|Friday, 13 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-02-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 27 February 2015 Issue No: 4896
 Prime Minister Tsipras addresses SYRIZA's Political SecretariatThe government will give a fight every day for the next four months, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday underlined, addressing the ruling SYRIZA party's Political Secretariat in the context of a lengthy discussion on the new bridge-agreement and the Greek government's negotiations.
According to a SYRIZA non paper, the prime minister noted that the government seeks to move quickly toward the implementation of sweeping reforms aimed at combating tax evasion and corruption and at reorganizing public administration.
The government will proceed with the implementation of the popular mandate by tearing down the memorandum regime and its representatives in the state mechanism. It will also seek to maintain and further increase the broad and unprecedented popular unity by implementing the core of its pledges to the people and utilize the country's geopolitical momentum in the negotiations, Tsipras underlined.
The prime minister and SYRIZA leader suggested that a new party secretary and a new 11-member Political Secretariat be elected in the next meeting of the party's Central Committee in two weeks.
 'There will not be credit event; this is neither to their interest nor to ours,' State min Flambouraris saysState Minister for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris on Thursday in statements to Mega TV appeared reassuring on the liquidity issue.
"There is a liquidity issue but we believe that in the immediate future, with the measures we will launch, there will be liquidity," he said and referred specifically to taxation and fighting tax evasion and the non-payment of social security contributions.
Regarding the repayment of the IMF tranche, he noted: "If we have not raised 1.4 and we have raised 0.8, we will ask for a two month extension" and added "there will not be a credit event; this is neither to their interest nor to ours."
On the VAT, he reckoned there was no need for an increase since, he noted, such a move does not generate revenues.
According to the minister, the 100 installment settlement will bring revenues and will not cause a financial problem. "The institutions cannot say No," he claimed and clarified that the relevant regulation will be tabled just as it was announced with the addition of a provision for a bonus to those "who have been paying properly up until now."
On the so-called "objective" property values, he noted "we cannot have a horizontal reduction, there has to be a zoning" and "this will take a while." On the restitution of the tax-free threshold to 12,000 euros he said: "This needs at least three months, I don't expect it any earlier than May or June."
He said the bill on the large property tax which will replace the Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) is already being processed and called on citizens to pay the last ENFIA tranche.
On the long meeting that SYRIZA's parliamentary group held on Wednesday, he said it was a very productive one, during which support and criticism were expressed.
He said that 18 deputies either opposed to the agreement with the lenders or expressed deep concerns; however, 5 MPs voted against it and 5 cast a blank vote. Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis was among those who cast a blank vote, Flambouraris said, while the President of the Parliament Zoi Konstantopoulou expressed her disagreement.
He said it was quite reasonable to have disagreements over such a text "which was not clear and was not 100 percent along SYRIZA's lines."
Asked if the agreement will pass through the Parliament, he responded this has not been decided yet. His own view, however, was that the agreement should be submitted to the Parliament.
 The only way to repay creditors is to have growth, FinMin Varoufakis tells BloombergGreece's borrowing costs would plunge to those of other Eurozone nations if it can agree with international creditors over growth and its debt sustainability, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.
"Investors understand that unless we grow, they can't make money out of Greece," Varoufakis said. "The moment there is an announcement of a sensible deal on investment, primary surpluses and debt restructuring, you will see that those yields will sink to 1 percent, in line with what's going on in other European countries."
The minister noted he's counting on the European Central Bank to help the country avert default when it runs out of money next month. "I'm pretty confident we won't have a cash-flow problem, because we all struggled very hard through long hours of discussions with our partners, with institutions, to come to this stage," Varoufakis said.
"I find it very hard to imagine that Europe and the IMF will allow us to trip over what is a relatively small cash problem."
He added about 700 million euros returned to Greek banks on Tuesday.
The minister also told the agency the only way to pay the country's creditors is to ensure growth. Therefore, he said, there has to be a policy mix concerning the primary surplus, investments and debt restructuring.
Commenting further of the government's proposal for a debt write-down, he said: "We are a party of the radical left, but we come to this with an agenda that resembles that of a reformist bankruptcy lawyer," Varoufakis said. "We are facing a public and a private sector that are more or less bankrupt."
"And what we need to do is we need to restructure them, we need to reform them, we need to restructure their debt and we need to give people hope," he said.
It is also known that the International Monetary Fund is not comfortable with the primary surpluses imposed on Greece and agreed by previous governments, he added.
 In two months there will be no revenue shortfall, Economy min Stathakis saysThe agreement with creditors creates a secure stability field, Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis said late on Wednesday.
"In two months, there will be no revenue shortfall and the fiscal gap will be covered in a smooth way," Stathakis said in a message posted on Twitter adding that the fiscal gap does not reach 5.0-7.0 billion euros and it is controllable.
 Gov't spokesman: If Eurogroup's decision will pass or not through parliament is a political decisionGovernment spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Thursday, speaking to Vima FM, said that whether Eurogroup's agreement will pass or not in the Parliament is a matter of political decision.
"First of all we are waiting for the agreement to be approved by the European parliaments. The whole procedure is carried out this week and within two or three days - as we believe that it is only a matter of political decision whether it will pass or not through the Greek Parliament, because there is no legal issue - we will decide and you will know it too," he said.
Asked if this will happen through a legislation act he said: "You will know it in the next two days that we will announce it. It has to do on how the parliament will operate. You will know it within the next two or three days."
 SYRIZA central committee meeting over weekendSYRIZA's central committee will meet this coming weekend to review the government's negotiations with its EU and IMF creditors and make changes in its policy-setting committees.
