|Wednesday, 11 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-05-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 18 May 2016 Issue No: 5168
 Greece entering new era, PM says at ceremony launching TAP constructionGreece is entering a new era that leaves instability and uncertainty permanently behind it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday while addressing a ceremony inaugurating construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Thessaloniki.
The conclusion of the first review of Greece's bailout programme, an agreement for easing the debt and strong signs that growth will resume in the second half of 2016, as well as the inauguration of the TAP natural gas pipeline, are all indicators of this passage to a new era, Tsipras added. He also hailed the pipeline's geostrategic significance in his address to the foreign officials gathered for the inauguration, noting that it was a project of regional cooperation.
The prime minister appeared confident that Greece was turning a corner and putting the worst behind it, noting that the end of the uncertainty that had dogged the economy in recent years will create "a stable environment for the large-scale attraction of productive investments."
He also noted that this had been achieved "without budging from the August agreement" and that the Greek programme review was being concluded without additional measures, "with the economy and society upright".
The funds that will be immediately disbursed under the agreement will cover the greater part of the state's overdue debts, he added, which would provide significant relief to the market. At the same time, unemployment was easing, budget revenues had exceeded targets, a new developmental law will be passed in early June, new alternative financing instruments were being set up and Greece will be participating in the European Central Bank's quantitative easing programme, Tsipras pointed out. All this, along with a string of essential reforms that will reduce bureaucracy, will once again put Greece on a path of independent growth, he said.
An agreement for settling Greece's debt, that the government expects will ratified by the Eurogroup next week, will foresee a reduction of spending to service Greek debt and release resources for investments and to increase employment, Tsipras said.
"With a resolution of the debt issue, instability and uncertainty will be permanently gone, allowing the Greek economy to express its productive potential; something that will lead to a permanent passage to a new era. This development will act to promote a successful conclusion of the fiscal adjustment programme for regaining the confidence of markets and a faster exit from the era of memorandums. It is this new era that we have come to signal at the TAP inauguration here in Thessaloniki. It is a happy coincidence that the inauguration of TAP coincides with good news about the Greek economy, so we have double the reasons to be happy and optimistic about a better future," he said.
 Tsipras: TAP has major geostrategic importanceThe start of TAP's construction came at a crucial time for both Greece's economy and the broader region around it, Tsipras noted during his address.
"Our countries - from the Caucasus to the central Mediterranean, which link Asia with Europe - are called on to support peace, stability and regional cooperation in a wider region of crises, conflict and emerging challenges. Crises and conflicts to the north - in the Black Sea - and to the south, in the Middle East and North Africa; Challenges that our countries are called on to face in the economy, the management of refugee flows and security.
In this context, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline that will open the vitally important 3,500-kilometre Southern Gas Corridor is a project of regional cooperation not just of major economic significance but also great geostrategic significance," he said.
In addition to diversifying energy supply sources and energy security for Europe, the project can help make energy a "bridge of cooperation and prosperity for all in our region, not a source of exclusions, domination, crises and conflict," he added.
The pipeline will transport up to 10 billion cubic metres of gas from Azerbaijan to Europe each year, while this capacity can increase to 20 billion in the future. It was also capable of "natural reverse flow", so that natural gas could be supplied from Italy to southeastern Europe if the need arose, making it one of the most important energy projects underway worldwide, Tsipras pointed out. It can also be linked to existing or planned pipelines along its route, thus ensuring that the SGC can reach the widest possible range of energy markets.
The Greek premier also referred to the planned Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB pipeline) and its role in Greece's energy planning, as a 'bridge' for the transport of natural gas to southeastern and central Europe, or the LNG floating platform in Alexandroupolis.
"With a budget that exceeds 1.5 billion euros, TAP is one of the largest direct foreign investments in Greece, placing it for the first time - in terms of construction and not just planning - on the energy map and the map of pipelines," Tsipras said. The project was expected to create 8,000 jobs and new orders for Greek companies and heavy industry that would be supplying the pipes and other materials used, he said. The project would also lead to higher employment on a local level, benefit consumers and was accompanied by a 32-million-euro Corporate Social Responsibility programme providing offset benefits for the local communities impacted by its construction.
"I would like to point out that the initial planning of the programme was for just 11 million euros, a sum that was significantly increase and will now concern very specific projects benefiting the regions the pipeline runs through," he said.
After the speeches at the MET hotel, the prime minister and visiting foreign officials walked a short distance to Thessaloniki port and, in a purely symbolic gesture, wrote their signatures on a section of the pipeline.
 TAP renders northern Greece an energy hub, Economy Min Stathakis tells ANA-MPAThe construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is a transnational investment with the participation of Greece, Albania and Italy, Economy Minister George Stathakis said in an interview with ANA-MPA on Tuesday.
It is a very important work of 2 billion euros, Stathakis noted adding that the two thirds of the European part of the pipeline, i.e 580 out of the approximately 800 kilometres, are on the Greek territory, he explained..
