|Sunday, 21 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-03-20
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Karamanlis: crisis calls for cooperation, alertnessBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - M. Spinthourakis) - The world was facing a complex economic crisis of "unprecedented" dimensions, one which demanded that countries cooperate and remain alert in order to respond to it, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during a press conference here on Friday, after a meeting of European leaders. For Greece, in particular, he stressed that the country had to avoid further increasing its already high public debt and fiscal deficit.
"The situation is difficult and it is our choice to tell the citizens the truth. Others may have chosen the easy path and hide the truth from citizens, but this is damaging for the country," he told reporters.
He said the Greek government's policies sought to achieve three parallel goals, with actions that sought to boost the real economy while preserving fiscal balance and supporting those having the greatest need. The premier stressed that none of these could be focused on at the expense of the others.
Specifically for the Greek economy, Karamanlis underlined the problems caused by the country's high public debt and defended austere measures to increase revenues and curb public spending announced earlier in the week, stressing that these "were emergency measures responding to special circumstances" and adopted with "consideration for social justice, based on which the most wealthy Greeks will contribute more to the recovery of the Greek economy".
"It is not the government's job to be pleasant and its actions are motivated by a sense of responsibility," he underlined, referring to efforts to prevent tax evasion and improve tax-collection mechanisms.
Replying to a suggestion that the government also increase taxation on banks, Karamanlis said that this would be a mistake in the midst of the crisis, since it would further restrict the flow of credit to the economy.
The prime minister ruled out another financial audit for the Greek state but stressed the need to carefully monitor economic indicators, noting that this was not demanded by Brussels but a duty and responsibility of the government.
"When we have a problem we must fix it ourselves and no one can tell us how this must be done," he underlined.
Karamanlis pointed out that the public debt had been reduced in recent years relative to the Gross National Product (GNP), adding that he had decided against "shock therapy" to reduce this further. He forecast, also, that Greece would be one of the few EU countries with positive growth in 2009, and that "the country will not enter a period of economic recession".
At the same time, given Greece's long-term tendency toward fiscal imbalance, the drastic measures announced in the past week aimed to tidy up public finances and were taken alongside other measures designed to increase employment and promote growth, as well as measures to support the tourism sector, the prime minister said.
In response to other questions, Karamanlis denied the existence of a plan to bail out Eurozone countries that could not meet their borrowing needs and stressed that, even if such a plan existed, it would not concern Greece. He underlined that the refinancing of Greece's public debt was being carried out in a normal way and that the country had no problem covering its borrowing requirements.
Questioned about solidarity between EU countries, the prime minister said there was no need for solidarity to address fiscal deficit problems in the Eurozone and stressed that each member-state had to implement its own programme of fiscal consolidation.
On employment policy, Karamanlis said that he was in favour of steady jobs but that it was logical to seek solutions of necessity during times of crisis. The Greek government was prepared to discuss the issue of part-time employment, on condition that this would be temporary and decided after consultation with the social partners, he added.
"Rather than close down a business, it is better to seek other solutions," he told reporters, pointing out that flexibility in the Greek labour market was extremely restricted.
Asked to comment on the stance of the opposition parties, Karamanlis claimed that he had asked for a "realistic discussion" leading to an agreement on six "ground rules" that he termed "self-evident". He listed these as preserving the European framework, restricting further growth of Greece's large public debt, gradual adjustment to reduce the public deficit, establishing the 'limits' of the Greek economy, as well as agreeing on the need to support lower income groups and that self-restraint in a time of crisis was beneficial for all society.
There had been no response, he said, adding that the "government will do its duty".
Karamanlis on European Council decisions
Outlining the results of the EU summit, Karamanlis said that ways of coping with the crisis and coordinating the actions of EU member-states had dominated the meeting. He pointed out that national governments and international organisations throughout the world had taken action since September 2008, intervening to deal with the repercussions of the crisis.
Listing the problems, Karamanlis said the most important were the reduction of lending by commercial banks to households and businesses, an increase in state borrowing throughout the world and trends toward protectionism.
Governments had to counter those trends, giving priority in the short term to improving the banks' willingness to give credit in a way that did not jeopardise long-term targets or the viability of public finances, Karamanlis noted, while stressing the need to preserve free trade and avoid protectionism, at the same time promoting structural reforms that increase productivity and competitiveness.
