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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-10-15

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 15 October 2015 Issue No: 5044

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece to receive 800 mln euro NSRF funds next week, Commission Vice-President says
  • [02] PM Tsipras and Merkel discuss refugee crisis ahead of Summit
  • [03] EU Commissioner Avramopoulos to have meetings with Turkey's leadership
  • [04] EU Commissioner Moscovici's visit in Athens postponed
  • [05] European Parliament head Schulz to visit Lesvos on October 16
  • [06] EU's Juncker says a Greek-Turkish cooperation in the Aegean would be 'useful'
  • [07] Germany again highlights need to 'restore order' and crack down on refugee traffickers in Aegean
  • [08] First relocation of Syrian refugees from Greece to Luxembourg to take place next week, EU sources says
  • [09] Parliamentary committees approve omnibus bill on prior actions
  • [10] SYRIZA MPs will 'meet their obligations' in Friday's vote, Gerovasili says
  • [11] Main opposition leader says party will vote down the prior actions bill
  • [12] SYRIZA-ANEL will do the dirty job, said KKE leader Koutsoumbas on omnibus bill
  • [13] Decisions on social security system to be taken based on gov't political principles, Labour Min Katrougalos says
  • [14] Finance ministry: Exemptions from capital controls valid for all charities, not just the Church
  • [15] Same rules to apply for private and public sector workers retiring after August 2015, based on new law
  • [16] Athens mayor Kaminis receives former Italian PM D'Alema
  • [17] Greece, US, Bulgaria discuss TAP and IGB pipeline projects
  • [18] Greek government to accelerate procedures for bank recapitalization
  • [19] Greece needs three fundamental changes to return to growth, Eurobank chairman says
  • [20] Concession contract for regional airports to be signed by the end of 2015, HRDAF says
  • [21] Greek government to offer incentives for use of plastic money, FinMin says
  • [22] Vodafone Hellas intends to continue investing in Greece
  • [23] Economy Minister Stathakis to address FEACO conference
  • [24] Greece raises 812.5 mln euros from T-bill auction
  • [25] Greek import price index down 12.8 pct in Aug
  • [26] Piraeus Bank says repeated profit up in Q2
  • [27] National Bank and Grant Thornton to cooperate on Business Seeds program
  • [28] Thessaloniki hoteliers looking to lure LGBT travellers to boost tourism
  • [29] "mi -Cluster" to participate in CES, Las Vegas
  • [30] Greek stocks end slightly lower
  • [31] Greek bond market closing report
  • [32] ADEX closing report
  • [33] CERN's next discovery will concern dark matter, director general Heuer tells ANA-MPA
  • [34] Mum enlists Praksis crowdfunding platform to finance autism kids' support centre
  • [35] Ticket prices for entry at archaeological sites and museums to rise as of January 1, 2016
  • [36] 'Yes' to museum ticket price hikes but services must be upgraded, says antiquities guards' union
  • [37] Vicky Stamati to be released after three years imprisonment
  • [38] Syrian woman gives birth on Lesvos beach after forced to make crossing while in labour
  • [39] Three refugees found dead off Lesvos under capsized dinghy
  • [40] Visitors, revenues to museums, archaeological sites up in the first half of 2015
  • [41] Mostly fair on Thursday
  • [42] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greece to receive 800 mln euro NSRF funds next week, Commission Vice-President says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) funds of 800 million euros are expected to be disbursed for the Greece next week as pre-financing aimed at development projects in the period 2014-2020, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview with ANA-MPA.

    The Commission's proposal for a change in the regulation concerning the disbursement of European funds for development projects in Greece will come into force as of October 16 aiming at speeding up the whole procedure, Dombrovskis underlined.

    Greece will save 2 billion euros in 2015 and 2016 as a result of the change of the regulation, explained Dombrovskis. Specifically, 1.3 billion euros will be disbursed in 2015 and around 0.7 billion euros in 2016.

    The full interview is available for subscribers at ANA-MPA's website.

    [02] PM Tsipras and Merkel discuss refugee crisis ahead of Summit

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras discussed the refugee crisis in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier on Wednesday, his office said.

    The two officials focused on ways to deal with the refugee flows ahead of Thursday's Summit meeting and Merkel's upcoming trip to Turkey.

    [03] EU Commissioner Avramopoulos to have meetings with Turkey's leadership

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will have a series of meetings with Turkey's political leadership within the framework of European consultations with Ankara on the issue of refugees.

    Avramopoulos on Wednesday will address an international forum on migration in Istanbul. He will also meet with Turkey's President Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the Interior and Foreign ministers, as well as US officials.

