|Friday, 7 August 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-04-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 23 April 2015 Issue No: 4941
 PM Tsipras chairs meeting ahead of EU leaders' summit on migrationA meeting chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras got underway at Maximos Mansion on Wednesday, ahead of a European leaders' summit in Brussels on Thursday to discuss European policy on migration.
Participatings in the meeting included Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis, National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, Alternate Civil Protection Minister Yiannis Panousis, Alternate Foreign Minister Nikos Chountis and Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Tasia Christodoulopoulou, sources said.
 Negotiations are on track, EU sources say after EWG teleconferenceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Negotiations between Greece and its international creditors are on a good track, the Euro Working Group (EWG) noted on Wednesday following a teleconference, EU sources told ANA-MPA.
According to the sources, during the teleconference it was pointed out that in recent days negotiations were conducted in a spirit of cooperation and that technical level discussions intensified and became more substantial. However, the EWG noted the delays of the last two months and stressed the need to accelerate ad specify the negotiations.
"The distance continues to be great, there are several gaps that need to be covered," an EU official said who added that despite the progress made, it is not realistic to meet the deadline of April 30, as it was stated in the February 20 Eurogroup agreement.
The EU sources also said that no decisions are expected at the Eurogroup meeting of April 24 in Riga, as the necessary preparatory work has not been done.
"Ministers will evaluate the situation, which is a little better than it was before, but they will request an acceleration [of the process] and more specification," the official said.
He also added that during their meeting in Riga eurozone Finance ministers will give their Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis a type of road map with the most important issues which need to be covered soon, if a decision is to be made at the Eurogroup on May 11.
 Brussels Group conducts final 'wrap up' of talks in ParisPARIS (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira)
The Brussels Group and Greece's team of economic experts concluded their talks here on Wednesday afternoon, after a final wrap up of the most important points discussed over the last four days.
The representatives of the institutions then left for their respective hotels, from where they briefed their superiors on the results of the negotiations.
The Greek delegation remained at the offices of the OECD, where the talks where held, briefing Athens by telephone.
The Brussels Group reconvened at the OECD offices once again at around 17:00 in the afternoon for one final meeting with the Greek side before leaving for Brussels.
 Gov't spokesman reports 'significant progress' in talks with creditorsGovernment spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Wednesday said the was significant progress in the negotiations underway in Paris with Greece's creditors and that a common ground had been found, adding that this was also recognised by the other side.
Speaking on the private television station ANT1, he said Athens did not expect an agreement on Friday and expressed the Greek government's optimism that a deal will be reached soon, adding that the country's creditors also realised that they cannot keep making things hard for Greece and the Greek economy.
To those pressing the government to wrap up the negotiations and quickly reach agreement, Sakellaridis underlined that the creditors demands involved more pension cuts, higher taxes and liberation of mass dismissals, all of which the Greek government had promised it would not do.
He stressed that the Greek government's stance on this issue was not a "obsession or caprice" but the result of its genuine belief that such proposals did not hold water, either economically or on the level of society.
"A society that you are constantly squeezing cannot give you something more. Therefore, they also know that we are not going to enter into such a situation, that they must not and will not lead Greece into a noose," he said, adding that this was the way of European culture.
Commenting on Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a summit on migration, Sakellaridis said that there was "mutual will" for the meeting.
Sakellaridis also defended the use of a legislative act in order to pass measures to secure liquidity, stressing that this had been necessary because the legislation was urgent and that there were no bills in Parliament this week to which it might be attached as an amendment.
The government had never hidden that the Greek economy faced a liquidity problem, Sakellaridis pointed out, since it was paying wages, pensions and meeting interest payments to its creditors, doing whatever was necessary to meet Greece's obligations and to cover operating costs.
He also noted that the legislative act had been tabled in Parliament for ratification already, coming before the plenum on Thursday, whereas the law allowed the government to wait up to 40 days.
Sakellaridis said the legislation "helped out" the government so that it wouldn't face certain problems and sought to reassure that the measure will not create problems for state entities, nor was it a 'seizure' of their assets.
