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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-03-17

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

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

Thursday, 17 March 2016 Issue No: 5133

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government aiming for agreement on taxation within the day, top gov't source says
  • [02] PM Tsipras has consecutive meetings with ministers
  • [03] PM Tsipras discusses refugee crisis with UNHCR's Angelina Jolie
  • [04] Commission reports says EU member-states 'urgently need to deliver' on refugee issue
  • [05] Alternate Migration Min Mouzalas estimates the refugee problem will not be solved in the next EU summit
  • [06] Migration min. Mouzalas describes delays in refugee management at LIBE meeting
  • [07] Merkel calls for pan-European approach on refugees that does not abandon Greece
  • [08] EU Commission presents EU-Turkey agreement outline; Greece will need more reception capacity for refugees, Timmermans notes
  • [09] ND leader to present the condition in Idomeni at EPP meeting on Thursday
  • [10] Alternate Migration Min Mouzalas apologises for referring to FYROM as Macedonia
  • [11] Defence Min Kammenos instists on Mouzalas' resignation
  • [12] Main opposition leader Mitsotakis asks for the resignation of Mouzalas
  • [13] ND spokesman: Mouzalas must resign
  • [14] Trying to weaken migration minister is irresponsible, say gov't sources
  • [15] All parameters will be taken into consideration before deciding on Mouzalas' issue, gov't spokeswoman says
  • [16] Decision on Mouzalas' issue will be taken after EU summit, say gov't sources
  • [17] ND party member expelled for suggesting executing Migration minister
  • [18] Ministry source says numbers of refugees reported by FYROM are false
  • [19] Less refugees stranded on Lesvos, Chios, Samos
  • [20] 43,407 refugees in Greek territory on Wednesday, says body
  • [21] 3,930 refugees hosted at Piraeus port's passenger stations
  • [22] Few refugees in Piraeus chose to be transferred to Lavrio's accomodation center
  • [23] Turkey readmits 163 economic migrants from Greece
  • [24] Austrian Defence Min Doskozil to visit Athens on April 6
  • [25] Labour minister: 'We reject new demands that are not part of July deal'
  • [26] Government, institutions still have many differences, says Economy minister
  • [27] Agreement with institutions on program review can be reached until March 25, says gov't spokeswoman
  • [28] Communist Party accuses government of following EU policies to the letter
  • [29] AlternateTourism Minister Kountoura at Seatrade Cruise Global exhibition in the US
  • [30] SEV officials have series of meetings in Berlin
  • [31] Cisco says Greece is an opportunity
  • [32] Greek central gov't cash balance shows 429-mln-euro surplus in Jan-Feb
  • [33] Greece sells three-month T-bills
  • [34] Olympic Brewery says EBIT up 50 pct in 2015
  • [35] Kleemann Group sets up new subsidiary in China
  • [36] Visitors, revenues in museums and archaeological sites up in Jan-Nov 2015
  • [37] Groupama raised market shares in Greece in 2015
  • [38] Greek stocks end lower on profit taking
  • [39] Greek bond market closing report
  • [40] ADEX closing report
  • [41] UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt visits refugees in Piraeus, Athens
  • [42] "Ariadni" ferry with another 600 refugees and migrants docked at Piraeus port on Wednesday
  • [43] Truck carrying horses overturns on Egnatia highway
  • [44] Partly cloudy on Thursday
  • [45] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Government aiming for agreement on taxation within the day, top gov't source says

    The government's goal is to reach agreement with the institutions on taxation within the day, presenting a new counter-proposal on the tax-free allowance, a senior source within the government's economic team said on Wednesday. For this reason, he added, at the end of the first round of talks with the institutions, it was agreed that there should be a follow-up meeting at 18:30 "to get it over with."

    During the first meeting that began at 13:30, the Greek side presented a new proposal for a smaller reduction in the tax-free allowance to that proposed by the institutions and changes to the other rates. The official said that the institution representatives made comments and said they would have to contact their political superiors to inform them about the Greek counter-proposal. The institutions, and especially the IMF, want the taxation base to be significantly broadened through a major reduction of the tax-free allowance and transfer of the burden to lower incomes, while they disagree with a maximum taxation rate of 50 pct.

    Another top official at the talks estimated that an agreement would take two or three days at the most.

    [02] PM Tsipras has consecutive meetings with ministers

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a meeting with Defence Minister and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos at Maximos Mansion on Wednesday.

    Kammenos had earlier asked for the resignation of Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas for referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Macedonia" in an interview with Skai TV.

    Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Labour Minister George Katrougalos, Alternate Labour Minister Anastassios Petro-poulos and Rural Development and Food Minister Vangelis Apostolou had consecutive meetings with the prime minister earlier.

