|Wednesday, 20 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 8 January 2016 Issue No: 5097
 PM's office welcomes employer support for hike in social insurance contributionsThe government on Thursday welcomed the stance adopted by employer associations to the possibility of a hike in social insurance contributions in order to support the pension system, in an announcement issued by the prime minister's press office. It noted that a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the heads of the four largest employer groups had been held in a positive and constructive climate, with the employers will to discuss a modest increase in contributions to avoid pension cuts.
After the meeting, the four organisations issued an announcement saying they were in favour of a small and temporary increase in contributions that was signed by the heads of the National Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE), the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) and the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE).
The government noted that this position would ensure the viability of the system without further horizontal cuts and also strengthen the country's negotiating position and laid the foundations for an economic and productive reorganisation, with social solidarity and protection of the weaker sections of society.
 PM Tsipras: It is our social responsibility to safeguard the sustainability of the social security systemIt is our social responsibility to safeguard the sustainability of the social security system and we owe it to the next generations, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday said in a meeting with the representatives of the labour unions.
Tsipras is meeting with labour unions representatives within the framework of the debate on social security reforms.
"Both the government and the representatives of the trade unions have the responsibility to make the right choices that will ensure the sustainability of the pension system and I think that this is something we owe it to the next generations," the prime minister underlined.
He also noted that critical decisions are looming that will pave the way for the debate on debt reduction and the exit from the crisis.
 Government's proposal on pension reform is final, Gerovassili saysThe government's proposal for reforming the pension system is final, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said on Thursday in an interview with the radio station 'Parapolitika 90.1'. At the same time, she left open the possibility of small changes in the amount of social insurance contributions paid by the self-employed.
Regarding an increase in employer contributions, Gerovassili pointed out that a exceptionally large reduction in the amount of social insurance contribution in recent years had done next to nothing to slow unemployment or black labour, while the small increase the government was discussing now will not create a problem.
She said the government was still waiting for the institutions to express their views on the government's proposal, saying that there was currently conjecture or unconfirmed reports of a disagreement between the partners and the International Monetary Fund on the issue of employer contributions that she said were "not based on real facts".
Gerovassili estimated that the pension reforms bill will be voted on in Parliament within the first 10 days of February, adding that the government's goal is to pass measures for non-performing loans and the Medium-Term Fiscal Programme by February 15.
Asked whether she feared rebellion within the ranks of SYRIZA and ANEL over the pensions bill, the spokeswoman said that the government's proposal was a "national issue that must be approached in a different way," and that the dialogue on this issue must become stronger "even through disagreements".
 Social partners' agreement for a reasonable increase in social security contributions is a strong negotiating tool, says GerovassiliThe agreement of the social partners for a reasonable increase in social security contributions, so that pensions are not reduced, is a strong negotiating tool, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili posted on her Twitter account on Thursday.
 ESEE's Korkidis says rise in social insurance contributions is the best of bad options for pension reformNational Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) President Vasilis Korkidis on Thursday said he agreed with a proposal for a 1 pct increase in social insurance contributions on wages, with the cost to be shared equally between employees and employers, as the "best of a bad lot" of available options.
He also criticised the opposition parties' refusal to participate in dialogue on pension system reforms or present their own proposals in this discussion.
"It really is a new pension system written on a blank piece of paper that changes the form of our pension system. There must, therefore, be very careful clarifications and interpretations so that it does not amount to a new tax on our businesses. More specifically, we agree with an increase by 1 pct (0.5 pct and 0.5 pct) of social insurance contributions. We consider that imposing a 1? tax on bank transactions will not help the effort to kickstart growth, end the consequences of capital controls and familiarise business people with the use of plastic money," he said.
Korkidis made the statements after a meeting between employer groups and the prime minister to discuss issues relating to pension reforms.
 Employer groups support temporary hike in social insurance contributions after meeting with PMFollowing earlier statements by National Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) President Vasilis Korkidis, the four associations representing Greek employers on Thursday issued a joint announcement after their meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, saying they were not opposed to a small and temporary increase in social insurance contributions.
The statement was signed by Korkidis, Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) President Theodoros Fessas, Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) President Andreas Andreadis and Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE) President Giorgos Kavvathas.
The announcement said that they had an extensive discussion with Tsipras on supporting the competitiveness of Greek businesses while supporting employment and social cohesion.
