|Tuesday, 28 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-06-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 4 June 2015 Issue No: 4970
 PM Tsipras: Europe's political leadership will tread the path of realismPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday expressed his certainty that Europe's political leadership will tread the path of realism in order to secure the exit from the crisis, while maintaining the unity of Europe.
Before leaving for Brussels, Tsipras said that he has not received a reply to the proposal submitted officially by the Greek side two days ago.
More specifically, the Greek prime minister said: "The Greek government submitted officially its proposal for a decent and mutually beneficial compromise to the institutions two days ago, a compromise that will give an end to Europe's crisis, will give Greece the possibility to overcome the economic suffocation and contribute to recovery, will give an end to scenarios of Grexit and disaster."
"Until today we have not received any comments on the proposal, as institutional partners claim. Last night the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker invited me to Brussels to discuss in private. With great pleasure I responded positively to a debate on the proposal of the Greek government, to explain that today more than ever it is necessary for the institutions and especially the political leadership of Europe to tread the path of realism where the Greek government has been for the last three months negotiating the rights of the Greek people for the benefit of a united Europe. We need unity, we must avoid the division; I am confident that the political leadership of Europe will do what is required, will be tread the path of realism," he added.
 Meeting between Juncker-Tsipras to take place at 21:30BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ Ch. Vasilaki)
A meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels is scheduled to take place at 21:30 on Wednesday.
The latest developments concerning Greece were discussed at a meeting of the College of Commissioners on Wednesday - specifically the Commission's efforts to find a common ground between the institutions, Greece and its partners in the eurozone.
Briefing the press, European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said that many documents and draft agreements have been generated, adding that intensive work will continue to find a common position between the institutions and the 19 member-states of the eurozone.
Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, meanwhile, said that Juncker and Tsipras will evaluate the progress of the negotiations up to this point but clarified that no final decisions were expected on Wednesday. Schinas did not confirm whether Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem or representatives of other institutions will be present, noting that Juncker had extended a personal invitation to Tsipras as European Commission president.
He also noted that, while the final decision must be made by the Eurogroup, the Commission's role is to cultivate the conditions that facilitate a unanimous agreement among the 19 eurozone members. The meeting will discuss the few remaining issues on which there are still differences that must be bridged, among them an analysis of the sustainability of Greece's debt, he added.
 No ECB representative at Tsipras-Juncker meeting, ECB source tells ANA-MPABRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
There will be no representative of the European Central Bank (ECB) at a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Wednesday night, an ECB source told the ANA-MPA.
ECB President Mario Draghi made it clear that he would not be attending the meeting, when asked during a press conference in Frankfurt, the same source pointed out.
 Tsipras, Merkel, Hollande agree that a solution needs to be found, say gov't sourcesPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreed in the need to find a solution quickly in the ongoing negotiations in separate telephone conversations he held on Wednesday, government sources said.
The three leaders also agreed in the need to have lower primary surpluses, the same sources said, adding that talks were constructive.
 Eurozone official expresses hope that Tsipras-Juncker meeting will lead to agreement soonBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
The meeting on Wednesday between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will hopefully outline the ways in which the sides will work over the next few days in order to achieve an agreement between Greece and the institutions, a eurozone official said.
The same official stated that the meeting will set a date by which the negotiations between Greece and the institutions must be wrapped up and expressed hope that a staff level agreement will be ready within the next few days, while noting that a Eurogroup meeting within the week was unlikely.
 SYRIZA political secretariat met ahead of Tsipras-Juncker meetingSYRIZA Secretary Tasos Koronakis on Wednesday briefed members of the party's political secretariat on the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its lenders, as well as the government's decision to send its own proposal to the institutions in order to clinch a deal, party sources said.
Party members are on standby ahead of tonight's meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and this is why they may convene anew on Thursday to include briefings on the talks.
 Euroworking Group teleconference postponed until ThursdayThe Euroworking Group teleconference has been postponed until Thursday, at 18.30, according to eurozone sources.
It was initially planned for Wednesday.
 The government has tabled a comprehensive plan to the institutions, SYRIZA spokeswoman says"The prime minister will not submit an agreement to the cabinet meeting, which will not be approved by the parliamentary group," SYRIZA spokeswoman Rania Svigou on Wednesday said in statements to MEGA TV.
"The government has submitted a comprehensive plan to the institutions, which includes Greece's proposals and concessions. We consider that common ground can be found between the Greek side and the creditors," Svigou noted.