    On Wednesday, Tsipras had a meeting also with Vice President Yiannis Dragasakis, Education Minister Nikos Filis, Energy Minister Panos Skourletis, Parliament President Ioannis Voutsis and government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili.

    [03] PM Tsipras discusses refugee crisis with UNHCR's Angelina Jolie

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with American actress and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt at Maximos Mansion on Wednesday, where they discussed the refugee crisis.

    Welcoming Jolie Pitt in Athens, Tsipras presented the refugee issue and noted the difficult situation which has been created at Greece's northern border.

    Earlier, Jolie Pitt paid a visit to some of the thousands of refugees and migrants temporarily housed in facilities in Piraeus port and the Elaionas refugee centre in central Athens.

    [04] Commission reports says EU member-states 'urgently need to deliver' on refugee issue

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Vasilaki)

    The European Commission said on Wednesday the pace of relocation within the EU member-states is "unsatisfactory" and needs to be speeded up, according to its report published earlier.

    "With 937 asylum applicants relocated from Greece and Italy as of 15 March, the pace of transfers is unsatisfactory, even if there are now the first signs of a more positive trend," the report reads.

    The Commission also stressed that it's the lack of political will among member-states which has been the most important factor in slowing down the process. "This has translated into a limited number of relocation pledges or lengthy response time - jeopardising the ability of the programme to become an alternative to dangerous and irregular routes," it said.

    It also noted that the experience of the first weeks of March, where 287 people were relocated swiftly (including 241 from Greece) shows that relocation can work faster if member-states are truly committed.

    The Commission also requests determined action by member-states on relocation to step up the pace. Currently, the total number of persons ready to be relocated exceeds the pledges made by member-states. "In order to meet the commitments allocated so far under the relocation scheme, around 5,600 relocations per month should be achieved as a minimum, implying a relocation procedure of a maximum period of two weeks," the report says. Based on this assessment, the Commission calls for at least 6,000 relocations, to be completed by the time of the next monthly report.

    "In view of the emergency situation on the ground, it then calls for a stepping up of the rate so that by the time of the third monthly report in May, at least 20,000 relocations should have been completed," the Commission adds.

    Commenting on the report, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said that as the humanitarian situation in Greece is getting more acute every day, member-states "urgently need to deliver on their commitments and prevent a further deterioration of the situation for refugees in Greece."

    "We need to see a substantial increase in relocations in the coming days and weeks. Member-states also need to provide alternative safe and legal routes to Europe for people in need of international protection and to show solidarity with third countries affected by the refugee crisis through a significant increase in EU resettlement efforts," he added.

    Concerning the resettlement of refugees, the report says that based on the information received from member-states and Dublin Associated States, 4,555 displaced people in need of protection were resettled as of 15 March to 11 countries. Most of the participating countries have resettled Syrians staying in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In addition to this framework, some countries are also running separate resettlement schemes as a result of previous international commitments.

    The main challenges identified by the Commission's report are linked to the differences in selection criteria, length of procedures, integration tools or number of places available between member-states. Problems also arise from the lack of reception capacity, and from the delays caused by exit clearances in third countries.

    The Commission also called for the exchange of best practices and experiences among the resettling countries to be stepped up, in particular for those countries engaging in resettlement for the first time and urged countries to continue work on the voluntary humanitarian admission scheme for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as proposed by the Commission on 15 December 2015.

    [05] Alternate Migration Min Mouzalas estimates the refugee problem will not be solved in the next EU summit

    Greek Alternate Minister for Migration Affairs Yiannis Mouzalas in an interview with Skai TV on Tuesday night estimated that the refugee issue will not be solved in the upcoming EU summit.

    "I will be happy if they set the basis for the solution of the problem (in the summit) and this has to do with the immediate relocation of refugees," Mouzalas underlined.

    Regarding Idomeni, he explained that the lack of state hosting facilities at the borders was both a political solution and a legal need. "We want to send the message that whoever goes to Idomeni, he goes with his own responsibility."

    Mouzalas also stressed that the refugees at Idomeni are unwilling to be transferred because they hope that the borders will open and estimated that the situation will have been improved in a month.

    [06] Migration min. Mouzalas describes delays in refugee management at LIBE meeting

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The responsibilities of Europe as well as Greece for the so far failed attempt to manage the refugee crisis were stressed by Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas during a speech at the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) in Brussels on Wednesday.

    "We're here today because Europe didn't act united as Europe," he said, adding that the crisis unfolding in Greece is a European problem.

    He reminded the committee that since the Summit meeting last September, EU countries have not implemented the decisions taken then and that now the Balkan route closed unilaterally, without informing anyone, causing a serious humanitarian problem in Greece which could turn into a humanitarian crisis.

