|Monday, 12 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 13-11-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 22 November 2013 Issue No: 4518
 Greek economy to return to growth in 2014, draft budgetThe Greek economy will return to growth in 2014, following six years of unprecedented recession, and will achieve a primary surplus of 3.0 billion euros (from 812 million euros this year), according to provisions of the 2014 draft budget, signaling the country's gradual exit from the crisis.
The new budget, tabled to Parliament by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and presented by Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras, envisages, among others, a 0.6 pct growth rate in 2014, from a recession of 4.0 pct in 2013. The public debt will ease to 174.6 pct of GDP (320 billion euros) next year, from 175.5 pct of GDP in 2013. The unemployment rate will fall to 26 pct, while the primary surplus will total 1.6 pct of GDP (2.956 billion euros), from 0.4 pct of GDP (812 million euros) in 2013.
The new budget does not envisage cuts in salaries and pensions, while an increase in tax revenues is expected to be covered basically from a new property tax (2.65 billion euros). The new budget also includes a cut in property transfer tax from 10 pct to 3.0 pct and an increase of spending of the Public Investment Program by 150 million euros compared with this year.
Budget revenues are projected to rise by 2.177 billion euros, or 4.1 pct to 54.695 billion euros. Net regular budget revenue will rise to 49.693 billion euros from 47.382 billion euros in 2013, with proceeds from direct taxes rising to 21.574 billion (19.884 billion in 2013), while proceeds from indirect taxes will fall to 24.087 billion (24.519 billion this year). The budget plan estimates that tax proceeds will rise next year helped by an economic recovery and the introduction of new taxes on property (1.153 billion euros), while proceeds from indirect taxes will fall by 1.8 pct to 24.087 billion.
The privatization program is projected to raise 3.56 billion euros in state revenues next year, largely from the exploitation of the state property assets (3,000 assets).
Budget spendings are projected to fall by 3.079 billion euros to 56.248 billion euros, reflecting a decline in regular budget spending (-6.4 pct) to 41.946 billion euros. Spending on servicing the country's public debt will rise by 0.8 pct to 6.150 billion euros.
The budget plan does not include cuts in salaries and pensions. Spending on salaries and pensions will total 17.723 billion euros in 2014, with pension spending rising 4.5 pct. The budget also integrates a program of structural actions to boost revenues by social insurance funds and combatting contribution evasion. This package is expected to raise 600 million euros annually in added revenue.
The public sector's consumer spending is projected to drop by 18.7 pct next year, reflecting cutbacks in transfer compensation, leasing costs and other operating expenses. The Public Investment Program's spending is expected to rise by 150 million euros to 6.8 billion euros next year.
"The surplus is more than double the surplus forecast in the draft budget submitted a month ago, while the fiscal adjustment programme of the Greek economy had forecast a zero surplus," Staikouras said while presenting the draft budget.
The discussion on the draft budget will begin at the relevant standing committee on November 25 and be completed over four sessions, said Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis soon after receiving it.
Discussion of the budget at the Parliament's plenum is expected to begin on December 3 or 4, he said, and will be completed over five sessions, including the vote by roll call.
 Draft budget 'conditional', SYRIZA stresses; Opposition parties deplore cuts in social spendingCommenting on the draft budget for 2014 unveiled on Thursday, main opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group rapporteur for economic issues Efklidis Tsakalotos described it as "conditional" since it had not been agreed with Greece's creditors and no new Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy had yet been unveiled.
Tsakalotos expressed his conviction that the contents of the draft budget on fiscal indices will soon change, while stressing that its exclusive target appears to be that of achieving a primary surplus "no matter the cost".
Among such 'costs' he listed the sharp hike in property taxes, envisioned to jump 41 percent relative to 2013 in order to reach 4.0 billion euros. According to Tsakalotis, this represented roughly one third of income tax for all categories, which he said made a mockery of taxation in accordance with the ability to pay.
At the same time, he noted that spending was set to drop by an additional 3.0 billion euros, with the bulk of the cuts - roughly 80 percent - coming from the socially sensitive labour, health and education ministries.
"In other words, the remnants of the social state are being sacrificed on the altar of fiscal adjustment," he added, and this for a rather indifferent result, since the public debt was not reduced but "simply not increasing as fast as before" so that the country remain locked in a "debt trap".
The opposition Independent Greeks party also highlighted the social cost of the draft budget, with party Parliamentary spokesman Notis Marias calling it a "success story for the creditors and social destitution for the citizens".
"It continues to implement the well-known memorandum recipe, which even the creditors have admitted is flawed, driving the economy into a slow death," he said.
A Communist Party of Greece (KKE) announcement said the draft budget continued to loot the working classes through taxation, especially the self-employed and small businesses, while bringing further reductions in state spending on education, health and support for social insurance funds and local governments.
"Achieving a primary surplus is the result of anti-popular policy and signals state support for the benefit of capital," the announcement added.
 US Sec'y of Commerce Penny Pritzker meets with PM SamarasGreece now has a stable economy producing tangible results, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday after a meeting in Athens with US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
Pritzker, who is visiting Greece and Germany on November 21 and 22, expressed the interest of the United States in Greece's economic progress moving forward.
Samaras said it was the first time Greece had a primary surplus, a surplus in the balance of payments, and zero deficit in the trade balance. "These tangible results, along with the anticipation of Greece's entering a period of recovery after six painful recession years, are bringing forth significant investment opportunities for Greece," interest in which had already been expressed.
