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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 17-02-10

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

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

Friday, 10 February 2017 Issue No: 5349

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece will not undermine EU unity over sanctions against Russia, Tsipras says in Kiev
  • [02] Greece respects Ukraine's sovereignty, says PM Tsipras after meeting with President Poroshenko
  • [03] Tsipras concludes visit to Ukraine, returns to Athens
  • [04] EuroWorkingGroup to examine progress made in prior actions
  • [05] Panagiotis Nikolaidis to represent Greece at EWG instead of Chouliarakis
  • [06] ND criticizes Alternate FinMin Chouliarakis for missing EWG
  • [07] Second review and dialogue on EU's future the focus of his talks in Brussels, Katrougalos says
  • [08] Gerovasili: Program review to close in near future
  • [09] Alternate Defence Min Vitsas expresses optimism that programme review will be concluded on time
  • [10] IMF asks for lower tax-free threshold and pensions
  • [11] PM to announce committee for examining financials of education on Friday
  • [12] Education minister says university entrance exam system will change in three years
  • [13] Tsipras to meet EU migration chief Avramopoulos on Friday
  • [14] ANEL differentiate position from MP, say will vote article on citizenship
  • [15] The effort to combat corruption has borne fruit, Digital Policy Min Pappas says
  • [16] Agriculture Min. Apostolou to meet with farmers' represetatives
  • [17] Lesvos mayor discusses tourism, trade with mayor of Erdemit
  • [18] Economy ministry denies ouster of Greek system from EA, says exports not at risk
  • [19] Greek unemployment eased to 23 pct in November
  • [20] Greek consumer climate gradually recovering, GfK report
  • [21] IFC approves 50-mln-euro loan to Grivalia Properties
  • [22] SOS for National Accreditation System
  • [23] BAT Hellas named "Top Employer in Greece & Europe 2017"
  • [24] Greek industrial production up 2.2 pct in December
  • [25] Apartment prices down 2.2 pct in 2016
  • [26] Exports of Greek bottled water to China up significantly
  • [27] Aegean Airlines to launch Thessaloniki-Tel Aviv direct link
  • [28] e-kyklades.gr views rose to 500,000 in 2016
  • [29] Double digit increase in tourist arrivals from Israel in 2017
  • [30] Greek stocks end slightly lower
  • [31] ADEX closing report
  • [32] Authorities declare state of emergency in Kordelio for bomb disposal operation
  • [33] Greek women more at risk of depression than migrant women or men, survey finds
  • [34] Actors, writers, singers join street magazine 'Shedia's' Vendors Week on Saturday
  • [35] Refugees steal boat and attempt to return to Turkey
  • [36] Traffic towards 'Macedonia' airport restored after farmers end blockade
  • [37] Farmers block customs on Greek-Albanian borders at Krystallopigi
  • [38] Four metro stations closed on Feb 11-12 due to technical works
  • [39] Cloudy on Friday
  • [40] The Thursday edition of Athens dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greece will not undermine EU unity over sanctions against Russia, Tsipras says in Kiev

    KIEV (ANA/ N. Papadimitriou)

    Greece will not fragment European unity in the case of tougher sanctions against Russia, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday. Tsipras was replying to questions during a joint press conference with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, following their meeting in Kiev.

    "Greece is a member-state of the European Union and, despite the fact that it has a particular economic interest in an imme-diate resolution of the crisis and the lifting of sanctions that have had an extremely painful effect on the Greek economy, nevertheless we will not fragment European unity," he said.

    At the same time, Tsipras noted that the other side must have incentives to take steps and that channels of communication, dialogue and diplomacy must be kept open. While a hard stance might be necessary, by itself it would not be effective, he suggested, pointing to examples from the international experience where such tactics did not bring results. "In this sense, the Greek stance could be more useful than that of the other EU member-states," he added.

    The Greek prime minister said his talks with Poroshenko were also an opportunity to brief Ukraine's president on develop-ments concerning the Cyprus issue, since Ukraine holds the chair of the UN Security Council during this month, and relay a message from the European Commission reporting progress on the issue of visas for Ukrainian citizens.

    Earlier in the press conference, Tsipras said that Greece's position called for respect of international law and support for the new prospects in relations between the west with Russia.

    "We agreed on the need to observe the truce and chiefly on the implementation of the Minsk Agreement," he said, noting that this was a position steadily adopted by Greek diplomacy. He also noted Greece's support for all mediation efforts to end the crisis.

    Asked about relations between the EU and Russia, Tsipras said the crisis in the Ukraine had affected these "as a whole" and stressed the need to mobilise the processes for a clear roadmap to overcome the crisis.

    Tsipras is in Ukraine since Wednesday on a working visit, accompanied by Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Deputy Foreign Minister for Greeks Abroad Terens Quick and the head of the foreign ministry's international economic relations general secretariat Giorgios Tsipras.

