|Monday, 27 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-03-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 3 March 2016 Issue No: 5124
 Greece shows Europe's humanitarian face, PM Tsipras tells Corriere della SeraROME (ANA-MPA/Th. Andreadis)
"Greece and the Greek people show Europe's humanitarian face amid a crisis of humanitarian dimensions," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"And it managed to do so in a Union that closes its borders, and xenophobia and the intolerant rhetoric of far-right are on the rise," he added.
Tsipras underlined that "Greece is the point where Europe will ratify its founding principles and values, such as humanism and solidarity, or it will betray them. I am sure that there can be no united Europe without absolute respect to the common struggles and values, but also to the shared responsibilities and shared commitments. We must face the difficulties together. We will either succeed together or fail together."
Asked what prevents the implementation of a coordinated strategy, the Greek prime minister replied: "We claim nothing more than solidarity, a fundamental principle of the EU. We claim the fair allocation of the responsibility among the member states. We must proceed with a decision, which is binding for all and by all, which concerns the obligatory, fair distribution of refugee flows in all EU countries, according to each one's capacity."
 Migration minister: 'We must consider the border at Idomeni closed... and prepare for the consequences'Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas on Wednesday asked municipalities throughout the country to indicate both short and longer-stay hospitality facilities for refugees in their area, during an emergency meeting held by the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE).
"In my opinion, we must consider the border at Idomeni closed. We have no reason to believe otherwise and we must prepare for the consequences of this action," he said.
For as long as the Idomeni border crossing with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) remained closed and until the relocation and resettlement procedures were operational, "these people will stay in our country and some of them must receive the hospitality that accords with their legal status," Mouzalas said.
The government was implementing a plan to provide temporary shelter, he added, but after the refugees were off the streets there would also have to be action to provide more adequate hospitality to those legally entitled.
KEDE President Giorgos Patoulis levelled strong criticism at the government, saying there was no national planning on the issue, while promising that local government will provide support to help address the problems. He asked the government to provide guidelines, however, such as the number of people that must be given shelter and for how long, to enable local authorities to suggest possible spaces.
"Spaces must be found that meet the requirements and standards to house human souls," he said, while he also highlighted the need for additional staff, suggesting that 1,600 be hired on five-month contracts from May for this purpose.
Athens Mayor George Kaminis, meanwhile, said that KEDE should be involved in the planning stages and said the ministry's tactic of talking to each municipality separately was mistaken.
 The refugee crisis is manageable, FM Kotzias says"The main cause of the refugee crisis is the war, and they tend to forget it and put the blame on us," Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said in an interview with Skai TV late on Tuesday.
Regarding Austria's stance, he said that "Austria is also based on other forces that oppose to the German government of Merkel. I would say that it (Austria) plays the 'dirty game' of many countries that would like to destroy Merkel or at least her policy."
Kotzias reassured that the refugee flows in Greece are manageable, adding that Greece can host up to 150,000 refugees. He also suggested calmness and not panic in addressing the problem.
"The refugee problem is a complex one," he said and noted that nobody in Europe was ready to accept such a large number of refugees.
 "Greece cannot be left alone with the problem," says MerkelBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
"Greece cannot be left alone with the problem," German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said in an interview with Volksstimme newspaper.
Merkel stressed the need for common European solutions which do not put pressure on one country and stated that nothing is achieved by closing the borders. On the contrary, the economy is set at risk, she said.
"Greece was lagging behind as it is the case with other countries," the German Chancellor said, adding that the hotspots were not constructed on time and the reception centres for hosting 50,000 refugees were not ready by 2015 as it was agreed.
Merkel also said that the images from the Greek-FYROM borders do not shock the people of Aleppo who are trying to save themselves from the bombs and the murderers of the Islamic State.
 UNHCR chief: Europe must avoid divisive responses and 'arbitrary' border closuresBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Spinthourakis)
Europe must avoid divisive responses to the migration crisis such as "arbitrary" border closures that risk turning frontline states like Greece into vast refugee camps, U.N. High Commission for Refugees chief Filippo Grandi said on Wednesday.
Europe can only provide solutions to the migration crisis if it remains united and the member-states cooperate, Grandi added.
Commenting on the additional funding to be given to Athens, he again expressed hope that Greece will not become the largest refugee camp in all Europe. Grandi said he understood the strains that Europe was facing and acknowledged that the "wave-through policy" had to end. But the best solution remained keeping borders open, managing the flow and implementing the relocation plan, he said.
