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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-05-27

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

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

Friday, 27 May 2016 Issue No: 5175

CONTENTS

  • [01] Tsakalotos: Greek debt recognized as not viable; bonds could soon qualify for ECB's QE
  • [02] Eurogroup agreement marks 'start of effort to exit the vicious cycle,' Gerovasili says
  • [03] Greek issue has been solved, says Jean-Claude Juncker
  • [04] Obama estimates that the Greek debt crisis has eased
  • [05] German FinMin Schaeuble does not rule out further measures in 2018
  • [06] Russian President Putin visits Athens on Friday, to sign agreements with Tsipras
  • [07] A series of contracts and cooperation protocols will be signed during Russian President Putin's visit in Athens
  • [08] Russian Patriarch Kirill in Thessaloniki on Friday; will visit Mount Athos
  • [09] Greece has a brilliant future, ECB's Nowotny tells ANA-MPA
  • [10] Development law to be tabled in Parliament next week, Economy Min Stathakis says
  • [11] The evacuation process at Idomeni is carried out in a model way, Alternate Migration Min Mouzalas says
  • [12] Railway line at Idomeni reopens after 70-day occupation of the tracks
  • [13] Council of Europe SecGen, Alt. FM Xydakis discuss refugee crisis
  • [14] Potami leader Theodorakis has phone contact with EU Commissioner Moscovici
  • [15] Gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili meets top officials from Georgia
  • [16] Greece-Azerbaijan Joint Interministerial Committee meeting
  • [17] Thessaloniki mayor talks about PM, elections and refugee issue to ANA-MPA radio
  • [18] Lowering tax rates needs combating tax evasion first, SEV report
  • [19] Greece has high tax rates and low revenues but normal tax 'behaviour', PwC survey shows
  • [20] VAT increase in islands at the limits of constitutionality, parliament president Voutsis says to ANA-MPA
  • [21] Intralot sells 80 pct of Intralot de Peru to Nexus Group
  • [22] FF Group launches 10-mln-euro investment in Bucarest, Romania
  • [23] PPC reports higher profits in Q1
  • [24] Greek stocks end moderately higher
  • [25] Greek bond market closing report
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] The return of the Parthenon Marbles is a matter of cultural morality, Acropolis Museum chief Pantermalis tells ANA-MPA
  • [28] 'Strong indications' that Aristotle's tomb has been found, says Greek archaeologist
  • [29] Blue Flags to 430 Greek beaches and nine marinas
  • [30] Mostly fair on Friday
  • [31] The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Tsakalotos: Greek debt recognized as not viable; bonds could soon qualify for ECB's QE

    Greek bonds may soon be included in the European Central Bank's (ECB) quantitative easing program, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Thursday during a press conference on the results of the Eurogroup meeting, adding that the government will now aim at promoting growth.

    Speaking to journalists along with Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis, Tsakalotos said the Eurogroup meeting ended a crucial circle in the path to economic recovery and although more program reviews will follow, this was the "most complicated, difficult and important".

    This is because Greece completed the fiscal adjustment program and no additional measures will be needed until its end, while the country will receive a loan installment equal to about 2 pct of its GDP to cover state arrears. The conclusion of the review also fulfills three basic conditions for recovery, the minister said: bank recapitalization, improvement of liquidity, restoring of stability and removal of uncertainty for the economy.

    "The Eurogroup decision has compromises. We didn't do what we could have done, obviously we also compromised. But the people will see that the conditions are in place to change the vicious circle into a virtuous circle," Tsakalotos said.

    Commenting on the decisions on the country's debt, Tsakalotos said for the first time there is an official recognition that it's unsustainable, noting that if there was a pledge on debt since 2011, then Greece's financing needs would have been lower by 18-27 billion euros annually.

    Asked on the government's plans towards capital controls, the minister said lifting them will depend on the return of bank deposits and assurance that banks are fully secured. "What we are discussing is the speed with which capital controls will be fully revoked," he said.

    Commenting on when they expect the country to return to the markets, the minister said: "Our aim is to return to the markets slowly, within 2017. We don't want to exit quickly, but to consolidate a climate of trust," he said.

