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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-22

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

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

Friday January 22, 2016

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Tsipras' meeting with EU Commissioner Moscovici friendly and constructive, says EC spokesperson Breidthardt
  • [02] PM Tsipras at WEF in Davos: Europe's problems need 'more Europe'
  • [03] PM Tsipras: Europe must launch its growth agenda
  • [04] Tsipras, Lagarde agree first program review should not be delayed
  • [05] Tsipras presents data on Greek economy to U.S. Treasury Sec. Lew
  • [06] PM Tsipras: Greece needs to turn from part of the problem into part of the solution
  • [07] EU is determined to deal effectively with terror attacks, EU Commissioner Avramopoulos says
  • [08] S&P says successful implementation of Greek programme could lead to credit rating upgrade
  • [09] Greece-Fyrom buffer zone still closed; large number of refugees awaiting at the camp
  • [10] New Democracy shares the farmers' concern
  • [11] Crossing point at Idomeni opened for refugees with final destination Germany or Austria
  • [12] Alt. Agriculture Min: Gov't welcomes mobilisations when are within the legitimate democratic functioning
  • [13] Defence Minister Kammenos holds talks with Jordanian officials in Amman
  • [14] FM Kotzias to visit Berlin on Fri. for meeting with Steinmeier
  • [15] New head of Public Revenues pledges to simplify tax administration
  • [16] ND calls for caution when commenting, after Schaeuble speech in Davos panel
  • [17] Institutions want big cuts in pensions, Labour ministry sources say
  • [18] European Parliament approved to monitor implementation of Greek aid program
  • [19] No pensions cuts were demanded by the institutions, Labour ministry source says
  • [20] Government to insist on legislation for TV licenses, says official
  • [21] Foreign groups express interest to invest in Greece; Suez Group VP statement to ANA-MPA
  • [22] Work on 'very important' TAP project will begin this year, BP Group chief Bob Dudley tells ANA-MPA
  • [23] ECB lowers ELA borrowingceiling for Greek banks
  • [24] Greek shipowners rebuff EU decision on taxation
  • [25] Greek economy to shrink by 1.5 pct this year, IOBE
  • [26] Greek travel services surplus up 7.0 pct in Jan-Nov
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] Greek competition market authority aprpoved Metro-Veropoulos deal
  • [29] Intralot wins 10-year contract in Chile
  • [30] Greek stocks continue moving lower
  • [31] Greek journalists to hold 24-hour strike on Jan. 28
  • [32] PNO announces new seamen's strike on Jan, 27-28
  • [33] Greece presents 2015's record tourism numbers to head of WTO in Madrid
  • [34] Nature wins over nurture for brown bears trading zoo life for Arcturos shelter
  • [35] Ecumenical Patriarch to chair meeting of Orthodox Church
  • [36] Weather Forecast
  • [37] Athens News Headlines at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Tsipras' meeting with EU Commissioner Moscovici friendly and constructive, says EC spokesperson Breidthardt

    BRUSSELS(ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)--- European Commission spokesperson Annika Breidthardt said that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a friendly and constructive exchange of views on the Greek programme with European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs on Wednesday afternoon at Davos.

    The French Commissioner underlined the importance of an "ambitious pension reform plan" and the need the Greek privatisations fund to start its operation. Both are conditions in order the first review of the Greek programme to be completed soon and successfully" added Breidthardt.

    Asked on whether the two officials' meeting paved the way for the arrival of the heads of the institutions in Athens, she replied that as soon as they have all the information they want from the Greek authorities they will return to Athens. For the time being, she added, the deliberations continue at technical level and progress has been recorded.

    [02] PM Tsipras at WEF in Davos: Europe's problems need 'more Europe'

    Solving Europe's problems required "more Europe," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday, while participating in a World Economic Forum (WEF) panel in Davos, Switzerland.

    "We are doing what we can in order to progress quickly and smoothly with the implementation of the agreement," Tsipras said, and expressed hope that the disagreements and different views that occasionally arose between the three institutions representing the country's creditors would not be the cause of further delays.

