|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-09-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 19 September 2013 Issue No: 4464
 Gov't to expand law on paramilitary groups, Public Order minister saysA proposal to expand the jurisdiction of the criminal code on criminal gangs and on armed groups will be turned over for public deliberation within the next few days, Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias said on Wednesday.
Responding to the stabbing death of a young man by a self-confessed follower of extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, Dendias cancelled his scheduled official trip to Italy and expressed his condolences, saying that the state would not remain passive in the face of such incidents.
"In the coming days, we will turn over to public deliberation a proposal for a legislative intervention to expand articl 187 of the criminal code on criminal organisations and article 195 on what constitutes a formation of an armed group," Dendias said.
The amendments would see to it that paramilitary groups are classified as groups with military organisation and behaviour, regardless of whether they carry arms or not.
The minister also appealed to the Greek people to agree on a commonly acceptable framework of policy and public behaviour, which would be "focused on dialogue, understanding and the immediate and direct rejection of any sort of violence and antidemocratic type of actions."
He also referred to the role of the Nazis in Greece during the World War II era and said its historical memory "has left deep and painful imprints on the Greek society's psyche."
 Gov't spokesman: 'Violence will not pass'"Justice will perform its duty immediately and totally", government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou stated on Wednesday after the stabbing death of 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas in Keratsini by a supporter of extreme-right Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) party and called on all the political powers to "put up a barricade against the vicious circle of tension and violence".
Kedikoglou also noted that "democracy needs stability, prudence and responsibility by all". The government, he said, was "the first government to condemn raw violence coming from Golden Dawn. We were the first to callthem neo-Nazis. Violence will not pass. The strategy of tension will not pass".
 Presidency of the Republic calls for 'statutory vigilance and social awakening' over Keratsini murderThe Presidency of the Republic called for "political decisiveness in putting down a revolting phenomenon", referring to the murder of 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas in the Piraeus district of Keratsini late on Tuesday by a self-professed follower of the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party.
In a statement Wednesday, the office of the president said "statutory vigilance and social awakening are necessary" and stressed that "we all have the obligation of closing off any path, however narrow, to fascism."
Revulsion over the murder of Fyssas is self-evident, it said, but "what is unfortunately not self-evident is that in dealing with hate against democracy, the transferring of responsibility is not enough - instead, the assumption of responsibility is necessary, immediately."
"Our country has a strong democratic tradition and a bright past of struggles to protect human rights and freedom," it concluded.
 Chryssi Avgi should be treated as criminal organization, Venizelos saysThe first step is to apply the existing legislation for the acts committed, government Vice-President and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday said, referring to extreme-right Chryssi Avgi party.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Venizelos said that the existing legislation is very strict and that certain additions will be made. He noted that "they have crossed the line" and added that the law will have to be applied, underlining that Chryssi Avgi should be treated like a criminal organization.
He said that "there are many who cultivate tension, invest in a strategy of violence and have violence as a priority," noting that those who foster the strategy of tension should be seen separately from those who commit crimes.
Venizelos underlined that those who foster the strategy of tension and expect to capitalize on it should understand that they are being led to the absolute dead end, adding that those who commit violent acts should be faced with the justice system.
Venizelos responded positively when he was asked if he means SYRIZA when he talks about those who foster the strategy of tension.
 Finance minister expresses horror over Keratsini murderFinance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Wednesday expressed his horror at the killing of a 34-year-old man, allegedly by a supporter of ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn, in Keratsini on Tuesday night but said that political stability in Greece was not at risk, in his opinion.
Stournaras made the statement as he was leaving the government's headquarters, after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and attended by government Vice-President Evangelos Venizelos and Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras.
The minister ruled out the possibility of further austerity cuts and said that things were progressing better than in the past.
"I don't see any new measures on the horizon," he told reporters, adding that things were "going just fine".
 "We are faced with destabilization plan," SYRIZA's Tsipras says; gov't spokesman respondsMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday expressed deep concern that "we are before a destabilization and disorientation plan orchestrated by extreme-right centres and the Chryssi Avgi neo-Nazi gang".
In comments he made in response to the stabbing death late Tuesday of a 34-year-old man by a 45-year-old who told police he belonged ideologically to the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, Tsipras said that hopefully "the prime minister will realize his own great share of responsibility when, for petty political party interests, he started fabricating months ago the historically ignorant theory of 'two extremes', equating perpetrators with victims and, in essence, legitimising, if not outright declaring innocent, behaviours that cross the limits and can be placed in the context of criminal gangs and murderous acts."