The party spokeswoman stressed that the government has made important steps and now it lies within the European leaders to persuade that they also want a political and sustainable solution that will contribute to growth. The issue is not a technical one and the differences are not just technical, she explained.
"We insist on a different solution that will include the debt restructuring issue and growth," she underlined.
'We are not far from reaching a deal,' Eurogroup chief Dijsselbloem says
"We are not far from reaching a deal," Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Tuesday said in an interview with Italian RTL TV.
He also said that some in Europe are extremely optimistic over the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone.
Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch Finance Minister, noted that there is no a specific proposal, but a wide package on budget, public administration, pensions and the labour market.
Asked whether the European side intends to make a compromise in order to reach a deal, he talked of a "misunderstanding" and that both sides will have to meet halfway.
The Eurogroup chief said that the budgetary package should be a "correct" one, as it was agreed with the previous government.
"Time is running out ... Until now, Greece has been able to pay its debts, but this becomes increasingly difficult. I have also repeatedly said that it is the responsibility of the Greek government to meet its obligations on time. This is not our work. Meanwhile we are making progress, but slowly," Dijsselbloem stated.
 There is no Plan B for Greece, EU Commissioner Moscovici says"There is no Plan B for Greece," European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici said on Wednesday.
"Our aim is a stronger Greek economy within the framework of the eurozone," Moscovici said in an interview with the Cyprus news agency.
Moscovici underlined that they work so that a Grexit is avoided.
"We work," the European Commissioner said, "day and night for a single solution to help the country overcome some major challenges and difficulties," and expressed the hope that a deal will be reached in the coming days.
 Draghi says ECB wants Greece to stay in the eurozone, calls for 'strong agreement'European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi on Wednesday said the ECB wants Greece to stay in the eurozone, while calling for a 'strong agreement' on Greece.
"The governing council of the ECB wants Greece to stay in the euro, but there should be a strong agreement. One that creates growth, and which is fiscally sustainable and addresses the remaining sources of financial instability.
"This will be the component of a strong agreement," he said, responding to questions about Monday night's "mini-summit" on Greece that he attended.
In response to other questions, he said that any agreement on a primary budget surpluses in Greece must also take into account the negative impact on the growth front.
With regard to the Greek government's demand that the ECB raise the amount Greece can borrow by issuing treasury bills, Draghi said that this will be re-examined when the institutions approve the disbursement of tranches from the Greek programme.
He avoided further comment, noting that the negotiations were currently underway.
 Agreement on Greece a matter of days or hours, Hollande predicts at OECDPARIS (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira)
Excessive demands on Greece will prevent the country's return to growth, French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday, while addressing an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting in Paris.
Concerning the prospect of an agreement between Greece and the institutions representing the country's creditors, Hollande appeared confident that a deal between the two sides was imminent:
"It is a matter of a few days....we are a few hours away from a possible settlement," he said.
At the same time, he stressed that certain requirements had to be met by Greece for such a deal to take place.
"To not demand anything, or something that would be considered not adequate, would have repercussions for the entire eurozone," he said.
 Greek proposals not likely to be 'final solution,' German finance ministry indicatesBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
The proposals submitted by Athens are not likely to constitute a final solution to the Greek problem, German finance ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said on Wednesday, while noting that he had not yet seen the Greek draft agreement.
"If, however, I take into account what there is in terms of comments, descriptions, comments from Athens and government sources, then I have the impression that this list will not be the final solution of the problem," Jaeger said.
The spokesman said the proposals of the three institutions representing Greece's creditors will form the basis for negotiations, as far as Germany's finance ministry is concerned. He added, however, that the institutions will take into account the wishes of the Greek government.
"It goes without saying that any proposal by the institutions will take into account the wishes of the Greek government but there are certain unmovable conditions and in the end the bill has to add up."
He said that Berlin was surprised by the Greek draft agreement, since "we have waited for months for specific and detailed Greek proposals." These detailed proposals now appeared to have materialised, Jaeger added, but he declined to comment on them, as he had not seen them.
"But that is not so important because you know that on Monday - because of the fact that Greece has for months not produced anything - the three institutions reached an understanding to submit their own proposal. These talks are underway and this proposal of the three institutions is for us an important basis for discussion," he said.
He also reiterated the German government's position that there's no possibility of a Greek debt haircut. "Haircut and similar issues are not an option for the future," he noted.