    He also clarified that the VAT hike in islands will not be revoked. "I'd like to convince ANEL [the gov't coalition party] and my own party that the revenues can be used for a targeted island policy and as assistance towards citizens for growth. This policy will be more effective."

    [02] Eurogroup agreement marks 'start of effort to exit the vicious cycle,' Gerovasili says

    The agreement reached at the Eurogroup regarding the review marked the "start of a new but truly creative effort to quickly exit the vicious cycle," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said on Thursday, in an interview with the radio station Real FM.

    While there were still some outstanding issues to be resolved, she said, the big picture was that a cycle of uncertainty was ending for Greece and the conditions were being set up for recovery.

    Gerovasili said the government will continue to look for ways to avoid demanding the return of an EKAS pensioners' benefit that the creditors' wanted cut retrospectively, noting that back-dated cuts were unfair, and appeared confident that a solution could be found. For the other outstanding prior actions that remained after the Eurogroup session, she said that discussions to clarify these were continuing on the level of the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG), noting that some things had been misunderstood and others were agreed but not recorded among the agreements.

    Gerovasili confirmed that the creditors wanted non-performing loans backed by Greek state guarantees to also be made available for sale to foreign distress funds, which the Greek government had tried to avoid and that efforts were now underway to resolve this.

    She also confirmed that these outstanding issues were among the prior actions needed to unlock bailout tranches but noted that others simply required clarifications or needed to be made more specific.

    On the discussion on Greece's debt, the spokeswoman said that it had started earlier than provided for in the agreement made in the summer of 2015, which had said it would begin after the conclusion of the first review. "It has come forward, the discussion on the debt began at the same time as the review. This is a step forward and positive," she said.

    The results on the short-term and medium-term measures did not differ greatly from what the government had expected, she added. On the long-term measures, however, there were major issues of strong disagreement between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European institutions, she added.

    Gerovasili said the provisions of the agreement on the debt stipulated that debt servicing should remain below 15 pct of GDP in the medium term and under 20 pct after the programme. "This means that the country's financing needs are reduced," she said, adding that the European Stability Mechanism had undertaken to reduce the risk of rising interest rates via several mechanisms, thus creating a safe investment environment that was the government's goal.

    [03] Greek issue has been solved, says Jean-Claude Juncker

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)

    European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk on Thursday expressed their pleasure on the Eurogroup's agreement for Greece during a joint press conference before the start of the GF Summit at Ise-Shima, Japan.

    "We are pleased that the Eurogroup reached an agreement not only among the 19 members but also with the IMF" stated Juncker and reminded that last year at the Elmau Summit, Greece was the most dramatic issue in the agenda adding that this issue has now been solved and the measures for the Greek debt, that the Eurogroup announced, have started to be highly considered.

    On his part, Tusk said that the Eurogroup's agreement sent a "strong message of stability" for Greece and for the eurozone as well as for the international economy. "I would like to thank the Greek people and particularly prime minister Alexis Tsipras for their determination to put an end to this crisis by reforming the country. The Greek tragedy will not return," stated Tusk.

    [04] Obama estimates that the Greek debt crisis has eased

    US President Barack Obama estimated on Thursday that the Greek debt crisis has eased, but there is still a lot of economic work to be done.

    Obama participates in the G7 summit meeting held in Japan.

    [05] German FinMin Schaeuble does not rule out further measures in 2018

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Thursday did not rule out the possibility of "additional measures" in 2018 to assist Greece financially.

    However, he expressed the hope that this will not happen. Schaeuble stressed that Greece has made great efforts and expressed confidence that the IMF will participate in the Greek program and reiterated that there is no disagreement between Berlin and the Fund.

    Schaeuble said during a press conference that the eurozone Finance ministers agreed that if there is a fiscal gap after the completion of the program in 2018, "additional measures" will be taken if necessary. He reiterated that the measures taken this week were for 2016, while those for 2018 will be taken at the appropriate time.

    The German Finance minister also stressed that Greece has made "great efforts", and admitted once again that he could not impose such reforms on Germany. He stated however that Athens should continue on that difficult road if it wants to count on the European solidarity. The situation is "extremely difficult" for Greece, he added, stressing that it is not easy either for Europe or the IMF.