The premier said the two discussed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), between the United States and the European Union, which will become an object of negotiation between the two continents during the Greek presidency of the EU, beginning with the new year.
Pritzker said that both she and US President Barack Obama are aware that Samaras has taken and will continue to take tough decisions to keep Greece on the path of infrastructural and structural changes in an effort to promote growth and general economic well-being.
She warned that Greece should not focus on cutbacks alone, but on steps promoting growth, jobs, trade and entrepreneurship, which would benefit all Greeks.
"Greece has taken important steps but a lot remains to be done," she noted. "Greeks have covered a large part of a tough road to give up their efforts now," she said.
 Merkel praises Greek reforms and primary surplusBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made positive note of Greece's achievement of primary surplus in 2013 speaking at an economic conference, organized by Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, on Thursday, in Berlin.
"Greece has implemented changes over the past years which are absolutely remarkable. Who would have thought that Greece will post a primary budget surplus this year?" Merkel wondered.
The German chancellor is expected to meet in Berlin on Friday with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who is speaking at the same conference on Saturday.
 Olli Rehn's spokesman praises Greece's reform progressGreece has made progress in its negotiations with the troika, the spokesman for Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs said on Thursday.
Answering a question, spokesman Simon O'Connor said one of the issues which still needs to be resolved is the fiscal gap for the 2014 budget. "In the coming weeks, it is going to be decided whether further adjustments or a supplementary budget are required," he said.
He underlined that Greece has made progress in the financial sector and economic reforms, adding that further progress is required in tax reforms, privatizations, competition, product markets and services that will enhance the economy's competitiveness.
O' Connor said the Eurogroup is not expected to discuss the Greek issue, but expressed EU Commissioner Olli Rehn's willingness to brief finance ministers on the negotiations with the troika if so requested.
 Euro Working Group president praises Greek progress, urges speedier effort against 'entrenched interests'BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
In an exclusive interview given to the ANA-MPA Brussels bureau on Thursday, Euro Working Group Thomas Weiser praised Greece's progress in reforming fiscal policy, saying that it had performed well. At the same time, he stressed the necessity to speed up reforms, especially in areas where 'entrenched interests' were threatened.
His replies to six questions posed by the ANA-MPA bureau in Brussels are given below:
1. In which areas do you think Greece is performing well and, on the other hand, which are the areas where the situation is rather worrying and Athens should speed up the efforts?
Wieser: "Greece has performed well in the area of fiscal policy, and will next year have a budget deficit which is one of the lower ones of the Euro Area. This does not mean that the job is done, but Greece is getting closer. The areas where a speeding up of efforts appears necessary are those areas where entrenched interests are threatened. These entrenched interests usually imply that a few beneficiaries are being sheltered from competition and therefore are profiting - at the expense of the rest of the Greek population. That is why it is so important to restructure state owned enterprises that occur huge losses, or liberalise markets for bread, or milk, or pharmaceuticals. Or public administration. It is the role of politicians to be the advocate of those reforms that will bring higher growth to the population at large and thus help growth and employment. Politicians are not elected to shelter special interests - and that is why I am hopeful that there will be a positive conclusion of negotiations in the end.
2. What are the risks for Greece of postponing the conclusion of the review?
Wieser: We are already running late in the review, and the earlier it can be concluded the better. This is not only a matter of financial planning. It is also a matter of global perception: as other Euro Area member States are exiting their programmes it should be in the interest of Greece to show that it can put itself into a similar position in the not too distant future. Ireland has set a standard.
3. The policies implemented so far in Greece resulted in an accumulated recession, which exceeds 20%. What could eurozone do in order to correct this failure?
Wieser: We need to remember that a large part of the growth since the nineties was generated by huge accumulation of debt, and therefore not sustainable. One also asks oneself, why and how the productive potential of the EU Structural Funds has not generated higher growth in Greece in the past. The future policy path of Greece must also provide for making improvements to the education system, to training, to labour market policies and to employment policies. These could be areas of joint cooperation.
4. The year 2014 seems to be a turning point for Greece in regaining growth and reaching a primary surplus. Moreover 2014 will mark the end of the current programme. Do you believe some kind of further assistance will be required?
Wieser: It will be up to Greece to judge, in the first instance, if it believes that markets will be willing and able to finance its financial requirements without any outside assistance. But the Eurogroup has also in the past reiterated that it is ready to continue assisting Greece.
5. Which are the criteria for a successful exit from the Memorandum of Understanding?
Wieser: If Greece can achieve the financing of its obligations on a sustainable path by itself it will wish to do so. The more reforms have been undertaken, the stronger the economy will be. The more efficient and cost efficient the public sector is, the more of tax payers' money will be available for financing investments, education and the social system. And, thus, the stronger growth over the next many years will be.
6. The discussion on the debt sustainability analysis will start in June 2014. Under which conditions this exercise could be successful and of which nature the eurozone solidarity could be?
Wieser: This will depend on the decision, to be taken jointly, that all conditions of the programme have been fulfilled. That is why - very much in the interest of Greece - I sincerely hope that the current review and the next review can be completed in a timely and successful manner.
 IMF sees no 'acute financing pressure' on GreeceNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P.Panagiotou)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Thursday it saw no near-term "acute" financing pressures on Greece under its international bailout program.
"We believe that Greece's financing needs in the coming months can be met from the existing liquidity buffer," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said. "We see no acute financing pressure."
Staff teams of the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have concluded their visit to Greece following "productive and constructive discussions" with the authorities on the set of policies that could serve as a basis for the completion of the ongoing review of the country's economic program, Rice also said.
