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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-03-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 10 March 2016 Issue No: 5129
 PM Tsipras chaired meeting with ministers on economy, refugee crisisPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday chaired a meeting with ministers and close aides at his office in parliament to discuss economic issues and the refugee crisis.
During the meeting, which started at 11:00 and continued until the afternoon, there were briefings on the resumption of negotiations with the institutions on the first review, the results of the EU-Turkey summit on Monday and the Greece-Turkey High-Level Cooperation Council on Tuesday.
According to government sources, the briefing on the prime minister's visit to Turkey noted the updating of the readmission agreement between the two countries, which they said would strike a critical blow to illegal migrant trafficking rings. They said that this agreement, which had not been achieved until now between the European Union and Turkey, had been achieved between Greece and Turkey as a result of Greece's foreign policy.
This shows that a bold and extrovert foreign policy brought results, the same sources claimed, noting that Greece stood firm in its positions on Greek-Turkish affairs and the Cyprus problem. With respect to the former, they said that the Greek side made a point-blank requested an end to overflights and violations by Turkish aircraft and ships, as well as an end to Turkey's casus belli threat in the case that Greece decides to extend its territorial waters beyond the current limits.
The government will work methodically to bring substantive results at the EU summit on March 17-18, the sources added.
 Council of the EU agrees emergency support mechanism to assist Greece with refugee crisisBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)
The Council of the European Union on Wednesday agreed on an emergency support mechanism to help Greece in response to the humanitarian situation caused by the refugee crisis, according to a European Council press release.
This will enable the EU to help Greece and other affected member states to address the humanitarian needs of the large numbers of arrivals of men, women and children, aiming to meet the basic needs of refugees by providing food, shelter, water, medicine and other necessities, the announcement said.
"This is a very rapid and practical expression of the EU's solidarity with Greece, which implements a commitment of the European Council. The Netherlands Presidency will continue to do its utmost to ensure that the General Affairs Council of 15 March adopts the regulation", said Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, the Council's president.
The Council, together with the European Parliament, also needs to adopt a draft amending budget to mobilise the necessary resources from the 2016 EU budget. The Commission is expected to propose a draft amending budget on 10 March 2016.
The Commission estimates that a total of 700 million euros will be needed in 2016-2018 to address the needs of refugees, of which 300 million euros will be required in 2016.
 Tsipras: Greece must act now to enter the fourth industrial revolutionPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the establishment of the General Secretariat of Digital Policy on Wednesday during a speech at the 2016 Digital Economy Forum, saying that Greece must not lose a historic opportunity to enter the fourth industrial revolution.
"We have to make the big leap towards knowledge economy and our universities can accomplish this, which is proven by the graduates of our universities who excel abroad," Tsipras said at the event organized by the Hellenic Association of Information Technology Companies.
He acknowledged that more steps are needed in this direction, such as the preparation of a digital strategy, but noted that important steps have already been made. The government is willing to unleash the potential of the digital economy which was not treated with due attention in previous years, a fact that had effects on the economy, he added.
"If we cooperate correctly we can built a framework that will allow the economy's potential to take off through the utilization of information and communications," he said.
Tsipras also noted that the country needs a national plan for digital policy which will be based on institutions and respect and protect digital rights, while also providing the young with the opportunity to work and innovate in Greece.
"This is proven by those who are in our country and operate often without a capital, but have achieved significant results," he said.
 Tsipras: 'The economy of debt is ineffective, economically and socially damaging'The architecture of a debt economy is ineffective and economically and socially damaging, because it doesn't help the economy, or the people who support it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday at the University of Izmir, where he was granted an honorary doctorate in political science.
"It is somewhat strange and paradoxical to award the title of honorary doctorate of political economy to a leftist," Tsipras joked during his speech.
Commenting on economics, the premier said that "the main problem in our times is the construction of a system which is made in such a way as to not just allow some people to speculate, but to discipline entire economies and societies in the tougher neoliberal line and the dominant recipes of technocrat economists".