The ruling majority party's political committee is expected to change in terms of numbers (from 23 to a maximum of 13), while members who have been elected to the Greek Parliament or given a ministry portfolio will resign.
Resignations will observe the party's founding rules, which stipulate that the number of "party officials who hold a paid position cannot exceed 25 percent of the total of any party instrument." The restriction includes those serving as cabinet members, public utility/independent authority board of management members, alternate and deputy ministers and secretaries general at ministeries.
 ND criticises gov't for agreeing to extension of loan memorandum 'under worse conditions'Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Thursday accused the government of inaccuracies and blatant lies, underlining that the agreement reached with the partners is, in essence, an extension of the memorandum under worse conditions for the country.
ND sources pointed out that contrary to ruling majority party SYRIZA's claims, there is no separation between the loan contract and the memorandums. What the government requested through the finance minister's email on February 18 and the Eurogroup approved was the extension of the existing memorandum for four more months on conditions.
"The government has not only not 'torn up' the memorandum, it cosigned it, instead," ND said, citing relevant announcements by Greece's creditors (European Commission, ECB and IMF) which underline that the country's fiscal programme review will be based on the existing memorandum.
As regards the government's statements that it has put an end to the outrageous primary surpluses, the party referred to the Eurogroup agreement and accused SYRIZA of "pledging to secure the primary fiscal surpluses needed to guarantee the debt's sustainability."
 SYRIZA MPs Leoutsakos and Makri on parliamentary group meetingSYRIZA MP Stathis Leoutsakos on Thursday in statements to Parapolitika radio station expressed his disagreement over the so-called Varoufakis list. He noted that he voted against it and that at least another 30 deputies did the same.
SYRIZA deputy Rachel Makri in statements to Mega TV said: "I did not vote on Wednesday as I had already left since it was a 12hour meeting."
"If I had been there, I would have voted 'present'...I believe I was not given the time to be able to study the agreement. The document was given in the morning but I wanted to get it in an institutional manner by (Finance Minister Yanis) Varoufakis himself," she added.
She noted the parliamentary group had a civilized discussion and that deputies expressed their concern over the implementation of the measures.
 German lawmakers expected to vote for the extension of the Greek loan agreement despite misgivings, Reuters news agency saysThe members of the German lower house are expected on Friday to vote for the extension of the loan agreement with an overwhelming majority, although many will do so reluctantly amid fears the Greek government will not deliver on its reform promises, Reuters news agency reported.
In Thursday's test ballot, the overwhelming majority of the Christian Democrats and the Christian Socialists (CDU/CSU) voted in favour of the extension of Greece's loan agreement. On the contrary, 22 of 311 lawmakers in chancellor Merkel's conservative bloc opposed to the extension and five abstained.
Their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, with 193 seats, voted unanimously for the extension in their test vote.
"We're doing this not because of loutish comments (from Greece) but because it's in the interests of Germany and Europe," said Volker Kauder, conservative parliamentary leader.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has taken a tough stance with Greece, has lobbied lawmakers to back the extension, arguing Athens is not getting softer conditions, just more time.
Addressing the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, he said before Thursday's test ballot that the extension could be ditched if Athens failed to stick to its promises and remarks by the Greek finance minister had strained European solidarity.
 U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Amanda Sloat pledges more assistance to GreeceThe U.S. government's intention to offer even more assistance to Greece in order for the Institutions to exhibit greater flexibility was underlined by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Amanda Sloat in a meeting she had on Wednesday with Alternate Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, the foreign ministry announced on Thursday.
The U.S. assistant secretary of state had requested to be briefed on economic developments, the course of negotiations, the reform programme the Greek government intends to implement, the manner in which a possible funding gap in 2015 will be covered and the new government's intentions in the privatization sector.
The alternate foreign minister presented the Greek government's positions, characterizing the U.S. administration's stance on the Greek effort as positive so far. Issues concerning direct foreign investments in Greece were also discussed.
Sloat suggested the alternate foreign minister to meet with representatives of American enterprises, as well as, with the Greek-American Chamber, to present the Greek government's positions in the sector of direct foreign investments with an emphasis on privatizations.
 Unregistered employment is the government's top priority, Labour min saysThe modern computer and communications programmes, which the Hellenic Labour Inspectorate (SEPE) is being equipped with, are an operational intervention of strategic importance, Labour Minister Panos Skourletis on Thursday said during a press conference.
According to the minister, these changes will lead to the simplification of the SEPE operation, so as "to overcome the barriers of complexity and geographic dispersion, which constitute the most important problems of the Labour Inspectorate."
The main objective of the reform is the effective monitoring of the implementation of labour legislation and the reduction of unregistered employment, which is a priority for the government.
"We should not consider the issues related to the daily lives of workers, concerning work safety and health, a luxury. During the years of the memorandum we got used to considering these concepts unnecessary, but this is not the case," he said.
He also referred to the "climate in the workplace, in the labour market after the elections."
"We are daily informed," he added, that "there is an attempt by large and small enterprises in the light of the changes announced by our government on issues concerning labour relations...there is an effort...for employees working under certain working conditions to be moved to the regime of individual labour contracts. These cases will be checked. And we want to call on...workers themselves to resist such efforts," he noted and stressed that the government in March will submit a bill "which will restore the prestige of collective bargaining and will give voice to the workers themselves."
On the restitution of the minimum wage to the pre-memoranda levels, Skourletis reiterated that these changes will have been concluded within 2016 following a dialogue with the social partners.
