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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-01
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis meets with parliament president Psarouda-BenakiPrime minister Costas Karamanlis met Thursday morning with parliament president Anna Psarouda Benaki.
No statements were made after the meeting.
Karamanlis met on Wednesday with Italian minister for productive activities Pierluigi Bersani, after talks between the Italian official and Greece's development minister Dimitris Sioufas, during which they signed a support Protocol for a Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline, officially known as the "Interconnector Greece-Italy (IGI), construction on which is due to begin in June 2008, with completion slated for 2011.
Greece, Italy sign Protocol for natgas pipeline
Construction of a Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline is due begin in June 2008, with completion slated for 2011, Greece's development minister Dimitris Sioufas announced on Wednesday, speaking at the ceremony during which he and Italian minister of productive activities Pierluigi Bersani signed the pipeline's support Protocol.
The agreement also provides for exclusion of the underwater section of the pipeline from acess to third parties in order, according to Sioufas, to ensure the viability of the investment, pending approval of the exception by the European Commission, which is expected in April, and will be in effect for 25 years.
The Greek-Italian pipeline comprises a supplement to the Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline, and aims at the transport of natural gas from the Caspian region to the West via Turkey and Greece. The Greek-Turkish pipeline, currently under construction, is expected to start operating this summer, and will have a transport capacity of 11.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually. The Greek-Italian pipeline, in turn, will be able to transport 8-8.8 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year.
The difference between the two quantities will supply the Greek market, as well as the markets of Albania and FYROM, according to Sioufas, while Bulgaria has also recently expressed interest in natural gas supply via Greece.
The land-based section of the Greek-Italian pipeline (Komotini-Thesprotia) will have a length of 590 kilometres, and the cost is estimated at more than 600 million euros, while the underwater section (Thesprotia-Otranto) will be 217 kilometres in length and the cost is estimated at 300 million euros. In other words, the total investment will exceed 1 billin euros, part of which will be funded under the EU's Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF).
Sioufas said the pipeline will strengthen the position of Greece's DEPA (Public Natural Gas Corporation) and the Italian Edison's on the market of the wider region, creating the conditions for supplying Central and Western Macedonia and Epirus with natural gas. It will also boost energy security and render Greece a natural gas transit hub.
For Greece, he added, the Greek-Turkish pipeline will comprise the third source of natural gas supply, after the central pipeline from Bulgaria which transports Russian natural gas, and the installations at Revythoussa, where liquefied natural gas is imported from Algeria.
Bersani stressed that the accord was "good news" for the general framework of economic relations between Greece and Italy, and invited Sioufas to visit Rome for talks on matters concerning SME's, in addition to energy issues.
Asked where the natural gas to be carried along the pipeline would originate from, Sioufas said that the two companies (DEPA and Edison) would cooperate on this matter and make every effort to ensure the pipeline's capacity, while Bersani said that the pipeline "could also mark a diversification of the supply sources".
The two ministers agreed that the relevant studies on doubling the transport capacity of the underwater electric connection between the two countries would begin immediately.
 PASOK leader blasts gov't's pension policyMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday accused the New Democracy government of having "managed to reduce old pensions, create immense insecurity among pensioners amid a period of high prices, and of creating difficulties due to poor planning, but also through promises never fulfilled".
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the new self-employed professionals' insurance fund in the working-class Aghious Anargyrous district of northwest Athens, Papandreou underlined that the government had said one thing but was doing something different.
 Greek-Turkish trade tops $2.17bl in Jan-Oct '06Bilateral trade between Greece and Turkey exceeded US$2.17 billion in the 10-month period January-October 2006, with Greek exports to Turkey posting a larger proportional increase than Turkish imports to Greece, according to the latest bulletin issued by the economic and trade office of Greece's general consulate in Istanbul.
However, despite the large increase in bilateral trade and the significant improvement in Greek exports to Turkey, which reached 865.6 million dollars -- a 62.1-percent increase over 2005 -- Greece's trade deficit with Turkey also recorded an increase.
