|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 15 January 2016 Issue No: 5102
 PM Tsipras: Public administration is the country's 'huge patient'"I would say it is an honour and joy that this event coincides with the launch of a huge reform initiative that the government assumes with the view to meeting a commitment which the citizens and the public administration officers have heard so many times but unfortunately has never come into effect," stated Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in his greeting speech on Thursday at an event held for the 30-year anniversary of the operation of the National Center of Public Administration.
Tsipras called the public administration the country's "very ill patient" noting that "we must collectively find the way to cure it and to heal the pathogenies. But, in order to succeed, we must have a target, a plan and a vision."
He referred to the debate on "depoliticisation" of the public administration noting that "it is the wrong word". What is really needed is to abolish favouritism and collusion, he stated.
"The public administration, however, must be politicised in the sense that it should have a vision, a target, social orientations as well as social conscience. The public administration should offer high quality services to the civilians and the members of the community as well as to ensure the social cohesion and promotion of the social solidarity," underlined Tsipras.
 When all people are united, we can face terrorism and the humanitarian crisis, says President PavlopoulosPresident of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday highlighted the need for all countries to join together to meet the global challenges created by the refugee crisis and terrorism, in statements after his meeting in Moscow with Russian Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin.
Addressing Pavlopoulos, who is currently visiting Russia, Naryshkin hailed the Greek president's visit as extremely important for developing Greek-Russian bilateral relations.
"The relations of the two countries are not based only on our common historical roots, since we often have almost identical approaches to international issues. The known EU decisions hamper the full potential of our relations and we believe that we can overcome these problems. In your speech, you referred to very important issues, such as that laws must have the consent of citizens. These EU sanctions to not reflect the interests of our citizens and your excellent suggestions once again confirm the correctness of Greek views," Naryshkin said.
Pavlopoulos referred to Naryshkin's role as the "heart of the Russian State's Parliamentary system" and noted that "Russia has taken significant steps in the framework of representative democracy."
"I would like to stress to you that I - and by that I mean Greece - believe that the problems that have been created must be resolved as soon as possible. It is in the interests of Russia and the EU to normalise relations as quickly as possible and not just for economic reasons," he added.
He noted that the world faced global problems, such as the refugee crisis and international terrorism, that could only be faced by everyone together.
"Today we face huge challenges of war throughout the planet, which generate refugees and create conditions of an unprecedented and indescribable humanitarian crisis, which beyond this leads to blood that civilised humanity cannot possibly tolerate, from ruthless terrorists.
"We can no longer tolerate this situation, because it may possibly lead to irreparable consequences that we must avoid as fast as possible. Only jointly can we deal with the epicentres of war and peace-making. Only together can the democratic peoples carry out the fight against terrorists. Only jointly can we defend man in the present age," he said.
 The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy honours President PavlopoulosThe President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos is visiting Moscow after an invitation of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration that will be grant him an honorary degree. The President was welcomed by the Rector of the Academy Vladimir Mau.
During the ceremony, the President delivered a speech on "The Law between Natural Science and Law Science."
Later, Pavlopoulos will meet with the President of the Russian Duma Sergey Naryshkin. On Friday, is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
 Eurogroup: Lot of work has been done, Greece must send plan for pension system reformsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni, C. Vasilaki)
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem and European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on Thursday the institutions are waiting for Greece to submit specific fiscal proposals for reforming Greece's social security system.
Speaking to a joint press conference along with European Stability Mechanism Managing Director Klaus Regling after the Eurogroup meeting, the two officials stressed that these proposals should be sent "soon" from the Greek authorities so that teams of the institutions may visit Athens and start the first program review.
Dijsselbloem described the first review as "crucial", noting that apart from the social security reforms, there are other fiscal issues left open.
Moscovici said we are still in the beginning as far as the social security reforms are concerned which is a main issue for the first review. He reiterated that the climate of trust has been significantly improved concerning Greece after the implementation of many reforms by the Greek government.
On the same tone, the head of the Eurogroup said that the Greek prime minister and the finance minister are focused on implementing the program and that a lot of progress has been made since the summer.
On his side, Regling said that Greece's debt service needs will reach 4 billion euros in the first quarter of 2016, which means the completion of the first review must take place as soon as possible.
