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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-07-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Greek-Bulgarian relations a 'pillar of stability'Sofia (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov) -- Greek-Bulgarian relations have made a "qualitative leap" in recent years, prime minister George Papandreou said during an official visit to Sofia on Tuesday, noting that "from neighbors we have become partners in the EU, we have become allies in NATO, and from friends we have become strategic partners".
Addressing the inaugural meeting of the Greece-Bulgaria Cooperation High-Level Council, which he chaired together with Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov, Papandreou said that the "dynamic progress" in bilateral relations between the two countries serves as a "strong message to all the countries of the region", especially in light of the "recent difficult period in which the two countries belonged to different political and military camps".
"I believe that the present good relations between our two countries are a pillar of stability in the Balkans and more widely, I would say, in Europe," Papandreou said.
The Greek premier also stressed the importance he places on the firm advancement of his Agenda 2014 initiative, which envisions the accession of all the western Balkan countries to the EU by that target year.
He further added that the 130th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Greece and Bulgaria should serve as the springboard for further development of their bilateral cooperation in a wide range of sectors "to which today we are giving a strong boost".
Referring to what he described as the dynamic development of economic cooperation between the two countries in recent years, Papandreou noted that more than 1,500 Greek enterprises are active in the Bulgarian market today, while the total Greek investments in the neighboring country exceed 2.8 billion euros, while trade between the two countries reached 1.8 billion euros in 2009.
Papandreou said that the level of economic cooperation was "absolutely satisfactory", adding that large margins existed for its further development given that both countries are now equal partners in the large European family.
The premier further stressed the economic and also the geopolitical significance of the major energy projects, noting that there was close cooperation between Athens and Sofia for their materialisation. He also underlined the importance placed by the two countries on green development and their sensitivity on environmental protection in the context of their cooperation in the strategic sector of energy.
On the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline plan, Papandreou stressed that Greece's interest in the project remains undiminished and that it is awaiting the outcome of the environmental studies being carried out by Bulgaria, too.
The future materialisation of two additional major energy projects -- the South Stream natural gas pipeline and the new pipeline that will link Bulgaria's natgas distribution network with the TGI natgas pipeline -- are also of strategic importance for enhancing Greece's and Bulgaria's role and presence in the European and global energy map, Papandreou continued.
The premier further briefed his Bulgarian counterpart and attending members of the Bulgarian Cabinet on Greece's Stability Program "on the basis of which we have taken drastic measures needed to support our economy".
Caption: Greek prime minister George Papandreou (R) with his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borisov in Sofia. (ANA-MPA/K. Mavrona)
 Campaign to attract Russian touristsCulture and Tourism deputy minister George Nikitiadis held a series of talks in Moscow on Monday with Russian tourist authorities as part of the ministry's revamping of its strategy and effort to maximise the penetration of the Greek tourism product on the Russian market.
The steps the ministry intends to push forward include opening up more visa centers in major Russian cities, sending consular employees to faciliate procedures, enhancing incentives and urging more charter flights from Russia, aiming to render Greece an annual destination with a broad variety of specialised tourism products, such as agrotourism, sport tourism, religious tourism and conference tourism, "which are gradually becoming more widely known in Russia," Nikitiadis said after talks with his counterpart Oleg Kazlov.
The Greek official also pointed out that Greece has for some time taken a stand in favor of abolition of the visa requirement between the EU and Russia.
Such a development would mean that the number of Russian tourists to Greece could exceed one million (from the current 300,000), he noted, adding that he has had positive messages from the largest tour operators he met with, who estimate a 20-25 percent increase in Russian tourists to Greece next year.
"Greece is one of the most popular destination countries, and we are attracted not only by its history and our common traditions but also by the huge prospects for quality leisure," Kazlov said.
 Queues lengthen as petrol stations run dryMore than 80 percent of the petrol stations throughout Greece had run out of unleaded gas on Tuesday morning, as tanker truck owners entered the second day of an indefinite strike in protest against a draft bill to open up the road freight market, including that of fuel, that is currently served only by state-licenced vehicles.
The situation was aggravated on Tuesday as strikers were not allowing private tanker trucks owned by fuel companies to enter refineries.
Only the supply of state services, mainly hospitals, was being allowed, while huge queues have formed outside petrol stations that have not yet exhausted their reserves.
Literally adding "fuel to the fire", petrol station owners are threatening to launch their own strike on Wednesday, in protest of a draft law unveiled by the infrastructure, transport and networks ministry reducing the minimum distance allowed between filling stations from the present 200 meters to 50 meters.
The Federation of Petrol Station Owners is due to meet on Tuesday to finalise its position.
Caption: Cars queued up outside a petrol station in Athens. (ANA-MPA/S. Pantzartzi)
 Yacht sector sends SOSThe Hellenic Hellenic Professional Yacht Owners Association on Tuesday warned that the sector was facing extinction, suffering the worst year in its history because of the economic crisis.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Antonis Steliatos, president of the Association, said reservations for professional yachts with crew were down more than 80 pct this year, compared with 2009, with 11 vessels taken out of commission because of reduced demand.
Reservations for sail ships are also down, with revenues suffering a sharp fall this year, although no specific figures could be provided since there is no single charter policy in the sector.
The Association said that Greek lacked the necessary numbers in marinas, while existing infrastructure was not competitive. "Our country has almost 5,000 islands and islets and a coastline stretching for thousands of kilometres. It is unacceptable that Croatia with 1/10th of the Greek coastline has 108 modern marinas and Turkey has a better network of marinas than Greece," Steliatos said.
According to official figures, Greece has 19 organised marinas and another 12 under construction, with an overall capacity of 6,661 vessels.
 Textile production downThe Greek textile industry recorded an 18.8 pct decline in its production volume in the first five months of 2010, after reporting reduced losses in 2009 equal to 16.5 pct of its revenues.
Production volumes fell 21 pct in May, according to data released by Hellenic Statistical Authority, and were down 54.5 pct compared with May 2005.
Last year was one of the worst years for the Greek textiles industry, although the sector managed to reduce its losses.
The report, compiled by ANA-MPA based on the balance sheets of the 65 largest textile industries with sales of more than 3.0 million euros and total sales of 691.1 million euros, showed that 53.8 pct of total companies in the sector reported net profits of 15.6 million euros, while the 30 remaining reported net losses of 129.8 million euros. Compared with 2008, net results improved by 13 pct. Revenues were down 4 pct and gross earnings fell 21 pct, while EBITDA were down 26 pct and operating earnings (EBIT) fell 3.0 pct, reflecting reduced amortizations. Gross earnings margins fell to 3.8 pct in 2009, from 4.7 pct in 2010.
The 35 profitable enterprises reported net sales of 379.2 million euros, while sales by the 30 loss-making totalled 311.9 million euros. Total sales fell 4.0 pct.
(Photo by EPA/A. Bradshaw)
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