|Saturday, 25 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-03-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 18 March 2016 Issue No: 5134
 PM Tsipras meets President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel in BrusselsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)
Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a meeting with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels on Thursday. According to Greek sources, the 45-minute meeting had a positive result, with the three leaders finding that significant steps have been made toward a good, functional and effective agreement with Turkey.
According to the sources, Greece asked for additional time in order to implement the agreement and technical support so that the Greek asylum system can operate in a reliable way. It was also agreed that all the processes arising as a result of the agreement will be legal and compatible with international law and the Geneva Convention.
The Greek prime minister raised four main points at the trilateral meeting, the sources said. Firstly, he called for more pressure to be exerted on Turkey to reduce migration flows through implementation of the action plan and a more effective operation of the NATO mission in the Aegean. Secondly, he asked for implementation of the bilateral readmission protocol with Turkey. Thirdly, he said relocation processes must be speeded up and asked for the implementation of a reliable resettlement system from Turkey. Lastly, he said that Greece must be supported through the provision of humanitarian aid and financial assistance.
 Tsipras at EUCO: 'Looking forward to a credible deal to reduce migration flows'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)
Greece is requesting a credible agreement which will reduce irregular migration flows from Turkey towards the Greek islands, while creating a legal route for refugees to be relocated to the EU, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday arriving at the EU-Turkey summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
"I'm looking forward to a credible agreement today in order to try to reduce or to stop the illegal flows from Turkey to the Greek islands but on the same time to create a robust legal way for the refugees from Turkey to the EU," the prime minister told journalists, noting that this means to create a credible mechanism for resettlements from Turkey to the EU.
Tsipras said he also hoped the decision that the EU will take will be in line with international legislation, the Geneva Agreement and the European acquis.
"And last but not least I'm waiting today to take a decision to assist Greece in these difficult circumstances, especially in our northern borders in Idomeni where we have to face a humanitarian crisis because of the unilateral actions in the Balkan route and I think this is the shame for our common culture," he noted.
Tsipras said there must be a decision to deescalate the "bad situation" in northern Greece and to try to find a way to provide first aid and hospitality to the refugees, while at the same time to accelerate the relocation of these people so they can reach their destination.
Speaking earlier at the European Socialists meeting held in Brussels, Tsipras said an EU-Turkey deal must serve two purposes: Stopping trafficking rings hat endanger human lives and opening a legal humanitarian route for the refugees.
He said Europe right now has two choices: either to reach a collective solution on how to manage the refugee crisis or to manage the crisis with unilateral actions which would burden entirely the countries of first reception.
During his speech he also noted the need for manpower and technical assistance to deal with the problem and the importance of a credible relocation mechanism from Turkey to the EU. He also said that Cyprus' positions have to be supported in the European Council Summit.
 Juncker, Schulz optimistic over agreement at EU summitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ Ch. Vassilaki)
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and Europarliament president Martin Schulz expressed the certainty that an agreement will be reached at Thursday's EU summit for the refugees issue during a joint press conference.
Juncker said that the under draft agreement is according with the European and the international law and safeguards the personal examination of each person applying for asylum. Moreover, Juncker noted that nobody should be left alone at this crisis.
On his part, Schulz stressed the importance of a European agreement that will respect the international principles and will crack down on the traffickers' business model. He welcomed the Commission's report that the under formation agreement is legal right and called on all member states to participate in the relocation programmes. "It is impressive how some member states criticize the solutions we propose but do not accept any refugees," he said.
 EU Council president Tusk cautiously optimistic ahead of summitBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/Ch. Vassilaki)
European Council president Donald Tusk on Thursday said he is "cautiously optimistic" ahead of the critical EU summit.
"As the negotiations intensify, we get into difficult discussions," he said and referred to the three principles that should govern the agreement with Turkey:
1. Be accepted by all 28 member states, regardless of whether they are small or large,
2. Be consistent with the international and EU law,
3. Help solve the migration crisis and be in line with the EU's overall strategy to tackle the crisis.
 Hollande says deal must include commitment to help GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilaki)
Arriving for the European Union leaders' summit on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande said he would demand a "comprehensive" agreement on Turkey. He also made it clear that France will not accept any agreement that did not respect the right to asylum and did not include a commitment to assist Greece.
