|Friday, 24 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-10-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 16 October 2015 Issue No: 5045
 Tsipras at EU summit: 'Now is the time for brave political initiatives on refugees'Europe must take brave political initiatives now to tackle the refugee crisis, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday, as he arrived for the Summit meeting of EU heads of state in Brussels, which will focus on migration in its various aspects.
"We have to find solutions in order to solve this very huge crisis, the humanitarian, refugee crisis. The support of Europe's frontline countries with respect and solidarity to the refugees is in our common European interest," the premier told journalists.
"But first of all I think that now is the time to take brave political initiatives to solve the Syrian crisis, to try to stop these waves of refugees in the Mediterranean, the people who want to seek a better life in Europe," he added.
Tsipras also noted that Greece is ready to cooperate with Turkey on the problem but solely on the basis of international law and "the integrity of the accession process".
 PM Tsipras to seek additional financial support for Greek islands at EU summit on refugee crisisPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to press for greater financial support to the regions under the most pressure from refugee flows in his address to the European Council on Thursday, Greek government sources said.
They noted that the Greek islands receiving the vast bulk of the refugees face a major financial burden, while the Greek armed forces are also under strain due to a rise in expenses combined with budget cuts due to the economic programme.
Tsipras will additionally raise the issue of Afghan nationals that are currently denied asylum, even though some are fleeing war zones, and ask for greater emphasis on the identification and relocation of refugees directly from non-EU countries, such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, the sources said.
They also announced that French President Francois Hollande intends to carry out an official visit to Greece next Thursday and Friday, on October 22 and 23.
Earlier on Thursday, on the sidelines of the summit, Tsipras had a meeting with the head of Portugal's Left Bloc party Catarina Martins and discussed recent developments in Portugal and the role of the left. The meeting was attended by Greek MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis and Portuguese MEP Marisa Matias.
 Tsipras and Martin Schulz discuss EuroParliament role in review of Greek programmeThe European Parliament's role in the process for reviewing the Greek programme, as well as Greece's positions on the refugee issue, dominated a meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, according to a press release from the prime minister's office on Thursday.
On the refugee issue, both sides stressed the need for greater financial support to the countries of first reception, as well of a viable refugee relocation mechanism, the announcement said.
 PM Tsipras meets EU Parliament's GUE/NGL group chair Gabi ZimmerPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday met the head of the Chair of Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left Gabrielle Zimmer in Brussels, where he is attending the European leaders' summit on migration and the refugee issue.
According to a press release from the prime minister's office, they confirmed the support of the EuroParliament's Left group for enhancing the EuroParliament's role in the review of Greece's programme. They also discussed the refugee crisis and general political developments, as well as ways to upgrade the political role of the Left in Europe.
The meeting was attended by Greek MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis and Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis.
 No talk of joint Greek-Turkish patrols in the Aegean, says Greek PresidentGreek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos send a clear message on Thursday that cooperation to tackle the humanitarian crisis facing the refugees cannot in any way signal concessions in the sovereign rights of member-states.
Pavlopoulos was responding to proposals put forward by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for joint patrols in the eastern Aegean by Greece and Turkey on Wednesday.
"Cooperation to address the humanitarian crisis facing war refugees can in no way mean making discounts or concessions in respect to the sovereign rights of member-states," the President said during a ceremony awarding the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix to Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn at the Presidential Mansion.
Addressing Asselborn, Pavlopoulos said the award is granted to him for "his great contribution in addressing the humanitarian crisis of war refugees in a way that the European Union ensures its borders as much as possible, but also in a way that shows respect for humans and their value."
Addressing the humanitarian crisis should not result in discounts of member states' sovereignty, President Pavlopoulos says
President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday stressed that cooperation for addressing the humanitarian crisis of war refugees should by no means cause discounts or concessions in terms of the sovereignty of the member states, sending a clear message to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Pavlopoulos made the following statement during a ceremony for the award of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix to the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Immigration and Asylum of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn.
Addressing Asselborn, Pavlopoulos underlined that "it is the combination of the just European law and the law of member states and respect for human rights that makes your presidency a rather important presidency and an example for the future and until that crisis ends, which should end with the consolidation of peace in the Middle East."
During the presidency of Luxembourg, he noted, the decisions taken, "determined the conditions under which the member states and neighboring countries cooperate in order to be able to deal with the humanitarian crisis. That is, in a way that respects the European borders, which are the borders of member states as designated by them."
He clarified that Greece awarded this medal, "because of his great contribution to dealing with this humanitarian crisis of war refugees in a manner which safeguards as much as possible the European Union and its borders, but also in a manner that respects the people, their values and, in particular, their human rights."