    He said the living conditions in Idomeni are "shameful for Greece and for Europe", as people were stranded there following the closure of the borders.

    Mouzalas also said the initial number of refugees that Greece pledged to keep in the country in September will have to be increased (from 23,000) but that more countries have to do their part in relocation.

    "We sure we'll keep them, but we'll keep our appropriate share. We won't keep all of Europe's refugees in Greece. There has to be a European solution," he said.

    The minister acknowledged Greece's "significant delays and errors" in managing the crisis which were due to shortcomings of the Greek state, but also to the fact that the country is going through a deep economic crisis. He added, however, that Greece was surprised, as much as Europe, by the sheer size of the refugee flows.

    Mouzalas also spoke of Europe's delay in responding to Greek requests for help. He recalled that Greece had requested 1,400 men to staff FRONTEX last May and received no more than 700, while only 60 men of EASO are in Greece trying to complete asylum applications for 50,000 trapped people.

    [07] Merkel calls for pan-European approach on refugees that does not abandon Greece

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/ F. Karaviti)

    With a message to refugees at Idomeni to trust Greek authorities and move to the alternative accommodation prepared for them - but also a warning to European countries that the current temporary relief from refugee flows would not be without consequences - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called for a pan-European approach that did not abandon Greece but reduced the number of refugees in all the countries.

    "At this time, without doubt we are benefiting in Germany from the fact that migration flows - due to the unilateral decisions of Austria and the countries along the Balkan Route - have stopped. But I cannot warn often enough that we must not be misled by this. Because this temporary relief that Germany and other member-states feel at this moment is one side, but the other side is the situation in Greece that must concern us all. Because this will not be without consequences for any of us in Europe," she said.

    Referring to Thursday's European summit during her speech to the Bundestag, and the discussion about opening new chapters in accession talks with Turkey, Merkel said that alot of work needed to be done and that Turkey's accession was not on the agenda in the short term.

    The real question, Merkel said, was how to reduce the number of refugees for all and to do so sustainably and permanently, without undermining Europe's basic achievements. Only a solution involving all of Europe would be able to prevent the refugee routes from shifting, due to the closure of internal borders, to new and more dangerous routes that will benefit only the traffickers, she added.

    Only such a pan-European approach will result in solutions that will not sacrifice the last member-state in the line, which in this case was Greece, she noted, pointing out that Germany only prospered sustainably when Europe prospered as a whole. She welcomed the European Commission's decision to provide assistance to Greece and said that Germany had also provided help on a bilateral level, while she was in close communication with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, as were the German interior and foreign minister with their Greek counterparts.

    Merkel referred to Greece's obligations to set up fully operational hotspots and register all arriving refugees, saying that there had been significant progress in this area, as well as in providing reception facilities, since the autumn of 2015. She noted that Greece wants to handle the crisis in a humane way, providing safety, care and shelter, and that Germany was willing to assist with this, both financially and practically.

    Talking about the prospects of the refugees in Greece, the German chancellor clarified that they did not have the right to asylum in a specific country of their choosing but they did have a right to be treated in a humane way.

    "We are working on this with Greece... those now waiting in Idomeni must trust the Greek government, that the new accommodation in Greece is a great deal better than in Idomeni," she said.

    [08] EU Commission presents EU-Turkey agreement outline; Greece will need more reception capacity for refugees, Timmermans notes

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)

    Presenting an outline of the EU-Turkey agreement for returning refugees and migrants . European Commission Frans Timmermans on Wednesday also noted that Greece must "increase reception capacity" on the islands and create more facilities for hosting refugees while their cases are being processed.

    Timmermans said that there will be no "mass returns" or a "blanket return policy" and that each case will be examined individually, in line with all the refugee protection safeguards.

    He also referred to the practical difficulties that Greece will face due to the volume of asylum applications and the complicated procedure for returning refugees, he said that modifications will be required to Greece's domestic legislation to ensure that Turkey is classified a safe third country. He noted that it was possible to set up fast-track operational arrangements between Greece and Turkey but Greece must increase both its reception capacity and the rate of examining asylum applications. The Commissioner noted that this would require adapting hotspots to host readmission and asylum offices and may also mean having judges present on the islands.

    [09] ND leader to present the condition in Idomeni at EPP meeting on Thursday

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that ND leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be on Thursday in Brussels to participate in the European People's Party (EPP) meeting.

    Koumoutsakos said that Mitsotakis will "present the totally unacceptable condition and picture that exists at Idomeni, a shameful picture for Europe, for the civilised world and for Greece, a picture of an inappropriate and inefficient Europe."