"It is Greece that is on the EU's external borders and hosts a large number of trapped refugees and it is [Greece] that needs financial support," he said, noting that unless Greece were supported the situation could not be handled.
European citizens must be shown that Europe has a "common solution" for the refugee problem, the French president added.
Questioned about France's relations with Germany, Hollande referred to the trilateral meeting he had earlier with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, noting that only Germany and France united could give common solutions.
 There's no alternative to EU-Turkey deal, says Dutch PMBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni) - There is no alternative to a European Union deal with Turkey on Thursday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists as he arrived for the summit meeting currently underway in Brussels, which will seek to reach an agreement on how to resolve the refugee crisis.
"There's no alternative. We have to come to a deal otherwise the situation in Greece will stay very difficult and the humanitarian crisis will increase as the west Balkans route has now been closed off. People cannot leave Greece, so it's crucial that we come to a deal now and tomorrow," he said.
 EU summit aims at a strong legal and enforceable agreement between EU and TurkeyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)
Thursday's critical EU summit is expected to end up to another marathon consultation with the view to reaching an agreement with Turkey on the management of the refugee crisis.
On the basis of the "principle agreement" adopted by the 28 leaders on March 7, the aim is to achieve a "strong legal and enforceable" agreement between the EU and Turkey, underlined senior officials in Brussels.
"The goal is clear: an agreement acceptable to all 28 member states, as well as our Turkish partners. We have made progress, but there is still much to be done," said EU president Donald Tusk, in the invitation sent to the "28" for the summit.
The issues to be clarified by the European leaders are numerous and thorny. The most controversial one is the issue of refugee resettlement and the principle of "one to one" (one resettlement in EU countries for each returning refugee in Turkey). The issue of the return of refugees and the legal issues associated with it remain open. Another issue is the prevention of new migratory routes from Turkey to Europe.
European leaders should also consider the economic and political exchanges that Ankara has asked for. The 28 member states are expected to speed up the disbursement of the first 3 billion euros for the Syrians, under a temporary protection regime in Turkey, and will discuss under what conditions and whether they are willing to disburse to Ankara additional funds of 3 billion euros. On the issue of the liberalization of visas for Turkish citizens, it is clear that Ankara must fulfill 72 criteria and as regards the opening of accession chapters, Ankara must meet specific conditions and none can prejudge the outcome of the consultations at political level.
According to the programme of the EU Council, the refugee issue will be discussed today in two parts. The first part will cover the European strategy for tackling it. The 28 member states are expected to include among others in their conclusions the need to restore the Schengen Zone, to accelerate the relocation programme, to address the humanitarian consequences and provide assistance to Greece as well as to create a European border and coast guard.
?The second part will focus on the EU cooperation with Turkey in order to address the refugee issue. This will be discussed during the working dinner of the "28". At the same time, EU leaders will review the situation along the route of the Western Balkans after the "joint decision" to end the flows of undocumented refugees, and will examine ways of strengthening humanitarian support to Greece and elsewhere.
On Friday, at 11 am (Athens time), the heads of state and governments will have a working breakfast with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in order to agree on a joint project between the EU and Turkey over the management of the refugee crisis.
 Greece's PM to sit in on European Socialists' meeting as observerGreece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will take part in the Party of European Socialists (PES) leaders meeting taking place in Brussels on Thursday as an observer. This is the first time that Tsipras sits in on this meeting of socialist leaders. The meeting will also be attended by the head of the opposition PASOK party Fofi Gennimata, who arrived shortly before he did.
Commenting on Tsipras' attendance in a doorstep statement as he arrived for the meeting, the head of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party Pedro Sanchez told reporters that he will ask the Greek prime minister to intervene and use his influence in an effort to persuade Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias to form a coalition of leftist parties in Spain.
 ND leader Mitsotakis in Brussels for EEP meetingMain opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be on Thursday in Brussels to participate in the European People's Party (EEP) meeting.
The meeting will mostly focus on the refugees issue and the possible agreement between the European Union and Turkey.