The SYRIZA president also stressed that normalcy and stability are necessary to move forward and therefore, "we should isolate all those who plan to undermine normalcy in order to impose on the country a deep darkness which has already been experienced by our people. Because the people have lived through such an experience in the past, we believe that they will prevent it from happening again."
Responding to Tsipras, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou charged Tsipras with "trying to maintain the policy of tension that leads to phenomena of violence".
"When Samaras, starting with the first elections of 2012, condemned before the Greek people Golden dawn, raw violence and hate language, Tsipras kept quiet. Now he again proves how irresponsible he is," Kedikoglou said.
 Strong reactions in parliament on Keratsini stabbing deathParliamentary parties on Wednesday unequivocally condemned the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, 34, outside a cafeteria in the Piraeus district of Keratsini, saying that the ultra-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party is behind the deadly attack, as the perpetrator told police he belonged to it ideologically.
Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou and party representatives in Parliament who took the floor underlined that immediate and joint action should be taken to face the phenomenon of extreme-right parastate organisations.
"The government condemns the violence coming from Chryssi Avgi. It has to be clear to everybody that the government will protect law and order and social peace," the justice minister said speaking in parliament.
 Parties react to stabbing death in KeratsiniParties reacted strongly on Wednesday over the stabbing death late Tuesday of a 34-year-old man by a 45-year-old who told police he belonged ideologically to the extreme-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party.
Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said that the incident was "the apex of the criminal action of the extreme-right neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn in our country" and called for the exemplary punishment of the perpetrators, "without dangerous compromises".
The main opposition party, which held an emergency meeting on the incident, also asserted that "all destabilisation attempts will fail" and said the question that needed an answer was "who is arming the murderous hand of extreme-rightists". It also called on "all democracy-abiding citizens to attend the antifascist protest rally at Zarden/Nikis Square, P. Tsaldari street in Amfiali, this afternoon (Wednesday).
 PASOK, in an announcement on Wednesday, called Chryssi Avghi "a criminal organisation".The party urged that "issues regarding Greek citizens' lives should be resolved immediately. Chryssi Avghi must be seen as what it truly is: a criminal organisation directed against migrants' and Greek citizens' lives".
Independent Greeks (ANEL) proposed the establishment of "a patriotic democratic front against the black alliance" and warned that "as long as neo-Nazis, with the urgings of politicians and so-called journalists are planning to rise in ruling power like new allies of the coalition of Greece's creditors, they will keep revealing their real role".
Golden Dawn must be "institutionally asphyxiated", Democratic Left (DIMAR) party said in its announcement that called incidents involving Golden Dawn "expected". It also said the incident proved the importance of the party's initiative to bring the antiracist law in Parliament in the previous government, to deal with Golden Dawn among others.
"It was expected that the rhetoric of hate by Golden Dawn and the beatings and thuggery by its officers and members would soon lead to a political assassination climate," it said.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called on Greeks, especially young people, to condemn the killing. "Golden Dawn's murderous and criminal activity aims to terrify workers and the youth. It has become emboldened by the multiple support supplied to it by the corrupt capitalist system and the large economic interests that have borne it and nourish it in order to attack those who are struggling and protesting and to attack the labour and popular movement".
 A 'criminal mafia gang of neo-Nazi killers,' KKE leader says regarding Keratsini murder"This is a criminal, mafia gang of neo-Nazi murderers, who the people, youth, the labour movement must completely isolate, here and now," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas said at a rally organised in Amfiali on Wednesday to condemn the murder of 34-year-old Leftist musician Petros Fyssas at the hands of a self-confessed supporter of the ultra-right-wing party Golden Dawn.
Koutsoumbas stressed that people must actively fight against Fascism "since it will not die on its own".
 Local government leaders condemn murder in KeratsiniLocal government leaders on Wednesday issued statements condemning the killing in Keratsini of 34-year-old leftist musician Petros Fyssas, who was stabbed by a self-proclaimed supporter of the ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party in the early hours of the morning.
Announcements condemning the attack were issued by the president of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece Kostas Askounis, the president of the Union of Greek Regions Yiannis Sgouros and comments on the attack were made by Athens Mayor George Kaminis on the municipality's radio station Athens 9.84.
"No one has a right, any longer, to say: 'I didn't know," said Kaminis, who leads a municipality where GD's anti-migrant message has strong appeal among many voters. He noted that GD had shown its true colours and that its progression from attacking and murdering migrants to "a generalised political plan of provocation and tension" had simply been a matter of time.
According to Kaminis, the latest attack and recent events in Meligala clearly showed that Golden Dawn were a "paramilitary organisation with a strategy of tension, a murderous gang" and urged all those who believed in democracy to join ranks in a "firm front against the Nazis" and fight them by upholding the law.
