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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-28

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

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

Thursday January 28, 2016

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Tsipras begins trip to Israel by visiting Greek consulate in Jerusalem
  • [02] Tsipras: Greece will be fully prepared to deal with refugee crisis in February
  • [03] Tsipras: Structural reforms needed for the viability of the pension system
  • [04] "Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust" at the Greek parliament
  • [05] Parliament honours Greek Jews and heroes of the Holocaust in special session
  • [06] President receives Prof. Kalangos, founder of Coeurs Pour Tous
  • [07] President Pavlopoulos inaugurates memorial to the Greek Righteous Among the Nations
  • [08] Alt.Migration Minister Mouzalas: Europe is divided over the refugees issue
  • [09] Alternate Tourism Min Kountoura meets ambassador of the Republic of Korea
  • [10] Labour Min Katrougalos to discuss social security reforms with europarliament committee
  • [11] Corrective interventions necessary in social security draft law, says ANEL spokeswoman
  • [12] State Minister Pappas meets Israeli counterpart Filber in Tel Aviv
  • [13] European Commission does not link Greek debt to Schengen issues, Dombrovskis says
  • [14] German, French interior ministers to visit Greece over migration issues on Feb. 4
  • [15] Germany urges Turkey to take action against refugee traffickers, pledges support for Greece
  • [16] EU Commission report finds 'serious deficiencies' in Greece's management of external borders
  • [17] It's not constructive to isolate Greece, says gov't spokeswoman on Schengen report
  • [18] Migration Commissioner: Greece has started complying with the Schengen rules
  • [19] Labour minister: Future of Greek pensions is closely linked to future of Europe's welfare state
  • [20] ND leader says government is facing consequences of promises it couldn't keep
  • [21] Greek stocks edge higher
  • [22] Greek bond market closing report
  • [23] Assets under management up 13.45 pct in 2015
  • [24] TIF could not remain untouched by the digital revolution, TIFHelexpo managing director tells ANA-MPA
  • [25] Greek SMEs suffered 15 pct drop in sales in Q3 2015, report
  • [26] BAT announces international logistics hub in Piraeus
  • [27] Farmers at Tempi Valley to block road for five hours on Thursday
  • [28] Protesting farmers block Promachonas customs on Bulgarian border, roads throughout Greece
  • [29] Promachonas customs open for cars only; full blockade from noon on Thursday
  • [30] Ships docked until Friday morning due to seamens' strike
  • [31] One infant dies in new refugees boat tragedy
  • [32] 912 refugees arrive at Piraeus port on Wednesday
  • [33] Artist Ai Weiwei shuts down show in Denmark to protest refugee law
  • [34] Hundreds rescued off Lesvos, 1659 refugees and migrants reach the island on Wed.
  • [35] Death toll rises to seven following sinking of boat with refugees off Kos
  • [36] University of Peloponnese signs cooperation agreement with UAE's American University
  • [37] Greek authorities to launch new tender for TrainOSE
  • [38] Athens public transport single fare to rise to 1.40 euros from Feb 1
  • [39] Exhibition on the work of Greek artist 'Nonda' at Museum of the City of Athens
  • [40] Weather Forecast
  • [41] Athens News Headlines at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Tsipras begins trip to Israel by visiting Greek consulate in Jerusalem

    JERUSALEM (ANA-MPA/ N. Lionakis) Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday began his trip to Israel with a visit to the Greek consulate in Jerusalem, where he had a meeting with Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos III.

    He then watched the presentation of research carried out by a National Technical University of Athens research team led by Prof. Antonia Maropoulou on the conservation and restoration of sections of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The study was carried out at the Patriarchate's request and with the agreement of the other two religious communities using the monument.

    Meeting the Patriarch, Tsipras explained that he had been unable to attend a meeting at the Patriarchate due to a heavy schedule during his visit to Israel. The Greek prime minister is to take part in an extended Greece-Israel intergovernmental meeting immediately after visiting the consulate and will depart for Cyprus on Wednesday night, for the Greece-Cyprus-Israel trilateral summit.

    Tsipras said he had been very keen to see the research team's report, and to see what the NTUA and Prof. Maropoulou were planning, given the importance of the monument for the Orthodox faith. He was accompanied by Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura and Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas.

    [02] Tsipras: Greece will be fully prepared to deal with refugee crisis in February

    JERUSALEM (ANA-MPA/ N. Lionakis) - Greece will be fully prepared next month to deal with the refugee flows and it remains to be seen if Europe too will live up to its commitments, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, during a joint press conference with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

    Asked how long Greece can manage the refugee crisis which surpasses its abilities and whose efforts to address the issue have not been recognised, Tsipras said that the same question holds true for Europe adding that Greece has been facing huge pressure on its smaller islands in the northeast Aegean in recent months, which he described as the largest population movement since World War II.

    The premier also said Greece has managed to cope with the crisis by showing Europe's good face, despite the country's economic problems and difficult adjustments. He noted the country's significant contribution to the problem stressing that European civilization is shamed by the images of dead children in the Aegean. Tsipras then lashed out against "some bureaucrats in Brussels" who don't understand Greece's stance and noted that it is an international reality which has repeatedly documented.