"In the end, there will be a comprehensive package. And the numbers have to add up and there must be debt sustainability. The experts will have to evaluate it, as far as technical knowledge is concern; the IMF has it [this knowledge]," he said.
Jaeger also said it is not true that Greece's voice is not heard.
 German chancellor not acting alone in initiatives for Greece, Berlin stressesBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not acting alone, the chancellor's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday when asked about Merkel's initiatives on Greece, such as the "mini-summit" she convened in Berlin on Monday night, and whether she was empowered to make them.
"What we have is close contacts between the chancellor and the French president with the European partners, the institutions and the Greek government. These include the discussion on Monday night in Berlin. This was not about taking decisions but about a joint assessment of the situation. For Germany and France it is important that the institutions process a common position and discuss this with the Greek government," Seibert said, adding that these discussions were thankfully now underway.
The spokesman also clarified that the decisions will not be taken by Merkel, French President Francois Hollande or Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Instead, there will be an agreement between the Greek government and the institutions, which will then form the basis for the decisions made by the Eurogroup, he said.
 Large majority of Germans want Greece to remain in eurozone - pollForty-one percent of Germans believe Greece will fulfill all the agreed requirements in an opinion poll conducted on behalf of German television channel N24 and published on Wednesday.
According to the same survey, 67 pct of Germans said they prefer to see Greece remain in the eurozone and only 27 pct said they favour a Grexit.
 Europe's stance on Greek tax reform is hypocritical, says economist PikettyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/C. Vasilaki)
Europe's stance in dealing with tax reform in Greece is very hypocritical, French economist Thomas Piketty told ANA-MPA news agency in an interview on Wednesday.
"On the one hand they say rich Greeks must pay more taxes and on the other, French and German banks gladly accept cash and bonds from Greece without sending the proper information to Greek authorities to help them tax them," Piketty said on the sidelines of a conference on progressive economy.
"Even France and Germany are not able to tax large multinationals and big business as they should because they escape to Luxembourg. So how do we expect Greece to do it alone?" he asked.
The economist argued the solution to this problem is European and includes setting a common tax rate on companies over a certain size and exchanging information automatically.
He also said that "the only sure thing" is that a Grexit has to be avoided because this would destroy the Eurozone and would lead to an even greater lack of confidence.
Asked to comment about the ongoing negotiations, Piketty said that the government has to make clear that the Greek debt haircut is not only proposed for Greece, but for other European states as well. "I believe it is necessary to recognize that a Greek debt haircut will take place, but not just for Greece. There's no solution exclusively for Greece's problem. There has to be a joint solution," he added.
 Greece's place is and will continue to be in the eurozone, says Greek PresidentGreece's position was, is and will continue to be within the European Union and the eurozone, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos told graduate students from the University of Piraeus who visited him at the Presidential Mansion on Wednesday.
"It's our decision, it's a decision of the Greek people ... through our European mission to fight with other people, so that all the targets of the European Union will be fulfilled as they were outlined by its founders," Pavlopoulos said.
He also noted that the European Union is an entity which has to be completed with an institutional, economic and monetary integration. "It has to achieve growth and at the same time cover the great democratic deficit is has today. To do this, we need the cooperation of all the peoples under democratic ideas and that's where Greece's position can and should be at the forefront."
 ND leader: Government has led Greece into recession before taking even one measureNew Democracy leader Antonis Samaras criticized the government for keeping the county in recession, during a book presentation on Wednesday.
"We are today the only European country in recession. Before taking even one measure, the government has led us in recession," he said and added that "without ideology there can be no policy and without realism there can be no governance."
 SYRIZA parliamentary group to meet to discuss the dealSYRIZA parliamentary spokesman Nikos Filis on Wednesday, in statements to SKAI TV, said that the party parliamentary group will meet to discuss the details of the agreement.
"The decision was taken together with the prime minister," he added.
"We did not have a mandate to meet all our pledges immediately ... We will be judged in a four-year period," Filis noted.
"The government will do its best to reach a deal that will break the vicious circle of austerity and recession ... Elections are not needed in the current reality, but what is needed is for the agreement to pass in the Parliament," he added.
 Defence Minister Kammenos on course of negotiationsDefence Minister and Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader, who is paying an official visit to Crete on Wednesday, appeared optimistic over the course of the government's negotiations with the country's lenders.
