|Sunday, 17 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 17-01-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 4 January 2017 Issue No: 5323
 Tsipras asks Britain's May to support a viable solution for CyprusPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked British counterpart The-resa May her support in achieving a "fair and viable" solution for Cyprus during a phone call on Tuesday, his office said in a press release.
During the call, Tsipras presented Greece's position concerning current developments on the Cyprus issue ahead of the crucial meeting in Geneva on January 12, and specifically about the need to abolish guarantees and achieve the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the island. He also "asked for a fair and viable solution, based on UN's decisions and the European acquis", the statement said.
 Tsipras to have phone contacts with EU leadersMaintaining open communication channels on the Cyprus issue with the US leadership, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and EU leaders, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will have phone contacts with four EU leaders in the next few days, maybe hours, according to sources.
More specifically, he will have contacts with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the French President Francois Hollande, the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the critical January 12 Geneva Conference.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias will meet with the new secretary general of the United Nations Antonio Guterres before the Geneva Conference.
Moreover, Tsipras will brief on Monday the political leaders on the issues starting with main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, at 10 pm. At 12.00 he will meet with PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata, at 14.00 with the secretary general of communist KKE party Dimitris Koutsoumbas, at 17.00 with the leader of Potami party Stavros Theodorakis, at 19.30 with the Centrists Union leader Vassilis Leventis and at 19.30 with the leader of Independent Greeks (ANEL) Panos Kammenos.
 Greece not discussing 'non-existent issues' with Turkey or Albania, says Alt. Defence MinisterGreece is not discussing non-existent issues with Turkey and Albania and does not recognize "grey zones" in its territory, Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas in an interview with magazine "Greek Defence & Technology" published on Tuesday, commenting on recent comments by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
"We are not discussing non-existent issues and for Greece there are no grey zones; there are only sovereign rights," Vitsas was quoted as saying. "As far as the statements of Turkish officials are concerned, I think they mostly express their insecurities," he added.
Commenting on the ongoing talks over Cyprus, the minister said time "doesn't always work in favour of the faits accomplis" of the Turkish invasion and occupation.
"It is very important that after 42 years, we are keeping the issue active in international fora - that is, that the Cyprus issue is first and foremost an issue of invasion and occupation. All this, along with the instability in Turkey and its region create a framework, which could lead to a jointly accepted and viable solution, without armies and foreign guarantees," he said.
Asked about the possible instrumentalization of refugees and refugee flows by Turkey to pressure Europe and Greece, he said: "We want to be clear: Such action would constitute a hostile act. I'd like to believe we will not face such a situation."
 Kotzias to discuss Cyprus talks with UN envoy on WednesdayForeign Minister Nikos Kotzias will meet the United Nations' Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the latest developments on the Cyprus issue, ahead of the crucial meeting in Geneva on January 12.
 New social security fund unites all the insured people, Deputy Labour Min saysLabour Minister Efi Achtsioglou, Deputy Labour Minister Tassos Petropoulos, the secretary general of the ministry Stella Vrakas and the president of the single social security fund EFKA Athanassios Bakalexis on Tuesday held a press conference on the launch of the new fund.
"The operation of EFKA marks the new year. EFKA unites all the insured people. It protects the weakest ones. It reflects the social solidarity that the country needs. EFKA belongs to everyone. No exceptions, no discriminations. We are struggling for the sake of everyone. The previous system was characte-rized by failure. It is time to change the system. A new social security fund without inequalities and discrimination was needed," Deputy Labour Minister Tassos Petropoulos said.
 Social security contributions will not rise, Deputy Labour Min saysDeputy Labour Minister Tassos Petropoulos on Tuesday in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency's radio station Praktoreio stressed that social security contributions will not increase.
Petropoulos explained that the contributions will be linked with the real income of the employees.
Asked whether the creation of a single social security fund will put at risk employees, he ruled out that possibility and stressed that the organisations will be strengthened.
 The government is planning to hire teachers, ANA's sourcesThe government is planning to hire teachers in the primary and secondary education system, sources said on Tuesday.
More specifically, the government will discuss the issue next week, according to sources of the Athens-Macedonian News Agency's (ANA).
Education Minister Costas Gavroglou in a statement to ANA stressed that "the priority that the government gives to education issues is given."
These hirings have the consent of the institutions, sources confirmed.
 Justice minister rejects claims government is trying to influence court on Turkish officersJustice Minister Stavros Kontonis rejected on Tuesday claims by a citizens initiative that the government is trying to sway the Supreme Court to rule in favour of extraditing the eight Turkish officers who entered Greece after the failed coup in Turkey.
"It's unacceptable for members of the initiative to misinform the public by claiming that the 'government's efforts to intervene in the work of justice are known', especially since the Appeals Council issued conflicting decisions on the issue of extradition and no government statement has been issued on the matter throughout the period until the final rulings have been issued," he said in a statement.