Important progress has been made, but a few issues remain outstanding, the IMF spokesman also noted.
Rice declined to comment on what was holding up the troika's review. "There are very difficult issues to be addressed in a range of areas, and I don't think it's surprising that it would take a while to work these through," he told reporters.
Underlining the fact that Greece will present this year a primary surplus, Rice said "Greece has achieved an important target, a year earlier than expected," adding that discussions will continue from respective headquarters and that the EC/ECB/IMF staff teams expect to return to Athens in early December.
 Troika says negotiations with Greek government 'productive'Greece's troika of lenders said in a statement on Thursday that good progress has been made in negotiations with the Greek government, but a few issues remain outstanding.
"The discussions will continue from respective headquarters. The European Commission, ECB and IMF staff teams expect to return to Athens in early December," they noted in a joint announcement from Brussels.
 Justice Minister Athanassiou unveils Greek EU Presidency prioritiesJustice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou on Thursday unveiled the Greek EU Presidency's priority issues in the justice sector, with an emphasis on the acceleration of efforts aimed at preparing legal tools to be used for the protection of personal data.
Addressing the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting in Washington DC, in which he participated representing the forthcoming Greek EU Presidency, he underlined that the Greek government supports the reinforcement of the legal framework guaranteeing individual freedoms and the protection of privacy in EU member states.
The meeting, held in the context of the Lithuanian EU Presidency and ahead of the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2014, focused among others on issues such as sexual abuse of children via the internet, the rights of victims of crime, the rights of persons with disabilities and the prosecution of hate crimes. Participants also discussed the reinforcement of the legislative framework for the protection of personal data.
In this context, they also agreed to forge closer cooperation between EU and the United States in response to terrorist attacks and expand cooperation to criminal cases.
 Gov't not discussing public-sector layoffs after 2014, Admin. Reform minister saysAdministrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday revealed in statements to the private television station SKAI that the EU-IMF troika representing Greece's creditors has pushed for further public-sector layoffs and mobility after 2014. According to the minister, the Greek side is not prepared to discuss layoffs, beyond the 13,000 that remain to be carried out by the end of the next year.
He added that the government will be able to withstand these 13,000 layoffs, "just as the private sector was able to withstand one million layoffs," adding that it would not be easy but had been agreed.
The minister also confirmed plans for the closure of the National Roadbuilding Fund, which collects tolls to build and maintain Greek roads, with the agreement of himself and the transport minister, because its role had been superseded and it no longer had any reason to exist.
Finally, he disagreed with estimates of a "breakdown" in talks with the troika, even though it was a "tough negotiation".
"We like to see the glass half full; we have many chances of wrapping up the issues in December," he said.
 New parliamentary group includes all but one independent MPsEleven out of twelve independent deputies formed an eighth parliamentary group, officially recognised by Parliament president Evangelos Meimarakis on Thursday.
At a meeting of the presidium, Meimarakis announced that the group will be called Independent Democratic Deputies (IDD) and represented by Kilkis prefecture MP Theodoros Parastatidis. It is being founded in the framework of the coalition of parties, political movements and independent personalities, he said.
According to parliamentary rules, the president and members of IDD will have the same rights as any parliamentary group, with a right to voice an opinion at all times; they will also be assigned offices, equipment and staff. Their official introduction will be made by announcement at the Parliament's next plenum session.
IDD consists of the following members, besides Parastatidis: Andreas Loverdos, Christos Aidonis, Mimis Androulakis, Odysseas Voudouris, Paris Moutsinas, Nikos Nikolopoulos, Giorgos Kassapidis, Ioannis Kourakis, Markos Bolaris and Nikos Stavrogiannis.
Theodora Tzakri, who was expelled by PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos after voting in support of a SYRIZA vote of censure against the government, remains independent.
According to its website, Parliament consists of the following groups, with the number of MPs in parentheses: New Democracy (127), SYRIZA (72), PASOK (27), Independent Greeks/ANEL (18), Golden Dawn/Chryssi Avghi (18), Democratic Left/DIMAR (14), Communist Party of Greece (12), Independent deputies (12: IDD's 11 and Tzakri).
 DIM.AR MPs to donate compensation received for participation in Parliamentary committeesOpposition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) Parliamentary group president Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday announced that his party's MPs have decided to donate the compensation they receive for participating in Parliamentary committees to charity foundations or organizations.
The donated amount will be deposited on a monthly basis to a National Bank of Greece (NBG) account to be withdrawn by the recipient organizations.
DIM.AR's leader addressed a letter to Parliament President Evangelos Meimarakis notifying him of the decision.
 DIMAR spokesman rules out collaboration with SYRIZAThere is no talk at Democratic Left (DIMAR) about collaborating with main opposition SYRIZA, DIMAR's spokesman Andreas Papadopoulos said on Thursday.
"Nobody at DIMAR has said anything about collaborating with SYRIZA," the spokesman told private Vima FM, "and I want to end all conversation here, so there are no misunderstandings."
He added that party leader Fotis Kouvelis had not said something different, and he denied media reports claiming the former government coalition member was looking at opportunities to collaborate with SYRIZA. "Anybody has the right to say what he wants, but this is mine and the party's opinion," he stated.
Meanwhile, DIMAR's parliamentary group met under Kouvelis also on Thursday, to discuss the party's congress on December 13-15. No mention was made of any collaboration with any party, according to information.