"In this framework, it was decided that there should be close cooperation between the government and the social partners for the implementation of immediate measures to stabilise the economy and attract investments," they said, noting that the priorities will be a stable and gradually more attractive tax framework, a business-friendly environment and incentives for growth and investments.
"On these terms and taking into account the proposals that will be tabled for sundry improvements to the government's proposal for pension system reform, the social partners do not adopt a negative position on a small, temporary increase in social insurance contributions," they concluded.
 Opposition parties need to participate in dialogue on pension reforms, says gov't spokeswoman GerovassiliGovernment spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili on Thursday in statements to real.gr stressed the importance of the opposition's participation in a constructive and of national importance dialogue to decide upon the social security reforms.
Gerovassili underlined that the participation of the opposition parties in such a dialogue would strengthen Greece's negotiating position.
"The government is ready to listen to their positions. It's time to express their views," the government spokeswoman said adding that if they reject the government's position, they need to propose an alternative solution for the sustainability of the system and the end of injustices.
She concluded that the Greek government has submitted a comprehensive framework of social security reforms to the social partners, the political parties and the EU institutions.
 'Difficult' bills will be helped to pass Parliament, ND's Meimarakis predicts in ANA-MPA interviewThe government will get help in passing difficult bills that it brings to Parliament, from those anxious to avoid a major political crisis, even though its policies were alienating its political base, main opposition New Democracy's leadership candidate Vangelis Meimarakis predicted in an interview with the ANA-MPA on Thursday.
"From what I can see, there are several that are willing [from outside SYRIZA] that would not like a major political issue to arise," he said, noting that the tension with SYRIZA's social base would not greatly affect its Parliamentary majority.
Asked about unity within ND, Meimarakis said that unity "is not an end in itself," and noted that to constantly talk about it as if it did not exist helped nothing. Regarding the party's secretary Andreas Papamimikos, Meimarakis insisted that Papamimikos was "unsuited to this position" but said that there was no provision for changing or challenging the secretary in the party's charter until the next party conference.
On where he intends to lead the party if he is elected ND's president in Sunday's party election, Meimarakis noted that ND has always been a party of moderate views and national understanding and will remain so under his leadership. Replying to extremists, he noted that those not conforming with the collective decisions of party organs effectively place themselves outside the party through their own actions.
 New pension system 'crushing' the middle class, Potami party saysThe opposition Potami party criticised the government's proposed pension system reform bill in an announcement on Thursday, saying that it revealed the government's inability to handle the crisis in the pension system. As a result, it added, "the need to link the contributions of the self-employed and thus their pensions with their real income has given birth to a monstrosity."
Some people in the new government were turning a blind eye to, if not actually striving for, the crushing of the middle class, Potami said.
It noted that a proposal to link contributions to income "was destroyed" by the fact that the state was requiring the self employed to pay a massive 38.5 pct of their income in social insurance contributions for pensions and health care, which along with other taxes and fees "makes the state the majority shareholder in all small and medium-sized businesses."
The party also noted that the proposals once again "punished" honest business people and rewarded habitual cheats:
"What sane person will pay that kind of contribution when at the end of their working life they will receive virtually the same pension as someone that has paid half? Who will declare an income of 100,000 euros when they will receive the same pension by declaring 20,000 euros and also dodge the tax," the party's announcement pointed out.
 FinMin Tsakalotos to have meetings with European counterpartsFinance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos will have a series of contacts with European counterparts, including German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, over the next few days. They will discuss the course of the Greek program in view of the first evaluation as well as the issue of Greek debt, the debate on which will begin after the conclusion of the evaluation by the institutions.
The Minister's schedule is as follows:
 EU Commission cannot give an exact date on the institutions' arrival at Athens, says spokespersonBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
The European Commission cannot give an exact date on the institutions' arrival at Athens, European Commission spokesperson Vanessa Mock said on Thursday.
"We are not in a position to confirm the exact date of the first evaluation," Mock stated adding that the Commission will inform Athens when the date is fixed.
Asked to comment on the planned social security reforms, Mock said that the plan, which was received last Monday, is being examined and the discussions with the Greek authorities will continue within the framework of the first evaluation.
 Justice ministry condemns 'racist' incident on board Aegean flight to Tel AvivThe Greek justice ministry on Thursday condemned a racist incident on board an Aegean Airlines flight from Athens to Tel Aviv last Sunday and noted that the principle of equal treatment in the provision of goods and services must be strictly observed at all times and without exception.