    Referring to the previous programme, Schaeuble said that Greece could have come out of the support mechanism in 2014, but this was impossible due to Syriza's promises to stay in the eurozone without reforms. However, he stated that since last summer things have been 'moving forward', and noted that the decision of the Eurogroup is a result of very good cooperation with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.

    [06] Russian President Putin visits Athens on Friday, to sign agreements with Tsipras

    Russian President Vladimir Putin will be in Athens on Friday to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and sign a series of declarations and agreements on energy, tourism, technology, and science, government sources said.

    Putin is arriving at the Greek capital in the afternoon and will immediately meet President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. He will then be welcomed at Maximos Mansion for a private meeting with Tsipras, which will be followed by talks with the two delegations.

    According to the same sources, the Russian president is visiting Greece as part of the Greece-Russia Year and following Tsipras' visit to Moscow and St Petersburg in 2015 and Pavlopoulos' visit to Moscow in January.

    The agenda of the two leaders and their delegations will focus on: 1) Strengthening bilateral economic and trade relations (attracting Russian investments, promoting Greek products, mainly agricultural, energy and tourism), 2) upgrading political dialog on international and regional developments, as well as EU-Russia and NATO-Russia relations, 3) Cooperating on culture, education, science and technology.

    Putin will be accompanies by a numerous government delegation that will include the ministers of foreign affairs, energy, transport, culture, economic development, agriculture and the government spokesperson. The delegation will also include the CEOs of gas and oil giants Gazprom and Rosneft, as well as other businessmen.

    [07] A series of contracts and cooperation protocols will be signed during Russian President Putin's visit in Athens

    Russian president Vladimir Putin's visit to Athens on Friday comes as a result of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' meetings with the Russian president and the Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in 2015, however this time we will have some tangible results, said Greek premier's advisor on Russian and Eastern European issues and responsible for the coordination of the Joint Interministerial Greek-Russian committee Dimitris Velanis.

    A series of contracts and cooperation protocols in a series of sectors will be signed, said to ANA-MPA and underlined. Referring to the Russian side, he expressed his certainty that Vladimir Putin's visit will bring results.

    On the Greece-Russia's cooperation in the energy sector he noted that "the cooperation with Russia in the energy sector in part of a multidimensional policy that Greece is following" adding that "there can be energy security in Europe as well as in Greece without Russia's participation".

    Velanis also estimated that "the construction of the Russian pipeline is very close".

    [08] Russian Patriarch Kirill in Thessaloniki on Friday; will visit Mount Athos

    Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will arrive in Thessaloniki on Friday, as part of his visit to Mount Athos. The Russian Patriarch will be greeted by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Amanatidis at 10.00 (local) at Macedonia airport.

    [09] Greece has a brilliant future, ECB's Nowotny tells ANA-MPA

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D.Dimitrakoudis)

    "Not only does Greece have a brilliant past, but it also has a brilliant future," Austrian central banker and member of the ECB governing council Ewald Nowotny on Thursday said in exclusive statements to ANA-MPA.

    Nowotny explained that Greece has a plethora of intelligent, hardworking people and significant tourist potential as well as potential in the economic sector.

    Moreover, he stressed the importance of creating the appropriate basis adding that "several things are now on the right track." He also noted that "Greece's agreement with the European Union and the ECB sets the foundations for a long-term, stable development."

    "I believe that it is important that these developments are not only healthy in the short-term, but render a lengthy and stable recovery possible," he underlined.

    [10] Development law to be tabled in Parliament next week, Economy Min Stathakis says

    The development law that will provide 3 billion euro financing in the next five years will be tabled in Parliament early next week, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis said in statements to private SKAI TV on Thursday.

    He underlined that the government does not accept to sell bad loans guaranteed by the Greek State to funds adding that these loans amount to approximately 1.5 billion euros. Regarding the concession of the former international airport at Elliniko, he reassured that the process will have been completed by the end of June.

    He also cleared out that the government will proceed with the concession or privatisation of the water company EYDAP, the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the urban transport.

    Referring to the Eurogroup agreement, the Economy Minister expressed his content over the 7.5 billion euro tranche, but acknowledged that this loan tranche does not provide a "cushion". He argued, however, that with this money the government will have paid off all state obligations to individuals by the end of October.

