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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 13-02-14
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papoulias briefed on tourism issuesAMNA--President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyanni who briefed him in detail on her ministry's activities.
Kefaloyanni said that she visited the President to brief him on the impressions of the Tourism Ministry' from the messages it is receiving on the course of the tourism flow in 2013 as well as on the results of her visits abroad aiming not only to promote Greece's tourism image but also to better Greece's image abroad in general.amna
During the meeting, Kefaloyanni emphasised her ministry's efforts to attract foreign investments in the tourism sector and particularly on investments that have already been submitted for approval.
 Tsipras to BBC: SYRIZA comes to unite GreeksAMNA--Main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras sternly attacked Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his three-party coalition government, in an interview with the BBC, charging that "it is clear that we have the most conservative and the most extreme government that Greece has experienced since the dictatorship".
Referring to the prime minister, Tsipras said that it is obvious that Mr. Samaras is seeking to set an agenda that intensifies the political conflict and is aiming to create the sense of fear to the Greek society in order to achieve two things. First, to stop the people from thinking about the economic condition, to be frightened and to focus on the 'danger' of the migrants and the demonstrations and, second, in this way, to rally the most conservative part of the society by creating a stable basis for his own electoral influence.amna
Moreover, Tsipras said that Samaras' strategy is "a dangerous strategy against democracy itself".
Regarding the ultra-right party Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn), Tsipras said that the huge problem is the violence deriving from the extreme right and rejected the 'theory of the two extremes', noting that only one extreme exists: Chryssi Avghi.
On the 'terrorist activity of anarchist organisations' in Greece, the leftist leader said that it is an area that is already politically defeated.
Tsipras said that the "ultra-right and neo-liberalism go hand in hand" and are the "two sides of the Memorandum coin", adding that it is not incidental that the government "adopts this extreme agenda of law and order", predicting that the social unrest will become aggravated in the coming period, but "we are here to avert the derailment of the social tension" into situations reminiscent of the past.amna
He assured that SYRIZA "aims to unite the Greek society".
Referring to SYRIZA's policy, Tsipras said that 'we come to unite the Greek people not to divide them, to unite them in order to overcome a horrific crisis that it has been experiencing the last three years", reiterating that he would even make a pact with the devil "if this would earn the slightest to the benefit of my country".amna
"I will travel the world over to make it known to everyone that the Greek people are experiencing a huge drama. In Greece we have a humanitarian crisis resulting from wrong political choices and technocratic mistakes that have made millions of people to suffer. In Greece people are committing suicide every day from despair, we have one and a half million people unemployed and one and a half million with salaries under 600 euros per month and five hundred families without one member working," Tsipras stressed.
 Gov't spokesman, Foreign Ministry attack SYRIZA over criticism on TAP pipelineAMNA--Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Thursday accused main opposition SYRIZA of 'duplicity', commenting on SYRI∆Ń's reaction after the signing of the trilateral interstate agreement on the construction of the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) on Wednesday.
"SYRIZA's duplicity has reached schizophrenic levels," Kedikoglou said.
"At the same time that SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras was meeting with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rubin, which SYRIZA described as a 'certification that US government channels with SYRIZA are not simply a formality', SYRIZA issued an announcement in which it condemned Rubin's presence at the TAP signing ceremony!" the government spokesman said, and underlined that the government will continue steadfastly, with the national interest as its only aim.
Earlier, the SYRIZA party committee on energy, in an announcement, stressed its opposition to "the country committing itself first, and the agreement coming to parliament for ratification afterwards, without any prior briefing, charging that the government, to date, has not provided any formal or complete briefing on the TAP pipeline, nor on to what degree that project is realistic with respect to the reserves that will supply it, and what the repercussions and benefits will be in relation to the other pipelines that Greece has committed itself to in the past (South Stream and ITGI).amna
It further said that the presence of the US (Rubin) at the TAP signing ceremony and its recent interventions in the tender for the denationalization of the State Natural Gas Company (DEPA) and its subsidiary distributor Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) "are indicative of the fact that the US decisively influences the choices of the current three-party government", and also confirms SYRIZA's views that the US has set out as an issue that there be no enhancement of Greece's energy relations with Russia.
It said that the decisions on the pipelines, "which are of major geopolitical importance", should be taken on the basis of the national interest and that DEPA and DESFA should remain under state and national control, and considers 'the government's stance as 'conflicting', where on the one hand it signs an agreement for the TAP while on the other hand it submits to parliament for ratification a Memorandum of Understanding between the Greek Energy ministry and the corresponding Turkish ministry declaring its determination for materialization of the ITGI pipeline (Interconnection Turkey-Greece-Italy natural gas pipeline).amna
The SYRIZA energy committee further said that the main opposition party does not agree with any binding signature by the government for which the opinion of the parliament has not been asked.