    [02] Greece respects Ukraine's sovereignty, says PM Tsipras after meeting with President Poroshenko

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is paying a visit to Ukraine, met on Thursday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.

    In a joint statement after the meeting Tsipras said that they discussed the recent developments in the crisis in Ukraine and the efforts to find a solution to a crisis recently rekindled.

    "The Greek people has close historic and cultural relations with the wider region," said Tsipras adding that a large Greek community resides in the area of the conflict.

    "We discussed the possibilites of a cooperation in the infrastructure, energy and tourism and the strengthening of the political bonds," said the Greek premier adding that there must be a clear roadmap to overcome the crisis. "Greece respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and with President Poroshenko we talked bout the safety of the Ukrainian citizens of Greek descent.

    Solidarity to Ukraine is what I would like to see from the European Union, says Ukrainian President Poroshenko after meeting with PM Tsipras

    "EU's unity and solidarity to Ukraine is what I would like to see from the European Union," the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko on Thursday said after a meeting with visiting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Kiev.

    Poroshenko said among others he discussed with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras issues referring to tourism and energy. "We want to develop our cooperation in the construction of road networks in Ukraine to attract Greek investments and the Greek constructors. We also want to open seats in the departments of Greek language and literature in the Ukrainian universities."

    [03] Tsipras concludes visit to Ukraine, returns to Athens

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and a Greek government dele-gation departed from Kiev on Thursday afternoon, following a two-day working visit to the Ukraine, returning to Athens. The prime minister's last meeting before his departure was with members of the Greek community in the Ukraine, many of them living in areas affected by rising tension with the Russian element.

    Sources said the prime minister's visit to the Ukraine at this time had a twin purpose and that the meeting with the currently hard-pressed Greek community was one of these. The Greeks in the Ukraine had pinned their hopes on Greece, the sources said, both as their country of origin and as an EU member-state, requesting things such as ambulances. The Greek foreign ministry had already mobilised in order to send humanitarian and medical aid, they added.

    The second reason for the trip was the crucial nature of the Ukrainian crisis itself, the sources said. The prospect of redefining relations between Russia, the EU and the West generally - and by extension, Greece's relations with Russia - was "currently at stake in this corner of the world" if the crisis was resolved, they noted.

    [04] EuroWorkingGroup to examine progress made in prior actions

    The EuroWorkingGroup on Thursday will examine the progress made in the negotiations for the conclusion of the Greek programme review ahead of the Eurogroup on February 20 as well as the initiatives taken at EU level.

    According to officials, the representatives of the EU Finance Ministers will discuss the progress made in meeting the prior actions.

    [05] Panagiotis Nikolaidis to represent Greece at EWG instead of Chouliarakis

    Panagiotis Nikolaidis, advisor to Alternate Finance Minister George Chouliarakis, will represent Greece at the EuroWorking Group (EWG) on Thursday instead of the minister, after consulting with EWG's President Thomas Wieser, finance ministry sources said.

    Chouliarakis will be giving a speech at the London School of Economics (LSE), the same sources said. The EWG will discuss developments in the implementation of the prior actions included in the second program review.

    [06] ND criticizes Alternate FinMin Chouliarakis for missing EWG

    New Democracy criticized the government and Alternate Finance Minister George Chouliarakis for missing a EuroWorking Group (EWG) meeting on Thursday to speak at an event at LSE in London.

    "While the second [program] review is at a crucial point after a year of delay and the country is at risk of missing its inclusion in [ECB's] quantitative easing, the government is concerned with other things. The relevant minister, Mr. Chouliarakis, instead of representing the countryat the crucial meeting of the EuroWorking Group, chooses to vanish," the party said.

    "Is it a case of indescribable irresponsibility or is there something else going on?" ND added, noting that the responsibility belongs to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

    [07] Second review and dialogue on EU's future the focus of his talks in Brussels, Katrougalos says

    BRUSSELS (ANA/ C. Vasilaki)

    An effort is currently underway to quickly draw up an "outline agreement" on the second review, so that the February 20 deadline is not missed, Alternate Foreign Minister George Katrougalos told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday. The minister made the statement while talking about his meeting with European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Wednesday.

    He said that the Commission has undertaken an "important supportive role" and squarely blamed the IMF's "indecision" and "unreasonable demands" for the delay in concluding the review. If the negotiations were being conducted with the Europeans alone, Katrougalos suggested, the review would have concluded in December.

    The Greek government's position is that it will not back down on "matters of principle" but Athens is aware that the negotiations cannot continue indefinitely, Katrougalos added, since the goal is for the country to quickly join the quantitative easing programme.

    The minister said his meetings in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday were focused on the priorities of Greek diplomacy and the government's strategy in the dialogue on the future of Europe, launched ahead of the March 25 European Council in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary since the Rome Treaty founding the EU. Katrougalos said Greece is pushing for stronger social and democratic elements in the EU's economic governance.

