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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-04-13

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

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

Wednesday, 13 April 2016 Issue No: 5150

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Tsipras to visit Paris, Strasburg and Brussels this week
  • [02] Government's red lines are the tax-free ceiling and main pensions, says FinMin
  • [03] Talks between Greek gov't and its lenders to resume on April 18, FinMin Tsakalotos says
  • [04] Negotiations with institutions to resume on Monday, says gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili
  • [05] We are very close to an agreement with the institutions, claims gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili
  • [06] "Good progress" has been made in negotiations between Greece and its creditors, ECB says
  • [07] European institutions agree on measures Greece has to implement, says ECB source
  • [08] Greek President in IOC meeting: Refugees must be treated with humanism and solidarity
  • [09] IOC chief to ANA-MPA: 'We express our admiration for the way Greeks are handling refugee crisis'
  • [10] More flexibility needed for Greece on refugee issue, says IMF chief economist
  • [11] EU Commissioner Avramopoulos asks for improvement of revised Dublin mechanism
  • [12] Gov't speeds up creation of hosting facilities for refugees, says government spokeswoman Gerovassili
  • [13] Europol sends special agents to Greek islands to monitor possible traffickers, jihadists
  • [14] ND submits question to parliament on railway blockade in Idomeni
  • [15] Fifteen busses with refugees leave Idomeni in last 24 hours for accomodation centers
  • [16] FYROM makes demarche to Greece's Liaison Office in Skopje
  • [17] Syrian nationals' arrivals on Greek islands reduced to zero
  • [18] 53,381 identified refugees in Greece on Tuesday
  • [19] 3,800 refugees remain at Piraeus port
  • [20] Labour ministry: No cuts in supplementary pensions for medium-small incomes
  • [21] Starting price for each new Greek TV license set at 3 mln euros
  • [22] New Democracy says the government's 'show has been played time and again'
  • [23] Communist Party says government preparing to 'slaughter the people' with announced bills
  • [24] Turkish F-16 violates again Athens' FIR on Tuesday
  • [25] Two Turkish fighter jets enter Athens FIR
  • [26] Greek economy to grow by 2.7 pct in 2017, IMF report
  • [27] Greece, creditors reach agreement on energy issues
  • [28] Greece seeks ways to complete sale of DESFA to Socar
  • [29] Average tax burden on wages down 1.3 p.p. in Greece, OECD report
  • [30] Cruise for new enterpreneurs and students
  • [31] Yacht insurance production up in 2014
  • [32] Private building activity down 5.2 pct in Jan
  • [33] Greek stocks end lower on Tuesday
  • [34] ADEX closing report
  • [35] "Open House" event to be held in Athens on April 16-17
  • [36] Comicdom Con Athens to be held on April 15-17
  • [37] Police detains 15 Greek and foreign nationals as part of crack down on Idomeni rumour mill
  • [38] Greece's taxi drivers to strike on Thursday over tax reforms
  • [39] Sunny on Wednesday
  • [40] The Tuesday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM Tsipras to visit Paris, Strasburg and Brussels this week

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will pay an official visit to Paris on Wednesday to meet with French President Francois Hollande his office announced. Tsipras is scheduled to hold talks with Hollande at 19.00 at the Elysee presidential palace.

    On Thursday, he will travel to Strasburg for a working lunch with the head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, at noon.

    The prime minister will then visit Brussels to participate as a guest speaker at a working dinner with senior executives of the Alex Springer Foundation at 19.00, where he will present the situation and the prospects of the Greek economy.

    [02] Government's red lines are the tax-free ceiling and main pensions, says FinMin

    The government will not back down on the issue of the main pensions and the tax-free ceiling, both of which Greece's lenders want to be cut and lowered respectively, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis and Labour minister George Katrougalos.

    "The Greek government is sovereign and it will be the one to decide how the targets of the memorandum will be met," Tsakalotos told journalists, adding that he expects a deal with the institutions to be achieved at an emergency Eurogroup on April 25-26.

    He also said the government will submit next week a tax and pension reform bill. "We're open to dialog - if there's a predisposition for an agreement, the review will be completed, because for Greece to turn a page, the review must conclude and a debate must start on the debt," he said. "We are negotiating with many players that have differences between them, but our difference with the IMF does not increase."