"I'm talking of course about the architecture of a system we could name the debt economy," he noted, adding that Greece tried to challenge this architecture which it considers as ineffective and socially and economically damaging. "Because it doesn't help the economy or those people who support it," he said.
Tsipras went on to describe what he believes happened to Greece, saying that "in a small period of time, the markets' confidence collapsed, Greek bond rates soared and the Greek economy was on the verge of collapse." At that point, he continued, another mechanism tailor-made to suit the neoliberal measures came in to cover for the failure -or success for others -of the markets.
He said Greece's economic program was accepted by the political system and was implemented to supposedly fix the economy using the "good old recipe" of the International Monetary Fund, which includes tough fiscal consolidation, pension and wage cuts, cuts in social welfare and neoliberal reforms everywhere.
"And what was the continuous threat? Either you adjust or go bankrupt. There's no middle way, there's no other road," Tsipras said, adding that when a democratically elected government stated the obvious, that this policy neither arranges nor corrects the problems but only produces recession and social decline, the "super-weapon of bankruptcy came back to the fore".
He continued to say that questioning the policies doesn't mean the government is willing to "gamble with Greece's and Europe's future."
 Tsipras the first PM that speaks openly of the casus belli and the Turkish violationsGovernment assessed positively Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' visit to Turkey and his participation in the 4th Greece-Turkey High Cooperation Council.
"The meetings were held in a positive climate. Both sides agreed on a positive agenda in order the Greek-Turkish dialogue to be promoted based on a climate of trust" said government sources on Wednesday and underlined that "the prime minister had a clear position regarding Turkey's violations and criticised the specific issue. There was also a special reference on the issue of casus belli".
The same sources underlined that "he is the first Greek prime minister that speaks openly about these issues inside Turkey".
On the field of the closer cooperation between the two countries, the government sources said that very important issues were promoted while on the refugees issue "the readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey was updated" which establishes the rapid and direct readmission of migrants, not entitled to international protection, to Turkey which is very important in the battling against human trafficking rings.
 Dep. FM says Greece has to use diplomacy to resolve problems with TurkeyDeputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas said Greece has to use diplomacy to resolve pending issues with Turkey, such as the airspace violations, adding there's no other peaceful way.
"We don't accept the specific positions of the Turks. Diplomatically, we act in the way we have to act and we don't see any other way ... Otherwise, war!" Mardas was quoted as telling private radio station Vima FM.
"I don't see any other solution. If someone comes to me and says 'what you're doing is not right', he should give me a solution. What can we do in the framework of a universal society which has been organized with a large number of institutions which seek solutions to all the problems through peaceful ways?" he added. "We propose the diplomatic path to resolbve these issues. The second solution which is available is what I told you before".
Concerning Turkey's "casus belli" against Greece, Mardas said it is against the United Nations' charter and noted that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said this during his meeting with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Izmir on Tueday. "One cannot connect casus belli with extending the maritime borders, that's what the prime minister said, very clearly," he said.
 PM Tsipras to meet OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria on ThursdayPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras has a series of meetings with foreign officials planned on Thursday, starting with the head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria at 10:00.
Tsipras will then meet European Commission Vice-President in charge of Energy Union Maros Sefcovic at 13:00 and the Russian Federation Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko at 20:00.
 PM Tsipras seeks off-the-agenda Parliamentary debate on justice issuesIn a letter to Parliament President Nikos Voutsis on Wednesday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked for an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament focusing exclusively on the latest developments concerning justice and the government's policies in this area.
"Over the recent period, public debate has been inundated and poisoned by groundless and insincere claims concerning the manner of exercising government policy in the justice sector. These claims are being promoted by specific centres that have reasons to fear an unobstructed and independent judicial process," Tsipras said, accusing the opposition parties of reproducing the same claims.
The prime minister noted that the government's goal was to restore the citizens' faith in the justice system, which he said had been especially damaged by the irregular and unconstitutional interference in justice by recent governments. As examples, he cited the progress in investigating the "Borjans List" and the previous "Lagarde List" of Greeks with substantial deposits abroad, the bank loans issued without any collateral and other financial crimes at the expense of the Greek public sector.