    They included a meeting with European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on extending the short-stay visas for Turkish citizens visiting Greek islands and his participation in a European Parliament conference on the refugee and migration crisis. Katrougalos noted that a revision of the Dublin Treaty should ensure that the burden does not fall exclusively on countries of first reception.

    [08] Gerovasili: Program review to close in near future

    The second program review will be completed in the near future, Administrative Reconstruction Minister Olga Gerovasili said on Thursday in an interview with TV station "E".

    "The review will close in the near future, perhaps even in March," she said, adding "the review would have closed from the beginning if we had said 'yes' to everything".

    Gerovasili said the government will fight for a program that is viable for the Greek economy, "not like the last two which failed".

    [09] Alternate Defence Min Vitsas expresses optimism that programme review will be concluded on time

    Alternate Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas on Thursday in statements to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency's radio Praktoreio 104.9 FM expressed his optimism over the conclusion of the second review of the Greek programme.

    "The government sets targets and achieves them; we have set our goals and our arguments on the negotiations table and now it lies within the IMF to decide whether it will participate in the programme or not," he underlined and added: "In any case, it is impossible to decide for measures for the period after 2019".

    [10] IMF asks for lower tax-free threshold and pensions

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) wants Greece to legislate now a lower tax-free threshold and pensions which would be implemented in the "near future" and after the economy has started recovering, its spokesman Gerry Rice said at a regular press briefing on Thursday.

    Rice reiterated that the fund does not ask for more austerity for Greece and that if creditors agree on a primary surplus higher that 1.5 percent of the GDP, it will only be sustainable for a few years.

    [11] PM to announce committee for examining financials of education on Friday

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to announce the formation of a committee to look in the financial aspects of the education system on Friday, Education Minister Costantinos Gavroglou informed Parliament on Thursday. The minister pointed out that such a committee, which will look into the financials of education from preschool to PhDs, is unprecented in the history of the Greek State.

    He said the government had invited the opposition parties to propose experts of their choosing and welcomed the fact that they had all responded "generously", with the exception of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Golden Dawn.

    Gavroglou said the government was making a commitment that in three years it will have "closed the gaps" in education, at least in terms of inelastic costs, "in order to stop the problems that exist up until today." He said the committee will hold its first meeting on Friday and predicted that it will have generated the first results by June.

    [12] Education minister says university entrance exam system will change in three years

    The current system of university entrance exams, which he called "educationally unacceptable," will be changed within three years, Education Minister Constantinos Gavroglou announced in Parliament on Thursday. The minister was addressing the plenum during a debate on a government bill for state-issued foreign language certificates.

    "The last two years of high school must be radically upgraded and children must come away with a diploma that has serious standing in society," he said. He also referred to the problems caused by the emphasis on exams and the "hijacking" of secondary education by 'frondistiria' - after-school tuition schools prepping students to sit the exams.

    "All society is aware that the last two classes of high school are invalidated and this is not the fault of teachers, there is a collective responsibility," the minister noted. He urged every to consider that "there is an institution outside of schools that has succeeded in swallowing up school, an institution that provides education without being in the body of the school". For this reason, he added, high schools needed to be essentially founded again from scratch.

    "...the exams need to be de-dramatised; they have no educational role since the children memorise their lessons verbatim and then sit the exams and those that don't memorise fail. This is an educationally unacceptable system," the minister noted. What needs to be preserved is the integrity of the current system, Gavroglou said, so that young people can get a place in university on the basis of their high school diploma in a way that is not open to abuse.

    [13] Tsipras to meet EU migration chief Avramopoulos on Friday

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will respond on Friday to a question tabled in parliament by Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis on corruption, at 10:00.

    At 11:00, Tsipras will address the first meeting of the Committee for the Study of the Economics of Education, which will attended by Education Minister Kostas Gavroglou and State Minister Christoforos Vernardakis, in parliament.

    At 12:00, he will meet with Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos at his office in parliament.

    [14] ANEL differentiate position from MP, say will vote article on citizenship

    The Independent Greeks (ANEL) will vote article 29 on acquiring Greek citizenship, the party's parliamentary spokesman Thanasis Papachristopoulos said on Thursday, clarifying ANEL's position.

    The statement came after ANEL's rapporteur Konstantinos Katsikis faced criticism in parliament after saying the party will be voting down the article regarding the procedure for obtaining the Greek citizenship by foreign minors who study in Greek schools.

    "It's a democratic right of every lawmaker to vote according to their conscience. We have achieved this in our parliamentary group. We have done it at least five times so far. However, this provision should be voted," Papachristopoulos said. He then rejected criticism of Katsikis' comments saying ANEL "is a very solid parliamentary group".

    Speaking earlier in parliament, Katsikis said ANEL will vote against article 29, "as we did in the summer of 2015 when we disagreed with this draft bill [on Greek citizenship]."