    On Friday, October 16, the European Commissioner will be in Athens together with the President of the Council of Ministers and Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn.

    [04] EU Commissioner Moscovici's visit in Athens postponed

    EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici's visit in Athens was postponed for serious personal reasons.

    Moscovici was scheduled to visit Athens on October 14-15.

    [05] European Parliament head Schulz to visit Lesvos on October 16

    European Parliament President Martin Schulz will visit the Greek island of Lesvos on October 16 (Friday) to be briefed on the refugee crisis and its handling, sources said on Tuesday.

    Schulz will be accompanied by EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn.

    [06] EU's Juncker says a Greek-Turkish cooperation in the Aegean would be 'useful'

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that it would be "very useful" if the Greek and Turkish navy cooperated to control refugee arrivals by jointly patrolling European borders "under European auspices".

    Speaking at the European Parliament's plenum, Juncker hinted that Turkey agrees with the plan, following talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Greece seems to disagree. He added that talks will continue with Greece on the issue.

    "It's a European issue, it's not an issue of Greek-Turkish relations," he said.

    [07] Germany again highlights need to 'restore order' and crack down on refugee traffickers in Aegean

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)

    German government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Wednesday repeated the need for action against migrant and refugee traffickers in the Aegean and for a "more orderly situation" along the EU's external borders between Greece and Turkey.

    Action had to be taken to finally stop the traffickers, who were currently doing whatever they liked and placing so many people's lives at risk, he said. This partly depended on Turkey's willingness to cooperate, he added, but also support to enable Greece to meet its obligations as an EU member-state, including its obligation to guard the EU's external borders.

    "We want to bilaterally support both Turkey and Greece," he said, citing recent assistance given to Greece in terms of training and equipment for taking finger prints, as well as additional support given to Frontex.

    When asked whether Germany considered Greece unable to guard the EU's external borders, Seibert noted that he was simply "describing the reality that exists," which was that traffickers were transporting people to the Greek islands from the Turkish coast unimpeded and had been doing so in large numbers for weeks and months.

    This was something that all in Europe should take into account, he said, as well as the two countries whose sea borders were involved.

    According to the spokesman, this was also the conclusion reached at the last European Council on the refugee issue and on which there was absolute agreement: that there must be a return to effective control of the EU's external borders. Germany will do what it can so that Greece receives the necessary support in this, he added.

    Asked whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras might meet on the sidelines of the next summit, Seibert was unable to either confirm or deny the possibility, noting that the meetings arranged often depended on developments in Brussels.

    [08] First relocation of Syrian refugees from Greece to Luxembourg to take place next week, EU sources says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    The first relocation of Syrian refugees from Greece to Luxembourg will take place next week, according to European sources.

    According to the same sources, the number of refugees to be relocated has not yet been determined.

    The same sources said that approximately 3,500 refugees are recorded every day in Greece.

    Moreover, following the European Commission's talks with the Pakistani authorities, and in cooperation with the Greek authorities, the return of Pakistani migrants who entered illegally in Greece is being prepared.

    [09] Parliamentary committees approve omnibus bill on prior actions

    The omnibus draft bill on prior actions was approved in principle, by article and in its totality by the competent parliamentary committees after a joint meeting on Wednesday, and following a second reading which completed tonight.

    The bill will be tabled in the parliament's plenum on Thursday and will be voted on Friday.

    [10] SYRIZA MPs will 'meet their obligations' in Friday's vote, Gerovasili says

    The government and SYRIZA MPs will meet their obligations, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told SKAI radio on Wednesday, referring to Friday's vote on the prior actions omnibus bill in Parliament.

    Both the government and the party "are fully aware that we accepted the agreement in the summer and why," Gerovasili added.

    Commenting on the furore that has arisen regarding the investigation of allegedly inaccurate wealth statements submitted by former ruling party MPs and ministers, Gerovasili said that the relevant parliament committee was doing its job. At the same time, she said it was important to protect the privacy of those involved since the same committee had often launched investigations over what proved to be bureaucratic problems or minor financial discrepancies of 10-20 euros, while some cases are proved to be simply gratuitous mud-slinging.

    [11] Main opposition leader says party will vote down the prior actions bill

    New Democracy (ND) will vote against the omnibus bill on prior actions due to be put on the vote in parliament on Friday, party leader Vangelis Meimarakis said on Wednesday.

    Meimarakis said the bill is without a start, middle and an end, that it abolishes tax cuts, increases tax scales and taxes incomes that don't exist.

    "At the end of the day it is proven that the big lies he [Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras] said before the elections were told to secure the vote of the people," he added.

