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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-26

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

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

Tuesday January 26, 2016

CONTENTS

  • [01] 'We have to find solutions for the weakest ones,' PM Tsipras says
  • [02] PM offers improvements to pension system laws in meeting with professional associations
  • [03] President Pavlopoulos congratulates new Portuguese president on election victory
  • [04] Protesting farmers block border crossing with Bulgaria indefinitely, set up new road blocks
  • [05] Incredible bureaucracy blocks investments, says Dep. FM Mardas
  • [06] Greece is the guardian of the European civilization, Alternate FM Xydakis says
  • [07] There has been no discussion with Greece on debt, German finance ministry says
  • [08] No plans to 'exclude' Greece from Schengen, Commission spox Bertaud says
  • [09] Common European asylum system is 2016 challenge, UN Assistant High Commissioner Turk tells ANA-MPA
  • [10] Athens replies sharply to Austrian minister's statement on 'retracting' Schengen border
  • [11] Greek FinMin briefed over German model on saving, cooperative banks
  • [12] New VIS biometric visa system to be ready for next tourism season, foreign ministry says
  • [13] Greece's migration minister critical of pressures on Greece over refugee flows
  • [14] FYROM to take action on refugee flows 'in step' with EU countries to the north, Poposki says
  • [15] ND leader received by Cyprus president in Nicosia
  • [16] Greek bond yields fall after S&P raised Greece's rating to BGreek
  • [17] New investment law to offer guaranteed 7-year stable tax system to foreign investments
  • [18] ADEX closing report
  • [19] PPC head supports expansion in the new markets, cooperation
  • [20] One Pakistani dead and two injured in clashes at Evzoni border station
  • [21] A total of 1,481 refugees arrive at Piraeus port on Monday
  • [22] Athens mayor signs Greece's first-ever civil partnership agreement for same-sex couple
  • [23] Seaplanes to fly over the Ionian Sea in the summer
  • [24] Event on the prospects of Euro Mediterranean cooperation to be held in Athens on Jan.26
  • [25] The history of Hagia Sophia at the Hellenic Cosmos VR 'Tholos' Theatre
  • [26] Weather Forecast
  • [27] Athens News Headlines at a glance Politics

  • [01] 'We have to find solutions for the weakest ones,' PM Tsipras says

    "We have to find solutions for the weakest ones," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday said in a meeting with representatives of the scientific community, at Maximos Mansion.

    "It is true that when you take measures for the sustainability of the system, they are usually horizontal. But this is a wrong practice," he said and stressed the need for finding ways to support the middle and low incomers and new scientists.

    [02] PM offers improvements to pension system laws in meeting with professional associations

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday presented a series of improvements the government is prepared to contemplate to its proposed pension reforms for the professional classes in a meeting with the heads of Greece's professional associations, such as doctors and lawyers. The meeting with the head of the Greece's Technical Chamber George Stasinos, representing civil engineers and architects, the head of the Greek bar associations plenum Vassilis Alexandris and the president of the Panhellenic Medical Association Dr. Michael Vlastarakoswas was also attended by Labour Minister George Katrougalos, who drew up the proposed reforms.

    Government sources said the prime minister emphasised the need to protect young professionals, as well as freelance workers and the unemployed, in order to make the pensions system viable and socially fair.

    The prime minister asked for feedback on the government's proposals, the sources said, adding that the government is keeping channels of communication with all the social partners open and is determined to proceed with the reforms through substantive and sincere social dialogue.

    The proposals included three measures lowering contributions for professionals in the first five years and two measures designed to ease the burden on unemployed professionals by exempting them from social insurance contributions and providing unemployment benefit, as well as transitional measures for a gradual rise in social insurance contributions for incomes above 12,000 euros annually.

    Tsipras also proposed a reduction in the amount in social insurance contribution paid by freelance workers from 20 pct to 6pct, while the remaining portion must be paid by employers.

    In statements after the meeting, Katrougalos said he was confident about the outcome of negotiations with creditors on the pension system and stressed that the government will not back down from its "non-negotiable" positions.