    During his briefing to the press, he also said that a European Council decision is necessary otherwise the closed borders to the north and the open flow of refugees from the east will continue indefinitely.

    [10] Alternate Migration Min Mouzalas apologises for referring to FYROM as Macedonia

    Alternate Minister for Migration Affairs Yiannis Mouzalas on Wednesday apologised for referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Macedonia" in an interview with Skai TV.

    As he noted, this error "does not correspond to my attitude and my beliefs about the national issue of FYROM."

    Meanwhile, Defense Minister and government coalition partner Panos Kammenos demanded his resignation.

    [11] Defence Min Kammenos instists on Mouzalas' resignation

    Defence Minister and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos in his meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday insisted on the resignation of Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas.

    In statements outside the Maximos Mansion, Kammenos, who is the junior coalition government partner, noted that the prime minister will wait for the EU ministers' summit and the return of Mouzalas in Athens before decisions are taken. He also clarified that the minister does not have the confidence vote of Independent Greeks' parliamentary group.

    Asked whether he will remain in the government if Mouzalas does not resign and whether his relation with the prime minister has been affected, Kammenos stated: "Our relation with Tsipras is clear, as it is our confidence vote to the government, but Mr Mouzalas does not have our vote of confidence."

    [12] Main opposition leader Mitsotakis asks for the resignation of Mouzalas

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday asked for the resignation of Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas.

    "The resignation of Mouzalas is required. Mouzalas made a big mistake. In politics what we say must have consequences. The government needs to solve the issue within the day," he stated to Skai radio.

    Mitsotakis lashed out at the government on the refugee issue saying that "Mouzalas ought to have resigned because he has failed in addressing the refugee issue."

    He described the government as totally ineffective and insufficient. "Its tragic failure is depicted on the absence of the government from the hell at Idomeni," he underlined.

    [13] ND spokesman: Mouzalas must resign

    Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas' reference to Fyrom as Macedonia constitutes a serious mistake that alters the adamant national line, New Democracy spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said on Wednesday.

    New Democracy estimates that Mouzalas must seriously consider his resignation, he stated. "Mouzalas' resignation is imperative," said Koumoutsakos.

    [14] Trying to weaken migration minister is irresponsible, say gov't sources

    The efforts by New Democracy to weaken the position of Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas after he accidently called neighbouring FYROM "Macedonia" during a TV interview is hypocritical and irresponsible, government sources said on Tuesday, responding to criticism by the main opposition.

    "The Greek state, in any occasion, uses the internationally recognized name 'FYROM' when it refers to the neighbouring country. Attempting to cause a stir because the Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas called FYROM 'Macedonia' in a slip of the tongue is at least an exaggeration," the sources said.

    "The effort to weaken the minister who is fighting every day for the refugee issue is irresponsible and hypocritical, particularly ahead of the Summit," the same sources added.

    Earlier, ND criticized Mouzalas for saying it's "a mistake that cannot be covered with clarifications, explanations or excuses" and urged him to quit.

    [15] All parameters will be taken into consideration before deciding on Mouzalas' issue, gov't spokeswoman says

    The decision on Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas' resignation will be taken after the EU summit and all parameters will be taken into consideration, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said on Wednesday.

    She underlined that there is no issue of government's cohesion and the problem will be solved without a government crisis.

    Mouzalas earlier in day apologised for referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Macedonia" in an interview with Skai TV.

    As he noted, this error "does not correspond to my attitude and my beliefs about the national issue of FYROM."

    [16] Decision on Mouzalas' issue will be taken after EU summit, say gov't sources

    The decision on Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouza-las' issue will be taken after the EU summit, government sources said on Wednesday.

    Mouzalas earlier in day apologised for referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Macedonia" in an interview with Skai TV.

    As he noted, this error "does not correspond to my attitude and my beliefs about the national issue of FYROM."

    Defence Minister and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos insists on his resignation.

    [17] ND party member expelled for suggesting executing Migration minister

    New Democracy party member Failos Kranidiotis was expelled on Wednesday from the party, following a decision of its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after he insinuated in a post in his Twitter account that Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas should be publicly executed for accidently calling FYROM Macedonia during a TV interview yesterday.

    "After his latest statements, it is obvious that Mr. Failos Kranidiotis has placed himself outside of New Democracy," the party's press office said in a brief statement.

    [18] Ministry source says numbers of refugees reported by FYROM are false

    The numbers of refugees which FYROM news reports claim were readmitted into Greece are false and are presented in an effort to create impressions, a source from the Ministry of Civil Protection told ANA-MPA on Tuesday.

