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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-11-29
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Moscovici leaves door open to lower budget surpluses after 2018European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday left the door open to lower budget surpluses after 2018 and supported the restoration of collective labour bargaing agreements.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference at the offices of the European Commission in Athens, Moscovici said that "the course chart now is the memorandum. After 2018, we will not have a program and things might change. We will discuss all these". Referring to collective labour bargaining agreements, he said: "some reforms were needed within the program. The Commission is adhering to European regulations. The labour market must be flexible and workers must have negotiating power. Social dialogue is needed and this means collective bargaining".
Moscovici noted, however, that achieving a staff level agreement with all institutions was a precondition this week ahead of a December 5 Eurogroup meeting in order that partners then respected their commitments on debt. "If Greece adhere to its commitments, we must reach a total agremenet, including debt, before the end of 2016," he said.
He clarified that a staff level agreement must also include the International Monetary Fund. "The IMF is a very important partner for Greece and the creditors. It is the safety, the collateral," he said.
"We do not examine the possibility of a fourth program. We are currently at the third and this is too much already. We want to finish the program and to exit from it. I cannot exclude this (a fourth program) but this is not what we want in any case," Moscovici said.
The European Commissioner set four preconditions for the country's smooth course forward: a) growth without exclusion of social groups, b) equal contribution in tax payments, c) all political groups to adopt reforms and d) the country to be an active player in drafting its future also because of its geopolitical importance.
He said that the European Commission was not preoccupied with political developments in Greece. "For us one thing matters: the country's stability. The program moves forward, the government of Alexis Tsipras moves on", he noted.
Commenting on a proposal submitted by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on lower budget surpluses to reduce taxes on SMEs, Moscovici said: "Tax rates were and will remain the responsibility of the government".
 December the most crucial month since summer of 2015, Greek FinMin says"December is the most crucial month since the summer of 2015. The stakes are high in December for progress in the Greek economy and our ability to achieve a road map we announced in the summer of 2015," Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Tuesday.
Speaking in Parliament, during a debate of the 2017 budget, Tsakalotos said December 5th was a landmark date as the Greek economy hoped that the three parts of negotiation will be united (reforms, fiscal targets and debt).
"There might be another Eurogroup, but very soon we will have a picture on whether we can enter the QE program and when we will move to the abolition of capital controls, since a gradual lifting is currently underway," the Finance minister said.
Tsakalotos said that discussions with the institutions on the reforms leg were continuing and noted there were different approaches mostly on how goals will be achieved within the program in 2017 and 2018. On the fiscal targets leg, discussions are focusing on what will happen after 2018 "if we will be at 3.5 pct, or the target would fall, or if we keep a 3.5 pct target before lowering it later," Tsakalotos said and reiterated his call to the IMF to begin pressing the strong player and not the weaker player in the negotiation if it wanted lower budget surpluses for Greece.
On the debt leg of negotiations, Tsakalotos said: "I think that by January details will be available, we will know the three pieces, we will know to assess the outlook of the Greek economy in the future".
Referring to the 2017 budget, Tsakalotos said that essentially it was "mirroring the government policy on taxes and spending. It has positive messages and difficulties, as all budgets do, particularly in the period of crisis". The Finance minister said there were "people that the government was trying to support and others that were treated unfairly" but noted that the government's strategy was to lighten the burden from the most vulnerable classes and to deal with the issues of tax evasion and smuggling. Tsakalotos acknowledged there were parameter measures and noted that "if you win from such measures you gain fiscal space". He reiterated his proposal to the country's creditors to lower a budget surplus target from 3.5 pct to 2.5 pct after 2018 and to use this 1.0 pct -or around 1.8 billion euros- to lower taxes on vulnerable classes and small- and medium-sized enterprises. He stressed that since some of the country's creditors insisted that Greece's problem was not its debt but competitiveness, this was a proposal they should seriously examine.
"Our only disagreement with the institutions on 2017 and 2018 is whether this overshooting in budget revenue -achieved this year- will continue or it was temporary," Tsakalotos said.
He said the government acknowledged there were recessionary measures included in the budget, but there were also countermeasures and noted that an increase in employment meant there would be more consumers. An expected out-of-court compromise for indebted households and enterprises will offer relief and said that this measure could help to turn many non-performing loans into performing ones. "I think that the investment climate is getting better," the minister said. "I am optimistic over growth in 2017 and 2018 but we need another development model to have a sustainable growth," he said, adding that the government did not want to return back to 2008.
 We will not accept additional measures for the period after 2018, says gov't spokesman TzanakopoulosThe target for the conclusion of the second programme review by December 5 is feasible so that we will proceed with the debt relief and the quantititave easing programme as of the next year, said government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Tuesday during the press briefing.
Tzanakopoulos noted that the government will not accept additional measures after 2018 and particularly on labour matters "the government can't accept solutions that are against the European social acquis and the European institutions should do the same".
He ruled out the possibility of early elections which he called dangerous for the country.
On the Cyprus issue, he said that the Greek government steadily supports the efforts for the restart of the negotiations towards a fair and sustainable solution and clarified that the possibility of a bilateral meeting between Greece and Turkey before the restart of the negotiations is not examined.
