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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-05-20

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

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

Friday, 20 May 2016 Issue No: 5170

CONTENTS

  • [01] Tsipras marks Pontic Greek Genocide by noting importance of recognising historic truths
  • [02] Socialist leaders' meeting in Rome cancelled, PM Tsipras will not travel to Italy
  • [03] Omnibus bill on prior actions for the conclusion first programme review tabled in Parliament
  • [04] Measures in omnibus bill aim at restoring Greece's credibility, says minister
  • [05] ND's positions ahead of debate on prior actions in Parliament
  • [06] Economy minister, opposition MP clash over new privatisation fund in parliament debate
  • [07] FM Kotzias in Brussels for NATO foreign ministers' session; meetings with Cavusoglu, other counterparts
  • [08] I am not convinced that IMF's clash with Germany is completely true, says Alt. FM Xydakis
  • [09] President Pavlopoulos to visit Netherlands in July
  • [10] Greece upgrades its diplomatic presence in Iraqi Kurdistan
  • [11] More debris from fallen EgyptAir plane located, sources say
  • [12] Greece participates in the rescue operation for missing EgyptAir aircraft
  • [13] Greece has asked friendly and allied nations for satellite images to help find EgyptAir plane
  • [14] Greek Civil Aviation Authority's statement on missing EgyptAir aircraft
  • [15] Greece is by Egypt's side, Foreign Min says
  • [16] Varoufakis' 'brave' negotiation with the troika cost Greece 86 bln euros, says central banker
  • [17] Greek budget records primary surplus of 2.376 bln euros in Jan-April
  • [18] FinMin Tsakalotos lists six state companies that will be transferred to privatisation fund
  • [19] Greece to claim funds from NSRF 2014-20 revision clause, says minister
  • [20] ECB leaves ELA cap for Greek banks unchanged
  • [21] German Savings Bank Foundation offers to cooperate with Greece, providing knowhow
  • [22] Registered unemployment down 4.76 pct in April
  • [23] Alt.Tourism Minister Kountoura sends open invitation to Chinese to visit Greece in an interview with ANA-MPA
  • [24] British Ambassador to Greece Kittmer presents Holidaywin 2016 campaign
  • [25] Greece is the big winner this year in bookings from Austria, says TUI Group
  • [26] OPAP announces new CEO
  • [27] Privatisation fund auctions off hotel in Mykonos for 16.9 mln euros
  • [28] Apartment prices down 5.0 pct in Q1, BoG report
  • [29] Vivartia Group returned to profitability in 2015
  • [30] Grivalia Properties says net profits at 10.6 mln euros in Q1
  • [31] Greek stocks end lower
  • [32] Greek bond market closing report
  • [33] ADEX closing report
  • [34] ANA-MPA and Xinhua sign cooperation agreement in Athens
  • [35] Ghost nets turned into clothes at an initiative of MEDASSET
  • [36] Greek-Russian conference on pilgrimage and religious tourism
  • [37] Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Cycladic Art Museum
  • [38] 99 refugees and migrants arrived on Chios
  • [39] 54,565 identified migrants and refugees in Greece on Thursday
  • [40] Medical staff returns to Idomeni
  • [41] Cloudy on Friday
  • [42] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Tsipras marks Pontic Greek Genocide by noting importance of recognising historic truths

    Recognising historic truth is necessary in ensuring we don't repeat crimes of the past, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday in a message to mark the Pontic Greek Genocide during World War I and its aftermath.

    "Today we remember the painful past of the Pontic Greeks who endured a violent uprooting and genocide," Tsipras said in a Twitter post.

    "Recognizing the historic truth is necessary in ensuring crimes and tragic mistakes of the past are not repeated. And to tackle more effectively intolerance, by building relationships of trust and dialog with our neighbours," he added.

    [02] Socialist leaders' meeting in Rome cancelled, PM Tsipras will not travel to Italy

    The meeting of European Socialist Leaders and other progressive officials which was scheduled to take place in Rome on Friday was cancelled by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday, as a sign of respect following the tragic downing of the Egypt Air flight this morning.

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who was invited to attend the meeting, will not travel to Rome. The event will be rescheduled at a later date.

    [03] Omnibus bill on prior actions for the conclusion first programme review tabled in Parliament

    The omnibus bill on the prior actions for the conclusion of the first programme review was tabled in the Parliament late on Wednesday.

    The debate on the relevant committees of the parliament will start on Thursday and the debate in the parliament plenary will start on Saturday. The bill is expected to be voted on Sunday.

    The bill provides for the activation of the contingent mechanism in case of deviations from the primary surplus targets.