He also referred to the recent agreement with the lenders and noted that "the negotiation will be constant in the next four months so as to be able - at least this is what the government aims for - to finally move to a discussion for the whole issue which is the need for finding a viable solution to the Greek public debt; a viable solution not only in economic terms but also in social ones."
"This agreement," Skourletis noted among others "essentially relieves us, as a country, from the suffocating, strictly defined framework of primary surplus of 3 percent."
 We will not accept threats and blackmails, Deputy Sports Min saysThe decision about the suspension of Greek Super League soccer games was taken because the climate is bad even outside the sports venues, Deputy Minister for Sports Stavros Kontonis on Thursday said in statements to ANT1 TV referring to the incident that took place during a meeting of Super League's board of directors.
"There will be no delays, nor will we accept threats and blackmails," Kontonis underlined adding that "the problem must be solved once and for all."
Such incidents among soccer officials, the deputy minister said, make fans behave the same way.
Kontonis also referred to the meeting with the presidents of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), Super League and Football League, who agreed on the need to apply the law and everything provided for the fan clubs and the electronic ticket.
Moreover, he stressed that the government does not have any other legal option, because as he said the legislative framework of football is "rotten", and as a result the government does not have the opportunity to intervene. However, he clarified that this problem will be solved by legislation that the government will bring forward.
 New Democracy will vote for the extension, main opposition parliamentary spokesman Mitsotakis saysThe extension that the government has asked for will be voted by New Democracy too, the parliamentary spokesman of the main opposition party Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday told Parapolitika radio station, adding that the date of its voting is still to be clarified.
Since "the deadline ends on February 28", it should by Saturday "either be ratified in Parliament, or (be passed) as a legislative act" since the country cannot be left unsecured on March 1, he said.
"During the discussion, it will be proved that we are talking about a four-month extension of the current loan agreement," Mitsotakis said. If you take a look at the memorandum, he said, "you will see that a large part of (Finance Minister Yanis) Varoufakis' e-mail is copy-paste, namely reforms which were already in place and which we implemented - and the government is right in continuing their implementation."
"We should however point out a significant diversion in the budget, already in the first month, which will render the achievement of this goal extremely difficult for the government," he added and warned that "as early as March, there will be significant financing needs, which the government has not explained how it will cover."
He also reckoned that "... a third memorandum is just around the corner, and this is not good for the country. On the contrary, what is positive is that there is now an agreement on common sense reforms and that we leave behind this false division of being in favour and against the memorandum".
 New Democracy spokesman accuses the government of re-entering into memorandaNew Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Thursday accused the government of "having knocked down everything the previous government had achieved and re-entering into memoranda."
Under the previous government Greece had managed to return to the markets, it had started recovering and had secured the improvement of its credit rating while it was on track to exit the memorandum, Karagounis underlined.
He also mentioned that until recently the ruling party was promising the Thessaloniki programme with positive measures estimated at 12 billion euros while at the same time advising people not to pay their debts to the State.
Now they have changed stance, Karagounis said, and calling on the people to pay their taxes while promising not to take measures that will hurt the fiscal and financial-economic stability. They have also publicly confessed, he said, that there will be a funding gap, over 20 billion euros, by the end of this year.
 Potami leader discusses need for reforms with German VC GabrielThe leader of the Potami party, Stavros Theodorakis, met with the German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday during the second day of his visit to Berlin.
During the meeting, they discussed reforms in Greece and both agreed it's important for Germany to help Greece any way it can and Gabriel reiterated his will to provide technical assistance for stamping out tax evasion and corruption, a request which has been made by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in the past.
The Vice-Chancellor asked Theodorakis's opinion on the new government and the leader of Potami replied there are several weaknesses in formulating a programme of reforms but added his party is able and willing to help.
Theodorakis and Gabriel agreed the troika bears some responsibility for the current problems because its representatives behaved like auditors instead of monitoring real reforms.
Gabriel also invited Theodorakis to attend a meeting of the Progressive Alliance n Milan in spring.
The leader of Potami left Berlin in the evening and headed to Rome, where he will meet on Friday with the Vice-President of the Democratic Party and close associate of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Lorenzo Guerini.
 Greek parliament must decide on programme extension, says Potami leaderBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
The Greek parliament must decide on the extension of the Greek programme, the leader of the Potami party said on Thursday, following a meeting with the German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin.
"Such things cannot be decided by a single party, a section of the party, as it seems. They have to be decided by the Greek parliament," Stavros Theodorakis told journalists.
The German parliament is voting on Friday on whether to approve the extension of Greece's loan programme.
Asked about the negative climate which is cultivated in the German media towards Greece, Theodorakis said the only way to fight distrust is "to push on with reforms and with normal solutions that prove to the European Community and Germany that Greece is determined to make changes."
 KKE asks for a roll-call vote on loan agreementThe communist party (KKE) parliamentary group in a statement on Thursday stressed the need for the new loan agreement to be submitted to the Parliament and for a roll-call vote to take place.
"This agreement is essentially and typically an extension of the memorandum and its commitments, a continuation of the anti-popular policy of the previous New Democracy and PASOK governments: strict surveillance, review by the troika, which is now called "the three institutions", maintenance and expansion of the anti-labour and anti-popular directions and measures," KKE said.
"The bill tabled by the communist party to abolish memoranda is contributing to the organization of the people's struggle in this direction."
 Statements of 'hard' negotiation is an 'publicity scam', KKE's Koutsoumbas saysIn Friday's big rally at Syntagma square, the Communist Party (KKE) wants to inform the Greek citizens on its positions, the party secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas on Thursday told ANT1 TV.