    "Around 18.00, about 200 people who were at the fields, a few meters away from the Greek-FYROM border and had been held there overnight, returned in Greek territory near the border village of Hamilo and are being investigated by Greek police," the ministry source said.

    The numbers of refugees presented by FYROM are an effort to present themselves as the "protectors" of Europe, the source added.

    [19] Less refugees stranded on Lesvos, Chios, Samos

    The number of refugees and migrants stranded on the islands of north-eastern Aegean has been reduced as a result of lower refugees flows.

    A total of 7,970 persons were on Lesvos, Chios and Samos on Wednesday compared to 8,607 on Tuesday and 9,259 on Monday, according to the police.

    More specifically, 4,723 persons have been 'trapped' on Lesvos compared to 5,143 on Tuesday. On Chios island there was no identification of refugees from Tuesday until Wednesday, at 9 am. A total of 2,712 persons are ready to depart from the island.

    The number of refugees (530) has remained the same on Samos island since Tuesday.

    [20] 43,407 refugees in Greek territory on Wednesday, says body

    The government body responsible for coordinating the management of the refugee crisis calculated there are 43,407 refugees in Greece on Wednesday, of which 8,648 are on the islands, 11,936 in the Attica region (Athens and Piraeus), and 10,500 in Idomeni's makeshift camp.

    New arrivals on the islands were limited to 111, the body said. Refugees were also dispursed in different cities around the country, with 398 found in Larisa, 200 in Trikala, 300 in Thermopyles, and 350 in Ritsona.

    The body also revealed that containers will be sent to Idomeni to be used by the health authorities operating there, as well as the interpreting and information services and that the government is in the process of creating 8,500 new accommodation places for refugees in the next few days.

    [21] 3,930 refugees hosted at Piraeus port's passenger stations

    A total of 3,930 refugees and migrants are hosted at the passenger stations of the Piraeus port, according to port authorities on Wednesday.

    [22] Few refugees in Piraeus chose to be transferred to Lavrio's accomodation center

    The majority of refugees and migrants who are camping at the facilities of Piraeus port refused to move to safer premises on Wednesday, saying they're worried authorities will take their legal documents.

    According to local authorities, out of the five buses sent to Piraeus to pick up people who want to be transferred to temporary accommodation centers, only one bus was eventually used to transfer them to Lavrio.

    Many of the refugees and migrants are also waiting for the results of the EU summit on Thursday and keep asking authorities when the borders will open in Idomeni.

    [23] Turkey readmits 163 economic migrants from Greece

    Turkey readmitted 163 irregular economic migrants between March 11-14, as part of the implementation of the Readmission Protocol signed between Greece and Turkey.

    Greece had initially prepared to send back to Turkey 165 economic migrants, but two were not accepted. Breaking down the numbers, 12 of the migrants were Moroccans, 5 were Algerians, 20 were Bangladeshi, 125 were Pakistanis and one was Tunisian. Turkish authorities said that the two Algerian nationals who were not accepted had provided false identification details.

    Since the beginning of the year, Greece has returned 608 irregular migrants to Turkey.

    [24] Austrian Defence Min Doskozil to visit Athens on April 6

    VIENNA (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil will visit Athens on April 6 at an invitation of his Greek counterpart Panos Kammenos with the view to improving the relation between the two countries.

    The office of the Austrian minister confirmed the visit adding that "the discussion channel with Greece should remain open, even though there are different views."

    The Greek-Austrian relations have been deteriorated lately as a result of different views on the refugees issue.

    [25] Labour minister: 'We reject new demands that are not part of July deal'

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The Greek government will not take any more measures beyond what was agreed on last summer, Labour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said on Tuesday during a briefing of the European parliament's permanent monitoring committee of Greek negotiations.

    "I briefed MEPs that we will abide by our obligations to the letter, but as part of a reform that has a national plan and pursues fairness and social justice. In this context, I explained and I think everyone accepted it, that we reject new demands which have no connection with the July agreement, and which essentially puts on the table things that we never agreed upon and which we are not obliged to follow.," he told journalists.

    "I therefore hope that the negotiations, although it tough, will have a good ending and the weight of the European Parliament in this effort is important," he added.

    [26] Government, institutions still have many differences, says Economy minister

    The government and the heads of the institutions are approaching each other but there is still great distance between them on some issues, Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis said after a meeting with the mission chiefs at the Hilton in central Athens.

    "There's an approach by the two sides but we still have a great distance to cover with the representatives of the institutions. There's a long road ahead for many issues, mainly for the loans of the small and medium-sized businesses and consumer loans," he said, but noted that there's a base for an approach on protecting the main residence from selling it to funds, without giving more details.

    The issues that remain open, according to information, will be discussed anew next Thursday.