    The finance minister also expressed optimism that a staff level agreement will be achieved by April 22, when the Eurogroup is expected to meet, or an extra Eurogroup meeting could be held on April 25-25 to close the first program review. He did clarify however that the IMF has different forecasts for both the performance of the measures and the primary surplus of 2018.

    On his side, Stathakis said reports that NPLs held by banks will be sold are not true, because the legal framework has not been set up yet. He said the handling of NPLs is among the main issues discussed with the institutions and a solution will be found by April 22. "All our information converge to the direction that the deal will be closed," he told journalists.

    Asked by a journalist if there's a "plan B", Stathakis responded that the government is "working on the direction that the deal will conclude and all information is to that direction."

    Stathakis then went on to say that Greek negotiations and the country's debt will be discussed at the IMF's spring meeting in Washington on April 15-17, adding that the two sides "have not clashed". The negotiation is a procedure that must be completed soon, as well as the debt issue, in order to promote growth, he added.

    Taking his turn, Katrougalos said main pensions will be fully protected, while supplementary pensions will be readjusted by up to 10 pct. He also said a solidarity benefit paid to poor pensioners will not be cut, while 80 pct of the self-employed will pay lower social security contributions when the deal is passed.

    [03] Talks between Greek gov't and its lenders to resume on April 18, FinMin Tsakalotos says

    The negotiations between the Greek government and the representatives of lenders will resume on April 18 after the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said, after a round of talks in Athens that broke off around 2:00 a.m.

    "We are adjourning" so that representatives of institutions and the Greek government may attend the meetings in Washington, DC on April 15-17, he said.

    According to Tsakalotos, all four institutions (European Commission, IMF, ESM and ECB) and the government agreed to the break in talks, despite progress on large issues, because there are a lot of minor issues that could not be resolved in the available time in order to draft a staff level agreement that must be presented to the Eurogroup for ratification by the Finance ministers of the eurozone. He appeared optimistic that "an agreement will be concluded shortly before the Eurogroup."

    The issues discussed today included the fiscal state, non-performing loans and social insurance funds. Issues related to the ministries of education and justice and the new privatisation fund were not discussed.

    According to statements by a high-level government official earlier, the government and the lenders have come close to agreeing on excluding the sale to funds of loans of primary residences, as long as their state-set (or "objective") value does not exceed 160,000 euros. The exemption would last until the expiration of the current memorandum in May 2018.

    Both sides discussed the option also of bundling regularly performing loans with NPLs in loans sold to funds, as well.

    [04] Negotiations with institutions to resume on Monday, says gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili

    Greek government's negotiations with the institutions will resume after the end of IMF's Spring Meeting, stated government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili during her briefing to the press.

    The negotiations with the institutions should have closed a long time ago provided that the Greek side has tabled comprehensive proposals that meet the target of July 2015 agreement.

    She noted that the government fully complies with the agreement adding that the other side should do the same.

    Gerovassili referred to scenarios of deliberate delays in the program review, which IMF chief Christine Lagarde called nonsense and clarified that she is in favour of the rapid completion of the review, something that as Gerovassili claimed, has not yet been verified. Negotiations will resume on Monday, she reassured.

    Finally, she announced that the draft law on TV licences will be submitted for public consultation by Friday.

    [05] We are very close to an agreement with the institutions, claims gov't spokeswoman Gerovassili

    We are very close to reaching an agreement, said government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili adding that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is currently holding talks with the negotiation group.

    Gerovassili said that the distance between the two sides is very short and underlined that the European institutions clearly support the rapid and on time review of the programme because the completion of the review is not only a Greek but also a European issue.

    She added that there are not guarantees in a negotiation, otherwise we would have an in advance agreement as we have seen the previous governments doing.

    Gerovassili explained that the negotiation did not come to an end on Monday because the the necessary covergence was not achieved. However, we agreed on many issues, and that were are very close to the end and that there is nothing that ruins the initial schedule.

    [06] "Good progress" has been made in negotiations between Greece and its creditors, ECB says

    Good progress has been made in the negotiations between Greece and its creditors, the European Central Bank said on Tuesday.

    According to an ECB spokesman, the heads of the institutions will be in Washington on Tuesday and will return to Athens as soon as possible, after the end of IMF's Spring Meeting.

    During the recent discussions with the Greek government, "good progress" was made on all issues. All four institutions are intensively working together with the Greek authorities on an ambitious package of measures aimed at growth, employment and competitiveness of the Greek economy. This will form the basis both for the completion of the first program review between the Greek government and the European institutions, and for a new program with the IMF, according to the same sources.

