|Sunday, 31 May 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 14-09-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 11 September 2014 Issue No: 4756
 PM Samaras on new European CommissionGreece is extremely honoured by the European Commission president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker's decision to trust one of the most critical portfolios in a Greek official, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Greek EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos assumes the portfolio of Migration and Home Affairs, a new portfolio set up from the scratch, in order to highlight the need to give priority to European migration policies," Samaras said.
The Greek prime minister noted that the recognition of the need to tackle undocumented migration has always been one of the priorities of the Greek government.
"The portfolio the Greek Commissioner assumes is the reward of a long and painstaking effort so that action on a central European level is taken in order to deal with the problem effectively," Samaras underlined.
Samaras concluded by wishing strength and success to the new European Commission and its president Jean-Claude Juncker in their difficult and very challenging work for the benefit of the people of Europe, and congratulated the new European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos participates in EU meeting in MilanDefence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos represented Greece in the Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers in Milan.
Avramopoulos stressed the necessity of policies in the defence sector amid ongoing unrest, instability and developments. He also referred to the arc of instability in the area, from Ukraine to Tunisia, which is a source of continuous risks to security and stability in the wider region.
The Greek minister also stressed the need for enhanced cooperation in the areas of information exchange and cyber defense as well as making use of all technological possibilities.
Avramopoulos made special reference to the so-called hybrid war that requires comprehensive answers and underlined the need for vigilance toward phenomena of obscurantism and brutality that constitute the action of the so-called Islamic state. An action that challenges the fundamental values of human rights, causes humanitarian crises and creates waves of desperate refugees, he noted.
Special reference was also made to the European Defence Industry as a prerequisite for a strong security policy in the EU and the need for the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises and the strengthening of the European Defence Agency.
Avramopoulos expressed the hope and confidence that the Italian presidency that continues the work of the Greek Presidency - in the field of maritime security among others - will meet the needs of the times and will be highly successful.
 Defence Minister Avramopoulos assumes portfolio of EU Commissioner for Migration and Home AffairsGreek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday assumed the portfolio of EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs for 2014-2019.
Cyprus' Christos Stylianides assumed the portfolio of EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
 Government spokeswoman Voultepsi on the portfolio of Greek Commissioner AvramopoulosGovernment spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi on Wednesday emphasised the importance of the issues falling under the new portfolio assigned to Greek European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Voultepsi noted that the Migration and Home Affairs portfolio was introduced by new European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker in order, as he has mentioned in his address, to give a priority to a new migration policy "that will handle effectively the problem of illegal migration while allowing Europe to become an attractive destination for highly skilled individuals".
The government spokesperson added that the sectors for which Greece is responsible are border protection and management, asylum policy and home security, as well as tackling organised crime and contemporary supranational threats.
"These are sectors of major importance in a constantly changing geopolitical environment, while EU citizens have more than ever the need to feel safe in a united Europe, respecting the people and individual rights and freedoms," she said.
Voultepsi noted that, aside from migration issues, Avramopoulos' portfolio also includes issues that concern Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Europol, the European Police College, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and actions on the management of major information systems.
She also noted that the Greek Commissioner's portfolio includes the sectors of research and action in the sector of security and the European policy against drugs.
 Margaritis Schinas appointed European Commission spokespersonBRUSSELS(ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)
Newly elected president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday announced that he appointed Margaritis Schinas as spokesperson of the European Commission.
Schinas is director-level head of the Athens office of Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs.
 Parliament delays ENFIA amendment debate and vote until ThursdayThe Greek Parliament's Conference of Presidents decided to delay the debate and the vote on the Finance Ministry's amendment for the ENFIA (Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax) until Thursday, so as to give more time to deputies to express their views on the issue.
The contested amendment, however, tabled in parliament as part of a Health Ministry bill already under debate, has caused great tension and conflict between the government and the opposition as well as reactions by government officials.
PASOK deputy Nikos Sifounakis said he would vote against it, claiming he did not want to concede to the continuation of a flagrant injustice.
"I will not concede for a second time to changes that do not solve the problem and eventually make thousands of taxpayers justifiably think they are being mocked," Sifounakis said. PASOK rapporteur Yiannis Koutsoukos also spoke of the need for improvements to the bill.
All opposition parties said they would vote against the amendment, with the government replying that the property tax is a measure applied in all modern countries.
SYRIZA rapporteur Constantinos Zaharias opined that the "amendment reflects the embarrassment and the impasse of the government's current policy."
 Finance Minister Hardouvelis addresses parliament on ENFIA uniform real estate ownership taxIn a brief intervention in parliament, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on Wednesday defended the rider on Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA), rejecting any changes by noting that they are not allowed by the country's finances. He said the existing reactions by the people and the government MPs were "understandable" but underlined that his duty is "to do what's right and fair for the country and the many who were the victims of the crisis. We do not want their sacrifices to be in vain".