    Tsipras also stressed that the solution to the problem depends on cooperation with Turkey and a fair distribution of refugees among European countries. Concluding his remarks on the issue, he said that the blame game has never been effective and that what's important is to find solutions and distribute the weight caused by the crisis.

    During the press conference, both Tsipras and Netanyahu also emphasized cooperation in economy and energy, especially concerning the creation of a gas transport network via LNG terminals in Greece, the construction of pipelines, and the discussion on transporting power through the Euro-Asia Interconnector.

    The Greek premier noted his belief that promoting energy cooperation will give both countries and the region the opportunity to develop a plan of cooperation and development that will promote stability and peace. On his side, Netanyahu said Greece is a real friend and that this friendship can develop into a real cooperation for peace, progress and security and noted that today's intergovernmental meeting helped in that direction.

    Earlier, Tsipras and Netanyahu concluded the 2nd Supreme Council of Cooperation between Israel and Greece by signing a joint declaration, as well as a document for cooperation on innovation in the 21st century.

    Ministers from the delegations of the two countries also signed a number of agreements in cooperation in the sectors of tourism, public security and civil protection, transports, energy and water and diplomatic training. The two leaders are currently holding a working dinner with both delegations, which will complete the Council meeting.

    [03] Tsipras: Structural reforms needed for the viability of the pension system

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday began an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on the government's proposed social security reforms, noting that all the political parties are obliged to adopt a position on an issue of such gravity, i.e. the viability of the country's pension system.

    "If future generations are to have social insurance, there is no room for stalling or prevarication," Tsipras said, pointing out that the system is not currently viable. "Unless we take measures, it will collapse," he underlined.

    The prime minister blamed 40 years of state pension fund mismanagement and "looting" under New Democracy and PASOK governments for the system's current problems, as well as an aging population and "political choices in the year of crisis that shrunk GDP by 25 pct and shot unemployment up from 7 pct to 25 pct."

    He blamed some parts of the population of denying the dialogue with the government and added: "We are open to dialogue, we are not in conflict with the farmers." Tsipras recognised that there are some "grey zones" which should be put in order, stressing that farmers do not have anything to fear, but the intermediaries that have undeclared high profits.

    The prime minister accused main opposition New Democracy newly elected leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis of having adopted the most extreme positions of the creditors and specifically the IMF.

    He also stressed the importance of giving a fight so that pensions are not cut. "We must not destroy social cohesion. We need social consensus in a brave reform effort so that the social security system becomes viable," he underlined.

    [04] "Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust" at the Greek parliament

    Thessaloniki paid a heavy toll in the period of Nazi occupation, on the altar of inhuman and unhealthy Nazi plans, the so-called "final solution."

    The approximately 50,000 indigenous Greek Jews members of a flourishing social, economic, cultural life of Thessaloniki's Jewish community were led to crematoria, on nineteen rail death missions, from the old station (March to August of 1943). Less than 2,000 of them managed to survive and return to Thessaloniki (a thousand of them from the camps and the rest from the countryside, where they had been hiding) in a city that hardly resembled the one they had left behind.

    The Greek state, in a particularly difficult period after the World War II and before the civil war, was among the first ones in Europe to adopt laws on the restitution of property. Many Jewish beneficiaries fought in courts for years to prove that they own their property as their title deeds had been lost or destroyed, and their relatives, acquaintances, neighbours, friends, witnesses who could confirm ownership of property had died.

    Today we celebrate with the rest of Greeks, the "Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust," that the Greek parliament adopted, unanimously, by Law 3218/2004 (Government Gazette A 12).

    It is the first time since the day it was established that a delegation of Greek Jews will attend a special session of the parliament plenum held on the occasion on Wednesday. Guests of honour will be the Greek Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

    "It is an important day as because though these events we condemn intolerance, anti-Semitism and racism and we give a message to the younger generations. This day is not only for the Jews. It is for the lessons the Holocaust has taught us. We must not forget, we should draw conclusions so that such things do not happen again," the president of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel told ANA-MPA.

    Thessaloniki has been declared a "martyr city" since 2012 and is included in the "Martyr Cities & Villages of Greece Network."

    [05] Parliament honours Greek Jews and heroes of the Holocaust in special session

    The Greek parliament honoured the Greek Jews who survived or died at the Holocaust and those who helped them during a special session of the plenary to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday.

    The session was attended by all parties except Golden Dawn.

    Parliament President Nikos Voutsis said the parliament will participate in sponsoring the creation of a permanent memorial space in Auschwitz for the Greek Jews who perished in the concentration camp. Following his statements, lawmakers observed a minute of silence.

    Education Minister Nikos Filis then took the floor to describe the horror of the Holocaust and note the contribution of Greek Jews in the country. "The term Holocaust indicates the total destruction; the killing of nearly six million Jews in Europe by the Nazis. This was genocide, namely the premeditated attempt to annihilate a people," he told MPs and Holocaust survivors.

    Filis then slammed anti-Semites who "doubt the patriotism" of Greek Jews. "The blood of the Greek Jews was spilled for Greece's freedom as well as the blood of other Greek citizens whenever the country needed it. Greek-Jews, when referring to themselves, use the term 'fellow-believers' and identify themselves as a religious minority. And how could it be otherwise when they've been living in this land since ancient times?"