Grandi noted that most of the 80 million euros the UNHCR has allocated to Greece from its 2016 budget will be spent on accommodations, now that the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been closed and the refugees' stay will extend to months rather than days, while if the border closure becomes more permanent, a great deal more money will be needed. The UN had discouraged Greece from setting up large refugee camps, Grandi said.
He also pointed out that the number of refugees that Europe was called upon to handle was far smaller than the numbers entering the countries nearer the war with Syria, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, especially given the much greater resources and space that Europe has at its disposal to accommodate them.
Grandi agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the key to restricting refugee flows was to implement the EU-Turkey action plan, while criticising delays on Europe's part to stump up the 3.0 billion euros promised to Turkey for tackling the refugee crisis.
 European Commission unveils new emergency assistance instrument to cope with refugeesBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a proposal for an additional 700 million euros to be made available in 2016-2018 through an Emergency Assistance instrument that member-states can use to cope with humanitarian crises within the EU, including the refugees crisis.
European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides noted that the initiative comes as the refugee crisis reaches an unprecedented scale with the need to provide immediate emergency support in several member states hosting large amounts of refugees on their territories.
"With this proposal, we will be able to deliver emergency assistance for crises much faster than before, inside the European Union. Right now, there's no doubt that this will be particularly needed to support refugees. No time can be lost in deploying all means possible to prevent humanitarian suffering within our own borders. Today's proposal will make 700 million euros available to provide help where it is most needed. I now look to European governments and the European Parliament to quickly back the proposal," he said.
In a press conference, Stylianides said a large part of this emergency assistance would be sent to Greece, where the humanitarian crisis was now the most severe as a result of the conditions created there.
"At Idomeni there must be 12,000-15,000 people in need of humanitarian aid at the moment. We want to restrict the problem and help people feel better," the Commissioner said.
Stylianides clarified that the emergency assistance given for the refugees in Greece will be in addition to the already existing funds to be spent on hotspots, relocation procedures, returns and social integration. He said the European Commission will be working closely with the Greek government to pinpoint the needs of refugees and begin providing assistance immediately, either in kind or through the use of coupons distributed by Greek banks.
 The situation of the refugees camp at Idomeni is to the limitsThe refugees camp of Idomeni, at the borders between Greece and FYROM, changes shape almost every hour of the day. Less than an hour a ship docks at the port, or a train arrives at the station of Thessalonica, more people flow to every available space in the fields near the frontier. Anyone who comes to observe the situation in the morning, in the afternoon finds a new surprise, more tents and new influx of people, arriving from every possible direction and means. Those who have not enough money, on foot through the fields and the motorway, in taxi those who can afford it.
The situation is already asphyxiating. The newcomers lack everything during those first hours of their arrival. The organizations and the authorities, which have been caught in surprise by FYROM's decision to close the border, the only thing they can provide them immediately are blankets. All day long one can watch families carrying bundles of blankets in order to build with them a hasty structure, till they manage to orientate themselves and get the situation in hand.
"We cannot do anything to stop them. This is not a camp, till Skopje closed the border it was a passage, there were no infrastructure to host them. And they're impatient, they won't stay to the hot spots in Athens, or elsewhere, they prefer to wait here", explained Vassilis, a volunteer of the Praksis, an organization of volunteers responsible for the registration and the assistance of the refugees.
Those who cannot afford the 40 euros to buy a tent, they have to sleep, wrapped in their blanket, upon the cold and humid ground. Even small children and babies...
Hosham, who before leaving the country worked as a civil engineer in Syria, leads till the closed railway line, where new tents have sprouted and people in blankets try to sleep on the wooden traverses, or near the wired fence.
"Me too", he explained, "for five days I slept on the ground with only a blanket. Then three days ago, I decided that I could not make it and I asked a taxi driver, who made a phone call and a few minutes afterward a woman came with a tent. I paid 40 euros. You see these blue ones, all of them are bought by those who cannot wait for their number and the small tents the authorities provide when they have them."
Hosham, like every other refugee is anxious to cross the border and reach Germany. He asked us if we have some news and show us the photos of his house, his wife and his two year old daughter he left behind, till he has the means to bring them. He gets desperate when we explain there is no progress on the issue.
"Please, pass the message. I don't want them to play political games over me, holding me as a hostage to obtain what they want. Where is their humanity?", asked Hosham.
But for many others even the perspective to leave in case the border opens seems to be difficult. Ali, from Iraq, show us his papers and the registration he got from the hot spot of Mytilene, where is erroneously written a different month on the birthday of his wife, making impossible for her a possible crossing elsewhere than Greece. "What could be done now? I try to explain, to fix it and I'm at a loss", said Ali.