"This tactic was absolutely common with the previous government also, it is not something new," he added, citing the example of Attiko Metro and the way it had withdrawn sums from the BoG without anyone objecting. Municipalities and regional authorities would have the same right, he clarified, expressing hope that municipalities will finally choose to comply with the law.
 The government is seeking a solution and will find it, State Min Pappas saysThe political parties will soon be asked to take a clear stance over that historical phase, State Minister Nikos Pappas on Wednesday said speaking at a parliamentary committee.
Pappas referred to the difficulties of the negotiations adding that Greece's partners have raised some issues that the government cannot accept because they are its red lines. However, he noted that the government is seeking a solution and will find it.
"The negotiation has some difficulties and lenders have raised some issues, which are not made acceptable right now. And they will not be made acceptable because they are the government's red lines and all parties will have the chance, the obligation to take a clear stance. For example if the government should accept the VAT increase in islands. If it should accept pension reductions. These are matters of policy. The government is seeking a solution and will find it. Not any agreement. The dilemma of an agreement or chaos does not exist," the State Minister said adding that some agreements were signed in the recent past that have deteriorated the chaos.
 Commission VP Katainen's visit to Athens shows EU's support towards Greece, says head of Greek delegationThe visit of the European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, to Athens shows the EU's support to Greece, the head of the European Commission's delegation in Greece, Panos Karvounis, said on Wednesday.
Katainen is arriving in Athens on Thursday for a two-day visit, during which he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other ministers and business leaders. The visit forms part of the EU' s effort to promote the EU Investment Plan, worth more than ? 300 billion, and to explain the new opportunities open to governments, investors, businesses, as well as regional authorities, trade unions and communities.
"The presence of Vice-President Katainen to Greece at this time is extremely important and indicative of the EU's support towards our country," Karvounis said.
"The European Union, not only stands by Greece's side, but also wants to contribute decisively to building a better and sustainable future for the country. In this effort, investments form fundamental role in the [economic] recovery and, for this reason, it will be one of the key issues discussed at the meeting with the prime minister," he added.
On Friday afternoon, Katainen and as EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will meet privately with Tsipras at Maximos Mansion.
On Thursday, Katainen will meet with Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis, Alternate Minister for for Reasearch and Innovation Costas Fotakis and the leader of the main opposition Antonis Samaras, at New Democracy's headquarters.
The European Commission Vice-President is also scheduled to speak at the event "Dialog with the citizens" on the "EU's new investment plan and the future of Europe" at the French Institute in Athens.
Katainen, along with Stathakis, will also visit Apivita Cosmetics Company which has received European funding through EU programmes.
Later, Katainen will attend an event hosted by the Greek Federation of Enterprises and organized with the European Commission's delegation in Greece.
On Friday, the EU official will attend a working lunch with the presidents of Greek banks and later he will speak at Parliament and in particular to the European Affairs, Production and Commerce and Economic Affairs Committees.
 Greece won't present reform list at Riga, top Eurogroup official saysGreece will not present a list of economic reforms to eurozone Finance ministers on Friday, Thomas Wieser, who heads the Euro Working Group, said adding the country should be able to stay solvent until June, according to Reuters news agency.
Wieser said Greece would in any case need to provide the list in the coming month.
"The clock is ticking. There won't be a new list in Riga, but over the course of May it must finally be reached," he told Austrian broadcaster ORF late on Tuesday.
"The liquidity situation in Greece is already a little tight, but it should be sufficient into June," he added.
"It is my central belief that the negotiations with Greece can still be successfully finished," Wieser concluded.
 The Greek government took several steps to a mutual solution, gov't spokesman saysThe government is doing what it takes to pay salaries and pensions, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Wednesday said referring to the decision on the social security funds' cash reserves.
"If we hadn't proceeded to the legislative act, we would not have the necessary funds," he said in statements to ANT1.
Sakellaridis stated that press reports on default are unfounded. Referring to the negotiation with Greece's lenders, he argued that the Greek government took several steps to a mutual solution and is now waiting for the other side's actions. However, he expressed his optimism over an agreement.