    According to Benoit Coeure, member of ECB's executive board, the ECB fully agrees with the IMF on the need for a strong policy package. "The aim of this discussion is the conclusion of the first review of the MoU and a new programme with the IMF," he said in a statement.

    [07] European institutions agree on measures Greece has to implement, says ECB source

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    European institutions agree on the measures Greece has to implement to close its first program review, well-informed sources from the European Central Bank told ANA-MPA.

    Asked on the statements made earlier today by ECB's executive board member Benoit Coeure on Greece, a source from the central bank said: "The ECB agrees with the estimations of the European Commission as to the measures Greece has to take to succeed in achieving a primary source target of 3.5 pct in 2018."

    [08] Greek President in IOC meeting: Refugees must be treated with humanism and solidarity

    Refugees need to be treated honestly and efficiently, with humanism, as well as with genuine solidarity, Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said during his meeting with the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach in Lausanne on Tuesday.

    Pavlopoulos stressed that phobias, which sometimes border on racism, are not fit for countries and people who want to be members of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games.

    He noted, however, that "terrorism, and especially ISIS jihadists, should be treated like the appalling servants of a new kind of barbarism deserve, who commit crimes against humanity. Zero tolerance, zero negligence, constant vigilance."

    In addition, the president sent a strong message "on the need to end as soon as possible all conflicts around the world" and to "end the war in Syria," because only this can guarantee the solution of the refugee issue. "This is why we consider important the revival of the Olympic Truce," he noted.

    The president also said Greeks remain true to the original Olympic spirit and the ideals emanating from it. "Ideals which focus on Man and humanism and which rely on the principles that lead to the fulfillment of Man in his destination. Above all, the principles of 'fair play' and excellence through which the Olympics acquire their real meaning of returning to ancestral roots, the roots of Ancient Greece and Ancient Olympia," he said.

    Pavlopoulos concluded by saying that the Lighting of the Olympic Flame in Olympia in a few days will allow everyone to focus once again on the true meaning of the Olympic Games.

    [09] IOC chief to ANA-MPA: 'We express our admiration for the way Greeks are handling refugee crisis'

    The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, expressed his admiration on Tuesday on the way Greece and its people have responded to the refugee crisis, while stressing its solidarity with the country.

    "We want to express our admiration for the way in which Greece and Greeks are dealing with the issue of refugees," Bach said after his meeting with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in an exclusive statement to ANA-MPA.

    "As an Olympic movement, we ought to say a big thank you to Greece and Greeks for the way they are dealing with the largest crisis of our times - the refugee crisis," he continued. "I want to express my solidarity to Greece and the Greek people, but also his gratitude for the great gift it bestowed on humanity - the Olympic Games," he added.

    Bach also welcomed Pavlopoulos to IOC's headquarters and announced he will visit Greece next week to attend the lighting of the Olympic Flame in Olympia.

    [10] More flexibility needed for Greece on refugee issue, says IMF chief economist

    International Monetary Fund's (IMF) new chief economist, Maurice Obstfeld, proposed more flexibility and economic support for Greece during a presentation of its semi-annual World Economic Outlook report.

    Greece should receive more flexibility and economic support on the refugee issue, he said, adding that this is a European and international problem. Commenting on the country's negotiations with its creditors, the economist said the IMF team had constructive talks in Athens which were interrupted because of the fund's spring meeting.

    Asked about IMF's involvement in the Greek program, Obstfeld said the aim is "to have a program whose numbers add up", while asked about the country's debt, he said he didn't know how large a debt relief should be. He added however that there have to be reforms in social security and the debt in order for Greece to achieve sustainable finances.

    [11] EU Commissioner Avramopoulos asks for improvement of revised Dublin mechanism

    PARIS (ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira)

    It is time that the chaotic, illegal and dangerous migration flows are replaced with safe transit corridors, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday said at the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg.

    Avramopoulos acknowledged the inefficiency of the revised Dublin mechanism and urged EU member states to improve it. He also admitted that the current relocation system "does not work" adding that the current system of asylum is "not fair and not viable."

    He also underlined that "the Commission will submit additional proposals with the view to achieving greater convergence with the EU system of asylum."