    On the capital controls, he said that a discussion on a roadmap that will lead to their final lifting is underway and rejected estimations that Greek banks will need new recapitalization.

    [11] The evacuation process at Idomeni is carried out in a model way, Alternate Migration Min Mouzalas says

    "The evacuation process at Idomeni is carried out in a model way," Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said in an interview with Mega TV on Thursday.

    He underlined that "priority was given on Idomeni in order to stop the shame of favela" and added "we will clear Idomeni and we will make sure that it will not be created again."

    Mouzalas reiterated that the evacuation of former international airport Elliniko and Piraeus port will follow and rejected claims about a health bomb in Elliniko saying that full health coverage is provided.

    Asked on the future of the 55,000 migrants and refugees now in Greece, he stressed that a large number of them, around 10,000-15,000, will make use of the relocation programme. A large number of them will also make use of the voluntary return program, he said. Some of them will stay in Greece, the minister added, noting that 10,000-15,000 correspond to Greece. Regarding the undocumented migrants, he said that they will be returned to their countries if they do not ask for their voluntary return.

    Regarding the plans for the integration of refugees that will stay for some time in Greece, Mouzalas announced that a working group between the Migration Policy ministry and the Education ministry was set up last week in order to solve the issue of schooling for refugee children and estimated that the issue will have been solved by August. "This is the difficult stage of the integration; we are not yet ready for it, but we are preparing ourselves," he added.

    [12] Railway line at Idomeni reopens after 70-day occupation of the tracks

    The first train in 70 days pulled up at Idomeni railway station on Thursday afternoon, on tracks just cleared of the remains of a bustling tent city of migrants and refugees that had occupied the railway line for more than two months, after the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) closed its borders and they found themselves trapped in Greece.

    For the first time since the line was occupied, a TRAINOSE train from Greece was able to travel on the railway track across the border to FYROM, load freight and return to the railway station, after the evacuation of the refugees that had prevented trains from running.

    Since the early hours of Thursday morning, clean-up crews have been collecting the last of the debris and personal items left behind by the migrants and refugees that were taken to accommodation centres in other locations in Greece.

    The evacuation was completed later on Thursday after the last 783 of the camp residents boarded 18 coaches and left the camp, leaving the sleepy village of 100 residents near the Greek-FYROM border silent and empty once again.

    [13] Council of Europe SecGen, Alt. FM Xydakis discuss refugee crisis

    Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbj?rn Jagland on Thursday praised Greece's handling of the refugee crisis despite its limited resources, in statements after meeting Alternate Foreign Minister Nikos Xydakis in Athens. The meeting focused on ways to tackle the refugee and migration issue, the EU-Turkey agreement and how the Council of Europe might contribute, as well as other human rights issues.

    Replying to a question from the ANA-MPA, Jagland said that the refugee issue is a European problem and Greece should not be left to handle it unaided. The other EU member-states and European institutions should give even greater support to Greece, he added. In this context, he also included the difficulties with the relocation of refugees to other EU countries, especially children, and promised to convey this message to the 47 CoE member-states when he returned to its base in Strasbourg.

    Jagland, who had earlier visited a centre for unaccompanied migrant children in Ano Petralona, noted Greece's efforts to support unaccompanied minors and said the country was making every possible effort to allow all refugees to submit their application for asylum.

    Xydakis said the Council of Europe could provide Greece with invaluable assistance through its broad network for information and strategic thinking, as well as the secretary general's own experience and his knowledge about Europe and Greece, providing very useful insights to help Greece formulate its own views and policies.

    "It is an organisation that has always stood by the Greek people and Greek democracy when this was hurt," he said.

    Jagland has been in Athens since Wednesday, when he met President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other members of the government. On Friday he will go to the coastal town of Nafplio to take part in a two-day conference on "Protecting asylum seekers, refugees and migrants; lessons from the recent crisis and prospects for coordinated action by international organisations." On Saturday, he is to be named an honorary citizen of Nafplio.

    [14] Potami leader Theodorakis has phone contact with EU Commissioner Moscovici

    Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis on Thursday had a phone contact with European Commissioner for Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici, according to a party announcement.