According to Mitsotakis' associates, ND leader will insist on his position to support the national strategy as it was agreed at the political parties' meeting chaired by Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
 Kammenos and Mouzalas have given their soul to the refugee issue, Alternate Defence Min saysDefence Minister Panos Kammenos and Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas have given their soul to address the refugee issue and have accomplished a lot, Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas on Thursday said in statements to Mega TV.
"We have to continue this way and deal with an issue that concerns all of Europe, but creates serious problems in Greece. And the contribution of Panos Kammenos and Yiannis Mouzalas to the government work is necessary at this critical moment," Vitsas underlined.
He also stated that the government will try to convince the refugees to leave Idomeni where the conditions are squalid and talked about criminals who exploit refugees.
He noted, however, that the 4,000 refugees in Piraeus could be accommodated in housing facilities even today.
 SYRIZA expresses full support for Migration ministerMain government coalition partner SYRIZA expressed on Thursday its "full support and confidence" in Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas, following calls for his resignation by junior coalition partner ANEL.
"With his work on this portfolio and in extremely difficult conditions due to the sharp increase in refugee flows and migrants, and the unacceptable attitude of the Visegrad countries which have chosen the policy of closed borders, Yiannis Mouzalas proves that even in the most difficult circumstances there are ways to implement policies based on the values of humanism and solidarity," the party's political secretariat said in a statement.
 Estimated number of migrants, refugees in Greece at nearly 46,000There are an estimated 45,856 migrants and refugees currently in Greece, according to the latest figures released on Thursday by the Greek agency for coordinating management of the refugee crisis.
The agency reported 7,931 refugees and migrants on the Greek islands, of which an estimated 239 were new arrivals, with another 13,181 staying at reception facilities in Attica, including 242 at the Centre for Temporary Accommodation of Asylum Seekers run by the Greek Red Cross in Lavrio, a welfare facility under the purview of the labour ministry.
The head of the centre said that it was designed to host third-country nationals that have applied for asylum in Greece but, due to the emergency situation, has in recent days also taken in people that intend to apply for asylum. Most of the residents are Syrians, Syrian Kurds and Afghans.
There are also 1,972 people at Schisto, 720 at Elaionas, 4,642 in the three reception centres at Elliniko, 750 in Malakasa, 390 at a summer camp in Lavrio and 4,465 currently staying within facilities at Piraeus port.
Another 300 refugees and/or migrants are staying at the former army camp in Ritsona near Halkida, 296 at a hotel in Thermopylae, 191 in Trikala and 386 in Larisa.
The reception centre at Diavata is currently hosting an estimated 2,202 people, with another 3,806 at Cherso in Kilkis, 3,513 at Nea Kavala in Kilkis, 728 in Nea Karvali in Kavala, 189 in Eleftheroupoli in Kavala, 479 in Drama, 400 in Kozani, 190 in Konitsa and 190 in Pieria. Another 286 are waiting in buses at the Moustheni junction in Kavala before being taken to Thessaloniki.
The outdoor camp at Idomeni, on Greece's northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), continues to host the largest collection of refugees, with an estimated 10,500 people currently staying there, while another 1,200 are staying at a petrol station in Polykastro.
Two information booths for refugees will be set up at Idomeni on Thursday evening, Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas - who heads the refugee crisis management coordination agency - said in an interview on on Mega TV channel. Vitsas said that interpreters will also be sent to the area and measures will be taken to make living conditions at Idomeni a little better "but without intruding into privately-owned spaces."
 Refugees at Idomeni place their hopes on EU summitRefugees at Idomeni on Thursday have their eyes turned on the critical EU summit which they hope will give a solution to their problem.
"I expect the EU summit to offer us the opportunity to live with dignity and claim the right to a safe living. I have been to the camp for over two weeks and I have not yet applied for the relocation programme because I want to exhaust all possibilities to seek my dream," Omar from Syria said to ANA-MPA.
Omar as well as 28 year-old Mohammed from Syria want to go to Germany and have placed their hopes on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's stance in the EU summit. "My siblings, that are already in Germany, told me that Merkel wants us and will do whatever possible in order for the EU to allow us to continue our trip to Germany. Here we have no future. The Greeks are very good people but here there are no jobs. We want to leave, to go somewhere where we will be able to find something to start again our lives."
