|Wednesday, 20 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 6 January 2016 Issue No: 5096
 Government note denies that pension reforms will slash pensions by up to 30 pctIn a detailed note issued on Tuesday, government sources denied press reports claiming that the new pension system proposed by the government would slash pensions by 20-30 pct.
"These numbers do not arise from anywhere. All those making this claim are obliged to at least explain how they came up with such figures," the note said.
It also refuted claims that basic pensions would have been higher on the basis of a law passed in 2010, pointing out that this law had never been implemented in practice, while it called for an adjustment of pensions based on total annual GDP and inflation rates. This would have made current pensions lower than those proposed by the government, they said.
Pointing out that Greece was currently devoting 17.5 pct of its GDP on pensions - compared with 11.5 pct for the EU28 as a whole - the government sources say that the current situation will lead to a total collapse of the system if nothing is done. The government's proposals address this problem and also create the prospect of an increase in pensions after 2018, they added.
Labour ministry sources, meanwhile, noted that Parliament staff are exempt from the pension reforms on grounds of constitutionality, since Parliament's autonomy is protected under the constitution. This was also true of the previous pension law passed in 2010, they added.
 PM Tsipras concludes meeting on government's work, economy, refugee issuesA government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Maximos mansion was concluded on Tuesday afternoon. According to sources, it focused on planning the government's work, the economy, the refugees issue and public administration matters.
 Government proposals will not cut pensions by even one euro, Gerovassili saysThe proposed pension reforms put forward by the government will not cut pensions by even a single euro, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said on Tuesday, while slamming the attitude of the opposition parties New Democracy and PASOK as "brazen and irresponsible".
"With the proposal that it submitted yesterday for reforming the social insurance system, the government does not reduce main and supplementary pensions by even one euro. And for the first time pensioners can see a prospect since, as of 2018, with the expected increase in GDP there will be an increase in pensions, contrary to what has happened in recent years when pensions were reduced by 40 pct and in some cases by even 50 pct," she said.
She urged main opposition ND and the PASOK party to stop aligning themselves with the troika representing Greece's creditors and to support the government's struggle to avoid further cuts to pensions.
Noting that the average pension had fallen from 1,480 euros a month in 2010 to just 863 euros when ND and PASOK left power, she noted that the current opposition leaders had a lot of nerve to blame the present government, "which was trying to avert a collapse of the social insurance system that they dismantled."
The real dilemma at present was whether employer contributions should increase to avoid further pension cuts or whether pensioners would once again be asked to pay the price for the crisis entirely alone, she added.
 No cuts in pensions, Labour minister saysLabour Minister George Katrougalos reiterated the govern-ment's position that there will be no cuts in main pensions and that the aim was not accept any cuts in supplementary pensions as well.
In a television interview late Monday, Katrougalos presented the government's plan for pension reform which envisages a National Pension of 384 euros which will be offered without any income criteria. "We want a system of fair and single rules," the minister said, adding that the goal was not to have two-speed pensioners. "Negotiations with creditors will be tough but we want to win and I am optimistic," he said. He underlined, however, that in case that negotiations with creditors failed to offer a positive result he will address to Greek political leaders again. He also accused opposition political leaders for hypocrisy over their stance in the pension reform plan.
The pension reform plan moves along three main lines: an overall restructuring of the pension system, action to tackle the deficits and the presentation of a general alternative equivalent to individual memorandum commitments. It is expected to be voted on in Parliament at the end of January, after the negotiations with the institutions and a process of consultation is complete.
The plan calls for a recalculation of pensions using new pension replacement rates and the unification of all pension funds into one.
 Main opposition ND leader attacks gov't spokeswoman over pension cut statementsTemporary main opposition New Democracy Yiannis Plakiotakis on Tuesday attacked government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili for her statements on whether there would be any further pension cuts.
"Mrs Gerovassili's claim that there will be no reduction in main or supplementary pensions and the prospects of pensioners can only be a cause for mirth," he said, accusing her of tricking the Greek people with empty words.
He challenged the spokeswoman and the government to explain why they had failed to live up to a series of promises, including that of abolishing the memorandums, abolishing the ENFIA property tax, its decision for a bank holiday and capital controls it had earlier denied would take place, liberalising home foreclosures and a series of others.
