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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-09-28

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece-Russia ministerial and business forum begin in Moscow
  • [02] Greece needs more effort to improve economic competitiveness
  • [03] Liossia landfill remains closed as workers continue protest

  • [01] Greece-Russia ministerial and business forum begin in Moscow

    MOSCOW (ANA - N. Melissova) The 5th mixed Greek-Russian ministerial meeting began in Moscow on Wednesday, together with a Greek-Russian business forum taking place the same day. Both meetings were organised to implement agreements reached by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Greek premier's visit to Moscow last December.

    Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis was in the chair of the ministerial meeting with Russian Agriculture Minister Aleksey Gordeyev, while Agricultural Minister Evangelos Basiakos and Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias were also participating on the Greek side.

    The business forum was again chaired by Stylianidis, this time with former Russian premier Yevgeny Primakov who is currently head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Participants include representatives of 170 businesses based in Greece, the largest Greek business delegation ever to foray outside the country.

    After a private meeting with Stylianidis on Wednesday, Primakov said the ministerial and business conference confirmed the desire to enhance cooperation voiced by the Greek premier and Russian president when they met in Thessaloniki in September.

    Stylianidis noted that the two meetings were part of the 2005-2006 Joint Action Plan signed by Karamanlis and Putin during their meeting in Moscow, which signalled the start of a new era in bilateral economic relations between the two countries.

    The ministerial meeting is due to end on Wednesday evening with the signature of a protocol that will lay the foundation for future cooperation between Greece and Russia.

    Also to sign an agreement are the Union of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Russian Business and Industry Association, which will create a Business Council to act as a bridge between Greek and Russian economic life.

    Commenting on the business forum, Stylianidis said that the members of the Greek delegation had organised meetings with more than 500 Russian businesses on Wednesday and Thursday, whose outcome would largely determine its success.

    According to diplomatic and business sources, however, simply the fact that such a large Greek business delegation had ventured abroad and so many Greek investors had come to Russia was in itself a success.

    The minister noted, however, that the very good ties between Greece and Russia on a political level were not reflected in economic relations between the two countries, which were well below their potential.

    This was echoed by Gordeyev, who pointed out that Greek investment in Russia amounted to just $69 million, compared with $14 billion for the Netherlands, ranking Greece lower than 30th place among foreign investors in Russia.

    Stylianidis stressed Greece's high balance of trade deficit with Russia, on the other hand, and asked for the reactivation of an agreement with the former Soviet Union, where Moscow undertook to import Greek products that counterbalanced hydrocarbon exports to Greece. He also urged Russian businesses to invest in Greece, stressing that it was emerging as an energy hub for southeast Europe and that "energy diplomacy" figured highly in Greek economic diplomacy.

    He called for continued talks between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and said that Russia was Greece's main supplier of natural gas, while cooperation was now extending to electricity and the extension of links to the electricity grids in the Balkans and Black Sea.

    Primakov spoke positively of Greece's bid to become a "distribution centre for electricity and natural gas for all of Europe", while he called for the deregulation of the Greek energy market and said that this would help attract Russian investments.

    Emphasis by Greek speakers was also placed on the Greek tourist market, particularly the wide variety of spa towns, while they noted that the number of Russia tourists visiting Greece was currently well below the market's capacity.

    The Greek side further stressed recent legislation to lower taxes and provide business incentives, as well as to reduce bureaucracy.

    [02] Greece needs more effort to improve economic competitiveness

    Positive steps have been made but we still have a long way to go to reach successes like the ones we enjoy in sports, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos the president of Greek Industries Union -Greece's largest employers union- said on Wednesday.

    Commenting on a report on world competitiveness published by the World Economic Forum, Kyriakopoulos said that EU newcomers, such as Latvia, Hungary, Cyprus and the Czech Republic, along with African nations such as Tunisia and South Africa have surpassed Greece in the world competitiveness rankings.

    Greece, along with other EU member-states, will submit plans to the European Commission for improving economic competitiveness in the framework of a Lisbon strategy. The Greek industrialist said the Greek plan, drafted by the government, did not meet Community standards and needed improvement.

    Kyriakopoulos rejected a proposal by GSEE - Greece's largest trade union umbrella group - asking for publication of enterprises subsidised by either national or community funds before they went bankrupt.

    [03] Liossia landfill remains closed as workers continue protest

    The landfill at Ano Liossia - the main depository of refuse for the entire capital - remained closed for the second day on Wednesday as the workforce refused to return to work and continued a strike to protest against the dumping of sewage sludge in the landfill.

    Workers at the landfill have decided to hold a general meeting on Friday to decide their next move.

    The president of the Athens water and sewage company EYDAP Costas Kostoulas held an unscheduled press conference on Wednesday afternoon over the closure, in which he accused the Attica municipalities union (ESDKNA) and the Ano Liossia municipality of having an "ulterior motives" in protesting against the use of the landfill to absorb sewage sludge and backing the strike. He claimed that they were clamouring for the five hectares set aside for the composting of the sewage sludge to use for the composting of refuse, since the landfill was too full.

    Kostoulas also pointed out that the sludge will stop being taken to Ano Liossia in December, in accordance with the commitment made by Environment Minister George Souflias.

    He said that alternative solutions were now being studied but did not release any details, apart from letting it be understood that these might also require use of the landfill.

    Kostoulas reiterated that the sewage sludge was not to blame for the stench in west Attica but the landfill itself and blamed ESDKNA for its failure to put a composting plant into operation, noting that this would not only had processed the mounds of refuse but also avoided the problem with the sludge, since there had been an agreement for the composting plant to absorb up to 300 tonnes of the sludge a day.


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