"All discriminatory treatment on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation is forbidden and to be condemned," the announcement said.
The incident occurred last Sunday when a group of Israeli Jewish passengers protestly strongly when they realised that they would be travelling with two Israeli Arabs. The protesting passengers refused to sit in their seats and put on their seatbelts and the airline asked for the assistance of the police to again check the two Arab passengers. Eventually, the two Arabs agreed to get off the plane and be transferred to a hotel in order to depart on a flight the following day.
The Israeli passengers then demanded an additional security check of all passengers and only backed down when the crew warned them that those continuing to protest would be escorted off the plane and lose the right to a refund. At this point, the aircraft departed after a delay of 1.5 hours.
In an announcement on Tuesday, Aegean said that the additional security check conducted with the assistance of the Greek police, after concern and strong protests were voiced by a number of Israeli passengers, had not revealed any cause for concern. The airline called it an "isolated and unfortunate incident that ended quickly, thanks to the cooperation and the accommodating attitude of the two passengers," and expressed its sorrow for what it called an unpleasant incident, which does not express its views.
 Bank of Greece governor optimistic over 2016Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras on Thursdsay sounded optimistic over the country's outlook. In a message to the central bank's workers, sent on the occasion of the New Year, Stournaras said that the Bank of Greece will continue fulfilling its role as treasurer of monetary and financial stability within the Eurosystem.
Referring to 2015 developments, the central banker said that the strength of the financial system and of the economy were put into test in the first half of 2015, as intense uncertainty fuelled negative scenarios over the country's future. The banking system faced successive confidence crisis episodes, which threatened financial stability and led to the imposition of capital controls to safeguard deposits and the stability of the system. Stournaras underlined that the Bank of Greece successfully responded to these challenges and contributed catalytically in balancing the situation while at the same time it preserved its independence and its status.
Stournaras said the Bank of Greece implemented a partial restructuring of its network and its operations and noted that a personnel renewal program will expand in 2016.
 Greek enterprises see significant economic prospects in 2016There are significant capabilities of supporting economic activity in 2016 through offering significant liquidity from the state to the private sector on the condition that the government strictly implemented its state budget, a privatisation programme and structural reforms included in a third memorandum, the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) said in a weekly bulletin on economic developments in the country.
SEV warned that in any other case, 2016 could be an "annus horribilis" for enterprises and workers as an over-taxation trend would further compress available incomes in the country. "The good news and the bet for 2016 is that if reforms were to be accelerated, as expected, the inflow of money from creditors could reach around 17-18 billion euros this year, instead of 13 billion euros," SEV said, adding that such a sum could allow the creation of cash reserves of around 5.0 billion euros and to repay almost all overdue debt to the private sector (currently around 7.0 billion).
The bulletin noted that accumulating cash reserves of up to 8.0 billion euros by August 2018 was crucial to allow the Greek state to resort to capital markets for borrowing.
SEB noted that funds from the bailout programme should help Greece towards an economic recovery through privatisations and boosting liquidity in the real economy.
 Energean Oil & Gas doubles oil production in PrinosOil production in the Prinos oilfield doubled following completion of the first from a total of 15 drillings scheduled for the period 2015-2017 in Kavala Bay, Energean Oil & Gas said on Thursday.
The drilling added 1,500 barrels of oil to the daily production which totals around 3,000 barrels per day, up 60 pct from last year.
Energean Oil & Gas said that verified oil reserves in Kavala Bay amounted to 30 million barrels and the company plans to exploit these reserves through a 200-million-US dollar investment program currently underway.
Mathios Rigas, chairman and chief executive of Energean Oil & Gas, said that despite a collapse in international oil price and difficulties in a prevailing business environment, the company has managed to drill new oil from the Prinos oilfield.
 Greek trade deficit down 1.8 pct in Jan-NovGreek trade deficit shrank by 1.8 pct in November as imports fell more in value compared with a decline in exports, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report on the country's merchandise trade, said that the value of import-arrivals totaled 3.647 billion euros in November, from 3.904 billion in November 2014, for a decline of 6.6 pct (excluding oil products imports fell by 1.8 pct).
The value of export-deliveries totaled 2.117 billion euros in November from 2.347 billion last year, for a decline of 9.8 pct (excluding oil products the value of exports fell 3.6 pct).
The country's trade deficit eased to 1.53 billion euros from 1.557 billion in November last year, for a decline of 1.8 pct (excluding oil products the trade deficit grew by 0.5 pct).