Moroever, he said that the construction of the pipeline creates an important energy hub in northern Greece. The project is expected to have been completed by the end of 2019, Stathakis stressed.
The construction of TAP in the next three years will offer around 8,000 new jobs and will pave the way for energy supply in selected areas according to the government plans while at the same time it will attract additional investments in the energy sector.
Asked on the conclusion of the programme review and how it will affect investments, the Greek minister said: "We have high expectations from the conclusion of the first programme review. The reaction of the markets and investors is indicative of the stable economic and political climate expected to be created that will also boost investments. The messages are very optimistic and it is the government's job to take the necessary measures in order to facilitate investments."
Among these measures, he explained, is the new development law and financing, the simplified procedures to support entrepreneurship, a new transparent system of public contracts and a series of institutions measures aiming at creating a more stable environment.
The full interview in Greek is available at ANA website.
 Energy minister discusses TAP's potential with Commissioner Sefcovic, TAP's directorGreece's involvement in energy plans affecting southeastern Europe was discussed in successive meeting between Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis and the Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic, and TAP's Managing Director, Ian Bradshaw, in Thessaloniki on Tuesday.
In the meeting with Sefcovic, Skourletis discussed the TAP and the IGB, as well as the floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis, and the great opportunities offered by LNG station in Revithoussa. They also discussed the plan to transport gas from Israel and Cyprus in Europe via Greece.
In his meeting with Bradshaw, the two sides recognized the good cooperation and efficiency of the discussions to promote TAP in recent months, which led to resolving key issues, improving the agreement and to the implementation of the project.
 Start of TAP construction a 'historic moment' says CEO Ian BradshawThe start of work on the TransAdriatic Pipeline (TAP) was a "historic moment" for achieving Europe's energy goals, TAP AG CEO Ian Bradshaw said on Tuesday, during a ceremony in Thessaloniki to inaugurate the natural gas pipeline's construction in Greece. Completion of TAP would help ensure Europe's energy security by diversifying energy sources, he said.
Bradshaw said the project was expected to be delivered on schedule, thanking Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Greek authorities for their support.
He also noted that the project will help improve the quality of life of people living along its route, bringing millions of euros in direct investments and thousands of jobs, both directly and indirectly.
 TAP will create new conditions for Europe's energy security, foreign dignitaries sayThe construction of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will create a new landscape in Europe's energy security and the political stability and peace in the wider region and, by opening the so-called "Southern Gas Corridor", will bring natural gas to Europe's energy markets from the huge natural gas field at Shah Deniz in the Caspian Sea, starting from 2020, according to representatives from nine countries participating in the ceremony inaugurating construction of the pipeline on Tuesday.
During the ceremony, Greek and foreign officials discussed how the interconnecting pipelines that will link with TAP and TANAP (Trans-Anatolian Pipeline) in the following years - such as the IGB (Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria) in Bulgaria and the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP) - will extend further the dynamic of the energy networks, unlocking new power resources for Europe.
Speaking at the event, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili noted that by 2019 the quantities of transferred natural gas exported by the wider region will increase significantly. "TAP will facilitate the connection of the [energy] system with other regions, ensuring an opening to new markets ... The Southern Gas Corridor may also extend to reach other countries, from where gas could come to Europe, like Turkmenistan," he said.
The First Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Yaqub Eyyubov, said the Southern Gas Corridor will support the desire of European states to diversify their sources of supply.
"The Southern Gas Corridor constitutes a new energy example and opportunity, which may facilitate the provision of larger amounts of gas not only from Azerbaijan, but also Central Asia and Eastern Mediterranean," he said, adding that TAP doesn't compete with existing pipelines, but simply constitutes an alternative.
Taking his turn, Albanian Deputy Prime Minister Niko Peleshi said the construction of the Albanian section of the pipeline is expected to start in the second half of 2016, adding that TAP is very important for Europe's future because it offers reliable energy in good prices, which is one of the biggest challenges in the EU at the moment.
The Vice-President of the European Commission for Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic, described the inauguration as a "historic day", noting that the Southern Gas Corridor is "the biggest construction project of our time."
"The realisation of the Southern Gas Corridor will be a turning point from centralised markets with single dominant suppliers to mixed and diverse energy markets; from a world where each country had its own energy plans into a coherent regional strategy where countries cooperate together along common interests; from the assumption that the Caspian Sea is too far away for the European market to creating an integrated energy infrastructure linking Caspian resources to European consumers," he said.
"Today's ceremony is the living proof that this is technically possible, that it's economically viable, and that it's politically beneficial for all parties involved."
Sefcovic also explained that energy diversification is not a matter of symbolism; it is about competitiveness which will create better services and lower prices.
"By 2020 we expect to see gas flowing into Europe. This will be the conclusion but not the end. Once the route and the overall framework are tested, it will be easier to expand the Southern Gas Corridor beyond the initial volumes of 10 billion cubic meters a year," he added.
