for a new negotiation, for the renegotiating of the memorandums".

    Kouvelis added that "the country does not need any more memorandums and what is necessary is for this path of recession and of austerity to stop. The country needs growth. And only with growth is it possible for us to secure the course toward an exit from the crisis".

    He disputed the existence of a primary budget surplus claimed by the government and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, referring to it as a "communications" exercise trying to put a positive spin on the situation.

    "The primary budget surplus is not a primary surplus," he said, noting that the figure ignored public spending that had not been disbursed and the state's debts to private individuals and legal entities, its debts to Greek citizens.

    "Consequently no over-optimism is needed. What is needed is the change of the policy being followed by the government," he said.

    DIMAR's president was addressing an event for young farmers and presented the party's proposals for the agricultural sector. He said that the future and prospects of the country's agricultural economy must be based on an increase and qualitative upgrading of production, on the production of brand name and certified agricultural products and the promotion of all Greek nutritional products in the national, European and global market.

    [09] PASOK delegation discusses mobility issue with Administrative Reform ministry officials

    Developments on the first phase of civil servants' mobility and the way with which vacant posts in the public sector will be filled by suspended employees were discussed at length during a meeting held by a PASOK party delegation with the Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Deputy Minister Evi Christofilopoulou and secretary general Dimitris Stefanou.

    According to an announcement by PASOK, the party's delegation called for: a) All vacancies in the public sector to be determined by the ministries and the agencies according to specialty. b) They should be filled by suspended employees on the basis of the evaluation and their qualifications. c) Government commitments must be observed (just like the Municipal Police and Technical Lyceum professors), something that also concerns other ministries. d) There should be full information on the whole procedure for the employees concerned.

    PASOK's delegation reiterated that the second phase of mobility must be preceded by a "full evaluation of all structures and persons of the Public Sector, so that there shall not be new horizontal interventions on this issue".

    In addition, it stressed that "the dialogue must open for the separation of mobility from layoffs" and "the possibility to be given for voluntary withdrawals with early pensioning for specific groups of suspended employees in particular".

    [10] Ten members of Greek Red Cross central board resign, including Martinis

    Ten members on the central board of the Greek Red Cross, including a former president of the Greek Red Cross for several years Andreas Martinis, on Wednesday offered their irrevocable resignations to Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis.

    The letters of resignation were delivered by Martinis, along with a letter asking the health ministry to take steps to appoint a new central board for the organisation to ensure procedural legality and smooth operation.

    Martinis also sent a letter to Red Cross Central Board President Alexandros Papadimitriou concerning the dire financial straits of the charity and its troubled cooperation with the International Red Cross Federation. He notes that additional financial assistance will not be forthcoming, as far as he is able to tell, and that the organisation "had extremely favourable treatment from the government," with its grant actually increased rather than reduced.

    With 10 of the 23 total members of the board having resigned, the remaining board members are fewer than 18 and thus a new governing board must be formed under the organisation's charter.

    [11] Public Order Minister Dendias wraps up two-day visit to Serbia

    BELGRADE (ANA-MPA / N. Pelpas)

    Visiting Public Order & Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias signed the EU-Serbia Readmission Agreement Implementation Protocol with Serbian Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic on Wednesday.

    Bilateral issues dominated in a private meeting held earlier, followed by another meeting attended by ministry officials.

    In a joint press conference, Dendias noted that cooperation between the two countries' police authorities is excellent but there is still room for improvement. He added that migration issues were also discussed, underlining that Greece receives 90 pct of the migration flow destined for the EU.

    As regards civil protection, he said that talks focused on firefighting and noted that Greece is ready to share its know-how with Serbia.

    Commenting on the Kosovo issue, he congratulated the Serbian prime minister for the way this was handled and referred to Serbia's EU accession course, underlining that the Greek EU Presidency will help its efforts.

    Responding to a question concerning developments in Syria, Dendias said that "Greece is very careful on foreign policy issues and will present its official position after the UN committee announces its findings on the use of chemical weapons.

