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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 17-02-14

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

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

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 Issue No: 5351

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government to seek political solution on program review at next Eurogroup
  • [02] Neither Greece nor Europe can tolerate a new phase of uncertainty, gov't spokesman Tzanakopoulos says
  • [03] Moscocivi: There's a window of opportunity for a deal with Greece
  • [04] Greece must continue its efforts to build a 'success story', says EU Commissioner Moscovici
  • [05] EU Commissioner Moscovici in Athens on Wednesday
  • [06] BoG chief: Completing program review a matter of 'common sense'
  • [07] Dijsselbloem not attending European Parliament discussion on Greece on Tuesday
  • [08] Tsipras: German President Steinmeier is a message of hope, unity and support
  • [09] President Pavlopoulos congratulates newly elected German President Steinmeier
  • [10] Every agreement with the lenders is a compromise with mutual concessions, says Interior Min Skourletis
  • [11] FM Kotzias and Vietnamese counterpart Minh agree on enhancing bilateral relations
  • [12] Kotzias received by Vietnamese PM during visit to Vietnam
  • [13] ND's Mitsotakis meets Merkel, stresses that Greece belongs in Europe's 'inner core'
  • [14] EU coordinator on EU-Turkey agreement on Tuesday in Mytilene
  • [15] Palestinian Ambassador Toumbassi briefs KKE leader Koutsoumbas on developments in Palestine
  • [16] Foreign ministry to increase consular staff in countries where visa demand is high
  • [17] Justice to investigate misleading advertising for phone lines providing Social Solidarity Income info
  • [18] Greek economy shows "signs of recovery", Commission says
  • [19] Fitch: Greece's rating based on completing program review well ahead of July
  • [20] Commission revises upwards Greek GDP in 2016
  • [21] Insurance association meets with BoG governor
  • [22] Pressures for new measures, delays in program review threaten economic recovery, says business body
  • [23] CFO role at a turning point, EY survey says
  • [24] Greek state arrears to private sector down significantly in 2016
  • [25] JTI Hellas wins Top Employer certification
  • [26] FHL Kiriakidis Group reports strong 2016 results
  • [27] Eurowings adds new flights to Greek destinations this summer
  • [28] Athens among top four European destinations
  • [29] Olive oil competition to be held in Messinia
  • [30] Revenues in museums and archaeological sites up in Jan-Oct
  • [31] 15 Greek and Cypriot enterprises in BAU fair
  • [32] Building activity up 9.4 pct in November
  • [33] Greek stocks end higher
  • [34] Greek bond market closing report
  • [35] ADEX closing report
  • [36] Stolen part of sarcophagus to be repatriated
  • [37] Farmers planning protest rally in Athens on Tuesday
  • [38] 'TA NEA' newspaper returns to the kiosks on Tuesday after court decision
  • [39] Possibility for strong quake in the region of Lesvos very slight, Professor Lekkas tells ANA
  • [40] Many ferries for Greek islands cancelled due to bad weather
  • [41] Ferry routes to Crete resume as winds ease up
  • [42] Argentinian tango show awaits passengers at Athens' airport on Tuesday
  • [43] Athens court building evacuated after call warning of planned missile attack
  • [44] Asylum agency employees hold 24-hour strike. rally over unpaid wages
  • [45] Clouds, light rain on Tuesday
  • [46] The Monday edition of Athens dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Government to seek political solution on program review at next Eurogroup

    Greece wants to achieve a "political solution" on the whole package of measures (reforms, primary surpluses, mid-term measures on debt) negotiated with its lenders at the Eurogroup on February 20 and figure out the details later, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Monday, speaking at an interview with ANT1 TV station.

    The minister denied media reports that Athens has been handed a 48-hour ultimatum from the institutions to respond to their proposals, adding that EU financial affairs chief Pierre Moscovici and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem are "sincerely trying to contribute" to a comprehensive solution for the country.

    Asked about the government's "red lines" in the talks, Tsakalotos said it is "the people in the workforce" whom the government wants to help once economic recovery returns.

    He said the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) agree with Greece's view that it is irrational to ask for new measures when revenues are exceeding the targets. "However, they are trying to maintain a balance between the Greek position and that of some Eurozone countries which are adamant about the IMF's involvement in the program," he said.

    "We are not only negotiating on the tax-free threshold, but also for positive measures," he said when asked about specific points being discussed adding that the delays in the talks take place because "you must hold back on certain things until the others show their cards".

    Asked why Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a recent interview that the government wouldn't sign any more measures, Tsakalotos said the prime minister has to maintain the toughest line possible.

    [02] Neither Greece nor Europe can tolerate a new phase of uncertainty, gov't spokesman Tzanakopoulos says

    Neither Greece nor Europe can tolerate a new phase of uncertainty and renewed crisis, let alone a technical crisis, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Monday said in an interview with Newpost.gr.

    "The Greek government participates in the negotiations with the creditors with clear positions," he underlined and added that Greece has repeatedly said it would not accept irrational demands from the creditors, and especially the IMF.

    "We have not retreated one iota from this position," Tzanako-poulos said, adding that the government's strongest argument in the negotiations was reality itself and the performance of the Greek economy.

    Moreover, he suggested that the IMF should set aside the delays and the blame game for the sake of Greece and Europe, and immediately decide whether it will participate or not in the Greek programme.

    The IMF and its constant ambivalence and indecision were "exclusively responsible" for the delay, Tzanakopoulos said, expressing his conviction that there will not be a rekindling of an "artificial crisis," in spite of the German finance minister's "best efforts in this direction." He noted that Wolfgang Schaeuble was now "politically isolated, both in his own country and in Europe."