There are others that have not heard anything about the EU summit as Doa from the city Homs in Syria. "I do not know of what summit your are talking about. The only thing I know is that I can't continue living in the mud, without money and without hope. The borders must open. In my city everything is devastated. If we go back, we will die. Europe must open its arms and take us," she said.
 Less refugees in the last 24 hoursThe refugees' flows to the northeastern Aegean island continued to be low in the last 24 resulting to the reduction of the number of stranded migrants and refugees on the islands.
According to police, 7,304 identified migrants and refugees were on Lesvos, Chios and Samos on Thursday morning.
4,285 identified migrants were on Lesvos while the new arrivals were only 170.
On the island of Chios 11 persons were identified in the last 24 hours increasing the number of refugees on the island to 2,489.
Finally, no new arrival was recorded on Samos while 530 persons are identified and ready to leave for the port of Piraeus.
 About 4,000 refugees and migrants staying at Piraeus port on ThursdayAbout 4,000 refugees and migrants are currently being accommodated at the passenger stations of Piraeus Port, according to the latest calculation, while 349 people left on Thursday on a bus for the accommodation center in Ritsona.
Port authorities are expecting the passenger ferry "Nisos Mykonos" to arrive to Piraeus this evening, but it is not clear how many refugees and migrants are on board.
 Deputy FM completes 2-day visit in SarajevoStrengthening bilateral economic and trade relations were the main issues discussed in a meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister for International Economic Cooperation, Dimitris Mardas and the Bosnia-Herzegovina Minister for Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Mirko Sarovic, in Sarajevo on Thursday.
Mardas, who completed a two-day working visit to the city, participated in the high-level meeting between the co-chairs of the Greece-Bosnia and Herzegovina Joint Interministerial Committee (JIC). In their capacity as co-chairs of the JIC, Mardas and Sarovic, reaffirmed the excellent level of bilateral political relations.
"Through the promotion of bilateral relations and business partnerships which accompany the organization of joint commissioners, we promote political dialogue and through it the wider good cooperation between countries," Mardas told ANA-MPA after the meeting.
The Greek minister also met with the President of the Cabinet, the Presidia of the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples, the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Transport Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mardas also addressed a business forum that took place on Wednesday, with the participation of entrepreneurs from the two countries.
Finally, on the margins of the business forum, a memorandum of cooperation was signed by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
 Moscovici to ANA-MPA: 'Working hard in Athens' to reach deal with governmentBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M.Spintourakis)
European Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on Thursday the Commission is working hard to achieve an agreement between the quartet of institutions and the Greek government in the negotiations which are underway in Athens.
"We're working hard in Athens. We believe we must and can find a solution," the Commissioner told ANA-MPA.
 Labour minister says progress was achieved in talks with institutionsLabour Minister Giorgos Katrougalos told ANA-MPA on Thursday that a deal with Greece's lenders on the required package of social security and pension reforms could be achieved by Saturday.
Speaking to the news agency, the minister said that progress was made in today's meeting with the mission chiefs of the institutions, with the latter agreeing to discuss some of the main positions of the Greek side.
"Of course there was no agreement today," he said. "I cannot say now if we'll agree. I am, however, a bit more optimistic compared to yesterday's meeting," he added, noting that more headway could be made on Saturday. Katrougalos said that there were no categorical objections from the institutions on any of the main issues concerning social security.
He said the government remains firm in not cutting main pensions. "There was no such issue raised, even from the other side," he said and noted the government also wants to maintain a redistributive character of the system. "You cannot reach a compromise if you don't have mutual concessions. We hope there will be a deal."
 Follow-up meetings between ministers and institutions' representatives on ThursdayFinance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Economy Minister George Stathakis and Labour Minister George Katrougalos will have a series of new meetings with the representatives of the institutions on Thursday in an effort to reach common ground before the creditors depart from Athens.
According to their programme, they will discuss justice issues at 12.00, pension reforms at 13.00, fiscal figures at 16.00 and financial issues at 19.00.
Despite the convergence achieved, they did not manage to come to an agreement on Wednesday with the tax free threshold being one of the main problems.