    He then went on to name specific actions taken by the ministry, such as the teaching of the Holocaust in history books, to preserve historical memory and provide teachers and students an opportunity to understand the significance of the Holocaust for the Greek and global history.

    Filis said the ministry organizes every year seminars to educate teachers on how to teach the Holocaust to their students, as well as annual school trips of non-Jewish students to the Auschwitz museum.

    The minister also noted the unveiling of the Monument for the Greek Righteous Among the Nations later in the day.

    Foreign Ministry's announcement on Holocaust Remembrance Day With the greatest respect, the Greek state today honors, as it does every year, on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the memory of the millions of innocent victims of the Nazi Holocaust, the Foreign ministry on Wednesday said in an announcement.

    "We feel particular abhorrence at the memory of the mass extermination of the Jewish population by the Hitler regime, which dealt an extremely painful blow to the community of Greek Jews. The Greek state is making every effort to keep the memory of these events alive and pass them on to younger generations. At the same time, it is taking initiatives to redress historical injustices perpetrated against the Greek Jewish community and to institutionally establish respect for the memory of the Holocaust," according to the announcement.

    "Greece supports and participates actively in all of the international initiatives for respect of Holocaust remembrance and to fight anti-Semitism and every other form of intolerance, so that humankind may NEVER AGAIN experience such atrocities," it added.

    [06] President receives Prof. Kalangos, founder of Coeurs Pour Tous

    President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday received the heart surgeon and founder of the international humanitarian association "Coeurs Pour Tous" (Hearts for All) Dr. Afksendiyos Kalangos, a professor of medicine at the universities of Geneva and Istanbul.

    The president congratulated Kalangos on his humanitarian work and his treatment of children with heart disease, among them several children from Greece. The foundation now operates a branch in Greece called Coeurs Pour Tous Hellas.

    [07] President Pavlopoulos inaugurates memorial to the Greek Righteous Among the Nations

    President Prokopis Pavlopoulos inaugurated on Wednesday the Memorial to the Greek Righteous Among the Nations, an honour used by Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the second World War to save Jews from extermination, at the yard of Athens' Synagogue.

    Deputy Prefect of central Athens, Ermina Kyprianidou, said that the unveiling of the monument on Holocaust Remembrance Day "sends a loud message to everyone: never again fascism; let's alienate fascism which poisons societies causing tensions, wars and humanitarian disasters."

    "History teaches us that humanity can only progress with humanity and solidarity," she added.

    [08] Alt.Migration Minister Mouzalas: Europe is divided over the refugees issue

    "If the crossing point at Idomeni closes, the borders do not close and the borders extend to thousands of kilometres and...Instead of protecting the legal migration, we support the illegal migration and we help terrorists and give job to human traffickers," Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas told private SKAI TV.

    Referring to Denmark's decision to take the personal valuables from the refugees he noted:

    "Denmark's stance reminds me of the Jews in the trains ...the memories are still fresh." He added that "others do not want the black people, others do not want bachelors, others mothers with children, this is not a European prospect".

    Regarding Ankara's stance, Mouzalas said that "in the last period Turkey accepted back 123 migrants and sent 60,000". The outcome of Monday's meeting (of EU ministers) was that Turkey holds the key of the inflow and has not met its responsibilities. We proposed that when migrants and refugees arrive on Greek islands to be counted and to be sent to hotspots, separate the migrants from the refugees and the next day to go back to Turkey, he underlined.

    Mouzalas said that November's report on the progress made in the construction of hotspots will be discussed today at the College of the Commissioners. "The report is bad," he said and added that "it is true that the works have not progressed as they should have done so" and reiterated that the hotspots will be ready by the end of February and will operate in early March.

    He implied that the Defence ministry is also responsible for the delay. "Mr. Kammenos (Defence Minister) does the same as everyone else...He gives less of what we request and want to exchange it with something else, the same as the mayors do."

    Mouzalas stressed that in Europe "they are playing an incrimination game against Greece on the refugees influx. With the only expection of the Belgian minister that his government contradicted him, nobody has set a Schengen issue, neither Avramopoulos nor Timmermans.

    All the European officials were clear but a certain climate is created through leaks.

    "The Belgian Minister (Theo Francken) can't say 'I don't care if you drown them...push them back'. It is a crime and he shouldn't have said something like that," said Mouzalas.

    Concluding the Greek Migration Minister noted that "the Frontex acknowledges that Greece is doing an excellent job, but Europe is divided over the refugees issue...We are making alliances in order to promote our positions."

    [09] Alternate Tourism Min Kountoura meets ambassador of the Republic of Korea

    Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura on Wednesday met with the ambassador of the Republic of Korea Ahn Young Jip and discussed the further development of bilateral tourism relations.

    For the first time in 2015, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) participated in the International Tourism Exhibition in Seoul, KOFTA, and as the ambassador informed the minister Greece will also participate in this year's exhibition with the view to promoting Greek tourism in Korea, as a market of great interest.

    The two officials discussed ways of cooperation to promote new Greek tourist products in Korea in view of the 2016 tourist season and to enhance the flow of tourists from this dynamic market for Greece.

    [10] Labour Min Katrougalos to discuss social security reforms with europarliament committee

    The social security reforms will be discussed in a meeting between the Greek Labour Minister George Katrougalos with the Monitoring Group of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament that will be held on Wednesday, in Brussels.