    "This is not the time for various 'exits', whether these concern 'Grexit' or 'Brexit', or for divisions, or walls, or differentiations," the Greek premier continued. "It is a time for more Europe: Common rules, deepening democracy, strengthening solidarity, an increased European budget in order to restrict inequalities, banking union with a European system for guaranteeing deposits," he added.

    According to Tsipras, it was time for Europe to return to its founding principles, which were those of democracy, solidarity and social cohesion.

    Addressing issues raised by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said the International Monetary Fund's presence in the Greek programme was essential and compared asking German lawmakers to sanction its removal to "going into a room full of dynamite with a lit candle", Tsipras made the following comment:

    "I too am no supporter of the view that one should attempt to light a candle in a room full of dynamite. Neither, however, do I have the view that on this account one must constantly be in the dark. The best solution is to remove the dynamite from the room and then light the candle."

    Tsipras pointed out that not everyone in Europe had the same opinion about the IMF's role and significance in European affairs. "This is not because we looked down on the IMF but because some of us believed that Europe can handle all these things perfectly well on its own," he said.

    In spite of this, he added, things had moved on, the various opinions had been voiced and in the last negotiations on Greece, some countries asked for the fund's participation in the programme. Greece had agreed, so that there would be an agreement, and was now doing its utmost to ensure that this agreement was implemented quickly and smoothly, he said.

    In a comment regarding competitiveness, Tsipras also highlighted the issue of productivity.

    "In addition to wanting to become more competitive, which means we must outdo our neighbour in competitiveness, we must also talk about the the issue of productivity. To become more productive, in other words more efficient, means that we improve and through our improvement we can benefit our neighbour," he said.

    He pointed out that labour cost was not the only issue affecting productivity and competitiveness and that there were a series of criteria that had to be addressed in order to make an economy more productive and competitive. The prime minister said that he was very glad that there was now a common agreement between the productive classes in Greece.

    "The government agreed with the employer associations to share the burden with society and they agreed to a very small increase in contributions so that we do not have the 13th successive cut in current pensions and go to a viable pension system," he said.

    [03] PM Tsipras: Europe must launch its growth agenda

    The refugees issue is a European problem which needs to be dealt with collectively, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday said in his intervention at a panel within the framework of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

    Tsipras referred to the humanitarian and political side of the problem, noting that is a disgrace that so many people die in the Aegean in their attempt to reach the Greek coasts. He underlined that the solution to the problem is all EU member states to cooperate.

    He also referred to the Greek government's effort to face corruption and bureaucracy problems stressing that only through growth will Greece be able to cope with the crisis and at the same time welcome foreign investments.

    Europe must launch its growth agenda in order to proceed, said Tsipras and stressed the need to face the serious unemployment problems.

    French Prime Minister Manuel Vals, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and German Finance Minister Wofgang Schaeuble participated in the panel.

    [04] Tsipras, Lagarde agree first program review should not be delayed

    Neither Greece, nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) want to delay the completion of the country's first program review, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Fund's head Christine Lagarde agreed during a meeting in Davos on Thursday.

    According to the prime minister's office, Tsipras and Lagarde agreed that the government and the IMF should have direct communication so that each side has a clear understanding of each other's position.

    The prime minister also briefed Lagarde on the audits conducted by Greek authorities for possible tax evaders who have bank counts abroad, noting it is the first time that there is political will to investigate those cases and not cover them up. Finally, he said the government is hoping to collect a significant part of this money by introducing a legislation of "selfreporting".

    [05] Tsipras presents data on Greek economy to U.S. Treasury Sec. Lew

    The Greek economy was discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.

    According to a press release by Tsipras' office, the prime minister presented to Lew the government plan of reforms, as well as the fiscal and macroeconomic data concerning the Greek economy. The two sides also discussed the United States' position on the need to restructure the country's debt.

    [06] PM Tsipras: Greece needs to turn from part of the problem into part of the solution

    "When a businessman wants to get a loan in Greece, he pays 7 percent interest rate, in northern Europe it is just 1 percent. Therefore, we need common tax and fiscal rules, we need to address the issue of unemployment," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that we cannot have countries with 25 percent unemployment in the heart of the eurozone, in the heart of Europe.