    [12] Gov't speeds up creation of hosting facilities for refugees, says government spokeswoman Gerovassili

    The government accelerates the creation of hosting facilities for refugees, stated government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili during her briefing to the press and referred to Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas statements that the evacua-tion of Piraeus and Idomeni is expected to have been set on track until the Orthodox Easter.

    She also said that over 1,000 persons have been already transferred from Piraeus to Skaramangas hosting facility adding that the transfer rate will be accelerated in the next days.

    [13] Europol sends special agents to Greek islands to monitor possible traffickers, jihadists

    Fifteen special agents from Europol will start working at the registration centers on the Greek islands of the Eastern Aegean, to monitor and send information on suspected traffickers and jihadists, a source from the citizen protection ministry said on Tuesday.

    The arrival of the Europol's special agents was discussed in a meeting between Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and the head of Greece's police, Lieutenant General Konstantinos Tsouvalas, with Europol director Rob Wainwright, who is on a working visit to Greece.

    During their talks, the two sides also discussed developments in the refugee crisis, focusing on issues of cooperation between Greece's security services with Europol.

    [14] ND submits question to parliament on railway blockade in Idomeni

    The continuous blockade of the railway tracks near Idomeni by protesting refugees and migrants for the past two weeks will be brought to parliament by New Democracy and party vice-president Kostis Hatzidakis, the party said on Tuesday.

    A question on the issues raised by the blockade is addressed to Infrastructure Minister Christos Spirtzis. In the question, Hatzidakis notes the considerable cost to the Greek economy from the closed railway line, saying it causes significant problems in the transport of goods and increases delivery time and cost.

    [15] Fifteen busses with refugees leave Idomeni in last 24 hours for accomodation centers

    Fifteen busses with refugees and migrants have left Idomeni's makeshift camp in the last 24 hours for open organized accommodation centers in northern Greece, it was announced on Tuesday.

    Yezidi Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq were transferred in six busses to a center at the small mountainous village of Petra near Mount Olympus, another bus for the village of Alexandria in Imathia and one for Giannitsa, the largest city in Pella, while many more people are waiting to board busses this evening.

    "After the events last Sunday we realized there's no other way out and I will not allow myself to relive this kind of situation," a Yezidi Kurd told ANA-MPA. "My kids were terrified and they couldn't breathe from the teargas."

    Others present in the boarding of the busses said they were tired from the situation at the camp and hoped the living conditions at the centers would be better.

    [16] FYROM makes demarche to Greece's Liaison Office in Skopje

    SKOPJE (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)

    FYROM's Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that it has made a demarche to the Liaison Office of Greece in Skopje, in response to the oral demarches of the head of the Liaison Office of Greece in FYROM Ambassador Theocharis Lalakos on Sunday's incidents at Idomeni.

    According to the announcement, the security forces "acted with the utmost restraint, responsibility and professionalism against the violent protests and aggressive large groups of migrants attempting to illegally cross the Greek-FYROM borders."

    In order to avoid similar incidents in the future, FYROM's Foreign Ministry called on for the strengthening of the Greek police forces at the borders and stressed the importance of exchange of relevant information in order to discourage violent protests by migrants and prevent their illegal entry on FYROM's territory, the announcement added.

    ?"The restoration of law and order on the border zone and around the refugees camp at Idomeni is essential to prevent future incidents," the announcement concluded.

    On April 10, the head of the Liaison Office of Greece in FYROM Ambassador Lalakos made two demarches following the unacceptable incidents that occurred at Idomeni.

    [17] Syrian nationals' arrivals on Greek islands reduced to zero

    Refugees and migrants' arrivals on northeastern Aegean islands moved at low levels in the last 24 hours.

    75 persons reached the coasts of Lesvos, 4 arrived on Chios and one person reached Samos' coasts.

    Most of the new arrivals were Pakistanis and from northern Africa.

    According to Coast Guard, the refugees, mostly from Syria, influx has reduced to zero in the last days.

    In the hotspot of Morias on Lesvos are hosted 3,577 persons, at Chios hotspot 1,828 persons and 465 are hosted at Samos hotspot.

    [18] 53,381 identified refugees in Greece on Tuesday

    53,381 identified refugees and migrants were on the Greek territory on Tuesday among them 80 persons that arrived in the last 24 hours.