 IMF reiterates necessary conditions for participation in Greek programThe international Monetary Fund (IMF) is working to create the necessary conditions which will allow it to participate in Greece's reform program, the Fund's deputy spokesman, William Murray, said on Thursday during a regular press briefing in Washington.
Asked whether the IMF is blocking the completion of the first program review with its stance, Murray reiterated the conditions which have to be fulfilled to be part of the program: Serious reforms by Greece and a generous debt relief by the country's European partners.
He avoided providing any further details on the progress of the negotiations.
 Economic adjustment programmes lack development realism, GSEE reportThe implementation of economic adjustment programmes, characterized by a huge shortfall in development realism, has inflicted serious negative consequences to the labor market, the macro-economic system, the financial system and the Greek society, GSEE -the country's largest trade union umbrella- said on Thursday.
Presenting GSEE Labor Institute's annual report on the Greek economy and employment in Rhodes, in the framework of GSEE's annual congress, George Argitis, the Institute's scientific director, said that the country needed a new development culture, based on interconnecting fiscal, financial and macro-economic performance with the new development model's structural characteristics and particularly with the productive ability and dynamism of the country to create new job positions.
Argitis said that public finance trends in 2015 were affected significantly by a climate of uncertainty and instability caused by political developments, a freeze of funding, deposit outflow and the imposition of capital controls. He stressed that according to an analysis, fiscal austerity has failed in creating sustainable conditions of fiscal adjustment, reducing uncertainty and economy's credit risk, contributing in regaining credibiilty in the public sector and contributing to the stabilization of the macro-economic and financial system.
The annual report noted that available income and consumption were steadily falling since 2009 and stressed that a contraction in consumption has reached its lowest levels and showed that any further reduction of available income would have catastrophic consequences to the economy.
The report said that a de-escalation trend in unemployment rates, which began in July 2013, continued in 2014 and 2015, but underlined it would need at least 20 years for the unemployment rate to return to the 7.3 pct rate recorded in May 2008. It also noted that a significant finding of the report was that Greek workers were facing the biggest work insecurity in all OECD member-states, while part-time and other flexible forms of employment has risen significantly.
Referring to the pension system, the report noted that a chronic lack of reform planning, lack of consultation and underestimating the consequences of a reform on the economy and the society led to the current difficult situation and stressed that the Institute's proposals towards a sustainable social insurance system envisaged the introduction of guaranteed employment programmes, personnel composition, raising minimum wage, supporting collective bargaining agreements, etc.
 SEV says over-taxation threatens middle class in GreeceGreek households' income (excluding benefits) totals 153.2 billion euros and the declared tax income of households is around 74 billion euros (with income tax revenue amounting to 8.7 billion euros or an 11.8 pct tax rate) - figures showing that tax evasion is thriving in the country - the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) said in its weekly report on economic developments in the country.
SEV warned of the danger of the collapse of the middle class because of excessive taxation. "It is imperative to expand the tax base so that wage-earners in middle income brackets stop being excessively burdened, since this social class is essentially supporting the whole social structure and its collapse cannot been ignored," the Federation said in the report, adding that it was important to take into account the repercussions of existing problems on dynamic enterprises creating highly paid jobs at a time when the government is examining additional burdens of wage workers.
"When the average citizen is discouraged in his effort to find a better job, it is the middle class that's losing in the end. A consequent collapse of social cohesion leads to economic stalemate and gradually to political radicalism, further undermining the prosperity of the majority of citizens," SEV said.
The report noted that higher taxes would lead either to a stronger black economy or to migration of other productive sections of the middle class and underlined the need for lower tax rates, reducing non-payroll costs, offering tax incentives for private investments and adopting a full use of electronic payments to combat tax evasion.
SEV said that currently four workers are paying taxes and contributions to cover the payment of three pensioners and the needs for public health services, education, justice, defense, etc. a model which apparently is not sustainable.
Referring to a tax rate currently discussed with the institutions, SEV said that a tax-free allowance was particularly high, not in size but compared with the poverty limit.
 Greek unemployment rate at 24.4 pct in Q4Greek unemployment rate eased to 24.4 pct of the workforce in the fourth quarter of 2015, for an average rate of 24.9 pct in 2015, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.