 FM Kotzias rules out joint Greek-Turkish patrols in the AegeanForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias, on Thursday speaking to Alpha radio station, ruled out the possibility of joint Greek-Turkish patrols in the Aegean to confront the refugee issue.
"That would mean Turkish ships entering our territorial waters something that would have long-term consequences," he added.
Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday, the president of the European Committee Jean-Claude Juncker proposed the cooperation between Greece and Turkey under the EU auspices to control the gateway to Europe.
 Juncker sees 'good chance for success' at Thursday's EU SummitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ Ch. Vassilaki)
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Johannes Hahn were negotiating with the Turkish authorities until 04.00 on Thursday morning and there is a good possibility for success, stated European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a joint press conference with Parliament President Martin Schulz earlier in Brussels.
Juncker added that he will be briefed in detail on the progress of the deliberations with Turkey with the Commission's representatives within the next few hours in order to be ready to brief the European leaders at the EU Summit that will focus on the migration issue to be held on Thursday afternoon in the Belgian capital. "There is nothing positive and final for the moment, however the talks are on the right course," he said.
Schulz and Juncker stressed the need for member states to fulfill their obligations regarding the management of the refugee crisis on financing and staff level. "It is a matter of reliability," noted Juncker adding that he will call on the state members to proceed without delay to the implementation of September 23 extraordinary EU Summit's decision as the European institutions (European Commission and the European Parliament) have done so far.
 PM Tsipras has phone contact with Chancellor Merkel ahead of SummitThe management of the refugee issue was discussed in a phone contact between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel late on Wednesday ahead of the EU summit later in the day.
The main issue of the summit will be the fulfillment of Greece's obligations towards Europe with the establishment of hot spots on five Greek islands as well as the issues that Greece has raised to Europe. These issues concern the resettlement of refugees in European countries and their relocation in other EU countries.
Another important issue of interest to Greece and for which Europe has not yet taken initiatives, concerns, according to the same sources, the fact that a significant number of refugees (except for Syrians) are Afghans from war zones and for whom the refugee status should be recognized.
The Greek agenda also includes compensatory actions (technical and financial support) that will be taken by Europe in order to support the islands which form the main refugee gateways as well as the disbursement of additional EU funds.
The operational management of the refugee issue, the coordination of the ministries, and the country's positions at the summit have also been examined in the recent ministerial meetings.
 Commission: A new start for jobs and growth for Greece, as 35 bln-euro-plan gets underwayThe European Commission welcomed on Thursday the signing on Wednesday of the Jobs and Growth Plan for Greece by the European Parliament and by the Council and said the exceptional measures presented by the Commission can now be implemented as soon as Friday.
Greece is set to receive over 35 billion euros already earmarked from the EU budget over the period 2014-2020, with 20.6 billion euros from the European Structural and Investment Funds. The first 800 million euros will be paid next week.
Overall, almost 1.4 billion euros will be released in 2015 and 1 billion euros in 2016, the Commission said in a press release. "These exceptional measures will also allow Greece to spend around 2 billion euros less from its national budget," it said.
"With the entry into force of the Commission's proposals the EU funds can begin flowing to Greece, starting with a payment of 800 million euros next week. It is investment in the real economy, in people and companies in Greece," Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis said.
"The Commission stands ready to give Greece all the technical assistance it needs to make the most of EU funds at this critical time," he added.
Corina Crecu, Commissioner for Regional Policy said: "I was in Greece last week to discuss the implementation of this package with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. These measures are a strong message of European solidarity. It is now up to our Greek partners to do their part and ensure the best use of EU funds on the ground."
The Jobs and Growth Plan for Greece is intended to flank the comprehensive set of reforms agreed between the Greek government, the Commission and international partners in the context of the new economic adjustment programme.
The Commission also offers technical assistance and expertise to Greece through its new Structural Reform Support Service to ensure the swift activation of the funds and their best use to support recovery, and create foundations for sustainable growth.
 No 'fine print' in omnibus bill on prior actions, gov't spokeswoman saysThere is no "fine print" concealed in the omnibus bill on prior actions, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said on Thursday, in statements to 'Alpha 98.9' radio station concerning the bill due to be passed on Friday.
"It is a bill that was tabled in 'Diavgeia' (Transparency) and [on which] an exhaustive discussion is taking place at this time, as it ought, in the Greek Parliament, the relevant committees, the plenum. Every point is therefore put to discussion, for criticism and processing, and of course changes," Gerovasili noted.
She stressed that the government was still negotiating and that changes for the better might be seen right up to the last minute, on Friday.
