|Wednesday, 29 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-10-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 23 October 2015 Issue No: 5050
 Hollande: 'My visit is a visit of support and friendship'French President Francois Hollande said his visit shows his country's support and friendship towards Greece, in his first comments to the press after his arrival at the Greek capital on Thursday afternoon.
"My visit is a visit of support and friendship," after he had laid a wreath at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in central Athens. "Greece and France have a common history going back many years and France fought to get Greece into the European Union and is fighting today to keep it in," he added.
Hollande also commented on the refugee crisis, saying the EU must support Greece because its borders are Europe's borders. Asked by journalists whether the country's debt will be discussed, he responded: "Of course France intends to bring the issue on the negotiating table and relieve Greece from this burden and Greece must move on with the necessary reforms."
The French President visited the Monument to the Unknown Soldier accompanied by the prime minister right after his arrival to Athens, where he was greeted by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos. At the monument he laid a wreath, inspected the contingent with the prime minister and then left the Presidential Palace for his meeting with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
 'Next step will be a discussion on the debt,' Hollande says, meeting Greek PresidentA discussion on the debt will be the "next step" in tackling the crisis in Greece, French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday, in talks with President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens.
Meeting Pavlopoulos after an official reception ceremony at the presidential mansion, Hollande highlighted France's support for Greece during the negotiations with its EU partners in July, asked that Greece stand by its commitments but also noted that the country must press on with planned reforms.
Welcoming the French president, who arrived in Greece on Thursday for a two-day official visit, Pavlopoulos said that Greece intends to fully meet its commitments. At the same time, he said there had to be changes to the economic programme and the sustainability of Greece's debt, with respect for European Stability Mechanism rules.
Hollande acknowledged that Greece faced significant challenges ahead and praised the role that Pavlopoulos had played after the July referendum, which had ensured the commitment of all political forces in Greece to keeping the country in the Eurozone. He also emphasised France's support and intervention in this direction.
"France has stood by Greece's side at all the important moments in Greece's history. France argued that we must take the right decisions, with the EU partners. We are aware of the efforts of the Greek people and the reforms of recent years but the reforms must continue. The next step will be a discussion on the debt that must begin," he said.
Hollande said his current visit, however, was primarily focused on persuading French businesses to invest in Greece and to create jobs. "If someone loves Greece, they invest in Greece," he said, adding that help for Greece was tantamount to help for Europe.
Hollande and Pavlopoulos also discussed the refugee crisis, with the French president noting that the war in Syria had caused the flight of more than four million refugees to Europe at this time. "The solution is political and France will contribute in this direction," he said.
Pavlopoulos highlighted Greece's contribution to the reception of refugees and noted the refugee crisis must be solved "on terms of solidarity and cooperation," simultaneously protecting borders and people. He asked that France exercise its special influence for action on the part of Europe to stop the war in Syria, which lay behind the refugee problem and the humanitarian crisis.
Lastly, Greece's President raised the issue of resolving the Cyprus problem, with Hollande replying that this was a clearly European issue that concerning an EU member-state.
 French President arrives in Athens for two-day official visitFrench President Francois Hollande, arriving in Athens on a two-day official visit, touched down in Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos international airport on a stormy Thursday afternoon at 16:50.
He was met informally at the airport by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who joined him in the motorcade that made its way to Syntagma Square, where he met by Greece's Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and lay a wreath at the monument of the Unknown Soldier.
The French president was accompanied by French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin, as well as Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Desir, the 1st Secretary of the Socialist Party, and members of the French Parliament.
The French delegation accompanying Hollande also includes a large number of business people that intend to explore potential opportunities for investment in Greece.
Hollande will address the Greek Parliament on Friday at 12:00. He will refer to the road map that the country will have to follow, the banks recapitalisation, and he will reiterate his own proposals for democratisation in the EU and the eurozone.
 Hollande's visit to Athens is "a visit of friendship and trust"PARIS (ANA-MPA/ O.Tsipira)
The visit of French President Francois Hollande to Athens is considered to be "a visit of friendship and trust," according to French diplomats.
Hollande will address the Greek Parliament on Friday, at 12:00. He will refer to the road map that the country will have to follow, the banks recapitilization, and he will reiterate his own proposals for the EU and the eurozone democratization.
The same sources said that France sends a clear message to Europe to show more confidence to the Greek people.
"Greece is not only the crisis, but it is also its people who have great skills for successful cooperation," according to the sources.
France intends to support Greece with technical help in three sectors: tax system, administration and the asset management.
With the view to strengthening the educational and cultural relations with Greece, Hollande will also meet with Greek artists and intellectuals in the afternoon.