"With the fiscal figures improving, the burden will be smaller and fairer, particularly for the financially weak," he said, noting that "the government's policy and strategy is fewer taxes, higher growth and more jobs".
Hardouvelis noted that the tax reform implemented this year was sweeping, with more people paying taxes, adding that the taxation of real estate is a common practice in all developed countries.
"We are correcting mistakes, fixing injustices and proceed with the introduction of further tax relief," he said, noting that 1.2 million taxpayers will benefit.
Hardouvelis said that certain regions are being excluded from ENFIA and in other cases major tax cuts are introduced, putting an emphasis on the tax deductions affecting 1.3 million taxpayers who are financially weak, including 800,000 single-member households and 345,000 families.
 Heated debate in parliament on ENFIAThe rider introducing changes to the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) prompted a heated debate in parliament on Wednesday.
New Democracy MP Adonis Georgiadis called on the MPs to vote in favour of the new rider, which he said corrects injustices, and pointing out that the people will otherwise have to pay more.
Main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) parliamentary spokesman Thodoris Dritsas spoke about an 'occupation' tax and overtaxation of the people who are unable to pay, while Independent Greeks (ANEL) spokesman Pavlos Haikalis called on people "not to pay".
"It is an unfair and anti-growth law and the rider introduced corrects blatant mistakes instead of injustices," Democratic Left (DIMAR) spokesperson Assimina Xirotiri said, while Communist Party of Greece (KKE) spokesman Nikos Karathanassopoulos characterized the rider as anti-popular.
 Changes to ENFIA don't change its 'rapacious' mission, KKE saysThe changes announced to the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) in no way changed the "rapacious mission of the law to suck dry the popular-class family nor its nature as a tool to accelerate the concentration of popular class's property in the hands of the few," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Wednesday.
With the exception of the changes to the taxation of land, where there was no system of tax-assessed values, the remaining changes affected a scant minority of the population and did nothing for the great popular majority, KKE said, adding that the total amount paid by the low and middle incomes was essentially unchanged.
 ANEL leader Kammenos calls on ND and PASOK MPs to vote against ENFIA uniform real estate ownership taxOpposition Independent Greeks (ANEL) president Panos Kammenos on Wednesday appealed to the MPs of New Democracy and PASOK - the two partners in the coalition government - who disagree with the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) to vote against it and against the government.
Kammenos, currently on a visit to Thessaloniki, underlined that "disagreeing is not enough," adding that "the time has come, for those with the country's national sovereignty in mind, to overthrow the government that follows the orders of the lenders at the expense of the Greek people and in violation of the Constitution and the European treaties."
During his visit to Thessaloniki's water company EYATH he backed the position that water is a public good.
 Criticism of ENFIA, early elections speculation from Potami party leader at 79th TIFOpposition Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis, in statements to the press while visiting the 79th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), on Wednesday accused the government of "spasmodic actions" regarding the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA).
"Taxation of property is something that must happen with certain specific terms and has happened throughout Europe and must be discussed. But the desultory manner with which it is happening makes us all very doubtful," Theodorakis said, adding that he would wait to see the final form the measures will take.
He also commented on the upcoming presidential elections and whether these might provoke early elections, saying that the two issues were "unrelated" and that the issue at stake was whether the individual proposed would make a good or bad president, not whether the government should continue to exist.
"I disagree with using the institutions against the institutions. The president is the country's connecting link," Theodorakis said.
 European Parliament Vice President and SYRIZA MEP Papadimoulis: Greece on the verge of a new loanEuropean parliament vice president and SYRIZA eurodeputy Dimitris Papadimoulis, in an interview with ANA-MPA on Wednesday, opined that "a new loan is being prepared in order to cover the fiscal gap until 2016 and of course, a new memorandum that will be called differently."
"The only thing the government and Greece's lenders are interested in is to change package, not calling it a memorandum but with another word and to change the form of the troika. The supervision, however, will remain, possibly without IMF's participation," he noted.
Asked on when he believes the discussion, on a political level, on the sustainability of the Greek public debt will start, Papadimoulis noted: "The responsible Commissioner, Mr. Katainen, replying to my question on the issue, set the total compliance with the conditions of the memorandum as a necessary prerequisite to start the discussion in order for the possible measures for the Greek public debt relief to be examined. This constitutes another resounding refutation of the government's claims on the alleged end of the memorandum and another proof that the European Commission insists on the neoliberal Taliban's line".
Papadimoulis expressed the opinion that "(German Chancellor Angela) Merkel's dogma should be abandoned because not only it leads the Greek economy and society to a catastrophic course, but it has also led the eurozone on the verge of a new cycle of recession with very serious deflation risks."