Asked whether the government feared a possible mutiny in the back benches during Friday's vote, Gerovasili replied negatively, saying there was no such picture.
Gerovasili was also questioned concerning the report issued by a committee set up to recommend pension system reforms, noting that this had a purely advisory role and that the final decisions will be taken by the government.
Regarding the furore surrounding an investigation into the wealth statements submitted by two members of the government, the spokeswoman noted that this was still underway and that no conclusion has yet been reached, while she denied that there was a political issue.
"There will be a political issue if there are people that have problems," she added.
Commenting on the Lagarde list investigations and the possibility that these may have to be written off as statute barred, Gerovasili repeated the government's determination to not allow this to happen and said that legislation to extend the deadline will be passed, if this proves necessary.
 Gov't agrees to re-examine article 10 in prior actions billFinance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Thursday promised that the government will re-examine and amend article 10, paragraph 14 of the prior actions bill after its wording was challenged as unconstitutional.
Speaking during the debate on the draft omnibus bill in Parliament, Tsakalotos said that the change will be made by later on Thursday night after consultation with the parties, so that there are no objections.
The objections were focused on an ordinance stating that the major categories of spending for public-sector entities will be determined based on a decision by the finance minister. Speaking on behalf of the Democratic Coalition formed by PASOK and DIMAR, MP Andreas Loverdos said that the wording of the law essentially abolished autonomy and self-administration of all organisations, including elected local authorities, universities and hospitals, and would be struck down as unconstitutional as soon as it was challenged before the Council of State.
This position was largely backed by representatives of the parties, including SYRIZA rapporteur Spyridon Lappas who said he was in favour of clarification.
Tsakalotos and Labour Minister George Katrougalos noted that the government's intention did not target the autonomy of self-administrated organisations but aimed to improve efficiency but placing all funds into a single account, in order to obtain a better interest rate and have a clearer picture of its management.
 FinMin Tsakalotos: 'The omnibus bill includes what was agreed'The omnibus bill on prior actions which the government has tabled in parliament includes solely the measures that were agreed upon between Greece and its partners, Finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos told lawmakers during the plenum debate on Thursday.
"The omnibus bill is what we have agreed [with the lenders]," the minister said, responding to claims of the opposition that the government has also added laws that are not included in the country's agreement.
The minister said the agreement includes about 48 prior actions but only 12 or 15 of those have been introduced in the bill, which are the ones that are necessary to unlock the 2-billion-euro loan tranche.
He also reiterated his view that recession in the third quarter of the year will be lower than initially estimated.
Commenting on the creation of a unified bank account for the State's cash reserves, Tsakalotos clarified that the government's aim is to improve the management of its finances and achieve higher interest rates and better economies of scale and not to hinder the disbursement of funds by the local administration.
 ND leader Meimarakis says party will vote against the draft billMain opposition leader Vangelis Meimarakis reiterated on Thursday his party's intention to vote against the omnibus bill on prior actions which is being discussed at the parliament's plenum.
"We will not accept as main opposition all those measures we managed to avoid as government," Meimarakis told parliament in his comment on the bill, adding that New Democracy will approve the articles which attempt structural reforms.
He accused the government of committing a "ruthless political fraud" noting that his party was the one which supported Greece in the July 22nd agreement by voting targets and timetables, but added "these measures are yours. Vote them yourself."
Meimarakis also said the new austerity measures bear the signature of Alexis Tsipras and Defence Minister and junior coalition party leader Panos Kammenos. "The fairy tale that we voted these measures will end here," he said adding that the government will unleash a tax raid of people. He reiterated his position that ND lawmakers will approve legislation that promotes growth, new investments and jobs and tackle corruption and undeclared labour.
Turning his attention at the open investigation into the wealth statements submitted by two members of the government, Meimarakis urged the prime minister to clarify the issue, noting that after this case the government has lost its so-called ethical advantage on corruption issues.
 Main opposition discusses stance in omnibus bill debateNew Democracy's leader Vangelis Meimarakis told the party's parliamentary group on Wednesday to discuss solely the omnibus bill on prior actions which will be discussed at the parliament's plenum on Thursday and the main opposition's position during the debate.
The note was made by Meimarakis as the party prepares to hold elections for a new leader.
After a thorough briefing on the main articles of the bill by the relevant MPs, one of the candidates for ND's leadership, Adonis Georgiadis, said the party should dismiss all the articles. "I don't have any trust in the prime minister," he said.
Second candidate Kyriakos Mitsotakis criticized the bill but said some articles that promote growth could be supported, such as the privatizations. Third candidate Apostolos Tzitzikostas noted the bill is 90 pct taxes that will destroy Greek society.