The Commissioner also confirmed the EU's interest in scaling-up the Southern Gas Corridor swiftly, including with more gas originating from the Caspian and possibly Central Asia region. "In this context, it is important to recall the Ashgabat Declaration signed with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey in May last year," he said.
On his side, U.S. Special Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein said the construction of the pipeline will bring new hope for stability to all the countries along the TAP route and the wider region. "The completion of the Southern Gas Corridor must continue to be a major priority for Europe's energy security," he said at the ceremony and added that the IGB will also impact the region. "Gas will reach many regions in Europe which until now had serious problems with conditions of monopoly," he said.
Turkish Energy Minister, Berat Albayrak, said that more gas will be available through the TAP and TANAP and a more reliable supply for more markets adding that through these pipelines "we witnessed how cooperation can overcome concerns on Europe's energy supply."
Italy's "very active interest" for the construction of TAP was noted by the country's Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda. "The final permits for the creation of the project have been issued ... For the first time, the Italian government adopted a new law, which enables us to achieve our results on schedule ... Thanks to investments already made, the Italian network will ensure by 2018 reverse flow along the pipeline in quantities of up to 30 bcm.
 TAP is an important project for energy upgrading, gov't spokeswoman saysThe construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is an important project for the energy upgrading, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
She explained that its construction will have multiple benefits for the economy and employment adding that its operation in combination with other energy networks and infrastructure on track, contribute to rendering Greece an energy hub.
 As a government, SYRIZA improved TAP deal, gov't sources sayThe government improved the conditions of the deal for the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and is pursuing a diversified energy policy, government sources said on Tuesday.
The sources were responding to criticism by New Democracy saying that SYRIZA was against the pipeline's construction when it was in the opposition, while now "it is organizing fiestas".
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is in Thessaloniki to attend the ceremony for the launch of the construction of TAP's Greek section.
"SYRIZA was never against TAP; it didn't vote against in in parliament, but highlighted issued regarding offsetting benefits, as well as the need to pursue a diversified energy policy," the same sources said.
 Potami leader hopes TAP will help kickstart recovery for Greek economyPotami party leader Stavros Theodorakis expressed hope on Tuesday that the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will become the occasion for a new recovery path of the Greek economy, in statements to the press as he arrived at the ceremony inaugurating construction of the TransAdriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Thessaloniki.
"The road from the country's freedom from the memorandums passes through large and small development projects and not from suspicion towards any kind of investors, as SYRIZA preaches. We hope the TAP will become the occasion for a new recovery path especially in deindustrialized Northern Greece," Theodorakis said.
 PM Tsipras to visit Rome on Friday, gov't spokeswoman saysPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Rome on Friday for the second meeting of European Socialist Leaders. In addition, on Monday May 23, the Prime Minister will travel to Istanbul for the first World Humanitarian UN Summit, gov't spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
 Tsipras on IDAHOT: Government actively promotes an end to discrimination based on gender, sexual orientationThe Greek government is actively promoting an end to discrimination and equality for all, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or color, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in two tweets on his account on Tuesday, marking the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
"International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia reminds us of the struggles for an implicit freedom of man, that of sexual orientation," Tsipras tweeted.
"We are committed to build a society that respects all humans irrespective of religion, origin, or sexual orientation," he added.
 The government is discussing road map on loosening capital controls, Economy Min Stathakis saysThe government is discussing a road map on loosening capital controls, Economy Minister George Stathakis said in an interview with Star TV late on Monday.
Stathakis underlined that the participation of the Greek banks in ECB quantitative easing programme, the new development fund and the new NSRF programme will contribute to boosting growth rates adding that bureaucratic procedures will be further simplified and the institutions framework for public contracts will be restructured.
The Economy Minister stressed that Greece is based on human resources with high skills and these investments are focused on small and medium entrepreneurship as well as innovative entrepreneurship.
Moreover, he said that the government decided to proceed with significant tax and pension reforms in order to avoid salary and pension cuts.
Stathakis reassured that the sale of performing and non-performing loans to foreign funds, either housing loans or consumption loans, related to first residence with a mortgage of up to 140,000 euros are protected until January 2018.
 Conclusion of this phase inaugurates a period of stability and recovery, says gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili"The conclusion of this phase inaugurates a period of stability and turn to recovery," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said during her briefing to the press.
By the end of this week the pending measures will be voted by the Greek parliament for the completion of the first review, she stated. The Eurogroup meeting on May 24 will follow along with the disbursement of the tranche provided in the agreement.
Gerovassili underlined that the performance of the Greek economy is "better than expected" as Eurostat's data have confirmed and noted that the imminent settlement of the state arrears with the disbursement that follows the first review "contribute to the change of the climate."
She also announced that in the following period the government will unveil its planning in the sectors of investment and growth starting from the development law that is currently under discussion."