It is a matter of time for the sanitary situation to be out of control. The corn field attached to the wired fence at the border, was empty last Monday, but on Wednesday morning was already half full.
Every inch around the tents is progressively covered with rubbish of any kind. The air is filled with the smell of the fires people light to keep their clothes warm and dry.
Small children play in the filthy waters of a pond, three other small girls find a toy to a spiral of barbed wire and inexorably one of them cuts her hand and cries.
The containers of the examining center of the Medicines Sans Frontieres, since 06:00, are filled with people coughing, ill children that cry, adults with cuts and other wounds.
In the line for some milk, a piece of cheese-pie and pampers, people are coming in continuously. Here, one can see the increased number of refugees each day. Every one takes the meager sandwich and the small bottle of water and cherishes it as a gift, the only thing offered to him and has no price, during this journey they had to pay for everything.
Here at Idomeni the only news the outside people could get, apart from the personal tragedies, are only the reports about the new arrivals, the inflated number of those who wait to cross the border. The only news buster would be the opening of the cross point, or another uprising of the desperate refugees. Which could also be a matter of days, as they explain to us two volunteers from Slovakia, who wait for the arrival of their prime minister on Wednesday at the border cross in order to protest against his stern opposition to accept refugees in the country. "He is a fascist", said one of them, showing the slogans in favour of the opening of the borders and the admittance of refugees.
But even in the middle of this rubble and despair life continues. A young couple of refugees, holding hands, try to cut themselves away from the camp and make a romantic stroll towards the remote roads to the periphery of the village. They try to be detached from all the commotion around them, people running and shouting in every direction, the mingling between the tents, the television crews and photographers discharging their vans and setting their cameras. With the music from the man's mobile, they walk together the opposite direction every one else takes, looking straight on, ignoring everything, pacing calmly and lovingly to a transcendent vastness stressing beyond the fence. - George-Byron Davos
 About 10,000 refugees and migrants stranded in IdomeniAn estimated 10,000 refugees and migrants have gathered at the makeshift camp of Idomeni, in Greece's northern border with FYROM, as tighter border controls imposed by the country have resulted in huge bottlenecks at the small opening through which a few hundred refugees and migrants of some nationalities are allowed to cross.
Since midnight on Tuesday, only 250 people have been allowed to enter FYROM after authorities run their documents through extensive checks. Dozens of refugees even faced delays because their paperwork had the wrong date of birth.
Although most people know entrance into FYROM is very slow, and that they might be stuck at the border for days, they still choose to stay close to the neutral zone and wait.
Doctors Without Borders spend 50,000 euros per day to provide solid food, water and a tent to refugees and migrants, the NGO's spokeswoman Vicky Markolefa said.
More NGO's are trying to contribute, but the ever-increasing population and their needs are creating increasing shortages. The main shortage is in food, as refugees are running low on cash and they often have to make do with a sandwich all day, provided by the NGO's.
 FYROM wants European solution to refugee crisis, says President IvanovSKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)
FYROM wants the European Council to find a European solution on the refugee crisis and has no interest in burdening Greece, the country's President Gjorge Ivanov told EC President Donald Tusk during a meeting at Skopje on Wednesday.
"We ask and we expect a solution from the European Council and we do not have the slightest interest in letting Greece bear the full burden alone. At the same time we will not allow unilateral solutions to be implemented, which may prove against us," Ivanov said in a statement issued by his office, adding that FYROM will work with Greece "to overcome the challenges of the migration crisis."
 Migrants and refugees' influx increase on WednesdayA large number of migrants and refugees arrive on Wednesday on Lesvos island as a result of the very good weather conditions.
Greek coast guard and Frontex patrol vessels have already rescued and transferred to Mytilene port approximately 900 persons. Most of them were sent to Moria hotspot in order to be identified.
Meanwhile, 150 undocumented migrants from Pakistan who were detained at Moria hotspot were transferred guarded by police officers to Mytilene port and got onto the ferry "Nissos Mykonos" that departed for Kavala port. The migrants will be deported to Turkey.
 Only 170 refugees crossed the borders since midnightThe Greek-FYROM buffer zone opened Tuesday midnight until 2 am on Wednesday and 70 people managed to cross the borders. Another 100 persons crossed the borders between 6 am and 9 am when they opened it again.
A total of 7,000 refugees have been stranded in the camp at the buffer zone and 2,000 persons live in tents nearby. Another 180 persons remain at the gas station, 15 klm from Idomeni.
