|Wednesday, 15 July 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-04-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 24 April 2015 Issue No: 4942
 PM's meeting with German Chancellor held in 'constructive and positive' atmosphere, sources sayBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ V. Demiris)
A meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels, on the sidelines of Thursday's EU summit on immigration, was held in a "constructive and positive climate," government sources said.
The two sides converged on the issues of the primary surplus for 2015 and 2016, as well as on privatisations, while it was agreed that the general secretariat for public revenues will become an independent authority, following a proposal by Greece, the sources added.
The discussion lasted roughly an hour and noted the significant steps of progress made since the previous meeting between the two leaders in Berlin and progress at the Brussels Group, they said.
Among others, Tsipras asked that the procedures be speeded up so that the February 20 Eurogroup agreement, which foresees a first bridging agreement by the end of April, is adhered to, acknowledging that there's a short-term liquidity problem which needs to be addressed.
The same sources noted that Greece maintains its "red lines", which concern mainly labour laws, social insurance and VAT.
 Finance ministers in Riga to seek ways to speed up Greek negotiationsRIGA (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
Eurozone finance ministers meeting on Friday in Riga, Latvia, are expected to seek ways that will allow the fastest completion of the negotiations between Greece and the representatives of the institutions.
The general feeling is that negotiations are moving faster and more effectively in the last few days; however everyone agrees that a lot remains to be agreed on. Sources from the EU believe the Greek side must find a way "to mitigate its demands" and "lessen its 'red lines'", while Greek diplomatic sources say that the representatives of the Eurozone are not showing enough flexibility, particularly on fiscal targets and opening the labour and product markets.
According to a top Eurozone official, the 18 ministers will attempt on Friday to agree with Greece on a type of road map which the country will have to follow, so that by the next Eurogroup on May 11, a "critical mass" of reforms will have been agreed upon. This will allow the disbursement of Greece's loans.
The official warned, however, that deadlines have not been helpful in the past and it may be wiser to be avoided.
 EU ready to consider military operation against human traffickers in LibyaEU leaders gathering in Brussels on Thursday for an emergency summit to discuss the Mediterranean migrant crisis will consider launching a military operation against human traffickers in Libya, held responsible for deaths of hundreds of migrants this year in the Mediterranean, a draft statement showed.
In the draft statement seen by AFP Wednesday, leaders will commit to "undertake systematic efforts to identify capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers."
Europe must give a firm answer, which will going beyond the strengthening of maritime surveillance instruments and solidarity in regard to receiving refugees.
The EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini "is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible security and defence policy operation to this effect, in accordance with international law," the draft added.
Initial talks have showed "a political will to send this strong message," a source with knowledge on the matter told AFP.
"You can't be serious about this problem if you don't take Prime Minister Renzi's proposals seriously though you have to go through the legal and operational issues," said a senior European official on the condition of anonymity.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday evoked the possibility of "targeted interventions" against the Libya-based human smugglers.
"Nobody's talking about sending ground troops," an EU source explained, noting that authorization from the EU will depend on the scope of the operation. "It won't be a war, it's about targeted actions."
A diplomatic source warned however that "its implementation would take time. It's complicated."
 EU needs effective, humane policy on immigration, PM Tsipras saysIn a brief doorstep statement as he arrived for the European leaders' summit on immigration in Brussels on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stressed the need for action on a European Union level to handle the problems highlighted by the recent tragic events in the Mediterranean.
"The tragedy in Lampedusa and the shocking reality we face every day in the Aegean underline the need for the EU to develop an effective, humane policy on immigration based on solidarity, particularly for the front-line Mediterranean countries," he said.
 Tackling immigration is the government's priority, say sourcesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Tackling immigration is one of the Greece's main priorities, considering the increasing number of migrants and refugees entering the country's borders, government sources said in Brussels on Thursday.
It is time for the European Union to create a coherent, effective and humane plan, the sources said, adding that "we are on good track for an increase of funds and for forming a framework to manage immigration."
They also said the Greek side will try to upgrade the issue further ahead of the summer season, when migration flows are expected to increase, and ask for a fairer distribution of the economic burden and of the accommodation of legal refugees.
 Greek gov't tells Commissioner it will submit proposals for new Investment Plan for Europe by mid-summerThe Greek government plans to complete its proposals for the new Investment Plan (IP) for Europe by mid-summer, according to government sources commenting on Thursday following a meeting of European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, and Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis in Athens.
Katainen is on a two-day visit starting Thursday, as part of his tour of EU countries to promote the Plan. According to the Commission, the IP will unlock public and private investments in the real economy of at least 315 billion euros over the next three years (2015-2017).