"The negotiations are going well. I want to tell you that the negotiations will be carried out based on the people's mandate. The prime minister himself has taken the responsibility of the negotiations and I am certain that we will reach an agreement for the Greek people's benefit" said Kammenos.
 Potami party leader expresses hope for agreement on Greece very soonExpressing hope that this will be the "last bend" in the road toward an agreement with the country's creditors that will benefit the majority, opposition Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis on Wednesday quipped that the prime minister had "after a long delay discovered the right words: realism to escape economic suffocation and put an end to disaster scenarios."
Theodorakis made the comment while visiting Paris, where he is scheduled to have a series of meetings with the leadership of the French socialists and top government officials, including Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Economy, Industry and Digital Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron.
 SYRIZA-ANEL cannot implement the agreement with the partners, To Potami leader saysThe current coalition SYRIZA-ANEL government is not in a position to implement any European agreement because it does not have the potential to do so, To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis said late on Tuesday in a party meeting.
Theodorakis underlined that the majority of SYRIZA and ANEL members do not believe in social reforms and the European perspective while he did not rule out the possibility of elections within the year.
He also estimated that the deal with the partners will trigger developments and called on party members to be on alert.
The party has decided to support the agreement with the European partners, as he said, but to continue being a strong opposition power to SYRIZA-ANEL government.
 A deal between Greece and its creditors has to be reliable, complete, says Bruegel economistOnly if the agreement between Greece and its creditors is reliable and complete will the country's economy be able to return to growth, otherwise uncertainty will continue, Zsolt Darvas, a Senior Fellow at Bruegel think tank said on Wednesday, during a speech at an International Conference on "A New Growth Model for the Greek Economy", hosted in Athens.
Darvas said that if Greece covers one-third of the distance separating it from the three countries with the best performance in implementing reforms, then its GDP will rise by 4 percentage points in the next five years and by 18 percentage points in the next 20 years.
"With the achievement of a deal, the economy will stop crawling and we will be able to be optimistic about the next three years," he noted.
He also warned that if no deal is secured, the chances of Greece leaving the Eurozone will rise sharply, which will further cut its GDP by 10 pct, increase unemployment and produce more measures for fiscal adjustment.
The conference was organized by the Economic Chamber of Greece in cooperation with the Greek Parliamentary Budget Office, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Democritus University of Thrace and the University of Peloponnese.
 FM Kotzias to meet FYROM Deputy Prime Minister Besimi on ThursdayForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias will meet with the FYROM Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Fatmir Besimi, at 12:30, on Thursday, 4 June, at the Foreign Ministry.
Following their meeting, at approximately 13:30, they will make statements to the news media, after which Kotzias and Besimi will attend a working luncheon, according to a Foreign ministry's announcement.
 German foreign ministry on relations between Greece, FYROMBERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)
German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer on Wednesday linked stability in Greece with the country's relations with its regional neighbours, replying to a question concerning the situation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
"Greece is our partner in the EU and NATO. A partner who must with us create stability in south east Europe and generally. The more stable the conditions in Greece are, the better its regional relations with neighbouring countries will be," Schaefer said in his reply, during which he repeatedly referred to FYROM by the name 'Macedonia'.
Greece and FYROM are currently in locked in a dispute over its northern neighbour's insistence on using the name Macedonia - the same as the contemporary Greek province of Macedonia that spans most of northern Greece, sharing borders with Albania, FYROM and Bulgaria, and also of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, whose territory lay largely within the boundaries of modern Greece.
 Energy Minister Lafazanis attends lunch with EU ambassadorsProductive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was the guest of honour at a lunch hosted by Latvian ambassador to Greece Ivars Pundurs, who represents the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU, at a central hotel in Athens on Wednesday.
During the lunch, Lafazanis presented issues related to his ministry to the EU ambassadors who attended and discussed the political and economic developments.
 First two bailout memorandums invalid under Constitution, expert tells Parliament inquiryThe first two memorandum agreements accompanying the Greek bailouts are invalid under the Constitution since they were not ratified by a two thirds majority in Parliament, Athens University Law School Professor Georgios Kasimatis of the Athens University Law School, an expert in the Constitution, informed lawmakers on Wednesday.
Kasimatis was testifying during an ongoing Parliamentary probe into the circumstances and events that led to Greece signing bailout memorandums with its creditors.