 EU Commission confirms return of 308 migrants to Turkey from GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)
The European Commission on Wednesday confirmed that 308 migrants have been returned to Turkey from Greece since Tuesday, adding that the EU was intensifying its efforts to ensure that those not eligible for international protection in Europe will be immediately returned to either their country of origin or the country of transit.
The Commission said it had cooperated with Greek and Turkish authorities to improve the implementation of a bilateral readmission agreement signed by Greece and Turkey, as well as to facilitate the returns of irregular migrants.
The 308 migrants returned to Turkey on Tuesday and Wednesday were mainly from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos noted that agreement was reached to speed up readmission processes with Turkey, based on the EU-Turkey common action plan, while the Commission had increased its support for cooperation in returns from member-states to Turkey.
"The returns from Greece today show that our efforts are starting to yield results. If we want to tackle the challenges of the refugee crisis successfully, we must return to a smooth management of refugee flows. We must ensure that those having the right to protection receive it but, at the same time, it must be clear that those who do not have the right to remain in the EU will be immediately returned," he said.
 267 migrants readmitted to Turkey as part of Greek-Turkish agreementGreece returned 267 out of 308 migrants who were being held in detention centers in Corinth and other camps for deportation to Turkey on Wednesday, as part of the Readmission Protocol signed between Greece and Turkey.
According to information, the migrants were Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian nationals, while another 150 Pakistani nationals who had crossed from Turkey into Lesvos along with other refugees are being held in the towns of Xanthi and Paranesti in northern Greece, and are also expected to be readmitted to Turkey.
 Alternate Defence Min optimistic problems with Turkey on NATO role in the Aegean will be overcomeAlternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas in statements to Mega TV on Wednesday expressed optimism that the problems with Turkey on NATO's role in the Aegean will be overcome.
He stated that the agreement signed by the involved members provides for NATO "observation, recording and updating" on the conditions between the Greek islands and the Turkish coast.
"We can deal with the issue of the refugees in the benefit of Greece and Europe, and play a leading role," Vitsas said.
 Institutions to meet in Brussels on Greek programmeBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ Ch. Vassilaki)
The heads of the institutions will meet on Wednesday evening in Brussels to reach common ground on the Greek program and "unblock" the review procedure.
According to EU sources, the European Commission and the IMF still disagree on the fiscal gap until 2018. Therefore, the EuroWorking Group advised the heads of the representatives to make another effort to achieve convergence before the Eurogroup on March 7 so that the program review starts as soon as possible.
Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos will address the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament, at 16:00 (Athens time).
 Success of Greek program jeopardized due to delays in reviewBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/C. Vasilaki)
The success of Greece's economic reform program is in jeopardy due to the delays in its first review, for which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is mainly responsible, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Wednesday, during a hearing in the European Parliament's economic committee.
"It's the government's strategy to complete the review as soon as possible. If it doesn't end soon, there will be no investments, no stability and we'll end in square one. We don't have a lot of time," he told MEPs, noting he has a difficulty understanding the IMF's stance.
He also hailed the initiatives of the EP for its bigger involvement in the Greek program, saying a mediator is needed to examine the economic and social impact of the program and who will also play a role in the disagreements between the institutions and the Greek authorities.
Commenting on the main issues of the first review that are still open, Tsakalotos said they are the fiscal gap until 2018, the reform of the income tax, non-performing loans (NPLs) and the pension reform. He also said that the state's spending for pensions looks a lot because revenues have dropped by 25% in the last 5 years.
 Greece to introduce new legislative framework for promoting research, minister announcesThe government will soon be tabling legislation setting up a new legal framework for research, which will also act as a financing instrument directed to the entire academic and research community, Alternate Minister for Research and Innovation Costas Fotakis said on Wednesday.
Fotakis announced that a draft bill seeking to ensure the smooth operation of research bodies will be tabled in Parliament next week. This will regulate the governing of such bodies, revise the structure and mission of the National Council for Research and Technology, improve working conditions for research staff and create new opportunities for young scientists, as well as simplifying the rules of the EU financing programmes replacing the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) with regard to research.
The minister also announced what he called a ground-breaking initiative to create a Foundation for the Support of Research and Innovation, which he said would be governed by simple rules, be independent and protect the public interest. Initially, the foundation will be financed by the European Investment Bank on favourable terms, as well as the public sector. According to the minister, 240 million euros will be available for the support of research in period 2016-2018.
 Google supports "Grow Greek Tourism Online" intiativeGoogle announced at a press conference on Wednesday that it supports the initiative "Grow Greek Tourism Online."