Quoting Katainen, the government said that the EU believes there are significant investment prospects in Greece and options of funding small- and medium-sized enterprises' (SMEs) energy, in infrastructure and in tourism.
For the specific programme, Greece is interested in submitting proposals related to research and innovation, SMEs and social infrastructure.
 EU Commission Vice President:Talks with Greece should be finished by 'May or so'European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Thursday that he does not expect an agreement in technical talks with Greece in April, saying debt negotiations could last until next month and thus beyond an April 30 deadline for a deal, according to Reuters news agency.
"We've got to conduct the technical talks further and finish them perhaps in May or so," Dombrovskis told German TV network ARD. He said it is important that all sides, including Greece, stick to their obligations. He also said: "The talks are going on. Progress is not good."
 There is still a lot of work to do in Greece, ECB's Coeure estimates"There is still a lot of work to do" in Greece, European Central Bank (ECB) executive board member Benoit Coeure said on Thursday.
A possible "Grexit" - or Greek exit from the single currency - was "not a working hypothesis" for the central bank, Coeure told AFP.
"A very large majority of the Greek population wants to remain in the eurozone. It's up to the Greek government to take the necessary action to make that possible, which is to say, reach agreement with the euro area," Coeure noted.
The Greek government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is obliged to draw up a list of economic reforms in return for the next tranche of aid.
"Discussions have been difficult and slow," Coeure stated.
"There remains sizeable disagreement between the Greek authorities and the three institutions -- the Commission, the ECB and the IMF -- on a number of issues that are key to the Greek economy, such as labour market reforms, privatisations, pension reforms... or the reform of the product and services market," Coeure said.
"The process is on track and we're having good discussions. But there is an element of concern that the talks are proceeding slowly and that Greece has less and less time to find a solution," he concluded.
 Finance ministry refutes reports of secret trilateral meeting on Greece's economyThe finance ministry on Thursday refuted reports that representatives of Greece's lenders (European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) met without Greek representation in Washington, DC and Riga, Latvia, to discuss the country's economic issue.
"If they got together, that's good, in case they reach a decision on a joint stance for Greece," the ministry said in an announcement, "Because the main reason for the delay in negotiations is their absence of a joint stance."
 SYRIZA MEP proposes referendum in May if there is no agreementSYRIZA MEP Costas Chrysogonos on Thursday proposed a referendum in May in case there is no agreement.
"I would see that (referendum) towards the end of the negotiation, which needs to be as soon as possible, because the collateral damage for the economy is rather important. Therefore, I would say that the negotiation should have been completed by the May 11 Eurogroup," Chrysogonos said in statements to MEGA TV.
Asked whether the referendum will be announced on May 11, he replied: "Certainly in May, as the negotiation should in any case be concluded."
 Greece is not bluffing about exiting euro if it had to accept more austerity, says VaroufakisThe risk of Greece leaving the euro if it has to accept more austerity is no bluff, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told a French philosophy magazine, adding that no one could predict what the consequences of such an exit would be.
In a conversation with Norwegian philosopher Jon Elster conducted at the end of March and published in Philosophie Magazine, Varoufakis said this was not the time to bluff over Greece's debt negotiations.
"We cannot bluff anymore. When I say that we'll end up leaving the euro, if we have to accept more unsustainable austerity, this is no bluff," Varoufakis is quoted by Reuters as saying.
Asked what would happen if Greece was to leave the eurozone, Varoufakis referred to comments made by European policymakers who say any contagion effect could be avoided. He added, however, that he believed the consequences would be unpredictable.
"Anyone who pretends they know what would happen the day we'll be pushed over the cliff is talking nonsense and is working against Europe," he said.
 GUE/NGL conference on Greece, Austerity and Growth held on Wed.Economists, experts and MEPs from GUE/NGL (the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left) and other parliamentary groups discussed the reforms and changes necessary at Greek and EU level, in view of ongoing negotiations on Greek debt, in Brussels on Wednesday.
The conference, titled "Greece, Austerity and Growth" was held at the European Parliament, and GUE/NGL invited economists, experts and MEPs from other political groups to discuss the necessary reforms that Greece needs to take and also how Europe needs to change tack and turn away from austerity and move towards growth and development.
Parties represented included SYRIZA, Die Linke, Vaensterpartiet and AKEL from Cyprus, and MEPs that took the floor included European Parliament Vice-President Dimitrios Papadimoulis from Greece.
 PM Tsipras to meet European Commission VP Katainen on FridayPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet European Commission Vice-President, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen on Friday.
The meeting is scheduled at 14.30 local time, at Maximos Mansion.