People should not be disappointed, Koutsoumbas noted adding that they should get organised and fight.
Among the things that the communist party will seek is the legislating of the minimum wage at 751 euros, the restitution of the 13th and 14th salary and pension, the restitution of collective agreements, the abolition of Uniform Real Estate Ownership Tax (ENFIA) and anti-popular tax laws and a 40,000 euro tax free threshold for each family.
Regarding the draft law tabled in Parliament by the communist party for the abolition of the memorandum and the implementation laws, he said that this can be done in a single law and reiterated that this proposal had been submitted to a parliament committee and it had been voted for in principle by SYRIZA too. "According to what it has been announced, SYRIZA needs to submit the proposal to the parliament plenary," he added.
Koutsoumbas said that the government's statements regarding a "hard" negotiation with the creditors is a "publicity scam" adding that negotiation within the specific framework means that what the creditors say will be taken into account. The secretary general underlined that we will have a new memorandum late June - regardless of the name - which will include 70 percent of what has already been agreed while the rest 30 percent will include measures from the OECD toolkit.
 PASOK calls for parliamentary ratification of memorandum extensionOpposition PASOK party on Thursday accused the government of trying to "bypass the legislative ratification of the extension of the eurozone support programme for the Greek economy, namely, the loan contract and the memorandum," calling it "democratically and parliamentary provocative."
The PASOK announcement underlined that the fiscal programme's extension to February 28 was voted in the Greek Parliament and the relevant contract was signed by the finance minister, the Bank of Greece governor and the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund chief executive, noting that the same procedure should be followed now as well.
 Foreign ministry condemns the abduction of Assyrian Christians in SyriaThe foreign ministry on Thursday unequivocally condemned the abduction of over 200 Assyrian Christians, mostly women, children and elderly, by groups of the "Islamic Caliphate" terrorist organization in the Al-Hasaka region, and asked for their immediate release.
The Greek government expressed solidarity with the people of Syria and all of those regions suffering under the irrational and fanatical regime imposed by the "Islamic State," through murders, executions and abductions of populations based solely on the religion or ethnic origin of its victims.
It is also underlined that Greece will continue to firmly support human rights and religious freedoms and will not cease its efforts, on a European and international level, towards the protection of all of the religious and ethnic communities of the Middle East and North Africa that are threatened by religious intolerance and fanaticism.
It was in this context that Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias recently presented his initiative for the protection of the Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa; an initiative that has already gained the support of France, Italy, Holland and Cyprus.
 Foreign ministry announcement on the attempted arson attack on the Patriarchal School of Sion in Jerusalem; Israel condemns the attackThe foreign ministry on Thursday characterized the attempted arson attack on the Patriarchal School of Sion in Jerusalem as a blind act of fanaticism and intolerance that strikes the multicultural and multifaith nature of Jerusalem.
The foreign ministry unequivocally condemned the arson attack on a building that belongs to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and houses teaching facilities of the Patriarchal School of Sion.
On the instructions of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Greece's Consul General in Jerusalem is monitoring the situation closely, has taken all necessary actions and traveled to the site where the attack took place accompanying Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and All Palestine.
"We express certainty that the competent Israeli authorities will proceed with all necessary actions to protect the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and locate, arrest and punish the perpetrators," the foreign ministry announcement concluded.
The arson and graffiti attack was condemned by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke on the phone with the Patriarch Theophilos expressing his sorrow and shock, the Israeli embassy in Athens announced.
The attack was also condemned by the Israeli foreign ministry and the mayor of Jerusalem.
 KYSEA council replaces heads of Greek Air Force and ArmyThe Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) decided on Wednesday to replace the heads of the Greek Air Force and Army, following a meeting which was presided by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
The Chief of General Staff of the Greek Air Force, Lieutenant General Evangelos Tournas will be replaced by Lieutenant General Christos Vaitsis, the Chief of the Greek Tactical Air Force (HTAF).
The KYSEA council also decided to replace the Chief of the Greek Army, Lieutenant General Christos Manolas, with the Commanding General of the First Army, Lieutenant General Vassilios Tellidis.
Hellenic National Defence General Staff (HNDGS) Chief, General Mikhail Kostarakos, will remain in his post, as well as the Chief of the Hellenic Navy, Vice Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.
 Defence Minister receives Armed Forces new leadershipThe political leadership of the Defence Ministry on Thursday received the new leadership of the Armed Forces.
On that occasion, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos awarded the Chief of Staff Commendation and the Commendation of Merit and Honor.
Moreover, he announced that the number of senior officers will be reduced by 54 with the view to improving the operation of the Armed Forces. Following this development, the number of senior officers is reduced from 315 to 261.
 Turkish aircrafts violated Athens FIR on ThursdaySix Turkish military aircrafts F-16 entered the Athens FIR at 11:02 between the Aegean islands of Lesvos and Chios.
According to a General Staff announcement, a formation of six Turkish F-16 entered the Athens FIR over Lesvos Chios and afterwards the formation splitted in 4 and 2 aircrafts. The first formation flied over Makronissi, part of Fourni complex, at 5,000 feet at 11:26 and over Anthropofagi island of the same complex at the same altitute at 11:27.
At 11:28 the second formation flied over Makronissi at 11,000 feet and at 11:31 over Agathonissi at the same altitute.
The 4 aircraft formations left from Athens' FIR at 11:30 and the 2 aircraft formations at 11:32, both south of Samos island.