The statistics service said that the number of unemployed people totaled 1,174,658 in the fourth quarter, up from an unemployment rate from 24 pct in the third quarter, but down from 26.1 pct in the same period in 2014. Long-term unemployment remained stubbornly high (74.3 pct of total unemployed), while unemployment among young people aged up to 24 years was 49 pct (54.3 pct among women).
The number of unemployed people grew 1.2 pct from the third quarter and fell 5.7 pct from the fourth quarter of 2014. The 15-24 age group recorded the highest unemployment rate (49 pct from 51.5 pct in Q4 2014), followed by the 25-29 age group (37.4 pct from 41.1 pct), the 30-44 age group (23.2 pct form 24.7 pct), the 45-64 age group (19 pct from 19.3 pct) and the above 65 years old (10 pct from 10.9 pct).
Among the country's regions, Western Macedonia (32.2 pct in Q4 2015 from 27.9 pct in Q4 2014) recorded the highest unemployment rate, followed by Western Greece (28.9 pct from 27.8 pct), Thessaly (28.6 pct from 25.8 pct), Crete (26.5 pct from 25.3 pct), Central Greece (26.2 pct from 27 pct), Central Macedonia (25.4 pct from 27.9 pct), Epirus (24.4 pct from 24.5 pct), Attica (24.2 pct from 26.8 pct), Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (22.7 pct from 24.4 pct), Peloponese (19.9 pct from 23.4 pct), Northern Aegean (16.6 pct from 20.5 pct), Ionian Islands (16.4 pct from 21.2 pct) and Southern Aegean (11.4 pct from 16.9 pct).
A 12.1 pct of unemployed people sought exclusively full-time jobs, while a 83.1 pct would be willing to compromise with part-time job if necessary.
Employment totaled 3,641,682 in the fourth quarter, down 0.8 pct form the third quarter but up 3.0 pct from the same period in 2014. A total of 151,110 people returned to the labor market in the fourth quarter. Part-time employment accounted for 9.4 pct of total employment. The percentage of wage workers was 65.7 pct, still below the average rate in the EU (83.5 pct).
 ECB lowers borrowing ceiling for Greek banksThe European Central Bank further lowered the borrowing ceiling for Greek banks by 100 million euros. The ECB's board accepted a request made by the Bank of Greece to lower the borrowing ceiling from the Emergency Liquidity Assistance mechanism (ELA) to 71.3 billion euros, reflecting an improvement in the liquidity of Greek banks as uncertainty eased and private sector deposit flows stabilized.
 Foreign ministry condemns vandalism of Orthodox monastery in West BankGreece's Foreign Ministry expressed its unequivocal condemnation for the vandalism perpetrated by unknown individuals against of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, in the West Bank a few days ago.
"We unequivocally condemn the vandalism perpetrated by unknown persons, on 13 March, at the Monastery of St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, on the West Bank of the River Jordan, as we do all acts of intolerance and vandalism that destroy invaluable religious monuments and strike at the efforts towards mutual understanding and the maintaining of religious pluralism in the Middle East," the ministry said in a statement.
"Greece recognizes the historical role of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem - which it has always supported - it champions religious pluralism and the peaceful coexistence of all doctrines and religions, and it expects that the competent authorities will make every possible effort to locate and arrest the guilty parties," it added.
 Greek stocks end slightly lowerGreek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, with investors sidelined awaiting developments in domestic politics, the outcome of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels and ongoing negotiations between Greek authorities and creditors to complete a first review of the country's economic programme. Traders said that a change in the status of the Greek capital market from developed to advanced emerging market category by FTSE Group - effective from Friday after the closing of the market - was expected to boost capital inflows to selected stocks in the market.
The composite index ended 0.79 pct lower at 567.24 points, after rising as much as 0.71 pct and falling as much as 1.86 pct during the session. The Large Cap index fell 0.86 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.22 pct lower. Turnover was a low 67.336 million euros in volume of 76,601,472.