    "We are in an open dialouge with society and a negotiation with the Quartet; we know that the negotiation will be tough. We know, however, that despite the reactions we get from society, our measures are in society's favour, they are just, supporting equality, supporting equality before the law and social justice," he said..

    He dismissed as "glaringly inaccurate" claims that those hardest hit by proposed reforms were those earning less than 10,000 euros, noting that this group actually gained under the new system.

    [03] President Pavlopoulos congratulates new Portuguese president on election victory

    President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday called the new Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on the telephone and congratulated him on his victory in the presidential elections in Portugal on Sunday.

    [04] Protesting farmers block border crossing with Bulgaria indefinitely, set up new road blocks

    Farmers in central and western Macedonia escalated protest action without warning on Monday, with a decision to indefinitely block the Promachonas border crossing with Bulgaria with their tractors. In the meantime, new farmers continued arriving and new road blocks sprung up at the Kouloura junction on the Egnatia highway, in addition to the road block at the Kerdyllia junction that started on January 20.

    The farmers and livestock breeders at Halkidona and Giannitsa jointed forces to form a new road block on the Axios Bridge in Thessaloniki made up of more than 1,300 tractors and heavy farm machinery.

    New farmer roadblocks also appeared at Paleokomi in Serres, Deskati in Grevena and Gomati in Ierrisos Halkidiki, while the number in Pella rose to three, at Arnisa, Mavrovouni and Mesimeri.

    Further south, the mood remained equally militant and the seven gatherings of tractors in Fthiotida proceeded to block traffic at intervals throughout the day, for one or two hours at a time.

    The national highway from Athens to Thessaloniki was closed in both directions for over an hour at the Anthili area, with cars diverted onto side roads and the local road network. At Atalanti, farmers only blocked access in the lane from Lamia to Athens, while elsewhere they blocked the old national highway, trapping trucks that were unable to get through to continue their journey.

    A road bloc at two points on the Lamia-Domokos road to Karditsa and Trikala caused bedlam and huge delays, forcing traffic onto minor roads, while farmers bloced both lanes at the 110th kilometre of the national highway through Viotia for two hours.

    [05] Incredible bureaucracy blocks investments, says Dep. FM Mardas

    Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas referred to an incredibly complex bureaucracy in the licencing of new investments in Greece, in an interview on Monday with Praktorio 104.9 FM.

    Mardas cited the example of a huge tourist investment named "Atalanti Hills" for which the investors have been blocked by bureaucracy since 2006 and the plant that is expected to offer 7,000 jobs can't operate.

    "The investors have been in trouble since 2006. They do not want to open a chemical plant or a refinery but a huge tourist investment," said Mardas and accused the former government of this condition.

    He said that 15 similar cases have been found adding that the list of the 15 blocked investments is already in the hands of the relevant ministers in order to give an immediate solution to the problem.

    Mardas called the investments licencing regime in Greece "morbid" underlining that it can't be changes with small interventions and corrections but "it must be torn up from the roots".

    He referred to a 40-year culture of corruption, collusion and bureaucracy" noting that the parties of the opposition should make some self-criticism.

    [06] Greece is the guardian of the European civilization, Alternate FM Xydakis says

    Greece guards the national and European borders and is not going to sink boats with children, Alternate Foreign Minister responsible for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis said in a statement on refugees.

    Greece is a guardian of the European civilisation, he underlined adding that this applies to all EU member states that stand by the refugees, such as Germany, Austria, Sweden and others.

    He noted that Greece has rescued 104,000 children and adults so far in the Aegean Sea.

    As regards the identification centres, the so-called hotspots, he said that despite the delays, they will have been completed within some days.

    Xydakis stressed the need for Europe to quickly implement the co-decided with the European Council relocation program of 160,000 refugees and implement the EU agreement with Turkey, the so-called Joint Action Plan, which provides for a drastic reduction in flows, the safe relocation of refugees from the Turkish territory and the extensive readmission to Turkey in the framework and the readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey.

    Moreover, he placed special emphasis on the EU international role, stressing that it must focus on the real problem, the war in Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

    [07] There has been no discussion with Greece on debt, German finance ministry says

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti) There have been no discussions with Greece regarding its debt until now, German finance ministry spokeswoman Friederike von Tiesenhausen clarified on Monday, in comments regarding a report in "Der Spiegel".