    On his part, Dacic said that cooperation between the security forces of the two countries can become even closer, noting that Greece and Cyprus are the biggest friends of Serbia in the EU. He also thanked the Greek people and government for the support offered on the issue of Kosovo and Serbia's European integration course.

    The problem of corruption, as well as prospects for closer bilateral economic cooperation, were discussed in a meeting between Dendias and First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

    [12] Public Order Minister in Belgrade: 'Greeks are not xenophobic'

    The Greek society is not xenophobic, Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias asserted in an interview with Belgrade daily Danas, which was published on Wednesday.

    In an interview headlined by "Athens decisive against racism", Dendias responded to allegations that Greek police used force in incidents involving immigrants by saying that "nobody will be absolved of their responsibilities. The penalties for those violating the law are very strict and the policemen who have been involved in incidents of racist violence are facing the possiblity of being fired through the disciplinary committee examining the cases."

    But Dendias also said that the work of Greek police cannot be evaluated on the basis of 15 incidents, but in its entirety. "Greek police every year resolve tens of thousands of cases and cannot be defined by what happened in 15 cases. It is also unfair to define a whole society by the behavirou of a party, which, despite its increase in popularity, remains a minority trend in Greece," he said, referring to Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi).

    "Greek society is not xenophobic, as hundreds of thousands of Serbian nationals who visit our country on an annual basis have seen," Dendias asserted. A section to discourage racist violence incidients was founded ten months ago, he reiterated.

    Speaking on illegal immigration, Dendias said that steps were being taken to redress the situation, while in 2012 Greece saw a 22.63 percent drop in illegal entries compared to the year before.

    Dendias is completing a two-day official visit to Belgrade begun Tuesday, focusing on issues of bilateral interest as regards illegal migration, organised crime and police cooperation. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet with Serb Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic to sign the EU-Serbia Readmission Agreement Implementation Protocol.

    With the protocol, he said in the interview, "Greece and Serbia are sending the message of their decisiveness in collaborating to fight illegal immigration and its repercussions on the rise of criminality."

    On Tuesday afternoon he met with representatives of Greek companies and entrepreneurs active in Serbia.

    [13] Deputy FM holds meeting with Rhode Island State Senator

    Deputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos discussed issues concerning Greek expatriates in the US, and their support for Greece in particular, with expatriate Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis during their meeting at the Foreign ministry on Wednesday.

    Raptakis said in a statement to the ANA-MPA after the meeting that "the present day is a black anniversary, since on September 11 2001 we lost over 3,000 people in the terrorist attack at the Twin Towers".

    He added that "all of us in America are thinking of this sad day and indeed in particular now that there are the developments with Syria, for which we have very great concern and I personally as senator of Rhode Island. We do not forget those who lost their lives then, but in parallel we must be careful how we go along on the issues of the Middle East".

    Raptakis also said that these days that he is in Athens he had contacts and discussions on the issue of the friendship and cooperation between Greeece and the US which, as he said, is longstanding.

    "We must go ahead and find solutions for many national issues of Greece, as well as in the economic sector," he said, adding: "I am pleased that two American companies have already shown interest in investments in Greece and indeed the one has a Greek American owner. Both I and the other Greek American deputies and senators are always at its side and we are trying to help as much as we can, now indeed that it is facing this huge economic crisis. Because Greece is the -mother-country, our beloved country and we must do everything to enable it to overcome the serious problems that it is facing at this time".

    [14] Opinion poll shows SYRIZA lead over ND

    Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leads by 1.5 pct over New Democracy (ND), according to an opinion poll conducted by Pulse for Pontiki newspaper to be published on Thursday.

    According to the poll results, SYRIZA leads with 20.5 pct (down 0.5 pct compared to July), followed by ND with 19 pct (also 19 pct in July).

    Ultra-right Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) follows with 13.5 pct (13 pct in July), PASOK 7 pct (6.5 pct), Communist Party (KKE) 5 pct (5.5 pct), Independent Greeks (AN.EL) 4 pct (4 pct) and Democratic Left (DIM.AR) 3 pct (3 pct). Preference to other parties was expressed by 6 pct (compared to 7 pct in July), blank ballot/abstention 12 pct (11.5 pct), while the undecided were 10 pct (9.5 pct).