    [12] SYRIZA-ANEL will do the dirty job, said KKE leader Koutsoumbas on omnibus bill

    The government's omnibus bill is the proof that SYRIZA-ANEL government will do the dirty job for the capital's interest, a job that the former governments of New Democracy and PASOK have not completed because all the measures of the omnibus bill wipes out whatever income has been left, the people's rights in order to support the capital's profit, Communist Party (KKE) leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas stated on Wednesday.

    Koutsoumbas called on people not to tolerate "any government provocation that the people supposedly have voted these measures, no to tolerate the mockery of equivalent measures and corrections" adding that "these measures can't be corrected, but can be faced with the organisation of the people's struggle against the government, the EU and the capital policy that destroy our lives".

    [13] Decisions on social security system to be taken based on gov't political principles, Labour Min Katrougalos says

    "Avoiding horizontal reductions and ensuring decent pensions, with special care to low-income pensioners, are the government's basic political principles and the final decisions will be taken based on that," Labour Minister George Katrougalos said in a statement to ANA-MPA in view of the presentation of the conclusions of the Committee of Wise Men on the social security system.

    He also stressed that the role of the Committee is advisory, but the government is the one that will take the final decisions on the social security system after a public debate.

    [14] Finance ministry: Exemptions from capital controls valid for all charities, not just the Church

    The Finance ministry clarified on Wednesday that the relaxation of capital controls announced on September 25 concern international organizations and foreign charities who aim to use their funds for humanitarian purposes and not just the Greek Church.

    The clarification comes after media reports accused the government of preferential treatment towards the Church in the implementation of capital controls which have been in place since June 29.

    According to the ministry's press release, "since September 15, Metropolitan Churches and the Archdiocese are exempt from capital controls up to the amount of 10,000 and 20,000 euros per month, respectively". The same is true for "money which derives from international organizations and charities abroad which are intended for humanitarian purposes." The same press release cited by the ministry notes that the exemption also is valid for citizens who need to be hospitalized abroad, their escorts, university students, soldiers and for those conducting fundraising for sufferers from incurable diseases.

    In its own reply, the Church of Greece said the reports were "irresponsible" adding that the exemption exists only for the Metropolitan Churches and not for individual priests or other legal entities of the Church. It also clarified that the ministry's decision relaxes the monthly amount that can be withdrawn and doesn't abolish capital controls altogether.

    [15] Same rules to apply for private and public sector workers retiring after August 2015, based on new law

    The same pension rules will apply for both public- and private-sector workers retiring as of September 1, 2015, even if their right to retire was established before the start of 2015, under an amendment made to the omnibus bill on prior actions on Tuesday.

    Labour Minister George Katrougalos submitted the modification to the bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament, saying that the government's aim was to have identical rules for pensioners in both the private and public sectors.

    The amendment stipulates that for those retiring after September 2015, the rules concerning the age of retirement and the size of the pension will be based on the Loverdos-Katroumani pension laws passed in 2010, even if their right to retire is established before December 31, 2014.

    The legislation had initially stipulated that the rules would apply only to those establishing the right to retire after January 1, 2015.

    [16] Athens mayor Kaminis receives former Italian PM D'Alema

    Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis briefed visiting former Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema on the municipality's development and social cohesion policies as well as on the huge problem of the refugees.

    The meeting with D'Alema, who is president of the European progressive think tank FEPS (Foundation for the European Progressive Studies), was held at the Athens City Hall.

    D'Alema underlined the importance of the metropolitan governance and noted the strong role that European cities play today. "The cities are a lever for growth, innovation and for a new prospect for Europe," said D'Alema after his meeting with Kaminis.

    Referring to Greece's effort to exit the crisis, he said that Greece should be supported in this diffult challenge which is not only important for Greece but also for the future of Europe and the eurozone. He also noted that the fact the Greece decided to remain in the eurozone is a very difficult challenge for the Greek government and called on "Europe to help".

    On his part, Kaminis called former Italian prime minister Greece's friend and underlined that "it is very important to have the support of a man with such experience, head of the FEPS, which is a very important think tank in Europe."

    Financial News

    [17] Greece, US, Bulgaria discuss TAP and IGB pipeline projects

    Accelerating procedures for implementation of the TAP and IGB natural gas pipeline projects was the topic of discussions during a meeting on Wednesday between Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis with Amos Hochstein, US special envoy and coordinator for international energy relations with Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova.

    During the meeting, Skoutletis proposed improving the terms of TAP through Greece both for the state and local societies, while regarding the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline project IGB a new meeting -at ministerial level- will be held next week in Sofia.

