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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-03-10
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Supporting the recovery of GreeceThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) stands ready to support Greek businesses using both with its own funds and financing from third parties, while working with the authorities on policy reform, EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said in an exclusive article submitted to the ANA-MPA on Thursday. Noting that the country faces huge challenges, he also pointed to what he called many promising signs.
"Greece has many good and solid companies. The entrepreneurial spirit has not been crushed by long years of recession and is ready to bounce back. The appetite and need for investment are huge.
The EBRD stands ready to support this with our own money, by attracting third-party finance and by working on policy reform with the authorities with whom we are also mapping out our strategy for Greece for the coming years," he said.
Chakrabarti, who was in Athens a few days ago for the launch of the EBRD's operations in Greece, said he was leaving Greece with "strong impressions" and that if reforms stay on track, the bank expects to "move full steam ahead" and bring many more projects to fruition.
The full exclusive article to the ANA-MPA is given below:
Supporting the recovery of Greece
By Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development EBRD
A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit Athens for the first time since Greece became a country where the EBRD invests.
Last year's decision to invest in Greece until end-2020 came at the request of the Greek authorities and with the consent of our shareholders to support the recovery of the country's economy from a deep and protracted crisis.
My brief stay in Athens allowed me to meet government, business and banking sector representatives and to open an office which will serve as a base for our activities across the country.
I left Greece with strong impressions. It is obvious that the country is facing enormous challenges. Our economists do not expect a return to growth before next year and the highly volatile global economic and political environment is not helping.
Greece has embarked on bold and painful reforms. Important steps have been taken, but there is still more to do – both to meet international obligations and also to create the conditions for a sound and sustainable recovery.
At the same time I witnessed many promising signs. Greece has many good and solid companies. The entrepreneurial spirit has not been crushed by long years of recession and is ready to bounce back. The appetite and need for investment are huge.
The EBRD stands ready to support this with our own money, by attracting third-party finance and by working on policy reform with the authorities with whom we are also mapping out our strategy for Greece for the coming years.
A key element in this strategy will be the stabilisation of the banking sector. This is critical so that Greek companies, many of which are small and privately-owned, regain access to finance.
Another one is turning Greece's geographic location into an advantage. At the moment the country is under enormous strain from the crisis in the Middle East. But it also has the potential to become a hub on land and sea for transport and energy between Europa and Asia.
Improved regional links will also help the integration of Greek companies into the global economy. Anyone who has ever visited Greece has enjoyed the quality of local products. Yet exports remain well below potential. I am very pleased that we were able to make a first contribution to support the Greek export industry by signing a trade finance facility with a leading local bank during my visit.
This was just the latest example of EBRD activities in the country. We had already taken part in the recapitalisation of the four systemic Greek banks, participated in a bond purchase and invested in fund that promotes small and medium-sized enterprises.
If reforms stay on track, we now expect to move full steam ahead and bring many more projects to fruition.
We are continuing to develop a strong pipeline in the corporate sector. We are in advanced talks with several agribusiness companies, a local sector in which we see a lot of potential. At the same time we are building up projects in tourism, pharmaceuticals, ITC and logistics.
We will support privatisations and also seek to work with municipalities across the country to help improve the quality of their services.
These are just a few examples that do not simply illustrate the EBRD's plans for Greece but which also highlight the enormous potential we see in Greece. For too many years now this has been overshadowed by the crisis. It is now time to turn a page and start looking ahead. The EBRD stands ready to make its contribution.
 Ai Weiwei returns to champion refugees' cause at Idomeni; 'This is like a second war,' Syrian woman saysDissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was at the side of the refugees in Greece once again on Thursday, this time at the tiny village of Idomeni on Greece's northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and its increasingly problematic refugee camp. After four days of rain and hermetically sealed borders, the camp had become a nightmarish expanse of churning mud, with thousands milling about in endless lines for a little food, water and other necessities.
"This is like a second war," said Hala, an elderly Syrian woman, as she leaned on her husband's arm in a long line for food. "We have to fight for a plate of food, battle for a tent to lay down our heads. I have many years on my back and all this is very difficult for me. I fled my country and now I am stuck here, in the mud, the cold, the dead end," she told the ANA-MPA. One of the many hoping to reach Germany, Hala said she has a son there who is waiting for her. One of the "lucky" ones that managed to pass through the border about a year ago.
Meanwhile, the news from Europe is not good and the iron-barred gate into the FYROM no-man's land remains stubbornly closed to now 12,000 refugees stacked inside the Idomeni camp, originally designed for no more than 2,500.
In the village for the last two days, Ai Weiwei blasted the conditions at Idomeni and said that what is happening there is "a big violation of human rights". This is not the first time that the Chinese artist has championed the refugees' cause. He also visited the island of Lesvos and in late 2015 used 14,000 life jackets discarded by refugees landing on the island to create an installation in Berlin, wrapping five columns of the city's iconic 'Konzerthaus' in the bright orange life vests to draw attention to the refugees' plight.
For those like Ahmed, who lost both his daughter and his house to the war in Syria, it seems the violence has no end. "Where would I go back to? There is no one waiting for me there," he says, showing us a picture of his bombed house on his cell phone. "I took it to remember what I escaped from," he said.
Around him sit countless other families with their children, who managed to survive both the war and the perilous sea crossing into Europe. Huddling around camp fires to keep warm, with their eyes on the fence that bars their way, they must now also survive the vicissitudes of life in Idomeni.
 BoG, EBRD examine secondary loan market planThe Bank of Greece in cooperation with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are examining ways to develop a secondary loan market and ways to restructure small- and medium-sized enterprises' loans.
Th. Mitrakos, vice-governor of the Bank of Greece, addressing a seminar in Athens on Thursday, underlined that SMEs are the backbone of the Greek economy. A banks' turn to long-term solutions, combined with a restructuring of viable enterprises with changes in the structure, business planning and – if necessary - their management, will contribute to the stabilisation of the economy and its transition to a new export-orientated productive model. Banks should also examine taking joint action towards large business non-performing loans, a necessary precondition to offer viable solutions in a reasonable time period. Hellenic Financial Stability Fund is already working on drafting a study on the issue.
Referring to initiatives undertaken by the Bank of Greece towards resolving the problem of NPLs, Mitrakos said that the bank issued an act envisaging the framework for the set up and operation of companies focusing on management or purchase of loans from credit institutions.
He said that the central bank, in cooperation with the European Central Bank and commercial banks, was working towards setting new business goals for the management of NPLs.
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