    Referring to the ruling SYRIZA's party Parliamentary group, Tzanakopoulos noted that this was "solid and unified and fully supports the efforts of the negotiating team and the government for a socially viable agreement, without backing down to the IMF's irrational demands." He ruled out scenarios of an all-party government or the passing of measures with an enhanced majority in Parliament and said the government's only focus was the conclusion of the second review.

    [03] Moscocivi: There's a window of opportunity for a deal with Greece

    There is a window of opportunity for Greece to achieve an agreement with its creditors, EU financial affairs chief Pierre Moscovici told Euronews' Greek service in Brussels on Monday, following the presentation of the European Commi-ssion's winter forecasts for the period 2016-2018.

    "Just as Greek authorities are assuming their responsibilities [...] Greece's partners must also assume theirs," he said.

    Concerning the International Monetary Fund's role in the Greek program, the Commissioner said it is a "valuable partner" with whom the European Commission wants to work with.

    [04] Greece must continue its efforts to build a 'success story', says EU Commissioner Moscovici

    BRUSSELS (ANA/M. Aroni)

    European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici on Monday underlined the need Greece to continue its efforts towards building a success story, during a press conference in Brussels.

    Moscovici noted that after years of recession, something that we could call 'success story' return to growth rates is now being built in Greece. "It is of vital importance that this effort continues in order to avoid creating a new crisis in the midst of a recovery process of the economy in Greece," he said.

    The French commissioner stressed that the future decisions for Greece should not be based on pessimistic scenarios but on the figures presented today by the European Commission according to which the performance of the Greek economy is better than expected.

    He said that Greece has made efforts and reforms and the results are already visible and fruitful adding that Greece's partners should act repespectively.

    Finally, he expressed his hope for "a rapid conclusion of the second review" ahead of 20 February's Eurogroup.

    [05] EU Commissioner Moscovici in Athens on Wednesday

    BRUSSELS(ANA/M.Aroni)

    European Commissioner for Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici will visit Athens on Wednesday to support the efforts for a solution for the negotiations on the second review of the Greek programme.

    Moscovici made this statement during the presentation of the winter economic forecasts for the period 2016-2018 in Brussels on Monday.

    During his visit to Athens the European Commissioner will meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.

    [06] BoG chief: Completing program review a matter of 'common sense'

    Concluding Greece's second program review is a matter of "common sense" and the country must not miss this opportunity, Bank of Greece governor Yannis Stournaras said during a briefing of the parliament's finance committee on Monday.

    "We have achieved the largest part of the [economic] adjustment and it is a matter of common sense to close this agreement. The Greek economy has shown strong resistance during the crisis. The sacrifices which have been made are too big. We're too close to exiting the crisis. We must not lose this opportunity as, I'm sorry to say, we missed in the past," he told lawmakers.

    Asked who is to blame for the delay in the completion of the review, the central banker said all sides share a part of the responsibility.

    "It may be a tactic, but it is in our power to refute it. And I say this because we have a lot of experience now. We have been negotiating since 2010. Of course, BoG's choice is to make the agreement now, which is a much better scenario than all the others. It will be good for the economy to close [the review] now. Unfortunately we do not have time, because we are very close to the German, Dutch and French elections. A few months later, things will be worse," he said.

    Commenting on the creditors demand for a lower tax-free threshold, he said this can be implemented through rationalization and a tiered system. Stournaras also said he wasn't opposed to the idea of legislating measures in advance, noting the 3.5 percent primary surplus target can be achieved, on condition that a reverse mechanism will be put in place to abolish austerity measures when the country achieves its goals.

    [07] Dijsselbloem not attending European Parliament discussion on Greece on Tuesday

    PARIS (ANA/ O. Tsipira)

    Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem will not be attending the European Parliament's discussion on the Greek programme, due to take place in Strasbourg on Tuesday afternoon.

    Asked about Dijsselbloem's absence, European Parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch Guillot said he was unable to reply but "assumed it had to do with internal affairs" in Dijssel-bloem's own country.

    "The Parliament has repeatedly invited him and I know he has been informed," he added, while stressing that the heads of the political groups in the Parliament had "wanted him to be present and insisted on his participation".

    Guillot expressed hope that, since Dijsselbloem was unable to attend the current session, that he might attend that in March.

    [08] Tsipras: German President Steinmeier is a message of hope, unity and support

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis congratulated the new president of Germany for his election.

    "Congratulations to Frank-Walter Steinmeier for his election as President of the Federal Republic of Germany," Tsipras posted on Twitter.

    "It is a message of hope, unity and support for democratic and social values, at a moment when Europe and the international community are facing great challenges," he added.

    On his part, Mitsotakis also posted on Twitter: "Congratula-tions to Frank-Walter Steinmeier for his election. The new President of the Federal Republic of Germany is a great Euro-pean politician."

    [09] President Pavlopoulos congratulates newly elected German President Steinmeier

    President Pavlopoulos in a letter on Monday stressed the importance of the support of the newly elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Greece and his commitment to EU values.

    "Let me congratulate you for your election as the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, something that you deserved, as it is also proved by the overwhelming majority of the electoral college that trusted you," Pavlopoulos said and added: "The election marks the progress of a truly brilliant political career, at international level, during which you have already significantly contributed not only to your country but also to the European Union towards its final consolidation. You have several times proved you are a top European politician."

    "I wish to assure you that my country, and I personally, are always ready to move together ... with aim the defence of the fundamental principles and values of our common European project," concluded Pavlopoulos.