    "We need to take brave steps ahead, we need more Europe, more solidarity and social cohesion," he added.

    Tsipras underlined that "Greece needs to turn from part of the problem into part of the solution."

    The Greek prime minister noted that Europe is facing a triple crisis; the economic crisis from which Europe had not yet managed to escape, the refugee crisis and the instability crisis, and added that "it is time for Europe to return to its founding principles, which are democracy, solidarity and social cohesion."

    On the refugees issue, he said that it is a European problem which needs to be dealt with collectively. He referred to the humanitarian and political side of the problem, noting that is a disgrace that so many people die in the Aegean in their attempt to reach the Greek coasts.

    He underlined that the solution to the problem is all EU member states to cooperate. He also referred to the Greek government's effort to face corruption and bureaucracy problems stressing that only through growth will Greece be able to cope with the crisis and at the same time welcome foreign investments.

    [07] EU is determined to deal effectively with terror attacks, EU Commissioner Avramopoulos says

    EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday expressed EU's determination to deal effectively with terror attacks.

    Avramopoulos was addressing the European Parliament plenary, in Strasbourg, on terror issues.

    "2015 was a turning point in the way Europe experienced terrorism," he stated pointing out that the terror threat in EU is very high.

    The Greek Commissioner underlined that the EU is "determined to respond with determination and resilience while respecting the principles of tolerance, democracy and respect to the fundamental human rights."

    2016 will be the year that we will prosecute the profits from terror actions, Avramopoulos added.

    "We have to deprive terrorists of financial resources. In early February we will present our proposals within a specific timetable," he said. "It is clear that we need to improve the management of our external borders with the aim of improving internal security and the preservation of the Schengen area," Avramopoulos underlined.

    [08] S&P says successful implementation of Greek programme could lead to credit rating upgrade

    Greece's credit rating could be upgraded to B, from CCC+ after completion of a first review of the Greek economic adjustment programme, disbursement of loans according to a ESM schedule and probably combined with an ECB decision to begin accepting Greek state bonds as collateral again, Standard & Poor's said on Thursday.

    In a report on Eurozone Rating Trends 2016, S&P said that a stable outlook for Greece's credit rating in the next 12 months showed that review risks were balanced. "A successful implementation by Greece of programme elements would probably contribute to enhancing its compressed dynamic for investments and growth and could help the government to create a good will among its official creditors for a further debt restructuring," S&P said, adding that "on the other hand, we could downwgrade Greece's credit ratings if the new government failed to implement reforms agreed in a memorandum signed with the European Commission".

    S&P expects the Greek economy to record zero growth rates this year and to grow by 3.0 pct in 2017 and 2018.

    [09] Greece-Fyrom buffer zone still closed; large number of refugees awaiting at the camp

    The buffer zone between Greece and Fyrom at Idomeni, the crossing point for refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, remains closed for second consecutive day. Over 1,000 refugees have found shelter at the temporary camp in Idomeni.

    Police said that nine buses with 500 refugees are waiting at the nearby gas station. The passengers will be checked and those coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq will be sent to the camp. Those lacking the necessary documents that will allow them to cross the borderline will be sent back to Athens with a leased bus.

    Fyrom's authorities closed the crossing point on Tuesday afternoon.

    [10] New Democracy shares the farmers' concern

    Main opposition New Democracy on Thursday in a statement said that it fully shares the anxiety of farmers.

    "We understand the frustration created by the ureliable policy and unfortunate acts of the government. However, limits are required: Respect to the freedom of the others and the need for unhindered functioning of the economic life of the country," New Democracy underlined.

    [11] Crossing point at Idomeni opened for refugees with final destination Germany or Austria

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Fragopoulos) ---The crossing point for refugees at Idomeni opened a few minutes ago. Fyrom's authorities allow the crossing to refugees with documents stating clearly that the country of their final destination is Austria or Germany.

    [12] Alt. Agriculture Min: Gov't welcomes mobilisations when are within the legitimate democratic functioning

    "The government has welcomed the farmers' mobilisations and has noted that they are their constitutional right," stated Alternate Agriculture Minister Markos Bolaris adding "however, when the mobilisations are outside the legitimate democratic functioning then those that incite the farmers are being exposed."