Regarding the possibility of a referendum or elections, he made clear that the elections of January 25 were in essence a referendum.
 Government's goal is to secure 2.5 bln euros to also cover May, Alternate FinMin Mardas saysAlternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas, in statements to Star television that clarified his earlier announcements, on Wednesday said the government's goal was to secure access to 'cash cushion' of at least 2.5 billion euros that would cover its needs during May.
Talking on Parapolitika radio earlier on, Mardas had already indicated that an immediate cashflow problem had been overcome and that there "seemed to be no problem with the payment of salaries and pensions at the end of the month."
"We are not interested in the sum of 400 million euros as such, which we consider we can cover, but we want a large amount of reserves, in order to deal with anything unexpected that may arise. My goal is 2.5 billion, that I will need in order to cover any need that arises in May also," he told Star.
Regarding his early-morning statement that the government was short 350-400 million euros for the current month, Mardas said an hour and a half of meetings held early on Wednesday at the finance ministry and a careful assessment of the sums at the government's disposal had shown this problem could be overcome. "We now consider that this sum can be covered," he said.
Replying to questions, he said the money had been found from state social insurance funds, which sent word that they intended to deposit some cash in the Bank of Greece and noted that the legislative act introduced on Monday creates a "cushion" so that needs are met.
"The amount that they intend to give may be greater than what we need. We are, however, continuing to look for money so that we have a large 'cushion', since we don't know what may happen in May," he added.
The minister also expressed his certainty that an agreement with Greece's creditors will be reached and that the economic squeeze faced by the country will end.
 Mardas statements 'reveal indescribable state' of country's finances, ND spokesman saysMain opposition New Democracy spokesman Costas Karagounis on Wednesday attacked Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas over a series of statements state revenues, saying that they revealed the "indescribable state" of the country's finances.
"One minute he says that he doesn't have money to pay wages and pensions. Later in the day, he suddenly finds it. For now...Then he 'reassures' the citizens that there won't be a haircut of bank deposits because they have fallen so low that there is no longer any point," he said.
 Parliamentary committee begins meeting on transfer of cash reservesThe Parliament's Economic Committee convened on Wednesday to discuss the legislative act regarding the transfer of cash reserves of state entities to the Bank of Greece.
Right now we have no problem paying salaries and pensions, Labour Min Skourletis says
We have to think of the possibility of elections or a referendum in case there is no compromise, Labour Minister Panos Skourletis on Wednesday said in statements to SKAI TV.
"Right now there is no problem paying salaries and pensions," Skourletis noted adding that alternative solutions will be sought if mayors and local governors do not accept the transfer of their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece.
Regarding the negotiations, he accused the creditors of ideological rigidity.
"The debate on figures and adjustment is of relevant importance. For some, the main issue is ideological and political. The biggest enemy of Europe is the extreme liberal views. Can a SYRIZA government continue this regime with the employees living in insecurity? Criticism on unilateral actions is not made acceptable. We are a sincere government. We do not try to cover things as previous governments did. The situation is crucial and marginal. The people voted for us for certain reasons. Time is not infinite; we are running out of time. The bridge programme is coming to an end," he said, among others.
Regarding labour issues, the minister reassured that the climate in which employees will negotiate with employers is gradually being restored and described the labour achievements as an element of civilization.
 350-400 mln euros still missing to meet the needs, Alternate FinMin saysThere is a deficit of 350-400 million euros which needs to be covered by April 27 in order for the country to meet its obligations and pay salaries and pensions, Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said on Wednesday in statements to Mega TV.
"We have a 350-400 million euro revenue deviation in order to meet the country's needs - including salaries and pensions - which can be covered by the end of the month," he underlined.
Mardas called on mayors, who have been complaining about the transfer of their cash reserves to the Bank of Greece, to change their mind. He noted, however, that if they do not do so, there are other available funds.
He also said that the timeline for the entities' cash reserves is three months adding that the government is not asking for anything excessive.