    The Greek minister said the TAP project was of huge strategic importance, adding: "As a government we inherited the terms of the agreement, which in our opinion should be better for the Greek side. We have reached a critical point. We wish to contribute to speed-up procedures but after improving the benefits for Greece -as much as it can be now".

    The Greek side raised compensation issues for forest areas and state property and more action by the consortium in the field of corporate social responsibility.

    The Greek minister raised issues regarding funding and viability of the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline project and said that all sides agreed on the importance of the project. "We renewed our meeting with the Bulgarian side next week in Sofia," Skourletis said, adding: "I think there is the will to speed up the project and to help become a reality. This needs creating terms of economic viability. We hope to have a more clear landscape next month".

    Amos Hochstein said there was significant progress regarding the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline and urged the Greek government and TAP to openly discuss pending issues and to find solutions the soonest possible. "The US wants to continue working with Greece for the country's energy security but mostly on the role to be played by Greece as a strategic partner in the region," the US official said.

    "We had a very good discussion, bilateral with Greece and tri-party with our colleague from Bulgaria. There was significant progress on the Greek-Bulgarian pipeline and discussions were useful. We hope to reach an agreement soon, as the minister said. Regarding TAP the Greek minister was right to say it was a strategic project. There are some details needed to be resolved, between TAP and the Greek government. We encourage both sides to discuss openly, so to reach a solution. All sides agree to that and acknowledge the significance of reaching an agreement soon. It was my first meeting with the new minister, I leave with the confidence that we will have a strategic partnership and we will continue to cooperate very close as in the past," Hochstein noted.

    [18] Greek government to accelerate procedures for bank recapitalization

    The Greek government is determined to accelerate procedures towards bank recapitalization and ensure that problems which appeared during similar procedures in the past will be avoided.

    The goals and terms of a recapitalization process was at the epicenter of an Economic Policy Council meeting on Wednesday, headed by the government's vice-president Yiannis Dragasakis.

    A government announcement, issued after the meeting, said that in this framework the Council authorized the Finance minister to immediately complete all procedures for drafting a new legislation which will define the role of Hellenic Financial Stability Fund along with the terms and procedures of a recapitalization process, to be tabled to Parliament on time after consultations with the institutions.

    The goals of the government are: a) participation of private investors in share capital increase plans, along with international financing organizations and safeguarding the state's presence in the banking system, b) a recapitalization of banks should be linked with resolving the non-performing loans problem, offering special protection for the first home against foreclosures, c) ensuring a new way of governance and operation of banks to combat phenomena of lack of transparency, corruption and mismanagement.

    The meeting also agreed to set up a Development Council, under the responsibility of Economy, Development and Tourism minister which will draft a plan on the country's Development Strategy. It also agreed to restart and speed up procedures for a Development Bank along with adopting initiatives to implement projects funded with community funds.

    [19] Greece needs three fundamental changes to return to growth, Eurobank chairman says

    Greece needs three fundamental changes to ensure the restart of economic activity in the country, a gradual reduction of tax rates and a restructuring of the tax system, creating a business-friendly environment to boost investments and restructuring civil administration and institutions, Nikos Karamouzis, Eurobank's chairman said on Wednesday.

    Addressing a Global Annual Conference of Grant Thornton International -held for the first time in Greece- Karamouzis said these three changes will determine the success of an effort to bring the Greek economy back to sustainable growth.

    "Through this crisis, I think we all have become wiser, more realistic, we have learned from our mistakes and found the power to heal the deep wounds of the past," Karamouzis said, noting that the big challenge for the country was restarting the economy.

    "We want strong growth prospects, hope and jobs for the new generation to prevail, drafting a new national strategy of big reforms, development, competitive and open economy within the Eurozone, restoring social cohesion on a solid basis," the Greek banker said, adding that "following the hardships we all have suffered and particularly workers in the last five years, with experimentation, denying to face reality and a trend to seek for easy solutions, feeding uncertainty, insecurity and risks with huge economic and social costs, undermining the country's productive base and moving in conflict with our European partners, it is time we turn a page towards better days. The worse is behind us," Karamouzis said.

    He noted that the September election result offered a final response to a dilemma euro or drachma, cooperation, common course or collision with our European partners.

    "Returning to growth is the only safe response to the challenges of high unemployment, fair social policy, high public debt, over-taxation and high fiscal deficits," he said.

    [20] Concession contract for regional airports to be signed by the end of 2015, HRDAF says

    A concession contract for the country's regional airports is expected to be signed by the end of the year, Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund said on Wednesday and announced a extension for the letter of guarantee of the three groups participating in the tender after a deadline ended today.

    The three groups participating in the tender are: Fraport AG-Slentel Ltd (preferred investor) and CASA (Corporation America SA)-METKA SA and Vinci Airports SAS-Aktor Concessions SA.