"Given the above, it is our obligation to open a relevant public dialogue in a substantive way within Parliament and at the highest possible level, without evasions and ruses in the manner attempted by the opposition in the past few days," Tsipras said.
According to sources in Parliament, the date for the off-the-agenda debate will be announced on Thursday, after the Conference of Presidents meeting, and will probably be set for the coming week.
 Finmin concludes meeting with institutions, says discussion focused on agenda for talksFinance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Thursday concluded a meeting with the representatives of the institutions on a first review of Greece's programme. In statements afterward, the minister said there had been an introductory talk, during which they discussed the agenda for the negotiations.
 Institutions, government economic team to meet again at 17:00 on ThursdayThe heads of the institutions' missions in Athens and the government's economic team will have another meeting on Thursday at 17:00, a senior source within Greece's economic team revealed on Wednesday.
The meeting on Thursday will focus on fiscal figures, after meetings on Wednesday to draw up a programme for one week. At the end of the week, the representatives of the country's creditors will decide whether they need to stay in Athens any longer.
Finance ministry sources said that the meeting with the institutions will take place at 17:30 on Thursday to discuss changes in income tax, while at 19:30 they have scheduled a discussion on developmental strategy in the agricultural sector.
 Dep. FM Mardas to visit Istanbul on March 10-13 for meetings with businesspeopleDeputy Foreign Minister for International Economic Relations, Dimitris Mardas, will hold a series of meetings and talks with entrepreneurs and business bodies in Istanbul from 10 to 13 March, which follows the 4th meeting of the Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council in Izmir.
On March 10, Mardas will visit the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and will then address the members of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB).
On March 11, the minister will meet with members of the BoD of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association (TUSIAD), to whom he will present the prospects of the Greek economy and the potential for further strengthening of bilateral business cooperation. Greek investments in Turkey are estimated at 6 billion dollars, while Turkish investments in Greece amount to 400 million dollars.
Finally, March 12, Mardas will meet with the President of the Union of Shop Owners of the Grand Bazaar, with whom he will discuss the twinning of the old traditional markets of Athens (Plaka, Monastiraki) with the corresponding marketplaces of Istanbul and Isfahan, Iran (Naqshe-e-Jahan Square).
 35,945 refugees in the Greek territory, says Refugees Crisis Management bodyRoughly 35,945 refugees are currently in Greece, according to the Refugees Crisis Management Coordination body figures released on Wednesday.
7,281 of then are on the islands of Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kastellorizo, Kos, Leros and Kalymnos. 9,432 are hosted in the region of Attica.
Moreover, 160 are in a hotel in the region of Fthiotida, 2,200 at Diavata camp, 3,646 at the hosting center at Herso, Kilkis region, 3,256 at Nea Kavala in Kilkis, 800 at Nea Karvali, 200 in Eleftheroupolis and 420 in the city of Kozani. The refugees at Idomeni camp (Greek-Fyrom buffer zone) are approximately 8,550 refugees.
 FYROM keeps closed its borders to migrants and refugeesSKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N.Frangoulopoulos)
Fyrom's authorities continue to keep closed the Fyrom-Greek buffer zone.
Skopje media claim that Fyrom will permanently close the crossing point at Gevgeli-Idomeni which was the crossing for refugees in the previous months after Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia's decision to not allow from Tuesday midnight the entrance in their territory to migrants and refugees.
 Idomeni closed for third consecutive day; 13,000 refugees waiting to cross the borderGreece-Fyrom buffer zone at Idomeni remains closed to refugees for third consecutive day.
Approximately 13,000 persons are currently at Idomeni camp waiting for the crossing to open that will allow them to continue their trip to northern Europe.
Meanwhile, the condition in Idomeni camp is very bad due to the heavy rain that was falling in the last days and the refugees tents are soaked and the area is full of mud.