 Potami party welcomes Hollande's visit to AthensPotami party on Thursday welcomed the visit of French President Francois Hollande to Athens noting his country has stood by Greece in its recent history.
"The visit is more important today when Greece is struggling to overcome the crisis, move forward with reforms, secure a debt restructuring and attract investments," it said in a press release.
"We hope the government will rise to the occasion and prove it is fully prepared to reap any benefits from this important presence, in every area of possible cooperation on the political, economic, or humanitarian level," it added.
 No room for delay, PM Tsipras tells cabinet meetingThe road map that the government has to follow in order to complete the first programme review and the recapitalisation of banks was discussed at the cabinet meeting on Thursday,
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stressed the need for coordination and collective effort. "Society cannot tolerate any delays," he said, according to a government source.
The same source said that the officials participating in the meeting estimated that the Greek banks' recapitalisation needs will be lower than the initial forecast of 25 billion euros and expressed optimism for a positive outcome.
They also said that contacts with the representatives of the institutions were held in a good climate.
According to a press release from the prime minister's office, the government's goal is that this recapitalisation of banks will be the last, noting that banks had been assisted with significant funds in the past without results.
"A condition for a successful recapitalisation is that this will be combined with the issue of managing non-performing loans," the government said, adding that the goal was to establish rules of transparency in the banking system that will make it a "tool for economic growth and stability, far from the untransparent policies and gratuitous loans that led to the current crisis."
The press office noted that protection of homes and the economically vulnerable remained a matter of principle for the government, which also put great weight on completing the bank recapitalisation quickly and definitely by the end of the current year. All necessary actions in this direction will be taken and the relevant law unveiled for public dialogue within the next week, it said.
 Cabinet approves removal of Public Revenues chief SavvaidouThe cabinet unanimously approved Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos' recommendation for the removal of Public Revenues secretary general Katerina Savvaidou from her post, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili announced on Thursday after the end of the cabinet meeting.
 Cabinet can remove officials who are indicted to trial, says government spokeswomanIt is within the cabinet's competence to fire the Public Revenues chief if the person in question has been indicted to trial, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told radio station Athina 9.84 on Thursday.
She was commenting on the earlier decision of the cabinet to approve Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos' recommendation for the removal of Katerina Savvaidou from her post.
"We are all under judgment. Mrs Savvaidou has been indicted to trial and the trial date has been set for January 19. Therefore, we are following the law. It is in the cabinet's competence [to lay off Savvaidou] if there has been an indictment ... to follow such procedures," she told the radio station.
 Savvaidou says she will challenge her dismissal using all legal meansFollowing her sudden ouster as general secretary for public revenues, Katerina Savvaidou on Thursday announced that she will challenge the government's decision using all legal means and channels. The decision to remove her as general secretary was taken during a cabinet meeting and published in the government gazette earlier the same day.
In a lengthy announcement, Savvaidou dismissed the reasoning behind her dismissal as groundless and accused the government of inconsistency, pointing out that it was bringing charges against her for extending tax payment deadlines for VAT on television ads, while at the same time asking her to extend tax deadlines in the case of VAT on private education.
"It is infuriating to be accused that through my decision 'I favoured specific enterprises that are in the heart of corruption.' It should be noted that the 'corrupt' - according to the government - businesses are those that advertise themselves and are therefore burdened with television advertising tax, which make up the bulk of the real economy, employ thousands of tax-paying citizens of this country and have thousands of families depending on them for their survival," she said.
Savvaidou noted that the announcement issued by government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili "pre-empted" court decisions and was thus a clear and direct intervention in both the independence of the general secretariat for public revenues and independent justice. The government was in such a rush, she added, that the cabinet's decision was taken before a decision for her indictment had been finalised.
In an earlier announcement, Gerovasili had said that the cabinet was empowered to dismiss Savvaidou because she had already been indicted.
 PM Tsipras meets Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros IIPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday had a meeting with the Pope and Patriarch Alexandria and all Africa Theodoros II at the government's headquarters in Athens. They discussed relations between Greece and Egypt, the affairs of the eastern Mediterranean region and the work done by the Patriarchate in Africa.
 Talks with institutions on banks, NPLs to continue on Friday, Econ ministry sources saidDiscussion between the institutions and the government on bank recapitalisation and non-performing loans will continue on Friday afternoon but "there are still differences of opinion," Economy, Development and Tourism ministry sources said on Thursday.
"We will not back down and a political solution to solve the problem should not be ruled out, if there is no agreement," the same sources said.