 Potami party: Greeks continue to pay the price of populismGreeks continue to pay the price of the government's populism, Potami party said in a press release on Thursday, commenting on the measures included in the omnibus bill on prior actions being discussed in the parliament plenum.
"In Greece we continue to pay dearly the price of populism ... the cuts in pensions are not only the result of an aging population and the evasion in the payment of contributions; it is mostly the obligatory solution of a government that cannot and - from what it appears - doesn't want to create jobs," Potami said.
 Wise Men's Committee report on pension system delivered to governmentThe Committee of Wise Men on Thursday delivered a 30-page report outlining its proposals for reforming Greece's pension system to the government.
The key points of the proposals - which the government has stressed are not binding but advisory - are the introduction of a national pension that is made up of a basic pension and a contributions-based pension, as well as the unification of all pension funds and the introduction of uniform rules for all categories of insured.
This includes revising the size of pensions for those already in retirement and introducing income criteria in the calculation of pensions, while the committee's priority is a measurable and sustainable pension system with combines a reciprocal contributions to benefits relationship and redistribution.
The report calls for the merger of all existing pension funds to create either a single 'Super-Fund' for all pensioners or three separate funds dealing with employees, the self-employed and farmers, respectively. This will be combined with measures to set up a uniform set of rules governing both old and new insured.
The new 'national pension' is proposed as a way of making the system autonomous from the benefits provided by each individual pension fund, making it easier to focus on its redistributive function. Under the system, the full amount of the national pension that all pensioners are eligible for will vary depending on the amount of the contributions-based pension and other family income, becoming progressively lower as income from pensions and other sources rises.
Other proposed changes are the introduction of a 'controlled deficit system' to replace the 'zero deficit clause' for supplementary pensions.
Presenting the report, Labour Minister George Katrougalos said that it will form the basis of a public dialogue that will be launched next week between the government and the social partners, while the final decisions will be taken by the government and tabled as a draft law in November. The minister said he fully agreed with some of its suggestions, such as establishing uniform rules for all categories of insured, but disagreed with proposals for income criteria to determine the final size of pensions.
 Communist Party slams 'Wise Men's' pension report as 'cruel and brutal'The report of the Committee of Wise Men outlining its proposals for reforming Greece's pension system is a "monument to a harsh class politics" and will bring new, massive reductions to pensions, the Communist Party said in a press release on Thursday.
The Committee delivered its 30-page report to the government earlier today.
The party noted that all the proposals will bring dramatic cuts in pensions and allowances, increases in retirement age without exceptions and the abolition of arduous and unhealthy occupations. "This report is a monument to the harsh class politics with proposals of unprecedented cruelty and brutality," it added.
 Stathakis, Charitsis meet visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daleep SinghMeeting U.S. Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia Daleep Singh in Athens on Thursday, Economy, Development and Tourism Minister George Stathakis and Alternate Minister for NSRF issues Alexis Charitsis emphasised the need to 'internationalise' the issue of Greece's debt. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Athens.
According to a ministry announcement, Stathakis briefed Singh on the priorities of the economy ministry with respect to the reforms included in the agreement with Greece's partners, as well as actions aiming at a return to growth in the second half of 2016.
He noted the challenges Greece faces in this effort, in tourism and industry, with emphasis on creating the right environment for attracting new investments through laws that simplify the issue of business licences and a new developmental legislation bill that is expected to be ready by the end of this year.
Charitsis noted positive developments relating to EU structural funds, such as the abolition of the national contribution to the current National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), and the Greek debt.
According to the announcement, Singh hailed the Greek government's commitment to carrying out necessary reforms and said the economy ministry had a key role in both their implementation and in regaining the trust of the country's European partners.
 ForMin Kotzias wants to place Athens at frontline of international diplomacy on religious, cultural rightsForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias said on Thursday his initiative to hold an International Conference on "Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East" in Athens from 18 to 20 October is part of his efforts to place Athens at the frontline of international diplomacy for the protection of cultural and religious rights and most importantly of human life.
"The more the country is able to develop with its foreign policy an international perspective that transcends our daily international issues, the more our claims and thoughts on our immediate national issues will be made understood," the minister said commenting on the conference.
Participants in the Conference include Foreign Ministers, heads of Christian Churches, religious leaders and figures of the Muslim and Jewish worlds, as well as distinguished representatives of international politics, the academic community and civil society.
The event will begin at 09.30 (local time), with an opening speech by the Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and will culminate on the afternoon of October 20, with the adoption of Plenary Conclusions and a closing address by Kotzias.
At the end of the Conference, at 12.30, Kotzias will hold a press conference.