Unfortunately for the Greek prime minister and his government, Plakiotakis added, reality revealed the truth and the paucity of their policies.
 SYRIZA-ANEL plan on pensions a 'casus belli' for the people, KKE saysIn strong criticism of proposed pension system reforms the government unveiled the previous day, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday denounced the plan as "a casus belli" for the entire Greek people.
"The SYRIZA-ANEL government's plan, which completely dismantles the social nature of state insurance and continues the crime where New Democracy and PASOK left off, is a casus belli for the entire people. No one is exempted from the slaughter," it said, noting that workers and pensioners will be asked to pay dearly for the chronic looting of pension funds by big capital and the state, with their pension rights sacrificed to capitalist profits.
 Gerovassili replies to ND, PASOK criticism of proposed pension reform planReacting to criticism from main opposition New Democracy and PASOK regarding proposed pension reforms on Tuesday, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili accused the two former coalition partners of trying to make Greeks forget the successive cuts that slashed the average Greek pension by 40 pct since 2010, keeping the system "alive" while sacrificing pensioners.
"In spite of these 'redeeming' cuts....they finally succeeded in wiping out both pensioners and the pension system," she added, and were now discomfited that the Greek government was trying to present its own plan and not blindly following the dictates of the creditors.
"It is a plan that protects main pensions, secures the pension rights of future generations and decisively decreases injustices and inequalities," she added, noting that the reactions from ND and PASOK "in reality are an offence to the Greek people."
"Seeing their plan to overthrow the government through their last 'card' that is the pension system unravel, they have lost their temper. We are waiting patiently in case they make up their minds to voice a meaningful political position and constructive proposals on major national issues, such as the pension system," she said.
 GSEE slams proposed pension reforms as 'final blow' to systemThe pension reform proposals put forward by the government were the final blow to the pension system, which the government was attempting to conceal with communications gimmicks, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) umbrella trade union organisation said on Tuesday.
"Ignoring, for the umpteenth time, the social partners and especially the workers, the insured and their legal representatives, the government is using a nominal dialogue in order to impose decisions taken in advance," GSEE's announcement said, noting that a solution to the problem was to create new jobs.
It warned that GSEE would not stand by and watch as the pension system was demolished but will "intensify the struggle using all means and ways in order to reveal and avert yet another premeditated crime."
 GSEVEE president joins in criticism of government pension reform billThe head of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE) George Kavvathas on Tuesday joined in those levelling criticism against the government's proposed pension reforms, saying that the plan would blast Greek society's cohesion, as well as its last reserves of liquidity
"The plan presented by the government as a 'reform' of the country's pension system blows the cohesion of Greek society sky high and writes the funeral speech for the last reserves of liquidity for the Greek economy, since it is known that 52 pct of Greek households - or more than 2.2 million households, according to research by GSEVEE's Small Businesses Institute and others, live off pensions," he said.
Kavvathas accused the government of following the well-known memorandum formula of cuts to main and supplementary pensions, which would result from the new methods of calculating pensions, combined with higher contributions that would squeeze the noose even tighter around enterprises, especially small and medium-sized businesses.
The draft legislation would also strike a heavy blow to the European social insurance model and the concept of insurance, since workers, the self-employed and small-scale employers could expect to receive only a pittance from the state pension scheme. It additionally "punished" younger people that were struggling to stay and work in Greece, as well as those that elected to keep working even after they had secured the right to a pension.
 Institutions received Greek government's draft on the changes in the social security systemBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ Ch.Vassilaki)
The institutions received late Monday the draft of the reform in the social security system, stated on Tuesday European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
According to Schinas, the Greek proposal will be examined by the institutions and the deliberations with the Greek authorities are expected to be concluded within the framework of the first evaluation that will "start later in this month".
"The first evaluation comes as a continuation of the decision of the European Stability Mechanism last month to disburse the 1 bln euros sub-tranche to Greece" he said.
Additionally, well informed sources stressed the need for a political consensus in the specific issue relevant to the one that existed in 2015 in the Greek parliament on important issues.
 UN envoy for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide reports 'constructive' discussion with FM KotziasForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Tuesday received UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide at the foreign ministry, for a discussion that Eide later described as constructive.