 Gov't spokeswoman on automatic fiscal correction mechanism and debt sustainabilityGreece is aiming to solve the issue of debt sustainability in a way that will restore the stability in the country and will create the conditions for a safe investment environment, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili statedin a press briefing on Tuesday.
She underlined the importance of the automatic fiscal correction mechanism according to the recent Eurogroup's decision which will not depend on the the incumbent Finance Minister or on arbitrary data and forecasts but it will be automatically activated in order to ensure the Greek debt's sustainability based on objective criteria.
 Reshuffle is not on the horizon, says gov't spokeswoman GerovassiliThe completion of the review and the disbursement of the tranche to Greece is the government's priority, stated government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili during her press briefing on Tuesday. The next target is the acceleration of the government's work with draft laws for growth.
Referring to the government's reshuffle, Gerovassili said that a reshuffle is not on the horizon for the time being.
 We will vote against taxes, but we will support reforms, ND leader Mitsotakis says"We will vote against taxes, but we will support the reforms," main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday said in an interview with France 24 TV.
Asked on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' policy on the refugee issue, he replied: "Tsipras did nothing on the refugee issue for eight months. Moreover, he gave a clear signal that the easiest way to get into Europe is via the Greek islands. When he understood the gravity of the problem, it was too late. I think we have to wait a little longer in order to come to a conclusion on the efficiency of the EU-Turkey agreement. I am optimistic, but the situation in Turkey is difficult. I hope that Turkey will meet its commitments."
Earlier on Tuesday, Mitsotakis met with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron.
 Greece needs a different economic policy mix, says ND leaderPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greece needs a different policy mix that will emphasise structural reforms and not taxes, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday following a meeting in Paris with Angel Gurr?a, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The two sides focused on the cooperation between the organization and Greece as well on the studies conducted today for the country. "Greece today needs a different economic policy mixture that will place more emphasis on cutting taxes, state spending, but more importantly on the structural and essential reforms that will allow our country to attract a significant number of investments," he said.
Mitsotakis also noted that without investments there will be no new jobs in Greece, noting that the current government cannot bring them to the country.
 ND leader Mitsotakis meets French Economy Min MacronMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron earlier on Tuesday.
Reforms and measures to boost the Greek economy dominated their meeting.
Moreover, Mitsotakis stressed the importance of changing the economic policy in Greece. According to sources, he also underlined the importance of reducing taxes and strengthening entrepreneurship, cutting spending and attracting foreign investments.
 EU Commissioner Avramopoulos: Migration and safety challenges need European solutionsThe migration and safety challenges that EU member states face demand European solutions, the best possible mobilisation and funds, said European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos in response to European parliament Vice President and SYRIZA MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis on possible measures for the protection of the Schengen zone.
Avramopoulos underlined that "the member states that temporarily control their internal borders do not not infringe the Schengen Treaty regulations" adding that "the current challenges in the sectors of migration and safety put serious pressure on the borders management system of EU member states."
He also said that in order to ensure the adequate safeguarding of the external borders we must "upgrade the role of the EU organisation for the borders and to provide it with the necessary funds to move and activate more quickly and efficiently".
Concluding, Avramoppoulos stressed that the "Commission's proposal institutes a complete and comprehensive management of the borders at European level as a common responsibility between the organisation and the member states."
 EU-IMFdeal for Greece by May 24 'difficult but not impossible', says Eurozone officialBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/C. Vasilaki)
A comprehensive agreement on Greece by May 24 (Eurogroup meeting) that will satisfy both the EU's member-states and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is difficult but not unattainable, a senior Eurozone official said on Tuesday.
The official explained that an agreement has already been achieved between the Greek authorities and the institutions on the main package of measures and expressed optimism that the two sides will also agree on the contingent mechanism within the week. The overall deal could include this main package of measures along with the mechanism and a political agreement on Greece's debt, he added. "We're working on this direction. It's difficult but not impossible," he said.
Concerning the contingency mechanism, the official said the two sides are close to "a solution that meets the criteria of automation, legislation and transparency" set by the Eurogroup in Amsterdam, making it clear that the mechanism is now part of the bailout deal and the comprehensive package of measures.
On debt relief, the Eurozone official said the expectation is there's a "political agreement" in the next Eurogroup for the form of measures and the timetable for their implementation, if they are deemed necessary.
 President Pavlopoulos receives New Zealand Governor GeneralPresident of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Tuesday received New Zealand Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, who is visiting Greece to attend celebrations marking the 75th anniversary since the Battle of Crete.
Meeting the Governor General, President Pavlopoulos underlined that Greeks will never forget the huge contribution that New Zealanders made at the Battle of Crete, where 671 fell in battle and 2,000 were taken prisoner out of a total of 7,700 that fought in the battle. The Battle of Crete was significant on a European and global level, Pavlopoulos added, helping to more quickly end Nazi atrocities and barbarity.