    [04] Measures in omnibus bill aim at restoring Greece's credibility, says minister

    The measures included in the omnibus bill containing prior actions demanded by Greece's lenders aim at restoring the country's credibility and returning to the markets, Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis said on Thursday during a debate in parliament on the bill.

    The minister, who was responding to criticism leveled against the bill by a New Democracy MP, accused the main opposition of tabling budgets with deficit after 2006, noting that that is where the causes of today's crisis lie.

    "Reducing taxes deconstructs the welfare state and allows social inequalities to grow. We pursue fiscal adjustment with social justice," Chouliarakis said.

    [05] ND's positions ahead of debate on prior actions in Parliament

    New Democracy parliamentary working group discussed on Thursday the general positions of the party ahead of the parliament debate on the prior actions for the conclusion of the Greek programme review.

    "New Democracy will vote in principle against the prior actions, which are elaborated in 7,000 pages," main opposition spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.

    He added that "New Democracy will vote against the new taxes included in the bill tabled in parliament. It will also examine the individual tax reliefs. And it is also negative to the issue of the contingency mechanism as well as the new hellenic asset development fund."

    However, it cleared out that it is in favour of certain privatisations such as the 14 airports as well as structural reforms.

    Koumoutsakos also said that the main opposition is against the lifting of protection of first residence.

    [06] Economy minister, opposition MP clash over new privatisation fund in parliament debate

    The new privatization fund that will be established as part of the prior actions demanded by Greece's lenders only 50 percent of the revenues from sales and investments will be used to repay the country's debt, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis said on Thursday, during a debate in a parliament committee on the omnibus bill.

    "We cannot change the law on the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund which you made and which stipulates that anything that goes in the fund must be sold and the money must repay the debt. However, in the new fund, only 50 pct will be directed to debt repayment, while privatization of assets in not mandatory," Stathakis told New Democracy vice-president Adonis Georgiadis.

    Responding to the comment, Georgiadis said the government was against the privatization fund when it was in the opposition, but is now voting a new one which will be essentially run by the creditors.

    [07] FM Kotzias in Brussels for NATO foreign ministers' session; meetings with Cavusoglu, other counterparts

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias represented Greece at the NATO foreign ministers' session taking place in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. On the sidelines of Thursday's session, he had bilateral meetings with several foreign ministers from the countries attending, including his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu and his counterparts from Albania and Italy.

    The NATO sessions focused on issues of geostrategic importance, such as events in Iraq, Syria and Libya and NATO's relations with Russia. The ministers also discussed extending NATO's action for the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, where Kotzias said that Greece was against the involvement of other forces in this process, as well as the involvement of additional Greek islands in the refugee crisis.

    During the meeting with Cavusoglu, the two ministers reaffirmed the need for better understanding and for their ministries to help smooth over any situations that arise. Kotzias said that he had invited Cavusoglu to visit Greece to discuss issues linked to relations between Greece and Turkey. He said the visit will probably take place on the island of Crete.

    Asked to comment on the crash of an EgyptAir flight in the Mediterranean, Kotzias confined himself to expressing sorrow for the loss of human lives:

    "I am sorry for the loss of civilians. We are investigating the reasons why the aircraft was lost, if it was an accident or something else. I cannot make any other statement at this time. We are assisting Egypt and carrying out joint search and rescue operations in the sea region south of Crete. I am sorry for the loss of innocent people," he said.

    [08] I am not convinced that IMF's clash with Germany is completely true, says Alt. FM Xydakis

    Alternate Foreign Minister Nikos Xydakis estimated that there will be no serious problem with the review of the Greek programme at the Eurogroup meeting on May 24, speaking to ANA-MPA's radio "Praktorio 104.9 FM" on Thursday.

    "I believe that some time will be lost, not the review. The debt issue is used as a tool of political coercion," he said and accused Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that "he uses the debt for, in a way, political domination in Greece, political influence but also for his own benefit in Germany."

    Xydakis said that he is not convinced that the clash between the IMF and Germany is completely true and estimated that the rumoured IMF's proposal for 'freezing' the interest rates payment until 2040 can only benefit Greece and the Greek economy underlining that nobody should forget that "Greece was sacrificed for some banks' benefit."

    [09] President Pavlopoulos to visit Netherlands in July

    President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos will pay an official visit to the Netherlands on July 4 and 5 accepting King Willem-Alexander's invitation, according to sources.

    The same sources said that the Greek president will hold a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and with the parliament president and the president of the senate.

