|Sunday, 21 January 2018|
Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 13-03-03
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM in Istanbul for Greece-Turkey Cooperation Council, ForumAMNA/ Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, accompanied by several ministers, will be in Istanbul on Tuesday for the 3rd session of the Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council, which will be co-chaired by Samaras and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A large business mission will also accompany Samaras, the members of which will attend a Business Forum being organised in tandem by the Federation of Greek Industries' (SEV) Greece-Turkey Business Council and Turkey's Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK).
The Council was inaugurated in 2010, with the first session held in Athens.
Samaras and Erdogan will also attend the Business Forum on Monday with a major participation of 100 Greek and 200 Turkish enterprises. The theme of the Forum is "Growth passes through entrepreneurship and extroversion".
 DIMAR leader rejects PASOK overture for electoral collaborationAMNA/ Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis rejected an overture by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos to join forces in the next elections, in an interview appearing in the weekend edition of RealNews newspaper.
In his opening address to a PASOK Congress on Friday, Venizelos invited DIMAR and other center-left groups to join forces with PASOK in future elections.
"DIMAR aspires to rally the democratic socialism sphere, and at the same time safeguards its autonomy at all levels of political action," Kouvelis said, adding that "the forging of the sphere of democratic socialism will not be effected either with top-level meetings or with collaborations of parties".
He called for amendment and supplementation of the fiscal adjustment programme due to the IMF's off-target forecasts, and reiterated his opposition to prospective layoffs in the public sector.
"Any policy of layoffs is unnecessary and yields no fiscal benefit," Kouvelis said, and estimated that by the end of 2015 the number of employees will have been reduced by 150,000 "in a natural way", namely through retirements.
 Media-wide work stoppage on Monday, AMNA to participateAMNA/ A media-wide work stoppage has been called on Monday by the Athens Journalists' Union (ESIEA), which the AMNA staff will be participating in.
The work stoppage will run from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to enable members to attend an ESIEA extraordinary general assembly.
The AMNA staff is participating in the work stoppage, and as such no news items will be posted and the AMNA website will not be renewed during those hours.
 Troika heads discuss eight key aspects of review with FinMinAMNA/ The heads of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Troika of Greece's international lenders met Sunday morning with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, alternate minister Christos Staikouras, deputy minister George Mavraganis and secretary general for state revenues Haris Theocharis for a two-hour discussion on the eight basic aspects on which the current review by the Troika is focusing, the report on which will determine whether the next two tranches of the EU/IMF bailout loan -- 2.8 and 6.0 billion euros respectively -- will be released.
Mark Flanagan of the IMF's European Department, representing IMF mission chief for Greece Poul Thomsen who arrives in Athens on Tuesday, Matthias Mors who heads the EC's delegation to the Troika and ECB division chief Klaus Masuch began their new inspection with a visit to the Finance Ministry, where they met with the Ministry's political leadership.
A high-ranking ministry source told AMNA later that the eight aspects under scrutiny pertain to the course of execution of the state budget, projections for 2013, unemployment, the structural changes, materialisation of the 'prior actions' for the March tranche, the denationalisations programme, the recapitalisation of the Greek banks and tax administration.
"We opened up the entire range of issues," the source said, adding that the Greek side set hot the burning issue of growth-employment-unemployment as well as that of the measures that the government considers "socially efficient" (such as the 23 percent VAT on restaurant services. The source further said that the Troika heads have a first picture of the situation from their technical teams, who have already been in Athens for a week, but "lack many facts and figures for the full picture".
For that reason, the Troika representatives will have a series of meetings on Tuesday with the heads of the Memorandum-related ministries and with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, while a follow-up meeting will be held at the Finance Ministry on Wednesday.
Considered to be of high importance is the Troika heads' visit the Administrative Reform Ministry, where the issues of the ministries' structures (the new organisational charts to pinpoint the surpluses in personnel) and the quarterly targets for civil servant mobility, reserve labour and layoffs up to the end of 2014 will be put to minister Antonis Manitakis. Given that the issue of layoffs of civil servants has been put in the open by both EU and IMF officials (Euro Working Group chief Thomas Wieser said that the number of civil servants in the 'obese' Greek state must be reduced, while IMF deputy spokesman William Murray did not rule out 'mandatory redundancies' where the new organisational charts of the ministries show surpluses in staff).
"The issue of layoffs was put forward, but was not discussed at today's (Sunday's) meeting), the same source said, noting that both Stournaras and Manitakis have made it clear that there will be no layoffs in the public sector, with the fundamental argument being that the mobility and retirements programme is progressing smoothly and the public sector has been reduced by 75,000 people in the past 1 1/2 years.
On the big thorn of the shortfall in budget revenues, the government presented to the Troika heads the restructure of the tax-collection mechanism following the appointment of the new secretary general for state revenues, Theocharis. The Troika, in turn, asked to be briefed on how the new administration is operating and what is its degree of independence from the central administration, and also wants to have a full picture on the finance ministry's Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), the source said.
Regarding the denationalisations, the Greek side briefed the Troika heads that the major denationalisations have already been set in motion, with specific deadlines for their completion. More specifically, the government expects the binding tenders for the State Natural Gas Company (DEPA) and its subsidiary distributor Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) and the Greek football prognostics, numerical lottery and sports betting games operator OPAP in April. Emphasis is also placed on the legislative framework for the ports, water resources and airports, as well as on the restructure and privatisation of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), the source continued.
As for unemployment, in which Greece has the highest rate in the EU, the source explained that the "Troika fully acknowledges the social dimension of unemployment", adding that the Greek side seeks an increase in employment and reduction of unemployment through the resources available (such as the NSRF-National Strategic Reference Framework. Measures are also being discussed in tandem of active policies on the job market, but also the developmental plan to attract investments and acceleration of absorption of the NSRF funds, together with the deregulation of the markets and reduction of prices.
The Troika's technical teams, according to information, have already placed under the microscope the projections for revenues in the period 2013-2017, for state expenditures (particularly for salaries and pensions), the outstanding debts, the matter of the delay in tax rebates, the securitization of future revenues from state properties' sales, the auxiliary pensions, the unification (consolidation) of the social security funds and overdue debts, the cost of the new procurement of equipment and medicines in specific hospitals, but also the prospect of covering basic healthcare services for the long-term unemployed.
Stournaras will be in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday for meetings of the Eurogroup and Ecofin, respectively.
The Troika heads are tentatively scheduled to leave Athens next Sunday to draft their progress report on Greece's fiscal adjustment programme.
 Euro Working Group chief: The reforms are necessary to fortify the economyAMNA/ The Eurogroup's Working Group president Thomas Wieser stressed that the Memorandum must be implemented, adding that the reforms are necessary to fortify the Greek economy, in statements to the weekend edition of RealNews newspaper.
Wieser noted that "the reforms were not agreed arbitrarily, but because they are necessary for the Greek economy to become stronger".
Questioned on the recent talk about a reduction in the number of civil servants, he said that "I am confident that the Greek government will succeed in implementing the necessary measures so that Greece will be on track to building a new, 'slimmer' and more efficient public sector".
He said that the politicians need to "break down the defences of the established interests", adding that it is in the interests of the Greek people to see that small interest groups cannot hold the entire country hostage.
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