Mateparae was accompanied by New Zealand's Education Minister Hekia Parata, whose grandfather had fought in the Battle of Crete and referred to further enhancing the friendly ties between Greece and New Zealand. Attending on the Greek side was Alternate Development Minister for Tourism Elena Kountoura.
 Contingency mechanism to be tabled as amendment in omnibus billThe provisions on the contingency mechanism will be tabled as an amendment in parliament, after the submission of the omnibus bill containing the government's prior actions for technical reasons, finance ministry sources said on Tuesday.
 Parliament ratifies memorandum signed with China on maritime affairs cooperationThe Greek Parliament plenum on Tuesday ratified a memorandum of understanding signed between Greece and the People's Republic of China on cooperation in maritime affairs. The ratification was given with a large majority, with only Golden Dawn and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) voting against it.
 FinMin Tsakalotos to brief SYRIZA MPs on prior actions bill on WednesdayFinance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Alternate Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis will brief SYRIZA's parliamentary group on Wednesday on the content of the omnibus bill containing the last prior actions demanded by Greece's lenders and the contingency mechanism.
 Turkish aircrafts entered 42 times in Athens FIRFour Turkish aircrafts F-16, three naval cooperation aircrafts and six helicopters entered into Athens FIR on Monday without submitting flight plans. 18 violations of Athens FIR air traffic regulations were recorded that developed into 42 violations of the Greek airspace in several parts of the Aegean.
In all cases the Turkish aircrafts were recognised and intercepted by Greek fighters. The Turkish planes were not loaded.
The Turkish flight activity is part of the aeronautical exercise BEYAZ FIRTINA that is held in the international waters of the Aegean Sea.
 Turkish authorities seeking to sue Greek Air Force pilot for downing Turkish F-16 in 1996An Ankara prosecutor on Tuesday sent a letter to Greece's Supreme Court Prosecutor asking for judicial assistance in bringing a compensation suit against a Hellenic Air Force pilot for felling a Turkish fighter jet. According to Turkish authorities, the Greek pilot allegedly shot down a Turkish F16 using a missile during an engagement on October 8, 1996. During the incident, generally attributed to an accident, the Turkish plane fell and its Turkish pilot Nail Erdogan was killed, while his co-pilot was injured but survived.
The charges included the Ankara prosecutor's letter are that the Greek pilot, while intercepting the Turkish plane in a Mirage 2000, shot the Turkish figher jet down over international waters using a missile. He is also accused of violating Turkish laws for the protection of the independence, unity, integrity and security of the Turkish state.
The legal proceedings were initiated by the family of the dead Turkish pilot, whose body was never recovered, assisted by Turkish unions of retired military officers and nationalist organisations. Also involved is the surviving co-pilot Lt. Col. Osman ?ilekli, who had ejected from the plane when he realised it was falling and is now claiming one million euros in compensation.
According to Turkish authorities, the two pilots were on a training flight in the Aegean.
The issue of the fallen plane is periodically revived by Ankara, especially during times of tension in Greek-Turkish relations, and some years ago it employed a Canadian firm in an attempt to find and raise the sunken aircraft, which was ultimately abandoned.
The Greek side considers the aircraft's fall an accident, while the Turkish co-pilot that survived was recovered in the Greek search-and-rescue area, indicating that the aircraft fell while in Greek airspace. In fact, ?ilekli had thanked Greek authorities for his rescue and the care he received in Greek hospitals at that time.
The fatal crash occurred during a mock dogfight between two Turkish F-16s and two Greek fighter jets that were scrambled to identify and intercept them after they entered Greek airspace. At some point during the intense manoeuvres, the unlucky F-16 pilots radioed that the aircraft was out of control and that its crew were ejecting.
There were no Turkish vessels or helicopters taking part in the subsequent search-and-rescue operation because the Turkish side declined to put them under the orders of the Greek frigate "Elli", which was coordinating the operation.
 The 2 bln euro revenues target from privatisations by end of the year is feasible, HRADF head saysThe target of 2 billion euro revenues from privatisations by the end of the year is feasible, the head of the Greek asset development fund (HRADF) Stergios Pitsiorlas said in a conference of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).
As he said, HRADF will be the main pillar of the new superfund. Referring to the privatisations plans, he estimated that the target of 6 billion euros by the end of 2018 will be achieved.
The next targets of the fund are the privatisation of the Natural Gas Supply Company (DEPA), Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE), Public Power Corporation (PPC), international airport Eleftherios Venizelos, tourist ports and marinas as well as public properties.
"We give a battle every day in order for the privatisations programme to be implemented. I think that the climate will change after the conclusion of the programme review, things will get on track and growth will be boosted," Pitsiorlas said.
"I think that the Greek society is aware of the contribution of privatisations to growth and we can be cautiously optimistic," he added.
 Greek banks' NPLs reached 103 bln euros in 2015The value of non-performing loans held by the four systemic banks in Greece amounted to 103 billion euros at the end of December 2015, a problem needed an urgent and efficient resolution by all interested parties with a sense of cooperation and social sensibility where necesssary, Aris Xenofos, chief executive of Hellenic Financial Stability Fund said on Tuesday.