The Greek prime minister also focused on the need to reform the framework for monitoring the international financial sector in the medium term:
"Every financial organisation must be constantly checked and monitored to ensure stability," Karamanlis said, adding that the main guidelines emerging from Friday's European summit had been those of intensifying efforts for the recovery of the real economy and faster action to improve supervision of all financial institutions within the EU.
Referring to the G-20 meeting due to take place in London, Greece's premier said that this meeting should help to reform and restore confidence in the global financial system. At the same time, he stressed that cooperate on an EU level remained the main priority and that this cooperation was, in general, "more efficient".
Karamanlis welcomed a decision by European leaders to provide five billion euros in European funds for energy-related projects to develop infrastructure in rural areas. He said that this package was "of particular interest to Greece" since it would provide funding for three energy-related projects that directly concerned the country and for boosting agricultural development.
Emphasising the human side of the crisis, the Greek premier underlined the need for greater protection for households and businesses, particularly the weaker and more vulnerable sections of society, such as the elderly, young people and the unemployed.
"As in all economic crises, there is a need for international coordination," he pointed out, emphasising the special role of the EU in this direction.
On EU natgas project, Copenhagen meeting on climate
Asked about his stance to the European Commission's emergency plan for natural gas, Karamanlis said that his address to the EU Summit had emphasised that for projects belonging to the so-called "South Corridor" that would directly benefit all Southeastern European countries, it was necessary to set the right mechanisms in motion.
Regarding preparations for the international climate change meeting in Copenhagen, he said that European leaders had agreed that the EU must have a key role in efforts to restrict the greenhouse gas phenomenon.
"There is no time to delay decisions for dealing with climate change," he said.
Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis answers questions during a press conference held in Brussels on Friday, after the end of the European Council. ANA-MPA - Premier's press office - Gouilielmos Antoniou
 Papandreou comments on econ crisisMain opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Friday chaired a meeting of top PASOK cadres overseeing the party's economic policy sectors, where the former charged that the greatest crisis today is the country's lack of governance.
"With great concern we heard the prime minister today looking for an alibi instead of asking for forgiveness for real problems," he said, charging that Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis is systematically distorting the truth and of unreliability.
He also said that seriousness and responsibility needed to combat the international economic crisis is lacking from today's government.
Moreover, in commenting on EU-wide policy, Papandreou, the foreign minister in previous PASOK governments, chided what he called the "conservative majority in Europe," saying it was unable to rise to the circumstances which the current crisis entails.
"What is needed is a new, progressive majority so Europe can exit the crisis," he said.
 AHEPA praise for new NATO commander nomineeWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA) - The American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA) this week expressed its satisfaction over a decision by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to propose the appointment of US Navy Adm. James Stavridis for the post of NATO commander in Europe.
"We are overjoyed with the news," said AHEPA President Ike Goulas said in reference to the highly decorated US admiral of Greek descent, adding that "we are extremely proud of his excellent achievements and we are convinced that, following his appointment, he will serve the nation and lead the Alliance in an excellent and discreet way."
 PM praises initialing of Greece-Albania continental shelf dealBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA) -- Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday expressed his satisfaction over the successful conclusion of negotiations and the initialing of an agreement by Athens and Tirana to delineate a portion of the Ionian Sea continental shelf and other maritime zones in the same sea region.
"The agreement is completely based on provisions of the United Nations' Law of the Sea," Karamanlis said, in reply to a press question, following the conclusion of an EU summit here.
He also said the agreement will further assist bilateral relations.
 Souflias says Acheloos River diversion to proceedEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Friday expressed certainty that a controversial and decades-old project to divert water from Acheloos River in western Greece (Aetoloakarnania prefecture) to central Thessaly will proceed unhindered.
He was speaking in Parliament in response to a tabled question by a Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) MP also elected from the Thessaly region.
Souflias, a veteran minister and parliamentarian elected from Larissa, the largest prefecture in Thessaly, stressed that the specific project in the greater region of the Mesochora-Sykia tunnel to Thessaly has already been earmarked for 580 million euros of funding, pointing out that a total of 600 million cubic meters of water a year will be diverted to Thessaly from the Acheloos, out of an annual drainage of four billion cubic meters.