 President Pavlopoulos meets Egyptian counterpart in CairoThe way Egypt is dealing with delineating the Greek-Cyprus-Egypt Exclusive Economic Zone "is exemplary," President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Thursday, after a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, unlike the way other countries do that creates problems (implying Turkey).
On illegal immigration, Pavlopoulos said that the EU should make funding available to non-EU Mediterranean countries like Egypt, and on terrorism he said that it could be dealt with by the application of international law at international fora and the EU, and through a cohesive policy relating to foreign policy and security. "The dealing of very large provocations in the Middle East and East Mediterranean presupposes Egypt's playing a leading role in the Arab and Muslim world," he added.
The Egyptian president said both countries should be assisted financially, as there are today 5 million undocumented migrants which Egypt "treats in the same way it treats Egyptian citizens." He also underlined the need of the legal government and army being supported in Libya and a solution to Syria's issue that would guarantee the country's sovereignty.
Both agreed to strengthening Greek-Egyptian relations, while Pavlopoulos also thanked the president and the government of Egypt "for the goodwill shown to Greeks and the Greek Orthdox Church, which has a tradition of eons in this blessed land."
On Friday, Pavlopoulos will attend the inauguration ceremony of the chapel of the St. George Monastery of Old Cairo, organised by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria.
 FM Kotzias to meet US leading congressional figures on ThursdayOn Thursday, April 23, the fourth day of his visit to the U.S., Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will continue his meetings with leading congressional figures, according to a Foreign ministry's announcement.
He will meet with, among others, a group of members of the House of Representatives and with the Co-chairs of the Hellenic Caucus and the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance.
Kotzias will then meet with the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Royce (R-CA), and the ranking member of the same Committee, Mr. Engel (D-NY). He will also meet with Minority Leader and former speaker of the House Ms. Pelosi (D-CA).
After his meetings in Washington, Kotzias will travel to New York, to the UN Headquarters, where he will have a series of meetings on Friday on the course of our top national issues.
 'The government has fooled society,' says ND leader SamarasThe government has fooled society and Greece is facing a dead end, main opposition leader Antonis Samaras told a private broadcaster on Wednesday.
"We're at a dead end; the government has fooled society. At this point it has to clash either with our credirots, or with itself," the leader of New Democracy (ND) told Mega TV.
He said the people's mandate was to avoid a Grexit, but that uncertainty has returned after the elections. "If the government doesn't pay what it owes to the ECB and the IMF the possibility of a Grexit returns," he said.
Samaras strongly criticised the government on a number of issues, including the economy, migration, public order and especially on the way it handled the issue of convicted terrorist Savvas Xiros, saying it jeopardized the country's relations with the United States which is the only power supporting the country in its negotiations with its lenders.
He also said that since the February 20 agreement, the government has not tabled any proposals.
 Government spokesman Sakellaridis issues scathing response to Samaras interviewIn a scathing response to the interview given by New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to Mega TV, government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis on Thursday said Samaras was "unable to help the country, not even as the main opposition."
He said Samaras had devoted almost the entire interview on Tuesday to an attempt to "salvage his government's fame for posterity" and that his sole mistake were the "communications blunders" with the property tax and overtaxation, while defending reductions in supplementary pensions.
"These are all policies for which Samaras was condemned by the citizens on January 25," Sakellaridis added.
He also accused Samaras of being "adrift in a sea of contradictions," at turns congratulating himself on being about to extricate the country from the memorandums and then admitting that he could complete the review because he couldn't accept the troika's demands.
"Since Samaras is criticising the current government for not closing a deal, what exactly does he want?" Sakellaridis asked.
He challenged ND's leader to adopt a position and clearly state whether he wanted the government to agree to pension cuts, the lifting of all restrictions on lay-offs and whether he opposed collective bargaining and a higher minimum wage, as well as his views on VAT hikes and fire sales of state assets.
 ANEL spokeswoman lashes out at main opposition leaderIndependent Greeks (ANEL) spokeswoman Marina Chrysoveloni on Thursday leveled criticism against main opposition leader Antonis Samaras following his interview with MEGA TV.
"Remorseless over what the Greek people have suffered from the government memorandum choices and absorbed in his neoliberal obsessions, the former prime minister still presents himself as the creditors' representative," Chrysoveloni said.
ANEL's spokeswoman also accused Samaras of dreaming of new memoranda or elections, 'investing' in rupture scenarios and failure of the current government.
 ND leader meets visiting European Commission Vice-president KatainenMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Thursday met visiting European Commission Vice-president for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen at ND's party headquarters in Athens.
According to sources, they discussed developments in the economy and in Europe.