The sources noted that the institutions were gravitating toward measures for protecting home owners that will restrict eligibility to the most vulnerable social groups. The new law will be activated as soon as the new eligibility terms are set, while they ruled out any discussion on applying market rates for property at the current time.
They also noted that the discussion was not about the sale of loans to foreign funds, which they said would be examined next month.
According to information given to ANA-MPA, the government proposal sets three eligibility criteria:
That the property have a maximum tax office-assessed value of 200,000 euros for a single person, 250,000 euros for a couple plus 25,000 euros for each child up to three children; income of up to 35,000 euros annually; and total debts up to 200,000 euros.
The institutions' counterproposal calls says eligibility should be confined to properties with a tax-office assessed value ranging from 70,000-120,000 euros, total debts of 120,000 euros and much lower income levels of 8180 euros annually for individuals, 13,917 euros annually for couples and an additional 3,350 euros per child up to three children.
The Greek side's proposal is estimated to cover 72.4 pct of debtors while that of the creditors will only protect between 17.3 pct-40 pct of debtors.
 Greek energy sector discussed in meeting with representatives of institutionsThe Greek energy sector and the progress made on issues relating to its regulation were discussed in the meeting between Energy Minister Panos Skourletis and the representatives of the institutions on Thursday.
The two sides also discussed the country's obligations as these are stated in its agreement with its lenders. On the issue of power grid operator ADMIE, it has initially been agreed that it will not be privatized, ministry sources said.
 EU Commission Vice President Dombrovskis to visit Athens on Oct 27The Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis, whose portfolio includes development and fiscal issues related to Greece, will visit Athens on October 27-28.
"Dombrovskis oversees a number of very important issues for Greece, such as the NSRF funds and the promotion of growth and employment as well as the economic support programme and the necessary technical assistance to the agreed reforms," the head of the European Commission Representation in Greece Panos Karvounis said.
"During his visit, he will have a series of meetings with political and economic officials in order to discuss the best possible fullfilment of Greece's committments, in the framework of the programme agreed in the summer, and the implementation of investments with EU funds. The aim is always the rapid recovery of the Greek economy and the exit from the crisis," Karvounis underlined.
Dombrovskis will meet with Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis on Monday, at 09:30 and with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, at 10:30. He will also meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, at 14:00 and Labour Minister George Katrougalos, at 15:30. Statements to press will follow.
On Tuesday, he will meet the governor of the Bank of Greece Yannis Stournaras, at 09:30, and then will visit the Innovation and Entrepreneurship site INNOVATHENS. His programme also includes a meeting with representatives of social partners.
 EU awaits some details on the broadcasting stations draft law, says EU spokeswomanBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Ch. Vassilaki)
European Commission services are in contact with the Greek authorities on possible changes on the implementation of the new draft law for the broadcasting station licences, stated on Thursday EU Comission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt at a press conference in Brussels.
The Commission, said Breidthardt, wants some explanations and details on particular parts of the draft law which she did not want to name. "The exchange of information between national authorities and the responsible EU authorities is not something unusual," she said.
 Pavlopoulos: UN's role in dealing with crises is crucialGreece will continue to participate constructively in the work of the UN and particularly in the processes for further democratisation and upgrade of its role, with a view to strengthen its ability to respect the international law and to pursue the vision of its founders for a peaceful and just world, President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Thursday during his address at an event for the 70-year anniversary since the founding of the UN, that was held on Thursday at the Acropolis Museum.
"More particularly, to impose the final implementation of the decisions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, since the non-implementation constitutes an institutionally and politically huge default" said Pavlopoulos and gave the example of the illegal Turkish occupation of part of Cyprus, an independent and equal member of the European Union and the Eurozone.
He stressed that the issue at stake is ambitious, as the whole UN project was considered ambitious 70 years ago. "But we owe it to our history and, above all, to the future generations, adding that "today the role of the UN remains extremely important and crucial in dealing with the old crises and the new challenges."
Pavlopoulos stressed that the goal is always the same: "A world where peace, democracy and prosperity will prevail." In this context, he said, every anniversary since the founding of the UN is an opportunity to renew our dedication and our commitment to the principles and ideals of the Organization and continue along with the common will to continue, with even more zeal and determination, to struggle for them in order to become even more effective.
 European Commission experts in Lesvos to set up first refugee 'hotspot'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)
European Commission experts are already in the Aegean island of Lesvos and have started work on setting up the first refugee hotspot on the island, Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva announced on Thursday.
She said they included the chief of the new 'task force' for Greece Maarten Verwey, who heads the European Commission's Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS), and that they were in contact with Greek ministries and Greek authorities in order to identify the precise needs that exist, in order to improve operational capacity of available structures, such as the centre on Lesvos. These needs might include both equipment and financial assistance, she said.