    [15] Golden Dawn party offices in Thessaloniki attacked

    Slight damage was caused to the offices of the Golden Dawn party in the region of Dikastiria in Thessaloniki on Wednesday afternoon, after about 30 persons hurled bottles and bangers at the offices. No injuries were reported, while police have held people for questioning.

    [16] Hellenic Sepsis Study Group reports life-threatening shortages of hospital staff

    The Hellenic Sepsis Study Group sounded the alarm for public hospitals in Greece because of the shortages in nursing staff and deteriorating infrastructure - with patients being treated in hospital corridors, ICU beds reduced from 700 to 500, absence of consumables - that can cost human lives, it was announced on Wednesday.

    In a press conference on the occasion of World Sepsis Day on September 13, Hellenic Sepsis Study Group coordinator Evangelos Giamarellos, associate professor of pathology at Attikon Hospital in Athens, said that when the hospital is on duty roughly 20 patients are being treated in its corridors.

    On the average, two nurses are struggling to take care of 60 patients when, in order to deal with septic syndrome effectively, the patient has to receive treatment within an hour. He said that no spending cuts should be imposed on the treatment of sepsis because it is the only disease that can kill young and healthy people suddenly and without warning.

    About 82,000 people are being treated annually for the disease and 35-40 pct of them die, Intensive Care Professor Apostolos Armaganidis said, adding that ICU patients are twice as vulnerable to infections in case of a shortage of hospital staff. He also said that roughly 30 million cases of sepsis are recorded worldwide annually, while every two seconds a human being dies because of the disease.

    [17] HEALTHWORLD Congress in Athens

    The 12th Congress HEALTHWORLD entitled "From the Memorandum to the Restructuring of the Healthcare sector" organised by the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce will be held on 19-20 September at Ledra-Marriott hotel in Athens.

    The Congress is held under the auspices of the Health Ministry and the Hellenic Pharmaceutical Enterprises Association

    [18] Republic President Papoulias receives Culture Minister Panagiotopoulos

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Culture & Sports Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos at the Presidential Mansion, with the latter noting that "culture and sports can be Greece's international passport".

    Panagiotopoulos underlined that the state has taken important initiatives to substitute for the lack of resources, adding that important things are being done, not with the assistance of the cash-strapped state that lacks finances but through people's hard work.

    Using as an example the Greek National Opera musical events to take place in central Athens on Sunday, September 15 as a tribute to the great Greek soprano Maria Callas, marking the 36th anniversary since her death, the culture minister said that "an effort is being made to introduce culture to people's daily lives".

    Financial News

    [19] Greek exports' growth rate slowed in H1

    Greek exports were under significant pressures in the first half of the year, hit by an extremely unfavorable international environment and a protracted recession in the Greek economy, the Panhellenic Federation of Exporters said on Wednesday.

    In an analysis of export figures released by the Hellenic Statistical Authority, the Federation said that growth rates slowed to 5.2 pct in the first six months of the year, compared with the corresponding period in 2012, to 13.495 billion euros, while excluding oil products the growth rate slowed to 2.5 pct, or 8.3 billion euros. This figure is the lowest in the last three years (8.47 billion euros in 2011). The Panhellenic Federation of Exporters had predicted an exports' growth rate of 3-4 pct this year.

    Christina Sakellaridi, president of the Federation, commenting on the analysis said: "A continuing advance of Greek exports in the first half confirmed the dynamism of export-led sectors of the economy and the resistance showed in an extremely adverse environment by traditional export products, such as farm produce and textiles. The analysis confirmed the dynamism of markets in the Mediterranean basin, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Conditions in global trade, in times of recession, are not favorable. For this reason, export-led enterprises need additional alertness and fundamental support".