 Greek FinMin says he found 'sympathetic ears' in talks with EZ counterparts, in doorstep statement at EurogroupBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
In a brief doorstep statement as he arrived for a Eurogroup meeting here on Thursday, Greece's Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos reported finding "sympathetic ears" at every stop on his tour of six European capitals, for talks with his Eurozone counterparts on the Greek programme and other issues of European interest.
"I've just visited six other capitals, where I discussed with ministers of finance the progress of the Greek programme and issues of wider European interest, both economic and non-economic. Everywhere I went I had sympathetic ears and saw people looking for solutions, not problems," he said
 Dijsselbloem hails Greece's efforts in reforms, says proposal on social security system is 'serious'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem hailed the hard work of the Greek government on Thursday to do concerning the reforms of its social security system, said as he arrived at the meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Brussels
"I have to compliment the current Greek government because it has done a lot of work on a number of packages of reforms. Of course this program is frontloaded ... there are now a couple of issues on the table, the pension reform, some fiscal issues, the budget 2016 has some open issues, setting up the privatization fund," he said.
"If all that is done in the coming weeks and it has to be finalized with the institutions and we have a staff-level agreement from the institutions on that first review ... then we'll start political debates on debt sustainability. We promised to do that, we have to do with that, also to get the IMF aboard," he added.
Commenting on the proposal on the reforms of Greece's social security system revealed by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, he said it is a "serious proposal". "It's obvious they've done some serious work on that. It has to become financially sustainable proposal," he noted. He also said tonight's Eurogroup will not take any final decisions but will take stock of the progress which has been made so far.
Asked if there is a timeline for the next steps, Dijsselbloem said there isn't one but noted that it's a matter of months to wrap up with Greece: "It would rather be months than weeks." Commenting on his meeting with Tsakalotos, the Dutch official said that he confirmed the Greek government agrees with the participation of the IMF in the country's program.
 Schaeuble reports 'constructive talks' with Greek counterpart, says Greece making 'significant efforts'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
The Greek government is making significant efforts, while the delay in conducting the first review of the Greek programme was "understandable", German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said as he arrived for a Eurogroup meeting on Thursday.
He reported having "constructive talks" with his Greek counterpart Euclid Tsakalotos in Berlin on Wednesday and expressed his conviction that Greece will proceed with the implementation of the agreements "step-by-step".
The next step will be the review of the programme, which must be completed successfully, Schaeuble added.
 EU Commissioner Avramopoulos expresses concern over EU policies on migrationBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis)
EU Commissioner for Migration and Internal Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday expressed his concern over the effectiveness of EU policies in dealing with the refugee and migration crisis.
Avramopoulos was speaking before the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament.
The Greek Commissioner expressed his concern over the fact that around 4,000 people continue to arrive daily on the Greek islands, implying that cooperation of EU Member States on the refugee issue is insufficient and called the cooperation between Europe and Turkey problematic.
The College of Commissioners discussed the refugee crisis on Wednesday and examined the measures taken in 2015 as well as the initiatives to be announced in the spring of 2016.
"In 2016 we are at a crossroads. The decisions and actions that we will all take will determine the future of the Union. This is what is at stake today: To operate as a Union. First, we must urgently have tangible results in the reception centres (hotspots), relocation, return, European Border Guard and the normalization of the Schengen area. Second, we must be bold and look ahead," he underlined.
"This is why the Commission is already working hard on the revision of the Dublin system and the establishment of a permanent resettlement program as well as a comprehensive package of measures on legal migration and integration. We must not lose sight of the bigger picture," he added.
 Alt. FM Xydakis: 'Greece saved Europe's honour by saving refugees in 2015'Alternate Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis hailed Greece's role in saving lives of refugees in 2015 saying it "saved Europe's honour", following a meeting with German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth in Berlin.
"Greece saved Europe's honour by saving more than 100,000 people in 2015 at its sea borders. Germany does the same by welcoming one million refugees," Xydakis told Roth, according to a press release, adding that the EU must focus on the geopolitical reasons fuelling the refugee crisis. "What is happening and the way Europe is responding constitutes a crash test for the Union."
He also send the message that Greece is fulfilling its obligations towards its European partners announcing that the country is expected to complete all its obligations within February.