    [15] The effort to combat corruption has borne fruit, Digital Policy Min Pappas says

    The effort to combat corruption, namely the interdependence of the banking and political system with the media, has borne fruit, Minister for Digital Policy and Telecommunications Nikos Pappas said on Thursday in an event organised by SYRIZA party.

    "This interdependence created a non-viable reality," Pappas said citing the example of TV channels with 1.5 billion euro debt and bad labour relations.

    Regarding the negotiations, he said that a discussion is being carried out whether the government wants the IMF to participate in the programme. "The IMF participates in the Greek programme because the other partners asked for that and not the Greek government."

    [16] Agriculture Min. Apostolou to meet with farmers' represetatives

    Agriculture Minister Vangelis Apostolou will meet on Friday noon with the representatives of the farmers blockades to discuss the farmers' requests as well as the prospects of the sector in general.

    Alternate Labour Minister Tassos Petropoulos, Alternate Energy Minister Sokratis Famellos and Deputy Finance Minister Katerina Papanastassiou will participate in the meeting.

    Sources said to Athens-Macedonian News Agency that Apostolou has already spoken with representatives of the coordination committee of the blockades of Central Macedonia.

    [17] Lesvos mayor discusses tourism, trade with mayor of Erdemit

    The mayor of the Turkish coastal city of Edremit, Kamil Saka, visited Lesvos on Thursday to discuss bilateral cooperation in tourism, culture and education with the island's mayor Spyros Galinos.

    After the meeting, Galinos said the meeting is part of "the effort on the side of the local administration to attract as many Turkish tourists as possible".

    The two mayors also discussed holding joint events and festivals, promoting trade relations and increasing Lesvos' ferry routes to the Turkish coast.

    Financial News

    [18] Economy ministry denies ouster of Greek system from EA, says exports not at risk

    Greece's Economy and Development Ministry on Thursday strenuously denied press reports claiming that the national accreditation system was no longer recognised by the European cooperation for Accreditation (EA) body and that Greek exports may have to be suspended.

    "There is no danger for Greek exports and the accreditation sector," Alternate Economy and Development Minister Alexis Charitsis said, announcing that the ministry was currently preparing legislation to ensure the national body's compliance with EA standards and European law.

    Charitsis said the ministry was in monitoring the issue in close contact with the EA and had taken all action necessary to overcome problems created by the "rushed and poorly designed mergers of National Accreditation System with the Hellenic Standardisation Organisation (ELOT) and the National Institute of Metrology by the ND-PASOK government."

    According to Charitsis, the then government had pressed ahead with the merger over the objections of the EA, which had raised issues of incompatibility between the missions of the three agencies. As a result, the EA was now demanding action to ensure the autonomy of the Greek acceditation system in line with European law, Charitsis said. At no time, however, had the ousting of the Greek system from the EA been raised, nor the blocking of Greek exports, he added.

    [19] Greek unemployment eased to 23 pct in November

    Greek unemployment rate eased to 23 pct of the workforce in November 2016, from 24.5 pct in November 2015, but unchanged compared with October 2016, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that the number of unemployed people totaled 1,100,118 in November, but the unemployment rate grew by two points in the 55-64 age group within 12 months.

    The number of unemployed people fell by 76,455 compared with November 2015 (a decline of 6.5 pct) and by 1,768 compared with October 2016 (a decline of 0.2 pct). The number of employed people was 3,683,795 people, up 49,141 or 1.4 pct compared with November 2015 but down 1,338 from October 2016.

    The number of economically-non active people (out of work and not seeking a job) was 3,252,309 in November, down by 6,710 compared with November 2015 but up 3,103 from October 2016.

    The unemployment rate among women was 27.5 pct and among men 19.4 pct (down from 28.7 pct and 21.1 pct from November 2015, respectively).

    The 15-24 age group recorded the highest unemployment rate (45.7 pct in November 2016 from 48.9 pct in November 2015), followed by the 25-34 age group (29.9 pct from 31.8 pct), the 35-44 age group (19.3 pct from 21.6 pct), the 55-64 age group (19.3 pct from 17.3 pct), the 45-54 age group (18.7 pct from 19.7 pct) and the 65-74 age group (12.4 pct from 11 pct).

    Among the country's regions, Epirus-Western Macedonia (27.2 pct from 27.4 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rate, followed by Macedonia-Thrace (24.4 pct from 24.9 pct), Thessaly-Central Greece (23.9 pct from 27.8 pct), the Peloponese-Western Greece-Ionian Islands (23.6 pct from 24.2 pct), Attica (22.6 pct from 24.1 pct), Crete (20.5 pct from 25.7 pct) and Aegean (15.8 pct from 13.2 pct).

    [20] Greek consumer climate gradually recovering, GfK report

    The continuing difficult economic and political conditions in Greece were reflected in the economic expectations of consumers last year, the GfK Consumer Climate survey for the fourth quarter of 2016 said on Thursday.