    [10] Every agreement with the lenders is a compromise with mutual concessions, says Interior Min Skourletis

    Interior Minister Panos Skourletis referred to the political 'wager' of the county to exit the memoranda in an interview with Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper on Monday.

    "Every agreement with the lenders constitutes a compromise with mutual concessions. Its context is what makes it acceptable or not" he said and explained "An agreement that will prolong the state of uncertainty and will act as an obstacle to growth and will recycle the recessions can't be accepted. Besides the people's patience has reached its limits".

    Interior Minister recognised that in the current phase an agreement without political cost for SYRIZA is impossible but underlined that "what matters is to exit the memoranda and this is our aim and on this course we must move. If this prospect is cancelled we will suffer a very heavy defeat not only as SYRIZA but as society. In any case, there is nothing certain on this difficult course".

    On the Grexit debate, Skourletis said that "it is German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's plan for Greece and Europe".

    [11] FM Kotzias and Vietnamese counterpart Minh agree on enhancing bilateral relations

    The common will for direct expansion and deepening of bilateral relations between Greece and Vietnam at all levels was confirmed during Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias' official visit in Hanoi, on the anniversary of 10 years from the opening of the Greek embassy in the Vietnamese capital and 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    The contacts between the two officials revealed the mutual intention to intensify contacts that will promote bilateral cooperation in all areas, from economic, commercial, maritime, to tourism and culture.

    Among the most important agreements is the one to promote cooperation between the two countries in multilateral forums-including the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) with the EU and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) ASEAN-EU, with Vietnam saying that it is ready to act as a gateway to further promote and facilitate cooperation between Greece and ASEAN, as well as the EU and ASEAN, but also Greece and Vietnam in its relations with the EU, acting as a gateway to Europe.

    "We respect Vietnam and its brave story, and for me is a life dream to be here and I am very happy to be the first Greek Foreign Minister to visit Vietnam," Kotzias said in a joint press conference with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Bhin Minh.

    "Vetnam is a synonym of national resistance and human dignity, which are the highest human values for the protection of human life and national sovereignty," he added.

    ?"That is why," Kotzias added "we are preparing to further promote cooperation between Greece and Vietnam, in all possible fields, from business and shipping to the EU. We can be, for Vietnam, the gateway to the EU," he underlined.

    On his part, Minh said that "Vietnam and Greece have shared forty years of diplomatic relations and since then we have seen very positive developments in our bilateral cooperation."

    The Vietnamese Foreign Minister described his talks with Kotzias "very constructive" and expressed his appreciation for the visit of Kotzias in Hanoi.

    "We believe," he added, "that the exchange of visits between the two countries should further intensify" in the framework of mutual will and agreement for further expansion of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.

    [12] Kotzias received by Vietnamese PM during visit to Vietnam

    Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguy?n Xu?n Ph?c on Monday received Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, currently on a visit to Vietnam. The Vietnamese premier expressed hope that Kotzias' visit will be one more step toward improving bilateral relations between Vietnam and Greece.

    Diplomatic sources said the Vietnamese premier referred to the importance resolving differences peacefully and of observing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He said he had instructed his cabinet to swiftly deal with issues relating to the signature of an agreement with Greece for avoiding double taxation and to encourage business ties between the two countries. Among others, he said it was important to facilitate trade transactions, imports and exports, noting the need to eradicate bureaucratic obstacles and ensure access to information.

    Kotzias presented the Vietnamese premier with an invitation from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to visit Greece. The Greek minister highlighted the importance of an agreement for avoiding double taxation and to promote collaboration and the contractual framework in shipping cooperation. Kotzias noted that Greece could act as Vietnam's gateway into the EU.

    [13] ND's Mitsotakis meets Merkel, stresses that Greece belongs in Europe's 'inner core'

    BERLIN (ANA/ D. Kottaridis)

    Meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, Greece's main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented the New Democracy party's firm position that Greece belongs to the "inner core" of Europe and the Eurozone.

    In statements after the meeting, Mitsotakis said that he had "conveyed some images regarding the difficult times for Greeks, after seven and more years of economic and social crisis," as well as the fact that the vast majority consider Greece's place in the heart of Europe non-negotiable.

    "We say a clear-cut no to a return to the drachma and those pushing such scenarios. Greece is and will remain a member of the Eurozone," he stressed.

    The current government's delays and u-turns were "leading our creditors to have excessive demands," Mitsotakis added, while Greek society was paying a heavy price of the failure of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to implement the bold changes Greece needs, many of which had no fiscal cost.

    "The Tsipras government has no plan for the economy's growth, for attracting investments, for creating jobs in the private sector," Mitsotakis noted, while its incompetence and dogmatic attitudes had also created "dangerous situations" with regard to the refugee and migration crisis.

    "More than ever, the country now needs a national plan for regrouping and reorgarnisation. I expressed our determination to make Greece a normal European state. Austerity without prospects and constant uncertainty are not what the Greek people deserve," he said.

    The meeting between Merkel and ND's leader was held at the headquarters of the CDU party in Berlin and lasted for approximately an hour. Mitsotakis and Merkel spoke privately for about 20 minutes, after which they were joined by delegations from both sides. During the meeting, Mitsotakis outlined his party's economic programme for extricating Greece from the crisis and expressed his concern about the state of the Greek economy.

    Sources said that Mitsotakis emphasised the immense problems for Greek society, especially unemployment and poverty, saying that the pace of reforms and changes must be accele-rated. ND's leader also outlined his ideas for his party's programme of reforms in a number of areas, including public administration, education and justice, while stressing that "ownership" of the reforms was the most vital element for Greece to overcome the crisis.

