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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-03-16

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

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

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 Issue No: 5132

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Tsipras meets Armenian President Sargsyan
  • [02] Tsipras, Sargsyan express support to ceasefire in Syria
  • [03] PM chairs meeting on managing refugee crisis
  • [04] Minister says Greece ready to cooperate with Turkey in summit
  • [05] PM Tsipras estimates the Balkan route will not open again
  • [06] ND leader: Condition at Idomeni a slap on civilised Europe's face
  • [07] Main opposition slams PM for mishandling refugee crisis and the Idomeni incident
  • [08] Gov't spokeswoman accuses ND leader of 'having foot in both camps' on refugee issue
  • [09] Refugee crisis is not bilateral problem between Greece and Turkey, says minister
  • [10] Situation at Idomeni 'tragic and unacceptable,' EU Migration Commissioner says after visit
  • [11] EU Council adopts emergency support mechanism regulation for Greece
  • [12] Greece must receive specific answers on the refugee issue, says Italian official
  • [13] Greek government calls the refugees to ignore voices that put their lives in danger
  • [14] Disappointed migrants, refugees returned to Idomeni from FYROM after braving raging torrent
  • [15] Greeks arrested for following refugees into FYROM were released on Tuesday
  • [16] Afghan man claims he was brutally beaten by FYROM police after crossing border
  • [17] Piraeus port passenger stations packed with refugees; 200 persons expected to be transferred to other areas
  • [18] Refugees' arrivals down in the last 24 due to adverse weather conditions
  • [19] Communist Party: PM Tsipras' statement on Idomeni incident are hypocritical
  • [20] Sports ministry submits anti-doping bill at parliament
  • [21] National Bank says core earnings up in Q4 2015
  • [22] Greek employment up 0.3 pct in Q4, Eurostat
  • [23] Halcor Group reports 13.9 pct rise in 2015 turnover
  • [24] Overdue tax debt to the state amounted to 87 bln euros
  • [25] Greek construction production index down 10.1 pct in Q4, yr/yr
  • [26] Greek merchant shipping fleet up to 4,092 vessels, Committee says
  • [27] Employment in the retail sector up 0.9 pct in Q4
  • [28] Greek stocks end 2.31 pct higher
  • [29] Greek bond market closing report
  • [30] ADEX closing report
  • [31] Angelina Jolie's visit to Lesvos postponed for Wednesday
  • [32] Refugee boy in Piraeus port confirmed to have hepatitis A
  • [33] Rescue workers find Norwegian hiker stranded on Crete's Lefka Ori
  • [34] Partly cloudy on Wednesday
  • [35] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Tsipras meets Armenian President Sargsyan

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday met with the Arme-nian President Serzh Sargsyan, at Maximos Mansion. Extended talks between the two delegations took place before the signing of bilateral agreements and declarations.

    ?Welcoming the Armenian President, Tsipras underlined the enduring close relations between the two peoples as both of them have faced similar challenges in the past. "That is why we focus on humanity to face a challenge that overcomes us," he noted and added: "Our people face major challenges while defending our values."

    ?The Greek prime minister said he hoped that the truce in Syria will be respected so that this flow of people, who have been displaced and persecuted from their homes seeking a better life, will stop.

    Sargsyan underlined that the aim is to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries and expressed confidence that the government of Tsipras will find ways to solve the financial and refugee problem.

    [02] Tsipras, Sargsyan express support to ceasefire in Syria

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan on Tuesday in their joint statements expressed their full support to the recent ceasefire in Syria.

    As Tsipras said, they stressed the need for effectively combating terrorism and the necessary conditions for reconcili-ation in the country. He noted that the end of the war in Syria and the restoration of normalcy are the main factors for stopping the unprecedented refugee flows from Syria to Europe.

    Tsipras spoke of the huge effort of the government and the Greek people to receive the thousands of refugees and was briefed on the relevant efforts made by Armenia.

    Both of them agreed that the refugee crisis does not concern specific countries, but the entire international community, "hence coherent policies are required in solidarity climate for addressing this crisis," Tsipras underlined.

    Bilateral agreements were signed before the statements. Moreover, they discussed the bilateral relations of the two countries and exchanged views on the possibilities of strengthening cooperation.?In this context, they discussed potential synergies at intergovernmental level and in the private sector. They also signed cooperation agreements in the fields of health and medicine. They stressed that education and culture play an important role in the relations of the two countries and renewed their cooperation by signing two executive programs in the field of culture and education and research.