    The consumer climate index was sharply down by May 2016, to -51.6 points (the lowest since January 2012), but began recovering gradually since then to reach -33.8 points in December, practically returning to December 2015 levels.

    The report said that the country's GDP grew by 1.8 pct in the third quarter of 2016, compared with the same period in 2015, but Greek consumers remained pessimistic, expecting a weak increase in revenue (the relative index fell 2.6 points to -40.1 points in the September-December period, or a loss of 22.1 points compared with 2015). The unemployment rate is expected to have fallen by 1.2 percentage points in 2016, but remains the highest in Europe at 23.2 pct in the third quarter. Bad economic conditions reflected on Greek consumers' trends on purchases. The index was up 6.7 points in the third quarter to -36.1 points, but remained at the same levels of Q3 2015.

    [21] IFC approves 50-mln-euro loan to Grivalia Properties

    IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, on Thursday announced it was extending a 50 million euros long-term loan to Grivalia Properties, a Greek-listed leading real estate investment company, to bolster Greece's crucial commercial property sector and support energy efficiency.

    IFC's investment will help Grivalia make significant renova-tions and energy efficiency improvements to its commercial properties across Greece. As well, the company will be the first in the country to seek IFC's Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) certification, a leading standard for green building. IFC's financing package is designed to support the commercial property sector, which accounts for approximately 6 percent of the country's GDP. During Greece's recession, the sector has been hampered by falling rents, decreasing property values, and receding investor confidence.

    "We are honored to be partnering up with one of the most prestigious international financing institutions active in Greece," said George Chryssikos, Grivalias's CEO. "Grivalia remains committed to value creation for its shareholders, business partners, employees, and local communities through selective investments in prime commercial real estate that adopt the best in sustainable business practices, including those with an immediate and positive impact on the environment."

    "This investment is IFC's first agreement in Greece in the non-financial sector and it is in line with our strategy in the country," said Tomasz Telma, IFC Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. "The investment will help to increase investor confidence in the commercial real estate sector. Modern and energy efficient infrastructure will also help reduce energy costs and make businesses more competitive."

    Grivalia currently owns and operates almost 90 commercial properties, mostly in Greece, rented by companies such as banks, retailers, and manufacturers. IFC, partnering with Grivalia, will introduce EDGE green building standards to Greece. The buildings with EDGE certification need to consume 20 percent less energy than the local benchmark. Such improvements will not only help Greece to work on achieving its climate change targets, but also enhance the overall competitiveness of the private sector companies by reducing energy consumption and costs.

    Greece, as a developed economy, has graduated from the World Bank Group's standard lending programs. However, in 2015, at the request of the Greek government, IFC's Board of Governors endorsed IFC's engagement in Greece. IFC continues to evaluate investment opportunities in financial services, infrastructure development, and other sectors. Its aim is to restore confidence for investors, support private-sector-led growth, help the country attract foreign investment, and promote domestic investments. Since IFC's re-engagement, it has invested 280 million US dollars in seven projects.

    IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. Working with 2,000 businesses worldwide, we use our six decades of experience to create opportunity where it's needed most. In FY16, our long-term investments in developing countries rose to nearly 19 billion US dollars, leveraging our capital, expertise and influence to help the private sector end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.

    [22] SOS for National Accreditation System

    The Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV) and other employer groups warned over the risk of possible loss of European recognition of the National Accreditation System (ESYD), a development which could have adverse effects on production and exports in Greece.

    The employer groups said that the deadline given the relative European supervisory body (European co-operation for Accreditation - EA) to Greece to comply with the instructions for changing the institutional framework expires on February 28, so the possibility of the Greek market to be found without a recognized accreditation body at the end of the month is more likely.

    "In practice this means automatic elimination of international recognition of all business certification in the country and all accredited laboratories (some of which are state-owned) and consequently the certificates issued for business customers. This development would be equivalent not only with the collapse of the domestic market of certification services (currently about 100 companies operate in the country, employing more than 2,000 employees, half of whom are engineers and the other scientists), halting exports and all transactions for a number of products and services coming in and out of the country," the announcement and added:" Especially for the European market the certification ownership is a prerequisite for the realization of exports, while equally or more necessary is the certification for the import of products (CE) from the Asian markets, for which our country is a gateway. "

    According to data presented by SEV, the loss of recognition of ESYD directly or indirectly affects more than 50,000 companies, which employ 26 pct of total employment and account for 18 pct of the country's GDP (agri-food, building materials, tourist accommodation, electrical equipment, industrial equipment, machinery, etc.).

    [23] BAT Hellas named "Top Employer in Greece & Europe 2017"

    British American Tobacco Hellas was named "Top Employer in Greece and Europe in 2017" for its human resources policy which set as priority the development of its people.

    In an announcement, BAT Hellas said it was awarded for its policy to steadily invest on its human resources by offering a wide programe of benefits and bonuses to all workers (around 2.0 million euros in 2016), focusing on specially designed programes to boost professional training and personal skills of its staff and implementing a series of innovative programes aimed to improve daily work of its people.