All Turkish aircrafts were recognised and intercepted by Greek military aircraft.
Four Turkish aircrafts had flied over the three islands on December 29, 2014 at an altitute of 18,000 feet.
 Former finance minister Papaconstantinou's trial continues for a second dayThe trial of former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who is accused of removing the names of his relatives from the so-called Lagarde list (an electronic file with the names of roughly 2,000 Greeks with sizeable accounts in HSBC who were being audited for income tax liabilities) continued for a second day on Thursday with the testimony of his former associate, computer specialist Giorgos Angelopoulos.
The witness testified that he worked closely with the former minister from March 2010 until June 2011 as an analyst and press office director.
He said that he was handed the controversial CD disc with the list in the last month of 2010 and that Papaconstantinou ordered him to highlight the twenty largest bank accounts (totalling roughly 500 million US dollars) and the names of their owners.
The CD he said contained more than 2,000 files and, responding to a question by the judge, said that the name "Papaconstantinou" was not on the list.
 Public sector employee mobility scheme is suspendedThe interior - administrative reconstruction ministry has proceeded to "freeze" the public sector employee mobility procedure and the issuing by the Supreme Council for Public-Sector Staff Selection (ASEP) of lists of employees affected by the labour reserve scheme, Alternate Minister for Administrative Reform Giorgos Katrougalos on Thursday announced.
The alternate minister underlined that all relevant procedures will be suspended ahead of the tabling of a draft bill in parliament aimed at settling the issue.
Katrougalos has already announced that a draft bill will be tabled in parliament soon to immediately reinstate public sector employees laid-off as a result of the memorandum commitments, who will be rehired, and to introduce a "mini voluntary mobility" of employees to fill vacancies in the public sector.
 Greece needs progress in implementation of pending reforms, BoG reportGreece needs to make progress in the implementation of pending reforms, while a new agreement between the country and its partners is a necessary precondition for the continuation and strengthening of an economic recovery currently underway, the Bank of Greece said in its annual report.
Presenting the report, Yiannis Stournaras, the central bank's governor, said there were uncertainties in the growth outlook of the country this year, based on the implementation of a transition agreement with its partners and a possible deterioration of fiscal conditions.
"Pending obligations were relatively limited and have a low cost compared with the huge volume of changes implemented in the previous years and the heavy burden paid by the Greek society," the central banker said. Stournaras noted that Greece needed a single cohesive growth program which will be based on strengthening production through investments and mostly through structural reforms.
 Minimum wages up in EU except Greece (-14 pct) in 2015, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Greece is the only EU member-state where its nominal gross minimum wage fell in 2015 compared with 2008, to 684 euros from 794 euros, a decline of 14 pct, Eurostat said on Thursday.
In a report on minimum wages in the European Union, Eurostat said that a total of 22 member-states had national minimum wages in January 2015. These ranged from 184 euros per month in Bulgaria to 1,923 euros in Luxembourg. However, when adjusted for differences in purchasing power, the disparities between member-states are reduced from a ratio of 1 to 10 in euro to a ratio of 1 to 4 in purchasing power standards (PPS).
The 22 EU member-states that have national minimum wages can be divided into three main groups based on the level in euro. In January 2015, ten had minimum wages below 500 euros per month: Bulgaria (184), Romania (218), Lithuania (300), the Czech Republic (332), Hungary (333), Latvia (360), Slovakia (380), Estonia (390), Croatia (396) and Poland (410). In five other member states, minimum wages were between 500 and 1,000 per month: Portugal (589), Greece (684), Malta (720), Spain (757) and Slovenia (791).
In the remaining seven member-states, minimum wage was well above 1,000 per month: the United Kingdom (1,379), France (1,458), Ireland (1,462), Germany (1,473), Belgium and the Netherlands (both 1,502) and Luxembourg (1,923). For comparison, the federal minimum wage in the United States was just over 1,000 per month (1,035) in January 2015.
Compared with 2008, minimum wages in 2015, expressed in national currency5, increased in every member state having a national minimum wage, except Greece where they dropped by 14 pct and Ireland where they remained unchanged. The highest increases between 2008 and 2015 were registered in Romania (+95 pct), Bulgaria (+64 pct), Slovakia (+58 pct) and Latvia (+57 pct).
 Greek authorities unveil new tax control planGreece authorities on Thursday unveiled a new tax control plan aimed at boosting public revenues and combating tax evasion in the country.
Under the plan, presented by the General Secretariat of Public Revenue, authorities will seek to certify revenues more than 1.0 billion euros from detailed tax controls, another 700 million euros from partial tax controls and completing 2,000 capital tax controls and at least 200 tax evasion and smuggling cases. Authorities will also intensify pre-emptive actions and full-scale tax controls in 400 large enterprises and 900 cases of wealthy taxpayers.
The plan aims to achieve a more efficient tax collection system, identification and combating of tax evasion and smuggling, strengthening tax and customs mechanisms, automated cross-checking, improving methods and ways of tax collection, upgrading human resources, creating strategic partnerships, protecting public health, cultural heritage and the environment.
Among other measures the government announced was the inauguration of a taxpayers' registry of all assets ("periousiologio") by June and an electronic supervision by the tax services of bank deposit, loan and financial transactions.
The so-called Registry of Bank Accounts and Payment Accounts will gradually expand to cover all loan transactions by September 30, 2015 and to all financial products by December 31. Another registry, on offshore companies, will by activated by end-2015.
The General Secretariat plans to call most of the 100,000 taxpayers and put into operation an automated system of monthly reminders of payments through email.
 Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Greek companies' extroversion prospectsMore than 2,500 Greek companies in the years 2010-2014 gained presence in the German market - and perhaps through it in the global trade - by participating in exhibitions organized in Germany and supported by the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During the same period, 45,000 Greeks visited the German exhibitions, seeking new partnerships, the Greek-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.
It added that during the long recession it has constantly acted as a communication channel for Greek enterprises following extrovert development policy in the German market, the largest national market in Europe, but also one of the strongest trading partners of the country, supporting in practice the Greek economy.
The President of the Chamber Michael Maillis, commenting on its initiatives to stimulate the extrovert action of Greek enterprises, stressed that "the entity operates as a modern and effective one-stop-shop mechanism for those interested in launching international commercial activity in the largest economy of Europe and through it to look for growth opportunities in new national markets. This initiative is of particular value and importance for a country that has been experiencing the consequences of the economic downturn for years, an initiative which offers new ways of growth with many perspectives," Maillis said.
 The 100 installment regulation will 'move forward immediately' gov't spokesman says"There are liquidity problems in the Greek economy. This has been known; we knew that before we came to power and now we see it in practice. Right now, what is important is for the Greek government to make everything possible to deal with these liquidity problems. We are discussing legislative measures, which will facilitate cash flowing in the Greek state, the Greek coffers, but this is certainly an issue that concerns our partners too," government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Thursday told Vima FM.
"It is true, there are fiscal gaps and funding gaps and the Greek government has financing obligations - this is an issue on which the Greek government will cooperate with the partners and will take legislative initiatives within the country."
Asked on the 100 installment regulation he said "this would move forward immediately."
"We cannot afford to wait; just because the issue of the installments for the repayment of overdue debts is included in the reform list, we will look at it in the best way possible, so as to deal with the issue of relieving those debtors and the issue of cash flow," he said.
"There will not be any changes under the lenders' pressure - if something changes, then that will be through consultation which is being carried out within the Finance ministry so that these ways can be rendered more efficient," he noted.
Regarding the parliamentary group meeting that took place on Wednesday he said "in the end there was an indicative voting, in which the overwhelming majority voted in favour of the agreement," and noted: "This does not mean that those who voted against it would not vote for the agreement, should it be tabled in Parliament. We are saying this was an indicative voting within the parliamentary group, they just expressed their objections in this way but I don't think that raises an issue on a parliamentary level."
 Alt. Shipping Minister Dritsas attends cruise ship owners' eventThe Greek ports are tourism destinations and, obviously, the services provided by port cities that are cruise liner destinations need to be upgraded, Alternate Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas on Thursday underlined, addressing an event hosted by the Cruise Ship Owners and Shipping Agencies Association.
The Association was holding a meeting to elect a new board of directors.
Dritsas said the ministry would support the sector, as it could contribute effectively to the Greek economy, and affirmed the necessity of keeping the shipping ministry as a separate ministry.
Celestyal Cruises CEO Kyriakos Anastassiadis said there was a lack of strategic plan in the cruise sector and to the absence of dialogue between the cruise ship owners and the state. The problem is not to give money just to develop ports and bring large cruiseships to Piraeus, but to fix the circulation problem around the main port city.
The event attended Piraeus Mayor Yiannis Moralis.
 Dep. Min. for Rural Development Sgouridis to meet with Rosselkhoznadzor representative on the Russian embargoDeputy Minister for Rural Development Panagiotis Sgouridis will meet on Friday with the Russian Federation's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) representative Alexej Alexejenko, who is on visit to Thessaloniki, northern Greece, for the 24th International Exhibition of Food, Beverages, Machinery, Equipment & Packaging "DETROP", it was announced on Thursday.
The meeting will focus on ways to lift the Russian embargo on farm imports.
 Economy Minister Stathakis pledges support to young entrepreneursYoung entrepreneurship, innovative and extrovert enterprises will be supported, Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping & Tourism Minister Giorgos Stathakis on Thursday said, addressing the 5th Conference Infocom Mobile World 2015.
Stathakis pledged a new approach to innovation and technology and underlined that the state will provide useful tools in support of the sectors to facilitate specialized human resources reach their goals.
 Greek banks deposits down more than 12 bln euros in Jan.Greek banks suffered an outflow of deposits worth more than 12 billion euros in January. The Bank of Greece, in a report, said that deposits by enterprises and households fell to 148 billion euros in January, the lowest level since 2005, from 160.2 billion euros at the end of 2014.
Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras, commenting on the phenomenon, said that banks' liquidity was under pressure and noted that deposits were significantly smaller compared with the levels before the crisis, and that banks still have no access to money markets.
 Bank credit to private sector at -2.9 pct in Jan.Bank credit to the private sector remained negative in January, although at a slightly lower rate compared with December 2014, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
In a monthly report, the central bank said that in January 2015, the annual growth rate of total credit extended to the domestic private sector stood at -2.9 pct from -3.1 pct in the previous month. The monthly net flow of total credit to the domestic private sector was negative, at 95 million euros (January 2014: negative net flow of 576 million).
The net flow of credit to corporations in January 2015 was positive, at 328 million euros (January 2014: negative net flow of 268 million), and the annual growth rate of credit stood at -3.1 pct, from -3.7 pct in the previous month. In particular, the annual growth rate of credit to non-financial corporations stood at -2.7 pct from -3.3 pct in the previous month, while the net flow of credit to non-financial corporations was positive, at 402 million euros (January 2014: negative net flow of 153 million).