On his side, Roth told Xydakis that the refugee crisis is of great concern to German public opinion and emphasized that there must be a fair and effective allocation of refugees to all EU countries and improve the overall management process of refugee flows.
The German minister also asked to be briefed on the progress on the Greek economic program and the social security reforms promoted by the government, noting the latter is a very difficult task which would have been just as tough for Germany to implement. Both ministers agreed that Greece needs investments aimed at tackling unemployment and that Germany's role to that direction could be very positive.
Roth also asked Xydakis to brief him on the Cyprus issue and Greece's relations with FYROM as well as on the possibility of finding solutions on these issues within 2016, noting that this would be very positive for those involved as well as Europe.
 Climate with creditors positive, says gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili"There is a positive climate with the creditors that is also confirmed by them," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili on Thursday said in statements to public ERT1 TV.
Gerovassili noted that the discussion on debt has "matured" and the programme review will proceed as initially planned. After the conclusion of the evaluation, which is expected in February, the discussion on the debt will begin, she said.
Asked on IMF's role, she said that the IMF will decide in the spring whether it will remain in the Greek programme or not, now it participates as a technical advisor. She underlined that "the Greek government has always believed that Europe alone should solve its problems" and that "the presence of the IMF in Europe was not a welcomed development."
Regarding the El Dorando company, she stressed that the country has rules, laws and these laws equal for all. "The Greek government cannot yield to the threat that a company will leave or stay for whatever investment activity," she noted and added that the Greek government wants investments, but it wants investments that will help the economy and reduce unemployment, but obviously this cannot be done by accepting practices for non-payment of fines and non-compliance with decisions.
"Greece wants investments, and it is trying to create a favourable investment climate with rules and conditions. We want fairness, healthy businesses, healthier entrepreneurship for the benefit of the entrepreneurs but also in terms of public interest and environmental protection," she added.
 Government's proposal on social security is sustainable and well-founded, says ANEL leader Kammenos"The social security bill is the penultimate bill that, before the draft law on agriculture, is causing trouble," stated Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Thursday said in an interview with private ANT1 TV, noting however, that a very constructive dialogue is held with Labour Minister George Katrougalos who is open to new proposals.
Kammenos said that the government's proposal gives, for the first time, solution to the social security funds adding that if there are no changes, the social security system will never become sustainable provided that the pensioners outnumber the workers.
He claimed that the government gives lenders a sustainable and well-founded proposal noting that if there wasn't the SYRIZA-ANEL government, the pensions would be 220-250 euros. "After very harsh negotiations, we managed to protect the pensions," he said adding that "after the social security system we will discuss the debt reduction that the IMF and Europe request."
Referring to growth, he explained the opportunities for the economy in the sector of tourism, mineral resources and defence industry.
 Greece needs to carry out 'credible' pension reforms to complete first review, Moscovici saysBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici stressed the need for "credible reforms, as outlined in the memorandum" to Greece's pension system in a statement as he arrived for Thursday's Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, while noting that cooperation with the Greek government was "good".
He said the focus with regard to Greece during Thursday's Eurogroup will be on pension reforms, noting that several major reforms have been voted into law and will now enter into force in order for Greece's economy to return to growth.
Moscovici also noted that the first review must be completed in order for a discussion to begin on Greece's debt and that this required a credible reform plan for the country's pension system.
"We will look at the necessary parameters but it is too early to talk in detail," he added.
 What Britain wants is a viable solution for Cyprus, says British FM HammondBritish Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, who pays in Athens, reiterated Britain's neutral stance on the issue of guarantees.
"Britain does not have self-interest in the maintenance of the current system or whatever system in the future," he said noting that the only thing that interests Britain is a standing and sustainable solution either the selected model includes a role for Britain or not. We are for a viable solution for Cyprus and I believe that my collegues from Greece and Turkey agree on this. What we desire is a viable solution for Cyprus and we will do whatever possible for this to happen," he stated at the joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias after the end of their meeting in Athens on Thursday.
Apart from the Cyprus issue, Kotzias and Hammond discussed, as they said, Britain's position in the EU and the reforms EU seeks for a EU with vision and social context, the confrontation of terrorism and of the Islamic State and the end of the civil war in Syria as well as the condition in the Balkans and Turkey to which Hammond will visit after Athens.
Both sides agreed to further enhance the relations between their ministries and the countries.