Also reacting to the SYRIZA announcement, the Greek foreign ministry said that this was "the first time in the history of Greece that the main opposition is undermining the national interest".amna
At a time when Greece is making decisive steps to regain its position and role in the international energy status quo, without excluding any partner or any prospective collaboration or plan, the SYRIZA energy committee is attempting to put its reliability into doubt, the foreign ministry said.
The ministry said that the decisions for the selection among the competing pipelines for the Azeri natural gas will be taken in the summer, adding that the selection of the TAO will mean, for Greece, direct foreign investments of 1.5 billion euro, 2,000 directly-related new jobs and 10,000 peripheral new jobs.amna
"We hope that the SYRIZA energy committee's superficiality will not cost the country dearly," the foreign ministry concluded.
 PM: Geostrategic, economic importance of TAP natgas pipelineAMNA--Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stressed the geostrategic and economic importance of the interstate agreement for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) signed by Greece, Italy and Albania on Wednesday in Athens, speaking at the signing ceremony.
The approx. 800-kilometer-long pipeline, which will transport natural gas from the Shah Deniz consortium in Azerbaijan through Greece (starting in Komotini), via Albania and across the Adriatic Sea to southern Italy, will enhance Greece's geostrategic role in the coming decades, while also giving a steadfast framework of cooperation with the country's neighbors, Samaras said.
On the economic benefits of the accord, Samaras noted that the project will create "2,000 immediate jobs during the construction and operation stage, especially in areas that are literally hurting" from the spiraling unemployment.
He also underlined the inflow of investment capital from an investment which, if finally materialized, will amount to 1.5 billion euro for Greece alone, noting that this would be one of the largest Direct Foreign Investments ever carried out in Greece.
Another economic benefit, Samaras continued, will be an upgrading of Greece's infrastructures and strengthening of competition, so as to maximize the benefit for the Greek consumer as well, without the slightest burden to the state.amna
As for the advantages of the pipeline, the premier stressed that "a new energy corridor will be forged with a smaller route, a smaller construction cost and passage through fewer countries". In other words, "a corridor that will lend special weight to the participating countries and will enhance the geopolitical importance of our region overall".
The TAP pipeline will further turn Greece, for the first time, from a secondary destination-country into a transit country of cross-Europe energy networks, Samaras said, noting that the "discovery of hydro-carbon deposits in the eastern Mediterranean and the progress in the explorations already commenced by Greece change the status quo and create new opportunities for Greece to play the role of the link that connects Europe with the Middle East and Asia".amna
"We are determined -- and I wish to state this clearly -- not to let any opportunity be left unexploited," Samaras stressed.
In a brief overview of the Greek economy and attraction of investments, Samaras said: "Day by day, we are changing Greece's image abroad and are building a steady climate of confidence in our country. At this time, we are utilizing this climate to attract investments. Investments that will bring growth again to Greece but will also vindicate the immense sacrifices by millions of Greek citizens. As I have stressed time and again, the attraction of investments is not achieved through wishes or public relations. It requires international collaborations, specific target-tables, and immense structural changes. In other words, through specific and substantive steps."
TAP agreement signed in Athens
In an announcement, the Greek foreign ministry said that the Greek-Italian-Albanian trilateral intergovernmental agreement in support of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) was signed at the Foreign Ministry on 13 February 2013, in the presence of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.amna
Signing the agreement on behalf of the three states' governments were Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, Albanian Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Edmond Haxhinasto, and Italian Development Minister Corrado Passera, while the signing ceremony was also attended by representatives of the government of Azerbaijan, of the TAP Joint Venture and the three companies participating in the joint venture, and of the companies participating in the Shah Deniz II consortium. High-ranking third-country officials were also in attendance.amna
The signing of the interstate agreement was preceded by a meeting of the Greek and Italian Foreign Ministers in Rome, in July 2012, which led to the next stage in the process: the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation by the Foreign Ministers of the three countries, in New York City, on 27 September 2012, in the framework of the UN General Assembly.
Subsequently, and following Avramopoulos' meeting with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, on the sidelines of the 49th Munich Security Conference, and his contacts with his Italian and Albanian counterparts, the Foreign Minister announced that the signing of the trilateral intergovernmental agreement would take place in Athens, on 13 February.
The Greek government decided to support this particular project in light of the obvious advantages this foreign direct investment will have for employment and growth, for diversification of energy sources, and for the strengthening of energy security in the wider region, which will upgrade Greece as an energy hub in Southeast Europe.