Regarding the need for additional European funding, Andreeva said that a Greek government request for emergency funding was still pending and being examined by Community authorities so that it might be used for necessary infrastructure. As an example, she cited equipment for taking finger prints and noted that progress had been made, with Germany contributing 10 such machines.
 The operation of the five hotspots depends on fulfillment of EU's financing commitmentsThe hotspots for refugees on the islands of Kos, Leros, Chios and Samos are expected to be ready in November, however, Migration Policy Ministry circles claim that their operation as well as the full operation of the first hotspot on Lesvos depends on "the financing and fulfillment of the European Union's commitments".
The Greek government has not received yet financing from the European Union on the operation of the five hotspots while the response in the two invitations sent to EU country members for support in the staffing was very low.
Specifically, in EASO's invitation for 370 experts only six countries responded (Austria, Belgium, Romania, The Netherlands, Slovakia and Spain) with a total of 81 experts. Moreover, in Frontex invitation for 775 border guards responded, according to EU Commission's official report, only six countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and Sweden) with 48 border guards.
In any case, the Greek side is ready to proceed with the full operation of the hotspots at the point that all the above issues are solved and underlined that every effort will be made for the fulfillment of the obligations.
The ministry is ready for the relocation of the first families to Luxembourg and Sweden and the procedure is expected to be completed in the following days. However, on the relocation mechanism only six member states have informed Greece on the offered positions. Apart from Luxembourg and Sweden, Austria, France, Germany and Spain have expressed interest.
Additionally, the relocation financing issue, which according to the European Commission is considered 'temporary and extraordinary measure', must be clarified and its funding was not provided in the long-term financing programmes that have been drafted before the start of the refugee crisis. The same circles said that all the expenses of the mechanism should be considered an extraordinary funding.
Finally, following the finalisation of the "Needs Evaluation Report" Greece will need 480 million euros for 2016 to confront the refugee crisis.
 Interior minister, French envoy discuss refugees, reforms in public administrationThe refugee crisis and reforms in public administration were the main topics discussed in a meeting between Interior and Administration Reconstruction Minister Panos Kouroumblis and French Ambassador Christophe Chantepy, which was held as part of the two-day visit of French President Francois Hollande in Athens.
The minister said it is imperative to find a final solution to the refugee problem and suggested holding in Athens the meeting of EU's Interior Ministers with the participation of officials from the Middle East.
Kouroumblis also noted the need of Greek-French cooperation in administrative reforms adding that the Greek government wants to create mechanisms that will tackle bureaucracy and overregulation.
The French ambassador said the refugee crisis concerns all of Europe and not just Greece and noted that the brunt of the refugee problem is borne by first reception countries. Responding on the issue of reforms, he proposed the cooperation of Greece's National School of Public Administration with the relevant school in France.
 Refugee issue discussed in meeting between Greek shipping minister, Turkish ambassadorRefugee and migrant issues were the focus of a meeting between Shipping and Island Policy Minister Thodoris Dritsas and the Turkish Ambassador in Athens Kerim Uras. The meeting was held on Wednesday when Uras carried out a courtesy visit to the ministry to congratulate Dritsas on his appointment.
Uras noted the sharp increase in the number of displaced persons, which he predicted would become worse in the future, saying that its management required both bilateral and multilateral cooperation. He referred to the need to find ways to enhance cooperation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards in order to police the phenomenon and the organised refugee-trafficking rings. He also extended an invitation to Dritsas to visit Turkey.
Dritsas pointed out that the ambassador's visit coincided with the day that recorded arrivals of migrants and refugees from the Turkish coast in the Aegean islands had reached half a million. The minister stressed the need for mutual constructive cooperation, avoidance of tensions and respect for the rules of international law in the context of cooperation between the Greek and Turkish coast guards.
 10,000 migrants and refugees on Lesvos; 4,000 expected to leave on ThursdayThe condition continues to be difficult for thousands of migrants and refugees on Lesvos that wait to be identified or to leave for Piraeus or Kavala port.
According to Lesvos island police, over 10,000 migrants and refugees were on the island on Thursday. 8,500 that have been identified are staying in hotels and rooms or at the camps in Moria and Kara Tepe or tents in the ports and the streets.
4,000 persons will leave on Thursday for Piraeus and Kavala. 7,345 migrants and refugees left on Wednesday from the island while 6,119 persons were identified from 06:00 Wednesday to 06:00 Thursday.