In the January-November period, exports totaled 39.863 billion euros, from 44.012 billion in 2014, a decline of 9.4 pct (excluding oil products exports grew by 1.1 pct).
The value of imports amounted to 23.648 billion euros in January-November, from 25.035 billion last year, a decline of 5.5 pct (excluding oil products exports grew 8.4 pct).
The country's trade deficit totaled 16.215 billion euros in the 11-month period, from 18.976 billion euros last year, a decline of 14.6 pct (excluding oil products the trade deficit fell by 6.9 pct).
 Greek unemployment rate eased to 24.6 pct in SeptRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Chr.Vassilaki)
Greek unemployment rate eased to 24.6 pct of the workforce in September, slightly down compared with 24.7 pct in August but 1.5 percentage points down compared with September 2014 (26.1 pct), Eurostat said on Thursday.
The EU executive's statistics arm, in a monthly report, said that the Greek unemployment rate remained the highest in the EU (including youth unemployment 49.5 pct), followed by Spain (21.4 pct and 47.5 pct respectively, November figures).
Germany (4.5 pct) and the Czech Republic (4.6 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in the Eurozone was 10.5 pct in November, from 10.6 pct in October and 11.5 pct in November 2014. In the EU, the unemployment rate was 9.1 pct in November from 9.2 pct in October and 10.0 pct in November last year.
 Greek unemployment rate eased to 24.5 pct in OctGreek unemployment rate eased to 24.5 pct of the workforce in October, from 26 pct in October 2014 and 24.6 pct in September, with the number of unemployed people amounting to 1,175,903, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that the number of unemployed people eased by 71,492 compared with October 2014 (a decline of 5.7 pct) and by 8,289 compared with September 2015 (a decline of 0.7 pct). The number of employed people totaled 3,630,449, up 86,295 compared with October 2014 (up 2.4 pct) but down by 2,191 compared with September (a decline of 0.1 pct).
The unemployment rate among women was 28.7 pct in October, down from 29.6 pct in October 2014, while among men it fell to 21 pct from 23.2 pct over the same months respectively.
The unemployment rate in the 15-24 age group fell to 48.6 pct in October, form 51.3 pct last year, in the 25-34 age group it fell to 30.9 pct from 34.2 pct, in the 35-44 age group it rose to 22.7 pct from 22.3 pct, in the 45-54 age group it fell to 19.6 pct from 20.8 pct, in the 55-64 age group it eased to 16.2 pct from 16.6 pct and in the 65-74 age group it fell to 10 pct from 12 pct.
Epirus-Western Macedonia (27.4 pct in October form 25.8 pct in October 2014) recorded the highest unemployment rate among the country's regions, followed by Thessaly-Central Greece (27.3 pct, 26.2 pct), Attica (25.1 pct from 26.9 pct), Crete (24.9 pct from 22.4 pct), Macedonia-Thrace (24.8 pct from 27.4 pct), Peloponese-Western Greece-Ionian Islands (23.9 pct from 24.9 pct) and Aegean (14.7 pct from 21 pct).
 Greek state overdue debt to the private sector down in NovThe Greek state's overdue debt to the private sector fell to 5.013 billion euros in November, from 5.144 billion in October, recording the first decline after several months of increases, the finance ministry said in a report released on Thursday.
The ministry report noted that tax returns to the private sector eased to 715 million euros in November from 758 million in October.
Social Insurance Organisations' debt (2.788 bln euros) accounted for the biggest part of overdue debt to the private sector in November (2.769 bln in October), followed by state hospitals (1.118 bln in November from 1.188 bln in October).
 Greek stocks end sharply lowerGreek stocks came under heavy selling pressure to end sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, amid sharp falls in international markets on concern about China and a collapse in international oil prices.
The composite index of the market dropped 4.35 pct to end at 590.75 points, falling below the 600-point level for the first time since mid-December. The index ended off the day's lows of 582.86 points. The Large Cap index fell 4.58 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.60 pct lower. Turnover was a heavy 113.455 million euros in volume of 156,174,974.