Presenting a report, recently completed by the Fund on non-performing loans of large enterprises, Xenofos said that legislative and regulatory interventions made by the government and the Bank of Greece were able to create, gradually, an action framework which will allow a recovery of the financial markets to the benefit of the Greek economy, employment and social cohesion.
More analytically, the Fund's action plan on NPLs of large enterprises envisages five steps:
1) Research, tracking and ranking limitation and hurdles in the restructuring of large corporate debts held by Greek banks, such legal, tax, accounting and banking market issues.
2) Planning a coordination framework between banks to deal with large corporate restructuring, finding solutions based on international standards adjusted to Greek reality.
3) Setting a perimeter of problematic enterprises and sectors.
4) Evaluating existing capabilities of the banking sector, leading banks to adopt segmentation of cases, encourage advanced and long-term solutions, developing skills and improving quality and volume of necessary information.
5) expanding the role of capital markets, by activating capital market players through adopting a progressive, legal, regulatory and tax framework on bankruptcy and creating favorable macro-economic conditions.
 Eurobank returned to profitability in Q1Eurobank on Tuesday reported positive results in the first quarter of 2016 as the bank returned to profitability for the first time since the third quarter of 2011.
Consolidated net profits amounted to 60 million euros in the January-March period this year, from a loss of 175 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2015, reflecting a significant improvement in the bank's operating performance.
Nikolaos Karamouzis, the bank's chairman, commenting on the results said that a forthcoming agreement with European partners on completing a review of the Greek programme and the beginning of talks to restructure Greek public debt laid the foundations to limit uncertainties, improving confidence and restoring stability in the country and the economy. He noted that a crucial factor to achieve all this was to take measures boosting market confidence in the country's outlook, lifting all restrictions in capital movement and implementing a reform program, promoting economic growth and investments and attracting significant and necessary foreign capital in the country.
Fokion Karavias, the bank's chief executive said that the management of non-performing loans and regaining value through this procedure remained a strategic priority and the biggest challenge for the bank.
 Regional airports, ports to transferred to new Privatization FundAll regional airports, excluding the 14 airports of the agreement with Fraport, and all regional ports with the exception of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, which are not included in the exploitation programme of Hellenic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), will be transferred to the new Privatization Fund agreed with the country's creditors, Stergios Pitsiorlas, president of HRADF told ANA-MPA on Tuesday.
His comments were made in order to clarify the issue, responding to press reports after a briefing he made to the board of Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Monday over the significant investment interest recorded for several property assets of the Greek state.
 Greek consumer confidence index unchanged in Q1, Nielsen reportGreek consumer confidence index remained at 53 points in the first quarter of 2016, unchanged from the previous two quarters, but down 12 points compared with the first quarter last year, Nielsen said in its consumer confidence report released on Tuesday.
The global consumer confidence index was 98 points, rising in North America and Asia/Pacific regions, but fell in Europe and eastern Europe.
The percentage of consumers expecting the country to remain in a recession next year reached 84 pct, up 30 percentage points compared with last year, while a 76 pct rate was concerned about their personal finances and a 30 pct claiming they had no money left. Labor insecurity (38 pct), economic concern (34 pct) and debt (21 pct) were the top concerns for Greek consumers, sharply up compared with the European average rates of 21 pct, 21 pct and 11 pct, respectively. Eight out of 10 Greek consumers were steadily trying to cut household expenses, focusing on outdoor entertainment, buying cheaper food, cutting spending on clothing and food delivery, the report said.
 Alpha Bank, Eurobank and KKR reach agreement to support Greek companies (ADDS)Alpha Bank, Eurobank and KKR Credit on Tuesday signed a binding agreement according to which the banks agree to assign the management of credit and equity exposures to a selected number of Greek companies into a platform managed by Pillarstone.
Subject to final Board approval, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is considering co-investing in partnership with KKR and the banks.
The platform will provide fresh long-term capital and operational expertise to large Greek corporate borrowers helping them stabilize, recover and grow for the benefit of all stakeholders. The Greek banks will share in the upside as the businesses' performance recovers.
Commenting on the agreement, Theodore Athanasopoulos, executive general manager in Alpha Bank said that the platform aimed to give the opportunity to viable Greek enterprises facing financial difficulties to gain access to liquidity and know-how for their operational restructuring, elements that will help them invest, grow, recovery and create new job positions.
Constantinos Vousvounis, general manager in Eurobank, said that the platform with KKR, Pillarstone, EBRD and Alpha Bank will offer to Greek enterprises strategic and technical support, along with new funding. "It is crucial to act immediately in this field to create conditions for the recovery of companies and safeguard job positions. Today's announcement is an important step towards the right direction, Vousvounis said.