    Greek exports were pressured by Third Countries, where exports grew by 6.1 pct (including oil products), but fell by 8.4 pct excluding oil products. Exports to the EU grew by 4.0 pct (including oil products) and by 1.0 pct excluding oil products. Exports to Eurozone states rose 6.5 pct in the January-June period and by 11 pct to the EU-15 and by 4.0 pct to the EU-27. The EU-27 accounted for 44.2 pct of Greek exports, while excluding oil products this percentage surpassed 60 pct of total exports.

    Greek exports grew in the two out of three geographical regions absorbing the biggest part of exports, (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey 26.4 pct), Middle East and North Africa (16.5 pct) and other countries (12.6 pct), while exports to the Balkans fell by 8.1 pct. Greek exports fell 5.1 pct to North America, 28.3 pct to Southeast Asia, 21.2 pct to India and 2.7 pct to China. Exports to Latin America soared 103.4 pct.

    Greek exports gained access to new markets in the first half of the year, in countries such as Tongo, Falkland Islands, Senegal, St. Helene, Angola, Uzbekistan and Guinea.

    Fuel exports grew by 19.3 pct, followed by farm produce (+10.3 pct), while raw materials fell 19.2 pct, industrial products eased 5.6 pct. Airplanes, other types of oil (excluding olive oil), cucumbers, dresses, sugar products, fruit mixes, furs and bakery products, are new entries in the top one hundred list of the country's exports.

    The top 20 export products in the first half were: oil products, pharmaceuticals, virgin olive oil, argile tapes, fresh fish, pipes, processed vegetables, cheeses, apricots, cherries, peaches, oranges (fresh and dry), cigarettes, polypropelene, electric power, Portland cement, cotton, subscribers telephone devices, dresses/shirts and blouses/shirts.

    Imports fell by 6.7 pct in the first half of 2013 to 22.937 billion euros. Imports of farm produce eased 0.2 pct, raw materials fell 3.9 pct, fuel imports dropped 6.1 pct and imports of industrial products (accounting for 47.2 pct of total imports) dropped 8.9 pct.

    [20] Dev't Minister sets up group to revise SA corporate laws

    A working group to reforms and codify laws relating to societe anonyme corporations, and to align the regulations with European Union ones, was set up by Development and Competitiveness Minister Costis Hatzidakis, it was announced Wednesday.

    The group will be headed by Athens Law School professor Evangelos Perakis and will consist of another nine members drawn from academia, law, and ministry staff.

    It will focus on updating law 2190, established in 1920, and its work will end on December 31, 2013.

    [21] Shipping Minister Varvitsiotis decides restructuring of Port Consular Offices

    Shipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis has issued presidential decrees restructuring Greece's Port Consular Offices, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Certain of the consular offices in question will be abolished and new ones will be established in regions with a strong shipping presence in an effort to meet shipping needs in large seaports that have geopolitical importance for Greece in the most effective and cost-efficient way.

    The shipping ministry's decision will result in annual savings of around 800,000 euros that could be used for the maintenance, repair and upgrading of Coastguard vessels.

    The Port Consular Offices that will be abolished are in Antwerp (Belgium), Hamburg (Germany), Vancouver and Montreal (Canada), Venice and Trieste (Italy), Constanta (Romania), Latakia (Syria), Bandar Abbas (Iran), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Odessa (Ukraine), Sydney (Australia), Hong Kong (Hong Kong).

    Shipping Attache Offices will be established in Venezuela, the West Coast of the United States, Dubai, Panama and Perth (Australia).

    [22] Energy watchdog awards PPC's cost-control contract to Ernst & Young

    Greece's Energy Regulatory Authority (RAE) on Wednesday said it had awarded to Ernst & Young Business Advisory Solutions SA a contract for cost control in the Public Power Corporation (DEI), which will lead to a more precise, updated and quantitive determination of cost-cutting possibilities and ways to maximize this margin.

    The project will help ensuring that final consumers will pay only the minimum cost for electricity power supplied, while at the same time it will help to improve the viability and competitiveness of the country's energy sector and of the national economy in general.

    PPC's electricity rates were fully liberalized from July 1 and are supervised only by the energy authority.