    [10] Greece upgrades its diplomatic presence in Iraqi Kurdistan

    Greece upgrades its presence in Iraq following an intitiative of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to set up a General Consulate in the city of Erbil, the headquarters of the regional government or Iraqi Kurdistan. A Trade Affairs Office in the the Greek Embassy's jurisdiction is already operating in Erbil with the view to promoting the commercial and economic cooperation in the area.

    Greece, as Kotzias has repetitively said, is implementing an active foreign policy that aims to build cooperation bridges in the wider area. For that reason, representatives of the Iraqi Kurdistan were invited to the International Athens Conference for the Religious Pluralism in the Middle East that was held in Athens last October.

    The Foreign Ministry's aim is to enhance the already existing friendship and cooperation bonds with the Kurds of northern Iraq as well as with the Iraqi people.

    [11] More debris from fallen EgyptAir plane located, sources say

    More blue and orange plastic objects attached with ropes, believed to come from the missing EgyptAir flight MS804, have been found in the sea about 50 miles southeast of where the aircraft fell, the Greek national defence ministry said on Thursday. Egyptian ships are now heading toward that location to retrieve them.

    The first such objects were found within the Cairo Flight Information Region (FIR) earlier in the day, at a location that was 200-230 miles southeast of Crete and 100 miles from the initial crash site.

    The Egyptian side has informed Greek authorities that it will not need the assistance of Greek ships to retrieve the debris.

    [12] Greece participates in the rescue operation for missing EgyptAir aircraft

    Greece participates in the rescue operation underway in the sea region 130 nautical miles southeast of Karpathos, after an EgyptAir aircraft vanished from the radar screens early on Thursday.

    The Greek Armed Forces have deployed a military C-130 aircraft and one early warning aircraft EMB-145 H. Another C-130 is also heading to the area as well the frigate Nikiforos Fokas. A helicopter (1 Super Puma) is also on its way.

    The flight MS804 of EgyptAir was en route from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo. The plane was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew. EgyptAir says it received a distress signal before the plane disappeared from radar.

    [13] Greece has asked friendly and allied nations for satellite images to help find EgyptAir plane

    Greece's National Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Thursday said that Greece has asked friendly and allied nations with satellites over the eastern Mediterranean to assist in efforts to discover what happened to a missing EgyptAir flight from Paris, whose radar signal was lost at 3:37 on Thursday morning. The minister said that satellite images might possibly provide clues that will help solve the mystery surrounding the plane's disappearance. Greece is currently participating in the French satellite programme Helios.

    The aircraft was flying at 37,000 feet and had just entered Egypt's Flight Information Region from the Athens FIR when it disappeared from the radar. It then carried out a 90 degree turn to the left, under unexplained conditions, followed by a 360 degree right-hand turn that brought it spiralling downward to first 15,000 feet and then at 10,000 feet, before it vanished from the radar screens entirely.

    Four minutes later, the Greek shipping ministry's Search and Rescue Coordination Centre gave orders for a Hellenic Airforce C-130 plane to take off from the military airfield in Elefsina to take part in the search and rescue operations, while the Hellenic Navy frigate "Nikoforos Fokas" set sail from Astypalaia for the search area.

    The range of the search area extends 40 miles around the point where the aircraft's signal disappeared and could possibly be extended further. Strong winds are currently blowing in the area, forcing the C-130 to fly at a height of less than 5,000 feet.

    Greece has agreed to the participation in the search of a French Falcon aircraft and a U.S. P-3C Orion. Egypt is participating with a C-130 and two F-16s.

    The defence minister contacted his Egyptian counterpart early on Thursday morning, expressing Greece's readiness to assist in the search effort and provide all necessary support to Egypt.

    The submarine "Matrozos", which is taking part in the NATO exercise "Active Endeavour" 100 miles from the search site, has been given orders to head toward the site if required and F-16s in Crete are on standby. An Air Force Super-Puma helicopter and a Sikorsky Navy helicopter are on the island of Karpathos in case they are needed for a retrieval operation.

    Kammenos said that Greece will be at the disposal of Egyptian authorities when they conduct an investigation into the airplane's crash, while noting that only four other civilian aircraft were in the air at the same time as the EgyptAir flight, and at a great distance.