    The Greek government's aim is for the Committee to participate in the negotiations with the lenders.

    According to sources, Katrougalos will underline the Greek government's aim to return to the European social model as the memoranda have alienated us from the tradition of the social dialogue and the collective negotiations that constitute the soul of the European social model.

    [11] Corrective interventions necessary in social security draft law, says ANEL spokeswoman

    "We believe that there should be corrective intervention, and the prime minister himself shares the same view," Independent Greeks (ANEL) spokeswoman Marina Chrysoveloni said in statements to Praktorio 104,9 FM.

    "We have clearly stated that corrective interventions are needed to those provisions for freelancers, scientists, even farmers," she underlined.

    "Farmers should understand that the government and the Independent Greeks are not against them but are on the same side of the table and we are trying to make a constructive dialogue in order to reach some conclusions, which will be beneficial for them," she said.

    Referring to the speech of New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, she noted: "On the one hand we did not have a well documented and costed proposal and on the other hand, Mr Mitsotakis showed his intentions and his extreme neoliberal views.

    [12] State Minister Pappas meets Israeli counterpart Filber in Tel Aviv

    State Minister Nikos Pappas discussed issues concerning regulation of broadcasters with Israel's Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, during a meeting in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, which is part of Prime Minister's Alexis Tsipras' visit to the country.

    Filber told Pappas that Israel completed the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting in 2011 and currently has a total of 6 digital channels, public and private. The two ministers also discussed issues relating to the technological upgrade of broadcasting services, with Filber saying the government is aiming at connecting one million households in a fiber optic network by 2020. Optical fibers support the provision of online services with high demands on bandwidth, such as, live audiovisual content streaming.

    They also focused on cooperation on visual culture where the two countries are expected to exchange views.

    Pappas also met with Ambassador Yuval Rotem, the head of the Foreign Ministry's Public Diplomacy Division, with whom he discussed national branding and dealing with stereotypes.

    [13] European Commission does not link Greek debt to Schengen issues, Dombrovskis says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki) The European Commission does not link the issue of debt relief for Greece with the management of the refugee crisis, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said here on Wednesday.

    "The European Commission does not link the Greek programme with issues relating to Schengen," he said, adding that a reassessment of the repayment terms for Greek debt will be carried out after the conclusion of the first review of the programme.

    The process was now in the stage of the first review, he added, within which a number of issues were raised. Specifically, the Greek authorities are expected to decide what measures will be taken to achieve the fiscal targets for 2016, 2017 and 2018 and for the country to head toward a primary surplus of 3.5 pct of GDP, he said.

    Regarding the pension system reforms proposed by the Greek government, Dombrovskis said this was "quite comprehensive" and the discussion was now focused on its "scope and ambitions" in order to ensure the long-term viability of the system.

    "We consider that it's especially important that we conclude the first review without further delays. We cannot, however, move faster than the pace at which Greek authorities move. A necessary prerequisite is the successful implementation of the measures agreed in the memorandum. This is especially important in terms of restoring trust between Greece and the other Eurozone member-states.." he said.

    [14] German, French interior ministers to visit Greece over migration issues on Feb. 4

    German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve are due in Greece on February 4 for a joint visit focusing on the refugee and migration crisis.

    The planned visit was announced after a meeting between de Maiziere and Cazeneuve in Berlin and later confirmed by the office of Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas in Greece.

    According to sources, on the day following their arrival, the two ministers will visit the island of Lesvos accompanied by Mouzalas.

    [15] Germany urges Turkey to take action against refugee traffickers, pledges support for Greece

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti) Turkey must move against the migrant traffickers operating in the Aegean on the European Union's external borders with "greater intensity and consistency," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday. The current situation, where traffickers were allowed to operate unchecked between two member-states of NATO was "unacceptable," he noted, adding that Germany was willing to support Greece on this issue.

    Asked whether he was could rule out the possibility of military intervention, Seibert replied that he "could not rule out anything here," and cited the common European talks on how to organise effective guarding of the borders.

    "Greece will, of course, participate in this intensively, because it has a special interest. Both we and many other countries are willing to support Greece on this and on other levels," he said.

    "The situation as it is now, between two countries that are, after all, members of NATO, with traffickers able to operate almost undisturbed and daily place the lives of people at risk is unacceptable and should be unacceptable for both countries that this issue concerns," he said.

    The main obligation, he added, was to save human lives and this was happening constantly, both with German Navy ships on the African shores and in the Aegean.

    "This obligation, to save lives, exists. But there is also the joint obligation to prevent human lives being put at risk and to prevent people who are making billions by placing other people at risk, in other words the traffickers, from acting freely," he said.

    [16] EU Commission report finds 'serious deficiencies' in Greece's management of external borders

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis) The European Commission on Wednesday accepted a report finding "serious deficiencies" in Greece's management of the external EU borders, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis announced.

    He said the report, based on inspections carried out last November, showed Greece had "seriously neglected" its obligations to fellow Schengen states. Among the problems, it cited inadequate procedures for recording, fingerprinting and inspecting the documents of refugees and migrants, and no connection with data from European services, such as Interpol.