Referring to ENFIA (Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax) amendment tabled in parliament by the government, Papadimoulis noted: "We have a government that with ENFIA charges in 2014 four billion euros tax on real estate property, in a practically dead real estate market with devastated commercial values. This is double the tax compared to the average applied in the eurozone; a lot higher than the 2 percent of Greece's current GDP, when the average real estate tax in the Eurozone is below 1 percent of GDP. SYRIZA (main opposition) as government will cancel ENFIA and replace it with a European-model property tax with high tax free and gradual taxation in order for large property owners to pay more".
The Europarliament Vice President estimated that "SYRIZA's clear victory in the euroelections and the increasing SYRIZA lead in all the opinion polls offers with relative certainty the prospect of a great victory for SYRIZA in the imminent general elections...And this is something that not only the duo of (Prime Minister Antonis) Samaras - (Government Vice President Evangelos) Venizelos, the duo of failure, but also the international establishment do not want to happen".
The full interview is available for subscribers at the ANA-MPA website.
 Independent Greeks leader attacks ruling coalition gov't at TIFIndependent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos let off a series of broadsides against Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, his junior coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos and the coalition government as a whole, during his speech at the 79th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Wednesday.
He slammed Samaras as the "creditors' spokesman," said he was responsible for leading the country to its current state and that he had misled the Greek people with his words.
"The prime minister had the nerve to talk about an 'economic rally' at the same time as wage earners and pensioners are unable to make ends meet," he pointed out, adding that the economy had "collapsed" and was not in any kind of recovery. He also accused Samaras of being incapable of negotiating with Greece's creditors and putting an end to the memorandums.
Kammenos expressed the view that voters would punish the present government at the polls when the time came, urged "honourable judges" to resist violations of the Constitution and called on people to "throw out the government and the foreign occupation". He also called on ruling coalition MPs who disagree with the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) to 'overthrow' the government.
 'I have had no proposals to be a candidate President of the Republic,' DIMAR leader Kouvelis saysDemocratic Left (DIMAR) president Fotis Kouvelis on Wednesday said no suggestions or proposals to run as a candidate President of the Republic had been made to him.
"I am the leader of DIMAR and I wish to contribute to the party's coming back to the political stage. I have had no proposals to be a candidate President of the Republic, not even a hint; there is no agreement, either secret or public," he told journalists during a press conference at the 79th Thessaloniki International Fair.
On the stance that he and DIMAR will take on the issue of the Greek President's election he said "There is a right time for everything" and noted that no political games or petty political interests can be accepted.
There are constitutional procedures in place for the election of the President, he said, and until these are launched "we have a President of the Republic in place."
 Former financial crimes unit chief Diotis released after testifying in Lagarde list caseFormer chief of the SDOE financial crimes squad Ioannis Diotis on Wednesday was released without any conditions after testifying before the examining magistrates handling corruption cases.
Diotis faces two charges related to the so-called Lagarde list case. More specifically, he is accused of not making use of data included in the Lagarde list concerning Greek depositors in HSBC bank in Switzerland.
The prosecutor has ordered felony charges against Diotis for breach of trust against the State as well as misdemeanor charges related to the subtraction of a document.
 Shipping Minister Varvitsiotis meets with the Turkish ambassador to AthensShipping & Aegean Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis on Wednesday met with Turkish Ambassador to Athens Kerim Uras. Their discussion focused on the increased inflow of illegal migrants and ways to improve bilateral cooperation to deal with the problem.
During the meeting held at the shipping ministry, Varvitsiotis underlined the positive cooperation between the coastguards of the two countries in an effort to tackle illegal migration, despite the problems recorded in isolated incidents, adding that the upcoming visit of the Turkish Coastguard commander to Greece can contribute to the improvement of bilateral cooperation.
Varvitsiotis underlined that geopolitical developments in the region and growing political instability create concerns that the number of migrants will skyrocket.
"What happens in northern Iraq and Syria is a humanitarian crisis and facing this reality our bilateral cooperation should intensify," Varvitsiotis said.
Referring to the agreement on the readmission to Turkey of illegal migrants who enter Europe via Greece, Varvitsiotis said that "it is not effective enough and there is room for further improvement".
The Turkish ambassador to Athens put emphasis on the close and beneficial bilateral cooperation of the coastguards and the coastal shipping sector in general, noting that this good cooperation could serve as an example to other sectors as well.
Ambassador Uras expressed concern about the increased numbers of illegal migrants expected as a result of the armed conflicts in Syria and northern Iraq, noting "big money is involved in the smuggling of illegal migrants and this the main reason that makes it difficult to eradicate the phenomenon".