 OAEE sent reserves voluntarily not at gov't request, new governor Petropoulos saysThe new head of the OAEE pension fund for the self-employed Tasos Petropoulos, in an interview with the ANA-MPA on Wednesday, said the fund's decision to send its cash reserves to Greece's Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA) to invest in repos was voluntary and not in response to a government request.
He noted that the conversion of 90 million euros of cash reserves into repos was beneficial for the organisation's interests.
"Via this process we can save the EKAS low-pension supplement for a year and a significant amount of state subsidies," Petropoulos said.
A similar decision to place 50 million euros in repos was taken on Tuesday by the Labour Force Employment Organisation (OAED), which had earlier given an additional 120 million euros.
Petropoulos noted that the legislative act passed by the government exempted pension funds from an obligation to invest their cash reserves in this way, adding that he had signed the relevant order the week before the act was issued.
He was also critical of the reactions from mayors and regional authority heads regarding the measure, including those saying that commercial banks already matched the interest rate offered by the government.
"Do they really not understand that the state subsidises municipalities to begin with and that if the central fund finally achieves a yield that is 2 pct greater, in other words 4.5 pct, this is for the common good," he asked.
He noted that OAEE was in a position to invest the amounts because it was still collecting contributions every two months, having been unable to organise a programme to convert to monthly payments as decided. He also clarified that the fund collected 90 million euros in revenues every two months when its obligations to pay pensions stood at roughly 350 million euros.
"Obviously, the amount that is short is made up by the state. This money will therefore be gained through better management," Petropoulos added.
 State obligations are fully guaranteed, General Accounting Office's officials sayThe state obligations, including the payment of salaries and pensions in May, are fully guaranteed.
According to senior officials of the General Accounting Office, the 400 million euro revenue shortfall which was reported by Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas in statements to MEGA TV earlier on Wednesday was fully covered by public sector entities, including social security funds.
 Negotiations created an urgent and unexpected need that has to be met, Alternate Admin.Reform Min Katrougalos tells ANA-MPA on cash reserves transferThe negotiations with the partners have created an urgent and unexpected need that has to be immediately met, Alternate Administrative Reform Minister George Katrougalos said referring to the transfer of municipalities' cash reserves to Bank of Greece through a legislative act.
He explained that in the past SYRIZA had opposed to the previous government's legislative acts because there was an abuse of this tactics in order to prevent deputies from expressing their views. "None of these factors still applies," the minister noted.
Katrougalos reassured this will not 'loot' the cash reserves as it was the case with the PSI and this shows the hypocrisy of the opposition leaders that react today.
The full interview is available for subscribers at ANA-MPA website.
 PM Tsipras discusses legislative work with Parliament SpeakerPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou at Maximos Mansion on Wednesday evening to discuss the timetable for the upcoming legislative work in Parliament, according to sources.
 ForMin Kotzias says U.S. willing to make counter offer to Gazprom's proposal -pressForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias said that Secretary of State John Kerry told him the U.S. would be willing to make a counter offer to the one made by Russia's Gazprom to invest in a gas pipeline into Greece, according to an interview with AP in Washington.
Kotzias, who is on official visit to the U.S. since Sunday, said Kerry told him "the United States would be willing to make a counter offer" and that the State Department's special envoy for international energy affairs, Amos Hochstein, would visit Athens within days for talks.
Speaking on the issue, he said that "Gazprom made us a very good offer" and characterised the talks as an economic, not a political consideration.
"I ask all our partners," Kotzias said, "'Please tell me, what do I say to our people that you allow Turkey to bring (a Gazprom gas line) to our borders, but that I'm so anti -Russian that I don't want to do it?" he said.
Asked about the new law affecting convicted terrorist Savvas Xiros, the minister said that if he seeks a change of confinement under the new law, the request would have to be approved by a Greek court, adding that the new law follows convictions of Greece by the European Court of Human Rights.
Kotzias explained the government took the decision that people who have an 80 percent disability or more can serve their sentence in other ways.
Regarding Greece's negotiations with its European creditors, Kotzias said Greece was prepared to compromise and that "nobody is going to play the chicken game," adding that European officials should respect his government's election in January on an anti-austerity platform.