    On the refugee and migration issue, Mitsotakis asked for Berlin's political and practical support, though conceding that there had been delays in things that should have been done.

    On Monday afternoon, ND's president will meet with CDU MPs in the German Parliament.

    [14] EU coordinator on EU-Turkey agreement on Tuesday in Mytilene

    Maarten Verwey, EU's coordinator for the impementation of EU-Turkey agreeement will visit Lesvos on Tuesday. Verwey will hold meetings with members of the local authorities and enterpreneurs and afterwards he will speak to the press.

    [15] Palestinian Ambassador Toumbassi briefs KKE leader Koutsoumbas on developments in Palestine

    Communist Party (KKE) secretary general Dimitris Kout-soumbas received on Monday the Palestinian Ambassador Marwan Toumbassi at the party headquarters in Perissos.

    Toumbassi briefed Koutsoumbas on the developments in Palestine and referred to the expansion of the Israeli settlement and the "dangerous conditions in the Palestine's territory". He also thanked Koutsoumbas for his solidarity and the support to the struggle of the people of Palestine.

    On his part, Koutsoumbas referred to the need to intesify the common struggle of the people against the imperialistic wars and interventions.

    Koutsoumbas condemned the Israeli occupation and the recent decision of the Israeli parliament for the expansion of the settlements and lashed out at the US decision to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem.

    [16] Foreign ministry to increase consular staff in countries where visa demand is high

    The foreign ministry is to send additional staff to Greek consular authorities in countries where demand for visas is rising, among them Russia, China, India and Iran.

    The decision was made at a meeting on visa issues and cruise tourism held at the foreign ministry on Monday, chaired by Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos.

    The meeting was attended by Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura and Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, as well as officials from the ministries involved.

    The meeting, arranged by Kouroumblis and Katrougalos, focused on how to facilitate the arrival of tourists to Greece via cruises, since their numbers are expected to be significantly increased in the coming summer.

    [17] Justice to investigate misleading advertising for phone lines providing Social Solidarity Income info

    Following a complaint lodged by the labour ministry, a public prosecutor is currently investigating the legality of adverts urging the public to seek information on the Social Solidarity Income via private information phone lines charging for their services, the labour ministry announced on Monday.

    A ministry announcement stressed that the public can obtain guaranteed information on the SSI via the free phone line 15105 during working hours (8:00-14:00 on week days). There is no need for any member of the public to address their questions to unauthorised sources or pay for the information, as suggested by some television advertisements already on the air, the ministry added. It additionally highlighted the risk that the information given and paid for will be incomplete or incorrect.

    Finally, the ministry announcement said that the simplest way to submit an application for the SSI was to do so online from home. The electronic platform was imple and user-friendly, the application there was filled out in advance and, if additional information is required, the system alerts the applicant.

    Financial News

    [18] Greek economy shows "signs of recovery", Commission says

    Greek economy is showing "signs of recovery", the European Commission said in its winter forecasts for the period 2016-2018, released on Monday.

    The Commission stressed that following completion of the first review of the EMS programe, "the Greek economy is gradually growing" and "public finances perform better than expected".

    The Commission forecasts that the country's real GDP will reach 0.3 pct in 2016, "reflecting an improvement in business and consumer confidence," after the repayment of state arrears to the private sector and the completion of the first review. The European Commission, forecasts that Greek economic recovery will accelerate in 2017 -on the condition of a timely completion of a second review of the programe- reaching 2.7 pct based on improving financial conditions and a gradual lifting of capital controls. It also envisages a rise in private consumption and investments to 3.1 pct in 2018.

    The Commission sees an improvement in the country's labour market in the last two years. Employment grew 2.4 pct on average in the first 10 months of 2016 and was projected to rise by an average rate of 2.2 pct by 2018. Unemployment is projected to fall to 23.4 pct of the workforce in 2016, from 24.9 pct in 2015, "helped by reforms in the labour market setting flexible employment forms and wages".

    "Downward risks" that could affect forecasts are related, mostly, with uncertainty over completion of the second review, outside factors such as geopolitical and economic tensions on a global and regional level and a refugee crisis.

    The country's fiscal deficit is expected to fall to -1.1 pct of GDP in 2016, to remain stable in 2017 and to turn into a surplus of 0.7 pct of GDP in 2018. The Commission expects Greece to significantly overshoot its target for a primary surplus to 2.0 pct of GDP in 2016, from a target of 0.5 pct of GDP. The report said that Greece will achieve a goal for a primary surplus of 1.75 pct of GDP in 2017 and noted that a strong revenue performance in 2016 "based on an ongoing reform of revenue administration" will also help to achieve goals in 2018.

    The Commission said there were some downward risks related with the possibility of a smaller performance of fiscal reforms in 2017 because of a delay in completing the second review of the programe. It noted that Greek authorities were expected to adopt a medium-term fiscal package of 2018-2021, which includes necessary adjustments in fiscal policies to safeguard achievement of a goal for a primary surplus of 3.5 pct of GDP in 2018.

    The Commission envisages that the country's public debt will rise from 177.4 pct of GDP in 2015 to 179.7 pct in 2016, but to begin falling from 2017 onwards. Introduction of short-term measures by the ESM in 2017 and 2018 was expected to raise the borrowing cost in the short-term, but to lowered it in the long-term and to reduce the debt repayment programe.