    [23] Alternate finance minister receives high-ranking Chinese delegation

    Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras on Wednesday had a meeting with a high-ranking delegation from the finance ministry of China to discuss the state of the Greek economy, a finance ministry announcement said.

    The talks focused on the general course of Greece's public finances, implementation of the economic policy programme, the progress of structural reforms and tax reforms and the steps taken by the Greek government to reorganise the country's economy.

    The two sides also exchanged views in the framework of Greek-Chinese bilateral relations and cooperation, discussing issues relating to the economic policy followed on a European and global level.

    [24] Deputy development minister to meet UAE government delegation, Russian businessman

    Deputy Development Minister Notis Mytarakis will be meeting on Thursday afternoon with a delegation of the government of the United Arab Emirates headed by Minister of State Dr. Soultan Al Jaber and with Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev.

    The deputy minister will be meeting the UAE government delegation at 6 in the evening and at 5 the Russian businessman.

    Investment opportunities existing in the Greek market are expected to be the focus of the meeting.

    [25] Talks on investments in Greece

    Deputy Development Minister Notis Mytarakis met on Wednesday evening with Christopher Finn, Managing Director of the Carlyle Group in Europe, with talks focusing on investments' prospects in Greece.

    The meeting took place following an initiative by the company.

    [26] Rise in tourist visits to museums, archaeological sites in May

    Visitors to Greek museums in May increased by 12.3 percent, and revenues from entrance tickets rose by 9.9 pct compared to the same month last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.

    It also said that for January-May, there were 17 pct more visitors to museums and revenues rose by 8.1 pct, compared to the same time last year.

    In terms of archaeological sites, ELSTAT said, the number of visitors rose by 25.5 pct in May while revenues rose by 13.9 pct. In the period January-May, the number of visitors rose by 30.8 pct and revenues by 20.8 pct.

    [27] TAP project presentation to Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Regional Authority

    The Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region's access to the natural gas supply, the real estate property expropriation procedure, the employment of locals and the likely benefits for the local community dominated a meeting in Komotini, northeast Greece between Regional Governor Aris Yiannakidis and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) Greek Section management representatives on Wednesday.

    The transport of Azerbaijani natural gas is of major national importance, the regional governor said, noting that special attention should be given to the region's specific needs, local community concerns with regard to compensation that will be paid for the expropriated land and the likely benefits. He underlined that good communication and cooperation will ensure social consensus.

    TAP representatives presented the project, emphasizing its geo-strategic importance, the benefits and prospects created, as well as the project's timetable and main characteristics.

    They underlined that the pipeline construction will get underway in 2015 and will be ready for operation in 2019.

    A public debate on the project, launched in early August, is scheduled to be completed by the end of October 2013, while a complete environmental and social impact study has been submitted to the ministry of environment, energy & climate change.

    [28] Karamolegos to issue 2.3-mln-euro bond loan

    Karamolegos SA, a Greek-listed bakery company, on Wednesday said that an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting - scheduled for October 2 - will discuss a management plan to issue a bond loan worth 2.3 million euros.

    The mortgage-backed bond loan will be used to cover the company's investment needs and to refinance its existing debt.

    [29] Greek stocks end slightly lower on profit taking

    Greek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as investors took profits ending a six-day rally of prices which pushed the composite index of the market 10.41 pct higher. The index ended at 988.85 points, off 0.40 pct, after falling as much as 0.99 pct during the day. Turnover shrank to 56.12 million euros.

    The Large Cap index eased 0.26 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.62 pct lower. Athens Water (5.38 pct), Folli Follie (2.43 pct), Mytilineos (1.28 pct) and Intralot (1.24 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while National Bank (4.49 pct), Viohalco (2.45 pct), Korinth Pipeworks (2.36 pct) and OTE (1.81 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Commerce (2.42 pct), Utilities (0.80 pct) and Travel (0.78 pct) sectors scored gains, while Banks (1.89 pct), Telecoms (1.81 pct) and Industrial Products (1.70 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 70 to 56 with another 19 issues unchanged. Motodynamic (29.03 pct), Papoutsanis (22.42 pct) and AXON Holdings (20 pct) were top gainers, while Druckfarben (21.79 pct), Pasal (20 pct) and AAA (19.96 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -1.70%