 EU Parliament President Schulz sees possibility of Cyprus reunification in 2016BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)
European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday said that a resolution of the Cyprus issue and a reunification of the island in 2016 was "possible", while outlining the EuroParliament's priorities for the coming year.
"I think it's possible to achieve reunification of Cyprus and negotiation between the two groups on the island is looking very promising at the moment," he said.
"We must do everything within [the] power of EU institutions to ensure we play our part in a constructive outcome," Schulz added.
If the divided island's reunification was achieved in the coming year, it could act as a symbol that would send a message of hope to the international community, Schulz said.
 Mitsotakis addresses ND lawmakers for first time as party leader, slams gov't for 'tsunami of populism'Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday gave his inaugural speech as party president to ND's Parliamentary group, thanking the MPs "for keeping ND upright in 2015, during the tsunami of populism that swept the country."
"The country's political map has changed; it is not the same from the moment that 400,000 citizens took the situation into their own hands. Their mandate is that we proceed united to the renewal of ND, so that it once again becomes a major centre-right party," Mitsotakis said.
He warned that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras should not expect ND to act as a crutch, stepping in to give support as and when it was needed. His mandate from ND voters was to be a tough and responsible opposition, Mitsotakis added, not support Tsipras.
"ND provided support in the summer when the country was in danger of being left outside European institutions. Following that, however, Mr. Tsipras chose his government partner after the elections," Mitsotakis pointed out.
According to ND's leader, the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government "was seriously harming Greece" and was the final chapter of "populism and political amoralism" that ND would now close.
Mitsotakis made a single exception on this issue of revising the Constitution, however, saying he would raise this in his first meeting with Tsipras.
Mitsotakis went on to highlight the need for Greece to attract investments and the necessity of reforms.
"We believed in the reforms, which we will explain to the Greek people. If the government does not manage to attract 100 billion euros in investments in the next years, the country will not emerge from the crisis," he said.
On the issue of the gold mines in Skouries, Mitsotakis said the government was sending the wrong message to those thinking of investing in the country and dismissed the legality concerns invoked by the government as a mere pretext.
The newly elected ND leader then outlined his next moves in order to reorganise the party, announcing that a regular party conference will be held as soon as possible, while some possibly painful changes will be immediate, including a switch to exclusively private funding and a move away from the expensive party headquarters on Syggrou Avenue.
"ND will from now on be supported by private financing. We will appeal to our members and as for a little bit from many...We will build a party that is not ossified, which will talk with society. We will open ND to society and once again make it a dominant political force."
He announced that the new Parliamentary group secretary will be Costas Tsiaras, with Nikos Dendias, Yiannis Vroutsis and Niki Kerameos as Parliamentary spokespeople.
 Foreign Ministry condemns bombing attacks in Jakarta"We unequivocally condemn the deadly bombing attacks that took place today in the heart of Jakarta," the Foreign ministry said in announcement on Thursday.
"We express our grief at this horrible act, and our deep condolences to the families of the victims. Greece stands at Indonesia's side. We are all united in the fight against terrorism," it added.
 Holy Synod again refuses to sanction cremationThe Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece on Thursday repeated its steadfast refusal to sanction the practice of cremation, in an announcement issued on Thursday.
"The Holy Synod refuses [to accept] that it is dignified for the deceased to be burned in a furnace," it said after a meeting chaired by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos. The Church, the announcement added, considers the human body "a temple for the Holy Spirit" and for this reason declines to treat the dead body "as a 'solid waste' in the manner of supporters of cremation."
At another point in the announcement, the Holy Synod said that it "was hard to discern any great difference between modern 'cremation' of the dead and the process of recycling waste."
The announcement was issued after the Holy Synod considered the measures introduced by a draft bill due to be passed in Parliament, according to which each individual will be permitted to choose, among others, the "type of funeral service" he or she will have and makes their choice binding for all bodies or services "overseeing the burial of the dead" provided that it is compatible with rules of public order, hygiene and morality.
The members of the Synod claim that the wording of the law violates the religious freedom of the Orthodox Church, "whose priests cannot be by law obliged to perform the funeral rites for someone that has asked for a religious funeral but, in the same or other statement, has opted to cremate his or her body."