In cooperation with the Economy, Development and Tourism Ministry and the National Greek Tourism Organisation as well as the Greek Tourism Enterprises Association, Google announced the implementation of a free web education platform for tourism.
Through a wide range of topics, the users will have the opportunity to be trained on how they will upgrade their presence on the web. Moreover, the users will be able to select an adapted education plan and receive a certificate by GGTO initiative and IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Europe.
All local enterprises, tourism professionals and those who want to develop their potential offered by the web can be informed in detail by the education programmes available in their region via the official website of the initiative -greektourism.withgoogle.com.
A group of Online Advisors educated by Google will travel in Greece to discuss with the local tourism businesses.
Meanwhile, web searches under the name "Travel to Greece" increased by 19 percent in comparison with 2015 and 72 percent through mobile phones. However, the Greek tourist enterprises do not take advantage of the web's potentials provided that only 8 percent of the hotels and hosting accomodations use the web to accept reservations through their website.
 Professional body in Lesvos says hotel, flight bookings down 80 pct due to refugee crisisA business body in Lesvos intensely criticized Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday for stating that the island's tourism industry will not be much affected by the refugee crisis, saying that hotel and charter flight bookings for the upcoming summer season have so far dropped 80 pct.
In an interview for private TV channel Star on Monday evening, Tsispras was quoted as saying that "tourism on Lesvos is hardly facing any problems from migration and refugee flows."
"There's a slump in bookings and charter flights of over 80 pct, while the number of cruise ships calling at the port for the upcoming tourist season is down in single-digit numbers, at a time when Lesvos' economy depends primarily on tourism," the Coordinating Committee of professional and scientific bodies of Lesvos said in its statement.
"One wonders if the prime minister asked to be informed - and by whom was he informed - on the enormous problems facing tourism in Lesvos due to the migration and refugee flows ... One cannot help but be outraged by such statements," the committee continued, noting that a few days ago there was a meeting of the president of the Chamber of Greek Islands Development with the Alternate Minister for Tourism Elena Kountoura.
 Greek banks' NPLs to reach 45 pct in 2016, DeloitteNon-performing loans in Greece could reach 45 pct of total loans by the end of 2016, from 42 pct in 2015, Deloitte said in a report released on Wednesday.
In its Deleveraging Europe 2015-2016 report, Deloitte said that the four Greek systemic banks -representing 95 pct of the Greek banking system- had 112 billion euros partly-performing and non-performing loans, or 42 pct of total loans in 2015. The report said that a successful completion of a recapitalization plan in 2015 laid the foundations for an increased activity of selling non-performing loans in the medium-term in Greece. Deloitte said it expected the rate of NPLs to rise to 45 pct by the end of 2016, or 11 pct higher compared with 2015. However, in view of recent developments and an increasing pressure by the European Central Bank and the Single Supervisory Mechanism, Greek systemic banks were expected to seriously examine disinvestment policies of NPLs both in the domestic market and in other countries with established activities, the report said. Deloitte said that Greece continued suffering from a very high public debt and a continuing economic instability, factors which have resulted to greater economic uncertainty and less investment activity. The report noted that banks have adopted only limited deleveraging policies, a fact reducing investment opportunities in the market. It stressed that an active market of NPLs will boost banks' available capital and help to offer new loans to the real economy.
 Eurobank says core earnings up in Q4Eurobank on Wednesday said its core earnings pre provisions - were 188 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2015, from 166 million in the third quarter of the year.
Net interest income grew 4.3 pct on a quarterly basis to 375 million euros, commission income was 62 million (up from 48 million in the third quarter) and operating spending fell 5.8 pct on an annual basis.
The bank said provisions for loans in delay was 64.8 pct, deposits grew by 1.4 billion euros and borrowing from the Eurosystem fell by 9.0 billion to 23.3 billion euros.
Eurobank said its international activities returned to profitability with net repeated earnings of 67 million euros in 2015, after losses of 182 million euros in 2014.
Consolidated results showed a loss of 175 million euros in the fourth quarter and losses of 1.2 billion in 2015.
Nikolaos Karamouzis, the bank's chairman, commenting on the results said that economic conditions in Greece remained uncertain following a successful completion of a bank recapitalisation exercise, burdened by a deteriorating international economic climate. He added that prolonged negotiations with creditors to complete the first review of the programme, combined with the big issue of the refugee influx, were undermining efforts to restore confidence in the Greek economic outlook. A rapid and positive resolution, in cooperation with European partners will become a turning point to boost stability, improving liquidity conditions, attracting new investments and capital - all necessary to cover a huge domestic savings and investment gap and opening a discussion for a restructuring of the Greek public debt.