"After five years (of austerity), we have had very bad results," he said.
 FM Kotzias to meet US President's National Security Advisor RiceForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias will continue his meetings with leading congressional figures on Wednesday, the third day of his visit to the U.S., according to a Foreign ministry's announcement.
Kotzias will meet at the White House with the U.S. President's National Security Advisor, Susan Rice.
He will also visit the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he will present the main priorities of the Greek foreign policy.
 Defence Minister Kammenos meets with the European Defence Agency's Chief Executive DomecqNational Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Wednesday discussed the priorities of the European Defence Agency and the possibilities presented for a framework of European defence cooperation in a meeting with the Agency's Chief Executive, Jorge Domecq.
The two sides also discussed promoting small and medium-sized defence companies as well as issues relating to the ministerial conference on May 18.
Earlier, Domecq met with the Chief of Defence, General Mikhail Kostarakos, with who they discussed issues concerning European defence and security.
 President of Republic to visit Egypt on ThursdayPresident of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday will visit Cairo to meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Regarding the transfer of social security funds' cash reserves to Bank of Greece, the President asked to be informed on the reasons that made the government proceed to legislative acts, sources said.
The same sources said that the President always had and will have contacts with the municipalities. "If the President of Republic is not in contact with the institutions, then his role remains sterile," according to sources.
 Main opposition ND denies reported freeze of assets by creditorsMain opposition New Democracy party General Director Costas Tsimaras on Wednesday denied reports claiming that injunctions were taken out against the party for its debt to third parties.
According to Tsimaras, the reports were groundless and emanated from a "specific centre of disinformation," and had nothing to do with reality.
The reports had been preceded by articles claiming problems in meeting the payroll of staff at ND's central offices.
 New Democracy lashes out at government on legislative actsMain opposition New Democracy on Wednesday lashed out at SYRIZA on its stance towards the previous government on the issue of legislative acts.
More specifically, New Democracy said that SYRIZA had accused the previous government that "the country is governed with legislative acts" and had spoken of "a junta disguised in a parliamentary wrap."
Although the majority of the legislative acts were beneficial for the people, SYRIZA did not vote for any of them "as a matter of principle," the main opposition noted.
 ND demands health minister's resignationMain opposition New Democracy on Wednesday demanded the resignation of Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, in response to an order asking hospitals to transfer any cash reserves to the Bank of Greece.
According to ND, at the same time that Kouroumblis was assuring the ANA-MPA "through an official leak" that he had not been asked to commit hospital cash reserves, he was also sending a letter to all hospitals with explicit instructions to transfer their cash to the central bank.
Sending the letter as an attachment to its announcement, ND said that after this revelation Kouroumblis "can no longer stay in his position for even one more minute."
 The government will reach an agreement, but an accident is not ruled out, KKE sec gen Koutsoumbas saysCommunist party (KKE) secretary general Dimitris Koutsoumbas, on Wednesday in statements to Mega TV, estimated that the government will reach an agreement with its partners, but he did not rule out the possibility of an accident.
Koutsoumbas criticised the government for breaking its pre-election promises, such as the debt haircut, while he cleared out that KKE will not support the government even in case of rupture or exit from the eurozone if this is not accompanied by a comprehensive plan for social economy.
Either in agreement with their partners or rupture and exit from the eurozone, the government will take measures that will burden the popular classes, Koutsoumbas estimated. Referring to migration, he urged the government to show disobedience to Dublin II in order to stop migrants being trapped in Greece. Koutsoumbas also called on mayors to refuse the transfer of their cash reserves to Bank of Greece.
 Greece condemns the killing of Ethiopian Christians in LibyaThe Foreign ministry on Wednesday expressed its condemnation for the murder of Ethiopian Christians in Libya by a jihadist organization affiliated with ISIS, which was confirmed on Tuesday.
"We express our unequivocal condemnation of and abhorrence at the barbaric murder of innocents by a terrorist organization that, through its senseless actions, aims to exacerbate religious intolerance and fanaticism. We express our condolences to the victims' loved ones, and our undivided support for the friendly people and government of Ethiopia," the ministry said in a statement.