 First 20 suspects on UBS depositors' list summoned to testifyGreece's financial prosecutors on Thursday sent out the first 20 summons to suspects on a list of Greek depositors with large bank accounts at UBS, asking them to account for the provenance of their deposits. All 20 appeared on the so-called 'Borjans' list sent to Greek authorities from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia - named after its finance minister Norbert Walter Borjans.
According to sources, the recipients of the summons are mostly doctors and lawyers suspected of tax evasion and they have been asked to provide documentation to explain the size of their cash transfers to the Swiss branch of UBS and to show that they have been taxed for these amounts in Greece.
Before charges are brought, all the suspects under investigation will be given an opportunity to declare any additional income and pay taxes on it, in which case they will avoid a criminal prosecution and may even qualify for favourable tax treatment.
The prosecutors will soon be sending out a second set of summons, since they have identified the overwhelming majority of the individuals and legal entities on the list of 10,500 depositors.
The first summons issued coincide with Borjans' visit to Greece, with the signature of an agreement for cooperation in cases of tax evasion to be signed on Saturday.
 Tax authority slaps provisional 3.3-mln-euro fine to aide of former PM SamarasGreece's audit center for taxpayers with large wealth charged on Thursday a close aide of former prime minister Antonis Samaras, the lawyer Stavros Papastavrou, with a provisional fine totaling 3.3 million euros in connection with a bank deposit found in an HSBC Swiss bank account and sums recorded in the so-called 'Lagarde list'.
Last year, Papastavrou and his mother, who is also listed as one of the account holders along with Papastavrou's now deceased father, was summoned before a financial prosecutor to explain how they gained possession of some 5.4 million euros held in the account. The charges against them include those of tax evasion and money laundering.
The ongoing investigation into the "Lagarde list" revealed that the bank account belongs to Papastavrou and his parents and the prosecutor ruled after an extensive tax audit that he has to pay 3.3 million for the years 2000-2012.
Papastavrou denied the charges and argued that he's a "political target" and that authorities "are trying to condemn him with evidence of unknown origin or with no evidence at all".
 IMF reiterates intention to join funding of Greek program if conditions are metThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) reiterated on Thursday its intention to participate in Greece's economic program both in an advisory and in a funding capacity as soon as deep reforms and a debt relief are agreed, the Fund's spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference, Rice also said that a meeting has been planned between IMF's head Christine Lagarde and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the annual World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos.
He also confirmed that the Fund has received Greece's proposals for the reforms of the pension and social security system which are being examined. "We have not completed their evaluation. We'll discuss them with the Greek authorities and the European partners in the framework of the [program] review," he said.
Continuing on the issue of Greece's social security system, Rice said that the proposed reforms are necessary as the funding of the system through the country' s budget has reached 10 pct of GDP; a percentage that threatens fiscal stability.
 SEV criticises gov't policy on public sector employment"[An] increased labour burden with taxes and social insurance contributions reduces employment, especially in combination with high minimum wages and a widespread use of collective labour agreements," the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) said on Thursday.
In a weekly bulletin on economic developments, SEV noted that preserving and increasing job positions in the private sector did not only demand promoting structural reforms, low taxation of wage labour and attracting investments, but active policies to boost employment were also needed, adding that social partners recently agreed on a temporary increase in social insurance contributions.
The Federation criticised the government for planning an increase in spending on wages in the public sector and for its stance towards private investments. "While the government tries to safeguard fiscal stability, with measures cutting pensions and benefits worth 1.8 billion euros, along with an increased tax burden worth 3.0 billion euros, which will hit basically individual taxpayers and enterprises, an increase in spending on wages in the public sector is noted. A reversal of a trend to put public spending in order undermines the sacrifices inflicted on workers and enterprises in the private sector throughout the crisis, when one in four citizens is still unemployed and the outlook of exiting the recession remained uncertain," it said in the bulletin.
According to figures noted by SEV, civil servants' wages were the highest in the EU (compared with the wages of total labor market), while the government planned an annual increase in wages of up to 107 million euros in 2016-2017, rising to 143 million euros in 2018. At the same time, public sector hirings are rising while retirements are falling.