    The "Top Employer Greece & Europe 2017" award is the ninth such price received by BAT Hellas in the last few years in human resources, international and domestically. The award is offered by the Top Employers Institute.

    Fotini Fevri, Human Resources Manager in BAT Hellas, commenting on the award said it was a very signifiant recognition of human resource practices implemented by the company.

    [24] Greek industrial production up 2.2 pct in December

    Greek industrial production rose 2.2 pct in December 2016, for a 2.3 pct average rise in 2016, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Thursday. The statistics service, in a report, said that manufacturing production fell 1.9 pct in December but grew 4.0 pct in 2016.

    The composite industrial production index rose 2.2 pct in December compared with the same month in 2015, after a 6.9 pct increase recorded in the 2015/2014 period. This development reflected a 0.6 pct increase in the mining production index, a 15.9 pct jump in electricity production, while manufacturing production fell 1.9 pct (beverage production down 12.5 pct, clothing down 11.4 pct, electronics/optics down 27.9 pct, transport equipment down 21.4 pct and furniture down 16.8 pct). Water production fell 1.0 pct in December.

    The average industrial production index in the January-December 2016 period grew 2.3 pct compared with 2015, while the seasonally-adjusted index grew 2.2 pct over the same period.

    [25] Apartment prices down 2.2 pct in 2016

    Nominal apartment prices are estimated to have declined marginally on average by 0.6 pct year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2016, whilst in 2016 as a whole apartment prices fell on average by 2.2 pct, compared with an average drop of 5.1 pct in 2015, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.

    More specifically, the central bank in its report said that in the fourth quarter of 2016, prices of "new" apartments (up to 5 years old) dropped by 0.9 pct year-on-year and prices of "old" apartments (over 5 years old) fell by 0.4 pct year-on-year. For the whole of 2016, prices of "new" apartments declined by 2.9 pct, against a decline of 5.6 pct in 2015, whereas "old" apartment prices declined by 1.8 pct in 2016, against a drop of 4.7 pct in 2015.

    According to data broken down by geographical area, in the fourth quarter of 2016 apartment prices are estimated to have marginally declined year-on-year in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities by 0.4 pct, 0.5 pct and 0.6 pct, respectively, and in other areas of Greece by 1.1 pct. For the whole of 2016, apartment prices dropped on average by 1.7 pct, 3.3 pct, 2.2 pct and 2.9 pct, respectively, in the above-mentioned areas. Finally, as regards all urban areas of the country, in the fourth quarter of 2016 apartment prices marginally declined by 0.5 pct year-on-year, whereas for the whole of 2016 the average annual decline was 2.2 pct.

    [26] Exports of Greek bottled water to China up significantly

    Exports of Greek mineral water to China are rising significantly and have even greater prospects, with exports rising 127.15 pct in 2014 to 512,374 euros, the Economic and Trade Affairs bureau of the Greek consulate in Shanghai said in a report.

    The report noted that China's bottled water market has doubled in the last 10 years, surpassing the US in total consumption, although per capita consumption remains below the global consumption average rate, at around 30 litres or 1/5 of per capita consumption in the US.

    Imports of Greek mineral water to China is made by independent importers-distributors such as ?Tianjin OSENJATO Consulting Co., Ltd?, which imports the "Kostilata" natural mineral water from Epirus. "Hitos ABEE" is also exporting its "Zagori" bottled water to China, along with "Theoni" the Greek natural mineral water which was awarded as the "best bottled water in the world" in the US (April 2016). Dimitris Tselios, CEO of "Theoni" water said the company planned to quadruple its production to boost exports as it was expected to sign an agreement with a Chinese group to distribute "Theoni" water to thousands of sales points in China.

    The report noted that Greek exports of bottled water to China should focus on problems related with the long time of transport travel and distribution of natural water and reports of bad packaging during transportation.

    The consulate said that China had only 6.5 pct of renewable water resources of the planet to cover the needs of the one-fifth of the global population. China is suffering from water shortage and water supplies covered the needs of half of the population.

    The Chinese market of bottled water grew 14 pct in 2012 to 54 billion liters, while turnover soared 230 pct from 2008 to 2012 to 16 billion US dollars.

    The consulate said that a good way to promote Greek bottled water to China was through participation in international fairs for food and beverage, or participation in business delegations in the country.

    [27] Aegean Airlines to launch Thessaloniki-Tel Aviv direct link

    Aegean Airlines announced on Thursday that will include in its schedule a new direct flight that will link Thessaloniki with Tel Aviv.

    Sales manager of Aegean Airlines Irini Sidiropoulou made the announcement in an event organised by the delegation of the Cities Diplomacy held in Tel Aviv to promote Thessaloniki as a tourism destination, deputy mayor of Thessaloniki Spyros Pengas said to Athens Macedonian News Agency.