    [14] Greek Civil Aviation Authority's statement on missing EgyptAir aircraft

    "The flight MSR 804, A320 of EgyptAir, en route from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo, entered the Athens FIR on 2:24 a.m. local time. It was recognized and the responsible air traffic controller authorised the course of the flight. At 2:48 a.m. the next air traffic controller took over and authorised the exit from the Athens FIR. The pilot was cheerful and thanked in Greek," the Greek Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

    "At 3:27 a.m. the Athens Control Centre made an attempt to contact the aircraft in order to transfer the communication and control from the Athens FIR to the Cairo FIR. Despite the repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond, so the air traffic controller called the hazard frequency, with no response from the aircraft. At 3:29 it is above the exit point. At 3:29:40 a.m. it is lost from the radars, about 7 NM south / southeast of the point KUMBI, in Cairo FIR. The assistance of the Air Force's radars was immediately requested, to no avail. At 3:45 a.m. search and rescue operations began, while updating the Cairo Control Centre Cairo," the statement added.

    [15] Greece is by Egypt's side, Foreign Min says

    "Greece is by Egypt's side; The Hellenic Air Force and Navy assist the search and rescue mission by all possible means," the Foreign ministry posted on Twitter on Thursday.

    [16] Varoufakis' 'brave' negotiation with the troika cost Greece 86 bln euros, says central banker

    Bank of Greece Governor Yiannis Stournaras slammed the negotiations conducted by former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Nikos Theoharakis on Thursday, saying they resulted in an additional 86 billion-euro burden for the Greek people.

    Stournaras was speaking at an event organised by the Hellenic Observatory at the London School of Economics. He was responding to comments made by Theoharakis earlier in which he described the previous New Democracy government, in which he participated as finance minister, as "colonial".

    "He (Theoharakis) failed though to admit that the 'brave' negotiations that he and Yanis Varoufakis led, which led to the change of the name of the troika to institutions and removed the troika from the ministries to the Hilton, had also a cost. If we assume that what he described were benefits, the cost of course was 86 billion euros," the central banker said.

    "That was the third memorandum and the capital controls that have been imposed after 45 billion euros of deposit outflows. And these capital controls have been imposed in order to safeguard financial stability following the 'brave' negotiations of Mr. Theocarakis and Mr. Varoufakis. I am sorry to say that, but I had the obligation to put the record straight," he added.

    Financial News

    [17] Greek budget records primary surplus of 2.376 bln euros in Jan-April

    Greek state budget showed a primary surplus of 2.376 billion euros in the January-April period this year, up from a primary surplus of 2.103 billion euros in the corresponding period in 2015 and surpassing a budget target for a primary surplus of 566 million euros.

    According to provisional figures on state budget execution, on an amended cash basis, the budget showed a deficit of 494 million euros in the first four months of 2016, from a deficit of 501 million euros in the same period last year, down from a budget target for a shortfall of 2.284 billion euros.

    Net revenue amounted to 15.674 billion euros, down 3.0 pt from targets, while regular budget net revenue totaled 14.107 billion euros, up 2.4 pct from targets. Tax returns totaled 978 million euros, surpassing targets by 62 million euros, while Public Investment Programme revenue amounted to 1.567 billion euros, down 813 million from targets.

    State budget spending totaled 16.167 billion euros in the January-April period, down 2.279 billion euros from targets, while regular budget spending amounted to 15.249 billion euros, down 2.077 billion from targets. Regular budget spending were down by 255 million euros compared with the same period last year. Public Investment Programme spending totaled 919 million euros in the four-month period, down 201 million euros from targets.

    In April, state budget net revenue was 3.177 billion euros, down 412 mln from monthly targets, while regular budget net revenue was 3.165 billion, down 44 million from targets. Tax returns was 216 million euros, up 73 million euros from monthly targets.

    State budget spending was 3.547 billion in April, down 531 million from monthly targets, while regular budget spending was 3.886 billion euros, down 653 million from targets. Public Investment Programme spending amounted to 339 million euros, down 121 million from monthly targets.

    [18] FinMin Tsakalotos lists six state companies that will be transferred to privatisation fund

    Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos presented in parliament on Thursday a list of six public companies which will be transferred to the newly established Public Holding Company (EDIS) which will manage and utilize state holdings until they are sold through the country's new privatization fund.

    The companies are the Athens transport (OASA), road transport (OSY), the Urban Rail Transport (STASY), Greek railways (OSE), the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA) and the Hellenic Post (ELTA).

    Tsakalotos also said that the government is in talks with the institutions on a second list of companies that will be added in the privatization fund.

    [19] Greece to claim funds from NSRF 2014-20 revision clause, says minister

    Greece claims a significant amount from the distribution of funds that derive from the NSRF 2014-20 revision clause, a portion of which will be directed to island prefectures, THE Deputy Minister for NSRF Issues Alexis Charitsis said during an annual meeting of island districts in Rhodes on Thursday.

    Charitsis said the new EU funds will focus on local growth with small and medium-sized projects on sectors such as environment, tourism, health, entrepreneurship and infrastructure, in order to boost production.