 Labour unions react strongly to slaying of man in KeratsiniLabour unions reacted strongly on Wednesday to the slaying of 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas in Keratsini on Tuesday night.
The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) expressed in an announcement "its sadness and detestation" and stressed that "if immediate measures are not taken , phenomena of such a kind will take even more dramatic dimensions", while calling on justice "to intervene immediately" and stressing that "the state is responsible for safeguarding social peace and legality".
Referring to the same issue, officials of the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) said that these phenomena are the result of the policies being followed.
The PAME labour group and the Private Employees Federation called in announcements on working people to participate in the rally scheduled to take place at 17:30 on Wednesday at the entrance to Amfiali in Keratsini.
 Keratsini protest over slain musician's death erupts into violenceAn emotionally-charged protest march held on Wednesday evening over the death of hip-hop artist Petros Fyssas, who was stabbed to death by a self-confessed sympathiser of ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn late on Tuesday night, erupted into violence as it passed outside the police station on Grigoriou Lambraki street in Keratsini, the Piraeus district where the killing took place.
The march had set off from the spot where Fyssas - known for his active involvement and affiliation with parties of the extreme Left - was first attacked by a gang garbed in Golden Dawn's trademark black and then stabbed to death by a 45-year-old man, who later described himself as a member of the nationalist Chryssi Avgi and its strong anti-migrant message.
According to a police report, a group of protestors attacked police guarding the police station with stones, bits of wood and other objects. Police have responded with the use of tear gas, leading to an escalation of tension in the area.
 Rallies in cities of northern Greece against Keratsini slayingRallies were under way on Wednesday evening in Thessaloniki and other cities in northern Greece against the slaying of the 34-year-old man in Keratsini.
Two protest rallies were organised in Thessaloniki, in Kamara and Aristotelous Square, while a large number of demonstrators were participating in ongoing marches in streets in downtown Thessaloniki without incident.
 Swoboda wants Golden Dawn party outlawedBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Hannes Swoboda, Chairman of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said on Wednesday that the killing of a 34-year-old in Keratsini was an unacceptable and shocking act, calling at the same time for considering the possibility of outlawing the far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) opposition party.
"The hatred of xenophobic Golden Dawn members can even kill political opponents," Swoboda said, stressing that "this event is shocking and unacceptable from every aspect in a member country of the EU."
He further said that "it is very important for the Greek government and Parliament to reach serious proposals on how they will stop these extremist attacks, including the possibility of outlawing the party entirely."
Swoboda added that "if the Greek government and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras are unable to stop this full of hatred attitude of Golden Dawn and other fascist groups, it will be an unacceptable presidency of the EU and will bring no progress to Europe or Greece."
 Accused killer of 34-year-old man in Keratsini led before a prosecutorA 45-year-old man arrested over the stabbing to death of a 34-year-old man in Keratsini, Piraeus district late Tuesday night was on Wednesday evening led before a Piraeus magistrate. Also appearing before the prosecutor were his wife and another woman, reportedly a relative.
The man, who confessed his crime, faces charges of manslaughter by intension and violation of the weapons law, while the two women are charged with perjury and concealing evidence.
According to police, the accused man admitted he belonged ideologically to the far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avghi) party, whose main offices on Messoghion Avenue in Athens were searched by police by order of the prosecutor.
The victim belonged to the left ideologically and his family was well-known in the area, as his father had been a member of the Piraeus Metal Workers Union.
He and the arrested man broke into a scuffle in a cafeteria in the area of Amfiali; as he was leaving on his motorcycle, he was attacked by a group of about 15 people in combat outfit. A car crossed lanes, stopped, and its driver came out and stabbed the young man twice in the chest.
The head of the local Piraeus office of the Golden Dawn was also taken before a prosecutor for possession of an expandable baton, found during a police search.
 ANEL's Kammenos attacked while heading to Keratsini rallyIndependent Greeks (ANEL) party leader Panos Kammenos was attacked by demonstrators participating in an anti-fascism rally in Keratsini, western Athens on Wednesday afternoon. Kammenos and members of his personal guard were abused on their way to the rally according to reports the ANEL leader suffered a nosebleed. An ambulance arrived at the scene to examine him and he was reported to be fine, but it was later announced that he would be transferred to hospital for further tests.
A party official noted that Kammenos was the only party leader daring to go to the anti-fascism rally and that he sustained a meaningless and unprovoked attack by extremists of the far left and the far right.
Meanwhile, the New Democracy party, in an announcement, condemned the attack on Kammenos and said it was an unacceptable act.