 Coordinating body spokesman says evacuating Idomeni is a priorityThe Coordinating Body for the Management of the Refugee Crisis rejected on Wednesday press reports claiming the police will evacuate the refugee camp in Idomeni in the coming days, saying that the body will instead distribute flyers explaining to people the situation.
"Our priority is to evacuate Idomeni in the coming days," spokesman Giorgos Kyritsis told ANA-MPA. "We plan to have in Idomeni plenty of people who speak the languages of the refugees and distribute flyers explaining the situation to the refugees and that there are centers available for their accommodation," he added.
Kyritsis also said he believed that as weather conditions worsen, the refugees themselves will want to leave Idomeni.
 Condition with refugees at Piraeus port expected to return to normal in the next days, says Shipping Min. DritsasApproximately 3,500 refugees and migrants are currently hosted at Piraeus port after the arrival of two ferries that brought 673 persons from the islands of the eastern Aegean.
"The condition is expected to return to normal in the following days and our aim is the port not to turn into a permanent structure but to decongest and to operate as a transit area" stated Shipping Minister Thodoris Dritsas on Wednesday speaking to private radio Alpha.
Meanwhile, the Greek Coast Guard has rescued 939 migrants and refugees in 22 incidents in the sea regions of Samothrace, Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Kastellorizo in the last 24 hours.
 Council of Europe representative says Greece cannot carry all the burden of refugee crisisGreece cannot carry by itself all the burden of the refugee crisis and the EU must show its solidarity both on a legal and practical level, the special representative of the Council of Europe's secretary general on migration and refugees, Tom?a Bo ek, said on Wednesday during a visit to Greece.
In statements to the press after a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Mardas, Bo ek congratulated the Greek people, the authorities and the volunteers for the hospitality they offer to the refugees and migrants who arrive to the country, adding that "we have to work to improve the situation".
"There's still room for improvement especially concerning the welcoming facilities, the living conditions, the underage [refugees] and other points, but, as I said, this cannot happen without more solidarity," he said.
He also said that after visiting identification centers in Athens and Chios he now has a clearer picture of what is happening and how the Council of Europe can help.
On his side, Mardas said that the existence of a special representative on migration at the Council of Europe shows the international dimension of the problem "which is a given". He thanked Bo
ek for the interest shown by the Council of Europe and for the fact that the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) stands by Greece to help tackle the problems facing the refugees.
 ND leader Mitsotakis: There is an abyss between me and PM TsiprasNew Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis appeared disappointed and concerned over the outcome of the EU-Turkey Summit in an interview with private MEGA TV late Tuesday.
"We set the bar low and until now the prime minister has gone under" said ND leader and charged the government for a series of matters as "it has no idea how many refugees and migrants are currently in Greece".
The main opposition leader said that at the political leaders' meeting was requested from the prime minister to "to go and negotiate commitment targets on the refugees relocation to other European countries" and clarified that he is not pleased from the first results because, as he said, he is worried how easily Europe fulfills that Turkish requests.
At a question what he prefers: ecumenical government or elections, Mitsotakis answered that he chose elections. "We have nothing in common with Mr. Tsipras. There is an abyss between us and we will not participate in a government with Tsipras" and clarified that he does not ask for elections.
Referring to the economic condition and the negotiation with Greece's lenders, the main opposition leader said that Tsipras will be forced to cut pensions. "Those who have more should pay more but not with this intensity". On the negotiation he said that the five-month delay is against the country's interest.
 Golden Dawn MEP ousted from EuroParliament session for disparaging comments about TurksSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/ O. Tsipira)
European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Wednesday ordered ushers to escort Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party MEP Eleftherios Synadinos from the plenary session for making disparaging remarks about the Turkish people. It was the first time in the European Parliament's history that such a decision was taken.
Schulz intervened after Synadinos referred to Turks as "barbarians" and "dirty" and "being like dogs that bark and then retreat when the enemy approaches."
Explaining his decision, Schulz cited article 165 of the EU, saying the MEP's statements were a "flagrant violation of human rights to which the EU adheres...an effort is being made here to cross lines so that racism is accepted. I will not let this pass."