Topics discussed included initiatives of the party's in Parliament, especially about unemployment, shipping, revival of the economy, and e-governance, and an anti-racism bill that has been tabled in Parliament by others.
 'Coup de grace to defense industry' ANEL leader claimsIndependent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos claimed on Thursday that the country's defense industry "received the the coup de grace." His statement was prompted by the Armed Forces Day celebration.
"This day the government, implementing the (EC/ECB/IMF) Troika's orders, gives the coup de grace to the country's defense industry" Kammenos said, underlining that "faith and unity, are the Armed Forces' weapons which cannot be removed by any memorandum."
On his part, New Reformist Radical Reconstruction party leader Christos Zois said on the same occasion: "In this new reality being shaped, the Armed Forces with high morale and despite the country's fiscal problems, are doing their duties, and enjoy the peoples' full trust."
 Universities situation the government's fault, main opposition SYRIZA saysThe Radical Left Coalition party (SYRIZA) on Thursday accused the government of creating the impasse in universities, which have been affected by staff strikes against the mobility scheme and, at the University of Thessaloniki, the resignation of the whole senate over the same issue.
"The government is solely responsible for the impasse created in universities. It is also responsible for bringing down the former public broadcaster ERT, for the tragic shortcomings in schools and hospitals, the collapse of social security funds and the dismantling of social structures," main opposition SYRIZA said in a statement.
SYRIZA accused the government of faithfully obeying the commands of the troika of Greece's lenders, while threatening universities with riot police and prosecutors.
"The measure of mobility should now be withdrawn, universities should be protected from their complete downgrade and dissolution," SYRIZA notes of a programme that calls for transfers or gradual layoffs of civil service staff.
 Athens University, Metsovio Polytechnic administrative employees' strike declared illegalAn Athens court on Thursday declared as illegal strike action by administrative employees of the Athens University and the National Metsovio Polytechnic.
The court accepted the recourse by the Education ministry. It is reminded that it is the third decision issued by the court over the period that mobilisations are taking place at universities, declaring the administrative employees' strike illegal.
 Republic President Papoulias' message for Hellenic Armed Forces' DayThe country's armed forces do social work in addition to their mission to defend and protect the country, Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday underlined in a message marking Hellenic Armed Forces Day celebrated on November 21.
"Today we honor our country's armed forces for offering us a collective sense of security, while, at the same time, doing important social work," Papoulias said, adding that the crisis did not hurt the morale and the fighting ability of the Greek Armed Forces.
The President of the Republic expressed respect and appreciation for all men and women serving in the Armed Forces and to all the young people in the military and expressed the wish that "their sacrifices will give results".
 German Eurodeputy Hatzimarkakis replies to former president Herzog's statements on the origins of democracyBERLIN (ANA-MPA/F.Karaviti)
"German arrogance" were the words used by Greek-origin European parliament member George Hatzimarkakis of the German Liberal Party, to reply to former Federal German president Roman Herzog's statement that the birthplace of democracy was not Greece, but England and Switzerland. Herzog was speaking during an interview on Thursday.
"None of the major political figures who held this position in the past ever thought of speaking in such a way about Greece," Hatzimarkakis said, adding that "instead of apologizing or even speaking in a humane way for a suffering people, German politicians now want to reverse the history of mankind."
He also stressed that Herzog, as a top judge of classical education, should know that he would have never learned the word "democracy" if it was not borrowed from Greek thought.
 Clarifications by former shipping minister regarding 'ship on call' clauseA clause providing for a "ship on call" to transport goods and medical supplies to the Greek islands during industrial action in the coastal shipping sector, will be included in the draft bill on "tourist ships and other clauses" already unveiled for public debate on the government's Diavgeia website, it was announced on Thursday.
Former shipping minister Costis Moussouroulis clarified that the "ship on call" issue - which will meet the urgent needs of island populations during strikes - was first raised by Aegean island local administration authorities and a number of MPs last spring, during a discussion on the omnibus draft bill on "restructuring and other clauses", and not by the ministry of shipping.
He also said that the ministry had requested that political parties and institutions should submit their written views on the issue, pledging that they would be taken under consideration in drawing up a future draft bill.
Moussouroulis noted that no such clause had been tabled in Parliament for approval when he was in office.
 Invitation to national dialogue on culture by minister PanagiotopoulosCulture & Sports Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos issued an invitation to national dialogue on culture while addressing Parliament on Thursday during the discussion on the draft bill on copyright and related rights.
"Culture unites us. It is our national identity and dignity; the national self-consciousness," Panagiotopoulos said during the Parliamentary discussion on the draft bill that incorporates two recent European Union directives into national legislation ensuring increased revenues for artists by extending their right to claim royalties from 50 to 70 years.
The minister extended an invitation to the MPs to an open dialogue in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Cultural and Educational Affairs and announced that a dialogue committee will be set up shortly to tackle copyright problems.
The dialogue committee will have two months to prepare its proposals suggesting necessary legislative interventions, Panagiotopoulos said.
Culture was severely hit by the crisis, Panagiotopoulos underlined, noting that the sector's unemployment rate is much higher compared to other professional sectors.
 Parliament plenum ratifies intellectual property rights' billThe Parliament plenum on Thursday ratified a culture ministry bill harmonising national legislation with EU directives' on copyright and related rights.
According to the new regulations, the period of protection of copyright for perfomers, artists and sound engineers is extended for 20 years, while at the same time allowing the utilisation of "orphan works" for educational purposes.