    "If the necessary action is not being taken and deficiencies persist, there is a possibility to ... allow member states to temporarily close their borders," Dombrovskis told a news briefing.

    If the Commission's conclusions are confirmed by a majority of the 26 Schengen states, he continued, the European Commission will then recommed remedial procedures, giving Greece three months in which to comply.

    Noting that Greece had already made some progress since the assessment mission in November, Dombrovskis made it clear that more needed to be done. If Greece failed to comply, he said, the other Schengen-area states could reinstall controls of their national borders with Greece for a period of up to two years, not a maximum of six months as at present.

    Asked about Slovenia's proposal to use the EU border agency Frontex to police the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) border with Greece, the Commission vicepresident pointed out that Frontex could not operate in a country outside the EU but that the creation of a European border and coast guard would create such an option.

    Talking to the ANA-MPA, Community sources said that if Greece has not taken measures to remedy the faults within the three-month deadline, article 26 of the Schengen treaty will be activated in May so that internal border controls can continue. Implementation by mid-February of the agreements - such as hotspots, first and temporary reception facilities, detaining irregular migrants and issue of return orders - is directly linked to improved border control, the same source said.

    [17] It's not constructive to isolate Greece, says gov't spokeswoman on Schengen report

    Greece should not be criticized for its handling of the refugee crisis with an evaluation that took place two months ago, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said on Wednesday, following a scathing Schengen Evaluation Report on the country which found "serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control".

    The European Commission report, which is not public, also said that Greece is "seriously neglecting its obligations under the Schengen rules".

    Gerovasili said that the EU's Interior ministers reached a decision for a European solution to the problem just two days ago, which concluded that the key to managing the refugee crisis lies in Turkey and its implementation of what has been agreed.

    "Based on this fact, we consider the attempt to isolate Greece as non-constructive, based on one evaluation of the Schengen Mechanism held on November 10, when the situation on the ground was very different than today, two and a half months later," she noted.

    [18] Migration Commissioner: Greece has started complying with the Schengen rules

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis) - Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the draft Schengen evaluation report on Greece "showed serious deficiencies" but that the situation has started to improve, following the discussion of the report by the College of Commissioners in Brussels.

    "If we want to maintain our internal area of free movement, we must better manage our external borders. This means that we will only save Schengen by applying Schengen ... The report shows that there are serious deficiencies in the management of the external border in Greece. We know that in the meantime Greece has started undertaking efforts towards rectifying and complying with the Schengen rules," he noted in a press release.

    "Substantial improvements are needed to ensure the proper reception, registration, relocation or return of migrants in order to bring Schengen functioning back to normal, without internal border controls. This is our ultimate common goal," he added.

    [19] Labour minister: Future of Greek pensions is closely linked to future of Europe's welfare state

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki) - The future of Greek pensions is closely linked to the future of the welfare state in Europe, Labour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said on Wednesday, following the first meeting of the European Parliament's Working Group which has taken up the monitoring of Greece's aid program

    "We face a tough negotiation and we do not want to do it alone, exactly because we believe that the future of pensions in Greece are closely linked with the future of the welfare state in Europe," the minister told ANA-MPA and added "This is why we want the European Parliament to monitor the negotiation closely."

    During his speech at the meeting, Katrougalos noted the difficulties faced by the Greek government in the negotiations with the representatives of the institutions concerning the social security reforms. He said that some of them do not allow the Greek government to decide for itself the measures it will use to implement its commitment to cut social security costs by 1 pct of GDP, and in particular to increase employers' contributions, to which employers have already accepted.

    The next meeting of the parliament's Working Group on Greece will be held on Feb. 22.

    [20] ND leader says government is facing consequences of promises it couldn't keep

    The government is facing the consequences of the promises it made but couldn't keep and New Democracy will not follow this tactic, main opposition's leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday during a visit to the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    According to Chamber sources, Mitsotakis admitted the populism that influenced the governments in the last few decades and stated he will venture into politics with a new philosophy, telling the truth even if it is not pleasant, and cited his speech on pension reform in parliament.

    He also said that the lack of liquidity, the taxation and red tape are affecting businesses, but added that the biggest problem is the lack of political stability which makes it difficult to attract investment, despite the fact that there are significant opportunities.

    Finacial News

    [21] Greek stocks edge higher

    Greek stocks ended slightly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange in thin trading conditions. Buying activity focused on selected blue chip stocks such as Viohalco, Folli Follie and Motor Oil, while other blue chips such as OPAP, Ellaktor and Piraeus Port suffered losses.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.17 pct to end at 545.27 points, off the day's highs of 1.14 pct and after falling as much as 0.53 pct during the day. The Large Cap index rose 0.11 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.04 pct lower. Turnover was a thin 50.159 million euros, in volume of 77,184,795.

    Piraeus Bank (3.49 pct), Viohalco (3.08 pct) and Folli Follie (2.14 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while OPAP (2.65 pct), Ellaktor (2.52 pct) and Piraeus Port (1.88 pct) suffered losses.

    National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Among market sectors, Health (5.81 pct) and Commerce (2.15 pct) scored gains, while Travel (1.92 pct) and Raw Materials (1.42 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 58 to 46 with another 14 issues unchanged. Boutaris (20 pct), Pasal (20 pct) and Hatzikraniotis (19 pct) were top gainers, while Vioter (20 pct), Mermeren (19.74 pct) and Sfakianakis (18.44 pct) were top losers.

