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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-02-16

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Papandreou receives Chilean Chamber president
  • [02] Countdown for Athens 2011 Special Olympics begins
  • [03] Azeri president Aliyev in Greece
  • [04] Gov't readies bill on expats' vote
  • [05] BoG urges long-term reform plan

  • [01] Papandreou receives Chilean Chamber president

    Main opposition PASOK leader and Social International (SI) president George Papandreou on Monday received the visiting President of Chile's Chamber of Deputies, Francisco Encina Moriamez, where he referred to the close relations of the Greek and Chilean peoples, ties that became even stronger during each country's struggle for democracy. Referring to the global economic crisis, Papandreou inquired on how the Chilean economy was affected and what measures were taken in response. Encina briefed Papandreou on the political developments in his country in view of the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled at the end of 2009 and the political cooperation between the left and progressive forces in the South American country. On his part, Papandreou referred to the domestic political developments and foreign policy issues, focusing on Turkey and Cyprus. He expressed support to the policy followed by Republic of Cyprus President Demetres Christofias and stressed that Ankara holds the key to a solution in Cyprus, underlining that the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots should be free to decide on their common future within the EU. Papandreou also commented on the Balkan issues, the FYROM "name issue" in particular, reiterating PASOK's position in support of a name with a geographic qualifier for all uses. He also briefed Moriamez on the Middle East issue and the role SI can play through its proposal for a regional conference with the participation of the countries in the region. Caption: Main opposition PASOK and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou (R) with Chile's Chamber of Deputies President Francisco Encina Moriamez in Athens on Monday, Feb. 16, 2009. ANA-MPA / K. MAVRONA.

    [02] Countdown for Athens 2011 Special Olympics begins

    Tourism Development Minister Costas Markopoulos represented Greece, the host of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, in the traditional passing of the Special Olympics flag in Idaho, the host of the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Markopoulos and Joanna Despotopoulou, the president of the organising committee for "Athens 2011" also held a private meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden, who accepted an invitation to attend the Special Olympic Games in Greece. Greece received the Special Olympics flag and a glass ball (the Special Olympics emblem) at the Idaho Games' closing ceremony on Friday.

    [03] Azeri president Aliyev in Greece

    Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday received the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who is on an official visit to Greece. They held talks on ways to further develop bilateral relations between Greece and Azerbaijan.

    Private talks between the two presidents were preceded by an official ceremony of welcome, where the government was represented by Culture Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Merchant Marine & Island Policy Minister Panagiotis Kammenos. There was then a meeting with the full delegations of the Greek and Azeri sides attending.

    This culminated in the signature of four bilateral agreements: one for avoiding double taxation and preventing tax evasion, which was signed by Greek Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas and Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov; a flight services agreement signed by Deputy Transport Minister Mihalis Bekiris and Azerbaijan Airlines general director Jakhangir Askerov; an infotech and communications agreement signed by Bekiris and the Azeri Communications and Information Technology Minister Ali Abbasov; and finally a memorandum of understanding in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency sectors, signed by Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Azeri Minister of Energy and Industries Natiq Aliyev.

    In statements afterward, Papoulias said the two countries gave priority to energy issues, investments, trade and cooperation in cultural and educational matters. He said the talks with Aliyev had also focused on Azerbaijan's relations with the European Union, in the framework of strengthening the Community's relations with Baku.

    Their talks also covered current affairs in the surrounding region, including the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Balkans and the Cyprus issue.

    "I referred particularly to the Cyprus issue and stressed to the Azeri president the need to end the Turkish occupation of a large part of the territory of a European country," Papoulias said, while thanking Aliyev for his invitation to visit Azerbaijan, which he accepted.

    Aliyev noted that he was the first president of Azerbaijan to carry out an official visit to Greece and emphasised the significance of the visit, expressing confidence that it would result in an improvement and new period of progress in bilateral relations.

    He also emphasised the issue of energy security, saying that Azerbaijan had done a lot to give the rest of the world access to its considerable energy resources.

    "The relationship that Greece is now developing with Azerbaijan will help in this direction. The issue of energy security is a major priority of the international community and Azerbaijan is making every effort to increase the energy security of Europe. For over a year now, natural gas from Azerbaijan is reaching the Greek market. From there it comes into Europe. There is no doubt that much more could be done in this sector," Aliyev stressed.

    Azerbaijan's president said a meeting between business people of the two countries on Tuesday would undoubtedly lead to a host of opportunities for business on both sides.

    Aliyev also raised the issue of the Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijan's territory and the over one million refugees and internally displaced persons in the country that resulted from this conflict.

    "In order to resolve this conflict there must be absolute respect for the principle of territorial integrity and international law. I believe that if Armenia respects this principle, the issue will be resolved," Aliyev said.

    Caption: The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Athens on Monday, Feb. 16, 2009. ANA-MPA / S. PANTZARTZI.