    [19] Fitch: Greece's rating based on completing program review well ahead of July

    Greece's current "CCC" rating is based on the assumption the country's second program review will be completed well ahead of July, maintaining access to official funding, Fitch Ratings said in a press release on Monday, adding that the recurrent tensions between the country and its creditors are already reflected in its sovereign rating, which has been at current levels for nearly two years."The Greek government agrees with the IMF that debt relief is needed, but has objected to the Fund's position that the government should pre-legislate for specific automatic fiscal correction measures if it misses future primary surplus targets. Even so, the current stand-off appears to be driven more by the inter-creditor disagreement," Fitch said.

    "Press reports suggest that the IMF and the Europeans have taken a common position on the size of the automatic measures, but details remain unclear, as does the Greek government's response," it added.

    The agency commented that Greece has broadly met program conditions and recorded a primary surplus of 4.4 billion euros in 2016 thanks to higher-than-budgeted revenues. GDP rose 1.8 pct year-on-year in the third quarter of 2016, the largest annual increase in over eight years. "This progress is one reason that we think Greece's European creditors would be prepared to proceed with the second review and to disburse funds without IMF involvement. Another reason is their desire to avoid a Greek political crisis during an already congested election year in Europe," Fitch said.

    Completing the second program review and disbursing the associated ESM funds would enable Greece to meet its July maturities, which total more than 6 billion euros (including 3.9 billion to the European Central Bank). Doing so in a timely fashion and avoiding the level of brinksmanship of the first half of 2015 would reduce the risk that Greece's economic recovery is undermined by a hit to confidence or by the Greek government building up arrears to conserve liquidity, the agency said.

    It also warned that recent events highlight that political risk remains a sovereign rating weakness for Greece, despite posi-tive economic and fiscal developments. Fitch's next cheduled review is due on 24 February.

    [20] Commission revises upwards Greek GDP in 2016

    Greek economy grew 0.3 pct in 2016 and it is expected to grow by 2.7 pct this year and by 3.1 pct in 2018, the European Commission said in its winter forecasts.

    The EU's executive, in a report released on Monday, said that the Greek economy's picture was improved compared with the Commission's autumn estimates which saw a 0.3 pct contraction of the Greek GDP in 2016.

    The country's fiscal deficit is expected to fall to -1.1 pct of GDP in 2016, from a -2.5 pct autumn estimate, to remain stable in 2017 and to turn into a 0.7 pct surplus in 2018.

    The Greek public debt is expected to reach 179.7 pct of GDP in 2016 (down from a previous estimate of 181.6 pct in autumn), falling to 177.2 pct in 2017 and to 170.6 pct in 2018. The unemployment rate is projected to fall from 23.4 pct of the workforce in 2016 to 22 pct in 2017 and to 20.3 pct in 2018.

    The inflation rate is expected to be zero in 2016, rising to 1.3 pct in 2017 and to 1.0 pct in 2018. Finally, investments are projected to rise significantly by 12 pct in 2017 and by 14.2 pct in 2018, from 4.0 pct in 2016.

    [21] Insurance association meets with BoG governor

    "The development of private insurance sector can offer a lot more to the Greek society and economy," Alexandros Sarrigeorgiou, president of Hellenic Association of Insurance Companies said during a working lunch meeting of the Association with Bank of Greece governor Yiannis Stournaras.

    The meeting focused on exchanging views on issues related with the economy, the society and private insurance. The central banker referred to the figures and prospects of the Greek economy.

    Sarrigeorgiou underlined the significant contribution of private insurance in the country, noting that the although the Greek insurance market was still small in size compared with other European markets, it was a significant sector for the Greek economy with investments worth 13 billion euros, compensations of 2.5-3.0 billion euros annually and taxes of more than 500 million euros.

    [22] Pressures for new measures, delays in program review threaten economic recovery, says business body

    The Greek economy risks being bogged down again due to the pressures from the country's lenders to take new measures and the government's inability to conclude the second program review, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) said in its monthly economic bulletin on Monday.

    "The challenge is to bridge the differences between the Greek government and the institutions in order ensure a smooth disbursement of the next installment of the program's loan. Any delay in the process can trigger a domino of negative developments at a particularly critical time both for Greece and for Europe," the business body said.

    SEV also noted that the protracted negotiations increase uncertainty which is recorded in the fall in consumer confidence in January 2017 and in the market's 'wait-and-see' attitude, while mixed trends was formed in various sectors of the economy.

    [23] CFO role at a turning point, EY survey says

    The traditional role of the chief financial officer is at a critical turning point, an Ernst & Young global survey among 769 senior financial executives from more than 30 countries, including Greece, said on Monday.

    According to 57% of participants in the survey, aspiring financial managers will need to develop leadership skills, ability to build efficient teams and strong relationships with management if they want to be promoted in the next five years.

    These changes, according to The DNA report of the CFO, reflect the ever-expanding range of responsibilities of this position, as pressure by the digital technology, the huge amount of data, the increasingly intense scrutiny and ongoing uncertainty and volatility, continually increases.

    According to the findings of the survey, the top financial executives will be characterized increasingly by more creative features, such as innovation, creativity, and emotional intelligence, so that they will be able to inspire and cultivate the loyalty of their staff. At the same time, the manner of communication should become more adaptable to new circumstances.

    Digital media (from tweets and blogs to the most sophisticated channels) will become important tools of the communication strategy of a CFO with all interested parties inside and outside the company. As it is now clear that the business world is dramatically transformed, with social responsibility and sustainability becoming a priority, the design of a specific and measurable strategy by which to evaluate the performance of financial directors, will gradually burden their agenda.