    [21] Greek government to offer incentives for use of plastic money, FinMin says

    The Greek government's aim is to offer incentives and to boost the use of plastic money in the country, Alternate Finance Minister Tryfon Alexiadis said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to ANT1 TV station, Alexiadis noted that an increase in the use of plastic money will not lead to a reduction in pension and wages while he stressed that the ministry has not yet reached any final decisions on a scheme to spend part of a monthly pension or wages through the use of a debit card.

    He said that the ministry planned to create a special corporate account for enterprises that will be protected from seizure for debts towards banks, tax agencies and pension funds and to link the start of a new business from 2016 with the installation of a card payment machine, which will be obligatory for specific business sectors.

    Alexiadis also announced changes in a car circulation duty while the ministry will issue a new circular on heating oil charges in the next two days. He noted that changes in a special property tax will be made in 2016 with the aim to equalize commercial and objective values.

    [22] Vodafone Hellas intends to continue investing in Greece

    Vodafone Hellas intends to continue investing in mobile and fixed telephony, subscription TV, supporting up-to-date digital infrastructure - so necessary for the country - in a framework of fair competition for the benefit of citizens, Glafkos Persianis, chairman and Chief Executive of Vodafone Hellas said on Wednesday.

    Addressing an event organised to present Vodafone Home, Persianis stressed that Vodafone Hellas invests in the country, supporting the Greek economy during the crisis, with investments totaling 1.5 billion euros since 2008. "With an eye to the future, we completed last year a significant investment in Hellas Online, worth 300 million euros, signaling the next significant step of our company," Persianis said, adding that the investment was made in a difficult period for the Greek economy.

    He stressed that Vodafone Hellas wants to become a reliable and pioneer provider of total communication services and presented a new project called Vodafone Home -a unique experience combining fixed telephony and internet.

    Persianis reiterated that Vodafone Hellas maintained its interest in Forthnet and underlined that the company planned to invest on new generation networks.

    [23] Economy Minister Stathakis to address FEACO conference

    Economy Minister George Stathakis will address "The European Federation of Management Consultancies Associations (FEACO)" conference, at 09:30 am.

    The conference will be held in Athens on October 5-16, 2015, at the National Bank of Greece's amphitheatre. The international forum entitled 'Towards a New Growth Model for Europe: the Role of Consultants' is organised by the Hellenic Association of Management Consulting Firms.

    [24] Greece raises 812.5 mln euros from T-bill auction

    Greece on Wednesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue raising 812.5 million euros from the market. The interest rate of the issue was set at 2.70 pct, unchanged from the previous auction. Bids submitted totaled 813 million euros, 1.3 times more than the asked sum of 625 million euros.

    [25] Greek import price index down 12.8 pct in Aug

    Greece's industrial import price composite index fell 12.8 pct in August, compared with the same month last year, after a 2.7 pct decline recorded in the 2014-2013 period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development to the so-called "imported inflation" to a 0.8 pct decline in the import price index from Eurozone countries and a 22 pct drop in the import price index from countries outside Eurozone in August. The composite index fell 2.2 pct in August from July.

    [26] Piraeus Bank says repeated profit up in Q2

    Piraeus Bank on Wednesday said its repeated pre-tax and provision earnings totaled 275 million euros in the second quarter of 2015, up 2.0 pct on a quarterly basis, while first quarter profits totaled 545 million euros, up 11 pct compared with the same period last year.

    Net interest income totaled 472 million euros in the second quarter, down 4.0 pct from the previous quarter, while net commission income totaled 79 million euros in the same period, down from 81 million in the first quarter. Net operating revenue totaled 589 million euros, up 2.0 pct on a quarterly basis, while repeated net operating revenue grew 4.0 pct to 1.185 billion euros.

    The non-performing loan rate was 39.4 pct at the end of June 2015, while new NPLs fell to 111 million euros in the second quarter from 264 million in the first quarter. Deposits totaled 38.8 billion euros, of which 35.1 billion in Greece. Funding through the Eurosystem totaled 37.3 billion euros in June, from 30.3 billion in May, of which 22.2 billion euros from the ELA mechanism.

    Pre-provision loans totaled 70 billion euros in June, of which 64.2 billion in Greece, down from 70.6 billion in March 2015.

    Piraeus Bank operated a branch network of 1,098 units, of which 804 in Greece and 294 abroad. Its domestic network shrank by 51 units in the first nine months of the year, while workforce was 19,895, of which 15,743 in Greece.