Nearly all the parties in Parliament, despite some comments and reservations, agreed on the need to protect creators' intellectual rights. Additionally all parties were positive on holding a national dialogue regarding all problems related to copyright issues, users' obligations and artists' rights, suggested by the Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos.
Panagiotopoulos promised that by the end of the year the Hellenic Copyright Organisation will be fully operational and also have oversight of the Committee for dialogue on culture.
 Reappointment of municipal police officers affected by public sector mobility scheme is underwayThe administrative reform ministry three-member Special Council meeting on Thursday set in motion procedures clearing the way for the reappointment of municipal police officers suspended under a government mobility scheme aiming to improve efficiency in the public sector.
Two previous joint ministerial decisions by the ministers of administrative reform, public order and justice had clarified the additional qualifications and prerequisites necessary for the evaluation of municipal police officers who were placed on mobility.
Most of the former municipal police staff will be transferred to the Greek Police force. A considerable number will serve as correctional facility officers, while others, with the necessary qualifications, will staff interior ministry migration agencies, development ministry agencies combating illegal trade and the finance ministry General Secretariat for Public Revenues.
The administrative reform ministry noted that this development will turn into action the government's pledge to proceed with the reappointment of municipal police officers placed on mobility.
The former municipal police manpower will be better utilized by being placed in positions and agencies that meet their qualifications while, at the same time, understaffed agencies will be reinforced, the administrative reform ministry noted, adding that the mobility scheme is a tool that can improve public sector management.
 Irish ambassador gives interview to ANA-MPAIrish Ambassador Charles Sheehan, speaking in an interview with ANA-MPA WebTV on Thursday, stressed that confidence in the Irish economy has been restored, bringing investments with it, while next month the country will be leaving the memorandum.
He also noted a return of confidence in Greece, with the appearance of the first investors are seeking opportunities. Sheehan added that the growth expected by Greece next year will change the nature of the austerity programme, stating his belief that Greece's European presidency in the first half of 2014 will be a considerable opportunity for the country to fully play its European role and promote its own priorities.
"Ireland entered the EU-IMF programmne three years ago with a memorandum of understanding, that in many ways was different than the one implemented in Greece, a fact that reflects the two countries' different kind of crisis," he said.
He went on to say that "our crisis started from the financial and banking sector and was linked with ownership and we paid the cost of supporting the banking sector and the breaking of the bubble in ownership, in 2008, that led the Irish government to seek aid from the EU and the IMF".
Referring to Greece, the ambassador said "it is of great importance for Europe for Greece to return to growth, we are seeing some signs of growth, but it must be strengthened. The difficulty for countries that are in austerity programmes is for growth to result from public expenditures. This also applies to Greece, for public expenditures, for infrastructures."
He further said "of course we need growth, which Greece is partly expecting next year and stronger in the coming years and this will radically change the nature of the austerity programme. If a country can achieve the growth that Ireland has, it is easier to achieve fiscal targets".
 Tourism Minister Kefalogianni: Signs for 2014 season 'promising'This year's strong performance of tourism indicates that the government's reforms have helped the country regain its competitiveness, Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said on Thursday.
"It would not be an exaggeration to say that 2013 was really one of the best years for the Greek tourism," Kefalogianni said adding that the messages for the new tourist season are also promising.
Kefalogianni was speaking at a Conference on Tourism, organized by the Hellenic-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Thessaloniki.
In order to continue the positive climate, we have to remain competitive in the global tourism market and continuously improve the products we offer, she noted. "We have to make the most of Greece's natural wealth, its particular features as well as its rich tradition. Its strong name makes it one of the most attractive destinations in the world," she said.
Kefalogianni also stressed the need for upgrading infrastructure and investing in innovation.
 Greek Tourism Organisation office to be established in IstanbulTourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni, inaugurating the 29th International Tourism Exhibition "Philoxenia" on Thursday, being held at the installations of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), November 21-24, announced that a Greek Tourism Organisation (EOT) office will be established in Istanbul with the aim of attracting Turkish tourists to Thessaloniki and the rest of the country.
Kefaloyianni said that an important presentation of Greek tourism will take place in Istanbul next week, with emphasis on the city break, while revealing that there shall be the possibility of bilateral meetings between the two countries' tourism political leadership, as well as between businessmen in the sector.
Referring to Thessaloniki's comparative advantages with the aim of becoming an important city break destination, she said that the city has a strong brand name that can make it a pole of attraction for big tourism markets.
The 29th Philoxenia, the first being held by the merged company (TIF-Helexpo) is, despite the economic crisis, 10 percent larger compared to last year, in terms of roofed floor space, while hosting 235 exhibitors and significant national participations, such as those of Russia, Turkey and Argentina.
 Address by Environment minister in Istanbul on energy savingEnvironment Minister Yiannis Maniatis focused his address at the International Energy and Economic Forum on Energy and the Economy, being held in Istanbul by the Atlantic Council, on the policy for saving energy and improving energy efficiency.
He said that the discussion on the "Strategy 2030 Framework" on energy and climate change will be a main priority of the upcoming Greek Presidency of the EU.
"The crisis is an opportunity for adopting a new economic model. A crucial question that must be answered is whether the dual dividend can be achieved, meaning a simultaneous achievement of environmental targets and economic growth that will create new jobs," the minister said.
Maniatis stressed that Greece is one of the greatest energy-consuming regions in Europe, although great efforts have been made to improve the buildings' energy efficiency. More specifically, the regulating framework has been adopted so that by 31.12.2019 at the latest all new buildings will be must have specifications of almost zero energy consumption.