 Economic stability will pave the way for debt restructuring, Economy Minister says"Today we start talks to complete the first review," Economy, Development and Tourism Minister George Stathakis said on Wednesday.
Addressing a "Digital Economy Forum 2016 - The restart is digital", organized by the Federation of Information Technology and Communications Enterprises (SEPE), Stathakis said that the stabilisation of the economy, following the summer 2015 agreement, the two successful rounds of negotiations in autumn and the recapitalisation of Greek banks and completion of the first review of the Greek programme, will pave the way for a restructuring of the Greek debt and the return of the economy to growth in the second half of the year. He added that the Economy ministry will soon announce new actions in the framework of the 2014-2020 EU funds programme.
"We will announce actions for the development of partnerships and networking for supporting innovative business activity (clusters, meta-clusters). We want to create domestic chains of value that will exploit human resources in various stages of productive process," Stathakis said, adding that a new development law will have the same rationale. He said that the ministry will soon table to Parliament a new regulatory framework for public procurement, unifying tender and public procurement regulations for all kind of projects, services and goods through a fully electronic framework which will allow small- and medium-sized enterprises to claim share of these markets. Stathakis said that by June and in cooperation with OECD, the ministry will present the new framework for e-transactions.
He said that a new development plan for the country will be announced soon in agreement with the institutions.
 2016 will be a landmark year for OTE, Tsamaz says"If I had to describe last year with a single phrase, I would say that in an abnormal environment we had a normal year," Mihalis Tsamaz, chairman and chief executive of OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) said at the annual OTE management team meeting.
Addressing the meeting held last week, Tsamaz said that "with passion, faith and commitment, we are becoming constantly better on all levels." He presented a summary of the year and made special mention of significant investments in new generation networks, a critical pylon of OTE's strategy.
"We changed to be brought up to date. We changed, following the wish of our customers," Tsamaz said, referring to a change in the company's brand name. He also referred to positive results reported by OTE, with revenue stable at around 4.0 billion euros, operating earnings at 1.2 billion and cash reserves at 1.3 billion euros, along with a successful exit in capital markets with a 350-million-euro bond loan. OTE's debt fell by 80 pct in the 2010-2015 period, from 4.3 billion to 900 million euros, with interest cost down by 200 million euros. Tsamaz said OTE hired 300 new workers in 2015 in Greece and a total more than 2,000 in the last three years, following a successful voluntary exit programme.
For 2016, OTE will boost investments to more than 500 million euros each year and noted that 2016 would be a landmark year for OTE TV in user experience level, with new services and pioneer technologies, along with the ICT sector. "We still have a lot of work to do to satisfy our customer, to remain at the top and to move the company forward. Our goals are high, but we are made to play hard ball", Tsamaz said.
 Greek banks further cut borrowing from ECB, ELA in FebruaryGreek banks in February further reduced their dependence on borrowing from the European Central Bank and the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism of the Bank of Greece.
The central bank said that borrowing from these mechanisms at the end of February fell to 104 billion euros, from 106 billion a month earlier. This development reflects a reduction in borrowing from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism (ELA) to 67.9 billion euros in February from 68.8 billion in January, and a decline in borrowing directly from ECB to 36.2 billion euros from 37.2 billion, over the same periods, respectively.
 Greece plans new funding toolsGreek authorities will change the planning of funding tools in order to achieve the best possible exploitation of funds during implementation of the new EU-funds programme, Economy Deputy Minister Alexis Haritsis said on Wednesday.
Addressing a "Digital Economy Forum 2016 - The start is digital" in Athens, Haritsis said that the ministry has already began discussions with international financial firms and stressed that the new planning will expand groups of beneficiaries, the use of co-investment and business participation. The new planning will focus on micro-credit and capital participation, along with tools for loans and guarantees. Other significant tools are a new "saving" (for homes, public buildings and enterprises) and infrastructure of Jessica plus, along with existing products such as ETEAN, Jeremie ICT/VC, SME Guarantee, etc, worth around 600 million euros.