    [27] National Bank and Grant Thornton to cooperate on Business Seeds program

    National Bank on Wednesday announced cooperation with Grant Thornton on a NBG Business Seeds program designed to encourage and develop young business activity, innovation and export activity.

    Grant Thornton will provide, free for one year, tax, accounting and consultant services to selected enterprises already participating in the NBG Business Seeds program and will support business labs organised twice a year in the framework of an Innovation & Technology contest by National Bank.

    NBG Business Seeds program includes actions to promote innovative ideas and projects, education and group leading and supply of infrastructure, networking and funding.

    [28] Thessaloniki hoteliers looking to lure LGBT travellers to boost tourism

    The hoteliers of Greece's second largest city, Thessaloniki, are looking to promote their town as an LGBT-friendly (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) tourist destination as part of their aim to attract visitors from specialized market segments, their union said on Wednesday.

    Thessaloniki Hotels Association (THA) hosted jointly with specialized online travel platform Destsetters a one-day seminar to inform its members about the characteristics of the city's market and how they could be used to attract international travellers.

    "Thessaloniki is ready to respond to any challenge of the international travel market, and is open to partnerships with bodies and organizations that seek to contribute to the increase of the tourists in the region," THA president Aristotelis Thomopoulos said in his address.

    Hotel executives noted that the city's tourism product is competitive as it has characteristics that come first in the preferences of the LGBT community, such as culture, art, gastronomy and entertainment.

    Organizers also presented the steps that need to be taken to include Thessaloniki in the travel guides of the global LGBT travel community and the effective approach of tourists through specific communication channels.

    [29] "mi -Cluster" to participate in CES, Las Vegas

    "mi -Cluster", a nano/microelectronics cluster of companies, with the support of Enterprise Greece, will participate in the International Tradeshow CES 2016 in Las Vegas, USA, to be held on January 6-9.

    The delegation will also a hold three-day tour in the Silicon Valley aimed at exploring partnerships with major companies and investors.

    According to an announcement, the Greek delegation has started the preparations for its participation in the exhibition, at a national pavilion at Eureka Park. The pavillion is mainly aimed at startups and small businesses that have reported within the last 9 months the development of a new innovative electronic product or service.

    The International Tradeshow CES is held annually in Las Vegas. It has been a reference point for the promotion of innovative and breakthrough technologies for more than 40 years.

    [30] Greek stocks end slightly lower

    Greek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday with the composite index of the market falling 0.32 pct to end at 676.13 points, off the day' s lows of 672.15 points. Bank shares, particularly Eurobank and Piraeus Bank, remained under pressure while other selected blue chips such as Coca Cola HBC, Titan and Grivalia Properties attracted strong buying interest.

    Turnover was a low 23.490 million euros in volume of 118,303,066. The Large Cap index eased 0.08 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.01 pct higher. Grivalia Properties (3.66 pct), Coca Cola HBC (2.96 pct) and Titan (1.82 pct) scored big gains among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (13.04 pct), Piraeus Bank (9.09 pct) and Alpha Bank (3.64 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Among market sectors, Chemicals (5.48 pct), Health (3.84 pct) and Food (2.95 pct) scored big gains, while Banks (4.22 pct), Travel (1.90 pct) and Commerce (1.78 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 54 to 40 with another 15 issues unchanged. Audiovisual (21.82 pct), Akritas (18.75 pct) and Dionic (17.24 pct) were top gainers, while Pegasus (15.73 pct), Eurobank (13.04 pct) and Nikas (12.22 pct) were top losers.

    [31] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 7.39 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 7.35 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.95 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.56 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 0.139 pct, the nine-month rate was 0.071 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.025 pct from 0.026 pct, the three-month rate was -0.049 pct and the one-month rate was -0.113 pct.

    [32] ADEX closing report

    The October contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.06 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,782 contracts with 11,574 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 40,028 contracts with investment interest focusing on Eurobank's contracts (15,396), followed by Alpha Bank (8,968), Piraeus Bank (11,331), National Bank (2,613), OTE (303), PPC (534), OPAP (270), Titan (101), Mytilineos (83), GEK (84), Frigoglass (117) and Jumbo (39).

    General News

    [33] CERN's next discovery will concern dark matter, director general Heuer tells ANA-MPA

    The current large accelerator at CERN has a 20-year life and its successor should not only be a European venture, but a global one, CERN director general Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer said in an interview with ANA-MPA.

    He estimated that the next great discovery at CERN will concern the dark matter and advised the Greek government to avoid large cuts in research and education spending. As he noted, one must solve the immediate problems looking at the future.

    Heuer is paying a two-day visit to Athens after an invitation of the Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Physical Sciences of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) to celebrate 15 years since its creation.