    [03] PM chairs meeting on managing refugee crisis

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday chaired a meeting of government ministers to discuss management of the refugee and migration crisis. During the meeting, there was a presentation of technical aspects and the financial requirements of the crisis, ahead of the EU summit on the crisis.

    Attending the meeting were Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Alter-nate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas, Deputy Economy Mi-nister Alexis Charitsis, Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili.

    Government sources commenting on the incident at Idomeni on Monday, where refugees illegally crossed into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) from an unguarded point on the border, said that no readmission request has been submitted by FYROM authorities and that Greek authorities have no information to that effect.

    "If a readmission request is submitted, this will be examined on the basis of EU-FYROM agreements," the same sources noted.

    There was no provision for creating refugee hospitality structures near the borders, they added, and that the government was working with the UN High Commission for Refugees in existing structures at some distance from the border.

    [04] Minister says Greece ready to cooperate with Turkey in summit

    Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Tuesday Greece will seek cooperation with Turkey at the EU-Turkey summit, adding any deal should include economic aid for Greece, Turkey and Italy to tackle refugee crisis.

    "We are going to the summit with the logic of cooperating with Turkey and we are working to stop the war in Syria," the minister said during an interview at private broadcaster Skai. "What we seek is a good deal. This deal should include an economic aid to Greece, Turkey and Italy."

    "We want a good deal that solves the problem, is effective, is much better than no agreement," he added.

    Commenting on whether the government will readmit the refugees who crossed into FYROM, Vitsas said the government will follow "the usual procedures which derive from international law", while clarifying that "anything different from international law and the Geneva convention is illegal."

    "It should not be thought that those who are inside FYROM can cross into other EU countries - and I mean Greece - at will," he noted.

    [05] PM Tsipras estimates the Balkan route will not open again

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday said that the misinformation of refugees is a criminal behavior that must stop.

    As he said, refugees and migrants are encouraged either to remain at Idomeni under conditions of humanitarian crisis, rather than be transferred to hosting facilities before their relocation, or to walk long distances in harsh conditions with the risk of losing their lives in order to cross the border and find themselves on the opposite side.

    Tsipras called on the refugees at Idomeni to abandon their efforts to remain in the area because, as he said, some countries' unilateral actions were made on purpose and estimated that the closed borders will not open again. Therefore, they need to be transferred to hosting facilities and "from there on to work together to speed up the process of their legal transfer to other European countries, through the acceleration of the relocation process."

    The Greek prime minister stressed that the government was implementing a specific plan to manage refugee flows agreed at European level when the Balkan route closed by some countries' unilateral actions. Thus, apart from meeting its European obligations, the government was faced with the need to deal in humanitarian terms with an increasing number of refugees.

    Tsipras stated that the increased refugee flows as a result of closed borders create conditions of an intense humanitarian crisis beyond our responsibility. "We do not want to turn an international and European problem into a cross-border problem between Greece and FYROM," he said, adding that this is why the government appealed to refugees and NGOs to be transferred from the temporary border camps to open hosting facilities throughout the country.

    [06] ND leader: Condition at Idomeni a slap on civilised Europe's face

    The condition in Idomeni is a slap on civilised Europe's face, stated main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis who visited on Tuesday the refugees camp in Idomeni and made a plea to government, even at the ultimate hour, to draft an organised evacuation plan for the refugees because, as he said, a time health bomb can be created due to the adverse weather conditions.

    Mitsotakis was briefed by the UNCHR and the Medicines Sans Frontieres representatives, the police and the medical staff on the conditions and after the end of his visit stated: The conditions here are unhuman. Twelve thousand people live in unprecedented conditions, in the mud with the help of a few volunteers that are doing their best but the dimension of the problem exceeds them. This condition can't go on any more. Idomeni must be evacuated and these people must be transferred to other settlements so as not to set their health at risk. You must take under consideration that half of Idomeni's camp population is children. The government must face this huge humanitarian crisis and unfortunately the government and the state are absent.