Both Varvitsiotis and Ambassador Uras agreed on the importance of closer bilateral cooperation in the sectors of shipping, tourism and trade.
 ID cards to be issued within 20 minutes, Greek ministers sayGreeks will be able to issue ID cards within 20 minutes at police stations without any supporting documentation being required after the electronic interconnection of the police system POLIS ONLINE and the Interior Ministry's National Municipal Registry Integrated Information System (OPSED).
The new system was presented on Wednesday by Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Deputy Administrative Reform Minister Evi Christophilopoulou and representatives of the Interior ministry.
The new IDs will be issued as of early October in the police stations across the country. Citizens only need to submit two photos to the issuance authorities. The procedure is due to change, however, as in the near future the necessary photos will be taken at the police stations.
The new procedure aims at cutting down on bureaucracy and facilitating citizens while at the same time achieving savings in human and financial recources.
 Hospital staff holds protest over new hospital payments schemeThe hospital doctors' union federation OENGE on Wednesday will go on a work stoppage from 12 am until the end of theis shift to protest against a draft law setting up a new hospital payments agency, the Hospital Payment Systems Company SA.
Doctors have also organised a protest rally outside Parliament at 12:30 along with the Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors Union (EINAP) and the hospital staff union federation POEDHN.
OENGE said that the creation of the new company marked the state's complete withdrawal from funding the public health system and dismissed the modifications made by the Health minister as immaterial, finding that "they do not change the essence of the drastic repercussions for patients, hospitals and doctors."
 Attica Culture ministry employees to hold work stoppage on ThursdayThe association of Attica, Central Greece (Sterea) and islands Culture ministry employees has called for a work stoppage on Thursday between 11.30 and the end of the working hours. The labour action coincides with the work stoppage called by the employees federation for the wider Athens area.
"The board of the association believes we are entering a new phase of the government's ongoing attack against the employees and the public goods," the association said in a statement.
It also urged its members to participate in a protest rally, scheduled for 12.00 outside the Administrative Reform ministry.
 Macedonia-Thrace Minister Orfanos meets FYROM Minister for Foreign InvestmentsMacedonia-Thrace Minister Giorgos Orfanos, in a meeting with FYROM Minister for Foreign Investments Jerry Naumoff, expressed the belief that stability in Southeast Europe is an advantage for the states in the region.
The two officials had the opportunity to discuss the potential of bilateral cooperation in economic terms. "We discussed their investment plans and their presence in our country as tourists and investors," Orfanos said.
On his part, Naumoff said that the two countries were seeking ways to strengthen their economic relations based on trust and friendship.
 Macedonia-Thrace Minister Orfanos meets with Uruguayan ambassador to GreeceGreece and Uruguay's relations and the strengthening of bilateral cooperation in the economic field dominated a meeting between Macedonia-Thrace Minister Giorgos Orfanos and the Uruguayan ambassador to Greece Adriana Lissintini on Wednesday.
Orfanos said the bilateral relations of the two countries are excellent, adding the economic cooperation between them can be further broadened.
"We talked about the archaeological findings of Amphipolis, the Greek community of Montevideo and the Greek shipowners operating in the region, as well as ways to strengthen relations between the two countries," Orfanos underlined.
On her part, Lissintini said: "The Greek community living in Montevideo is very organized, has its own church and their own businesses. Also, there are many Uruguayans who study Greek history and literature, because we believe Greece is one of the most remarkable countries in the world."
 Attica region governor Dourou meets with Athens mayor KaminisThe cooperation prospects aiming at a better coordination and an organized plan for dealing with the problems of Athens dominated a meeting on Tuesday evening between Attica region governor Rena Dourou and the mayor of Athens Giorgos Kaminis.
The two sides discussed the possibility of joint action in terms of social cohesion, the combined tourism promotion, recycling and investment priorities under the new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF). They also agreed on a systematic cooperation so that all issues can be specified in a productive and straightforward manner, without bureaucratic delays.
Dourou presented the priorities of the new Regional Authority regarding the creation of a model of development with emphasis on employment and social protection. The mayor of Athens presented the NSRF funds management model implemented in the municipality and the city planning for the new season.
 Police search homes of former Marathon municipality administration over alleged file tamperingPolice on Wednesday searched the homes of four former members of the Marathon municipality administration and an external associate, following up a complaint made by the new Marathon Mayor Ilias Psinakis that files may have been erased or removed from the municipality's financial services.
Based on the complaint, which prompted the Athens first-instance court prosecutor to order a preliminary inquirty, the digital files were erased from computer hard drives and copied onto USB flash drives but the copies were not handed over to municipality employees.
During the search, police found and confiscated an external hard drive and four USB flash drives that were sent to police forensic laboratories for further examination.