    The flight will start on May 29 and will run until October 15, with three flights per week.

    "It is a flight that will significantly increase the tourist flow from Israel," said Pengas.

    On his part, Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris expressed his pleasure noting that relations with Israel are very good and that there is cooperation in many sectors.

    [28] e-kyklades.gr views rose to 500,000 in 2016

    The total corporate views in e-kyklades.gr, the largest online information portal for businesses in the Cyclades and promotion of the region's tourist product, rose 92 percent, according to the Chamber of Cyclades.

    The islands of Paros, Milos, Syros, Naxos, Santorini, Andros, Mykonos, Tinos, Koufonisia, Sifnos, Amorgos, Serifos, Kythnos, Kea, Antiparos, Folegandros, Ios, Kimolos, Sikinos, Anafi, Iraklia, Schinoussa, Donoussa and Thirassia had the majority of "search clicks."

    The website attracted 500,000 visitors in 2016 from 184 countries while 4,100 businesses are viewed on the 24 islands of the Cyclades.

    Views per sector

    Accomodation - 2.6 million

    Restaurants - 982,000

    Entertainment - 401,000

    Local products - 378,000

    Tourist agencies - 410,000

    Activities - 250,000

    Commercial businesses - 65.000

    [29] Double digit increase in tourist arrivals from Israel in 2017

    Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura had a series of contacts in Tel Aviv, as part of the International Tourism Fair IMTM, to further promote Greek tourism.

    Kountoura met with the Tourism Minister of Israel, Yariv Levin, following a joint declaration signed early 2016 aiming to enhance bilateral tourist relations. The two ministers discussed actions to further increase tourist flows between the two countries as well as joint initiatives to attract a greater part of the international travel market with emphasis on the US where there is a large Greek and Jewish Diaspora.

    Kountoura had a series of meetings with tour operators and travel agencies of Israel who confirmed the increased interest for 2017. According to recent data, there will be a double digit increase in tourist arrivals in 2017 compared to the previous year.

    [30] Greek stocks end slightly lower

    Greek stocks ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday with investors remaining on the sidelines awaiting news from a Euro Working Group meeting later today. The composite index fell below the support level of 610 points, while turnover also shrank significantly. The index fell 0.34 pct to end at 608.79 points, off the day's lows of 602.43 points.

    The Large Cap index fell 0.42 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.01 pct higher. Turnover was a thin 37.25 million euros in volume of 75,144,358 shares. Sarantis (3.25 pct), Eurobank (1.73 pct) and Motor Oil (1.72 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Jumbo (2.02 pct), PPC (1.96 pct) and Folli Follie (1.91 pct) suffered heavy losses. Among market sectors, Oil (1.53 pct) and Real Estate (1.09 pct) scored big gains, while Commerce (1.91 pct) and Telecoms (1.52 pct) suffered losses.

    National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 51 to 44 with another 33 issues unchanged. Moda Bagno (28.57 pct), Minerva (26.92 pct) and AXON Holdings (20 pct) were top gainers, while G.E. Demetriou (20 pct), Alpha Grissin (19.35 pct) and Tzirakian (18.18 pct) were top losers.

    [31] ADEX closing report

    The February contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a discount of 0.37 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5,798 contracts with 8,157 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 74,597 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (31,098), followed by Alpha Bank (6,793), Piraeus Bank (24,074), Eurobank (8,691), MIG (1,682), OTE (253), PPC (678), OPAP (190), Hellenic Exchanges (134), Viohalco (252), Mytilineos (241), GEK Terna (157), Ellaktor (81), Hellenic Petroleum (52), Motor Oil (62) and Jumbo (53).

    General News

    [32] Authorities declare state of emergency in Kordelio for bomb disposal operation

    Greek authorities have declared a state of emergency in the Thessaloniki municipality Kordelio-Evosmos due to the operation underway to dispose of an unexploded WWII bomb found under a petrol station. The operation, which will involve the evacuation of the population over a radius of 1,900 metres around the bomb's location, is to take place on Sunday.

    It will involve a massive operation to move 62,000 people from the area by 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning and return them to their homes after the operation is concluded. Local authorities have already started the process by distributing flyers and posters door-to-door to all homes in the area, providing residents with instructions on the evacuation procedure, the waiting areas and the points where coaches will pick up passengers to transport them from the bomb zone.

    [33] Greek women more at risk of depression than migrant women or men, survey finds

    Nationality and ethnic origin are among the risk factors for depression among Greek women, who are more prone to suffering from the disease than either men or migrant women living in Greece, according to a survey presented in Athens on Thursday.

    According to the findings of the survey "Inequalities in the health sector for the migrant population," the same phenomenon is not observed among men, where depression is more linked to educational level and largely independent of race or nationality.