 The legislative act does not concern hospitals, Health Min Kouroumblis says"The legislative act does not concern hospitals," Health Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis on Thursday said in statements to Parapolitika radio station.
"There is no such order by me; there is only a copy of the legislative act forwarded to the hospitals," he underlined adding that there is a provision for the exclusion of entities whose cash reserves are necessary for the next 15 days.
The Health Minister pointed out that as of May 1 patients in hospitals will get their medications through hospital pharmacies.
 The Health ministry's proposals for health coverage of uninsuredThe unemployed, uninsured, and the poor, who need health care and are lost in the bureaucracy of a National Health System, resort to health centres in order to see a doctor, Alternate Health Minister Andreas Xanthos said on Thursday.
According to Xanthos, around 2.5-3.0 million people are excluded from the health system. Fortunately, a network of health centers has been operating since the beginning of the crisis to help these people, the minister noted.
Xanthos explained to ANA-MPA that the Health ministry has drafted a set of proposals to provide uninsured people with health coverage, which will soon be put to public consultation.
 Pharmacists sound alarm over drug shortagesGreece's pharmacists on Thursday sounded alarm over medicine shortages in the Greek market as a result of liquidity problems to social security funds.
According to ANA-MPA's sources, the National Organization for the Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) has not yet paid the January arrears to pharmacists, which are estimated at around 160 million euros.
"EOPYY's inability to pay for the pharmaceutical care of the insured citizens creates domino shortages in the pharmaceutical industry," the head of the Greek pharmacists association Kostas Lourantos noted adding that the State needs to set the medicine sector among its priorities.
Pharmacists believe that if this situation continues, the market will be at an impasse.
 Municipalities to shut down services at noon on Friday, in protest against legislative actGreece's municipalities on Thursday decided on a symbolic shutdown of all services except social structures at noon on Friday, in protest against a government move forcing public-sector entities to transfer cash reserves to the Bank of Greece, via a legislative act.
The Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE) urged mayors throughout the country to rally outside Parliament at 11:30 on Friday, when a discussion for the ratification of the legislative act is to take place, in order to present a resolution to MPs and detailed explanation of KEDE's positions. Municipal employees are to stay outside their respective town halls in a show of solidarity.
A KEDE delegation is also due to address the Parliamentary committee that is discussing the legislative act at 18:30 on Thursday.
 SEB unveils four investment plans for inclusion in Juncker packageThe Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) on Thursday unveiled four investment plans to be included in the so-called Juncker package (European Fund for Strategic Investments - EFSI) and said that more investment proposals from individual enterprises were expected to be unveiled as soon as the criteria and characteristics of the Fund were finalised.
These announcements were made during an event organized by SEV on "Turn to Growth: Private Investments and New Job Positions in Greece" in the presence of European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, who is visiting Athens.
Marc Peterschmitt, managing director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - EBRD - said that the bank will begin a series of investments in Greece, on a temporary basis until 2020, and plans to open a representation office in Athens to focus on funding of small- and medium-sized enterprises and infrastructure projects.
 The proposals for inclusion in the Juncker package are:Electrical interconnection of Crete with the mainland, a project which A. Kallintsantis - chairman of Ellaktor and vice-president of SEV - is budgeted at 850 million euros and will help to replace existing expensive energy production units in Crete (with a cost of around 400 million euros annually to consumers) with energy supplies from the mainland reducing energy costs in Greece by around 7-8 pct.
Promoting "Silver Economy" (offering services to the third age). The Plan envisages the construction of a healthcare/services centre for 450 persons, with an investment cost of 35 million euros. The project will create 350 specialised job positions.
Research and development in the pharmaceutical industry with the aim to boost exports by 50 pct and employment in the sector by 30 pct.
Promoting the digital economy in a wide range of activities from customs, supply chain, justice, e-billing, combating tax evasion, public procurement, etc. The benefits from this project could reach up to 4.0 billion euros annually from e-procurements, up to 1.4 billion from e-billing, etc.
Constantinos Bitsios, executive vice-president of SEV, said that enterprises are ready to invest and added that nothing was expected to happen in Greece until stability was restored and asked for rapid completion of negotiations with the country's creditors, without fully accepting all demands but with a mutually-beneficial compromise.
Dimitris Tsitsiragos, vice-president of International Finance Corporation (a member of World Bank) said the IFC continued searching for opportunities to support Greek banks, financial institutions, investments in infrastructure, such as renewable energy sources, supply chain and enterprises developing in the wider area.
Jean-Christophe Laloux, general manager of the European Investment Bank urged public and private agencies to propose financially and technically viable projects and to move forward with funding procedures, adding that EIB has offered more than 7.7 billion euros to Greece in the last five years.