The annual growth rate of credit to insurance corporations and other financial intermediaries stood at -7.9 pct in January 2015, from -8.8 pct in the previous month.
In January 2015, the monthly net flow of credit to individuals and private non-profit institutions was negative, at 420 million euros (January 2014: negative net flow of 306 million), while its annual growth rate stood at -3.0 pct, from -2.9 pct in the previous mon
 Jumbo Group reports 6.27 pct rise in H1 profitsJumbo Group on Thursday reported a 6.27 pct increase in its six-month profits to 62.67 million euros, from 58.97 million in the corresponding period last year.
The group said its growth rates slowed in the second quarter of the fiscal year ending in June 2015, but results moved within forecasts for the period. Jumbo said it would stick to a goal for an annual turnover growth rate of 4-6 pct this year, despite difficult conditions in the market.
Sales grew 7.70 pct to 341.13 million euros in the first six months of the year, from 316.74 million in 2014. During this period, Jumbo Group raised its network with four new stores, one in Greece, one in Cyprus and two in Romania. Gross profit margin grew slightly to 50.97 pct, while EBITDA totaled 91.65 million euros, up 8.28 pct from the previous year.
Jumbo Group operates a network of 69 retail stores in four countries (52 in Greece, five in Cyprus, eight in Bulgaria, four in Romania and an e-jumbo store).
 Mediterra to expand activities in ChinaMediterra SA on Thursday announced the signing of an agreement to expand its mastihashop business in China. Under the agreement, Mediterra will open its first shop in China in 2015.
The company launched its first shop in Dubai, UAE, in December 2014 and plans to expand its network in Saudi Arabia where it operates a network of four mastihashop units.
 OTE says Q4 profits up 73 pctHellenic Telecommunications Organization SA (OTE) on Thursday reported a 73 pct increase in its net profits in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 317.3 million euros and said its free cash flow was 583 million euros and its EBITDA margin grew to 36.3 pct.
OTE said that its board will seek shareholders approval to a plan to pay an 8.0 cents per share dividend to shareholders for the first time after four years.
Turnover fell 2.8 pct in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Group adjusted profits totaled 1.422 billion euros in 2014 and its profit margin grew to 36.3 pct, up 0.4 percentage points compared with 2013. This development is basically attributed to strong performance by fixed telephony in Greece, while EBITDA grew by 4.4 pct in the year. Annual adjusted free cash flow totaled 583.3 million euros, surpassing a target set by the group (500 million), while adjusted net borrowing fell 25 pct to 1.1 billion euros. Investments totaled 173.2 million euros in the fourth quarter, with OTE boosting investments on networks in Greece and Romania.
OTE attracted 32,000 new retail broadband customers in the fourth quarter, offering VDSL services to around 1.4 million households and enterprises. TV customer base grew to 353,000.
In the mobile telephony business, Cosmote's revenue fell 4.9 pct.
In Romania, fixed telephony services revenues fell 6.9 pct in the fourth quarter, while mobile telephony services revenues dropped 8.4 pct in the same period. In Albania, AMC's revenues fell 8.5 pct. All results were hit by a recent reduction in end call fees in these countries.
Commenting on the results, Mihalis Tzamaz, OTE's chairman and chief executive said that "in 2014 we managed to stabilize the group's performance thanks to Greece's fixed telephony which recorded the first positive quarter after seven years...Having improved our performance in all sectors we move forward with a distribution of dividend after four years."
 Turnover shrank to 118.25 million euros.Motor Oil (1.04 pct), Coca Cola HBC (1.03 pct) and OTE (0.78 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (5.78 pct), METKA (5.19 pct), OPAP (5.05 pct), Mytilineos (4.45 pct) and Eurobank (4.40 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Food (1.0 pct), Telecoms (0.78 pct) and Commerce (0.24 pct) scored big gains, while Media (6.01 pct), Health (5.97 pct) and Raw Materials (4.36 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 98 to 49 with another 20 issues unchanged. Haidemenos (29.93 pct), Pairis (29.67 pct) and Sfakianakis (20 pct) were top gainers, while Douros (20 pct), Yalco (19.74 pct) and Medicon (19.69 pct) were top losers.
 Greek hoteliers lobby calls on FinMin Varoufakis to keep VAT at current levelThe Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) called on Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to keep VAT for hotels at its current level and said if the government wanted to increase its revenues it should fight tax evasion instead, in a letter released on Thursday.
The previous government had plans to raise the 6.5 percent VAT for hotels to 13 percent, as part of obligations related to the country's loan agreement. Businesses on Greek islands pay as much as 30 percent less tax than the mainland, but SETE said the two taxes should not be confused.
SETE stressed that the benefit of raising VAT levels long-term would not justify the losses the islands would incur from lower bookings and lost jobs, and cited an Ernst & Young report of such repercussions according to which the state would gain 200 million euros in 2015 but from 2015 to 2020 the revenues would not exceed 70 million euros (per year).
In addition, the losses the tourism sector would sustain for 2015 would range from 415 million to 680 million euros. Long-term, the sector would lose 1 to 1.7 billion euros, resulting in a drop to GDP up to 1.4 percent, or 3 billion euros. In terms of jobs, a VAT increase would result in a loss of between 18,500 to 30,000 positions for the first year, while over five years job loss would involve 44,000-73,000 positions.
SETE said the government should implement all state controls and introduce a series of new ones to end tax evasion. It proposed, among other things, issuing receipts electronically, linking cash registers online to the tax servivce and forbidding payments in cash beyond a certain level.
