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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Greece to adhere to EU budget agreement
  • [02] Three fire-fighters killed in Crete

  • [01] Greece to adhere to EU budget agreement

    An EU decision to present balanced budgets is a political decision and Greece will seek to adhere strictly to this agreement, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister added that the government needed to remain alerted to execute this year‚s budget and announced further measures to cut spending this year.

    Alogoskoufis hailed a Eurogroup and ECOFIN decisions to accept Cyprus and Malta in the Eurozone, saying it was a very significant development since Eurozone was expanding in the Mediterranean region.

    He noted that the ECOFIN council agreed that in the best economic case scenario member-states‚ fiscal deficits should be cut by more than 0.5 percent annually and said that EU member-states reaffirmed their commitment to present balanced budgets by 2010. The Greek minister also referred to the significant progress made by Greece in reducing its fiscal deficit, adding that the country still had a very big public debt with interest payment totaling 10 billion euros annually. ?It is a very big problem and a top priority for the government,? he said.

    Alogoskoufis noted that social transfers, as a percentage of GDP, reached 18 percent in Greece, from 16.2 pct in the Eurozone, and that they expected to reach 18.4 pct in 2008. ?We have the highest rate of social transfers but very low efficiency,? he added.

    Commenting on the placement of a 20 percent equity stake in Postal Savings Bank, Alogoskoufis said it was successful. ?It is a significant step for privatizations, with the offering price reaching 18.10 euros per share, at the top range, while the placement was three times oversubscribed and the state will raise more than 500 million euros,? he said.

    The Greek minister stressed that the government‚s privatization program envisaged proceeds totaling 1.7 billion euros and noted that the program so far has fetched 1.632 billion euros.

    The sale of an equity stake in Postal Savings Bank will help the bank and will bring more competition in the domestic banking system, while proceeds from the sale will help reducing the country‚s public debt. Alogoskoufis stressed that there will be no more privatizations this year.

    The Greek minister dismissed talk of imposing higher taxes in the country.

    [02] Three fire-fighters killed in Crete

    Three seasonal fire-fighters died and a fourth suffered serious burns when their vehicle was surrounded by flames while they were taking part in efforts to put out a forest fire that broke out at 14:15 on Wednesday within the Kouloukonas municipality in Rethymno on Crete.

    The tragic accident occurred shortly before 17:00, apparently due to very strong winds that were blowing in the area that rapidly drove the flames in their direction.

    A force of 40 fire-fighters in 13 vehicles, a further 14 fire-fighters on foot and a helicopter are currently attempting to put out the fire, which continues to blaze in an inaccessible location in the area.

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