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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 10-02-25
From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <www.ert.gr/>
 Reservations and Recommendations on the New MeasuresThursday, 25 February 2010 16:20
Wrapping up Thursday their visit to Athens, the experts of the European Commission, the Central European Bank and the International Monetary Fund expressed their reservations over the Greek economy's this year's growth rate. They also suggested a few recommendations on the additional measures required to earn up to 4.8 billion euros. The experts will brief EU Commissioner Olli Rehn who is due in Athens on Monday to meet with the ministers of Finance, Economy and Employment.
Before departing for Brussels, the European Commission experts recommended additional measures to cut the deficit by up to 2%.
A senior Finance Ministry official stressed that the experts' reservations have to do with the efficiency of the measures against tax evasion, the spending cut and growth rate.
They also have projected that the Greek economy's recession will stand at between 1 and 2%, as opposed to the Greek Finance Minister's prediction of 0.3%. They also fear that the interest expenditure will be higher by 1 billion euros, while the crackdown on tax evasion will not yield the expected 1.2 billion euros.
The Greek Finance Ministry described the experts' predictions as exaggerated, recognizing, however, the dangers lurking due to the behavior of the markets.
The European Commission will hold a sitting on 9 March to discuss the Greek fiscal problems, while EU Commissioner for Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn is due in Athens on Monday.
Prior to his departure from Brussels, Rehn will be briefed on the situation of the Greek economy and the implementation of the stability plan.
The income policy is expected to go public in the coming week, while a new package of measures is likely to be announced at the end of the following week.
According to information, the government is considering
· increasing the VAT rate by 2%
· raising anew the fuel taxation
· further cutting bonuses and overtime and
· reducing subsidies in pension funds and other bodies.
Any cuts in bonuses will be temporary, a top-ranking Finance Ministry official was quoted as saying. News item: 33761
 Pressure to Increase Retirement Age LimitsThursday, 25 February 2010 12:42
EU, ECB and IMF officials visiting Greece to assess stability Plan are pressing for increase in retirement age limits. During their meeting with Employment Minister A. Loberdos, they linked retirement age with rise in life expectancy, described as measure of minimum return by the Employment Minister. Furthermore, the group of officials gave instructions for reductions in anchyloses for greater flexibility and mobility.
In the meantime, LAOS president George Karatzaferis had a briefing meeting with Employment Minister on Thursday morning. "Government's proposals for the resolution of the social security issue are moving in a serious and responsible axis", said G. Karatzaferis. On his part, Employment Minister thanked Mr. Karatzaferis for his party's consent on reforms in social security system and called for similar constructive meetings with leaders of other political parties.
Source: ÍÅÔ 105.8 News item: 33741
 Additional Measures to Raise â¬3.5bnThursday, 25 February 2010 08:41
The EU and the IMF want Greece to implement additional austerity measures to raise 3.5bn euros, in effect 1.5% of GNP to achieve target to cut state deficit 4% down in the current year. The group of EU, ECB and IMF officials, who checked Greece's finances, gave instructions for additional measures. The government plans to increase VAT by 2%, impose higher taxes on petrol and luxury goods, further cuts in public sector and local administration entitlements and overtime.
Measures before Olli Rehn Visit to Athens
The EU insists on 14th salary cut but the government reconfirms this would be considered as last solution. The measures are to be announced in the next ten days and prior to EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn visit to Athens so that all additional measures would have been taken by March, 9 when College of Commissioners meet. "We will take additional measures if needed to achieve our target of 4% cut in state deficit", said George Papandreou in an interview with Economist.
The government has never asked for a bail out but to be able to borrow at the same interest rate as the other EU members.
Talks between ND leader A. Samaras and European Commission president Jose Baroso at noon, in Brussels are expected to center on the Stability Plan and Greece's relations with EU and Eurozone, countries sharing the single currency.
Th. Pagalos Interview with BBC
In an interview with BBC, Deputy Prime- minister Theodoros Pangalos accused Italy of being more inaccurate with its financial statistics to ensure its admission to Eurozone.
According to Reuters, Mr. Pagalos criticized Germany's stance to Greece's crisis, maintaining that Athens has never received compensations for the economic impact during the Nazi occupation.
Mr Pangalos also made a strident attack on the calibre of the EU's current political leaders, saying that a stronger leadership would never have permitted the current economic crisis.
On her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said credibility of euro depended on the achievement of Greece's target to bring deficit 4% down. She added that confidence in euro currency would be restored only if Greece and other countries with high state deficits crack down the root of the problem.
In the meantime, European Commission is expected to release interim forecast on large EU economies today.
The President of the European Parliament referred to the need for responsibility and solidarity among eurozone countries. Standard & Poor's is likely to drop Greece ratings one to two points next month fearing drop in development rate that could put stability program at risk.
Source: ÍÅÔ 105.8 News item: 33724
 A.Samaras: "Solidarity with Greece Cements Stability in EU"Thursday, 25 February 2010 12:50
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras met Thursday morning with European Commission head JosÃ© Manuel Barroso and asked him to take specific measures to support Greece. Antonis Samaras linked stability in the single currency union to the need for support measures to Greece. Earlier, Antonis Samaras had met with the European People's Party President, Wilfried Martens.
Barroso Calls for Immediate Measures
Supporting Greece equals to stability in the eurozone, stressed Antonis Samaras following his meeting with the European Commission President in Brussels.
"The EU will have to commit itself to specific measures, otherwise the markets won't take it easy," Antonis Samaras
The Greek Conservative leader acknowledged that the mistakes made should not be repeated and suggested specific ways to address the problem.
In particular, he proposed the EU guarantee that it won't let Greece slip to bankruptcy.
Barroso, on his part, stressed that the Greek government has to step up decisive measures that the EU views as necessary. He then assured Samaras that the EU will offer its solidarity with Greece safeguarding fiscal stability in the eurozone.
Samaras then dismissed the prospect of referring the case to the International Monetary Fund as extremely dangerous and anti-European. He concluded that the EU has to step in to assist Greece.
Source: NET News item: 33742
 "Greeks Support our Measures"Thursday, 25 February 2010 11:34
The majority of Greek people backs the government measures said Prime-minister G. Papandreou in an interview with Australia television channel ABC, broadcast in Lateline show. "We have come to a reckoning... a moment of reckoning, if you like, for Greece to make these changes, and it will be painful. People know that, but I think people are saying, "Let's do it, let's get over with it", he said. In response to a question on EU support Mr. Papandreou said: "We're not asking for bailouts or handouts. We're saying we need to be able to borrow at the similar rate as other countries.
"We're not asking for bailouts or handouts"
He said what will happen is other countries will support us to borrow at lower interest rates, a fact that proves a credible response to the problems the country is facing.
"We're not asking for bailouts or handouts. We're saying we need to be able to borrow at the similar rate as other countries", G. Papandreou
Regarding public approval to the strict austerity program, the Prime-minister compared the spirit of unity and determination today in Greece, with what we felt during the Olympics.
"Of course, that was a time of jubilation, but there was a real sense of unity. Now is a time of crisis, but again, there's a sense of wider approval. "Let's move on, let's make these decisions, let's change this country", he said.
"In Australia, I know there's great sympathy for Greece and we've had a long historical relationship, and we'll move ahead and make this crisis an opportunity".
"I am used to Problems"
In response to whether he had ever wished to have lost the election, due to the problems he said:
"Well, I have taken on problems... Whenever I have taken on, it so happens, in my political career, when I've taken on posts, they are usually during crises. I am used to Problems".
Source: ABC NET News item: 33740