    According to the Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body's figures, 29,205 of the refugees are in northern Greece, 11,194 of them are in Idomeni camp, 14,405 are hosted in the region of Attica (3,806 at Piraeus port), 7,055 on the Greek islands and 2,716 are hosted in different areas in central and southern Greece.

    [19] 3,800 refugees remain at Piraeus port

    A total of 3,800 refugees and migrants remain at the two passenger stations and the warehouse of the port of Piraeus (OLP).

    According to Coast Guard, around 700 persons were transferred on Monday from Piraeus to accommodation centres at Skaramangas.

    Several refugees and migrants have expressed interest to be transferred to other hosting facilities. Priority has been given to Yazidi, the Syrians and the Afghans. The government aims at the decongestion of the port by Easter.

    [20] Labour ministry: No cuts in supplementary pensions for medium-small incomes

    Greece's labour ministry said on Tuesday that no supplementary pensions of medium or low income earners will be cut, adding that reports to the contrary are "completely false".

    The announcement comes after the interruption of the negotiations between the government and the institutions which are expected to resume next Monday.

    "Following the completion of this phase of the negotiations, there was an agreement or significant convergence on all open issues on the basis of the draft bill and the government's proposals, while in some cases towards a more positive direction," the ministry said.

    [21] Starting price for each new Greek TV license set at 3 mln euros

    Each of the four TV licenses which will be sold to private media channels in Greece will be auctioned at a starting price of three million euros, according to a joint ministerial decision issued on Tuesday by State Minister Nikos Pappas and Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis.

    The auction concerns the sale of four licenses to free, terrestrial, nationwide, digital content providers who will broadcast a general information program athigh-definition. According to the press release, the auction will be announced in the next few days.

    [22] New Democracy says the government's 'show has been played time and again'

    The joint press conference of the finance, economy and labour ministers earlier on Tuesday was a "show that has been played time and again," New Democracy spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said.

    "Last year, the preacher of game theory, which led the country to the brink of bankruptcy and the third MoU was Mr. Yanis Varoufakis, while this year, we have three preachers of the same dangerous theory; Messrs. George Katrougalos, Giorgos Stathakis and Euclid Tsakalotos - who is the minister who, along with Mr. [Alexis] Tsipras pleaded with the IMF to participate in the program for three years," he said in a statement.

    "From the 'imminent deal', we went to the 'confrontation' and from the 'confrontation' to the painful capitulation. But this time the show doesn't sell tickets," he added.

    [23] Communist Party says government preparing to 'slaughter the people' with announced bills

    The Communist Party likened the announced draft bills on taxation and pension which the government said on Tuesday it will submit to parliament next week to the traditional slaughter of lambs taking place during Easter holidays, saying both will "kill" tax payers.

    "Along with the slaughter of the lambs on Holy Week, the government is also preparing the slaughter of the people with the draft bill of taxation and pensions," the party said. "They are deeply mistaken if it thinks it will be able to pass the measures by deceiving the people and avoiding mass demonstrations," it added.

    [24] Turkish F-16 violates again Athens' FIR on Tuesday

    One Turkish F-16 violated for second time Athens' FIR at 09.07 am on Tuesday and a minute later it exited Athens' FIR.

    Earlier on Tuesday, two Turkish F-16 violated Athens' FIR between the islands of Lesvos and Chios without having submitted a flight plan for second consecutive day, Greece's National Defence General Staff said.

    The fighter jets flew over the islets of Inousses at 17,000 feet and a minute later they exited Athens FIR through the same route. The Turkish formation was recognized and intercepted by Greek fighter jets.

    [25] Two Turkish fighter jets enter Athens FIR

    Two Turkish F-16 entered Athens' FIR on Tuesday (08.02 local time) between the islands of Lesvos and Chios without having submitted a flight plan for a second consecutive day, Greece's National Defence General Staff said on Tuesday.

    The fighter jets flew over the islets of Inouses at 17,000 feet and a minute later they exited Athens FIR through the same route. The Turkish formation was recognized by Greek fighter jets.

    Financial News

    [26] Greek economy to grow by 2.7 pct in 2017, IMF report

    The Greek economy will remain in recession in 2016 but will grow by 2.7 pct in 2017, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday. The IMF, in its spring estimates on world economy, said that Greece's Gross Domestic Product shrank by 0.2 pct in 2015 and estimated that the GDP will contract by 0.6 pct this year, rising by 2.7 pct in 2017. The IMF said that the inflation rate will stabilize this year (0.0 pct after an -1.1 pct rate in 2015) and will rise by 0.6 pct in 2017.