    [20] ECB leaves ELA cap for Greek banks unchanged

    The European Central Bank (ECB) left the lending limit for Greek banks from Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) unchanged for the next ten days at 69.1 billion euros.

    The governing council of the ECB left the lending limit stable until Thursday, June 2, following a demand of the Bank of Greece (BoG).

    In a statement, the Bank of Greece said this decision reflects the stabilization of the Greek banks' liquidity, taking into account the private sector deposit flows.

    [21] German Savings Bank Foundation offers to cooperate with Greece, providing knowhow

    The German Savings Bank Foundation for International Cooperation, or Sparkassenstiftung f?r internationale Kooperation, on Thursday expressed its willingness to cooperate with Greece by providing expertise and knowhow. The Government Council for Economic Policy is to hold a meeting soon to discuss the creation of a working team, in order to specify the form and content such cooperation will have.

    The head of the foundation Niclaus Bergmann presented the proposal during a meeting with Government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis on Thursday, explaining the operating model of the German "Sparkassen" savings funds and their activities linked to financing small businesses on a local and regional level.

    Dragasakis said Greece needed a new system of credit instruments to help in the country's productive reconstruction, given the major gaps in financing for SMEs and for local growth. He said that he would propose the formation of a working team to work out the specifics of the proposal at the next Economic Policy Council meeting.

    [22] Registered unemployment down 4.76 pct in April

    Registered unemployment fell by 4.76 pct in April, compared with March 2016, or 42,545 less unemployed, official figures showed on Thursday.

    OAED (Workforce Employment Organization) in an announcement said that total registered unemployed people (seeking job) was 851,596 in April, from 894,141 in March. From the 851,596 unemployed people, 443,293 remained in unemployment for more than one year, while 334,128 (39.24 pct) were men and 517,468 (60.76 pct) women.

    The number of registered unemployed people not seeking job totaled 141,050 in April, while the number of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits totaled 125,254 in April, down 2.47 pct from March.

    Registered unemployment in the 30-44 age group was 40.15 pct and in the 45-54 age group it was 22.4 pct.

    [23] Alt.Tourism Minister Kountoura sends open invitation to Chinese to visit Greece in an interview with ANA-MPA

    Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura send an open invitation to the Chinese to visit Greece through the new ANA-MPA Greek-Chinese webpage.

    In an exclusive interview Kountoura noted that the Chinese love Greece and show a special interest and respect for Greece's history and culture. "We are two of the oldest cultures in the world with a long history and today we are building strong bilateral relations and cooperation strategies in all the sectors of economic development. China is a new tourist market to which we opened our doors in 2015. Based on the visas issued, more than 80,000 Chinese visited our country but the actual number is much larger, since many Chinese come to Greece using a Schengen visa issued by another EU destination. In 2015 we had a major two-digit increase in arrivals. In 2016 we expect a new increase from the Chinese tourist market and at levels much higher than last year's."

    Asked about Greece's actions to boost incoming tourism from China, Kountoura explained: "This year we are implementing a multi-level plan of targeted actions to promote and advertise Greece in China. The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) in Beijing is in direct cooperation with tour operators on joint programmes to promote Greece. We have placed an internet ad and are organising - via GNTO and in collaboration with the regions - a series of fam trips for Chinese tour operators and journalists to Ancient Olympia and the islands of Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Milos, Chios and Zakynthos. We are also participating in major and special tourist exhibitions, such as COMMT in Beijing, and we will be present at events for this year's Shanghai Marathon. Moreover, we will host three major film productions that will be shooting footage in Greece. The first is a series of documentaries on attractions of archaeological interest, a TV production on the beauty of the Greek landscape and the third is a new film that we expect to have the same appeal and success as the film "Beijing Love Story", which significantly increased interest in travelling to Greece."

    On the problems and how they are confronted in order to increase Chinese tourist arrivals to Greece, Kountoura said that all the ministries involved have undertaken a series of initiatives to boost tourist flows. The Foreign Ministry has already expanded and reinforced visa issuing centres throughout China, with 12 new centres operating since April in addition to the three existing centres in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. "It is a very important move from which we expect immediate and substantial results for increasing tourism flows. A key-issue is also a direct air link, which is very high on our agenda. Today, the Chinese arrive in Greece on flights with stops in other destinations. It is an issue that we intend to examine very soon," she said.