 UK Foreign Office announcement raises concerns over Greek prison reform lawLONDON (ANA-MPA/ I. Karipidis)
A UK Foreign Office announcement issued on Wednesday expressed concerns over a law passed in Greece that allows prisoners that are 80 pct disabled to serve the remainder of their sentence under house arrest with an ankle monitor, including those convicted of terrorism and other serious crimes.
The announcement stressed that the British government firmly believes that terrorists convicted of serious crimes must serve their full sentence as handed down by Greek courts. Their early release sent an unacceptable message to terrorists and their supporters and failed to show respect to the families of the victims, it said.
 Russian pipeline will not compete with IGB-VGC, Energy minister says in SofiaThe Russian pipeline carrying natural gas via Turkey and Greece does not in any way compete with the Vertical Gas Corridor (VGC) being planned by Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis assured his counterparts in Sofia, Bulgaria on Wednesday.
Speaking one day after his meeting in Athens with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller about the Russian pipeline project - which is to traverse Greece and supply gas to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, Hungary and the rest of central Europe - Lafazanis pointed out that the two pipelines would cross and supply different countries on their path.
Lafazanis was in the Bulgarian capital for the first meeting of the high-level group on the VGC, attended by his counterparts from Bulgaria and Romania.
The minister presented a detailed report on the government's plans on energy connections, noting that Greece was in talks for its potential participation in the construction of the Russian pipeline "in accordance with European law and the third energy package." The project is intended to replace the existing Russian natgas route via Ukraine to central Europe, which will cease operating in 2019.
He noted that the VGC linking the natgas systems of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania was not only potential solution in the case of an energy crisis but promoted the interlinking of the region with "Europe's energy arteries, putting an end fo the isolation of our countries" and promoting a convergence in gas prices.
Referring to the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), he said this would provide southeast Europe's most efficient access to new sources of natural gas, from various areas and not just the Caspian Sea. He also noted the possibility of supplying the Balkans through the Liquified Natural Gas station at Revythousa in Greece.
 ECB raises funds available to Greek banks via ELA by 1.5 bln eurosThe European Central Bank on Wednesday decided to raise the funds available to Greek banks from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) system by 1.5 billion euros, to 75.5 billion euros from 74 billion euros last week.
Bank of Greece sources said the banks have not yet exhausted the above limit and a "safety cushion" of about 2.9 billion euros remains. The ECB will convene again next week to reappraise the situation concerning Greek banks.
 Bankers express optimism over economy, conditional upon agreement between gov't and creditorsThe 2015 target of funding households and businesses with 10 billion euros is unfeasible, bankers said at a banking forum organised by the Hellenic Management Association (EEDE) on Tuesday, correcting earlier assessments.
Bankers also said they were certain Greece would remain in the eurozone, as they saw an agreement being possible, and denied they were preparing for any other contingencies.
Eurobank official Theodoros Kalantonis, head of retail banking, said that in 2015 banks would provide a total of about 5 billion euros, while he asserted that in the second half of the year funding would proceed much more robustly than up to now, provided an agreement was reached by the government with Greece's creditors.
In terms of deposits, about 100 million euros left the banking system the last few days, but he said it was entirely manageable because of the banking system's supports and the ELA's. He noted that 80 percent of the outflows had remained in the country and of 27 billion euros leaving recently, 50 percent will return to banks by the end of the year.
National Bank retail banking official George Maligiannis said there was adequate liquidity in the private sector to cover all needs in the current period, while all healthy clients were being funded normally. Private housing loan sector was not strong, he said, but is greater than what it was at the same period last year, while the professional one was greater. There was also request for loans for car purchases and for the funding of trade. Because of the high quality of loan applications, he said, seven of ten loan applications were approved.
Piraeus Bank retail banking chief Sotiris Syrmakezis noted the importance of loan applicants' own participation in funding, which he said would be the trend in the post-crisis era. Greek banks already offer the full spectrum of banking products as the Europeans, but an emphasis would be placed on approaching clients more creatively through new services.