Maniatis also said that the future of construction in most European countries of the Mediterranean is now the renovation and energy shielding of buildings since the sector of the construction of new buildings has almost collapsed due to the crisis.
 Greek budget revenues to rise by 4.0 pct in 2014, draft budget saysThe Greek state has repaid a big part of its overdue debt to the private sector, Finance Alternate Minister Christos Staikouras told the General Accounting Office, where he is presenting the details of the state budget tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday.
He said that in the period from December 2012 to October 2013 the government has disbursed 6.0 billion euros to agencies, while payments totaled 5.2 billion euros. Staikouras said that the general government's debt was proeject to reach 320 billion euros, or 174.8 pct of the country's Gross Domestic Product this year.
He noted that the government debt was expected to fall -for the first time- because of a combination of achieving a primary surplus, lower spending on interest and implementing a privatization program worth 3.56 billion euros.
The 2014 draft budget plan envisages a 4.0 pct increase in the state budget's net revenue to 54.7 billion euros, helped by an expected increased revenue in the first two months of 2014.
 TAIPED accepted improved offer for Agios Ioannis property in HalkidikiThe Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (TAIPED), the state privatization agency, on Thursday unanimously accepted the improved offer of 9.61 million euros made by Ioannis & Georgios Mentekidis construction company for the development of a 25.3-hectare real estate property located in the coastal area of Agios Ioannis, in Sithonia Peninsula of Halkidiki, among the most popular tourism destinations in Greece.
The new tender offer was accepted following a positive opinion given by the Council of Experts.
TAIPED announced that the construction company is active in the real estate market in northern Greece and the planned investment, estimated at 50 million euros, is expected to further upgrade the region's tourism product while creating a considerable number of jobs.
 Greek businesses to visit Korea in DecemberA delegation of Greek businesses will visit Korea from December 2 to 4 in the framework of an official visit by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who will be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas and Secretary General Panagiotis Michalos.
According to an announcement by the Athens Commerce and Industry Chamber, the sectors showing promise include food and beverages, tobacco, marble, aluminium, construction materials and cotton.
Greek and Korean business representatives will also be holding meetings at an economic forum to be held in Seoul at the same time.
 Korres Group opens first shop in BelgiumKorres Group on Thursday announced the expansion of its activities in Belgium, with the opening of its first independent retail shop in Grand Sablon, Brussels.
The group said its growth strategy focused on developing its network both in North America and selected European markets, enhancing its brand name to semi-selective distribution units and pharmacies, through promotion actions and placement of new products.
Dimitris Vidakis, CEO of Korres Group, in a statement said: "We inaugurate our first Korres shop in Belgium with the aim to offer a full experience of facial treatment in an excellent space, worthy of the quality and philosophy of the products". Korres "travels" with Greek herbs in 30 countries around the world in more than 11,000 sales points, including 6,500 Greek pharmacies.
 Mytilineos Group completes sale of 3.2 mln shares of MetkaMytilineos Group on Thursday announced the successful completion of the sale of 3,217,288 shares of Metka through an accelerated book-building process with a private placement to institutional investors.
Following the transaction, Mytilineos owns 50 pct plus one share of Metka's equity capital. Credit Agricole CIB and HSBC Bank plc acted as joint bookrunners of the sale.
 Thrace Plastics reports lower nine-month resultsThrace Plastics on Thursday said its consolidated turnover totalled 204.4 million euros in the January-September period, up 0.2 pct compared with the corresponding period in 2012, while consolidated gross earnings totaled 37.2 million euros, down 8.2 pct from 2012.
Consolidated EBITDA totaled 16.5 million euros, down 23.2 pct, while consolidated pre-tax earnings fell 34.4 pct to 6.4 million euros in the nine-month period. Consolidated after-tax and minorities earnings dropped 42.1 pct to 4.2 million euros.
The group's net borrowing totalled 35.8 million euros at the end of September, while the net borrowing/equity rate was 0.3 pct.
 Tourist arrivals up 17.5 pct, travel revenues up 17.3 pct, in SeptTourist arrivals totalled 2,963,000 in September, up 17.5 pct compared with the same month last year, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday.
The central bank, in a report, said that tourist arrivals were up 15.2 pct in the January-September period, surpassing the 15.5 million figure.
This development helped travel revenues rise by 17.3 pct in September, or 14.4 pct in the nine-month period.
Travel revenues grew by 26.4 pct from Germany (compared with September 2012), totalling 355 million euros, from France revenues jumped 50.1 pct to 131 million euros, and from the UK revenues fell 12.3 pct to 265 million euros. Revenues from Russia grew 43 pct to 275 million euros, while travel revenues from the US jumped 80.3 pct to 79 million euros.
 Greek stocks end slightly higherGreek stocks ended slightly higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday although the composite index of the market failed to close above the 1,150 resistance level for one more session. The index rose 0.46 pct to end at 1,141.83 points, after rising as much as 1.22 pct during the session. Turnover was a strong 139.84 million euros, of which 40.2 million euros accounted for the transaction of a 6.1 pct equity stake of Metka to institutional investors through a book-building private placement procedure. The price was set at 12.5 euros per share. Metka's shares ended 7.19 pct lower as the transaction took place at a discount compared with Wednesday's share closing price.