    [04] Gov't readies bill on expats' vote

    An initiative to give eligible Greeks abroad the right to vote in general elections should not be based on whether such a move is beneficial to whatever political parties, Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis said on Monday in an interview to the ANA's Internet TV platform. In echoing the government's position, the deputy FM asked why main opposition PASOK does not want Greek expatriates to vote after the 2011 elections and pointed out that it should be a priority to avoid dividing the Greeks abroad based on their political party affiliation. Referring to the Inner Cabinet's approval last Tuesday of a draft law setting up the framework for the landmark development, Kassimis stressed that expatriates' voting rights became a constitutional right when PASOK held a majority in Parliament. "The constitution was voted in 2002 but the specific clause was never activated. It was Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis who underlined that we have an obligation to give overseas Greeks the right to vote in (Greek) national elections," Kassimis stated. He also stressed that he was impressed with the negative stance of the main opposition on the issue, pointing out that 200 votes out of the 300 MPs in Parliament are necessary to pass the legislation. The draft law promoted by the government provides that each party should include three Greek expatriate candidates in its state ballot (a list of candidates that do not require individual votes by voters). Whether the names of the Greek expatriate candidates are on the top of the list or lower will be indicative of their chance to be elected. The votes of expatriates will be added to the overall electoral result. Kassimis stated that the fact that PASOK is against tallying Greek expatriate votes in the overall election results constitutes an insult. On PASOK's stance in favor of establishing Greek expatriate seats in Parliament, Kassimis said the government will examine this option at a later phase and after reaching a conclusion on the size of the expatriate electorate. "This will be made possible after having them vote in the first general elections after 2011," Kassimis said. "Based on the ballots cast, a discussion can begin with the political parties on the expatriate seats in Parliament and the adoption of a relevant constitutional amendment. This is why the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) accepts, at this phase, the draft law approved, which allows expatriates to take part in Greek general elections," he underlined. Asked about the stance of the Greek expatriates vis-à-vis their participation in Greek national elections, Kassimis said opinions vary, with some in favor of having a say in Greece, while others maintaining that they have no contact with everyday reality in Greece.

    [05] BoG urges long-term reform plan

    Bank of Greece Governor George Provopoulos on Monday said a long-term plan, including all necessary reforms, was needed in the country, with fiscal restructuring a top priority.

    Presenting the central bank's report on monetary policy, Provopoulos said Greek economic growth will slow to 0.5 pct this year, the inflation rate will fall to an average level of 1.8 pct, or lower, after a 4.2-pct figure last year, although the core inflation rate will remain at 3.0 pct (3.4 pct in 2008). The country's current accounts deficit is projected to fall from a 14.5 pct of GDP in 2008 and to start climbing again along with the economy's recovery. The central banker stressed that Greece's fiscal deficit must fall below 3.0 pct of GDP this year with the aim of falling to zero by 2012 and called for wage increases linked with the inflation rate and productivity increases by employees in the public sector.

    Commenting on a widening yield spread between Greek and German state bonds, Provopoulos said the consequences from this development were felt throughout the economy and predicted that no significant decline in the yield spread will be seen over the next few months, a fact that made it even more pressing to achieve a fiscal consolidation to convince markets.

    He attributed this situation to market reservations over fiscal prospects and the current accounts balance. Provopoulos said there was no discussion within the ECB over plans to intervene in the secondary bond market of Greece and other countries facing a similar problem (Ireland, Portugal).

    The central banker recommended a restrictive fiscal policy with cuts in overspending and improving efficiency of state spending. Provopoulos said tax evasion exceeded 20 pct of total tax proceeds.

    The BoG governor said he favored mergers in the banking sector, which would boost the size of Greek banks and urged banks to raise their provisions, noting: "the cost cannot be paid only by taxpayers but must be shared with shareholders".

    He also supported the idea of creating a "bad bank" in the Greek market to transfer all non-performing loans and underlined that banks should make a rational use of a government-sponsored 28-billion-euro plan to boost liquidity in the economy.

    Provopoulos said the current crisis was the worse since 1930 and said that prospects for the global economy were bleak for 2009. EU governments' plans to boost liquidity and banks' capital totaled 2.9 trillion euros, or 23 pct of GDP in the region, he noted.

    The central banker reiterated that the fundamentals of the Greek banking system have been affected less by the international crisis, compared with other countries, thanks to continuous controls by the Bank of Greece, banks' satisfactory capital adequacy levels and their marginal exposure to so-called "toxic" assets. These fundamentals allowed Greek banks to remain healthy and strong, he stressed.

    Commenting on the implementation of a government plan to boost liquidity, Provopoulos said it strengthened financial stability and would help in avoiding a credit crunch, while he urged banks to fully exploit the plans provisions by carefully evaluating current economic conditions.

    He predicted a slowdown of credit expansion to the private sector in the coming months, to around 10 pct on average this year.


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