Due to the adverse weather conditions, heavy rainfall and gusty winds blowing in the Aegean, the migrants and refugees arrivals on Lesvos is substantially low on Thursday.
 Energy issues remain open in the negotiations with the institutions, said gov't sourceIssues regarding the energy sector remain open in the government negotiations with the institutions, said a government source on Thursday.
On the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE), it has initially been agreed that there is no issue of privatisation , but there is no agreement on the government's proposal for an equivalent result regarding competitiveness in the energy market.
Issues on tenders of Public Power Corporation's lignite and hydroelectric energy remain open.
The same source said that the delay is due to the fact that the institutions have not responded yet to the government's proposals.
 Europe needs own coast guard, ND leader tells EPP conference in MadridGreece's main opposition leader Vangelis Meimarakis, the temporary head of the New Democracy, on Thursday called for the foundation of a European coast guard to patrol the European Union's borders, while addressing a European People's Party (EPP) conference in Madrid.
"We cannot have joint guarding of European borders with countries that are not part of Europe. This creates an issue. And for this reason, we asked that there be a European coast guard. And for Greece to simultaneously undertake the guarding of its borders with the help, of course, of Europe," Meimarakis said.
In meetings with leaders of European parties at the EPP, Meimarakis also made it clear that the issue of migration flows was primarily a humanitarian issue and an international issue that must be dealt with on this basis.
 Main opposition pleased with Merkel's EPP speechA delegation of main opposition New Democracy and its leader Vangelis Meimarakis expressed their satisfaction for the speech made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the European People's Party group (EPP Group) meeting in Madrid on Thursday, in which she didn't make any reference to joint Greek-Turkish patrols.
Before the speech, Meimarakis had a brief meeting with Merkel during which he explained the arguments of the Greek side against the joint patrols.
 SYRIZA delegation meets Turkish HDP representative in EuropeRegional developments and the refugees issue dominated a meeting between a delegation of SYRIZA and Eyyup Doru, representative of the Turkish People's Democratic Party (HDP) in Europe.
Officials discussed the current political situation in Turkey ahead of the national elections on November 1 as well as foreign policy matters, such as the crisis in Syria and the refugee issue.
Both sides agreed to take initiatives aiming at the strengthening of the ties between the two parties in the future.
 Note to ANA-MPA subscribers: 24-hour strike on FridayNote to our subscribers:
ANA-MPA will not be transmitting news on Friday, due to a 24-hour warning strike called by the Athens Union of Journalists (ESIEA). Specifically, the news agency will not transmit news from 06.00 am (local time) on Friday until 06.00 am on Saturday.
The strike was called as a protest against a draft bill on media, the union said.
 Government guarantees fiscal balance for the next two years, says ministerThe government guarantees fiscal balance for the next two years that will be socially just, Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis said on Thursday, at the end of the debate on the 2016 draft budget in the parliament's economics committee.
"The government guarantees fiscal balance both for 2016 and 2017 in a socially just way," he said.
Responding to opposition MPs who argued that the government is leading the economy from surpluses to deficits, Chouliarakis said the 2016 budget foresees primary fiscal surplus of 0.5 pct and not a deficit. "It's a realistic surplus which allows the economy to exit the recessionary trend of the past few years and recover," he noted, adding that for 2017, the surplus target is for 1.75 pct of GDP.
 ECB lowers ELA ceiling for Greek banks by 1.0 bln eurosEuropean Central Bank on Thursday further reduced the borrowing ceiling for Greek banks by 1.0 billion euros, approving a similar request made by the Bank of Greece. The ECB' s board cut the ceiling for borrowing through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) mechanism to 86.9 billion euros for the period until Wednesday, 4 November. This development reflects improving liquidity in Greek banks.
 Greece has huge advantages, SEB saysGreece has huge advantages and many opportunities for investments, but lacks a regulatory framework to safeguard a minimum competitive profitability in relation with the rest of the world from investments in sectors producing -internationally- commercial goods, the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEB) said on Thursday.
In a weekly bulletin on the economy, SEB said that Greece was not an attractive investment destination not because of the labor cost per product unit compared with other competitor countries, but because of lack of confidence on the country's productive forces and the stability and duration of implementing economic policies.
Investing on industry is the starting point for the development of the Greek economy, SEB analysts said, noting that the set up of an Industry Council -acting in parallel with the Industry ministry, and activating people in the production sector and with the support of political leadership were necessary conditions towards this goal. Commenting on budget execution, SEB said that September figures showed a gradual weakening of revenue, while a significant increase in new overdue tax debt to the state could be attributed to the inability of state agencies to collect revenue because of the introduction of capital controls in the country.