 European Commission wants to help small and medium-sized businesses, says VP KatainenThe European Commission wants Greece to benefit from its investment plan by promoting mainly small and medium-sized businesses in the country, European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said on Thursday during his two-day visit to Athens.
"We want to help in the funding of small and medium-sized businesses. If Greece wants to grant more loans, it can use the European Fund for Strategic Investments which could lend, for example, a commercial bank, which in turn would fund the investor. We will work both with the State and the local government," Katainen told ANA-MPA.
The Commission Vice-President also said during a press conference that he's willing to work with Greek authorities to find different ways to attract investments, but "the government must continue in the path of reforms."
"Our aim is to create public guarantees for private investments. When we were forming the investment plan in question, we had Greece and Portugal in mind, because we want both rich and poor countries to benefit," the official noted.
From the point of view of the Commission, he continued, Greece needs to implement reforms in Justice, on tackling corruption, improving taxation, managing public revenues - where he acknowledged that progress has been made - and on improving the business climate.
Katainen also said that along with the effort from the Commission, Greece must also do its part, expressing hope that "Greece will submit a credible reforms programme to the Eurogroup for the improvement of the business climate."
"Trust has diminished in the past few months," he said, adding that "it's difficult to understand what is going on."
"Negotiations require trust, Greece's economic problems can be resolved if there's trust and respect on both sides," he added.
Before the presser, Katainen answered questions by scientists, students, businessmen and public sector officials, during an event called "Citizen's dialog" at the French Institute.
The Commission Vice-President met earlier with Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis and the leader of the main opposition Antonis Samaras, while he's scheduled to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday.
 Commissioner Katainen visits NSRF-funded Apivita cosmetics company in MarkopouloEuropean Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness visited the plant of the Greek company of natural cosmetics Apivita in Markopoulo, northeast of Athens, as one of the companies that have received NSRF funding.
Katainen was accompanied by Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism Minister George Stathakis, with whom he had met earlier, and said that if Greece had many such companies, it would not be facing a crisis now.
NSRF funds were part of the company's investment of 14.5 million euros to build new offices, a plant and cultivations in the Industrial Park of Markopoulo, southeast of Athens. The premises incorporate bioclimatic principles, contain a field planted with thousands of plants, produce super purified water and have a beehives open to visitors. The main building has four levels (including two subterranean levels) and includes educational facilities along with an amphitheatre.
The company was started by pharmacists Niki and Nikos Koutsianas and has invested in a multi-purpose Spa Health and Beauty in Kolonaki district, Athens. It also operates five programmes on product and cultivation development.
The company is active in the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, Britain, Spain and Russia, among others and plans to open branches in seven more countries globally. It recently decided to sell only to large pharmacies. Apivita employs 400 people globally, with 217 of these working in Greece.
 Inability to complete economic policy programme affects Greek economy, says research centreThe failure to complete the economic policy program continues to affect the Greek economy, the Centre of Planning and Economic Research said in its monthly economic bulletin.
"Lately, the Greek economy has been affected and continues to be affected, on the one hand, by the inability to complete the economic policy programme at the end of 2014 and on the other hand by the country's prolonged negotiations with its partners in the framework of the EU/ECB/IMF support mechanism," the Centre said.
According to the bulletin, the negative implications "concern the State and the banking sector's lack of liquidity and, consequently, of the economic and productive activity, making it important to normalize the situation, so that the economy's positive performance can continue and the favourable conditions emerging at a European level can be utilised."
 Greek banks are solvent, ECB's Praet says"Greek banks are assessed to be solvent," the European Central Bank's (ECB) chief economist Peter Praet said on Thursday at an event in Berlin.
However, Praet acknowledged that it is a stressful situation.
"I am not going to discuss how long this will go on. Verbal discipline is of the essence in crisis times," he said, referring to the central bank's ELA for Greece.
 Greek-Bulgaria pipeline shareholders meet in SofiaA meeting between representatives of companies participating in ICGB EAD, the consortium that will build and operate the natural gas pipeline between Greece and Bulgaria, approved a revised growth program, a road map for the beginning of operations (scheduled for 2018) and a budget to finance all necessary actions until the start of construction works.
Poseidon (a company equally owned by DEPA - Greece's Public Gas Corporation - and Edison International) and Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) are joint shareholders in ICGB. DEPA, in an announcement, said that the meeting held in Sofia on Wednesday aimed to ensure all necessary preconditions for implementing the project the soonest possible.
The natural gas pipeline will have a length of 180km, of which 30km on Greek soil and the remaining 150km in Bulgaria and will have a transport capacity of 3.0 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually, with the prospect of raising this capacity to 5.0 billion euros with the construction of a compressor.