Johannes P. Huth, head of KKR Europe, Africa and Middle East, commenting on the agreement said: "We have developed this pioneer approach in cooperation with Eurobank, Alpha Bank and EBRD and expect to be given the chance to offer long-term capital to Greek enterprises".
Noel Edison, head of EBRD's Insurance and Financial Services, said that a successful recapitalization of Greek banks in 2015 was a fundamental step towards financial stability. The next significant landmarks included an efficient management of under-performing loans.
John Davison, CEO of Pillarstone, said that the platform managed by Pillarstone offers Greek enterprises new sources of funding and operational support. "It is a unique approach based on a modeal of partnerships which benefits a wide range of interested parties, including banks," Davison said.
HSBC Bank plc acted as coordinator and structuring adviser in the transaction with Alpha Bank and in cooperation with Mediobance for Eurobank.
Banking sources said the benefits from the agreement focused:
-on a efficient management of non-performing loans by companies with long-term international experience.
-funding with new capital, restructuring of enterprises, operational restructuring and management strengthening, coordination.
-strategic planning, business plan by experts and resetting goals to regroup and strengthen business position in the market.
-long-term benefits to the Greek economy and local societies by protecting job positions.
The NPLs portfolio will amount to 1.2 billion euros initially (Eurobank and Alpha Bank will have equal 50 pct shares) and its composition will be agreed jointly with KKR. The portfolio will include non-performing loans of Greek enterprises which are viable but face difficulties in repaying their debts. These companies might be in need for new capital, operational reorganization, management strengthening, services to be offered by KKR, which will allow their restructuring and dynamic return to the market. A prior agreement between banks, the management company and KKR is necessary on a restructuring plan of each loan separately, before this loan is included in the portfolio.
The management company will be manned in Greece and will exploit the high know-how and international expertize of Pillarstone. The management company will be responsible to implement a restructuring plan for each enterprise.
 Piraeus Bank chairman, CDU-CSU VP Fuchs discuss developments in Greek banking systemPiraeus Bank chairman Mihalis Sallas on Tuesday met with visiting vice-president of CDU-CSU Parliamentary Group Mikael Fuchs and discussed issues related to the stability of the Greek banking system and prospects arising from a forthcoming completion of a review of the Greek economic programme.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, the Greek banker said completion of the review will pave the way for a reversal of economic climate in the country, after several years of recession and sacrifice made by the Greek people, strengthening the stability of the banking sector, the liquidity of the system with competitive terms (reintroduction of a waiver by ECB, credit rating upgrade, etc) laying the foundations for a return of the Greek economy to positive growth rates. Sallas said it was significant to complete reforms, which combined with a speeding up of development programmes, could enhance investment interest in the country.
Fuchs underlined Germany's increased interest for a successful completion of efforts made by the Greek people to exit the crisis and German government's support. He said he fully acknowledged the problems facing the business community and said encouraging words for plans made by the banking and business world to restructure significant sectors of the economy. He noted his contribution to attract German investments in Greece.
 End of 2018 set as target for inauguration of Alexandroupolis LNG terminalGreece and the countries and companies involved in the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis, northern Greece, agreed to set the end of 2018 as the target date for the start of the terminal in a meeting in Thessaloniki on Monday, ahead of the ceremony launching the construction of the Greek section of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).
According to sources, the meeting between Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis with Bulgarian counterpart Temenuzhka Petkova and the representatives of Greek state gas supplier DEPA, Gastrade, a subsidiary of Copelouzos group, U.S. natural gas exporter Cheniere Energy, and Bulgaria's Bulgartransgaz, Bulgargaz and Bulgarian Energy Holding, agreed to set up working groups that will determine the next steps on the project.
The construction of the LNG terminal is directly linked with the Interconnector Greece - Bulgaria (IGB) both technically and in terms of the timeframe.
 Greek stocks end moderately higherGreek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, helped by a strong buying interest for bank shares following news that Alpha Bank and Eurobank agreed with KKR on the management non-performing loans worth 1.2 billion euros The composite index of the market rose 0.95 pct to end at 626.37 points, off the day's highs of 631.78 points. The Large Cap index ended 1.63 pct higher and the Mid Cap index rose 0.24 pct. Turnover was an improved 150,592,201.
Alpha Bank (5.50 pct), Athens Water (3.95 pct) and Jumbo (3.92 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Ellaktor (3.65 pct), Aegean Airlines (3.01 pct) and Folli Follie (2.22 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Piraeus Bank and National Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Among market sectors, Insurance (5.06 pct), Banks (3.71 pct) and Personal Products (3.35 pct) scored big gains, while Chemicals (3.32 pct), Commerce (2.23 pct) and Travel (0.90 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 65 to 34 with another 19 issues unchanged. Domiki Crete (17.53 pct), Viokarpet (16.67 pct) and Dionic (16 pct) were top gainers, while Akritas (19.76 pct), Sato (11.76 pct) and Ilyda (10 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased further to 7.27 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 7.35 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.4 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.13 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate rose to -0.011 pct from -0.012 pct, the nine-month rate rose to -0.078 pct from -0.080 pct, the six-month rate was -0.145 pct, the three-month rate was -0.261 pct and the one-month rate was -0.353 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe May contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.06 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 16,569 contracts with 23,391 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 62,794 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (28,666), followed by Alpha Bank (4,895), Piraeus Bank (20,467), Eurobank (3,882), MIG (1,981), OTE (373), PPC (776), OPAP (737), Hellenic Petroleum (105), GEK (274), Ellaktor (127), Mytilineos (87), Viohalco (76) and Motor Oil (81).