 Alt. Defence Minister Vitsas has series of meetings in the USAlternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas has a series of meeting in the US on the occasion of his visit to the international exhibition of defence equipment AUSA 2015.
More specifically, Vitsas met with representatives of the Locheed Martin, ATK. BAE and Raytheon, companies that supply the Greek Armed Forces.
The contacts highlighted the potential for development and further expansion of cooperation, from which will benefit both the Armed Forces and domestic defense industry.
The minister laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the cemetery Arlington. At the same time, he held meetings with representatives of the Greek Diaspora in Washington. On Thursday he will visit the US Department of Defence.
 Potami MP makes third attempt to obtain information on Parliament TV's financialsPotami party MP Giorgos Amyras on Thursday resubmitted a question about the cost of Parliament's television channel, in a letter to Parliament President Nikos Voutsis.
Amyras noted that this was his third attempt to obtain information in six months, after what he called an "inexplicable" refusal of the part of former parliament president Zoi Konstantopoulou to reply to two earlier letters, despite making a commitment to do so in Parliament.
He asked Voutsis to release the financials, organisational plan and types of work contracts at the channel and to brief Parliament on his plans for it ahead of a draft bill on the issue of TV licences.
 FinMin meets visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daleep SinghFinance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Thursday met visiting U.S. Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia Daleep Singh, for talks covering the recapitalisation of Greece's banks, reforms and the debt issue. Singh was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador in Athens David D. Pearce.
According to a ministry announcement, Singh referred to a complete agreement on the need to recapitalise the banks and stressed that the Greek government must make progress in the area of reforms.
Tsakalotos briefed Singh on the progress of the Greek programme and the government's efforts to complete the first review within the time foreseen, as well as on bank recapitalisation and the debt. He noted that reforms were progressing on schedule and that it was now time for the institutions to show flexibility in terms of outstanding issues with severe social repercussions.
 Deputy ForMin Amanatidis discusses cooperation in education, culture with Israeli envoyDeputy Foreign Minister Ioannis Amanatidis met with Israeli Ambassador to Greece Irit Ben-Abba at his office today on Wednesday, at her request.
The two officials discussed the need to develop direct cooperation between the two peoples on both the university and cultural levels and developing contacts between the Greek and Israeli Diasporas. They also talked about the Greek reform programme.
 Economy Minister Stathakis says his wealth statement is completeThe three wealth statements submitted to parliament are absolutely complete and no data is hidden, Economy, Development and Tourism Minister Giorgos Stathakis told ANA-MPA on Thursday, commenting on the furore from an ongoing investigation into the wealth statements submitted by two members of the government.
"In June 2012 I was elected MP and submitted a wealth statement in September which may had been incomplete and premature. On the contrary the statement I submitted in September 2013 was complete and included all the additional information along with the amount in question," he told the news agency.
"The wealth statement of 2014 was just as complete. Although the issue had concluded with the two statements, when I took over as minister I considered appropriate - although it was redundant - to submit an additional statement in March 2015 which concerns exclusively the statement of 2012 and just repeats the information submitted the next year," he added.
"Therefore, I never concealed any information and my three statements are complete and will be judged by the Committee," he concluded.
 Govt' sees new funding tools for enterprises, Economy minister saysDeveloping new funding tools, beyond the classic bank borrowing, to fit the needs of enterprises, is one of the basic of the government, Economy, Development and Tourism Minister George Stathakis said on Thursday, addressing the Pan-European Conference of the European Federation of Managing Consultancies Associations (FEACO), organized by the Hellenic Association of Management Consulting Firms (SESMA).
The Greek minister noted that the country was currently at a turning point and the government was drafting an economic stability program, setting the terms and preconditions for a sustainable and solid economy on a long-term level "and if the right changes and institutional reforms were to be made we will leave behind us the deep wounds from the crisis of the previous five years".
The crucial points of the economy are: implementing all agreed measures and completing the first assessment in November, recapitalization of banks -an issue combined with a sustainable and fair management of non-performing loans- a debt restructuring after 2022 and combined changes focusing on economic recovery conditions and a wave of reforms in civil administration to achieve a state able to protect the weaker social groups, Stathakis said.
He noted that in the framework of civil administration reform the government was continuing a process of simplifying licensing of enterprises and a smooth operation of markets. He also mentioned the importance of changing the tax system and the significance of employment on a new development model based on exploiting the scientific resources of the country.
"We need to turn on export activity with tension, to boost innovation and to make a big turn in funding issues. A new EU-funded program is designed and focusing on young entrepreunership , innovative and small- and medium-sized enterprises to absorb 1/3 of the funds," Stathakis said.