    "Greece is a very attractive tourist destination worldwide and was chosen by over 26 million people in 2015. It offers a unique product that we consistently enrich and invigorate and that meets even the highest standards. For the Chinese travelling audience we have targeted promotions of Greece's inestimable culture and civilisation, our rich history and world heritage monuments. We enhance the promotion and advertising of theme tourism that has special appeal to the Chinese, such as cultural tourism, unique city breaks throughout the year, an endless selection for entertainment, recreation and shopping in our amazing markets, luxury tourism and the exceptional Greek gastronomy they will find in all destinations. Moreover, we dynamically promote new Greek religious and wedding destinations, in addition to Santorini and Meteora that are already high in their preferences. Greece is a gorgeous country with authentic beauty that offers safety, security, high quality services and unique experiences that can satisfy the most demanding visitor. We send an open invitation to all the Chinese to travel to Greece and to discover its incredible beauty," stressed Kountoura.

    [24] British Ambassador to Greece Kittmer presents Holidaywin 2016 campaign

    British Ambassador to Greece John Kittmer presented on Wednesday in Crete the tourist information campaign #Holidaywin 2016 ahead of the summer tourist season.

    Kittmer underlined the importance of cooperation of all involving parties (the state, the regional authorities and entrepreneurs of the tourist sector) in order to provide a safe environment for tourists who choose Greece for their holidays.

    As he said, 2.4 million British tourists visited Greece last year. "Tourists come to Greece for the beautiful islands, the sunny weather and the Greek hospitality. Most of them leave the country with wonderful memories," he stated.

    The Holidaywin 2016 campaign aims at young British tourists visiting Greece. The campaign, Kittmer added, aims to raise awareness, promote responsible behaviour and responsible choices.

    [25] Greece is the big winner this year in bookings from Austria, says TUI Group

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Greece has ousted Turkey from first place in the preferences of Austrian holidaymakers this year according to bookings made so far, a spokeswoman of international tourism company TUI Group said, during an event in Vienna on Thursday.

    "This year Greece is the big winner for tourism from Austria, even if the levels of bookings for holidays in some islands of the Eastern Aegean are not as high as previously," TUI Austria said during a presentation of the results of a large poll conducted in six European countries on the tourist preferences of their population.

    A spokesperson representing the travel agencies Gruber said in statements that one in four Austrians have chosen Greece for their summer holidays in 2016.

    [26] OPAP announces new CEO

    OPAP on Thursday announced a board decision to separate the roles of its chairman and chief executive officer, starting from July 1, 2016 and appointed Damian Cope as chief executive office of the company.

    Kamil Ziegler, chairman and chief executive of OPAP since October 2013 will continue acting as executive chairman of the board.

    Damian Cope has a background of more than 18 years of service in the gaming industry and was recently chief executive of international activities in Ladbrokes Plc.

    [27] Privatisation fund auctions off hotel in Mykonos for 16.9 mln euros

    Greece's privatization fund (HRADF) sold on Thursday state-owned hotel "Leto", located in Mykonos, to the company "Asteras 2020", following an electronic auction through the country's onlone platform www. e-publicrealestate.gr.

    According to HRADF, the private investor paid 16,901,123 euros, an amount which exceeded by 69 pct the starting price of the auction and is significantly higher than the valuation.

    [28] Apartment prices down 5.0 pct in Q1, BoG report

    Apartment prices continued falling in 2016, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

    The central bank, in a report, said that according to data collected from credit institutions, nominal apartment prices are estimated to have declined on average by 5.0 pct year-on-year in the first quarter of 2016. According to revised data, the average annual rate of change was -5.0 pct in 2015 (Q1: -4.1 pct, Q2: -4.9 pct, Q3: -5.8 pct and Q4: -5.3 pct), compared with -7.5 pct in 2014.

    More specifically, in the first quarter of 2016 prices of "new" appartments, up to 5 years old, dropped by 5.6 pct year-on-year and prices of "old" apartments, over 5 years old, fell by 4.6 pct year-on-year. According to revised data, prices of "new" apartments declined by 5.5 pct on average in 2015, against a decline of 6.5 pct in 2014, whereas "old" apartment prices declined by 4.7 pct in 2015, against a drop of 8.1 pct in 2014.

    According to data broken down by geographical area, in the first quarter of 2016 apartment prices are estimated to have declined year-on-year by 4.1 pct in Athens, 6.4 pct in Thessaloniki, 6.1 pct in other cities and 5.2 pct in other areas of Greece. For the whole of 2015, based on revised data, apartment prices dropped on average by 5.1 pct, 5.3 pct, 5.3 pct and 4.4 pct respectively. Finally, as regards all urban areas of the country, in the first quarter of 2016 apartment prices declined by 5.3 pct year-on-year, whereas for the whole of 2015 the average annual decline was 5.0 pct, against 8.0 pct in 2014.