    Heuer was born in Germany and received his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg in 1977. He has been professor of physics at the University of Hamburg since 1998 and a scientific director of the German accelerator centre DESY in 2004-2008. He became director general at CERN in 2009 and his term expires at the end of 2015.

    The full interview is available for subscribers at ANA-MPA website.

    [34] Mum enlists Praksis crowdfunding platform to finance autism kids' support centre

    An ordinary mother struggling to bring up an autistic child and the inevitable unemployment that resulted, Penelope Alexiou recently made up her mind to turn things around for herself and others like her by going into business. She enlisted the aid of the non-governmental organisation Praksis and its crowdfunding platform OneUp to support and finance her efforts.

    Talking to the ANA-MPA on Wednesday, she outlined her vision to create the "Avali" Controlled Multisensory Environment or 'Snoezelen Room' - a therapeutic environment where children with autism and other disabilities can come, under the supervision of aides and therapists - and where their parents can find support and talk to others facing the same experiences and problems.

    "It will be a space where parents can support each other, be entertained and also understand that having a child with autism offers many beautiful moments," Penelope said.

    "Today we are happy that we have Vassili. It is a positive motive for all the family. The main message that I daily give myself and my children and which I want to pass on to the rest of the world is that disability does not need our pity. It needs our strength," she added.

    A social worker for 20 years, with two older children in addition to Vassili, Penelope described how unemployment followed hard upon her son's diagnosis five years earlier and had since become a permanent fixture in her life.

    "I cannot even look for work in Greece. Just consider that all the children started school a month ago and my son is starting tomorrow," she pointed out, adding that the last few years had also brought moments of loneliness and isolation.

    Setting up the Avali centre would help change all that but the project needs at least 60,000 euros to get off the ground and seemed impossible to accomplish until Penelope learned about the Praksis Business Coaching Centre that seeks to support people from socially and financially vulnerable groups, like herself.

    Through the Business Coaching Centre - which provides training and support to those seeking to set up their own business - Penelope Alexiou was able to present and develop her business plan and will now use its crowdfunding platform "OneUp" to raise money to implement the project.

    The Praksis Business Coaching Centre is financed by the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. The OneUp platform is financed by the Swiss foundation LIMMAT and can be accessed via the website www.oneup.gr.

    [35] Ticket prices for entry at archaeological sites and museums to rise as of January 1, 2016

    The Central Archaeological Council on Tuesday approved a ministry of Culture proposal to increase entrance prices for archaeological sites and museums in Greece as of January 1, 2016, based on each site's numbers of visitors.

    The highest admission prices will be charged at the Acropolis of Athens and the Knossos prehistoric palace on Crete. At the site of the Acropolis, home of the iconic Parthenon temple, entrance will rise to 20 euros per person (10 euros reduced price), from the current 12 euros (6, reduced). The price will include the north and south slopes of the Acropolis. The ticket for Knossos will be 15 euros, from the current 6-euro ticket.

    Sites such as the the Asclepieion Sanctuary site and its museum, in the Epidaurus area, and the citadel of ancient Mycenae with its museum will charge 12 euros each (6, reduced), from the current 6 and 8 euros, respectively. Tickets will cover both the site and its related museum.

    Entrance at the Ancient Agora of Athens (with the Stoa of Attalus museum) and the archaeological site of ancient Corinth (with its museum) will admit tourists with 8 euros per person (4, reduced). Sites such as Nemea, Marathon, the Acrocorinth (citadel of Corinth), the catacombs and settlement of Polichni on Melos island and the Amphiaraeion will not see a great increase in ticket pricing.

    In terms of museums, entrance prices for each will be formulated as follows, for example:

    - Large and central museums like the National Archaeological Museum and Archaeological Museum of Iraklio, 10 euros (5 euros, reduced)

    - The Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens, the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes, and the Spinalonga former leper colony (off Crete), 8 euros

    - The Archaeological Museum of Patras, Prehistoric Museum of Thera (Santorini), the Numismatic Museum of Athens, the Zakros Palace on Crete and the archaeological site and Museum of Amphipolis, 6 euros

    The Council also approved the halving (50%) of ticket prices for the winter season, namely, from April to October, "to allow everyone, especially Greeks, to visit archaeological sites and museums at a lower price," the secretary general of the ministry, Maria Vlazaki-Andreadaki said.

    The free entrance every first Sunday of the month which is currently observed during the winter season will remain in place, the culture officials added.

    [36] 'Yes' to museum ticket price hikes but services must be upgraded, says antiquities guards' union

    The increase in the ticket prices for museums and archaeological sites is a good step but tourists visiting them must enjoy a level of services equal to the price they paid, the antiquities guards' union said on Wednesday.