"Lack of willingness in the political system to hit employment in the public sector, beyond certain points, led to huge counterbalancing increases in the tax burden and horizontal cuts in pensions of the general population," the Federation said, adding "the number of workers in the public sector was not put into question, although it is obvious that preserving an overcrowded public sector was leading to inability to raise wages in the future and to a constant pressure on the living standards of workers in the private sector, along with further pensions cuts."
SEB also noted it was unacceptable that government actions were leading to the suspension of investments (Hellas Gold), breaking contracts (OPAP) and delaying investment initiatives (Cosco, TrainOSE, Hellenikon, etc). "Unemployment cannot be combated with the creation of virtual employment, while the public sector cannot replace private companies as an employer of productive and efficient job positions".
 ECB lowers borrowing ceiling for Greek banksEuropean Central Bank further lowered the borrowing ceiling for Greek banks through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism (ELA) to 72 billion euros, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in an announcement, said that ECB's board approved Bank of Greece's request to lower the borrowing ceiling by 3.8 billion euros until Thursday, 21 January.
The decline in the ELA borrowing ceiling reflects an improving liquidity of Greek banks as uncertainty eased that private sector deposit flows stabilized. A successful recapitalization exercise of Greek banks was an additional positive factor.
 Greek tourism thrives in 2015 recording a 5.7 pct rise in arrivalsInternational tourist arrivals in Greece increased 5.7 pct in 2015 compared to 2014, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said on Thursday, announcing its official data collected from the country's airports.
According to the report, 843,000 more tourists came to Greece in 2015, with the total number of airport arrivals reaching 15.5 million. In December, Athens maintained its robust numbers with a 15.5 pct rise in arrivals compared to the same period of 2014, while for the entire year the Greek capital achieved an impressive 22.6 pct jump.
For the rest of the country, the Ionian and Cycladic islands secured the lion's share of tourists in 2015 recording a 3.7 pct and 15 pct boost in international arrivals respectively, while the Dodecanese, Crete and the Peloponnese showed a drop of 2 pct, 0.8 pct and 12.3 pct respectively for the same period.
Excluding Athens, the country as a whole recorded a slight drop in arrivals (about 1,000 less) in December of 2015, compared to the same period in 2014, but an increase (about 77,000 more passengers) for the full year.
 Greek gov't seeks to lower cost of card transactionsAlternate Finance Minister Tryfon Alexiadies will soon sent a letter to all Greek banks to lower their fees on card transactions and said that all necessary actions to lower the cost of purchasing and maintenance of POS machines will be taken.
Speaking in Parliament, Alexiadis said the ministry will take all necessary actions on electronic transactions to enhance a fight towards corruption and smuggling.
He said that the Finance ministry and banks must cooperate to change a prevailing view and to implement regulations and not just for some of them to raise their profits. "If we expand the use of banking transactions there will be a social benefit. There must be cooperation with everyone to have the best results," the minister said.
 Dialogue on TTIP continues; there are improvements, Economy Min Stathakis saysWe are not close to an agreement, but the dialogue continues, Economy Minister George Stathakis said on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Stathakis was speaking at an event of VouliWatch and ThePressProject.
The minister pointed out that Greece accepts that the reduction of duties might enhance trade, but the TransatlanticTrade and Investment Partnership is not only this, it is a very complicated issue and there are aspects of the agreement with which the Greek government has disagreed.
However, he noted that there have been some improvements through the dialogue such as increasing transparency and a new system of solving differences.
 Hellenic Financial Stability Fund rejects reports onThomopoulosHellenic Financial Stability Fund on Thursday dismissed press reports alleging that the Fund has requested the resignation of A. Thomopoulos from Piraeus Bank. In an announcement, the Fund denied it has made any such request and noted that in the framework of the Fund's statute and according to the memorandum signed with the country's creditors, Hellenic Financial Stability Fund has begun an evaluation process for the boards of the four systemic banks. This evaluation will be conducted with the support of an international consultant in the period February-June 2016.
 Hellenic Post to expand in energy, logistics marketsHellenic Post will channel more than 300 million euros to state coffers in the next five years through a new reorganisation programme, envisaging the expansion of activities in the energy and logistics sectors, along with the introduction of new products, Kostis Melahrinos, chairman and chief executive of Hellenic Post sad on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, during a press conference, Melahrinos said that Hellenic Post will participate in a consortium to seek the purchase of a new logistics center in Thriasio Pedio, in the framework of an international tender announced by GaiaOSE. He said that Hellenic Post has submitted in December an application for licensing in the energy market (with a power production unit of 350MW) and stressed that the company will focus on the retail market offering combined services, without offering more detail.