    The research also highlights the importance of drafting a course that covers a wide range of experience and roles in order to build skills in key areas beyond the financial, for the future of the CFO.

    As the DNA of the CFOs changes, the staffing composition of financial departments will also change. Two thirds (66%) of financial executives surveyed believe that companies should look for the next generation of senior financial executives from a diverse workforce tank.

    A 57% of women surveyed and nearly half of male participants (49%) believe that there are not enough women between emerging future senior financial executives. According to 62% of respondents, the top strategy to increase women promoted to the position of chief financial officer, is the "visibility of successful women in leadership positions who can serve as role models for younger members."

    [24] Greek state arrears to private sector down significantly in 2016

    Greek state arrears to the private sector fell significantly in December 2016 to 3.310 billion euros from 4.162 billion in November, the Finance ministry said in a report released on Monday.

    The report said that the ministry disbursed a sum of 3.066 billion euros for the repayment of state arrears to the private sector in 2016, with credit offered for this purpose in November totaled 991.6 million euros and in December 88.7 million euros. Total payment from state agencies to the private sector was 2.748 billion euros in 2016. Social insurance organizations, which have the largest part of arrears to the private sector, paid 922.3 million euros in debt repayment last year, cutting their debt to 2.024 billion euros.

    State hospitals repaid debt worth 1.035 billion euros in 2016, while liabilities from tax returns fell to 1.225 billion euros in December, from 1.439 billion a month earlier.

    [25] JTI Hellas wins Top Employer certification

    JTI Hellas won the "Top Employer" international certification for the fifth successive year by the Top Employers Institute.

    "In JTI we systematically invest on our workers and for this reason we are very proud for this certification. With the confidence that success is made by people that make a difference, this award confirms that we have all the necessary tools for our people to develop and to lead our success," Edoardo Voletti, chairman and chief executive of JTI Hellas said in an announcement.

    The annual international survey conducted by Top Employers Institute is focusing on employers that cover the highest standards of provisions to workers globally, offering impecable work conditions, developing talent at all levels of an organization and seeking to improve employment practices.

    In Greece, despite an adverse economic conditions prevailing in the last few years, JTI remains steadily focused on imple-menting policies of investing on its human resources. JTI was also awarded as Top Employer in Europe.

    [26] FHL Kiriakidis Group reports strong 2016 results

    FHL Kiriakidis Group, a Greek-listed marble and granite producer, reported higher turnover and profitability in 2016, as a result of strong export activity.

    The markets of China, Middle East, former Soviet Union, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia continued being significant customers of the group last year, Kiriakidis said, noting that the company managed to raise the prices of its products and plans to preserve them in the coming years.

    Sales totaled 66.5 million euros in 2016, from 45.2 million in 2015, an increase of 47 pct, while EBITDA jumped to 29.6 million euros from 14.6 million over the same period, respectively, with EBITDA margin rising to 44.5 pct from 35 pct in 2015. Net bank borrowing fell by around 3.7 million euros compared with 2015. FHL Kiriakidis plans to scrap dividend payment for 2016.

    Antiohos, a company fully owned by Elias Kiriakidis, submitted an optional public offer to FHL Kiriakidis shareholders to acquire 100 pct of the listed company's equity capital. Antiohos signed an agreement in February 6 with FHL Kiriakidis shareholders, holding 80.21 pct of the company's equity capital, to jointly control the company. The public offer refers to 4,608,909 shares, or 19.79 pct of the company's equity capital, at a price of 4.02 euros per share.

    FHL Kiriakidis' equity capital totals 23,053,390 euros, dividend into 23,286,253 common nominal shares of a nominal value of 0.99 euros per share.

    [27] Eurowings adds new flights to Greek destinations this summer

    New flights to the islands of Lesvos and Samos starting in March, as well as a twice-weekly flight linking Vienna and Kavala, are among the new destinations planned by the Lufthansa Group airline Eurowings for this summer. Other new additions to its list of Mediterranean destinations will include the Greek islands of Karpathos and Santorini, from Cologne and Bonn.

    Passengers will be able to fly to Karpathos from Cologne and Bonn every Monday from June 5, while flights linking Vienna with Santorini will fly twice a week after May 5. Also starting on the same date are a flight linking Berlin with Mykonos.

    [28] Athens among top four European destinations

    Athens is once again among the four top European destinations. According to the voting results of the European Best Destinations 2017, Athens was ranked fourth. Porto was first followed by Milan, Gdansk in Poland, and San Sebastian in Spain.

    Last year, Athens was second.

    [29] Olive oil competition to be held in Messinia

    Twenty internationally acknowledged olive oil judges will gather in Messinia prefecture on 20-22 March in the context of the second international olive oil competition "Athens International Olive Oil Competition".

    The venue that will be held at "Costa Navarino hotel" aims to become internationally established and to contribute to the indendifiability of the Greek olive oil.

    The region of Messinia was selected by the organisers to host this year's competition because it is one of the most important olive oil production regions in Greece covering 1/3 of the total Greek production. Moreover its is the homeland of the Koroneiki olive variety considered one of the best worldwide.

    In last year's competition which was held in Athens participated 256 producers from 10 countries and bestowed 118 awards.

    [30] Revenues in museums and archaeological sites up in Jan-Oct

    Visitors and revenues in Greek museums posted an 8.7 percent and 21.2 percent rise respectively in October 2016 compared to the same month in 2015, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Monday

    The number of free admission visitors in October increased by 109.1 percent.

    Visitors to archaeological sites dropped by 0.6 percent, however, revenues increased by 86.7 percent compared to the same month in 2015. Free admission tickets posted a 39.5 percent increase.