    Commercial: +2.42%

    Construction: -0.34%

    Oil & Gas: -0.74%

    Personal & Household: +0.78%

    Raw Materials: +0.47%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.78%

    Technology: -0.62%

    Telecoms: -1.81%

    Banks: -1.89%

    Food & Beverages: +0.77%

    Health: +0.74%

    Utilities: +0.80%

    Financial Services: -0.56%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, National Bank and OTE.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 0.576

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.87

    Coca Cola HBC: 22.76

    Hellenic Petroleum: 7.55

    National Bank of Greece: 3.19

    Eurobank Properties : 7.09

    OPAP: 7.85

    OTE: 7.60

    Piraeus Bank: 1.32

    Titan: 16.20

    [30] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 8.28 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.32 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 10.32 pct and the German Bund 2.04 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.55 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.45 pct, the six-month rate was 0.34 pct, the three-month rate was 0.225 pct and the one-month rate was 0.129 pct.

    [31] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.21 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover shrinking to 11.456 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,669 contracts worth 6.261 million euros, with 54,047 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 18,423 contracts worth 5.199 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (6,405), followed by National Bank (2,144), Piraeus Bank (2,253), Eurobank (130), MIG (186), OTE (1,202), PPC (478), OPAP (153), Hellenic Exchanges (133), Viohalco (115), Mytilineos (1,944), Hellenic Petroleum (169), GEK (1,420), Ellaktor (210) and Metka (81).

    [32] Foreign Exchange rates - Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.346

    Pound sterling 0.854

    Danish kroner 7.570

    Swedish kroner 8.801

    Japanese yen 134.95

    Swiss franc 1.258

    Norwegian kroner 7.967

    Canadian dollar 1.392

    Australian dollar 1.450

    General News

    [33] Larisa of Argos medieval castle to get repairs with EU funds

    One of the oldest and most historic castles in Greece, that of Larisa in Argos, is getting preserved and promoted with the help of National Strategic Reference Framework funds.

    The Peloponnesian castle was declared a national monument by Greece in 1992; its preservation project that the EU is partly funding is worth 945,000 euros.

    Located on the top of a hill which was used since prehistoric times for defence purposes, the castle was repaired and augmented by the Argives in the 5th and 6th centuries. It was built up by the Byzantines in the 10th century, who turned it into a major fortress in the Peloponnese.

    Its history reflects the turbulence of the Middle Ages and later, as it came under the jurisdiction of the lord of Nafplio, Leon Sgouros, in 1203; was taken over by the Franks, who rebuilt it into its present form in 1212; was sold to the Venetians in 1394; and fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1463 - with a brief interlude when it became Venetian again - until 1822, when it was taken over by Turkish Ottoman general Dramalis, after the Greeks had declared their war of independence in 1821.

    During World War Two, the castle was severely damaged by bombs dropped by the Germans, who were trying to flush out resistance fighters.

    Today little survives of a 12th-century Byzantine church, while architectural members of earlier constructions including from the Classical era were used to build and repair the fortress walls and are still discernible today.

    [34] Donation for children by 'Stavros Niarchos' Foundation

    The "Stavros Niarchos" Foundation announced a new donation totalling 4.5 million euros that provides the possibility for 3,555 children all over the country to register with nurseries, as well as Creative Recreation Centres during the 2013-2014 school year.

    The donation is being implemented in the framework of the Foundation's three-year (2012-2015) initiative to provide 100 million euros with the aim of offering relief for the handling of the social and economic crisis.

    [35] Police operation in Patissia region to crack down on illegal immigration, crime

    Police have arrested 40 people and held another 312 for questioning during an operation being carried out in the region of Patission in Athens since Wednesday morning to crack down on illegal immigration and other forms of crime.

    The arrests and questioning of foreign nationals, in the framwok of the "Xenios Dias" plan, concern mainly prostitution, contraband cigarettes, the violation of store sealing and begging.

    The police operation was still under way and checks were continuing.