    The report said that the Greek figures for 2015 were preliminary, as the IMF lacked final fiscal projections at the moment because of ongoing negotiations with Greek authorities and European partners over setting fiscal targets in a new dynamic adjustment programme.

    The IMF also revised downwards its estimates for the global economy, expecting a 3.2 pct growth of global GDP this year and 3.5 pct in 2017, down from previous estimates made in January for growth rates of 3.4 pct in 2016 and 3.6 pct in 2017.

    The IMF sees risks and threats to the global economy linked with the outbreak of a new financial turmoil because of a shock in confidence to the system. Other possible causes of turmoil could be a prolonged period of low energy prices, a sharp fall in growth in China, while geopolitical uncertainties, political dispute, terrorism, refugee crisis and possible global epidemic outbreak

    [27] Greece, creditors reach agreement on energy issues

    Greek authorities and the institutions on Tuesday reached an agreement on ADMIE and energy auctions by Public Power Corporation aimed to liberalize the electricity market in the country.

    Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis, speaking to ANA-MPA after a meeting with representatives of the country's creditors which did not discuss privatization and fuel tax issues, said that an agreement on Independent Power Transmission Operator (IPTO or ADMIE) envisaged the transfer of majority stake (51 pct) from Public Power Corporation to the state (PPC will be compensated), while the remaining 49 pct will be offered to a strategic investor -who will be the manager of the grid and will be able to buy at least 20 pct of the shares- and to private investors. The state will control a majority of the board, appointing the chief executive. The process to sell at least 20 pct of ADMIE is expected to begin in June.

    Skourletis said that Greek authorities will draft a new regulation covering the auction of lignite and hydro-electric power production by Public Power Corporation (PPC), based on data provided by the operator of the market (LAGIE) and a recommendation of the market regulator (RAE) which will determine the quantity of energy to be auctioned and the starting price of auctions. The first auctions are expected in the second half of 2016.

    Greek authorities will have a round of meetings with the technical staff of the institutions to finalize details of the agreement.

    The meeting did not discuss privatizations in the energy sector. The Greek government insists that the shares of PPC, DEPA and Hellenic Petroleum already transferred to Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) should remain in the leg of exploitation and not privatization.

    [28] Greece seeks ways to complete sale of DESFA to Socar

    Greek authorities are trying to overcome hurdles in completing the privatization of DESFA (National Natural Gas Transmission Operator) and to persuade the European Commission to lift its reservations in a deal to transfer the majority stake (66 pct) of DESFA to Socar, the Azeri natural gas group.

    The tender for the privatization of DESFA was concluded in 2013 with the signing of an agreement for the transfer of a majority stake to Socar for 400 million euros, however, the transaction has not be completed because of reservations presented by competition authorities in the European Commission. The proposal examined for the lifting of reservations envisages the transfer of 17 pct of shares from Socar to a third investor, reducing the Azeri stake to 49 pct. Latest information say that the stake to be transferred to a third investor could be even larger, up to 25 pct of DESFA, reducing Socar's stake to 41 pct and the Greek stake remaining the second largest shareholder with a 34 pct equity stake.

    The same sources said that the Environment and Energy ministry dismissed talk of big increases (up to 66 pct) in duties by the operator's network. DESFA's board is also expected to be changed, with Antonis Natsikas, chairman of the company, to be replaced by Sotiris Nikas.

    [29] Average tax burden on wages down 1.3 p.p. in Greece, OECD report

    Average tax burden on wages in Greece, from income tax and social contributions (both workers and employers) fell by 1.3 percentage points in 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday.

    The Paris-based institutions, in a report released on "Taxing Wages 2016" said that Greece recorded the biggest decline in tax burden on wages, followed by Spain and Estonia (1.2 and 1.0 percentage points respectively). Out of the 34 OECD member-states, the tax burden rose in 24 members, it fell in 8 and remained unchanged in Hungary and Chile.

    Greece ranked 14th among the 34 OECD member countries in decreasing order with a tax wedge for an average single worker at 39.3 pct in 2015, compared with the OECD average of 35.9 pct. The country occupied the same position in 2014.

    In Greece, employee and employer social security contributions combine to account for 82 pct of the total tax wedge compared with 63 pct of the total OECD average tax wedge.