    The two sides did agree on how to tax companies that will manage non-performing loans, that is, if they will be taxed as banks or as companies and whether the income from the loan which will be sold will be considered an income. Stathakis said there was an agreement on this issue, without specifying on which points.

    According to ministry sources, the government will bring at the new meeting its proposals which foresee maintaining the protection of mortgage loans for the main residence and of loans taken out by small and medium-sized businesses, with a limit at 500,000 euros.

    [27] Agreement with institutions on program review can be reached until March 25, says gov't spokeswoman

    The govermnent believes that an agreement with the institutions can be reached by March 25, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said on Wednesday.

    During a press briefing, she noted that the government's "estimate is that the review will be completed without big changes in the government's proposals that are moving within the framework of the agreement reached between the government and its lenders last summer."

    She added that the government has made clear it will not accept proposals beyond the agreement and it will move based on the mandate it has received from the Greek people.

    Gerovassili reiterated that the commitments of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for no cuts on main pensions and the tax free threshold will be fully respected. "Our aim remains the rapid completion of the review and the protection of low incomers. Bearing in mind the ongoing double crisis, Europe is aware that this is its only choice," added Gerovassili.

    [28] Communist Party accuses government of following EU policies to the letter

    The statements made by Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas and the government spokeswoman on Wednesday show the government is fully in line with the policies pursued with the EU on the refugee crisis, the Communist Party said in a statement.

    The party was commenting on an interview of Mouzalas to a private broadcaster on Tuesday, during which he accidently referred to FYROM as Macedonia.

    The party also said the government's stance deteriorates the living conditions of the refugees in Greece and violates their rights, while "it also foreshadows even worse developments for the upcoming Summit".

    Financial News

    [29] AlternateTourism Minister Kountoura at Seatrade Cruise Global exhibition in the US

    Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura will participate in the International Cruise Exhibition Seatrade Cruise Global to be held in Fort Lauderdale, USA, from March 14 to March 17, with the view to promoting Greece as a popular cruise destination worldwide.

    The Seatrade Cruise Global exhibition is the largest in the sector and a meeting point for the representatives of the cruise market.

    On Tuesday, Kountoura met with representatives of the largest cruiseship companies among them the president and CEO of Crystal Cruises Edie Rodriguez, the president of Silversea Cruises Manfredi Lefevre and the president of Carnival Cruises Christine Duffy.

    The Greek minister referred to Greece's comparative advantages and its uniqueness in sea tourism as well as to the planning for the further development of the cruise tourism that constitutes one of the national tourism policy 's priorities. She also underlined the substantial prospects for upgrading the existing itineraries and introducing new ones to popular Greek destinations and ports.

    Kountoura represented Greece in the exhibition's congress during which the developments and prospects of sea tourism were presented by top experts of the sector. The Greek minister continues her series of meeting with representatives of the international sea tourism and US tour operators.

    [30] SEV officials have series of meetings in Berlin

    The president of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) Theodoros Fessas and the executive vice-president Konstantinos Bitsios had a meeting with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and government officials.

    The Greek officials presented the businesses' estimates on the prospects of the Greek economy as soon as stability and confidence climate is restored. They also discussed the problems Greek companies are facing and underlined that "the Greek economy is directly related to attracting investments and implementing structural changes and reforms for a more competitive business environment in our country."

    [31] Cisco says Greece is an opportunity

    Michael Ganser, senior vice-president of Cisco Central Europe, expressed his confidence in the Greek market and said he expected that the country will manage to overcome the crisis.

    Speaking to ANA-MPA, Ganser said that the Greek market was a challenge for Cisco and noted that the company saw Greece as an opportunity and expressed his confidence to the country's human resources and the outlook of enterprises. Now is the big opportunity for Greece to plan and implement a specific policy in the digital strategy sector, which will give a boost and contribute decisively to the restart of the Greek economy and create new job positions, he said, adding that the implementation of such a strategy in all economic sectors could contribute at least 1.0 pct of GDP annually on a European level.

    Ganser said that four out of 10 enterprises in European level could stop operating because of revolutionary changes in the digital technology sector and noted that only one in 10 has a plan to survive in this new digital economy.

    He noted that in the case of Greece, a digital strategy plan should focus on education, broadband services, cyber security and exploiting digital platforms for economic growth.

    Cisco estimates that digital revolution could reshape markets, maybe faster than any other force in history. Ganser said that Cisco's strategy will be based, among others, on business activity and innovation, acquisitions, consolidation and global distribution channels.

    [32] Greek central gov't cash balance shows 429-mln-euro surplus in Jan-Feb

    Greece' s central government cash balance recorded a surplus of 429 million euros in the January-February period this year, compared to a deficit of 920 million in the same period in 2015, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.