    Bolaris was answering to Communist Party MP Manolis Syntihakis who called the farmers' mobilisations just and right.

    "We are all being judged as a political system by the targets we set, the political volition and the means we use" added Bolaris and asked for "proposals and dialogue,"

    On his part KKE deputy accused the government that it applies "a steamroller policy" to farmers and claimed that "they are doing well that they take to the streets and you can't put the rope around their neck and in parallel to impose silence."

    [13] Defence Minister Kammenos holds talks with Jordanian officials in Amman

    Greece's National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Thursday held talks with officials in Amman on defence risks faced by Greece and Jordan and current developments in the region, during a two-day official visit to Jordan.

    Kammenos was received by Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Jordanian Prime Minister and Defence Minister Dr. Abdullah Ensour.

    The two sides agreed that the risks facing both countries could not be dealt with individually but required multilateral regional action. They also noted that the EU and international community must support Jordan, which was a factor for stability and containment of threats and discussed enhancing cooperation in the defence industry.

    Kammenos also met the Jordanian House of Representatives Speaker Atef Tarawneh, a graduate of the NTUA in Athens, and discussed ways to strengthen Parliamentary diplomacy and relations between the Greek and Jordanian Parliaments. During the meeting, Kammenos extended an invitation from Greek Parliament President Nikos Voutsis to Tarawneh to visit Greece.

    The Greek defence minister also paid a visit to the Special Forces Training Centre in Jordan.

    [14] FM Kotzias to visit Berlin on Fri. for meeting with Steinmeier

    Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is travelling to Berlin on Friday where he will meet his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The subject of the meeting will be bilateral relations and issues of European and regional interest.

    [15] New head of Public Revenues pledges to simplify tax administration

    The staffing of the General Secretariat for Public Revenues, the improvement of services provided to citizens through the expansion of the electronic services and the simplification of tax obligations, will be among the first priorities of the new general secretary, Giorgos Pitsilis, who was appointed by the Finance ministry yesterday, told journalists at the handover ceremony on Thursday.

    "It is a bet we have to win, to be able to redefine relations between the tax administration and citizens," he said adding that the administration has to be fair in the interpretation of laws and try to resolve the problems of taxpayers.

    "The country finds itself in a very difficult position; we must face the challenges. My intention is to cooperate perfectly for the common purpose which is to help the country exit the crisis," Pitsilis assed.

    Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Alternate Finance Minister Tryfon Alexiadis said in their statements that they believe in the independence of the tax authority and expressed the view that cooperation will be good and will help tackle tax evasion and increase the tax base.

    [16] ND calls for caution when commenting, after Schaeuble speech in Davos panel

    New Democracy said on Thursday all sides must be careful when expressing their opinions publically, following comments made by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble during a panel discussion in Davos earlier today, in which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras participated.

    "Regardless of positions, opinions and arguments everyone should all be careful how they express themselves, especially in the European family," party spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said.

    [17] Institutions want big cuts in pensions, Labour ministry sources say

    Greece's lenders demand big cuts in main pensions, sources from the Labor ministry said on Thursday, following a teleconference between ministry officials and the technical teams of the institutions on social security reforms.

    Apart from the cuts, the representatives of the institutions expressed openly their disagreement with the replacement rates included in the government's proposals, which they consider excessively high.

    They also asked ministry officials to provide clarifications for some elements of the draft bill, as well as data on the national pension.

    [18] European Parliament approved to monitor implementation of Greek aid program

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira) - The European Parliament was added on Thursday in the group of institutions that will monitor the implementation of Greece's economic program, following a decision by the leaders of the parliament's political parties.

    The issue was discussed after an initiative by Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe who wrote to European Parliament President Martin Schulz last July, to find a way to give the European Parliament an oversight role.

    According to the decision, the Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee will be tasked with the democratic oversight role. It will be assisted by a Financial Assistance Working Group (FAWG) comprising 30 MEPs, which will follow up on the implementation of the financial assistance programmes in more detail.

    The working group will hold regular meetings with the four involved institutions (Commission, ECB, IMF, ESM) and the Greek Government. The focus of the working group will be the parliamentary scrutiny of the decision making process.