"Unfortunately, that is where the rhetoric of violence and the strategy of tension lead. For this reason, it must stop immediately and by all," the announcement said.
The government also condemned the attack on Kammenos, with spokesman Simos Kedikoglou saying that "we unequivocally condemn the attack on Independent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos."
"We call on everyone to put an end on cultivating a climate of tension and safeguard the cohesion of our community," Kedikoglou added in a statement.
 PASOK condemns the attack on AN.EL leaderPASOK condemned the attack on opposition Independent Greeks (AN.EL) party leader Panos Kammenos on Wednesday and, at the same time, called on him to realize that he has a responsibility, referring to his recent statements.
"We condemn the attack on AN.EL President Panos Kammenos and violence regardless of where it comes from. We hope that Mr. Kammenos will realize that he is responsible for his statements," the PASOK press office underlined.
 SYRIZA demands PM remove Lazaridis as advisorMain opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) on Wednesday demanded that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras remove state deputy Chrysanthos Lazaridis as his advisor, reacting to what SYRIZA termed a "provocative" statements made by Lazaridis against SYRIZA MP Zoi Constantopoulou.
In an earlier announcement, the main opposition accused Lazaridis of seeking to equate SYRIZA with the ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn and Constantopoulou's intervention in Parliament with Wednesday's murder of a 34-year-old musician active in the political Left by a self-confessed supporter of Golden Dawn.
The SYRIZA announcement was issued in response to statements made by Lazaridis on Wednesday on a morning television programme, when the MP said that Golden Dawn was "not alone in making a mockery of the Greek Parliament" and slammed Constantopoulou for her stance in Parliament the previous day, when she had insisted that Parliamentary procedure was being flouted.
SYRIZA stressed that Lazaridis' continued presence as the prime minister's advisor would create a "major political issue and objectively constitute the adoption of unacceptable views by the prime minister."
The party urged New Democracy to abandon the theory of the two extremes, stressing that it was dangerous for democracy and "objectively legalises Golden Dawn's criminal action."
 Samaras, Venizelos meeting on Wednesday on scheduled troika reviewPrime Minister Antonis Samaras will have a comprehensive meeting with Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos at 1:00 pm on Wednesday at the Maximos Mansion government's headquarters.
The issues expected to be discussed are the arrival of the troika of lenders for their next review before the end of the month and the condition of the Greek economy; the premier will also brief Venizelos on the results of his meetings in Brussels.
According to information, Samaras and Venizelos will also discuss the changes in the electoral system ahead of the local administration elections that will take place in May.
 ND deputy asks for parliament employees to be included in mobility schemeNew Democracy MP Pavlos Sioufas proposed on Wednesday that parliament employees should be included in the mobility scheme.
Specifically, in a letter to Parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis, Sioufas proposed that former presidents of Republic, prime ministers, Parliament presidents and former and current ministers' wives and children should also be included.
He also asked that parliament employees who have been temporarily or long-term transferred to offices of former prime ministers, parliament presidents, ministers and deputies return to Parliament and all other personnel working for them by invitation be laid off.
 Venizelos meets with visiting Moroccan foreign ministry officialThe Greek EU Presidency in its Mediterranean dimension, as well as, bilateral and regional issues, dominated in the meeting on Wednesday between government Vice-President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos and visiting General Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Morocco Nasser Burita.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, the Moroccan government official said that they discussed the prospects of bilateral relations and referring to the Greek EU Presidency, he said that it will bring initiatives and actions benefiting peace and economic growth in the Mediterranean region.
He referred to the recent initiative by King Mohammed VI of Morocco on the implementation of a comprehensive migration policy, underlining that it constitutes a response to the migration pressures exerted on Morocco mainly from the south and sub-Saharan Africa.
"Morocco has suggested a dialogue with Greece on a consulate level for a comprehensive solution to the phenomenon and we are the first country in the Mediterranean that has negotiated a partnership relation agreement for mobility with the EU," he noted.
Referring to Syria, he said that the solution can only be political, noting that specific action should be taken to deal with the humanitarian crisis caused.
As regards Egypt, he referred to the brotherly relations the two countries share and said that the Egyptian people should live in an environment that meets their expectations.
 Deputy FM presents Greek positions on Somalia at Brussels meetingDeputy Foreign Minister Kyriakos Gerontopoulos on Wednesday presented Greece's positions concerning Somalia at a high-level conference that was held in Brussels, organised by the European Union and Somalia's government.
Discussion at the meeting focused on security issues, reform of the justice system and economic growth, as well as combating piracy, a foreign ministry announcement said.
Gerontopoulos stressed Greece's keen interest in measures to combat piracy, given the country's dominant position in the world's commercial shipping fleet.