The Large Cap index rose 0.34 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 0.98 pct higher. National Bank (4.12 pct), MIG (3.33 pct), Terna Energy (2.99 pct), Titan (2.63 pct) and PPC (2.28 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains among blue chip stocks, while Metka (7.19 pct), OPAP (1.78 pct), Eurobank Properties (1.38 pct) and OTE (1.16 pct) suffered losses.
The Health (2.99 pct), Banks (2.46 pct) and Constructions (1.97 pct) sectors scored gains, while Industrial Products (3.07 pct), Travel (1.45 pct) and Telecoms (1.16 pct) suffered heavy losses. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 71 to 55 with another 22 issues unchanged. Alsinco (20 pct), Athina (19.67 pct) and Pasal (19.44 pct) were top gainers, while Progressive (17.60 pct), Daios Plastics (9.79 pct) and Lavipharm (8.67 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.04%
Personal & Household: +1.09%
Raw Materials: -0.47%
Travel & Leisure: -1.45%
Food & Beverages: -0.69%
Financial Services: +1.85%
The stocks with the highest turnover were METKA, OPAP, Piraeus Bank, OTE and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 0.641
Public Power Corp (PPC): 10.33
Coca Cola HBC: 21.25
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.10
National Bank of Greece: 4.30
Eurobank Properties : 8.58
Piraeus Bank: 1.37
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds was almost unchanged at 6.82 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 6.84 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 8.57 pct and the German Bund 1.75 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 120-month rate eased to 0.489 pct, the nine-month rate fell to 0.40 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.316 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.217 pct and the one-month rate rose to 0.126 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a small premium of 0.23 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising slightly to 16.841 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 5.468 contracts worth 10.448 million euros, with 51,714 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,525 contracts worth 6.393 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Piraeus Bank's contracts (2,353), followed by National Bank (1,977), Alpha Bank (466), MIG (363), OTE (1,565), PPC (1,421), OPAP (448), Mytilineos (643), Intralot (116), GEK (1,086), Metka (467) and Eurobank Properties (95).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.367
Pound sterling 0.847
Danish kroner 7.570
Swedish kroner 9.069
Japanese yen 137.87
Swiss franc 1.250
Norwegian kroner 8.329
Canadian dollar 1.432
Australian dollar 1.475
 Ancient and modern Greek works of art on show in BrusselsAn original exhibition that for the first time combines unique ancient works of art with modern creations is about to begin at the Brussels Bozar Museum (Palais des Beaux-Arts).
The exhibition "Nautilus: Navigating Greece" will last three months and is part of a programme of events organised by Greece's during the Greek presidency of the European Council, during the first half of 2014.
"The main theme of the exhibition is the sea and its contribution to the culture that developed around the Aegean and Ionian shores and all the concepts contained therein: of the road, adventure, communication and spirituality. Following this logic, the exhibition sections include ancient and modern creations that don't follow a strict chronological structure, though the exhibition does have a chronological sequence, but the conceptual and thematic relationship, developing between them," said General Secretary of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni, at a Central Archaeological Council meeting on Tuesday.
Eighty-eight artworks in total will be sent to Brussels from 23 public museums and collections throughout Greece, including the National Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis Museum, the Epigraphical and Numismatic Museums, the Archaeological Museums of Piraeus, Delphi, Olympia, Thera, Delos, Kalymnos and Heraklion, as well as six exhibits from the Museum of Cycladic Art.
The exhibition's six section and themes - "Ecology", "Seaways", "Odysseys", "Hegemony", "Ecumene" (inhabited world) and "Faith" - highlight and develop concepts like communication, inspiration, technology, the role of the sea and the religiousness and spirituality. The time span starts from the prehistoric Cyclades through Minoan Crete and the Mycenaean world, the colonization's "Odysseys" and Athenian hegemony, to reach the Hellenic Ecumene interaction.
Coexisting with the ancient art and the exhibition's main theme, it will also present modern creations, chosen to highlight the relationship between man and the sea. The modern artworks come from different trends and patterns of Greek artistic creation in recent years. They include photography, painting, engravings, visual and audio effects, video art, sculpture installations and performance art.
Along with and on the occasion of the Greek EU presidency, the "Cultural Heritage towards a common approach for a sustainable Europe" congress will be held in Athens in March. The focal point of the congress will be the significance of cultural heritage, finding new ways of funding and reinforcing the human values that make up the European identity. In addition, one of the stamps to be published for the Greek EU presidency, will portray part of the mural from Iclaina, Messinia.
 'MSC Magnifica' sets sail from Piraeus, one day after accidentThe Panama-flagged cruise ship "MSC Magnifica" was cleared to sail from Piraeus port for its next destination in Katakolo on Thursday, one day after hitting the port's left breakwater and sustaining slight damage to the portside hull above the waterline. Port authorities attributed the accident to stormy conditions and strong southerly winds.
The ship, which was carrying 2,469 passengers and 976 crew, was judged safe to travel and cleared to sail after an inspection by a commercial fleet review and its shipping register.
The accident was also commented on by the Hellenic Pilots Union, which issued an announcement on Wednesday saying that the pilot was only able to board the vessel after this was already on a collision course.
"In spite of the pilot's efforts to avoid an [hitting the breakwater], it was not possible due to bad weather conditions prevailing in the area and because of the movements of the ship until that time," the announcement said, noting that the fact that no one was injured and no pollution was caused should "give pause to those wishing or seeking to downgrade the role of pilots".
 'Sunnyclist': new solar motor bike with minimal cost exhibited in ThessalonikiIt charges its batteries with sunlight and can run for 240 kilometers at a stretch, having thecapacity to carry three people and offers a unique ecological stroll at minimal cost.