    Police intercept 12 kilos crystal meth at Athens airport, arrest two

    Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of two Romanian nationals, both aged 35, who were caught smuggling 12 kilos of crystal methamphetamine into Greece via Athens airport. This is the largest quantity of the specific drug ever found in Greece.

    The two Romanians, who had concealed the drugs in their luggage, were arrested on their arrival at Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' airport from Nairobi on Tuesday. The two men were 'mules' bring the drugs from Kenya for an African man living in Athens, who is now being sought.

    The two suspects were led before an Athens public prosecutor and the drugs confiscated by the Attica drugs squad.

    [36] Over 100 illegal migrants arrested at the seaport of Patras so far this month

    Over 100 illegal migrants, lacking the necessary travel documents, were arrested since the beginning of September at the seaport of Patras in southern Greece in their attempt to board ferryboats to Italy, it was announced on Wednesday.

    More than 40 people were arrested in the last three days alone; according to Greek Police and the Coast Guard, the increase in the number of individuals attempting to travel to Italy illegally is most likely associated with the large number of tourists entering and exiting the country during the summer season, leading the migrant smugglers to believe it would be easier to evade border controls.

    In a recent migrant smuggling case, a total of 24 migrants were found in a coach mixed with regular passengers.

    In other two instances, 10 illegal migrants were found hidden in cargoes of grapes and insulating materials.

    [37] Ghana national arrested on international warrant for cocaine trafficking

    A Ghanaian national was arrested by the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE) on Tuesday as he was receiving a package from Brazil containing 143 gr of cocaine, the Finance Ministry announced Wednesday.

    The man, 37 years old, was arrested at Amerikis Square in central Athens on an international warrant issued against him in Argentina, after authorities in the Latin American country discovering several cocaine packages packaged to be sent to recipients in Greece.

    The cocaine was hidden in a specially-designed compartment in the main metal tube of a videocamera tripod.

    [38] Moldovan national wanted on international warrant arrested

    A 46 year-old Moldovan against whom was pending an international warrant for homicide was arrested on Wednesday. The Moldovan is accused of killing his wife in 1998 in order become owner of her house.

    The suspect was led before a prosecutor.

    [39] New quake jolts southern Crete

    An minor earthquake was recorded at 11:16 am on Wednesday in southern Crete. According to the Geodynamics Institute of Athens National Observatory the quake measured 3.7 on the Richter scale while other seismological institutes said it measured 4 Richter and its epicentre was located in the sea region of Tymbaki, which has been showing an intense seismic activity in the last period.

    The quake's epicentre was located 46 km southeast of Tymbaki and at a depth of 10 km.

    [40] Skunk holds airport staff at bay on Crete

    A skunk held authorities of the Nikos Kazantzakis airport in Iraklio, on Crete, at bay on Wednesday morning when he was found in the cargo storage area of Olympic Air.

    Staff had tried to stop the skunk, known on Crete as "arkalos", but failed and called the Fire Brigade's Special Disaster Response Unit (EMAK), which trapped it and turned it over the Natural History Museum.

    Weather Forecast

    [41] Cloudy on Thursday

    Cloudy weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday. Winds 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures between 12C and 36C. Fair in Athens with variable 2-3 beaufort winds and temperatures between 22C and 35C. Slightly cloudy with possible local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 17C and 32C.

    [42] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: Torpedo and to 'all-day school'.

    DIMOKRATIA: 11,326 hirings in public sector.

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Surplus and deficit in state budget.

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: New cuts in pensions.

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: New school years starts with four open fronts on the pupils' backs.

    ESTIA: Money exists! Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras' version.

    ETHNOS: Banks prepare loan facility programmes for borrowers.

    IMERISSIA: Sign to markets with 3 billion euros surplus.

    KATHIMERINI: Rapid deterioration in social security funds' economic condition.

    LOGOS: Free medicines to the uninsured.

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Businesses have to wait up to 26 months to receive VAT return.

    RIZOSPASTIS: Anti-education draft law an axe against working classes.

    TA NEA: Real estate: Who will not pay the surcharge

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