Karamouzis said that the Greek economy has the potential to return to positive growth rates this year if these preconditions were met and to begin creating new job positions, a necessary condition for the parallel social and economic reconstruction of the country. "With a spirit of consensus and cooperation towards national challenges, with convergence and joined forces in a strategy to exit the crisis, 2016 could signal the beginning of a virtuous cycle for the Greek economy".
Fokion Karavias, chief executive of the bank, commenting on the results said that Eurobank's main priorities remained an active management of non-performing loans, taking advantage of a further improvement of the bank's interior infrastructure and of significant changes made or expected on a regulatory basis, designed to significantly reduce NPLs, the return of deposits, funding new healthy business plans and a further cost control.
 NN Hellas appoints new CEONN Group on Wednesday said that Mrs Marianna Politopoulou was appointed as the new chief executive officer in NN Hellas, starting May 1, to replace Luis Miguel Gomez who is about to take a new post in NN Group.
Mrs Politopoulou resigned from her post as managing director of Retail Banking Claims Management in National Bank. The bank said that Mrs Politopoulou will leave the bank in March 31.
 Interest rate spread down in JanuaryThe interest rate spread between loan and deposit rates fell by 11 basis points to 4.42 percentage points in January, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in a monthly report, said that in January 2016, the overall weighted average interest rate on new deposits remained almost unchanged, while the corresponding rate on loans decreased.
The overall weighted average interest rate on all new deposits stood at 0.55 pct, almost unchanged from the previous month. In particular, the average interest rate on overnight deposits placed by households remained unchanged at 0.15 pct and the respective rate on deposits by non-financial corporations remained almost unchanged at 0.21 pct. The average interest rate on deposits placed by households with an agreed maturity of up to one year remained, also, almost unchanged at 1.01 pct.
The overall weighted average interest rate on all new loans to households and corporations decreased by 12 basis points from the previous month to 4.97 pct.
In January 2016, the overall weighted average interest rate on the outstanding amounts of all deposits and loans remained almost unchanged. The spread between loan and deposit rates remained also almost unchanged at 4.50 percentage points.
 Alpha Astika Akinita says profits up 5.0 pct in 2015Alpha Astika Akinita -a Greek-listed real estate company- on Wednesday said its net after tax profits totaled 4.1 million euros in 2015, from 3.9 million in 2014, for an increase of 5.0 pct.
In an announcement, the company attributed the increase in its net profits to a reduction in operating expenses. Turnover was 13.6 million euros in 2015, up from 13.4 million in 2014.
 Greece sells six-month T-billsGreek authorities on Wednesday successfully auctioned a six-month Treasury bill issue draining 1.137 billion euros from the market.
Greece's Public Debt Management Organization, in an announcement, said that the interest rate of the issue was unchanged at 2.97 pct while the issue was 1.3 times oversubscribed. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers and settlement date was set for Friday 4 March. The organization said that non-competitive bids will be accepted up to 30 pct of the asked sum by Thursday, 3 March.
 Unregistered work at 16.5 pct, labour ministry dataA 14.75 pct of inspected enterprises in the country were found to employ unregistered workers, the labour ministry said on Wednesday.
In a report presenting data from the "Artemis" action plan, the ministry said a total of 491 enterprises were found employing unregistered workers from a total of 3,328 inspected in November, or 14.75 pct of total. Also 819 unregistered workers were found in a total of 14,233 workers (5.75 pct), while fines imposed amounted to 8,705,994. The report said that inspections made in the period from January 1 to November 30 totaled 31,348 companies of which 5,173 (16.5 pct) were found to employ unregistered workers.
 Eurowings starts new flights from D?sseldorf to Kavala on April 30German low-cost airliner Eurowings is starting a new route from D?sseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia to Kavala, in northern Greece, on April 30. According to the company, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, the flight will be available every Saturday at 16.00 from the German city to Kavala.
 Greek stocks end sharply upGreek stocks ended significantly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, extending their rally for the fifth successive session, as the market seemingly bet on a positive outcome in ongoing negotiations between Greek authorities and the country's creditors on the review of the Greek programme. The composite index jumped 3.02 pct to end at 535.78 points, off the day's highs of 542.72 points. The index is up 12.97 pct in the last five sessions.
The Large Cap index jumped 3.56 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 2.97 pct higher. Turnover was an improved 98.085 million euros in volume of 181,986,581.
Eurobank (14.04 pct), National Bank (9.74 pct), Alpha Bank (9.55 pct) and Piraeus Bank (6.67 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Coca Cola HBC (1.74 pct) and Hellenic Exchanges (1.06 pct) suffered losses.