 Large ADEDY rally in central AthensProtestors gradually started to depart from Syntagma Square in central Athens by Wednesday afternoon, following a large rally and march attended by thousands of people earlier the same morning, organised by the civil servants' union confederation ADEDY in protest against public-sector lay offs and the 'mobility' scheme.
Stadiou and Fillelinon streets were opened to traffic once again, while Panepistimiou, Amalias and Vassilisis remained closed up to the level of the administrative reform ministry and Syntagma metro station was opened at around 3:00 p.m.
ADEDY's rally started at Klafthmonos Square and was followed by a march to Syntagma Square that ended outside the administrative reform ministry, where scuffles broke out between groups of youths and police but were stopped by other protestors.
Trade unions also reported high participation in the first day of ADEDY's 48-hour strike in the public sector, which they said exceeded 90 percent.
"Today's rally by public-sector workers sends a message to the government to change its dead-end policy that leads to unemployment and the degradation of social structures that the country now needs more than ever," ADEDY President Odysseas Drivalas told the ANA-MPA.
ADEDY's General Council will meet on Saturday to decide the future of strike action, based on the proposals of worker assemblies and union federations.
The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the largest umbrella trade union group representing private-sector workers, has asked labour centres and trade union federations to convene in order to come up with a joint plan for further labour action, with final decisions to be made by the GSEE leadership by the end of the month.
ADEDY had called a 48-hour strike in the public sector on Wednesday and Thursday, while GSEE called a four-hour work stoppage starting at 11:00 a.m. in order to allow workers to take part in the rally.
Protest rallies were also held in other large Greek cities during ADEDY's strike, among them Patras, Ioannina, Iraklio, and others.
 Defence ministry unveils new official websiteThe new official website of the ministry of defence was launched in the early morning hours on Wednesday.
It was constructed exclusively by defence ministry military personnel using open source software tools with zero financial cost.
It is a reliable website, safe and user-friendly incorporating all available modern technology, adjusted to the standards set by the Greek framework for e-governance service providers applied to all public sector agencies.
A relevant defence ministry announcement noted that the new website allows access to the electronic addresses: www.mod.mil.gr, www.mod.gr and www.ypetha.gr.
 BoG: Greek banks do not need approval to sell claims to third partiesThe sale of credit institutions' claims to third parties does not require approval or updating by the Bank of Greece, which has the responsibility over the supervision of such claims to evaluate risk management, a report by the central bank said on Wednesday.
The report was submitted to Parliament in response to deputies' questions over the possibility foreign distress funds would buy Greek banks' bad loans.
 Greek current account deficit down 97.6 pct in Jan-JulyGreece's current account deficit shrank by almost 100 pct in the January-July period this year, compared with the same period in 2012, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a report, said that the current account deficit fell to 155 million euros in the seven-month period, from 6.4 billion euros in 2012, a decline of 97.6 pct. The central bank attributed this development to a significant reduction in the country's trade deficit and to a increase in the surpluses of current account transfers and services.
In July 2013, the current account balance showed a surplus of 2.7 billion euros, up by 2.2 billion year-on-year. This development is mainly due to an inflow of 1.5 billion euros - representing the first installment of the income on the Securities Markets Programme (SMP) portfolio accruing to the ECB, payable to Greece. At the same time, the trade deficit contracted, while the services surplus rose. By contrast, the income account deficit recorded an increase.
The trade deficit fell by 207 million euros, on account of a 164 million decrease in the net oil import bill. The trade deficit excluding oil and ships recorded a slight decline of 16.5 million, as a result of higher export receipts (up by 135 million or 11.7 percent) and a higher import bill (up by 118 million or 6.4 pct). Finally, net payments for purchases of ships also dropped by 27 million.
The surplus of the services balance increased by 257 million euros, exclusively owing to a significant rise in net travel receipts (up by 265 million) and a slight increase in net receipts from "other" services (up by 7 million). By contrast, net transport receipts dropped slightly. The rise in the surplus of the travel services balance is mainly attributable to a 258 million (or 12.3%) increase in travel spending by non-residents in Greece (also reflecting a 14.0% rise in non-resident travellers' arrivals, according to the Bank of Greece's border survey), while travel spending by residents abroad declined by 6.2 million (or 3.1%).
The income account deficit rose by 209 million euros, mainly as a result of higher net interest, dividend and profit payments.
Finally, the current transfers balance showed a 1.9 billion euros surplus in July 2013, against a 100 million deficit in July 2012.