    In the period January-October 2016 visitors to Greek museums dropped by 0.7 percent but revenues increased by 7.8 percent and free admission tickets increased by 36.8 percent.

    In the same period the number of visitors to archaeological sites fell by 8.8 percent and the revenues posted a 67.9 percent increase. Free admission tickets increased by 23.4 percent

    [31] 15 Greek and Cypriot enterprises in BAU fair

    A total of 15 Greek and one Cypriot enterprises participated, among 2,120 exhibitors, in an international building materials and architectural fair BAU, held in Munich, January 16-21.

    The Greek participation included: A.C. Technometal Ltd, Alchimica SA, Alumil SA, Applied Industrial Technologies Ltd, Convex SA, Elastotet SA, Elval Colour SA, ELVIAL SA, Helm Hellas SA, Ieronimakis Inox SA, INAL-INTERMETAL SA, ISOMAT SA, ORAMA MINIMAL FRAMES Ltd, Pagouni SA, PCA ??? Vlavianos Glass SA, while according to an announcement by the German-Greek Chamber of Commerce, more than 800 enterprises from Greece and Cyprus visited the fair.

    This year's fair, organized for more than 50 years, set new participation and visitor records, as it attracted more than 250,000 visitors, of which 80,000 commercial visitors from outside Germany.

    Munich Fair Organization said that it will organize a Fenestration BAU China fair, November 7-10 2017 at the Shanghai New International Export Center.

    BAU will reopen its gates in January 14, 2019.

    [32] Building activity up 9.4 pct in November

    The volume of private building activity grew 9.4 pct in November 2016, slowing the 11-month decline to 3.9 pct, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that building permits issued in November totaled 1,139, down 1.4 pct compared with the same month in 2015, while in volume building activity grew 9.4 pct. Private building activity was down 6.4 pct in permits and 3.9 pct in volume in the January-November period in 2016 compared with the corresponding period in 2015.

    [33] Greek stocks end higher

    Greek stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Monday, with investors buoyed by the European Commission's positive forecasts for the Greek economy and news that EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici will visit Athens this week.

    The composite index of the market rose 0.86 pct to end at 629.14 points, off the day's highs of 632.11 points, after falling as much as 0.70 pct early in the day. The Large Cap index rose 0.77 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.10 pct higher. Turnover was a low 32.318 million euros in a volume of 83,413,733 shares.

    Viohalco (6.51 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.98 pct), Eurobank (2.80 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Lamda Development (1.38 pct), Sarantis (0.76 pct) and OTE (0.58 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Among market sectors, Banks (2.32 pct), Industrial Products (1.71 pct0 and Utilities (1.58 pct) scored big gains, while Telecoms (0.58 pct) and Traval (0.35 pct) suffered losses. Piraeus Bank and National Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. FHL Kiriakidis (17.54 pct), Kloukinas-Lappas (12.62 pct) and Centric Holdings (11.70 pct) were top gainers, while Lazaridis Estate (29.47 pct), Perseus (20 pct) and Revoil (19.80 pct) were top losers.

    [34] Greek bond market closing report

    Greek bond yields fell on Monday as investors seemed more optimistic over a positive conclusion of negotiations between Greek authorities and its creditors to complete a second review of the Greek programme. The 10-year Greek benchmark bond yielded 7.02 pct from 7.39 pct on Friday, and the German Bund yielded 0.32 pct, with the yield spread between the Greek and German bonds falling to 7.02 pct. Turnover was a thin 3.0 million euros, all sell orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was -0.102 pct from -0.101 pct, the nine-month rate fell to -0.163 pct from -0.161 pct, the six-month rate was -0.240 pct, the three-month rate was -0.329 pct from -0.328 pct and the one-month rate was -0.373 pct.

    [35] ADEX closing report

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.21 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 3,448 contracts with 9,036 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 53,632 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (21,910), followed by Alpha Bank (4,554), Piraeus Bank (16,308), Eurobank (6,559), MIG (2,347), OTE (202), PPC (212), OPAP (187), Viohalco (585), Mytilineos (266), Ellaktor (235).

    General News

    [36] Stolen part of sarcophagus to be repatriated

    A part of a marble sarcophagus that was stolen in 1988 and was found and confiscated from a gallery in Manhattan, New York, where it was displayed will return to Greece.

    The sarcophagus dated back to 200 AD depicts a battle between Greek and Trojan fighters.

    The official repatriation ceremony as well as the relevant protocol was held in the office of District Attorney of Manhattan Cyrus Vance Junior.

    "Often smuggled antiquities acquire a facade of legality over the years or the change of ownership" stated Vance adding "Galleries, auction houses and collectors should be on alert because my office and my associates are closely monitoring the catalogues and the sale of objects of suspicious origin".

    [37] Farmers planning protest rally in Athens on Tuesday

    A protest rally by Greek farmers throughout the country is planned in central Athens on Tuesday afternoon, taking place at Vathy Square at 13:30. Among their main demands, as expressed by the National Roadblocks Committee is the abolition of recent increases to their social insurance contributions to the farmers' pension fund OGA, a reduction in the minimum age of retirement, and a tax-free income allowance of 12,000 euros a year (increased by 3,000 per child.

    They also demand that a "unseizable" limit of 15,000 euros, tax-free fuel, minimum guaranteed prices for farm products and haircuts for their debts.

    The employees' association at the rural development ministry has declared an Attica-wide work stoppage from noon until the end of the shift on Tuesday.