According to the bulletin, the deficit reached 10.7 percent in the first 10-month period of 2006, due to a 40.1-percent increase in Turkish exports to Greece in the same period in 2006 , reaching 1.309 billion dollars.
Raw materials and fuels remained at the top of the list of Greek exports to Turkey, accounting for 39.6 percent. According to figures by Eurostat, the EU's statistical service, for the first nine-month period of 2006, cotton exports were second with 20.3 percent and plastics were third with 12.4 percent), followed by boilers and engines (3.17 percent), argyle (2.94 percent), cooper (2.82 percent), leather (1.88 percent), paper (1.29 percent), machinery/appliances/electrical material (1.16 percent) and clothing (1.01 percent).
Regarding the overall picture of Turkey's foreign trade in the first 10 months of 2006, overall exports reached 67.82 billion dollars, marking a 12.5 percent increase over 2005, and imports reached 112.3 billion dollars, a 17.7-percent increase, with the trade balance deficit rising by 26.6 percent to 44.5 billion dollars.
Caption: A picture taken on March 28, 2002 shows a map issued by the Turkish energy and development ministry of a currently under construction natgas pipeline project linking Karacabey in Turkey with Komotini in Greece, and then to western European countries. ANA-MPA / EPA photo / T. Tinazay
 FinMin, union focus on tax evasionNational Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday called on the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest trade umbrella group, to actively take part in a campaign targeting tax evasion, during a meeting with the union's leadership at the ministry.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said what was mainly being sought was to consolidate "tax conscientiousness" where it was lacking.
The major problem of tax evasion must be confronted, because it is a matter of fundamental taxation justice and social justice, he added.
GSEE president Yiannis Panagopoulos said the trade union responded to the minister's invitation to discuss the tax evasion for two reasons. Firstly, because dialogue was an irreplaceable tool of democracy, and secondly, because the wage-earners and pensioners were the only group that did not evade taxes and fully met their obligations.
"We listened to what the minister had to say, and made some observations of our own, such as that the state must not replicate models that result in tax evasion," the GSEE chief said.
Panagopoulos also claimed that the present government had inherited a debt of 1.265 billion euros to the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA), while by the end of 2006 it had reached 4.280 billion euros.
Regarding the last observation by the GSEE president, Alogoskoufis said this issue would be discussed in a dialogue that was commencing with Employment and Social Insurances Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Alogoskoufis.
 Vessel arrivals in Greek ports rise 3% in 2Q '06Arrivals of Greek and foreign merchant ships in Greek ports rose by 2.98 percent in the second quarter of 2006 as opposed the corresponding quarter in 2005, according to figures released on Thursday by Greece's National Statistical Service (NSS).
NSS said that a total of 159,967 arrivals of Greek-flagged and foreign merchant ships in local ports were recorded in the second quarter of 2006, up 2.98 percent from 153,243 arrivals in the corresponding quarter of 2005.
It also said the total number of passengers disembarked by Greek and foreign merchant vessels at Greek ports rose to 341,000 in the second quarter of 2006, up from 326,000 in the same quarter in 2005.
Further, according to NSS, total passenger traffic (passengers disembarked and embarked) from passenger/car ferries reached 5,054,000 passengers in the second quarter of 2006, marking an 11.22-percent increase from the 4,544,000 passengers transported in the second quarter of 2005.
Finally, commercial cargo traffic rose by 1.21 percent in the second quarter of 2006 against the same quarter in 2005, NSS said.
The total volume of cargo off-loaded by Greek and foreign ships at Greek ports, coming from abroad, rose to 12,552,000 tons, up from 12,502,000 tons in the corresponding quarter of 2005.
Caption: An aerial view of the port of Piraeus, the largest in the country, from a file photo dated Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2005. ANA-MPA / G. Christakis.
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