"The government respects and implements the rulings of Greek courts and we believe the same applies to the members of the initiative, all the more so considering that through their call they express their solidarity with the honest Greeks judges who will be called in a few days to carry out their work," he added.
A citizen's initiative organized through social media is planning a rally against the extradition of the officers on January 5, at the site of the old EAT-ESA detention centers where Greeks were held and tortured during the Greek military dictatorship. The rally has been scheduled for 18:30. The appeals of the Turkish officers will be heard by the Supreme Court on January 10, 11 and 13.
 Combating unemployment and undeclared work among the Labour ministry's prioritiesLabour Minister Efi Achtsioglou on Tuesday in a press conference presented the activities of the Labour ministry.
She underlined that targeted and effective checks are being made to combat undeclared work.
Achtsioglou stated that tackling unemployment is also a critical issue. "We will not stop because of the small reduction of undeclared work," she said adding that "we have recently recorded the best redundancy-recruitment balance."
Labour Minister Efi Achtsioglou, Deputy Labour Minister Tassos Petropoulos, the secretary general of the ministry Stella Vrakas and the president of the single social security fund EFKA Athanassios Bakalexis on held a joint press conference on the launch of the new social security fund.
"The operation of EFKA marks the new year. EFKA unites all the insured people. It protects the weakest ones. It reflects the social solidarity that the country needs. EFKA belongs to everyone. No exceptions, no discriminations. We are struggling for the sake of everyone. The previous system was characte-rized by failure. It is time to change the system. A new social security fund without inequalities and discrimination was needed," Deputy Labour Minister Tassos Petropoulos earlier said.
 State arrears towards private sector lowered to 5.6 bln euros in NovemberGreek state's arrears towards the private sector fell by 11.5 percent at the end of November to 5.603 billion, from 6.33 billion in October, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.
From the total sum of arrears towards the private sector in November, 4.163 billion euros were overdue debts (versus 4.718 billion in October), while outstanding tax returns were 1.440 billion euros (versus 1.612 billion a month ago).
The biggest arrears are owed by social security funds, which in November totaled 2.37 billion euros. Of these arrears, the state-run health insurer EOPYY owed 1.339 billion euros and the civil servants' fund owed 482 million euros.
 No Warrant on Piraeus Bank shares has been exercised, lender saysNo Warrant on shares issued by Piraeus Bank and owned by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) has been exercised, the lender said in a press release on Tuesday, following an announcement on Dec. 20 on the exercise process of the Warrants.
Therefore the issued Warrants currently outstanding amount to 843,637,022 and correspond to 37,759,281 shares of the bank owned by the HFSF, it added.
 Tourist arrivals up 5.5 pct in Thessaloniki(It corrects the third paragraph from "Therefore, the contribu-tion of Thessaloniki to the Greek tourism market increased by 10.5 pct on a year-to-year basis" to "This increase is a result of a 10.5 pct rise in domestic tourism on a year-to-year basis". A corrected version follows:)
Tourist arrivals rose 5.5 pct in Thessaloniki in 2016 compared to the previous year, the president of Thessaloniki Hoteliers Association, Aristotelis Thomopoulos, on Tuesday said in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency's radio station Praktoreio 104.9 FM.
He also said that the nights spent in the hotels of Thessaloniki also rose accordingly.
This increase is a result of a 10.5 pct rise in domestic tourism on a year-to-year basis.
Thomopoulos expressed the wish that the upward trend will continue in 2017. He explained that more and more people from the Balkans and Turkey have visited the city over the last two years, especially at weekends and holidays seasons.
More specifically, hotel capacity reached 90 pct during 2016 Christmas period, he stressed.
 Tax debts to the state rose by 890 mln euros in NovemberTax debts towards the state rose by 890 million euros in November to about 94.2 billion euros, from 1.4 billion in October, according to data released by the General Secretariat of Public Revenues (GSPR) on Tuesday.
Out of those 94.2 billion euros, the 12.6 billion are a new debt, which means they were created in 2016. The same data showed that a total of 4.3 million Greeks owe taxes to the state, of whom one in two (49 pct) has already experienced or is in danger of experiencing forced recovery measures.
 Winter sales to start on Jan. 9; optional opening on following SundayWinter sales will kick off in Athens and Thessaloniki on January 9, the two cities' Chambers of Commerce said on Tuesday, adding that shop owners may also choose to open on the following Sunday (Dec. 15).
For stores that will open on Dec. 15, the proposed shopping hours are 11:00-18:00. Shops are also required to write the old and new price on all items offered and may also include the percentage of the sale, the Athens Chamber said in a press release. Sales will officially end on February 28.
 Greek stocks end higherGreek stocks scored gains in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with the market breaking the 650 points boosted by interest in banking shares. The composite index of the market rose 1.55 pct to end at 656.61 points, off the day's highs of 658.66 points.