    "I am delighted we have today reached agreement on a role for the European Parliament in scrutinising the implementation of the financial assistance programme for Greece. This will strengthen the monitoring of Greek reforms. It also represents a welcome injection of democratic oversight into what is often viewed as an opaque process,'' Verhofstadt commented.

    "The European Parliament and elected MEPs can now play the role they deserve in helping to deliver positive change for Greece," he added.

    [19] No pensions cuts were demanded by the institutions, Labour ministry source says

    Labour Ministry sources clarified on Thursday that the representatives of the institutions didn't ask for major pension cuts during a teleconference with ministry officials earlier in the day.

    Speaking to ANA-MPA, the sources said talks on the social security reforms were exploratory and at no point did the representatives of institutions ask to slash pensions.

    [20] Government to insist on legislation for TV licenses, says official

    The government will push forward with the legislation needed to hold a tender for TV licenses soon, the general secretary of Information and Communication Lefteris Kretsos told private Greek TV station SBC on Thursday.

    He also blamed New Democracy for opposing and delaying the changes in the TV regulator's (NCRTV) board.

    Finacial News

    [21] Foreign groups express interest to invest in Greece; Suez Group VP statement to ANA-MPA

    The interest of the foreign investors for Greece reiterated Eric Ghebali, executive vice president of SUEZ group speaking to ANA-MPA from Davos where he attends the World Economic Forum.

    Eric Ghebali expressed his group's interest for investments in Greece in the sectors of energy and environment.

    "We want to invest in Greece in several sectors for environmental issues as waste management, water distribution and we are mobilised with aim to maintain and increase our investments in Greece in the energy and the environmental sector" stated to ANA-MPA. He also added that "we are totally positive regarding the stabilisation in the country and after (French President) Francois Hollande's visit to Greece there is a positive turn in the climate.

    For this reason, I can reassure you from Davos that we want to invest in Greece" concluded Ghebali.

    The Suez Group activates in the production of industrial services and solution in the sectors of safety and protection of the natural resources and offers to its clients specific solutions in the areas of water resources management, recycling and waste management. The company is based in Paris and is listed in the stock markets of Brussels and Paris.

    [22] Work on 'very important' TAP project will begin this year, BP Group chief Bob Dudley tells ANA-MPA

    BP Group Chief Executive and BP Director Bob Dudley on Thursday highlighted the significance of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project in statements to the ANA-MPA from Davos, following a meeting with Minister of State Nikos Pappas, describing it as the largest infrastructure pipe project in the world that BP was currently aware of.

    "I am here in Davos, I am meeting with Minister Pappas and we are discussing the progress on the TAP - Trans Adriatic Pipeline. We're very appreciative of the government, it has helped put in place the installation agreement," he said.

    "We'll be laying pipe for this very, very important southern corridor project, this year, and the project will be on stream in a couple of years but we've signed agreements with Greek companies on the construction and purchase of the pipes. I'm very pleased with the help and the mutual recognition of the importance of the project in Greece and actually for all of Europe and the very, very significant investment.

    This pipeline is the largest infrastructure pipe project in the world that we know, the production of gas by Azerbaijan through Georgia into Turkey and then into Greece and then across Albania into Italy. I think I would like to add that this is a great example of the business-minded support of the Greek government for inward investment into Greece and BP is very happy to be a part of this project, and I am very comfortable with the alignment on this important European project."

    [23] ECB lowers ELA borrowingceiling for Greek banks

    The European Central Bank further lowered the borrowing ceiling for Greek banks from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism (ELA), accepting a request made by the Bank of Greece. The Greek central bank, in a report released on Thursday, said that the Governing Council of the ECB did not object to an ELA-ceiling for Greek banks of 71.8 billion euros, up to and including Wednesday, 3 February 2016, following a request by the Bank of Greece.

    The reduction of 0.2 billion euros in the ceiling reflected an improvement of the liquidity situation of Greek banks, amid a reduction of uncertainty and the stabilisation of private sector deposits flows, the central bank said.