Piraeus Bank and National Bank were the most heavily securities of the day. Among market sectors, Banks (9.93 pct), Constructions (5.44 pct) and Health (3.63 pct) scored big gains, while Chemicals (2.86 pct), Food (1.74 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 73 to 33 with another 27 issues unchanged. Nafpaktos Spin Mills (30 pct), Dromeas (29.82 pct) and Yalco (20 pct) were top gainers, while Domiki Cretan (19.81 pct), Sato (19.42 pct) and Progressive (19.35 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 9.75 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yield falling below 10 pct after several weeks to 9.94 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.19 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, all buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to -0.024 pct from -0.026 pct, the nine-month rate was -0.080 pct, the six-month rate rose to -0.134 pct from -0.135 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.208 pct from -0.205 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.273 pct from -0.270 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.36 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 6,150 contracts with 14,339 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 93,384 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (35,381), followed by Alpha Bank (14,822), Piraeus Bank (23,576), Eurobank (12,709), MIG (2,165), OTE (505), PPC (1,238), OPAP (847), Hellenic Exchanges (242), Mytilineos (526), Hellenic Petroleum (268), GEK (316), Ellaktor (238), Frigoglass (66) and Viohalco (66).
 Greece and Russia's historical and cultural tiesA roundtable on the "Historical and Cultural ties between Russia and Greece" was held on February 29, at the Russian consulate, as part of the Year of Russia in Greece and Greece in Russia, with the participation of distinguished scientists, researchers, local councilors and journalists.
The Russians never came as conquerors in Greece, they said. In contrast, the two people took refuge to each other in difficult times. Both the Russian and the Greek presence is apparent in both countries, while both countries have a constant interest in the developments.
 Marina Abramovic: Athens is culturally importantMarina Abramovic gave an exclusive interview to ANA-MPA ahead of the cooperation between the Marina Abramovi Institute (MAI) and the Cultural Organisation NEON.
She talked of her project called "As One" based on "Abramovic Method", combined with an extended programme of performance and intangible art.
"First of all, I'm very happy to be in Greece, I'm especially looking forward to the collaboration of MAI [Marina Abramovic Institute] with NEON, because NEON and MAI share many similar goals - education is one of them, working in public spaces and the large participation of the public, " she said and added: "Here we are presenting the Abramovic method and also a very large group of Greek artists performing, which was completely new and different to what Greece is used to, because it is based on long-duration experience."
Abramovic noted that Athens is very close to her heart. "I come from former Yugoslavia and we have a quite very similar culture. I always say I'm coming to Greece is like I'm coming home, but without the pain that I had in former Yugoslavia. And Athens is really important now culturally. I've been asked very often why we are here in Athens and why we're here in Athens at this moment and I think for the message of the artist and of art it is very important to choose the right time, right place and right public for the work to have a really successful impact. Right now, Athens is the right place, right time and right public to do this project together with NEON. It is not just that it is going to be the future house of Documenta, which is such an important manifestation every five years internationally, but it's also about building some kind of ground, a preparation field, for what will happen in the next few years in Athens. It is going to be a very important place culturally in the world map."
She underlined that Greece is going through a difficult time and crisis, but Greece has been going through difficult times for centuries. "I mean, you're one of the greatest civilizations and I'm so impressed by how you deal with difficult times and crises, because somehow you always survive. And right now it's not just Greece; it's the whole world that is in a terrible situation. If Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States we're going to have even worse crises in the world. I think one thing for me is very important: What you do with art and how art can help in different times, because art doesn't really work in nature. Nature is perfect without us or anybody else. Art works in places where there are problems, difficult economic, cultural and social crises. There, art can actually connect people, open the spirits, change the consciousness, can do a lot of things. It cannot always give all the answers and it cannot always change the world, but it can help."
"I have a very big and secret project in Greece which I don't want to share because I'm very superstitious like all Greeks. If you talk about a project early it may not happen, but it's a very big project that I want to do in Greece. But right now I'm really concentrating on the present and the NEON and MAI event is opening on the 10th, which is right around the corner and to me my expectation is how the Greek public is going to react to what we're going to present. The only thing that I can say is that we're giving 100 percent of ourselves into this project and it's up to the public how they're going to take it or not. I hope we're going to have a great collaboration, because we're working not just by presenting the work. We're not working with the public in a normal way like you go to the exhibition and the public is just a silent voyeur, where they look at the work and go home. We're actually working with the public. The public is our basic subject and object of this work. So the public has to take a completely active participation and I hope the public is emotional enough. The Greek public has great possibilities to see and experience this work," she concluded.