The three-seater solar motor bike "Sunnyclist" was constructed by mechanical engineer Manolis Tsikandilakis in Herakliion, Crete. Thessaloniki residents will have the chance to admire its structure and design until next Sunday, at the 13th stand of the "Philoxenia" exhibition.
"The motor bike's construction was completed about two months ago and we already have the first 10 orders that will be ready in spring from hotels and car rental firms to tourist regions," said Tsikandilakis to the ANA-MPA, specifying that Sunnyclist is ideal for the Greek islands, where distances are short and road speeds are low.
Tsikandilakis said that all stages of assembly take place on Crete, whereas the main goal is for production to reach 100 motor bikes annually, making it a new, ecological and safer way to travel.
Sunnyclist is autonomous and doesn't need to be charged from mains electricity on most days. It is an economical solution, can service a big part of movements with a minimal cost and is suitable for urban areas. The solar motor bike also can be charged by plugging into the mains for two hours and can move either with its engine or with pedals.
The cost ranges from 8,000 to 11,000 euros, depending on the battery and the photovoltaic system selected.
 Fokas department store owner prosecuted for state debts exceeding 4.0 mln eurosLeandros Fokas, the 89-year-old owner and CEO of the historic Fokas department store chain based in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, was led before an examining magistrate on Thursday to testify in relation to certified state debts exceeding 4.2 million euros.
Fokas had turned himself in to the city's White Tower police station on Wednesday morning after hearing that he was being sought for overdue debts. The sums are for unpaid VAT and income tax and non-payment of social insurance contributions.
He appeared before a Thessaloniki special examining magistrate to testify on charges of not paying 1.2 million euros in VAT and released with the agreement of the magistrate and public prosecutor after posting 20,000 euros bail.
For the remaining 3.0 million euros in debt, he was tried before a Thessaloniki single-judge misdemeanours court and a Thessaloniki three-justice misdemeanours court, which gave him a continuance.
For one part of the debt, ascertained by an Athens tax office for societe anonyme companies, the competent court is the Athens misdemeanours court, while the offence is again automatically prosecutable. For this reason, Fokas is due to travel to Athens after his appearance before justices in Thessaloniki and their verdict.
The once thriving northern Greek business has entered into serious financial difficulties in recent years, while much of its workforce has been unpaid for months. It recently obtained a court order approving the launch of bankruptcy proceedings under article 99 and a few weeks ago the windows of the historic department store on Tsimiski Street were "blacked out" for the first time after 39 years of continuous operation, after the firm was evicted for unpaid rents. Previously, it had also shut down its historic first outlet on Ermou and Venizelos Street in Thessaloniki, which had operated since 1958.
 New seismological station opens on Zakynthos islandA new, EU-funded seismological station has opened in the northern part of Zakynthos island (Zante) in western Greece, at the village of Volimes.
The station was funded through the "Interreg, Greece-Italy 2007-2013" business programme and connected to the network of the Geodynamic Institute at the National Observatory of Athens which records seismic activity throughout Greece.
The station was a project of the Otrions programme, which relates to the observation of seismic phenomena and tsunamis in Greece and Italy. Collaborators include the Regional Association of Municipalities, the Geodynamic Institute, and the Geophysics Department at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.
 Note to subscribers: A weekly film review columnANA-MPA informs its subscribers that a film review column has been launched since Wednesday, November 20. It will be added in the news flow every Wednesday night, embargoed for the following morning.
The column can be found under the banner "Pame cinema" (Go cinema), in the news category titled "Politismos" (Culture). A photo gallery of the movies can be found in the section of photography.
 Libyan embassy employee's car burnt down in HalandriA fire in a parking lot in northern Athens suburb of Halandri on Thursday completely destroyed a car belonging to a Libyan Embassy secretary, also causing damage to another three vehicles.
The authorities said the fire was an act of arson, but no evidence has been found so far leading to any arson devices.
The blaze was put out by a strong fire brigade force, while the State Security is conducting preliminary investigation into the incident.
 Young man killed over owed wagesA store guard and his employer were arrested for the death of a 28-year-old man, who was beaten to death when he accompanied a female friend to the store to collect back wages owed her.
The crime occurred two days ago on Geraniou Street, off central Omonia Square, when the store owner, 43, ordered the guard, 39, to beat the young man up. The guard started hitting the victim on the head with weighted-knuckle gloves, and when the latter fell unconscious on the pavement, he started kicking him. Witnesses called the police, who arrested the guard and the owner, both of whom were taken before the prosecutor.
The young man, who had come from Pyrgos, Elia prefecture, to bring a relative to a hospital in Athens, was taken to hospital, where he died of severe head injuries.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday. Winds 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures between 8C and 21C. Rainy in Athens with southerly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures between 16C and 21C. Possible local showers in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 12C and 18C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceAVGI: "A package of new measures."
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Layoffs with "sudden deaths'."
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Universities in judicial noose."
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Public sector's lists of layoffs and transfers."
ESTIA: "They kill the goose that lays the golden eggs."
ETHNOS: "The drama of a generation."
IMERISSIA: "The time of the banks."
KATHIMERINI: "The appointment is for December."
LOGOS: "Downgraded living conditions for 40 percent of Greeks."
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The Commission splits the European banks in two."
RIZOSPASTIS: "The health sector calls for vigilance and alert."
TA NEA: "Enough! 28,000 students want open universities."
TO PONTIKI: "(Gov't) left hanging."
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