    The central bank, in a report, said that during this period, ordinary budget revenue amounted to 7,585 million euros, compared to 6,735 million in the corresponding period of last year. Revenue of 43 million euros from Securities Markets Programme (SMP) income transfers from the Bank of Greece is excluded. Ordinary budget expenditure amounted to 7,779 million euros, from 7,677 million in January-February 2015.

    [33] Greece sells three-month T-bills

    Greek authorities 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 the same issue last month. Bids submitted were 1.3 times more than the asked sum.

    [34] Olympic Brewery says EBIT up 50 pct in 2015

    Olympic Brewery reported a 4.0 pct growth rate in 2015, despite a 6.0 pct drop in the domestic beer market, with turnover totaling 142 million euros and operating earnings jumping 50 pct to 10.5 million euros.

    Olympic Brewery's chief executive Alexandros Karafyllidis, speaking to reporters on Wednesday said the company raises its market share to 29 pct last year.

    Referring to the merger of Mythos Brewery and Olympic Brewery, Karafyllidis said "it was a right decision taken in a difficult economic environment and resulted to the creation of a strong player in the beer market". He added that the management's goal was to change the beer map in Greece.

    Carlsberg owns a 51 pct majority stake in the company with the remaining 49 pct owned by Ioannis Hitos, Elias Grekis and George Grekis.

    Karafyllidis said the company's investment plan (2015-2019) envisaged investments worth 50 million euros. Olympic Brewery invested 7.0 million in 2015 and plans to invest more than 12 million euros this year. The company operates two factories, one in Sindos and one in Ritsona and has 17 brand names of which 10 are bottled in Greece. The company contributed 60 million euros to the Greek economy.

    [35] Kleemann Group sets up new subsidiary in China

    Kleemann Group on Wednesday announced the set up of a new subsidiary company in China, Kunshan Kleemann Lifts Trading Co Ltd.

    In an announcement, Kleemann said the new company combined with an existing subsidiary Kleemann Lifts (China) Co Ltd, will improve the group's performance in China. The new company will have an initial equity capital of 100,000 US dollars, with one shareholder Hong Kong Elevator Systems Ltd, fully owned by Kleemann Group.

    [36] Visitors, revenues in museums and archaeological sites up in Jan-Nov 2015

    Visitors to Greek museums in November 2015 increased by 4.9 percent, however, revenues from entrance tickets fell 11.9 pct compared to the same monthin 2014, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.

    It also said that in the period January-November 2015, there were 6.1 pct more visitors in museums and revenues rose by 5.7 pct, compared to the same period in 2014.

    In terms of archaeological sites, ELSTAT said, that the number of visitors fell by 0.4 pct in November 2015 while revenues dropped by 6.6 pct in comparison with November 2014.

    In the period January-November 2015, the number of visitors in archaeological sites rose by 3.7 pct and revenues increased by 2.6pct.

    [37] Groupama raised market shares in Greece in 2015

    Groupama Insurance established its position as one of the biggest players in the Greek insurance market in 2015, but also as an enterprise contributing significantly to the country' s social and economic life. In an adverse economic environment, the company managed to preserve or to even improve many of its figures, Bertrand Woirhaye, outgoing managing director told reporters on Wednesday.

    Groupama reported an annual turnover of 138.239 million euros, of which 53.6 million in the life and health category and 84.6 million in general insurance, raising its market share (in the car insurance category it raised its fleet by 1.6 pct and its market share to 5.0 pct from 4.7 pct in 2014). The company proved more resilient compared with the insurance market in general which reported a 13.7 pct decline in premium production (-10.6 pct by Groupama) in the damages sector. In the car insurance category Groupama reported an 1.8 pct increase in 2015 compared with an average rate of decline of 8.2 pct in the market, Woirhaye said.

    Premium production in the Life and Health categories totaled 14.4 million euros last year, despite the negative impact of the imposition of capital controls in the country. Health insurance contract portfolio grew 8.0 pct in 2015, while the damage and expenses ratio was 82 pct (combined ratio).

    Groupama has a customer base of 230,000, 292,000 active contracts, 950 agent and broker partners, 270 insurance consultants and a workforce of 320.

    Groupama SA said that Christos Katsios will take over from Bertrand Woirhaye as new managing director in the company, starting early April.

    [38] Greek stocks end lower on profit taking

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday as investors took profits after a four-week rally which pushed the composite index of the market 24.63 pct higher. Traders said the market was focusing on domestic political developments and ongoing negotiations between Greek authorities and the country's creditors.

