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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 13-03-27

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece's progress 'impressive', Swedish FM says
  • [02] Piraeus Bank becomes top banking group in Greece in branch network size
  • [03] Foreign, development ministers stress key role of tourism

  • [01] Greece's progress 'impressive', Swedish FM says

    AMNA -- Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Wednesday praised Greece's progress in tackling the crisis, during joint statements with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos in Athens.

    "I am impressed by Greece's progress in handling the crisis, from its fiscal performance to its efforts for economic recovery," Bildt said, noting that his own country had some experience of how painful structural changes can be from its own crisis in the '90s.

    Questioned about a past prediction by a Swedish finance minister that Greece will have left the eurozone in six months, Bildt said that he had disagreed with his colleague at the time, while the outcome only illustrated that "ministers can also make mistakes."

    Reporting on his meeting with his Swedish counterpart, Avramopoulos said their discussion had focused on the preparations for Greece's EU presidency in the first half of 2014, the economic crisis in the Eurozone, Greece's positive course and the "extremely painful" decision taken in Cyprus, which nevertheless "saved the country from the disaster of uncontrolled default".

    The two ministers also took questions concerning rising nationalism in the Balkans, with Bildt stressing that "patriotism and nationalism are two very different things" since nationalism cultivated hate for the other. "Unfortunately, it is not a trait of the Balkans only but is spreading throughout Europe, where it comes face to face with the ghosts of its past," he added.amna

    According to the Swedish minister, European integration of the Balkans was expected to stem this rising tide of nationalism, since such problems "cannot be solved without Europe".

    Avramopoulos, on his part, said that populism and nationalism were undermining efforts to stabilise the region, while the region's progress was a way of establishing security and dealing with the nationalist threat.amna

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    [02] Piraeus Bank becomes top banking group in Greece in branch network size

    AMNA -- Piraeus Bank became the top banking group in Greece, based on the number of its network units, which surpass 1,660 branches following the acquisition of Bank of Cyprus and CPB branches in Greece, far ahead from National Bank Group which includes Eurobank.

    Piraeus Bank ranks second following National Bank based on its financial figures, with total assets of 95 billion euros, a loan portfolio of 70 billion euros, deposits of 52 billion euros and a workforce of more than 24,000. Piraeus Bank Group has a set a record of 15 takeovers, mergers and absorptions made under the leadership of its chairman Mihalis Sallas.amna

    These are the acquisitions of ETBA –Hellenic Industrial Development Bank- ATEbank (its healthy arm) and a number of smaller but dynamic banks such as Chios Bank, Macedonia-Thrace Bank and Geniki Bank (recently acquired from Societe Generale).

    Piraeus Bank has already agreed with Portugal's Millennium Bank Group to acquire its subsidiary in Greece –a pending deal which would raise the group's branch network to 1,900 in Greece, double the figure of National Bank's network.

    Greece will feel only a small impact from a crisis in Cyprus, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras assured on Tuesday.amna

    [03] Foreign, development ministers stress key role of tourism

    AMNA -- The Greek foreign ministry is working feverishly to support Greece's tourism industry, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed on Wednesday at the annual general assembly of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA). He emphasised initiatives taken by the ministry to facilitate the issue of visas, saying he had issued instructions to visa offices asking them to speed up their issue to within 48 hours.

    Avramopoulos said that the visa issue programme on five large Greek islands near the Turkish coast (Rhodes, Kos, Samos, Chios and Lesvos) will continue during the current year, from April until the end of October, in order to boost the flow of tourism to Greece.

    The minister noted that the programme aimed to increase tourism on both shores of the Aegean, with the number of visas issued in 2012 rising 30 percent relative to 2011 to reach nearly a million. The same growth trend was already being observed in the current year, Avramopoulos added.

    Harking back to his own days at the tourism ministry, Avramopoulos stressed that Greek tourism needed a national plan and called on all political forces to agree on this direction.amna

    The assembly was also addressed by Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Costis Hatzidakis, who stressed the importance of tourism for economic growth.

    "Tourism is Greece's main comparative advantage, since it represents 20 percent of GDP - based on the McKinsey study of 2020 - and can offer 220,000 new jobs," Hatzidakis said. He said the government is proceeding with tenders to exploit regional airports, with strong interest expressed by investors, while a draft bill to modernise the civil aviation service is soon to be tabled in Parliament. The minister clarified that among the terms of the concessions offered will be a clause requiring competitive airport fees.amna

    Hatzidakis revealed that a special programme worth 80 million euros and targeting small tourism businesses on Greek islands will soon be announced, using the National Enterprise and Development Fund (ETEAN), while a draft bill for deregulating road transport was nearly ready, so that consultations will soon begin.

    According to HATTA President Giorgos Telonis, the outlook for the tourism sector in 2013 is positive, with signs that the country was rapidly approaching 17 million arrivals, from 16 million throughout 2012.amna


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