In the January-July 2013 period, the current account deficit fell by 6.2 billion euros (or 97.6 pct) year-on-year, to 156 million. This development is attributable, primarily, to a significant decline in the trade deficit (down by 3.0 billion) and, secondarily, to increases in the current transfers and services surpluses (up by 2.4 billion and 774 million, respectively); the income account deficit also narrowed. The considerable improvement in the current transfers balance is chiefly attributable to these developments in July.
In more detail, the trade deficit shrank owing to respective declines in the net oil import bill by 2.2 billion (or 33.4 pct), in the trade deficit excluding oil and ships by 677 million (or 12.4 pct), and in net payments for purchases of ships by 134 million (or 18.0 pct). Receipts from exports of goods excluding oil and ships rose by 4.2 pct, while the corresponding import bill fell by 2.6 pct.
Travel spending in Greece by non-residents grew by 15.5 pct year-on-year. At the same time, travel spending by residents abroad fell by 7.4 pct. As a result, the travel balance showed a 4.6 billion euros surplus, compared with 3.8 billion in the same period of 2012.
The income account deficit fell by 106 million year-on-year, mainly owing to a decline in net interest payments on Greek government bonds held by non-residents (following the PSI).
Finally, the current transfers balance showed a surplus of 3.8 billion, up by 2.4 billion year-on-year.
 Deputy FM to brief Chicago businesspeople on investing in GreeceUnited States businesspeople will be briefed on investment opportunities in Greece at an event organised at 1:00 pm on Thursday by the Foreign Ministry at the Hilton hotel.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will be the keynote speaker.
The visitors belong to the Vistage business association in the Chicago greater metropolitan area and represent six large companies. They will be briefed on the prospects of the Greek economy, the new investment legislation and the privatisation programme, and issues related to organic agriculture, production, technology and distribution networks to the EU.
 Deputy Energy Minister Papageorgiou attends informal EU ministers' meeting in VilniusDeputy Environment, Energy & Climate Change Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou will attend the Informal Meeting of EU Energy Ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania on September 19 and 20, it was announced on Wednesday.
Their agenda will include the external dimension of EU energy policy, the integration course of the internal EU energy market until 2014 and EU policies on climate change and energy until 2030.
 Deputy Development minister to meet Huawei company officials on ThursdayDeputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis will be meeting Huawei Central and Southern Europe vice president Jeffrey Zhou Jun and Huawei Technologies SA Executive Director Tonny Bao at the Development ministry at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
In the coming years Huawei will be establishing a transit hub in Greece for its products and a research and innovation centre in cooperation with leading Greek research centres and Greek technology companies.
In addition, Huawei is prepared to cooperate with Greek universities and research centres and provide training and practical practice positions for students and young graduates. This is mentioned in agreements signed by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Chinese soil during last May's visit by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and a large government and business delegation to Beijing and Shanghai.
 Industrial action continues in education sectorParticipation was high on the first day of a 48-hour strike launched on Wednesday by the elementary education school teachers trade union DOE. The strike was held in the context of industrial action called by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY in protest, among others, to the public sector employee "mobility scheme".
According to DOE, participation was close to 80 pct and, as a result, many elementary schools nationwide were closed.
The secondary education teachers' strike has entered its third day with participation ranging between 50 and 70 percent. However, regional education bureau figures show that participation is down to 32-36 pct.
The unrest continues in higher education as well. The rectory of the Sterea Ellada technological vocational institute TEI unanimously decided to suspend the institute's operation until Friday, protesting against personnel shortages. It is also underlined that the institute was established three months ago and still has no approved budget.
 Hoteliers sound alarm bell over viability of small and medium-sized unitsThe viability of small and medium-sized hotels will be seriously tested this year as a result of increased tax burdens, a freeze in banking lending and collateral losses suffered because of a deep economic crisis in the country.
"The operating cost of a hotel enterprise is significantly increased because of additional taxation, and particularly a property tax," Alexandros Aggelopoulos, vice-president of Aldemar Group said.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Aggelopoulos criticized the high interest rates policy of commercial banks and noted that another problem for Greek hotels was a continuing decline in per capita spending by foreign visitors. He noted that tourism revenues could reach around 10.5 billion euros this year, but with 17 million tourist arrivals, when the country recorded the same amount in 2008 with 12 million arrivals. The situation for hotel units based on Greek tourists and their consumer spending remains negative, as domestic tourism has lost the glamour of the past.
Spyros Galiatsatos, president of the hoteliers' union in Cephalonia, told ANA-MPA that tour operators have cut their advance payments for early bookings to 25 pct from 50 pct, while they are paying hotels up to 90 days after a visitor's stay. This development alone creates significant problems to hotels' cash flow, Galiatsatos said, adding that the government should also offer fast-track procedures to Greek businessmen to help them overcome bureaucracy.