Haritsis said that new actions from the 2014-2020 EU-funds programme will be announced soon, covering new tourism enterprises and supporting SMEs with a workforce of more than 50 persons, all worth around 150 million euros.
He said that the government will proceed with a plan to turn civil administration operations digital and noted that despite adverse conditions the programme was completed successfully last year, absorbing all EU funds.
 Athens to host 1st FinTech Forum for startups on May 20Athens will host the first "FinTech Forum" on May 20 in an effort to highlight the dynamic of FinTech (Financial Technology) to startups in Greece and guide the domestic ecosystem of these companies towards this which has attracted the larger investment funds worldwide.
Among other issues, the 1st Athens FinTech Forum will analyze developments in the FinTech sector at an international level; it will inform startups on how FinTech operates at financial centers such as London, Singapore and New York, while it will also present the relationship of the banking sector with FinTech.
According to the organizers of the event, Startupbootcamp FinTech and startupper.gr, FinTech today is one of the most active areas in the world stage of startups, which is reflected in the investment it has gathered in recent years and which have exceeded 20 billion dollars in 2015 alone. This equals to a 60 pct increase since 2014.
 Piraeus Bank says pre-tax and provision earnings up 15 pct in 2015A positive conclusion of crucial negotiations between the Greek government and the institutions on the first review of the new programme will create a positive dynamism in the economy and will allow banks to deal more efficiently loans in delay, thus contributing to the restart of the Greek economy, Mihalis Sallas, Piraeus Bank chairman said on Wednesday.
Commenting on the release of the bank's annual results for 2015, Sallas said that following the successful completion of a recapitalization exercise in December 2015, Greek banks have strengthened their capital base to very high levels for European standards and stressed that a policy on active management of Piraeus Bank's non-performing loans led to the reduction -after several years of growth- of the NPLs rate to 39.5 pct from 40.5 pct in September 2015, while new loans in delay fell significantly compared with the third quarter of 2015. This development, combined with an increase in provisions in the last quarter, improved the bank's coverage rate to 65 pct from 61 pct.
Stavros Lekkakos, the bank's chief executive, said that Piraeus Bank, with a strong commitment to its business goals, achieved an increase in repeated pre-tax and provision earnings by 15 pct to 1.125 billion euros, while net revenue rose 4.0 pct and operating costs fell by 5.0 pct last year.
Deposits grew by 1.8 billion to 39 billion euros in the fourth quarter of 2015. The bank's CET-1 rate was 17.8 pct. On a quarterly basis, fourth quarter pre-tax and provision earnings were 284 million euros, up 18 pct from the fourth quarter of 2014. Net interest revenue amounted to 1.877 billion euros in 2015, down 4.0 pct from the previous year, while in the fourth quarter net revenue were unchanged at 463 million.
Commission income fell 3.0 pct to 306 million euros, while repeated net operating revenue totaled 2.374 billion euros, up 4.0 pct on an annual basis and up 3.0 pct on a quarterly basis.
Bad loan provisions totaled 3.487 billion euros at the end of 2015, from 3.670 billion in 2014. Net results showed a loss of 1.858 billion euros last year, of which a loss of 1.238 billion euros was recorded in the fourth quarter due to higher provision expenses.
 Greek trade deficit down 5.1 pct in JanGreek trade deficit shrank by 5.1 pct in January 2016, Hellenic Statistical Authority said in a report on merchandise trade released on Wednesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said that the value of import-arrivals totaled 2.922 billion euros in January, from 3.143 billion in January last year, a decline of 7.0 pct, (excluding oil products the value of imports fell 1.0 pct).
The value of export-deliveries amounted to 1.716 billion euros in January, from 1.872 billion in the same month last year, a decline of 8.3 pct (excluding oil products the value of exports fell 3.9 pct).
The trade deficit totaled 1.205 billion euros, from 1.271 billion last year, a decline of 5.1 pct (excluding oil products the trade deficit grew 2.7 pct).
