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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-03-29

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] FM Molyviatis concludes US visit, Greek Independence Day celebrated at White House
  • [02] Greece unveils updated Stability, Growth Programme for 2004-2007 period
  • [03] TIF announces participation in IBF trade fair in Brno
  • [04] Greece, Albania eye increased bilateral trade, investments

  • [01] FM Molyviatis concludes US visit, Greek Independence Day celebrated at White House

    WASHINGTON D.C. (ANA/T. Ellis) - Greece's Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Monday wound up a 5-day official visit to the US with talks with US State Department's new Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who is a former US ambassador to Greece, and attended an event organised at the White House commemorating the March 25 Greek Independence Day anniversary.

    During his visit, Molyviatis also visited New York, where he held talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that covered, inter alia, the Cyprus issue, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Kosovo.

    Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Burns, who was the US ambassador to Greece from 1997 to July 2001, Molyviatis said the talks had been "very useful, constructive and friendly", noting that his friendship with Burns dated back to the undersecretary's ambassadorial posting in Athens.

    The talks focussed on bilateral relations and on international issues of interest to both Greece and the US.

    "We discussed all the issues of interest to us, and once again reaffirmed the excellent level of our bilateral relations. We also examined issues concerning the wider region, the Balkans and FYROM and the developments in Kosovo. We further discussed the Middle East, the Cyprus issue, naturally and, given Greece's (non-permament) seat on the UN Security Council, we also discussed the situation in Sudan and the vote to take place next Wednesday on this issue," Molyviatis said.

    Burns was sworn in as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, the third highest ranking in the State Department, last week. Molyviatis was the first foreign minister to meet with Burns in his new capacity.

    Synopsizing his meetings in New York and Washington, Molyviatis described his visit as "very positive", ans spoke of the "good results", noting that the most important outcome was the "new momentum" given to Greek-American relations with respect to both bilateral affairs and in the framework of cooperation at multilateral level.

    Commenting on the White House event marking Greek Independence Day, which he attended earlier in the day as the guest of US President George W. Bush, with whom he held a brief discussion, Molyviatis said it had been a touching celebration. The event was also attended by Archbishop Demetrios of America, and leading members of the Greek-American community, among others.

    "Personally, I thanked President Bush for his personal contribution to honouring Greece's national holiday. President Bush's address (to the event) was an inspired speach, delivered from the heart, as he put aside his prepared speach and spoke off-the-cuff, from the heart, honouring Greece and its struggles for freedom and democracy," the Greek foreign minister added.

    In his address, Bush praised Greece's contribution to history and the modern world, and reiterated his congratulations for its impeccable staging of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

    The US President also expressed appreciation for Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' work, and recalled their numerous meetings throughout the past year, including their bilateral talks during Karamanlis' official visit to the White House last May as well as their talks in the framework of multilateral summit meetings. He further asked Molyviatis to convey his warmest greetings to Karamanlis.

    Further, Bush issued a proclamation on the occasion of Greek Independence Day emphasising the contribution Ancient Athens had made by founding the principles of democracy, which later served as a source of inspiration for the founders of the American nation. He also referred to ties between Greece and the US, as the two promote freedom and democracy in addressing the challenges of the 21st century.

    The White House event was also addressed by Archbishop Demetrios, who thanked Bush for his active support in the protection ofpolitical and religious freedoms, and stressed the need for implementation of the principles of freedom and democracy in the cases of Cyprus, FYROM and Kosovo, as well as with respect to the unobstructed function of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

    [02] Greece unveils updated Stability, Growth Programme for 2004-2007 period

    The Greek economy is facing serious but temporary difficulties that it will overcome, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis stressed on Tuesday while unveiling the country's updated Stability and Growth Programme for the 2004-2007 period.

    Speaking to reporters during a news conference, the Greek minister reiterated that problems would be left behind and that economic growth will be maintained at high levels (average annual growth rate is forecast at 4.0 percent in the period 2005-2007). The updated programme was based on a forecast of oil prices falling from 44.8 US dollar per barrel in 2005 to 35 dollars per barrel in 2007.

    The Economy ministry aims to cut the general government's deficit to levels below 3.0 percent of GDP in 2006, in line with recommendations made by the ECOFIN council.

    The updated Stability and Growth Programme envisages that Greece will begin a large-scale effort aimed at fiscal stabilisation in 2005, with the general government's deficit to be cut by 2.6 percentage points of GDP to 3.5 percent, and with the country's public debt cut to 108 percent of GDP.