    [07] Main opposition slams PM for mishandling refugee crisis and the Idomeni incident

    New Democracy criticized on Tuesday the government and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for his handling of the refugee crisis, saying he has turned the country into a big camp, following the incident at Idomeni on Monday night.

    "The government remains baffled and completely ineffective [on the refugee crisis] without a purposeful deterrence policy and no contingency plan," the party said after a meeting of its crisis management team, chaired by president Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

    According to the statement released after the meeting, Greece's northern borders closed which is proven by reality and is stated in the EU-Turkey deal co-signed by Tsipras.

    "The nightmare situation [in Idomeni] is the shame of a completely improper government which is unable to solve any problem. It turns out it does not protect neither borders nor refugees and migrants, nor the security of the country or Greek citizens," the party said, while it urged ministers to step outside of their offices and see the sad reality of Idomeni.

    ND also accuses Tsipras of being absent noting that although he was the one who co-signed for the closure of the Balkan route, he has "the political nerve to blame others for his utter failure."

    [08] Gov't spokeswoman accuses ND leader of 'having foot in both camps' on refugee issue

    The main opposition leader cannot simultaneously embrace both far-right populism and sensitivity to refugees' plight, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said on Tuesday. She was responding to comments made by New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis after visiting the refugee and migrant camp at Idomeni.

    "Mr. Mitsotakis today decided to give us a display of sensitivity from Idomeni. Apart from this, the party that he leads has for months now criticised the government for not turning refugees back at sea, reacted to the reception and hospitality centres and indulged in every sort of far-right usurpation of the refugee issue while keeping mum over unilateral actions at the expense of our country," Gerovassili said.

    The government was obliged to point out that ND's leader could not simultaneously have a foot in both camps, she added.

    [09] Refugee crisis is not bilateral problem between Greece and Turkey, says minister

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The refugee issue is not a bilateral argument between Greece and Turkey and will not be resolved in the near future, Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis said in statements during a meeting of EU General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on Tuesday.

    He also said that any decisions will have to be compatible with international law, noting that the credibility of the EU is at stake.

    Speaking to journalists, he said the EU-Turkey plan has "difficulties" and that some countries will have to be flexible and politically willing to implement their commitments. He added that the general EU mood is to achieve a deal at the EU-Turkey summit on Thursday, but this doesn't mean the deal is assured.

    Commenting on Greece's needs in logistical assistance he said the country doesn't just need police, while he expressed concern on the rise of extreme-right populism in Europe.

    [10] Situation at Idomeni 'tragic and unacceptable,' EU Migration Commissioner says after visit

    The situation at the refugee camp in Idomeni was "tragic and unacceptable," European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said after a visit to the makeshift camp near Greece's border on Tuesday, accompanied by Greece's Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas. Avramopoulos also urged European Union member-states to honour the decisions they made jointly so that the process of relocating refugees could finally begin.

    "We are talking about the capacity to relocate 6,000 people weekly and it must be made clear that a refugee that has a right to asylum is one thing, but an irregular migrant is another and they must know that they will be returned to their country of origin," the Commissioner said.

    At the same time, he stressed that the unacceptable conditions at Idomeni must not be allowed to continue:

    "This is where the values and principles of the civilised world are daily put to the test and what we saw people enduring under tragic conditions must stop right away. Unfortunately, they are being ruthlessly exploited by trafficking rings that misinform them," Avramopoulos said.

    Europe's stance toward refugees was one of respect and dignity but the conditions at Idomeni did not reflect this, he added.

    He appealed to all EU countries to open their doors and uphold their decisions to share the burden, pointing out that closed borders and fences were "alien" to European principles, politics and philosophy. He also expressed Europe's support for Greece, which was coming under disproportionate pressure from the refugee crisis.

    Mouzalas, on his part, said that great efforts were being made to complete new reception facilities and provide new places, as well as to make refugees understand that the borders will not open.

    "These people must be persuaded to leave. We cannot use riot police to drive them away but we must prepare ourselves slowly, I would say within the next 20 days, for this camp to be a very small place," he said. It was necessary to isolate those spreading rumours that the borders will open and provoking refugees to "irresponsible and illegal actions such as that yesterday," the minister added. He was referring to an attempt by a few dozen refugees to illegally cross over the border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which ended in at least three fatalities on Monday.