    [24] Greek shipowners rebuff EU decision on taxation

    Greek shipowners on Thursday rebuffed a European Commission request to Greek authorities last month to review -in the next two months- which ships would be opted for inclusion under a Greek favorable tax system and exclude fishing vessels, tow vessels and yachts from this system.

    "There is no fundamental distortion of competition in the sea transport sector in the European Union and any changes in the institutional and fiscal framework could have unforeseen consequences, damaging not only Greece but the rest of the European Union," the Greek Shipowners Union said in an announcement.

    The Commission said that existing tax regulation could breach EU rules on state support, as they offered the ability to shipping company shareholders and other intermediate agencies in the shipping sector to take advantage of favorable tax treatment which should be exclusively offered to sea transport enterprises.

    Greek shipowners said that the Greek shipping institutional framework pre-existed the guiding lines on state support on sea transport for several years, therefore Greece was not an exception and added that "the Greek shipping framework was acknowledged fully when Greece entered the European Economic Community in 1981 and has not been questioned so far and has become a significant part of national policy in attracting investments in the shipping sector".

    In the announcement, the Union noted that "the death of European commercial shipbuilding industry came because of lack of necessary support to deal with international competition", adding that a European Commission decision on the Greek tax system on shipping and its declaration that this case would be used as precedent to re-evaluate other European shipping systems, would create serious turbulence to the shipping sector in the European Union.

    It stressed that the Greek shipping industry was never part of the problem of Greek state debt and, in contrary, its contribution to the Greek economy and the balance of payments in the last 35 years has been systematically proven fundamental and irreplaceable. It added that it was a serious misunderstanding that taxation of Greek shipping companies and of shipowners was very low, or minimal and stressed that in reality taxation has increased in the last few years because of a series of pioneer agreements signed with the Greek government and ranks among the highest taxation levels in the shipping sector worldwide.

    The Union expressed concern that a negative climate created by the EU's decision could seriously undermine one of the basic pylons of the Greek economy in a period of extremely high unemployment and need for growth prospects and warned that the European Union could lose a significant part of its fleet.

    [25] Greek economy to shrink by 1.5 pct this year, IOBE

    The Greek economy will return from negative to positive growth rates in the middle of 2016 for an annual recession rate of 1.5 pct this year, Nikos Vettas, managing director of the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.

    Presenting the Institute's quarterly report on the Greek economy, Vettas said that the unemployment rate was expected to rise to 25.5 pct of the workforce this year, from 25 pct in 2015 and 26.5 pct in 2014, while the inflation rate was expected to range between 0.5 pct and 1.0 pct.

    IOBE said that based the latest available data, the Greek economy shrank by around 0.5 pct in 2015, significantly smaller compared with initial estimates.

    The report noted that economic growth through attracting investments, a decisive turn of funds towards export activities and overcoming hurdles that keep the economy excessively closed were as pressing issues now as they were at the beginning of the crisis. It added that a gradual awareness by wider part of the society was currently emerging that higher incomes moves through a fundamental convergence of the production structure of the economy with more advanced European countries. IIOBE said that there were no alternative solutions promising prosperity and an exit from the crisis through short-term tactics and without a decisive transformation of the Greek economy.

    [26] Greek travel services surplus up 7.0 pct in Jan-Nov

    The balance of travel services in Greece showed a surplus of 75 million euros in November 2015, up 84.3 pct from a surplus of 41 million in November 2014, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

    The central bank, in a monthly report, said that according to provisional data, travel receipts rose by 16.0 pct to 241 million euros in November 2015, from 208 million in the same month of 2014. Travel payments dropped slightly by 0.7 pct (November 2015: 166 million, November 2014: 167 million). Higher travel receipts resulted mainly from an increase of 22.6 pct in average expenditure per trip, as arrivals decreased by 4.0 pct. Net receipts from travel services accounted for 20.1 pct of total net receipts from services and offset 4.7 pct of the goods deficit.

    In the January-November period, the balance of travel services showed a surplus of 12.128 billion euros, up 7.0 pct from a surplus of 11.334 billion in the same period of 2014. This development is attributed primarily to an increase of 779 million or 5.9 pct in travel receipts, and, to a lesser extent, to a decrease of 15 million or 0.8 pct in travel payments. Higher travel receipts were mainly due to increased arrivals (by 7.5 pct), as the average expenditure per trip dropped by 1.7 pct. Net receipts from travel services offset 77.0 pct of the goods deficit and accounted for 72.8 pct of total net receipts from services.