    The survey found the highest rates of depression among Greek women (40 pct), compared to 30 pct for women of Albanian origin and 25 pct for women from other countries. The rate was even higher among Greek women with a low level of education (45 pct) compared with their more educated counterparts, while the link to education also held true for women from third countries, where those with low levels of education had higher rates of depression than Greek women as a whole.

    Depression also spiked significantly among women that are retired or disabled, whether Greeks or migrants, though there was tellingly no difference in the rate of depression between Greek women in employment or education and Greek women that are unemployed.

    Rates of depression among men are just under 30 pct, regardless of race or nationality, but education again plays a significant role, with the percentage rising to 40 pct among the less educated and falling to 25 pct for those with high levels of education.

    In terms of overall health, education also played a role in the health problems reported by survey participants, with most problems reported by migrant women with low education. Migrants rarely reported difficulties in gaining access to treatment, however, while migrant men reported better health than Greek men and self-reported better rates of physical activity and abstinence from smoking and drinking, though worse rates for exposure to workplace hazards.

    The survey was part of the MIGHEAL programme financed by the European Economic Area and conducted by the National Centre for Social Studies in collaboration with NTNU, the Norwegian University for Science and Technology.

    [34] Actors, writers, singers join street magazine 'Shedia's' Vendors Week on Saturday

    Actors, singers, writers and other professionals will don the red vest usually worn by the vendors of the Greek street magazine "Shedia" on Saturday (Feb. 11) and sell magazines in Athens and Thessaloniki for an hour, in a message against poverty and social exclusion.

    The action will start at 12:00 in several areas of Athens and Thessaloniki, during which the volunteers will test they ability in street sales. The event is organized for the fourth time in Greece and is part of the "International Vendors Week" which takes place every year on the first week of February.

    In Athens, the magazine will be sold at the farmers market of Exarchia, at Kolonaki square, Kapnikareas square, outside the Acropolis metro, Korai square, on Voukourestiou and Ermou streets, at Monastiraki square, Syntagma, Varvakios market and at Agias Irinis square.

    In Thessaloniki, vendors will be standing on at Aghia Sofia square, and on several corners of Tsimiksi street: with Agias Sofias, with Karolou Deal, with Aristotelous, Pavlou Mela, with Paleon Patron Germanon and with Komninon.

    [35] Refugees steal boat and attempt to return to Turkey

    Two refugees, that had applied for asylum in Greece two months ago and their request was still pending, stole a boat and attempted to escape from Chios and return to Turkey.

    The 32 year-old Syrian and the 28 year-old man from Egypt stole the boat from St. Hermione port early on Wednesday and set sail for the Turkish coasts. However, they were spotted by a Frontex patrol vessel and were sent back to Chios. The two refugees were arrested accused of theft while the boat was returned to its owner.

    Meanwhile, a total of 52 migrants and refugees arrived at Chios in the last 24h while no arrivals were reported on Lesvos and Samos.

    Police said that on Thursday 9,921 people were recorded in the hotspots on Lesvos, Chios and Samos.

    [36] Traffic towards 'Macedonia' airport restored after farmers end blockade

    Traffic towards Thessaloniki's "Macedonia" airport resumed on Thursday evening after farmers and live-stock breeders ended their seated protest held at the only bypass serving the airport.

    For half an hour, cars driving to and from the airport were halted, while access from the main road leading to "Macedonia" has been blocked since the afternoon from farmers who said they intend to stay there until Friday.

    [37] Farmers block customs on Greek-Albanian borders at Krystallopigi

    Farmers from western Macedonia blocked the customs at Krystallopigi at 13:00 on the Greek-Albanian borders, said to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency Dimitris Moschos, member of the coordination committee of the blockades in the region.

    Moschos said that the blocking is symbolic and will last 24h.

    [38] Four metro stations closed on Feb 11-12 due to technical works

    The Athens metro stations Omonia (line 1 and 2), Neos Kosmos (line 2), Eleonas and Cholargos (line 3) will remain closed on Saturday and Sunday due to technical works for the installation of the new automatic ticket checkers. Trains will pass through these stations without stop.

    Weather forecast

    [39] Cloudy on Friday

    Clouds, rain and northeasterly winds are forecast for Friday. Wind velocity will reach 8 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts with temperatures ranging from 02C to 09C. Clouds and rain in the western and eastern parts with temperatures between 04C and 14C. Partly cloudy with rain in the afternoon over the Aegean islands and Crete, 10C-17C. Partly cloudy in Athens, 06C-12C. Light rain in Thessaloniki, 05C-08C

    [40] The Thursday edition of Athens dailies at a glance

    ETHNOS: Operation "vulcanisateur"

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 9 critical changes at the high school

    ESTIA: French manifesto in favour of the Greek language

    AVGHI: Obligatory POS in 12 sectors

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: The triangle of blackmails

    KATHIMERINI: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's message: Measures or Grexit?

    TO PONTIKI: Fatal and without will

    IMERISSIA: New 8.1 billion euro taxes

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Free lancers' status is a Gordian knot

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