    It is absolutely logical that there should not be any discussion on the debt, "since it has been agreed that a review must be carried out first, which will determined definitively what course public spending in Greece will take in the long term," she said.

    "We will now wait until the review is concluded and then, possibly, there will be such a discussion," von Tiesenhausen added, noting that she could not "rush to conjectures" from the current position and that such questions were not raised at this time.

    According to the "Der Spiegel" report, a discussion was underway on the possibility that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) take over the bilateral loans from the first bailout and give Greece "fresh" money on more favourable terms.

    [08] No plans to 'exclude' Greece from Schengen, Commission spox Bertaud says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki) There are no plans to either exclude Greece from Schengen or for the "suspension" of the treaty for two years, European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said on Monday.

    "No such possibility exists," said Bertaud, a spokeswoman for European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

    She clarified that the only possible course was to activate articles 19 and 26 of the treaty, which allowed the reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen area for up to two years in the case that the situation with the guarding of the external borders has not improved.

    Community sources said that the European Commission's proposals for the activation of the above two articles will be ready in two weeks, since Greece must be given three months in which to correct the "continuing shortcomings". The maximum period for maintaining controls on internal boders, including Germany, ends in May.

    Bertaud said the decision to activate the two articles will be taken to save Schengen, citing a statement by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that "We will save Schengen by applying Schengen".

    Asked about the situation on the borders between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bertaud said that Greece is expected to register and fingerprint all those entering its territory and to follow normal asylum procedures, denying entry to all those not seeking international protection from Greece, as laid out in the Geneva Convention.

    She noted that since October, the 12 heads of state along the so-called "Western Balkans" route had made a commitment to stop sending migrants on to other neighbouring countries.

    [09] Common European asylum system is 2016 challenge, UN Assistant High Commissioner Turk tells ANA-MPA

    "The greatest challenge for this year is to have a really common European asylum system and just sharing of responsibility system in the EU member-states, UN Assistant High Commissioner for Protection and Director of the Division of International Protection Volker Turk stated in an interview to ANA-MPA adding however that "we need to work hard in order to reach that point."

    Turk visited the Greece-Fyrom buffer zone at Idomeni, Athens and Lesvos where he had the opportunity to meet with refugees and migrants and discuss with members of the Greek government.

    Idomeni was Turk's first stop on the day that Fyrom authorities allowed the entrance only to refugees with Austria and Germany as the final destination. "It is a country's sovereign right to control its borders, but at the same time when we deal with people who need protection, we must safeguard that they will have access to this protection," said Turk.

    "In Europe there is a huge issue because in one hand we have the countries with EU's external borders (Italy and Greece) and in the other hand we have some countries as Germany, Austria and Sweden that have been widely affected by the refugees issue. But what we really need is a collective response from the European Union in order a fair share of responsibilities to exist and we are not at the point yet," said Turk.

    UN Assistant High Commissioner said he is impressed by the Greek Coast Guard's efforts to save lives. "It is obvious that saving lives is the top priority of the government and the officers are doing a very good job as well as the police, the local authorities and the asylum service staff, but this does not mean that problems do not exist taking into account the huge number of refugees that arrive to the Greek islands."

    Turk left Greece on Sunday and he visits Turkey where he will meet with members of the Turkish government. Before Greece the UN Commissioner had visited FYROM.

    [10] Athens replies sharply to Austrian minister's statement on 'retracting' Schengen border

    In a sharp response to comments made by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Greece's foreign ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras on Monday suggested that she "weigh her words more carefully" when referring to the refugee issue and Greece's supposed responsibility for the problems.

    "Austrian Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner should think with a more European spirit and vision, and not based on the domestic political balance in Vienna. She could thus contribute towards continuation of the political and democratic integration of Europe, the logic of which does not allow for quarantines or exclusions. The Cold War is over," Koutras said in reply to questions.

    Mikl-Leitner had suggested that "the Schengen external border will move toward central Europe," if Greece continued not to be able to protect the external EU border with Turkey.