 Tourist arrivals, revenue to surpass 2015 levels this year, SETE saysThis year's tourist season will be a catalyst for the development of Greek tourism and its contribution to the Greek economy and employment, Andreas Andreadis, president of Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) said on Wednesday.
In a statement released at the inauguration of the ITB 2016 fair in Berlin, Andreadis said that both tourist arrivals and revenue will grow this year compared with 2015. "Based on figures taken from the ITB, the programming of air seats in 2016 and figures from tour operators and online systems such as Amadeus, SETE expects that international arrivals this year could reach 25 million (27.5 million including sea cruise passengers), from 23.5 million in 2015. We also expect total revenue to reach 15 billion euros this year, from 14.2 billion in 2015. This increase, however, will not be horizontal throughout the country. Some destinations currently hit by the refugee influx will have a significant decline in arrivals," Andreadis said.
He noted that a necessary precondition was completion of a review of the Greek bailout programme by the end of April and at the same time the state to immediately implement all decisions to be taken on a European level towards a more efficient management of refugee and migrant influx in the country.
He warned that failure to meet these preconditions would have a negative impact on tourism and the economy in general.
 Greece sells three-month T-billsGreece on Wednesday successfully auctioned a three-month Treasury bill issue draining 1.3 billion euros from the market. The interest rate of the issue was set at 2.70 pct, unchanged from the previous auction of same issue in February 10. Bids submitted totaled 1.3 billion euros, 1.3 times more than the asked sum. The auction was made with the market's primary dealers and settlement date was set for Friday, 11 March. The Public Debt Management Organization said it would accept non-competitive bids up to 30 pct of the auctioned sum by Thursday, 10 March.
 Passenger traffic in Greek airports up 15.3 pct in Jan-FebPassenger traffic in Greek airports grew 15.3 pct in the first two months of 2016, compared with the same period last year, the Civil Aviation Authority said on Wednesday.
In a report, the authority said that passenger traffic amounted to 3.53 million in the January-February period, from 3.10 million last year. In February, passenger traffic was 1.75 million, up 19.6 pct from February 2015, with the biggest passenger traffic recorded in the airports of Athens, Thessaloniki, Chania, Heraklion and Rhodes.
Air flights in Greek airports totaled 38,500, of which 24,209 domestic and 14,291 international flights, up 7.3 pct compared with the same period last year.
 Greek stocks end lower on profit takingGreek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, ending a nine-day rally which pushed the composite index of the market 18.85 pct higher. Traders said that investors preferred to take profits with selling activity focusing on bank shares.
The composite index fell 1.97 pct to end at 552.59 points, off the day's lows of 547.37 points. The Large Cap index fell 2.67 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.15 pct lower. Turnover was a low 58.046 million euros in volume of 104,729,337.
Jumbo (0.46 pct), Grivalia Properties (0.41 pct), Lamda Development (0.25 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (14.61 pct), National Bank (4.31 pct) and Folli Follie (4.17 pct) suffered heavy losses. Piraeus Bank and National Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Among market sectors, Health (3.33 pct), Food (0.56 pct) scored gains, while Banks (5.69 pct) and Commerce (4.15 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 67 to 30 with another 21 issues unchanged. Intertek (23.40 pct), Intrakat (18.88 pct) and Pegasus (17.5 pct) were top gainers, while Sato (19.67 pct), Piraeus Bank (14.61 pct) and AEGEK (11.36 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased to 9.24 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 9.27 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 9.47 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.23 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to -0.024 pct from -0.025 pct, the nine-month rate fell to -0.081 pct from -0.079 pct, the six-month rate rose to -0.132 pct from -0.136 pct, the three-month rate rose to -0.214 pct from -0.215 pct and the one-month rate was -0.285 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.45 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,083 contracts with 13,680 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 79,681 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (30,680), followed by Alpha Bank (8,390), National Bank (24,853), Eurobank (7,654), MIG (598), OTE (1,388), PPC (485), OPAP (926), Hellenic Exchanges (160), Titan (220), Mytilineos (484), Hellenic Petroleum (766), Metka (198), GEK (2,304), Ellaktor (116).