In terms of non-performing loans (NPLs), the bankers said that in the first quarter of 2015 their rate of growth climbed after a 1.5-year period in which they had dropped. NPLs are totalling close to 75 billion euros and comprise 35 percent of bank portfolios, when the average for Europe is 5 percent.
Kalantonis said that if an agreement is reached, the NPLs will reach their apex within 2015 and then begin dropping, six months after the initial assessment.
 Greek stocks end strongly higherGreek stocks ended strongly higher, recovering after a three-day decline which pushed the composite index of the market 6.33 pct down. Traders said the recovery was based on renewed buying activity for bank shares, which have suffered heavily in the last few weeks. The composite index of the market rose 2.08 pct to end at 719.43 points, after falling in intraday trading below the 700-point level for the first time since September 2012. The Large Cap index rose 2.85 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.02 pct higher. Turnover was a strong 101.98 million euros.
Piraeus Bank (22.86 pct), Eurobank (21.59 pct), MIG (12.61 pct) and National Bank (10.03 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while OPAP (5.20 pct), Jumbo (3.68 pct), Folli Follie (3.66 pct) and Titan (2.28 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Banks (13.40 pct), Utilities (5.61 pct) and Raw Materials (4.91 pct) scored big gains, while Travel (3.77 pct), Commerce (3.65 pct) and Personal Products (3.16 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 72 to 41 with another 16 issues unchanged. Piraeus Bank (22.86 pct), Eurobank (21.59 pct) and NEL (19.23 pct) were top gainers, while Selonda (15.28 pct), F.G. Europe (10 pct) and Ideal (10 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +2.03%
Industrial Products: +2.81%
Real Estate: -0.99%
Personal & Household: -3.16%
Food & Beverages: +0.75%
Raw Materials: +4.91%
Travel & Leisure: -3.77%
The stocks with the highest turnover were OPAP, National Bank, OTE, and Eurobank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.234
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.57
Coca Cola HBC: 18.84
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.60
National Bank of Greece: 1.02
Piraeus Bank: 0.258
Grivalia Properties: 7.00
Aegean Airlines: 6.90
 Greek bond market closing reportIn the Greek electronic secondary bond market pressures eased with state bond yields shrinking for the first time in several days. The three-year bond yield fell to 27.48 pct, from 29.49 pct on Tuesday, while the five-year bond yield fell to 19.10 pct from 20.21 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 12.73 pct from 11.97 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 12.86 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.13 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate eased to 0.175 pct from 0.176 pct, the nine-month rate was unchanged at 0.118 pct, the six-month rate was stable at 0.068 pct, the thee-month rate fell to -0.002 pct from 0.001 pct and the one-month rate was -0.034 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe May contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.47 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,001 contracts with 39,176 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 67,767 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (19,230), followed by Alpha Bank (14,183), Piraeus Bank (18,534), National Bank (10,264), OTE (1,404), PPC (968), OPAP (673), Mytilineos (180), Hellenic Exchanges (185), MIG (409), Motor Oil (131), Athens Water (111), GEK (239), Ellaktor (385), Folli Follie (137) and Jumbo (225).
 Ellaktor CEO Leonidas Bobolas released after paying 1.8 million euros for tax evasionEllaktor CEO Leonidas Bobolas appeared before a public prosecutor accused of major tax evasion on Wednesday but was subsequently released after paying the sum of 1.8 million euros, based on favourable measures recently passed by the finance ministry for those repaying sums owed to the state.
Bobolas had been arrested on the basis of evidence uncovered in the so-called Lagarde-list investigation, which showed a discrepancy of 1.866 million euros between his declared income and the deposits at a Swiss branch of the bank HSBC. The list has been leaked by an HSBC employee to French authorities and was then forwarded to the Greek government by then French finance Christine Lagarde.
The total amount owed by Bobolas' had subsequently reached 4.1 million euros, after the addition of fines and interest.