 MP Nikolopoulos apologizes for his social media comments on the prime minister of Luxembourg; invites him to event on racismIndependent MP and Christian Democratic party leader Nikos Nikolopoulos addressed a letter to Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel inviting him to an event on racism hosted by his party following the uproar caused by comments he made on social media criticizing Bettel's private life, it was announced on Wednesday.
The letter, in which Nikolopoulos apologizes for his comments, was delivered to the Embassy of Luxembourg by one of his associates on Monday evening. Nikolopoulos also underlined that he is not an extremist but for the past 25 years he has expressed views based on the "Homeland-Religion-Family" triptych.
Nikolopoulos underlined that if Bettel accepts the invitation to attend the event, he will set a date for it.
 Greece launches exchange offer for T-bill issuesGreece on Wednesday announced the re-opening of three- and five-year bond issues to be offered in exchange for existing short-term Treasury bills, as part of a broader programme to manage more efficiently the country's liabilities. In an announcement, Greek authorities said that the aim is to exchange state securities worth 1.0 billion euros. The move was announced by the finance ministry weeks ago and aims to reduce the borrowing cost for the Greek state and to extend the maturity of the debt. T-bill holders will be able to exchange their holdings with new bonds, maturing in 2019 carrying a coupon of 4.75 pct, or bonds maturing in 2017 with a coupon of 3.375 pct.
The exchange offer will begin on Thursday, 11 September, 8:00 local time and will end at 19.00, unless an extension is given.
 Greece examines plans to issue project bondsSupplementary funding of projects, such as project bonds, are increasingly gaining ground worldwide, a survey by PwC said on Wednesday.
The survey, presented during a news conference in the Athens Stock Exchange, showed the weakness of funding from traditional sources of major infrastructure projects, which according to OECD estimates, will total at least 3.0 trillion US dollars annually by 2030. The need to fund new infrastructure projects is particularly increased in Greece, specifically following a significant slowdown, up to 50 pct, of invested capital since 2008, as a result of an economic crisis. Completion of major infrastructure projects is expected to require around 24 billion dollars by 2025, PwC said in the survey.
PwC said that investments on infrastructure projects in the current economic climate could become a driving force for the return of the Greek economy to positive growth rates, creating several new job positions. PwC said that investments on infrastructure projects have a significant financial multiple of 2X, boosting demand in other sectors of economic activity and the Greek economy in general. Attracting private capital was very significant for implementing the programme. Prevailing conditions offer a significant opportunity to further exploit direct funding projects from institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies and new funding tools such as project bonds and non-bank borrowing.
David McGray, Infrastructure Director of PwC UK, presenting the survey said that project bond funding was gaining significant ground worldwide, with capital drained in the first half of 2014 totaling 14 billion dollars, up 600 pct from the corresponding period last year.
Socrates Lazarides, chief executive of the Athens Stock Exchange Group, said that Greek market authorities were examining international experience and practices implemented in other countries, which have developed similar products, in order to create the necessary regulatory framework also in Greece. Greek project bonds, to be issued in the future, could become attractive investment tools for international pension funds and specialised investment funds, interested in the Greek market. At the same time, Greek insurance companies, mutual funds and investment management companies - with accumulated assets of 24 bln euros - could also become a significant source of new funding.
 Wholesale turnover index up 0.4 pct in Q2Greece's wholesale commerce turnover index rose 0.4 pct in the second quarter of 2014, compared with the same period last year, after a 9.4 pct decline recorded in the 2013/2012 period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the wholesale turnover index rose 11.7 pct in the second quarter compared with the first quarter of 2014, after an increase of 11.1 pct recorded in the same period last year.
 Greek inflation rate slowed to -0.3 pct in AugustGreece remained in deflation conditions in August, although the rate of negative trend significantly slowed to -0.3 pct from -0.7 pct in July and -1.3 pct in August 2013, a first sign of a slowdown in a decline of consumer demand in the country.
Hellenic Statistical Authority, in a report released on Wednesday, said that on a monthly basis, price increases were recorded in pharmaceuticals (4.2 pct), fresh fish (1.5 pct), meat (0.8 pct) and vehicles (0.6 pct), while on the other hand, price declines were recorded in fresh vegetables (6.7 pct), fresh fruit (4.3 pct) and petrol (1.6 pct), while the inflation rate was also affected by the summer sales season.
On an annual basis, price increases were recorded in pharmaceuticals (26.7 pct), PPC rates (4.9 pct), olive oil (2.9 pct), dairy/eggs (2.5 pct), hotels (2.5 pct), cigarettes (1.8 pct) and alcohol (1.4 pct), while price declines were recorded in fresh potatoes (32.7 pct), fresh fruit (16.9 pct), fresh fish 5.5 pct), vegetables (3.6 pct) and meat (0.9 pct).