 Acropolis Museum to present three Scythian objects from the HermitageThe Acropolis Museum will inaugurate on March 11 a precursor exhibition presenting exhibits from the Hermitage Museum as part of the cultural program titled "Year of Russia in Greece", the Culture ministry said on Wednesday.
As part of the exchange program, the Acropolis museum will exhibit three golden objects from the Hermitage's collection of Scythian treasures, while the Russian museum will exhibit a marble statue of an Archaic Kore, lended by the Acropolis Museum.
The opening ceremony will be attended by Culture and Sports Minister Aristidis Baltas and the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Prikhodko.
During the "2016 Greek-Russian initiative," which is dedicated to the promotion of Greece to the Russian public and of Russia to the Greek public, Athens and Moscow are planning a series of cultural events aiming "at renewing the traditional bonds of friendship and to enhance awareness and cooperation", the ministry statement said.
During the event, Baltas and Prikhodko will also sign an agreement for the official exchange of specific programs during the Greek-Russia year.
 Boat with 110 refugees and migrants located off SamothraceApproximately 110 migrants and refugees among them 40 children and infants were located in a wooden boat near the islet Zourafa east of Samothrace.
The wooden boat was spotted by a coast guard patrol vessel sailing in the rain and immediately transferred the people to Alexandroupolis port.
Currently the refugees and migrant are being identified and afterwards they will be sent to the first reception center at Orestiada.
 Police stop march by protesting refugees at Petrou Ralli StreetGreek Police on Wednesday stopped a march by protesting migrants and refugees before it reached Victoria Square in central Athens, blocking their path at Petrou Ralli outside the police aliens headquarters. Most of the protestors had set off from the refugee relocation centre in Schisto on foot, carrying placards reading 'Open the Borders, we are people too" to protest against the closure of the borders into central Europe.
The police put the refugees and migrants onto Athens public transport buses and transported them back to the temporary hospitality centre at Schisto.
 Two ferries with more than 670 refugees and migrants docked at Piraeus on Wednesday"Ariadni" ferry with 529 migrants and refugees docked at Piraeus port on Wednesday morning.
More specifically, on board of "Ariadni" were 50 persons from Chios and 479 from Mytilene.
"Blue Star 2" is expected to arrive to the port later in the day carrying 144 refugees and migrants from Dodecanese islands (74 from Rhodes and 70 from Kos).
Many of the refugees from "Ariadni" rushed immediately after their arrival to the port internal buses to be transferred to the nearby electric train station of Pireaus.
According to the data of the Piraeus Port Authority, 3,070 refugees and migrants are temporary hosted within the passengers stations. One of them, at the Gate E-2, is completely saturated with people, that many tents needed to set outside the premises.
Red Cross personnel is expected to distribute food within the day and also on Wednesday is planned to become also operational the dispensary set by the Piraeus Medical Association.
 Crews working on restoring electricity in Rhodes after blackoutCrews are working to restore electricity to the island of Rhodes and smaller Halki in the southeastern Aegean on Wednesday, after a total blackout earlier this evening, an official at power distribution agency DEDDIE told ANA-MPA.
Sources from power utility PPC said the blackout is due to the low voltage and not to any malfunction in the system.
 Clouds, rain on ThursdayRain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Heavy rain in the northern parts of the country and temperatures ranging from 10C-13C. Showers in the western parts and temperatures between 08C-15C. Partly cloudy in the eastern parts, 09C-18C. Clouds and rain over the Aegean islands and Crete, 11C-18C. Partly cloudy with a chance of rain in Athens, 10C-17C. Rain in Thessaloniki, 09C-12C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Izmir-Brussels with hurdles.
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Double trap with bait the debt relief.
ETHNOS: The 9 keys of the new growth plan
KATHIMERINI: Agreement up in the air, borders closed.
NAFTEMPORIKI: The nine burning points of the negotiation
RIZOSPASTIS: Mass condemnation of the policy that devastates the people and the refugees.
TA NEA: Cold water from Schaeble (Wolfgang, German Finance Minister).
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