    Theodorakis, before leaving from Brussels, discussed with Moscovici the Eurogroup agreement and the conditions through which this agreement can pave the way for Greece's economic development and the creation of new job positions.

    On his part, Moscovici asked Theodorakis' opinion on what effect may the new programme have to the Greek citizens and referred to the agreement's positive points as the necessary reforms that will lead to the opening of the markets that will make the Greek economy competitive. Theodorakis explained that the tax measures are implemented immediately while there is huge delay in the implementation of the reforms.

    Both agreed that Greece must seek investments because this is the only way for the creation of job positions.

    [15] Gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili meets top officials from Georgia

    Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili on Thursday met with officials from Georgia. During the meeting Gerovasilli referred to the traditional relations between Greece and Georgia and the constructive cooperation that has been achieved at bilateral and multilateral level in the last period.

    In the meeting, that was held at the Maximos mansion, participated the Ambassador of Georgia to Athens Ioseb Nanobshvili, the president of the Georgia-Greece Friendship parliamentary group Victor Dolidze and the Georgian MPs Ani Mirotadze and Iasha Shervashidze as well as the Embassy's advisor Ekaterine Lortkipanidze.

    The Georgian ambassador underlined Greece's support to Georgia in serious issues as well as the importance of the ratification of the EU-Georgia accession by the Greek parliament.

    The president of the Georgia-Greece Friendship parliamentary group briefed on the economic and political developments in Georgia and made a special reference to the bilateral relations between Georgia and Greece.

    Both sides pledged to increase cooperation.

    [16] Greece-Azerbaijan Joint Interministerial Committee meeting

    A two-day meeting of the 4th Joint Interministerial Committee of Economic, Industrial and Technological cooperation between Greece and Azerbaijan started on Thursday at the Foreign Ministry.

    Azerbaijan is represented by Energy Minister Natig Aliyev accompanied by Deputy Telecoms and High Technology Minister Iltimas Mammadov, Deputy Healthcare Minister Elsevar Agayev, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Intigam Babayev as well as a group of experts in the sectors of special interest as energy, transport, agriculture and tourism.

    A protocol will be signed from the committee's co-presidents (Aliyev and Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas) after the end of the committee's meetings.

    [17] Thessaloniki mayor talks about PM, elections and refugee issue to ANA-MPA radio

    Talking to the ANA-MPA radio station 'Praktorio 104.9' on Thursday, Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris shared his views on Greece's political scene, talked about Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, declined to comment on Tsipras' coalition partner Panos Kammenos but was not shy about voicing his beefs on the refugee issue.

    "Tsipras is just fine, the way I see it. The situation has forced him onto this course. Tsipras thought - as did everyone in SYRIZA - that they could do whatever they wanted in a system that is unbelievably tough. He didn't get away with it and compromised. The biggest problem in Greece today is that people have lowered their demands and do not react," he told the station's 'APEritta' programme.

    According to the mayor, however, early elections "would lead nowhere." Greece should finish up with the process of the review, finalise the situation concerning the debt and "let those that had handled the issue finish it," he said.

    Talking about Mitsotakis and his role as ND leader, Boutaris said it was "too soon yet to say whether Kyriakos has been fully accepted by New Democracy, by the whole system."

    "I expect him to renew ND. I don't vote for ND but it is a party that might not govern today but will govern tomorrow. It should be a serious party," he said.

    Asked about the refugee issue and the evacuation of the camp at Idomeni, Boutaris noted that the new camps set up were "incomplete" and that the refugees were still living in tents. He also complained about their continued presence in the port.

    "The port was a temporary situation but it is almost becoming permanent. We are pressing for them to leave," he said.

    Financial News

    [18] Lowering tax rates needs combating tax evasion first, SEV report

    If the government exploits all of its weaponry in combating tax evasion will be able to cut tax rates for consistent taxpayers and enterprises soon and to contribute in the recovery of investments and of economic activity in general, the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) said on Thursday.

    In a weekly bulletin, SEV said that without a drastic reduction of tax evasion any room for introducing investment tax incentives were small.