The statistics service said the consumer price index fell 0.3 pct in August, compared with the same month last year, after an 1.3 pct decline recorded in the 2013-2014 period. The statistics service attributed this development to a 2.4 pct decline i food/beverage prices, an 1.3 pct fall in clothing/footwear, an 1.3 pct decline in housing, a 0.5 pct fall in transport prices, a 2.5 pct decline in entertainment prices, a 3.9 pct fall in education, a 0.4 pct decline in hotel/restaurant prices and a 2.6 pct fall in other goods and services. On the other hand, alcohol/tobacco prices rose 1.9 pct, health prices were up 3.5 pct and communications rose 0.1 pct.
Greece's harmonized inflation rate was -0.2 pct in August, from -0.8 pct in July and -1.0 pct in August 2013.
 Cyclades electricity interconnection project contracts signed on WednesdayThe first phase of the Cyclades interconnection project with the mainland electricity system, which includes the islands of Tinos, Mykonos and Paros, is expected to be completed at the end of 2016. The completion of the project which includes the interconnection of Naxos and the accompanying infrastructure is expected in 2019 when savings from the reduction of the electricity cost will reach 100 million euros per year. After the inclusion of Crete in the project, cost reduction can exceed 500 million euros per year.
The contracts for the construction of the first phase of the project were signed on Wednesday in Athens. The budget of the investment totals 240 million euros.
Deputy Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Makis Papageorgiou said that the project would be beneficial not only to the islands but to all electricity consumers who will see significant reductions in their electricity bills and added: "We shield one of the most dynamic parts of our economy, tourism, and these projects put an end to the blackout risks for major tourist destinations of the country" and set the conditions for the maximum use of the renewable energy sources on the islands.
 'We need strong producers' groups and sound cooperatives', alternate rural development minister saysThe Rural Development ministry, in a circular sent to farmers' cooperative organisations, said the merger process of unions and partnerships of agricultural cooperatives should be completed by September 30, it was announced on Wednesday.
The ministry's circular presents a number of regulations included in article 61 of Law No 4277/2014 aimed at the development and consolidation of agricultural cooperatives.
"We need strong producers' groups, sound cooperatives, strong professional organizations in order to support our dynamic and extrovert products, the manufacturing industry and ultimately the Greek farmers' income," Alternate Rural Development Minister Paris Koukoulopoulos said.
"With the recently adopted regulations on agricultural cooperatives," he added "we contribute to their development and consolidation, by resolving tax, real estate, supervision and monitoring issues, always in the context of cooperative principles."
 Court of Audit blocks 'Elliniko' sale on procedural groundsA Court of Audit ruling on Wednesday blocked the sale of 100 percent of Elliniko SA, the site of the former Athens airport, by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) on the grounds that rules of transparency, equal treatment and competition had been violated during the tender process. The ruling was issued after the court inspected the draft of the sale contract and the procedure to select the highest bidder in the sale for Elliniko.
Among the problems cited by the court was that the wording of a tender for the sale restricted participation to financial bodies have a legal personality or their unions and consortiums. In this way, the court said, a series of financial agents were barred from participating, including individual persons whether alone or in unions or consortiums with others. According to the court, there were no special reasons to justify such an exclusion.
It also objected to changes to the terms of the tender made in the second phase of the process, so that the submission of new offers was essentially impossible by potential investors that had not been pre-selected. In addition, such late changes in the terms of a contract put up for tender are forbidden by both Greek and European law unless there is a specific provision referring to the possibility of an amendment.
 Jumbo Group to open six new storesJumbo Group plans to open six new stores this year, along with a program of renovating existing stores currently underway.
The company said it has already opened a new store in Iasmos and said business was up in a newly renovated store in Piraeus. Jumbo said sales grew more than 10 pct in the first two months of the current fiscal year (July 2014-June 2015), surpassing in the July-August period the annual target of 4-6 pct set by the company. Jumbo will release its 2013/2014 financial results in September 25.
 Komotini Traders Association aims to attract visitors from Romania and TurkeyKomotini Traders Association recently initiated the launch of an innovative application for "smart" mobile phones and tablets, the "Komotini Guide", aiming to attract visitors from the Romanian and Turkish markets.
Some 20 companies from various economic sectors are currently making use of the advantages offered by the application, which is available in three languages (Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian), by presenting their products and services and at the same time offering discounts to visitors from abroad.
The application will also directly "detect" the preferences of the university students in the area, the head of the Komotini Traders Association Antonis Frantzis told ANA-MPA.
Frantzis stressed that the initial target of the initiative was to attract more visitors from Bulgaria but eventually the Association also aimed for Romania and Turkey due to their increased interest for the Greek market.