    [29] Vivartia Group returned to profitability in 2015

    Vivartia Group on Thursday said it returned to profitability in 2015 for the first time since 2009, with pre-tax and financial results earnings totaling 19.3 million euros, after a loss of 1.7 million in 2014.

    After tax losses totaled 22.1 million euros in 2015, from a loss of 34.8 million in 2014, hit by increased tax burden in Greece and higher provisions.

    Group sales totaled 601.4 million euros in 2015, up 2.0 pct form 2014, of which 304.5 million euros were sales by the dairy business, 165 million by the restaurant/coffee business and 138.3 million by the frozen food business. Comparable dairy sales fell 3.4 pct from 2014, while a higher VAT rate helped the restaurant/coffee business to raise sales by 1.2 pct. The frozen food sector reported a 14.2 pct increase in comparable sales.

    Vivartia maintained its leading position in the fresh milk market (with a market share of 32.3 pct in 2015) and in the frozen vegetables market (with a market share of 64.7 pct) despite adverse conditions prevailing in the market. The Group's market share in the milk sector rose to 26.6 pct from 26 pct in 2014.

    EBITDA was 50.2 million euros, up from 28.2 million in 2014.

    Vivartia Group expects to complete a restructuring of its bank borrowing and to be boost export activity this year.

    [30] Grivalia Properties says net profits at 10.6 mln euros in Q1

    Grivalia Properties on Thursday said its net profits totaled 10.6 million euros in the first quarter of 2016 and said that leasing revenue grew 11 pct to 15.4 million euros, from 13.9 million in the same period last year boosted by the integration of revenues from new investments made in 2015 and a new investment made in 2016.

    Tax expenses grew 7.0 pct to 1.6 million euros in the January-March period, from 1.5 million euros last year, while cash reserves eased to 70 million euros at the end of March from 112 million in December 31,2015. Debt was 57 million euros, from 59 million over the same period. The company's net asset value was 854 million euros, or 8.43 euros per share.

    [31] Greek stocks end lower

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, amid a negative climate prevailing in other European markets. Traders said investors remained on the sidelines awaiting a Parliament vote on a package of prior measures tabled by the government and Tuesday's Eurogroup meeting.

    The composite index of the market fell 0.96 pct to end at 622.28 points, off the day's lows of 620.01 points. The Large Cap index fell 1.09 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.11 pct lower. Turnover was a thin 43.421 million euros in volume of 55,417,354.

    Mytilineos (0.78 pct), Motor Oil (0.59 pct) and Aegean Airlines (0.25 pct) scored big gains among blue chip stocks, while Athens Water (3.82 pct), Jumbo (2.60 pct) and Coca Cola HBC (2.02 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Among market sectors, Raw Materials (0.63 pct) was the only one to end higher, while Personal Products (2.27 pct), Food (2.02 pct) and Utilities (1.57 pct) suffered heavy losses. National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 61 to 30 with another 20 issues unchanged. Pegasus (15.71 pct), Lavipharm (9.9 pct) and Audiovisual (9.09 pct) were top gainers, while Progressive (14.58 pct), Euroconsultants (11.89 pct) and Revoil (11.11 pct) were top losers.

    [32] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 7.33 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, with the Greek bond yielding 7.50 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.17 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was -0.011 pct, the nine-month rate was -0.079 pct, the six-month rate was -0.145 pct, the three-month rate was -0.262 pct and the one-month rate was -0.354 pct.

    [33] ADEX closing report

    The May contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.06 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,495 contracts with 29,269 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 21,863 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (7,338), followed by Alpha Bank (4,547), Piraeus Bank (5,456), Eurobank (2,022), MIG (649), OTE (367), PPC (499), OPAP (360), Hellenic Petroleum (106), Mytilineos (82), Metka (60), GEK (60), Viohalco (41) and Motor Oil (62).

    General News

    [34] ANA-MPA and Xinhua sign cooperation agreement in Athens

    An agreement between Athens News Agency - Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA) President Mihalis Psilos and the General Director of the Chinese news agency Xinhua, He Ping, was signed in Athens on Thursday, in a ceremony held at the General Secretariat for Information and Communication.

    Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli and the General Secretary of Information and Communication, Lefteris Kretsos, were on hand for the signing ceremony. ANA-MPA President Psilos said the project inaugurates a joint Greek-Chinese site providing news and information for Chinese citizens around the world. "We want to broadcast Greece-China news to both countries without any distorting lenses," Psilos said in his address.