    SEV noted that incentives to encourage investments should be horizontal, to be included in a national taxation code and to include all enterprises focusing on restructuring and modernization spending, to be linked with profitabiity and re-investment of profits and to be free of any time-consuming, bureaucratic procedures related with the Greek state which raised the possibility of corruption cases. It added that a new development draft law included several positive actions such as the use of tax incentives instead of subsidies to a greater extent compared with the past, encouraging emblematic investments starting from 20 million euros (instead of 50 million earlier), simplifying procedures for inclusion and control in cases of ready equipment, consolidation and coordination of public funding through holding funds.

    SEV said that a new special property tax (ENFIA) will lead 45,000 enterprises to pay 240 million euros in supplementary tax, 33 companies to pay 40 million and 2,300 companies -with significant investments in real estate- to pay additional taxes of 140 millon euros.

    [19] Greece has high tax rates and low revenues but normal tax 'behaviour', PwC survey shows

    Greece's tax system has very high taxation rates that fail to bring in proportionately high revenues, even though the "tax behaviour" of its citizens is not significantly different from that of other Europeans, according to a PwC tax summary for May 2016 released on Thursday.

    According to the report, tax revenues in Greece fell steadily in absolute terms over time, though rising as a percentage of the country's GDP, indicating an inability to collect additional taxes in conditions of extended crisis. By the same token, constant changes to taxation parameters and rates appears to have no impact on tax collection levels, the report said.

    It advised that the tax system be radically redesigned so that it does not create "economic distortions" and noted that growth will make a major contribution to increasing public revenues, with a 10 pct increase in GDP leading to an estimated 11.3 pct increase in tax revenues.

    More specifically, it noted that taxation rates were among the highest in all categories but revenue collection was less than or close to average. During the economic crisis, the contribution made by VAT and other indirect taxes remained steady while the contribution of income tax from legal entities and companies collapsed from 15 pct to just 6 pct and there was a higher contribution from direct taxes on individuals and real estate.

    According to PwC data, the proportion of revenues contributed by indirect taxation was among the highest in Europe at 57 pct, while 94 pct of tax revenues in Greece came from indirect taxes, income taxes on individuals and real estate. With the exception of indirect taxation and real estate taxation, there are no signs of overtaxation in Greece when compared to other countries.

    The report noted a sharp rise in taxes on real estate in Greece over the last five years, increasing revenues by 2.5-3.0 billion euros. This led to a fall in house prices and deinvestment from the market, the report said.

    According to PwC, Greece's taxation system is parameterised in a way that does not facilitate tax collection, punishing middle incomes and increasing undeclared incomes. There is an estimated 34 pct deficit in VAT revenue in Greece, indicating significant loss of revenue as a result of tax evasion, tax avoidance and ineffective tax collection mechanisms.

    It also notes that revenues from VAT and other indirect taxation, unilke income tax and real estate taxes, are not especially sensitive to changes in GDP.

    The head of PwC Greece's taxation department Mary Psylla said: "It is necessary to intervene in the taxation system. Its performance is generally less than the European average and its distortions make it harder to increase tax collection. Its complexity combined with the ineffectiveness of tax-collection mechanisms are obstacles to both fiscal improvement and growth."

    [20] VAT increase in islands at the limits of constitutionality, parliament president Voutsis says to ANA-MPA

    The VAT increase on Greek islands moves at the limits of constitutionality, noted parliament president Nikos Voutsis underlining that the lifting of the incrased VAT on the islands should be one of the first measures the government should take back when economic conditions improve.

    Speaking to ANA-MPA Voutsis referred to the lenders' obsession to the equalisation of VAT on the islands and referred to some circles attempt to damage the economic competitiveness in the sector of tourism. He also said that the VAT equalisation is against the explicit wording of the Constitution in which is clearly stated that a special provision should exist for the insularity and the border regions.

    [21] Intralot sells 80 pct of Intralot de Peru to Nexus Group

    Intralot Group on Thursday said it has reached an agreement to sell 80 pct of Intralot de Peru, a subsidiary of the group in Peru, to Nexus Group for an undisclosed sum.

    In an announcement, Intralot said it will continue working as a technological supplier of the company after the transaction. Intralot de Peru operates a network of 3,700 POS and Internet services in Peru.

    [22] FF Group launches 10-mln-euro investment in Bucarest, Romania

    FF Group on Thursday announced a new investment in Romania with the inauguration of a historical building in Bucharest. The investment for the renovation and operation of the building, covering a space of 5,000 m2 totaled 10 million euros.