Hellenic Federation of Enterprises' head Theodore Fessas, in his address, underling that growth can only come from the private sector. "All others are assistant levers," Fessas said adding that enterprises have paid excessively the political cycle in the country.
 Greek economy to return to positive growth rates in H1 2016, IOBE saysThe Greek economy is expected to contract less than previously estimated but the contraction period will be longer, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
In its quarterly report on the Greek economy, IOBE said it expected the country's GDP to contract by 1.5 pct in the second half of the year, after rising by 1.1 pct in the first six months, leading to an annual GDP decline of 1.5 pct to 2.0 pct.
"The Greek economy grew by 1.6 pct in the second quarter, slightly more than expected, pushing the GDP growth rate to 1.1 pct in the previous six-month period and this would moderate the annual rate," IOBE said, adding it expected the GDP to shrink between 1.5 pct and 2.0 pct this year.
N.Vettas, managing director of IOBE, presenting the report noted that the Greek economy was expected to remain in a contraction in the first half of 2016 and to return to positive growth rates in the second half of next year, although this turn could not be enough to push the economy into positive territory for the whole of the year.
 Europe needs road map to sustainable growth, Katseli saysA sustainable growth dynamic required not only the expansion of productivity and competitiveness of an economy, meaning the constant economic transformation, but safeguarding and constantly expanding descent living standards for citizens, protecting natural habitat, natural resources and the social and environmental transformation of Europe, Louka Katseli, chairman of National Bank and Hellenic Bank Association president said on Thursday.
Addressing the annual conference of FEACO, held at National Bank's amphitheatre "Th.Karatzas", Kateli said that Europe has currently downgraded its development dimensions (economic, social and environmental) thus its policies were not efficient and sustainable. The Greek banker underlined three necessary reforms: setting conditions to expand investments and productivity, development and use of new funding tools and setting up powerful institutional for development governance.
Katseli noted that the course of Europe will be determined by the collective ability of all to agree on a common road map of sustainable growth and protecting social rights.
 Greek banks further cut dependence from ECB's liquidity mechanismGreek banks further cut their dependence on the European Central Bank' s liquidity mechanisms in September, to 121.4 billion euros, from 124 billion a month earlier. Borrowing from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) mechianism fell to 82.4 billion euros, from 84 billion in the August, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that borrowing from the European Central Bank fell to 39 billion euros in September from 40 billion in August.
 Greek budget deficit up in Jan-SeptThe Greek state budget showed a deficit of 1.897 billion euros in the January-September period, from a deficit of 2.285 billion euros in the same period of 2014, up from a budget target for a shortfall of 1.363 billion euros, official figures showed on Thursday.
A report on provisional state budget execution figures - on an amended cash basis - showed that the primary result was a surplus of 3.079 billion euros in the nine-month period, from a primary surplus of 2.532 billion euros last year and a budget target for a surplus of 3.644 billion.
Net budget revenue totaled 34.296 billion euros, down 12.5 pct from targets, while regular budget net revenue totaled 32.227 billion euros, down 12.5 pct from targets in the January-September period. This reflected a shortfall in revenue from the transfer of yields from Greek state bond holdings by the central banks in the Eurosystem.
Tax returns totaled 2.022 billion euros, down 399 million from targets, while Public Investment Program revenues fell short by 311 million euros from targets to 2.069 billion euros.
State budget spending totaled 36.193 billion euros in the nine-month period, down 4.381 billion from targets, while regular budget spending totaled 34.023 billion euros, down 3.142 billion from targets reflecting a decline in primary spending on defense supplies. Regular budget spending fell 5.3 pct compared with the same period in 2014. Public Investment Programme spending totaled 2.170 billion euros, down 1.24 billion from targets and down 1.477 billion compared with the same period last year.
 Heating oil season begins with significantly lower pricesThe heating oil supply season began on Thursday at significantly lower prices compared with last year, with heating oil prices set at 84-88 cents per liter from more than 1.0 euro per liter in 2014, reflecting a sharp decline in international oil prices.
Market officials told ANA-MPA that demand for heating oil was still limited because of good weather conditions prevailing in the country and because of the pending issue over a heating oil subsidy, currently under examination by the Finance ministry.
 Piraeus Bank makes public offer move to unsecured bond holdersPiraeus Bank on Thursday made the first step towards a recapitalisation by launching an optional public offer to junior bond holders and to senior unsecured bond holders.
The aim of the move is for the bank's private shareholders to continue holding a significant stake in Piraeus Bank's share capital. The exact terms of a Greek banks' recapitalisation plan will be finalised with a new draft law to be tabled in the next few days in Parliament.