SEB underlined that the country has great potential and remarkable human resources, but lack in entrepreunership. A series of surveys showed that conservative minds, low tolerance and the fear of failure were not characteristics of creating societies and robust business activity. At the same time, state interference added to the problem, creating obstacles to lead the country into becoming a "European California" where dynamic enterprises and innovative creativity will co-exist.
 Shipping Minister discusses cooperation in sector with Iranian envoyShipping and Island Policy Minister Thodoris Dritsas discussed bilateral cooperation in the shipping sector with Iranian Ambassador to Greece, Behnam Behrouz on Wednesday, after a request by the Iranian embassy.
During the meeting, both sides expressed their interest for further cooperation in the sector and discussed the important role played by Greek and Greek-owned shipping companies.
 Capital controls expected to be lifted at end of first half of 2016, says Alt. FinMin ChouliarakisThe capital controls imposedon banking transactions in Greece last June are expected to be lifted at the end of the first half of 2016, Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis told the parliament's Economics committee which is discussing the 2016 draft budget, during his second address.
Commenting on the budget's numbers, he said the Greek economy is expected to return to fast growth soon, while it is expected to grow at a rate of 2.8 pct to 3.1 pct from 2017 and until 2019. He also predicted that achieving the budgetary targets by 2018 will allow for milder fiscal adjustment measures.
Responding to criticism from the opposition, Chouliarakis said the 2015 recession is the result of an impressive drop in private investment, mainly due to the credit asphyxiation created by the country's lenders to force the government to sign an agreement.
 Energy conference in Athens to focus on its role in economic recoveryThe important role played by the energy sector in developing the Greek economy will be the main focus of the 20th "Energy and Development" conference which will be held in Athens on November 11-12.
The conference, which is organized by the Institute of Energy for South-East Europe (IENE) at the Eugenides Foundation, will be attended by senior executives, scientists, engineers and energy professionals from all the major Greek energy-related companies and also by policy-makers.
Some of the Greek keynote speakers include Environment Minister Panos Skourletis, the head of the Hellenic Bank Association and National Bank Governor Louka Katseli and the President and CEO of power utility PPC Manolis Panagiotakis.
 Corporate bankruptcies down 15.8 pct in Greece in 2014Company bankruptcies in Greece slowed to 330 in 2014, from 392 in 2013, for a decline of 15.8 pct, the second biggest percentage decline in European south after Spain, a survey by ICAP Group, a member of the Federation of Business Information Services FEBIS said on Thursday.
The survey, based on financial reports included in the "Corporate Insolvencies in Europe 2014/15", said that Greece was one the countries where only a small part of corporate insolvencies was made through the official bankruptcy code.
Corporate bankruptcy in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain fell by 5.8 pct to 31,187 last year -marking the first positive development since the beginning of the economic and financial crisis- however, the number of bankruptcies still remained at very high levels and has more than tripled since 2007.
The number of bankruptcies in Western Europe totaled 179,662 in 2014, from 189,855 in 2013, a decline of 5.4 pct. Only two countries, out of the 17 included in the survey, showed positive balance (Italy 12.8 pct and Norway 5.2 pct). All other reported negative percentages, led by Spain (-28.5 pct), Holland (-20.7 pct) and Denmark (-18.9 pct).
The services sector accounted for the biggest part if corporate bankruptcies (37 pct) in Western Europe in 2014, followed by the commerce sector (31.7 pct) and the industry sector (10.8 pct).
 Capital market authority imposes fines for short sellingGreece's Capital Market authority on Thursday announced the imposition of fines worth 1,028,000 euros to three legal entities for participating in short selling on National Bank's shares without covering their financial positions in the stock share clearing system.
The fines were imposed in LC Equity Fund Ltd (800,000 euros), Bank Julius Baer & Co Ltd (210,000 euros) and Dynatrend Fund (18,000).
 Hellenic Post expands activity in energy marketHellenic Post (ELTA) on Thursday announced plans to expand its activities in the energy market. Costis Melahrinos, chairman and chief executive of Hellenic Post, speaking to reporters during a news conference, announced that ELTA will begin selling electric power in December, competing with alternative sources of electricity.
"ELTA will be present in a deregulated electricity market," Melahrinos said, adding that Hellenic Post will buy and sell electricity to consumers throughout Greece.
He said that Hellenic Post will submit an application with the Energy Regulatory Authority in November and expressed his confidence that the authority will approve the application since ELTA has both the infrastructure and the preconditions to be present in the domestic electricity market.