The promotion of the application in Romanian and Turkish markets will probably take place at the end of the year, mainly through an advertising campaign on social media. The Association aims to further enrich the contents of the application by increasing the number of companies that present their products and services on the guide.
 Doxato mayor sends letter of complaint to TAP joint ventureThe mayor of the northern Greek city of Doxato sent a letter to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline-TAP joint venture complaining that local authorities and society had not been informed of the planned route of the pipeline.
Mayor Dimitris Dalakakis called on the company's representatives to appear at the city hall on Wednesday and officially inform authorities of the route of the pipeline, adding that after Wednesday "neither you nor your pipeline is welcome."
Dalakakis claimed it was last week during a meeting called by the Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis that he was first informed of the fact that the largest part of the pipeline would cross the municipality of Doxato.
In his letter, he claimed that during the meeting there was an effort to finalize the route of the pipeline. Dalakakis expressed his strong discontent over the fact that no representative of the Doxato municipality had been called to attend any of the meetings held in Athens and Kavala, northern Greece, on the issue.
Company representatives have been scheduled to visit the municipality of Doxato on September 16 to inform the local authorities and associations on the route of the pipeline.
 Greek stocks end slightly higherGreek stocks recovered slightly in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, following Tuesday's sharp fall. Buying activity focused on bank shares and other blue chip stocks, pushing the composite index of the market 0.47 pct higher to end at 1,170.85 points, after falling to 1,152.08 points early in the session. Turnover eased to 73.49 million euros.
The Large Cap index ended 0.53 pct higher and the Mid Cap index eased 0.11 pct. Jumbo (4.19 pct), Motor Oil (2.74 pct), Hellenic Exchanges (2.08 pct) and Eurobank (2.06 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while Titan (1.57 pct), Viohalco (1.46 pct), PPC (1.31 pct) and Folli Follie (1.01 pct) suffered heavy losses.
The Personal Products (3.36 pct), Insurance (2.84 pct) and Oil (1.44 pct) sectors scored gains, while Commerce (0.99 pct), Utilities (0.96 pct) and Constructions (0.76 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 60 to 46 with another 37 issues unchanged. Atti-kat (20 pct), AEGEK (18.97 pct), Perseus (18.25 pct) were top gainers, while Tzirakian (20 pct), Altec (10 pct) and Minerva (9.87 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +1.20%
Real Estate: -0.89%
Personal & Household: +3.36%
Food & Beverages: +0.11%
Raw Materials: +0.28%
Mass Media: -0.33%
Travel & Leisure: -0.07%
The stocks with the highest turnover were those of National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.685
Public Power Corp (PPC): 11.28
Coca Cola HBC: 11.57
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 5.60
National Bank of Greece: 2.57
Piraeus Bank: 1.52
Eurobank Properties: 9.00
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was almost unchanged at 4.64 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 4.62 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 5.69 pct and the German Bund yielding 1.05 pct. Turnover was a strong 56 million euros of which 41 million were sell orders and the remaining 15 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.357 pct from 0.360 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.268 pct from 0.271 pct, the six-month rate was unchanged at 0.191 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.087 pct from 0.089 pct and the one-month rate was unchanged at 0.01 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe 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. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,137 contracts with 46,124 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 23,490 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (7,372), followed by Alpha Bank (2,648), National Bank (5,785), Eurobank (2,660), MIG (399), OTE (931), PPC (658), OPAP (438), Hellenic Exchanges (222), Mytilineos (770), Hellenic Petroleum (279), GEK (451), Athens Water (101), Titan (80) and Terna Energy (136).
 Foreign exchange rates - WednesdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.2929
Pound sterling 0.8012
Danish kroner 7.4441
Swedish kroner 9.1819
Japanese yen 137.9
Swiss franc 1.2072
Norwegian kroner 8.2005
Canadian dollar 1.4213
Australian dollar 1.4146
 Three architrave pieces from the Kasta tumulus moved to Amphipolis Archaeological MuseumThe archaeological excavation at the Amphipolis site unearthed three architrave (epistyle) pieces, about 80 cm to 1 meter long and 15 cm of height, at the Kasta tumulus, after the second diaphragmatic wall behind the caryatids.
The findings, bearing traces of blue and red colouration, were transferred to the Amphipolis Archaeological Museum. According to Culture ministry sources, there are more unscathed architraves in the antechamber.
 First axonometric representation of ancient Amphipolis tombThe archaeological excavations at Kasta tumulus in Amphipolis continue along with the horizontal removal of the soil throughout the area between the second diaphragmatic wall with the caryatids and the third wall.