    In January-November 2015, travel receipts increased by 5.9 pct year-on-year to 13.990 billion. This development is attributed to higher receipts from within the EU-28 (up 15.1 pct to 9.371 billion euros), as receipts from outside the EU-28 dropped by 10.6 pct to 4.182 billion.

    The number of inbound visitors in January-November 2015 increased by 7.5 pct to 23,112 thousand (January-November 2014: 21,496 thousand).

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    Greek state bond yields soared on Thursday hit by a deteriorating domestic and international climate, with the 10-year bond yield surpassing 10 pct and the two-year bond yield climbing above 15 pct. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 9.79 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 9.21 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 10.25 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.46 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.042 pct from 0.045 pct, the nine-month rate eased to -0.014 pct from -0.013 pct, the six-month rate fell to -0.065 pct from -0.061 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.146 pct from -0.144 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.23 pct.

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.46 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,406 contracts with 15,924 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 35,414 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (12,703), followed by Alpha Bank (6,850), Piraeus Bank (10,747), Eurobank (9,629), MIG (631), OTE (1,187), PPC (720), OPAP (347), Hellenic Exchanges (103), Mytilineos (701), Hellenic Petroleum (222), Metka (142), GEK (191), Ellaktor (238), Jumbo (260) and Folli Follie (107).

    [28] Greek competition market authority aprpoved Metro-Veropoulos deal

    Greece's Competition Commission unanimously approved the acquisition of Veropoulos Bros by Metro AEBE. In an announcement released on Thursday, the market's competition watchdog said that the new group formed in the retail food sector did not raise any serious doubt over its compatibility with competition operation demands in the market.

    [29] Intralot wins 10-year contract in Chile

    Intralot Group on Thursday announced the signing of a contract with Polla Chilena de Beneficencia, Chile's state lottery, for the management and the supply of integrated pioneer IT solutions and services and operational support services.

    The contract has a 10-year duration with the option for a two-year extension. Intralot will install its LOTOS O/S, 2,700 Photon terminals and 800 multi-purpose Genion terminals at Polla Chilena network around the country.

    [30] Greek stocks continue moving lower

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, unable to react after Wednesday's sell-off or to follow a rebound in other European markets. Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks such as Alpha Bank, PPC, OPAP and Mytilineos, while others such as Ellaktor, Piraeus Bank and Eurobank came under selling pressure.

    The composite index of the market fell 0.65 pct to end at 523.01 points, off the day's lows of 519.19 points, after rising as much as 536.35 points early in the session. The Large Cap index fell 0.76 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.97 pct higher. Turnover was a low 75.784 million euros in volume of 159,766,296.

    Mytilineos (2.62 pct), Alpha Bank (2.34 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (2.28 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Ellaktor (8.20 pct), Piraeus Bank (6.29 pct) and Eurobank (5.42 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Cyprus Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Among market sectors, Health (5.11 pct) and Raw Materials (2.44 pct) scored gains, while Constructions (2.74 pct), Commerce (2.10 pct) and Banks (1.91 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 52 to 46 with another 24 issues unchanged. Ekter (29.89 pct), Dromeas (29.29 pct) and Nexans (11.65 pct) were top gainers, while Dionic (20 pct), Mermeren (16.08 pct) and Karamolegos (9.82 pct) were top losers.

    General News

    [31] Greek journalists to hold 24-hour strike on Jan. 28

    Greek journalists will hold a 24-hour strike on January 28 to protest about the proposed changes in the social security draft bill, their union POESY announced on Thursday.

    Journalists working in newspapers, TV stations and news websites in the private or public sector will not report news from 06.00 (local) on Thursday until 06.00 on Friday.

    POESY said that for journalists, the autonomy of their insurance fund is non-negotiable and their resources, which are the employer's contribution and substitute the State's participation."