 Tax burden up in Q2Taxes on income, property, production and imports grew further in the second quarter this year, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that taxes on income and property totaled 5.287 billion euros in the second quarter of 2015, from 4.912 billion in the same period last year and 4.379 in the second quarter of 2013. Taxes on production and imports totaled 6.698 billion euros in the April-June period, up from 6.38 billion in 2014 and 5.97 billion in 2013.
Wages rose slightly 5.304 billion euros in the second quarter from 5.298 bln in 2014 but fell from 5.646 billion in 2013, while social benefits totaled 9.688 billion this year from 9.571 in 2014 and 9.745 in 2013.
The country's public debt eased to 300.064 billion euros in the second quarter, from 317.527 in the same period last year and 317.401 bln in 2013.
 Pharmaceutical companies turnover down 3.1 pct in 2014, IBHS reportPharmaceutical companies reported a 3.1 pct decline in their turnover in 2014 to 4.6 billion euros, Infobank Hellastat (IBHS) said in a report released on Thursday.
The report, based on the balance sheets of 109 companies in the sector, showed that accumulated EBITDA totaled around 250 million euros, while pre-tax earnings fell by 56 pct to 104.42 million euros last year.
Alexis Nikolaidis, Economic Research & Sectoral Studies Senior Analyst, commenting on the report said that an economic crisis led to the implementation of a fiscal restructuring program, part of which was the reduction of public pharmaceutical spending. Public pharmaceutical spending totaled 2.0 billion euros in 2014, down 15 pct from 2013 and down an accumulated 60.5 pct since 2009. Pharmaceutical spending will remain stable this year, and it is expected to remain at no more than 1.94 billion euros annually in the next three years. Clawback totaled 205 million euros in 2014 and an even higher sum is expected for this year.
IBHS said that pharmaceutical sales fell to 5.28 billion euros in 2014, down 37.6 pct compared with 2009, while pharmaceutical product prices continue moving higher after a decision to introduce off-patent and generics medicine prices at 50 pct and 32.5 pct of the original product price. The report noted that state debt to pharmaceutical companies surpassed 1.0 billion euros at the end of March.
 Coca Cola HBC awards data center project to OTECoca Cola HBC and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday announced a plan to install and operate a data center in Greece, a project budgeted at 43 million euros.
OTE has won an international tender for the operation of the data center which will serve IT applications for more than 36,000 workers of Coca Cola HBC in 28 countries around the world. The data center will be one of the three largest data centers in the region of Europe, Middle East and Africa and one of the biggest private projects undertaken by OTE.
Greece will become a base for Coca Cola HBC main operations, as the new data center will support activities such as ordering, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, call center and others.
Naya Kalogeraki, managing director of Coca Cola HBC, commenting on the project said that "this significant investment showed confidence in the country's abilities and prospects and will contribute to economic development, creating value for Greece".
Mihalis Tsamaz, chairman and chief executive of OTE said that "OTE Group has the size, credibility and know-how to undertake such significant ICT projects, competing with international giants in the market."
 Greek stocks rally for third successive sessionGreek stocks extended their rally for the third successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 700-point level. Buying activity again focused on bank shares. The composite index rose 1.62 pct to end at 710.22 points, off the day's highs of 715.88 points. The Bank index is up 40.88 pct in the last six sessions. The Large Cap index ended 1.89 pct higher and the Mid Cap index rose 0.57 pct. Turnover was an improved 52.524 million euros with volume of 231,370,255.
Eurobank (17.24 pct), Piraeus Bank (9.78 pct), Ellaktor (4.97 pct) and National Bank (4.79 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Lamda Development (2.38 pct), Titan (2.31 pct) and OPAP (1.70 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
Among market sectors, Banks (5.99 pct), Commerce (4.10 pct) and Raw Materials (3.85 pct) scored big gains, while Technology (1.23 pct), Travel (1.07 pct) and Real Estate (0.76 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 69 to 36 with another 14 issues unchanged. Attica Bank (28 pct), Kathimerini (19.49 pct) and Vioter (19.47 pct) were top gainers, while Akritas (18.89 pct), AEGEK (18.87 pct) and Medicon (18.37 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose to 7.22 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 7.03 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 7.71 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.49 pct. Turnover was 6.0 million euros, of which 5.0 million were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate fell to 0.129 pct from 0.130 pct, the nine-month rate eased to 0.064 pct from 0.066 pct, the six-month rate was 0.019 pct, the three-month rate was -0.053 pct and the one-month rate was -0.118 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe November contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.23 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,909 contracts with 11,934 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 6,959 contracts with investment interest focusing on PPC's contracts (1,914), followed by MIG (1,560), OTE (578), OPAP (977), Hellenic Exchanges (111), Titan (154), Viohalco (69), Mytilineos (369), Hellenic Petroleum (98), Motor Oil (108), Metka (70), GEK (156), Ellaktor (318), Intralot (93), Folli Follie (106), Jumbo (139) and Frigoglass (82).