A team of EU experts from the Environment General Directorate concluded, after visiting the region, that the diversion of waters from the Acheloos River will have no effect whatsoever on the ecosystems and the prefecture of Aetoloakarnania, Souflias said.
The project, according to supporters, aims to divert the Acheloos' waters towards central Greece in order to irrigate the Thessaly plain and to replenish the Pineios River eco-system.
The Acheloos River runs north to south through the centre of Aetoloakarnania after forming from springs and current in the central mountain range. It empties into the Ionian Sea. The forests and riparian ecosystems of southern Pindos, the Acheloos Valley and the Acheloos Delta have been included in the national Natura 2000 list. The Acheloos Delta forms the Messolongi Lagoons Complex.
 PPC's strategy, Greek energy policy detailed at Economist con'fPublic Power Corp. (PPC) chairman and CEO Panagiotis Athanasopoulos on Friday reiterated the Greek power utility‚s intention to separate its transport and distribution networks, while he also referred to "speculative practices" in the Greek energy market.
Addressing an Economist conference in downtown Athens focusing on the energy sector, Athanasopoulos underlined the need for PPC to maintain a reasonable profit, while he added that the utility offered one of the lowest energy bills in Europe. He noted that PPC was recording the highest cost among all major European energy groups at 10 euros per MWh, citing delays in adopting common European regulations.
Athanasopoulos was adamant that PPC was not seeking a strategic investor but was looking towards joint ventures and partnerships, a process moving ahead but at a very slow pace.
?We draft our strategy with the vision of a powerful player in the region and not just within Greek borders, aiming at long-term growth,? he said.
Addressing the same conference, Yiannis Costopoulos, the chief executive in Hellenic Petroleum, predicted a consolidation in the domestic fuel retail market in the next five years.
Costopoulos stressed that an economic crisis has cut demand for petrol by 0.5 pct and for diesel by 4.0 pct, although he noted that Hellenic Petroleum would invest heavily in a new refinery in the Elefsina district, west of Athens, to boost diesel production, as the groups expects a major increase in demand in the future.
He noted that Hellenic Petroleum was examining all prospects of takeovers and partnerships, including in neighbouring countries, such as Bulgaria and Serbia, where it aims to establish a competitive presence.
Christos Folias, an ND deputy and former development minister, in his address said the government has timely acknowledged the challenges and opportunities in the energy sector and has made a dynamic entrance as an international player.
?We have signed significant bilateral and multilateral agreements with powerful strategic partners, fully harmonised with EU policies,? Folias said. He noted that Greece‚s policies in the energy sector did not just serve the country‚s and Europe‚s energy security but they are fully harmonised with environment protection programmes, while they seek to support economic growth and job creation.
Main opposition PASOK MP and former minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said Greece needs to draft a strategy aiming towards energy production with clean technologies, protection of the environment and in support of development.
Chryssohoidis said PPC would be a vehicle to support energy development in the country.
 DT, OTE eye future developmentBONN (ANA-MPA) -- Deutsche Telekom (DT) and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Friday discussed ways of further developing the Greek telecoms' operations months after the German multinational purchased a 25-pct equity stake in OTE, taking over the utility's management as well.
In a meeting between top executives from both telecoms providers in Frankfurt, it was announced that as of Feb. 10, 2009 a connection of networks between DT and OTE was achieved, allowing the Greek telecoms organisation to use DT's underwater trans-Atlantic optic fibre cable, which links Europe with America.
Deutsche Telekom's executives stressed that a partnership with OTE and the promotion and implementation of new technologies was creating new opportunities for customers in SE Europe, along with improved service quality and heightened competition, while prospects of further investments in the telecoms sector would lead to lower costs for consumers.
DT also said it aims to expand its network in the Middle East's developing markets.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of OTE's headquarters in the northern Athens district of Maroussi.
 Greek stocks end 1.54% higherGreek stocks on Friday ended significantly higher, helped by a wave of buying in blue chip stocks at the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index of the market rose 1.54 pct to end at 1,647.88 points, with turnover an improved 150.6 million euros, of which 10.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Financial Services (3.96 pct), Constructions (3.25 pct), Oil (3.16 pct) and Travel (2.78 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Health (4.70 pct), Insurance (3.84 pct) and Technology (1.71 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 2.16 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 1.59 pct and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.15 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 100 to 96 with another 47 issues unchanged.
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