    "We are very happy because with the new operation of this great building, FF Group further enhances its 20-year plus dynamic presence in the Romanian market. A market that despite adverse periods managed to stand on its feet and to grow. The renovation of the building, along with the new shop Collective we inaugurate, confirmed the group's strategic plans over its growth in the wider Balkans region," Tzortzis Koutsolioutsos, chief executive of FF Group said.

    [23] PPC reports higher profits in Q1

    Public Power Corporation (PPC) on Thursday said its pre-tax earnings totaled 122.3 million euros in the first quarter of 2016, up from 77.2 million in the corresponding period last year despite a decline in energy demand and a reduction of its market share.

    PPC said electricity energy demand fell 5.9 pct in the January-March period reflecting milder weather conditions, while PPC's sales fell 10.1 pct as its market share in the retail electricity market fell to 94.1 pct in the first quarter from 97.1 pct in the same period last year. These developments, combined with a new billing policy for commercial and industrial customers introduced in September 2015 led to a decline in the Group's turnover to 1.413 billion euros, down 8.8 pct from the same period last year. PPC said its net debt was 4.652 billion euros at the end of March, down 313.6 million from the same period in 2015.

    PPC's chief executive M. Panagiotakis, said that the corporation has settled unpaid bills worth more than 430 million euros with 145,000 customers and dismissed reports over a huge number of uncollected electricity bills. Panagio-takis called the government to abolish a special duty on lignite (2 euros per MWh).

    [24] Greek stocks end moderately higher

    Greek stocks ended moderately higher in the Athens Stock Exchange as the market began digesting the results of a Eurogroup meeting and to focus more on the release of first quarter results. Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks such as Metka, PPC, Folli Folie and Athens Water, while Piraeus Bank, OTE and Coca Cola HBC suffered losses.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.56 pct to end at 645.40 points, off the day's highs of 648.21 points. The Large Cap index ended 0.09 pct lower and the Mid Cap index rose 2.61 pct. Turnover was a reduced 83.981 million euros in volume of 109,130,732.

    Metka (5.83 pct), PPC (5.71 pct) and Folli Follie (3.14 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (4.14 pct), OTE (2.43 pct) and Cola Cola HBC (1.97 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Among market sectors, Technology (3.67 pct), Utilities (3.59 pct) and Commerce (3.13 pct) scored big gains, while Insurance (11.90 pct), Telecoms (2.43 pct) and Food (1.97 pct) suffered losses. National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 56 to 48 with another 24 issues unchanged. Yalco (17.78 pct), Elinoil (10 pct) and Elgeka (9.94 pct) were top gainers, while Evrofarma (26.45 pct), Sfakianakis (19.79 pct) and Progressive (19.23 pct) were top losers.

    [25] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 7.09 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 6.96 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.24 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.15 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros,.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed to lower. The 12-month rate fell to -0.014 pct from -0.013 pct, the nine-month rate fell to -0.080 pct from -0.079 pct, the six-month rate fell to -0.146 pct from -0.144 pct, the three-month rate was -0.258 pct and the one-month rate rose to -0.348 pct.

    [26] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.70 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,054 contracts with 26,128 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 80,200 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (29,946), followed by Alpha Bank (11,099), Piraeus Bank (22,106), Eurobank (5,414), MIG (5,983), OTE (455), PPC (3,051), OPAP (418), Mytilineos (515), Hellenic Petroleum (411), Metka (109), Ellaktor (164), Jumbo (109).

    General News

    [27] The return of the Parthenon Marbles is a matter of cultural morality, Acropolis Museum chief Pantermalis tells ANA-MPA

    On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Parthenon marbles violent removal from Greece and their transfer to the British Museum, the president of the Acropolis Museum, Professor Dimitris Pantermalis gave an interview to ANA-MPA on the return of the marbles stressing that "it is a matter of cultural morality."

    "Great monuments have their own rights. The rights of their own integrity. Great monuments cannot be fragmented," he underlined.