Referring to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' visit to Cuba to attend the events on Fidel Castro, he said that he will be among the few country leaders that will deliver a eulogy.
 We will proceed step by step, Eurogroup chief Dijsselbloem says"We will proceed step by step", we will find a "realistic way", the president of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Tuesday said in the European Parliament, referring to the Greek programme, the possibility of IMF participation, but also the issue of the debt.
As regards the medium-term target of a primary surplus of 3.5 pct of GDP, Dijsselbloem admitted that the IMF is right to say that this is an excessive goal. On the one hand, the IMF considers that it is difficult for Greece to maintain for a long time a primary surplus of 3.5 pct of GDP and on the other hand, some consider it necessary, given that Greece must comply with the Stability and Growth Pact, said the president of the Eurogroup and added: "We must find a realistic way to proceed."
Regarding debt sustainability, Dijsselbloem said that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will present to the Eurogroup of December 5 what can be done with short-term measures to reduce the cost of loans. "I am quite optimistic," he concluded.
 Greek olive oil, a tool to boost tourismGreece's landscape and the lives of Greeks are inextricably linked with the olive tree and this relationship is lost in the distance of time, but this blessed tree and its products do not enjoy enough attention and promotion.
The olive oil is lagging behind compared to the wine in the so-called gastronomic tourism.
According to Giorgos Economou, director in the Association of Greek Industries of Olive Oil Standardization, "the olive oil is lagging behind other products, such as the wine, about one decade. We want to develop the oil tourism. We want to establish the 'olive oil roads' and open the olive mills for people to visit them."
The creation and growth potential in that part of tourism are significant, but there are some bad habits that do not easily change. For example, restaurants are used to serving oil and vinegar that are exposed to the sun and their taste has been distorted, he said adding that "we have asked several times from the state to impose regulations so that restaurants serve a small bottle of olive oil that each customer can open on his own.
Moreover, children do not learn about the Mediterranean diet, according to Economou who stressed the importance of education. For that reason, he said, campaigns must be launched so that the Greek olive oil is promoted together with the wine, the bread, the feta cheese and dairy products.
Greek olive oil production up 3.3 pct this year
Greek olive oil production is up 3.3 pct to 310,000 tons this year, a survey by IBHS SA said on Tuesday.
Alexis Nikolaidis, Economic Research & Sectoral Studies Senior Analyst, said that domestic production of olive oil recovered in the 2014/2015 period, rising by a spectacular 127 pct to 300,000 tons. This increase offered a boost in exports, which totaled 149,000 tons in 2015, worth 544.7 million euros, up by 81,800 tons from the previous year. IBHS said olive oil productoin was up in all main production countries in the EU, with international demand remaining strong.
In Spain, production recovered strongly (+66 pct) to 1.4 million tons, while in Italy, production more than doubled to 470,000 tons.
However, Greek olive oil prices remained at lower levels compared with our competitive countries, for reasons mostly related with low standardization rates, while prices are falling in all main production countries.
More analytically, the average price of extra virgin olive oil in Greece at the end of May was 2.9 euros per kilo (-6.1 pct on an annual basis), in Spain prices were 2.93 euros per kilo (-16.5 pct), in Italy 3.55 uros per kilo (-39 pct) and in Tunisia 3.08 euros per kilo (-10.2 pct).
According to market estimates, standardization covers less than 30 pct of domestic production, while the biggest part of domestic demand and of exports is covered by non-packaged olive oil. The majority of exports is chanelled mostly to Italian industries.
Maria Metaxogeni, CEO in IBHS said that Greece needed to raise its market share of its brand product to enhance the credibility of the sector and to give to Greek production the added value missing today, particularly on international level.
The report analyzed financial results of 121 enterprises in the sector. Turnover fell 16.3 pct in 2014 to 406 million euros, EBITDA dropped 45.7 pct to 19 million and pre-tax results showed a loss of 4.0 million euros from earnings of 12 million in 2013. EBITDA margin fell to 5.8 pct.
 TRIP2ATHENS in domestic and foreign tourist marketsThe Hellenic Chamber of Hotels proceeded with three agreements, which aim to support the promotion of the TRIP2ATHENS platform in international and domestic tourist markets.
Therefore the new official electronic tourist guide of Athens and Attica TRIP2ATHENS has already been connected with the digital platform for the promotion of tourism in the Region of Attica www.athensattica.gr. Moreover, TRIP2ATHENS has been included in the platform DiscoverGreece.com of Marketing Greece, which will launch an online campaign for further promoting the new digital platform.
A third agreement was signed with the Chinese tour group "BEIJING INTERNATIONAL BLOOM TRAVEL SERVICE CORP" with the view to promoting the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels' platform in the Chinese market sinceTRIP2ATHENS provides information in seven languages (Greek, English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese).
"BEIJING INTERNATIONAL BLOOM TRAVEL SERVICE CORP" was listed in China's Stock Exchange in 2016, and has set up subsidiaries in Hong Kong and Great Britain.
The above mentioned tourist agency, in collaboration with Shanghai Workers' International Travel Service Co., Ltd., has also launched the first charter flights from Shanghai to Greece.
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