 Greek stocks jump 2.71 pctGreek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, led by a spectacular jump in bank shares helping the daily turnover to rise to its highest level in the last 19 sessions.
The bank index ended 13.91 pct up, boosted by market expectations that Greek banks' recapitalisation needs will be lower than earlier estimates. The composite index of the market ended at 694.48 points, up 2.71 pct. The Large Cap index jumped 3.30 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.83 pct higher.
Turnover soared to 48.124 million euros with volume at 196,918,280.
Alpha Bank (27.36 pct), Eurobank (25 pct), Piraeus Bank (22.86 pct) and Hellenic Petroleum (4.43 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Lamda Development (1.96 pct), Athens Water (1.40 pct) and Grivalia Properties (0.82 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Among market sectors, Banks (13.91 pct), Financial Services (4.48 pct) and Raw Materials (3.34 pct) scored big gains, while Real Estate (1.23 pct) and Chemicals (0.72 pct) sufferered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 71 to 19, with another 13 issues unchanged. Alpha Bank (27.36 pct), Eurobank (25 pct) and Piraeus Bank (22.86 pct) were top gainers, while Inform Lycos (9.90 pct), Iaso (9.83 pct) and Teletypos (9.09 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 7.34 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 7.39 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.89 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.55 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.134 pct from 0.139 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.068 pct from 0.071 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.024 pct from 0.027 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.052 pct from -0.049 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.114 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe October contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.84 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,042 contracts with 11,448 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 71,022 contracts with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (25,160), followed by National Bank (7,303), Piraeus Bank (24,489), Eurobank (11,116), MIG (219), OTE (829), PPC (845), OPAP (488), Mytilineos (119), Ellaktor (161) and Hellenic Exchanges (82).
 New findings unearthed in the Asklepieion of Ancient PheneosNew impressive findings have come to light in the archaeological excavations at the site of the Asklepieion in ancient Pheneos, in the Peloponnese, the Cultute ministry said on Wednesday.
Among them are a pedestal on which originally stood two bronze statues which were later replaced by one made of stone, the form of the Ionic colonnade and the access to the sanctuary.
Ancient Pheneos is a hill located in the Pheneos plateau of the same name on mountainous region of the Corinth prefecture, at a height of 750 meters. The Asclepeion, which dates from the 2nd half of the 2nd century BC was unearthed in the late 1950's and archaeologists found remnants of an ancient settlement and marble parts of statues which now reside in the local museum.
In September 2015, the first phase of the excavations concluded under the direction of the eforate of ancient antiquities in Corinth and its director Konstantinos Kissas and Classic Archaeology Professor Dr. Torsten Mattern from the University of Trier in Germany.
In this year's excavations, archaeologists revealed that the colonnade was shaped like a "?" with a space of 2.30 meters between the columns and confirmed the direction of the walls of the colonnade and the outdoor courtyard. They also revealed that the entrance to the sanctuary was achieved from the east via a ramp. A secondary entrance was located to the north, along the corresponding wall of the courtyard.
 Greek archaeologists dedicate awareness campaign "People and Monuments in danger" to murdered Syrian colleaguesThe Greek Archaeologists Association (SEA) declared October 21 a "Day for the promotion of the work of the Greek Archaeology Service."
A series of events will take place in the week October 19-25 aiming at public awareness in issues related to the protection and promotion of the cultural heritage.
The events will highlight the multi-faceted work (excavations, restoration, educational and other) conducted by the Archaeological Service and its importance for the society.
This year's events entitled "People and Monuments in danger" are dedicated to the memory of Khalid al-Asaad and to the memory of Qassem Abdallh Yehya, who were brutally murdered by the Islamists.
"Our Syrian colleague Khalid al-Asaad, emeritus director of the Antiquities of Palmyra was a man dedicated to the protections of the antiquities as well as chemist Qassem Abdallh Yehya who was responsible for the antiquities restoration in Syria. We stand by the Syrian people in their battle for freedom, the thousands of refugees that abandoned their country to save the lives of the children and their own, the looting of their houses and of their monuments, arrived petitioners to our country," said SEA in an announcement.
The entrance is free to all events and the programme is available on SEA website: (http://www.sea.org.gr/details.php?id=416).
 141,919 undocumented migrants and refugees rescued in SeptemberCoast Guard rescued 141,919 undocumented migrants and refugees in 795 incidents, most of them in the sea region of eastern Aegean, in September. Moreover, 189 vessels and three vehicles were confiscated.
Meanwhile, 1,875 refugees from Mytilene and Chios arrived on Thursday at Piraeus port with the ferry "Blue Star 1".