 NY Metropolitan Museum to send rare krater for Nat. Archaeological Museum 150th anniversaryThe New York Metropolitan Museum is to send an ancient terracotta krater (bowl for mixing wine with water) with a rare depiction of a sculptor at work to mark the 150 anniversary of the foundation of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The column krater from the Greek colonies in the Apulian region of south Italy, dated to the late Classical era (360-350 B.C.) and attributed to the Group of Boston 00.348, will be put on display in the National Archaeological Museum from May 9 until September 30.
The Central Archaeological Council on Tuesday approved the temporary import of the krater, which is loaned in exchange for artifacts contributed by the National Archaeological Museum to the exhibition "Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World" organised by the Metropolitan Museum between April 18 and July 10. The costs of transporting the krater to and from New York will be covered by the Metropolitan Museum.
The specific krater stands out for its depiction of a sculptor employing a now lost sculpting technique. Representations of artists at work are, according to the krater's description at the Met, in any case rare. The specific vase, however, additionally "illustrates a craft for which virtually no evidence survives, that of applying pigment to stone sculpture using the technique of encaustic."
"The column and phiale (libation bowl) at the far left indicate an interior space, probably a sanctuary. In the foreground stands a statue of Herakles with his club, bow, and lion-skin. The painter, characterised by his cap and his garment worn to leave his upper body bare, applies a mixture of pigment and wax with a spatula to Herakles' lion-skin. To the left, an African boy tends the brazier on which rods are heating that will spread the tinted wax. Above, Zeus, ruler of the gods, and Nike, personification of victory, preside as Herakles himself ambles in from the right to survey his image. The reverse, in an outdoor setting, shows Herakles' staunch protectress, Athena, seated in conversation with one of the Dioskouroi. To the left, Hermes, the messenger god, turns away from Pan, his son, while Eros plays with a bird below," reads the description at the Met.
The krater can be linked to other exhibits at the National Archaeological Museum that still retain traces of their decorative pigmentation, such as sculptures or Fayyoum portraits, which also used the technique. It may also be linked with other representations of Herakles in sculpture and pottery, such as the Farnese Herakles recovered from the Anti-Kythera shipwreck.
All departments of the National Archaeological Museum will participate in displaying the krater, while the museum will also prepare a detailed pamphlet on the artifact.
 Ariadni" ferry with 829 refugees aboard docks at Piraeus port"Ariadni" ferry carrying 829 refugees and migrants from Chios and Mytilene docked at Piraeus port on Wednesday morning.
"Blue Star 2" transferred another 187 refugees from Kos and Leros.
The port authorities have offered passenger stations for hosting refugees as well as a warehouse. Popular Unity leader Panagiotis Lafazanis is expected to visit the passenger station at 11.00 am.
 'Relief account' set up in Bank of Greece for refugeesThe finance ministry set up a bank account in the Bank of Greece to assist refugees following a decision by Alternate Finance Minister Tryfon Alexiadis on Wednesday.
The "refugee relief account", whose creation was announced in the government gazette, will allow individuals, bodies or companies to donate money to help refugees. Details about the account and its operation will be revealed with a new ministerial decision.
 Light quake jolts CreteA light quake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale was recorded at 01:54 at the sea region south-southwest of Ierapetra, Crete.
According to the Geodynamics Institute of Athens' Observatory, the quake's epicentre was located 434 km south-southeast of Athens and 125 km south of Heraklio, Crete.
No damages were reported.
 Rain on ThursdayRain and west-southwesterly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and rain in the northern and western parts of the country and temperatures ranging from 04C-17C. Partly cloudy in the morning and rain in the afternoon in the eastern parts with temperatures between 10C-19C. Rain in the evening over the Aegean islands and Crete, 10C-18C. Partly cloudy with a chance of rain in the afternoon in Athens, 10C-19C. Rain in the afternoon in Thessaloniki, 05C-16C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Fears cause impasses
DIMOKRATIA: Hostages! 9,000,000 refugees at Idomeni
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Hope sold to 'black market'
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Up to 12 pct cut on pensions
ESTIA: The closure of borders and the refugees trip out of the country
ETHNOS: NATO forces send refugees back to Turkey
IMERISSIA: Additional taxes for incomes higher than 30,000 euros
KATHIMERINI: Heads of institutions to meet in Brussels
NAFTEMPORIKI: Creditors ask for lower tax free threshold
RIZOSPASTIS: Solidarity with the refugees
TA NEA: Cuts on low and high pensions
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