    When asked on the return of the Marbles, he said: "There are many factors that play a decisive role on the issue. At the level of museums things are less difficult, but the issue has been transferred to a political level and even at a level of international politics, so things are getting more difficult. On the one hand, globalization can help, on the other hand it can block many things and it is also the political power that plays a significant role."

    "What is important is the constant struggle, the constant vigilance and keeping the issue constantly alive. And the issue is kept alive, to be realistic. I am optimistic. But it is also a matter of time," he underlined.

    Asked if he believed that the British Museum could return the sculptures, he replied: "Yes, but it is not so simple. They are not going to tell us 'take them back.' We should negotiate; we should give them something in exchange. For example, the idea of periodic exhibitions of Greek works to the British Museum is not bad. Good ideas exist, but it takes time to implement them. This proposal is under discussion because it is also in their own interest," Pantermalis stated.

    Asked whether the new Acropolis Museum differs from the British Museum in the display of the marbles, he noted: "The Acropolis Museum is by far better because the marbles are displayed in their original place, as they were in the original building ... They are illuminated in the same way and parallel to the monument. Thus, the visitor can see the monument from one side and the original architecture on the other side."

    The full interview is available in Greek to "Praktorio" free press.

    [28] 'Strong indications' that Aristotle's tomb has been found, says Greek archaeologist

    There are strong indications that a peculiar ancient tomb found in the area of Stagira, in central Macedonia, is the tomb of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, archaeologist Kostas Sismanidis said on Thursday, during an international conference on the famous philosopher in Thessaloniki.

    Addressing the "Aristotle World Congress", Sismanidis, whose team has spent 20 years digging in the area, said the horseshoe-shaped domed building unearthed in the middle of the south side of the Stagira hill was just a few dozen meters from the agora arcade. The tomb had a tiled roof made at the royal pottery workshop, affirming its public function. A two-meter-wide raised, processional, built road lead to the monument entrance that was accessible to people offering bids.

    Artefacts, pottery and more than fifty coins found in the area date the tomb and the altar at the times of Alexander the Great. The top of the dome is 10 meters high and there is a rectangular marble floor surrounding a Byzantine tower.

    Sismanidis cited two literary sources that in his view indicate the people of Stagira may have transferred his remains from Evia, where he died in 322 BC, to his birthplace. The manuscripts he referred to are from The Marciana Library and an Arabic biography of Aristotle from the second half of the 11 century BC.

    According to the latter, "when Aristotle died, the people of Stagira sent and brought back his ashes to their home, placed it in a copper urn and then deposited this urn in a location called 'Aristotelion'. Every time they had important issues and wanted to resolve difficult problems, they convened their assembly in this place."

    "Based, therefore, on the above written sources, we believe that we cannot challenge the information they give us concerning the transport and burial of Aristotle's remains in the city of Stagira, on the establishment of an altar at the tomb of the philosopher, on the posthumous honours and on the establishment of the annual 'Aristotelian' celebration," Sismanidis said.

    "We believe, but without having proof, just strong indications, that all evidence contribute to this version," he added.

    The conference was organized by the University of Thessaloniki. Aristotle, considered as one of the most important philosophers, was a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.

    [29] Blue Flags to 430 Greek beaches and nine marinas

    430 Greek beaches and 9 Greek marinas were awarded with Blue Flags for 2016. Greece took the third place among the 50 countries that participate in the programme. The peninsula of Halkidiki, which hosted this year's first international "Blue Flags" event, was crowned the destination with most flags in Greece as 52 of its beaches were awarded.

    Weather forecast

    [30] Mostly fair on Friday

    Mostly fair weather and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 5 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 12C-28C. Mostly fair in the western and the eastern parts with temperatures between 13C-29C. Sunny over the Aegean islands and Crete, 17C-25C. Fair in Athens, 17C-29C. Scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 20C-28C.

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

    AVGHI: The circle of uncertainty closes

    DIMOKRATIA: Setting 'small villages' on fire

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: VAT storm on products and islands

    ESTIA: They are covering fake degrees

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Agreement with grey zones

    KATHIMERINI: Putin: Greece is a strategic partner

    TA NEA: The night that they conceded everything

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Reading between the lines in the agreement

    RIZOSPASTIS: The government's anti-popular plan

    TO PONTIKI: And now 'on the run'

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