A copy of the letter was also sent to Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis and Alternate Ministry Tourism Elena Kountoura.
 Greek stocks remain under pressureGreek stocks remained under pressure for the second successive session, to end lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday. The composite index of the market fell 2.0 pct to end at 904.59 points, off the day's lows of 895.46 points. The Large Cap index fell 1.97 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.82 pct lower.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: -2.92%
Industrial Products: -3.27%
Real Estate: -1.39%
Personal & Household: -1.01%
Food & Travel: +1.00%
Raw Materials: -4.36%
Travel & Leisure: -4.31%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Piraeus Bank, National Bank, Alpha Bank, OTE and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.397
Public Power Corp (PPC): 7.30
Coca Cola HBC: 15.70
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 4.46
National Bank of Greece: 1.46
Piraeus Bank: 0.62
Grivalia Properties: 8.76
Aegean Airlines: 7.65
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 8.61 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 8.31 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.90 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.29 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.238 pct from 0.241 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.166 pct from 0.169 pct, the six-month rate fell to 0.114 pct from 0.118 pct, the three-month rate eased to 0.040 pct from 0.042 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.004 pct from 0.001 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.13 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 11,500 contracts with 40,394 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 49,202 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (15,131), followed by Alpha Bank (5,899), Piraeus Bank (12,721), Eurobank (10,296), MIG (723), OTE (1,411), PPC (1,041), OPAP (406), Mytilineos (336), Hellenic Petroleum (143), METKA (141), GEK (141), Ellaktor (211) and Jumbo (103).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.131
Pound sterling 0.730
Danish kroner 7.467
Swedish kroner 9.414
Japanese yen 134.54
Swiss franc 1.074
Norwegian kroner 8.564
Canadian dollar 1.411
Australian dollar 1.435
 Leftist parties hold rally against Eurogroup deal in central AthensLeftist party ANDARSYA along with other smaller parties organised a rally on Syntagma Square in central Athens on Thursday, to protest against Greece's agreement with its lenders and against the extension of the loan agreement.
The few people who gathered on the square also protested in favour of Greece's exit from the European Union, saying it's the only solution for the country.
Protesters stood with banners bearing slogans against the IMF and the EU in front of Parliament and then dissolved quietly.
Despite the short duration of the rally it created traffic mayhem - assisted by the rain - in the streets around the square, as police closed down Stadiou and Vassilisis Sofias Avenues.
 Court hands down suspended sentence on retiree in Kozani for racist commentsA court in Kozani, northern Greece, on Thursday handed down a prison sentence of 6 months suspended for 3 years, to a 57-year-old pensioner who was arrested on Wednesday on charges of racist insults against a female doctor of Nigerian descent at the city's "Mamatsio" Hospital.
In his testimony, the man apologised for the incident and said that he was not a racist.
The 29-year-old doctor, who had notified police of the incident and had filed a suit against the defendant, also testified in court.
 Keratsini municipality condemns desecration of Pavlos Fyssas monumentThe municipality of Keratsini and Drapetsona, in western Attica, condemned the desecration of the monument built in memory of murdered musician Pavlos Fyssas in Athens as a "brazen provocation by fascists" after it was vandalized with graffiti.
According to a press release issued by the municipality, swastikas and fascist slogans were sprayed on the monument in the early hours of Tuesday.
Fyssas was stabbed to death by a member of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party in September 2013 in the area where the monument was erected.
"Swastikas and fascist slogans filled the bust of the anti-fascist musician," the municipality said and added: "The new brazen provocation and the reappearance of fascists in the streets of our town prove this front remains open."
 Rioters burn car, set waste bins on fire at National Polytechnic area in AthensA group of antiestablishment individuals, who had earlier held a march, were involved in incidents around the National Polytechnic University in Athens ate on Thursday, police said.
Around 300 people who had rallied in central Athens around 6:00 p.m. marched to Parliament, but on Stadiou Street some of them damaged the front window of a bank and broke two store windows as they were returning through Panepistimiou Street.
Followed by riot police, they marched to the Polytechnic and damaged more stores on Stournari Street, adjacent to the academic institution. They also set fire to a car and lit waste bins they had used to block the street with.
Police have surrounded the area.
 Six arrested for growing skunk cannabisSix people, five Vietnamese and a Greek, were arrested for growing skunk cannabis with an estimated street value of 50 million euros, police announced on Thursday.
The plants were discovered in three private houses in Penteli, Pikermi and Lagonissi, greater Athens.
 Rain on FridayRain throughout the country and southerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds, rain and snow in the mountainous areas of northern Greece with temperatures ranging from 06C-13C. Same weather in the western parts with temperatures between 07C-12C. Rain and storms in the eastern parts with temperatures between 05C-15C. Rain over the islands, 09C-18C. Rain in Athens, 07C-14C; the same for Thessaloniki, 07C-12C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Restart with protection of the weaker.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: And now the government is running.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Triple suffocation bomb to the economy.
ESTIA: Neoliberal marxism!
ETHNOS: The criteria for primary residence foreclosure protection.
IMERISSIA: Regulation-shield for the bad loans.
KATHIMERINI: Rifts in SYRIZA's parliamentary group.
LOGOS: Race to cover the fiscal gap.
NAFTEMPORIKI: 5-7 billion euros hole.
RIZOSPASTIS: Communist Party (KKE) tables draft law proposal for abolition of memorandums.
TA NEA: Solution for liquidity is a top priority.
TO PONTIKI: Oligarchs caught on the hook.
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