    Greece's Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias had also advised "greater care" in the statements on this issue, saying that these should be for the benefit of Europe, not spoken with an eye on domestic politics. He also pointed to the position of his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had dismissed the Austrian minister's suggestions for Greece's 'expulsion' from Schengen as a "pseudo-solution" that would do nothing to stem migrant flows.

    Kotzias repeated the need to address the root causes of the problem, which were the war in Syria and the state of the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

    Weighing in on this issue on Sunday, Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis noted that Greece was guarding the borders of both Greece and Europe but would not contemplate pushbacks that put lives at risk.

    "What we will not do ... is to sink boats and drown women and children. This is forbidden by international and European treaties and the values of our civilisation...the pressure on Greece to change the conditions for controlling the Aegean means a risk of increasing an already large number of deaths," he said.

    [11] Greek FinMin briefed over German model on saving, cooperative banks

    Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Monday met with the director of Sparkassenstiftung fuer der Internationalen Kooperation, Niklaas Bergmann and the president of Deutscher Sparkassen -und Giroverband, Georg Farenson.

    During the meeting, Bergmann and Farenson presented the successful model of operation of Germany's savings and cooperative banks and their significance as another pylon of economic growth and for supporting the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

    The Greek finance minister stressed it was a government priority to support local economies and SMEs and noted that the operation and support of cooperative and decentralised saving banks was of great importance for the stabilisation and growth of the Greek economy.

    Tsakalotos noted that draining experience from successful models would be extremely useful for the operation and similar institutions in Greece.

    The two sides agreed to continue cooperation, based on the common view that Eurozone and the EU do not need only a single capital market area, but small banks as well, suitable to support small- and medium-sized enterprises and the needs of real economy.

    [12] New VIS biometric visa system to be ready for next tourism season, foreign ministry says

    A new VIS system for issuing visas using biometric data for third-country nationals planning to visit Greece is ready for the coming tourist season, the foreign ministry said in an announcement on Monday. The announcement was issued after a meeting between Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis and Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura with tourism sector associations.

    Xydakis briefed Kountoura on the preparations made to use the new and more demanding system, which they noted an expected increase of arrivals from Russia this year.

    [13] Greece's migration minister critical of pressures on Greece over refugee flows

    AMSTERDAM (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni) In statements while attending an informal EU justice and home affairs ministers' meeting in Amsterdam on Monday, Greece's Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas criticised the pressures on Greece relating to the refugee crisis and noted that excluding Greece from Schengen would not solve the problem. At the meeting, EU ministers instructed the European Commission to explore a procedure to extend temporary internal border checks within the Schengen area for up to two years.

    "Schengen is part of a game for assigning responsibility: if you don't do this or that, we will do this to you. It is a punishment," Mouzalas said, adding that Greece did not wish to take part in a process that leads nowhere and will not help in tackling the refugee crisis.

    Mouzalas represented Greece at the meeting, along with Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas.

    The Council also urged the Commission to examine the possibility that the EU border agency Frontex provide assistance in guarding the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and to examine the existing legal framework with "flexibility" and "pragmatism".

    Greek authorities were aware of where delays had occurred, Mouzalas told reporters, adding that the problems should be dealt with in common. He noted that countries "in a panic" wanted to close their borders but that this would convert a European crisis into a humanitarian crisis in Greece, where hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees would be trapped. The situation required "more Europe" but isolated actions meant less Europe, he added.

    While admitting that there were delays in setting up hotspots on Greek islands, Mouzalas said that these will be ready by early March at the latest and noted that delays by other EU member-states were partly to blame, including slowness in providing assistance, providing too little help and failure to swiftly implement agreements on the relocation of refugees within Europe.

    Since receiving an additional 100 EURODAC fingerprint scanners last week, Greece was now able to take the fingerprints of 80-90 pct of the migrants arriving, he added.

    Commenting on accusations that Greece was not doing enough to protect its borders with Turkey, the minister noted that Greece was acting in accordance with international law and the law on the sea, as well as European and Greek law.

    "We are guarding our sea borders very well, in addition to Europe's pride, by saving people," he said.