Turnover was 42.107 million euros in volume of 93,421,405 shares. The Large Cap index rose 1.42 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.32 pct higher. National Bank (6.32 pct), Piraeus Bank (5.66 pct), Eurobank (4.60 pct) and Ellaktor (4.55 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while Sarantis (-1.99 pct), Motor Oil (-1.64 pct), OLP (-1.36 pct) and OTE (-1.33 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Banking (4.44 pct), Raw Materials (2.93 pct) and Trade (2.49 pct) sectors scored gains, while Telecommunications (-1.33 pct), Oil (-1.21 pct) and Personal & Household Products (-1.18 pct) suffered heavy losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 69 to 33, with another 26 issues unchanged. Attica Bank (18.92 pct), Mermeren (9.92 pct) and Evrofarma (9.58 pct) were top gainers, while Intrakat (-21.36 pct), Tzirakian Profil (-20 pct) and Boutaris (-19.23 pct) were top losers.
 ADEX closing reportThe January 2017 contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.07 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday. The FTSE/ASE Large Cap index closed at 1,769.69 points, registering gains of 1.42 pct.
Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 1,071 contracts with 7.730 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 57,482 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (25,995), followed by Piraeus Bank (15.904), Eurobank (10.021), MIG (1.881), Alpha Bank (1.829), Mytilineos (374), PPC (355), Hellenic Petroleum (230), Ellaktor (167), Viohalco (140), OTE (144), OPAP (101), METKA (64), GEK-TERNA (46) and Motor Oil (2).
 Prosecutors raid Novartis offices in Athens over bribery allegationsCorruption prosecutors raided the offices of Swiss drug maker Novartis in Athens a few days ago as part of an ongoing investigation over bribery allegations, sources told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday.
According to the same sources, the prosecutors requested a thorough search to gather electronic data and documents relating to the probe which was launched in Greece in mid-December. The investigation was ordered by the Supreme Court's prosecution after a file with media reports on bribery allegations was submitted by Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis. The reports claimed Novartis bribed doctors and public officials to boost prescriptions and company sales.
Greek authorities have also requested the assistance of U.S. authorities which, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) first launched an investigation into the drug maker two years ago. According to the reports, two executives of Novartis in Greece had submitted to U.S. authorities hundreds of documents which prove payments to private doctors and doctors who work in the public healthcare system (more than 4,000 in total), in an effort to promote the company's products.
The prosecution requested that U.S. authorities share any data pertaining to the Greek part of the scandal.
 Greek-German police operation underway to smash international cannabis smuggling ringA major operation is currently underway by Greek and German police, the coast guard and Thessaloniki drug enforcement unit since Monday night in various regions of Greece and Germany to smash an international gang, trafficking large quantities of cannabis.
According to Greek police, the criminal organization imported cannabis from Albania in trucks and then packaged a large quantity which they send to Germany and other EU countries. Three Greek citizens have so far been arrested in Igoumenitsa and one person in Germany, police said. Authorities also seized 216 kilos of raw cannabis and an international transport truck.
The investigation and police operation continues and announcements will be made after they have concluded, police added.
 Greece ranks 7th in 2016 passport indexGreece holds the 7th position in the 2016 Passport Index, as the Greek passport holders can travel to 152 countries without the need of a visa.
The 2016 Passport Index issues an annual report on the strength of the world passports based on the number of countries citizens can travel to without visa.
Germany ranks first as Germans can travel to 158 countries freely, followed by the Swedish with 157 countries. In the 3rd position are Finland, Switzerland, France, Spain, South Korea and the UK.
Greece ranks seventh along with Australia.
Afghanistan holds the last position (95th).
 Cloudy on WednesdayClouds with possible rain in the south and northwestern winds are forecast for Wednesday. Wind velocity will reach 7 on the Beaufort scale. Scattered clouds in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 0C to 12C. Partly cloudy with possibility of rain in the western parts with temperatures between 03C to 15C. Scattered clouds with possible rain in the eastern parts with temperatures between 0C and 15C. Partly cloudy over the Aegean islands and Crete, 10C-15C. Clouds in Athens, 05-15. Partly cloudy in Thessa-loniki, -1-11C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens dailies at a glanceDIMOKRATIA: Confiscation danger for 1,683,929 Greeks
ETHNOS: January is a critical month for the Cyprus issue
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: High social security contributions
ESTIA: Critical times for public entities (DEKO)
AVGHI: Hirings in Education
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Incentives for low cost postgraduate studies
KATHIMERINI: Shocking social security contributions
RIZOSPASTIS: No compromise with poverty and degradation
TA NEA: National consensus operation
IMERISSIA: 12.6 billion euro new debt
NAFTEMPORIKI: 94 billion euro arrears
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