The agreement was signed by DEPA's chief executive, Spyros Paleogiannis, EDISON's representative Elio Ruggeri and BEH's chief executive Theodora Georgieva.
 Insurance fund debtors signing up at fast pace before deadlineA total of 62,370 individuals and entities with outstanding debts in insurance funds have made arrangements as of Thursday to pay in installments a total of 1.84 billion euros, of which 41.9 million euros have already been paid back.
The funds standing to receive the repayments include the largest social security fund in Greece (IKA-ETAM), the self-employed and professionals fund (OAEE, as of April 2, 2015), the hospital staff fund (ETAA, as of March 30, 2015), and the Centre of Insurance Debt Collection (KEAO).
The outstanding amounts can be paid in as many as 100 installments by a new arrangement introduced by the government the first week of this month. Debts to be settled this way total as of today (April 23) 1,840,775,630.11 euros. Installments already paid as of today total 41,923,583.87 euros.
Of all debtors, 92.07 percent did not have prior active repayment plans, while 7.93 percent had forfeited earlier repayment plans.
The number of signees on the 12th day (April 14) was 21,222 (totalling 995.4 million in collectable debt, with 21.7 million collected by the date); on April 20, 38,560 (over 1.36 billion, of which 30.3 million had been collected by the date); and on April 22, 54,205 (toalling 1.68 billion in debt, with 37.9 million collected by the date).
The deadline for signing up is the end of April.
 Alt. FinMin Valavani says children should not be a tax burden on their familiesThe Finance ministry wants to ease the tax burden on large families, Alternate Finance Minister Nadia Valavani said on Thursday, in response to a question submitted by an MP of the junior coalition partner.
"The aim of the finance ministry is for children to stop being a tax burden and instead to support their families," Valavani said in a document submitted to Parliament, adding that specific tax measures will be decided in a draft bill for taxation for 2015.
The minister's comment came as a reply to a question posed by Independent Greeks MP Harisios Katanas, who requested measures to support large families and families with three children.
 Bank of Piraeus to cancel consumer loan and credit card debts of clients in financial difficultiesOutstanding debts of up to 20,000 euros will be cancelled or be placed under privileged terms, the directors of Piraeus Bank decided today, to help clients who have lost a large part of their income due to the crisis.
The bank will write off 100 percent of all debts up to 20,000 euros related to consumer loans and credit card debt, while it is freezing mortgage payments and canceling interest for as long as clients meet the income requirements of Law 4320/2015.
The management said the measures meant to help in the humanitarian crisis, reflect the overall activity of the bank to cover economic and social needs through the changing conditions of the crisis, and mark efforts expended by all for a new start.
 Online purchases from supermarkets growing strongly, reportGreek consumers are turning more to purchases through e-supermarkets seeking to save time and attracted by online offers with low prices and variety of products not available to smaller supermarkets, a report by Convert Group eBusiness Consulting said on Thursday.
The report said that the value of consumer goods' purchases from e-supermarkets will reach 28 million euros this year and to rise to 383 million euros in 2020. The report noted that supermarkets' turnover could reach 10.5 billion euros in 2020, leaving e-supermarkets with a market share of 3.6 pct and with a 2.9 pct share of total purchases made in the internet.
Panagiotis Gezerlis, chief executive of Convert Group, said that these estimates were probably mediocre, adding that in the UK purchases of e-supermarkets accounted for 5.0 pct of all purchases.
The report said that online pharmacies were also growing rapidly, with a turnover of around 80 million euros in 2014, from 10 million euros two years ago.
 Building materials' prices down 1.9 pct in MarchBuilding materials' prices fell by 1.9 pct in March, reflecting a big drop in international oil prices, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
In a report, the statistics service said that diesel oil prices fell 10.7 pct in the month, window prices were down 5.4 pct, steel pipes fell 5.2 pct, iron prices were down 3.5 pct, security doors fell 3.1 pct, internal doors fell 2.6 pct, wooden floor prices fell 2.3 pct and cement prices were down 2.1 pct.
The statistics service also announced that the building materials' price index fell 0.2 pct in March from February.
 Greek stocks end strongly higherGreek stocks ended strongly higher for the second successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, on market hopes over a successful completion of negotiations between Greek authorities and its creditors after a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Brussels.
The composite index jumped 2.39 pct to end at 736.60 points, with the Large Cap index ending 2.69 pct higher and the Mid Cap index up 1.36 pct. Turnover was a reduced 84.07 million euros.
