|Saturday, 20 January 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-07-24
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 President stern at celebration for democracyIn a speech filled with scathing criticism of Greece's political class, which he blamed squarely for the country's present decline, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Saturday blasted all those that he said had prevented Greece from becoming a modern, European democracy.
"The disapproval that is today levelled against the political system is often crude in its generalisation but justified at its core," Papoulias underlined.
The president was speaking at a reception held at the presidential mansion on Saturday morning to mark the 36th anniversary since the restoration of democracy, after the fall of the military junta that then ruled Greece in July 1974.
No less severe was his disapproval of those that displayed "trade union autism" in their protests while disregarding the interests of society as a whole.
The president's speech outlined the chronic problems in the country and stressed that the State had to first give an example, while he underlined the need to give prospects to the younger generations "that are shouldering the greatest burden in the crisis". At another point in his speech, he said that the demolition of the European social model was a "panic reaction" while he appeared confident that the EU would weather the storm because "the common interests of its people are strong".
In light of the economic crisis, this year's reception followed the simpler and less ostentatious pattern adopted in 2009, without a buffet in the presidential gardens or a live orchestra.
The event was attended by Greece's entire state and political leadership, including Prime Minister George Papandreou, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and all the political party leaders except Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga. There were also representatives of the clergy, MPs, MEPs and several academics, in addition to other officials.
At the centre of attention once again were resistance fighters against the dictatorship and also 12 students and young scientists that had distinguished themselves in their respective fields, including this year's top-scoring candidate in the nationwide university entrance examinations, disabled highschool student Rafael Papadopoulos.
 Greek banks pass stress testsThe Bank of Greece on Friday welcomed the results of stress tests on European banks, organized by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors and national supervisory authorities in close cooperation with European Central Bank.
In an announcement, the Greek central bank said the test aimed at evaluating total ability of the banking sector in the EU to absorb any further significant financial and economic shocks and stressed that the tests were a significant step towards strengthening stability in the banking sector both in the EU and the Eurozone.
The central bank said that for Greece the adverse scenario envisaged a deeper recession in 2010 and 2011 and higher interest rates. The six largest banking groups (National Bank, EFG Eurobank, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, ATEbank and Hellenic Postbank) were included in the test, representing more than 90 pct of Greek banking system‚s assets (excluding subsidiaries).
The results, based on the adverse scenario, showed that five Greek banks successfully passed the tests, with four (Hellenic Postbank, Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank and National Bank) surpassing the 6.0 pct Tier I capital ratio, while Piraeus Bank was exactly at the 6.0 pct ratio. In the case of ATEbank, the Tier I capital ratio fell to 4.4 pct by the end of 2011, showing a capital shortfall of 242 million euros. The central bank noted, however, that all six banks have passed the benchmark scenario of the stress tests.
The Bank of Greece said that the results of the adverse scenario did not reflect the current situation or any direct capital needs and was purposely designed to answer "what-if" scenarios.
By the end of 2009, all six Greek banks reported Tier I capital ratios ranging from 8.4 pct to 17.1 pct. The central bank said that a significant strengthening of Greek banks‚ equity capital in 2009 justified their current performance. This capital strengthening resulted mainly from share capital increase plans, internal funding, profitability and a decision to skip dividend payment last year, along with the issuance of preferred stocks.
The Bank of Greece said it would continue monitoring closely developments in the domestic banking market to ensure that necessary actions were taken to boost banks‚ capital adequacy, where necessary.
In any case, the set up of a Financial Stability Fund with a capital of 10 billion euros, in the framework of a support program for the Greek economy, offered an additional safety net, while another 1.2 billion euros were available through a capital support measure agreed in 2008.
 More than 750,000 registered in public sector censusMore than 750,000 public sector workers in the civil service, local authorities and public sector legal bodies had registered in the electronic census begun by the government when the original deadline for registering has expired on Friday. In an announcement on Friday evening, the government announced that the deadline had been extended until Thursday, July 29.
Sources in the General Secretariat of Information Systems told the ANA the finance and interior ministries now had sufficient data with which to carry out cross checks, a process expected to take a considerable amount of time. The secretariat expects an estimated 2 percent inaccuracy rate in the registrations.
As of November 1, public sector employees are to be paid via bank accounts by the newly formed Single Payment Authority. The registrations will also be used to set up a single electronic data base with the information of all public sector employees and, as of 2011, a uniform pay scale will be set up.
Once the procedure is complete, it will be the first time since the formation of the Greek State that there is an overall picture of the staff that receives a salary from the public sector.
 Air traffic controllers call off Sunday strikeThe air traffic controllers' union decided to cancel a 24-hour strike announced for Sunday, during an emergency meeting on Saturday morning. The strike had been ruled illegal by an Athens first-instance court.
The union stressed its rejection of a draft bill regulating air travel issues unveiled by the transport ministry on Friday and said that further strike action will be decided in the next few days.
 PM on economy and cutsThe challenge ahead of Greece was to revive its economy and make it more competitive and relevant, Prime Minister George Papandreou said in an interview with the Italian television channel Rai Uno that aired on Friday night.
According to Papandreou, after the crisis of 2008 markets had become very cautious and did not always respond to political actions, panicking at the slightest hint of any risk.
"All it takes is one article or the statement of one academic to drive them into the deepest insecurity and for the speculation to begin," he noted, adding that this had led Greece to resort to the financial support mechanisms of the European Union and the IMF.
In response to questions, however, the prime minister underlined that "Greek islands were not for sale" but needed to be more fully exploited. He stressed that the seas were a source of well-being for all, including foreigners, while if the Greek islands were sold the sea would be "closed" to all but a few people.
He also appeared confident that Greece would not have to face the prospect of bankruptcy, either now or in the future, stressing that the country had received European aid at a time when it had shown itself ready for strong change and was following the right path to succeed.
The interview was part of a programme that included a lengthy report on the state of the Greek economy, particularly the tourism, real estate and automobile markets, and the attitudes of trade unions to the austerity measures and cuts imposed by the government.
Among those interviewed was the head of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) Yiannis Panagopoulos, who said the union strikes were not aimed at the government so much as the policies imposed by the EU and IMF, which he said were treating the symptoms of the crisis rather than the cause.
"Three categories must make a more decisive contribution to reform: ship owners, bankers and large hotel chains," Panagopoulos added.
Replying indirectly, the prime minister admitted established inequality in Greek society that permitted systematic tax evasion by the rich and said that the new taxation bill aimed to redistribute both the burden and the wealth.
"This law will be useful both for fighting tax evasion and in obliging the richer social classes to also lift the burden of the crisis".
 ‘ruck owners strike on SundayOwners of state-licensed road freight vehicles have moved planned strike action forward to Sunday, after the government announced planned legislation to open up the currently closed road freight market. The strike had originally been scheduled to start on August 27.
The decision may lead to problems in the supply and distribution of goods on the market at the height of the tourist season, including petrol.
In an announcement, the truck owners' association accused the infrastructure, transport and networks ministry of acting without any warning and focused especially on the value given to the vehicle licence, pointing out that the state sold them licences at triple the current value.
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