 ANA-MPA signs cooperation agreement with XinhuaANA-MPA will sign a cooperation agreement with China's news agency Xinhua on Thursday.
The agreement provides for the exchange of news, videos, graphs and information materials on bilateral and international issues.
It will also provide for the exchange of journalists with the aim of extending cooperation in all areas.
Xinhua will be represented by its director He Ping at the signing ceremony.
Xinhua is the largest international news agencies in the world, with 170 offices worldwide and 31 offices in China, and the most important news source for nearly every newspaper in China.
 1,357 persons died in the period Jan-May 2016 in their attempt to cross the Mediterrenean54,496 identified refugees and migrants were on the Greek territory on Tuesday including 20 persons that arrived on the Greek islands in the last 24 hours.
According to the Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body's figures, 29,114 of the refugees are in northern Greece, 9,210 of them are in Idomeni camp, 14,466 are hosted in the region of Attica, 8,511 on the Greek islands and 2,405 are hosted in different areas in central and southern Greece.
Moreover, 194,766 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe from early January until 15 May 2016. 155,837 of them (from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran) arrived in Greece by sea while according to the World Migration Organisation 1,357 persons died in their attempt to cross the Mediterrenean.
735 migrants arrived to Greece in the first half of May while significant drop (72 percent) was recorded in refugees and migants arrivals to the Greek islands between the first and the second week of May.
 Only four refugees arrived on the Greek islands in the last 24hOnly four migrants and refugees arrived in the last 24 hours at the northern Aegean islands.
According to police, four persons reached the coasts of Chios while no arrival was recorded on Lesvos and Samos.
 Migrant's body found on banks of Evros riverThe body of a 25-35 year-old migrant of Africa or Asia was found late Monday in advanced decomposition at the area of Feres on the banks of the river Evros at the Greek-Turkish borders.
The body was sent to the University hospital of Alexandrou-polis and according to the latest reports there are no sign of foul play.
 Athens conference to discuss AIDS and rights of HIV-positive peopleThe general secretariat of transparency and human rights of the ministry of justice and the Hellenic Association of Seropositive People named "Positive voice" organise a one-day conference titled "HIV/AIDS and discriminations; spotting the stigma of the stigma", on May 23.
Doctors specialized in infectious diseases, law university teachers, lawyers, local activists and other experts in human rights issues will debate the protection of the rights and freedoms related to HIV/AIDS-positive individuals, the progress of the Greek law system and the distance that still needs to be covered towards their basic implementation, as well as the role that government agencies and individual citizens play.
The conference will also touch upon subjects concerning the criminalization of the transmission and exposure to the HIV virus, the discriminations in the workplace, medical confidentiality and the living conditions of HIV patients in detention centers.
The latest medical progress in the treating the disease and the newest epidemiological data in Greece will complete the conference.
The institution "AIDS Healthcare Foundation" and the Greek Association of Human Rights will support the event that will take place at the Technical Chamber.
 Suburban railway service in Athens to pause for four hours on WednesdayRailway drivers at Athens' suburban railway line will hold a work stoppage from noon until 16.00 (local) on Wednesday, the union said on Tuesday.
According to their announcement, the labour action was called to allow union members to participate in its general meeting.
 Partly cloudy on WednesdayUnstable weather and northerly winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy with local rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 10C-24C. Partly cloudy in the western parts of the country with temperatures between 11C-25C. Clouds and possibility of rain in the afternoon in the eastern parts, 12C-25C. Mostly fair over the Aegean islands and Crete, 14C-26C. Partly cloudy in Athens with a chance of rain in the afternoon, 14C-24C. Clouds and rain in Thessaloniki, 13C-24C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Athens' sovereignty in the automatic fiscal correction mechanism
DIMOKRATIA: A state with a red light
ETHNOS: Subsidizing the installments of bad loans
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Bring back the EKAS pension benefit of the last 6 months
ESTIA: Big mistake in the final exams
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The eternal party of the contractors
TA NEA: The ten correction mechanisms of (Labour Minister George) Katrougalos
NAFTEMPORIKI: Automatic correction mechanism before the automatic correction mechanism
KATHIMERINI: Two 'no', two 'yes' from New Democracy
RIZOSPASTIS: Taxes, pension and salary cuts on the people
IMERISSIA: Automatic correction mechanism and 17 measures
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