"Hellenic Post are entering the energy market because they can. We will be present, supporting the achievement of a goal to transfer PPC's clientele and covering gaps in a market that the private sector cannot fill," Melahrinos said.
He announced that Hellenic Post will be transformed into a courier-logistics company and that it will participate in a tender to buy the logistics center in Thriasio Pedio. Hellenic Post has already signed a partnership agreement with China Post to send packages in Europe.
Melahrinos said that Hellenic Post will present profits of 5.0 million euros in 2015, up from 4.4 million in 2014.
 Tax and custom revenues up 0.08 pct in 2015Greek budget revenues from tax agencies and custom offices grew 0.08 pct in 2015, compared with 2014, after a 12.22 pct increase recorded in December, the Finance ministry said on Thursday.
In an announcement, the ministry said that net revenues amounted to 46.414 billion euros in 2015, from 46.375 billion in 2014 (an increase of 0.08 pct). Budget revenues were down 1.34 pct in the January-November period.
However, budget revenues fell short of budget targets by 4.54 pct. Tax returns were down by 660.085 million euros in 2015 compared with 2014. In December, reveneus totaled 5.468 billion euros, from 4.873 billion in 2014 (an increase of 12.22 pct), of which tax revenues grew 7.2 pct and customs revenues rose 3.70 pct. On a cash basis, total budget revenues surpassed budget targets by 1.9 billion euros.
 Premium insurance production down 5.9 pct in Jan-NovPremium production in the domestic insurance market fell by 5.9 pct in the January-November period last year, compared with the same period in 2014, official figures showed on Thursday.
A report by the Association of Insurance Companies of Greece said that premium production in life insurance contracts dropped 28 pct in November compared with the same month in 2014, while general insurance contract production fell 2.0 pct in the month, for a 16.6 pct decline in premium production in November. The domestic insurance market was hit by the imposition of capital controls as premium production was up 15 pct in the first six months of 2015 and fell by 24.3 pct in the next five months.
 Greek import price index down 8.8 pct in NovGreece's industrial import price composite index fell by 8.8 pct in November 2015, compared with the same month in 2014, after a 7.8 pct decline recorded in the 2014-2013 period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, attributed this development in the so-called imported inflation to a 0.4 pct decline in the import price index from Eurozone countries and a 15.9 pct drop in the import price index from countries outside Eurozone (reflecting a drop in international oil prices).
The import price index fell 1.0 pct in November from October 2015, after a 2.7 pct decline recorded in the same period in 2014.
 EU rules against Greece on vehicle registration tax for leased or rented carsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis)
The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled against Greece on tax rules for vehicles leased or rented to Greek residents by non-Greek lessors.
The European Commission decided in November to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union for its failure to amend registration tax rules for vehicles leased or rented to Greek residents by non-Greek lessors.
Under Greek law, if a customer resident in Greece leases or rents a vehicle from a lessor established in another Member State, registration tax needs to be paid in Greece in full. Greece has failed to address the issue of cross-border leasing or renting of cars in its legislation, thereby disregarding European Court of Justice case-law on this matter that requires Member States, in the case of cross-border leasing or rent, to levy a tax proportionate to the duration of the use of the vehicle. This may act as a deterrent to cross-border activity, going against the principles of free movement of services set down in the treaties.
 Greek stocks end sharply lowerGreek stocks came under renewed heavy selling pressure to end sharply lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit by a deteriorating climate in international markets amid a plunging oil price and a new terrorist hit in Indonesia.
The composite index of the market ended 2.62 pct lower at 573.92 points, off the day's lows of 571 points. The Large Cap index fell 3.16 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.35 pct higher. Turnover was an improved 118.63 million euros in volume of 118,678,080.
All blue chip stocks ended lower, led by Piraeus Bank (7.14 pct), PPC (5.43 pct), Mytilineos (5.18 pct), OTE (3.69 pct) and National Bank (3.68 pct). Alpha Bank's share will be listed in the Stoxx 600 index again on Friday, after their delisting in June 22, 2015.
National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day.