    Toskas also pointed to the extreme slowness of the readmission process, noting that the activation of the relevant agreement with Turkey after many years had led to the return of 80 migrants to Turkey in three months, while the results for Morocco and Pakistan were currently nil.

    [14] FYROM to take action on refugee flows 'in step' with EU countries to the north, Poposki says

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/ N. Frangopoulos) The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

    (FYROM) does not wish to close its borders with Greece in order to stop refugee and migrant flows but will "do whatever is necessary" to resolve the refugee crisis if EU countries to the north impose more stringent controls, FYROM Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said on Monday.

    The minister said that FYROM was coordinating its actions in step with action taken by of EU countries, such as the decision to distinguish between migrants and refugees last November, or recent requirements that the refugee's destination country be named in documents.

    The country's authorities have recorded 41,227 refugee arrivals from Greece since the start of the year.

    [15] ND leader received by Cyprus president in Nicosia

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos) Developments in the Cyprus problem, regional issues and the island republic's imminent exit from the memorandums dominated the meeting between Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the new leader of Greece's main opposition New Democracy party Kyriakos Mitsotakis here on Monday.

    Anastasiades briefed ND's new leader on his meetings at Davos with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

    Afterward, Mitsotakis stressed ND's unstinting support for the efforts of the Cypriot people and their president Anastasiades to achieve a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue.

    Finacial News

    [16] Greek bond yields fall after S&P raised Greece's rating to BGreek

    10-year benchmark bond yields fell on Monday in the aftermath of a surprise decision by Standard & Poor's to raise the country's credit rating by one notch to B- on Friday, citing the country's compliance with the terms of a third economic adjustment programme.

    The credit rating agency expects that a compromise will be reached in the next months on completing the first review of the programme, paving the way for inclusion of Greek bonds in an ECB bond-buying programme. It could also pave the way for a discussion with the country's creditors over a restructuring of Greek public debt.

    The 10-year benchmark bond yield fell to 9.44 pct in early trade, after reaching 10 pct last week. The two-year bond yield fell to 13.48 pct and the five-year bond yield eased to 11.12 pct.

    A successful completion of the first review of the Greek economic adjustment programme was of crucial importance as it would signal the beginning of talks with Greece's partners on action to further restructure the country's public debt, while at the same time it will be the key to restoring confidence and the return of deposits to the banking system, Bank of Greece governor Yiannis Stournaras said on Monday.

    Addressing an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference, the Greek central banker warned that the urgent completion of the first review was imperative, as risks have risen in the global economy. In the framework of increased risks and uncertainties for the course of the global economy, a potential failure to complete the first review would be destabilising as it would lead to a retreat of confidence, deteriorating financial conditions and a bigger recession. Stournaras said that the Greek economy has the ability and prospect to return to positive growth rates this year, despite rising international risks and uncertainties and despite a carry-over from a negative effect of 2015. He stressed, however, that this would depend on implementing commitments undertaken by the Greek government in the framework of the new programme and a completion of the first review.

    He underlined the experience of the second half of 2014 (when a fifth review failed to be completed) and the "endless" negotiations of the first half of 2015 which led to a resurgence of the Greek crisis and urged the Greek government and all pro-European political parties and the country's creditors to "learn from past mistakes". "Experience shows that each time we fail to complete a programme review, a climate of confidence is burdened and the next review becomes more difficult, leading us to a vicious cycle" Stournaras said.

    [17] New investment law to offer guaranteed 7-year stable tax system to foreign investments

    A new investment law to be tabled to Parliament soon will focus on tax-exemptions, preserving direct support to special investment categories and offering incentives to relocation to less-developed regions, Economy ministry sources told ANA-MPA on Monday.

    The guidelines of the new legislation will be: supporting existing and creating new exportorientated, innovative enterprises, boosting employment and particularly skilled personnel, strengthening cooperation through supporting cooperative groups, social economy enterprises, mergers and clusters, and supporting regions with lower development dynamism.

    The new law will emphasize on tax-exemptions and subsidizing leasing. Tax-exemption will be offered gradually with completion of 50 pct of the investment, while subsidies will be offered to special investment categories such as start-ups, innovative enterprises, networking or less-developed regions. The new law will focus on internationally acclaimed products and services, while for investments on machinery equipment will be offered favorable terms, fasttrack assessment and inspections. For large foreign investments, fast-track licensing procedures and guarantees of a stable 7-year tax system will be offered.