    Avramopoulos' visit sought to reaffirm the EU's support and solidarity with Greece in coping with the refugee crisis and the resulting humanitarian needs. The Commissioner was accompanied by Commission experts that provide support to the Greek authorities, was given a tour of the camp and spoke with refugees and migrants living there. He also spoke with representatives of the UN High Commission for Refugees, non-governmental organisations, the European Asylum Support Service and the EU border agency Frontex.

    The Commissioner praised the generosity shown by the Greek people toward the refugees, as well as the efforts of the Greek authorities, aid organisation and EU agencies.

    "We all have the same goal: to deal effectively with the increasing needs of migrants hosted in Greece and to alleviate their plight. We can achieve this only through a common, cohesive approach using all the economic, material and political resources at our disposal," Avramopoulos said.

    The European Commission estimates that there are currently 45,000 third-country nationals in Greece, 12,000 of them in Idomeni.

    [11] EU Council adopts emergency support mechanism regulation for Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The EU Council announced on Tuesday that it has adopted a regulation for creating an EU emergency support mechanism that will help Greece and other member states which are under pressure from large numbers of refugees arriving in their territory.

    The Council in a statement noted that as undocumented migrant flows along the Western Balkans Corridor have come to an end, approximately 35,000 refugees are currently in Greece. It is also noted that with today's decision, the EU is given the possibility to provide immediate and effective support to the very difficult situation.

    "This decision of the Council shows that the EU stands by Greece in this difficult time. The Dutch presidency will do its best to ensure that the necessary EU funds will be disbursed as soon as possible," said Bert Koenders, Dutch Foreign Minister and President of the Council.

    The assistance provided under the new emergency assistance includes food, shelter, water, medicine and other necessities for the refugees.

    [12] Greece must receive specific answers on the refugee issue, says Italian official

    ROME (ANA-MPA/T. Andreadis-Syngelakis)

    It is in everyone's interest to finally give Greece specific answers on the management of the refugee crisis as it is the most affected member-state, the State Secretary for European Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister of Italy, Sandro Gozi told ANA-MPA on Tuesday.

    "We are waiting for the report to be presented by the President of the European Council Donald Tusk at the European Council, following his visits to Ankara and Nicosia. We believe that this cooperation on migration is to our mutual benefit," he said commenting on the upcoming EU-Turkey summit. "It is in everyone's interest to finally give specific responses to Greece, which at the moment is the most exposed member-state of the Union and suffered so much because of the crisis," he added.

    He noted however, that this does not mean Europe will lessen its demands and interest when it comes to respecting human rights and the European rule of law. "Therefore, dialog with Turkey must continue, but also by highlighting our concerns relating to press freedom and respect for minorities," he said.

    [13] Greek government calls the refugees to ignore voices that put their lives in danger

    The meeting of the Refugees Crisis Management Mechanism chaired by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was concluded late at night on Monday, in the light of the tragic event at the northern borders of Greece. In the meeting the Prime Minister was informed about the situation and was discussed the programming of the next moves.

    On this occasion the Greek government called the refugees and migrants to confide the Greek State and let to be transferred to the hospitality spots. It also called the refugees to understand that the situation at Idomeni is in an impasse and refrain from believing messages of impostors that could put their life in danger.

    The Management Mechanism's spokesman Yorgos Kyritsis also called the volunteers organizations and those who are solidary to this cause to cooperate with the Greek Authorities to the scope of a credible and correct information of the refugees.

    Referring to the circulation of a pamphlet, calling the refugees to defy the closing of the borders and cross them towards the countries of Central Europe, Kyritsis stated that there is evidence of "an organized movement, very dangerous that put in danger human lives that were urged to cross torrents and rivers".

    "Everything they say are lies", added Kyritsis.

    [14] Disappointed migrants, refugees returned to Idomeni from FYROM after braving raging torrent

    Clearly downcast, a number of the migrants and refugees that attempted continue their journey to Europe by crossing a raging torrent into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were returned to Greece and the mud-choked camp at Idomeni on Tuesday. They were part of a group of hundreds that set out for the village of Hamilos on Monday, to cross a swollen river at an unguarded point along the Greek-FYROM border.

    Among them 65-year-old Nour Edin, wheelchair-bound due to serious health problems, who returned on Tuesday morning with his daughter and grandson.