He termed the first memorandum agreement "unconstitutional" and said the validity of both agreements was in doubt, since international treaties of this type had to be ratified by an enhanced two thirds majority in Parliament.
"In order for it to be valid and legal, it must be signed and in accordance with articles 28 and 36 of the Constitution, while if it provides for powers of control by creditors it must be ratified by two thirds of the Parliamentary majority... in other words by more than 180 MPs," he said.
Kasimatis said that in the memorandum agreements, Greece expressly waives its rights as a national sovereign, something that had never before been signed in the past and happened for the first time in history.
The professor also accused George Papandreou's government in 2010 of failing to fully explain why Greece had to borrow from the IMF and not from the markets and of misrepresenting the real nature of the memorandum programmes.
His testimony provoked strong reactions from PASOK MP Andreas Loverdos, who accused him of bias and "double standards".
 Opposition Potami slams system for distributing state funding to partiesThe current system for distributing state funding to the political parties was "made to measure" for the old establishment parties, opposition Potami asserted in an announcement on Wednesday. It noted that in 2015 Potami stood to receive one fifth and in some cases one tenth of the funding going to parties that received smaller percentages in the elections.
Potami, after receiving 6.6 pct of the vote in the European elections and 6.05 pct of the vote in the general elections, will receive 84,776 euros in state funding. By contrast, the Democratic Left (DIM.AR) with just 1.2 pct and 0.48 pct in the same elections stands to receive 421,638 euros, the Independent Greeks (ANEL), with lower percentages than Potami, receive 489,399 and whereas PASOK will receive 746,399 euros.
According to Potami, the system was clearly set up to favour established parties and hamper the funding of new parties, since the amounts were distributed based on past figures, even if they did not reflect current realities.
 Alt. FinMin Mardas meets with economist Nouriel Roubini in AthensAlternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas met on Wednesday with Economist Nouriel Roubini, President of Roubini Global Economics, at the General Accounting Office.
Roubini expressed his views on Greece's economic state and the ongoing negotiations between the Greek government and the institutions.
 Greek economy to grow by 0.1 pct in 2015, 2.3 pct in 2016, OECD report?The Greek economy is expected to grow by 0.1 pct this year and by 2.3 pct in 2016, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said in its semi-annual Economic Outlook report.
The unemployment rate is projected to fall to 25.7 pct of the workforce this year and to 24.7 pct in 2016, from 26.5 pct in 2014, while the inflation rate will remain in negative territory in 2015 (-1.4 pct) before rising to 0.3 pct in 2016. The country's fiscal deficit is projected to fall to 3.4 pct of GDP this year and to 2.8 pct in 2016, from 3.6 pct in 2014, while the public debt will rise to 187.9 pct of GDP this year, easing slightly to 187.6 pct in 2016, from 184.1 pct in 2014.
The OECD noted that economic growth will remain weak in 2015 because uncertainty related with the reform program and a deteriorating liquidity condition have undermined business confidence and investments. For 2016, economic growth will be more dynamic and unemployment will ease as exports and investments are projected to recover along with a reform effort, although the economy will remain in a deflation trend this year.
"The debt burden will remain very high and fiscal sustainability demands the continuation of restrain policies for some time. Fiscal policy must focus on a small primary surplus. Reforming the tax system and tax collection are necessary to boost revenues, while further reforms on the pension system could hep in containing spending," OECD said in its report.
"Structural reforms to reduce hurdles in competition and investments could boost exports and create more high-quality job positions, while reforms in social policy must focus on a fair distribution of costs and benefits from an adjustment policy. Investment recovery will depend on the return of business confidence and the rate of implementing structural reforms. It is necessary to improve access to credit that's why it is crucial to stabilize the banking system and to resolve the non-performing loans issue," it noted.
 Special VAT rate on islands not a red line for the government, SYRIZA parliamentary spokesman saysThe special VAT rate on islands was never a government's red line, SYRIZA parliamentary spokesman Nikos Filis said on Wednesday to MEGATV.
"I don't believe that it is one of the most difficult decisions, although I know that it will have repercussions on the islands' residents," he said adding that "an idea is not to take a decision that will change the condition of the tourism operation this summer, however, it is closely connected with the finances, how much money you want to now or later".
On the Christmas bonus and if it is given this year, he said that it has to do with the course of the state finances, it is certainly a difficult decision, it will have more repercussions on the people's lives because it is related with the whole country and with some island as VAT rate is... it refers to a number of groups, the pensioners who are financially weak at the moment and it has an overall effect to the operation of the economy and of the family."