    [22] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened slightly to 9.17 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 9.03 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.61 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.44 pct. Only two transactions were made during the session.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate eased to 0.022 pct from 0.025 pct, the nine-month rate was stable at -0.032 pct, the six-month rate unchanged at -0.082 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.159 pct from -0.158 pct and the onemonth rate was -0.231 pct.

    [23] Assets under management up 13.45 pct in 2015

    Assets under management grew to 14.35 billion euros at the end of 2015, from 12.65 billion a year earlier, an increase of 13.45 pct, official figures showed on Wednesday.

    A report by the Union of Institutional Investors showed that total assets in the mutual funds market grew 19.7 pct in 2015 to 7.238 billion euros, form 6.047 billion in 2014. The mutual funds market recorded capital inflows amounting to 1.152 billion euros in 2015, mostly because of capital inflows in the short-term management category in the first half of 2015 before the imposition of capital controls. Greek bond funds recorded the highest yield, 15.29 pct on average in 2015, followed by the US equities funds (9.18 pct), developed markets equities (8.36) and international bond funds (9.03 pct).

    The Greek equities fund category recorded yields ranging from -23.53 pct to 0.73 pct, up from a 23.58 pct decline recorded by the ASE composite index in 2015.

    [24] TIF could not remain untouched by the digital revolution, TIFHelexpo managing director tells ANA-MPA

    The managing director of the TIF-Helexpo Kyriakos Pozrikidis referred to benefits of the digital era as well as on the way the digital means are developed by TIF-Helexpo to the "Second Digital Forum" on "Disrupt our Future" that was held recently in Athens.

    Pozrikidis in statements to ANA-MPA noted that in a period that information travels quicker that the thought and the web eliminates the distance of thousands of kilometres, TIF-Helexpo could not remain untouched by the huge revolution that have brought the digital means.

    "Open to new technologies and to the new vision through which refracts the knowledge, the national exhibition entity sets from the first moment the digital media and the social media in its every day life and used all the digital channels to transmit the exhibition information. The direct and immediate dissemination of its actions to the public, where previously access was difficult, the access to web communities-clients attraction tanks without bureaucratic procedures and delays and the use of blogs and news websites contributed substantially to the promotion of its exhibition work that until recently became known only through the traditional ways, facing the danger, however, not to arrive on time where it should.

    Moreover, the digital roads created in the last years gave ground to new marketing methods for the company," noted Pozrikidis.

    TIF-Helexpo general director also underlined that the internet and the digital economy that developed rapidly constitute a valuable tool, an excellent means to promote the exchange of knowhow and community creation, cooperations and synergies worldwide. "The potentials offered by the digital means to the exhibition (TIF), a historic institution of the city of Thessaloniki, have opened a new chapter in its history. It is indicative that a few years ago TIF digitised a huge photo archive that reflects its long course throughout the years, which is now ready to be used at any moment. Besides, innovation was a meaning inherent to the character of TIF from the day of its foundation that rushed to promote and make use of whatever innovative, new and groundbreaking.

    The digitisation of data also helped TIF-Helexpo at another level provided that the company administrates big data of exhibitors and trade visitors which it handles with respect and to their benefit in an effort to inform them and continuous connection with exhibition activities that may interest them and would like to participate or visit. Without the digital means, this huge number of exhibitors and visitors that in any case have developed with TIF, would be fruitless and this valuable bond would be temporary and occasional. But via the digital world, the synergies and the relations develop, grow and set the basis for new exhibition products and the ground new ideas to bloom," concluded Pozrikidis.

    [25] Greek SMEs suffered 15 pct drop in sales in Q3 2015, report

    Greek small- and medium-sized enterprises suffered a significant drop in sales in the third quarter of 2015, hit by the imposition of capital controls in the country with very small enterprises mostly hit leading to widening of a gap with large enterprises, a report by National Bank said on Wednesday.

    The survey, based on a sample of 1,200 enterprises, showed that sales fell 15 pct in the third quarter of 2015, compared with the same period in 2014, after a 4.0 pct decline recorded in the second quarter. Sales by very small enterprises dropped 23 pct in the third quarter of 2015 after a 10 pct fall in the second quarter. Exports fell by 9.0 pct in the same period (exports by very small enterprises dropped 28 pct). Among market sectors, the chemicals, IT and tourism sectors reported strong results, while constructions and retail were the most weak sectors.

    The imposition of capital controls hit mostly SMEs as sales fell 15 pct in the third quarter compared with a 7.8 pct decline in sales of large enterprises. National Bank's confidence index fell by 21 points in the second half of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014, with 87 pct of SMEs saying they faced significant problems from the imposition of capital controls.

    The report noted it was important that capital controls should be lifted the soonest possible while SMEs still have cash reserves. Two-thirds of SMEs expect a return to normality in less than three months after the lifting of capital controls, with one-third expecting an immediate return.

    A 25 pct of SMEs cancelled investment plans, a 22 pct cut employment, a 7.0 pct temporarily suspended operations and only 1.0 pct transferred its base abroad. The imposition of capital controls had also two positive effects on the Greek economy, the report noted, as it led to a significant increase in the use of e-banking and POS card machines.