    "We put ourselves through hardship for no reason. The whole thing was a dead end. We stayed out in the cold yesterday and my father couldn't take all that. He's very sick," his daughter told ANA-MPA. On Monday, on her way to Hamilos, the same woman said her father was attempting the journey because he couldn't keep living in the mud and wanted to reach Germany with his children.

    The 65-year-old and his wheelchair had been carried across the river by four young refugees, including his grandson, on Monday. At the time, he seemed determined to continue his journey. They managed to cross the river but not the FYROM border and after 24 hours of unbelievable hardship, they returned to the Idomeni camp, disappointed and confused.

    Another Syrian refugee, 20-year-old Amar, followed the group to Hamilos but only to act as interpreter for two journalists and not to join the desperate push to reach Europe. He said he would wait for the results of the EU summit in two-three days time and then decide his next move.

    "I want to be sure that I've done everything to get to my destination before I attempt to apply for a relocation programme," he told the ANA-MPA. Though most refugees continue to hope that the upcoming summit will provide a solution to their problem, more and more are seeing the relocation programme as their last hope of reaching Europe.

    Visiting Idomeni on Monday, European Asylum Support Office (EASO) representative Jean-Pierre Shembri stressed that the refugees must be made to understand that the relocation programme is the only way into Europe.

    "Going through traffickers is not a option. We are trying to promote a responsible and safe way, so that there is a fair distribution of refugees in the EU member states," he said. He also reported a change in the refugees' approach concerning where they wanted to go, with more willing to consider relocation as they understood that this was the only way and willing to consider more destinations than the one or two countries they had originally aimed for.

    "We need to exploit this momentum and ensure that registration proceeds rapidly," the EASO official said. For the refugees fearing that they will be separated from their families or never reach countries where a family member is already installed, he offered assurances that each case will be examined individually, taking into account the family situation, language and other factors that help integration.

    [15] Greeks arrested for following refugees into FYROM were released on Tuesday

    The Greek photoreporters and NGO organizations members arrested on Monday for following the refugees and migrants that crossed illegally the borders with FYROM were released early in the morning on Tuesday.

    The twelve Greeks were arrested from the authorities of Skopje while they followed the refugees at the time they crossed the bordeline and held in prison at Gevgeli.

    [16] Afghan man claims he was brutally beaten by FYROM police after crossing border

    An Afghan man that attempted to cross the border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) illegally by wading through a torrent near the Greek village of Hamilos claimed that he was brutally beaten when FYROM police found him on the other side of the border with his family.

    "We had lit a fire when FYROM police approached us and told us to leave. They burned my face and hit me," the man said, after his return to the Idomeni camp on Tuesday.

    The man was among a large group of refugees and migrants that attempted to cross into FYROM via an unguarded point along the Greek-FYROM border on Monday.

    In the meantime, conditions at the Idomeni camp were becoming increasingly desperate as the rain continued to fall and thousands had to contend with the mud and cold for yet another day.

    Most are pinning their hopes on a good outcome at the upcoming EU-Turkey summit and that the gate to the no-man's land between Greece and FYROM will open, letting them through. Hundreds are now also turning to the relocation programmes, however, applying for these as the only legal way to travel to the richer countries in north and central Europe.

    [17] Piraeus port passenger stations packed with refugees; 200 persons expected to be transferred to other areas

    Piraeus port authority passenger stations are expected to be packed with refugees and migrants on Tuesday after the arrival of two ferries carrying refugees from the eastern Aegean islands raising the number of persons hosted in the station to 4,000.

    200 refugees are expected to be transferred from Piraeus port to temporary hosting centers at Lavrio, Grammatiko and Ritsona.

    Port authorities and police said that their major problem is to persuade the migrants and refugees that their transfer to other safer and more fuctional hosting areas will not trap them and that the border (Greek-Fyrom crossing point) at Idomeni ia, for the time being, closed.

    Police said that another huge problem they face is an inside information network that can't be easily located that continues to inform the refugees at Piraeus port not to move to temporary hosting centers because they will be trapped and that very soon their people will be able to show them other ways to exit the Greek territory.

    Meanwhile, 2,797 migrants and refugees were saved in 59 rescue operations held in the sea regions of Lesvos, Chios, Kos, Samos and Kastellorizo in the last three days.