    At the same time, an expanding tax base, a more effective tax revenue collection system, a significant reduction of primary spending and lower spending in a Public Investments Programme, are expected to contribute towards achieving the programme's goal.

    For the period 2006-2007, the programme envisages a further reduction of both fiscal deficit and public debt, to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2006 and to 2.2 pct in 2007 and from 108 pct of GDP to 99.9 pct in 2007, respectively. The programme also envisages a further slowdown in inflation next year.

    The Greek minister said the stability programme foresees large-scale structural reforms during the 2005-2007 period. "The government," he said "plans to introduce a more effective system of controlling public spending with the creation of an independent authority of fiscal inspectors".

    The government is also considering a new operating framework for state-owned enterprises, one that will combine a strict implementation of business plans, contained incomes policy and controlled borrowing needs.

    The programme also foresees measures to boost competitiveness in domestic markets, establishing new enterprises and reforming the country's healthcare system. Alogoskoufis said the government would soon begin a dialogue on the latter issue.

    The main goal of reforms was to ensure the viability, in the short-term, and sustainability of the system in the long-term, by securing a satisfactory level of services to Greek citizens, the minister said. The programme also includes a rescheduling of state hospitals' debt to suppliers, a procedure currently under way.

    Alogoskoufis said the updated programme was a programme of "mild and unwavering fiscal adjustment and of bold structural reforms". Moreover, he emphasized efforts to reduce total state spending from 50.4 percent of GDP currently to 49 percent of GDP over the next two years.

    The Greek minister reiterated that reducing public spending would not undermine social benefits, while he stressed there would be no increases on income taxes.

    [03] TIF announces participation in IBF trade fair in Brno

    Thessaloniki International Fair SA will take its first step in the Central and Eastern European market with its participation in an international construction and building materials' trade fair to be held in Brno, the Czech Republic, April 19-23.

    It will be TIF's second step outside Greece after its participation in the Alimentaria food and drinks trade fair in Lisbon, April 10-13.

    A total of 13 enterprises from Thessaloniki will participate in the Brno trade fair, with the Greek pavillion expected to cover an area of 200 square metres. Greek companies will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of the international business community on scheduled meetings arranged by the Finance and Trade Affairs bureau of the Greek embassy in Prague.

    The IBF trade fair attracted 90,000 visitors last year and 1,500 exhibitors from the Czech Republic and around the world. IBF is the biggest trade fair of its kind in east and central Europe.

    [04] Greece, Albania eye increased bilateral trade, investments

    Greece and Albania took additional steps this week to broaden their already voluminous trade and investment relations, with Athens particularly interested in quicker VAT rebates to Greek firms active in the neighboring country, faster commercial licensing and an equal tariff regime for Greek products and services.

    Bilateral trade and cross-border ties, in fact, dominated talks at the 9th Greece-Albania joint inter-ministerial committee meeting, which concluded on Tuesday in the northwest lakeside city of Ioannina with the signing of a protocol listing areas for continued cooperation, especially in the telecoms and energy sectors.

    Some 250 Greece-based firms are currently active in the west Balkan nation, with Greece ranked as Albania's largest foreign investor and the country's largest development aid donor. Greece is also Albania's second largest trading partner after Italy. Athens to date has provided a total of 190 million euros to Tirana in the form of infrastructure projects and know-how.

    Beyond cutting red-tape in Albania and cooperation on specific sectors, both sides discussed funding of a key highway expected to link extreme northwest Greece (Thesprotia prefecture) with the neighboring Sarande district of southwestern Albania -- a significant project for Athens because the roadway will provide access to several otherwise remote ethnic Greek villages in the district.

    Regarding the latter project, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said one condition for the roadway is the participation of Greek firms in construction consortia.

    Additionally, the Albanian side agreed to alleviate any glitches with the transmission of state-run Greek broadcaster ERT's signal in the neighboring country and to include a reference in this week's protocol for continued harmonisation with the European Union's acquis communautaire.

    "This inter-ministerial meeting, held four years after the previous one, marks a new milestone in Greek-Albanian relations, as well as a commitment by (Greek PM) Costas Karamanlis for developing the provinces and the border areas," Stylianidis said after the end of the sessions here.

    Minister of Economy Anastas Angjeli headed up the Albanian delegation.


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