    [26] BAT announces international logistics hub in Piraeus

    British American Tobacco on Wednesday announced the creation of an international logistics hub in Piraeus able to cover 10 markets worth 1.1 billion euros.

    Giapiero Pazzanese, chairman and chief executive of BAT for Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Israel, speaking to reporters during a news conferece, said operation of the logistics hub will begin in March 2016 and will cover 10 markets. BAT has already found the area to build its logistics center which will be capable of cargo transit worth 1.1 billion euros annually and will be transported to Cyprus, Malta and other Middle East and African countries.

    The decision will have multiple positive benefits for the port, transportation and the Greek economy in general. "We believe in the country's dynamism and despite an environment full of challenges, we proceed with an ambitious plan which we consider could contribute in efforts towards recovery and growth," Pazzanese said, adding that BAT was implementing an ambitious business plan, of innovative products and investments in the Greek market worth 100 million euros over the next three years.

    He underlined that tobacco smuggling has taken on worrying dimensions, rising 23 pct in 2015, while the legal tobacco and cigarette market continued falling. BAT is purchasing 15 pct of Greek tobacco and has contributed more than 3.2 billion euros to the Greek state since 2010. Its workforce totals 100 workers and it has hired 40 new workers in the last two years.

    The company has paid more than 3.0 million euros in bonuses to its workers during the last two years and plans to pay more than 1.5 million euros in bonuses and benefits to its workers in 2016.

    General News

    [27] Farmers at Tempi Valley to block road for five hours on Thursday

    Greek farmers protesting against the government's proposed tax and pension reforms announced they will block the national road at the Valley of Tempi for five hours on Thursday, following a meeting of their group earlier on Wednesday.

    According to their announcement, the blockade will take place from 16.00 (local time) to 21.00.

    The farmers are also discussing the possibility of inviting the representatives of all the protesting farmers at Tembi to discuss further action. They also said they will not participate in the protests planned for the opening of the 26th Agrotica exhibition in Thessaloniki.

    [28] Protesting farmers block Promachonas customs on Bulgarian border, roads throughout Greece

    Protesting farmers on Wednesday blocked access to the customs at the Promachonas border crossing with Bulgaria, starting at noon and without saying when their blockade will end.

    Elsewhere in the country, the farmers' protests escalated and several roads were closed at intervals throughout the day.

    A meeting by northern Greek farmers in Sindos decided on road closures from 12:00-14:00 and 18:00-21:00 but this is not religiously followed by all protestors, especially the more moderate groups.

    All farmers agree, however, that the draft legislation on pension reforms and taxation must be withdrawn and redesigned from scratch, taking into account their own views and planning a national policy for the farming sector for the next decade at least.

    Northern Greek farmers are also planning protests on Thursday, when Rural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Apostolou will visit Thessaloniki to inaugurate the 26th Agrotica. They will be joined in fishermen from the region, while farmers' market vendors have announced a strike.

    [29] Promachonas customs open for cars only; full blockade from noon on Thursday

    Farmers were only allowing cars through the customs at the Promachonas border crossing with Bulgaria late on Wednesday but were refusing access to all larger vehicles. A farmer trade unionist said that the protests will continue on Thursday, with a full blockade of both cars and trucks to resume at noon for at least six hours.

    Elsewhere, northern Greek farmers aligning themselves with the decisions made at Sindos were closing roads from 18:00 until 21:00 at night. They will not be blocking roads at the prearranged times (12:00-14:00 and 18:00-21:00) on Thursday in order to take part in a protest rally in Thessaloniki.

    [30] Ships docked until Friday morning due to seamens' strike

    Ships will remain docked until Friday morning at 06:00 following a 48h strike declared by the Hellenic Seamen Federation (PNO) against the government's reforms in the social security system.

    PNO demands the withdrawal of the social security draft law referring to the government's "intransigent and inflexible stance" and has decided to participate in public sector union employees (GSEE ) 24h strike on February 4.

    The Seamen's Union also warns with escalation of their mobilisations the day the controversial bill will be tabled in parliament.

    [31] One infant dies in new refugees boat tragedy

    A baby's body was found on a beach on Kos island, north of Cape Ammoglossa. The baby, along with aprroximately 10 refugees and migrants were on a boat that sank off Kos coasts.

    One of the passenger that managed to reach the coast showed to the Coast Guard officers area of the wreck.

    A Greek Coast Guard vessel, a frontex patrol boat assisted by a super puma helicopter are currently searching the area to locate the missing migrants.

    [32] 912 refugees arrive at Piraeus port on Wednesday

    "Nissos Rhodos" docked at Piraeus port on Wednesday with 912 refugees and migrants on board.

    Greek Coast Guard has taken all the necessary measures to facilitate them.

    [33] Artist Ai Weiwei shuts down show in Denmark to protest refugee law

    Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei announced on Wednesday he is closing down his exhibition "Ruptures" at Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a protest against a new law that will enable Danish authorities to confiscate asylum seekers' personal valuables to pay for their housing and food costs.

    "Jens Faurschou backs the artist's decision and regrets that the Danish parliament choses to be in the forefront of symbolic and inhuman politics of today's biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe and the Middle East, instead of being in the forefront of a respectful European solution to solve the acute humanitarian crisis," the artist said in a post on his Instagram account.