    [18] Refugees' arrivals down in the last 24 due to adverse weather conditions

    The number of migrants and refugees stranded on the northeastern Aegean islands was slightly lower on Tuesday.

    Approximately 8,607 persons are on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos, according to police.

    The gusty winds blowing in the area from Monday morning intercepted the migrants and refugees arrivals.

    5,143 identified refugees and migrants are on Lesvos while only 16 were identified in the last 24 hours.

    No arrival was recorded in the last 24 hours on Chios while 2,941 persons are identified and ready to leave from the island.

    Finally, 116 new arrivals were recorded on Samos in the last 24 hours while 523 refugees and migrants are waiting to get on a board a ferry that will take them to Pireaus port.

    [19] Communist Party: PM Tsipras' statement on Idomeni incident are hypocritical

    The Communist Party accused Prime Minister of hypocrisy on Tuesday, saying that Alexis Tsipras' statement that certain organizations which present themselves as NGOs were possibly behind the foiled attempt last night of hundreds of refugees to cross the border into FYROM, hides the fact that the government's official policy deteriorates the lives of refugees.

    "Today's statements by the prime minister on 'para-organizations under the NGO mantle' constitute an utmost hypocrisy considering that the official government-EU policy is the one that worsens the entrapment of refugees in Idomeni, leaving them to their fate, while simultaneously supporting various NGOs by granting them funds from the so-called humanitarian assistance and allowing them to be unaccountable," the party said in a statement.

    It also said that the Communist party had proposed the immediate improvement of infrastructure, reception, care and registering of refugees exclusively by the state and without any involvement of NGOs.

    [20] Sports ministry submits anti-doping bill at parliament

    Greece's Culture and Sports ministry submitted to parliament on Tuesday with emergency procedures a draft bill that will harmonize Greek anti-doping law with the new anti-doping code implemented by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

    The bill will be discussed on Wednesday at the Educational Affairs Commission and then at the parliament plenum on Thursday. It will be voted on after a maximum of ten hours of deliberations.

    Financial News

    [21] National Bank says core earnings up in Q4 2015

    National Bank equipped with adequate provisions, a strong capital base and with the advantage of strong liquidity, is expected to implement its strategic plan for 2016 leading the Greek economy towards exiting the crisis and focusing on improving the quality of its loan portfolio and offering positive operating results, Leonidas Fragiadakis, the bank's CEO said on Tuesday commenting on the bank's results.

    Fragiadakis said that National Bank's annual results for 2015 reflected the most significant developments in the Greek economy, particularly the three landmarks: the stress test results conducted by the European Central Bank, a successful share capital increase plan that followed and an agreed sale of Finansbank to Qatar National Bank.

    "The stress test results reflected the impact of an economic recession on National Bank's loan portfolio quality. The Group raised its provisions with the index of covering overdue loans rising to 76.8 pct in 2015 from 60.2 pct in 2014. The bank's CET1 index was 22.7 pct, while the loan/deposit rate was 91 pct in Group level and 90 pct in Greece, and the bank's borrowing from the Eurosystem fell to 17 pct of assets," Fragiadakis said.

    National Bank said new loans in delay was 86 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2015, from 406 million in the third quarter, a trend which continued in the January-February period this year. Provisions in Greece was 3.5 billion euros. Borrowing from ELA fell by 4.7 billion in the fourth quarter to 10.9 billion euros, the lowest exposure in the banking system, while the bank's liquidity is expected to be boosted by 3.5 billion euros after the sale of Finansbank in the second quarter of 2016.

    Domestic core pre-provision earnings were 153 million euros in the fourth quarter (up 10.1 pct from the previous quarter). Net interest income was 392 million euros, while domestic operating expenses totaled 1.030 billion euros, down 2.1 pct from the same period in 2014. Personnel spending fell 0.7 pct on an annual basis and by 43 pct compared with 2009.

    [22] Greek employment up 0.3 pct in Q4, Eurostat

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Maria Aroni)

    Employment in the eurozone grew 0.3 pct in the fourth quarter of 2015, from the previous quarter, while in the EU-28 employment was up 0.1 pct, Eurostat said on Tuesday.

    In a report released here, the EU executive's statistics agency, said that there were 229.9 million employed people in the EU-28 and 151.9 million in the Eurozone in the last quarter of 2015.