    The new investment legislation is currently finalized and will be tabled to Parliament within the next few days.

    [18] ADEX closing report

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.05 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 2,944 contracts with 16,843 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 31,201 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (10,642), followed by Alpha Bank (3,930), National Bank (10,143), Eurobank (3,443), MIG (646), OTE (504), PPC (615), OPAP (149), Mytilineos (254), GEK (263), Ellaktor (134), Jumbo (99) and Folli Folli (66).

    Greek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, unable to hold on to their early gains in the aftermath of a decision by S&P on Friday to upgrade the country's credit rating. Buying interest focused on blue chip stock such as National Bank, Folli Follie and OTE while other stocks such as Piraeus Bank, Viohalco, Piraeus Port and PPC suffered heavy losses.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.07 pct to end at 534.72 points, after rising as much as 542.39 points early in the session. The Large Cap index rose 0.20 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.01 pct higher. Turnover was a low 45.693 million euros, in volume of 71,763,834.

    Terna Energy (3.97 pct), National Bank (2.41 pct) and Folli Follie (2.32 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Piraeus Bank (4.12 pct), Viohalco (3.73 pct) and Piraeus Port (3.28 pct) suffered heavy losses. Piraeus Bank and National Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day.

    Among market sectors, Commerce (2.29 pct), Chemicals (2.19 pct) and Telecoms (2.11 pct) scored big gains, while Raw Materials (2.63 pct) and Health (1.76 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 51 to 44 with another 24 issues unchanged. Lavipharm (19.27 pct), Alpha Astika (19.21 pct) and Sidma (17.48 pct) were top gainers, while Akritas (20 pct), Tzirakian (19.67 pct) and Yalco (16.08 pct) were top losers.

    [19] PPC head supports expansion in the new markets, cooperation

    Public Power Corporation's chairman and chief executive Emmanouel Panagiotakis on Monday said he was in favor of plans to expand in new markets and forging business cooperation with other companies. Addressing a company event to celebrate the New Year, Panagiotakis said: "We must not hesitate, instead we must exploit fully business cooperation with other companies, private or state, domestic or foreign," Panagiotakis said, adding: "We must constantly seek and exploit with planning and attention, boldly, new opportunities. In the electricity sector, monitoring new developments, such as electric cars, saving energy and in other sectors, such as natural gas. We must find and exploit growth opportunities outside our borders".

    He presented the four biggest challenges facing PPC: a prevailing economic situation, reduced lignite production (down 50 pct compared with 2009), losing market share (estimated loss around 4.0 pct) and finally an obligation to reduce PPC's market by 25 pct in the next one or two years and by 50 pct by 2020.

    Panagiotakis made special mention of the need to develop renewable energy sources and noted that investments surpassed 100 million euros and PPC's debt fell by 75 million euros last year.

    General News

    [20] One Pakistani dead and two injured in clashes at Evzoni border station

    A Pakistani national died and two compatriots were injured during clashes that broke out among foreign nationals early Monday near Evzoni border station at Kilkis.

    According to testimonies, five Afghanis attacked the Pakistanis in order to rob them.

    [21] A total of 1,481 refugees arrive at Piraeus port on Monday

    Three ferries with 1,481 refugees aboard docked at Piraeus port early on Monday.

    More specifically, "Nisos Mykonos" and "Nisos Rhodos" carried 1,127 people from Chios and Mytilene and "tera jet" another 354 from Chios.

    [22] Athens mayor signs Greece's first-ever civil partnership agreement for same-sex couple

    Athens Mayor George Kaminis on Monday signed the first ever civil partnership agreement between a same-sex couple in Greece. The registry office act signed by the mayor is dated January 25, 2016 and joins two men, a doctor with a teacher, in a civil partnership.

    Receiving the couple in his office for the signing ceremony, Kaminis expressed his best wishes for their future and noted that this first day of the implementation of the law allowing samesex civil partnerships was a highly significant day for civil rights in Greece and for harmonising the country with the reality worldwide.