Ellaktor (0.71 pct) was the only blue chip stock to end higher, while Alpha Bank (8.70 pct), PPC (7.18 pct), Piraeus Bank (7.09 pct) and National Bank (6.65 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities. Among market sectors, Insurance (3.65 pct) and Chemicals (0.73 pct) scored big gains, while Banks (7.25 pct), Commerce (6.23 pct) and Raw Materials (5.49 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 80 to 20 with another 16 issues unchanged. Akritas (19.90 pct), Sfakianakis (19.27 pct) and Sidma (17.86 pct) were top gainers, while Athina (19.44 pct), Dionic (18.52 pct) and AEGEK (15.71 pct) were top losers.
 ADEX closing reportThe January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.48 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,958 contracts with 15,509 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 34,621 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (13,046), followed by Alpha Bank (7,274), Piraeus Bank (5,972), Eurobank (2,692), MIG (1,884), OTE (319), PPC (812), OPAP (556), Hellenic Exchanges (232), Mytilineos (690), Hellenic Petroleum (320), Motor Oil (122), GEK (214) and Jumbo (183).
 Stage and screen actress Anna Synodinou dies, aged 89Greek actress and politician Anna Synodinou, one of the foremost actresses of the stage in Greece and with a brief but notable career in film and television, died on Thursday at the age of 89.
She was elected to the Greek Parliament in 1972 with the New Democracy party and served a term as deputy minister for social services.
Her funeral will be held next Monday at the cemetery of the Athens district of Vyronas.
President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos contacted Synodinou's family on the telephone to express his condolences, while messages of condolence were sent by the prime minister and all the political party leaders.
 Domestic flights to be cancelled on Friday due to strikeA number of domestic flights are expected to be cancelled on Friday due to a 24-hour strike announced by the Federation of Civil Aviation Authority Unions (OSYPA).
The strike was announced on the occasion of the hearing-debate by the Council of State of the action of OSYPA, regions, bar associations and other bodies and trade unions, against the Greek state airports privatization agreement.
 Ferry services gradually being restored as winds weakenFerry services are gradually being restored on Thursday as northerly winds are weakening.
Earlier in the day, ferries remained docked in the ports of Piraeus, Rafina and Lavrio because of strong winds that reached 9 on the Beaufort scale.
Hydroplanes from the Attica mainland to and from the Saronic Gulf, however, remain docked.
 Woman arrested in northern Greece for suspected links to ISISA woman of Swiss-Egyptian nationality was arrested and was being detained at the police headquarters in the northeastern Greek city of Alexandroupolis on Thursday, due to suspected links with jihadist militant group ISIS. The woman was arrested while trying to pass from the Greek border into Turkey with her four-year-old son.
According to sources, she was detained on the basis of an outstanding warrant for her arrest issued by Interpol, after her husband in Egypt reported that she had kidnapped their child and left to join ISIS in the fighting in Syria.
 Blue Star Ferries installs pilot photovoltaic unit on the 'Blue Star Delos'Blue Star Ferries on Thursday announced the pilot installation and operation of a specially-adapted photovoltaic unit on the ship "Blue Star Delos" for a trial period to test its performance. According to the company's technicians, the unit is not currently hooked up to the ship's electrical systems but is eventually expected to generate up to 100 kilowatts, covering a large part of the power needed for the electric lighting systems.
The specific unit was tested for 12 months in tough weather conditions at sea, with promising results with respect to its durability. It has also won a Dutch award for its performance.
Attica Group, which owns Blue Star Ferries, has already decided to go ahead with a system upgrade that will maximise the unit's output to 100 kilowatts and to extend installation to other ships in its fleet of 13, in order to benefit from the zero pollution, silent operation and small maintenance cost offered by the specific technology.
Its use is expected to reduce use of the ships power generators and lower both fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Blue Star Ferries has been collaborating on with Eco Marine Power (EMP) and the Japanese firm Key System since October 2014 on the installation of the specific system.
 1,094 refugees arrive at Piraeus port on Thursday"Blue Star 1" and "Nisos Rhodos" with 1,094 refugees on board from Chios and Mytilene arrived at Piraeus port early on Thursday before the decision for all ferries to remain docked due to strong winds.
 Clouds on FridayClouds and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 04C-14C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts and temperatures between 13C-19C. Scattered clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 14C-19C. Mostly fair in Athens, 08C-17C. Same weather in Thessaloniki, 07C-13C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: Dark background
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Employers say "yes" under conditions
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: A 20 percent cut in pensions
ESTIA: A strategic solution for the social security system
ETHNOS: Harsh negotiations inside and outside borders
NAFTEMPORIKI: Shock for freelancers and farmers
TA NEA: Vote all together
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