    In Greece, employment grew 0.3 pct in the fourth quarter from the third quarter, while compared with the same period in 2014, employment was up 2.5 pct.

    Malta (1.7 pct) and Croatia (0.8 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increases in employment, while Estonia (-2.4 pct), UK (-1.0 pct) and Lithuania (-0.3 pct) recorded declines.

    [23] Halcor Group reports 13.9 pct rise in 2015 turnover

    Halcor Group on Tuesday reported a 13.9 pct increase in its consolidated turnover in 2015 to 1.230 billion euros, from 1.08 billion in 2014, reflecting a 9.6 pct increase in the volume of sales despite a decline in the average copper price last year.

    Consolidated profits totaled 55.7 million euros in 2015, from 29.9 million in 2014, consolidated EBITDA soared to 51.6 million euros from 18.2 million over the same periods, respectively. Pre-tax and interest earnings jumped to 19.5 million euros in 2015, from a loss of 5.3 million in 2014, while consolidated pre-tax results showed a loss of 29.8 million from a loss of 73 million in 2014. After tax and minorities results showed a loss of 32.5 million euros in 2015 from a loss of 51.2 million in 2014.

    Parent turnover rose to 451.7 million euros in 2015, from 396 million in 2014, EBITDA was 14.3 million from 11.8 million, pre-tax and interest earnings amounted to 7.6 million euros from a loss of 3.9 million 2014 and after tax results showed a loss of 11.2 million euros in 2015 from a loss of 16.1 million the previous year.

    [24] Overdue tax debt to the state amounted to 87 bln euros

    Overdue tax debt to the state totaled 87,003,283,337 euros in February 18, 2016, Alternate Economy Minister Tryfon Alexiadis said on Tuesday.

    In a report, submitted to Parliament, the minister said that this debt per tax category was:

    Direct taxes 350,504,555

    Indirect taxes 46,136,016

    Non-tax revenue 471,763

    Income tax 15,921,908,330

    Special income categories 1,864,981,673

    Property taxes 2,909,974,755

    Fines 96,337,148

    Extra fines 338,104,000

    Other direct taxes 47,674,627

    VAT 17,286,162,035

    Capital transfer 85,749,685

    Stamp/duties 226,532,982

    Consumption taxes 214,952,995

    Other contributions 43,588,295

    Special consumption taxes 2,511,455

    Third party taxes 56,601,169

    Circulation duties 252,826,757

    Indirect tax fines 3,677,644,699

    Leasing 114,867,002

    Legal expenses 1,294,983,279 other fines, customs and duties.

    [25] Greek construction production index down 10.1 pct in Q4, yr/yr

    Greece's production index in the construction sector fell 10.1 pct in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with the same period in 2014, after an 18.1 pct increased recorded in the 2014-2013 period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.

    The index was up 57.3 pct in the fourth quarter from the third quarter. The seasonally-adjusted index was up 16.8 pct in the same period.

    [26] Greek merchant shipping fleet up to 4,092 vessels, Committee says

    Greek-interest merchant shipping fleet totaled 4,092 vessels in February 23, 2016, up 35 vessels compared with the same period last year, the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee said in a report.

    The London-based Committee said that the data included 347 vessels currently ordered in international shipyards. The Committee said, however, that vessels under the Greek flag fell by 30 to 809 vessels in the same period.

    [27] Employment in the retail sector up 0.9 pct in Q4

    The employment index in the retail commerce sector grew 0.9 pct in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with the same period in 2014, but fell 0.3 pct compared with the third quarter of 2015, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that the working hours index in the retail sector grew 1.1 pct in the fourth quarter, compared with the same period in 2014, and was up 3.4 pct compared with the third quarter. The wage index in the retail sector fell 2.6 pct in the fourth quarter, compared with the same period in 2014, but jumped 21.4 pct from the third quarter.

    The seasonally-adjusted employment index fell 0.2 pct in the fourth quarter from the third quarter of 2015.

    [28] Greek stocks end 2.31 pct higher

    Greek stocks ended sharply higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market closer to the 580-point level. Traders said investors were betting on a positive outcome in negotiations between Greek authorities and the country's creditors on completing a first review of the Greek bailout programme. Expectations that FTSE Group would downgrade the Greek market into an emerging market - paving the way to capital inflows worth around 300 million euros in the domestic capital market - also boosted sentiment.