    [32] PNO announces new seamen's strike on Jan, 27-28

    The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) Executive Committee on Thursday announced a new 48-hour seamen's strike next week, on Jan. 27-28.

    The 14 unions that make up PNO also decided to participate in the strike called by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on February 4, with the prospect of escalating labour action when the draft bill on reforming Greece's pension system is tabled in Parliament.

    [33] Greece presents 2015's record tourism numbers to head of WTO in Madrid

    The record number of tourist arrivals in Greece for 2015 were presented to the General Secretary of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Taleb Rifai by Alternate Minister for Tourism Elena Kountoura, during the International Tourism Fair FITUR-2016 in Madrid.

    Kountoura told Rifai that Greece welcomed 26 million tourists last year, which resulted in revenues worth 14.5 billion euros, despite the tough economic conditions and international developments in the region.

    She also presented the tourism policy for 2016 which aims at lengthening of the season, promoting alternative forms of tourism, opening new markets, showcasing new Greek destinations, and offering high quality of infrastructure and services.

    On his side, the head of WTO expressed his unreserved and constant support in Greek tourism and declared his intention to support its promotion internationally. He also congratulated the Greek minister for the results of 2015.

    [34] Nature wins over nurture for brown bears trading zoo life for Arcturos shelter

    Despite spending a lifetime in captivity in Thessaloniki's zoo, the brown bears Sasha and Alexandra have managed to adapt beautifully to a life closer to their natural wild state, at the Arcturos Shelter for brown bears in Nymphaio, Florina, and successfully entered winter hibernation, staff at the shelter reported on Thursday.

    Arcturos staff said that the instincts of the two sisters, who in 23 years had never been given a chance to follow their biological clock, appeared to be in perfect working order. Staff said they were amazed when the two bears began collecting leaves to line their dens, in the timehonoured ursine fashion in the wild, and were among the first of the Arcturos bears to retire for their winter sleep.

    "We were stunned by their behaviour since they have spent their entire lives in captivity. It is unbelievable how they knew to gather leaves to make their nest or even to eat beech nuts, which they have never eaten before and are trees that do not even bear fruit every year!" said Arcturos' Panos Stefanou.

    He said the other nine bears that the shelter had now also gone into hibernation.

    The two bears arrived in Greece in November 1993, transferred from the zoo in Belgrade. They were found when they were just three months old, wandering alone without their mother, who had been killed in a minefield.

    [35] Ecumenical Patriarch to chair meeting of Orthodox Church

    Primates in Geneva on Jan 21-28 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has called a meeting - or Synaxis - of the heads of Orthodox Churches around the world at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy, Geneva from Thursday until January 28, the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced.

    The Synaxis of the Primates in Geneva will be chaired by Patriarch Bartholomew and will deal with matters related to preparations for the Holy and Great Council that is to take place later in the year.

    All Orthodox Church Primates will be attending the Synaxis in person, with the exception of Patriarch John X of Antioch and Metropolitan Sawa of Poland, who are prevented for health reasons, and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, for personal reasons. All three will be represented by officially authorised representatives.

    On Sunday, there will be an Inter-Orthodox Divine Liturgy in the Stavropegic Church of St. Paul with Patriarch Bartholomew presiding and the other primates participating.

    [36] Weather Forecast

    Light rain, sleet and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Sleet in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from -02C-06C. Partly cloudy in the western parts of the country with temperatures between 02C-12C. Light rain or sleet in the eastern parts of the country and temperatures from 0C-10C. Right rain over the Aegean islands and Crete, 08C-14C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 04C-10C. Light rain in Thessaloniki, 01C-06C.

    [37] Athens News Headlines at a glance

    AVGHI: The farmers' blind conflict

    DIMOKRATIA: Real estate prices are a mockery

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Tractors of anger

    ETHNOS: Tax reductions in real estate prices

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The new real estate prices

    ESTIA: Mockery over real estate prices

    IMERISSIA: Crash in markets

    KATHIMERINI: Society and politics in red

    KONTRANEWS: The Germans usurers destroy our country

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Domino in real estate prices

    RIZOSPASTIS: Strong labour movement, popular alliance and revolt everywhere

    TA NEA: Roadblocks, effervescence in parliament

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