Meanwhile, the first axonometric representation of the tomb was presented by Culture Ministry's architect Mihalis Lefantzis. The representation shows the two diaphragmatic walls with the sphinxes and the caryatids. Support and maintenance works continue along with the documentation of the archaeological finds and works with digital and conventional means.
 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki willing to contribute in ancient Amphipolis excavationsThe university community of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki expressed its volition to contribute with specialised scientific staff to the excavation works in Ancient Amphipolis.
The Dean of the School of Science held a meeting on the issues that link the excavation with the school's disciplines and sent a letter to the head of the excavation Katerina Peristeri informing her on the school's potentials to support and offer its cooperation in ancient Amphipolis archaeological excavation.
 Byzantine manuscript returns to Holy Monastery of Dionyssiou on Mount AthosA Byzantine period manuscript, a 12th century masterpiece that was stolen in 1960 from the Holy Monastery of Dionyssiou on Mount Athos and, after appearing in private collections, was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in California in 1983, has been repatriated and will be exhibited at the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens on September 15, it was announced on Wednesday.
The manuscript will be on display until October 30 together with another page, depicting the busts of the Twelve Apostles, that was purchased separately and was on display at Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum in Athens. Both exhibits will return to the library of the Holy Monastery of Dionyssiou on Mount Athos.
The 12th century is characterized by a production of luxurious manuscripts in Constantinople that were usually destined for members of the Komnenos Dynasty or large monasteries.
A culture ministry announcement noted that the J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to hand over the manuscript to the Greek state in the context of a bilateral cooperation framework signed by the two sides in 2011.
 Two Bulgarians confess to murder of elderly man; two Greeks also chargedTwo Bulgarian nationals, a father and son, have confessed to the murder of an 83-year-old man and the serious injury of a 94-year-old woman sharing his apartment in Halkida, police announced on Wednesday. The two Bulgarians were arrested on Tuesday and charged, while two Greeks suspected of acting as their accomplices were also arrested and charged on Wednesday.
The two Bulgarians described their actions in detail, saying their motive was robbery. They face charges of intended homicide, robbery, causing dangerous bodily harm, breaking customs law and violating weapons laws. The two Greeks are charged with morally instigating the above actions and various drugs and weapons violations.
According to the story pieced together by police, one of the two Greeks believed that the elderly pair had large amounts of money and valuables in the apartment they shared and came up with the criminal plan, assigning its execution to the two Bulgarians. The two Bulgarians hid in the apartment building last Sunday, lying in wait for the 83-year-old. When he returned home they attacked him, using physical violence, and then they tied him up and gagged him, which resulted in his death by suffocation.
When the 94-year-old woman became aware of them, they hit her repeatedly as well and gagged her.
They then searched the apartment, finding only 350 euros, and then escaped with their two accomplices that were waiting outside as lookouts.
 Police search Nea Makri house in search of Distomo robbersPolice on Wednesday announced that they had completed a search of a house in Nea Makri, Attica where one of the Distomo bank robbers may have stayed, sending the evidence found to forensics laboratories. Sources said the house was empty, while neighbours may have identified wanted fugitive Spyros Dravilas as the individual that had rented it.
Authorities are on the trail of three individuals with respect to the bank robbery in Distomo and released photographs and details of suspects Spyros Dravilas, Georgios Petrakakos and Spyros Christodoulou at the end of August.
The three bank robbers took nearly 400,000 euros during a heist on August 22, taking one of the bank tellers hostage to aid their getaway. They eluded pursuit when they abandoned their car and escaped by sea in a stolen inflatable dinghy, which they sailed to Loutro, Xylokastro. They then abandoned the speedboat, after first attempting to torch it, and sped off in an unknown vehicle in an unknown direction.
 Mostly fair on ThursdayMostly fair weather and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Clouds in the afternoon in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 14C-30C. Rain in the western parts of the country with temperatures between 17C-30C. Mostly fair in the central and the eastern parts with temperatures between 16C-31C. Scattered clouds over the islands, 22C-31C. Fair in Athens, 17C-31C. Clouds in Thessaloniki, 16C-29C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Small regional hospitals to close.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: 'Pimps' in hospitals too.
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: Incorrigible in corrections.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Discounts on ENFIA (Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax) with 'assets' criteria.
ESTIA: Unbelievable 'tax-bureaucrats'.
ETHNOS: The new ENFIA- Who gains, who loses and how many.
IMERISSIA: Greek banks will not need additional capitals.
KATHIMERINI: 5 billion euro welfare benefits through the sieve.
LOGOS: Tax evasion orgy.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Pressure for immediate solution to the fiscal gap.
RIZOSPASTIS: 13th and 14th salary in private sector targetted.
TA NEA: Who gains and who loses after the changes in ENFIA.
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