The four red lines are, as he said, no more cutbacks in pensions, reduction in primary surpluses, political statement on the debt settlement and the matter of support for growth. He also added that there will be legislation on the labour issues.
 ANA-MPA and Greek-Italian Chamber of Commerce sign cooperation protocolANA-MPA news agency and the Greek-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Athens on Tuesday signed a cooperation agreement.
The agreement provides for the reproduction of ANA-MPA news in the English and Italian languages to the website and social media of the Chamber.
On the other hand, the Chamber has pledged to promote the news agency to its members as well as the Italian media.
The head of the Chamber Yiannis Tsamihas stressed the importance of the agreement since Italy is the main commercial partner of Greece with more than 6 billion euro turnover annually.
On his part, the president and managing director of ANA-MPA Mihalis Psilos underlined that the agreement will further enhance the Greek-Italian relations, not only in the commercial sector but also in tourism, politics and culture.
 Greek unemployment rate eased to 25.4 pct in Feb, Eurostat?BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)
Greek unemployment rate eased to 25.4 pct of the workforce in February, compared with January, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive's statistics office, in a report released here, said that the unemployment rate in the Eurozone eased to 11.1 pct in April from 11.2 pct in March, while in the EU-28, the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 pct from 9.8 pct over the same months, respectively.
The number of unemployed people in the EU was 23.5 million and 17.8 million in the Eurozone in April.
Greece (25.4 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rate in the EU, followed by Spain (22.7 pct), while Germany (4.7 pct) and Austria (5.7 pct) the lowest rates.
The number of unemployed people in Greece was 1.206 million in February, while unemployment among men was 22.4 pct and among women 29.1 pct. The unemployment rate among young people (aged below 25 years old) was 50.1 pct in February, from 49.9 pct in January, the highest rate in the EU, ahead of Spain (49.6 pct), Croatia (45.5 pct) and Italy (40.9 pct). Germany, Austria and Denmark (7.2 pct, 10.1 pct and 10.1 pct, respectively) recorded the lowest rates.
 Government must push forward with Piraeus port's privatisation, says opposition MPThe government must move ahead with plans to privatize Piraeus Port (OLP), main opposition MP Notis Mitarachi said on Wednesday, following a meeting with the company's President and CEO Giorgos Anomeritis.
Mitarachi, who comments for New Democracy (ND) on issues relating to Shipping and the Aegean, said promoting investments in Piraeus will have a concrete effect on the Greek economy and will strengthen the port's role as a gateway to Europe.
He also said that attention should be paid in the new cruise terminal as it will be crucial in turning the country into a centre for the sector in the southeastern Mediterranean.
 Selonda says sales up 8.0 pct in Q1?Selonda, a Greek-listed aquaculture company, on Wednesday announced an 8.0 pct increase in its first quarter sales to 31 million euros, from 29 million euros in the same period last year. Consolidated turnover was unchanged at 33 million euros.
The company said exports accounted for 88 pct of sales in the January-March period. EBITDA was a positive 3.4 million euros in the three-month period, while after tax and minorities results showed a loss of 300,000 euros and after tax earnings totaled 100,000 euros, significantly improved compared with losses of 4.1 million euros and 3.7 million euros, in 2014 respectively.
 Yiannis Hitos buys 25 pct stake in Green Cola Hellas?Yiannis Hitos, one of the shareholders and chairman of Hitos ABEE, acquired a 25 pct equity stake in Green Cola Hellas through a share capital increase plan.
The two sides signed an agreement and drafted a five-year business plan envisaging the expansion of Green Cola's activities in international markets. Green Cola will form a new seven-member board with Yiannis Hitos taking over as executive chairman.
EPAP SA owns exclusive production and use rights of Green Cola products for Greece and another 12 international markets and has already established activities in Cyprus and Serbia. The company was founded in 1959 from a group of local producers in Orestiada. In 2011 its shares were acquired by Green Coca Hellas SA, a company owned by Pericles Venieris, a former high-ranking executive in Coca Cola Hellenic SA.