Jumbo (7.63 pct), Piraeus Bank (7.36 pct), Athens Water (7.16 pct), Alpha Bank (6.84 pct) and PPC (6.56 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while METKA (0.59 pct) and Aegean Airlines (0.43 pct) were the only ones to end lower.
All market sectors moved higher, led by Personal Products (7.0 pct), Utilities (5.78 pct), Telecommunications (4.40 pct), Financial Services (4.06 pct) and Banks (3.97 pct).
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 74 to 26 with another 20 issues unchanged. Boutaris (18.18 pct), AS Company (12.58 pct) and ANEK (11.11 pct) were top gainers, while Viokarpet (24 pct), NEL (16.13 pct) and Attica Publications (14.29 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Financial Services: +4.06%
Industrial Products: +0.66%
Real Estate: +0.62%
Personal & Household: +7.00%
Food & Beverages: +0.11%
Raw Materials: +1.04%
Travel & Leisure: +3.47%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Eurobank, National bank, OTE, Jumbo and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE
Large Cap index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.25
Public Power Corp (PPC): 4.87
Coca Cola HBC: 18.86
Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE): 3.64
National Bank of Greece: 1.04
Piraeus Bank: 0.27
Grivalia Properties: 7.00
Aegean Airlines: 6.87
 Greek bond market closing reportPressures eased further in the Greek electronic secondary bond market with bond yields easing substantially on Thursday. The three-year bond yield fell to 25.37 pct from 27.48 pct on Wednesday, while the five-year bond yield eased to 17.89 pct from 19.10 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 12.51 pct from 12.73 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 12.67 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.16 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.173 pct from 0.175 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.116 pct from 0.118 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.066 pct from 0.068 pct, the three-month rate was -0.002 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 discount of 0.12 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday.
Volume on the Big Cap index totalled 4,046 contracts with 44,118 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totalled 62,888 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (21,116), followed by Alpha Bank (9,771), National Bank (9,197), Eurobank (18,057), MIG (281), OTE (1,632), PPC (967), OPAP (462), Hellenic Exchanges (133), Mytilineos (124), GEK (362), Ellaktor (113), Jumbo (175), Motor Oil (61), METKA (81) and Athens Water (52).
 One dead, one seriously injured in major fire at abandoned factory in VolosAt least one person was killed and a second was taken to hospital in critical condition as a result of a major fire that broke out inside an abandoned factory in Volos, just before 13:00 on Thursday.
The dead man is suspected to be a foreign national, while the second man has been admitted to the Volos Hospital ICU with extensive burns covering 90 pct of his body. Both men were later identified as Bulgarian nationals.
Strong fire-fighting forces, with reinforcements sent in from surrounding regions, finally succeeded in putting out the blaze on Thursday afternoon. Firefighters are continuing a search of the premises to determine the cause of the blaze and whether more people may have been trapped inside after the roof of the factory collapsed.
According to sources, another two individuals that may have lighter injuries were seen exiting the factory when the fire broke out and heading off in an unknown direction. It is considered possible that the four people had entered the factory in order scavenge metal that they could later sell. The cause of the fire has not yet been discovered but firemen believe it spread quickly due to the flammable materials in the building.
 Migrants rescued in Kafirea Straits to be housed in indoor basketball court at PikermiA boatload of 93 irregular migrants plus three suspected traffickers rescued on Thursday while adrift in a wooden craft in the Kafirea Straits near Rafina will be temporarily housed in an indoor basketball court in the area of Pikermi, authorities announced.
According to information from coast guard sources, authorities were alerted to their plight by someone on board the vessel that telephoned the European emergency number 112 and reported that a boat carrying roughly 85 people, including women and children, was in danger.
The boat was located roughly 14 nautical miles northeast of Kafireas and two rescue boats and a coast guard patrol boat were sent to the scene. The migrants were then transferred onto the coast guard vessels to be taken to Rafina port and the wooden craft in which they were travelling was confiscated and taken to the island of Karystos.
The first rescue vessel with 25 people on board has already arrived in Rafina, carrying a pregnant women that was taken to the local health centre for a precautionary check-up but found to be in good health. Authorities do not yet know where the wooden craft set sail from and whether its destination was Greece.
A final headcount showed that there were 74 men, seven women and 12 children on board the vessel, as well as three men of Ukrainian nationality that are suspected of organising the transfer of the migrants, who are being held at the Rafina coast guard for questioning.
 Protesters against migrant deaths rally outside Commission offices in AthensProtesters marching against European Union policies on migration on Thursday threw red paint at the entrance of the building housing the European Commission offices in Athens and put up a banner against "European imperialists - murderers, thieves and hypocrites."