The TAP -- 800 km long, with 478 km on Greek territory -- was designed to carry, initially, 10 bcm of natural gas annually. The pipeline will originate in the Caspian Sea and, via Turkey, run through northern Greece, enter Albania, and, via an offshore pipeline, reach neighboring Italy.
The TAP is supported by its shareholding companies: Swiss AXPO (42.5%), Norwegian Statoil (42.5%), and German E.ON Ruhrgas (15%).amna
The Shah Deniz II consortium, which is developing the Shah Deniz gas field in Azerbaijan, is this summer to choose the pipeline that will carry the natural gas to Europe. The TAP's comparative advantages (over the competing Nabucco West) are its higher efficiency and performance as a pipeline, its shorter length, its lower construction cost, and the fact that it transits fewer countries.
This direct investment in Greece comes to 1.5 billion euros and is expected to create 2,000 directly related new jobs and a further 10,000 peripheral new jobs in the Greek market.
 Farmers determined to continue struggleAMNA--Farmers from northern Greece appear determined not to 'give in' despite the fact that they have been at their roadblocks for quite a while and remain with their tractors lined up along the sides of the national highways, opting for 'mild' methods of protest in order not to disrupt traffic flow.
However, farmers from Imathia prefecture on Wednesday withdrew their tractors from the Kouloura interchange on Egnatia motorway, and returned to their farms in order to spray their peach crop because they could not delay it any further.amna
Epirus farmers continue their mobilisations for the 15th consecutive day with their tractors aligned along the road at Louros and Kanalaki in Preveza. According to Preveza Farmers Federation president Spyros Klinakis the farmers will continue their struggle for as long as the government remains adamant and follows its authoritarian policy, not fulfilling any of the farmers' demands.
 Greek economy shrank by 0.6 pct in Q4AMNA--The Greek economy shrank by 6.0 pct in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with the corresponding period in 2011, recording the biggest recession among Eurozone member-states, Eurostat said on Thursday.
The EU executive's statistics arm, in a report released in Brussels, said that the Greek economy shrank at a slower pace compared with a 6.7 pct decline recorded in the third quarter of 2012.
The Eurozone economy shrank by 0.9 pct in the fourth quarter of 2012, after a 0.6 pct decline recorded in the third quarter of the year. On a quarterly basis, Eurozone's GDP fell by 0.6 pct in the fourth quarter after a 0.1 pct decline in the third quarter of 2012.amna
In the EU-27, the GDP fell by 0.5 pct on a quarterly basis and by 0.6 pct on an annual basis in the last three months of 2012. Eurozone's GDP fell by 0.5 pct in 2012, with Portugal (-3.8 pct), Cyprus (-3.0 pct), Italy (-2.7 pct) and Spain (-1.8 pct) recorded the biggest percentage declines after Greece.amna
The recession spread in northern European countries as well. The German economy shrank by 0.6 pct on a quarterly basis, although it grew by 0.4 pct on an annual basis. The French economy fell by 0.3 pct both on a quarterly and an annual basis, while Holland's GDP fell by 0.2 pct on a quarterly basis and by 0.9 pct on an annual basis. Estonia (0.9 pct), Latvia (1.3 pct), Lithuania (1.0 pct), Romania and Slovakia (0.2 pct each) and Bulgaria (0.1 pct) were the only EU-27 member-states to record growth rates.
 National Bank announces voluntary retirement planAMNA--The National Bank of Greece (NBG) will soon unveil the details and terms of a voluntary retirement program covering around 2,000 workers.
Alexandros Tourkolias, the bank's chief executive, in a message to the bank's staff said the program was aimed at those workers nearing their retirement age and facilitated their retirement by offering significant incentives. Tourkolias said the specific program was designed in a way to avoid any negative impact on workers, their families and the society. "Despite an unstable labor and economic environment, the program safeguards both labor and pension rights, while it also ensures that no extra burden will be place on social insurance organizations, or the state budget, as the bank will fully take over all costs. At the same time, the program will significantly facilitate workers' career opportunities," the bank's CEO noted. National Bank is currently in a merger procedure with Eurobank to create the country's largest financial institution.
 International Matala Beach Festival sets ambitious target for 2013AMNA-The international Matala Beach Festival 2013, organised by Festos municipality, Crete, will be held from 21-24 June under the auspices of Tourism Ministry and Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO).
In June 2012 over 58,000 people visited the festival weekend, which was a huge success as free events brought together music and arts fans from all generations together on the beach beneath the caves to celebrate peace, love and happiness.amna
The aim this year is to attract 100,000 visitors to this international event.
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