 One man dead, one woman missing after flash floods in AtticaA 40-year-old Greek man died after the car he was driving was swept away by floods in the neighbourhood of Menidi caused by the intense rainfall that hit Attica and other areas of Greece on Thursday.
According to the police, bystanders saw the man's car drift in the waters and managed to extricate him and his 70-year-old mother, but he died on his way to the local hospital. His mother is being treated in a different hospital.
In a seperate incident, a search operation is also underway for a woman who was reported missing by her husband. Police found her car into a flooded ditch in the area of Kamatero but there was no sign of the woman.
Earlier, the Prefecture of Western Greece asked to declare a state of emergency for the municipalities of Andravida-Kyllini and western Achaia in the Peloponnese, due to extensive damages caused by the downpour. According to initial damage reports, stores and houses in the region have flooded and pipes of the main water supply network are broken. Farmers also reported damages in greenhouses and cultivations, as well as mudslides on the main road network.
 Archaeologists unearth unplundered Mycenaean stone-built tomb in LesvosA stone-built cist tomb dating from the Mycenaean years that has not been plundered was unearthed in eastern Lesvos on Thursday, during improvement works on a rural road.
According to the head of the island's ephorate, Pavlos Triantafylidis, archaeologists found the remains of a body laid in a contracted position with funerary gifts spread around it, which included a goblet with a deep hemispheric body, a juglet made of gray clay, a bronze knife and a bronze ring. The findings date the tomb to 1400-1100 BC.
The finding is considered important for the history of the island and especially the topography of the region of Gera and in particular the area of "Halatsi", where archaeologists have revealed an extensive residential settlement of Mycenaean years.
 International Comics Exhibition in LarissaThe exhibition "Bridges: The European Language of the Comics" will open on Saturday, October 24, at the city of Larissa, central Greece, with the participation of young and acclaimed Greek and European artists at Ouil Municipal Theatre of Larissa.
Larissa, candidate city for Cultural Capital of Europe in 2021, hosts for the first time in Greece, artists from all the member states of the European Union in an original exhibition that promotes the rich cultural work of the European creation and the universality of the means of expression that comics use to send messages, emotions and thoughts.
Internationally acclaimed artists as D'Israeli from Britain, Zoltan Fritz from Hungary, Alexandru Ciubotariou from Romania and Greek Tassos Apostolidis, that participate with their works in the exhibition, will be in Larissa in order to take part in a series of events and to share their creative know-how with the people.
Educational and creation workshops, speeches and interactive games will offer the opportunity to the visitors to get acqainted with the world of the comics.
The exhition is co-organised with Comicdom Press, that also is the organiser of the international festival Comicdom Con Athens will run until November 10.
 Beanies and scarves for children refugees, knits group of women from ThessalonikiA group of women from Thessaloniki had the idea to express their solidarity to the refugees by knitting mittens, beanies and scarves for the children.
"We were moved by the children's joy in Idomeni camp when we gave them the first scarves and beanies we knitted last week," said to ANA-MPA Rena Akritidou member of the group and journalist.
The group has created an account on Facebook "We knit solidarity" and a large number of Greeks participate in this effort.
"We are open to offers of wool in order to cover the increasing needs," said Akritidou adding that she recently took knitting lessons on youtube. "We are also making blankets and we want to send them to Lesvos where the need is very high," she concluded.
 Rain on FridayBad weather throughout the country and northerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 8 on the Beaufort scale. Rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 10C-14C. Clouds and local rainfall in the western parts with temperatures between 15C-22C. Heavy rain in the eastern parts and temperatures between 15C-20C. Thunderstorms over the Aegean islands and Crete, 15C-24C. Rain and thunderstorms in Athens, 16C-20C; the same for Thessaloniki, 11C-14C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: All pensions from the scratch
ETHNOS: New ceiling on pensions
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Harsh measures from the troika on bad loans
ESTIA: Big deficit reduction after five years of sacrifices
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Labour Minister opens his cards on social security and labour issues
IMERISSIA: Clouds over the first meeting with the creditors
KATHIMERINI: (French President Francois) Hollande: I am here to help
NAFTEMPORIKI: Changes in the market (milk, bread, sales, medicine, opening of stores on Sundays)
RIZOSPASTIS: Big rally on Thursday against anti-social measures
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