    On his part, Xinhua General Director He Ping said the project involved two very credible news agencies, which are uniting forces in order to broadcast news in a timely and reliable manner, so that both peoples can come closer and get better acquainted.

    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.

    [35] Ghost nets turned into clothes at an initiative of MEDASSET

    A worn out fishing net that has reached the end of its useful life and has been abandoned at sea being one of the main sources of marine and coastal pollution now can be recycled and used in the manufacture of new consumer products, such as socks, swimwear, carpets and more at an initiative of MEDASSET.

    Nets such as these are responsible for the needless deaths of hundreds of marine creatures - sea turtles among them - and that is why they are known as "ghost nets".

    The "ghost nets" constitute an eternal trap of marine species, large and small, and even birds. Professional divers dive up to more than 32 meters depth, while only last year they gathered in Greece 22 tons of nets," environment campaigner Lily Venizelos, president of MEDASSET, said.

    "Ghost nets" turn into water traps, causing complete and irreversible destruction of coral reefs, some of them numbering twenty-five hundred years of life," pointed out Ioannis Issaris, oceanographer - underwater photographer and a volunteer diver.

    On his part, Aris Peroulakis, deputy head of the European Commission Representation in Greece, pointed out in an event on Wednesday that this initiative will help EU to save resources as it is still heavily dependent on import of raw materials. He also stressed the importance of EU turning to the circular economy in order to exploit waste, particularly in countries such as Greece, where the outdated waste burial method is still used.

    The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET) is an international environmental NGO founded in 1988.

    [36] Greek-Russian conference on pilgrimage and religious tourism

    The Greek-Russian conference on the Pilgrimage and Religious Tourism will be held on Friday in Athens with the view to promoting tourist cooperation between the two countries as part of Greece-Russia Year 2016.

    The conference is held after an initiative of Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura and Alternate Culture Minister of Russia Alla Manilova for boosting tourist flows between the two countries and promoting theme tourism products.

    The pilgrimage paths in Greece and Russia will be presented at the conference while bilateral works will be held with the view to developing cooperation between the two countries' tourism sectors.

    Top ministers and officials of the regions of the Russian Federation, representatives of the Church of Greece, the Church of Crete, the Patriarchate of Moscow and representatives of tourist agencies specialised in religious tourism have been invited to the conference.

    [37] Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at Cycladic Art Museum

    Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will present his work in Greece at a unique exhibition at The Cycladic Art Museum.

    The exhibition "Ai Weiwei at Cycladic", his first and only ever hosted in an archaeological museum will also participate the Photographic Society of Mytilene at the Chinese artist's invitation.

    The inauguration of the exhibition is scheduled for Friday May 20 and will run until October 30.

    [38] 99 refugees and migrants arrived on Chios

    Two boats with ninety nine refugees and migrants arrived in the last 24 hours on Chios islands. No refugees or migrants arrivals were recorded on the other northeastern Aegean islands.

    Meanwhile, 6,921 identified migrants and refugees remain trapped due to the EU-Turkey agreement in the three hotspots of Lesvos, Chios and Samos.

    [39] 54,565 identified migrants and refugees in Greece on Thursday

    54,565 identified refugees and migrants were on the Greek territory on Thursday including 100 persons that arrived on the Greek islands in the last 24 hours.

    According to the Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body's figures, 29,104 of the refugees are in northern Greece, 9,079 of them are in Idomeni camp, 14,499 are hosted in the region of Attica, 8,561 on the Greek islands and 2,401 are hosted in different areas in central and southern Greece.

    [40] Medical staff returns to Idomeni

    The conditions at the refugees camp in Idomeni are calm after the violent incidents that broke out late Wednesday resulting to the injury of two police officers.

    Medecines Sans Frontieres that had left late Wednesday for precautionary reasons returned to the camp on Friday morning.

    Weather forecast

    [41] Cloudy on Friday

    Clouds, rain and southerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 13C-25C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts with temperatures between 14C-28C. Clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 16C-28C. Scattered clouds in Athens, 14C-27C. Rain in Thessaloniki, 15C-25C.

    [42] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: 2 billion euros for infrastructure and entrepreneurship

    DIMOKRATIA: The two extra bonus salaries of the private sector at stake

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble delays the debt discussion on purpose

    ETHNOS: Changes in 9 fronts

    IMERISSIA: Harsh measures

    KATHIMERINI: Storm of taxes and contingent mechanism until 2019

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Tsunami of measures

    RIZOSPASTIS: Anti-popular measures without end

    TA NEA: (Federation of Greek Industries) SEV is dreaming of strange agreements

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