Leaving the meeting, which had focused on the latest developments in talks to solve the Cyprus problem, Eide expressed satisfaction with the significant progress made on a number of issues, though there were still outstanding issues that remained to be settled. Some of these had international repercussions, he added, including the chapter of security and guarantees and how the two communities on Cyprus can live together in such as way that the security of one does not create insecurity for the other.
Eide said he saw real will to find a functional solution on both sides, adding that there were ideas "outside the box" on how to create a viable federal bizonal and bicommunal state, in accordance with European values and practices for the prosperity and progress of all on Cyprus.
"The United Nations has had a peacekeeping force on Cyprus for more than half a century. And now we have a country that is a member of the European Union and remains divided. This is an anomaly that we would like to overcome," he said.
Eide expressed satisfaction with the close cooperation with the EU, noting that the goal was that the community acquis for both sides to be fully harmonised with all European values. He noted that the leaders of both communities on the island, both Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, understand that this is the moment to find a solution so that the talks have progressed without any serious crisis in recent months, while meetings between the two leaders are more frequent and understanding between the two sides is greater.
Replying to questions, the UN envoy said that a serious and creative search for ideas on the issue of guarantees was underway and it will soon be possible to be more specific about a solution for the two communities.
Commenting on geopolitical disturbances in the region, Eide said his views were similar to those on Kotzias during their discussion.
Eide will be in New York on Wednesday in order to brief the UN Security Council on the progress of the Cyprus talks.
 Justice ministry leadership expresses displeasure with prosecutors' union announcement on use of illegally obtained evidenceJustice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos and Alternate Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos on Tuesday criticised an announcement issued by the Union of Public Prosecutors of Greece on Monday, concerning recent legislation allowing the use of illegally obtained evidence to support a case in court.
Paraskevopoulos said the constitutionally protected principles of privacy and protection of personal information had to be weighed against the right to judicial protection and a hearing that includes the citizen's right to seek justice.
"The criminal investigation of major tax evasion obviously has weight as a demand for delivering justice, since it serves both social and public-fiscal interest at a time when public finances are being tested. I would point out that the lists of evidence concern thousands of citizens mentioned on the one hand, and the sum of all tax-paying citizens and their standard of living, on the other hand."
He also noted that the law established criteria for the use of such evidence, including a requirement that it be the only evidence available, "that it not be obtained in a way offensive to dignity" and that the legal benefit from its use be proportionally greater.
Papangelopoulos expressed surprise that any Greek prosecutors "would prefer drastic reductions to wages and pensions and that the Greek people pay onerous taxes, rather than that tax dodgers pay their taxes and legal obligations."
The union had expressed doubts about the purpose of the measures passed into law - saying they sought to allow the prosecution of a specific legal case that was still outstanding - as well as questioning whether it was constitutional. The amendment was attached to the law extending civil partnership agreements to same sex couples. It specifically allows the use of illegally obtained evidence in cases investigated by the Public Prosecutor for Financial Crimes and the Public Prosecutor for Crimes of Corruption.
Meanwhile, five members of the prosecutors' union resigned in protest at the union's method of operating and the way it made important decisions, without specifically referring to Monday's announcement.
 Government's aim the reopening of industries under new ownership, says Dep. Econ MinisterThe investment opportunities for new entrepreneurs and the creation of new job positions via the re-opening of industries that have interrupted their operation in the last years is one of the government's targets, stated Deputy Economy Minister responsible for Industry Theodora Tzakri speaking to Praktorio 104.9 FM on Tuesday.
Most of the industries shut down for different reasons in the last years and the vast majority that are now in the banks' hands can reopen without being nationalised and the new owners can derive through competitions and in cooperation with the banks.
"We do not refer to wrecks. The industries must have building infrastructure and machinery. We refer to industries that can revive with a small effort" said Tzakri adding that the government's aim is the crisis to become an opportunity and those workers that have been fired to return to their job and additionally new job positions to open.
As she said the ministry will facilitate the new investors to secure new operation licences "We will give them ready as new investment plans through a transparency procedure, which means that new investors will receive ready industries".
Tzakri also noted that additionally the government aim to the restart of the economy via HRDF programmes. "The aim for the country is to create through the development and the industrial production, stable and better paid job positions" she concluded.
 Greece to focus on green business programmesGreece plans to use part of new community funds to support green sectors of production which have been either downgraded or remain in hypnosis, Economy Deputy Minister Alexis Haritsis said.