 Greek stocks surge on hopes of an imminent agreement?Greek stocks surged in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as investors discounted a positive outcome in negotiations between Greek authorities and its creditors. The composite index of the market jumped 4.13 pct to end at 838.22 points, off the day's highs of 843.77 points, recovering after a three-day decline during which the index lost 5.50 pct. The Large Cap index jumped 4.61 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.09 pct higher. Turnover was a heavy 112.36 million euros, while the market's capitalisation grew by 2.2 billion.
Coca Cola HBC (0.46 pct) was the only blue chip to end lower, while National Bank (11.61 pct), Piraeus Bank (9.13 pct), OTE (8.50 pct), Alpha Bank (7.81 pct), Ellaktor (7.19 pct), GEK Terna (6.18 pct) and Eurobank (6.16 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day.
Among market sectors, Banks (8.95 pct), Telecoms (8.50 pct), Insurance (5.63 pct) and Personal Products (4.68 pct) scored big gains, while the Food sectors suffered losses (0.46 pct).
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 93 to 26 with another 15 issues unchanged. Hatzikraniotis (24.07 pct), AXON Holdings (20 pct) and Compucon (16.67 pct) were top gainers, while Varagis (18.27 pct), Naftemporiki (9.79 pct) and AEGEK (8.96 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +3.90%
Industrial Products: +2.47%
Real Estate: +2.23%
Personal & Household: +4.68%
Food & Beverages: 7.241.13 -0.46%
Raw Materials: 2.557.67 +3.29%
Travel & Leisure: +3.30%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.345
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.94
Coca Cola HBC: 19.44
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.75
National Bank of Greece: 1.25
Piraeus Bank: 0.538
Grivalia Properties: 7.66
Aegean Airlines: 7.25
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 10.22 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 10.50 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 11.07 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.85 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate rose to 0.16 pct from 0.158 pct, the nine-month rate was unchanged at 0.098 pct, the six-month rate was stable at 0.048 pct, the three-month rate was -0.013 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.061 pct from -0.060 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.70 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,361 contracts with 41,373 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 97,845 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (29,641), followed by Alpha Bank (11,316), Piraeus Bank (28,535), Eurobank (21,059), MIG (970), OTE (841), PPC (3,273), OPAP (517), Mytilineos (123), GEK (648), Ellaktor (125), Frigoglass (107) and Folli Follie (89).
 Thessaloniki municipal employee to stand trial after audit reveals 'unaccounted-for' bank depositsA Thessaloniki municipality employee is to stand trial in connection with a high-profile corruption case for which a judges' council had originally let her off without charges, it was announced on Wednesday.
The woman will be tried before a criminal court for money laundering linked to a large-scale embezzlement case discovered at the municipality, after an audit revealed significant discrepancies between her declared income and her bank deposits between 1999 and 2008, amounting to 223,051.69 euros.
The period coincides with the embezzlement of 17.9 million euros from the municipality's coffers. At the time the scandal was discovered, the specific employee was head of the municipality's Clearing and Expenditures Department.
An audit of her finances also showed that she had invested heavily in the stock market in 2004-2005, making trades whose total turnover exceeding 4.0 million euros in 2004 and 12.5 million euros in 2005.
Testifying before an examining magistrate, the accused said that the amount she invested in the stock market did not exceed 250,000 euros and that the 'excess' money in her bank account included proceeds from winning a lottery ticket, while the rest was money from her husband and her own dowry.
After testifying, she was released without conditions.
 Partly cloudy on ThursdayPartly cloudy and the northerly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and light rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 14C-30C. Scattered clouds in the eastern parts with temperatures ranging between 14C-30C. Mostly fair in the eastern parts with temperatures between 14C-30C. Clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 16C-26C. Mostly fair in Athens, 19C-29C. Clouds with a chance or rain in Thessaloniki, 17C-29C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: (Prime Minister Alexis) Tsipras - (EU Commission president Jean-Claude) Juncker on the Greek proposal
DIMOKRATIA: Real Estate - What will happen with the rents
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Entering the final stretch
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Admission requirements to Athens Technical University, School of Mathematics and Physics to drop significantly
ESTIA: Tsipras assumes all the responsibility
ETHNOS: Tsipras to do his best for a mutual beneficial solution in Brussels
IMERISSIA: On the final stretch
KATHIMERINI: Negotiation walks tightrope
LOGOS: One out of five in 'black' labour
NAFTEMPORIKI: Face to face meeting in Brussels
RIZOSPASTIS: Their negotiation does not concern the popular classes
TA NEA: Murmurs for an agreement, cries for elections
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