Folli Folile (3.30 pct), Titan (2.26 pct) and Terna Energy (1.59 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Alpha Bank (6.15 pct), Eurobank (3.96 pct) and Lamda Development (3.60 pct) suffered heavy losses. National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Among market sectors, Health (4.27 pct) and Commerce (3.30 pct) scored big gains, while Banks (3.21 pct) and Raw Materials (1.31 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 50 to 46 with another 26 issues unchanged. Varvaressos (20 pct), Levenderis (9.93 pct) and Geniki Commerce (9.85 pct) were top gainers, while Reds (20.31 pct), Domiki Crete (19.76 pct) and AEGEK (19.61 pct) were top losers.
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened further to 8.63 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 8.49 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.85 pct and the German Bund yielding 0.22 pct. Turnover was an improved 18 million euros, of which 6.0 million were sell orders and the remaining 12 million euros were buy orders.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate rose to -0.003 pct from -0.004 pct, the nine-month rate fell to -0.068 pct from -0.067 pct, the six-month rate fell to -0.131 pct from -0.129 pct, the three-month rate fell to -0.234 pct from -0.226 pct and the one-month rate was -0.322 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe March contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.44 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 7,147 contracts with 13,265 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 101,572 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (30,232), followed by Alpha Bank (6,550), Piraeus Bank (22,528), Eurobank (10,101), MIG (13,363), OTE (1,581), PPC (2,930), OPAP (1,381), Hellenic Exchanges (682), Titan (165), Viohalco (382), Mytilineos (2,204), Hellenic Petroleum (4,412), Motor Oil (584), Metka (294), GEK (1,539), Ellaktor (295), Intralot (178), Folli Follie (457), Jumbo (243), Frigoglass (352), Piraeus Port (261) and Korinth Pipeworks (291).
 I do not believe that the refugees' drama will end soon, says Angelina Jolie"I do not believe that the refugees' drama will end soon," stated American actress and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt leaving the General Secreteriat of the Aegean and Island Policy building in Mytilene on Thursday.
Jolie met with members of non-governmental organisation from whom she was briefed on the prevailing condition on Lesvos.
According to information, Jolie was positive on the refugees safe crossing of the Aegean while on issues posed by local entities on the repercussions on the island's economy and the need for the promotion of the islands' tourist product, Angelina Jolie promised that she and her family will come for holidays on the island.
Currently, Jolie is visiting the hotspot at Moria and later she will depart for London.
 Mission 'impawsible': 22-year-old's journey from Syria...with her cat TabbousIn the tent city at Idomeni, there is a tale (or possibly tail?) that's stranger than most. Peeping out from his inside his tent, the fastidious four-footed traveller refuses to step outside into the mud to greet us. Tabbous has followed 22-year-old Esra al-Aboud all the way from Damascus in Syria, making the perilous crossing over the sea, but he's still not very fond of water.
"We couldn't leave him behind. He's a part of our family. How could we leave him behind," Esra said, explaining her decision to bring Tabbous with her on the difficult journey.
"It was very hard...especially from Syria to Turkey. Cats are afraid of everything and especially water. He slept all the time. I carry him in a sling and not a cage," she said.
She says Tabbous had his first birthday in the camp at Idomeni on Wednesday but prefers to stay inside the tent and stays glued to her when they go outside. "He sees a lot of people and cars and he's afraid. He doesn't leave, even when the tent is left open," she said.
Esra's dream is to get to Sweden to join her brother and to study architecture. In Syria, she worked as a school teacher. She says that Tabbous will always stay with her and it's hard to argue, when she managed to get him this far, all the way to Idomeni from Syria. He's not the only four-footed "refugee" to escape from the war-torn country with his owners, however, as there have been numerous stories of refugees travelling with their cats and dogs to the relative safety of Europe.
 The mayors of Barcelona, Lesvos and Lambedusa sign a cooperation agreement on refugeesThe mayor of Lesvos Spyros Galinos visited Barcelona to sign on Tuesday a cooperation and friendship agreement of the highest importance and symbolism that links three municipalities - Mytilene, Barcelona and Lambedusa.
"Our aim is to promote Lesvos through an international municipal campaign to strengthen and support tourism," Galinos stated to ANA-MPA. The agreement was signed by the mayors of the three cities - Galinos (Mytilene), Ada Colau (Barcelona) and Giuseppina Nicolini (Lambedusa).