    Farmers had announced their intention to hold a protest rally after last Friday's talks with the ministry's leadership ended in deadlock, with the ministry refusing to meet their demands.

    Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Tuesday, Rural Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou again underlined that the fiscal conditions made any further financial assistance to farmers impossible, while his willingness to take measures that will lower their production costs.

    Farmers throughout the country have set up protest road blocks on national highways and even closed borders in the past weeks, warning that their action will escalate if their demands are not met.

    [38] 'TA NEA' newspaper returns to the kiosks on Tuesday after court decision

    Historic "TA NEA" newspaper will be published again on Tuesday after a First Instance court suspended a previous temporary court injunction which froze all assets of the troubled DOL media group.

    After receiving a green light from the banks, the president of the First Instance court, Vasiliki Basta, unblocked one of DOL's bank accounts held in Alpha Bank where the group's daily revenues from sales are deposited. The move will allow the media group to continue its operation and employees to gradually receive six-months of unpaid wages.

    [39] Possibility for strong quake in the region of Lesvos very slight, Professor Lekkas tells ANA

    The possibility for a strong earthquake is slight, head of the Antiseismic Planning and Protection Organisation Efthimios Lekkas stated on Monday following the fourth moderate tremor recorded in the region of the island of Lesvos.

    Speaking to Athens-Macedonian News Agency's radio "Prakto-reio 104.9 FM", Lekkas noted that the scientific factors and our knowledge over the seismic characteristics of the area lead us to a conclusion with two positive facts for the Greek territory and the surrounding area.

    The first is that it is a very intense seismic activity which wasn't located inside the Greek territory but clearly inside the Turkish territory, Professor Lekkas said. The second very important fact is that it is an activity that "it is very difficult to pass to the Greek territory because there are underground structures "dams" which protect from the reactivation of the faults on Lesvos' side so the seismic activity is very difficult to pass to the Greek side.

    "The possibility of a strong quake is slight," underlined Lekkas noting that an earthquake should be over 6 on the Richter scale in order to have an impact on Greece's structures and be local because as 6 Richter quake is 33 times stronger than a 5 Richter quake, he explained.

    [40] Many ferries for Greek islands cancelled due to bad weather

    Ferry services were disrupted and some were cancelled on Monday, due strong winds blowing in the Aegean from the afternoon.

    The "Adamantios Korais" - scheduled to depart at 14:00 for the western Cyclades islands - did not set sail from Piraeus, while port authorities later cancelled journeys by the "Nissos Mykonos" due to set sail for Syros, Mykonos, Evdilos, Karlo-vassi Vathy at 16:00, the "Vintsentzos Kornaros" scheduled to depart at 17:00 for Kythira and Kissamos and the "Blue Star Naxos" heading for Paros, Naxos, Donousa, Aigiali and Astypalaia at 17:30.

    The coast guard advised passengers scheduled to travel to contact their local port authority or travel agency in case scheduled trips have been modified due to the bad weather.

    [41] Ferry routes to Crete resume as winds ease up

    Passenger ferries heading to Crete will leave Piraeus as planned on Monday night, the coast guard said, after strong winds eased up. "Blue Horizon", "Festos Palace" and "Elyros" will depart at 21:00.

    Ferry services to the Cylcades were disrupted and some were cancelled earlier on Monday, due strong winds blowing in the Aegean.

    [42] Argentinian tango show awaits passengers at Athens' airport on Tuesday

    Visitors and passengers who find themselves at Athens' international airport on Tuesday will catch a group of skilled "tangueros" dancing the tango in the departures level between noon and 13:30.

    The first steps will be shown by Kyriakos Mihas and Eva Dimitriou from the school "TangoFix", who will be followed by Kostas Doukas and Antigoni Poulou from "Quickstep".

    Two more tango teachers and their respective groups will present two female, high-skilled choreographies.

    [43] Athens court building evacuated after call warning of planned missile attack

    Police started evacuating the court houses at Evelpidon in Athens on Monday afternoon over what was later proved to be a prank call. Earlier, an unidentified individual had called the newspaper "Ethnos" at 14:00 warning of a planned rocket attack on building 11. The police bomb squad was called to the scene but the alarm was called off shortly afterward, after an investigation showed that the call was a hoax.

    [44] Asylum agency employees hold 24-hour strike. rally over unpaid wages

    Fixed-term contract employees of the asylum agency held a 24-hour strike and protest rally outside the ministry of migration policy on Monday, requesting their unpaid wages.

    The about 370 employees who work at the agency's head-quarters, regional offices or in autonomous asylum teams, said in a statement that many of their colleagues have not been paid for two months, while others are facing regular delays in their payment. They also said some of their colleagues are working without insurance.

    Weather forecast

    [45] Clouds, light rain on Tuesday

    Rain or sleet and northerly winds are forecast for Tuesday. Wind velocity will reach 8 on the Beaufort scale. Clouds and sleet in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from -01C to 09C. Partly cloudy in the western parts and temperatures between 06C to 14C. Light rain or sleet in the eastern parts, 04C to 10C. Partly cloudy over the Aegean islands and Crete, 05C-13C. Clouds and light rain in Athens, 05C-09C. Clouds and sleet in Thessaloniki, 03C-08C.

    [46] The Monday edition of Athens dailies at a glance

    DIMOKRATIA: Dirty alliance with (former Education Minister Nikos) Filis as a "Trojan Horse"

    ETHNOS: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on decline

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Pension at 57 with successive social security

    ESTIA: Greek hopes in the new "triangle"

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Golden Dawn: We are German Nazi

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Race against time

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