    The artist, who is currently back in Lesvos for a second time after an extended visit at the end of 2015, was helping newly arrived refugees and migrants in the region of Kratigos and handed out lollipops to children, while he discussed with volunteers and members of NGOs operating on the island.

    Whoever asked him on his decision to pull off his work from the Danish exhibition, he said he was shocked by the Danish government's decision and felt compelled to withdraw from the event.

    [34] Hundreds rescued off Lesvos, 1659 refugees and migrants reach the island on Wed.

    Hundreds of refugees and migrants were saved by the Greek coast guard and European border agency Frontex on Wednesday, in their attempt to make the crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Lesvos in the northeast Aegean. At least five dinghies carrying migrants and refugees were found sailing adrift or in danger of sinking in Greek territorial waters during the day.

    A total of 1659 new arrivals in the last 24 hours were recorded at the migrant registration centre in Moria by 9:00 on Wednesday, while another 2350 individuals were ready for departure but were trapped on the island as a result of a seamen's strike.

    [35] Death toll rises to seven following sinking of boat with refugees off Kos

    Seven people, among them two children, drowned after the boat that they were on board sank 2.5 nautical miles (in the Turkish waters) northwest of Cape Amoglossa of Kos island.

    Coast Guard rescued a man and a woman of the 9 passengers of the boat.

    According to the Greek Coast Guard, a man was located early Wednesday on a Kos beach who claimed that he was on a boat that sank.

    A rescue operation was immediately launched to search the area for survivors. The bodies of two children (a boy and girl), three men and one woman were located in the Greek waters.

    On its part, the Turkish Coast Guard recovered a woman body and rescued a woman that was sent to sent to a Turkish hospital in critical condition.

    [36] University of Peloponnese signs cooperation agreement with UAE's American University

    The Political Sciences and International Relations Department of the University of Peloponnese has launced an extroverted and innovative cooperation with the American University in the United Arab Emirates.

    The cooperation memorandum signed between the two universities provides for common curricula, exchanges of students and faculty members, joint research initiatives, publications and scholarships to students.

    The cooperation between the two universities constitutes an innovation and a particularly important opening of the Political Sciences and International Relations Department of the University of Peloponnese, but also of the country, to a region with high political and economic interest.

    [37] Greek authorities to launch new tender for TrainOSE

    Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund is considering declaring annulled an international tender for the privatization of TrainOSE and launching a new tender, sources close to the procedure told ANA-MPA on Wednesday.

    The sources said that none of the three companies participating in the final stage of the tender (French SNCF, Russian RZD and Romanian GFR) submitted a binding offer for the purchase of TrainOSE. Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund sources said that in the meantime new candidates expressed interest in the privatization which could not take part in the tender.

    [38] Athens public transport single fare to rise to 1.40 euros from Feb 1

    The price of the single fare on Athens public transport will rise from 1.20 euros to 1.40 euros as of February 1, while the discount fare will remain the same at 0.60 euros, the Athens public transport organisation OASA announced on Wednesday.

    OASA chief Ioannis Skoubouris said the the new prices will go into effect as of next Monday since everything was in place, with only the publication of a Joint Ministerial Decision by the finance and transport ministers still pending.

    He clarified, however, that the ticket's duration will be increased from 70 minutes at present to 90 minutes.

    The price hike is the result of an increase in VAT.

    Tickets on Athens public transport allow the holder unlimited travel on all types of public transport for a given period of time after the ticket is validated, at the first point of entry on a bus or metro station.

    [39] Exhibition on the work of Greek artist 'Nonda' at Museum of the City of Athens

    A rare exhibition on the work of Greek artist Epaminondas Papadopoulos (1922-2005), better known in the Paris circles where he spent most of his life as simply 'Nonda', will be on show at the Museum of the City of Athens (Vouros Eutaxias Foundation) from Wednesday until March 31.

    Entitled 'Le Paris de Nonda' and curated by the artist's daughter, the exhibition tracks the life and work of an artist that influenced 20th century art and modernism.

    The exhibition features 50 works of art spread over the five galleries of the museum, depicting the streets of Paris where Nonda lived and worked for most of his life: Pigalle, Montmartre, Place Blanche and other signature Paris neighbourhoods in the post-war years of 1947 and onward.

    [40] Weather Forecast

    Mostly fair weather and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from -01C-17C. Mostly fair in the eastern parts with temperatures between 04C-17C. Scattered clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 06C-15C. Mostly fair in Athens, 06C-16C; Scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 06C-13C.

    [41] Athens News Headlines at a glance

    AVGHI: Class hatred by (New Democracy leader Kyriakos) Mitsotakis

    DIMOKRATIA: They are asking for Greece's keys

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Block to dialogue

    ESTIA: Risk of double exit

    ETHNOS: Plan-shock for a "wall" in Skopje

    IMERISSIA: Changes in tax declaration

    KATHIMERINI: Premiere with confrontation on all issues

    KOTRANEWS: Kyriakos (Mitsotakis, New Democracy leader) found the solution: Cut public sector salaries and give the money to farmers

    NAFTEMPORIKI: 12 vague issues on the social security system

    RIZOSPASTIS: Take back the guillotine law

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