The agreement reflects the start of a new strategic cooperation, based on three sectors - political, environmental/tourist, and cultural - with the view to exchanging good practices and providing assistance to each other.
According to the Spanish website El P?blico, who cited Colau's speech, this agreement marks the willingness of the three municipalities to build a common front "against the passivity of the EU and its member states."
"We can no longer expect anything from the governments, thus the cities by ourselves we have to be motivated", said Colau, adding that "this coalition permits the cooperation among cities who jettison this inhumane Europe."
The mayor of the Catalan metropolis also revealed that although the municipality of the city is ready to accept and help refugees from Syria, the central government of Madrid turns a blind eye to the respective calls and keeps not fulfilling the agreed quotas of refugees relocations.
Colau also asked the leaders of Europe not to stipulate the "illegal and immoral" agreement between EU and Turkey.
From her part, the mayor of Lambedusa Nicolini stressed that the Mediterranean should be transformed to a "place of contact between populations and not to a border against them" and underlined the willingness, expressed by the three mayors, to "construe a new vision, completely different in regard to the one EU promotes."
Nicolini has also stretched out a helping hand to Lesvos, acknowledging that the Greek island has to assume the largest burden of the migrants flows: "The mayors of the Greek islands will not be alone to this endeavour, like Lambedusa was back in 2011", said Nicolini, stating also the efforts the municipality has undertaken to the restoration of tourism and normality on the island.
 Athens airport to dim lights for Earth HourAthens International Airport will participate in Earth Hour 2016, turning off lights and closing down one of its runways for an hour next Saturday, between 20:30 and 21:30. The airport will also dim lights within the terminals, staff parking lot and other selected areas in the airport.
Public announcements will be made in the airport passenger areas informing the public about the WWF 'Earth Hour' initiative and the airport's participation, in order to sensitise the public to climate change. The airport will also encourage staff to participate in Earth Hour by turning off or reducing lights at home.
Also joining in the symbolic gesture against climate change are the other companies located in the airport grounds, such as Leroy Merlin, Factory Outlet, Shell, Sofitel, Goldair Handling and others.
 Three injured during fight among Piraeus port migrants and refugeesThree refugees were injured by a sharp object, possibly a knife, and taken to Thriasio Hospital in Attica after a fight that broke out among some 20 migrants and refugees at Piraeus port's E1 gate passenger station in the early hours of Thursday, around 1:00 after midnight.
The fight was broken up by Piraeus Port Authority coast guard officers, who took the three injured men to hospital for first aid.
Shipping and Island Policy Minister Thodoris Dritsas later visited the scene of the fight with the head of the Hellenic Coast Guard Rear Admiral Stamatios Raptis in order to be briefed by harbour authorities on the incident and the investigation that has been launched.
A coast guard detail remained on the scene throughout the night to supervise the area and keep the peace.
 The ferry "blue star 1" with 544 refugees and migrants docked at Piraeus on ThursdayThe ferry "Blue Star 1" with 544 refugees and migrants from two islands of Eastern Aegean Sea docked at the port of Piraeus on Thursday. More specifically, the ferry carried 182 persons from Chios and another 358 refugees and migrants from Mytilene.
Later in the day is expected to arrive the ferry "Diagoras" carrying a still unidentified number of refugees and migrants from the Dodecanese Islands.
 Clouds, rain on FridayClouds, rain and southerly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 05C-14C. Clouds and rain in the western parts with temperatures between 11C-16C. Rain in the eastern parts with temperatures between 09C-15C. Clouds in the morning and rain in the afternoon over the Aegean islands and Crete, 10C-16C. Clouds and rain in Athens, 06C-14C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki, 04C-14C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGHI: Thursday is a critical day
DIMOKRATIA: Old pensions also sacrificed
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Extreme conditions
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Political ... refugees Kammenos and Mouzalas
ESTIA: The constant betrayal of the left
ETHNOS: Vertigo in the political landscape
KATHIMERINI: The coalition government in a tightrope
NAFTEMPORIKI: All fronts open
RIZOSPASTIS: Ready to incorporate new reactionary changes
TA NEA: (Alternate Migration Minister Yiannis) Mouzalas in the role of Iphigenia
TO PONTIKI: Blackmail at the most critical time
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