    The average real wage in Greece, pre- income tax and social contribution payments, grew 0.2 pct in 2015 as a 0.8 pct decline in nominal wage was counterbalanced by a 0.9 pct decline in the consumer price index. The average nominal annual wage was 20,296 euros in 2015 from 20,450 euros in 2014. Tax wedge on a Greek single worker was 39.3 pct of total labor cost, burdened by employers' social contribution payments (19.7 pct), workers' social contributions (12.4 pct) and income tax (7.1 pct). The tax wedge fell 1.27 percentage points compared with 2014 reflecting a decline in social contribution payments (-0.92 pct for employers, -0.25 pct for workers) and a -0.09 pct decline in income tax.

    Greece had the 6th highest tax wedge in the OECD for an average married worker with two children at 38.1 pct in 2015, which compares with the OECD average of 26.7 pct. The country had the 3rd highest position in 2014.

    [30] Cruise for new enterpreneurs and students

    Students and new enterpreneurs will have the opportunity to take part in a 'marathon' of creativity and launch their startup at sea.

    For four consecutive days they will be able to develop their business ideas while sailing in the Aegean Sea under the CruiseInn, a cruise trip for young enterpreneurship organised by the "ThinkBiz", the first Economic University of Athens student enterpreneurship association and the Celestyal Cruise.

    "Through this entertaining experience that will offer the trip to the Aegean and the Greek islands we aim to give the tools, the people, the training and the money prizes that will help the participants to turn a business idea into a sustainable start up," said the head of ThinkBiz Lenia Miltiadous to ANA-MPA.

    The cruiseship Celestyal Olympia, from May 16 to May 20 and October 17 to October 21, will become a ship of creativity. The ship will sail from Piraeus port for Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos, Rhodes, Heraklio and Santorini. Each trip will host 30 participants and will have a different theme.

    During the first cruise, participants will work on the development of ideas on the sectors of tourism and culture while the second cruise will focus on the sectors of food, beverages and gastronomy. "We believe that the creation of new enterprises with innovative and technological characteristics may become a financial crisis exit model for students, graduates and new enterpreneurs of Greece," said Miltiadous.

    The participants will be selected through an evaluation process. Those interested can send their applications to getcruiseinn.com.

    Cruiseinn 2016 is held under the auspices of the Economy Ministry, the Hellenic Professionals Informatics Society and Blue Growth.

    [31] Yacht insurance production up in 2014

    Insurance contract production on yachts amounted to 11.5 million euros in 2014, up 6.0 pct from the previous year, while premium production on damage contracts fell 10.5 pct and total production of life and damage contracts eased 1.2 pct in 2014, the Association of Insurance Companies of Greece said in a report released on Tuesday.

    The largest number of insured boats were of personal leisure nature while cruisers and large yachts exceeded in compensation value. The majority of insured boats were engine powered but sailing boats had a bigger insurance value, the report said.

    The boat insurance sector accounted for 0.9 pct of total damage insurance production in 2014.

    [32] Private building activity down 5.2 pct in Jan

    Private building activity volume fell 5.2 pct in January this year, compared with the same month in 2015, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday. The statistics service, in a monthly report, said that private building activity permits totaled 691 in January, down 18.9 pct from the same month last year.

    [33] Greek stocks end lower on Tuesday

    Greek stocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday on market concern after the news that Greek authorities and its creditors paused negotiations on completing a review of the Greek economic programme ahead of the IMF spring summit in Washington.

    The composite index of the market ended at 553.43 points, down 1.34 pct, but off the day's lows of 545.75 points. Bank shares were at the focus of selling activity. The Large Cap index dropped 1.93 pct and the Mid Cap index rose 0.12 pct. Turnover was a thin 45.90 million euros in volume of 83,196,159.

    Lamda Development (3.36 pct), Grivalia Properties (1.85 pct) and Piraeus Port (1.67 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while Piraeus Bank (6.34 pct), National Bank (5.76 pct) and Eurobank (4.58 pct) suffered heavy losses. Among market sectors, Real Estate (2.37 pct) and Chemicals (1.39 pct) scored gains, while Banks (4.24 pct), Health (3.03 pct) and Telecoms (2.65 pct) suffered losses.

    National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 62 to 41 with another 18 issues unchanged. Intertek (28.35 pct), Vioter (20 pct) and Tzirakian (20 pct) were top gainers, while Mathios (26.36 pct), ANEK (20 pct) and Boutaris (18.92 pct) were top losers.