In an interview to Greenagenda.gr, Haritsis said that Greece has neglected the dimension of environmental and social sustainability of development interventions although there were and still are serious needs and several possibilities. In this framework, the management of new EU funds will signal a turn to sectors such as waste management, energy, tourist services, agricultural-food complex and living quality in cities. At the same time, authorities are redesigning existing funding tools and extend their operation until September, while new tools are planned to support business activity which will not be operated by systemic banks, but by new agencies such as a new Development Bank, the minister added.
Haritsis said the government planned actions worth around 500 million euros in 2016 aimed to boost green business, including some sub-contracts from the previous period (2007-2013), such as collection and processing of urban waste, while other actions will be completely new such as waste management, restoring of mountain tracks in tourist destinations, modernizing camps in regions of increased environmental interest and initiatives to improve city environment.
Haritsis said that the government will announce invitations to launch the new EU funds programme in January.
 Eurozone inflation rate at 0.2 pct in Dec, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Chr.Vassilaki)
The annual inflation rate grew to 0.2 pct in the Eurozone in December 2015, Eurostat said in its preliminary estimate released here on Tuesday.
In an announcement, the EU executive's statistics arm attributed this development to an 1.2 pct increase in alcohol/tobacco in December (from 1.5 pct in November), followed by the services sector (1.1 pct in Dec from 1.2 pct in Nov), the non-energy industrial products (0.5 pct in Dec, unchanged from November) and the energy sector (-5.9 pct in Dec from -7.3 pct in Nov).
 Eurobank Securities most active firm in 2015Eurobank Equities topped the list of the most active securities firms in the Athens Stock Exchange in 2015, with market share of 17.06 pct, followed by Euroxx with 15.25%, National Securities with 8.37 pct, Piraeus Securities with 7.15 pct and Axia Ventures with 7.07 pct. The top 10 of the most active securities firms was completed with Alpha Finance (6.79 pct), Citigroup (5.04 pct), Investment Bank (4.87 pct), UBS (4.15 pct) and Credit Suisse Securities (3.53 pct).
 Greece raises 1.625 bln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue draining 1.625 billion euros from the market. The interest rate of the issue was set at 2.97 pct, unchanged from the previous auction of same issue last month. Bids submitted were 1.3 times more than the asked sum of 1.25 billion euros.
 Winter sales begin next MondayThe winter sales begin in Greece next Monday and will continue until the end of February, while shops will also remain open on the first Sunday of the sales period, on January 17.
Several shops have started offering discounts as early as this week, however, and the National Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) has sent out circulars giving instructions on how shops must operate during the sales.
This clarifies that discount items must display the old and new prices, and can optionally also display the percentage reduction. In the case that more than 60 pct of items on sale are offered at a discount, the shop window can display the discount offered or the range of discounts offered if more than one. Otherwise, displays must indicate that discounts are for selected items and the amount of the discount.
 Greek stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks eased in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday with the composite index of the market falling 0.57 pct to end at 617.59 points, after rising as much as 0.50 pct early in the session. The Large Cap index fell 0.89 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.36 pct higher. Bank shares such as National Bank and Alpha Bank came under selling pressure, while Athens Water, OTE, Viohalco and Piraeus Bank attracted buying interest.
Turnover was an improved 82.863 million euros in volume of 146,586,423. Athens Water (4.0 pct), Grivalia Properties (2.16 pct) and Viohalco (1.83 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (4.56 pct), National Bank (4.24 pct) and Folli Follie (4.08 pct) suffered heavy losses.
National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities. Among market sectors, Real Estate (1.75 pct), Utilities (1.26 pct) and Telecoms (1.22 pct) scored big gains, while Health (4.43 pct) and Commerce (4.06 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 51 to 44 with another 22 issues unchanged. Epilektos (27.20 pct), Dionic (20 pct) and Boutaris (17.86 pct) were top gainers, while AXON Holdings (20 pct), Dromeas (11.40 pct) and Akritas (10.27 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to 7.67 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 7.53 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.22 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.55 pct. Turnover amounted to 17 million euros, all sell orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to 0.059 pct from 0.058 pct, the nine-month rate was stable at 0.002 pct, the six-month rate was -0.041 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.0133 pct from -0.0132 pct and the one-month rate was -0.211 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.32 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,242 contracts with 15,742 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 26,127 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (14,264), followed by Alpha Bank (1,980), Piraeus Bank (4,122), Eurobank (1,603), MIG (2,268), OTE (398), PPC (254), OPAP (408), Titan (313), Mytilineos (99), Hellenic Petroleum (71), GEK (58), Viohalco (66), Jumbo (70) and Motor Oil (38).
 Actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Redgrave in Athens to highlight plight of refugeesWorld-famous actress, activist and Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Redgrave on Tuesday paid a visit to the Open Reception Centre for refugees and migrants in Elaionas, during her visit to Athens.
Redgrave praised the humanity shown by Greece toward the waves of migrants and refugees arriving in the country and said that other governments must also assume responsibility, since Greece was unable to cope with the refugee crisis alone. She particularly praised the residents of Greek islands and volunteers arriving from all parts of the world to help the refugees, urging people everywhere to exert pressure on their governments for a more positive approach to the refugees issue.
She was accompanied on her visit by Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas and Athens Mayor George Kaminis, as well as the Greek actress Mimi Denisi and American playwright Martin Sherman, holding talks with people residing at the centre on their prospects and the plight of those that are not recognised as refugees and become trapped in Greece.
On Wednesday, Redgrave and Sherman will attend a performance of the play "My Smyrne, beloved" put on by Mimi Denissi at the Hellenic Cosmos theatre to raise sensitivity on refugee issues, in a story dealing with the Greek populations of Izmir that came to Greece as refugees in the early 20th century.
 Four dead bodies recovered from the sea around Aegean islandsFour dead bodies in an advanced state of decay, including that of a little girl, were recovered from the sea around three Aegean islands, the Greek coast guard announced on Tuesday. The bodies are believed to be those of drowned migrants and/or refugees attempting the crossing from Turkey to Greece.
The body of a woman was discovered in the sea off Psili Ammos near the Fournoi islets, and the body of a second woman was found off Avlaki beach in Ikaria. The body of a girl with long black hair, about 1.35 metres tall and aged between seven and 10 was found off Aginofa beach near Ikaria, wearing pink gloves, boots, a fuschia jacket and a blue life-jacket. The body was taken to Ikaria General Hospital.
The fourth body, that of a man, was found in the sea off the island of Tinos and taken to the Piraeus Coroners Service for an autopsy.
 Authorities intercept 67 refugees in Evros, despite low temperaturesGreek authorities on Tuesday intercepted a total of 67 Syrian and Iraqi refugees brought into the countries by traffickers via the Evros border, showing that trafficking was continuing in spite of the snow and low temperatures prevailing in the region and in neighbouring Turkey.
Of these, 48 were discovered in a truck driven by a 38-year-old who was arrested by border police at Soufli in Evros. The remaining 19 were found in a truck with Bulgarian number plates by border police at Kyprinos, who arrested the driver and a second man in the cab as suspected traffickers.
 Another 2,600 migrants and refugees arrive in Piraeus portAnother 2,600 migrants and refugees transported from Greek islands in the Aegean arrived in Piraeus port on Tuesday morning. They arrived on the passenger/car ferries "Blue Star 1" that let off 1,333 individuals from the islands of Lesvos (974) and Chios (359) and the "Nissos Rodos" that let off 1,309 people, of which 738 were picked up in Lesvos, 406 in Chios and 165 in Samos.
The Greek coast guard rescued 16 migrants in waters near the island of Chios, during a search and rescue operation in the last 24 hours.
 Clouds, rain on WednesdayClouds, rain and southerly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 02C-19C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts and temperatures between 10C-21C. Scattered clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 14C-21C. Mostly fair in Athens, 11C-21C. Clouds and rain in Thessaloniki, 06C-12C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Rescue proposal for pensions and sustainability of the insurance system.
DIMOKRATIA: New pension are only crumbs.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The new pensioners will foot the bill.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The huge massacre on pensions.
ESTIA: The new face of the Middle East.
ETHNOS: The secret codes of the new social security system.
IMERISSIA: Total reversal in social security.
KATHIMERINI: Shocking - adjustment to social security.
NAFTEMPORIKI: Double cut to pensions.
RIZOSPASTIS: Government's plan a continuous crime and a mockery.
TA NEA: Troika's YES and NOs.
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