    The composite index fell 1.31 pct to end at 571.73 points, off the day's lows of 564.65 points. The Large Cap index fell 1.32 pct and the Mid Cap index eased 0.85 pct. Turnover was a moderate 79.097 million euros in volume of 124,607,847.

    Jumbo (1.24 pct), Eurobank (1.18 pct), Grivalia Properties (0.67 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while GEK Terna (4.29 pct), Viohalco (4.13 pct) and PPC (3.99 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Among market sectors, Insurance (4.48 pct) and Personal Products (1.04 pct) were top gainers, while Construction (3.75 pct) and Health (3.30 pct) suffered losses.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 72 to 32 with another 20 issues unchanged. Reds (29.24 pct), Alpha Grissin (18.52 pct) and AEGEK (15.91 pct) were top gainers, while Douros (20 pct), Boutaris (18.52 pct0 and Sato (15.15 pct) were top losers.

    [39] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds rose slightly to 8.49 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 8.41 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.77 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.28 pct. Turnover was an improved 19 million euros, of which 17 million were sell orders and the remaining 2 million were a buy order.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to -0.004 pct from -0.006 pct, the nine-month rate rose to -0.067 pct from -0.068 pct, the six-month rate rose to -0.129 pct from -0.131 pct, the three-month fell to -0.230 pct from -0.226 pct and the one-month rate was -0.317 pct.

    [40] ADEX closing report

    The March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.69 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index was 6,652 contracts with 13,273 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 136,487 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (37,268), followed by Alpha Bank (11,062), Piraeus Bank (26,295), Eurobank (13,405), MIG (32,951), OTE (3,434), PPC (2,155), OPAP (988), Titan (276), Viohalco (564), Mytilineos (1,509), Hellenic Petroleum (2,260), Motor Oil (610), Metka (176), GEK (1,930), Ellaktor (723), Jumbo (181), Frigoglass (125) and Korinth Pipeworks (238).

    General News

    [41] UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt visits refugees in Piraeus, Athens

    American actress Angelina Jolie Pitt, the Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Wednesday visited thousands of refugees and migrants at the temporary facilities set up by Greek authorities in Piraeus port and at the refugee hospitality centre in Elaionas, central Athens.

    Shortly after her arrival at the Athens International Airport VIP area on a charter flight, Jolie visited the refugees at Piraeus port and spent time with families staying at Elaionas, where she was briefed on the centre's operation and visited the children's play area to meet some of the children staying in the centre. She met with three families from Syria and one from Iran that intended to pass through Greece on their way to other European countries, where the husbands already live.

    According to sources, she asked them about their journey and the difficulties they faced, expressing sympathy and her own wish that borders were open to everyone. She was accompanied on her visit by Migration Policy Ministry General Secretary Vassilis Papadopoulos.

    [42] "Ariadni" ferry with another 600 refugees and migrants docked at Piraeus port on Wednesday

    "Ariadni" ferry with 600 refugees and migrants from Chios and Mytilene islands of the Norther Aegean Sea docked at the port of Piraeus early on Wednesday morning. More specifically, the ferry carried 114 persons from Chios and another 486 refugees and migrants were embarked on Mytilene.

    According to the counting of the portuary authorities of Piraeus the number of the refugees and migrants hosted in the passengers stations and the stonewall warehouse at the port raised to 3,430 persons.

    [43] Truck carrying horses overturns on Egnatia highway

    A truck carrying 30 horses overturned and blocked both west-bound lanes of the Egnatia highway near Ioannina on Wednesday afternoon, after hitting a cement barrier near the Drosochori toll booths. The road was closed and traffic had to inch past on the hard shoulder while the fire brigade attempted to free the horses, several of which were killed. The driver was unharmed.

    The truck had Italian licence plates and was travelling to Igoumenitsa to board a ship going abroad.

    Weather forecast

    [44] Partly cloudy on Thursday

    Clouds, light rain and winds from variable directions are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 01C-11C. Light rain in the western parts with temperatures between 06C-15C. Clouds and light rain in the afternoon in the eastern parts, 06C-15C. Mostly fair over the Aegean islands and Crete, 08C-16C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 07C-14C. Clouds with a chance of rain in Thessaloniki, 06C-10C.

    [45] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: Risky games

    DIMOKRATIA: Reason lost

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Incentives for transfers in the public sector

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: How many students will get into universities

    ESTIA: Economy is dead

    ETHNOS: New settlement for debt to Public Power Corporation

    IMERISSIA: Taxes up to 45 pct on secret incomes

    KATHIMERINI: The agreement at risk, chaos at the borders

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Tax on bank transactions

    RIZOSPASTIS: Anti-popular changes in pension reforms are bridged

    TA NEA: Plans for the return of deposits freeze

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