Among market sectors, Insurance (1.54 pct) and Technology (0.86 pct) scored big gains, while Raw Materials, (5.03 pct), Utilities (3.98 pct) and Telecoms (3.69 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 69 to 27 with another 22 issues unchanged. Dromeas (26.67 pct), Sfakianakis (20 pct) and Boutaris (19.44 pct) were top gainers, while Vioter (18.79 pct), AEGEK (16 pct) and Livanis Publications (9.92 pct) were top losers.
 ADEX closing reportThe January contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.22 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,744 contracts with 16,057 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 40,288 contracts with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (11,801), followed by National Bank (10,484), Piraeus Bank (10,797), Eurobank (2,425), MIG (274), OTE (968), PPC (742), OPAP (731), Hellenic Exchanges (145), Mytilineos (579), Hellenic Petroleum (251), GEK (175), Ellaktor (125), Jumbo (364) and Frigoglass (134).
 Police waiting body of pensioner to defrost to conduct an autopsyThe coroner has to wait for the body of the pensioner found in a freezer to defrost in order to conduct an autopsy that will reveal the causes of the death and will shed light on the case.
The victim was discovered on Tuesday bound hands and feet with his mouth sealed with a tape and covered with a sheet in a freezer in an appartment at the Athens district of Kallithea by a bailiff who went to hand over a foreclosure warrant to a 45-year-old Bulgarian woman that was living and had a child with the victim.
According to the coroner, the 65-year-old pensioner seaman's body was is the freezer for approximately one year.
Police's investigation focuses not only on the Bulgarian woman but also on her 27-year old son that she had from her first marriage. The woman had left Greece with her under age child a few days before the victim's missing was reported by a relative. The same person said to the police that a large sum of money is missing from the pensioner's bank account.
The Greek police believes that the 45-year-old Bulgarian and her 27-year-old son are in Bulgaria and has informed Interpol.
 Supreme Court orders retrial for 36 acquitted in 1999 'bubble stocks' caseGreece's Supreme Court on Thursday rescinded an Athens Criminal Appeals Court ruling that acquitted 36 defendants of charges in the notorious 1999 'bubble-stocks' case on the Athens exchange. Adopting the recommendation of Deputy Supreme Court Prosecutor Haralambos Vourliotis, it ordered a retrial on the grounds that the original court decision to acquit was not justified to the standards required by the Constitution and the penal code.
The 36 defendants in the case were business people, investors, brokers and ship owners that allegedly colluded to manipulate the Athens exchange and create 'bubble stocks' in 1999. They faced charges of fraud and money-laundering.
 Three ferries with refugees to dock at Piraeus port on Thursday"Blue Star 1" ferry carried 1,036 refugees from Mytilene and 135 refugees from Chios to the Piraeus port on Thursday.
Another two ships with around 1,000 refugees on board are expected to arrive within the day.
 Man infected by mutated flu virus diesA 59-year-old man who was treated in the IC of Larissa hospital infected by a mutated strain of influenza died on Thursday.
The man, who had also other health problems, was infected by the mutated flu virus H3N2.
 Patras Carnival opening ceremony postponed due to adverse weather conditionsThe opening ceremony of Patras Carnival scheduled for Saturday 16 January has been postponed, according to a Patras municipality announcement on Thursday.
According to the announcement "the adverse weather conditions expected to prevail on Saturday afternoon led the council to postpone the Carnival's kick off. The opening ceremony will take place on Saturday 23 January.
 Partly cloudy on FridayClouds, rain and southerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 05C-18C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts and temperatures between 07C-19C. Partly cloudy over the Aegean islands and Crete, 13C-20C. Clouds in the morning and rain in the evening in Athens, 06C-17C; the same for Thessaloniki, 05C-15C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Changes in public administration
DIMOKRATIA: Fees at public schools
ETHNOS: Single taxes-contributions for everyone
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Fees at public schools
ESTIA: Europe of less responsibility
IMERISSIA: Battle in the port
KATHIMERINI: Life bridges
NAFTEMPORIKI: Yes, but...
RIZOSPASTIS: Mobilisations against the social security reforms
TA NEA: (ECB chief Mario) Draghi, (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble and IMF put pressure on social security reforms
TO PONTIKI: Duel over the memorandum
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 210 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 210 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: MICHALIS PSILOS