    [34] ADEX closing report

    The April 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 5,245 contracts with 14,811 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 45,033 contracts with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (13,662), followed by Alpha Bank (6,198), National Bank (9,479), Eurobank (4,601), MIG (9,125), OTE (337), PPC (345), OPAP (433), Frigoglass (288), Mytilineos (82), Viohalco (93), GEK (78) and Intralot (65).

    General News

    [35] "Open House" event to be held in Athens on April 16-17

    The "Open House" event will be held in Athens on April 16-17 giving visitors the opportunity to get acquainted with the architectural gems of the city.

    The event is held for a third consecutive year with the assistance of 450 volunteers who will tour visitors to 91 modern and neoclassical buildings, among them the Museum of the city of Athens, the Bangeio, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Athens City Hall, the Jewish Museum, the Vorres Museum, the Municipal Theatre of Piraeus.

    "The event aims at getting people acquainted with the value of architecture and its importance in our daily life," Athens Open House public relations manager Renata Douma said.

    Last year, 20,000 people had the opportunity to admire the unique and important buildings of Athens.

    The "Open House" is a very important international institution that aims to the promotion of architecture. The project started in London in 1992 and is now held in more than 35 cities throughout the world.

    [36] Comicdom Con Athens to be held on April 15-17

    Comicdom Con, the annual three-day comics festival, will be held in Athens on April 15-17.

    Comicdom Con Athens has become a standard in the Greek comics community, providing a unique celebration not only for the people who love the 9th Art, but also for those who wish to discover it. The event includes art exhibitions, sketch events, panels, screenings, workshops on comics and related arts, panels, publishers and retailers bazaar.

    The main hosting venues of Comicdom Con Athens are the Hellenic American Union, the French Institute of Greece and the Athens Municipality Cultural Centre.

    Last year, Comicdom Con attracted more than 12,000 visitors.

    The programme of the festival is available at comicdom-con.gr.

    [37] Police detains 15 Greek and foreign nationals as part of crack down on Idomeni rumour mill

    Greek police on Tuesday detained 15 Greeks and foreign nationals who said they were volunteers working in Idomeni, as part of authorities' intensive efforts to stop rumours spreading by unknown individuals who tell refugees and migrants in the camp that FYROM borders could reopen.

    The move follows the violence that erupted at the Greek-FYROM borders when refugees and migrants gathered to protest against the closing of the borders last Sunday.

    According to police, those detained are 5 Germans, 2 Britons, 2 Swedes, 2 Greeks, one Dutch, one Austrian, one Portuguese and one Czech, and were all stopped at the Axios bridge, where anyone who enters Greece from FYROM must pass.

    The detained told police they were helping the refugees but authorities said that none of them belongs to any of the NGOs operating in the area. They were all led to the local police station to establish their identities. Of the 15 individuals, one German national will be led before the prosecutor for possession of a knife.

    [38] Greece's taxi drivers to strike on Thursday over tax reforms

    Greek taxi drivers will hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest the government's proposed tax reform bill. According to the taxi drivers' federation, if these reforms are passed "they will devastate the already impoverished taxi sector."

    The strike will start at 05.00 on Thursday morning and last until 05.00 on Friday morning.

    In a separate labour action, trolleybus employees will hold a work stoppage on Wednesday, from 11.00 to 16.00, to attend their union's general meeting to discuss, among others, social security and labour issues.

    Weather forecast

    [39] Sunny on Wednesday

    Mostly fair weather and winds from variable directions are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 4 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern and the western parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 11C-25C. Mostly fair in the eastern parts with temperatures between 10C-27C. Sunny over the Aegean islands and Crete, 14C-23C. Fair in Athens, 12C-25C. Mostly fair in Thessaloniki, 11C-23C.

    [40] The Tuesday edition of Athens' newspapers at a glance

    AVGHI: Health insurance for 2 million uninsured

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: A little of pension

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Big reductions in auxiliary pensions

    ESTIA: Settlements are a health bomb

    ETHNOS: New pension limit at 1,000 euros

    IMERISSIA: The final decision for pensions

    KATHIMERINI: In Washington without an agreement

    TA NEA: Night impasse

    RIZOSPASTIS: We continue our fight for a 48-hour strike

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Pile on debt

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