    [23] Seaplanes to fly over the Ionian Sea in the summer

    The Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry and the Shipping and Island Policy Ministry in cooperation with the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund ((HRADF) are planning to grant licences for the construction of waterways on the islands of Paxoi, Zakynthos, Cephalonia and Lefkada as well as in Patras with the view to creating the first network of waterways in Greece.

    The first waterway in Greece will operate at the port of Corfu. Procedures for the licencing of another 50 waterways are underway.

    "Our efforts will focus on the Ionian Sea," Angelos Vlachos, member of HRADF board of directors, said to ANA-MPA in a meeting also attended by Chinese investors of the European seaplanes construction company Dornier Seastar.

    "We believe that a small waterways network will be ready in the coming months and now rests on the side of the companies to attract airlines and to see seaplanes in the waters of the Ionian Sea within 2016," Vlachos said.

    "It is a project of national importance, and I am absolutely convinced that not only one, but more companies will operate their seaplanes over the Ionian Sea. Three to four companies have already expressed interest, including a Croatian company that plans to set its base on Corfu and operate routes to Greece and other European countries," the president of Hellenic Seaplanes Tassos Govas underlined.

    On his part, the president of Dornier Seastar, Conrado Dornier, said: "I am pleasantly surprised from the fact that many things have progressed in Greece over the last year and we are interested in completing our investment plans for our new seaplanes in Greece ... We will finally be able to connect the sky with the sea."

    [24] Event on the prospects of Euro Mediterranean cooperation to be held in Athens on Jan.26

    The prospects of the Euro Mediterranean cooperation will be the issue of a round-table debate organised by the Institute for the Mediterranean, member of the European Public Law Organisation (EPLO) on January 26.

    The event is held in cooperation with the department of Political Science and International Relations of Peloponnese University and will take place at the offices of the organisations at the Athens district of Plaka at 17:00-19:30.

    The discussion will focus on the development of the Euromediterrenean relations, the geopolitical dynamic in the region and their repercussions as well as the prospects.

    The ambassadors of Morocco to Greece Abdelkader EL Ansari, of Italy Luigi Marras and of Netherlands Caspar Veldkamp as well as Greek ambassadors Dimitris Karamitsos-Giras and Vassilis Papaioannou and the professors Ioannis Mazis and Sotiris Roussos will make proposals and suggestions.

    Professor Spyridon Flogaitis director of EPLO, Ambassador Sotiris Varouxakis director of the Institute for the Mediterranean and professor Pantelis Sklias president of the political science of Peloponnese University will address the event.

    [25] The history of Hagia Sophia at the Hellenic Cosmos VR 'Tholos' Theatre

    The 1,500-year-old history of Hagia Sophia, one of the iconic buildings of the world's cultural heritage, is explored in the new 45-minute screening on show at the Hellenic Cosmos Culture Centre's dome-shaped Virtual Reality Theatre or 'Tholos' in Athens. The interactive show charts the building's history from the 6th century, in January 532 after the Emperor Justinian commissioned the building a new church from the architects Anthemios and Isidorus, and weaves in elements of the surrounding Byzantine world, its history and culture.

    Among others, it explores the challenges faced by the architect in carrying out their groundbreaking and ambitious construction, the problems they had to overcome and also explores the rich decorations of the interior.

    Details on the days and hours of screenings are available at the website www.helleniccosmos.gr

    [26] Weather Forecast

    Clouds and sleet is forecast for Tuesday. Northerly winds will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain or sleet in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from -01C-11C. Partly cloudy in the western parts with temperatures between 03C-15C. Rain and sleet in the eastern parts with temperatures between 01C-15C. Clouds and sleet over the Aegean islands and Crete, 04C-12C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 01C-13C; the same for Thessaloniki, -01C-11C.

    [27] Athens News Headlines at a glance

    DIMOKRATIA: Rage at farmers' road blocks

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Law-incentives for small and medium sized enterprises

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 5 secret changes in retirement ages

    ESTIA: It's the implementation, Mr Erdogan

    ETHNOS: Big rises in basic food prices

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Tax gifts and other burdens

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