According to sources at the public prosecutors' department, Bobolas had been asked to proceed with the payment of this amount in mid-April but had raised legal objections. The file was then forwarded to the Centre for Investigating Very High Income Taxpayers, which set a find that was also not paid and then initiated legal action against him, sending the case to the Financial Prosecutors. It was then forwarded to the first-instance court prosecutors with instructions to proceed with his immediate arrest, in accordance with the law.
The counsel representing Bobolas, on their part, claim their client appeared before authorities voluntarily in order to settle his debt and note that he previously went to the Centre for Investigating Very High Income Taxpayers for this purpose, proceeding with a special act of settlement on the basis of the 2015 law for tax debtors.
Out of the 4.0 million euro owed, Bobolas paid 1.8 million euros in order to avoid a criminal prosecution for tax evasion and for legalising income from illegal activity and was subsequently set free. After the process of payment is complete, an order for his acquittal will be issued.
 Greek Coast Guard rescues 164 irregular migrants in separate operationsThe Coast Guard on Wednesday rescued a total of 164 irregular migrants who were located near islands of the eastern Aegean.
Authorities rescued 103 migrants in three separate operations near the island of Lesvos, who were safely transferred to the main port, Myilene. Another 15 people were located north of Leros and 46 in the area of Kontari in Chios.
 Amnesty International holds rally in Athens to protest migrant deaths in the MediterraneanAmnesty International along with anti-racist and refugee groups is holding a rally on Syntagma Square on Wednesday to protest the deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean.
Protesters will also march towards the offices of the European Commission in Athens.
 Alarm over white powder sent to public prosecutors' officeAn envelope containing an unidentified white power triggered a full-blown alarm at the first-instance court public prosecutors' office, which were evacuated as a precaution earlier on Wednesday. The area was then decontaminated by special teams before people were allowed back into the building.
The health ministry will now conduct tests to determine the composition of the powder in the envelope, which was addressed to the former chief of the first-instance court prosecutors. The results are expected later on Wednesday night.
As a precaution, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has administered a dose of anthrax antidote to the employee that opened the envelope and those that were working in the office at the time, though it is considered highly probable that the incident was a prank.
 White powder from envelope sent to Athens prosecutor's office is not anthrax, says labThe molecular examination of the white powder found in an envelope which was sent to the first-instance court public prosecutors' office on Wednesday came back negative for anthrax and other pathogens which may be intentionally dispersed, the microbiology laboratory of the Athens Medical School announced.
The lab added that the results of the conventional examination will be revealed in 24-48 hours.
 3.9-magnitude tremor strikes southern Cephalonia islandA 3.9-magnitude earthquake struck the southern tip of Cephalonia Island in western Greece on Wednesday, according to an automated reading of the Athens Geodynamic Institute.
The tremor's epicenter was near the town of Lixouri and had a focal depth of just 5 kilometers.
No injuries or damages have been reported from the quake, which hit at 1555 GMT.
 Mostly dry on ThursdayMostly dry weather and northerly winds up to 7 Beaufort are forecast for Thursday. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country and temperatures ranging from 06C-17C. Generally clear with scattered cloud in the western parts of the country and temperatures between 08C-21C. Scattered clouds clearing up during the day in the eastern parts and temperatures between 07C-19C. Cloudy with a chance of rain over the Aegean islands and Crete, 11C-17C. Sunny in the eastern Aegean and Dodecanese islands, 10C-18C. Light cloud in Athens, 08C-19C. Clouds followed by clear skies in Thessaloniki, 08C-17C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: Hell over the municipalities, universities, hospitals' cash reserves
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: A necessary transfer of cash reserves
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The 'sweeping' of deposits was made by order of the troika
AVGI: We do not succumb for the sake of the next tranche
ETHNOS: Mayors protest against the transfer of their cash reserves
IMERISSIA: On a razor's edge. A meeting between (Prime Minister Alexis) Tsipras and (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel on Thursday in Brussels
KATHIMERINI: ECB: The responsibility lies with the government
NAFTEMPORIKI: They point to June 30
TA NEA: Fears of a domino of insecurity
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