Another 2,496 refugees are expected to arrive in Piraeus on Thursday afternoon with the ferry "Eleftherios Venizelos".
 14,000 bags with toys awaiting chidren-refugees on LesvosThey asked for "a bag to the future" and they gathered 14,000 bags!
Three Dutch women created the website www.bagtothefuture.eu asking from children in Amsterdam to prepare a bag with toys that will be offered to children refugees that arrive in Mytilene (Lesvos island), as a welcome gift. The idea was welcomed by tens of schools and thousands of children.
The first bags arrived to their final destination last Tuesday.
Refugees who speak English assist the seven Dutch women to communicate with the children.
 Wooden boat with refugees capsizes; 31 rescued, 8 missingAn old wooden boat that was carrying refugees and migrants to Lesvos island crashed at 11:30 on Thursday into an open seas Coast Guard patrol vessel due to rough seas and strong winds blowing in the area.
The accident was recorded half nautical mile north of Molyvos, Lesvos island. The Coast Guard has already rescued 31 refugees while according to initial information, 8 persons are missing.
Two Coast Guard vessels and a Frontex vessel are in the area while other forces are expected to arrive soon to assist the rescue operation.
 Seven of eight refugees missing from capsized boat off Lesvos found deadSeven of the eight people who went missing off the coast of Lesvos after the old wooden boat they were onboard along with other refugees crashed into a Coast Guard patrol vessel have been found dead, authorities announced on Thursday.
The victims are two women, one man and three children and a baby.
The accident, which took place off the coast of Molyvos, is blamed on the rough seas and strong winds blowing in the area. Authorities were able to salvage 31 refugees and migrants.
Coast Guard and Frontex vessels continue to patrol the area for the one person still missing while the broken boat has been transported to Molyvos to be examined by specialists.
 Rudresh Mahanthappa for a one-night-only concert at Onassis Cultural CentreRudresh Mahanthappa, the saxophonist who loves messing about with Charlie Parker, will perform at the Onassis Cultural Centre on November 6.
At 44, Mahanthappa has been declared Saxophonist of the Year three times by the Jazz Journalists Association, has won the coveted Doris Duke Performing Artist Award for his enviable dedication to jazz, has received a research grant from the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation and has been commissioned to compose dozens of works.
These many distinctions serve to applaud the ways in which Mahanthappa - the child of Indian immigrants in the US - has explored his Southern Indian musical heritage and translated it into his own personal idiom, coining multicultural hybrids which he uses as an approach to contemporary jazz.
 Greek Asylum Service doesn't confirm relocation of refugees to LuxembourgGreece's Asylum Service didn't confirm on Thursday information which leaked from European sources claiming that the first relocation of Syrian refugees from Greece to Luxembourg will take place next week.
According to ANA-MPA sources, the procedure followed prior to relocation has not been completed for any refugee and the Asylum Service is in regular contact with Luxembourg's authorities to overcome any difficulties.
 Convicted wife of former minister released from jailVicky Stamati, the wife of former Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos who was convicted to 12 years imprisonment for her involvement in her husband's kickbacks and money laundering case was released from prison late on Thursday.
Her release after three years comes after the Appeals Courts accepted her seventh parole application under the condition not to leave the country and to appear three times every month at a police station. Stamati didn't pay the 50,000-euro bail by making use of a joint ministerial decision according to which payment of bail is suspended until October 31 due to capital controls.
 Two-hour strike to stop trains in Greece on Friday afternoonA two-hour work stoppage by station masters throughout Greece, from 13:00 to 15:00 on Friday afternoon, is expected to affect train services throughout the country, including metro services to the Athens airport. The two-hour work stoppage was called as a warning strike to express the station masters' union opposition to government policies.
 Partly cloudy on FridayClouds and winds from variable directions are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 13C-23C. Clouds and rain in the western parts of the country with temperatures between 15C-26C. Clouds with a chance of rain in the eastern parts and temperatures between 15C-25C. Scattered clouds over the Aegean islands and Crete, 18C-26C. Scattered clouds that will gradually thicken in the afternoon in Athens, 16C-25C. Possibility of local rainfall in Thessaloniki, 17C-22C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: The new retirement age
DIMOKRATIA: 3+1 scenaria for New Democracy
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Farmers to start their protests
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: The "dark" million of the minister
ESTIA: How was the middle class destroyed
ETHNOS: Debt writeoff with seven criteria
IMERISSIA: Wealth tax on pensions
KATHIMERINI: Pension limits rise up to 17 years
RIZOSPASTIS: Report on the destruction of the social security system
TO PONTIKI: Violence. Fraud. Division.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 210 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 210 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: MICHALIS PSILOS