    "Indeed, compared to the ticket prices in other European countries, ours were particularly low," the Panhellenic Union of Antiquities Guard Employees said in a press release following the decision of Greece's Central Archaeological Council to increase entrance prices as of January 1, 2016, based on each site's numbers of visitors.

    "However, when you compare this vast difference in relation to the cultural product we offer, you must take into account the abyssal difference between the services you offer as a state to your visitors compared to those in Europe," the union noted, offering as an example the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (NAM).

    "You cannot pay a ticket at this price for the NAM with half the exhibition rooms closed because of lack of staff; not to mention the toilets, the access for disabled people, cleanliness etc.," it added.

    The union also said that revenues from the hiked ticket prices must be invested in the museums and archaeological sites where it's imposed.

    [37] Vicky Stamati to be released after three years imprisonment

    The Appeals Courts accepted on Wednesday Vicky Stamati's seventh parole application and will be released on a 50,000 euro bail and under the condition not to leave the country and to appear three times every month at a police station.

    Stamati, convicted of 12 years imprisonment for her involvement in her husband former Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos kickbacks and money laundering case will be released after three years in prison.

    [38] Syrian woman gives birth on Lesvos beach after forced to make crossing while in labour

    A 22-year-old Syrian woman gave birth to her second child on a Lesvos beach after migrant traffickers forced her to make the crossing from the Turkish coast while already in labour. The newborn baby boy and its mother, accompanied by her three-year-old son and 25-year-old husband, were admitted to the Mytilene hospital on Tuesday afternoon, a few hours after the baby was delivered by aid organisation doctors on the beach in Skala Sykamnias.

    The couple, identifying themselves as Sofun and Hanan, said they had come from their home in Latakia, near the Syrian-Turkish border. They said the traffickers forced Hanan to get into a boat at gunpoint, after her contractions had already started.

    "My wife was already very pregnant and walked alot from Latakia up to the border with Turkey. And then again in Turkey. We thought she will give birth in Europe. She went into labour on the coast opposite the island. The Turk with the gun was pushing us into the boat. We showed him that my wife is in labour. He showed us his gun," Sofun said.

    "What could we do? We squeezed in. She closed her legs so she could fit. All the way she was crying out and had her legs closed. When we arrived I lifted her up and left her on the beach. Seconds later she gave birth, just like that. She opened her legs and gave birth."

    The birth was assisted by volunteer doctors on the beach, with her husband, her three-year-old son Mustafa and the other refugees on the boat looking on.

    Safe in the hospital, the family seemed relaxed and happy, though the sound of a plane flying overhead made little Mustafa anxious and his parents looked upward nervously. They said they didn't know where they wanted to go - just somewhere away from the war, where there were no bombings.

    [39] Three refugees found dead off Lesvos under capsized dinghy

    Three bodies - one woman, a younger female and a baby boy - were recovered by the Greek coast guard under a capsized plastic dinghy off the northern coast of Lesvos on Wednesday, authorities said.

    A coast guard vessel patrolling the area located the dinghy and sent a scuba diver who extricated the bodies.

    [40] Visitors, revenues to museums, archaeological sites up in the first half of 2015

    Visitors to Greek museums in June 2015 increased by 9.5 percent, and revenues from entrance tickets rose by 13.4 pct compared to the same month last year, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.

    It also said that in the period January-June 2015, there were 11.8 pct more visitors in museums and revenues rose by 17.2 pct, compared to the same period last year.

    In terms of archaeological sites, ELSTAT said, that the number of visitors rose by 7.8 pct in June 2015 while revenues increased by 10.1.5 pct in comparison with the same month last year.

    In the period January-June 2015, the number of visitors in archaeological sites rose by 11.2 pct and revenues increased by 10.7 pct.

    Weather forecast

    [41] Mostly fair on Thursday

    Clouds and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 12C-23C. Mostly fair in the western parts with temperatures between 15C-27C. Mostly fair in the eastern parts, 14C-25C. Scattered clouds over the islands, 18C-26C. Mostly fair in Athens, 15C-26C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki, 16C-23C.

    [42] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: See you in court (referring to New Democracy leadership)

    DIMOKRATIA: (Former Finance Minister) Yannos (Papantoniou) accused of 'black money'

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Games over the annulment of debt

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The dividends of 230,000 retired people in half

    ESTIA: Dissolution in New Democracy

    ETHNOS: Shock for pensions and contributions

    IMERISSIA: Countdown

    KATHIMERINI: Interventions from superiors stop arbitrary demolitions

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Social security funds in 'red'

    RIZOSPASTIS: Direct response with rallies on Friday

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