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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-04-11
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece financial center of SE EuropeGreece is evolving into the financial center of Southeastern Europe, a gateway to the rest of the world, with the help of the government's reform program, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, the Greek minister said Greek investments in the wider region exceeded 15 billion euros and noted that these investments contributed not only to the development of Greece but of the wider region as well. The Greek FinMin noted that a strong growth dynamism in the wider Southeast European region created large opportunities for the country and its citizens.
Alogoskoufis said Greece still faced great challenges ahead despite the progress made so far, noting that the civil sector remained the biggest hurdle of the economy and added that public sector enterprises needed to be restructured to offer improved services to citizens.
The Greek minister said reforms needed to be continued and underlined that the government has laid the foundations for a better course in the next decade.
Caption:Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis addressed an Economist conference in Athens on Thursday 10 April 2008.ANA-MPA/ALEXANDROS BELTES
 MIG to sue Tsipras for slanderThe high-profile vice-president of the Marfin Investment Group (MIG), Andreas Vgenopoulos, on Thursday announced that the banking and real estate group will file slander suits against Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras and a local Athens television station.
Speaking at a press conference in the Greek capital, Vgenopoulos said the lawsuits stem from recent barbed criticism aired by Tsipras and the TV station, Star TV. Regarding the former, the MIG executive said MIG will demand one million euros in compensation for Tsipras' criticism of MIG's purchase and subsequent sale of shares in state-run Hellenic Telecoms (OTE).
Tsipras, who is not a Parliament MP and lacks parliamentary immunity, reportedly referred to a "fraud" by MIG in its OTE stock dealings, especially its profitable sale of roughly 20 percent of OTE's shares to Deutsche Telekom (DT) last month. Vgenopoulos said that if successful, MIG will return any court-awarded compensation back to Synaspismos in the form of a "campaign contribution". He also said that Tsipras was signaled out because other Synaspismos cadres that railed against the MIG-DT deal enjoy parliamentary immunity.
The opposition, including Synaspismos, as well as the union representing OTE's employees, vociferously opposes any prospects of Greece's largest telecoms and telephony utility passing from state to private control. Conversely, the New Democracy government welcomed the deal and German multinational's strategic interest in OTE.
Additionally, the high-profile Greek executive said a lawsuit demanding a record 150 million euros will be filed against Athens-based Star TV for what he called "95 slanderous references" to MIG, including claims of fraud, money laundering, kick-backs, shady financial dealings and even investments funneled by the "Albanian mafia".
Commenting on MIG's investment in OTE and the sale of its 20 percent minority equity stake to Deutsche Telekom, Vgenopoulos said MIG was the largest Greek business group with an established presence in 40 countries, while the group attracted foreign investments totaling 7.2 billion euros, accounting for 80 pct of total foreign investments made in the country over the last few years.
He added Deutsche Telekom will possible make a "spectacular investment" if it acquired Hellenic Telecom's management, while he did not exclude any future partnership with the German telecoms giant.
He also clarified that MIG's decision to sell its investment in OTE was made without any prior consultation with the Greek government.
In a reply, hours later, a Synaspismos statement referred to a "very dangerous reasoning of (political) criminalisation and political speech", while calling on the government to take a stand on the issue.
The party also said it will not be dissuaded from protecting the state's assets.
Tsipras responds to MIG lawsuit
Alexis Tsipras, responding on Thursday to Marfin Investment Group (MIG) vice president Andreas Vgenopoulos, dismissed the move as an "attempt to penalise the political life" of the country.
Tsipras was informed of the lawsuit during his visit to the German capital and the talks he held on Thursday with the president of the German party "The Left" (Die Linke) Lothar Bisky.
"With the same audacity that profiteering stock exchange capital is attacking the Greek economy, trying to profiteer at the expense of public wealth, with the same audacity it is attacking the political life of the country. We have an unprecedented case of an attempt to penalise political life and political speech," he said.
Tsipras concluded by saying that "all that I have to say is that no matter how much they try, they will not silence us, they will not scare us."
 DM holds talks in ParisDefence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis met with his French counterpart Herve Morin in Paris on Thursday, according to a defence ministry press release.
Meimarakis and Morin discussed the priorities of the European Union Presidency, which France will be assuming as of July 1, issues of bilateral concern, as well as latest developments in the EU, NATO and southeastern Europe.
The defence minister was then received by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom he discussed issues of international and bilateral interest.
Speaking after the meeting, Meimarakis said "I had the opportunity today of meeting, first of all the President of the French Republic, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy and with a friend Defence Minister Herve Morin, who had the courtesy of briefing me on the priorities of the French Presidency as of July 1. I listened with special interest to the views of France and I am convinced that its efforts for the promotion of important issues that concern the future of the European Union will meet with absolute success."
The defence minister further said that "as regards our bilateral relations, I believe that they are at a high level and we agreed on the need to maintain the dynamic deepening of our cooperation active. In any case, the joint declaration of 2005 and the meeting and the reassuring of this joint declaration between Mr. Karamanlis and Sarkozy gave a new impetus both to our cooperation at bilateral level and to the joint effort to strengthen Europe in the sector of security and defence."
Referring to the situation prevailing in the wider region of southeastern Europe and the Western Balkans in particular, Meimarakis said that he had the opportunity of stressing once again that developments in the region constitute a top priority for Greece.
Lastly, the defence minister said that "the level of mutual understanding and communication between Greece and France is very satisfactory, a fact that is being manifested, with increasing frequency, in support for converging positions and analyses."
Caption: French President Nicolas Sarkozy(R) and Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis in Paris on Thursday 10 April 2008.ANA-MPA/STR
 ‚Images of Crete‚ in U.S.Greece's Deputy Agricultural and Foods Minister Costas Kiltidis inaugurated in Washington on Thursday the painting exhibition "Images of Crete", within the framework of the 17th International Exhibition of Foods and Beverages, Expo 2008.
The painting exhibition is being held at the Greek Embassy's exhibition centre.
Kiltidis congratulated all those who contributed to the presentation of this exhibition in the American capital, while he underlined that the restoration of the regions which were ravaged last summer in the Peloponnese by wildfires is a major priority of the Greek government.
He also thanked the American citizens and the Greek-American community for the substantial aid they offered for the confrontation of the destructions. He noted that this solidarity constitutes more proof of the substantial friendship between the United States and Greece.
Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias welcomed the public and noted that this exhibition praises the beauty and variety of the Greek landscape.
Caption:ANA-MPA file photo of an image from a Cretan village
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