George Tsakiris, president of the Greek Chamber of Hotels, recently warned about the viability of 6,000-7,000 small and medium-sized hotels - out of a total of 9,500 operating in the country - despite the rising number of tourist arrivals.
 Greek merchant shipping fleet down 2.9 pct in JulyThe Greek merchant shipping fleet fell 2.9 pct to 1,911 vessels in July this year, compared with the same period in 2012, after a 3.3 pct decline recorded in July 2012, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that total capacity of the Greek fleet was 44,327,563 gross tonnage in July 2013, up 0.5 pct from July 2012.
 Greek stocks edge up, market index surpasses 1,000 barrierGreek stocks edged higher in the Athens Stock Exchange pushing the composite index of the market above the 1,000-point level for the first time after several unsuccessful efforts in the past two weeks. The index ended 0.09 pct higher to 1,000.81 points, after rising as much as 1,013.73 points early in the session.
Turnover improved slightly to 53.45 million euros. The Large Cap index fell 0.24 pct, while the Mid Cap index rose 0.86 pct. Intralot (2.99 pct), Mytilineos (2.29 pct), Terna Energy (2.29 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (2.44 pct), Eurobank Properties (1.82 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (1.22 pct) were top losers. The Travel (2.26 pct), Raw Materials (1.69 pct) and Constructions (1.07 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Technology (2.02 pct), Food (1.21 pc) and Banks (0.79 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 71 to 68 with another 24 issues unchanged. Marak Electronics (19.55 pct), NEL (13.33 pct) and PC Systems (12.24 pct) were top gainers, while Nikas (19.46 pct), Pasal (19.35 pct) and Atti-kat (19.23 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.57%
Personal & Household: +0.48%
Raw Materials: +1.69%
Travel & Leisure: +2.26%
Food & Beverages: -1.21%
Financial Services: +0.01%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, Piraeus Bank, OTE, Alpha Bank and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.579
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.89
Coca Cola HBC: 23.40
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.60
National Bank of Greece: 3.11
Eurobank Properties : 7.01
Piraeus Bank: 1.32
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 8.36 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.39 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 10.31 pct and the German Bund 2.05 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.
 ADEX closing reportThe September contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.54 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover soaring to 126.617 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 64,242 contracts worth 111.674 million euros, with 61,572 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 57,061 contracts worth 14.943 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (9,039), followed by National Bank (4,721), Piraeus Bank (7,120), Eurobank (4,211), MIG (9,006), OTE (2,206), PPC (2,244), OPAP (1,233), Ellaktor (1,843), GEK (5,634), Mytilineos (3,82), Intralot (1,018), Sidenor (481), Piraeus Port (306), Hellenic Petroleum (345) and Motor Oil (271).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.355
Pound sterling 0.848
Danish kroner 7.569
Swedish kroner 8.755
Japanese yen 134.16
Swiss franc 1.255
Norwegian kroner 8.009
Canadian dollar 1.396
Australian dollar 1.449
 National Opera season opens with free rehearsal in Piraeus, Sept. 26The Greek National Opera presented its programme for the new season at a press interview that also included an appeal by its directors to the state for raising its funding to last year's levels.
The Opera has reduced its accumulated debt from 17 million euros in 2011 to under 4.7 million, but a reduction in state funding from 16.8 million euros in 2012 to 9 million this year has put the institution in a difficult financial situation, officials said, adding that its inelastic expenditures amounted to 12 million euros.
Artistic director Myron Michaelides noted that the artistic programme cost 2,580,000 last year, with ticket revenues amounting to 2,220,000 euros, while board of directors Athanassios Thedoropoulos said that "we have been reassured both by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos that the expenses will be met".
Reviewing the past season, they said that there were about 90,000 people who attended its productions, besides those who attended the Maria Callas commemorative concert, and not including those who are estimated to have observed events off premises, in Athens and the country, amounting to over 20,000 people.
The National Opera's repertoire will focus on Giuseppe Verdi, who is being commemorated this year globally. Nikos Petropoulos will direct Rigoletto at the Athens Concert Hall in December, Lorenzo Mariani will direct Verdi's Macbeth at the same venue in January, and Yiannis Kokkos will direct Othello at the Herod Atticus Theatre in June 2014.
The season will open with Rossini's Cinderella (La Cenerentola), directed by Rodoula Gaitanou, while veteran stage director Spyros Evangelatos will present Jules Massenet's Bertherus a few months later. The first summer production, at the open-air Herod Atticus Theatre will be Yiannis Chouvardas' production of Don Giovanni.