    The composite index rose 2.31 pct to end at 579.30 points, off the day's highs of 581.52 points. The Large Cap index rose 2.85 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.80 pct higher. Turnover was a strong 100.191 million euros in volume of 149,546,411.

    Eurobank (9.97 pct), Terna Energy (8.75 pct) and Piraeus Bank (5.81 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Titan (2.53 pct), Folli Follie (1.45 pct) and Grivalia Properties (1.19 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day. National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities. Among market sectors, Banks (6.0 pct), Travel (3.55 pct) and Financial Services (2.60 pct) scored big gains, while Commerce (1.44 pct) and Constructions (1.07 pct) suffered losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 72 to 34 with another 15 issues unchanged. Boutaris (20 pct), Yalco (19.77 pct) and Dionic (16.67 pct) were top gainers, while Trastor (19.80 pct), Space Hellas (19.35 pct) and Kekrops (11.15 pct) were top losers.

    [29] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank further to 8.41 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.72 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.31 pct. Turnover was a thin 2.0 million euros, one sell order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to -0.006 pct from -0.008 pct, the nine-month rate rose to -0.068 pct from -0.069 pct, the six-month rate rose to -0.130 pct from -0.131 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.227 pct from -0.226 pct and the one-month rate fell to -0.313 pct.

    [30] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading around its fair value in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 4,085 contracts with 13,487 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 99,688 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (25,281), followed by Alpha Bank (9,077), Piraeus Bank (17,808), Eurobank (16,874), MIG (18,179), OTE (1,010), PPC (2,540), OPAP (735), Hellenic Exchanges (206), Viohalco (333), Mytilineos (1,071), Hellenic Petroleum (1,242), Motor Oil (385), GEK (7,512), Ellaktor (255), Intralot (256), Folli Follie (146), Jumbo (161), Frigoglass (1,383), Piraeus Port (135) and Terna Energy (1,861).

    General News

    [31] Angelina Jolie's visit to Lesvos postponed for Wednesday

    The arrival of American actor Angelina Jolie to Lesvos has been postponed for Wednesday at 09.00 (local), it was announced. Jolie, who acts as UNHCR's Goodwill Ambas-sador, will visit the refugee camps in Moria and Kara Tepe.

    [32] Refugee boy in Piraeus port confirmed to have hepatitis A

    An eight-year-old refugee boy at the Piraeus port passenger terminal has been confirmed to have hepatitis A and was admitted to Agia Sophia children's hospital in central Athens, authorities reported on Tuesday. Doctors are also monitoring the boy's family and proceeded to carry out vaccinations.

    The head of the Piraeus Medical Association Nikos Malesiotis told the ANA-MPA that the specific case was manageable and that one other child has come down with chicken pox.

    This was the second case of hepatitis A diagnosed among refugees arriving in the country.

    [33] Rescue workers find Norwegian hiker stranded on Crete's Lefka Ori

    A 33-year-old Norwegian hiker that became trapped at a high altitude on Crete's Lefka Ori mountain range was successfully located by rescue workers late on Tuesday evening, the fire brigade reported. They said the hiker was found at a very high altitude on the mountain where sub-zero temperatures prevailed.

    The fire brigade, which mounted the rescue operation on Tuesday morning, said rescue workers were now negotiating difficult conditions in an attempt to get the hiker down off the mountain to a safe location, where he can receive the necessary medical attention. Earlier, they reported that the 33 year old, who spent the night in a cave on the mountain, was exhibiting signs of hypothermia.

    Weather forecast

    [34] Partly cloudy on Wednesday

    Clouds, light rain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Light rain in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 01C-10C. Rain in the western parts of the country with temperatures between 08C-14C. Cloudy in the eastern parts, 05C-14C. Partly cloudy over the Aegean islands and Crete, 08C-15C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 07C-13C. Possibility of light rain in Thessaloniki, 06C-09C.

    [35] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    DIMOKRATIA: Heavy taxes

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Taxes on low incomers and pensioners

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: New taxes despite the existing debt of households

    ESTIA: Joint sovereignty in the Aegean

    ETHNOS: Conflict in five fronts

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Higher taxes on everyone

    TA NEA: Lower threshold on tax free revenues

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