Participants of two marches protesting the death this past week of about 1,000 migrants in the Mediterranean met before reaching the offices, where they also lowered the flag of the European Union and burned it.
One march began in central Athens (Propylaea, in the National Library area) by Leftist parties not represented in Parliament and another by Communist Party-affiliated labour union PAME at Klafthmonos Square. Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas said at the latter rally that European measures and institutions "establish even further the mechanisms of Dublin II, which drive countries like Greece to becoming depositories of souls."
 Skyros commemorates 100th anniversary since the death of poet Rupert BrookeEvents commemorating the 100th anniversary since the death of English poet Rupert Brooke were held on the Aegean island of Skyros where he is buried on Thursday.
They started with a memorial service at the poet's grave, read by the chaplain of Athens' Anglican Church Reverend Canon Malcom Bradshaw, after which wreaths were laid at the Rupert Brooke monument on the island by British Ambassador in Athens John Kittmer, regional authority head Costas Cacoyannis and Skyros Mayor Miltos Hatzigiannakis.
There was also a Navy honour guard and band, since Brooke had enlisted and served with the British Royal Navy before his death on Skyros, aged 27, from sepsis caused by an infected mosquito bite.
The events were organised jointly by the British Embassy, the municipality and the Central Greece Region while those attending included representatives of the Rupert Brooke Society from London and of diplomatic missions in Greece.
Brooke was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Sub-Lieutenant shortly after his 27th birthday and took part in the Royal Naval Division's Antwerp expedition in October 1914. He sailed with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28 February 1915 but developed sepsis from an infected mosquito bite. He died in a French hospital ship moored in Treis Boukies bay off the island of Skyros on April 23, on his way to the landing at Gallipoli, and was buried on the island under an olive tree, at a site chosen by his close friend, William Denis Browne.
At precisely the same spot on April 5, 1931 there was an unveiling of the statue of Brooke that still stands there today, attended by the then Greek prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, with a eulogy read out by the Greek lyric poet Angelos Sikelianos.
Later on Thursday, an audiovisual exhibition entitled "Rupert Brooke in Skyros: An English poet in the corner of the Aegean" organised jointly by the British Embassy and Skyros municipality, with the support of the Central Greece regional authority, will be inaugurated at the Skyros Primary School and run until September 1.
It includes rare photographs and recorded material supplied by the historical archives of the Imperial War Museums London, the Rupert Brooke Society and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, while also exploring Brooke's romantic poetry and the historical aspects of WWI, from Gallipoli to the Macedonia Front, and the events that radically changed the map of Europe.
 EU Court condemns Greece for underground water pollutionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against Greece on Thursday for failing to designate a number of zones as vulnerable to nitrate pollution, thus violating EU directive 91/676 which aims at reducing water pollution caused directly or indirectly by nitrates from agricultural products.
The areas affected are around Evros River in northeastern Greece, near the city of Thessaloniki, the regions of Pella and Imathia, the plain of Thessaly, Evia, areas in the northern, southwestern and eastern Peloponnese, eastern Crete, eastern Attica and Asopos river.
In particular, the Court ruled that "the Greek Republic, as it failed to designate as vulnerable a number of zones where the presence of underground water or surface water masses affected by nitrate concentrations larger than 50mg/l were observed...did not prepare action plans for these zones."
 British football executives meet with Greek sports minister in AthensBritish football officials met in Athens with Deputy Culture Minister, responsible for sports, Stavros Kontonis at their own initiative.
The visitors included delegation head Sir Dave Richards (former Premier League chairman), solicitor Maurice Watkins (former Manchester United's solicitor, and current chairman of the Super League), and special advisor on football federations Richard Andrews, all of whom exchanged views with Kontonis on football.
 Fair on FridayMostly fair and southerly winds up to 4 Beaufort are forecast for Friday. Mostly fair in the northern parts of the country and temperatures up to 17C. Scattered clouds in the western parts of the country and temperatures up to 21C. Scattered clouds in the eastern parts and temperatures up to 19C. Cloudy over the Aegean islands and Crete, up to 17C. Sunny in the eastern Aegean and Dodecanese islands, up to 17C. Scattered clouds clearing up during the day in Athens, up to 18C. Mostly fair in Thessaloniki, up to 17C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailiesat a glance
DIMOKRATIA: Panic with money
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: They are seeking euros to pay salaries and pensions
AVGI: Political compromise is the only realistic solution
ESTIA: On the verge of bankruptcy
ETHNOS: State funds' race
IMERISSIA: Lack of liquidity causes vertigo
KATHIMERINI: 'Sweeping process' to find money
NAFTEMPORIKI: Drop by drop progress
TA NEA: Sudden optimism
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