The Opera programme for the season includes ballet performances by its dance corps, free concerts at the foyer, extra-theatre productions and children-focused events.
On September 26, the Opera will give a free open rehearsal including the first three works of the 2013-2014 season - Rossini's Cinderella, Tchaikovski's Nutcracker and Verdi's Rigoletto - at the port of Piraeus Gate E9, at 6:00 pm.
At end-October, the National Opera will present its strategic plan of action for 2014-2017, including the programming for its physical transfer tot the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre expected to be completed by end-2015.
 Italian national arrested in Patras, charged with training gun on protestorsA 38-year-old Italian man was arrested in the centre of the port city of Patras in the Peloponnese on Wednesday, after eye witnesses reported seeing him training a gun on a group of protestors taking part in an anti-austerity demonstration in the city. The suspect was charged with illegal weapons possession, illegally carrying and using a weapon and intimidation.
According to sources, witnesses said the 38-year-old was driving down Ypsilantou street in a car and found his way blocked by a protest at the junction with Gounari street. As the tail end of the protest march went by, he was then spotted taking out a handgun, making threatening gestures and aiming at the protestors, some of whom tried to chase him down. The suspect eluded them, however, by turning quickly into Gounari street.
The police were called and a team of DIAS motorcycle police tracked down the 38-year-old a short distance away and arrested him. The suspect, who was carrying a handgun and a clip with 14 bullets at the time of his arrest, was led to Patras police headquarters for questioning. He will be taken before a Patras Misdemeanours court public prosecutor, while an investigation into the incident is continuing.
 Police use tear gas to break up anti-fascism protestors in Iraklio, CreteMinor incidents erupted Wednesday evening outside of the offices of the far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) minor opposition party in Nea Alikarnasos, Iraklio, Crete island with protesters throwing stones and lighting up fires and police using tear gas to disperse them.
Earlier, an anti-fascism rally was held at Iraklio's central Eleftheria's Square to protest the killing of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old anti-fascist activist and musician in the Piraeus district of Keratsini, who was stubbed to death by a 45-year-old self-declared member of the Golden Dawn party - who has been arrested and has confessed the murder.
After the protest demonstration, a group of protestors walked to Golden Dawn offices and threw stones and bottles and set garbage bins afire with police replying with tear gas. Upon leaving the area, angry protestors caused damage to shops and parked cars.
 Police arrest 23 during violent incidents in Amfiali, KeratsiniCalm has returned to the Piraeus district of Amfiali, Keratsini following the violent incidents on Wednesday evening that followed a protest demonstration sparked by Tuesday evening's killing of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old anti-fascist activist and musician, who was stubbed to death by a 45-year-old self-declared member of the Golden Dawn party.
Police announced that 65 persons were taken to the area's police station, of which 23 were eventually arrested and would be brought before a prosecutor on Thursday.
 Wildfire in Achaia prefectureA wildfire broke out on Wednesday afternoon in the region of Lambiri, in the prefecture of Achaia in the Peloponnese, near the Patra-Athens national motorway, between the cities of Patra and Egio.
The blaze is being tackled by about 40 firemen backed by 15 vehicles. Traffic police are also in the region to prevent problems being created for traffic.
 Overcast on ThursdayGenerally overcast with possibility of rain later in the day, except for Crete, where it will remain fair. Variable winds between 3 and 5 Beaufort, rising to 6 throughout except in the eastern Aegean. Temperatures from 12C to 28C (20C to 29C on the islands). In Athens, generally fair with west-northwesterly winds 3 to 4 Beaufort, briefly turning to southerly in the afternoon. Temperatures from 19C to 30C. In Thessaloniki, fair with transient clouds midday on at higher elevations. Variable winds 3 to 4 Beaufort, strengthening overnight. Temperatures from 15C to 28C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Government eliminates pensions and healthcare.
DIMOKRATIA: 1, 5 to 236 euros tax to agricultural parcels owners.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The farming plot of terror.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Explosion, 48h strike in public sector.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The new tax for illegal buildings and agricultural parcels.
ESTIA: Greek industry passes to foreign hands.
ETHNOS: Wave of changes in pensions and benefits.
IMERISSIA: Foreign funds in Athens for investments in Athens Stock Exchange.
KATHIMERINI: OECD: Lawyers, doctors and journalists to IKA (social security institute) or OAEE (security fund of self-employed ).
LOGOS: The country paralyses.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Government's harsh poker with Viohalko's subsidiaries.
RIZOSPASTIS: Wild tax raid against working classes' houses and farming land.
TA NEA: The new tax for plots and farming land.
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