|Friday, 7 March 2014|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-06-23
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM briefed on IKA reforms, draft billPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed on Tuesday by Employment and Social Insurances Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, who later told reporters that reforms of the IKA pension and healthcare fund, the country's largest, dominated the meeting.
She said a relevant draft bill is ready for tabling in the first summer Parliament session.
Additionally, measures to combat unemployment were also discussed.
The minister acknowledged that an increasing rate of joblessness for the first trimester of 2009 due to the economic crisis, while pointing to more encouraging news in April and May, namely, 23,000 more hirings that firings in April and 54,000 more hirings in May than firings.
 FM meets Vietnamese counterpart Khiem; Hanoi to open embassy in AthensForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday met with her visiting Vietnamese counterpart and Deputy Premier Pham Gia Khiem at the foreign ministry, where she noted that the visit is a continuation of reciprocal visits by the countries' heads of state in June and October 2008, respectively.
Topics up for discussion included bilateral ties, regional and international issues, the international economic crisis as well as Vietnam's ASEAN chairmanship next year and the SE Asia country's current tenure as a non-permanent UNSC member.
On her part, Bakoyannis briefed Khiem on a variety of Greek interest issues, including Greek-Turkish relations, the illegal immigration problem, initiatives for the Cyprus issue within the OSCE presidency and even the fYRoM 'name issue'.
Khiem noted that Vietnam has decided to open an embassy in Athens, with the process underway to complete necessary arrangements for a diplomatic mission in the Greek capital.
 Alpha Bank calls for fiscal consolidation, econ reformsAlpha Bank chairman Yiannis Kostopoulos on Tuesday urged efforts to effectively deal with the Greek economy‚s structural weaknesses and to improve its international competitiveness amid the ongoing global financial crisis.
Addressing a regular general shareholders‚ meeting, the Greek banker said the main task would be an effective reduction of fiscal deficits and public debt to lighten the burden on the cost of money, both for the public and the private sectors of the economy.
Kostopoulos also urged additional interventions towards a more effective functioning of markets, strengthening competition and promoting reforms in the civil service sector.
In 2009, due to the adverse economic environment, the banking sector is expected to decline and risks to increase, Kostopoulos said, adding that under these circumstances, Alpha Bank implemented stricter credit criteria and took measures to control operating costs, while it was promoting actions to support its net interest margin.
The bank will not pay a dividend for 2008 because of its participation in a state-sponsored programme to boost liquidity in the Greek economy.
Alpha Bank chief executive Demetrios Matzounis, addressing the same meeting, said a timely evaluation of credit risk and effective measures to deal with the problem were the bank‚s main concern, along with actions to boost its competitive advantage.
 A natural wonder in the Rhodopi mountain rangeMyths and legends lost in the mists of time surround a picturesque and almost mystical waterfall in northeast Greece, with two remote and neighbouring municipalities fighting over its name. It is the waterfall of Trachoni, for the municipality of Paranesti, in Drama prefecture. Conversely, it's called Livaditis by the Stavroupoli municipality of adjacent Xanthi prefecture to the east. No matter what the name, the waterfall is probably the tallest on the Greek side of Rhodopi mountain range of Thrace. During the winter, when temperatures drop below zero, the landscape is spectacular with the waterfall turning into a huge ice sculpture. ANA-MPA / STR
 Alavanos reverses decisionRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos on Monday afternoon reversed his decision to resign from Parliament, following a week of intense wrangling within the small leftist formation in the wake of a poor showing by SYRIZA in this month's European Parliament election.
The head of the largest party in the leftist grouping, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) president Alexis Tsipras, expressed satisfaction at Alavanos' decision, while at the same time he disagreed with the latter's points regarding the Euro-election results and Synaspismos' role within the framework of SYRIZA, raising a number of questions.
Alavanos withdrew his resignation during the SYRIZA secretariat meeting on Monday, and in a statement, assumed ?full responsibility? for developments that took place between September 2007 and June 2009 that led to SYRIZA's failure in the Euro-elections, as he said.
SYRIZA's measly 4.7 percent of the vote in the Euro-elections fell far short of opinion poll estimates in the months ahead of the election, with pollsters' estimates all dramatically off the mark, as it turned out. SYRIZA also managed to send only one MEP to the European Parliament.
 Greek stocks end 1.11% upGreek stocks ended higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, recovering after Monday's sharp sell-off. The composite index rose 1.11 pct to end at 2,167.25 points, with turnover a low 173.8 million euros, of which 3.8 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Utilities (4.39 pct), Health (3.97 pct) and Telecommunications (3.04 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (2.74 pct), Financial Services (1.85 pct) and Media (1.80 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.12 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.85 pct up and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.14 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 104 to 98 with another 50 issues unchanged.
 Report: Greek banks resilientThe Greek banking sector has the ability to overcome even the most extreme crisis, the Bank of Greece said in its first report on financial stability, published on Tuesday. The central bank, however, stressed that vigilance was needed since "uncertainty over the course of global and European economies remained at high level despite the emergence of some encouraging signs".
The "stress test" on the Greek banking system, based on a sample of nine banks accounting for 80 pct of the system's assets, offered encouraging results, the Bank of Greece announced. The aim of the test, conducted in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was to evaluate the "resistance" of the Greek banking system.
The test evaluated the effects of an extremely negative macro-economic scenario for Greece calling for the shrinking of the GDP by an accumulated 3.0 pct over the next two years, combined with an increase of lending interest rates by 4.0 pct. Under this scenario, Greek banks' delayed loans would grow from 5.0 pct in 2008 to 12.7 pct at the end of 2010.
The central bank noted that the percentage of bad loans grew to around 6.0 pct in the first quarter of 2009, while the system's net interest margin fell by 0.5 pct due to a higher cost of raising capital compared with the fourth quarter of 2008, and a slowing down of the credit expansion growth rate.
The stress test also showed that the average rate of bad loans in emerging markets - where Greek banks have established activities -- could triple by the end of 2010 under the most extreme negative scenario, while in some cases it would rise 10 fold.
The test was based on the hypothesis that pre-tax profits would fall by 15 pct this year, rising by 10 pct in 2010.
 Clinton to miss OSCE meetingUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday officially cancelled her scheduled visit to the Ionian island of Corfu this week for an informal OSCE foreign ministers' meeting, citing her recovery from recent elbow surgery.
The Greek foreign ministry made the announcement on Monday afternoon, before a 24-hour snap media strike was declared in Greece.
The US delegation will be led by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns, according to the Greek ministry.
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